Built Wrong From the Start
Top 10 blunders that rot your house, waste your money, and make you sick.
Synopsis: A builder with a Ph.D. in building science explains why even the best materials can ruin a house if installed improperly or implemented as part of a poor design. Complete with detailed pictures and illustrations, this list includes more than just simple tips; it highlights the causes and solutions of many common but overlooked problems. This author addresses problems related to basement insulation; vented crawlspaces; attic ducts and air handlers; frame rotting; pan flashing windows and doors; brick and stucco drainage; air-conditioning pathways; toxic gases; and gas space heaters and fireplaces.
I’ve been a building scientist for more than 20 years. Before that, I was a builder. Even though I followed standard building methods, some of my houses were turning into drafty wrecks that were rotting on their foundations. What went wrong? In 1983, I went back to college to get my Ph.D. in building science, the study of how buildings work and why they fail. Houses are more complex than they used to be. They have more insulation, they have elaborate heating and cooling systems, and they are built to be nearly airtight. These components can make comfortable, energy-efficient houses that serve their owners well. But if they’re put together wrong, a house and its occupants can be in for some serious problems.
I’ve turned the basis of the mistakes I made as a builder into one of the lectures that I give at building conferences across North America. While I deliver these seminars in a somewhat lighthearted manner (sometimes to standing-room-only crowds), I can assure you that these blunders are not funny.
1. Vapor barriers on basement insulation will rot your walls
We expect a house’s walls to get wet during construction, either from the weather or from the materials (that’s why joint compound is…