Safety in the Real
I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the stories in the
August issue of JLC about safety slip-ups. Every spring I teach
a class of 85 undergraduates; they visit three construction
sites over the course of the term and also work in our shop,
doing welding, cutting, and so forth. In spite of visits to job
sites and lots of safety orientation, it takes a while for some
students to really grasp that we are taking them into territory
where something can go very wrong very easily. Your safety
stories are vivid proof of exactly the things I worry about,
and they will be required reading come January.
Department of Architecture
University of California, Berkeley
Not All Safety Equipment Is Safe
I appreciated the article "Safety Lessons" in the August
issue. I passed it around here to remind people that
complacency can get you hurt.
One thing I'd like to see is a frank discussion of "safety"
equipment that in application is unsafe. A case in point is my
table saw. We set it up out of the box per the manufacturer's
instructions, made a few cuts, and immediately removed the
blade guards and feather boards. The things were cheap and
unreliable — the stock would frequently get stuck in
them, leaving you with no choice but to hang on to the wood
while reaching for the shutoff. We've since upgraded the fence
and installed some nice magnetic feather boards, and feel we
have a safe, solid saw now.
It seems like a lot of manufacturers are adding "safety"
features to their products. Some are great and need to be
complimented and some are just plain ridiculous and need to be
called out. Walk around any job site and you'll see lots of
gear that has had the guards or shields removed. We don't do it
because we don't care about safety; we do it because the
equipment is subpar, or just plain dangerous.
William D. Neil
Sorry, but I'm not willing to buy into your periodic
articles such as "¿Habla Español?" (8/05)
or any other method that encourages the steady influx of
illegal immigrants. Their takeover of our once-fine industry is
already sufficiently insidious without such incredibly
Robert O. Beauchamp
Reader Feedback on the New Look
I appreciate your magazine. I've read it for many years and
have come to rely on it a lot. And I really like the new cover
design. However, I have one complaint: I don't like the waxy
front and back cover. Generally I drive around with this thing
in my truck, and it has a tendency to slide all over the
Kelley F. Phillips
Mulligan & Phillips
The Fine Print
I just received my July copy of JLC. It appears that the
magazine is now completely inundated with slick ads. I realize
that your advertisers pay their fair share, but I would rather
see a scaled-back volume of ads and more info for the guy who
gets his hands dirty. In years gone by, you were oriented to
the working man; now you seem to be focused on the designers
and other folks who work in the clean zone.
One more thing. I have been in the trades for 30 years and my
eyes are not what they used to be. Your type size is not as
large as it was before.
Flashing Flanged Windows
I thoroughly enjoyed the article "Flashing a Flanged Window"
(6/05). I wish, for the sake of homeowners, that all builders
would read, study, and follow Carl Hagstrom's instructions to
the letter. Traveling around the state of Vermont as much as I
do in my work, as well as curiously looking at any house under
construction, it always amazes me to find that some builders
still X-cut the housewrap, wrap the upper flap over the window
headers, then install the head flashing over the housewrap.
This is akin to double jeopardy.
Henri de Marne
Builders Can Set Example
I'd like to respond to NAHB president David F. Wilson's
letter in the July 2005 issue regarding the costs and payback
of proposed changes to the International Energy Conservation
The proposed IECC changes require a higher level of
performance but do not limit builders to specific ways of
achieving that performance. A variety of mechanisms are
available for achieving the better performance, which, if
properly executed, would improve the comfort of a house and
reduce its operating costs. That the DOE is backing away from
the proposed changes seems driven more by politics than good
science or good economics. (But hey, why should this issue be
any different from countless others? Regardless of the party
affiliation of the administration in power, I hasten to
An analysis done by the American Council for an
Energy-Efficient Economy calculates that the 30-year savings
generated by the proposed IECC changes will save homeowners $7
billion in energy costs (something like 500 trillion Btu
overall) and millions of tons of carbon emissions.
The current energy performance of our homes lags far behind
what we're easily (and economically) capable of producing with
the right training and the right motivation. Houses are unlike
other purchases whose energy performance is monitored and
regulated — such as cars and appliances — in
that their useful life is measured in decades rather than
years. We as builders and remodelers therefore have a unique
responsibility to future generations.
It seems to me we all should be working to achieve higher
performance standards rather than advocating against
As a 16-year veteran of the siding industry and as a product
designer and vinyl-siding application specialist, I am
constantly amazed by the lack of experience that "experienced"
vinyl-siding installers have today. During my inspections of
installed product, I repeatedly meet 10-, 15-, and 20-year
veterans who don't follow even the most basic installation
requirements. A big part of the problem comes from years of
incompletely trained people passing on fewer and fewer of the
proper methods to the next generation of siders. As my father
would say, "Is it 20 years' experience, or one year's
experience 20 times?"
With most vinyl claims being installation-related, I am happy
to see the Vinyl Siding Institute's certified installation
program starting up. It's been a long time in development and
is certainly needed in the industry. The program stands to
create a database of truly qualified installers. Everyone
benefits: The manufacturer has fewer claims to review, the
builder gets better installations, and the installer gets more
business. Programs like this need to be supported.
Wallpaper Liner Works Well
With regard to repairing drywall after wallpaper removal and
preparing walls for wall covering (Q&A, 8/05), I've had
excellent results on many projects refurbishing and preparing
walls using wallpaper liner. It's a fibrous material, thicker
than wallpaper, and is applied with wallpaper paste. It
stretches tight when it dries, spanning cracks, crevices, and
cavities. Anything that sticks out, obviously, must first be
hammered down or scraped off, but concave imperfections
disappear under the liner.
I once remodeled a house built in 1915. The plaster walls were
extensively cracked and crazed. Hanging wallpaper liner
resulted in perfectly smooth walls, which I painted with
quality latex paint. The thick paint filled the liner's butt
seams, which did not show. I lived there for five years, and
though the plaster continued to craze under the liner (I could
hear occasional cracking), the walls stayed perfectly smooth.
When wallpaper is installed over the liner, the wallpaper does
not tear apart if the plaster cracks underneath.
Though I've not tried such applications myself, the
manufacturer claims that the liner will stretch across gaps as
wide as cement-block mortar joints and the grooves of veneer
paneling, providing a smooth wall for papering.
Fire Sprinklers Add Cost
This may be beyond the scope of your publication, but I
would like to see some impartial documentation supporting the
cost-effectiveness of residential fire sprinklers (In the
News, 5/05). I don't consider the simple assertion by a
spokesman for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition that sprinklers
"save lives" convincing evidence.
Smoke alarms would seem to have great benefits in comparison
to cost; fire sprinklers would seem to have great cost in
comparison to benefits. It's not only the initial installation
cost, but also the continuing monthly cost for an oversized
water meter for the life of the home, that is the issue.
How about comparing sprinklers with other fire-resistant
construction options? Aren't sprinklers just another way to
make housing less affordable while generating business activity
for the members of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition?