Unvented Attics Meet
California seems to be one of the only states (if not the
only) that has not yet adopted the International Building Code,
so Quenda Behler Story's example of unvented attics in the
article "Alternative Materials and Code" (Legal, 7/06) works in
our state for now.
The story might give the impression that this is still an
unproven method or is considered an "alternative design," but
in fact unvented attics are now part of the IBC (R-806.4). Our
company sprays closed-cell spray foam insulation in unvented
ceiling assemblies almost every day, so we are constantly
explaining the physics, requirements, and details involved to
builders, architects, code officials, and consumers. We would
like your readers to understand that while there are some
careful planning details to consider beyond the code, an
unvented ceiling assembly with closed-cell spray foam is not
only efficient and comfortable, it is now a code-approved
American Services Co.
Of Pigs and Goats
While funny, the comment in "Alternative Materials and Code"
about the three little pigs running the building department is
very short-sighted. Straw-bale construction has been around for
hundreds of years, and some of the old buildings are still
standing today. Straw bales have been proven not to actually
burn; they just smolder because they are so dense. The main
hazard is that during construction you have to keep the loose
stuff swept up because that will burn pretty easily. Once it's
in place, you're good to go.
And by the way, goats eat hay, not straw.
Mike Rand's article ("Trimming a Houseful of Windows," 08/06)
was full of useful tips and tricks. I was curious, however,
about something I noticed in the top picture on page 76: On the
side of the workbench is a length of PVC piping with a series
of vertical branches with valves. Is this some sort of
Author Mike Rand responds: Those are valved ports for a
vacuum press, which I use for laying up veneer. The ports also
work as hold-downs: By removing the melamine worktop seen in
the photo, I can use the vacuum to clamp material in place as I
Don Jackson's article about New Orleans (In the News, 8/06)
was one of the best pieces I have seen anywhere about this
issue. It managed to cover a tremendous range of complex issues
through personal stories. I wish there had been more.
Santa Monica, Calif.
Fan of SIPs
I'm a huge fan of SIP construction ("Building With Structural
Insulated Panels," 8/06). It's been in use for over 40 years
but is often overlooked because it costs a few dollars more.
People tend to forget the energy savings, which in addition to
reducing the need for oil and gas can save the homeowner
hundreds every year. Some of my projects have paid for the
panels in energy savings in eight years.
I agree with Gary Pugh: My projects typically run 2 percent to
6 percent more than stick framing. I feel that this is very
little extra for a building that goes up faster and is
stronger, quieter, and more energy-efficient.
Most building departments require an engineer to design the
project if you buy panels and cut openings for windows or
install beams and headers in the field. I have chosen to buy
from a company whose system has a UL label and building-code
approval. This eliminates the engineer on most projects. The
panels are completely prebuilt and only require erection on
site. There's occasionally some fitting to do, but very little.
This also eliminates the need to buy specialized tools.
SIPs aren't just for residential construction — they
also work well as insulated skins over steel or post-and-beam
in commercial, agricultural, and industrial work.
Safety Stories Hit Home
Thank you for "Safety Lessons" (8/06). Every morning I
sleepily tell my husband as he goes out the door, "Be careful"
and "Take care of your body." But nothing I can say can beat
the article — and especially the pictures —
in getting his attention. He groaned as he read every word. I
hope it sticks.
A few years ago, a 2-inch, 18-gauge finish nail rebounded and
hit me square in the lens covering my right eye. If not for my
glasses, there is no doubt I'd be a one-eyed carpenter today.
The bottom line: Cracked, scratched, or punctured lenses can be
replaced. Can your eyeball?
While I appreciate the need to frequently remind people about
job-site safety, I really did not need to see the photo
associated with "Knee a Poor Substitute for Sawhorse." Keep
that gore on the medical shows that I don't watch on
television, not in a magazine I read over lunch break.Steven J. Hovland
Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates