General Information

1. Does the contractor have liability insurance? If something goes wrong who will cover your loss. I heard of a roofing problem in the summer of 08 they tore off the roof and installed a new roofing system. It looked good it didn’t leak, but when the roofers were tearing off the old roof they inadvertently unlocked the furnace flue pipe 8’ below the roofline. When the flue pipe was re-shingled into place the pipe was 1/2 on and 1/2 off the lower pipe venting carbon monoxide into chimney chase and ultimately into the house attic. They didn’t find the problem for 5 months, thank God no one died. When Natural gas or LP gas is burned it gives off carbon monoxide and a lot of water. The water leaves the furnace at about 350 degrees; at this temperature it’s steam being forced into a cold attic with a lot of cold surfaces. When the steam touches a cold surface it changes to water or ice. In this case about 2 inches of ice crystals on under side of the roof decking, on the trusses and on the surface of the attic insulation.  A quick calculation looks like about 200 gallons of water frozen in the attic. Looking at this job after the facts all the insulation in the attic has to be removed the roof sheathing has to be checked for soundness and may have to be replaced as well as the sheetrock ceiling. You might need new flooring also if the ice melted before you removed it, because it will follow the wall stud cavities to the main floor and under your carpets, or cupping you hardwood flooring.
This is only 1 thing that can go wrong; there are many other situation I have heard about.
2. Does the contractor have worker compensation insurance?
If person falls or get hurt in any way while on your property (grass, sidewalk, inside your house, etc.) you’re at fault, unless the contractor has workers compensation insurance.

Rules for hiring a contractor:

General Information
1. Does the contractor have a state license to do the type of work needing to be done?
2. Does the contractor have liability insurance? If something goes wrong who will cover your loss.
3.  Does the contractor have worker compensation insurance?
If a person falls or get hurt in any way while on your property (grass, sidewalk, inside your house, etc.) you’re at fault. Unless the contractor has workers comp. insurance.

4. Make Sure All Subcontractors and/or Any Person Coming Onto Your Property Has Legal Workers Compensation and Liability Insurance.
5. Does this person have the brains to pull off this type of job?  Watch out there a lot of cons out there calling them contractors only wanting to separate you from your money.
6. Can he/she prove what is being said in writing; a contract that protects you the Homeowner?
7. A lot of people have go good intentions but no knowledge or life experience to draw from.
8. There are 3 classifications of quality of work
A.  Poor and well below sub standard workmanship
B.  Just Average on workmanship
C.   Excellent work- any worker just above average ends up excelling to excellent static because of the person himself, I’ve seen this time and time again.

9. 2nd Classifications of motives.
A. Money is a good motivator
B. The lack of money is a poor motivation
C. Lack of time for said job or out of on contracts personal bills
D. The only job available this one, actually scores just above average
E. Actually caring for his work and the client.

Now is the contractor your hiring going to hire subcontractor with substandard work or money problems? Remember this your project is to be a work of art not a novel of science fiction.

Be informed about the services you hire

I was approached by another contractor asking me to give them a price on larger home in Minnesota. They wanted a ballpark price in 1 1/2 hours. They had worked weeks on the biding of this house and were still edgy about the final price. From what they showed me 2 different sets prints that were designed by an architect. The plans were poorly drawn as well as the traffic flow and design aspect of the print. In the details of the prints there is to be a cross elevation of different location of house to understand how the house is to be built. These pages were missing about 80% of the information. Leaving it up to the lumberyard as to the design of the building. Or in other words the architect drew a nice picture. The builder has to draw his own conclusions with no supporting data has to loads and wind resistance of the building. Back to the contractor, he has hundreds of sheets of papers from a bunch of sub contractors, with prices all over the board for the same job to being done. The lumberyard alone has had the print of the house for a month, and final estimate of the lumber bid is still a lure. Information from the contractor to the sub’s was sketchy at best. The contractor had photo’s of ideas what the owner’s wanted but wasn’t following the design of the photo’s. This whole project is doomed for hurt feelings as well as the contractor will leave the job with a bad reputation.

Foundation/framing details

The IRC building code allows you to build you home an infinite number of different ways using a verity of materials. The traditional way of framing is called western platform framing. This entails building a floor on the foundation walls. Installing joists and floor sheathing. Wall framing; the walls are assembled on the deck of the floor, and then lifted up into place. Then the process repeats for additional floors. This type of framing is fast and cheap, it has some drawbacks:picture-99.jpg
Touch on photos to enlarge

1.The code requires 8″ of separation between the outside ground line and any type of wood product. The top of decoration rock is called the top edge of the ground line. In Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin there will be many houses that are going to be rotting away in the rim joist area.

2. Look how the load of the floor and wall is putting all the weight on the outer edge of the foundation wall making it act like a hinge point, Having a uniform load on the total thickness of the foundation wall makes it 4 times stronger. When you back fill against the foundation with poor drainage soil with no way to remove the hydro static pressure (ground water), you have made an easy way to have your foundation wall to buckle. If you look you will see before it buckles it will bow or crack horizontally and or diagonally.


There is always a better way to build, in this photo the main floor walls are pushing down on the outer edge of the foundation wall and the floor is pushing down on the interior part as well as holding the wall from being pushed inward.


There are many different ways to look at a stairway:
Layout- A draftsman laid out with a couple of lines on a print saying where the stairway goes.

First lets look, does it fix in the opening from the finish floor 2nd floor to the finished floor on main floor (using an 8’ wall 9 1/2” joists carpet on 2nd and 3/4” wood on main floor sets the actual height of the stairs the code requires the tread height not more than 1/4” different in all the treads) the stair rise max. height set by the code is 7 1/2”.

Did the draft’s man draw in 15 rises, and 14 treads. The rise works out to 7.17 or 7 5/32” now lets see if the stairway hole is long enough, The code requires the tread to be 10”that make the rough opening 11’0” this size will just make the minimum head room height on the stairs.

Next let’s look on the print how wide is the stairway from wall to wall (the width) the code requires a 3’0” clear opening. This means you must frame the walls at least 3’1 1/4” for sheet rock and taping compound.

If the handrail is not removable than you must add the space from the wall to the rail plus the rail to the framed opening.

If the stair way has 1 or more landings or turns it’s in your best interest to make the stairway 8”wider to bring furniture and bed frames and mattresses up and down the stairs.

Another area you have to watch for is if there is a wood or stone nosing even carpet wrap under the balusters on the sides of the stairway if its on the side of the fixed hand rail you can ignore it.

If it’s on the other side of the stairway you must frame the walls wide to account for the 3’ clearance.

Why the 3’ clearance 1 haling in refrigerators, laundry equipment need the room as well an ambulance stretcher in case of an emergency.

Framing- When framing a stairway the landing at the bottom of the stairway as well as any 90°angle platform on the run of stairs must be at least as long as it the stairway is wide this is code.

Many times I have come to houses 1 and 2 years old and going down stairs to the basement and land IE concrete floor from the stairway to the concrete wall dead ahead was 30” or less this is not legal.

If the stairway from Sheetrock to Sheetrock measures 36” then that is what is required at the bottom of the stairway to the wall.

Next the code no longer allows the builder to hang the stair jacks on plywood they now have to be installed with metal hangers (like a joist hanger).

Using poor quality wood like spruce, pine or fir will in time create squeaks in steps; using a plywood beam like a micro-lam will stop these squeaks.

Rest in elegances

What an odd statement what does it mean?

When your business life is in an up roar, you come home to a house that is built around you and your family. Most houses are built for the contractor to make a profit and not for the occupants of the house. Therefore the items just don’t fit the rooms and/or the way you do your daily chores. For example you have this beautiful bedroom set, but the canopy for the bed is stored in the garage because the ceiling is to low. Continue reading