March 2006 Table of Contents

Building a Stone Retaining Wall Building a Stone Retaining Wall

Fully settled subsoils, a well-compacted base of crushed stone, and good drainage are essential for long-lasting results. Read more

Detailing Rain-Screen Siding Detailing Rain-Screen Siding

Providing an air space behind wood trim and siding is the best way to make them last. Read more

Innovations in Sound Control Innovations in Sound Control

New materials and techniques make it easier to manage noise in home theaters and other loud spaces. Read more

Practical Passive Solar Practical Passive Solar

Extra insulation, smart window placement, and thermal mass add comfort and generate energy savings for this New England home. Read more

Retrofitting an Engineered Shear Panel Retrofitting an Engineered Shear Panel

Prefab panels made it possible to open up the floor plan by removing part of an interior shear wall. Read more

Letters Letters

Radon check; backfill pressure; Spanish lessons; mold precautions; source for rising hinges; more Read more

In the News In the News

New EPA lead-paint rules; hurricane relief; California's smog fee; cement supply; more Read more

Q & A
Q&A Making Long Trim From MDF

Q. Because it's a lot cheaper than most primed stock, I'd like to use MDF for running trim. But that means I'll have a lot more butt joints, especially if I use 8-foot sheets, which I find to be more manageable on site than 10- or 12-foot sheets, which we can also get. What's a good way to make invisible butt joints in MDF when, for example, I'm installing baseboard or a crown frieze? Read more

Q&A Protecting Water Heaters With Expansion Tanks

Q. We recently had to replace our relatively new gas-fired water heater when its internal flue tube collapsed, ruining the thermostat and causing hot combustion gases to spew out the front. The installer, who claimed that the water heater was ruined by thermal expansion, added a thermal-expansion tank to the system. But the temperature- and pressure-relief valve on the new heater still leaks occasionally, and even though we've had it replaced, the problem persists. What's going on? Read more

Q&A Fixing a Ceiling Stain

Q. When a leak left water stains on our client's No. 2 pine ceiling, a painter tried to sand and bleach the marks, and then applied a natural oil stain to match the ceiling's clear finish. Unfortunately, the repairs turned a little yellow. What caused this? Is there any way to fix the ceiling now? Read more

Q&A Anchoring a Railing To Stone

Q. Anchoring a Railing To Stone I need to secure the base of a wrought-iron handrail to an exterior granite landing. My plan is to drill holes into the stone and use anchors. What's the best way to do this without cracking the stone, and what should I use for anchors? I am concerned that wedge anchors might cause cracks. Read more

Q&A Skip the Primer?

Q. Recently I discovered that an inexperienced member of my crew mistakenly used finish paint instead of an actual primer to prime a fir exterior door. Now the door has two coats of a 100 percent acrylic house paint, but no primer underneath. Since it leads to a covered porch, the door is protected from the weather, but in the winter the south-facing doorway gets a lot of sun. I'm worried that paint adhesion may be a problem, but short of stripping the door I don't know that there's much I can do about it at this point. Should I worry? Read more

Is All Drywall Mud the Same? Q&A Is All Drywall Mud the Same?

Q. My drywall sub's crew members ran out of mud before they were able to finish the third coat of a recent project. But when the local lumberyard delivered three buckets of the familiar green-labeled compound, the two tapers refused to use it and instead drove nearly an hour round-trip to pick up the kind they preferred, claiming it was much easier to spread and sand. I wasn't aware that there was such a difference. Is there? Should different types of mud be used for different — i.e., first, second, third — coats? Read more

On the Job
Giving Freestanding Garages Their Due Design Giving Freestanding Garages Their Due

Giving freestanding garages their due Read more

The Myth & Math of Square-Foot Cost Business The Myth & Math of Square-Foot Cost

No contractor wants to talk to customers about square-foot cost. But the topic will inevitably arise, because everything about planning a construction project — especially a new home — leads the customer to think in terms of cost per square foot. Read more

When a Customer or Supplier Goes Bankrupt Legal When a Customer or Supplier Goes Bankrupt

There you are, just trying to make an honest living as a contractor, when all of a sudden somebody you're doing business with declares bankruptcy. How will this affect you? Read more

Kitchen & Bath
Kitchen & Bath

Solid surfacing; ventilation Read more


Synthetic roof underlayments; deck railings; fireplaces Read more

Toolbox Toolbox

DeWalt DW304PK recip saw; Cordpro; Ridgid R82233 right-angle impact driver; planes & rasps; painting tools Read more

JLC Field Guide
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