Insulation Is ‘Added’ Value

Adding Insulation

It’s either, “Brrrrr, it;s cold in here“, or ” I’m so hot, I can’t sleep“. We complain about the cost of a  new furnace or new air conditioner and continue in our misery. Have you ever considered adding insulation? Let’s say your home is 20 years old. Twenty years ago the codes for insulation were much less than the requirements of  (Title 24 Energy Commission of CA) today. These codes in CA require insulation up to R-38. That’s 18 inches of insulation; depending upon the zone. Most energy professionals agree that most heat loss is directly over your head. In other words, your heat, and your money, is going through the roof! Another matter to ponder is that over time, insulation compresses. Due to extreme heat and cold, the insulation in your attic settles, leaving a thin layer of protection from the elements. In addition, homes built 20 years ago were constructed with standard roof sheathing. Plywood. What the builders are using today is known as TechShield Plywood. This product has foil on one side that refracts radiant energy. In other words, it helps to keep attics cooler. So, if your house is an older home, it makes even more sense to add insulation. What do you do? 1. Choose the best time. There are two optimum (seasonal) times to insulate. Just before spring in moderate weather and just before fall in moderate weather. The reason is insulation companies might dicker a little while the working conditions are favorable. 2. Economically. Inquire of any rebates you may qualify for. IE, Energy Star or contacting your local Utility. With a simple phone call, a licensed insulation contractor will advise and/or come to your home to quote. The result is a blanket of comfort that will cause instant gratification. Now, “Who can put a price on comfort”?  Seriously; for the meager investment, adding insulation is one of the most efficient things a person can do to a home. And, it is an equity builder as well. So do yourself a favor. Take a quick peek up into your attic. If it isn’t more than a foot deep, call into the radio show and let’s talk about it. (Radio Show tab in the black title bar)

Foresight; the missing link of success

A phrase that is common to building professionals, goes something like this. “Only with experience, comes speed”. And speed comes from working well with others. Working well with others comes from having ‘Foresight’. Due to the practical nature of the business, it is essential that builders have foresight for interaction on the job site. And it is imperative novice builders gain this intuition as early as possible; if they plan on a successful career. Foresight is “being five steps ahead of oneself”. It is working with a crew and instinctively knowing  the next steps not only you will make, but also that of your workmates. It is seeing the need of another builder and providing information or material BEFORE the working partner has a chance to ask. This is where the speed, or efficiency comes into play. And it is ‘What we get paid for’! So, lets give a few examples of ‘foresight’. Many times in residential building, framers pair up. High work is a great example. One person is working on a man-lift or ladder and cannot practically use a Skilsaw. Therefore a second person is on the floor making the cuts. The ‘foresight’ comes to play when the ‘down guy’ makes a series of pre-cuts on building material that would have to be cut anyway. The ‘up guy’ sends information, or ‘numbers’ to the ‘down guy’ and the time to create the finished material is dramatically shortened. The ‘up guy’ receives the stock and installs the material in short order. Meanwhile, the ‘down guy’ is cutting more material to be installed.

For the apprentice or novice, foresight needs to be acquired early. It comes by hearing the orders made by the lead man or contractor; and retaining the information. I understood this at an early age as I always carried a notepad. But even carrying a notepad will not get you ‘foresight’, as the order of tasks is part of the equation. The apprentice must realize the continuity of the job, lest he get confused in the process. My father, a general contractor in room additions and remodeling, had a dozen construction related quotes. “Construction is mostly repetition”. And; “If you don’t make the guy any money, how do you expect him to pay you?”. Foresight!

For the home owner who wants to be an owner-builder: Foresight (or the lack of) will kill you in this business if you’re not equipped to be an owner contractor. Practical example is the construction calendar. Not knowing when different tradesmen or suppliers are ‘on deck’ or ‘in the hole’ can be the difference between success and failure; foresight! This is why you should hire a professional. Many a home owner has been ‘conditioned’ (see my blog title Conditioned to Buy) to think home improvement is so easy anyone can do it. The trouble lurks here in the self confidence of deception. In all cases, the missing link of success in building is ‘foresight’. OK if you have some construction and/or construction management experience, but nothing will replace ‘Foresight’. At least have enough foresight to realize financial disaster.

Pocket Door Framing

Rough Opening

Can be tricky

I had posted this blog on a DIY web site and got a lot of views. Odd to me, but “Oh well”. A lot of folks want to know how to frame a rough opening for a pocket door. Here ya go! Pocket doors come in regular sizes, but what even framers forget is the head height. A pocket door has a track in the frame at the top of the unit. Therefore it is imperative the correct header height be framed. Don’t make the mistake of installing a 4X12 header in a standard 8 foot wall. Or you will either have to saw out 2 inches or remove and replace. The correct header for standard studs (92 1/4″) is a 4X10. This allows the pocket door frame to set nicely into the frame. Now the other stuff. What size door is to be installed? Let’s go standard passage. 2/6? Good enough. So, you have a 30″ door. The ‘pocket’ must be added to the measurement. 30″ doubled = 60″. Now you need to add 5 inches for trimmers, jambs and shim room; equaling 65 inches. (Do the details call for double trimmers? add another 3″) So, what is this 65″? Ans. The header, silly! One more thing. Some places you need to make room for the entire wall length. In our example, the entire wall length would be 68″ total. The other 3 inches is the addition of the king studs. Sometimes you need to be creative due to room. Maybe beam pocketing into an adjacent wall on the pocket side. Or installing an A-35 in lieu of a trimmer. Or using 1X trimmers instead of 2X. Another thing. Don’t use a 3″ bottom plate. Instead, add the 1 1/2 ” to the bottom of the trimmer. Ahh, the tricks of the trade. Example; a standard trimmer is +/- 82 5/8″. Add the bottom plate. 1 1/2″ = 84 1/4″ . Another BIGGIE: Use the correct length nails or screws in the sheet rock when screwing or nailing into the horizontal slats in the pocket door frame. ( And also the finish door trim) Many a nasty gouge came when the fastener encroached into the ‘pocket’ and scratched the door the first time it was pushed in. Don’t get overwhelmed at this type of project. It’s why we have a comment box. Click on the grey box next to the Title.


Roof Pitch Hip V Common

Hip V Common

Now you know!

Ever wonder why a ‘Hip’ cut is different from a ‘Common’ cut? The difference for example between say, a 6&12 common rafter cut and a 6&17 hip cut on the same roof? Here’s a simple and practical way to understand the differences between the cuts. Look/click on the picture. Note the scale. (Office paper is not large enough to go full scale) The diagram shows a 12 inch by 12 inch box. (You can draw this on your garage floor just to burn it into your mind) The 17 inches comes from measuring diagonally from corner to corner. The hip rafter rises slower than a common. Where the common rafter rises 6 inches vertically in one foot horizontally, the hip rafter rises 6 inches vertically in 17 inches horizontally. Kinda makes you want to build a full hip roof for Fido’s doggy house, Huh. Just another tasty tidbit of knowledge brought to you by The Owner Builder.

Sliding Glass Door Repair

Replacing the Rollers

This project is so easy! If you know the secrets. I think I’ll just give them to you just because I’m ‘that kind of guy‘. And just so you know, the glass companies will charge you several hundred dollars to make this simple fix. Wow! Here we go. Sliding glass doors have steel rollers built into the frames at the bottom of the operable door. The fixed side simply stuffs into the frame (or extrusion) and is anchored by an ‘L’ tab top and bottom center of both doors. We’re talking about standard aluminum SGD’s. Note: You will only have to remove these screws if you cannot get the slider out from the inside of the room. You will  have to remove the fixed panel from the outside if this happens. Next, pull the sliding door to the open position and lower the door as low as it will go by sending a Phillips screwdriver into the adjustment holes at the bottom of the door. Lift the door up and bottom out of the track and into the room. Take the door outside and look at the rollers. They’re probably shot. Remove them by unscrewing the frame screw that holds them in as well as holding the frame together. Careful not to pull the frame apart. (see picture)Take both rollers to the hardware store and match them perfectly to their new type. There are many roller types, so make sure you match them correctly. Return home and install the new rollers. BE SURE to clean out the roller track with solvent and toothpicks/swabs. Get ALL the nasty gunk out and be careful of your floor or carpet. Final adjustment to the slider and locking latch and your door should glide effortlessly like new. Congratulations, you have been ‘built’, by  The ‘Owner’ Builder

Flat Screen TV Over The Fireplace?

Smoke, (or soot). Heat. Focal point. New outlet locations. Mounting brackets or finding studs for solid mounting. Component cabinet or sometimes closet. Wires; lots of wires. New outlet locations. All considerations for the location of a brand new and sometimes very expensive flat screen TV.  The controversy. What do you really want to look at?  A fireplace or a TV? Do you want to ruin a new TV by sending smoke up into it? Do you want to keep cleaning the TV all through winter? . How bout the remodeling you will have to do to install the unit. Sometimes removing the sheet-rock to ‘back out‘ the mounting bracket and to route the wires and cables. And if you just want to place the TV out in the open,  the dust blowing around a home with a TV on a stand or a 2×12 with a couple of bricks will get very dirty. How bout a different approach to TV viewing?

Entertainment Center

If you have the room to build an entertainment center, take a look at the picture. This is the full monte. This component built-in has all the hook-ups for TV, cable box, Theater quality Amp with surround sound, DVD/VCR, computer hook-up, and  full gaming capabilities. And it adds huge equity to the home. Click on the picture and check out the trim and details. This location for the TV is 180 degrees from  a real fireplace. Directly facing the TV is a pub table breakfast area with the kitchen to the left. This room is a high quality ‘Living’ and ‘Playing’ room. With a laminate floor, any PS3 Move, Xbox, or Wii game can be easily enjoyed by many. Up-lighting and down-lighting, along with a venting fan make for atmosphere and function. So get the best from your investment, and add value to your diggs. I did.

Garage Door Rough Opening

Hey Framers; here’s one you really should get right, cause it’s a real bummer to fix if you get it wrong. This blog is for the most part; tricks. as getting on with the frame can be more fun if the ‘tricky’ parts are not wrought with worry.1. Check the plans for ‘Shear Details’. Your shear details will note the minimum width a side panel can be on each side of the garage rough opening. It might call for a Simpson or Hardy metal panel, or an I-Level TJ panel made out of wood. For most apps, its standard framing with plywood for shear. FOR SHEAR DUDE ! Anyway, the inspector will have a field day here if it is not to spec. 2. Check the stab sets and anchor bolts. Structural panels come with templates and directions. I hope the con-creatures did it right. For standard framing, your specs might call for 4X4 posts, that are anchored to M or Htt-22’s or HD2A’s, which are a Simpson product; for which the Simpson book will give you the offsets for framing. Use the book in conjunction with the plans to achieve the desired results of your draftsman or architect. 3. Measure the door opening for width. The con-creatures ( affectionately known as) will leave ‘call size’ plus 3 inches from stem wall to stem wall. Ie; if a garage door is a 16/7, that is 16 feet wide, by 7 feet tall, then the width of the concrete between the stem wall should be 16’3″. ( The 3″ is for the finish jamb) Headers should always rest upon at least 3″, or double trimmers each side. Your specs may call for 4X4 trimmers. Our example calls for a 16’9″ header. 16′ for ‘call’, 6″ for the double trimmers both sides, and 3″ for the finish jamb. 4. Layout for the height standard using a 7 foot tall roll up door requires some thinking according to the garage slab height, and the total height of the wall. You must add one and a half inches to the call size in height for the finish head jamb if you are using 2X jamb; the measurement from the garage slab to the bottom of the header.  5. The Trick:Grab a stud from the garage wall studs. Lay out the header height on the stud.

L/O for Header Height

a. Measure how tall the stem wall is from the slab, to the TOP of the MUD SILL PLATE . Whatever that measurement is, place that measurement you attained, right on the end of the stud and hold it there. b. Now extend the tape up the stud 7′ 1&1/2″ . Mark it. This is the bottom of the header from the garage slab.

If your specs are correct and everybody has done their jobs right, you now can frame the garage door opening to standard practice. Shear with whatever grade the plans call for and add any metal strapping your architect notes. Always read the plans for additional notes, and special direction from the lead man or contractor. Now hit-em up for a raise.



Blower Door

A full size door with a powerful fan

For energy efficiency, your house (Envelope) must be tight. It must have elements of insulation and air infiltration protection that provide a barrier against the outside elements. Some of those include. 1.Dual or Triple pane windows.(or at least well sealed windows and/or storm windows; for now) 2.Correct depth of attic insulation compliant with your local codes. 3. Insulated exterior doors. 4. Proper weatherstripping and door sweeps on exterior doors. 5. Electrical outlet foam diaphragms on exterior plugs. 6. Floor insulation (under laminate or full insulation between joists – conventional floor). 7 Caulking at bottom of framing on exterior walls (just behind base) 8. Sealed can lights and A/C ducting for penetrations through the ceiling.

All the aforementioned practices brings us to a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) test using the device in the picture, the Blower Door. This devise used by licensed technician will force air out of the dwelling and test the dwellings capacity to retain pressure. A positive result will assure the resident that the home will not allow conditioned air to be released into the atmosphere. A negative result gives the occupant the option of repair or replace on a variety of components. One of the most costly and unseen culprits is the broken HVAC duct in the attic that  sends heat (and money) right out the roof. Two other offenders are leaky doors and windows. Either result is actually positive considering your piece of mind knowing what must be done to achieve maximum efficiency for living comfort and expense.

Click on the Blower Door to watch the machine in action.

Home Improvement And The Digital Camera


Don’t you love technology? The digital camera is a tool of the age. Especially for the re-modeler. For with it we may take instant pictures for the homeowner and show them the issue for which the house call was made. A plumber may take a picture of an underfloor water leak and display it to the homeowner. A roofer may take a real time picture of roof jacks with rotten rubber grommets. Or flashing’s and gutters that have rusted holes. Step flashing or roof to wall flashing that have pulled away and water now enters the home. Or like the picture of a truss that is in need of replacement. All examples of places the homeowner would have difficulty examining on their own. The picture truly tells a story.

Another use for the digital camera is taking pictures in tight locations. Somewhere a builder cannot see well enough. The camera can be set to Macro and take the shot a few inches away from the subject.

A digital screen is often used for information recall. IE, taking a picture of a low volt sprinkler system mother board. The multi-colored wiring may now be removed from the device. The building project can be completed and the wiring pulled back to the mother board. The picture can be reviewed for the correct re-connect with instant accuracy.

Where have you used a digital camera in the course of building? Send a comment please.