Twenty-five years old. At that age — despite my
cocksure certainty about, well, most every subject that came up
— it began to dawn on me that I probably didn't know
nearly as much as I thought. Never so dumb as when we knew it
all, a carpenter friend is fond of saying.
Fortunately, at JLC we don't have to know it all, as anyone
who reads the monthly clarifications and corrections in our
Letters column recognizes. From its beginnings as New England
Builder, JLC has depended on the experience of its readers
— builders, remodelers, and subcontractors of all
stripes, making a living in one of the toughest but ultimately
most satisfying professions anywhere — to keep the
discussion on track. Without your continued support and
participation over the years, there would be no JLC.
To mark the anniversary, we've varied our typical format with
a series of stories that recap some of the recurring issues
we've covered in the last quarter century. In "Energy &
Moisture Matters," Joe Lstiburek, Terry Brennan, Paul Fisette,
Martin Holladay, and Paul Eldrenkamp take turns answering
questions about air infiltration, moisture movement, and energy
loss. What emerges is a consensus about some of the central
lessons of the last couple of decades: R-value without air
sealing is worthless; air sealing without ventilation can be
deadly; better to build so that things stay dry, but when
things do get wet — as they will — better
have a way to let them dry.
In "Roof Ventilation Update," researcher Bill Rose rolls up
more than 20 years' scientific observation of attic
performance. Anyone who's followed the decades-long debate
around roof venting will appreciate how he navigates the
seemingly infinite number of variables and points to designs
We asked technology expert Joe Stoddard to cast an eye not
only backward but forward, into the future — the
technology future, which seems to arrive anew every day, fast
and furious and ever-changing. If you want to know which
technology tools are essential to your business survival, read
his story, "Connecting All Contractors."
We also invited longtime design columnist Gordon Tully to join
the party. In an era when 10,000-square-foot single-family
mansions are hyped as "green" just because they have a few
advanced energy features, Tully shares tips on the greenest
idea of all: small houses.
No birthday celebration is complete without a party favor, so
for fun we turned illustrator Tim Healey loose for a few pages,
to see what might evolve. Oh, and don't forget to read
Backfill: It's 100 percent recycled content — an
article written for New England Builder in 1983 by a
little-known freelance writer who soon after landed a job with
the Miami Herald and had to give up his gig with us. Check it
Enjoy the issue, and keep those letters coming.
Permeance of Foam In Unvented
The letter "Open-Cell Foams Can Work in Unvented Attics"
(8/07) states that Demilec, USA, voices no concern about
installing open-cell foam in an unvented attic assembly.
I'm afraid we here in Massachusetts have to adhere to a higher
authority: The recently adopted Massachusetts Building Code,
Section 5806.1.1, states that foam may be used in unvented
attics without a vapor barrier if the permeability of the foam
is less than 2 perm-inches. No open-cell foam has a
permeability that low, though closed-cell foams generally
Electrical Red Flag
The wiring diagram for a three-way switch (Q&A, 7/07)
contains a common code violation. Section 200.7(C)(2) of the
2005 National Electric Code requires that the ungrounded white
conductor in this example be used only to supply power to the
switches and not as a return conductor from the switches to the
lights. This means that the white wire connected to the light
fixture will always be a neutral, and the hot return from the
switch to the light fixture will always be the factory-colored
black or red. This should prevent anyone working at the light
from confusing the reidentified white conductor with the white
neutral at the fixture.
Lee Edelberg, Electrician
Hispanic immigrants are "crucial to [our] industry" (In the
News, 8/07) in the same way that cheap Chinese imports are
"crucial" to our economy. Both displace and bankrupt millions
of American workers and erode the same middle class that
currently makes up our largest consumer group. Both represent a
serious threat to the stability of our society, our jobs, and
Neither can exist, however, without our greedy, exploitative,
self-serving willingness to disregard common sense and
responsibility in order to earn short-term profits at the
expense of our fragile, floundering, yet precious
The consequences are real, and imminent.
Robert Beauchamp, General Residential
I couldn't care less how important the Pew Hispanic Center
thinks these "recently arrived" Hispanic workers are to the
American economy. The fact is they are here illegally and are
therefore breaking the law. My two best friends are of Mexican
descent, and this subject aggravates them as much it does me.
Their families immigrated legally, as it's supposed to be.
Anyone who is unwilling to go through the legal process has no
sympathy from me, nor do they deserve any special treatment or
benefits from our society.