Turbo-Flex Your Home for Power Savings

The building industry looks at things a little different when it comes to saving energy. Building products for your home work together to ensure energy savings for the long haul. The question is; Is your home built or remodeled to save energy? We in the trades aren’t interested in how you can slap a band-aid on an issue, we want you to have the cure! So, in this blog, I will share some real energy saving, home comforting, confidence building, equity grabbing ideas you can incorporate into you house. Why wait for the authorities to call for a shutting down of power and become uncomfortable in your own home, when you can prepare for the occasion and add value to your home at the same time. In the event of a “Flex Alert”, you’ll be way ahead of the game. We will go beyond their recommendations, and give solutions to year round energy savings that are no further away than your favorite home improvement store. By the way, I know it isn’t the greatest time to spend money on your home. So figure out your priorities. Take one step at a time,  and do the things you can for the funds and the time you have available.

They say, “Adjust your thermostat”. I say, 1. Add more insulation to your attic. Most homes are under insulated. This is the single most important thing you can do to save energy. Radiant energy goes through your roof and into your home in the course of the day. A good 24 inched of insulation slows that process and allows your air conditioner to work more efficiently. In winter, that same level of insulation contains heated air space in your home, allowing your furnace to work more efficiently. 2. Change out existing single glazed windows. 3. Consider a new Energy Star efficient A/C system with a SEER rating above 13.

They say, “Unplug electronics”. I say that; And, find the other ‘Ghost Usage’. This means disconnecting extension cords and appliances that really don’t need to be used. I.e. a refrigerator or freezer in an unfinished garage. Not only is the appliance using power, but it’s working harder in summer due to the fact that the garage is super heated. Consider ANY appliance that uses electricity to generate heat. For example, try not to leave a curling iron or toaster oven on too long. Power stations to chargers should be on a switch and used only when needed. Try to get out of the habit of using the television to lull you to sleep. Especially if it is a flat screen. TV’s produce much heat and draw much power. And turn the power off on non-essential appliances when you are on vacation.

They say, “Prevent leaks”. I say, seal the envelope (of your home). Purchase new insulated exterior doors with R-factors of 14 or better. Install door sweeps and weatherstripping. Change out single glazed windows to vinyl dual glazed. One at a time if you have to. Caulk drafty siding and trim. Tape the windows on the inside where a draft stop needs be. Use receptacle insulators on exterior wall plugs. Close the damper on your fireplace and install a barrier in front of your fireplace screen. You’re air conditioner will actually pull air in from outside through your fireplace. For technology sake, research radiant window film for south and west exposed windows. This tech refracts radiant energy away from the home, allowing a cooler room in summer.

They say, ” Adjust your water heater”. I say that, and install an electric water heater timer for an electric water heater. This way, you’ll be heating water in the early morning and in the late afternoon. Effectively saving energy (and money) all year long. Install a water heater blanket if you don’t have one. If your water heater is in an unfinished garage, finish the garage. The water heater now becomes a heat source for the garage in winter ( where some do their laundry) and is more efficient all year due to the insulation from the exterior walls and ceiling.

They say, “Keep cool with ceiling fans”. I say that AND invest in a whole house fan. These are amazing. If the outside temperature in the day is 100, and the temperature at dusk is 75, your attic temperature could be as high as 140. Turning on the whole house fan will exhaust the super heat in the attic by pulling outside air in through your windows and allow the house to cool down much faster. Now you won’t have to leave the ceiling fans on all night. Saving energy!

They say, “Be smart about lighting”. They talk about CFL’s. That’s ok, but consider LED’s Much safer and usage can be creative in many ways. For instance, I use LED’s for my exterior night lighting. They’re installed in brass coach lights, stay on all night, every night at a few dollars per year. Talk to an electrical contractor for tips on lighting efficiency as it pertains to your home. The internet is a great place to learn, but all homes are unique and most contractors will come to you for the chance to bid.

Above you will notice bold font on building products and services you can take advantage of for your benefit and that of your community. And I haven’t even started. Listen to the radio show and call in with your questions and/or tips. Below you will find more suggestions for energy savings and comfort that can be fun when you know it will be a hot one.

Cook outside. BBQ like the American that you are. Take your electric coffee maker to your patio and keep the heat outside. Same for a crock pot and toaster oven. Don’t leave the refer door open. Get up early in the morning and do your laundry. It’s a great feeling to get something done before the day starts. Check your sprinkler system for broken pipes and failed sprayers. Think about your cities water pumping station and how the community at large can save energy together. Turn off your spa in summer if not in use. Use pool pumps at night. Research passive water heating for your pool/spa. Build a passive outdoor shower. Mine works great. And for those who plan to live in their homes for a long time and can make the investment, consider producing electricity at home with solar technology. Photo voltaic panels slow the meter on your home and will eventually pay back the investment. Buy thermal draperies. Clean the coils on your refrigerator and also your A/C compressor. I’ll be adding more when I think of them. Meanwhile, send a comment if you think I’ve forgotten some.



Windows Have More Value Than ‘U’

Energy Efficient

Can you think of a better way to add equity to a home? Especially if the existing windows are single glazed. And if the windows are old wood, the problems compound. For starters, the antique windows hardly ever had insulation around the jambs. And in this age, the iron balances probably don’t work. Air penetration is the worst culprit of these. The window putty rots and the glazing’s vibrate in place. Wood in itself has hardly any ‘R’ value. The moral of this story is “sentimental value of saving old wood windows should be re-thought”.

Aluminum windows tend to sweat (condensate) at different times of the year. This is due to atmospheric conditions of the internal to exterior of the home. Even dual glazed. Heat and/or cold transfer through the metal extrusions with the moisture content of the inside of the house. Bottom line is the condensation from year to year causes dry rot to the window sill and framing members in the wall. Sometimes the miters at the corners begin to leak and water destroys the framing members inside the wall. Other factors, such as deteriorating stucco or siding add to the problem.  Just don’t let it become black mold. A sure indicator of a window change out job.

So; let’s get to the good stuff. Brand new windows. Many folks install there own windows. That’s fine, but consider the guarantee you get when you hire the job out to a Door & Window Contractor *. DO YOUR SHOPPING. Is the best advice any builder can give you. Don’t settle on the big box store. Some of the local glass companies can beat their price and offer a better install to boot.

Technology in fenestration offers the homeowner the best ‘bang for the buck’ in ages. Extrusions alone have advances in spades. PVC or plasticized vinyl chloride was the old way of manufacturing plastic framed windows. UPVC is the way they are made now. The ‘U’ stands for Unplasticized’. Very important, for the old frames began to ‘chalk’ in their deterioration. Not any more. Research windows with the lowest ‘U’ value for the price. Check for rebates from your city utility or manufacturer. Vinyl windows afford the first attack at energy efficiency for the home. They also add serious equity to the property. Especially in a time where everyone wants to ‘flip’ houses. It’s the very first order of business when considering a house to buy. We call it the ‘Envelope’ of the house. Keeping as much ‘conditioned’ air in the house as possible. There are all manner of upgrade in selecting windows for your home. Generally speaking, vinyl windows are for most homes in subdivisions with homes averaging 1000 sq ft, to 2500 sq ft. You will find these types of windows in much larger homes, although getting into up-scaled homes tend to be discretionary and use upper end windows such as wood with cladded exterior frames.

Retrofit windows are an interesting conversation. All homes are different. A home may be a model home and have an identical floor plan, but the orientation or upgrading over the years makes every home unique. This being said, retrofit window installation needs to be an ‘on site’ review by a qualified professional. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking this is an easy application. I personally changed out windows in a home that were installed upside down. With the weep holes at the tops of the windows. Use a window shop run by a supplier/contractor such as the company in the hyperlink.


*Cornerstone Door & Window is a paid Sponsor

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)

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

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.



Before The Day Starts & After The Day Ends

No Pay For Loading

A day in construction doesn’t start by rolling out of bed, getting on a skateboard and scooting off to work. No, no, no! Careful thought as to the days tasks and goals determine the outcome of success. This process starts early in the morning. Sometimes around 2 or 3 am due to a solution to a project issue that wakes us up! In the morning we think over the days tasks, and consider the needs for the day. And the order for which things need to be done. Not to mention the crew, each particular skill level and the projects for each crew member to complete. Loading the Truck: Residential building is all about tools, skill, and production. Most builders have this arsenal of tools either in a shop, trailer, van, or some type of storage unit. The message I want to get across is how those tools get to the job site, and eventually back to their place on the shelf. They just don’t jump into the truck and off to work we go. Materials for the day are another issue that the homeowner almost never sees. The builder often makes his/her first stop at the lumber company or hardware store. The thought of room for materials on top of the lumber rack is another consideration in the morning truck organizing. When all this is done and the builder arrives at the job site, it is now time to “roll out” for the start of the day. All the tools and materials come out of the truck and the day is up and running. This is when most homeowners greet the builder in the morning and think; ‘doesn’t look like much has happened this morning’? When the work day is over: “Roll-em up” is the call to stop work for the day.  All the tools are loaded into the trucks and home we go. That is, if we don’t have to go to the lumber company, or the building department etc. When we get home, we must now unload specific tools unique to the day. Just like the picture you see, these tools have a place in the shop and must be stored until the next use. This takes time. Time most homeowners never see. Time for which the builder does not get paid for.


Here’s your ‘Owner’ Builder Tip: Consider the person you have in mind for hire. He should agree with this blog. If he does not, he probably needs some more experience. Like my father used to say; ” If you don’t make any money for the guy, how do you expect him to pay you? And when you consider the builder, think about all the unseen attributes of skill and  organization, before you consider the cost.

Radio Commercials In Construction

So, your the Big Time Contractor or Supplier making your way to the top, and you want to advertise on a local radio station. Great! I’m almost certain they would be more than happy to take your money. But how much do you know about advertising your business? Or better said, How much do they know about advertising your/our business? The construction business! Hhmmm.? This blog features The ‘Owner’ Builder tip early. And here it is.  Think about the personality that is offering to do your construction commercial. The ‘voice over’ guy. Is he/she a rock & roll burnout from the 70’s? A gump that thinks he makes a difference in the political field? Or just a talking head recognized in the community for speaking his mind? Very important in radio is the ‘sincerity factor’. The listening audience will know the charlatan from the pro. An actor may be able to bluff the public, but if you want your commercial to have the “sell factor”, get a real construction personality to cut the spot. The wake-up call the building world needs, is to realize we speak a different language. For example; we could loose a layman in general conversation talking about shear factors and connecting hardware. Or many other construction terminologies pertinent to the trade in practices and principals. Why would you have someone outside this arena speaking on your behalf? Remember; you’re the paying customer. You can have anyone produce your construction commercial!  If you have a construction talk show host in your community, have him produce a 30 or 60 second radio spot that is right for your demographics. A guy that knows what you are talking about and can bring the message forward with boldness and insights straight from the job site. Now that’s advertising! Professional Construction Advertising.

Open Comments on Green Building



Just recently the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) had an open comment on the new amendments to the green building codes. Unfortunately, they required the giving up of “intelligent property” to them. For this reason, I did not comment. My green building ideas will not go to the USGBC. They will go to my site and I will retain ALL my intelligent property, and so should you.

That is why I am making available to you, Americans, an open comment page on my web site. Here you may express your green building ideas and hold all your intelligent property intact. You may share your ideas with your name and city and be assured you will retain all rights. Furthermore, you will be promoted as the initiator of said idea and be networked with SEO for the text you submit.

Of course this means that no plagiarism (stealing) will be tolerated. You must submit only your ideas. Use the contact page. I will publish the comment on the site after review. Let’s show the government we can do these things with out giving up more of our rights. Thank you.