Podcast 543: Affordable Flooring, Replacing Replacement Windows, and Low-Flow Fans
The crew hears from listeners about galvanic corrosion and the satisfaction that comes from tradework before taking listener questions about durable low-cost flooring, replacing previously replaced windows, and diagnosing a poorly performing bath fan.
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Ross talks about using AeroBarrier in existing homes. Dave shares a tale about galvanic corrosion. Kevin sends us an interesting Boston Globe article written by an HVAC tech. A listener asks about easy-care low-cost flooring. Will wonders about replacing windows. Corey’s fan has low flow. The crew talks about tiny houses.
- Sam: Wood Works Homes, Enhabit conference, and building in Grand Rapids, MN
- Kiley: cooktop explosion
- Jeff: woodworking and sewing parallels
- Patrick: check out the new Energy Retrofit Project Guide!
Listener Feedback 1: Ross on Dane’s question about AeroBarrier from Podcast #539
Ross writes: Patrick, I would recommend engaging a HERS Rater or have a Mass Save audit to evaluate the air leakage of the house as well as other energy-related areas. Mass Save has many incentive programs for upgrading the energy features of existing homes.
Installing AeroBarrier before your furniture and belongings arrive is ideal; flooring, cabinetry, and other finished surfaces would need to be covered during the install. AeroBarrier is vapor open—its perm rating is 21—so the sealant will not trap vapor in a wall system. Since AeroBarrier is not coating a wall and only filling gaps, the vast majority of vapor control is done by the wall materials (drywall, lath & plaster, etc.) and not the AeroBarrier sealant.
The question of drying capability is multifaceted. In many older homes that have not received adequate maintenance or replacement of materials at the end of their lifecycle, the exterior siding may allow bulk water to access the sheathing. The typical lack of insulation in these older homes actually helps this scenario as the heat from the home more easily reaches the sheathing and aids with drying. This wetting and drying process may have been occurring for decades without much, if any, material degradation.
AeroBarrier will reduce the air leakage that carries some warm air into the wall cavity, which may change the ability of the sheathing to dry from bulk-water intrusion. Adding insulation to a wall assembly with bulk-water issues will also reduce its drying capability.
AeroBarrier is primarily installed in new construction and significant renovations, so the data is not as robust for existing homes, but the leakage reduction does have a significant impact on heating/cooling costs and the comfort of the home.
If this was my home, I would resolve any bulk-water-infiltration issues, if they exist, at the exterior and have a qualified expert evaluate the designed drying capabilities of the home before altering any components.
I hope this helps.
Listener Feedback 2:
Zak writes: Hi Patrick and podcast crew! I just listened to podcast 529 and was glad to hear you all talk about galvanic corrosion. As a young apprentice, I remember being taught about it in union school and the next week having an opportunity to ask a plumber about it. He was running copper pipes through the punch-out in steel studs (not galvy), and I was curious if he was worried about it. We were on the 12th floor of a very expensive downtown Chicago lakefront building. He said, “F*** no!” I think he didn’t want to hear about it from a 2nd year apprentice carpenter. I said, “Okay, you would know. But if you don’t mind, I’m going to ask my foreman about it.” An hour later when I came back through the corridor, he was running his pipes through all the contact points and where the copper touched the steel the pipes were covered with duct tape. I felt like I had won some small battle, and I didn’t even have to snitch!
I also wanted to point out that graphite, like in pencil “lead,” and zinc are quite far apart from each other on the galvanic chart. This is good to know when marking out flashing, especially mill-finish flashing, but probably any metal flashing. I’ve had stubborn carpenters flat out refuse to believe me about this. I once wrote a message on a piece of galvy roofing metal and set it somewhere visible, and a few weeks later, after a couple decent rains, “Read it and weep!” was blazing in a rusty scrawl. I try to keep my crew supplied with extra fine point Sharpie pens when we’re working with flashing or roofing. I wish I had a picture to share of that roofing panel! It convinces stubborn jerks that science is real. Or at least that metallurgy is real. Some people, I tell ya…
Thanks as always for all your hard work on the podcast!
Listener Feedback 3:
Kevin writes: From The Boston Globe: The good, simple, miniature-god-like life of one HVAC repairman: For 40 years, I enjoyed the rhythms of providing a service that’s getting harder to find now.
From the article: In 1982, a union refrigeration mechanic was pulling down $16 an hour. That was an eye-popping figure to a guy who felt lucky to have a job paying $4 an hour at Fletcher’s Quarry in Westford. My parents were friends with the service manager at a large HVAC company in Newton. I played tennis on his court, which was adjacent to his swimming pool. Between sets, he asked if I wanted a job. “Now, I’m not offering you an apprenticeship,’’ he said. “It’s just a job changing air filters. But, listen. If you show up every day and work hard, we might sponsor you with the union. And I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but that’s a career. A damn good career.’’
I had just turned 20. I didn’t care about a career. Nor did I care about healthcare (every job provided that then). It was the $16-an-hour thing. That’s what I cared about. That and proving to my father I could be worth something in the world. All I had to do was show up every day and work really hard, and then maybe I’d get into the union. And then, after four years of apprenticeship, I’d get the big dollars, make my father proud, and buy whatever the hell I wanted. Like a new thing I’d read about called a CD player.
I had tried the college route. For a year and a half. But I didn’t want to be behind a desk, as I had been for the previous 13 years. I wanted to be outside. Move. Drive around. Actually do things. So, I took the job with the HVAC shop in Newton, and my career as a refrigeration mechanic began.
One of the dispatchers handed me a beeper. And when it beeped, I’d drive around till I found a payphone without the handset ripped off, scrounge a quarter from my coffee holder, and dial the office.
As a changer of air filters, I was always on the move, picking up my order at Filter Sales in Charlestown and then driving to the first businesses on my list so I could set up my ladder. I wore out more than one Arrow Street Atlas trying to find my way around eastern Massachusetts. Charlestown to Jamaica Plain to Allston to Somerville to South Boston. Not only did I not know where I was going, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never even handled a pipe wrench before. I remember one journeyman, laughing at me when, on a snowy rooftop somewhere in Brighton, I tried to loosen a ¾-inch union by pushing a pipe wrench in the wrong direction. “You know,’’ he said, “those things only go one way. See the teeth on it? You gotta pull ‘em. See?’’
Question 1: What’s an affordable floor covering for a play space?
A listener writes: Hi FHB Podcast, I’m looking for an inexpensive floor covering for a 3rd floor play space and art/hobby area. I’ve thought about vinyl plank, tile, or sheet vinyl. Painted floors? Commercial carpet? Any thoughts?
- Interface: Commercial Carpet Tile and Resilient Flooring
- Interface’s Climate Take Back initiative aims to reverse global warming, one tile at a time
- What’s the Difference: Linoleum Vs. Vinyl
Question 2: What are the best replacement windows in an old house?
Will writes: I’m really enjoying your podcasts. I’d love to hear a discussion about replacement windows for old homes. I know Dan Kolbert said he would never replace single-pane wood windows that are 100 years old, but what if you have a 100-year-old-plus house with 1970s single-pane aluminum-frame leaky windows. These are not worth fixing, so what do you replace them with? There are more and more incentives to go triple pane, but what manufacturer do you use? It’s difficult to put tilt turn in these old homes with no sheathing, so that leaves casements and picture-window styles due to lower U values. I’d love to hear specific recommendations discussed.
Question 3: Should I switch my bathroom fan duct?
Corey from Roanoke, VA, writes: Love your podcast and your continued stream of high-level information and education.
On the thread of bathroom exhaust fans, the list of items to check on when flex duct is used is super helpful (now on my to-do list…thanks???).
In my situation, I have Panasonic Whisper exhaust fans set on 100 or 110 CFM and have flex duct. It runs toward the rafters and turns downward and exits through the soffit (various lengths depending on the bathroom location). During my energy audit, the fan was measured exhausting 35 CFM.
Would it be better to change to something rigid and exit through the roof? My guess is that would increase CFM but wondering if this outweighs adding roof penetrations.
Thanks in advance everyone!
- A Better Bath Fan Termination for Soffits
- Panasonic EZSoffit Vent™ Soffit Termination System
- The Joy of Flex
Question 4: Are tiny homes a solution to the housing crisis?
From The New York Times: Are Tiny Homes a Solution to the Housing Crisis: At the International Builders’ Show, exhibitors offered mini prefab houses, kitchens ‘like Swiss Army knives,’ and other strategies for dealing with a constrained market.
The crew talks to Sam about creating Enhabit, a high-performance building conference, and his business building and remodeling in Grand Rapids, Minn.
Check out one of our latest Project Guides: Energy Retrofit!
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