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.

Kitchen Windows

When designing a kitchen what should you be looking for when choosing a new window(s) in the kitchen?
There are 6 different types of windows available but only 5 can open. The picture window is just that a cased opening with a secured thermo pane glass installed in the opening.

Awning; With this type of window the operating devices are located at the bottom of the window that makes it easy to operate. These windows are hinged at the top and swing outward. The problem is that the kitchen countertop is 36” tall than the window is about 24-36” tall. IE the top of the window is between 5’to 6’ off the floor so when you are looking out the window at the sink all your eyes are looking at the top of the window jamb, you must duck to look out the window.

Glider; With this type of window the operating devices are located half way up the window that makes this window hard to operate when you lean over the sink and faucet.

Casement; This is a great type of window the operating devices are located at the bottom of the window that makes it easy to operate, also if the wind is coming from the left and you want to bring the air in open the right window and it will hook the wind and bring it into the kitchen.

Double Hung; This is a good looking window but it has a draw back you must on unlock the window, the lock is half way up the center of the window opening it from the bottom is adequate again the sink and faucet is the way.

Hopper; A hopper window is a cool design of a window but it swings and tilts into the room in the swing mode the window can not open the faucet is in the way.

Transom; Having a transom window over the regular kitchen window is great unless you have a ceiling under 9’ again the bottom of the transom and the top of the regular is in your line of sight.

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.

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.

Tyvek and House Wraps

This type of material is a one-way door system. It allows humidity in the stud cavity to migrate out to the exterior air when the humidity level is lower than the relative humidity in the stud cavity. Great concept. In actuality it has some drawbacks;
First you must make sure that wall sheathing is working with you on removing the humidity.

1. Using the house wrap only works when the humidity level is below 17% this is the level the framing (wood and sheathing) has to remain at to keep its structural stability. At higher levels of humidity in the stud cavity on exterior walls with cool evening temperatures, condensation forms on the exterior wall sheathing, runs downward to the sill plate and starts the decaying process. If the wall sheathing is porous enough to allow the humidity to pass through, and with drop in outside temperature the humidity will condensate or freeze on the back of the house wrap.

2. When moisture level exceeds 18% in the lumber and the temperature is above 40° fungi begin to inhabit the wood.

3. Where water is present bacteria can grow, when the bacteria reacts with the nails rust forms. Nails holding the framing together start to rust, more the bacteria the faster the stability of the structure is affected.

In my personal opinion House wraps causes more problems than they solve.

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.

Wet floors next to exterior walls

Comment: from a reader
I had hardy board siding installed on my house when we had it built 6 years ago and we have had a problem with moisture along the walls on the interior floors. the builder installed the hardy siding against the house wrap and the back side of the siding was not sealed or primed. do you think this might be our problem? The problem is only on the exterior walls inside the house.
The house is six years old, located in Mississippi Our location has had two rain falls in the past two months. The relative humidity for this time of year is the highest @ 70% t0 80% on the outside of the house. I am not sure what the humidity would be on the inside. We leave the heat and cool pump set on 75% when we leave and set it at 73% when we are home. The temp outside 80-90% during the day and 60-70% during the night. Paper back roll insulation in the walls and blown in insulation in the ceiling. We
noticed the problem when the house was a year old, we have re-caulked everything on the exterior, we have painted the exterior again, we have sealed the brick on the bottom portion of the house, I have set the fan motor on the heat and air to low, so it would run longer.


I’m assuming that the house has a go air conditioner with the power to drop the house temp and to maintain it at 72°F when the outside air is 110°F . This problem occurs mostly when the inside temp is at 72° to 95°, if so than what is happening is to much humidity from the outside is coming into the house though Fresh air intakes(makeup air) for the appliances and or exhaust fans as well as an air exchanger. What is happening with the Air conditioner it sounds like it is to large of a unit. When the air conditioner runs constantly(45 minutes per hour) it has the ability to remove the water from the inside air. But if the AC unit only runs 15-25 minutes per hour and make up air coming into the house, this excess hot air coming in to the house brings with it a high concentration of water in a vapor form.

Now the hot air carrying humidity is in the house it rushes to the ceiling , while the AC unit is running dumping cold air into the house. ( A quick lesson in physics; Hot air is light and rises and cold air is heavy and drops to the floor) As the hot air looses its temperature it must loss volume of water its holding to do this it has to condensate on something cold. In a house it is the A- coil inside the furnace. but if the temp inside the house is already cool and the AC unit is not running the A-coil in the furnace is warm now the air has to find a cooler surface to condensate on. In this house it is the floor next to the exterior walls because gravity is holding the coldest air at the floor line. The exterior wall location is because the heating and cooling supply ducts have already dispensed the cold air there now making condensation.

The solution
1. Run 1-3 dehumidifiers I now they are ugly and noisy
2. Down size your AC unit and install a 2nd AC unit in the Attic for 90° + days this will allow you to run your primary AC unit in your furnace longer and remove the excess humidity from the house.
3. If you have a air exchanger run the fresh air through a dehumidifier before bringing the air into the house. You can do this with any fresh air intake flex tubes.
4. Keep the house doors shut as much as possible A max. of 1 door opening per hour, 10 second open.

The siding is not the problem. the house wrap is not helping. In hot climates you must protect the house (wood structure) from excess humidity. That means you must seal wall sheathing surface with something that will not allow moisture to pass through even if the siding is nailed on. that means all nails and nail holes must be sealed. Than a layer of moisture control fabric must be installed that removes the excess humidity. tarpaper works best. The insulation with the paper on it is not good because it has the ability to hold the humidity in the stud cavity. In hot climate locations fiberglass, or mineral wool insulation is great because air can pass through the insulation allowing the stud cavity to dry out. Do not use poly on the inside walls in a hot climate because you will trap humidity in the stud cavities and will rot out your structural walls.

There are some good, great and bad types of siding. part 2

The newest fade is hardy board siding; the material is made of 90% and 10% Australian pine wood.

This type of pine from Australia bonds great with the concrete making at a good product.

For me there has not been enough time to prove the quality of the material being used for siding. Back in the 60’s we thought masonite siding was great stuff, but in turn the masonite if not painted on all surfaces sucked up water and started rotting.

With masonite you had to keep it painted 5-7 years keep it 4 to 6 inches from any wet surface like the ground, patios decks and roofs.

There are also look alike hardy board siding not made from the Australian pine, it doesn’t bond with the concrete and it doesn’t, can not, or will not perform to the standards of What Hardy board’s system can.

Using wood for siding has been used for hundreds of years. But it been in the last 25 years we’ve learned a lot about wood siding.

On all wood siding before installing seal the back side of the siding keeping moisture from migrating into the siding.

Next when installing the siding use 15# tarpaper behind the siding, (note not house wrap) this will remove the moisture from behind the siding.

When choosing a fastener know this cedar, redwood and treated lumber don’t like galvanized steel nails they will eat the nails, using a stainless steel nail with the barb rings is a great choice for years of holding power.

Try never to paint the wood but instead use a solid color stain it will bond better and last longer. Always use a non-latex based caulk for caulking the joints.

When you build or remodel your house if you place is located where are no trees than using cedar would be ok, woodpeckers love cedar if your lot or close to trees try using Cyprus wood this type of wood will last longer but costs a little more.

There are some good, great and bad types of siding. part 1

There are some go, great and bad types of siding.

Choosing a type, and color of siding of a house is not what you should be thinking.

Instead you should be asking questions as how doest the siding perform in the elements?
What type of mattnace is there?
For my location what type of siding is the best?
Does color have an affect on the siding?
What are the special properties to this type of siding?

The builder has an objective in mind to channel you in to choosing siding that his sider is good at installing. For him there are less callbacks to him about the siding and that is all he cares about.

Most builders and siders have no clue of the properties of the different types of siding available. You have to do your own research, and than you have to force the builder to do it to the information you have learned.

The most popular siding being sold is vinyl because it’s cheep.

Did you know that Vinyl building products have an expansion rate of 1/144 or in other words from winter to the heat of summer it will expand 1” in 12’.

Knowing this lets look at installation if you were to nail the siding tight to the wall sheathing the siding could not expand or contract but instead it would ripple and pop loose from the interlock of the lower piece of siding.

If the sider nails it to loose the wind will make it slap against the wall sheathing, creating wear markers where it was nailed and eventually break.

The darker the color of vinyl the more it expands, and as for using it for soffits (the flat spot under the eve’s of the roof) it sags in the summer.

If you have a driving rain the rain is driven sideways across the siding and is blown into the corner or j channels and runs down the wall sheathing.

Vinyl siding is very forgiving in the hot afternoon sun if a kid throws a ball or a bat at it, but weed weeps are wicked to it. When the weather changes and is cool out side the vinyl is vulnerable to hail rocks from lawn mowers or bumping up against it at cold temperatures.

But that is why siding is installed for to keep this from happening. In my opinion this is a very poor product.

  • Looking at aluminum building products this has an expansion rate of 1/576 or 1/4” in 12’ the siding will slide back and forth.

    Knowing this lets look at installation if you were to nail the siding tight to the wall sheathing the siding could not expand or contract but instead it would ripple and kink leaving creases.

    If the sider nails the siding a little tighter than manufactures specs. the siding will sound off ever time the sun warms it.

    The sound only lasts about 5-10 minutes a day for years, winter or summer don’t matter.

    If the sider nails it to loose the wind will make it slap against the wall sheathing, creating wear markers where it was nailed and eventually break.

    If there is a driving rain again as with vinyl the rain is driven sideways across the siding and is blown into the corner or j channels and runs down the wall sheathing.

    But that is why siding is installed for to keep this from happening. In addition aluminum and salt for driveways don’t mix well the salt will eat big holes into the aluminum so don’t wrap your garage doorjambs with it.

    Or use a snow blower and blow the snow on the siding it won’t be the same in a few years. In my opinion this is a poor product.

  • Looking at steel building products the expansion rate 1/1152 or 1/8” in 12’ this type of siding will act close to aluminum siding.

    Steel siding when salt is present starts a rusting action in 7-10 years the paint will flake off of the door jambs and looks tacky.

  • House wrap what is it?

    In 1972 the Minnesota building code required a building wrap. For many years prior to the code the homebuilders used 15# tarpaper on all the exterior walls. The code required a building wrap installed between the wall sheathing and the exterior finish of the house from brick, stucco, to siding. I’m not sure what date they came out with the new house wrap made with tyvek or a poly sheet. These new house wraps were good for stopping drafts from wind blowing through the walls.

    They designed the material to allow the moisture to pass one way through the tyvek or poly sheet house wrap from the inside of the stud wall cavity to the outside air.

    This works great to remove any moisture in the stud cavities as long as the outside temp. Is above 33°F.

    Below 32°F the moisture turns to frost and freezes to the back side of the tyvek or poly sheet house wrap, when the temp goes above 32°F it thaws to a liquid no longer vapor.

    Now it cannot pass throw the house wrap instead it pools up at each horizontal siding line. This is were the water is new working on both your siding and wall sheathing starting with mold and then rot.

    While tarpaper or rosin paper allows the moisture to pass through to the outside. Tarpaper cannot be used behind vinyl siding because it bonds to the siding.

    The problem is vinyl siding expands and contracts about 1″. When it moves it loosens the and sometimes it removes the siding.