Home Building and Dealing with the Homeless

Home Building and Dealing with the Homeless

Here’s another story that’s been passed down the contractors pipelined from home builder to home builder and I’m passing it on to you. Some of the stories I’ve heard while working on new homes, truly are amazing and this one’s no different.

The construction crew had just started building the foundation when they noticed a couple of pieces of wood lying down in the shape of a cross. Any Christian would have known that this was a sign from God, but that wasn’t going to be enough to stop them from building their house.

The construction workers didn’t think anything of it until the next day, when they noticed the pieces of wood were laying in the exact spot again, in the shape of a cross. The construction workers figured that someone was coming to the job site after they left and wanted these two pieces of wood left alone. If that was all the damage these guys were doing, it was perfectly fine with the construction workers

They left the cross alone and nothing happened for about a week. That was when they finally got to meet the man who had built the wooden cross. He came running towards the construction workers like a wild man, yelling and screaming at them. He grabbed one of the workers and started punching him, until the other workers pulled him off.

The man ran back from where he came from, but hadn’t finished what he started. Every day around the same time, the situation would repeat itself, until the sheriff finally caught the man and took him to jail.

I’m probably leaving out the most important part of the story, the man was actually the same person who hired the contractor to build the home. He had talked to home builder into starting the project with out a down payment and the contractor did. The property owner was placed in jail for assault and battery and a lien was placed against his property by the contractor.

I never got a chance to hear any more of the story and I don’t know what ever happened to the contractor or the property owner. However, I would like to make a something clear here, the next time someone puts a wooden cross next to your project, it could actually be a sign from God.

Home Improvement Products

Problems with New Home Improvement Products

I’ve been a contractor for over 30 years and have watched some incredible products come and go. Maybe I should rephrase that last statement and say that I have seen plenty of so-called fantastic products, come and go.

Some of these products should have never made it to the market, but they did.

I’ve seen retaining walls, paint, exterior coatings, windows, garage doors, regular doors and the worst one of all, roofing materials, enter into the construction market and disappear within a few years. Whenever you see the word lifetime guarantee, limited lifetime guarantee or even the best guarantee you will ever get, don’t buy it.

I’m just kidding of course, but there are plenty of tricky companies out there who know how to manipulate and create the perfect illusion. If there’s one thing I can say about a lifetime guarantee, it’s this,” It’s only as good as the company.”

This is where consumers need to be careful, because it’s easy for a company to create a false illusion about their products. Guaranteed for life, usually means that the company will be going out of business.

Limited lifetime warranty usually means that the lifetime warranty has a couple of catches. Most limited lifetime guarantees don’t provide the consumer with very much protection.

One window manufacturer that I purchased products from guarantees your windows for life, as long as you own the home. Oh I forgot to mention, and as long as you have all of your paperwork and your original warranty.

Now when it comes to roofing materials, these people have created their own super limited lifetime niche, because someone comes up with a brilliant idea and actually finds a market for it. Some of these roofing materials are literally junk, but most homeowners, don’t know enough about them, to make an educated decision.

That’s when the super salesman comes in and clinches the deal, simply by using their charm and charisma. Uneducated homeowners are the ones that usually fall victim to inferior products, backed up by superior sales pitches

If I had a quarter for every home that I repaired, because of a material flaw or poor installation, I would have a lot of quarters. Even though things are starting to get better, we need to send articles like these to everyone we know, just in case.

It’s our responsibility to stop the scammers, before it’s too late.

The next time anyone tells you that you have any type of guarantee, either throw it in the trash can or read it and try to understand what type of consumer protection, they are actually providing.

Build a Snow Shelter

Build a Snow Shelter: Making a Quinzhee for Fun or Survival

Whether you’re an avid winter camper, looking for a fun project for a snow-day, or lost in the woods, knowing how to construct a snow-shelter is great, and in some cases, it could save your life. Contrary to initial impressions, snow shelters are often warmer than tents. Snow is an excellent insulator, and will hold in any body heat produced by those dwelling in a snow shelter. For fun or survival, a snow-shelter, or quinzhee, is relatively simple to make.

You can make an effective shelter, or quinzhee, with only a few inches of snow on the ground, even less if you can utilize an existing mound of snow from wind-drifts or plowing. Here’s how:

Start by piling snow into a large rounded mound. The ideal height for this mound is nearly head-height, as this will give you room to move around, and to keep any gear you may have inside with you. If you’re building the shelter for fun, and may spend time inside with a number of people, bigger is definitely better. I used to make cavernous quinzhees when I was a kid from the piles left behind near my driveway by the snow-plow.

In a camping or survival situation, you will often have to make due with a smaller shelter, due to time constraints and snow availability. Moving snow is hard work, so working form existing snow piles is always preferable to making your own. If you can, let the mound sit overnight before continuing, as that will increase its strength. Obviously, in a survival situation, this isn’t an option.

Break up some small dead sticks, and push them about 4 inches into the mound all around, making a giant snow porcupine. One winter, when I was building a lot of these shelters, I actually cut a bunch of small dowels to length for this use, but that’s overkill. Any sticks will do. The sticks will show you when to stop digging as you hollow out your functional space within the pile, and prevent you from inadvertently punching through to the outside or even collapsing your pile. For this reason, the more sticks you use, the better.

Carefully start digging a small hole in the mound at ground level – you’ll need to be able to crouch/crawl/slither through this hole, but in terms of overall warmth, smaller is better. As soon as your hole is 4-6 inches deep, start expanding it, eventually hollowing out the whole mound. Whenever you hit one of your marker-sticks, stop digging in that section. You’ll want to be slow and deliberate as you get closer to the edge. Once you’ve hit your marker sticks all of the way around, you’re essentially done, and can start enjoying your shelter immediately.

Getting Fancy – If you want to go really hog-wild, these shelters are pretty flexible. Here are a few quick tips for getting fancy with your quinzhee:

Doors – For overnight use, a door or windbreak can make a big difference. As a kid, I would prop a sled up against the door, or else hang a tarp. Either will work well to keep out the elements. In larger shelters, you can simply make a large snowball and roll it into the door hole. Wind-breaks are easy to build, too. Just build a wall of snow on the outside of your shelter near the door. The wall will divert any wind away from your door, and warm things up inside quite nicely.

Fire – I wouldn’t make this modification in any but the largest of quinzhees, as putting a fire too close to the shelter walls will melt your quinzhee pretty fast, but it is a whole lot of fun. In a shelter that’s been standing for a few days, and is quite solid, make a hole in the ceiling of the shelter, dead canter, and at the highest point of the roof. The hole should be about a foot wide. Build a small fire directly under the hole. There will be a whole lot of smoke at first, and you may even need to go outside while the fire gets going, but once it’s burning well, the smoke will be greatly reduced, and should be able to exit cleanly through the hole in the ceiling.

A note on quinzhee strength – Be aware that during the first day or two of use, your quinzhee is at its weakest. The snow pile is fresh, and is being exposed to all sorts of new load-bearing forces. After a day or so, however, the shelter will settle into an impressively strong structure. I spent a weekend in a quinzhee several years ago with two friends. We’re all pretty big guys, with not one of us weighing in at under 220 pounds. After our trip was over, we decided to test out handiwork by climbing up the outside. The shelter easily withstood our combined weight with no problem, and we literally had to jump, kick, and use shovels to break it down.

PLOW-PILE WARNING: Building a quinzhee can be a great snow-day or weekend activity for kids. As I mentioned, I used to use the plow-piles from the plowing of my driveway to build these shelters. Every year, though, the news in New England carries a sad and terrifying story about children being killed in similar situations. If the plow-driver comes while you are in your shelter, it’s very possible for them to either low-in the entrance hole, or worse, collapse the whole shelter by pushing more snow up onto the pile. Watch children carefully in these situations, and don’t use a snow-shelter of this sort if you’re expecting the plow to come by.

Quinzhees are incredible versatile and exciting snow shelters. They can be build anywhere there is snow, and provide entertainment, emergency shelter, and a lot of fun. Enjoy!

Top Five Most Difficult Construction Wastes to Recycle

Construction, remodeling and most home improvement projects almost always have waste leftover. So what do you do with it all? Chucking them into the landfill can be a big no-no. Recycling building materials is the best bet, but it’s not always possible. Finding out what you can keep, and what you have to toss out before you buy can prevent the dilemma of having non-recyclable construction materials.

Styrofoam

Plastics can be easy to recycle, especially if your local landfill or recycling center will take 1-6 numbered plastics. But Styrofoam can be a tough product to recycle. Appliances and other heavy equipment items are almost always wrapped with some form of Styrofoam. Trying to buy products without Styrofoam can be difficult at best, but it certainly warrants looking when most Styrofoam last forever.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure treated lumber is used to prevent the rot and decay of wood products from insects or mold. While today’s modern pressure treated materials are less toxic than their past relatives, remodeling often brings up lots of older pressure treated waste. If the pressure treated material was made before 2003, then it contains toxic substances that must be disposed of properly at a landfill. Never burn or bury pressure treated materials.

Paints

Old paints, stains and varnishes are often unusable after a certain amount of time. But don’t just chuck it into the landfill. Proper care must be taken when handling old paint products. Landfills often take old paint only on certain days of the year and for a large fee. Try instead at your local paint store to see what recycling options are available for your old paints. Never pour old paints into the ground or down the drain.

Drywall

Gypsum based drywalls may seem like they are very recyclable, when in fact they are not at all. While paper and gypsum are often the main ingredients in drywall, other toxic mold inhibitors, emulsifiers and polymers are added to drywall. Drywall must be taken to a construction landfill and disposed of properly. Never bury old drywall in the ground.

Insulation

Another tough construction item to recycle, insulation is made from strands of glass fibers. They are extremely difficult and energy intensive to recycle, so they often get tossed into the landfills and dumps. Your local landfill will have certain requirements for disposing of insulation, so always check ahead before you bring it to the dump. If you’re buying new insulation, opt out for 100 percent recyclable materials like denim, paper or wool. Never burn or bury old insulation. Check out Construct101.com fro more information on recycling building materials.

Sonin 00700 Water Alarm

Sonin 00700 Water Alarm with Remote Sensor Product Review

The Sonin 00700 Water Alarm with Remote Sensor has a deceptive appearance. This looks stylish and seriously constructed with a professional devise. But the fact is that it is trash. Before purchasing it I went through the mixed reviews about this apparatus and decided to gamble for $14. Now after using it for 8 months both the money and water is going has gone down the drain. I expected it to work at least for a couple of years. Sadly I had do discontinue because it is not a reliable instrument.

This is basically designed to sense any sort of water leakage and alert it in advance. Once it discovers the water seeping or trickling out, it sends out warning signals. The alarm raised by it is loud enough to wake you up even from your wildest dreams. It emits a sound of intensity 85 dB and is supposed to last for three days. The fact is that the intensity of the sound is high enough only to warn the people inside the house or at the max the neighbors residing close next to the door in an apartment. If you are out of the house, then there is no way you can hear it.

What I dislike the most about this water alarm is that it is not dependable. On some occasion it gets instantly in to action while at times it goes on a slumber. This is not active to safe guard the house. I am looking for an efficient alarm that really saves my day from washing the soaked carpets and drying damp furniture. The water alarm as such is useful in discovering undesirable water seepage from humidifiers, water machine, coolers and refrigerators.

With lot of hope I got the Sonin 00700 and for nearly two months it worked fine. I still remember the day it alerted all of us when the pipe in the basement garage had leaked beyond control. We had dumped our old furniture and other seldom using stuff there and everything was protected from submerging in water. Yet another time for some unknown reason the wash basin the hall was about to overflow and this promptly rang the bell. But for this our little puppy would have got drenched in water. The last time it disappointed me when I saw my costly carpet completely soaked in water and soap from the washer tub. After that I had stopped using it.

I was told by one of my friends that the battery lasts for 8 months. I cannot comment on it because I had ceased using it before that itself. This comes with a test button that facilitates you to inspect the battery charge. I was so dump to periodically check the battery thinking that this equipment can be trusted on its performance. But I was only wasting my time on it. The worst part is that it can only sense the leak and not stop or rectify the water trickling. If only the first half had been done I would have been happy.

Maryland Building Codes

How to Find Maryland Building Codes

The state of Maryland passes building codes at the state level. There is also some local involvement in the adoption of building codes for the construction, engineering and design industries. Maryland building professionals should first get familiar with the process of how building codes are adopted and become law in Maryland. They can then figure out how to find these Maryland building codes for use in their business.

Step 1:

Get familiar with how laws, rules and regulations related to building and construction come about in Maryland. At the state level, the legislature has the power to adopt pretty much any constitutional law. It can also delegate authority to pass rules and regulations to a Maryland administrative agency.

In the case of Maryland building codes and construction rules and regulations, the Maryland Codes Administration plays a large part in the Maryland administrative law for this industry. The Maryland Building Performance Standards Regulations prescribe which building codes and amendments are adopted for use in Maryland. You may see links to the regulations in the Resources below.

After these regualations are passed and codes adopted, they go to the local Maryland county and city building departments. The local government may then amend certain portions of the Maryland building codes.

Step 2:

If you are working on construction or maintenance in a Maryland county or city, the first thing you need to do is find out if there are any amendments to the state building codes in that local city or county. To aid in this step, the Maryland Codes Administration has a directory of local building departments. Use the link in the Resources below to find the local office. Get a copy of any amendments from that office.

Step 3:

Next, click on the “Maryland Building Performance Standards List of Adopted Codes and Standards” page in the Resources below. That document will tell you which building codes have been adopted. You then know which codes or standards to find.

Step 4:

From there, if you know the publisher, you can contact the publisher to get a copy of a building code adopted in Maryland. If you do not know the publisher because you are unfamiliar with that particular industry or code, then ask the Maryland Codes Administration how to access that particular building code. Use the following contact information:

Maryland Codes Administration

100 Community Place

Crownsville, MD 21032-2023

410-514-7218

You should also refer to the administration’s main page for additional information related to building codes in Maryland (see Resources).

Arizona Building Codes

How to Find Arizona Building Codes

Arizona essentially has a decentralized system of building codes. City or county governments in Arizona select and adopt from a number of available construction and building codes. They then have the option of amending those codes. Professionals in the construction and engineering industries need to find out which codes are used in municipalities or counties where they intend to work. They also need to find sources of these codes for ready access if encountering compliance questions or problems.

Step 1:

The first thing you will need to do is find your local building department. The name of this agency varies based on local rule, but each city or county has an office dedicated to building codes, construction permits and other matters related to regulation of the construction and engineering industries.

The easiest way to do this is to enter the city name and “building codes” or “building department” in Yahoo! or another search engine.

Example:

Let’s say I am looking to run a plumbing contractor business or participate in a construction project in Tucson. When entering “Tucson building codes” into Yahoo!, I come up with the Planning and Development Services Department “Building Codes” web page on the official Tucson City website. By looking at that page, you can see that Tucson adopts multiple international building codes. The city has also adopted some other uniform and national building codes and offers a copy of these codes online.

Step 2:

Ask the local building department which building codes are in effect in that jurisdiction. Now, it may be helpful to know how the process of adopting building codes in Arizona and other places work. Organizations like the International Code Council create model building codes. In fact, you can see the latest versions of the main international building codes online at the ICC website (see Resources below). But the problem is that local cities and counties in Arizona can amend these model codes.

To avoid using incorrect code provisions, it is vital that you access the local version of any model codes. This is why you must ask your local building department where to find the building codes as locally amended. The original codes can be used for reasearch and construction planning only if a code is not amended by the local building authority.

Additional Sources of Information on Arizona Building Codes:

  1. The National Electrical Contractors Association lists various local Arizona building departments, their contact information and which codes are used in that city or county. This will not be the end of your research for local Arizona building codes because you still need to contact the local agency to find the amended versions of the codes used in that jurisdiction.
  2. The Structural Engineers Association of America also has a similar list. Use that list to find contact information for local building agencies. Contact the agencies to find the proper Arizona building codes.
Construction

Things to Consider Adding to Your Home During Construction

If you are getting ready to build a home or are in the middle of construction, here are a few luxuries to consider having installed by your builder.

Granite counter tops and tile back splash. If you already have it in the kitchen, why not the bathrooms?

Home theater with recessed wall speakers. Do you like sports, movies and engaging TV? Why not get that home theater installed before you move in? A decent home theater costs $5,000 – go ahead and get it rolled into that mortgage.

Double D’s – Do you have a dishwasher picked out? Is it top of the line? How about a second one? What? A second one? Redesign your kitchen to install one dishwasher on the right side of the kitchen sink and an identical one on the left. Sound crazy? You will thank me later.

Concrete walls. Did you know concrete walls insulate your home better than anything on the market right now? Sure it costs more but you will save money on your energy costs and you could receive a 20% reduction on your home insurance.

Attic or loft? Spend the extra dollars to make your attic an air conditioned loft instead of a hot, musty attic. You can organize your junk and put a pool table up there should you choose to do so in the future. Just ask you builder about the options available to you.

Halogen lighting is out – LED is in. Do you know what LED lighting is? You should. It is just as costly as halogen but you never have to replace the bulbs and your house will be cooler given that LED’s give off no heat whatsoever. This is the better bargain. Go with LED’s.

Heated hardwood flooring? Get the additional heating element installed under your hardwood. If you live in a climate that is subject to freezing temperatures, you will thank me in the morning when the temperature is 10 degrees outside.

An additional bathroom? Did you know that adding on a bathroom can cost about $8,000 during construction? That’s a little price to pay considering that it will add $15,000 value to your home for each additional full bathroom.

Security cameras. Call your local security company and ask how much it would cost to set up a six camera security camera system. It could be around $5000 but consider the peace of mind – whether your infant child made a noise in their crib or you heard what sounded like a door shut – just turn on your TV in your bedroom and search the cameras. This is my favorite luxury on the list.

Central Vacuum System? Install one and save yourself the trouble of replacing a bulky plastic contraption that is hard to move around the house.

LCD Skylights – This is a great feature. You can have skylights installed with LCD glass. It works with a remote control. If you don’t want light coming through, just click your remote control and the glass blacks out with LCD technology. Pretty cool.

Whole house music. Speakers in every room and controllable in each room. Let the entire house be filled with the voice of Frank , Dean and Sammy with a touch of a button.

Talk with your builder and see what can be done.

Super Tips for Your Deck

Super Tips for Your Deck

Decks are used by different families for different purposes. Some are used for entertainment. Some are used for play. Some decks are used for relaxation. Yet other decks are used for grilling food. Each family has a different use in mind when they decide to build a deck. No matter what your intentions are, there are some excellent deck tips to keep in mind during the construction process.

Decks and Trees

It is a huge dilemma: wanting a deck right where a tree is growing. This may mean you have a tree right outside your back door. Don’t fret if this is the case. Trees make excellent shade for your deck. If you want to save your tree and build a deck, simply build the deck around the tree. It look absolutely beautiful and provides nice shade during the summer months.

The Finish on a Deck

Some people debate whether or not they should paint or stain their deck. I am here to advocate for staining. It looks natural and fresh, while enhancing the wood’s inherent beauty. Also, staining a deck requires much less upkeep than paint. Paint chips and fades. Also, when you paint a deck you must prime it and do a little more work than with stain.

Privacy Deck

Many homes across the world have close neighbors. This leaves little room for outdoor privacy. However, if you build a deck, you can build yourself some outdoor privacy. Do this by simply placing lattice work or a trellis along the side where you would like privacy. Then, plant a flowering vine below. When the vine begins to grow and bloom, your outdoor paradise will be shaded from other viewers.

Cleaning Mildew from the Deck

Mildew on a wooden deck is unsightly. However, it is simple to clean. Use 1 cup of trisodium phosphate with 1 gallon of liquid bleach and 1 gallon of water. Mix the solution together and spray your deck with a hose. Next, use a scrubber brush on the worst hit areas. Rinse the solution off of your deck after 10 minutes.

There are so many people in this world who have decks. Some people enjoy them every day, while others enjoy them only on special occasions. Whether your deck will be used constantly or merely on special occasions, you want the best deck for your money. These simple deck tips will help you in your deck construction and maintenance.

Building a Deck

Tips for Planning and Building a Deck

One of the most obvious and visually impressive additions we can make to our homes is an outdoor deck. Decks can also serve a variety of practical functions for us. They can ease the transition between our houses and gardens, soften grade changes if our houses lie on slopes, and divide our yards into smaller plots that can then be given their own unique styles and treatments.

When sketching out our initial concepts for a deck, we’ll want to consider its main function. Will we be entertaining large numbers of people on a regular basis? If so, a series of small decks connected by wide steps (which can double as seats in party situations) might suit our purposes. If we simply want a place where we can step out with our spouse in the evening, a single deck connected to the house might be more appropriate. We also want to consider our privacy – i.e., whether our proposed location(s) would put us in open view of our neighbors.

Wood is generally the most reliable material to use because of its overall sturdiness. Some of the best varieties include Southern pine, Hem-fir, and naturally rot resistant redwood and cedar. For the ecologically conscious, plastic composite decking, which is made from recycled plastics mixed with materials like sawdust to give it a wood-like appearance, can serve as a viable alternative. Either way, we will still want to use wood for the posts and joists.

Treated wood can last for decades longer than untreated varieties. However, because of the chemicals that are used in it as preservatives, we should take caution when handling it and use gloves, a dust mask, and goggles. We should also throw away treated wood debris and never burn it.

For fasteners, screws provide a more tenacious hold than nails, and stainless steel won’t leave rust marks on the wood like galvanized steel is apt to. Both are worth the added expense. Regardless of the width of the decking, two fasteners should be used at each joist.

It is required that we build a railing for our deck if it sits more than 30 inches above the ground. Railings need to be between 36 and 42 inches high. If we have small children, we might consider using steel for this detail, as it will be much stronger. Steel (as opposed to wood) can also be bent and shaped, allowing us to be more creative with our railing designs.

If we doubt our skills, or foresee the task taking up more than a couple of weekends, we might consider hiring a professional. But the actual construction of a simple deck (with boards running parallel to each other and the house) lies within the abilities of the average layman. To make our deck feel more like an integral part of our home, we can repeat architectural elements of the house in its design, or use built-in planter boxes or a gazebo to soften the transition between the two. Our goal will be to create a deck that is a natural extension of our house, one that serves as a bridge between the indoor and out.