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Fripp
SFN Regular

USA
727 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  06:31:33  Show Profile Send Fripp a Private Message
I am doing major remodeling on my house and, in an effort to get best-built and energy-efficient house for my money, I have done TONS of research. Additionally, problems with architects (and paying handsomely for their "gold-plated" time) have forced me to do much of the structural design and code research myself, then running these plans in front of an engineer and a few contractor friends. I have also taken to doing much of the work myself (excepting things like plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, drywall where either time or expertise makes using a contractor a MUCH smarter proposition) because I found the quality and craftsmanship to be lacking, to put it charitably. On the occasions that I have found a good craftsman in a trade, I happily pay him his (usually) high labor rate, knowing that this is money very well spent.

What I have found in this long process is how entrenched some concepts/ideas/practices are in the industry: most contractors and tradesman only do what they know, only what they've been taught or what they've done all their careers. Whenever you present what may be a "new" technique, they will generally balk: "I don't know. I've never done it that way

Conversely, is a new technique just a marketing ploy or is it truly a value?

Two examples:

1) I've gone back and forth as to how I should insulate my house. The current "in" thing is the expanding spray foam. But, that is real expensive, requires a professional, and I've read several university studies that there are virtually NO difference in the performance of spray foam and fiberglass batts. I will put one qualifier: the batts need to be installed correctly. But installing batts is not rocket science and merely needs time, patience, and attention to detail...at probably a fifth of the cost of spray foam installation.

2) The industry standard of 2x6 studs on 16" O.C. For years, houses were built with 2x4's, but now 2x6's are the norm. I've heard that now 2x8s (still at 16" O.C.) are now starting to be seen. Several building science engineers now advocate OVE (Optimum Value Engineering) by using 2x6's, but at 24 O.C. This minimizes lumber costs, allows more insulation (and less wood for thermal bridging) and still stays on the 4 foot module that all building materials are on (drywall, plywood). But if I mention that I want 24" stud framing, contractors look at my like I have a third eye. I like to mention that my ranch house, built in 1974 has a truss roof with trusses at 24 O.C. The 16" spacing only came from England because that what the max width stud spacing that plasterers could trowel on without problems.

Interestingly, the most progressive building professionals seem to be tradesman in one of the oldest building professions: timber framing.

So, anyone have any insight into spreading Skepticism in the Building and Construction industry?

"What the hell is an Aluminum Falcon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my Dark Lord of the Sith could protect a small thermal exhaust port that's only 2-meters wide! That thing wasn't even fully paid off yet! You have any idea what this is going to do to my credit?!?!"

"What? Oh, oh, 'just rebuild it'? Oh, real [bleep]ing original. And who's gonna give me a loan, jackhole? You? You got an ATM on that torso LiteBrite?"

Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  09:13:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Fripp:
I am doing major remodeling on my house and, in an effort to get best-built and energy-efficient house for my money, I have done TONS of research. Additionally, problems with architects (and paying handsomely for their "gold-plated" time) have forced me to do much of the structural design and code research myself, then running these plans in front of an engineer and a few contractor friends.
Architects can be a real pain, I have found. The main problem being that they don't seem to listen to the client and design monuments to themselves. They should be willing to work within a budget, so the actual job can get done, and the best one's do that. They should also know what they are asking for the builder to build. What I mean is in my opinion every architect should have to actually work in various trades so they get a sense for what is a realistic design from a practical and cost effective point of view. These are pet peeves of my own…
quote:
Fripp:
I have also taken to doing much of the work myself (excepting things like plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, drywall where either time or expertise makes using a contractor a MUCH smarter proposition) because I found the quality and craftsmanship to be lacking, to put it charitably. On the occasions that I have found a good craftsman in a trade, I happily pay him his (usually) high labor rate, knowing that this is money very well spent.
If you have the time and the know-how, doing things yourself can be rewarding as well as a cost savings. As I understand it, many states lag behind California where it comes to workmanship. I dunno. A good contractor will consider all of those who have to do the next step. That means framers should actually use their levels. At every step, if the work is done correctly, lots of headaches are avoided down the line. Headaches = money.

As for good craftsmen, I am one of those. While I am licensed as a general contactor, I specialize in finish carpentry and cabinetry. And let me tell you, I will never get rich doing that. We must compete against hacks for our jobs and must price ourselves accordingly. If it weren't for my reputation, I would starve. So thanks for noticing that some of us are worth it…
quote:
Fripp:
What I have found in this long process is how entrenched some concepts/ideas/practices are in the industry: most contractors and tradesman only do what they know, only what they've been taught or what they've done all their careers. Whenever you present what may be a "new" technique, they will generally balk: "I don't know. I've never done it that way.

Fear is the motivator there. Going outside of what you know you are good at when lots of money is at stake is an honest reaction. I am open to new techniques, but I really need to be convinced that it really is better than what has always worked for me. Best case is to find someone familiar with a new technique. Someone who doesn't feel like he is part of an experiment that could get him sued.

quote:
Conversely, is a new technique just a marketing ploy or is it truly a value?

Two examples:

1) I've gone back and forth as to how I should insulate my house. The current "in" thing is the expanding spray foam. But, that is real expensive, requires a professional, and I've read several university s

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Fripp
SFN Regular

USA
727 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  09:39:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Fripp a Private Message
Thanks for the response, Kil. I'm glad that there is a professional here who is a critical thinker. I definitely see your points regarding 24" O.C. vs. 16" O.C.

I understand how you are trying to put out fine craftsmanship, which necessarily takes tons of time and patience, yet you are competing with bozos. When I open a phone book, there are just pages after pages of contractors and tradesman. Are they all good? Absolutely not. That's why I rarely look at how much my plumber charges me. He does a top-notch job. I pay his price. My township knows his name, knows his reputation. So when they come to inspect, all I say is who did it, and they know it was done well.

After all these God and Evolution threads, I think a good look at the dogma that is entrenched in the construction industry (and any other industry) is a breath of fresh air.

One last thing. I certainly don't claim to be Norm Abrams, I just take my time and carefully measure and re-measure and assess before making a cut or driving a nail. But when it took me ten hours to chisel and cut out ten feet of old rotting rim joist, then cut a new one to fit, I thought I was real slow and incompetent. But one of my contractor friends, said that's about how long it takes him for the same length. Another contractor was *real* impressed out how well I hung the cabinets for my kitchen. Little things are making this whole project rewarding.

"What the hell is an Aluminum Falcon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my Dark Lord of the Sith could protect a small thermal exhaust port that's only 2-meters wide! That thing wasn't even fully paid off yet! You have any idea what this is going to do to my credit?!?!"

"What? Oh, oh, 'just rebuild it'? Oh, real [bleep]ing original. And who's gonna give me a loan, jackhole? You? You got an ATM on that torso LiteBrite?"
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  10:29:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message
If you dont mind, could you describe where you live and what style of house you are building...

My personal opinion (from years managing large buildings)is to avoid architects whereever possible, next thing you know you'll have a dozen different lightbulbs that cost 50$ each. On that subject anything you can do to limit the variety of materials in your house is a bonus, if you let them screw with the plans, you will have 6 different window sizes each custom which cost three times as much to fix and take three times as long to replace.

Anytime you can have materials which are industry standard sizes/colors etc. you should go that route... and in addition to the code requirements for 24" OC you might just need to find a stud to hang things from in the future. Im all for overbuilding on strength, never know if global warming will turn your neighborhood into the next Tornado Alley in 10 years.

Unless of course you are filthy rich, in which case I would make all 50 windows each its own custom size!

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  11:07:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Fascinating posts. Skepticism and critical thinking are useful in any field. I know my 90-year-old Dad, who is still an active carpenter, thinks critically. Though quite happy to continue doing things in tried and true ways when that seems justified, he's always looking at new ways of doing a job. He's a hammer-and-nails carpenter, but a few years ago, he bought a pre-fab, factory-made garage. It was put together with plywood glued to studs. He greatly admired its quality, pronouncing it stronger than a normal frame building. He also recognizes that he cannot himself do that kind of construction in the field, as the factory uses its own special jigs and such to put together walls.

He loves to stay on top of new construction ideas, though he subjects them to many practical criticisms.

One thing he pointed out to me many years ago, is that many people want retrofitted insulation in their walls, but neglect simple thing such as having tightly fitted windows and doors, first -- or even attic insulation.

He also simply loves it when someone who hires him has enough cash to want to deliberately "over-build." I guess he likes the idea of his work standing a long time, as he himself has.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Fripp
SFN Regular

USA
727 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  11:18:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Fripp a Private Message
I live in Eastern PA, about 40 minutes west of Philly. My house is a raised ranch, built into a grade. The foundation is twelve inch block, approximately 8 foot high walls. 2x4 stud construction for the main house. Roof pitch 6/12, freshly shingled. New Certainteed siding about to go on (doing it myself). I went back and forth between felt paper and Tyvek but a couple of contractors said that in my climate and under vinyl, Tyvek is worth it.

House dimensions approximately 54 by 36 (the foundation isn't precisely a rectangle, there are a few bumps and jogs). The foundation used to be garage. We framed it in and made a media room and game room which now has a pool table and will soon have an arcade version of Tempest.

All said and done, I have roughly 3000 sq ft of living space for me, the wife and two daughters. That is plenty for me. I have simple needs and I do believe in the Not-So-Big Philosophy. My wife and I make decent money, we are diligent savers, and we recently got a respectable inheritance. I am putting my money not into opulent space, but quality craftsmanship and good materials. Plus, the more I invest in an efficient home, the more I save on fuel bills.

"What the hell is an Aluminum Falcon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my Dark Lord of the Sith could protect a small thermal exhaust port that's only 2-meters wide! That thing wasn't even fully paid off yet! You have any idea what this is going to do to my credit?!?!"

"What? Oh, oh, 'just rebuild it'? Oh, real [bleep]ing original. And who's gonna give me a loan, jackhole? You? You got an ATM on that torso LiteBrite?"
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Fripp
SFN Regular

USA
727 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  11:30:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Fripp a Private Message
Good stuff, Mooner. I agree that off-the-shelf and tried-and-true are those thingfor a reason: they simply work, and work well.

Regarding pre-fab/modular: I do believe that this will be part of the future of homebuilding. The assembly line process has worked well in the auto industry. Of course, the consumer must always be diligent.

Tedd Benson of Bensonwood Timber Frame has been trying a "new" philosophy (the Europeans have doing variations of it for years) called Open Building which is a modular "systems" approach to homebuilding. I can't do it justice here. You can read more at Bensonwood.com. There is also an article on it in the upcoming issue of Fine Homebuilding.

Interestingly, when Arts and Crafts style was popular at the beginning of the 20th century, Sears made home kits and sent via railroad to customers around the country. So modular or panel-built isn't all that new. And Arts and Crafts was a backlash against Victorian oversize, overembellish and Victorian classism. Perhaps we are seeing a backlash against the McMansions.

Regarding windows and doors, your Dad is so correct. I am absolutely obsessed and anal about foam sealing the cracks and crevices around my windows and proper water flashing. I had sixteen windows replaced and am still tightening up all the opening around my house. People forget leaks around the rim joist/sill plate and the top plates where the roof eaves meet the walls.

"What the hell is an Aluminum Falcon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought my Dark Lord of the Sith could protect a small thermal exhaust port that's only 2-meters wide! That thing wasn't even fully paid off yet! You have any idea what this is going to do to my credit?!?!"

"What? Oh, oh, 'just rebuild it'? Oh, real [bleep]ing original. And who's gonna give me a loan, jackhole? You? You got an ATM on that torso LiteBrite?"
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beskeptigal
SFN Die Hard

USA
3834 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  14:43:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send beskeptigal a Private Message
Don't know much about the structural question, but I do know contractors lie lie lie, so be sure to get whatever in writing and don't take their opinion because as you say they want to do what they know.

My experiences haven't been all bad but here are a few examples that were:

I had to design the drainage in my driveway by adding a dry creek bed for overflow runoff when the drain system they put in the driveway wasn't sufficient for the square footage of driveway. Same thing happened with the gutter downspouts. The gutter guy just picked a few aesthetic places for downspouts but never bothered to calculate how many were needed. Half the upstairs roof and 3/4 of the downstairs roof of a 2800 sq ft house directed the rain runoff to 2 downspouts. Believe me, in Seattle, two downspouts cannot handle that much roof water.

And I had to teach myself then calculate the heater requirement to show the guy the heater he put in one of the rooms wasn't big enough for the size of the room. When he balked at my figures I had the contractor and the heater guy sit in the room with the heat on full and a thermometer. After 20 minutes the room was 2 degrees colder! I got a bigger heater.

Same heat guy wanted to put a big 'open to the outside' vent in the rooms to meet the new code having fresh air access. I showed him how to put a dryer vent in backwards so air could come in when you turned on the exhaust fan in the bathroom but otherwise stayed closed.

And they wanted to use the blow in insulation. It's cheaper and easier for them but a real pain when you are in your crawl space. And it required some cardboard soffit vent covers that looked like a horrible fire hazard to have in your attic. I made then use rolls. My dad had shown me a long time ago how to take a long pole with a nail sticking out of one end and use it to grab and push the batts into place. I showed them how to do it. Sheesh!
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 09/14/2006 :  19:26:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
beskeptigal:
Don't know much about the structural question, but I do know contractors lie lie lie, so be sure to get whatever in writing and don't take their opinion because as you say they want to do what they know.


Actually, that is a bum rap. Next time get a contractor who comes highly recommended and is not necessarily the cheapest.

In over thirty years, I have not had a single complaint about my workmanship. I rarely write up contracts, and most of my work is on a time and materials basis because my clients trust me. They also trust my opinion even if we differ from time to time.

Oh yeah, last time I was in the hospital, I started to bleed a while after the nurse took the stent catheter out of the artery. I rang and rang for the nurse as a pool of blood was forming under me. It took her twenty minutes to respond, and this was in the ICU. Never ever trust a nurse because in my experience you are just another piece of meat to them…

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  00:35:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
quote:
Never ever trust a nurse because in my experience you are just another piece of meat to them…



So often true!

Not to mention the time you take away from the time we need to fill out all the paperwork we need to fill out so we won't get sued out of a career, and all the petty complaints and requests (I don't like the food, I need some tissue, I need to go outdie and smoke, and so on and so on), and the tantrums you patients throw (especially the baby-boomer patients, never seen a bigger bunch of crybabies) when they don't get exactly what they want exactly when they want it, as if a hospital is a cruise ship or something....

All silliness aside

In any service industry there is a certian ammount of tension between the provider and client. Neither side has a favorable opinion of the other sometimes. I don't think there is much you can really do about it except try to (as Kil has) establish an impeccable reputation and learn to be patient with your clients, which can be an especially challenging task some days.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  15:41:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
quote:
Dude:
In any service industry there is a certian ammount of tension between the provider and client. Neither side has a favorable opinion of the other sometimes. I don't think there is much you can really do about it except try to (as Kil has) establish an impeccable reputation and learn to be patient with your clients, which can be an especially challenging task some days.

Of course, there is no foolproof way to choose a contractor, and there really are hacks out there. But a good referral from a trusted friend or company is probably the best way. Plus, it is okay to ask the contractor lots of questions about how he plans to accomplish your job. How he works. Etc.

Once hired, unless the contractor gives you reason to suspect otherwise, you really should trust him. You have hired an expert for a reason and really, it's a two way street. I wouldn't want to work for anyone who has the attitude that beskeptigal seems to have. I really can't do my best work when I feel like I am under suspicion of cheating or being incompetent or lying to my client. I have worked for people like that and what happens is I go to work bummed out and I can't wait to get the hell out of there. I have made some converts of that type of person, but there are others who I just won't work for anymore. (And the odd thing is after all the crap I took from them they sometimes call me again for more work.) It isn't all about money, you know? I am proud of my work and I do like being appreciated for that too…

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Ghost_Skeptic
SFN Regular

Canada
510 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  23:51:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ghost_Skeptic a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Kil

Well, 16 OC also means more screws in the meat of the drywall. And where a piece has to be installed vertically, 24 OC would mean only one line of screws that are not at the weakest points which would be the edges. Also, finish workers would have less studs to nail or screw to at 24 OC. Without wood lath, there is basically nothing back there for a longer distance, and I could see problems arising from that. Furthermore, most local codes call for 16 OC so the idea has to fly by those standards. For a kitchen or bath, I would say the wider spacing would be unacceptable. For other rooms, what comes later needs to be taken into consideration.


Here (in Alberta) 2 by 4s on 24 inch centers has been the standard for a long time. I have owned houses built on both spacings. I have never heard of the 24 inch spacing causing problems with drywall, but Kil is right - 24 inch OC is a pain in the ass when ever you attach anything to the wall. You are very lucky if you are able to catch two studs unless you are attaching something very wide. Drywall anchors are nowhere as strong as screwing into a stud and theroften end up not quite where you intended to put them so things do not end up straight. It is worthwhile to go with the 16 inch centers.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. / You can send a kid to college but you can't make him think." - B.B. King

History is made by stupid people - The Arrogant Worms

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." - William Osler

"Religion is the natural home of the psychopath" - Pat Condell

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter" - Thomas Jefferson
Edited by - Ghost_Skeptic on 09/16/2006 14:19:43
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 09/16/2006 :  10:16:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message
One thing. If the interior walls have shear panel, 24 OC would not be a substantial problem. Of course, that is a big if. In new construction the panel is usually on the outside wall. Interior shear panel is usually only installed on one side of a load-bearing wall.

Also, we get earthquakes here in California. So interior shear retrofits are a part of an earthquake upgrade, often because the inside walls are more accessible. I don't know what they do in other areas with regard to interior shear panel.

Nothing like being able to place a screw anywhere on the wall though...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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