“New Joists for an Old Floor,” by Emanuel Silva (Feb/14)

I am a remodeling contractor in Seattle and took the time to get certified for the EPA’s lead removal. I don’t like it, but I try hard to follow the prescribed procedures, and my crew follows my example. I also require all my crew to wear safety gear and am happy to supply it for them.

I was surprised by the article “New Joists for an Old Floor.” Emanuel Silva was working without dust protection to separate the living space from the kitchen remodel, had no ear protection, no respirator, no knee pads, and a pathetic pair of loafers to go with his shorts.

The lath on the wall and the wall cavities most certainly contain lead dust. If the EPA’s RRP [Renovation, Repair and Painting] criteria had been followed, all of the lath should have been removed at the time the demolition took place, bagged, and disposed of accordingly. Silva could be exposing himself and anybody he has close contact with to lead, especially children, which is potentially in his clothes and shoes after he leaves the jobsite. He also could pose a risk to the tenants of the house on a daily basis, who may be exposed as dust is carried by air circulation.

My apprentices read my old copies of trade magazines, which provide us with talking points at breaks and safety meetings. Instead of providing the dwindling number of new carpenters with examples of good practice, you have provided them with bad examples. My first-year carpenter immediately responded to the cover with surprise and disdain. He questioned Mr. Silva’s methods or lack of them for all the same reasons I list above. —Paul Stoner, Seattle

Emanuel Silva responds: Thank you for your response to and your concerns about my most recent article. I am EPA Certified and follow all EPA rules when jobs require it. For this job, the homeowner had done his own demo prior to my work on the floor. When removing the subfloor, I used plastic between rooms to contain basic remodeling dust. The area was tested and the surfaces, including the remaining horse-hair plaster keys between the laths, did not contain lead. In areas, the lath was kept in place because some building inspectors like to see that on walls that will not be altered.

If this had been an EPA job, I would have followed all the rules as you describe them, including removing the laths. After removing the subfloor, I vacuumed all opened joist bays and removed all debris before I began my framing.

Thank you for pointing out the safety concerns. I try to use appropriate safety wear when needed, but sometimes I don’t. I was wearing safety protection eyewear. When I do heavy demo and use machinery, I most certainly use ear plugs and a dust mask, but I find that it’s not necessary when doing certain applications such as securing joists. I find wearing knee pads more of a safety hazard when it comes to installing floor joists.

As for my “pathetic loafers,” they are low-cut boots made by Altama. They are serious work shoes and I find them comfortable and safe to wear. As for my choice of pants, I use shorts for one reason: When it’s hot, I prefer to be comfortable to do a good job. It’s not a fashion statement.

Q&A: Best Way to Repair a Hole in a Concrete Slab Before Tiling Over (Dec/13)

I have an issue with Michael Byrne’s response in this Q&A. I have used a similar method, and the new concrete rose around the edges, requiring me to come back and grind the concrete back to flush. The patch—about 4 feet square—had warped while curing. That was the last time I did a patch without rebar or other mechanical connection to the existing concrete. I stopped having failures when I made the change.

What you need to do is drill holes in the edge of the existing slab and hammer some rebar dowels into the holes so there is a mechanical connection. You can also drill larger holes and epoxy the pins in place. I have also used blue concrete screws when there wasn’t enough room or thickness to use rebar. When you have to drill at an angle, use a “hickey” or rebar bender to bend the rebar down so it is below the surface when you pour the new concrete. —Gerret Wikoff, Los Angeles

Q&A: Deck Landing Design (Feb/14)

I wrote the answer for this particular Q&A, and I received a question from the former Rhode Island building commissioner about the deck stair in it. He asked if I was sure that a 40-pound live load was correct. He thought it was greater for stairs.

I checked, and there is something I didn’t include. Because some building officials may consider the landing to be part of the stairway, there’s a secondary load requirement (IRC Table R301.5 Minimum Uniformly Distributed Live Loads). It applies to stair treads, but I guess a building official could consider the decking on a landing as the equivalent of a tread.

If the decking on the landing is considered to be a tread, one of two load requirements applies: either the 40-pound live load or a 300-pound concentrated load acting on an area of 4 square inches—whichever produces the greater stress. Four square inches (2 inches by 2 inches) is a pretty small area. I suppose the 300-pound load occurs where the foot of someone walking on a set of stairs presses on a tread.

If wood-plastic decking is used on the landing, then the landing joists should be spaced at the same distance that the manufacturer of the decking requires for stringer spacing. That distance is product and brand specific for composite decking materials. —Mike Guertin, East Greenwich, Conn.

“Insulating Cathedral Ceilings,” by Clayton DeKorne (Feb/14)

The EPS Industry Alliance would like to provide some comments on this JLC article:

The article makes some inaccurate claims regarding polyisocyanurate (polyiso) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation that we would like to address.

Regarding the section on rigid foam sheathing, the article states that polyiso insulation has an R-value of 6.5. This is not accurate according to ASTM C1289-13 and CAN/ULC S770-09, which list an R-value of ~6 for polyiso. Furthermore, new testing methods developed in 2013 have shown that the R-value of one inch of polyiso is actually 5.62.

This information has been available since June 2013, when the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association (PIMA) announced they would be updating their QualityMark-certified R-value program to reflect the newest data, which was determined using a new test method for finding long-term thermal resistance (LTTR). The new 5.6 R-value rating was to be incorporated in Canadian and U.S. standards as of January 1, 2014.

The article then goes on to say that EPS is not recommended for roofs. While may not recommend EPS for this application, that is far from the case across most of the construction industry, in which EPS is a proven insulation material in a variety of roofing applications. The wording of this sentence implies that EPS insulation is not recommended for roofs in general and is misleading to the reader. —Tyler Merchant, EPS Industry Alliance

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