Mexican siding crew

We had the privilege to watch a Mexican siding crew side and install 5 new windows into a split-level house right across the street from our job; they had 11 men the first day 9 the 2nd day.

One of the dumbest things we saw was a man hung over the gable end of the garage to remove the fascia, soffit, and as much siding as he could reach he was not tie off at all.
Another thing we saw was a man removing siding with an extension ladder as though the ladder was a crew bar, just under the man on the roof.
If either of the 2 men would got hurt, would they have insurance to take care of the medical bills or would they sue the owner of the property. Granted the general contractor had insurance, but did he or the homeowner check to see if the subcontractor had workers comp. Or even liability insurance. If something happened the homeowner is responsible not the contractor.
Ohsa law requires safety first.

1.Some of the law that were violated were working below an other worker you must wear a hard hat (safety helmet)
2. About 8’ off the ground you must be wearing fall protection.
3. Scaffolding must have a walkway not less than 19” wide they were using 12” planks
4. It is illegal to use the step ladders as they did, you must open the ladder up and make sure all four feet are secure before standing on it also you are not allowed to stand on the top platform this is not a step.

They had about 200-220 hours on siding and replacing the windows on a house that had 3000. Square foot of siding or 1100 SF split entry house. It was impressive to watch but looking back at the man hours I was horrified to see so many hours we had on 43 hours for siding 1/2 the house across the street and 1 sliding door replacement. We were working on a 1200 SF hour and replaced 30’ of gutters in this time frame. While the Mexicans are sending out another crew to put the gutters on after the house is sided. Looking back what a lot of wasted time they could have done the whole job in 2 days with 5 guys.

What are the first questions you need to answer for a new kitchen

Where do I go for a new kitchen? Remember this 9tenths of the kitchen stores have no clue who you are or how you live or your unique physical abilities you have. They are there to get a fast sale and they’re on to the next customer. And you’re stuck with this kitchen for the 10-20 years. A high-end builder and /or remodeler should ask you these questions. To custom fit your kitchen to you and not having you do contortions in your kitchen went it’s time to cook something.

1. Who does the cooking? Who does the cleanup?
2. How is your eye sight? If your eye sight is poor you may need more lighting in the kitchen.
3. Is the cleanup person left or right handed? The placement of the dishwasher is vital for ease of loading and unloading dishes.
4. At what height do you like to work at tabletop height (30”) or counter top height (36”) workbench height (42”) or a height in between? Having improper work surface height is bad on your back, hips and legs. You may have a new kitchen, but hate to go into the kitchen not really knowing why.
5. What size is the family are you cooking for? This tells me what size the refrigerator has to be for breakfast. This also tells me what size cook top you will need.
6. How many different types of parties per year? Do you need a 2nd refrigerator for short-term storage? They make great under the counter refrigerators and freezer with pull out draws.
7. How much cooking do you do everyday? Every meal, or is there a lot of prepared foods, or do you eat out a lot? This tells me what volume of dishes you will be keep in the kitchen. IE if you cook a lot you will be baking cakes, pies and fancy items. This mean you will need a lot of preporation storage of mixer, food processor, etc., in easy reach of your work surface.
8. Now let’s look at your house and see the architecture of the home so we can match the
kitchen to the house. IE never put a modern kitchen in a house designed as an Amish or 1900’s bungalow home.
9. Are you going to feed the family in the kitchen or at a different area? If in the kitchen where?
10. How much square footage are you going to give to the kitchen area? If you need more can you take a little from another room or can we add on an addition.

Heating your Garage

It’s a great idea, heating your garage with a Reznor unit heater it shall do a lot of good things for your garage and items stored in it. By keeping the heat above 38° it will keep the garage foundation from heaving in the cold winter months. Also if the garage is attached to the house, the house benefits by heating the garage the common wall is now warm for the house interns saving you heat on said house wall.

Having it warmer also helps your vehicles start faster as well as better engine oil viscosity, because the engine block is starting warm.


Using a compact ceiling gas heater works great. We have installed several of these units. You can bolt them to the roof framing members and or floor joist system. You can mount them up tight or drop them down to a lower height if you have a 9’- 14’ high garage ceiling. By installing the unit at the back of the garage and blow air cross the garage to the far front corner this will get the greatest way to stabilize the temperature in the garage. This will also dry your car off and the floor. By keeping your garage temperature at or above 38° you should never have the garage floor flaking or popping of concrete from the winter weather.

This furnace also can be vented both out the wall and/or through the roof of the garage. Giving is a way to really maximize your opportunity for the best installation.

Permacast Columns

These are a great way to make a pergola or a front porc.

Low Maintenance
Permacast columns are cast from a proprietary fiber-reinforced polymer composite with exceptional strength-to-weight characteristics and requiring minimum maintenance. They are weatherproof, insect-proof and highly durable. They look best painted, and repainting when the color looks out of date.


Low Maintenance
PermaCast columns are cast from a proprietary fiber-reinforced polymer composite with exceptional strength-to-weight characteristics and requiring minimum maintenance. They are weatherproof, insect-proof and highly durable.

Capitals & Bases
Tuscan style capitals as well as the five differenttypesof ornamental capitals also follow the guidelines of Greek and Roman architects. Attic bases, copied from those of ancient Attica, are also available.

Plain & Fluted
Permacast columns are available plain or fluted in the widest variety of sizes in the industry. Deep, sharp flutes and smooth, easy to finish surfaces set Permacast apart from wood columns.

Solar Heating In Minnesota

3 types of solar collectors.
The vacuum tube type works great. It can reach temperatures above 350° and becomes a good collector. The down side of it is when the snow and/or frost lands on the vacuum tube collector the sun has to warm it up to evaporate the frost, and with heavy snow you will have to clean it off the solar panels manually. If you remember to clean the panel if not this will loss you hours of solar collecting.

2 types of Solar thermo panels

2 types of Solar thermo panels

Home made solar collectors have a couple of problems: They are not sealed and filled with inert gas (argon gas) there by missing a key way of collecting solar heat. Improper way of winding the tubing inside the panel is another problem.

Flat panels commercially made are a great way to collect heat. You can set the collectors on most any type of roofing system. They also can be joined together for a greater Btu output. The maximum output will yield you any where between 50-70% of your domestic hot water. Having extra cash to go green is great but if you need this to be your main heating unit for hot water or limited location for hot water storage, this is not the system for you at this time I’ll check these systems out every couple of years for better results.

Boilers, Furnaces and Water heaters-2

In the first photo you see a boiler system with different types of radiant heat points, with some of the controls required to operate the systems.
Below is a furnace system showing some of the components needing to be serviced.
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heat loss calculation we can look at the different types of fuels vs. the costs of a geothermal system.
But before we can start we must enter some of the basics:
#1 the location of the house for the average winter low temperature.
#2 the location of the house for the average summer high temperature.
#3 what do you keep your thermostat at in the wintertime.
#4 what do you keep your thermostat for A.C. in the summer time.
#5 The Calculation is written for 67° ambient temperature.
#6 in your area how many heating degree-days are there in Mpls. there are 8000.0
Duluth 9818.0
#7 in your area how many Cooling degree-days are there in Mpls. there are 743.0
Duluth 180.0
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#8 what is the efficiency of your furnace
#9 what is the Seer rating of your Air Conditioner.
Now with these parameters plugged in the numbers than tell a story
picture-157.pngIn the
There are 3 heat loss charts for 1988, 1998, 2008 the first line down is the cost of the fuel the 2nd line is the if your furnace is running at 100% Eff. The 3rd row down is per year to heat the house. The 4rth row is the cost savings per month if you have Geo thermal heating installed instead of the fuel you have. But notice the 5th row down this one is important, this tell you if you are a wise steward of you money. If the pay back in years is 10 years or less you could save a lot of money. In 1988 if you had an Electric furnace and changed it in 88 by 1997 the system would have been paid off and today you would have $37,015.00 more in your pocket. This price is based on the electric price in 1988 and we all know that the price has risen for electric energy. In the 2008 Chart look at the pay back on all 4 types of fuel. The price of LP gas is 4.03 dollars per gallon now, and is going up – I heard it could reach 8.00 per gallon by spring. If it only goes up only an additional $2.00 it will cost you 1500.00 per month on a budget, can you afford it.

Boilers, furnaces and water heaters-1

Boilers, furnaces and water heaters – figured for a 2000 SF house
For boilers
Water – minimum operating pressure 8 LBS per floor. A 2 story with basement –requires 24 Lbs operating pressure.

Cleaning cycle for the burners at least every 2 years
Fuel – Natural Gas, Propane
When gas is burnt it’s by product is water and Carbon Dioxide add this to a steel heat exchanger this creates rust. When rust flacks off the exchanger it falls on to the burners below creating bad combustion an lose of efficiency.

Oil #2 a Oil burners are a unique creation they blow fuel oil out at 100 PSI This oil is ignited by 2 electrodes at 10,000 volts. If/or when the electrodes burn back, and /or twist it will soot up the heat exchanger and flue again loosing efficiency.

Heat exchangers over time loss there integrity from the heating 350° 72 times in one cold winter day. When the exchanger breaks, cracks- carbon monoxide is now being pushed in to the house.

When you move air for heating and cooling you must clean or change your, also check to make sure your furnace fan blades are clean. If not use a screwdriver and clean each fin. Just have more air moving through the furnace will increase your heating and cooling efficiency.

Systems check –
Proper start up of burner -does it start with a bang or take a long time to light
Make sure the high limit control shoots down properly at the right temp.
Check for proper airflow out of the blower check the fins on the blower fan for lint buildup.
Cost of a new heating and cooling system with ductwork – $ 15,000.00
Cost of a new Geo system with ductwork – $ 24,000.00 with a well system
Cost of a new Geo system with ductwork – $ 18-20,000.00 with a in ground loop system
Cost of replacement of a furnace & AC system. $8,500.00
Cost of replacement of a Geo system $6,500.00

Insurance companies- claims

Insurance agents sell you on the fact that when you sign up with an insurance company you will have full coverage minus the deductible. You set the deductible amount than this sets the payment schedule. In Minnesota if you have hail damage on the roof and/or siding the insurance company only has to replace the damaged sides of the roofing, and siding on the sides that were damaged. Even if the color does not match from old to new roofing and siding, this is the Minnesota law. Another clever word the insurance companies use is “depredation” they use this word in a cleaver way to avoid payment of funds. Example a house was build 15 years ago with a 25-year shingle they say 3/5’s of the shingle life is gone. The insurance company call it depreciation the roofing job costs $3,000.00 x deprecation (3/5) = $1,200.00 minus the deductible is the check they give you. Yet the coverage you bought for insurance was full replacement value. What they have done is swatted the phrase (% of funds until completion) with the word (deprecation). When the roof is completed, and you force them, then they will pay the balance of the deprecated funds being held, But not the bill incurred by the homeowner. What do you mean? The actual bill for a new roof costs $11,000.00
Yet when you have to have your roof torn off and reshingled because of hail. The insurance companies don’t play fair. The insurance company gives you enough money for the homeowners to reshingle and side the buy themselves with no contractor help. The money you got from the company is enough to pay for the permit and supplies only.
Have fun. .
Minnesota requires that the building contractor must be licensed to work in Minnesota. To get a license you must have 7.5 hours of schooling a year.
Liability insurance must be above 300,000.00, and Workmen’s comp. Insurance.
The contractor has a lot of overhead that must be spread over the 250 working days for the year.

Yet with construction there are always rough weeks were we have to work 60-80 hours and other weeks there is no work. On the average we work 35 hours a week because of this the office overhead has a shortfall of funds Taking money out of the owners pocket lowering his wages.
With the way the insurance companies are paying out funds to get theses houses fixed. Good contractors will not fix insurance claim houses, leaving the door open for poor quality and scam artist contractors willing to do these jobs. Hugo city hall is very upset about the poor quality of contractors working in their city. They can’t figure out how to get a better caliber contractor to do these jobs.

Electrical panels done right

Let’s look at the first electrical panel. There are 3 problems with this panel. #1 The 2 high voltage lines and the neutral line coming into the the main shot off switch are painted white. These is not legal, The 2 high voltage lines required to be marked in black and the neutral must be marked in white. This is not only a state code but a national code.
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#2 If a person needed to add and outlet on an existing circuit and opened up and an existing outlet box cover and saw the white wire he would automatically think black with black wire, the white with white wire and ground, with ground wire. 98% of the time you would be right, but if the white wire is not labeled properly in the panel as a 220-volt, at the same time the outlet box is also improperly labeled you would cross wiring a 110-volt appliance with 220-volts and burn it out that is if it doesn’t start a electrical fire.

The 3rd problem is this panel is a 2nddairy sub panel. When you wire a sub panel the neutral wire must go to the neutral bar and the ground wires must go to the grounding bar. They cannot be mixed it the law.
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On this next photo this electrical panel was done properly. The high voltage lines are labeled properly as well as the 220-volt circuits and the neutrals and grounds are supported properly.

Dressing up a stairway


There are a lot of poor quality contractors and carpenters out there, when people sign up for having handrails system installed on a stairway. They are surprised as to what was built. A Lot of contractors build a knee-wall 2”-3” above the tread, covered by a wood trim board and then the handrail system on top the trim board, because they don’t know how to install a exposed tread system.

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A cheap exposed tread system looks like this photo. What makes it look cheap is the skirt board. The reason is that it does not match the baseboard joining up with it.


If you have to put in an inexpensive knee wall over a handrail this is a quiet but elegant way of going about it.


If you have a smart carpenter use a 1”x 8” board and a piece of 5” tall base to make a custom make skirt board. Join them to together with a biscuit jointer and glue. Than run it through a surface planer and bring them down to the same thickness. A few minutes of light sanding, and your new skirt board is ready to be custom cut.


Not only can it be custom cut into the base, but you can make it follow up the staircase to the 2nd floor enhancing the look of staircase.