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.

Wood Specifications On Tall Walls

Framing material and sizing has changed for tall walls, theses changes in Minnesota law is for the better.

Load bearing walls exceeding the 9′ height fall under a new law. The higher the wall, the better quality the wall this may mean thicker the studs.

Included in this new law you no longer can use Utility grade, Standard grade, No.#3 grade or Stud grade lumber of any species are not permitted. The change in law is because of wind resistance against the exterior tall walls.

Using a better species of wood than SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir) will make a stiffer wall. SPF is the cheapest wood species that you can buy.

Classification of common grade lumber. Common grade boards generally contain more knots than the select grade. Common grade is divided numerically from 1 to 5 with 1 being the best in appearance. No. 3 and No. 4 common grades are most frequently used for such applications as sheathing or sub-flooring.

Lumber grade numerical system changes title when it is shipped to large discount stores. Having changed to names the consumer has know idea what he or she is buying. Changing the name the discount stores are able to sell more product to unsuspecting customers.

Economy is the lowest grade available. This is usually junk wood, damaged material taken off of railcars. You can get a lot of twist, wane, and huge loose knots with economy grade lumber.

Utility is the next grade up in quality from economy. The discerning consumer can usually find a few useful pieces of lumber at this grade. One of the functions in large commercial lumberyards is buying utility grade lumber in bulk and upgrading it to ‘stud’

Stud grade, as implied by the name, is the most common grade used to build the framework of houses. Thus, the electronic device used to find lumber under drywall in a house is called a stud finder. Since the primary purpose of stud grade lumber is to hold up a house, very little twist is allowed, although you can have large amounts of wane and large knots.

Standard and better grade is similar to stud grade. The difference between the two is not so much in the size of the knots or the amount of splits or wane allowed, but in the fact that standard and better grade is used for lumber that is 12 feet and longer while the stud grade is used for 10 feet and 8 feet pieces in grading.

No.2 and Better grade. This grade usually allows for smaller-sized knots and a minimum of wane and splits.

An even finer quality of wood is 1 and better. This is the crème de crème of lumber and should consist of small, sound and tight knots, only inches of splits, and practically zero wane.

Above 1 and better is select grade lumber. This is an even higher quality than 1 and can be used for high-end decorative purposes. Examples of this would be western red cedar, spruce shiplap, and tongue & groove wall paneling. Having mentioned that as an example, great effects can be had using lower quality cedar as paneling, incorporating its defects to achieve a western, weathered look.

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.

Are decks robbing you of time and enjoyment

Old deck 1Touch on any picture to enlarge

The first picture is the old deck.

New deck floor

We removed the decking and enlarged the size of the main deck. The decking is ironwood that comes from South America. The rails are iron pipe 2″ top rails and 1″ lower rails that can be painted or copper cladded.


When using cedar decking the cedar looks dirty and unfinished, even though you stain and treat it. You don’t want to use treated lumber for decking or rails because the wood is treated with copper arsenic, that will pass through the skin into your I’ve built decks out of Trex decking, but the decking is unstable, in some cases it has expanded so much that the deck looks like a lake when it rains. Also trex molds you have to clean it yearly, but you can not use a power washer. So I’ve switched to Ironwood for decking with great results.

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.

Why can I see big rectangles on the roof and why are shingles curling?

How humidity curls shinglesImproper sealing around heating, plumbing, and electrical penetrations allows air to flow into attic spaces.

This air carries high a volume of humidity with the air, and as it comes into the attic, if the temp is below 32° it freezes onto the underside of the roof sheathing and the trusses.

During the spring thaw, it compacts the insulation, sags the sheetrock ceiling, and stains the ceiling.

When the humidity level is high it enters the edges of the roof sheathing, swelling the edges giving the look of big rectangles on the roof. If the back side of the shingles get wet then the shingles curl.

The exterior of the house must have air, trees overhanging the house stop air movement and keeping the humidity level very high.

This will cause the roof to fail 5-15 years earlier than it should.

Frost footing pros verse joes

picture-76.jpgTouch on a picture to enlarge

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.

Roof Truss Lift

Roof Trusses are engineered building components designed to carry the roof load to the exterior walls of the house or structure or to a designed load bearing point.

The modern truss is built with less lumber and poorer quality of wood than 40 years ago.

In early to mid 80’s something new was happening to the houses.

In the dead of winter the building contractors were getting complaints of cracks on the top floor of the house where the walls meet the ceiling, and only on interior walls.

If the trusses went front to back the cracks would be the worst in the center following the center wall left to right, and the crack at times were more like gaps 1”– 1 1/2” the industry was troubled by the problem saying that the contractors was putting to much insulation in the attic causing a large fluctuation in temperature in the truss members it’s self making the truss to pull the bottom cord of the truss up by it’s self.

The truss manufactures remedy was to go in and lag bolt the truss down to the top plates of the interior walls.

The next year the cracks and gaps were gone Great- hold that thought, then the calls were coming in that the walls were not nailed down to the floors and you could see under the wall into the next room.

Trusses are very powerful pieces of engineered wood. They have lifted walls and pulled the nails with the walls.

The truss manufactures remedy was this time not to nail the sheetrock to the truss within 16” of the wall but instead put block on top of the wall between the trusses and nail to them instead.

The result is every year your trusses flex up and down making the sheetrock and insulation to do the same. Down the road you will find nail pops on the ceiling from 12-30” out from the center wall and your sheetrock will be sagging.

For my business I solved the problem by having the trusses designing then having the truss manufacture up size the top cord of the truss by 1 size larger board.

Example if the trusses called for a 2×4 top cord I required a 2×6 top cord for my needs, the cost was about $250.00 per house but no more call back.

So in retrospect what has happened to the truss industry they are trying to keep the price of trusses down and using cheaper quality wood.

Don’t worry the truss won’t fail it’ll just cause headaches and problems for the contractor and you the home owner watching the contractor scratch his head not knowing what to do or how to fix it.

The materials for decks have changed and some not to the better.

A couple of years ago the government changed the requirement for treated lumber as a result we have a different type of treatment in the lumber today.

The result of that is any standard framing wood touching treated will start rotting on contact.

To solve the problem the code is requiring a barrier between the treated and any framing lumber.

Another problem also has surfaced galvanized metal and the treated lumber is also reacting to each other, they say having the nails double dipped in galvanization will solve the nail problem, to solve the joist hangs you must put a barrier between the treated lumber and the hanger on all surfaces.

Minnesota Law is requiring a air space of 1 1/2” between the rim joist board that bolts on to the house there recommendation is to put 12-16 washers on each lag bolt as spacers to keep the treated rim from touching the wall framing.

The problem with that is a 16’ long board has 12 bolts sticking out with 144-192 washers hanging on this bolts and your trying to attach them all at once. Not happening.

Instead use 1 1/2” Galvanized steel square tubing the height of the rim joist tack it on to the rim, this will be much easier to install and provide a wider surface contact with the wall framing.

Now it time to install your decking remember your treated boards will rot wood if you are using cedar, cypress, or redwood, IPS use must put a barrier down over the top of the joists before you lay the decking.

Trex decking and other types of composite decking have different requirements for example Trex’s needs the joists spaced 12” on center, and you must space the deck board1/4” apart because the Trex board over time swell over 1/8”.

Cedar, Cypress, or Redwood, IPS board need to be sealed with a sealer or a solid color stain to keep them looking go and to keep them from weathering and firing up.

IPS (iron wood) boards are great. They come from South America, and are very strong, in the 1900 they used to make ship bottoms with this type of wood.

Load bearing in living spaces Part 2

Now lets look at load points. 1 type of load points are were the roof load is being concentrated on to wall or post framed areas.

Example a 24’ wide house with standard trusses have a uniform load of 1400# every 2’ on the load bearing walls.

Now if there is a girder on the front of the house to have a gable end look over the front entry. The span is 20’, at each end of the girder is a load point of 7000# (note-a heavy duty pickup truck weights 6000#) we have to solid block this load down to the concrete foundation with the right type of blocking.

Next we have to look at how the floor was constructed. The front foyer of the house is open to the 2nd floor ceiling and it also has a load bearing beam sitting at the same location as the girder truss 9’ above it.

We have an office and a family room in the location where this floor load is.

The office takes up half of this area, knowing this we can calculate the load as follows 17# dead load over the entire floor with a live load of (150# for the office 50# for the family area=) 100# per SF The total load of the floor is117# per SF or 520 SF x 117= 55640#.

This weight is being transferred to the front and back of the house on the back it lands uniformly on a 6” framed wall, no problem. While the front load of 27820# is divided in 1/2 for 2 load points of 13910# + the girder truss load of 7000# which is a total load of 20,910# there is no wood stud that can take that type of load.

But yet builder and building inspectors let the builder get by with just putting studs under the load.

What should have been installed is a steel post rated for that type of load. Then the load must be brought down to the concrete foundation.

Putting wood blocking the floor joist for this type of load will only crush the blocking and it shall fall.