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Features

  • Contractor Table Saws

    Portable tablesaws are handy, but 10-inch contractor models are the workhorses of most job sites. Our tool editor assembled and tested six new saws; here’s how they stack up.

     
  • Plywood vs. OSB

    Are these two products really equivalent, as manufacturers and grading agencies claim? A wood technologist puts to rest questions about OSB’s suitability as an economical substitute for plywood.

     
  • Safe Scaffolding Options

    Working contractors who cut corners on staging risk large fines and serious injury. A scaffolding sub explains how to safely set up pipe staging, pump jacks, and wall and roof brackets.

     
  • Temporary Site Lighting

    It’s hard to do good work in the dark. Here’s an overview of products to light up the job site, from hand-held and string lights to powerful stanchion lights.

     
  • Venting Details for Cathedral Ceilings

    Unvented roofs in northern climates are prone to ice buildup, but how do you ventilate a valley or hip rafter in a cathedral ceiling? And what do you do at a skylight, where the headers block the vent chutes? A snow-country builder describes the venting methods that have worked for him at these and...

     
  • Contracting Without a Crew

    Employee-free doesn’t mean hassle free: A solid schedule and good lines of communication are crucial when you sub out the whole job.

     
  • Common Electrical Inspection Failures

    The last thing a gerneral contractor needs is to have a job put on hold because of a failed electrical inspection. A master electrician shows how to identify the trouble spots before the inspector does.

     
  • Hanging And Finishing Drywall

    It’s sometimes difficult to schedule a drywall sub for small jobs. This remodeler avoids the problem by estimating, hanging, and finishing his own drywall. Here’s how he does it.

     
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    Installing EPDM Rubber Roofs

    Half-lap, move over. For leak prone flat and low-slope roofs, it’s difficult to beat the cost and performance of this single-ply rubber roofing.

     
  • The Invisible Addition

    A sucessful addition looks like it’s always been there. This West Coast designer totally transformed a cramped, post-War tract house without changing the architectural character of the neighborbood.

     
  • Solid Surface Update

    This premium countertop material continues to be difficult to obtain and install without factory training. A Massachusetts remodeler sorts through the confusing array of products and takes a look at the installer certification process.

     
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors

    Carbon monoxide poisons nearly 5,000 Americans every year. While national building codes do not yet require CO detectors in residential construction, many state and municipal codes do. Here’s what you need to know to select and install the right detector.

     
  • Foolproof Handrail Layout

    A long-time stair builder shows how to use a full-scale drawing to lay out rails, newels, and balusters quickly and accurately every time.

     
  • Getting the Most for Your Insulation Dollar

    When it comes to price versus performance, no one type of insulation is right for every situation. An insulation contractor explains how to use batts, blown insulation, and spray-in-place foams to best advantage.

     
  • Office Basics for Field Carpenters

    Let’s face it: Carpenters hate paperwork. But solid information from the field is essential to a company’s success. A veteran remodeler explains his system for teaching car-penters to take care of business on the job site.

     
  • Specialty Finishes for Concrete Slabs

    Exposed concrete slabs don’t have to look dull and gray. Here’s how to use dyes and stains, stamped patterns, and exposed aggregate to create an attractive and durable finished slab.

     
  • Well-Drilling Basics

    Hitting a vein of potable water is half science and half luck — and there are no guarantees. A rural housing specialist tells how to make sure you’re getting a fair shake from your well driller.

     
  • Frost-Protected Shallow Foundations

    Correctly placed perimeter insulation eliminates the need for a deep frost footing. A Midwest builder explains this CABO-approved method for building foundations and slabs-on-grade.

     
  • Going Belly Up: A Builder Looks Back

    Unmanaged growth can result in “too much of a good thing.” A former builder looks with 20/20 hindsight at what he should have done to keep his company from going out of business.

     
  • Quality Vinyl Floors

    A professional floor installer describes the best methods and materials to use for a durable resilient floor.

     
  • Quick Kitchen Estimates

    Clients often want to know what their new kitchen will cost before they’ve picked cabinets or decided on countertop material — even before they’ve finalized the layout. This unit-price approach will help you produce rough estimates quickly and with a minimum of guesswork.

     
  • The Ultimate Stick-Built Wall

    One advantage of stick-framing is that you can build walls flat and square on the deck. But why stop there? Siding, windows, and trim can all be installed before you raise the wall. A veteran framing contractor shows how it’s done.

     
  • Durable Substrates for Thinset Tile

    Behind every attractive tile job is a durable substrate. A master tiler shows how proper use of backerboard and waterproof membranes ensures a lasting finish at tubs, countertops, and floors.

     
  • Fast Fascia Techniques

    When you’re getting paid by the linear foot, you learn how to work quickly and methodically. A California carpenter reveals his hard-won tricks for hanging fascia without a helper.

     
  • Innovative Pneumatic Fasteners

    As the popularity of pneumatic nail guns increases, so does the range of fasteners. The Journal examines the newest materials and designs.

     
  • Installing Sprinkler Systems

    In the U.S., a residential fire starts every 68 seconds. To prevent loss of life, some municipalities are beginning to require sprinklers in new homes. Here’s what you need to know before you design and install a working system.

     
  • Sizing Air Conditioners

    To avoid callbacks, many hvac subs size air conditioners using methods that inflate the cooling load. The result is an oversized unit that cools the air, but operates inefficiently and does a poor job of reducing indoor humidity. Three energy engineers explain how to achieve proper cooling without...

     
  • Window Trim for Thick Walls

    Thick energy-efficient walls call for special treatment of window jambs and trim. Whether the finish is stucco, drywall, or wood, these three builders have developed details that work.

     
  • Avoiding Foundation Failures

    After researching more than $50 million in claims, a site investigator has compiled this list of the most costly foundation problems, along with the techniques used to prevent them.

     
  • Evolution and Revolution: Three Stages of Growth for Construction Companies

    Businesses, like people, grow in predictable ways. A consultant draws on her experience with construction companies of all sizes to explain the critical skills — and pitfalls — at each stage along the way.

     
  • Fine-Tuning Entry Door Locksets

    A sticky front door knob is often the item at the top of the punchlist. But this common problem can be eliminated at installation if you understand how locksets work. Here are the tricks one builder uses to get it right the first time.

     
  • Flat Roof Framing Options

    Even “flat” roofs need some pitch to ensure proper drainage. A California production framer describes the techniques he uses to quickly create slopes on flat roof decks of any size.

     

Letters

  • Letters

    Foam insulation pitfalls, sticking deadbolts

     
  • Letters

    Termite barrier tip, innovative fasteners

     
  • Letters

    Nailing deck ledgers, wire-snaking tips

     
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    Protecting against bad clients, teaching the Japanese to build

     
  • Letters

    Balancing cost and good design, working downtown

     

News

Q&A

  • Q&A: Slab Over an Existing Slab

    Q: What type of preparation work is needed before placing a 4 1/2-inch-thick topping over an existing slab?

     
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    Q&A: Service Panel Surge Protection

    Q: Does a surge protector installed in the service panel eliminate the need for individual surge protectors throughout the house?

     
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    Q&A: Ceiling Cracks With Trusses

    Q: On a recent house we built, cracking has occurred where nonbearing interior partitions join the ceiling. We used a wood truss roof system, and I’ve read that truss movement often causes this type of cracking. How do I correct this problem?

     
  • Q&A: Push-In Connections on Receptacles

    Q: Many of the receptacles I use have push-in connectors on the back. Does a push-in connection perform as well as the side-mounted screw terminal connection?

     
  • Q&A: Joist Sizing Rule of Thumb

    Q: Is there a simple way to size floor joists?

     
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    Q&A: No-Nails Approach to Aluminum Fascia

    Q: Last winter, our siding sub installed aluminum fascia in very cold temperatures. When the weather warmed up, the fascia expanded and buckled severely. What’s the proper way to install aluminum fascia to prevent this from happening?

     
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    Q&A: Cupping Clapboards Over Foam Sheathing

    Q: We were recently called in to make siding repairs on a five-year-old home. The wall system consisted of 1/2x6-inch beveled cedar siding fastened over 1-inch foil-faced polyisocyanurate foam, 2x4 studs with R-11 unfaced fiberglass batts, and an interior poly vapor barrier covered by 1/2-inch...

     
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    Q&A: Standby Hot Water Without a Pump

    Q: I’ve been told that I can provide "instant" hot water to my second-floor bathroom sink by installing a return hot-water line to my water heater in the basement. Would I need to install a circulating pump with this system?

     
  • Q&A: Gaps Between Sheathing Panels

    Q: Most sheathing manufacturers recommend that panels be spaced at the edges and ends. Since panels measure a full 4x8 feet, the only way I’ve been able to provide this spacing (and maintain standard joist and stud layout) is by trimming the ends and edges of the sheathing panels. Why don’t...

     
  • Q&A: Is Treated Wood Weaker?

    Q: Is treated southern pine as strong as untreated southern pine? Can I use joist tables for untreated southern pine lumber to size treated joists?

     
  • Q&A: How to Keep Miters Tight

    Q: In my area of South Carolina, changes in humidity often cause miter joints to open up over time. I plan to use biscuits to keep my miters tight. Would I be better off using epoxy instead of yellow glue when gluing up the biscuits? Should I check all my lumber with a moisture meter?

     
  • Q&A: Patching Water-Damaged Plaster

    Q: My company has done plaster repair work for many years. After repairing water-damaged walls or ceilings, we occasionally get called back to "fix" an unsuccessful repair. Our second repair attempt involves digging out a very bumpy, chalky substance, and more often than not, we have to repeat this...

     
  • Q&A: Polybutylene Piping: Time Bomb?

    Q: I have used polybutylene piping in many of my construction projects ( including my own home). After reading about a pending class-action lawsuit against the piping manufacturers, I’m concerned, and I don’t feel I’m getting the straight story from my plumbers or supply houses. Have I unknowingly...

     
  • Q&A: Wood Glue: Okay After Freezing?

    Q: We use a yellow carpenter’s glue for wood-to-wood gluing chores. Every winter, I invariably leave the container in my truck overnight, and the glue freezes. Can this glue be thawed and used after it has frozen?

     
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    Q&A: Sump for Foundation Drain

    Q: Should an exterior perimeter drain be connected to an interior drain and sump pit?

     

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Reviews

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Products

  • For What It's Worth

    Shallow seismic anchor, structural metal roof panels, wrinkleproof roofing felt

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Budget panel saw kit, self-adhering plaster patching fabric, rugged roof-stripping tool

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Low-temperature paint, mahogany-veneered glulams, antivibration gloves, prefab job-site office

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Retracting safety line, extension cord with power indicator light, longer steel studs

     
  • For What It's Worth

    No-scrape masking tape, zipper for poly door, gas-powered circular saw kit, improved clamp lamp

     

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