We discovered while remodeling this 1920s home that the
foundation was deeper than we'd thought and the original
basement floor could easily have been poured 8 inches lower:
With only 7 feet of available headroom, another 8 inches would
make for a much more livable space. Unfortunately, lowering the
floor was outside the scope of the project's budget.
The job called for the addition of several new columns and a
bearing wall (above) to support the new construction above, so
we had to cut through the slab to pour footings. Because the
homeowners thought they'd eventually like to lower the basement
floor, we made that future work easier by placing the footings
about a foot lower than necessary and using longer columns.
With the approval of an engineer, we built the bearing wall on
top of pressure-treated lumber that extended below floor level
and landed on a long narrow footing (below).
Before patching the slab, we covered the new footings with
several inches of gravel. If the homeowners ever decide to
lower the floor, all they'll have to do is break out the
concrete around the footings and shovel out the gravel. The
nonbearing partitions will have to go, but the bearing wall can
stay right where it is.
Chris Kennel works for City Side Remodeling in
Fiber Cement at a Clipby Jason Seltin
Fiber-cement siding is heavy and comes in long lengths, making
it a challenge to install — especially if you're working
alone. Siding gauges can help, but they tend to slip out of
position under the weight of the siding, which is particularly
frustrating when working at heights; also, they can be
difficult to remove once the siding's nailed up.
I've found that the Knockoff (800/262-9680,
addresses all of these problems. This small plastic clip is
designed to hook over the top edge of one course of siding and
hold the next course in place. You use two Knockoffs per
12-foot length of siding, placing them before nailing home the
course you're working on. After the siding has been installed,
you simply hit straight down on the clips with a hammer to
break off the exposed sections — an easy process that
doesn't damage the siding.
The first time I used Knockoffs, I proceeded the way I usually
do: Set the left side with a siding clip; then hold, level, and
nail from the right. But it turned out I didn't need to level
every course when using Knockoffs; I could just set a pair of
clips, nail off the course, and then quickly slip the next
length of siding into position without bothering to check it
with my level. The new clips made the job so easy, I ended up
using them on all lengths of board.
I estimate that using Knockoffs (rather than other siding
gauges) while working solo yields a time savings of at least 35
percent. Plus I've broken only one clip prematurely, and that
was because I dropped a 12-foot-long fiber-cement board onto
You can't vary siding exposure with these clips, which overlap
the course below by 1 1/4 inches. Also, for a typical siding
job you'll need a lot of them (the manufacturer recommends
ordering 1.5 clips per board of siding), which at about 20
cents apiece can add a couple hundred dollars to the
Knockoff clips are available from various sources; I get mine
online at ABC Supply (888/492-1047,
Jason Seltin is a remodeling contractor in
Saint Johns, Mich.
During a remodel of their 80-year-old Berkeley, Calif.,
home, the owners complained about how squeaky the stairs were.
The insulation contractor on the job, American Services Co.,
solved the problem by spraying the underside of the staircase
with the same closed-cell spray polyurethane they were using
for the roof and exterior walls. Unlike open-cell foams, denser
closed-cell polyurethanes have structural properties similar to
glue. In this case, the foam got rid of most of the squeaks and
cut down on airborne sound transmission as well. —