Hurricane Sandy and The Building Industry

The reality of natural catastrophe is that First Responders can be ‘victims’ as well. So often citizens call for help is reacted to with earnest, without regard to who is on the way or what personal situation the First Responder has suffered.  These trained professionals are people too. Their home may have been destroyed. Their relatives and friends may have suffered injury, or property loss. They might have had to endure a roof top stay or had been stranded in a flooded subdivision or country road somewhere. With the infrastructure continuing to fail; sheer winds, excessive snow fall and flooding hindering rescue attempts in a catastrophe this large, most people will have to endure on their own. Even stranded First Responders! A few days now into the most devastating natural disaster of our nation, we won’t have a handle on the aftermath and cost for a long time. One thing is sure. Americans come to the aide of our countrymen. Right now able body citizens in communities across the storm path are assisting neighbors in all ways possible. Regular people. Every day people. White and blue collar folks who realize helping others is the American way. Ministry: ‘Simply making oneself available for service’. Construction people know this because they do it every day. Working and sweating in the presence of others to complete a task. The real job is the aftermath. When the storm passes. When the injured are cared for. When the dead are laid to rest. When the resources are brought to bear. The builder does not look at a disaster area in the way the public views it. It’s not a puzzle of twisted timber, wires and broken glass. We see what needs to be done. We recognize the parts and pieces. We understand the safety issues. We work with respected counterparts in all fields. And we do it without a government badge on our shoulders. Remember Katrina! How is it then, that we consider a ‘nanny state’ instead of calling upon the power of the people? I submit to all that if disasters continue and government continue to suppress the private sector, this country will stagnate into legal complacency. It’s time to Re-build America. It’s time to get things done. It’s time to empower the private sector small businesses. The workhorse of this great nation.

Understanding The Builder

Can’t say I’ve ever heard of a tutorial on how to “Understand The Builder”. Maybe that’s why so many folk either take the builder for granted, or are unlearned in the ‘Care and Proper Feeding of a Builder’. For the benefit of the listening audience on the radio program, or you the reader (who will call into the show), I’ve produced the bullit list of considerations below. Practical application of these tips may well be the salvation of your relationship with your builder. Should a person understand and work with their builder, there is a rich and rewarding bond that encompasses the entire building project. The adverse is the dark side for which Hollywood produces movies like “The Money Pit”.

Compensation: The Contractor or the builder in stages of experience

Construction Responsibilities: On site & off site

County or City Obligations:

Project Calendar:

Material Procurement: Two gentlemen go to the lumber yard. One is a seasoned builder, the other is a doctor. They are both building a patio cover. The doctor wants to ‘do it himself’. They both go to a unit of 2X8’s to select the amount of rafters they will need to complete this portion of the project. The doctor spends quite a long time looking around, as he’s unsure of what is deemed suitable. The builder, on the other hand, selects only the highest quality of lumber from the stack and is loaded and gone before the doctor has made half his selection. What is the inside story? A builder is considering 10 or more aspects of ‘lumber grading’ in mere seconds. When a builder inspects a length of wood, his mind races with a plethora of ques telling him, from experience, the best material for the project. These ques are; twists, warps, cups, crowns, bows, center cuts, mill marks, knots, grain issues, splinters, and more; all in seconds. Can you appreciate that?



Sub Contractors:


Cohesive Strategy

A National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy is the formal term of the new Communications Framework mandated by the Federal Government. Cohesive Strategy is the short version. The intent is:

“The Communication Framework for A National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy is targeted for use by individuals, agencies, organizations, government bodies, and interested stakeholders to use as a roadmap for effective communication and collaboration activities related to the Cohesive Strategy.”

The Goals are: ” To keep stakeholders, interested parties, and the public informed of process in the development of the Cohesive Strategy.” How will they come up with keeping the public informed? TV ads? Radio spots? A flyer in your utility bill? No, there is a better way. Construction Talk Radio!

The objective is to: “Provide stakeholders the opportunity to engage in ongoing dialog in order to be included in the process to the maximum extent possible.” Construction Talk Radio is by nature, ongoing dialog, only it is interactive with the audience. With it, anyone can use the program to communicate directly and also indirectly to wide body of constituents. Recipients need only to make contact via web sites and/or phone or conference call when disseminating information.

The Principles include: “Aggressive distribution of information will be on-going.”   Another term they should have added is the word ‘sustainable’. Where is the money going to come from to keep this aggressive distribution alive? Taxes? How bout a truly public/private initiative? Use the Building Industry (Final Responders) in a statewide network of Construction Talk Radio Shows that are paying advertising dollars to sponsor the broadcasts? Grant moneys can be used for start-up funding and air time costs during the course of an incident. 

This is only a ‘teaser’ of the Cohesive Strategy. There is a lot to read. And it gets better. Many sections of this document speaks to me in what I have already done, and what I am accomplishing on live radio at the present. To read more on the Cohesive Strategy, go here:

To listen to a recent podcast of some of my ideas for effective communications, go here:

To listen to an interview for NPR, (National Public Radio) go here:


Anyone interested in creating a CTR Show for the purposes of networking the building industry for the benefit of their community, use the contact page  or call (530) 949-6574 for more information.




The Power Of Construction

A seasoned contractor or in certain circumstances, a builder, is a well spring of information. And I’m talking before the information age! Now we are networking the industry with computers for instantaneous research and result. Everywhere you look are ‘Green’ builders and energy related product and service. Still, can you, the white collar home owner decipher the information gleaned and apply the technologies to your home improvement project? At best, maybe. Along with all these decisions, come the building codes and standards. ADA (American Disabilities Act)  for an added instance. Natural disaster codes such as the Wild-land Urban Interface. Thermal dynamics, mechanical engineering, and solar. The very reasons for entertaining the professionals. So, how much research should the novice involve himself? Ans: Enough to understand practically and economically. In other words: Enough to make quality decisions.

With that, The Power Of Construction. The savvy building professional who keeps up with the times has a hand in all facets of people, product, and service. Why? To keep up with the demands of the business. This in addition to ‘hands on’ daily business. Think of this; The professional builder has a second nature stemming from ‘on the job experience’. The School of Hard Knocks, as we put it. Not only is he proficient in his own vocation, but must also have knowledge that invokes interaction with interrelated trades. The management of the Big Picture! It’s a huge undertaking. So how does the novice take advantage of this knowledge? The Stream of Consultation.  This is how it works.  Home owners are invited to spend a weekend in Spring, patronizing a Home & Garden Show. What a great place to speak directly to the home improvement professional or product rep. For a person wanting to build or remodel a home requires a great deal of information. All available; all necessary. But here’s what I want you to realize. Savvy builders attend National Builders Conventions and speak to hundreds of construction supply representatives. These are three day affairs. They pick up or send for, home improvement literature or product DVD’s for self educational, and networking purposes. At these builders conventions are many ‘never heard of’ products and/or services so new, the only place you will see them is at the larger trade shows. Then they share this secret information to you, Mr. Home Owner, so that you can make quality decisions!

OK. How about the virtual builder? If you qualify your personal choice for a builder, he will have a web site. A good web site! In that web site, you will find hyperlinks. Not just any hyperlinks. Pre-selected, from experience, informative and concise links that make your search easier. That’s huge! He has accounts in all the social networks and actively engages in research for your benefit. Take for example, YouTube. Does the builder have any project videos of his work and/or satisfied customers? How about his “Favorites”? Most of The ‘Owner’ Builder Favorites on YouTube are construction related; selected personally for the benefit of my audience. How would you know what videos are fictional or just hype?

To summarize; Building Industry knowledge needs to be shared. We need to consider the Power Of Construction for our past experience and future networking. Builders take somewhat for granted, the vast amount of knowledge they have achieved. There is more information than a resume will ever contain. Ask your prospective builder if he uses the networking power available. It makes for a more enjoyable building experience.

To Bid Or Not To Bid

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, as the saying goes. So, you have to respond to the ‘request to bid’. Sometimes the owner has done some homework, or has some experience in the building industry. The proposed project has all the keys of progress. Congratulations, you’re lucky! But that’s not the reason for this blog. We want to discuss the ‘appointment that seemed to translate into big-time remodeling’; and a six month project. So we drive to the site and meet the owners. We spend some time getting acquainted and eventually get around to talking about the building intentions. Then the bomb gets dropped. Some major snag in the proposed design, or existing structure or some incidental issue that throws a stick into the spokes. You just wasted a day! Case in point:

A refferal came in. A good sized job. I made the call and set up the appointment. I drove twenty miles to speak to a homeowner and his wife. They wanted a room addition off the master bedroom with a remodeled master bath with walk-in closet. After the usual chitter-chatter intro, we toured the home and listened to the ideas. This looks good. My contractor pal is going to love me for bringing this one in. Then the speed bump. After spending a couple hours considering the interior and new floor plan ( Cut and stack roof had a bearing load issue) I said I needed to examine the exterior for slope, soil, etc. This is what I found. The side of the house they wanted to remodel had the inlet of their septic tank exactly ten feet away from the building. (Code minimum) Going around the corner where they wanted to push out the bathroom was a three ton underfloor heat pump with rigid ducting going through the stem wall. I was bummed! There is no job here!    After spending all my time, I walked away bid-less. To build on where the folks wanted to, would mean the re-location of the septic tank and the heat pump. More money than the owners budgeted for the project. And no other location for which to accommodate their dream.

In the construction trade, the contractor or rep for the company must take all appointments. That is, if he wants to work. But many times a hangup prevents the project from even starting. Site issues, code compliance, financial problems, Wild-land Urban Interface. The list goes on. The homeowner is innocent for the most part. They need the consultation from the pro. The stark reality of bidding is that; “this is the way it has always been done”. What’s the answer? Tireless and diligent education to the masses.

It’s why I write these blogs! It’s why I do the radio show.

Want more examples of when not to bid? How bout the “House That Stinks” or “The New Hot Tub On The Existing Second Floor Deck” or one of my favorites, ” The Owner Who Wanted To Fix A Dry Rotted Leaking Flat Roof On A Square CMU House That Could Have Had Trusses Built With A New HVAC Attic Unit  (118 Degree Summers) For The Same Amount Of Money” simply hit the grey comment box to the right of the Title and ask.

Natural Disasters & The Building Industry

It is amazing the times we live in. Natural disasters such as tornado’s, earthquakes, floods, fires. And let’s not forget tsunamis; are taking a tremendous toll upon all nations. There must be a better way to network resources as the disasters seem to ramp up. I have advocated local talk radio as a source of dissemination of information. But with a serious twist. Use the building industry professionals to do the hosting. Why? Destruction in any form to real property has everything to with the people who developed it. The knowledge of infrastructure to the actual building of structures make the building industry a perfect fit. We just need to find individuals who would like to host air time for their regions. How do we do that? Builders Exchanges, Chambers of Commerce, Local Government. And when counties across the nation have someone networking their own communities, we would now have a nationwide disaster network. From the private sector. Just look at some of the benefits:

1. Live private sector CTR (Construction Talk Radio) is a ‘bridge’ between administration of disaster services and strategic volunteer responders. Both professional and non-professional.

2. Interaction on live CTR promotes unity

3. Interaction on live CTR promotes charity

4. Interaction on live CTR promotes awareness/education

5. Live CTR in the disaster response mode gives the professional and the non-professional a place to network information, Ie human resources, services, product, etc with the power of interactive communications.

6. Live CTR in disaster response provides longer air time for government officials to spend time to meet the needs of community bullitens and host town hall meetings.

7. Live CTR in disaster response relieves communication systems and public infrastructure from clogging phone systems and traffic jambs.

8. Live CTR in conjuction with any local builders exchange, County and city building offices, Chambers of Commerce, Insurance agencies, Red Cross and Salvation Army Chapters, Service Clubs, Ham radio, and other entities can provide community involvement on a scale unheard of.

9. Private sector live CTR doing regular business would have no cost to the government, as it is sponsored through the advertising of construction related businesses and/or investors of any US County using local people; a truly public/private initiative.

The Language of Construction

The following is an example of construction terminology as it applies to seismic and/or wind sheer zones. The exercise is only intended to make aware the complexities of construction language. In plain language, what is the builder asked to do?


Diaphragm sheer transfer via Simpson VGT to dbl truss bottom cords, bore T.P. Insert 5/8”X 4 ½” bolts through T.P. and attach to 4X6 D/F sel struct posts both ends @ top with Simpson HDU2’s with 5/8” X  6 1/2” bolts. Transfer to  HTT22 bottoms via SDS screws all holes and attached to SSTB20’s embed  16 5/8 ” secure to bottom #4 re-bar with tie wire suspend no less than 3” from bottom of footing. S = 48” using 3/8” 5ply 4X8 sheathing using 8d common nails 6” edge & 12”field nailing.    Nail penetration not to exceed to one ply.

 This formula is written. On a set of plans, the formula would be drawn and detailed for the builder to analyze. They would be in different pages noted in architects symbols.

One wishing to build oneself a home should be able to read and implement this formula! Just for starters, some of the materials in the formula are hidden. The builder needs to understand the formula and know the components by practical experience, lest the missing pieces cause an overrun in costs. Either in materials, or the amount of time/labor to make the installation.


Please use the comment box to make interjections. For contractors, elaborate on the formula, or give other examples of construction language. Call into the radio show to elaborate.

For the lay person, please ask a question to start a thread, or call into the radio show. The more professionals we have listening to the broadcast, the more practical advise can be shared to ‘Rebuild America’.



The Monkey Blog

Know How at American Air

What the heck is the Monkey Blog? Just a play on words to describe a condition in the building industry. It takes a stab at the ‘thoughtfulness’ of builders. You may have experienced this condition in your attic if you have a configuration of roof trusses with excess engineering. Some homes have different floor levels and ceiling lines with flat ceilings mated with vaulted ceilings.

The problem is that when you have to crawl through the trusses to do  some sort of attic work, you have to be a ‘Monkey’, in order to get through. Anyone who has worked in an attic for an extensive amount of time, can and will get extremely exhausted in the course of a day. The other point to make is the thoughtfulness (or the lack thereof) of some sub-contractors using the only means of access through the trusses (causeway) for routing building materials making the causeway almost impossible to use. So, if you are building a home, make sure the ’causeway’ is not restricted or impeded so as to make remodeling easier for the future. Don’t be a ‘Monkeys Uncle’

Send your contributions about ‘monkey’ conditions by clicking on the gray box next to the Blog Title.

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.

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.