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.

MultiMaster by Fein Tools

To have a tool that invokes imagination is what every builder needs. There are many oscillating tools on the market. Some costly and some more reasonably priced. Sometimes the use determines the value. For example; if you are going to ‘trash’ a tool by continuous thrashing, it’s best to buy a cheaper version of a high quality tool. For when the unit breaks, you simply throw it away and buy a new one.

Not the case with the MultiMaster. This is a ‘sewing machine’. It’s amazing in it’s class. When you pick it up and turn it on, you know you have a well made tool. First of all a builder will appreciate the extra long cord. And the diversity of the tool is amazing. I have cut out tile grout. Used the wood cutting blade to cut shim shingles during door installation. I have cut plastics with fantastic results. I’ve used the scrapper blade to take up old glue off a concrete slab. The flush cutter for casing is awesome. And if you want to cut sheet rock out of a wall, its the perfect tool. And like the Jack Clamp, I end up thinking about other uses for the tool that make the work easier. The tool has an assortment of sanding attachments, and they work well, but I have used other sanding devices that are more effective for my applications. Ask around to your buddies, and see if they have one of these you can demo.

Jack Clamp

Jack ClampThis is the Jack Clamp, also called the Alpha Clamp. It’s appropriate I share this tool as the first tool in The ‘Owner’ Builder arsenal. If you’re like me, you have your favorites. This is mine. I have used the Alpha, or Jack Clamp in so many different applications, I can’t wait to come up with another use. This thing spreads, lifts, jacks, like in this picture. Here, I am lifting a cast iron sink. All the plumbing is still attached. It only has to go high enough to extract the tile. The granite guy will make a template for the new counter top. I will set the sink down onto shims and the owner can have his temporary sink back without disconnecting anything. Cool, huh. I’ve  used two to compress the carburetors (4) into the head on my motorcycle. I used it to hold down staging planks on construction staging. I used it to hold a door open when I was laying tile in a hallway. These are just examples other than lifting upper cabinets into place without strain. Also, they are American made in Montana. Hows that? So pull up the website on the link and see for yourself. You’ll be in tool paradise, just like me.

Check out The Jack Clamp here!