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March 2009
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Roofing Repair Project Act 2

I have mentioned that remodeling is biblical in nature as a result
of one problem begetting another. For those in more wet climes, it is
the appearance of more alligators in the swamp you are trying to drain.

To recap. We started with a leak around the inside of the bathroom
door, which led us to the roof leak, which led to needing to remove the
AC unit, to remove a section of shingles, to replace rotten underlayment, to repair the roof leak. But to repair the roof, we must repair the patio cover, so our roof repair will be correct.

In Act 1 we discovered our water leak. I mentioned the patio cover which is composed of 4×4 beams nailed to the eave fascia/rim joist on one end and bolted on a beam on the other end. The house was painted right after this was constructed, which for the purposes of this illustration is a great thing.

This is a quick drawing of the construction detail of this assembly.
On the top right is the 2×6 fascia also known as the rim joist that joins the rafter tails in this type of construction. On top of the rim joist is the bottom of the roof sheathing which is attached to the top of the fascia, allowing the builder to establish a straight line for the edge of the roof. This also helps stiffen the roof. In this particular instance the drip edge is created with a 1×2 piece of trim.

On the left side is the beam (4×12) that holds the patio cover materials(4×4’s). The 4×4’s were bolted to the beam with 1/4” lag screws, and nailed through the fascia with 2 -10d galvanized nails.

Over time, the beam tipped away from the house. It is not too clear in this photo, but it was about a 10 deg. tilt.


As a result it pulled the 4×4’s away from the fascia. Some of these were almost falling down and a couple did as a result of the setup of fixing them.

I mentioned above that the sheathing is nailed to the top outside edge of the rim joist. Not only did the beam pull the 4×4’s loose, but also pulled the rim joist with them. Here you can see this much clearer with the dark line from the original paint job as well as the separation of the rafter tails from the rim joist. The weight of the 4×4’s also pulled the rim joist down away from the sheathing.


Repairing the Patio Cover

First, I used a nylon strap to pull the beam tight, limiting its movement away from the building as I began to remove the lag screws from the beam. I also clamped a 2×4 to the underside to prevent the 4×4’s from falling down while I was doing this.

There are two beams so I was able to work on one section at a time. After clamping this together, I started to unbolt the 4×4’s from the beam. The heads snapped off below the surface, so I needed to use a sawsall on the underside of the 4×4 to cut the lag screws to loosen the 4×4’s. 58 of them for those that count.

After loosening the 4×4’s, it was a matter of using a BFH to tap the 4×4’s back into the rim joist and move the rim joist back into position.  Up, down, back, and forth. I also installed a string line so I could monitor the straightness of this as I went along.

After a few hours of up and down, over 3 days, I used 4- 3” exterior deck screws drilled and counter sunk through the rim joist at an angle to pull the 4×4’s tight to the rim joist, as well as moving the joist back in place in relationship to the sheathing.


I was also able to fix the mess on the leak side of the roof as well.

Having gotten these reattached, I straightened the beams as much as possible and drilled and anchored the 4×4’s to the beam with long lag screws. One can walk on this now if need be, and not worry about a wind gust sending pieces of this into the pool. Now we can return to the roof repair.

Monday afternoon, MD Cooling and Heating will bring a crane to remove the AC unit, Tuesday, my boys from Collum Roofing will do the tear off, so I can remove the sheathing, repair the rafters and install new sheathing and blocking for the roof jack for the AC unit.

CFL’s Smart Saving or Snake Oil?

Compact Fluorescent Lights aka CFL's, have made significant inroads into the lighting market touting energy savings and long life. I use them but more for experimentation. I like a little more daylight in my lighting rather than the yellow that most of these bulbs produce.  They have a bumpy road as they each contain 5 milligrams of mercury, which during the initial push was downplayed as being insignificant, despite warnings from the EPA on proceedures on cleanup of broken bulbs.

I am not going to get into an argument about how 'insignficant' 5 milligrams is except to note that mercury's  cumulative effect has been amply demonstrated by  restrictions and recommendations regarding eating seafood at various times in the recent past.

Some companies that sell these bulbs have instituted recycling programs for used CFL's, which on the one hand would seem to be an environmentally responsive thing for a company to do, giving you a warm fuzzy using them, but on the other hand, I see this as more of a PR stunt than a serious attempt to greenwash stores that sell them. On the gripping hand I see this as a liability issue down the road, as the recyclers who are going to be recovering this material, will be left holding the bag when an industrial sized spill happens.

This morning I ran across this article on the NYT website:

which addresses the growing issue of people not getting their money's worth due to premature failure. So not only do you have a disposal problem, but you are not getting the advertised savings. We live in interesting times.

Roofing Repair Project Act1

The client said, “When it rains the trim around my bathroom door leaks”.

Most repair projects are simple. Cause and Effect. Door sticks? Fix the door and or the frame.
Wall Cracks? Patch and repaint. Window sticks? Repair frame or window. Most repairs have a simple cause and a simple repair procedure.

The exception to this rule are water leaks due to roof leaks. Unless you have a smoking hole in the roof where the meteor crashed into your house, tracking down roof leaks to repair them is not a minor project. Water has an annoying tendency to flow downhill until it meets an obstacle allowing it to pool or find a crack to run into continuing its journey back to the earth. Water will also flow uphill due to capillary action as well, confounding you in your quest to  find the source of the leak, and keep water out of your house where it doesn’t belong.

The Set Up

Here is the scene of the crime.
In this photo in the lower left is the door where the water leaks in the bathroom. Crimescene1
The upper right shows the AC unit which in on the roof directly above the door. The white PVC pipe is the condensate drain for the AC unit. AhHa! You may be thinking, the drain is plugged and the water from the AC unit is leaking and causing the problem. Bzzzt! If that were the case, the bathroom would be wet the entire AC season. Remember, it only leaks when it rains.

The Molecule Trail
Here is another photo showing the scope of the problem.Exwater1

This photo shows that water is leaking outside as well as inside.

Here is a close up of the underside of the eave.

We can now see that this has been a problem for some time. The plywood has discolored and is rotting. Notice that the eave board, which in this case is doing double duty as the fascia as well as the anchor for the house side of the patio cover. Notice that the eave has separated and that the patio boards are pulling away from the fascia. But if you look at the siding on the wall above the door, the water is not getting into the bathroom from the outside. We know that we will have to replace some of the sheathing. We still haven’t found the source of the leak. It is now time to venture into the attic.

An Attic Darkly

Here is our first taste of our problem. The grey cable that is penetrationg the roof is the electric cable for the AC unit. There is definite leakage there. However, there is significant damage to the sheathing below the AC unit as well as the roof which extends all the way down the roof to where we saw the rotting plywood on the eave.


Here is a closeup of this area.

The AC unit is sitting below the vertical part of the truss, so that you can see where the weight of the unit and the water damage has bent the top chords of the trusses. Now we have a handle on the situation.

Now to repair the damage we need to remove the AC unit (requiring a crane and an AC guy), rip off the shingles and get the deck exposed, (requiring roofers), so that we can replace and repair the damaged sections. Re-Roof, and reinstall the AC Unit.

Now that is a typical repair, but as I have mentioned before, in remodeling ‘typical’ left the building and left no forwarding address.

The first photo in this posting has a legend entitled “Patio Cover”. The third photo showe the underside of the eave with some alarming separation between the patio cover and the fascia. Stay tuned.

Tall Cabinet Installation

Here are a series of tall cabinets I recently installed for a client who needed storage that could be moved later.
Simple storage units with oak face frames and panel doors with beveled frames so knobs or handles are not required. These are 18'' wide, 24'' deep and under 7' high. These were installed to corral the toys and stuff that the arrival of their first child spawned. Tallcabs

We also installed a fluorescent fixture to provide indirect lighting. The lighting allows them enough light for reading as well being able to remove the lamps that had graced the various end tables. This shows the light in action. The grey cabinet was an addition after the other cabinets had been purchased and painted.


This is a temporary placement. As the child grows, most of these cabinets will move to other areas of the house. Attaching these cabinets to the wall  requires some thought.  Knowing that most of them were moving at a later date and needing to provide backing for then, I decided to leave the base trim in place. This allowed us to install a spacer on the right cabinet to give us spacing for the trim detail to come as well as providing solid blocking on the wall behind them to attach them firmly to the wall.


Our first order of business is to determine the height and length of our wall cleat. Look at the back of the cabinet for backing that is installed from the factory. Having backing separates good cabinets from crap that will make you cry long after you spend the money you thought you saved.


Our cleat is going to be mounted horizontally, centered on the bottom of the upper cabinet base. The back of the cabinet itself has a backing board to hold the shelf in place as well as keeping the cabinet sides parallel. This will allow us to screw the cabinets to the wall with the screws just above the 'floor' of the upper cabinet opening, making then unobtrusive.

The laser line. Using an inexpensive laser we mark our horizontal. I love this thing. I used to use plastic tubing as a water level which required two people, and was a mess to work with.

Laserline The Chalk Line. Next I used a chalk line to snap a line for the top edge of the cleat. This gives you wiggle room to find your studs, and gets covered when you install your cleat. 


I found the studs, which in this case were 24'' on center, and attached the cleat to the wall with 2- 2'' screws at each stud location. I like screwing things together not only for the additional strength now, but for the ease of removal later on. Raise your hands if you have done demo where things were nailed to the wall, and you had to repair a lot of damage from taking stuff apart.


Attaching the cabinets to the wall is 'relatively' straight forward. You want to check that the cabinets are plumb in both directions. Side to side, so they will not look like they are either leaning into the wall or falling away from it. Front to back, plumb keeps the doors from swinging open or banging shut. It is the little details that make jobs well done.

Your floor is not perfectly flat. Trust me on this. In addition to getting your cabinets plumb, you want them level. Starting from the corner, you slide the next cabinet into position using shims where necessary to align the cabinet frames. Don't worry about the doors yet, as they are coming off and will be adjusted later. Attaching them to each other requires some clamps and some screws. Here I am using Irwin Squeeze Clamps to hold the frames together. Notice that I have removed the doors from one of the cabinets, to allow me to get the clamps in place. Next we use a counter sink drill bit to drill our holes.

Tech Tip: Screw the frames together in one direction. Right to left or left to right depending on conditions. If you anticipate moving them later, leave the screw heads sunk but exposed so you can find them later. Touch them up with a spot of paint and there you go.


For the most part there should not be gaps between the cabinets, but be prepared in case there are. Wood moves. You can now reattach the doors, lining them up as you go.

Here is the trim detail for this unit. The trim is simple door stop material. It has a light radius on one edge and a square corner on the other edge. The gap on the right side of the cabinet is equal to the top gap, it is just the picture and the idiot with the camera.


Not shown here is the 1/4'' plywood attached to the side of the left cabinet to create a finished end. The rest of the plywood was used on the roof of the cabinet as well as a solid kick panel at the floor.

Heating your floor

Heat rises. Heating floors is not a new idea, but is one to be considered in designing or remodeling.
Green by Design has a good article on heating your floor.
Barefoot Dreams in the Dead of Winter

Solar Strategy

I live in Phoenix and get a lot more sunshine than most folks. The idea of sunlight paying for my AC and other electric needs is a powerful one.

I ran across this article this morning, An old engine learns new solar tricks about a company using the Stirling engine for generating power.

Infinia has details on their page here
This is not new as there are a number of companies that are using this technology, but these folks are getting up to 24% conversion and the costs of the units are coming down. Especially in relationship to flat panel and roof mounted units.

Currently they are 15,000.00 bucks. When they get down to around 1500-3000 bucks, it is the sort of thing that will sell a bunch, and drop your electric bill.

Remodeling Don’ts – Venting

There is a lot of venting that takes place in homes. From bath fans to remove moisture, hood fans in your kitchen, attic fans to lower the temperature in your attic, venting takes place. Those of you who have gas appliances like stoves, water heaters, and furnaces may be  familiar with exhaust vents aka flues. These are important in ridding your house of byproducts of combustion. Vents and flues are made to run vertically.

A lot of these vents have standard sizes. That doesn’t mean that some folks refrain from the urge to be   ‘creative’.

Here somebody combined their bathroom vents into a plumbing vent stack. Note the elegant downward angle allowing any of the bath fans to blow sewer gas into the others.


Here is a really really dumb vent idea. This guy combined his dryer vent with the exhaust flue of his water heater. The problem here is that the dryer air can blow out the water heater flame. Filling your laundry room with gas in really not a good idea. Vent4-1

Here is a vent using a shoe box as a ‘boot’, which is the technical term for the sheet metal pieces that go from round to rectangular for attaching grilles. I don’t even want to think about what this guy used for a grill outside.

Speaking of grilles, here is somebody who has no understanding of cross ventilation, having the supply and return air grilles next to each other. That little corner gets great climate control while the rest of the room gets nothing.

Remodeling Don’ts – Plumbing

Plumbing provides you with water and gets rid of waste and smells. Joints in plumbing are the major source of leaks. This is why you try to have as few joints as possible.

This guy didn't get the memo.Waterheater-1

Routing plumbing can be a challenge. Then there is just plain stupid.Plumbingbad-1

 Cutting your floor joists is not a good idea. Especially under your bathtub.

Here is a design challenge. Keeping your toilet paper dry in the shower.

Remodeling Don’ts – Electricity

I have done a lot of remodeling over the years. I have done some crazy things like the 6 ceiling repair, the turkey feather floor,  the garbage disposal toilet adventure,(tales for another day) and some other remodeling disasters. I have seen some things that defy belief as well as gravity and or common sense.

My brother sent me a series of photos that are making the rounds, showing some really bad and some cases dangerous remodeling. I have no idea where they came from, but will be happy to credit the photographers.

Make no mistake, I have a healthy respect for electricity. If I can't find the breaker for a circuit, I will pull the main. Healthy. Probably dating back to the time I was doing a gut job and trying to remove a stand up air conditioner that had only three wires holding it in place, so I took my pliers and snipped the wires,(220V) resulting in me being blown across the floor and ruining a expensive new set of pliers. In reality the closest I like to get to electricity is the molded rubber plug that goes into the outlet.

Here are some images of really bad and dangerous electric work.
This is a main panel somebody thought would be a good place to store tools and stuff.Electricnightmare3-1
TIP: Electric Panels are for Electric things only. Period. Full Stop!

Electric junction boxes come in many sizes and styles, depending on application. There is an electrical code that lays out the maximum number of wires/conductors in a box. There are 2 main reasons.
1. Heat. Copper wire gets hot when electricity runs through it. Boxes are sized, by cubic inches, which is either marked on the box or on the label at the store. The number of wires allowed insures that there is air flow in the box, to avoid an electrical fire. Electric fires are terrifying because they will burn for a long time before you notice smoke or it breaks through your walls.
2. Space. This is related to heat above, but is far more practical in being able to physically close up the box after you have made your connections.

Here is an electric box with way too many connectors. How the hell do you find anything in this mess? Junction3-1

Here is where somebody ganged together a bunch of boxes to make a turn. Junction2-1

According to the email, the pipe next to this connection is carrying fuel oil for the heater. Electricnightmare5-1

Speaking of Plugs here is an interesting switch concept.

Maybe it was for this bath fan?

Electricity is deceptively simple on the residential front. Some boxes, some romex, devices and covers. It is not rocket science, but does require some serious thought to do right.

Chinese Drywall dissolving copper in Florida

Drywall is one of the most important materials in housing. It literally defines your interior spaces.
 An article in USA Today says that a Chinese drywall manufacturer, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin produced defective drywall that is releasing  gasses that are corroding copper pipes and wire.

"Homeowner lawsuits allege that the drywall has
corroded air conditioning and refrigerator coils, microwaves, computer
wiring, faucets and copper tubing.

Tests paid for by Lennar say the drywall appears
to emit sulfur gases that can damage air conditioning coils, electrical
plumbing components and other material.

In one test, copper pipe turned black after four
weeks when placed in a sealed container with a piece of affected
drywall, according to a lawsuit filed Jan. 30 by Lennar against Knauf
Gips of Germany and its Chinese affiliate, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin,
and others. The pipe then started to corrode, Lennar says."

According to the article up to 60,000 homes with the majority in Florida are affected.

"Lennar and Taylor Morrison, a home builder based
in Arizona with a dozen affected Florida homes, say they're absorbing
the expenses of relocating residents for the several months it can take
to repair affected homes.

Lennar says it used the Chinese-made drywall in
a small percentage of Florida homes built from November 2005 through
November 2006. It's not being used in new homes, it says. Lennar and
Taylor, both of which build homes outside of Florida, say they're not
aware of homes outside of Florida being affected."

Source: USA Today

Not a very good deal on something that accounts for a small percentage of a construction budget, yet defines a house. One more reason I use USG Drywall.

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