Monday, January 4, 2016

Almost ready for drywall

Almost ready for drywall on a cool little basement finish. Adding 550 square feet of livable space to this house by finishing a bedroom, bathroom and family room in a house in Reunion. 
Today we will be pouring back the section of concrete floor we cut. Hopefully the inspector will be by to look at the electrical and framing. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dealing With Smelly Well Water

This post in in reply to a customer of mine who had a sulfur type smell in his tap water.  The odor originates from bacteria that can sometimes grow in the well if it has never been flushed out well or if it is allowed to sit unused for a long period of time.  Watch this video to see how to deal with it.

If you have a question you think I could answer, then contact me using the link at the top of the page and let me know what I can help you with.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Original Building Code

Did you ever wonder where the very first building code was mandated.  Believe it or not, it was in the Bible.  Moses actually brought building safety laws to the Israelite nation as part of their original laws for living in a new land.

Railing Under Construciton

"When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof to make it safe so that someone doesn't fall off and die and your family become responsible for the death".
(Deuteronomy 22:8 MSG)

A parapet is a half wall and would fall under safety railing height code in today's code books.  I haven't see such straight forward talk in current code about why we do what we do, but apparently the idea of protecting your property and the well being of others is not a new idea.

Monday, April 20, 2015

No Stain Chalk Line

Here is a great trick for finishing your deck:  Use baby powder in your chalk box to mark out lines where your screws will go. Your screw lines will be perfectly straight & the baby powder will brush right off. 

Baby Powder In a Chalk Box

This works great for nailing any finish materials that you don't intend to paint over like fencing, natural siding, or interior wall panels.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sack Residence: Foundation Footing

Once the excavation is complete, a concrete footing can be poured.  This video shows the form construction process, rebar placement and cement being poured.  Once complete, the forms are stripped away and the wall forms and built on top of this footing.

Footings are specifically sized depending on your soil type.  If they are too small, the house will push into the earth and weight is added.  If they are too large, they ca actually be pushed up by the soil beneath, causing the house to shift and walls to crack.

The tops of the footings are constantly checked for elevation.  If the top of every footing is level then the rest of the house will be level with very little effort.  Crews will actually lift up these frames and shovel dirt around the the base if need be.  This makes the footing a little thicker, but makes sure that the top is where it should be.

The pumper truck arrives.  This truck will pump the wet cement mix through a series of 4" lines and into the forms.

This is a much larger pump truck than we needed - the company just had this one near by that day.  It may have been overkill, but these huge trucks are great to watch.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Another Home Begins: Sack Residence - Excavation

Spring has finally arrived in Colorado and it time to get to work.  I'm beginning construction on a great walk out ranch home the the eastern plains.  Excavation will be a shallow dig that goes into the side of a hill in order to allow for a walk out basement.  We brought in a ton, make that a ton of tons of dirt to make this happen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Roof Top Decks

Decking can be installed over flat built up or EPDM roofing material if done right.  The finished product is great usable space, and since it's on a roof it usually has a view.

Before building a rooftop deck, consider the following.  The roof structure must be able to support the additional weight of the framing, decking material and the people who will be standing on it.  In Coloraodo, as with may states that have snowey winters, all our buildings are engineered to support an incredible amount of weight just in case we get that once in a lifetime blizzard.  In your area, this may not be the case so always make sure to figure out if your structure can handle the increased loads.  Consider hiring an engineer to inspect the area you wish to use and have a letter written stating that the project is safe.  This will help speed up the process when you go to pull a permit.

For the deck itself, there are no real codes currently addressing this sort of installation.  The actual construcion of the deck will be based more on standards being adopted by your local building department and on commonly used techniques.  This is many times referred to as "best practices" and referes to the way contractors and manufactures have agreed to do projects of this sort to date.  This is many times the basis for codes that are later written about new techniques.  Before biginning your project or even purchasing materials, talk to your building inspectors to find out if they have standards they would like you to abide by.  If not, then submit a drawing of what you would like to do.  A simple sketch shoing materials and spacing goes a long way in this process.

Regardless of your exact installation, you will have a few things to consider.

1.  The decking must be attached to a wood or metal frame work.  You can throw a bunch of material on a pile and call it a deck but you will be wrong.  This generally means dimentional lumber placed on side, but not always.  The framing is usually treated 2x4 or 2x6, but again this can vary depending on the regulations in yoru area and the physical work area you are dealing with.  These members are referred to as "sleepers".  Before laying our sleepers out, we drew markes on the roof using a perminant marker then used a high visability chaulk to snap lines every 16".  The sleepers are just set against the marks whiel deck boards are attached.  Just keep an eye on your boards as you go so that you odn't push them out of line.

2.  The sleepers must not be allowed to directly touch roofing material.  Over time, small movements in the deck from walking or even wind can cause the framing to rub through the roofing materials and cause leaks.  "How do I impliment such magic" you ask - I'll tell you.  The raming should be seperated by the use of a materail approved by the roofing installer.  This is usually strips of roofing rubber that are glued to the bottoms of the sleepers before they are placed on the roof.  The sleepers are not attached to the roof, as the entire deck is actually floating.  In the case of the deck shown here, the roofer prefered that we use rubber feet that were cut from walking pads and glued to the sleepers using construction adhesive.

3.  The decking should not be allowed to rub on the side walls of the roof.  In cases such as the deck shown, the roofing membrane runs up the side walls and is then covered by the siding.  When installing the deck boards, leave at least a 1/4" space around the edge.  As a contractor, I make sure not to allowe the gap to be to large as a womens high-heel shoe could get caught in the gap and cause an injury.  Until women stop wearing party shoes to rooftop parties, we need to take this into consideration.

4.  The fasteners used for the deck boards must not penitrate all the way through the sleepers.  For some reason, roofing contractors get cranky when you nail the sleepers into their roof.  Until these guys learn to deal with adversity better, it's up to us to keep them happy.  Measure and then double check by trying a small sample deck board instalation to make absolutely sure that the fasteners will not penitrate deep enough to come through the bottom of the sleeper.  In cases where the sleeprs are installed on side, this is not usually an issue, but in our case this was a major concern.  We did a lot of practice before building the real thing.

5.  Nail look better when they are in a strait line.  When you place each deck board, just install 2 or 3 screws to hold it in place with the propper spacing.  When you have all the boards down, snap a line using a non-staining chalk line and the ninstall all the remaining fasteners along these lines.  The finished product will look awesome, which is exactly what we are after.

6.  Many of you have noticed the use of a nail gun in the photos and have concluded that since nails are not screws, we must not be using screws on these decks.  You would be correct, and incorrect - get ready to have your pardine shifted.   For these decks we are using a balistic screw.  This is a hibrid screw with smaller threads that is fired from a framing nail gun.  Once in, the screw can be removed or re-set with a drill.  This is the first time we have ever used these on a project like this.  You can click here for a review of UFO's balistic deck screws.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to Prepare for New Hardwood Flooring

How To: Prepare for Wood Flooring Installation
Believe it or not, your up front planning is just as important as the installation when it comes to hardwood flooring

1. Order Materials 1-2 weeks before installation:  Hardwood flooring needs time to acclimate to your home environment before installation.  Depending on where the flooring was harvested and manufactured, and how different that climate is from your climate, this could take as long as 2 weeks.  By allowing the product to acclimate properly, it will be at the same humidity and temperature as your home.  When seasons change and these factors fluctuate, your new flooring will expand and contract with your home as it should.  If you don’t give the flooring time to adjust, you could see major shrinking immediately after installation, resulting in unsightly gaps.

2. Remove Existing Carpeting:  If possible, remove carpeting and allow the new wood to sit directly on the subfloor.  This will allow both products to get more even humidity and temperature levels.

3. Give the Wood Room to Breathe:  When you stack your wood bundles, try to leave room for air to circulate around and through the material.  The more air contact the better.  If you leave the wood tightly stacked, the middle bundles may not acclimate properly.

4. If In Doubt, Test Humidity:  If you have access to a tool capable of measuring humidity in products, you can test the new wood and compare it to the sub floor and any existing wood in your house.  If you can’t do this, then just stick to rule #1 and give the wood a full 2 weeks to get used to its new environment.

What is a future project you could use help planning for?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Very Strange Demolition

I've never seen anything quite like this before.  It's thought that the Egyptians may have built the pyramids with a similar technique, but I've never seen it done in modern day construction.

This building in Denver was being demolished to make room for a new shopping center.  The approach they took was to build a giant pile of dirt and use this new ramp to slowly chip away at the building.  This process went on for several weeks.  As they built the ramp, they demolished the front third of the building.  They then demolished the larger back portion of the building while slowly removing the ramp.

These photos were taken on my drive by while commuting to a job.

I guess one major advantage of this approach was that there was only one piece of machinery working most days.  I'm not sure if the dirt was imported or dug out of the nearby work-site but it sure took a lot of soil.

Have you seen a strange or archaic method of construction.  
Even better, do you have a photo of it?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Patio Replacement

If you have every thought about replacing your cement patio, here is a photo log of a project I did a few summers ago.  I was hired to replace a front porch that had settled badly.   I've included a few notes to explain the process and some of the unforeseen issues we came into. 

Original measurements for bidding

Photo Documentation of settling
 Notice 2 things in this photo.  A joint has been cut in the concrete.  I'm not sure if someone was planning on mud-jacking the slab or if they wanted to minimize damage from settling, but either way they never finished the job.  Also, the hose bib is installed just inches above the slab, making it almost unusable.  It took me a few days to figure out a fix, but we came up with a solution that the owners were happy with.

After demolition - notice framing for new step

Framing and prep - the column in  the lower left corner will an issue

Non-supported column (what the heck!)
 After removing some of the concrete, we realized that one of the front columns had almost no support beneath it.  The builder had poured 2 - 10" caisson for supporting these columns but this one was way out of line and only about 2" of the column actually made contact with the top of the caisson.  You don't have to be a structural engineer to know that this was not going to work out well.

Column Support
 As soon as the issue became evident, I nailed a few 2x4s around the top of the column to keep it from tipping over.  At this point we realized that the column was in no way attached ot the ceiling as it could be freely pushed in any direction - this just kept getting worse.

The answer was to add a few diagonal wood supports while we worked to keep the column in place.  We then excavated directly under the column an extra foot and created a square indention that would act as a footing when the concrete was poured.  Rebar dowels were drilled into the side of the caisson to tie it to the new concrete (I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was a little pre-occupied)

Extending the window well up to the actual patio height

Re-bar dowels drilled through the brick and into the foundation wall
 Their are 2 unchanging rules for concrete: It will turn gray when cured and it will one day crack somewhere.  The color is just what it is (unless of course  you stain it) but the cracking is something we can combat.  Our job is to minimize the cracking and keep any cracks that do occur in the location of our choice and at a very small size.  By installing re-bar dowels into the foundation, we give extra support and keep the patio from wanting to slide away from the house or drop as the ground settles.

Attempting to protect the lawn s much as possible

Steel mesh throughout the entire slab for added strength
 Before you comment on the fact that the mesh is on the ground and will do no good there, let me explain.  On small pours like this, we simply pick up the mesh by hand as we pour the concrete and push it back in about 2".  On a very large pour or a commercial project, where tolerances are very tight, we can purchase small plastic feet to hold the wire mesh at an exact height.

Right after pouring

Finished Patio

Control Joints
 To further deal with the issue of the column, we added control joints coming from the corners of the posts across the entire patio.  The new border was finished differently than the rest of the patio so it looked like an accent but ensured that if the column did ever decide to move, the cracks would be contained in the new joints.