Podcast 315: Perfect Roofs, Heated Decks, and Multifamily High Performance
Patrick, Matt, and Brian hear from listeners about lead safety and the right indoor humidity before taking questions on the perfect roof assembly, outdoor snow melting, and rebuilding a wood deck.
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Eric tells us about a $20 million fine for violating lead-safety rules. Dan clues us in to a doctor/architect/researcher who focuses on indoor-air quality. Randal wants advice for building the perfect roof assembly. Rob asks about building a heated deck to melt snow. Josh is hoping to save his deck. Nate asks why we aren’t seeing more high-performance multifamily dwellings.
- Patrick’s cabinet and drawers
Listener Feedback 1:
Eric from Cullowhee, NC writes: It’s a pittance for them, but I suspect it will create increasing $$$ for homeowners who hire contractors to do this right:
FROM CBS Boston: Home Depot will pay a fine of more than $20 million after settling with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice for alleged “serious violations” of the EPA’s lead paint rule. The company will also pay Massachusetts $732,000 as part of the settlement.
It’s the largest penalty ever paid under the Toxic Substances Control Act, according to federal officials. The agencies said Home Depot gave work to subcontractors that in some cases did not use lead-safe practices or do required post-renovation cleaning, among other violations. There were also instances where Home Depot did not make sure contractors performing renovations were property trained in lead safety.
- Lead-Paint Safety, at Home and on the Job
- EPA’s Lead-based Paint Enforcement Helps Protect Children and Vulnerable Communities
Listener Feedback 2:
Dan writes: Hey FHB team, In episode 309 you were talking about humidity and a HRV. At sub 40% humidity I believe you should be running the humidifier. Yes the HRV and humidifier “work against” each other, but with that way of thinking so does your HRV and furnace, yet we don’t turn off our furnace.
Each one is accomplishing a separate tasks to balance a different element of a comfortable and healthy environment. I recommend listening to the Building HVAC Science episode #48 to learn about the effects of low humidity on our health.
Love listening to everyone
Listener Feedback 3:
Jim writes: I escaped California a few years ago after my county became a major “growing” area. Typically, once a house has been used as a “grow” house, it has to have the drywall removed and a full mold remediation done before it’s habitable. After an entire season of being held at 80-90 degrees and nearly 100% humidity, the walls are covered in mold that extends deep into the drywall. A seller can mask this with a few coats of paint but it’ll come back until a serious assault is done on it.
Also, these growers only care about money and often use excessive amounts of toxic chemicals to force the growth and they don’t have much concern about spillage or clean up. Often this means the floors need to be removed which is problematic when it’s a slab.
When the Sheriff raids them, they go in wearing full hazmat garb for a good reason.
Put as much distance between you and a “grow” house as you can.
- Restoring And Decontaminating Former Marijuana Grow Houses
- I Accidentally Bought a Marijuana Grow House: Why Even Weed Lovers Should Be Very Afraid
Question 1: What’s the “perfect” way to build and insulate a roof?
Randall from Facebook writes: I’ve got a lot of good advice from you folks regarding the perfect wall, air sealing, vapor barriers, and wall insulation, but how about the perfect roof? Did I miss that article? I’d like to see more on roof insulation, combining cavity fill and continuous exterior insulation. Can you direct me to those articles? Thanks.
- An Unvented, Superinsulated Roof
- What’s the Best Attic Insulation?
- Roof Venting Done Right
- How to Build an Insulated Cathedral Ceiling
- Five Cathedral Ceilings That Work
Question 2: How can I heat a deck to keep snow off of it?
Rob writes, Hi FHB crew, I’m a fairly experienced weekend warrior and regular taker of architecture classes at my local community college and very much appreciate the education I’ve received over the years from the podcast and magazine. Always fun in class to throw out the occasional “don’t you guys read Fine Homebuilding?” and bask in the brief but satisfying superiority that accompanies that statement, so thanks for that as well. I’ve now gotten bored enough to rip up my front just above ground level deck and reconfigure it. I would like to do a heated tile section extending approx. 10×15 ft in front of the door so I don’t have to shovel snow anymore but am finding very limited options. I would be framing out the deck structure (about 1 ft above ground) rather stoutly and then tiling with a method I read about at JLC shown here: Tiling a Deck
Question 3: Can I Reuse the Framing When Rebuilding My Failing Deck?
Josh writes, Dear FHB crew, The boards on my 56’x16′ deck are in need of replacement. The rest of the deck is in OK shape, and I’d like to avoid a full rebuild right now. It would be ideal if I could resurface the deck DIY, and get another 10 years out of it before the structure needs to be replaced. However, I foresee a few problems and would appreciate your thoughts on my solutions.
Problem #1: The tops of the joists are split and rotted at the butt joints, leaving nothing for new fasteners to grab onto.
Solution #1: Sister a 2×4 to each joist, in order to provide a nailer for the deck boards. Cap both the old board and 2×4 with 6″ wide peel-and-stick flashing.
Problem #2: The deck ledger was never flashed. The vertical toung-and-groove cedar siding is sandwiched in between the ledger and rim board. The gaps between the siding and trim were filled with caulk, which is failing.
Solution #2: Remove the existing trim, cut a few inches of siding out, and tuck a piece of z-flashing behind the siding, which would go over top of the deck ledger. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have to leave the old siding sandwiched between the ledger and the rim board.
Problem #3: Several of the footings are covered in soil, and the posts are starting to rot at the bottom.
Solution #3: Remove the soil, install Simpson RZBP retrofit post bases for added security. Optionally, cut off the bottom 1″ of post, and install a plastic spacer to separate the post from the concrete.
Is this a reasonable plan?
Question 4: Why aren’t we building more multi-family Passive House buildings?
Nate writes, Hello to the wonderful folks of the FHB Podcast, I’ve been an avid listener to the show for a couple years now. I started listening while working in St. Thomas as a construction site supervisor/project coordinator for a non-profit. We rebuilt roofs and homes after hurricanes Irma and Maria, while also living on a Caribbean Island, which wasn’t so bad.
I’m a mathematician and physicist by degree, engineer by title, and closeted building-science nerd. A coworker of mine just moved into a brand-new apartment complex here and Kansas City, that has claimed to be the largest Passive House building in the world. After seeing the apartment, it is quite impressive. I was helping him bring a TV in the other day and completely nerded out on the building. It has 16″ exterior walls with 4″ concrete, 6″ continuous foam insulation and 6″ of concrete, triple-glazed windows, ERVs, solar… the nerd list goes on. The rent on a one bedroom is $1500/month which is almost identical to a building adjacent that isn’t passive. This makes me wonder is there a significant, untapped, economy of scale when it comes to building passive?
Anyway, thought it was worth sharing and maybe worth a discussion of why we aren’t seeing more of these multi-family passive houses. (bit of a misnomer)
Keep fighting the good fight, Nate.
- Second + Delaware is the World’s Largest Passive House Building
- A Better Path to a Low-Carbon Future?
- Chris Magwood: What is the Carbon Elephant in the Room?
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