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Features

Letters

  • Letters

    Remodeling opportunities abound; weatherization wages too low; in defense of vinyl siding; more

     
  • Letters

    Coordination between subs; barrier-free showers vs. code; don’t ventilate crawlspace with moist outdoor air; code article misses the boat; more

     
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    Letters

    Tree roots and foundation cracks; code logic; mixing plastics; site-built arched trusses

     
  • Letters

    Safe installation of basement water heaters; galvanized pipe for gas; painting old porch floors

     
  • Letters

    Using stainless with copper; window-seat safety; hanging loads from beams; the true cost of regulation

     

In the News

  • In the News

    Boulder, Colo., builders get a tax reprieve; jury rejects first FEMA trailer lawsuit; an update on the New London, Conn., eminent domain case; more

     
  • In the News

    Energy Star raises the bar with tough new 2011 specs; asphalt roofing prices defy downturn; Pella scores high; more

     
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    In the News

    Prevailing-wage rules complicate stimulus weatherization work; condo survives shaketable test; Minnesota requires fall-prevention screens in multi-unit dwellings; more

     
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    In the News

    Stringent new energy code offers flexibility; company fined for breaking FTC’s R-value rule; Denver’s moratorium on fees pays off; PV-panel prices decline; more

     

News

  • In the News

    Who's liable for defective Chinese drywall?; top 10 OSHA violations for 2009; Texas requires water-saving toilets; more

     

Q&A

  • Back-Priming Fiber-Cement Siding

    Q: We ordered preprimed HardiePlank lap siding to finish a project, but when it was delivered, we discovered that the backs were left unprimed. Normally, we back-prime wood clapboards, but I'm not sure this step is needed with fiber-cement siding, and the manufacturer's Web site is mute on the...

     
  • Stainless Steel and Rebar

    Q: Can stainless steel tie wire be used with standard rebar?

     
  • OSB Subfloor Over Decking?

    Q: We're building a four-season addition over an existing raised deck framed with PT lumber. Is it okay to install OSB subfloor sheathing directly over the wood decking, or should the decking be removed first?

     
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    Best Nails for Drywall

    Q: I can't find the blued ring-shank drywall nails I started hanging drywall with 30 years ago. All that seems to be available are cheap and flimsy drywall nails that bend too easily when I nail them in, rust as soon as I apply mud, and leave my hands covered with black ink. Why don't they make...

     
  • Best Pipe for Gas Lines?

    Q: In my area, only black iron pipe is allowed for gas lines. Is there a problem with galvanized pipe?

     
  • Pancake Boxes and Ceiling Fixtures

    Q: To retrofit light fixtures for old plaster ceilings that will be covered with new drywall, I plan to screw 1/2-inch-deep metal pancake boxes into the lathe of the existing ceilings and hang the new drywall around the boxes. But my electrician wants to cut into the ceiling and install deeper...

     
  • Cupped Hardwood Flooring

    Q: Can moisture condense on the back of a prefinished hardwood floor above an uninsulated crawlspace and cause cupping? The flooring was installed over 15-pound asphalt felt and an OSB subfloor; poly covers the ground underneath the dry and ventilated crawlspace of the 2-year-old home.

     
  • Floor Level of the Garage

    Q: Can the floor of an attached garage be at the same elevation as the floor of adjacent living space, or does there have to be a step down into the garage?

     
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    Nail Stains and Mahogany Decking

    Q: The mahogany decking we installed on a house last year has developed some dark staining around the stainless steel nail heads (see photo). The staining is worse on the front porch, which is covered, and not nearly as bad on the back deck, which receives full sun. Whats causing it?

     
  • How Safe is Spray-Foam Insulation?

    Q: I've heard that polyurethane spray-foam insulation may contain penta-BDE, a chemical that is called a "toxic flame retardant" by the EPA and has been banned in some states. How much of a risk does this chemical cause for the installer and the homeowner, and are there alternatives?

     
  • Using Nail Guns for Vinyl Windows

    Q: Is it okay to use pneumatic nailers to install vinyl windows, or would that void the manufacturers warranty?

     
  • Painting Composite Trim

    Does composite trim have to be prepped and primed like wood, or can it simply be painted? And what kind of paint should I use?

     
  • Retrofitting a Brick Wall With Insulation

    I'm rehabbing an old brick house in Charleston, W.V. I want to insulate the exterior walls, which are balloon-framed with 2x4s, unsheathed, and finished with brick. There's a 1- to 2-inch air space between the 11/2-story-high frame wall and the brick siding, and a weep system at the base of the...

     

On the Job

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    Custom Access Ramps

    Most of the houses I work on here in Southern California have few if any accessible design features. For a homeowner who uses a wheelchair, even a single step at the entry is a serious impediment. Over the last several years, I’ve put my welding skills to good use building access ramps out of...

     
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    On the Job

    Open valley flashing; cooler cabinet

     
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    On the Job

    Site-made arched window trim; clean blades cut better

     
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    On the Job

    An unlikely window; bench bump-outs expand a narrow porch

     

Business

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    Before You Drop Your Prices, Read This

    Has it ever occurred to you that dropping your prices to stay in business could put you out of business? Many contractors tell me they’ve had to drop their prices to remain competitive in today’s market. They just know they’re losing jobs because the “other guy” is cheaper.

     
  • Is the Lead Carpenter System for You?

    In this article, I’ll address the most common questions I’ve been asked by company owners who are implementing their own lead carpenter system.

     
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    Boosting Revenue With Change Orders

    Clearly, change orders are a vital piece of our business model, and they don’t just happen by accident. We lay the groundwork for changes by keeping clients happy and informed throughout the job process. Dissatisfied customers, we know, are unlikely to authorize additional work.

     

Products

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    Products

    Snow-melting stair mats; modulating gas fireplace; efficient heat-pump water heater; permeable pavement; sump pump; more

     
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    Products

    Duct and pipe wrap; under-slab gas-blocking membrane; sealant for metal roofs; prepackaged rain screen; see-through window screens; more

     
  • Manufactured Deck Railings

    A list of companies that offer deck-rail kits, plus links to their products

     
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    Products

    Toekick drawers; ductless cooktop exhaust; trimmable truss; low-profile smoke alarm; flexible cement board; light MDF; more

     
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    Products

    Energy-efficient light fixture; stone and stucco rain screen; square shower drain; adhesive filler; plastic furring strips; more

     
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    Products

    Clips for flat tiles; mounting blocks; aluminum-and-glass railing; crawlspace ventilation; fibercement siding panels; more

     

Toolbox

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    Bosch SN350-20F Framing Nailer

    When Bosch introduced its first line of pneumatic nailers last spring, it claimed that the tools were 20 percent smaller and 10 percent more powerful than the competition.

     
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    Stinger CH38A Cap Stapler

    When Bosch introduced its first line of pneumatic nailers last spring, it claimed that the tools were 20 percent smaller and 10 percent more powerful than the competition.

     
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    New 18-Volt Impact Drivers

    About a year ago I tested nine 18-volt impact drivers. Since then, a few new models — Bosch's 25618-02, Makita's BTD 144, and Milwaukee's 2650-20 — have come on the market.

     
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    Paslode CS150 Cap Stapler

    A few years ago, I tested some of the new pneumatic cap staplers and cap nailers that had come on the market. Then Paslode introduced the CS150 cap stapler earlier this year, and I decided to try it out, too.

     
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    Hilti PMC 36 and Agatec CPL 50 Lasers

    The two new lasers I tested for this article — Hilti's PMC 36 and Agatec's CPL 50 — combine features not usually found together on one tool.

     

Toolbits

Backfill

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    Steam-Bent Shingles

    Renovations are a vital part of the routine at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Va., estate, which is open to the public 365 days a year. Recently, Steve Ritter’s company, Cedar Shakes and Shingles, was called upon to install decorative red cedar shingles on the bell-shaped roof of a reproduction...

     
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    Window on the Past

    As part of a recent restoration project, my partner and I were hired to restore an elaborate triangular window in the gable end of 150-year-old Howden Hall in Bristol, Vt. The problem was, there was no actual window left to restore; all we had for reference was an old sepia postcard.

     
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    Flexible Trailer Storage

    Finish-carpenter Brian Campbell wanted to keep his tools organized in his work trailer and still be able to transport the occasional full load of cabinets. He took his cue from a slat-wall system, where shelves, brackets, and hangers can be freely inserted behind horizontal slats without fasteners.

     
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    Watering Manhattan

    They’ve been an integral part of New York City’s skyline for more than a century: thousands of wooden water tanks, banded with steel and capped by conical plywood roofs, perched alone or in clusters on buildings throughout the borough.

     
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    A Rising Tide Lifts All Houses

    With at least one-third of their country below sea level, the Dutch don’t take the prospect of flooding lightly. But these days, the dual pressures of a growing population and limited space are forcing a re-evaluation throughout the Netherlands of land previously thought too wet or flood-prone for...

     

Other Articles

  • Click for full-size version

    Energy Tax Credits

    Roll over this interactive poster to see the requirements and deadlines for remodeling-related energy improvements and equipment. The information comes from Remodeling magazine’s coverage of the stimulus package.