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 Landscaping     Masonry     Mirrors     New Home Planning     Painting     Plumbing



1. RE-FLASHING A MASONRY CHIMNEY: It is a common problem when re-roofing for the step-flashing around a masonry chimney to be damaged or mis-aligned. This step-flashing can be replaced by cutting a shallow kerf in the mortar, and installing new flashing.


1. MIRROR THICKNESS: Mirrors come in several thicknesses. To get a quality reflection, use at least a ¼” thick mirror.


1. REVERSING A FLOOR PLAN: When choosing a site for your new home, remember that any home plan can be reversed. If the plan shows the garage on the left, it can easily be “flopped” so the garage is on the right. Some jurisdictions may require re-approval if the permit has already been issued.
2. REVERSING OR “FLOPPING” A HOME PLAN: More than once in my building career I have found that the home plan I was using would be more attractive or fit the lot better if it were “flopped.” This means if the garage is currently on the left, it can be “flopped” so the garage is on the right. This is usually not a big deal to the permitting jurisdiction. Just remember later that everything else is also flopped, including the “handing” of the doors.
3. THINK OF THE DRIVEWAY FIRST: When siting your new home on its lot, I generally think about the driveway first. How steep will the driveway have to be? Is there adequate turnout space? Is there room for guest parking? Will the approach highlight the whole structure or result in the garage being the most visible element of the home?
4. ADJUSTING GARAGE HEIGHT TO MINIMIZE A STEEP DRIVEWAY: An attached garage is usually a place where you can gain or lose a few inches or feet to make a driveway less steep. If the garage is designed to be a couple of steps lower than the house it can be brought up flush to the subfloor on a house that sits below the road, or it can be lowered a couple of steps on a house that sits above the road. The house in the picture could have had a less-steep driveway by lowering the garage a couple of feet.
5. SETTING THE DEPTH OF THE EXCAVATION: A number of factors enter into the mix when setting the depth of your excavation for a new home. How deep is the bearing soil? Where will footing drains terminate? How much backfill material is needed? How much will you have to import? Will the existing soil be suitable for backfill material? On a dead level lot, presuming a 2 foot foundation wall and an 8 inch footing, your excavation should be about 18 inches deep.


1. PRIME BEFORE TEXTURING: After completing your drywall taping, it is prudent to apply a coat of primer to the project before texturing. The paper and the mud will absorb the texture differently, and it is not uncommon to have an area of wall where the texture on the mud and the texture on the paper never match, even with repeated priming.
2. OIL BASED PAINT OVER WATER BASED PAINT: Never apply an oil based paint over a latex paint. The likely result will be chipping and peeling. However, latex paint can be successfully applied over oil-based paint.
3. LATEX OR LAQUER?: When finishing millwork, you will need to decide between a lacquer-based product, or a latex product. In my opinion, the lacquer-based products are superior. They leave crisper lines.


1. PEX VERSUS COPPER FOR INTERIOR PLUMING: Interior water piping is getting away from copper, which has been the standard for over 30 years, and is beginning to turn to “Pex.” Pex is a generic term for PVC pipe made by several manufacturers. When it first came out, I was suspicious because it looked like something you would use in a mobile home. However, Pex has earned my respect. It is extremely durable, and can often be put in with fewer joints than copper. It also flexes enough to move if it is “hit” with a drywall screw. I’ve been using it for many years now.
2. RECIRCULATION PUMP FOR HOT WATER SYSTEMS: Tired of waiting for the hot water in rooms that are a long way from the water heater? You can install a recirculating system incorporating a small water heater and pump that circulates the hot water continuously. These can often be retrofitted in existing homes by locating them in a bath or kitchen cabinet. Pictured at right is a recirculating pump (bottom right) and a small water heater.
3. LOCATION OF SHOWER VALVES: Shower valves can be placed anywhere you want them, they do not have to go directly underneath the shower head. This is sometimes useful if you have a large shower with a sitting area outside it.
4. MANIFOLD SYSTEMS FOR PEX PIPE: Using pex pipe allows you to upgrade to a “manifold” system where there are no pipe joints from the manifold to each plumbing fixture.
5. TANKLESS OR ON DEMAND WATER HEATERS: Tankless water heaters may or may not be the answer to your water heating needs, and often require major upgrades if replacing an electric heater. Do not believe the claims of vast savings with on-demand or tankless water heaters. The initial costs are nearly triple what a standard water heater will cost, and the jury is still out on the expected life. What you can get with on-demand water heaters is enough hot water to survive several back to back long showers. So, in short: endless, yes, efficient, no.
6. TPR VALVE OR PRESSURE RELIEF VALVES: Nearly all water heaters will have a TPR or pressure relief valve. A common problem with them is occasional leaking. This may be caused by a failing valve or a water system that has a backflow preventer somewhere in-line. Many jurisdictions now require a backflow preventer as a part of the plumbing codes, and guess what? This backflow prevention will cause the pressure relief valve to trip occasionally. In typical bureaucratic fashion, when one requirement creates a problem, just add another requirement (an expansion tank) to counter it.




















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