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Features

  • Custom Tub & Shower Enclosures

    Clear glass enclosures make bathrooms look larger and show off the fancy tile work in the shower. Here’s a look at what’s available in mid-priced to high-end units.

     
  • Finish Carpentry Quality Standards

    More and more architects and designers are using AWI standards in their specs. A custom builder explains how he uses these published standards to consistently produce high-quality woodwork.

     
  • Ground-Source Heat Pumps

    Capturing the earth’s energy with underground heat-exchange loops can cut heating and cooling costs — if it’s done right. An hvac contractor tells what he’s learned from 15 years of installing geothermal heat pumps.

     
  • Heating With Sealed Combustion

    In a tight house, kitchen and bath exhaust fans can interfere with the natural draft of chimney-vented heating equipment. An energy expert explains how power vents and combustion air supply ducts can solve the problem.

     
  • Shopping for Home Security Systems

    Demand for electronic security is on the rise. Here’s how to sort through the many options, and tips on choosing a security installer.

     
  • How to Manage More Than one Job

    A veteran production manager describes the systems he’s developed to delegate authority, organize the paperwork, and keep the lines of communication open.

     
  • Fireplace Hearth Details

    A mason lays out the basics of hearth construction, from code compliance to placing the concrete.

     
  • Ten Common Floor-Planning Pitfalls

    More than any other factor, room layout affects how well a house works for the homeowners. A successful designer points out common layout errors and provides solutions that work.

     
  • Guide to Galvanized Nails

    Ever seen a high-priced siding job ruined by rust stains? This overview of zinc nail coatings can help keep your exteriors looking great.

     
  • Sanding and Refinishing Wood Floors

    Freshly-sanded hardwood floors put the finishing touch on many remodeling projects. A hardwood flooring expert describes the tools and techniques that produce the best results.

     
  • A Small Builder's Guide to Accounting

    Here’s a painless introduction to the sometimes bewildering world of debits, credits, and double-entry accounting.

     
  • Building Doghouse Dormers

    Adding small dormers is a classic remodeling job. With the right techniques, a two-man crew can frame, sheathe, and close in a dormer in one day.

     
  • Laying Wood Floors Over Concrete Slabs

    Wood flooring can “warm up” a cold concrete slab — but moisture is an ever-present concern. A leading flooring expert shows how his system of vapor barriers and a floating plywood subfloor produces a perfect job every time.

     
  • The Dirty Dozen -- Common Plumbing Service Calls

    Take a tour with a master plumber as he makes the rounds of the twelve most common plumbing repairs.

     
  • Tools for Tight Spots

    Remodelers constantly get into tight situations where run-of-the-mill tools just don’t fit. Here’s a collection of tools that can save you hours of frustration when working in close quarters.

     
  • Working With Tile Backerboard

    As a substrate for tile, cement-based backerboards have become the leading choice over moisture-resistant drywall and mortar systems. We sort through the options and give tips for a problem-free installation.

     
  • A Guide to Construction Adhesives

    Does subfloor adhesive strengthen the floor system, or just prevent squeaks? Can you get a permanent bond between dissimilar materials? A wood products expert explains how elastomeric mastics work, and helps you choose the best one for the job.

     
  • Business: Pre-Qualify Your Customers

    Prequalify customers to avoid wasted effort

     
  • Half Height Basement Walls

    "Buildings on sloped sites often have stepped foundation walls with short framed walls on top. Though they are inherently weaker than full-height walls, you can avoid problems with stepped basement half-walls by limiting their height, using good connectio

     
  • Inside Kitchen Cabinets -- Cup Hinges and Drawer Slides

    Concealed hinges and full-extension drawer slides have advantages over other types of cabinet hardware. Ease of installation, adjustability, and smooth operation are some of the features that make European-style hardware the best choice for most projects.

     
  • Installing Jetted Tubs

    Jetted tubs require careful framing, easy access to the pumps and motors, and a mortar bed to dampen vibration. This step-by-step installation guide by a veteran remodeler shows you how to do it right.

     
  • Preparing for Lean Times

    Your chances of surviving a construction slowdown are better if you're not going it alone. A California contractor explains how long-term business relationships have helped his company pull through.

     
  • The 31 Rules of Kitchen Design

    When designing a kitchen, the biggest challenge is finding the right arrangement for appliances, cabinets, and work surfaces. These design guidelines from the National Kitchen & Bath Association will help you create kitchen layouts that work.

     
  • Are Your Houses Too Tight?

    Tight construction is now standard practice, and though it makes the house more energy-efficient, it can create serious indoor air quality problems. Three energy specialists team up to explain how to test for tightness and improve ventilation.

     
  • Job-Site Report -- Working with Trex Lumber

    What’s it like to work with the plastic-based decking products that have recently hit the market? A builder tells the story of his first time out with one of the more promising materials.

     
  • Protecting Wood Roofs From Fire

    A wood products expert examines the effectiveness of fire-retardant treatments for both new and existing wood roofing.

     
  • Remodeler's Guide to Building Skylight Wells

    Skylight installations — especially those with splayed shafts — can challenge all of a remodeler’s skills. A California carpenter leads us step-by-step through layout, framing, and finish.

     
  • Water in the Walls -- Three Case Studies

    Whether it comes from green framing lumber or household sources, moisture trapped in wall cavities can cause major headaches. These real-life cases illustrate the expensive consequences of failing to get water out of the walls.

     
  • Wet-Spray Cellulose Insulation

    At first glance, paying more for insulation that puts moisture in the walls may not make much sense. But with the right installer, wet-spray cellulose provides outstanding results. Here’s an on-site look at how it works.

     
  • Antiscald Protection for Showers

    Pressure-balancing valves are the most common way to meet antiscald requirements for showers. A master plumber tells how they work and gives tips for installing them.

     
  • Innovative Building Products

    Manufacturers of plastics and composites are finding ways to replace traditional materials with products that are lighter, stronger, more durable, and less expensive. Here’s a look at what’s new at the lumberyard.

     
  • Laying Wide Pine Floors

    In many parts of the country, softwood is a traditional flooring material. A veteran finish carpenter explains his method for installing wide-board softwood floors.

     

Letters

  • Letters

    Laying subfloor correctly, receptacle wiring

     
  • Letters

    Lumber grading rules, on learning CAD, backdrafting in tight houses

     
  • Letters

    Drainage details, valley rafters, home inspectors disagree on ethics

     
  • Letters

    Controlling city water pressure, fast framer balances speed with technique

     
  • Letters

    Readers drive home points on nail strength, foam form bracing

     
  • Letters

    Another tale of FRT truss failure, lightning rods attract debate

     

News

  • Eight-Penny News

    EPA’s radon assessment questioned, federal “dig-safe” law likely, liquid sand and gravel

     
  • Eight-Penny News

    Cedar shingle quality in question, tax break for affordable construction, home office deductions

     
  • Eight-Penny News

    Non-toxic treated wood, phone-in comp claims save money, more termite bashing

     
  • Eight-Penny News

    Latex paint lasts longer than oil, feds add fiberglass to list of suspected carcinogens, how wall framing reduces R-value

     
  • Eight-Penny News

    L.A. quake leaves plywood sheathing looking good, material shortages slow building upswing, wash and dry laundry with the same machine

     
  • Eight-Penny News

    Eastern s-p-f lumber expands its market, hearing protection on the job site, smart electric panel helps control costs, appliance specs by fax

     

Q&A

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    Q&A: Insulated Wood Floor Over Concrete

    Q: We are looking for a detail for laying a wood floor over a previously uninsulated slab. What’s the best way to go about this?

     
  • Q&A: Health Effects of Foam

    Q: We typically build energy-efficient houses with 1-inch foil-faced polyisocyanurate foam on the interior of our walls. But more than one customer has questioned us about the potential health effects of the foam. Their concerns seem to stem from the outgasing of chemicals, more than the potential...

     
  • Q&A: Protecting Floors During Remodeling

    Q: In our remodeling business, we often demolish plaster and drywall in old homes, and find that the dust and fine abrasives work through just about everything we put down on the floor. What method do you recommend for protecting floors? Also, do you have any recommendations for a shop vac that...

     
  • Q&A: Plywood & Glue in Built-Up Headers

    Q: How much strength does plywood and construction adhesive add to the strength of a built-up header?

     
  • Q&A: A Clear Finish For Wood Siding

    Q: What type of clear finish do you recommend for exterior siding?

     
  • Q&A: Cutting Concrete

    Q: What’s the best way to cut through a concrete wall? A concrete saw won’t cut all the way through an 8-inch foundation wall. We’ve even tried suspending a jackhammer from the floor joists, but this is awkward at best and leaves a ragged edge.

     
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    Q&A: Tracing 3-Wire Circuits

    Q: In many of the houses we work in, we are asked to evaluate the electrical system. We sometimes find 10/3 wire used on 110-volt circuits with 15- and 20-amp breakers in the panel. The installer has used the red and the black wire for separate circuits. Is this an acceptable installation or does...

     
  • Q&A: Preventing Stucco Cracks

    Q: We often get conflicting information from subs about certain stucco details. Specifically, what’s the best way to avoid cracking? Must the scratch coat cure for 48 hours before applying the brown coat, or can the brown coat go on the same day? How long should the scratch coat cure before the...

     
  • Image

    Q&A: Flashing Tile Roofs

    Q: What’s the best way to flash a skylight on a mission tile roof?

     
  • Q&A: Is Rusty Rebar OK?

    Q: All of the foundation specs we build on require rebar to be free of rust and mill scale. For years this hasn’t been an issue, until recently when a project manager called us on it. All we can think to do is wire brush the entire lot of rebar. Is this really necessary?

     
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    Q&A: Shingle Siding Layout

    Q: How do you lay out shingle siding so the courses break evenly above and below windows? And what’s the best way to secure the row of shingles below a window so the nails aren’t exposed?

     
  • Q&A: Orienting a Foundation Drain

    Q: Should the holes in a foundation perimeter drain face up or face down? And does the drain need to be pitched as it runs around the house?

     

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Reviews

Kitchen & Bath

Products

  • For What It's Worth

    Dump-bed retrofit for pickups, digital deadbolt, no-itch fiberglass batts

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Fiberglass bulkhead, job-site camera, ceramic-coated roof tiles

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Adjustable steel jambs, three-in-one roof panels, reversible kitchen sink, flexible moldings

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Zero-clearance chimney, fire-proof caulk, pre-cut membrane flashing for skylights

     
  • For What It's Worth

    Basement insulation leaves room for drywall furring strips, ladder support for exterior corners

     

Toolbox

Backfill

  • Backfilling Basics

    Careless backfilling can cause cracked and bowed walls, unsightly settlement, and basement leaks. Here’s how to avoid costly repairs and do the job right.

     
  • Backfill: A Narrow Victory

    This 10-foot-wide house barely fit its narrow lot. But the local code officials approved it — and so did the owners.