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The $6000 House: No Plan Survives First Contact

The $6000 House: No Plan Survives First Contact

As Move-in date approaches, I'm forced to reconsider some early decisions.

The $6000 House: The Hunt

The $6000 House: The Hunt

The buying experience

The $6000 House: Taking Posession

The $6000 House: Taking Posession

The adventure begins ...

The $6000 House

The $6000 House

Housing Melt-Down: Opportunities for Modern Pioneers



Recent comments


Re: Are Paint Makers About to Face a Big Cleanup Bill?

There are a few terms for this sort of action by governments: malfeasance, abuse of process, and unconstitutional come to mind.

Imagine, if you will, if we decided to lower speed limits to 55mph - then went back and assessed folks fines for the driving they did over 55 years ago, before the law. That's what the governments here are trying to do.

Why sue now? Because the paint makers are seen as having money- and the governments have bankrupted themselves. Ayn Rand called this 'looting.' She was right.

I question the claim in this article that the suit "does not seek the complete removal of lead paint." That's exactly what it asks. You can't 'replace' it without removing it, you can't "seal it off" without constructing atop it- simply painting over it doesn't count.

Ironically, one sure effect of RRP rules is to ensure that NO maintenance is ever done.

Re: Government Proposes New Limit on Silica Exposure to Protect Construction Workers

Of course the government wants more rules - nothing like full employment in the public sector!

Where has regulation got us? It's chased the reputable firms out, and replaced them with one-time use corporations that close down as soon as the job is done. It's cleared the job site of skilled pros, replacing them with cheap illegals who aren't about to complain.

"Health" organizations are but thinly veiled fronts for socialists and bureaucrats, furthering their own agendas- agendas that have nothing to do with health, and have caused the opposite wherever tried.

"Labor" organizations stopped listening to their members long ago, continuing to function as arms of the Democrat party while their members vote heavily Republican. How else to explain the opposition to that pipeline?

Re: How to Keep a Garage-Shop Toasty Warm

A warm floor isn't worth it? Where has this 'expert' been hiding?

Check any industrial establishment - heck, look behind the counter of the local 7-11. You'll find that where people stand, there are boards, or thick rubber mats, to warm the feet.

The reason is somewhat misleading. A 'cold' floor - and even 60 degrees is pretty cold - is uncomfortable to stand on for any period. Before you know it, your feet, legs, and even back hurt.

So, do you want a shop you'll work in, or a shop to look at?

Radiant heat in the slab? Maybe not such a silly idea. You'll have to do something about the chunks of ice and snow that fall from the cars.

I've worked in places with heat in the slab, and let me tell you- the response and warm-up are quite fast. Works real good for drying it, as well. No more slippery, wet floors.

Heck, it doesn't rain all that often. What's the payback to having a roof? Just do without.

Re: Don't Let Drywall Compound Derail Your Electrical Rough-In

My first thought on seeing this tip was "my, how clever!" Then I began to scratch my head, wondering why, after a career in electrical work, I had never encountered either this problem or this solution. Now I know why.

I use metal boxes. While the wax might help, usually all I need is the tip of my screwdriver to pop out an offending bit of mud.

Considering the havoc that can happen to steel boxes when the drywall is hung, I'm somewhat amazed that survvive the process at all!

Re: Patrick's Barn: Time for Drywall

Glad to hear you've reached this milestone!

First, I'd question the use of drywall in any barn - though, I suspect this 'barn' will never see any animal besides the family cat :)

This is a good opportunity to mention other alternatives folks might consider:
-The first would be 'abuse resistant' drywall. Much tougher to punch holes in;
-Then there are the various tile-underlay products, that are both harder than drywall and more water resistant; finally,
-There's the idea of covering the drywall with FRP. Those are the pebble-textures "plastic" panels often found in restaurants and commercial bathrooms.

I will, in a few years, be ready to rock my house. I look forward to a detailed review of the HF lift. I'll be hanging solo, so a lift is essential.

Re: Can Steel Framing Be Used in High-Performance Houses?

I'm not concerned.

A multitude of fire tests of wall assemblies has proven that there is no difference in the fire performance, whether the studs are lumber or light steel.

Fire samples have their surface temperatires monitored - so a wall made of 1/4" steel plate 'fails' rather quickly. The 'protected' face is not allowed to get hot enough to ignite stuff on that side of the wall. When you consider the brick-melting temperatures reached on the 'fire" side, that's no easy task.

Relevance? Heat transmission is proportional to the square of the temperature difference. In effect, it's 4x harder to hold back a 100 degree difference than a 50 degree difference.

For the fire tests, it was theorized that the steel really wasn't that great of a heat conductor simply because there was so littl of it - remember, the metal is maybe 1/64" thick, quite a bit thinner than a hacksaw blade.

Balance that with the extra REAL insulation that you can put in the wall, when your 'studs' are only 1/64" thick, rather than 1-1/2" thick .... and I think it balances out.

Re: Online Reviews Can Hurt Contractors and Homeowners

Headlines aside, it's the same old debate - one that was settled even before there was a USA, and new technology doesn't change a thing.

"Free speach" has always been subject to restraint and recourse. You may be called to account if you lie or slander. There's an entire doctrine that defines these matters, and the damages that my be awarded.

It never fails that folks try to re-invent this wheel. Some of it is because a lawyer realizes that he gets paid no matter what, and part of it is a deliberate strategy to imtimidate, using the cost of the legal system as a weapon.

With the arrival of the 'information age,' folks better get used to everything about everyone becomming public knowledge. Soon it will take just a few mouse clicks to reveal every parking ticket, every lawsuit, every accusation, and every opinion you've ever offered. A few clicks, and the world will know what you've done every day of your life.

So, in that regard, the contractor is tilting at windmills. He will not be able to conceal his shoddy behavior. On the flip side, the complainer is also under examination, and if they are unreasonable that will be revealed.

Re: Sustainable Temporary Stairs

Maybe I'm too cynical ...

80% recycled? Just where did the recycled aluminum come from?

Why, it came from the same scrap yards that will joyfully buy your brand-new telesteps ... from the meth-head who steals them from the jobsite the first day.

Good heavens ... can't they at least anodize the things to look like rusty steel? Cover them with wood-grain contact paper? Or, paint them black?

Re: Chiroptophobics Beware

Heck, that makes me want that sort of roofing on MY house!

Mosquitoes here are truly a plague, and I'd welcome anything that eats them.

Re: HVAC Ducting: Rigid Metal vs. Flex

Of course rigid is better.

EVERY HVAC guy I've ever known has sworn off any form of flex or semi-rigid ductwork for their homes. Ditto for 'panning' joist bays: not in HIS place.

Likewise, they scoff at any tape, even the listed foil. Nope, for them it's the old-fashioned "pookie" (mastic, mesh, more mastic, sets rock hard).

Re: Opportunity Accompanies Objections to Green Habitat Project

A dream community- or a nightmare? Or, perhaps, an unconscious extension of one whose main memories are of living in dorms?

Special zoning .... that they even had to ask reveals the fallacy of zoning. Zoning always works where it is not needed- and fails where it is.

For this project, the objections of the neighbors were sure to have been based on at least these principles:
1) Changing the nature of the community;
2) The nature of the residents; and,
3) Who foots the bill.

Each of these go to the very roots of the things we believe.

"Density" is more than simply a count of how many people and how many acres. Look at any neighborhood of single homes; would those residents settle for living in an apartment at the end of a large common field? I doubt it- no matter the economic level of the area.

This is shown quite clearly by the people of Sun Valley, an unincorporated area north of Reno, Nv. Once listed by Guiness as the "worlds' largest trailer park," this area has seen substantial construction of conventional homes in the past fifteen years. Yet, the residents are showing absolutely no interest in leaving their trailers.

Why? Simply because the 'stick-built' homes are hamstrung by CC&R's, rules that go so far as to specify exactly which mailbox to use. Trailer owners, by contrast, have clear title to their own land, and are subject to no rules at all. Better to live free, than to trade freedom for appearances, is the opinion.

The development pictured above, of necessity, shares all those limitations. No private yards, no clear idea of where one's property ends. Something as simple as hanging Christmas lights or planting flowers becomes a matter of bureaucracy and debate.

Ones' living circumstances necessarily affects ones' outlook. Something as simple as guest parking becomes a nightmare. To introduce such a 'collective' into a neighborhood of freeholders can't help but cause strife.

Yet, that is exactly what happens when "Planned Unit Developments" are favored over private property- and the rights that come with them.

Nor is there any denying that the nature of the residents will differ. Instead of freeholders, you create a community, a culture, where 'success' is defined by ones' ability to 'work the system,' to qualify for various perks. Instead of achievers, everyone competes on how pitiful they are.

Adding injury to the insult, it is the existing residents who are forced to pay for all this. After all, is not H4H a charitable group, operating together with the various government agencies? Just where do you think the money comes from? Ultimately, those who pay their own bills are forced to also pay for these projects.

This is not a matter of debate; look to any such community and the same problems arise. On my own street, the 'bad part' has the nicest houses, the vast bulk of the trouble - and government funding.

The final nail in this coffin ought to be the current property glut. With basic houses available, complete, for $10,000 .... I'll bet you could solve both the 'property crisis' and the 'housing shortage' simply by letting the market operate. Free markets work if you let them.

Re: What's the Best Way of Insulating a Crawl Space?

You want the right answer, you have to ask the right question. In this instance, we need to ask what we expect the crawl space to accomplish. THAT will determine what else you want to do.

Implicit in the question asked by this thread is the assumption that one answer 'fits all.' Not likely. With different reasons for a crawl space, it's certain that there is no simple answer.

First off, local conditions vary greatly. You'll have different requirements between rockt Reno, Nv., and the Alaskan tundra ... and different again for a crawl space in a flood plain.

Are we getting a crawl space only as a consequence of using piers as an economical foundation on hilly ground? Are we trying to protect the occupants of the house from radon gas? Are we trying to make the plumbing easier to service? Is moisture an issue?

Oddly enough, IMO, the 'most versatile' crawl space is one where the floor above is completely sealed and seriously insulated - while the crawl space itself is extremely well ventilated. This opinion differs with the precept of both this thread, and one of the recent 'inspector' games.

Following lessons I've learned with basements, I maintain that if you have a moisture issue, sealing is NOT the solution- better ventilation is.

There's a certain paradox in insulating both crawl spaces and basements; this is because the ground does not follow outside temperatures. In large parts of the country, the 'frost line' is above the bottom of the crawl space. Thus, while the house might need R-30 in the attic, the floor might only need R-4, and the pipes not need insualtionat all.

Some debate whether crawl spaces ought to be part of the 'conditioned space.' I think those folks are also asking the wrong question: it's not simply a choice to 'condition' or not. Crawl spaces, like attics, are between the habitable space and the world outside; they deserve to be conditioned DIFFERENTLY than the interior. That conditioning, I submit, is more a matter of controlling the ventilation than of insulation.

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

As usually happens, marvelling over the accomplishments completely ignores why those accomplishments were even attempted- or whose job it was to make the decisions. I can't think of any previous post in FHB that casually overlloked so many cans of worms. It borders on dishonesty, even propaganda, the 'big lie.'

FHB not taking on causes? I'd never get that impression, considering the frequent nice things said about "Habitat for Humanity," and the regular links to something called the "Green Building Advisor."

"Make it Right" is an noble ideal - and also a trademark of Mike Holmes. Mike also came down from Canada to build in New Orleans. What does his "Make it Right Productions" have to say about Brad Pitts' use of the name? How do the houses of the two groups compare?

Left unexplained is who is paying for all this. I suspect that it's not being funded by the poverty-level former residents. This question is quite relevant, as it also begs the question of who decided to rebuild there in the first place.

IMO, once a place has become unsuitable, you don't build there again. Considering the timeline, I would expect the former residents to have settled into new lives elsewhere. Even the Dutch -reknowned for building below sea level- shied away from the area, founding their colony in New York, rather than New Orleans.

A final detail regards insurance. Reviewing standard homeowners' insurance 'forms,' I note a blanket exclusion of houses built on stilts. Have we marvelously engineered houses that cannot be insured?

I must confess, though, that the idea of fishing from the front porch after the next storm appeals to me.

Re: The $6000 House: No Plan Survives First Contact

Great comments ... I can't add much to them!

I am pretty much "camping" in one room, with another set up as a workshop.

Having lived in the house for about a month now, I have not really done 'that much' to the house. A lot of effort has gone into setting up the 'camp,' the workshop, and making the necessary furniture. I'm also digging through a lifetimes' worth of possessions, things that were -until recently- scatterd about several storage sites. (Gee, I didn't know I still had that ...)

Now that I have the "rhythm" of the house, I am in a better position to plan the work.

Some of these issues are addressed in the latest entry, "Winter Commeth." I'm in 'get ready for the cold' mode right now ... closing off the crawl space, sealing windows, getting the heat working, etc.

The hardest part is in my mind. I have to keep telling myself that I CAN do things. I've been so conditioned to conforming to the desires of others that I feel a bit lost at times. Every time I power up a tool after dark, part of me still expects a call from the landlord ...

Re: Patrick's Barn: Priming Siding

Spot priming / sealing ... back-priming ... the most important paint you'll never see.

But really, now ... using a roller? On rough wood? In a barn?

If ever there was a job that screamed for a sprayer, this was one. I'm thinking one of those hoseless Graco sprayers ($250 corded, $450 battery), would be the cat's meow here.

Imagine ... add the 1-gallon backpack -$200 more- or have multiple quart cups -$18 ea.- on hand for quick refills. Get an extension to point the nozzle down -$100- and painting becomes as easy as a walk down the aisle.

Add a parts washer to ease clean-up, and you wonder why so many dislike painting.

Corded hoseless, airless sprayers are available for as little as $40 ..... but I'm superstitious, and if the 'real' paint stores don't carry a certain brand or model, I have to assume there's a reason. Graco seems to 'own' the pro market.

I will caution the future Graco customer on one point: you can buy Graco at two types of businesses: Sherwin-Williams and other places. The stuff sold through S-W is unique, and Graco parts sold elsewhere will NOT fit.

You also need to pay special care in the sprayer purchase if you plan to spray Rust-Oleum (or other oil-based paints). Not every model can handle the acetone that you are advised to use to thin the paint for spraying.

Re: The $6000 House: Taking Posession

This post is actually the second in the series. The first can be found at: http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item/17717/the-6000-house

I'm not sure why the first one is so hard to find.

At any event, here is a link to a picture of the house as purchased: http://i143.photobucket.com/albums/r138/renosteinke/Rose%20St/RoseSt04302011FrontViewEdit.jpg

I'd just as soon not go into details as to the location. It's just not relevant; the area is almost a perfect example of the 'instant suburbs' that blossomed in the late 50's/ early 60's.

As for the project itself, my schedule has been skewered by the HVAC guy. I'm not about to move in without either air conditioning, or a change in the weather.

There will also be a good delay between when I write, and when I publish. I will discuss every aspect of this job- my victories and my mis-steps.

I really look forward to feedback .... I'm sure there are plenty out there with wisdom to share!

Re: Bill Rose on crawlspaces: A bad idea, should be illegal

Radon .... RADON .... how could we forget?

Crawl spaces are just about the only manner of foundation that provides any protection against radon entering our homes from below.

Radon comed from the earth itself, a gas produced by the decay of radioactive elements present in granite. Slightly radioactive itself, exposure is best reduced. The best way to do this is by giving it somewhere else to go, besides inside the home.

All basements do is let it enter the living spaces of the home. Ditto for slab foundations. Only a vented crawl space offers a chance that the gas will be re-directed to the outside, going around the home itself.

Funny how quickly we forget yesterdays' hysteria ... and kowtow to the latest scare merchant.

Re: The Price Index Prism

Figures don't lie, but liars can figure!

"Sold closer to market value" THERE'S the problem. The sale price IS the market value. Any other 'value' is pure eyewash, pure speculation. Money talks, BS walks.

"Distressed prices." How about saying 'sanity restored to wildly inflated prices?' Think about just how thin the line is between 'reporting' and 'editorial.'

Recovery? Wishful thinking. As most recently illustrated by the bursting of the housing bubble, it takes a good two years of data AFTER something happens before you can say for sure that it happened. There's simply no way to say something is happening now.

Nor is there any reason to apply a general trend to specific situations. To illustrate the point, look at the 'general trends' and contrast it with the employment booms and housing shortages in oil and mining districts. Someone forgot to tell Elko and Minot that there was a recession happening.

Re: Concern Over EPA's Proposed New Lead-Safe Rule

The flaws in the new rules are many, and this article hits on the biggest one: the new rules virtually guarantee that there will no longer be a 'legitimate' industry.

Instead, homeowners will have a very real incentive to go fishing in the day-labor pool, rent a pressure washer, and be done with it.

Let's look at ordinary preparation for a moment. Here's the choice: pay $80 for the Wagner paint-eater (non-complaint) or $800 for the Paint Shaver PLUS another $800 for a (certified) Fein vacuum. You can't even continue to use the $40 Shop-Vac with its' $13 HEPA bag - measures you took on your own initiative years before these rules - because they're not EPA certified. (One has to wonder just how much difference there is between an $80 HEPA vac and another $800 vac; to my eye, nothing that a 3" piece of duct tape won't address. (tape to close off the filled bag).

I'm in the midst of a complete-gut remodel of a house that was built before 1978. By the time I'm done, little of the original will be left but the frame and the face brick. Yet, it will still be a pre-1978 house, and the rules will still apply. Likewise, the rules make it much more difficult to live in the house while it is remodeled in stages.

The rules need to be removed, in their entirety, and the EPA needs to be reigned in.

Re: What Tool Did You Buy Today (or Recently)?

More by circumstance than intent, I just picked up the Graco cordless, airless paint sprayer.

There are a number of Graco models out, as well as a compact corded model (at half the price). The corded version also faces competition by a Harbor Freight version- at 1/10th the price.

You know, this is just the sort of tool that begs for FHB to write about. And, yes, include the cheap Chinese clone- pictures should reveal whether it produces- or not.

Re: Working with Toxic Chemicals on the Job Site

Facts, please .... not emotional innuendo. Not supposition or wild guesses. Not the casual tossing out of scary big words.

Our way of life is based upon logic (thank you, John Calvin) and trust in an informed public (thank you, Thomas Jefferson). Not upon manipulating the mob with inflamatory misdirection.

I will give but one instance, where this column has been so irresponsible. Others can find the numerous others on their own:

Lumber, dripping with arsenic, inferred to have caused some vague ailment. What's lacking are some facts about arsenic- such as that it is a heavy metal, easily identified, that the body accumulates. That the effects of arsenic are well known, and that testing for it in the body is fairly simple and definitive.

Instead of stating something like 'my bone marrow tested at X% of the usual level, and studies have linked it with my symptoms,' we are only asked 'what else could it have been?'

Nor does the column recognize the other side of the coin: the lives saves and damages averted by the use of these (now surpassed) products. It's easy to forget the lives that were not lost because an asbestos panel stopped a fire, or the sickness that was not caused, because insects did not make a home in the walls.

One does not move forward by looking back.

Re: Disposing of Spent Spray-Foam Canisters

I can't say that I've disposed of those particular cylinders ... propane tanks, sure, but foam components, no.

Yet, I can't see any special hazard from the chemicals. The tanks themselves are another matter.

It's no coincidence that the trash collector has one of the most hazardous jobs around. Compressed gas isn't a good thing to run through the crusher. So, my first concern would be to ensure that the cylinders can never again hold pressure.

Taking them out to the range and putting a fer 30-06 steel rounds through them is certainly ONE way to do it. Removing the fittings -if possible - is another.

A greater risk is when the old cylinders get re-tasked. I mean, there are folks over in Breaktime who think it's just ducky to fill disposable propane cylinders with compressed air! Just imagine the local meth maker who is already tampering with propane tanks - you can be sure he'll try using these tanks to steal ammonia as well.

Just vent off the refrigerant? Now, there's a conundrum. It needs to be removed, for safety's sake (OSHA might even require it) ... but EPA rules threaten you with a $20K fine if you do. Put THAT in your hemp pipe and smoke it!

Re: One Carpenter's Life as Told by Small Houses and Spaces

Gee, this article make me feel all warm and fuzzy, make me want to go hug a tree and sing campfire songs. Sure it does.

It's not a matter of being 'opposed;' it's a matter of perspective. I can't think of any argument in favor of waste, or bad design. Nor can we overlook the temptation to fall into 'armchair philosophy' debates over just what is good design.

The fact is, defining 'good design' is like hitting a moving target; what's the perfect solution today won't be tomorrow. What it comes down to is defining WHO gets to make the choices, choose the criteria- and HOW those decisions will be executed.

One cardinal point keeps popping up: what 'everyone else' in the world is doing. That, IMO, is exactly the wrong focus. America's founders deliberately chose NOT to simply copy what 'everyone' else did when they set up this land. The results - from colonial backwater to THE world power in record time - ought to be proof enough that they chose wisely. The failed attempts by other approaches since then ought to have nailed the coffin shut on any variations on the idea of taking decisions out of the hands of those who have to live with the results.

Small houses? Let the occupant decide. While there are houses whose roofs are measured in square miles (rather than in squares of shingles), I would not consider it appropriate for me to have an opinion about the propriety of the owners' desire. Likewise, if some art teacher at a minor school want to live in a glorified U-Haul, that's his business.

For a 'check' on excessive ambition, let the market be the enforcer. ONE Arab shiek might want a solid gold toilet - but only a government can buy thousands of $600 toilet seats.

Re: Frame Decks Faster and Easier with ThruLOK Fasteners

Look to be interesting fasteners.

Yet I can't help but speculate - with all the enthusiasm of a new convert - that a better tool to use with them might be an impact driver.

My drill feels so unwanted these days ...

Re: Dow and Cobblestone's Take on Affordable NZE Homes

Wonderful ... one comment, and it's spam.

NZE ... For some reason I ezpeceted this blog to have something to do with the "New Zealand Earthquake," and the need to house victims as winter rolls in.

Perhaps we've gone over the top with our 'new speak?'

Re: My Story as Told by Habitat Houses

Sustainable. What a word, what a concept. w\Well, it's been raised before, many times ..... with proofs of irrefutable logic, precise math, and by some of the best educated. These luminaries were also all wrong.

Britain's "White Paper" of the 30's proved that greater Palestine was already overpopulated, and could not possibly support continued Jewish immigration. Yet, somehow, a minor part of that same land today supports a population twenty times as great, and at an infinitely higher standard of living.

More recently, Paul Ehrlich ("The Population Bomb," in the 70's) cited the inevetability of famine and the collapse of civilisation as populations grew. His population projections were seriously low - yet his 'certain' disaster is already decades late.

Thus, I conclude that advocates of 'sustainability' have not a clue to the way nature operates. It's a bankrupt concept.

Let's look at the other side of the coin: What of the places that have taken paths that stressed the 'common good' at the expense of liberty? Every one has declined. Some have redefined the concept of Hell. China and India, who were once scenes of endless calamity, are today prospering in direct relation to the extent that they have shed collectivist practice.

Imagine that .... countries that had millennia of a 'head start' in development having to 'catch up' with us - we, who were but a colonial backwater 250 years ago.

Perhaps even the Middle East would find peace, were they to listen to '72 Virginians,' rather than dream of '72 virgins.'

Re: My Story as Told by Habitat Houses

It's very easy to say something is wrong, and even easier to simply infer a criticism without actually saying anything. It's a lot harder to be correct.

Let's look at those 'homeless' numbers. As the numbers are tabulated, anyone living in a weekly hotel is counted as 'homeless.' By this standard, General Douglas McArthur was homeless, as he paid weekly rent for his suite at the Waldorf-Astoria. Plenty of folks with steady income live for years in weekly or SRO hotels. Whatever else they are , these folks are NOT homeless, nor are they 'on the streets.'

Not that it matters. "Habitat" -or any other such group- isn't about to build a home for a single man or childless couple anyway.

Why should "Habitat" be building any houses? A visit to the HUD site ( hudhomestore.com ) will produce plenty of vacant, ownerless homes. If you want to save resources- how about using the homes we've already built?

The author is perfectly free to offer his opinions about housing. Yet, I see nothing that entitles him to make these choices (size, design, etc.) for anyone else.

Materialism? Without 'private property' you have neither rights nor prosperity. Whatever the faults of our past century have been, our way has lifted even the poorest of us from midieval hovels to palaces even Caesar would envy. Only in America do the 'poor' drive their own cars to protest marches.

Then again, I am only inferring that the author has a problem with American society, its' traditions, and its' values. His opening quote from a socialist politician and further comments regarding placing people ahead of profit may have misled me in my conclusions.

Re: Getting on board with fire sprinklers

OK .. for the sake of argument, you sold me. Now, where do I go to get a dozen heads? Are they the same heads used in commercial applications?

Re: The Concepts of "Owning Land" and "Green Building"

I once saw an essay where one wordsmith took the line "Congress shall make no law" and managed to construe it into meaning "Congress has every right, nay obligation, to make as many laws as possible." That's the sort of poppycock behind every "social" movement ... of which 'green' is but the latest fashion.

To own is to OWN. That means it's yours - and no one else's. Period. To the extent that others have any say at all, it's not yours. How ridiculous can it get? How about everyone except you getting to decide which mailbox you'll hang by the door? Or what color you'll paint the house?

Nor is is enough to tell you what to do with what is 'yours.' Some carry it farther, and seek to decide, on your behalf, what you may 'own'- property that they will continue to dictate how you use.

Carry it to the limits we've already achieved, and there's precious little left to either 'private property' or freedom.

It's not about WHAT you do; it's all about WHO decides.

I don't even know why this issue arises. Not only did we make the deliberate choice in 1776 to NOT go down this path, but even today the world lacks plenty of examples that illustrate the failings of this fascist philosophy. That's right, I said 'fascist.' Look it up. When you own it, but the government determines who owns what, and what they may do with it .... that's the textbook definition of fascism. It has nothing to do with making the trains run on time or little men with funny mustaches.

The evidence is plain for all to see. We chose one path, while our former rulers chose the other. In the following two centuries, we rose to lead the world in every possible category- while the former world power declined into near obscurity. Coincidence - or the results of the choice in basic values? You decide.

Heck, I might even like the idea of reclaiming an inner city dump and putting a windmill on the roof. What I lack is the arrogance to assert my right to make you do the same.

Re: A Building Debate That Just Won't Go Away

I have my doubts about carrying sealing to an extreme. Older designs had a fair amount of 'leakage,' but I can't say that's a bad thing.

Think about it: moisture WILL enter. Sources are many: condensation, brought in with the building materials themselves, and as a by-product of chemicals curing. Once in, where will it go? I can recall one poorly made 'shower seat' that held a good 6" of pond scum within the well-sealed base.

For me, the 'lightbulb' went on when I had to address the damage a very minor basement flood caused. I went through several models before I realized that most of the advice out there is simply wrong.

That's why I think that 'making a perfect seal' is the wrong approach.

Re: Air Sealing with Owens Corning's new Energy Complete system

I don't like the way presentations like this begin - with the assurance that THIS is the final word. Maybe because I've witnessed far too many times that today's 'final word' is the exact opposite of yesterdays' advice.

Even taking this ads' claims at face value, the spray gasket is but a suppliment to spray foam.

Often overlooked is the second half of that catchy slogan: Ventilate. As our first sealing crusade in the 70's taught us, an airtight house is an unpleasant house. Stale air, cooking odors, and a mildew farm. Not to mention combustion problems with everything that burns gas.

Traditional designs assumed moisture would get in, and made sure there was a way for it to get out. Our quest to 'seal' does little, I fear, but create buckets out of every stud bay.

Re: IN PRAISE OF LEED

I truly enjoy the way the blog starts by aserting 'bashing' long before discussing anything about LEED. I guess that's what passes for open discourse these days: forget facts, start off by attacking any opposition.

I'm not sure what term describes a society based upon demonizing the other guy, but I'm not finding it under 'democracy,' 'republic,' or 'free.' Maybe I need a better dictionary.

One poster hits the nail on the head when he suggests using taxes to influence behaviour. That's what LEED is all about: regulating behaviour. It's not about anything 'green,' saving resources, or better design.

That's why so much of the LEED 'scoring' method has to do with elements that have absolutely nothing to do with the building itself. For example:
-LEED has no size specifications, or score element that addresses one of the blog's points;
-Some of the LEED criteria focus on transient factors like contractor access to the job site;
-Other LEED criteria focus on issues that are under the control of the city council, bus company, etc.; and,
-Some LEED criteria focus on the behaviour of the occupants.

That's a bit beyond any manner of 'building code.'

LEED advocates will usually jump in at this point and say "but it's a private group, and following the program is purely voluntary.' I'm not buying THAT for a second.

Why? Because the LEED system relies upon various governmental bodies to do the dirty work for them. PUD, brownfield, low-hanging fruit, urban core, greenbelt .... these are all important factors weighed by LEED and completely beyond the control of the contractor.

Just as important, every one of those factors presupposes a role for countless governmental bodies to tell us what to build, where to build, and how we use what is supposedly our property.

Long ago Hammurabi saw the need for the common man to know what rules he was supposed to follow. LEED takes the opposite approach, by instituting an infinite variety of contradictory factors, all weighed anonymously by some unaccountable oracle.

Doubt me? OK, then show me a house that can be built anywhere and maintain its' LEED score. Then guarantee me that the house will still keep that rating 20 years from now. It simply can't be done.

Re: Are There Hidden Dangers with PEX Plumbing?

It should be obvious, but it seems that everyone misses the point: The PEX revolution has nothing to do with the material!

Green? What's green about me having to drain a housefull of (cooled) water in the hot water lines before I have hot water at the tap? PEX avoids this with an entirely different piping arrangement, one where you need only replace the standing water in a single, tiny line. And what other plumbing method allows you to replace a bad line by tying the new to the old and 'fishing' it through?

Re: Turning a Basement into an In-law Suite: Six Elements of Successful Conversions

A varying opinion was voiced to me by the local State Feam Insurance agent: Basements are NOT meant to be finished or lived in."

This was said in the context of a flood claim; the house was 15 years old, in great shape, was not in a flood zone, and had never before had a flood. Oops.

Face it: Moisture happens. Whether from above the slab, under the slab, or through the window ... it happens. Sooner or later, there WILL be a water problem.

Ordinary construction methods will only serve to maximize the amount of damage that follows. Yet, even a 'perfect' job can become an issue at sale time ... where the unpermitted work only serves to highlight the zoning violation that the 'apartment' created. Oops.

Whether on "Holmes" or "Income Property," HGTV is chock full of basement babies that matured into golems. Kind of takes the luster off puff pieces like this one!

Re: Green Building is for Whiners and Hippies

Some things never change; the tendancy for "Green advocates" to reflexively respond to criticism by attacking the prson of the questioner seems to be their first, last, and only response. Both the blog and the first two commenst bear this out.

I don't know Scott Adams. Perhaps he is a mean person, writing from the local loony bin ... but that matters not.

What does matter is that when you say "green," most folks DO imagine something like the house pictured in the blog. Or, we recall all those folks who have usged us to make our homs of old tires and dirt ... or bury them like caves ... or by cementing old bottles together ... or, even, by using leaves, pine cones, and twigs.

If folks want to sell an idea .... SELL it. Let the idea stand on its' own merits. In the meantime, don't ask me to fund your schemes. And, no matter how much better your solution is, don't try to force it on me. If it's that great an idea, I'll figure out I want it without any help from the authorities.

Back in the 70's we heard much the same from the 'greenies' as we hear today. We also heard of some dreamers with names like Gates and Jobs. Today we all see the value in having a computer .... yet we do not all see the sense in 'going green.' This is a fact.

Perhaps the worst enemies of the Green movement are its' supporters. Or, maybe they just haven't learned to sell. Insult the rest of us all you wish, even have a good laugh - but don't be surprised when we fail to join the parade.

Re: Is your vac compliant with EPA lead regs? (hint: who knows...)

Absent an actual standard, it seems like a bit of micro-management to me.

I've been using HEPA filters on 'ordinary' shop vacs for years - just to protect the shop vac from being damaged by drywall dust. I did notice that the "HEPA bags" have had some changes in their labelling in the past year ...

The waters become muddier with vacuums like the DeWalt vacs, which assert that they're fine for drywall dust, but are not quite HEPA rated.

It's supposed to be about safety, rather than the convenience of inspectors and the market share of some products. Again, absent an industry-recognized test, we can't even say the expensive ones perform as promised.

Idiot proofing? Easy enough - let the market act. With my first vac killed by fairly minor exposure to drywall dust - darn thing screamed like a banshee, but didn't suck worth a hoot - I learned. Fast. When a helper ran the replacement without the filter bag and promptly killed it, the lesson was nailed down: the good filters were worth it.

"Inspector Gypsum" is far more effective than any human inspector could ever be.

Re: Safer Electrical Plugs and Outlets Save Lives and Energy

Those who know me well can guess my response: a resounding 'thumbs down!' to this idea.

One can easily go off on several tangents, but I'll keep it simple: from a safety standpoint, this gizmo does nothing that can't be accomplished by simply putting a fuse in the plug - something that some countries have been doing for half a century.

Such a gizmo would make repair of a cord impossible.

Incorporating such a thing into code would allow the makers to manipulate the patent process to maintain a monopoly.

Remote control of devices through this gizmo opens the door to all manner of third parties making your decisions for you, 'for your own good.'

Also left unsaid is that these gizmos will never be seen in the very places that have the most electrical issues: older homes with plenty of DIY "improvements" over the years.

A long term study, involving the code writers, UL, and others, examined many older homes to the point of dismantleing them. The purpose was to evaluate the performance of the electrical installations over time. Again and again, the study found the 'old' stuff was perfectly safe, while obvious hazards were the result of folks violating rules / doing things that were know to be stupid well before the Depression.

Finally, the claims of this gizmo duplicate the claims made for the already required 'arc fault circuit interrupter' - which is already required in new homes, but does not allow for third-party control of your appliances.

Re: Torture Test: Recip Saw Blades

I have seen advertised something called the "Boar Blade" - a reciprocating saw blade with teeth on the back and a curved top front corner. This is supposed to be a real help when plunge-cutting.

I would be very interested in seeing if this design really is an improved way to plunge-cut; making that first opening does seem pretty hard on the blade.

Otherwise - looking at your picture above - I'd like to see if any of the 'flush cut' attachments are a real imporvement. After all, there's a limit to how strong the attachment to the saw can be.

Re: New Tool Category: Impact Drill-Driver?

"Because they still need a drill ..." Balderdash.

I keep trying to find some task that my grill can do, that cannot be done better by the impact driver. Do far, my efforts have been in vain.

Drive screws, bore wood, drill metal ... the impact does all quite well.

The only limitations are imposed by that 1/4" hex chuck. Normal drills - well, some are available with hex shanks, and you can get a keyed chuck - and hole saws are a problem.

Since getting my impact driver, my 'simple' drill and my corded Sioux drill have been trailer queens.

The drill/hammer-drill does get occasional use when I need to set anchors in a block wall. Tapcons? The hammer-drill might bore the hole, but the impact drives the screws far better.

My 'hole hog' gets some use, but that will end when I get the larger Milwaukee with a 7/16 hex chuck ... which, btw, is what my hole saws need, as well as my 'Forstener' style bits.

Anything larger than 1/4" in masonry gets the roto-hammer treatment. No more fighting it with a little hammer-drill.

I think Bosch is whistling in the wind with this one.

Re: Time to retire your hammer-tacker?

FHB has some regular features (Tips & Techniques, What's the Difference) where this change ought to be discussed.

Maybe this is my ignorance showing ... I have never even hung house wrap ... but just how much better are the fancy fasteners at holding the housewrap on?

Then, once you have the siding up, wouldn't the nails that hold the siding also hold the wrap? At that point, I can't see where the fasteners used on the wrap matter at all.

So, maybe FHB could get together with DuPont for a little Q&A on this point. I'd sure like to know the whole story.

Re: Rockwell JawHorse Ruined by Infomercial?

I have the original version of this, the Triton "Superjaws."

Mine has certainly worked well when I've used it - which hasn't been quite as often as I had expected.

80 lbs? Either that figure is off by about 60 lbs, or I'm a whole lot stronger than I think I am. For a vise, it's amazingly lightweight.

Not being much of a TV watcher, I'm not sure if I've ever seen any ads for either this, or the various multi-master tools. I certainly haven't seen any of the extended 'infomercials,' so I'll have to take your word for it.

Instead, I learned of the vise at a tool house's "Open House," where the Bosch rep was using one to hold his workpiece.

As vises go ... well, the job site isn't a machine shop. The stuff we want to hold is larger, we don't need a gazillion tons of pressure, surface marring is a concern ... and the ground is uneven. All of which suggests that this Austrailian design is on the right track ... including the tripod legs.

Re: Cash For Caulk?

I have problems with these 'quick-fix' ideas on two fronts.

The first is that I have an issue with the very idea of government (especially the Federal Governemnt) becoming involved in the matter at all. I do not find authority for such involvement in the Constitution, and I believe the 'market' is better than any program in seeing that every dollar is spent in the most effective manner.

The other front is the very concept that more caulk is better. It wasn't that long ago when Jimmy Carter wanted us to make our homes airtight; the result was a flurry of rot and mold issues a few years later. It seems all that air leakage was doing some good after all.

Cleaning up after a recent, minor flood revealed all manner of tiny pockets where water had accumulated. It doesn't take but a drop of water to get mildew started - and these little pockets had no deliberate path to exit. As it was, the ordinary pattern of air circulation led to great differences in how quickly sections of an open room dried out.

I suspect that the greatest cause of wasted energy is simply the lack of feedback and accountability. I have seen all manner of folks radically change their behavior when they started getting their own heating bill. Naturally, this option is limited by 'economies' in the construction of buildings; there are plent of massive apartment buildings where all the heat is controlled by one thermostat in the boiler room. Changing that won't be easy - or cheap.

Finally, often overlooked is the damage that caulk can cause. If you ever have to remove that caulk - say, to repair the siding or replace a window - caulk can greatly increase the damage caused. Breaking things is not very 'green' in my book.

We shold note that Jimmy Carter learned about building houses after four years of giving advice. I suggest that the sequence ought to be reversed .... and government halls, even building departments, are seriously lacking in folks who have ever actually built anything.

Re: Gas Fireplaces: Direct Vent vs. Vent-Free

First, I am critical of the assumption that the vent-free models are producing CO. Proper combustion would have them producing CO2 ... a much safer gas.

You can be sure that these products, and especially ones with a UL lable, have had the Co issue thoroughly evaluated. In the case of UL, you can be sure various tests were actually performed, simulating a variety of fault conditions. I'm not worried about their safety.

What I am worried about - what 3-1/2 years of living in a camper taught me - is another product of combustion: water. Burning gas (natural or propane) creates an enormous amount of water. That water has to go somewhere.

So, I think the idea of using 'vent free' in a tightly sealed place is a mistake. Now, if your place is like mine, where a strong wind moves the drapes even when the windows are closed, then you have enough leakage for the appliance to work. Of course, the water probably condenses inside the insulation, making the fiberglass nice and soggy- but that's another topic.

For occasional heat, or even decorative use as a fireplace, I believe there is a role for ventless appliances. I thing they are great for cabins, workshops, and storage lockers. For permanant heating of continuously occupied places, I'd use something else.

Re: Pipe Clamp Hold-Down for the Job Site

Please note that these flanges will NOT accept pipe from either direction. If you look closely, you will see that the flange was installed into an over-sized hole, to allow the 'stub' portion to recess into the board.

In a sense, you have to attach the flange to the board in a 'backwards' fashion.

I believe FWW shoed a similar arrangement, only using MDF. In that example, the hole was small enough that the pipe nipple itself was able to cut it's own threads into the MDF.

Re: Fein MultiMaster patent has expired...competitors on the move

It's amazing that Fein was able to "stretch" their patent to 25 years- this means they got anywhere from 8-15 years in the market than they had any right to expect.

I'd hold off on condemning the 'no-name throw-away' versions. Following comments in "Breaktime," the Harbor Freight is doing well, while the Dremel is going down in flames. Another thread has many speaking of their positive experiences with such tools.

I see some aggressive marketing being done for cordless models; I'd hold off on those though - even Fein is hesitant to say that theirs is any good. Cordless just doesnt seem to have the power or run time, from what I hear.

I do think it's time for FHB to do an article on the various tools, including the Harbor Freight model. There should also be mention in the article as to whether the tools accept the 'standard' Fein blades.

I'm also wondering what, if any, accessoried have been developed for these tools.

Re: New National Standard to Limit Formaldehyde Content?

This is not an argument against this proposed standard, as much as it is a request for more information.

I weary of continuing 'sky is falling' hype, of which formaldehyde compounds are one target. Yet, this article seems to say that there is no evidence to suggest that the existing standards are too hign, or that there have been injuries that these new standards would avert.

Nor are we informed as to what alternatives there might be, or who is actually using the formaldehyde products. Is this, perhaps, an indirect way to ban imports from competitors of the KCMA? Otherwise, lowereing the amounts of something you do NOT use is no improvement at all!

We might be putting ourselves in a position where the biggest source of formaldehydes in a kitchen might be ... cooking. Will we ban that next?

Finally, what of the alternatives? Do any of them have the 'decades of study' that formaldehyde has? How do we know that the cures are not worse than the disease? After all, we have seen that happen before.

Re: Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

I have just traveled some ... through the south, and some of the west. I have seen many installs of Trex decking, and these are my observations.

Every place I saw it used was a high-traffic, public place. In some cases, it was apparrent that the Trex was being installed in sections, replacing the work wood decking.

Even in high-use areas, the Trex looked as good as new. Where fasteners rusted, the Trex did not seem to 'spread' the rust stain. The decking felt solid, flat (unworn), and gave excellent traction, even when wet.

I say these positive things, because that's what I saw. I know not if there was additional supports added - Trex will flex under load a lot more than wood. Trex is also very heavy, and it burns like one of those factroy-made fireplace logs. So, you might say I have my doubts about Trex.

I have yet to encounter the other types of decking, though. So, I cannot speak for their performance.

Re: Simple question: Is Festool worth the money?

I can't speak directly on this topic. I've only used the multi-master, and I have nothing else to compare with it.

Still, it's a question that needs asking. When the price for a tool varies by as much as a factor of 10, "value" has a place in the decision - as does the uses.

That is, my standards are higher for a tool I use all day, every day, as opposed to something I'll use once in a blue moon. Were you to look in my truck, you'd find both some 'pro grade' as well as some 'cheap import.' If i did different work the mix would be different.

"Proprietary" is a two-edged sword when it comes to tools. For example, my reciprocating was rated as 'best,' but some after-market accessories won't fit it. That can be an issue, especially with multi-use tools, or tools with parts that wear out.

Re: Can Bark Outlast Vinyl Siding by Fifty Years?

Oh, yea ... all in favor of mushrooms growing on the house, rodents burrowing, insects nesting, and termites having an orgasm at just the thought ... let's hear it for bark!

Be fun to paint later on, too. The term 'sponge' comes to mind ... and I'd hate to try to patch or caulk it.

Finally ... as so well being demonstrated this very moment from Southern California to British Columbia ... let's make it even easier for the house to catch fire!

Finally, do you think the 'nature nazis' that obstruct logging will agree to harvesting bark? Not likely.

Re: Code-change alert: Fire sprinklers in all new homes

Please spare me the passionate rant about "if only one life is saved," etc. That sort of cant can be used to justify anything, and ignores the unintended consequences - consequences that result in more lives being lost.

For example, the higher cost (even if it's "only" a couple thousnd) will ensure that many more folks will continue to live in ancient, inadequate housing, that unlicensed contractors will prosper, and reduce respect for ALL codes.

A sincere as sprinkler proponents are about their concerns, you can be sure they won't want to give up their monopoly and let just any plumber instal them. Oh, no ... they will want to 'engineer' each specific job, tack on a 'maintenance agreement,' etc. As for flushing them with the household water and using ordinary PEX fittings - lots of luck!

There's also the 'more is better' issue. That is, I see no attempt made to aim this requirement at those specific places that are either more likely to have fires (kitchens) or have fires resulting in loss of life (trailers).

Are sprinklers effective? Well, ask your insurance agent: exactly how much will you save if you sprinkler your house? Compare that to what yuo would save in heating bills if you upgrade your insulation. As I see it, that's the payback period sprinklers have to meet.

Ironically, once they have that payback, you won't need codes to get them installed. Let the market work.

Re: Titanium hammers up for grabs. Want one?

Hammer? What's that?

I do electric work. As such, it's pretty rare for me to use an ordinary hammer. Yet, I have a few thoughts ...

First, the physics of swinging a hammer seem to be similar to swinging a bat; everyone has their own compromise between weight and speed for the most effective hits. Apart from simple weight ("mass") there is also something they call 'cross sectional density' in the shooting sports. That is, you want all the weight lined up in a straight line right behind the point of impact.

Titanium is softer than the hardest steels, so I'm not surprised to see steel faces on titanium hammers.

There is something to be said for having less weight hanging from your tool belt, and the no-rust part is nice as well.

For all the hoopla about the hamer head, I suspect that the handle is what really matters. We saw this when Hart departed from the usual hammer handle, preferring an ax handle instead. In my own experience, changing to a different handle on my hammer has made a world of difference in my hit/miss ration (especially in awkward positions), and I suspect the handle has more of an effect on the sore arms than the head.

Re: Is the LEED program a fraud?

The more I learn about LEED, the more flawed it appears. As best I can tell, it is but a compilation of feel-good 'green' assertions, based more upon religion than science. The administration of the program is directly contrary to every basic principle of our system of governemnt. Many of the criteria are diametrically opposed to each other, let alone other codes and laws.

Add to that some of the assertions made by the USGBC crowd, and you have what is a purely political movement, without the slightest care for a 'green' life.