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Appliances     Asphalt     Basement Issues     Building Permits     Built-Green Balderdash




1. ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES: Don’t put too much stock in the “Energy Star” label on many appliances. Experience is not bearing out the advertising. Particularly dryers, which many homeowners are discovering require longer drying times or multiple cycles. Remember a BTU is a BTU, and if it takes a certain number of BTUs to dry your wet shirt there isn't much you can do to change it. Instead of focusing on the consumption side of the equation, pressure your government to start allowing more production so prices per BTU can come down. In other words, the answer to the “energy crisis” is to allow the market to produce more, not force the public to use less.
2. DRYER DUCTING: In-wall dryer ducting should be rigid aluminum or steel ducting installed without screws that penetrate to the inside. Lint can catch on those screws and partially plug the vent.














1. REPAIRING ASPHALT WITH COLD PATCHES: Asphalt can be patched with what is called a “cold patch.” Cold patch for asphalt is usually available at any good hardware store. It has to be packed down substantially, so after cleaning out the old material, pile about twice as much as will fill the hole you intend to repair, and then tamp it down vigorously. If you do not have a tamping tool, a small sledge hammer will do the same job.

2. BROKEN ASPHALT EDGES: Asphalt is most vulnerable at its edges. Gravel should be piled up flush to the top edge of newly laid asphalt to protect the edges from vehicle damage. If your existing asphalt is damaged see my tip on repairing damaged asphalt with “cold patch” material.
















1. WATER IN BASEMENT: If you are getting water in your basement when it rains, but the source is not apparent, check the downspout drains around your home in the vicinity of the leak. You can do this with a water hose when it has been dry for a while. Run water in the downspout for long enough to simulate a rainstorm. Often a broken drain pipe or surface water from a disconnected downspout drain is the culprit.
2. FLOOR COVERINGS OVER BASEMENT SLABS: The conditions for putting floor coverings over basement slabs will vary depending on the site. Not all basements slabs have moisture barriers under the concrete. It is a good idea generally to test a small area of the slab by taping a small (24”x 24”) square of visqueen to the floor. If in 24 hrs or so you have moisture under the visqueen, then you know there will be a moisture problem. There are a number of products that purport to block moisture from slabs. Test the product you want to use in a similar fashion. If the result is the same, then you are better off using ceramic tile on your basement floor, or painting the concrete. Keep your basement warm, and rely on throw rugs for comfort.
3. HARDWOOD FLOOR OVER CONCRETE SLAB: Hardwood floors can be put over concrete slabs, but you need to make very sure any possible moisture from the slab is adequately dealt with. The usual method of installation is to install a moisture barrier, then “sleepers,” (strips of wood laid flat under the hardwood) and then the hardwood. Alternatively, sheets of 3/4” plywood can be laid down over the moisture barrier. As a general rule, I would avoid laying hardwood floors over basement slabs.
4. ADDING A BASEMENT PARTITION WALL: Adding a basement partition wall is a moderate challenge. Use a treated bottom plate and lay out the bottom-plate location first. Then set the bottom plate with construction glue and lay out your stud locations. After marking the top plate stud locations off of the bottom plate, level up from the bottom plate to mark the top plate location. Nail the top plate to the joists above (if the wall runs parallel to the joists install some flat blocks flush with the bottom of the joists for wall backing). Cut the studs slightly long: the pressure will help hold the stud in place while you nail it and will additionally keep the bottom plate in place until it can be set with concrete anchors. A single top and bottom plate is sufficient. The double top plate that is common in new construction is for bearing, and is not usually needed. Space your studs 16” on center.
5. NAILING A TREATED 2X4 PLATE INTO CONCRETE: Nailing a bottom plate into concrete can be challenging. First of all, you should use a treated plate, and then glue it down. Concrete nails, even gun nails, will often chip the concrete under the plate. If you have glued it also, then whatever the nails do not hold, the glue will. I recommend using just glue at first, then once you have placed your studs, the pressure of the studs will tend to hold the bottom plate in place and you can more successfully anchor or nail the bottom plate down. The split-tip anchors or concrete screws are the best way to anchor a plate to concrete.
6. ANCHORING A TREATED BOTTOM PLATE OR STUD TO CONCRETE: A treated 2x4 or 2x6 bottom plate or wall stud can be anchored into a concrete wall or floor with concrete nails, but for concrete that is a few years old a better choice might be a concrete screw or split-tip anchor. The concrete screw or split-tip anchor will hold best, but requires a roto-hammer to drill the holes. If you have or can rent a small roto-hammer, then the stud or plate can be anchored with a stainless or zinc coated split-tip anchor, or a concrete screw. Just place the plate or stud where it goes, and then drill through the plate/stud and into the concrete, drilling a half-inch deeper than the anchor. Pound the anchor in with a hammer or drill the screw in and you are good to go. Place an anchor within six inches of either end of the plate, and about every 30” in between (staggered).
7. DAMPNESS IN BASEMENTS: Most basements in the Northwest are damp. This is because the soil behind the basement wall and underneath the basement slab is also damp. Concrete looks solid, but despite its appearance concrete is very porous. To help reduce basement dampness try painting the walls and floors with a sealer. This will help reduce, but will not eliminate basement dampness.
8. MOISTURE PROTECTION FOR NEWLY POURED BASEMENTS: In the Northwest it is a good idea to do everything possible to guard against basement dampness. In my own construction business, I use “triple protection” for any basement where the soils indicate excessive moisture. In addition to footing drains, which should be used as a matter of course in the Northwest, I remove the snap-tie prongs, and have the basement walls coated with asphaltic spray. Then I cover the basement walls with a drainage board, making sure any horizontal joints are lapped with the bottom board under, and top board over. Then, I use a freely draining backfill like pit-run gravel or pea gravel.
9. IS CONSTRUCTION GLUE ENOUGH TO HOLD A BASEMENT PARTITION WALL WITHOUT ADDITIONAL ANCHORS?: A basement partition wall bottom plate can be successfully held in place with just construction glue, but it depends on the stud framing. If the studs are installed in a way that applies pressure on the bottom plate while the glue is setting, then the glue should be enough by itself.














































































1. PERMIT APPLICATIONS: Most cities and counties are very sympathetic to “do it yourselfers,” often more sympathetic than to builders. However, that does not mean you are going to be in for an easy time. The biggest drawback facing the do-it-yourselfer is a lack of knowledge. Often the City or County bureaucrat is as ignorant as the general public but they cannot show it, so they will never be short of a ready answer. However they may be short of a correct answer.
2. BUILDING PERMIT APPLICATION: BRING ALL THE PROPERTY INFORMATION YOU CAN FIND: When inquiring about a building permit of any kind, bring as much property information as you can find. Most importantly your Property Tax Account Number from the County Assessor.
3. BUILDING PERMIT OR REMODEL APPLICATIONS- WHO TO CALL?: Most jurisdictions will require a permit for remodeling as well as new construction. Some even require a permit for something as minor as re-roofing. If you are within the city-limits of a particular city, then the city will be the controlling jurisdiction, If you are outside the city limits, then the county will be the correct jurisdiction.
4. HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A BUILDING PERMIT?: In nearly all jurisdictions a building permit will be required for any structure that will be permanently attached to the lot or property. i.e. any structure that will have a foundation, or that will be extending the existing foundation. If you are remodeling without changing the home's footprint or affecting the exterior, jurisdictions usually have a minimum dollar amount or similar benchmark for requiring a permit. Some cities even require a permit to re-roof, re-paint, or even put up a treehouse for the kids. My advice is to call the city or county and check the requirements without giving your name or address. Then, if you feel you can make the changes without attracting the city or county's attention, and if you are not uncomfortable being a “scofflaw,” you can move forward on your project without a permit. If you are “caught” later, some jurisdictions will double the permit fee, but few will make you tear it all out. I, myself, was born with a building permit for working on my own home with my own money.
5. WHY WOULD A CONTRACTOR WORRY ABOUT WORKING ON MY HOUSE WITHOUT A PERMIT?: If the work you are intending to do will require a permit from the local jurisdiction, most contractors are also going to require that you get the permit. This is because of licensing laws from the State. Contractors must be licensed to operate in the State, and if they are caught working without a permit, that license could be in jeopardy.
































1. BUILT-GREEN PRESUMPTIONS ARE ALL WRONG: The whole built-green movement is at best a rationing scheme, and at worst a total scam. If I can change the label on my building product and charge 50% more for it, why would I not do it? The primary assumption behind the built-green movement is that we are running out of resources and must therefore “conserve” them to have enough for the future. This is completely backward-looking and backward thinking. When something everyone needs is in short supply, there are two choices: make more or use less. Because government has been in charge of energy and has not allowed the creation of more energy to serve the nation's needs, they want all of us to use less. The “built green” movement is all about moving us back, not forward.
2. “BUILT-GREEN” = TAXPAYER SUPPORTED: Many, if not most of the “Built-Green” proposals, whether from government or private sources, rely on taxpayer subsidies to make them profitable. In my home State of Washington, window companies are given Federal money (directed through the State) to replace inefficient older windows. Any “Built-green” proposal that cannot stand on its own without support from taxpayers is a just a fraud. Paying more to use less is regressive thinking.
3. BUILT-GREEN=GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED: The panic being spread by government and its supporters regarding resources and the imaginary “tipping point” called “sustainability,” is 10% science and 90% eco-alarmism and politics. Government is seeking greater control of your life, and is hoping they can scare you into supporting the legislation needed for that purpose, legislation like “cap & trade.”



































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