Podcast 340: Fixing Wood Floors, Books for Builders, and Less-Ugly Split-Levels
Matt, Rob, and Patrick hear from listeners about cutting down doors and using hybrid trucks for power, before taking listener questions about matching new floors to existing stairs, heat-pump water heaters, and good books for builders.
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Benjamin updates the crew about his door install. Rich from Ford says hybrid pickups can power your house in an outage. Doug shares photos of a deck build with his daughter. Campbell asks how to make existing stairs work when he adds floor thickness. Adam wants to know if a heat-pump water heater will over-dehumidify his basement. Benjamin from Germany asks what good books teach high-performance building. Adam asks how to give split-level houses more curb appeal.
- Rob’s kitchen and door
- Matt’s compost
- Patrick’s vaccine
Listener Feedback 1:
Chris in Chicago writes: Greetings FHB podcast peoples from the windy city.
As I mentioned in a previous email I was tasked with trying to get an entry door into a 72 inch opening on a 100 year old Chicago Bungalow. Well the cold and near record snowy February retreated back north and more pleasant weather arrived giving me an opportunity to install my project door.
I ordered a 76-inch pre-hung steel skin entry door from big orange. 76 inches being the smallest you can get. I proceeded to do ever so gentle surgery removing the door and disassembling the jamb, head and threshold. I cut a further 2 inches off the top and bottom of the door itself as to give somewhat of a normal look to the hinge spacing. I then cut another 4 inches off the top of each side jamb and reassembled. Installation went relatively smooth for a house of this vintage with its Frankenstein construction and the probably scores of people who have worked on it with varying levels of skill. Lessons learned. Make doubly sure your measurements and cuts are correct so as to not have to scrap anything and buy another door. Bidding something like this can be problematic because of all the hours spent pre-installation making the door the size you need. Best approach it as a T&M job.
Thanks for the great podcast and advice.
Listener Feedback 2:
Rich from Ford writes: Hello Patrick, Just got through Episode 334, one of your topics was back up power for your home, batteries and generators were discussed. Want to offer up another option…a backup generator you drive. Hybrid F150 can provide power for your essentials in a pinch. Doesn’t solve the “running out of gas” problem but gives you a lot more time for the grid to come back up without a loud motor annoying the neighbors . F150 battery electric vehicle will be available next year. Thanks to you and the team for the education and entertainment.
- USA Today: Ford F-150 goes viral after providing generator power to Texas home during blackout
- Ford: F-150 REFUSES TO SIT IDLY
Listener Feedback 3:
Doug writes: Hi Kylie, listened to your podcast (Podcast 336: Women in Construction) this morning and so am sending you these pics of my daughter helping rebuild our deck last spring. The transit level she is using was her grandfathers, her brother is holding the stick. She is in an Architecture program, also listens to the podcast and has an interest in green and sustainable building.
- Women Do Exist in the Construction Trades
- Educational Opportunities are Key to Diversifying Builders
- From Crew Member to Boss
Question 1: How can I make sure the top of the stairs align correctly with the floor when re-flooring?
Campbell writes: I live in an old (1902) house with original floors. 2.5-inch-wide softwood strip flooring attached directly to the joists. Doug fir on the first floor, southern pine on the second. The upstairs flooring has seen better days. It has been hacked up and reattached during a bathroom remodel 30+ years ago, refinished a few times, it squeaks dramatically. To fix the noise is way beyond the scope of a few screws here and there. My thought is to pull it all up, expose the joists, sister them as needed to get them as level and even as I can, lay 3/4 subfloor down and install new southern pine strips.
I understand that I’ll have to cut doors, move moldings, etc., but my biggest question is how to deal with how the stairs will meet the new higher floor. The stairs are currently in code with the correct rise and minimal variation between the rise of each tread. If I don’t adjust them after re-flooring, the top landing will be too high above the top stair tread, and to make it all correct would require spreading the new 3/4″ difference out between each tread. They are housed stringer stairs, so I can’t just pop the treads off and bump each one up a little to spread the 3/4″ difference out over the entire rise. Is there an easier solution I’m overlooking? Is installing the subfloor the wrong tack, and just complicating the whole thing? Plowing ahead and ignoring the height difference seems like an unacceptable solution.
Here are some pics I took last night. I realized after I had gotten home that these stairs are actually notched stringers, not housed stringers (the stairs at my prior house were housed and I had a brain hiccup writing the email). I guess in one way that simplifies the process to get the height of each step correct, but is annoying since I did a bunch of work last year to de-squeak them and would have to undo it to move the treads. Regardless, the need to redo these floors and get the stars right remains, and any best practices you and the gang can share about the re-floor process would be very welcome.
As always, the information and banter make listening to the pod an eagerly anticipated part of my week.
Question 2: Would replacing my electric water heater with a heat-pump water heater add too much dehumidification to my well-sealed basement?
Adam from Fredericksburg, VA writes: Hello all, My current electric hot water heater is showing its age (8 years) and I’d like to get something new and more efficient. I know you’ve discussed this in past podcasts but the technology is changing so quickly I figured I’d ping you for your thoughts anyway. I have 3.5 bathrooms with one of them being a large master bath. There are four people in the house and it’s all electric. I started looking at heat pump style water heaters but have a concern. I already have a whole house dehumidifier installed on my air handler. I also 100% air sealed my basement with rigid foam along the foundation and cut and cobbled along the rim joist. I also put high quality caulk along the sill plate. Followed that up with stone wool insulation. Basement is super comfy. Anyway, would a heat pump water heater dry the basement too much? Are electric on demand systems any good yet? Appreciate your help.
- GBA.com: Sanden Sanco2 vs hybrid heat pump water heater
- We Cut Open A Rheem Marathon Water Heater
- Where Does the Heat Pump Water Heater Go?
- Heat-Pump Water Heaters
Question 3: Can you recommend any books that cover a variety of basic topics, from foundations to wall design, and air-sealing to insulation, when trying to build an energy-efficient home?
Benjamin from Stuttgart Germany writes: My name is Benjamin and I am a long term listener from Stuttgart Germany.
For years now your podcast has been the perfect “edutainment” on my daily commute.
Since I have never set foot in a wood construction in my life (brick builds being almost the standard around here), I can not deny I find the way of building in the United States fascinating with all its advantages and drawbacks to what we do here. Although I do not work in the construction business, I get the feeling that your building industry is doing a much better job educating and promoting progress in the field to the builders.
I always smile each time you mention a “Schluter certified installer” or similar. I guess one trunklid is not enough for all the installations certificate stickers one can earn in this flood of products.
Being an engineer I enjoy it especially when you take a deep dive in a very specific problem.
But sometimes I am lacking a base level of understanding of problems which may be common when building with wood for years. The articles on your website or gems like GBA help a lot, but it is quite time consuming collecting various pieces to reach a verdict. I am sure a lot of your listeners feel the same way, especially at their first contact with modern high quality and performance building.
Can you recommend one or two books which cover most topics to consider from the foundation to wall design, from air sealing to insulation when trying to build an energy efficient home? I don’t mind it being explained on an advanced level. Getting an experienced builder up to speed on the Bonfig wall does not have to start with framing basics either.
I don’t care about roof venting, since there is two years worth of podcast dedicated to it ;-).
P.S. With Patrick’s irregular appearances as the “tool expert” in the show years ago, I am under the impression that you stopped covering equipment although he is part of the “core” now. Please reconsider keeping us updated about what “toys” to get.
Keep up the good work and happy building.
- Building Science Information for Builders
- Musings of an Energy Nerd
- Audel Technical Trade Series and Pocket Manuals
- Fundamentals of Residential Construction 4th Edition
- Books Every Builder Should Own
Question 4: What are some simple ways to spruce up a split-level home with low curb appeal?
Adam writes: Hi Podcast team- My wife and I are looking to buy a home and have noticed a lot of split level homes on the market. I have to say not a fan of the as they have a pretty low curb appeal in my opinion. Do any of you have suggestions on how to spruce these types of homes up?
This will be our first home I’d like to do as much of the work myself as possible. I’m thinking minor cosmetic things I could do pretty simple and easily. Large structural changes like revising/adding a roof/floor, is likely too far out of my experience and I likely wouldn’t able to complete the project in any reasonable amount of time by myself so that would be something I’d look to a contractor for help. Appreciate any insight or buyer beware. I enjoy listening to the podcast especially the building science topics. Thanks again.
End Note: Kiley asks:
Hey Patrick, in response to a question on the GBA Q&A forum, I want to develop an article about buying basic building materials in 2021— skyrocketing pandemic-related costs have some builders thinking in terms of alternative materials and methods. I put a callout for people to weigh in on GBA and have gotten some responses, but I wonder if it’s something you could bring up on the podcast? I’m going to write it, and I would love to have lots of different voices weighing in with how they are responding to the unavailability of normally accessibly-priced products. the more regionally diverse the input, the better.
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