Recent comments

Re: Bark Side Up or Bark Side Down?

Cedarist is spot on.

Pressure treated decking is junk. Around here it is mostly yellow pine but not of the grade of years ago.

Years ago you could get all heart wood, tight grain clear yellow pine I have seen old trim boards (painted of course) made from this that outlasted newer pressure treated boards.

The key is in the grain and how it was milled. Many old trim was rift sawn like siding and although it is the same species of tree you would not recognize the grain of those boards with anything in a mill yard today. (unless it was reclaimed old growth yellow pine)

I just got done building a deck for a customer that insisted on buying his own decking and on using Pressure treated yellow pine. It look great now but I told him he gets no warranty from me on the materials. I stated when the boards cup and split don't call me unless he is prepared to pay me to replace them.
And I stress WHEN not IF the cup.

No matter how much you seal or how you nail it down it will cup. Most of the boards were cupped before we even installed them and many already had checks and splits I tried to cull out the worst but he was cheap and would not let me reject many except the very worst ones.

Re: Podcast: Still Framing Like It's 1969?


Podcasts are just that "Podcasts" they are iTunes hosted you do not need to pay for iTunes you do not have to pay anything for most podcasts. But no you do not HAVE to use itunes

The Best Alternatives to iTunes for Podcasts

I do not understand though what you would hate so much about iTunes or Apple. But your entitled to your opinion And as for having to download 3rd party applications to enjoy content on the web that is nothing new why do Mac users have to download and install MS movie player to watch windows video files? Why do we need to install Flash plug-ins to view flash based web sites. Why do you need a kindle or kindle app to read a kindle book. Why do you need Adobe PDF viewers to read PDF files. (even the IRS makes you use PDF)

Apple Podcasts are a very excepted format and Millions of people actually prefer them to other media formats they can be listened to online or loaded on a iPod or iPhone and you can listen in both and sync where you left off listening.

Re: Tablesaw Accident Sparks Million-Dollar Finger

If this law suit lead to saw stop tech in all saws I am glad my too larger saws will last me until I retire.
Of course many portable saws on the market are crap and unsafe anyway but the Saw stop tech on the job site cutting wet and or pressure treated wood I think would lead to many false trips. especially since the only saw now sold with this technology is the Saw stop saws and I think they still hold the paten.

Re: Clam Clamp for Perfect Miters

NMVFC writes: ...the Hartford clamp works just as well and is commercially available--about $60 a clamp. I have four of them and use them for all my miter/spline joints. Just Bing "Hartford Clamps"

Yup I agree the Hartford clamp is great. I have many of them and I think they are even better then this clamp and they have been around a lot longer. Also if you really want your mitered casing to hold you need a spline (plate jointer works) of some type. Since a miter joint is mostly end grain and end grain to end grain glue joints are not very strong. But install a spline you get a very strong miter that will never come apart If you live in the Hartford CT area East coast tool is a great place to get them.

Re: Attention Contractors: Your Lead-Paint Certification Deadline is Approaching

I understand the dangers of lead but I really wonder about this. Seems like all registered contractors should have received notice long before this took effect this is the first I have heard of it and I only have a few weeks to get certification?

Also I think this will only make it harder for people to get work done. Your house built was before 1978 sorry call a lead abatement contractor then call me.
For a small project the liability is not worth getting involved even though the true risk may be very small. I really wonder about this lead dust claims they act like even dust amounts so small you can not see it will kill you or cause enough brain damage to a child to give them serious health problems and learning disabilities.

Yet at one time people drank out of solid putter and lead cups, kids played with lead/tin toys and we all lived in old houses full of lead paint. And the numbers of people effected vs exposed do not add up. Many more were exposed to lead then got sick from it. I am not saying lead is completely safe I do not reject all the studies but I really feel the way they treat it like it is Nuclear fall out is over kill.

I have never had my own lead levels checked that I know of but I can name a thousand reasons why it should be through the roof.
I grew up in old house my whole life I worked with lead based painted both house paint and Artist oil paints (lead White) I used lead based solder I made my own lead fishing weights and as a kid we used to use lead shot sinkers and crimp them with our teeth. (this was all before 1978) I ate birds shot with lead shot and got the occasional shotgun pellet in my food (again before regulations against lead shot). I have stripped lead based paint (before people made a big deal about it) And was covered in it. Now I should have ingested enough to have serious health problems by now but as far as I know I have no ill effects from any of it.

Yet they are trying to tell us some dust so small as to be invisible or blend in with normal house hold dust is enough to cause serious health problems in children. Well I of course take precautions now but in the back of my mind I wonder how much of this is hysteria. Please spare me the stories I have heard it and read the data from the EPA yet I have a hard time reconciling the data with my own experience.

Re: Snake wire through old walls

Sorry but I have to agree with Jjwcrawford on this one it is not a good idea to go breaking off plaster keys in most old houses they have enough problems with the old plaster as it is to go start breaking it up from behind.

This tip may make the electricians job easier but it is the same as a plumber just hacking away at framing to make running pipes easier. You do not sacrifice the structure or finish of a old house just to make the job of adding modern utilities easier.

And sometimes doing it does require some destruction. But it is better to just go ahead and make the mess and repair it then to cause hidden damage and leave.

In this case the electrician may think he saved him self some patch work but in reality he caused hidden damage that will eventually lead to someone else having to do a repair in the future. He may not care since he is gone and his check has already cleared. But it is not the way to do business.

Re: Opinion: Questions for the Man with the Big House

Mr Chase I hope you also read the comments on this blog that agreed with you.
I for one would much rather FineHomebuilding actually do research and feature you house and all of it's construction. After all that is what readers of FineHomebuilding do we build homes.

And not simple cheap homes it is called FINE Homebuilding not CHEAP Home building. You would not see Architectural Digest undercutting the very industry and those that support it like those writing this blog.

Many of the technologies and features in this house can be applied to more modest homes. I for one find nothing wrong with building this house.

Maybe the blogger should start a blog on the The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement site

Not FIne Homebuilding.

Re: Big, Old and Beautiful.

This is a great article But have you seen how Benson wood has progressed in their timber frames they use CNC German-built Hundegger cutting machinery.
All the timbers are shaped by CNC machines.

(they still use hand work especially on some details)

Don't you just love tools.

Re: Cutting Corners: Arches and Pocket Doors

Now this is a FineHomebuilding quality post.
Keep up the great work.

Re: Have You Considered Vinyl Siding, Lately?

OK Now let me get this straight Polyvinyl chloride is Green?

I suppose we forget were PVC comes from. like all plastics it is a Petroleum byproduct.

and lets not forget

In 1974, vinyl chloride (VC) was first reported in the open scientific literature to induce angiosarcoma of the liver both in humans and in animals. Additional research has now demonstrated the carcinogenicity of VC to other organs and at lower concentrations. The target organs for VC now clearly include the liver, brain and the lung, and probably the lymphohematopoietic system. The evidence for a carcinogenic risk has been extended to jobs associated with poly(vinyl chloride) exposure. Cases of liver angiosarcoma have been reported among individuals employed in PVC fabrication facilities and an epidemiological study has demonstrated a significant association between exposure to PVC dust and the risk of lung cancer mortality. Cases of angiosarcoma of the liver also have been reported among individuals living in near proximity to vinyl chloride-poly(vinyl chloride) plants. An association between PVC dust and pneumoconiosis also has been demonstrated. On the basis of findings, prudent control of PVC dust in the industrial setting is indicated.

Now since Siding is outside and you do not usually put in in your mouth it is mostly safe in use but what happens in a house fire?
What happens when it fails (and it does in about 10-15 years it starts to be brittle and gets breaks and cracks) you then strip it off and it goes where?
No Polyvinyl chloride is not GREEN. I am sick of every industry figuring out some way to justify their products as green.

Nothing about PVC is green. and it production and later disposal is a source of pollutants that have been proven to be toxic.
I would much rather use responsibly harvested wood siding.

Re: Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

KInd of off topic yet

I thought this was interesting Found on Jobs board, Builder looking or new VP of Marketing In TX. It's this one of the Aareas hit hardest by Housing Bubble? (Don't Know I am asking) If it is this is going to be one hard job. Sounds like they want a turnaround genius. But hay there has got to be someone out there reading Fine Homebuilding that can fill their need.

Vice President of Sales

We are doing a confidential search for a VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND MARKETING in the San Antonio, TX.

Extensive sales management, sales training and development, and human resource management experience is necessary. Candidates must have exceptional motivational skills with a track record for creating a thriving culture. Over five years of management experience and responsibility for over 200 units per year is preferred. Proven leaders will earn base pay of $90,000 - $110,000 and a total package $125K - $140K.

What does it take to make it with this builder? - A track record for success in your discipline - A drive for results with excellent leadership and motivational capabilities - Self motivation with an entrepreneurial spirit - A passion for learning and teaching others - Great time management skills - A willingness to be the very best - The highest ethical standards in the industry - A positive attitude and a solid work ethic Candidates will have a strong job history in the homebuilding industry and excellent references. Please send your resume via the website.

Re: Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

OhPeanutButter writes: It's called "theft". If I borrowed $20 from you and just decided not to pay it back that's theft. Choosing to not pay the mortgage is the same thing.

Well Actually it is not exactly the same.
It is more like this:
You borrow $100,000 from me(the banker) to buy property with a sale price of$110,000 with a 10% deposit (your own money) at a monthly interest rate of 5% (actually 5.29% apr) Over 30 years. But I do not actually have 100,000 the fed makes me only have 10% of that $100,000 so although I say I loaned you $100,000 I am only using $10% of what you borrowed. the rest in leveraged debt. I then sell derivatives on the whole $100,000 note. and make thousands.

You also agree that the whole property that you bought was mine should you fall behind in your payments. (including the $10,000 you put in) And I also charged you $3500 closing costs for the privilege of borrowing the money and I charged you another $350 in appraisal fees. And I ask you to pay another $15.00 per month on Mortgage insurance
(most banks require Mortgage insurance if you put less then 30% down unless the mortgage carries a FHA or VA guarantee)

Now after 5 years you are falling behind but until that point you made all payments on time. Here is what you have payed me after 5 years
$24,038.03 in interest with $8,171.27 applied to principal and you still Owe me $91,828.73 and you also payed another $900 for Mortgage insurance.

Now Your home is now valued at around $80,000 I take that house you payed me 33,109 (including the MI) over the past 5 years I sell the house after foreclosure for $70,000 I now have 102209.00 Now that is not great but Lets say you kept paying for another 5 years then You would have payed me 64,417 but you would still owe $81,342.06
I could still sell it for $70,000 thats $134,417

After 10 years of paying me I say you still owe me $81,342
You are out your 64,417 your 10,000 deposit and your $1500
And I get a property worth around $80,000 retail even with the reduced market.
I also file a claim on the mortgage insurance I made you pay for and I get another $80,000.

So How have you stolen anything the only one loosing on this deal is you. You loose all the money you put into the house over the years and you loose your home.
And if you are real unlucky and live in a state were I can go after you for the balance above the sale price of the property I can sell the property at a quick sale well below market then go after you for the remaining balance plus collection fees.
So you go bankrupt to avoid the debt on the remainder of the loan. And you can't even get a rent now because even land lords do credit checks and refuse to lease a apartment to you based on your poor credit.

And I almost forgot that the day after the closing I sold derivatives of on your note and I did it again and again making thousands on it. Unlike when a bank sells a mortgage which they can do only once. When packaged as derivatives I can sell the same note multiple times. And still actually hold the note itself. (like selling shares in a company buy just creating more shares)

Oh and when the people I sold the Derivatives to wanted their returns I claimed the loss and the US government came and bailed me out so I could pay off my debt. Oh and since I never actually gave you any of my own money and I never really was out the $100,000 you borrowed to begin with.

Not exactly the same or as simple as borrowing $20.00 and paying back $20.00 NOW IS IT.

What Banks do is not like how we loan money in fact if you did what they do you would be a joining Bernie Madoff in jail real soon.

Re: Easy Pick Up Trick for Spilt Screws

On solo deck framing tip.

Well this site turns more DIY oriented every day any professional framer learned that trick their first week on the job right after learning how to push a broom.
I know most tips are not revelations but I always thought Finehomebuiling's target market was the professional home builder and designer.

I suppose it is a good tip for the newbie.

Re: Where do you build cabinets?

Many builders also have their own mill shops. Or work with woodworking shops to supply them with what they need. No offense intended to the finish carpenters but the furniture grade finish you get on shop made cabinetry is hard to achieve on site. (many a nice built-in has been ruined by a bad on site finishing job)
You can do it but especially when it is a remodel or being installed in a home that people are already living in you can not spray post catalyzed lacquers. They require a spray booth with very good ventilation.

I have even gotten to he point I have all stain grade trim pre-finished before I install it.

But there are all different grades of cabinets. It really depends on the level of cabinetry you are talking about.
There is this level:,61710&ac=ts&ra=fp
and then this level:

Re: Lunch Pail Podcast #1: What's the Difference Between a Trim Carpenter and a Fine Woodworker?

"wfred writes: How do you approach full height built-ins? If you build it in the shop, you can't stand it up in the space. If it is site built, you can build it to fit."

You make all the parts in the shop but assemble it onsite. Or pre-assemble parts of it. Also most full height units can be split somewhere even just a removable toe kick is enough to allow some to be moved in place sometimes you need to completely assemble onsite. But you can still build a lot of it in the shop.

A unit may be full height but with a heavy crown at the top that is installed onsite

Re: Where do you build cabinets?

Cabinets and built-ins that are furniture grade need to be built where you have the stationary tools to do it right. Now of course you still need to account for the fact that a large cabinet might need to be assembled on site. My sprinter van has a lot of cargo space but I am still not going to fit a full wall of book cases or a 10ft high fireplace mantel and surround with built in panelling to inclose a flat screen assembled. So I may mill all the components in my shop build the draw boxes and doors but assemble it on site. I also use modern fasteners like cam locks so large case work can be disassembled and reassembled onsite easily.

Also a big part of what I do is paneling it is assembled on site but the panels and stiles and rails are all milled in the shop. Including Mortise and tenons. Unless you have a complete mobil work shop you simply can not mill all those parts on site. You need jointers, planers, shaper (or large router table) And you need to control all the saw dust those tool create. Now you could setup a onsite mill shop but most job sites do not have that kind of room. And you are not going to take the time to do it all by hand without any stationary tools

Also you have focused only on building the cabinetry but it is not done until the last coat of finish is applied and I get the best finish with furniture grade spray finishes and the best place to apply that type of finish is in a spray booth. No dust to mess it up and proper ventilation. Every piece including all the trim is pre-finished before it is installed.

Sure you can build somethings onsite but in my opinion is assembly can be done on site but anything that requires milling parts and finishing should be done in the shop.

Re: Lunch Pail Podcast #1: What's the Difference Between a Trim Carpenter and a Fine Woodworker?

Ops I ment to say

As a business owner that has had to try and find workers with these skills I can tell you most finish carpenters even experienced ones DO NOT have the skill to do that type of work. And many workers in cabinet shops do not ether.

What I meant is due to using modern tools and methods have eliminated some of the skills needed the a lot of the accuracy is built into the tools. Much more then when you do it all by hand.

Re: Lunch Pail Podcast #1: What's the Difference Between a Trim Carpenter and a Fine Woodworker?

As someone who is both , Owner of FournierWoodwork, I can tell you the two can be very different. Fine woodworkers or furniture builders often scoff at the techniques a finish carpenter might use to build a book case. And a finish carpenter would scuff at the time taken to use a traditional mortise and tenon joint on a face frame when the budget doe not allow for that time and it is over kill when a pocket screw of even just nailing to the case work would work.

I have built 18th century reproductions using all hand tools and I have built cabinets on site simply face nailing the face frames on and everything in-between.
I have built boxed stairs in a shop that install as a complete flight of stairs and I have built stairs on site piece by piece.

A really GOOD finish carpenter should have the skills of a wood worker and a cabinet maker working in a shop if what they are building is going to be built in at the job site needs some understanding of the Trim carpenters trade. They need to build in some method to compensate for on site adjustments. (not all woodworking requires this most furniture is not built in.)

Now you have many so called finish carpenters that have been doing it for years that are still limited on their understanding of how wood moves. And there are wood workers that do not have a clue when it comes to hanging trim or installing a door or windows in a imperfect structure.

Also there is one more related trade that involves wood working and that is the Shipwright. (wooded boat building) Now most boats and ships today are not made of wood but their interiors often are. And guess what you can forget about level and plum. You are fitting to curved hulls and bulkheads, you are working in a boat that may not be sitting level yet you need to keep things aligned. And yes somethings must be square but you then need to make them fit in locations that are not.

Don't ask a normal trim carpenter used to building houses to install doors or cabinets on a yacht. I once hired a guy to build stairs that once worked building boats the best finish carpenter I ever had yet it took him some time to get used to the speed needed to make a profit on the job sight and when good is good enough.

Also someone used to building furniture may have a hard time understanding that houses move differently then Wood. Wood movement is a concern to woodworkers but on a much smaller level. The wood worker is used to wood to wood joinery the finish carpenter must join wood to other materials not just wood to wood.

So a finish carpenter can be a woodworker as well and a woodworker can be a finish carpenter but when you specialize on one vs the other you learn a different skill set depending on the type of work you do.

Now in comparison at one time a carpenter was a carpenter the skill required to hew a timber frame from a pile of logs and assemble those joints with nothing but wood to wood joinery. Or to make millwork and cabinetry all by hand that was skill. My house was built in 1740 and you just do not find wood work like in my house in many homes today and when you do it was most likely produced in a custom mill shop and just installed by the finish carpenters. Not many finish carpenters today could build a wall of raised paneling all with full tenons and hand coped joints all held together with pegs no glue no power tools and the only nails are the ones that hold it to the framing.
I can say that I can do just that I have done reproduction and restoration work were all new work was done just as the original work so when we were done you could not tell the old work from the new. That work is truly wood working and not just carpentry.
And as a business owner that has had to try and find workers with these skills I can tell you most finish carpenters even experienced ones have the skill to do that type of work. And many workers in cabinet shops do not ether.

Re: Opinion: Questions for the Man with the Big House

I am trying to find a way to put this in perspective and do it with the fewest words.

So here goes OK this is one big structure and even the residential areas is over 10,000sq feet that is a huge house. But to a slum dweller in India a 1200sq foot very modest American home is also a large house.

Mr Chase is very wealthy and now leads a very privileged life.

Now his life and his needs in a residence is very different then most of us. He does own a lot of luxury items he has holdings in multimillion dollar companies he also funds the SANDRA AND ARNOLD CHASE FAMILY FOUNDATION a philanthropic organization that spends millions not on him self but others.

His residence will be used as much as a place to conduct business both for his money making ventures as well as his philanthropic organizations. So sure does he really need this huge building no maybe not but do we really need more then enough space for a bed a toilet and sink and a hot plate?

Everyone indulges their own excess to on degree or another.
Now most of us readers of FInehomebuilding earn a living building homes. The reality of that field is those with the money to hire us have more in common with Mr Chase then a slum dweller of mumbai india. It is simply a matter of degrees.

So I say lets do a more in-depth story about this structure I am sure it contains many features that most of us could use on a smaller scale. How many of you have put a home theater in homes you built? or remodeled? I have in fact that is the number one feature most people that hire me want in their basement renovations. The large number of sales of large Flat screen TVs is testament that even people of modest means want luxury.

This house uses many energy saving features has many state of the art technologies that would make a 2000 sq. foot home very efficient in comparison to the McMansions built through the 1990s. How many contractor's over the past 3 years worked on this house? and How many people have you kept employed during this economy?

Now I am all for building responsible homes and modest homes for those with much more modest incomes, I am very involved with Habitat for humanity. But if I am going to continue that work I also need to earn a living to support my family.
For each job I do for a wealthy person the more I can do for those less fortunate. To condemn those who have money for having it or how they spend it does not help anyone. Many of us need people to spend on luxuries so that we can provide are necessities for our families. To Condemn they for it is counter productive.

You know what I am not going to get hired to build a library of custom cabinets by a poor person But I can use the money I earn building it to help the poor. I for one do not feel Luxury spending is evil for each luxury purchase there is someone not as well off benefitting by that purchase. The reason most of us are struggling and people are loosing their jobs is not because of more luxury spending but because of less of it. If we are going to revise the very industry Finehomebuilding relies on we need more spending not less. We need more people to build homes to spend to remodel their homes.
No we do not want reckless spending beyond peoples means but we do need people with money to spend it so other people can get work. so they also can spend leading to more jobs.

I know the extremely wealthy are a easy target when you are struggling to keep your modest home and you feel they are rubbing your face in it when they have more then they need and you are loosing your home. Especially when they work for the very banks that want to take your house or are CEO of et very company that just laid you off. But before you get mad remember someone just like you is able to keep their family in a home because of that spending you are condemning.

Re: How Would YOU Design a Home for Disaster Victims?

2 needs first hurricane's are a serious threat and of course not rebuilding on the fault line might be a good idea. yet since we have rebuilt San Francisco we have a bad history of repeating past mistakes.

We also need to remember not just houses and small commercial buildings were destroyed. Large commercial buildings also need rebuilding. More then a little research has been done on building in seismic areas.

In Japan they face a lot of the same issues wind storms, floods and of course earthquakes and they have made huge advances in earthquake proof construction even skyscrapers built on floating foundations.
But what materials and what methods to use is just a very small part of the issue here plenty of people have the knowledge of how to rebuild if we have the will the biggest issue Haiti faces is that it is a very poor country.

It does not have the resources of the US or Japan. Right now they have the worlds attention but unfortunately in spite of all the currant aid the realist in believes that this will not last and long before Haiti's rebuilding is in even close to complete the world's attention will have long turned back to their own issues and forgotten these people. I hope not but unfortunately history has shown once the news and cameras go home aid stops flowing.

Heck in one of the richest nations the US we still have people in need from our own natural disaster when was the last time you drove through New Orleans.
This is Haiti they were in need of help before the earthquake and few cared.
Thousands of people today live in refugee camps all over the world yet few do anything. Many victims of the earthquake in Pakistan are still in need. When was the last time we heard about them.

We are talking about this now ask again in 6 months when all this news will be replaced with the latest celebrity scandal in fact I give it 3 months. And the worlds attention will be elsewhere.

So all this discussion on how to rebuild will be for nothing if we do not maintain the will to rebuild

Re: Green Building Gone Wrong

I wonder what was the Sq. footage of that new so called green home??

No matter what so called green materials you use if you use more then are needed and build larger then needed you still have a energy wasting home.

I often wonder about this green movement. How much if it is real and how much of it is marketing. After all if we sell people that they need a green home that reflects their values then it is just one more step to sell them they need to build a new home.
Many green builders still build the same home designs they always have just added better insulation and energy star windows and energy star rated heating systems and materials that use more recycled materials. But many so called green builders are still building large houses well at least much larger then the 800-900 sq. ft. 1950s capes and ranches with one bathroom and small efficiency kitchen our parents managed to raise a family of 5 in.

I know there is much more money to be made building luxury homes to people with money to burn then supplying the cheapest house possible marketed to the low income bottom of the market.
But why when the average family is getting smaller is the average house getting larger.
In fact there is data that the high the education and income the few kids people will have so that means the people building the largest houses have the least need for a large house.

If we truly want to be green then we need to also build smaller not larger homes
I am not the first the suggest this (the not so big house concept is not new) But is seems that is not the trend. To my eye the trend is still that if you are going to market to that high end luxury home buyer you also need to build large homes but doing it selling as a green builder.

I am not saying that we should tell people they can't build what ever they want after all it is their money. But maybe we do not have to if we can change peoples values so that luxury living does not have to mean wasteful consumption and living in huge homes. The added interest in living green among celebrities shows that people with money can be convinced they need to at least think about their impact what we need to do not is show that also mains that just because you have solar panels and geo-thermal heat the fact that your house is 3000 sq. feet larger then a person needs and your walk in closet is the size of a bedroom is not green.

Re: Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

Now I understand this is about synthetic decking vs wood.
And many of the posts expanded it to include wood deck vs a patio or concrete deck.

And the discussion included durability, cost and green (impact of products on the environment)
So although I like many FHB readers pay my bills building stuff for others (most of which they do not need.)

The greenest deck is simply no deck at all.
Every thing after that is just to what degree the outdoor living space you want and the materials it uses will impact the environment both to build and over the life of its use and beyond.

No matter what Wood you use it came from a tree somewhere and even plantation grown tropical species grown and harvested using so called sustainable methods. If demand for that product is higher and is consumed faster then it can grow it is not truly sustainable. Also tree plantations never replace the eco system and diversity of the rain forests they replaced.
So if you really want to be green then that rules out Ipé and also every tropical naturally weather resistant wood. Also cedar when local to your area is also a great exterior wood as is red wood. But we only need look at how little redwood forest remains to see if demand for a species exceeds it's ability to replenish it can be wiped out. (thank god someone realized that before all the redwoods were gone)

As for synthetics no matter what recycled content your synthetic decking has it still required energy and some type of plastic to make. And the production of all plastics produce pollution. and all use oil by products. So your deck may contain reused plastics that would have gone into a landfill but what about how it got there to begin with. And new plastics are still being made every day.

So am I pro wood or pro synthetics?

I feel as far as green goes it is about responsible use of all resources. Be it the resource itself the energy it takes to convert it to a useable product and the energy it takes to get it to you the end user and then how long that product lasts before it needs to be replaced and the amount of energy it consumes over time and also the amount or resources it takes to build it.

And that last one is most important. If you build a 10x10 deck even if you use the most exotic hardwood from some rain forrest on the other side of the world.
could be greener then a 40x40 deck using 1500 sq. feet more of materials then the owner really needs.

Same goes for houses we all need shelter but do we need 2000 sq. feet or could we get by with 800 sq. feet. We focus so much on green methods and materials that we often leave out the biggest savings build smaller and consume less.

Re: Manufactured Deck Railings Look Good, But Do They Last?

To littleshuswap
Well First off I can tell you cost is always a consideration but cost is more then just the initial cost of the materials. There is the labor to install it as well as the cost of finishing preserving and maintaining the rail (and Deck) once it is installed.

So you really should consider the total cost of the rail over the amount of time you will be using that deck.

As for the cheapest rail as far as materials goes not counting finishing and maintaining it or the labor to install it is a simple pressure treated pine rail but if you consider the cost of hiring someone to put this together then apply a wood preservative or paint if you want that look and then the cost to refinish it over the years. And even the best maintained wood rail will need sections replaced over time especial if you went with cheap PT pine. (a high quality ipe or teak rail is another story but they cost even more then composite rail systems)
When you consider all these costs a composite or vinyl railing systems that goes together in less time then cutting and assembling a wood rail system and never needs finishing or wood preservatives starts to look like the cheaper way to go even though the initial cost can seem much higher.

Now if you are a DIYer do the cost evaluation yourself and don't forget to include your time remember what you get paid a hours at your job and think of your time as if you took time off from your job to do the installation and maintenance. I know all DIYers plan project for their free time but think if instead you put in a few extra hours at what you do for a living instead? Why? well after all doing home improvement is work no matter if it is your own house or not so think about it most professionals make more per hour at their own jobs then what most home improvement labors make per hour. So think about it you are putting in X numbers of hours of your time working are you paying yourself what you could make if you spent that time doing what you do for a living. I doubt you are saving what you could make. So what did that DIY project really cost??? If you make $50.00/ hour at your job and you put in a extra 8 hours at work on a weak end or doing work on the side in your profession you more then likely make more then enough to hire someone to do the DIY project and you still make a profit. And the job was done by someone who does that job every day and does it right. Instead of you taking the time to do something you have never done before.

I know it is not the way to day with all these DIY shows on TV and how they talk about how much you can save doing it yourself but I say people have it all wrong if you are going to spend hours doing extra work why not spend those hours doing what you know how to best your job or profession and hire someone else to do what they do best. For most professionals it is actually finically better to hire someone then to try and be a part time home improvement contractor. Just my 2 cents

Re: An alternative to a ladder

Sure works great but you are only going up what maybe 10 feet?
In your case it works great but..
Build a stair that will get you up 3 stories and still be a stable and cost effective.

I still feel the money spent on good staging that is relatively light and easy to set up and take down and transport to the next job is a little more practical then building exterior stairs.

When building a new house we usually build a temporary stair in the same opening that the final finish stair will be.

Re: Contractors See Lean Times and Big Opportunities in 2010

Hmm maybe you are not as hard hit as others today I had my work van towed because I was unable to make payments for the past two months. I will be able to get it back but it is not a good feeling and I do not know for how long I can continue. I have had work but not enough and not big enough jobs.

I have a small claim and lean on a jobs I am not getting paid for my credit with my suppliers is maxed out and I am about to fall behind on my mortgage another month. And never mind Christmas.

So sure I am trying to stay positive but when your income is cut in half and your expenses stay the same or some went up (fuel costs) something has to give.
Of course we will survive people in the depression who lost everything and were reduced to hobos hopping freight trains to go out and look for work survived and many latter found work and started over and eventually rebuilt their lives. What does not kill you makes you stronger but it still hurts.

Re: Mahogany Library

Well I am glad I did not have to pick the winners this must have been a had choce I think all three of the winners and even some of the other entries could have won first. I think I agree with the judges choice on top 3 but I would have a hard time picking between them as which one was the best.

Re: Whatever Happened to the Radial-Arm Saw?

jross I hear you but the stay on feature you mention also makes the RAS much more dangerous then a sliding Miter saw. Not that I feel it can not be used safely but just like a table saw it is much more dangerous then a miter saw with a blade break that stops the blade after each cut.

Now a RAS station in a shop with enough space for long side extensions is very handy and they were much easier to setup for dust collection then miter saws.
But on the job site a you just can not compete with a sliding miter saw with a good stand. I hear you guys about all the stuff you can do with attachments on the RAS but
if multi-function is what makes for a good tool then we should all have shop smiths. but how many professional wood working shops use a shop smith?? Multi function tools are not for professionals that need to do many different jobs. You do not want to constantly switch setups from one task to another personally if I was setting up a new shop the RAS would not be in my top 5 must haves although I would not remove one from my shop ether they are still useful but most RAS are used 90% of the time for cross cutting and in shops that have them they are used almost exclusively for that why? because you simple can not be switching setups to use it for other tasks when 5 min later you (or someone else if you do not work alone) may need it again for it's main task. And for that a 12inch sliding miter saw can do just fine. And for the other jobs you use it for 10% of the time that a sliding miter saw can't do it is ofter better to just use a tool specifically made for that task.

Top five stationary tools for me are #1 table saw with large out feed and side tables
and number 2 second table saw #3 planner #4 Jointer #5 band saw.
(I do not consider routers and router tables stationary tools)

Then after that in no special order is Drill press, lath, mortising station, molding cutter and large belt feed sander and a bigger shaper with power feed. then after all that maybe a RAS. Why because I do not want one tool station that does many tasks I want dedicated stations for each task. That is why I have more then one router and router table, and more then one table saw. And I can get 2 12 inch sliding miter saws for the cost of one RAS (unless you buy a used RAS).

Re: Play Fine Homebuilding's Game "The Inspector"

Well I must say this one was a stretch? I got them all only because I live in MA just down the road from this house and I have a copy of "historic deerfield a portrait of early america" on the book case in my office and this house is featured on page 79 of that book.

A little history about this house for those interested in such things:
A house of this era could just as well of had a salt box roof and a single central chimney and not two. And in fact there are actually indications that the Ashley's house began life (around 1726) with a center chimney and a steep pitched roof. Then in 1750 the gambrel roof was added and the center chimney was replaced with a center hall and stair with a chimney on ether side.
These changes were not the norm for a house of this era only that Jonathan Ashley had married into affluence and wanted to emphasize his status so he remodele his house in the Newly fashionable Georgian style. For a house this far from a port City like Boston it was not common to find such refinement.

And as for that beautifully carved broken pediment we see today it was actually added to this house in 1945 by Bill Gass the contractor hired by the Flynt's, the primary benefactor of the historic deerfield restoration projects. Although it was inspired by traditional connecticut valley doorways of the second half of the 18th century this door and pediment are not even a exact copy of a historic pediment. It was completely of William Gass's own design. So although it does convey the formality of originals it is not original to this house. Although there was evidence of a similar pediment from the 1750 remodel by the Rev. Ashley but it was long gone by 1945. And as for the unpainted weathered brown exterior this too was decided during the renovation in fact there is documented proof that the Rev. Ashley had actually painted the exterior blue. This also was to emphasize his status for blue paint was one of the most expensive pigments you could buy.

The house lost all it's paint and the much of it's Georgian style exterior details during a time of neglect, the house was moved from it's original location to a back field to make way for a more modern home. After the Flynts bought the property they had the newer house moved to deerfield academy and the Ashly house was moved back to it's original location and the restoration started. At that time (around 1945) the house was in very bad condition and what little had not been stripped out and sold was in very bad shape due to years of neglect.

As for other's comments on the gutters this house did not have gutters originally nor did it have a box gutter installed when the Gambrel roof was added. So yes the gutters are not original.

Re: Can Bark Outlast Vinyl Siding by Fifty Years?

OK first off I have never seen this product nor installed it and have no stock in promoting it.
But I do spend a lot of time in the woods and working with wood so I do know a few things about bark. logs and how they rot and I have helped in forrest fires areas and I have heated with wood for over 30 years so I know a little about how trees burn.

To those of you that think bark rots fast you are simply misguided if you look at logs rotting the inside wood is the first to rot in fact the bark can be intact over a completely rotted log. Also the bark is the trees natural defense against insects they get through it yes but it is the wood on the inside they are after not the bark.

And if you need proof of the water resistants of bark take a look at a birch bark canoe if you know anything about other wood boats you know that the wood must be treated or coated with some type of water sealant but except for the seems a birch bark canoe needs no such protection to make it repel water so those that think of bark as a sponge you also are misguided since if that was the case a birch bark canoe would not float for long.
Also Cork you know the stuff we seal wine bottles with is Bark. It does not absorb water nor does it rot if it did it would not be much good at sealing a wine bottle stored in a damp wine cellar for years.

As for Fire well not all trees and bark are the same but on most trees the bark is actually it's protection against fire is rests burning the outside of the bark will char but often will not catch fire completely protecting the tree from the heat. Now it is still wood so once the fire is hot enough it will burn.
Just put a split log with the bark still on it in a fire you will find the bark may char but the unprotected wood will catch flame faster.

Now Many get the idea that barks burn easy because of it's use as kindling and think of birch bark used as kindling and assume all barks burn easy but it is the fact that birch bark is thin as paper and loaded with oils that it catches on fire easy. Bark is used for kindling because it can be easily shredded into thin pieces and when it burns it actually burns slower and hotter then equally thin sheds of wood.
So it catches quickly because it is shredded into thin pieces but does not burn so fast that it burns up before the larger piece of wood can get hot enough to burn. But solid bark in thick pieces actually takes higher temps to catch flame then other parts of a tree. If you took equally thin pieces of dry wood it would burn up before it got hot enough to catch the larger pieces of wood which is what the job of kindling is not to burn itself but to catch other larger wood on fire. All parts of a tree will burn but out of all the parts of a tree it is the bark that usually takes the highest temps before burning.

So get past your misconceptions about bark and take a closer look at a good product. If local to your area it can be a very green alternative to other siding. Of course being green should be about picking local materials first since if it takes a ton of fuel to ship a product to you that counters any green benefits.

Re: Two tools for tight miters

Best Casing Miter clamp for my money is the Hartford Clamp

I have several sets of these. They have also been around a long time.

Re: SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

What happens if you rip and damp piece of copper rich pressure teated wood?
I would bet it would trip the stop.

I understand the safety of this tool but if it locks up during a non-finger contact it is not much use.

Re: "Dumb as we wanna be" about energy?

Well when a volcano erupts it does more then just release CO2. It also sends huge particle clouds that block out the sun light. Also in the industrial revolution up until we started putting air scrubbers on smoke stacks (1970s EPA regulations) to clean the exhaust of dirty burning fuels like oil and coal and other industrial pollutants we had smog which although does contain CO2 it also contains particles that block out the sun. So although we were dumping more CO2 global warming did not happen as quickly until we reduced the smog clouds but continued to release the CO2. So had we not put smog reducing air cleaning regulations global warming would not be as big a problem as global cooling would be. But the problem is those smog clouds from dirty burning fuels (and volcanos) are incredibly harmful to your lungs and health so to continue to spew them into the air would be as bad or worse. So your theory that Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in the 90's should have caused global warming is wrong the huge particle cloud of a volcano causes global cooling. For the green house effect to work the suns heat must first get through before it can be trapped.

So if you don't mind the smog and the health risk of breathing that then sure we could keep burning all the fossil fuels we want as long as we also produce plenty of sun blocking smog clouds. Hay we could even cause global cooling or a man made ice age if we produce enough smog. So maybe we should reverse all the EPA regulations and start burning dirty coal for energy and stop cleaning out the smog producing particles. Of course we would probably all die coughing to death on the toxic cloud but hay at least we could stop the ice caps from melting and the polar bears would still have a home.

But I do have to say compact florescent bulbs that contain mercury although they are energy efficient are also very harmful to dispose of and the methods that make them are not so green ether. As are batteries that go in electric and hybrid cars batteries are very hazards to dispose of and also not very green to produce. Newer Lithium-ion batteries are not as bad since they contain fewer toxic chemicals they also face their own problems that make them more energy and resources intensive to manufacture and recycle so although your car may use less fossil fuels it would still have increased manufacturing resource needs. So if we replaced all Gas engine cars with electrics using Lithium-ion batteries we would still have the problem of industrial waste disposal of all the spent batteries the energy used to make them and recycle them and of course we still need to produce the energy to charge them some how And if that is you get you electricity from a fossil fuel burning power plant you might actually be responsible for more CO2 being released in to the air then a modern Bio-diesel car does.

So to force regulations to technologies without looking at all the factors is also not good practice. We need to think about conservation and but also look at the total impact of the replacement technologies.

Re: Marketing Green: How to sell homeowners on the benefits, not the features

Great article. It reminds me of my previous job before I returned to the building trades. I was a graphic designer in a marketing department for a software company. At that job the software developers would go on and on about the latest technologies they were building in to the software and to them the they thought it was obvious how 32 bit vs 16 bit code was better or multithreaded applications were a worth the upgrade costs but they had no idea how to relate it to customers needs.

Now that I am remodeling homes and building custom homes I understand the technologies that make for a better built home and a greener home but I also remember my experience in marketing. Fist rules is know you customers NEEDS and concerns and fill them. Don't sell them technology but solve a real problem they have with it.

Real Problem 1. Higher fuel costs
Solutions: better sealed and insulated shell, High efficiency HVAC systems, and alternative energy mechanical systems.

Real Problem 2. Tighter houses mean bad air quality
Solutions: Properly designed HVAC systems that include air exchangers., Building products that do not off gas or contain unhealthy chemicals.

Real Problem 3. We all live in a world of limited resources and are concerned with the our impact on the environment we live but more important is the immediate environment of your own back yard, our own drinking water or septic system and our families comfort.

Solutions: Low water consumption fixtures. limited or no use of unhealthy chemicals on the job site that will be their home. remind them building waste is their waste and can end up in their immediate environment local land fills leach into local water supplies do they really want to risk it to save a few bucks?

Real problem faced buy all home owners hiring a contractor.
Solutions: Independent certification and energy audits that prove you are really providing what you promises with out the homeowner having to take your word for it.
The cost of these certifications is nothing compared to the piece of mind they get from them.

The key is make the customer feel that it is not a mater of higher cost or lower cost or built to code minimum or built to green specs. But that it is the difference of built right or built wrong. No one cuts what they deem as necessary so it is up to you to show them that they need to build green if they are going to build a properly built modern home anything less is simply a waste of money and a risk to their health and their families and also a risk to their investment in a new home.
No one wants to spend more then the need too but even worse no one wants to feel that even though they spent less it was a waste of money because they ended up with less then what they needed or it was inferior to the point of being a hazard to their health or their wallet.

Re: 2009 Deck Code Changes - Pay Attention!

A reminder to those of you who mention not wanting to disturb finishes to get access to the framing I say if you are counting on the ledger and it's attachment to the house to support the load of your deck as well as resist any lateral loads you BETTER be opening up to at least inspect the framing unless you built that house you are making a dangerous assumption to assume that those that built it did it correctly or that it has not suffered any damage over the years since it was built to be sure it can support the loads you intend to put on it. If you do not want to do that then you are better off building a free standing deck, NEVER count on unknown existing structure to support anything with out first checking.

If you do not think a rim joist can be pulled away I have a few words of advice
Unless you know for certain how well a house was built to begin with don't take anything for granted. Sure it would be very hard, on a new house built to today's code to pull a properly nailed rim joist out of the structure if it was glued and proper nailed to 3/4 subfloor and then the bottom plate was then properly nailed though the subfloor into the rim joist as well but unless you built that house How do you know it was?

Just one example: Just last summer I was doing a remodel which included replacing all windows and siding and repairing water damaged sheathing.
On one corner of the house I found that not only was the rim joist falling away (2" gap from the floor joists) but the first floor wall was pulling away at the corner with a 1" gap at the top plate of the wall at the corner and a 2" gap at the bottom.
(The home owner should have known something was wrong when they had a 1 inch crack at the corner of the drywall inside but believe it or not they just patched it and ignored it.) Why did this happen? improper nailing of framing members combined with rotted sheathing and original plywood sheathing that did not span the wall to wall corner connections or the wall to plate connections. as well as 1/2 inch plywood sub-flooring not nailed to the rim at all.
Today the sheathing is a integral part of the framing structure to fight shear forces and a integral part of wall to wall and wall to platform connection. But many people do not understand this thinking is is just a covering over the framing and to nail the siding to.
So if a wall can fall away without the added force of a improperly supported and braced deck you can see why decks could pull a ledger and the rim board it is attached to away.
This house was built in the early 1960s and had many violations by today's code but was fine base on MINIMUM code at the time. But if it had been built by a good builder and not by one of the many shoddy subdivision hack jobs common during housing booms it would have not had any of the problems it had even with 1960s code.

SO as is often the case this is just one more change because of builders and remodelers that build to minimum code or less. Instead of building based on solid engineering. Must experienced builders can build a deck that will never put lateral loads on the ledger (baring a strong earth quake). But many shoddy builders/remodelers and DIYers need to be protected from them selves and are the reason for these code changes.

Re: There's a Better Way: Drawing an Ellipse-ish

When I saw this video my first thought was, that does not work the arc is not tangent to the sides as a arched hall opening should be. Then I opened the link to the article by Jud Peake on drawing ellipses and it just confirmed to me that this tip is no more then a wrong way to draw an ellipse. No mater how thought out it may seem it does not produce what I would consider a desired result. But I suppose if what you want is simply an arc not a ellipses then ok but if this was my blog I would remove this tip since it is not even the right way never mind a better way.

Re: There's a Better Way: Large Drywall Patch

Ok so I do not sound too sarcastic I first want to say that I understand everyone is not on the same level but this is a pretty basic tip. It also makes me wonder just who are the readers of finehomebuilding? I was always under the assumption that this was a publication for those in the building trades or at least more then just the casual DIYer.
You know "written by professionals for professionals." show me a person in the building trades for any time that has never put a piece of wood behind a drywall patch?

I think just about everyone half way handy can figure out if you want to screw a patch but there is nothing to screw into, why not just put something there to screw into.

Hay I got a tip if you need to drive a nail but don't own a pneumatic nail gun you can actually use a hammer and hit the nail on the end and it goes right in just like it was shot from a nail gun. Come on guys lets set the bar just a little higher on what is a good tip verses what is simply standard practice. I mean you would not call using a utility knife to score and snap dry wall a tip it is simply how drywall is cut. Putting a piece of wood behind a patch is also a standard way to patch a hole in drywall.

Re: Mike Guertin fires back on bathroom venting

Ah yes the discussion of venting. Well this is is not just the bath as houses get tighter and tighter whole house ventilation with air/heat exchangers are needed.

And these systems must also be designed to avoid uneven air pressure that can drive moisture into the walls and can even cause CO dangers with gas furnaces and water heaters. When a high volume range hood is turned on it can cause a negative air pressure in the house that then sucks the exhaust gases of a water heater or furnace into the house.

That is why many areas require powered exhaust on heaters. Not to mention the temperature of the exhaust on a high efficiency heater is so low it no longer creates enough draft to properly vent with out the powered exhaust.

But again this too has been covered in several FHB articles. But yet many new homes are still built wrong.

Re: Craziest Shingle Tear-Off Method Ever?

Since the machine cost more then the cost of labor of 10 jobs stripped the old way I don't think I will ever have to worry about doing it that way.
But hay if you got it and are that good on the controls go for it.

Re: Crown Molding: Mitering vs. Coping. Which Do You Do?

There is no question a cope is the only way that will last over years of seasonal change in wood movement.

Inside miters will open as the crown shrinks and swells with moisture content. The reason a cope does not is wood does not shrink with the grain but across it. A miter is a angle cut across the grain so as the wood shrinks the miter will open at one side then as it swells it will close at that side but as it swells more it will open at the other side. so the only time the miter is tight with no gaps is when the moisture content of the wood is equal to he day it was installed.

On cabinets and furniture inside corners are glued and installed on perfect 90 deg.
But even on that when the glue joint fails you can still get a slight gap if the molding is very wide. But any good cabinet maker installing a very wide/tall crown detail on cabinet or furniture will use a multi-part molding because the profile of each piece is not that wide the movement is not as great as say a 4 1/2 inch crown molding or a large cove molding you might install at a ceiling.

But There is one exception to this rule and that is exterior PVC trim in that case you get movement with temperature not moisture and it does move along it's length so when you have a inside PVC crown joint a Miter and glue is the way to go I recommend in that case to use the 2 part (Bond-n-fill) when glued the joints become as one and don't nail with-in 1 foot of the corner then both pieces will move together but the joint will not open. A 20 foot piece of cornice trim in the winter can shrink as much as 1/2 inch in length (1/4 at each end if secured in the center) so you really need to glue joints and leave a expansion and contraction space then use a flexible sealer in the expansion space (bond-n-fill flex)
On really long runs of PVC trim I even use a expansion joint mid way filled with bond and fill flex then the joints at the end do not open.
I might just write a entry on my blog about installing PVC exterior trim and how details differ vs how you would install the same trim in wood.

Re: What's the Difference: Paper, Plastic, and Welded-Wire Collated Nails?

mrclaus are you kidding?
With proper nail gun safety you do not shoot your self or others.
And anyone caught on one of my job sites not following proper nail gun safety is quickly fired. Deciding which type of collation based on which one cause less damage to flesh is stupid the nail is not supposed to go in flesh and besides the damage the nail does it self should be reason enough not to shoot one in a way that could cause a nail to hit the flesh of your self or others.

And the key here is you really do not choose collation type after the fact you choose a nail gun based on the type of nails it can shoot and what you want to shoot nails in.

Coil guns almost all use wire collation and stick guns use mostly paper or plastic (kind of like the grocery store)

But also there are many types of nail guns coil and stick feed framing, finish nailers and specialty nailers like Hanger, Roofing and siding nailers, All of which have different nail needs. So it is really not of much use to talk about coalition types outside of a discussion of specific nail guns and types and there uses. Also most professionals have many different nailers for the very reason that each type has their uses and excel in some areas and have failings in others.

One example is in framing nailers coil guns hold more nails and are great for nailing jobs that require rapid nailing of a lot of nails where as stick nailers due to their angled magazines work great for toe nailing and cordless (or better put airless) impulse guns like the Paslode are great for when you are up in the rafters were a hose is in the way. or you have only a few nails to drive and you do not want to drag out a compressor.
So really this is only a partial subject the full subject is which gun and nail to select for a given job.

Re: Historic Salt Lake City Triplex

Nice project and I can see the New England colonial and farm house details. but You said " our design was inspired by New England Salt Box homes."

I am not trying to contradict you since the house/houses that inspired the New England colonial details in your remodel may very well have been saltbox houses but these details are not actually exclusive to a saltbox. Nor is the term saltbox descriptive of a architectural style but a architectural form. And I think it is a misnomer to associate New England colonial style with the term "saltbox" So to clarify for others I would like to add.

A Salt box is distinguished by a single story lean-to addition across the long side of the house (usually on the back)
Saltbox homes got their name because they looked like the large asymmetrical wooden saltboxes everyone used in colonial times. (of course I have yet to see an old salt box with this shape that was actually used to hold salt but that is supposed to be the origin.) the shape is also known as a "catslide" Later saltboxes were built to include the lean-to as part of the original frame.

more info with illustrations:

Yes it is a design most often associated with colonial homes since it was a aberration of the way early american colonial houses were built and then added on to. And the design originated in american architecture during the american colonial era.
So many associate all the details found on these colonial era saltbox homes with the american colonial style.

But saltbox houses were built during a very wide historic range and in many styles from the early Plymouth settlers in 1630s (usually no orientally as a saltbox but later became one) to modern contemporaries, they can be a very simple farm house with barn like trim and finish or have a high Georgian style or even mid 20th century minimalist style as long as they have that distinctive "Saltbox" shape they can be termed a saltbox.

So that said it would be more accurate to say "your project was inspired by early New England architecture" as opposed to saltbox since it does not share any layout or form of a saltbox house.

Re: What do the tax credits for energy efficiency and renewable energy mean for you?

Tax credits are a pain lead to confusing as to qualification requirements and they complicate the tax regulations that are already to complicated. We saw during the Obama cabinet appointment scandals that even very smart people often get it wrong. (I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that they made a mistake not that they intended to cheat I myself have been audited for under payment even though at the time I thought I was doing everything right and paying what was due.

One example In 2007 I took a Mass. Energy efficiency Tax credit For new Windows and a new heating system. I used turbotax to prepare my taxes the software included the tax credit but did not file the appropriate forms with my electronically filed return so I was audited. Then had to file a amended return that one also was sent back stating that the amount of the credit was $350 less then what turbotax had figured in the end I got less then 10% of the cost of the New windows and new heating system. But it cost me an additional $200 in tax preparation fees.

Also qualifying for tax credits does not always mean greater energy savings The heating system cost 20% more then a lower efficiency system that would not qualify for the credit (the system had to be 90% efficiency or better to qualify) The cheaper system still would have been better then the 30 year old system it replaced. And if I took the extra money and put it toward more insulation I would have saved more even if the heating system was not as efficient. But More insulation would not have qualified for the tax credit since I already met code requirements on insulation R-value. And the Mass tax credit only applied to Energy Star rated improvements like double pane low-E windows energy star water heaters and heating systems.

All said and done It was not worth the trouble and the tax credit did very little to help cover the added costs of energy smart improvements.

I better way is just offer direct rebates directly toward the purchase of the energy saving products. That way everyone qualifies it does not matter if it is new construction or a remodel. And you get the savings when the money is actually spent not at the end of the year when you file your taxes or based on your income.

Every time the government talks about solutions to anything they throw around income tax credits Tax credits for health care, tax credits for education, tax credits to stimulate the economy. Tax credits to promote green energy policies ENOUGH All READY address the problems directly not indirectly through the tax system that is already too complicated.

Just institute a flat % tax rate for everyone no deductions no credits. One single 5"x8" form. You earn X amount then pay X% for taxes. Done. No child credits no standard deductions no marriage penalties, no mortgage interest credits that those who rent don't get, and no tax free income or tax shelters. Everyone pays the same % of what they earn period how much simpler and fair can it get then that.

For those that worry about the poor paying too much and the wealthy too little we can just raise the amount you can earn before it is taxed but it would still be simpler then all this tax credit deductions and forms stuff. The way it is now the lower income levels give the government their money all year and then wait for them to give it back based on deductions and credits after they file their taxes. If they are going to give it back why not just don't take it to begin with. If your salary is under X level you pay no tax all income above X level you get taxed at a flat % rate. And it is the same for All, Rich or poor. And don't make any distinction as to how it was earned how many kids you decide to have or not have or how much your home costs or if you own or rent.
Why should someone who was responsible decided not to have more kids then they could afford to support who earns $20K per year pay more tax then someone who decided to have 6 kid who earns the same $20K. Are we trying to promote larger populations in a world of limited resources? Sounds a little backward to me.

Another one is the mortgage interest tax credit lets say again two people both making 20K/year If one saved and put down 30% on a $150K home the other bought a $150K house 100% financed. The person who managed to save 30% before buying a home (remember both earn the same 20K/year) pays more income taxes because they pay less interest on their mortgage in other words they are being penalized for being financially responsible. Is that what we want??

Many will say that it helps poorer people who could not afford the down payment buy a home. I disagree that this is the best way to do this. Even if the interest is tax deductible you still have to pay it all year before you get it back. There are plenty of other ways to help low income home owners without unfair tax regulations.
How about just offering responsible lending programs that have lower cost upfront that any person with a low income can qualify for then both 20K earners would get the same benefit based on income but the one who sacrificed to save 30% down will benefit even more with a smaller mortgage cost. We can help low income home buyers while still promoting personal responsibility.

Also I know we also give tax credits to businesses that open business in enterprise zones and in certain industries to promote investment in our economy and create jobs I say again why Tax credits? why not just give X amount upfront if a business is one we want to promote or creates jobs in a area in which we want to promote. I would think that would be more effective A capital investment in your company now is much better then a tax credit paid at sometime in the future.

And then also think of all the accounting expenses spent each year figuring out tax regulations by both businesses and the government at the other end. We waste tax dollars trying to figure out how much tax should be paid and who should get what tax credit or which deductions to give.
Under a flat tax it is simple you use simple accounting you simply figure out profit after direct expenses and you pay tax on the profit simple. Sure business still need to do accounting but they do not have to figure out thousands of pages of new tax laws every year. I do not know the cost every year but the fact that tax preparation is a multi-million dollar industry it must be a lot. Also what does the government pay every year to print the new tax laws and all the forms and processing these forms.

I do not claim to have all the solutions I am just throwing out suggestions for discussion. I just feel the Income tax system is not the solution for other problems. If we want to promote fiscal responsibility and growth we need to simplify the income tax system not add more regulations to it.

If we want to promote better energy policy and home improvement and building practices that save energy then do it with direct investments ether to those buying the products or reduce the cost with direct investment in the companies making or installing the products. Keep the tax system out of it. Now I know the government gets their money from taxes but why complicate it in the end tax credits are giving away money so why no just put it in the budget and pay it upfront not hide it in dubious tax credits.

Re: A Modest (Green) Proposal

Many people would love to have a more energy efficient home but it is not just the cost. (although it is a huge factor)

Other issues are:
1. That older buildings are not as easy to seal up and seriously improve as many make out. Many unscrupulous or poorly trained contractors take money to install more insulation or poorly installed modern windows or cover the outside with thin foam and vinyl siding and even after the updates the home still has leaks or although better sealed it now has poor moisture control.

The truth is it is not as simple as adding insulation or modern windows or sealing the building envelope these old buildings were not built to be sealed so when you make changes you need to address the whole structure and that is not cheap. So many efforts to improve these structures often lead to problems down the road.

Also Old buildings do not have insulated headers and have voids in the framing that are not easily accessed (without removing exterior and interior finishes.)
To properly bring a old structure to modern high efficiency building envelope often requires a complete whole building remodel (or at least it is much easier to do.)

Yes it is possible to add spray foam insulation (which eliminates the need for other vapor barriers) in walls and ceilings then add ridged foam on the outside under siding to eliminate thermal bridging of framing members but that requires all new siding and and it is much easier to properly insulate if you remove all the interior finishes. On a large house it could cost $10,000 to $20,000 just to remove and reinstall siding (vinyl siding is much cheaper) Never mind the cost of the insulation new windows/doors.

2. Old homes in historic districts face restrictions that hamper efforts to seriously improve their heating/cooling costs (most old homes in my area have no AC so have little cooling costs but I suppose in southern areas they do) many times old windows must be saved siding and finishes must be saved wall cavities may be filled with chinking (old clay brick and mud). making blown in insulation impossible without removing it first.

I am not saying that is is not possible to make old building very energy efficient in fact I know it is entirely possible but It is not not cheap. $5000.00 would not even make a dent to bring most older buildings to 2008 code never mind if your goal is Zero energy standards. It is very difficult to get new homes built to those standards never mind convince owners to update old buildings to that standard.

Thing is even with the worst house with no insulation and old drafty windows to seal even with higher fuel costs it still takes years to recoup the costs of a complete energy remodel. That is why it is usually only only done as part of complete renovation that also plans to update the stuff people like spending money on new interior finishes fancy kitchens/baths and new master suites.

You only need look at most of the luxury homes recently (before the bubble burst) to see that luxury interiors rated much higher then energy efficiency. Code minimum was the standard. And that was actually a joke if you had a 2x6 wall with old style framing (non insulated headers 16 on center framing double jacks full post corners and fill it with R-19 you still do not have a R-19 wall but that was the standard. Same as the R-30 attic insulation if you have air leaks at wall plates and poorly insulated HVAC ducts running though unconditioned attic space you still have energy waste. and this in new buildings even those that were selling for over a million dollars people were willing to spend money on granite counters marble showers and 3000-4000sq feet and huge 2 story great rooms but did they ask their builder if the building had a high efficient building envelope?

Re: Can you put a runner on winders?

Yes it is not as easy as you might think at first. the winder treads are wider due to the angle If you want the runner to appear as one continuous runner as it goes around the winders it takes custom made carpet.

Re: Is there hope for Hope for Homeowners?

I feel you are not just heartless but also wrong.

Maybe the prices should drop who said they were realistic in the first place? if people can't afford to pay the mortgage then maybe they should drop until they reach a level people can afford and not be faced with foreclosure in 2 or 3 years. Ether way we will be forced to face a much smaller market if prices do not drop and without the banking schemes that lead to this mess fewer and fewer will be able to afford the types of over prices houses we have been building. Or we must build cheaper houses with tighter profit margins ether way the industry will still have to adjust. And it does not matter how the banking industry handles their self imposed crisis. But the building industry itself must bare some of the burden of blame here did we build small affordable homes? No the trend was to build bigger and more expensive homes. Did we try and keep prices down so that the market was sustainable? No we just came up with all kinds of financing schemes to supposedly designed to make the house affordable to a larger segment of buyers. . (Many big developers had their own financing arms)

The problem is not with the homeowner now facing foreclosure that is a symptom of the much greater problem created buy the banking and building industry as a whole.
The housing market was fueled on a false market of buyers created buy bad lending practices and they knew this and did not care.

As the market boomed it was not based on a sudden growth in wealth like previous regional booms (like the silicon valley boom) in fact after the dotcom burst of 2000 the whole economy and not just the housing market was based on debt bad debt.

Debt that was sold over and over again and mortgages were made and the lenders making the loans didn't care about the income or ability of the borrower to pay back debt not as long as they could sell the loan. And although at the time Alan Greenspan was considered a financial genius It was the his monetary policy and support of ARMS and the sub prime market that both fueled the housing boom and lead to the current crisis. At the time to even consider anything that might slow the growth in the housing market was taboo.

So to blame the victims for buying a house which all the financial experts at the time told them was a good investment is removing the blame from those that created the problem to begin with. Another problem is it is the big luxury homes up for foreclosure that make the news and every one says why did they buy a house they could not afford but that is not the only people in danger of loosing their home no many bought very modest houses it was just that they live in area where the housing market was out of control with prices way out of reach of all but the wealthiest but people all dream of home ownership the draw of the American dream is so strong they are quick to believe the bank when they tell them they can afford the house and approve the mortgage. And they are told at the time look in a few years you will have equity and you can sell and move on or refinance at a better deal so they sign a mortgage they truly can not afford but they had every intention of paying it and saw it as their key to the american dream.

A lot more people then just those currently in foreclosure are paying mortgages higher then they really can afford. All it takes it one member of the household to have to take a wage cut of even a few dollars a week and they are in trouble. And because they are so over extended they also have no savings.

So what you want is now to turn them out on the street like they could just go out and buy a cheaper home and all will be well. Now they must try it start over with no house no credit and under new bankruptcy law they can still be responsible for the debt on the loss of the sale of the house they no longer have. Yes thats right just because you hand over the keys you may still be responsible for the bad debt. So people will be out if their home still with a huge debt and now they have to find some way to pay for a rent talk about promoting hardship. Also it is very difficult to even get a rent if after your foreclosure if you were evicted and many stay as long as they can because they have no place else to go.
So even if all the foreclosures were closed today and everyone behind on their mortgage was out on the street or in rentals the economy would still not magically return to a rosy outlook or even anything resembling a recovery
Oh and if your heart is so cold that you do not care if a family gets put out on the street with no place to go and even have hard time getting a rent never mind buy another home. Then let me tell you this many homeowners can be saved from foreclosure by a loan modification or principle reduction which in many cases in the end would be of higher value to the bank then the foreclosure sale price the bank would get now. So even if your primary concern is with the bank a foreclosure is not in the best interest of ether party Sure many say why should we reward people for buy a house they can not afford but I say in the end keeping people in their homes and paying the mortgage even if that mortgage needs to be reduced to allow that it is still better for all then a wide spread foreclosure sale.

Re: Trimming time, waste, and unfairness from foreclosures

Well I agree with a lot of what EDWARD L. GLAESER had to say except that the blame for this is not the borrowers. If you need a home in the area in which you work and the housing market is over inflated by greed of spec builder, unscrupulous money lenders and real-estate brokers, you do what you have to do get that house.

And for many it meant signing a mortgage that was designed by lenders to mislead and get people to borrow more then they could actually afford and because this was allowed it only served to push the market up even more. These were good people who wanted to buy into the American dream of home ownership and lenders (and in some cases the builders themselves were the lenders) took advantage of the emotions that home buyers often go into a home purchase with and sold people a home they could not truly afford. Instead of working to build a house that was within the true means of the buyer and keeping their profit fair builders and lenders let the runaway market rule the day. And now you blame the homeowner?

Where is all the profit these lenders and large builders made during the boom?? It is still out there just no longer on the books of the financial institutions but look at the salaries and bonuses payed to the executives and share holders before (and sometime even after) the bottom dropped out of he market. It is in the billions. The people that were running these banks and real-estate investment companies were out to make a killing and that is what they did they killed the market with predatory leading practices and driving up the market above a fair profit.

In any industry once the players in that industry forget about sustainability and instead look for the quick short term gains things go wrong. And again it is the little guy that pays the bill for their greed. 90% or the people in the building industry are small contractors and subs that even when prices were sky rocketing were not the ones making the huge profits yes we made money but no where near what those that blame higher labor costs on the increase in sale price would have you believe. I know for a fact that many subs were paid the same for the last house in a development as the first one built but the homebuilders (or should I say the developers) sold the houses for hundreds of thousands more. And the banks had no problem approving loans on these over priced homes many times on interest only loans with adjustable interest rates or 5 year balloon payments.

At the time they could care less if it was a fair value for the property or if the homeowner could actually keep paying the mortgage in the next 5 years never mind to the end of the of the mortgage contract. Why? well they had no intention of keeping that bad note they would sell it and pass on the risk to another lender. And did the new lender buying the note even check if it was a solid investment? No because they planned on selling it also not one of these lenders had any intention of holding this mortgage to term. It was all a shell game with the homeowner as the patsy in the game and the developers and real-estate dealers as the shill enticing more would be homeowners to buy into the market even in a that market was already so over inflated that very few buyers could actually afford the homes they were buying. But take away these unscrupulous lending practices at the currant inflated prices and your potential market of buyers drops so low that they can not sell these homes at the inflated prices. So even though they knew deep down that these buyers can't afford the house they still made the deal because the last thing they want is to be forced to lower the price to a realistic level to match the means of the average home buyer. No not when you can keep the price high and fool them into believing that they can afford it by approving them for a loan based on a shell game. So I do not know what the solution is now after the bottom has dropped out but to blame the homeowner serves no purpose other then to hit the victim in this whole game one more time. If sound lending and building practices were followed during this whole thing it all could have been avoided. People would of been match to homes they could afford prices would not of been allowed to rise above the true market price and lenders would be holding mortgages with a true value and positive income. The lenders only have themselves to blame. It is just to bad it is us that is paying the price.

Re: Falling costs help D.R. Horton narrow quarterly loss

On previous comment take a look on D.R. Hortons's web site and visit the employment page do those job titles look like jobs a Real Builder fills Not one lead carpenter position or job site manager, or positions filled by people that actually build houses. NO all money management and sales.
I rest my case.

Re: Falling costs help D.R. Horton narrow quarterly loss

I read this post 3 times and I can't seem to see any good news in it except a lower then expected loss if I was a share holder I might care a little that the company I invested in is actually run buy smart businessmen But...
Just because D.R. Horton has managed loss well, which is what you would expect from managers that built such a successful company, does not mean good news to the rest of us.
What do you think they did to stem their loss? Did you read the bloomberg article? First off to limit spec homes is just smart small builders have always done that (usually not be choice but because we don't have billions in stock sales money to work with our money comes from small town banks and our own personal investments)

Then they cut payroll cost That translates into regular guys the subs that D.R. Horton uses on their jobs being let go and employees laid off.
It is these small business owners and employees that are 90% of the building industry and they are the readers of Finehomebuilding not share holders in large development companies.

You don't see Bloomberg doing a story on what a 5 man small business is doing to keep their workers employed. Personally I have not paid myself in 3 months just so my employees can pay their bills and feed their families. Ask D.R Horton if they will take money out of their pockets (or share holders pockets) so their subs and employees can survive this recession?

I know developers like D.R. Horton make the headlines but it is the small contractors and subs that build the houses. I know large development companies like this are part of our industry but personally I would much rather all houses were built buy family owned small contractors that put employees and subs and most of all home owners ahead of shareholders.

I hate that these guys even call themselves "homebuilders" homes don't get built buy money managers they get built buy carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons and concrete contractors. And HOMES do not get built on Spec they are built for HOMEOWNERS and sold at a fair price and built with-in the budget of that homeowner so they will still be in that home years later.D.H Horton is a development company not a home builder.
I can't help but notice the amount of their loss that is from foreclosures on homes they financed. Let me tell you NOT ONE SINGLE HOMEOWNER I BUILT A HOME FOR IN 10 YEARS IS IN FORECLOSURE. And that includes the 3 I built with habitat for humanity and the 2 1200sq foot homes I built for low income owners.Every one is paying their mortgage and still in their homes. I built HOMES for real people financed by conventional loans from small town banks built within the means of the future home owner, not speculations properties sold at over inflated prices, if all builders did that we would not have the housing market problem we have now and good people would not be loosing their jobs and homes.

Here is a example of exactly why we are in trouble today:
I built two house in a development that the in which the rest of the lots were owned by a large company like D.R. Horton all of the home designs and lots were all about the same size and used about the same materials. The first houses sold went for around $600,000 (at a size able profit I must add) which was a fair price based on the lot size and level of construction (luxury homes) in 3 years (3 years after I finished my second home in that development) the same house that went for $600,000 was now $900,000. Did the subs get paid more? No. Was the material cost higher no since most of them were all built in that fist two years. No it was just a runway housing market all of the 300,000 was due to the so called housing boom. Now which home owners in that development do you think are in trouble? Why was the same house that could be built at a profit for $600,000 just 3 years later being sold for $900,000 And the banks agreeing to the loans? GREED that is why. And that is why we are in the situation we are in now and it is the D.R. Horton's that did it. So excuse me if I don't care if a single share holder in a big "Homebuilder" losses even one cent less.

Re: Calling all window experts: Suggestions, please!

Wow I just read my own post and does anyone know how to edit a post once I post it? Typos all though it wish I had proofed it before posting. So Sorry for the typos I hope you can get the idea anyway.

Also some final thoughts on the windows

Installing storm windows won't fix the old sash and if you intend to be able to open and close them, they must be in good shape that means repairing them and if the inside sash is in good repair you get a much more efficient system with the storms.

I have the same issue on my own house. I did enough repair to the exterior as to keep it water tight (the damage to a house frame if water gets in the wall because of a damaged window frame or sill can be huge)

BEFORE DOING ANY OF THIS HAVE YOUR WINDOWS CHECKED FOR LEAD you do not want to be using a heater or heat gun on lead paint yourself it must be commercially stripped.

But you can repair the windows yourself it takes some time but it is a project most DIYers can do but expect to have the sashes out for a day or two so best to do it in the summer :)

I recommend Abatron Epoxy systems to repair the rotted areas and you may need to glue new pieces of wood where the years of abuse and reglazing has damaged or worn down the dividers between the glass. Abatron products are great but I find you need real wood to hold the glazing points. I cut a 1/8" kerf in the muntin bar and then glue in a new piece of wood to replace the damaged pieces
Here is some help on the process of fixing an old sash

After repairing my windows I bought plexiglass sheets and a snap in frame system that goes on the inside that I install in the winter. I got the idea from historic deerfield houses basically it is an interior storm window. Same principle as those plastic shrink wrap sheets you tape on and smooth out with a hair dryer only these are reusable.

Of course If you can afford it I see no reason why any historic regulation would stop you from replacing old windows with historically accurate reproductions in many cases you would have so much repair that most of the sash wouldn't be original anyway so I do not understand the obsession of keeping badly damaged windows.

You can even save the old panes of glass (saves buying restoration glass) and have them installed in new sashes. more costly then DIY repair of the old sash but if lead paint is found you must also consider the cost of lead abatement because windows cause lead dust every time you operate the window unless you intend on sealing them closed.

You may want to run that one by the historic committee. I doubt they want to be responsible for a heath issue in your home. Then again they are not the ones who must pay the lead abatement bill so they may still say no. kind of stupid if you ask me but not unheard of even the infamous TOH crew with all their historic experts have had problems with historic committees so good luck hope you get a solution that won't kill your budget.

Re: Calling all window experts: Suggestions, please!

Well don't you just hate historic committees. Adding storm windows will alter the exterior image of the house much more then historically accurate reproduction sash units.
And If the goal of the historic committee is to preserve as much of the original fabric of the building regardless if you install storms then at some point those sashes will need proper restoration ether by you or the next home owner. And yes to have a professional do it is expensive or a very time consuming DIY project (I know I have done it one 12 over 12 sash set takes 2 days or more to restore so $1000 per window is a conservative estimate depending of just how much needs to be be reworked. welcome to the cost of preservation.

But unless your goal is archaeological preservation of every piece of a structure then I see no reason a reproduction window should not be allowed it would be a exact reproduction of the original and except for carbon dating of the wood and glass no one could ever tell a old window restored to like new from a proper reproduction window.

Just one source of reproduction windows:

Of course these reproductions would be no more energy efficient then the originals were when they were new but if properly weather stripped they will be much better then the old worn out and rotted originals.

I see this issue as facing 2 diametrically opposed goals one is to restore an old structure back to it's as built condition and the other is to make it something it never was intended to be a modern energy efficient home. Some were in between these two goals is the preservationist which tries to save what is left as a restorer would do while also accepting changes made to the structure over the years of it's life and also deciding on appropriate updates that allow it to be a functioning modern home.
After all for many historic homes it is their value as a home first that is essential to saving them. If a structure can not meet a current purpose it technically has no current value except as a example of antiquity.

If the goal is to truly preserve a structure as built then you would save every pice repair everything as it was use only materials available at the time it was built and use only building methods used at that time. In other words you would be creating a museum not a home. And if you are the curator of a historic site then have at it and you can get a rich benefactor to pay for it.

But forget about central heat modern insulation and modern utilities after all a house from the 18th century did not have that so in a true historically accurate restoration you would have to remove all that stuff right?

You see how far you go is s judgment call so this brings us back to these historic committees that are making judgment calls as to just how far they are going to push restoration vs preservation vs allowing for modern convenances of a livable home of today. So I ask you this how do they determine that it is OK to add central heat but not allow modern windows so that you can keep that heat in and keep the cost of heating down. Also old homes were not built to be tightly insulated they do not have HVAC systems and updating them for modern living creates all kinds of problems that the original builders never accounted for so if they are going to allow for some changes they need to understand that the building is a system that must be updated as a whole.

Another problem is historic commissions are established to preserve the character and fabric of historic homes but they do this while putting the burden of the cost of this preservation solely on the home owner. We really need to change this and funding must be made available to offset the costs these historic commissions put on owners of historic homes. If committees are going to be dictating mandates then those mandates should be funded as well ether directly through preservation grants or indirectly though tax credits. Many towns have historic districts and make mandates on home owners that can mean very high costs of repairs and maintenance and higher heating costs. I feel the least they could do is provide much lower property tax on historic properties to help preserve these homes. Like the saying goes "Put your money were your mouth is" if the towns really value these homes for their historic value let them truly show their commitment to their preservation with monetary support and not just unfunded mandates.

As both a owner of a historic home and a home improvement contractor I am as big a supporter of preservation as anyone but I am also a realist and I fight every day to get historic committees to understand that if these historic structures are to be saved they must be allowed to be updated to be viable homes or accept for a few museum houses many will be lost. And most owners of historic homes really do want to preserve them but they are after all homes first and not a museum.