A new law is on the books starting in July of 2009

All new houses in Minnesota are required to have radon removal system installed into each housing unit. Various designs are allowed by the state some with collection tanks (sump baskets) and some with out. The state haves mandated the following items that must be done.
Install a perpetrated drain pipe around the interior foundation wall with a minimum 4 inches of course fill not sand allowing water and radon gas to migrate to the collection center.
Install a continuous 6-mill poly vapor barrier under the entire concrete floor
Seal all penetrations coming through the concrete floor pipes block wall to floor edges etc…
Seal the collection tank only leaving 2 sealed pipes coming out 1 for removal of underground water; the 2nd is for the removal of radon gas.
Install a 3” vent pipe vertically from the collection area passing through the house and venting above the roofline.

State's layout

Let’s look at the actual working of installation of said law, install a 6-mill poly on the dirt before you lay out rebar or wire mess. The steel being inserted onto the concrete keeps 1 the concrete floor from cracking, separating, shifting, or shrinking 2. It reinforces the floor incase the dirt under the floor settles. Rebar comes 1/2” x 20 feet long and is heave and flops around like a fish out of water. You will have a number of holes in the poly liner before the rebar is laid out and tied together.  If you use wire mesh this comes in rolls of 5 foot wide x 20 inches diameter about 100 foot per roll, when you unroll this little monster it acts like a slinky wanting to recoil the only way to straighten it out is to flip it over and re-bending it by hand. Resolutes at each end of 1 row you have just punchered the poly membrane 10-12 time.
The code says you must take a new piece of poly and over lap the hole by 1’ on all sides no a basement of 22 x 38 (24’ x 40’ House) a minimum of 120 holes. Now its time to pour the concrete (concrete is a mix of sand small rock, portland and water) you can install it 2 ways; wheel barrow it to the location and dump it, or you can pump it in with a large pump truck add $800.00 to the bill. Did you fix all the holes the wheelbarrow made and the guys pouring the floor, well that’s a radon leak.
After the floor has harden up you walk around the floor sealing all joints between the floor and wall and floor and any protrusions through the floor. About 1 –2 years after the house is done because you chose not to install reinforcing in the floor your floor have at least 3 and up to 10 large cracks big enough to put a tooth pick in it. Oh that’s right you laid carpet on the floor you’ll never see the cracks where the radon is getting in the living space and where Johnny and Amber likes to play and sleep on the floor.

Let’s look at the collection and exhaust system. Remember in this collection area there is standing water as well as an electric pump to pump out the ground water. Facts undisputed radon gas is heavier than air. So radon gas builds up in the collection tank it never leaves the tank and the vent pipe because it’s to heavy now the ground water comes into the collection tank what happens to the radon gas it rises and falls according to water level in the collection tank.  In fact the radon gas in the tank will increase in the parts per million making it more toxic I feel bad for the plumber that must change out the sump pump, he has to get down in there to fix the problem.  Note when the radon gas moves up into the exhaust vent, it’s now looking for an easier way out, that crack in the floor has a lot less pressure and a bigger area to expand into.   Solve the problem (the states view point) Just add a fan and blow the radon gas out of the house. The problem is it does matter how small or big the fan is if there is no air coming in to the drainage system you will never blow any air up the pipe, let alone radon gas which is heavier than air. The state say’s all you need is a small fan, may be rounding about 10 minutes per hour. 1st the state don’t have a clue how much air in cubic feet of air per minute or per hour is going to ventilate the radon gas from below the floor to solve the problem.

Let’s say it’s possible to vent this gas out of the house, well you don’t want to see the pipe from the front side of the house, let’s vent it on the back side of the roof, great or is it. On the backside of the house are the following screened, porch, deck, sand box, swing set, and other toys to play with. Radon gas is heavier than air it’s pumped on to your roof and taken away with prevailing winds and if there is no wind it rolls of the roof and into your backyard.  Looking down at your house from the sky we see the following a pipe sticking out of the roof with no cover over it and you can not cover it by law, that means when it rains water goes down the pipe so what it goes into a sump tank if water can go down so can cold air in the winter time, when this happens it will freeze the surface water in the sump tank or the ground in the collection area and if there fan is installed water will be dripping and getting the fan soaking wet. Well we no longer can use a cheap fan we must put in a stainless steel fan with a concealed shaft with a water bypass system in it. ”$” Now to make this system work we must bring in air into the drainage system. We cannot take inside air just for the fact if the power went out the radon gas has an easy way back into the house. We can us outside air it 20 below or greater in the wintertime freezing the sub soil under your floor and leaving the opportunity to heave your footing.
The only air available to you is in the new law that no one has thought about, you must have an exhaust fan run 15-20 minutes per hour. Blow this air under you floor and the radon fan pumps the radon gas filled air out of your house.  Now you are running 2 electric fans and praying the power never goes out.

Radon Shield

Or Just excavate and other 24” lower and install an angled concrete slab 4” with rebar cover with epoxy paint than build on top of it for your house the radon gas will come in contact with the lower slab and slide upward to the surface level on what ever side you choose to bring it to the surface

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.

Foundation Walls Failing

There are a lot of basement foundation walls failing. Presently a whole lot of poor quality fixes. Some of which take up a lot of square footage of your basement to hold up the foundation wall, but don’t address all the problems.

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These foundation walls were built good but they were not designed for your soil type and/or hydrostatic pressure of your lot.

In the 2nd picture it shows that wall is buckling inward, with a closer look a the picture we see 3 problems.

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1. The ground is almost level with the top of block wall. This creates other problems that we will talk about on another post.

2. The yard next to the house is flat- when it rains where will the run off go?
If the soil you have is poor or unsatifactory; silty clays, organics, or peat,etc. these types of soil make great lakes, they don’t drain, they pond. Because there is no place for the rain water to go then it seeks the next available spot -loose soil. This type of soil has a lot of voids or air pockets. Every house that has frost footings and /or a basement has loose soil from 2′ and up to 8′ away from the house. The rain water runs into the soft soil and around the foundation of building. This inturn compounds the problem pushing hydrostatic pressure on the foundation walls.
3. Remember the wall has a horizontal crack it now lets water into the house

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1. Remove the dirt next to the house
2. Push the block wall straight
3. Install 3/4″ Rebar in block and fill the block with concrete
4. Install a drain tile system
5. Water proof the wall with Black dog Waterproofing system
6. Put a Geo grid system to keep the dirt from mixing into the rock
7. Install any size rock from 3/8″ up 1 1/2″.

Building contractor(s) vs handyman(s)

Building contractor(s) verses handyman(s)

What’s the difference?
The Department of Labor and Industry requires licenses for residential building contractors, remodelers, roofers and manufactured home installers. The department requires certain standards of education and professional conduct be maintained to obtain and retain a license.

Licenses are required for all residential building contractors and residential remodelers who contract with a homeowner to construct or improve dwellings by offering more than one special skill. Owners working on their own property must also be licensed if they build or remodel for the sole purpose of speculation or resale.

Liability insurance with limits of at least $300,000 per occurrence, which must include at least $10,000 property damage coverage.
Minnesota workers’ compensation insurance certificate or a written explanation of why the applicant is exempt from workers’ compensation requirements. Applicants who have no employees and have no intention of hiring employees (other than spouse, parent or child) during the next year should attach a written statement with the license application explaining the specific reason they are exempt. If applicant is uncertain whether workers’ compensation insurance is required for your business, contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at (651) 284-5005.

A handy man needs none of the above unless he and/or she does more than one of these items concrete, frame, side, sheetrock, trim, tile, hardwood flooring, carpeting, painting

If a handy man gets injured at your house he or his insurance company can sue the home owner. Always Protect Yourself.

Close quarters

We built an addition between the house and garageThe owner wanted to put an addition between the house and the garage. The space between the house and the garage was 26’4″, City hall said we had to stay 1′ away from the garage with the addition.

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The foundation wall and the framing walls was set at 12″ apart. Adding the siding to both the garage and the addition walls, the space between is now 9″.
Separating foundations

The house’s foundation was down 7′, while the garage only had a floating slab. To get the foundation in, we had to dig down 7′ and remove the soil. The soil we were digging in was sand. Digging this close to the garage the sand under garage will slide out fast and up 7′ away from the garage under mining the garage, then the garage floor will break, this will bring the broken slab and some of the garage wall framing into the excavated hole. to solve this problem we built a shear wall to hold sand from shifting and sliding, keeping the garage safe.

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.

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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.

Frost footing pros verse joes

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You are looking at 2 cross sections as to how to build a frost footing.
The first picture shows how 98% of all house frost footings are installed. With this type of design there are some problems.
1. Where there is a 42” frost footing required the install 1-7 1/2” high footing 4- 8” blocks which = 40” with mud joints 41 1/4”. If they install a 1/2 high block the total height is 44 3/4” no problem except the code requires the grade height to 8” lower than wood framing and or wood siding. Making the frost footing only 41 1/4 with a high block and no wood siding. But you house has wood siding and no half high block the frost footing is now 36 1/2”. So in picture 1 the water is up to the top of the soil on the exterior. When it freezes in the winter we know water will expand and increase its mass crushing the insulation decreasing the R-value and allowing the water to freeze to the footing, which will move it, laterally inward or vertically which ever is easier.picture-78.jpg
2. As the temperate of your frost footing drops in the winter your concrete slab will also reflect how cold it is outside.
3. The Rigid foam insulation must be covered because the ultraviolet light from the sun will break down the insulation most contractors cover it with aluminum sheathing. Aluminum and does not like concrete or salt, it will corrode and eat the aluminum. Yet they pour concrete up against the aluminum shield and don’t tell the owners of the houses not to salt their sidewalks.

Foundations and keeping the basements dry

The state says, “installing the drain tile on the inside of the footing is known as cosmetic.”
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The code also requires that the contractor installs 4 inches of rock or gravel under concrete floor. But if you have a high groundwater table on your lot 4 inch of rock is not enough. If water touches the concrete floor it will wick up to the topside of the floor and evaporate into the house air rising your humidity level. This in turn creates other problems in the house. If there is carpet on the concrete floor it now has mold growing in it. foundation-p2.jpg Moisture freezing on the windows in the winter time. By installing 1 1/2 inch rock you leave larger voids under the floor not giving the water a chance to touch the concrete floor.
Now installing draintile around the foundation on the inside is known as cosmetic it also is wise and while you are installing draintile running additional draintile lines is just prudent. The cost worth the investment of only about $ 150.00.

Gypcrete w/ Infloor heat

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Gypcrete is a lite weight cement mix which uses gypsum instead of sand and a high quality Portland mix making gypcrete.
In commercial applications Gypcrete is used as a sound deadener and a fire retardant between floors.

In a residential setting it is normally used to cover over infloor water heat pipes.

The gypcrete companies can pour the gypcrete at a minimum of 1/2”. A good thickness is 1” or more, this includes pouring over all types of pipes. (know this there is no law to protect the homeowner about gypcrete). Gypcrete must have a load bearing floor under it to support it, and the finished floor and it live load (furnishings and people). If you are installing the gypcrete 1 1/2 or less – it must bond to the structural floor below. If you need insulation under the gypcrete, install the insulation than install 4’ x 16’ wire panels with 6” x 6” grids anchored to the floor below the insulation with the anchor not less than 2’ square on center. The wire mesh helps stabilize the gypcrete and keeps it from braking up in the future.

Flooring what is best?

I have this question asked to me a lot. Well let’s look at how the different types of flooring react to your environment.

Carpet- installation time 1-3 hour per room all you need to do is vacuum. If your family members do not like to take their shoes off this is not a good choice.

The carpet will remove any thing on the bottom of shoes and gravity will migrate it into the weaving of the carpet. Dog and Cat love to claw and chew it.

If you lay the carpet on a concrete floor and you have high groundwater the carpet will act like a breeding ground for mold and other insects. Warm to the touch, very bad for allergies.

Ceramic floor- installation time 2-4 days after 6 weeks you must seal it. Watch what type of tile you pick out

1. The glazing hardness the harder the better, and have them prove it to you as to the hardness. They will use different types of diamond scratches.

2. Next try to get a tile made of a cream color clay tile. I’m not talking about the finish you look at but the backside of the tile. This type of tile cut easier with less brakeage in installation as well as later.

3. Look for a textured tile for wet areas incase of slipping and falls. If the tile is sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch

Concrete floors- installation time 1 day than you have to wait 30-60 day before sealing it no paint taping compound, oils etc. until it is sealed properly.

Again it must sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch
Stamped (stained)
Exposed aggregate

Stone floors – installation time 2-4 days after 6 weeks you must seal it. Watch what type of tile you pick out. Look for a textured in wet and dry conditions and how the stone changes in color.

In wet areas like the back door area I recommend a honed finish, the stone is cut sanded smooth but it dull to look at, good for areas with sand and dirt will not show scratches.

A high polished finish is great if there is no sand, dirt or water. It will out last any type of wood floor you could install.

If the stone is sealed yearly it is the most durable against any type of ware cats, dogs, kids etc. Cool to the touch

Sheet goods (vinyl’s) – installation time 1-3 hours per room you will need a sponge to scrub the printing off the sheet good.

The good thing about sheet goods is that when you spill any thing it sits on the surface of the flooring.

Bad new is any thing can cut it from moving a refrigerator in to it place, to accidentally dropping a knife; a dog can claw it up. It has about 10-15 year wear life.

Wood floors-installation time 5 days for a floor of 350SF you will need to recoat the floor every 3-5 years. Sand, dirt, and dog claw will scratch the floor. Warm to the touch.