Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You're fired!

In searching for some material on fireblocking, we ran across this thread on the DIY Chatroom.  Indispensible material.  This is generally the bane of do-it-yourselfers and code officials alike.


Istockhouseplans is currently working on trying to fireblock a double 2x4 common wall with raised heel trusses.  We'd like to rock the wall all the way up and then hang the trusses but are unsure that the hanger would achieve strength through two layers of 5/8" type X drywall.  A more viable option would be to nail a 2x4 ledger through the sheetrock into the walls studs.  This would require 1.5" + 5/8" + 5/8" + 1" embedment = 3.75" nails.  While 18d nails might not be common, this is going to require a bunch of hand driven 20d nails.   Those won't exactly fit into a power nailer.  The other option is multiple 2x16 blocking between trusses.  Not really an option though.  Maybe stacking 2 pieces of 4x8 would do it?  Does anybody have input?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Water, water everywhere

What would life be without good old H-2-O?  Dead, that's what.  If a little water is good, more should be better, right?  If you've been around the block even once you know that the standard answer to this formulaic question should be 'no'.

And of course it's no!  Especially when we consider your house, your biggest investment, your protection from the elements, prying eyes, and the marauding huns.  Why do builders let water pile up on a wood subfloor, leave their materials in the rain and mud, and install insulation and drywall over wet wood?  How would they feel if their truck was built this way?

Building in the rain.  In some parts of the country, this is a fact of life that is unavoidable.  If it takes 3 months to frame a house, you are guaranteed a few rainy days.  Since no one (not even weathermen) can accurately predict the weather beyond the next day, it is impossible to completely frame a house dry.  Arizona, sure.  Not in the Pacific Northwest though.  But there are steps that can be taken to keep things as dry as possible.  First, don't plan to build in January.  Second, invest a few dollars in cheap insurance.  If you are building an elevated wood floor (that is, a crawlspace not a slab), make your last step include a giant paint roller with a long handle and a discounted bucket of 5 gallon paint, color unimportant.  This will protect your wood floor from standing water.  Walls go up, roof goes up, and then sheathing as soon as possible.  If there will be any amount of lag time getting the finish roof on, again paint the roof deck.  The problem here is that there are always spaces between roofing panels and water will leak through.  The worst spot is the peak, especially if a ridge vent is planned.  This gives a beautiful 6" wide by 20' long space for rain to come right in.  If you have a butterfly roof, don't build in the rain as this would make a funnel.

Finally, I don't care how tight your schedule is, buy a $13 moisture meter from Harbor Freight and don't do anything else until the moisture content is below 19%.  Since the aforementioned tool has an accuracy rating of +/-2% for wood, go for 17%.  Why 19%?  Most mold and fungus will not thrive below that and most insects will move out.  It wall also allow better equilibrium in the wood resulting in less drywall cracks and creaking of the home.  Further, it will reduce the amount of moisture trapped in the walls.  Even further, some codes require this.

Storing your materials.  Too often we go to construction sites and see a pile of 2x6 sticks sitting in the mud getting rained on.  Double you tee eff.  How is this okay?  What part of this makes you feel good?  If you were a pig or a toad, maybe,  Spend a few bucks for some pallets to keep your wood off the ground, then get some tarps or used billboard vinyls.  "Why would I spend hundreds on this?"  Hundreds?  No, less than that.  Did you even click the link?  A 10'x30' used vinyl is $60.  And you spend less than a hundred on this to get your moisture content down and save thousands on a callback.  Please don't be that short-sighted.

Think of it this way; the less moisture the wood takes into the house, the less time you need to wait for it to dry out.

Protecting your product.  Your product is the house and it's only worth the amount of trouble free time it will stand.  If moisture gets into the wall, the value ends.  Your goal is to manage the moisture that gets into the wall.  Not to keep moisture out of the wall, but to manage it.  It will get in.  From the outside.  Unless you are installing double welded steel siding, wind and thermal will drive moisture behind the siding.  At this point you have two options.  The first is to pretend it doesn't happen.  The second is to manage it.

So you've decided to manage your water issue.  The first step is admitting you have a problem so you're already on the way.  The second step is called a rainscreen.  There are several off the shelf products that can achieve this concept.  You can also use scrap plywood on site to create 2-3" battens and manage the water.  The idea is that the water that gets behind the wall then drains in a wide enough plane to not get stuck via capillary action and then drain out a screen at a bottom.  Water that freely drains is no longer available to stick around via surface tension and find crevices and cracks in your construction and seep into the wall.  Water in the wall can wet insulation, rendering it useless.  It can also harbor mold, mildew, and insects, hazarding your house and it's occupants' health.  If you have any lick and stick fake stone veneer, this is tantamount as the stuff is like a sponge.  It will readily take in water and hold it.  When the sun comes out, it will be driven back and then be held against your sheathing or building paper.  Compounds in the mortar then eat away at the paper and the moisture is free to roam about your wood sheathing.

Getting it right.  Contact Istockhouseplans for CAD details about how to handle this moisture.  We can spec out a rainscreen for you and make sure your final product is the best possible.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hey baby, what's your... sign?

One of our local builders that we team up with, Cutting Edge Homes, is in the process of building some of our latest drawings.  Clackamas County is showcasing his homes for energy efficiency and has invited commissioners, legislators, and the general public.  The idea is to show off some energy efficiency measures and help folks understand what they should expect in new homes.  In this case is improved air sealing, improved insulation, tankless hot water heaters, and one unit with ducts inside the conditioned space.

We thought the event made perfect sense to flash a little leg, as it were.  After all, SOMEbody had to design the energy efficiency into these things and make sure they were going to exceed code.  So we had some lawn signs made up and stabbed them into the dirt on the jobsite.  You can see that our design prowess is not just limited to buildings, but advertising as well.  Perhaps.

The event will be November 10th at 3p at 14848 SE Arista Dr. Milwaukie, OR.  Come out and see what things are happening and to introduce yourself.