RYagid


senior editor


RYagid
Senior Editor at Fine Homebuilding
I cover the world of design and residential architecture
Follow me on Twitter @RobFHB_Edit

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Contributions

Neon and Modern on Shelter Island

Neon and Modern on Shelter Island

A modern house unlike any other.

Off-The-Grid Straw Bale Getaway

Off-The-Grid Straw Bale Getaway

An architecture firm known for ecologically sensitive design creates an off-the-grid cabin in the woods of California

National Architecture Week

National Architecture Week

Celebrating the Power of Design with a Beautiful Bungalow Remodel by Moore Architects

The Professors House

The Professor's House

A University of Oregon professor designed her family home to respect its steep, natural setting.

Lessons From The Road

Lessons From The Road

When designing your home don't be afraid to be unique or original.

Fine Homebuilding is On Pinterest

Fine Homebuilding is On Pinterest

Check out the Fine Homebuilding boards on Pinterest for design inspiration

Just Right @ 144 sq.ft.

Just Right @ 144 sq.ft.

A small home in the California mountains is designed for reflection and conversation. Inspiration for small-home living.

Midwestern Modern

Midwestern Modern

An efficient, modern home sits lightly on its steeply sloping lot

The Hazel River Cabin

The Hazel River Cabin

See how one architect successfully transformed a historic 1794 toll keeper's log cabin into a unique, modern home.

Garage Progress

Garage Progress

We're making good progress on the garage shop at the project house. Drywall is hung, carriage doors are installed and the new front facade has been painted.

A Custom Built-In Entertainment Center

A Custom Built-In Entertainment Center

A modern built-in accomodates TV and stereo storage

A Classic Farmhouse

A Classic Farmhouse

Architect Marc Sloot defines the Farmhouse style with this Wisconsin home.

The Microbial Home

The Microbial Home

Philips redefines “sustainable” design by developing products that turn your home into a functioning ecosystem

The House You Didnt See

The House You Didn't See

Andrew Jacobson’s kitchen appears on the cover of our latest Kitchens & Baths issue. Now take a look at the rest of the house.

Lessons From a Small Studio

Lessons From a Small Studio

What a well designed, small studio can teach us about designing better homes.

A Fresh Take on Traditional Architecture

A Fresh Take on Traditional Architecture

How a New England architect gives her traditionally inspired homes a contemporary look

Our New Design Blog

Our New Design Blog

Welcome to Fine Homebuilding's new blog, where we'll help you design inspiring homes.

Design: Playing with Scale

Design: Playing with Scale

Create contrast with scale to design interesting, beautiful homes

A Preservationists Dream

A Preservationist's Dream

A deep commitment to preservation pays off

Bathroom Design: Skylights Make the Space

Bathroom Design: Skylights Make the Space

Use this natural light source to transform dark bathrooms into bright bathrooms that feel larger

K&B Preview: Small kitchen, Small Budget, Big Results

K&B Preview: Small kitchen, Small Budget, Big Results

A young architect takes on his own kitchen remodel

Furniture That Can Change the Way You Design

Furniture That Can Change the Way You Design

Create a flexible home with innovative space saving furniture

Cargotecture: Would You Live in a Metal Box?

Cargotecture: Would You Live in a Metal Box?

Some people think shipping containers make great homes; some think they're just weird

Are you a Master Deck Builder?

Are you a Master Deck Builder?

Thanks to a new education series from the North American Deck and Railing Association you can officially claim Master Deck Builder status.

Lead Paint: The Fines Are Real

Lead Paint: The Fines Are Real

An Oregon painting contractor shells out over $32K for failing to comply with lead-paint regulations.

Paint Your House and Live Mortgage Free

Paint Your House and Live Mortgage Free

How far are you willing to go to have your mortgage paid for you?

Name This Detail

Name This Detail

An interesting architectural feature on this old home has many of us scratching our head.

Bosch Wall Scanner Available February 1st

Bosch Wall Scanner Available February 1st

The new wall scanner by Bosch should be available in stores starting Feb. 1st

A Passive House in Rhode Island

A Passive House in Rhode Island

An ultra-efficient home in Rhode Island offers inspration for the rest of us

Calling All Tool Experts: Can you name this tool?

Calling All Tool Experts: Can you name this tool?

Identify this tool and tell us how to use it for a chance to be published in the magazine.

The Devil Is in the Details

The Devil Is in the Details

Some modular homes are getting better, but the construction details in many modular homes are still downright scary. Here are a few photos I secretly shot recently.

Green Building is for Whiners and Hippies

Green Building is for Whiners and Hippies

Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) and the Wall Street Journal take aim at green building.

Water Crisis: What is Virtual Water Content?

Water Crisis: What is Virtual Water Content?

Virtual water content describes the amount of water used to make or grow a product. By being aware of a product or material’s virtual water content you can refine your purchasing decisions to be sure you’re buying products and materials that are created using less water.

Notes from the Pacific Coast Builders Show

Notes from the Pacific Coast Builders Show

A look at the show's best and worst offerings

Is the EnergyStar Program Flawed?

Is the EnergyStar Program Flawed?

According to recent news reports, the EnergyStar program may not be as diligent as it should be when it comes to vetting products.

Big, Old and Beautiful.

Big, Old and Beautiful.

Old iron makes a tool junky’s heart beat faster.

Man Bulldozes Own Home to Prove a Point

Man Bulldozes Own Home to Prove a Point

In an attempt to prove a point to the banking industry, Terry Hoskins of Moscow, Ohio "solved" his financial troubles by taking a bulldozer to his own home.

Wood Sickness

Wood Sickness

When the hunt for a particular species of wood takes you through a maze of old barns and homes, something isn't quite right. Am I alone?

The New Magazine

The New Magazine

Yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Ipad. Do you want a digital version of FineHomebuilding?

IBS 2010: Bosch Introduces New Laser levels and Reveals Latest Compact Cordless Tools

IBS 2010: Bosch Introduces New Laser levels and Reveals Latest Compact Cordless Tools

Two new layout tools that will make your jobs easier and more accurate. Plus, new compact cordless tools so top secret we were forced to remove any photos of them from this post.

IBS 2010: Schluter Introduces new Foam Core Tile Backer System

IBS 2010: Schluter Introduces new Foam Core Tile Backer System

Structural panels will ease the process of making tile partitions, walls, and structures for bathrooms and more

Are Replacement Windows a Waste of Money?

Are Replacement Windows a Waste of Money?

Some research suggests that they are.

Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

Stop Burning Money and Walk Away From Your Mortgage

For people who owe more than their house is worth, this is an option out. But, is it right? Join the debate.

Prediction 2010: Blue is the New Black

Prediction 2010: Blue is the New Black

Forget oil. Water conservation will drive new building trends in the next decade

8 Ways to Make Vinyl Siding Look its Best

8 Ways to Make Vinyl Siding Look its Best

Whether you love it or hate it, vinyl siding is a popular siding option. Installing it properly is imperative to get results that look good.

Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

Synthetic decking seems to be all the rage these days. Is it really all that it's cracked up to be?

Titanium hammers up for grabs. Want one?

Titanium hammers up for grabs. Want one?

Do you swing a titanium or a steel hammer? Which do you think performs best and why? Join the debate and you'll be eligible to win one of four titanium hammers that I'm giving away.

Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Identifying the “greenest” foam isn't so easy. But, it helps to know what its made of.

SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

Working around any tool demands a certain level of safety. However, when it comes to table saws the bar is set a bit higher. These tools have the capacity to do a lot of damage. Luckily, Steve Gass invented the SawStop. Watch as he demonstrates how the saw works by sacrificing his own finger.

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

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

When it comes to installing crown molding it's all about seamless transitions. In order to get great looking crown, trim carpenters either miter or cope their inside corners. Two pros who have installed miles of crown molding weigh in on which technique is best.

From Framer to Editor

From Framer to Editor

The transition isn't always so smooth

Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

Paper might not seem like a suitable raw material for countertop fabrication, but when saturated with resin, heated, and compressed, the result is surprisingly stonelike.

Whats the Difference: Vapor Barriers and Vapor Retarders?

What's the Difference: Vapor Barriers and Vapor Retarders?

You don’t have to be a building-science expert to know that trapped moisture is bad for houses. To help slow moisture diffusion through roof, wall, and floor assemblies, many experts—and in some parts of the country, building codes—demand the use of vapor retarders. Across the building industry, however, the term vapor barrier is commonly used in place of vapor retarder. This misuse raises the question of whether the two terms categorize the same products and whether those products have the same performance traits.

Cheng Rendition

Cheng Rendition

Although my coffee table is not nearly as refined as Fu-Tung Cheng's work, I think it turned out okay. I wanted to suggest that the top had cracked and that the two pieces had...



Recent comments


Re: Darien LEED Platinum Home

That inglenook looks incredibly comfortable. I always look for spaces like this when considering homes for the magazine. Really nice job.

Re: Desert Contemporary Craftsman - the Promise Fulfilled

Thanks for posting, Sundrop. It's obvious that this home means a lot to you and to your wife.

Re: VIDEO: 2012 HOUSES Awards - Best New Home

Bobbresnahan: Your comment speaks to the intended value of these design videos. Thanks so much for posting. I'm happy that you and Emily enjoyed the content.

Re: VIDEO: 2012 HOUSES Awards - Best New Home

LeaThommpson,

Thanks for the comment. You live in a great place. The builder is Marc Susskind of MS Builders. You can find his phone number easily through a simple search online.

Thanks,

Rob

Re: Design snapshot: Driveway do's

What a timely post, Katie. I’ve been looking closely at driveways lately. It is so obvious when a driveway has been installed without consideration for its impact on the site and home. This is a nice shot and shows what can be accomplished when you care about the details.

Re: Design snapshot: Provincetown dune shack

Race Point has been my family's stomping ground for as long as I can remember. Even through the mist, I have a connection to this photo. Katie, I think you should apply for the Artist-in Residence program through The Provincetown Community Compact and turn your dream into a reality.

www.thecompact.org (click on dune shacks)

Re: Cannon Beach Cabin

I agree with JetcityHoward. I like the continuity between interior and exterior details. The execution is at an equally high standard. Really nice project.

Re: Design snapshot: Pleasing pavers and plantings

This makes every other brick patio I've seen seem so boring. What I like most about this detail is that it is all about creativity. It's not executed with some exotic material or made possible by some unreasonable budget.

Is this the border of the patio?

Nice shot, Katie.

Re: Fine Homebuilding is On Pinterest

Hey Geoffrey,
I think there is a way to register without an invite. However, I'll send you an invitation so you can start following along. Have fun pinning...

-Rob

Re: Just Right @ 144 sq.ft.

Diana, Thank you for sharing this project with us and for letting the Fine Homebuilding community take a close look into your home. It is a beautiful project. Many of us aren’t prepared to live in a home so small. However, you’ve been able to create a home that is closely aligned with who you are and the life you want to live. That’s truly inspirational, and something we can all apply to our own projects—regardless of their size.

Re: Design snapshot: The art of the stone wall

Nice photo, Katie. I agree, the daylight passing through those upper courses of stone is beautiful in some way.

ThetimberTailor: I agree with you as well. I can't imagine clearing a field of stone and then building a wall with such thought. Undoubtedly thought was put into this wall. The stones weren't just thrown about.

Brian, the editor here at the magazine informed me that this is a classic example of a "lace wall". It's a common style along the New England Coast. According to a NYtimes article, lace walls were sometimes used to keep sheep contained in pasture. Because the top stones would fall easily, sheep tended to keep off of them.

It's a good article and worth a read. Here is a link:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2005/11/18/travel/escapes/18stone.html?pagewanted=all

Re: Design snapshot: Small house, big windows

Semar: Thanks for your input. You bring up some good points. I agree, nothing looks/functions worse than a space that was designed without consideration for furniture placement. Here are some other examples of the impact extra large/extra small windows can have on a home.

http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item/19635/design-playing-with-scale

Re: Design snapshot: Small house, big windows

I'm glad you posted this, Katie. I'm really into big windows on small homes. However, I always wonder how people get it right. When is big not big enough and how big is too big? Any insight?

Re: A Classic Farmhouse

isak: I just sent a note to Marc asking fora copy of the floor plans. I'll post them here as soon as I receive them. Check back soon.

Re: Design snapshot: Roof riddle

Nice shot, Katie. I do like the way the soffit was handled, especially on a gable with such a deep eave. I agree with you, though, the fascia/rake/gutter transition on the corner is a bit...butchered.

Re: Can Make it Right teach us to build better?

Some interesting comments here. Surly you'll read the article when it comes out and let us know what you think. Deb is hard at work pulling the piece together.

I had some initial concerns about the architectural component of the Make It Right Project. At first glance some of the homes seemed well suited for each architect's portfolio, but not for the people that would ultimately live in them.

However, after talking to Deb (who recently visited the Lower 9th Ward) I feel better about the work that's being done there.

Take a look at some of the completed homes here.

http://www.makeitrightnola.org/index.php/work_progress/mir_homes/

I think we'd all be interested to see what you think of the results so far.

Re: Design snapshot: Barn three-season bonus

Living space or not, I really like the arbor that extends over the two doors. Really nice detail.

Re: Lessons From a Small Studio

TheCatalyst, thanks for posting. It's great(and surprising) to get the perspective of someone who has actually been to the studio. Though I didn't state it in my text, I find that these sort of projects make you question the way you live in your existing home. What's necessary. What's possible. I can actually see myself living in this space as well, but I'm personally drawn towards smaller homes in general.

Re: Lessons From a Small Studio

Thank you both for your comments. Lash66, I don't think the site is as ideal for PV as it might seem. Cathy will know more and might post. If not, I'll find out for you. Goalieump, you make some interesting comments. I feared that people might look at this project and not get it. No, it's not a living space with "long term occupation in mind". It's a studio used as a work space and as a guest house. There are good lessons here that can be replicated in "homes", though. Also, the windows aren't custom. Cathy can weigh in here as well, or I'll get more details. I'm with you, though. They do look custom.

Re: Our New Design Blog

Thanks for the commment, Silvia, and thanks for following along. Can't wait to get your feedback on the projects you see here.

Re: TANNA BY DESIGN - 'think tank'

Nice work, Tanna. I love the space. Were the shelving units custom built?

Re: K&B Preview: Small kitchen, Small Budget, Big Results

Matsquu: Keep your eye out for the next Kitchens & Baths issue. This kitchen will be featured in there. We'll have more photos, cost breakdown and floor plans. Thanks for your comments.


rich14925: good observation.

Re: Cargotecture: Would You Live in a Metal Box?

Fredo, thanks for weighing in with your experience. You bring up some great points as well. ColcT, thanks for pointing readers to a really cool link. If anyone wants to check out more container projects check out the "Container Architecture" Exhibition at the NRW-Forum Dusseldorf. They're showcasing 114 projects. Many of them are simply stunning. Check a few of them out here http://www.nrw-forum.de/container_architecture (click on the photo of the Puma building to load the slide show)

Re: Cargotecture: Would You Live in a Metal Box?

CedarVT, have you been to the Kalkin House at the museum? Adam Kalkin certainly has a distinct style. Here's a 1 min. video on his approach to art/architecture. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVFhYnD19-w

Re: Cargotecture: Would You Live in a Metal Box?

You guys both bring up great points. Thanks for weighing in. I don't know enough about the construction of these homes to really be able to determine their practicality. Their cost is really attractive, though. No doubt, the EcoTech Designs home above is more elaborate than the yellow HyBrid Architecture house. Even so, the finished construction cost of that EcoTech project (including foundation and site work) was $150/sq.ft. That’s pretty impressive. To me, this approach really shines when it comes to accessory buildings. I think a shipping container can make a great home office, guest house or small vacation home. The EcoPod project that I’ve just added to the gallery above is a good example of what I mean. What do you think?

Re: Paint Your House and Live Mortgage Free

patrick78, if you would, keep us posted on the process. I'm still not sure if I can say I support this, but it sure is an "interesting" concept.

Re: Lead Paint: The Fines Are Real

Amazingrace, I think you've got it right. No one has been fined for violating the latest lead paint laws (at least to my knowledge) However, the EPA is now releasing news briefs highlighting the hefty fines placed on contrators for violations that occured under the previous legislation. Yesterday I recieved another notice via an EPA twitter feed--this time for a window and siding outfit here in CT. Here is a link:
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/dfa3c2b788c125748525785c0065338b!OpenDocument

Re: Lead Paint: The Fines Are Real

I think I have to agree with you. Even though the incident took place way back in 2008 before the “new” lead paint laws were put into effect last April, the EPA released the news brief this past Wednesday (4/6). It does seem like they’re trying to make a statement.

Re: Name This Detail

Mike, you're getting very close. Dreamcatcher, you were on the right track too. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from former editor, Kevin Ireton. Not surprisingly, he offered a concise and well supported explanation of the architectural detail. He has attributed his findings to Old House Journal, which describes the detail as:

Cresting: Ornamental roof cresting came into its own during the mid-19th century as a decorative complement to finials and weathervanes. Traditionally made of cast iron, today’s cresting is usually made from plate steel, which is less expensive and lighter weight, making installation much easier.

Thanks, Kevin.

Re: A Passive House in Rhode Island

Thanks for the correction, Tomas.

Re: My Story As Told By Houses-- Part 1, The Soddy

Larry,
I feel compelled to say that this is some of the finest writing I’ve had the privilege to read in quite some time. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in the West—Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska. My fiancé is from a little town in southeastern South Dakota, a place we travel often to visit her family. As a born and bred Easterner, the vastness of the prairie is both new to me and profoundly moving. It is your words, though, that have changed the memory of my experiences there. They have enriched them. It won’t be long before I head West again, and as I travel through the grasslands I’ll think of this piece. I look forward to reading more.

Thank You.

Re: Water Crisis: What is Virtual Water Content?

"Virtual water content describes the amount of water used to make or grow a product."

Example for granite: Granite quarrying consumes 310 gallons of water per ton, while processing it uses 9,500 gallons.

Re: Reader Email: Bargain bin flooring nailer?

Great post, Justin. As you know I recently wrapped up an article with Charlie Peterson on installing prefinished wood flooring. Since extreme care needs to be taken when installing prefinished products he recommends staying away from nailers with poppet type valve systems. Here's a quote from his piece...

"Almost all manufacturers of flooring nailers use a poppet type valve system. The harder you hit the gun the more the valve opens, which lets more air in to drive the piston. It’s difficult to control the penetration of the fastener this way, because if you don’t hit the gun hard enough you’ll insufficiently sink the fastener. On the other hand, if you hit the gun too hard, the piston can come into contact with the wood and crack the tongue[and subsequently damage the finish."

With that said, what type of valve system does this off-brand gun have, and would you recommend using it to install prefinished flooring? If you have used it to install prefinished product, did you run into any issues?

Re: Notes from the Pacific Coast Builders Show

Justin, I did in fact touch the goop. It's a bit harder than the Owens Corning product, but still has some play. I would not say that it has the same "spongy compression", though.

Re: Tool-related injuries

It seems simple, but the lesson I've learned over the years is to think about what you're doing (constantly) and to trust your instinct (always). I haven't had any serious injuries, but that's due to luck rather than a habit of building safe.

One day, when up on a step ladder framing a soffit for a kitchen I double fired the nail gun. I pulled the extra nail, which wasn't set, out with my hammer. It twirled in a way that the point made direct contact with my eyeball. Instinctively, I dropped everything and wound up taking a step off the ladder and falling to the floor. As I was lying there blood filled my eye. It wasn't until I sat in the ER that the blood cleared and I could see again. My sunglasses, which were impact rated and that I used for protection, were resting on the top of my head the entire time. Stupid. I always wondered what would have happened if I was working on the top of a twenty footer, instead of a step ladder, or If I'd been up in the rafters over a vaulted, two story great room.

When it comes to instinct: There was a "rule" on the framing crew I worked on before I came to the magazine. All blade guards on circular saw had to be shimmed open. I never understood the logic, I think my boss said something about "speed" and that it "forces you to pay attention to what you're doing." It was totally sketchy to me, but I was in my early 20's and I was invincible. In my gut I knew it wasn't right, but at the time I didn't care. That was until, Travis, a fellow grunt walked over with a slash in his shorts. Track marks from the saw blade made their way from his inner thigh to the outside of his knee. I wondered what the consequences would have been if the blade was spinning a bit faster and went a bit deeper. Did I really know how to save someone’s life?

There is no doubt that building homes is dangerous, but the largest threat lurking on the job site is the absence of thought and common sense.

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

To clarify a few points, in no way do I think this home represents "evil". The intent of my argument wasn't that we should all do without luxuries in life or live a life free of consumption. That’s nonsense (and impossible). For instance, while I wouldn't want a movie theater in my home, having one in a home is a fun idea for some people. Having a banquet hall or a museum for parties is a good idea if that’s something you do often. I don’t think anyone on my side of the fence is truly bothered by the amount of money spent on the project, or how that money was spent. (That really is no ones business).

My particular argument was simple, and has less to do with this specific house than it does with homes in general. The homes we build, and the way in which they are built, matter. They have a local impact, and collectively our housing stock has a significant global impact (economically, socially, environmentally etc). That is the discussion I was hoping to see here. I wondered if anyone else agreed with that statement, or not. I wondered if there were some cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable in a home based upon social values. (Not right or wrong, just accepted) I know, I know, perhaps too deep a discussion for the time and place. It’s my fault for not conveying that message clearly and initially blanketing it in a rather subjective perspective.

I’m glad that Mr. Chase thought about some of the consequences of his building decisions. He seems to have made some very good choices. Does the amount of resources used to construct the home—and the impact of that consumption— contradict some of its attributes? Maybe, and it’s fair for each of us to consider the answer to that question.

Though it may be uncomfortable, a discussion of such topics is nothing to shy away from. While I may not agree with all of them I respect each of the positions posted here, including yours Mr. Chase.

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

Gblotter, this is a blog, not the pages of the magazine. This is where opinions and ideas are expressed. We disagree, that is fine. That's our freedom.

I fear that you missed the point of my argument. My point was that all too often people build homes as if it didn't affect anyone else in their community or any other land beside the one in which the house sits. Our homes, and the way we build them resonates beyond property lines. Now it's your freedom to not care about anyone, or anything else "downstream" of your home. But, at least admit that you don't care.

This entire idea of "it's my right to build however and whatever I want" despite the greater implications on the community and the environment is just downright scary.

And by no means am I suggesting government to control the issue. That's not the answer. I just hope that one day I see a cultural shift towards a more responsible and sensible way of building. There are a lot of people on that path, and I think we’re making good progress.

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

This is by no means the stance of FHB, but it's certainly mine. So, if you're going to respond harshly direct it at me. Here it goes:

I sent the Courant article around the office in an e-mail entitled "Your daily vomit" (I thought it was catchy). The truth is that the article, and the house it profiled, made me a bit sick.

My issue has less to do with the house itself, than with the premise upon which it was built. The argument has been made. Why build such a big house? The answer (for many), because he can. Well, in my opinion that's not good enough and I'll judge you for it. There are a lot of things we can do as a society, and a lot of things we do simply because we can. That, however, does not make them right.

The majority of this house is a waste. I say that because if you're not going to live in it, then how else would you classify it? Can someone honestly say that a family will live in every bit of a house this size? This award winning architect could have surely figured out how to design all of Mr. Chase's luxurious requests into a house half the size, correct? I get it; the house was built to stand as a symbol of wealth and power. To folks that are not impressed by such things, the house stands as a symbol of what's wrong with the current housing industry. (It may even draw back the curtain on some of the social problems in this country.)

The truth is that the way you build a house has an affect well beyond the borders of your property. SAMinOK states, "As long as I don't ask you to foot the bill for my family through government assistance, it is absolutely none, zero, zip, nada of your business." It is our business. You live within the fabric of a community, and the way you build has an impact on that community whether you choose to accept it or not. If you don’t care, then that’s another issue, but at least it’s a legitimate argument.

I once worked for customers who lived in a 6,000 sq. ft. house overlooking a lake in Connecticut. They brought in consultants and discovered they only truly lived in about 1500 sq.ft of the house. So, they sold it and built a smaller home (1500 sq.ft.) that was more in tune with their lifestyle. They could afford the 6,000 sq. ft. house. Truth be told, they could afford to live in a house 4 times that size, but their moral compass took them in a different direction.

Mr. Chase's home was built to send a message. Unfortunately, that particular message is all too clear.

Re: IBS 2010: Schluter Introduces new Foam Core Tile Backer System

GoGreenGo, you're correct. Schluter is in the process of building a brand new plant here in the U.S. (Up near plattsburgh, NY, I think.) Supposedly it will have an even greater capacity than the Euro plants. Hopefully this improves distribution and costs.

Re: Flashing a Window: Debating Best Practices

There’s no doubt that you are right when you say “…for any given process there are about ten ways to go about doing something.” With that said, I have a few issues with this particular “way”. However, I don’t think there is ever an excuse to stuff fiberglass insulation around a window. Scott claims that “The fiberglass is doing as much good as it is in the wall.” Well, actually that couldn't be further from the truth. The real goal here is to prevent air from flowing around the window. That’s why spray foam is so effective, and that’s why fiberglass sucks. Fiberglass blocks very little air movement, if any at all. (R-value is a rather insignificant factor in this application) If he was concerned about wasting spray foam on that large gap above the window, why didn’t he throw in a block of rigid foam and back it up with spray foam? That simple error can be a significant cause of energy loss, even if the window is the most efficient unit on the market.

Re: 8 Ways to Make Vinyl Siding Look its Best

Cedarist,
You can actually blame me for the misinformed statement, "vinyl makes sense for a lot of people." I wrote it. Mike simply offered me tips on how to install this material correctly. While I agree that consumers need to be aware of the environmental impact of the building materials they choose, the reality is that a lot them aren't. Just because some folks don't deem vinyl as "green" or "fine" doesn't mean that builders aren't asked to install it. An article like this is intended to help that builder.

By the way, you missed an important component in your equation regarding cedar. Would you have us believe that no fossil fuels are consumed during the harvesting and manufacturing of cedar siding? What about the greater impact of logging on local and regional eco systems? Of course, I'm playing devil's advocate here. I love cedar, but unless we’re willing to live as primitive animals beneath its canopy, we have to realize that there isn’t a truly green siding material on the market. Would you agree?

Re: Who Do You Blame for Your Energy Lemon?

Chuck,

The energy decal is a great idea, and I hope it won't be too long before we see them plastered on the doors of every newly constructed home. I just wrapped up an edit on Matthew Teague's article on green building certifications ―which is going to be published in the next issue. In that piece he touches on this subject. Apparently, The Energy Trust of Oregon and Earth Advantage (a regional green building program in the Northwest) have teamed up to begin assigning homes an Energy Performance Score. The label will list the home’s energy use, energy costs and carbon emissions, much in the same way that cars are assigned MPG ratings. This should help the consumer sort through the junk houses on the market. Does anyone have more information on this program or similar initiatives elsewhere in the country?

Re: Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

Jschatz,
Thanks for posting and I appreciate your praise of Fine Homebuilding. We enjoy having you as a fan. I understand your criticism of my post. It doesn't have a ton of hard hitting facts. However, I must point one thing out since it was brought up earlier in this thread. This isn't an article. It is a blog post. There is a distinct difference between the two. I wrote this piece on a whim in order to generate a conversation about a topic I've been thinking of. The opinions I expressed are real, and my invitation for folks to post so that I (and other readers) can become better informed was genuine. I'm more than pleased with the responses thus far, and am happy with the constructive commentary. You can bet that Fine Homebuilding will dive deeper into this topic in the future. So keep your eye out for a more in-depth article in the regular issue, or here online.

Re: Lightweight Structural-Steel Beam

Hey Justin,

These beams have the, "workability of engineered wood beams." That's awesome. However, I was wondering if you can hang joist hangers or other brackets from it if need be? If so, how's it done?

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

Hey Parentg6,

Thanks for posting your comments. You bring up some good points. With regard to the spray foam thickness/cost equation, more foam isn’t a total waste of money. However, lots and lots of foam may not offer the thermal performance you would think, just by adding up the R-values per inch. There’s more to the equation than just R-values and it’s important to do a cost/benefit analysis of each component of your home. (take a look at the article’s we’ve done on advanced framing techniques). You can not only save money, but you can conserve resources.

With regard to your concerns about turning food into insulation, you need not worry too much. The corn and soybeans used to create alternative forms of energy (and I’m guessing the polyols in spray foam) aren’t the same “food” you’ll find on the farm stand in town. They’re commodities. Commodity corn, for example, reflects the corn you’d eat only in appearance. Its kernels are extremely hard to eat, don’t taste much like corn and are extracted (grown) from the earth to be used as energy or it’s processed and into who knows what to be used in various ways (feed lots?). It's looked at less like food and more like a resource.

Re: SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

Untreatedwood (and all who posted thus far), I appreciate all of your insights and think that there is tremendous value in this dialogue. It sure is a philosophical debate, and I think that’s okay. I’m with a lot of you when it comes to some of our government’s activities (legislation that impacts our industry). What I find most interesting, however, is that no one really has a problem with the SawStop technology, but only with the possibility of having a market saturated with saws that have the technology. This confuses me. I can’t figure out a way to argue against having safer table saws on the market and in your shops. I don’t think it’s a threat our freedom. Freedom, to me, is not defined by our ability to do whatever we want, with whatever we want, whenever we want to do it. That would lead to chaos. We need legislation, we need safety measures to be mandated and we need manufacturers to be pressured to make safer, better performing products. Air bags in cars help save lives. Can you buy a car without air bags these days? Would you prefer to drive yourself or your children in a car without air bags, just because it makes you feel more “free”? Saw Stop technology can prevent serious, life debilitating injury. I think it’s a useful technology (something that’s so rare these days). The cost is certainly an issue. If legislation does require manufacturers to integrate this type of technology into their saws, then DeWalt, Makita, Bosch, etc. are going to have to figure out a way to produce and sell the saw in a way that the market would tolerate. It’s a progression in the performance and safety of a tool, and that shouldn’t be stopped. I’d hate to see anyone (seasoned carpenter, trade school student, grandchild etc.) sustain a traumatic injury that could have been prevented.

Re: SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

Thank you, Jmquinn32, for conducting yourself so well. Back on track― I agree with most everyone here when it comes to opposing mandates of certain technology. When it comes to safety features, however, I feel a bit differently. I think the SawStop is a perfect example of a progression in safety measures. Can we stop progress? Should we stop it? I don’t think so in this regard. I realize that the initial economic impact of this type of tool would be severe. However, wouldn’t the market eventually smooth itself out? (Economically speaking)
Also, I hate to see this saw labeled as a DIY tool, or one that’s only fit for a school shop. An accident can happen to anyone of us, at any time― even the most experienced of craftsmen. Kevin Ireton, the former editor of this very magazine, can’t count to ten on his fingers due to a table saw accident. I just don’t see how this technology is a bad thing, and I hope that it finds its way into all saws.

Re: Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Bski, Bruce Harley recommends treating a crawl space like a small basement. A crawl space can be a huge source of moisture and mold in the home. Simply venting a crawl space doesn’t adequately remedy the situation. It’s best to insulate the crawlspace walls, seal up any outside air sources and install a class I vapor retarder over the floor (be sure all seams are taped). He also encourages water drainage to be integrated into the crawl space to manage any bulk water issues that may arise.

Re: Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Zimmerdale, I'm not so sure how I feel about your solution. I suggest designing the house the way you want it, in a way that makes sense for future occupants. If someone does decide to opens those walls 30 years from now to remodel the home, I’m not sure they’ll know what to make of the chases you’ve installed. I can picture them just ripping them out and starting over, which just leads to a waste of resources, time and money on your part. If you do decide to go ahead with the plan be sure whatever plastic you choose to use as a chase can withstand the heat generated by the foam's exothermic reaction.

Re: Getting Off the Grid

Not far from the office there is a home set on the bank of a stream. Every single time I drive by it, my mind wanders to two thoughts. One, I've got to be sure to have my 3wt and and a box of small dry flies the next time I pass. There has to be some native brookies holding in those deep pools. Two, the water wheel attached to an outbuilding directly below a water fall has GOT to be hooked up for hydro electric power. I know that it's not (I'm sure that wheel hasn't turned in a hundred years), but man what a resource.

Re: Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Mysticooks, I’ve never heard of spray foam shrinking over time. Open and closed cell foams certainly have different expansion rates, but not shrinkage rates. I’d question the installer who provided that information.

Re: SawStop Inventor Walks the Walk

A little background info is in order: My understanding was that Steve Gass attempted to get legislation passed that would require all table saws sold in the U.S. to be outfitted with SawStop technology. Since he holds the patent on the technology, this would essentially give him the market. That legislation hasn’t passed, but to some people it’s a threat to their freedom. Untreatedwood, I understand your frustrations to a degree.

What do others think? Should we have the freedom to cut our fingers off if we so choose? Should safety features on power tools be an option and not a mandate?

Re: Spray foam for the eco-conscious

LuckyPenny,

You bring up a really good point. Personally, my trust and faith in industrial agricultural run’s about as deep as it does for big oil. In my opinion, GM crops and monocultures for the sake of production and profit at the expense of the ecosystem (both local and global) is no better than the extraction and mass consumption/burning of petroleum. My fear is that these “green” foams are going to be fed to the market as a true alternative to petro based foams. They seem to be more environmentally benign, but I’m not convinced. I wonder if these companies are just moving the chess pieces around, allocating energy consumption in different ways that ultimately do little for ecological progress, but a lot for corporate branding. Is the focus on selling a new product to a “green” crazed consumer market, or is the focus on making a better product for the sake of doing it right, despite the potential loss in revenue or output? I’d love to see some numbers that show the real difference (including embodied energy) between these bio-based foams and standard foams. I’d like to see a consumer market that is a lot less complacent, and one that’s willing to keep pressure on manufacturers to develop better products. I’d also like to see what companies are doing to make improvements on the manufacturing of their foam.

Re: Spray foam for the eco-conscious

Foamwiz,

Do you know more about the cultivation of the castor bean? I'm hoping someone can weigh in on the real difference from a strong agricultural perspective. When I first researched castor oil being used in spray foam, I was alarmed to find that the deadly poison, Ricin, comes from the castor bean. I later found out that the toxic chemical is only found in the bean's shell. Manufacturers are careful to extract the oil from the bean without contaminating it with Ricin. It seems like a dicey operation, and my hope is that any manufacturer using castor isn't skimping on quality control measures or disposal practices.

Re: Worm-drives vs. sidewinders? A conversation with Larry Haun.

As a born and bred East Coaster, I’ve really never had the opportunity, much less the desire, to cut lumber with a worm-drive saw. My old boss used to have a worm-drive tucked away in the trailer somewhere, but his arsenal of sidewinders got the most use. This was probably a benefit in a number ways, especially when it came to safety. In my opinion, a worm drive is just too heavy and a bit unwieldy. When your boss demands that every blade guard on every circular saw be jammed open in order for the crew to, “pay better attention to what they’re doing” you want a lightweight, nimble saw. Looking back now, I’m sure the day Travis rolled a sidewinder across his thigh would have ended much differently were he using a worm-drive.

Re: Help Me Write a Cordless Drill Review (And Watch a Video of a Drill-Powered Mini-Bike!)

I don't know what this post is about.(I accidentally went straight to the video) All I know is that I'm changing the way I commute. Do you think anyone will mind if I buzz the shoulder of I-95 during rush hour with that thing?

Re: New Dewalt drill bits fit for an impact driver

The original comment on this blog, made by xxPaulCPxx, got me thinking. Why would you want to use an impact driver for drilling? I edited the tool review on impact drivers a few issues ago, and I realize that they CAN be used for this task, but I’m just not sure that it makes sense. A drill bit is a cutting tool. A sharp drill bit should cut cleanly with little resistance. An impact driver is intended to drive bits/fasteners under intense resistance. If you need an impact driver to drill a hole, I think you’ve got an issue with the sharpness of your bits not your drill/driver. Does this make sense, or rather, not make sense to anyone else?

Re: Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

Bamboo is already used in the creation of lots of "paper" based tops. Joel Klipert hopes to one day produce tops out of completely recycled bamboo (or sugar cane--another renewable grass). However, there isn't enough of a supply in the market right now to sustain his manufacturing process.

Re: Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

dduffett, I couldn't disagree with you more. These countertops make use of waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill (none of which is polyester)and eliminate the need to extract virgin material from the earth to make new products. I don't think that there is anything wrong with someone who wants to spend their money on a responsibly manufactured product. I do, however, think there is something wrong with consumers who only look at the price of a product, and not at the product's impact on the world outside the walls of their home.
I don't think that "eco-friendly" should/can be limited in anyway. People often forget the link between the products and materials we use to build our homes, and the energy it takes to create those products. You argue for more responsible energy use, which I totally agree with. But what about all of the energy that's used to mine that soapstone or granite, transform it into a countertop and transport it to your kitchen? What about the lasting affect of the mine itself? I think paper countertops have value not because of their high price, but because of their smaller impact on the environment and our energy consumption.

Re: Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

I just got off of the phone with Joel Klipert, the president of Klip Biotechnologies. While he doesn’t have data that calculates their energy use compared to other manufacturers, he does admit that they use a bit of energy to produce their tops. “Right now, there’s just no other way to make our products.” He adds, “Until manufacturing processes improve, people should put things into perspective. If all countertop manufacturers are using energy, then it’s absolutely critical to select a company that’s carefully selecting their raw materials.”
So, what’s the greenest countertop out there? In his opinion, it’s a wood countertop made from a tree that fell in your back yard. What’s the worst top from an environmental perspective? In his opinion, that title goes to either concrete or natural stone. He finished the conversation with, “Have you ever seen a stone quarry?”

Re: Paper Countertops Look and Feel Like Stone

Justin,

Countertop prices (stone in particular) fluctuate pretty drastically. Sure, you can probably find some granite counters for less money than these paper products. However, for many of the eco-conscious folks out there the environmental benefits of a material outweigh the higher cost. Buying counters that were made with recycled content, and made by a company who is trying to make good use of waste is the allure here, not potential cost savings. I think that's a common thread throughout sustainable/green consumerism. People seem willing to pay more for products they feel good about, or that they feel are better for them and the earth. I'd compare it to buying locally grown vegetables instead of buying the dirt cheap genetically modified stuff at the super market. ElGuapo, your granite counters may afford you the minor convenience of placing a hot pot wherever you want to. But again, those in the market for this type of countertop are willing to take on the minor inconvenience of having to place a hot pot on a trivet. FacilityMan, I love your question and I wish I had an answer for you. I'm going to shoot an e-mail to the president of one the companies mentioned in the article for a response. If I get some feedback, I'll post it here.

Re: Cheng Rendition

Hey Shawn,

Thanks for the kind words. The top is actually made of concrete. Fu-tung Cheng is a master of this material. You can check out some of his work at Chengdesign.com.

To make the top, I made a 2-ft wide X 4-ft long X 3-in thick rectangle mold out of 3/4-in. melamine. In order to create the crack going down the middle of the table, I simply inlaid another piece of 3/4-in. melamine (cut on a random diagonal with a jigsaw) into the bottom of the mold. I used a shallow, ceramic dish to create the bowl.

I look forward to seenig more photos of your work.

Be well.

Re: From Washington to Maine: Building A House for the First Time

Nice work. Do you have anymore photos? Keep posting.