Gauge Block for Crown
To the Editor:
We use many of the same techniques that Gary Katz outlines in
his excellent article on running crown molding
Molding,"9/02). One thing we do a little differently is
make a gauge block that is sized to both the rise and the run
of the crown molding being used, rather than just the rise, as
shown in Figure 2 on page 54.
In our experience, ceilings are often not flat or level near
the corners of a room. The gauge block we use references our
wall line rise mark to the actual point that the crown hits on
the ceiling. We use a bullet level to plumb the block and make
the marks the run distance away from the corners.
Waterproofing Membranes Need
To the Editor:
The excellent overview in
Basement Walls" by David Frane (9/02) may leave some
misconceptions in the mind of the casual reader. Waterproof
membranes, by definition and by design, resist hydrostatic
pressure. Their use, as implied by the article's title, may
waterproof the basement's walls; however, they may not
waterproof the basement.
Air-gap membranes alone, as long as they depend on the gravity
drainage of water to a drain, will not waterproof a wall under
hydrostatic pressure. The water will rise in the air gap and,
absent a contact waterproof membrane, likely enter.
The greatest hydrostatic pressure is under the basement slab.
Waterproofed walls notwithstanding, water will enter from
below, unless the waterproofing is continuous under the
I believe the article well describes more dependable forms of
dampproofing, including controlling free water, but not
basement waterproofing in the strict sense of the word.
Kenneth Kruger, RA, PE, HI
Kruger Kruger Albenberg
David Frane responds:
Mr. Kruger is correct to point out that water can enter a
basement from under the slab as well as through the wall. He
claims that if the barrier doesn't extend below the slab, then
it's not really waterproofing. That may be true in theory, but
in practice, a properly installed perimeter drain will prevent
water from entering through the slab. Water is not going to
back up behind an air-gap membrane when it can go where gravity
wants to take it, which is out through the perimeter drain.
Likewise, water below the level of the footing would have to
work its way up through the gravel to get to the slab.
There are situations where it's necessary to waterproof the
bottom side of a slab. For example, tunnels and foundations for
high-rises often extend below the water table. The usual method
for waterproofing those areas is to pour the slab over some
kind of bentonite or specialized sheet membrane such as Grace's
More on Overhead
To the Editor:
At first, I was quite interested in the concepts presented by
Les Deal in "How to
Charge for Overhead" (9/02). I especially liked his concept
of fairness and the idea that marking up material prices at
times can appear fishy to the homeowner. It's clear that this
method works very well for him. As I thought more about it
later, however, I realized that it cannot be used as a general
method for all contractors.
For example, take an extreme case where all of the work is
done by subcontractors. There would be no hourly labor to
divide the overhead and profit among, so you would have to
resort to something like charging by the day. If you assume
there are 250 workdays in a year, with an overhead and profit
of $235,200 (to use his numbers), the daily rate would be $940.
If you were working on multiple jobs simultaneously, it would
be confusing to know how to divvy up the $940 among the
different jobs. Due to different factors, some low-cost jobs
may take relatively longer than higher-cost jobs. One way to
divvy up the costs would be to weight the percentage of the
$940 day rate based on the overall cost of each job, with the
general assumption that the cost of the job roughly correlates
with its complexity. But then we are essentially back to
Or say a contractor has only one employee -- his punch "crew."
Dividing $235,200 by 2,000 hours per year gives an hourly rate
of $118 per hour for overhead. It would be hard to justify
charging $118 per hour plus actual labor for a construction
The point is that while charging based solely on time has its
appeal, it clearly is not the one answer to all builders'
billing requirements. There is more to the picture than time:
The size of the job and overall cash flow are also part of the
Les Deal responds:
Although the article is about employers with employees, if all
the work is subbed out, the process is the same. I charge for
time. No matter how much of the work is done by subs, we are
still remodelers selling time and talent. The money you receive
should not be related to how much material is used or how much
money it costs for someone else (the sub) to do the work.
When bidding, consider how much time your company will be
involved in the project and multiply that number times whatever
your rate is. How many jobs are in process on any one day isn't
Regarding the contractor who has only one employee: Since the
punch "crew" guy has nothing to do with accomplishing the
remodel, I would not carry overhead and profit on his time
card. Determine how many hours you need to add to the bid for
the punch-list worker and add those hours as a separate item.
Since you have already figured your overhead and profit in your
main bid, you have to make sure you have all job costs related
to the punch crew employee included in his wages.
As to your final point, neither the size of a job nor its
sales price is the determining factor in how much overhead and
profit are attributed to the job. In my way of working, if a
job takes me and my employees one month to do, it should yield
1/12 of the annual overhead and profit, and I bid
To the Editor:
Congrats on 20 years, and thanks for an issue full of
meaningful details. This magazine remains one of our favorites
-- so helpful and informative. Keep up the great work and
thanks for many years of learning.
I will say, however, that it was with dismay that I found the
Masonite Corp. brochure (inserted into the anniversary issue)
to be full of scantily clad women draped around doors. Such
juvenile attitudes diminish us all, and most certainly do not
inspire me to specify their products, ever.
Stand up for women in the design and construction
Jenny Potter Scheu
To the Editor,
I enjoyed the 20th-anniversary issue (10/02), particularly the
"Best-Practice Construction Details" illustrations. If it's
true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then your
artist, Tim Healey, must be JLC's all-time leading word scorer.
Hats off to a great illustrator.