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.

Stairways – a lot of carpenters can build good-looking stairways.

The question is; Can the stairway hold it’s own weight as well as the working load being put on it.

Osha requirements for a stairway;
From a design standpoint, the specified design loads (e.g., normal live load and moving concentrated load of 1000 lbs.) must be placed where the maximum stress is experienced by the individual structural components of the stair system.
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Looking at a framing section of a stairway the sawtooth cut boards are called stair jacks. Looking closer at a jack the deepest cut of the notch for the step into the jack to the bottom side of a jack if your using a 2” x 12” will be 3 1/2” to 4” of uncut material is equal to a 2” x 4” with this understanding we can calculate out what a 2” x 12” stair jack system can carry. With all lumber we do not measure the length of the steps from the top to the bottom but instead from the front edge of the step to the load bearing point that supports the top of the step. A wall height of 8’ and a floor joist of 9 1/2” will make the run of the stairjack 12’5”.

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A single 2”x 4” spanning 10’2” can only carry 10 Lbs. per running foot times 3 jacks a total of 300 Lbs. Nailing a 2×4 on the side of the jack doubles the working load to 600 Lbs. But on the problem above we are short 2 1/2 feet. Going to a 2” x 14” stairjack will leave a 2” x 6” amount of material left this will carry a 20 Lbs. 12’9”
With 3 Jacks the total dead and live load for this stairway is now 12.75 x 20 x 3 jacks= 765Lbs. adding 3- 2” x 6” on one side of the Jack doubles the load 1530 Lbs. This is now a legal working stairway for wood steps.

The problem now comes in when the homeowners want stone on the treads and risers. The weight alone is 32 Lbs. per SF or 1153.1 Lbs. for this stairway. And it only leaves 377 Lbs. for live load. Changing and using a LVL or a micro laminated beam works much better. Using a 1 3/4” x 14” LVL beam with a 12’9” span will carry 68 per SF. X 3 Jack you a total working load of 2601 Lbs. this passes with flying colors. This gives you a live load of 1448 Lbs. Or in other words, you can have 6 adults sitting or standing on the stairway for a group photo and it will not wince.

Columns were are they to be used

Installing architectural elements IE columns are a way to bestow grandeur, or an air of formality, reverence, and ha for ones surroundings. If your looking for a quiet place to read, or review documents having columns quiets the room down. When people enter they become respectful of the area. Installing columns in a formal dining room is saying to the guests that bar room manners are not welcome, and this is not a picnic ground, so put on your good behavior.
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If your looking for a light hearted atmosphere to dine with children this is not the room for columns.
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Columns make a person take note of their surroundings that something has in the past, present, and/or near future will be happening in this place.

Going back to theses homes I have installed these columns, It bring me back to the meeting that I had attended in these rooms over the years.

Installing cheap columns or ones that are improperly built cheapens the room, which sends a massage to the people coming in seeing them actually ignore the fact columns are there, even thought they have to step around them as they walk through the house.
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Bathrooms say a lot about the people living in the home.

Are you sending the right message.
Before you remodel your bathroom,
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Think long term 5 ,10, 15 ,or 20 years and/or 2 or 3 different types of jobs or hobbies you might have in the future.
You may spend 10 minutes and up 2 hours a day in this prep room. Doing things right in this room will set your mode for the rest of the days you live in this house.
Thing to think about when you design a bathroom;
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Number of people needing to use this room at the same time; 2 or 3 kids, a couple, 2 or people staying over IE relatives and friends, room mates, etc.
With these things in mind your now ready to start answering questions.

a. Think about cleaning
B. Bathing
C. Midnight strolls
D. Getting your makeup on
1. Lighting
2. Putting on makeup
3. Storage
4. Accessibility to storage, and left or right handed people
5. Accessories- hair driers, curling
6. 6. Room accents

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Attic spaces

Older homes have a large advantage over new homes. The designs of these gracious older homes have large attics with fun ways to convert theses spaces into unique personal rooms.
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In this attic space we converted a trusses roof system to create a personal office for this family.


We had some fun with personal area we installed quarter sawn white oak with accent walnut strips in the corbels, top rail of the panel system and the desktop edging.

Old fashion heating systems leave tracks

Oil fired heating plant (furnace or boiler system) needs maintenance by a good oil burners service man. There are a lot of service men but only 1 out of 10 Service men are really any good, and of these 1/2 of theses guys are great. With a good burner system and a great service man these heating plants will run great for years. An inexperienced service man will miss the tell tail signs the heating plant needs help. The picture below could tell a heating man what is happening before he even gets to the heating plant.

The picture you are looking at is not mold but instead it’s dirt. In this photo this house has hot water heat. There is no air filtration system in this house, as small dirt particles migrate into the wall mounted radiator (baseboard heat) heats the air as it passes by but the dirt is charged with static electricity than the particles are carried up the wall with the warm air. This is where the charged particle bond cooler parts of the wall. The framing of the house keeps the sheetrock cooler directly in front of the studs in the winter and warmer in the summer. This also happens with electric baseboard heat. Using an air purifier such as a Honeywell 17000 HEPA Quietcare Air Cleaner works great removing all the particulate in the air.
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Mold what does it look like?

Mold comes in to the house in many ways. Always when there is water present.
1. Exterior water – infiltration (through the siding or the roofing)
Improper installation of the siding – no building paper or a house wrap was installed. Roofing again improper installation of roofing and flashing allowing the rainwater into the building shell.

2. Exterior water – under ground.
High level of ground water is big problem pushing hydrostatic pressure against the foundation wall, forcing the water into the foundation. The causes of high level of water are over watering the garden next to the foundation, rainwater coming off the roof then runs to the foundation. Following the wall downward adding to the ground water. Basement floors that have pour, or not properly installed drainage system can have 50 gallons of water evaporating in a 1000 SF basement per day


3. Interior water – leaking pipes and/or sweating pipes
4. 4. Interior water- high humidity comes from cooking, showers, people them selves sweat and put a lot water into the air.
When humidity levels go above 65% mold has the ability to start growing. The higher the humidity above 65% with temps above 68°, the quicker the mold responses to it environment. Lets look at a Refrorator very high humidity but low temps the mold is held in check because of the low temperature.
This time lets look at the cabinet under the sink there is a leak about a drop per minute. The temp in the house is 70° and the humidity is 45%. But in the cabinet the temp is 68° and the humidity is 80% or better. The house air has no way to dry out the cabinet allowing it reduce the humidity, therefore in about 1 week mold will start to grow. In one year the entry interior sink base cabinet will be covered in mold. Now lets apply this to a stud cavity, humidity get trapped between the exterior wall sheathing and the interior sheetrock or finished surface. But this time you have no idea it’s happening and no way to check on the condition of the framing. Using a porous type of insulation in your stud spaces on the exterior walls is like begging for mold to inhabit you home on all sides of you.

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.

Is copper plumbing supply lines good for you?

The elements written about below are used in all modern house drinking water delivery systems.
These quotes can from different EPA web sites. A little disturbing I called a number of officials this late week to talk about copper drinking water supplies. What I found out was they were more concerned about the brass in the drinking water than the copper piping it’s self.

The 1st element is copper, and then 2nd element of brass is zinc. The amount of zinc varies between 5% and 40% by weight depending on the types of brass required.

EPA
“The 1991 rule aims to minimize lead and copper in drinking water by reducing water corrosivity. Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage.”

“Everyone must absorb small amounts of copper every day because copper is essential for good health. High levels of copper can be harmful. “Breathing high levels of copper can cause irritation of your nose and throat. Ingesting high levels of copper can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Very-high doses of copper can cause damage to your liver and kidneys, and can even cause death.”

“A wide range of clinical symptoms have been associated with zinc deficiency in humans (Abernathy et al., 1993; Prasad, 1993; Sandstead, 1994; Walsh et al., 1994). The clinical manifestations of severe zinc deficiency, seen in individuals with an inborn error of zinc absorption or in patients receiving total parenteral nutrition with inadequate levels of zinc, include bullous pustular dermatitis, diarrhea, alopecia, mental disturbances, and impaired cell-mediated immunity resulting in intercurrent infections. Symptoms associated with moderate zinc deficiency include growth retardation, male hypogonadism, skin changes, poor appetite, mental lethargy, abnormal dark adaptation, and delayed wound healing. Neurosensory changes, impaired neuropsychological functions, oligospermia, decreased serum testosterone, hyperammonemia, and impaired immune function (alterations in T-cell subpopulations, decreased natural killer cell activity) have been observed in individuals with mild or marginal zinc deficiency.”

“Lead does not noticeably alter the taste, color or smell of water. The effects of low levels of lead toxicity in humans may not be obvious. There may be no symptoms present or symptoms may be mistaken as other illnesses. The only way to know the concentration of lead in water is through sampling and laboratory testing which is described in greater detail in a subsequent section.”

Exhaust fan problems I presume?

My heating contract was called into a house that was about 8 years old. The homeowner had a unique problem. In the master bedroom was located on the 2nd floor the toilet bowl was frozen and the bathroom temperature was 70°. The contractor though at first this was a joke. The owner insisted that he wanted the problem fixed. With a little bit of looking around the contractor saw the bath fan right above the toilet bowl. But the real problem was in the attic the exhaust vent from the exhaust fan was not insulated. With the out side temperature of –20F below. What happened the air inside the exhaust pipe being cold (and cold air is heaver than warm air) dropped from the ceiling fan and fell into the toilet because the husband left the toilet lid up the night before, Allowing the cold air to collect in the toilet bowl and actually freeze the water.

Another job site the homeowner had a new roof put on 6 months earlier and had the attic reinsulated. The first cold morning about –15 below 0 with a hot shower the ceiling fan started dripping water. So he called out the roofer to fix the problem, it was not the roofing but instead the exhaust fan piping again was not insulated. While the high humidity was being blown out and the metal piping was below 0 the humidity was condensing rapidly on the piping, then run back into the ceiling fan, through the vent louvers and end up dripping to the floor.
You have to insulate the entire exhaust vent to the exhaust point.