For the letter "Getting Things Right" (12/06), you show a
picture of fiber-cement lap siding (reprinted at left). Looking
closely, I see what looks to be a J-clip of some sort —
it's at the bottom of the butt joint in the siding. I'd like to
know what this is. We've been having problems with buckling of
fiber-cement siding, and I wonder if the clips might provide a
more secure attachment.
Queen Creek, Ariz.
The editors respond: The clip visible in the photo is an
"off-stud joiner" clip manufactured by Simplicity Tool Corp. of
Portland, Ore. (503/253-2000,
www.simplicitytool.com). Made specifically
for fiber-cement siding from 24-gauge G-90 galvanized steel, it
registers off of the course below and provides a 11/4-inch
overlap for the next course. The clip supports both sides of a
butt joint, allowing you to break the course between studs, and
also provides a smooth backing for caulk joints.
Although it will speed installation, the clip probably won't
prevent buckling problems.
More on Employee Theft of
I would like to respond to Ron Edge's letter (11/06) about
employee theft of clients. This happens to all of us from time
to time. It's a real thorn in my side because it also increases
my exposure to liability. I know this from experience, because
I went to court about it and lost.
A craftsman who worked for me was terminated for just this kind
of activity. He then went out, got his own license, and started
soliciting work from my clients, telling them he was now
licensed and could do the work cheaper. Some former customers
hired him, but when he realized he was in over his head, he
abandoned their job, took their money, and disappeared.
Although he'd contracted the job using his own forms, company
name, and license number, the customers came after me. (This
was almost two years after we had terminated him.)
To make a long story short, we lost: The judge said that the
customers never would have met the craftsman if I hadn't sent
him out there in the first place, so I was ultimately
responsible. I had to remodel their bathroom!
My company employs 30 to 50 craftsmen, depending on the season.
I cannot afford this exposure to liability, so we have
implemented some procedures in how we hire. Each applicant
listens to a 30-minute history of the company and how we work,
including an explanation of our zero-tolerance policy regarding
customer solicitation. We also explain that we use a "quality
assurance" program designed to increase our level of customer
service. Each new employee signs an agreement accepting our
zero-tolerance policy, as well as a confidentiality agreement
and a covenant not to compete.
We now use a mystery shopping company; they charge $70 per
"shop," which is about average. The company has employees in
our zip-code areas of service; they call us anonymously,
requesting an estimate. We have no idea who they are when this
happens. The "shopper," posing as a homeowner seeking to have
work done, has a checklist and a series of questions to ask.
This person is watching to see if our company's representative
shows up on time, leaves a written estimate, wears booties when
entering the home, and so on. During the appointment, the
shopper asks our employee in passing about doing work on the
Afterward, the company forwards us a copy of the checklist
results and answers to the questions that were asked, along
with the name of our employee. That's when we find out we've
been "shopped." This allows us to compare our employee's
behavior to our company standards; if anyone has answered "Yes"
to the question about working on the side, we will fire that
The mystery-shopping company does two or three shops a month
for us. To make sure that every craftsman is scheduled for one
of these appointments, from time to time we make arrangements
to send a particular employee on one of the visits.
By the way, all employees are informed of this program during
the hiring process; they sign a document allowing us to do
Misconceptions About Attic
Regarding the discussion about attic venting ("Getting Things
Right," Letters, 12/06): I work for a weatherization program in
Vermont, and we know that venting does very little to cool
shingles in the summer — but more important, that it also
does very little to stop ice damming. Venting is at best is a
Band-Aid that hides the true problem: heat loss.
Air-sealing the attic floor is the most important thing you can
do to slow heat loss. Without that, the insulation won't
perform anywhere near what it is rated for (unless it's
closed-cell foam). I have seen vented attics with a solid wall
of frost on the bottom of the roof sheathing. The venting in
these cases was actually increasing the stack effect into the
attic, making the problem worse.
Keep It Simple
I found Michael Sloggatt Jr.'s article, "Making Curved Crown"
(12/06), very interesting. I certainly prefer his built-up
method to the use of flexible products. Mr. Sloggatt's
mathematical skills are impressive and leave me in the dust
— dazed, confused, and wishing I had paid attention in
After reading the article, I realized that there is a simpler
method for calculating the angle of the cuts — one that
does not require trig. Here it is, in four steps.
A. Based on Mr. Sloggatt's radius of 9.5 inches, I calculated
the length of the arc in this article at 15 inches,
B. I divided the arc's length by the width of the segments
used, 3/4 inch:
15 ÷ .75 = 20
C. 20 segments x 2 cut angles per segment = 40 cuts
D. Because I've assumed the arc is a quarter of a circle, I
divided 90 degrees by 40:
90 degrees ÷ 40 = 2.25 degrees
This method works easily for any radius, other wall angles, and
any segment size. Thank you for a fine article.
Glen Allen, Va.
Checking Our Work
The formula for determining the radius of the arc in "Making
Curved Crown" is overly complicated as well as flawed. If you
want to prove me wrong, then demonstrate the proof for the
formula that the author used in Step 5.
Overland Park, Kan.
Editor Don Jackson responds: Now, there's a challenge
that's hard to resist. The formula you're referring to can be
used when, for example, you know the width and desired height
of a segmental arch but need the radius to set up a router
trammel to make casing or a support for brickwork. The proof is
actually pretty simple, requiring nothing more complex than the