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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: Formica Expands Residential Offerings

Contrary to current fashion, I actually like laminate as a material - for covering counters, cabinets - especially in areas that need to be easily cleaned.

I am delighted with the new patterns, with the awesome selection. Edge treatments have certainly come a long way.

IMO, it's a superior product - not to be seen as 'second-rate' to others. I suspect most of the bad opinions are more a complaint against the earlier trends, which delighted in sharp corners and solid colors.

One advantage of laminate is that it's hard enough to be tough, yet not so hard as to be the terror of the glassware (just compare to a granite counter!). Indeed, I'd like to see someone make counters with a thin, resilient layer under the laminate- be it of cork, or some sort of rubber. Even a few mills of 'bounce' will make a difference.

I'd also like to see laminates made with some sort of texture, and to be marketed for less traditional uses- such as behind the stove top and in certain bath areas.

Re: A Pantry Under the Stairs

But where will Harry Potter sleep now? :D

Re: Large LEED Community Underway in Florida

What can go wrong?

Well, it all comes down to one question: Who owns the house?

LEED requires regular evaluations to maintain certification. One building is one thing - but a "community?" The certifications simply cannot be maintained without taking away control from the nominal "owners." What you really have are apartments with a high amount of "key money" required.

Doubt me? Courts are already swamped with countless suits involving home owners and their "associations." One such association - reportedly the largest such association in America - has recently made the news by foreclosing (forcing sale) of properties delinquent in their dues .... claimed debts of but a few hundred dollars.

Now there's a new twist on the old "security deposit" scam!

Today, the shining press release. Tomorrow? I predict deafening silence as this project collapses in misery for all concerned. I expect to win the lotto before FHB returns to this place to see how things really work out.

Re: Fantech Develops Kit for Range-Hood Makeup Air

I, alone, have been raising the issue of make-up air on these very pages for years. Without exception, my concerns have been brushed aside - despite an ever-increasing desire for "tight" homes.

I am happy to see a fan maker tackle the issue. I don't care for the price ... but I don't think these pages have ever promoted a product that cost less than a Grand! Guess that's what "fine" means to some folks!

In any event, I think this product is overdue.

Re: Stuffy Offices Lower Cognitive Function

This is news?

The 'cube farm' pictured has since been replaced by the 'fishbowl.' An 'open' plan that allows / encourages everyone to see what the others' are doing, and further removes any feeling of having 'my' space.

This is no accident. Creative thought, imagination, initiative, empowerment, and 'personal space' are all cuss words to today's corporate mind.

They WANT mindless drones, tediously repeating actions through endless mounds of endless mind-numbing tasks. You're not supposed to know what you're doing, let alone be thinking about it!

Doubt me? Look at the computers on those desks. The machines are carefully limited to performing the handful of specific functions, the bare necessity for doing your immediate job. Having a new assignment also means a call to the IT department, to give you a new function.

Re: Homeowner Groups (Still) Battling Solar

You only reap what you have sown...

"Homeowners associations" are a contradiction in terms of American values. While they are an expression of our desire for self-government, they also intrude on our ideal of private property.

As such, they're one of the older of such arrangements. Alas, these days there are all manner of attempts being made to further whittle away at our right to control our own property.

The worst of this arrogance is found in the "green" movement, which has no reluctance to imposing their dreams, in the most intrusive manner. Prime among these is LEED.

Al least homeowners have influence within their associations. LEED is one example of the groups where the 'governed' have absolutely no say, and the group has zero accountability to anyone.

"Solar" is probably the biggest scam of all time. A look at the 'Solyndra" scandal should be all we need to see that we've been scammed, our processes hijacked, and out accounts plundered.

The simple facts are that 'solar power' continues to be a terrible choice. It fails to deliver on its' promises, costs far too much, and the manufacture of the components is far from 'green.'

If you don't like YOUR homeowners' association, you have choices. You can work from within for changes, or you can simply move. You don't have that choice in the brave new world of big government.

This is America. Our whole system is based on the belief that wisdom is found in the decisions of millions of ordinary folks over time. This is incompatible with the idea of a self-appointed governing elite.

In America, the ability of individuals to be "contrary" is a good thing.

Re: Demand for Cooling Spiraling Upward

Ahem. Here we go again!

The reasoning presented in this article truly is putting the cart before the horse. I mean- global warming causing increased cooling needs? Really?

How about we forget 'global warming' for a moment? Perhaps we're just fussier about our comfort (using something because it's available- while in the past we 'conserved' something we didn't have at all)?

I note the picture shows multiple 'mini-split' evaporators. The 'mini-split' is most often used to provide additional cooling for local heat sources- such as computer rooms. I also note that firms care a lot more about the comfort of their electronics than they do about the comfort of mere employees.

There's also the matter of 'tight' buildings trapping more of the heat that is generated within. We're not simply opening windows anymore.

I suppose someone will also attribute the lack of operable windows (see the picture that accompanies this article) to global warming. After all, that's a lot of glass for a very small operable section. Nor do those windows look particularly 'energy efficient.'

As for the assertion that increased cooling 'looks bad' for global warming ... how so? We've spent the last decade using only 'green' refrigerants and discontinuing the use of Freon.

Fiction cast as 'science,' re-writing history, and inverting logic. Quite an accomplishment for The Guardian. What's next? Blaming babies for creating mating rituals?

Re: Irwin Vise-Grip Multi-Pliers

It might be interesting to compare the actual utility of the Vise-Grip offering to the "original," the Leatherman Crunch.

Re: Awash in Functionality

Re-use the water from your pre-treatment? There's an idea.

However, I bet I can make something for my washer for a lot less than $1200!

Re: Tiny Kitchen

OK, I give up ...where's the sink, the fridge, or (even) the wastebasket?

I do think that "apartment size" appliances are one of life's greatly overlooked options. I mean, how often does a 2-person household want to broil a 23-lb turkey?

Re: Quieter in the Kitchen

I was really enthusiastic about this hood, until I saw the price!

Those dollars will buy a LOT of watts!

Otherwise, I'm waiting for someone to re-discover the original -and completely silent- range hood .... it was called a 'chimney.'

Seriously, though ... do we really need to concern ourselves with 'watts per cfm' figures? Seems to me that's the least important specification for a range hood.

What do I think matters? Well ...

First off, just how much air do I want to move? No sense buying a hood that moves either too much or too little air.

That might lead to a real innovation for hoods- control airflow by temperature; light more burners and more air gets moved. Otherwise, tell us we need "X" cfm for "Y" BTU's of stove capacity.

Lighting? IMO, kitchen lighting has a long way to go. Most of the lack seems to stem from too many, too deep cabinets above counters, and placing the primary lighting in the middle of the ceiling. Large hoods also can lead to poor lighting over the range.

Re: Deck Building Don'ts

There are decks ... and then there are DECKS.

Every time I see a deck discussed, the discussion focuses on the connection of the deck to the house. Every discussion also assumes that the deck is a substantial height above ground. Pictures typically show an open area under the deck.

Really? How much of these discussions is relevant to, say, your typical ranch home, built over a crawl space. Here, the deck is only a few steps above grade, and folks often enclose the sides.

After all, why connect a low deck to the house at all? Let it be free-standing; it's a snap to place the decking so that there is only a small gap between the decking and the house.

Left out of the various deck discussions is any mention of the materials to be used. Not all lumber is the same, not even all 'treated' lumber! Your local home center NEVER carries the proper grades of lumber; small wonder so many decks bounce like trampolines.

Here's an idea for a FHB article: build the same deck twice. Do it once using proper materials, and once using every money-saving trick and 'home center' lumber. Then, show us the costs! Just how much are you really 'saving?'

Re: Poor Construction Leads to Another Collapsed Deck

I'm not surprised at all.

Indeed, I saw the same exact thing happen to a welded steel structure that was designed with exactly the same flaws. Only difference was that the structure I'm thinking of was built on the grounds of a prestigious engineering school, the home of a major architectural school, and the work was supervised / designed by all manner of highly educated 'professionals,' and their engineering student technicians.

I think we miss the point when we fret about 'code violations.' All 'code' does is enshrine a way to address a design issue. If you understand the design issues, you'll meet code without ever opening a code book.

That's where an over-emphasis in the letter of the codes can lead you astray. Attaching a deck to the house only addresses ONE of the many ways to distribute deck loads. The same could be accomplished with proper cross-bracing- and the deck need not even touch the house. Or, a different foundation and pier construction would do the trick.

Yet, I find a positive pride abounds, where folks just can't be bothered to 'learn.' No, they seem to think that they will automatically be able to 'suss' things out.

"Hubris" is the word. As the Greeks said, whom the Gods would humble, first they make proud. Don't you think the owner was proud of his efforts ... right up to the fall?

Re: Little Houses Are a Big Step for Dallas Homeless

Gee, this article had me feeling all warm and fuzzy .... until I looked at the numbers.


$6.8 Million? 50 units? 325 Square feet?

Unless I made a goof, that breaks down to $136,000 for each unit, at a cost of $323 per square foot.

I can't speak for the Dallas neighborhood where Dallas' homeless drift about ... but in most places $136K will buy you one heck of a decent 'real' home.

Likewise, most General Contractors can only dream about building for over $300 per square foot.

How about an alternative solution?

I'll bet that, for the same money, you could really make a dent in Dallas' supply of vacant / abandoned / foreclosed properties. I also bet you'd wind up with many more units than the paltry 50 for this project. Best part? These properties are already owned by the government!

Or, we could address this problem in a more traditional American way .... let a man make his own hovel on his own land. Homeless 'camps' showcase the talents these folks have for solving their problems ... how about we just get out of their way?

Of course, neither of my suggestions would enrich the army of architects, urban planners, social workers, and other parasites that keep the homeless from ever breaking free of 'the system.'

Re: Construction Site Rules

Rules, rules, rules .... Hey, Emperor- how about spending a day in MY shoes? Maybe then your rules would read something like these:

1) All will be treated with respect. This means that the porta-potties will be clean and smell fresh ... and that a real working toilet will be made available ASAP (rather as the last finishing touch). Porta-potties will also be placed convenient to the work site (rather than on the far side of the site).

2) Likewise every effort will be made to close the site off from the weather ASAP. This means we'll cover windows and rig doors from plywood as soon as we have walls. It means we'll heat, vent, and condition the site so you're neither forced to bundle up like the Michelin man, nor have sweat dripping from you.

We'll also provide the means to make this a SECURE site. We'll have fences and gates, and some way to bar doors and windows when no one is here.

3) Site access will be a top priority. We do not expect you to park in a quagmire and slog through mud in order to reach the building. Nor do we expect you to clamber like monkeys to get in the front door; temporary stairs will be constructed.

4) Every room will have a light, and a power point. There should be no need for miles of cords to snake through the halls, to cluster together at countless triple-taps.

5) Space will be assigned, and facilities provided, for material storage. We will not expect (as an example) every trade to spend months tripping over stacks of drywall placed in every room.

6) No one likes trash underfoot- so there will be places to put it .... and we don't mean an 8-ft high dumpster placed on the other side of a 100-yd sea of mud and broken earth.

With that in mind, we will NOT stuff our trash and work scraps into wall cavities, crawl spaces, and other dark corners.

7) We all love music- OUR music. Devices will have their volumes set low enough that normal conversation is not affected. When a trade has to communicate across the site, the music will STOP. BTW ... if you expect me to tolerate your "music," you will be expected to also tolerate my talk radio.

8) We do "Fine Home Building." "Code minimum" is not in our vocabulary. It ought not matter whether something will bee seen, or if an inspector will check it.


9) Everyone, myself included, will pay their bills ASAP. No money games / "billing cycles" / holdbacks or other such silliness will be tolerated.

Re: Sievert Powerjet 2535 Blowtorch

Looks interesting, but ...

Is this article but a re-hash of a press release, or has anyone compared it to a quality torch? Is it really more convenient to use?

Now, my $70 torch lacks a 'lock on' feature, but I have not suffered for the lack. Nor have I felt any lack for want of multiple heads. Do these features really matter?

My torch uses MAPP gas only; can this torch use MAPP gas? Will it operate in any position, even inverted? How does this torch compare, in terms of BTU's and maximum temperature?

Ironically, about the only paint I want to use heat to strip is ... yup!... older leaded paints. Oops.

Re: Small Houses are a Big Deal

Meaningless babble- whose result can only be a new feudalism!

As nice as 'small house' sounds, what, exactly, is it? Amazing how folks can feel so warm & fuzzy talking about something they cannot define. We're left with the same definition that some apply to porn: "We'll know it when we see it." I'm not sure Mr. Spock would consider that logical.

Ever notice how no one ever says 'here's what I want from a smaller house?' No! Instead, all we hear is 'OTHER folks need to live in smaller houses.' The next step in this agenda is to mandate smaller houses ... by code, zoning, planned developments, etc. In short, by removing choice and forcing folks into choices made by someone else. That's not freedom, nor a free market.

Here's a revolutionary thought: how about letting people decide what they want, and have their wants limited by free market forces? Let's put the consumer back in control.

After all, it's nobody's business what I want in MY house.

Liars can figure, too. Ever notice how many houses are made 'small' by locating necessary features elsewhere? Look at the plans .... those acres of decks, those various outbuildings, those lofts and attics .... are not counted as part of the square footage.

I find it ironic that most of the 'small' homes featured by FHB are actually larger than my full-size 50's tract home.

As for the question of "who needs ...?," well, that's not for you (or I) to decide. It's for the consumer. I can think of several retired couples whose huge homes are better considered as hotels and convention centers; the large homes were chosen specifically to host family gatherings. It's a much nicer solution than hotels and a fleet of rental cars.

Look to any retirement 'community,' and those nice little 'units' aren't nearly so little once you consider the miles of aisles and acres of common areas.

Let's trade this tired "small' horse for a better one. Instead, let's focus on 'good design.' Let's look for ways to bring the consumer closer to the design process. The trend has been to remove the consumer from the question - and we won't fix anything by adding another layer of separation.

Re: Cantilevered Balcony Safety

I can't think of a better topical example of where we went off of our path.

Regular inspections? Ever notice just how ready government is to expand its' reach ... all the while being completely blind to how they contributed to the problem in the first place!

Likewise, it's far too easy to design from your armchair, without any accountability for your opinions. Remember: Inspectors don't design, they don't build, and they surely don't pay the bills!

Plus, of course, there is the 'wet blanket' effect bureaucracy has on the fires of imagination!

Doubt me? Just look at the history of all the 'experts' who asserted that the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge would be failures. I submit that this accounts for why today's engineering triumphs are taking place in places like Bahrain and Malaysia .... rather than here.

Re: Summertime... And The Livin' Is Easy

(This post is made in jest)

Ahh, yes ... to sit back after a long, hard day, enjoying such a view, with the ambiance of rotting fish. Who needs music, with the whine of mosquitoes? And the salt breeze adds such a 'patina' to everything metal.

Just think ... in a few seasons, you can also remove splinters from weathered wood with your bare feet!

Every stiff breeze brings you a nice set of your neighbors' deck furniture ... while, at the same time, getting rid of yours. "Natural redecorating."

You can watch the amazing acrobatics of the gulls, as they dive-bomb the BBQ .... and marvel at the antics of cute animal babies, born under the deck.

Get ambitious, and you can add a hot tub. What can be more fun than a near-naked walk to a tub of hot water, in the middle of a winter storm? Invigorating, I say!

Though there IS that view. Depending on your location, you can watch the "Cuban sprint" to shore, the Coast Guard chasing 'undocumented importers,' or Sea Shepherd annoying fishermen. Heck, the Icelandic Navy might put in an appearance (don't they still use longboats?) Or, you and your pals can debate whether sharks prefer blondes.

Re: Sierra Club's Anti-Coal Campaign Hits a Landmark

Figures don't lie- but liars can figure!

This article makes you want to feel all warm and fuzzy, assuring us that evil coal is being replaced by lovely natural gas. Not quite.

First off, our power needs can only increase. Why else the law telling us what light bulbs to use? The Sierra Club is but one special-interest group that has been doing its' best to hinder plant construction.

Next, the Sierra Club has been doing as much as it can to hinder the production of natural gas. The most prominent example of this is their, and Obama's, obstruction of pipelines to deliver gas from the fields. Drilling for gas has been stopped wherever bureaucrats have a say in the matter.

Employment figures are meaningless. If you're going to consider employment, look at it in terms of how many folks are needed to make how much power.

Finally ... lower power bills? That must be what Goering had in mind when he described "the big lie." Power bills go only one way- UP! Any more of this 'saving' and I'll be broke. Look closer at the activities of the EPA, the Sierra Club, and their kind - and you'll see they're making every effort to make fuel prices increase.

Want a concrete example? In Nevada, the activities of the Sierra Club helped prevent the power company from building a power plant near the coal mines - forcing the fuel to be hauled across the state. I submit it's a lot cheaper to send electricity over wire than it is to ship coal by rail.

Mining of that same coal has also been actively opposed, forcing the utility to use natural gas. Coal's entire advantage is that it is a cheaper way to make electricity. By driving the cost of production UP, rates have to go UP. That's not "cheaper" in any way.

Re: Key Ring Makes a Cut Bucket More Comfortable

Very nice. We've taken an empty paint can ($4.98), modified it with a 50-cent key ring, and .... improvised a $2.95 factory-made plastic cut bucket?

Not to mention that the plastic one fits nicely in the hand, has a nice pour spout, a flat side that wipes your brush just right, and a magnet to hold the brush when you take a break.

Or, you can spend $7.95 for the fancy Werner version, which includes a handy peg for hanging it from Werner's ladder tops.

At least, when the paint can rusts away, I can soak up the rust with linseed oil- and make my own barn-red paint!

Re: A Novel Way to Store Energy

Hmm... pumping water at pressure into the earth. What a concept! I am sure it will attract billions in grant dollars, and become the favored child of the 'environmental' movement.

Except ... we don't need to 'study' this at all. The research has already been done, and without government funds. Indeed, the government has acted to obstruct this technology.

Pumping water into an oil or gas well, under pressure, has a name: FRACKING. Ironic that it will soon be embraced by the very folks who have been slandering it for decades, telling all manner of lies in their quest to make everyone else miserable.

Re: Background Checks for Nail Guns?

How much things of changed! While this application of gun laws is so absurd as to be laughable, in a twisted way it might be a good thing. Let me explain ....

Remember when tradesmen were seen as skilled professionals and upstanding citizens? Yet, today, too many see "the trades" as a dumping ground for those 'not good enough' for college, the social and behavioral misfits, the released criminals, and the illegal aliens.

As a person with a clean record, agile mind, and one who has invested plenty of time and effort in learning my trade, I resent this fashionable assumption that I am little more than a convicted, slightly retarded chimpanzee with a tool belt.

Now... imagine a site where EVERYONE had to pass a NICS records check. Might be fewer 'temps' and questionable folks around. Might be less advantage for the corner-cutting, low-paying, no-benefit contractor.

There might also be some reconsideration of those counter-productive "gun free zone" policies - policies that seem only to provide nutcases with easy access to helpless victims. If I can't shoot anchors, the job can't be done... so you might want to think about this some more!

Mind you, there is a certain injustice in asking the guy who works at the bottom of the food chain to pass a far stricter ID / qualifications check than, say, our current President. Or, for that matter, the contractor himself. Contractors' Boards have discovered that they have issued plenty of licenses to folks who lack the documentation necessary to work for anyone- even themselves. Nor is there ant requirements for those performing the records checks- for all we know, the clerk on the other end of the phone might be named Carlos Manson, sitting in a prison call center.

Go figure.

Re: Connecticut Starts an Energy Label Program

Factoid: A statement that appears to be meaningful, but is actually irrelevant. Such "Energy ratings" are factoids.

Why? Because they cannot address the specific details of any particular house. I'll use my 1957 house as an example.

My ongoing remodel has revealed that every third stud bay lacks most of it's insulation. Even in the 'good' bays, the insulation is improperly installed (by current standards, and only filled to half-thickness. That means, at most, 2" of fiberglass in a 2x4 framed wall.

Likewise, the framing uses much more lumber than we would today, with studs often placed closer than 16"OC, and several areas where 3,4,5,even 7 studs are grouped together. This grouping was done to fill the space, rather than for any structural reason. So, from the start, these walls have a much lower insulation value than you would expect.

Then there is the effects of age and maintenance. Insulation in the attic and enclosing the eaves has blocked all the eave vents. Attempts to add on to the house directed rainwater into several stud bays, ruining the insulation there. Much of the attic insulation has been similarly damaged by roof leaks over time. When the roof was replaced, the wet attic insulation was ignored.

Also, over time the crawl space vents have rusted away. In winter this means uncontrolled air flow under the house. Result? Ice cold floors, with no insulation under them.

While it's easy to identify 'old' windows, simply replacing the windows will not address faults with the sealing around the original window frames.

The Connecticut ratings would only mislead home buyers into thinking homes were better insulated than they actually are.

Re: The Most Amazing Table Ever!

Yes. this is an amazing table.

Might I suggest the author check out the wonderful publication, "Fine Woodworking?" I seem to recall this table being a back-cover maybe 15 years back.

(Of course, I'm a bit of a contrarian. I was more impressed by a shop table FWW detailed about the same time, made of countless 2x4's and pipe clamps. THAT table could clamp your work in nearly every circumstance!)

Re: Oxx Coffeeboxx Job Site Coffee Maker


Ironic to see this decidedly (despite the color) anti-green coffee machine plugged at this ridiculously 'green-friendly' web site.

$300? Outrageous! Where do I get one? Definitely a WOOT sort of thing.

For home use, of course. Job site? Really? I've yet to see a site with adequate receptacles for the work tools. Heck, I can't plug in my charger half the time- where will I get power for this? For that matter, where do I get the drinkable water?

Plus, well.... where will I pack it into my already jammed truck?

The product idea is so flawed I wonder if either OXX, or the FHB staff, have spent mush time on job sites. Which, of course, is why I expect the product to smashing success.

Re: Marking Angles with a Rafter Square

There are these big squares carpenters used to have, 24" on the long leg, 18" on the short one.

The basic model is called a 'framing square.' Add a few more markings, and it became a 'rafter square.'

You show, instead, a common 'speed square.'

Re: Outdoor entertaining

Enter Raining? Yup, that's what usually happens when I plan something outdoors.

Re: Fresh Warnings on a Class of Common Chemicals

"Safety" has nothing to do with this. There is nothing that cannot be found faulty in some manner. Ignored in the hysteria are the benefits the maligned product provides, and the very issue of WHO gets to decide.

No, it's all about power. Specifically, the desire of some to insert themselves into every aspect of our lives. They assert the right to decide on our behalf. If they can fool us into co-operating by claiming terrible things will happen, so much the better- for them.

It's also about greed - specifically, the unchecked greed of the government to expand ever more. Ultimately, they'll grab everything and send us, their serfs, the bill.

Disagree, and they'll shoot you and send your family off to a labor camp for 're-education.' Do I exaggerate? I doubt it; this is exactly what has happened EVERY time government has gone unchecked.

Then again, maybe these are just the musings caused by a "Free Range" childhood, where we actually -gasp!- rode our bicycles without helmets.

Re: Wilton Tools All-Terrain Vise

With tens of thousands of utility-body trucks out there, plus countless tradesmen using simple Pick-Up trucks, it's about time someone made a vise specific to this market!

I've never used this Wilton vise, so I cannot speak to it specifically. I can, however. tell you what I want in such a vise.

Oddly enough, I'm not too concerned if the thing wriggles a bit in the hitch. American Van has sold a 'vise mount' for years, and no one ever got too concerned about that mount moving about just a little.

Nobody is going to want to leave the vise in place for long ... you have other uses for the hitch (towing, maybe?), and theft is a concern. So are banged shins. You're going to want to pull the thing out regularly.

With that in mind, I'd like the vise to be lightweight and rust-resistant. Let it be designed to take jaw inserts (like Snap-Jaws) for different tasks. Let it operate without needing messy greases and oils. Let it have a 'rapid-set' feature so you can adjust it without having to make countless cranks on the handle.

I value 'capacity' over massive crushing force. I want to be able to hold electrical panels, doors, and larger pipes- a problem with machinists' vises.

Finally, let it be a BRIGHT color. Let any part you touch with your hands be made so you can handle it after it has sat all day in the hot sun, or been frozen. (That probably means some rubbery coating or epoxy finish in places). Let the handle be stout enough to survive solid hits from a 2-lb maul when it's tightened.

Re: Arizona Bans Ban on Bags

No surprise here!

"Green" advocates always seem shocked when their intended victims push back. I mean, how dare they use the very political process that the activists have been exploiting?

Also lost in the mix are three items critical to a free country:

First is the idea that the role of Government should be limited. "Feel-Good" advocates start from the point of 'there ought to be a law ...." No, usually there shouldn't. We decided this matter in 1776, and chose to strike out on the truly revolutionary principle that it's for the people to limit the government- rather than the traditional reverse principle.

Next, we lose our ability to think in a critical manner, acting instead on the emotion of the moment. There's a reason it is said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions - so why are we so eager to embrace them? Before you know it, we are rushing headlong from "crisis" to "crisis."

As someone once asked: Where are we going, and why am I in this handbasket?

Finally, we deny Adam Smiths well-proven theory that the market (that is, millions of individuals making their own choices) is usually the best way to determine which solution is "best."

Re: Suburban Sprawl Costs a Bundle

Horse Feathers!

One can, by rigging the weighing of various factors, make a study come out and say anything they want. This is not news.

Here's the news: The best measure of the most valuable use for a piece of land is its' selling price, in a free economy.

Example: The areas around Chicago are rich in surface-accessible coal, are among the richest farmland in the world, and next to a major urban hub. In the 60's, the simple economic facts led to housing / suburbs winning out in the use competition.

Another way to look at it is this way: Those suburbs were populated by folks who spent large sums, took on huge burdens, to choose these suburbs over the urban center.

I don't see any tidal wave of folks moving back. Guess they still consider living in the suburbs a net gain.

It's ironic to hear someone praise India's "country of villages." Just what do you think the suburbs are, but villages?

Social architects, as well represented by LEED, continue to glorify, advocate, and try to impose all manner of living choices that have either failed completely- or proven to be far less desirable than whatever system they replaced.

Don't take my word for it. Just look around you: the most prosperous areas have lots of "suburb," while the most regressive areas have none. The absolute worst places are the ones that have been experimenting with social engineering since the 60's.

Re: How to Install an Electrical Outlet Box

Nice ad. Unfortunately, that's the only thing 'nice' I can say about it.

First, trade practice has been influenced greatly by the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, outlets are now commonly mounted higher- 18" to center.

Second, there's the matter of appearance. You want all the cover plates to be the same height. This is complicated, as the phone guys, the sound guys, and the computer guys all use different hardware. Again, this is solved by measuring from the center of the box. I have pictures of custom homes, with the faceplates wavering all over the wall.

A tape measure is more reliable than expecting everyone to have the same hammer, anyways.

As for the mounting depth of the box ... yes, those tabs are great IF you're using minimal 1/2" drywall. Alas, few walls are that simple. There's thicker drywall, paneling, and decorative plaster finishes to contend with. Maybe this is why I need to carry assorted spacers, fillers, and screws in my kit- I need to cope with guys who think this ad is gospel.

Re: SawStop Portable Job-Site Tablesaw

I am delighted to see this product on the market.

In Wood Shop they asserted that the shaper was the most dangerous tool. Balderdash. I've never seen an accident on the shaper, but plenty of 'oops' moments on the table saw. I've personally known TWO guys who had a hand seriously mangled by the table saw. It's worth noting that both were experienced pros, both were working on their own homes at the time, and both were alone at the time. Considering the injuries, I'm rather surprised that either made it to the hospital.

I have seen the saw-stopper demonstrated in person. I like the technology a lot - as long as it's also associated with a saw that has a decent table, a good fence, and a proper guard as well.

I strongly oppose to any efforts to make this technology legally required. Let the market decide; I'm sold enough on this technology to be confident of its' success. The competition from the 'other' saws will just help keep the folks at Saw-stopper honest.

Re: Unintended Consequences of an Efficient Attic

Gee- a sudden flurry of articles / blogs / questions about winter storms.

MAYBE ... here is the makings for a special FHB issue, to be on the stands in September - while there is still time to prepare for winter?

Imagine .... an issue dedicated to improving EXISTING homes, from crawl space to rooftop. Articles on venting, heat trace, thawing / fixing pipes, inspecting before and during storms.

Re: How do you deal with Ice Dams?

I would not worry about "snow weight," all by itself. Snow is, after all, fairly lightweight. Dry snow, that is. You pretty much have to assume the roof was designed properly, and will handle anything you'll encounter.

Instead, let's look at what happens to snow. Unless you're in some exceptional places, snow goes away by melting. "Wet" snow, snow that has been rained on, snow that has melted and re-frozen .... these are the things to worry about.

Think about that word "wet." That's the key. You need to make sure that water has a place to go before it can freeze again.

Here, rain gutters are your enemy. They provide a place for water to accumulate, they direct all the water to a few small places (that will be overwhelmed by the flow), and they help snow accumulate atop the roof.

Your best defense is to properly install heat-trace tape. All around the perimeter, in roof valleys, in gutters and downspouts. Keep the water flowing until it's off the house.

Ultimately, the heat trace will undermine the snow near the eaves, helping snow to fall off the roof.

I recommend the Raychem 'self-regulating' style of heat trace. You can custom-fit the length, it can cross over itself, and there is no separate thermostat wire to damage. It actually adjusts it's own setting, using less power when it's warm and more when it's cold -even within the same length of cable!

Re: Frozen Pipes? What to do.

After a week of "record cold," I'd venture this article is a bit late in coming.

I also want to chide those who act as if this winter was the first time anyone ever had cold weather.

That said, I must confess: Last winter my pipes froze. Solid. This had never before, as best I could tell, happened to my house in its' half-century of being there. SO ... what changed?

What changed was, in a word, ME. I had bought the house/ In the course of a major remodel, I had the crawl space wide open. With the water pipes buried in the ground, and only about 24" exposed as the branch lines entered the floor, I didn't worry.

Forget the logic in the main post; each little branch line froze solid.

Immediate solution: "remove the cold" (close off crawl space' let lost house heat slightly warm the area) and OPEN every valve at least a little. By mid-day, the ice melted and water flowed.

Long term? Temperature-responsive heat trace(Raychem) and insulation. Close most crawl space vents in winter.

What you DO NOT want to do is to get under the house with a torch or a blow drier. Ice expands as it thaws, and water does not compress. That's why frozen pipes break as the thaw - not as they freeze - and the pipes split with a BANG.

If you KNOW where the freeze is, you open the valve and start heating the water on the downstream side. Let water pressure push flow through the ice, and melt the plug that way. If you don't KNOW where the plug is, tent off the area and gently heat the AREA around large section of pipe with a non-focused space heater ... one of those "electric radiators" is best. Be PATIENT.

Re: How do you make a square cut on a round footing form?

What have I used in the past?

Well, there's the always-handy tape measure, wrapped "backwards" around the form.

Or, get fancy and use a cloth tape, like the ones found in sewing kits.

Re: Get the Best Cordless Drill

That's all fine ... but I wonder if advertisers are on the wrong track, shouting out every new tweak of their line?

For reference, I draw you attention to Claude Hopkins' book "My Life In Advertising." This Depression-era work details the career of an extremely successful marketing man.

Claude tells of the vacuum makers, who constantly came out with lovely art and lurid prose, touting their latest refinements. Claude took a very different approach - and cleaned up.

Simply put, he identified what mattered to the housewives who would use the vacuum- rather than the engineers at the plant.

Now ... about drills and other cordless tools ....

I've seen, since about 1990, an "arms race" where each version claims to be bigger, stronger, more powerful. I fully expected someone to place a car battery in a backpack, with a short cord to the tool. Sound silly? Anyone recall the 36V "cordless" tools?"

So ... what matters to me? What could the marketers say that would get my attention?

Well ... how about things that relate to improved portability?
First off, this means weight. I have to CARRY my tools around. They add up. Sometimes this is made worse by 'innovations,' such as when they require the use of different batteries and chargers.

I submit that if the makers really cared about the user, they would have standardized the batteries long ago. There is simply no justification for different makers to require unique batteries for similar tools.

Next? Size. I'm up and down ladders all day. Or, I'm on a lift. How do I get it all up there? Where do I set it when I'm there?

This question was answered when I tried one of those little 12V drills. Holy smokes- a tool that I can stick in my pocket and carry up the ladder with me!

When that little drill proved to have plenty of power and run time for its' uses, I became a real fan. The "big" drill has been collecting dust ever since.

Maybe this is why my plumber friend loves his half-size reciprocating saw. I know this is why I love my baby bandsaw. Easy transport, one-hand control.

I guess that "more" is not always "better."

Re: New Standards Proposed for Gas Furnaces

Opinions, it is said, are like fingers; most folks have a couple handfuls of them. So, if you want your opinion to stand out, you need data.

Well, here's some data .....

Checking a common HVAC supplier, I compared same-brand gas furnaces. Same physical size, same style, the only differences being the AFUE and price. What did I find?

Using the figures that would give the least favorable results, I found that the 95 AFUE furnace would take about a decade for fuel savings to cover the increased cost.

Consulting a few installers, this increased equipment cost added about 15% to the cost of a furnace replacement.

My conclusion? That's a reasonable payoff period, at a very modest increase to the cost of the job. For a homeowner, that is; businesses would typically expect the payoff to take no more than three years- half the time my most optimistic numbers would let you expect.

Opinions? These regulations are both unnecessary and counter-productive. Here's why:

Right now, anyone buying a furnace FOR THEMSELVES already have plenty of reason to buy the more efficient unit. Only those who care not about the operating expense - landlords and flippers - would choose the cheaper units.

Remove the cheaper units from consideration, and there is no longer any 'choice' available to keep the prices of the efficient units down. Remove the "economy" option, and the price of the units will go up.

This higher price will, in turn, encourage continued use of even older, less efficient units. An extra $1000 in replacement cost just might cause me to try to get another few years out of my 1957 furnace.

Bin the regulations. Let the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith operate. Free markets work every time they're tried.

Re: Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting

Very nice ... but, please, do we really need any help here?

Electrical horrors. I have thousands of pictures of such kludge. I've come to the conclusion that most of this stuff is the result of an "ethic" that prides itself on it's ignorance.

Take the pictured example above. Romex? Garden hose? Really? Those materials cost easily 3x what the proper cable would have cost, and been impossible to connect properly to the fixtures. Some savings! What genius!

Now ... what details do I hope the article explains?

First, how most electrical cables (and cords) quickly degrade when in contact with soil. We don't usually think of dirt as 'corrosive,' but it's fatal to rubber and many plastics. The proper cables don't have that problem.

Line or low voltage? Do you love digging? Line voltage wires need to be buried at least a shovel-blade deep, maybe even be in pipe; Low voltage can be laid on the ground and covered with mulch.

Power supply sizing, and how to "count" the lights.

Finer points? Properly laying out multiple runs; preventing runs from connecting to each other; placing controls where they are both accessible AND out of the weather; protecting it all from the lawn mower.

Might be nice to also show a proper in-ground junction box. Most folks have never seen one. These "handholes" are about the size of a 5-gallon bucket, and have an open bottom.

Re: Minnesota Builders Try to Block Sprinkler Law

No one is more in favor of "safety" (in general) or fire sprinklers (in particular) than I. Yet, I do not support these being required.

I'd like to let the market work. Let folks have the choice. Part of the problem is that people have very little choice in the matter; the house is built 'on speculation,' or according to tract plans .... and sprinkler companies use every trick in the book to run up the cost and limit competition.

True, there is a lot of misunderstanding on the topic of fire sprinklers. Code requirements are a lot easier for a house than they are for any other location. Requirements for water supply, alarms, materials, and head placement are greatly eased.

There are two problems with making these fine idea a matter of law. The first is cost; code advocates ALWAYS low-ball expected costs, and the costs of all these code changes adds up.

For example, my own (1957 tract) house is estimated to be replaceable, as originally constructed, for $55,000 (according to my insurance carrier). Having the house built to today's codes will easily push the re-build cost over $100,000. That's right; code changes alone have doubled the cost of building my house.

The second issue is that code changes affect only new construction. Most of your losses, by contrast, are in existing homes.

It's a simple economic fact that the poorest folks will get the worst housing. Tenants are up against a second barrier, in that the owner has even less reason to care about the property than the tenant.

Proponent will never lack for heart-rending tales of "what if." What's never addressed is 'what if' folks had done what they could for themselves? There's no law against you having a sprinkler system installed. We already require smoke alarms in homes. Codes already address electrical matters. We've had at least half a century of advice regarding Christmas trees, fire extinguishers, etc.

Saying "if they can afford ..." is the attitude of a thief. It is not for you, or I, to determine how another spends his money. It's THEIR money, their decision. Now, there are plenty of places on this Earth that are run by the 'afford' principle .... and it's worth noting that folks will risk great harm to flee these places, seeking the freedom they believe we have.

Why, I ask, should we imitate failure?

Re: Wheelbarrow Doubles as an Easy Chair

At last- something a wheelbarrow is good for!

But ... if you actually want to use a wheelbarrow to haul stuff, this new take on the design by Worx looks promising:

Re: What's the Difference? Small Home vs. Tiny House

Where is the fine line we cross, when we part from meaningful description to buzz-work marketing pap?

"Spacious" 3-bedroom tract homes of the 50's - the vary homes most of us were raised in- usually came in at just about 1000 sq. ft. Get the 'big' split-level at the end of the block, and maybe you had 1200 sq. ft.

These are now to be called "small?" Huh?

Knock that same home down to only one bedroom, and you're well on your way to a 700 sq. ft. home. How many bedrooms does a retiree want, anyway?

"Square footage" is misleading in any even. Not counted are the garages, storage areas, porches, decks, patios, sun rooms, and outbuildings that are featured in so many of the 'award-winning' designs.

Also overlooked in the calculation are the massive space costs of stairways and halls - items prominent in many of the 'winners' as well. That 2000 sq. ft. multi-level might be more cramped in real terms than a 700 sq. ft. ranch.

So, what's the point to all this hype about the virtues of being 'small?' Is it nothing more than an attempt by 'reformers' to put everyone on the defensive, to appeal to our cultivated sense of guilt?

Build for the purposes of the occupant - and a pox on any artificial feel-good agenda.

Re: The Swiss Army Sink

Thanks for the reminder!

I had seen this sink - or one very much like it - some time back, but had forgotten it existed.

Now that I'm in my own remodel, though .... Looks like the 3-ft. version will suit me well.

Re: How to Easily Drill a Hole in Ceramic Tile

Just in case anyone is in doubt, here is a link to a picture of the sort of bit I described:

I've never had the least issue with these bits 'skating' around on even the slickest tile.

Re: How to Easily Drill a Hole in Ceramic Tile

This tip is a 'fail.' Instead, do this:

For the price of one or two Dremel bits, you can buy a 4-piece set of "glass bits." These are spade-shaped bits of carbide, mounted on a shaft. Their sharp point easily pierces the glaze on most tile, then bores through the base ceramic. Start small and work your way up, and you'll have precise holes in no time.

I've only once encountered a fired clay tile that gave these bits any trouble - and that tile also posed a challenge to diamond core drills.

Re: Is this renovation doomed from the start?

The last part of a basement remodel addresses how you make your walls and interior finishes.

Many folks say you should use metal studs. I disagree. Metal studs, installed in the usual manner, will only trap water in the bottom track. I believe the solution lies in SPACE.

That is, we need to leave a small space between our framing, and the walls and floor of the basement. "Hat channel" is one way to frame exterior walls and maintain a drainage space between the framing / insulation and the actual wall. Lag bolt heads can hold the bottom plates of walls slightly above the concrete floor. Hat channel can also hold a finished floor above the concrete, allowing for drainage.

As you might guess, I do not agree with the floor described in this thread. Close- but not quite there!

Your basement HVAC needs to operate independently from, and be apart from, the household HVAC. The HVAC that came with your house was not designed, or sized for, the basement. The basement has completely different temperature / humidity issues than the house above. Most importantly, have a separate source for make-up air.

Even with separate HVAC, materials need to be more moisture tolerant that the usual household ones. For example, I recommend the use tileboard and FRP panels over the usual gypsum and Masonite paneling. If you want a suspended ceiling, use the lightweight fiberglass tiles, rather than the usual 'cardboard' ones. "Plastic" baseboards and molding, rather than wood products. Throw rugs, that are small enough to be picked up when wet. And so on.

That's my take on the topic. Thank you for reading this far.

Re: Is this renovation doomed from the start?

OK, I've spoken about the floor. Now we need to discuss where the water comes from.

Water can come from outside the basement, from with in the basement, and from the air in the basement. To address the troubles water can cause, you have to deal with that water.

Sealing the basement, to prevent water from entering, really isn't possible. If nothing else, ground water standing against the foundation exerts enormous pressure, and will push the walls down. Yea, you should do what you can to divert such water away from the house- but you will never completely eliminate it.

Water coming from within the basement - for example, an overflowing washing machine- won't be able to leave a 'water tight' basement either.

Finally, basements are typically a few degrees cooler than the house above. This means household air that enters the basement will condense out, on to the exterior walls.

Once the water gets IN, we need to provide it a way OUT. By arranging the floor to drain, we allow the sump pump to do its' job. (Thus, I do not agree with the "airtight" sump pump mentioned in this thread).

We also need to dry the air. We need to separate the basement HVAC from the house HVAC, and have the humidity of basement air controlled. In practice, this will mean a lot more fresh air will be brought into the basement than is usual for a house.

Drainage + dry air = A dry, must-free basement.

Re: Is this renovation doomed from the start?

I've posted on this topic several times; my interest stemmed from the expense of repairing a finished basement that had suffered a very minor amount of flooding.

"How to finish a basement" is one topic where there is no consensus, no standards, and plenty of conflicting opinions. We do, though, know what does NOT work.

What does NOT work is to finish the basement using the same materials and methods used for the frame house. Conventional framing, insulation, drywall, and even ventilation practices will only guarantee an early failure. Let's go back to the starting point...

When the homeowners called me about the flooded basement -about 1" of water has come in, under an exterior door- they had just been told by their insurance agent that the loss wasn't covered, that basement's were never meant to be lived in. That little flood cost nearly $15,000 to repair. That simple inch of water had wicked up nearly more than a foot inside the walls, causing a lot more repairs to be necessary.

The basement had a sump pump. However, the basement floor was nowhere near as smooth or as level as the typical driveway; about the only thing that did not see flooding was the sump pump! Put your face to the floor of nearly any 'nice' basement, and you'll be amazed at the waves in the concrete. Every wave is a future puddle.

So, your first step needs to be to level and smooth out that floor. Once you have a floor that actually drains, you need to select a flooring method that you can remove, dry out, and return after the flood.

I'll continue in further posts.

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:

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:

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 ( ) 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.


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: 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.