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

Siding-Houses

We think we love them, they have been a part of the American dream since the days of the pilgrims. The lingering quest in homeownership how do we protect them from the elements, after that how to make them warmer years after they have been built.
In the old days the log houses used the logs as insulation and a barrier from the elements, the timbers in a log house were a good insulator because no air could pass through theses timbers, just around them, as the logs dried out naturally over time they shrank leaving gaps, while the body of these timbers have released the trapped water it now traps billons of air pockets pushing up its insulating ability also over time. In the late 1800-and early1900s people were packing their balloon-framed houses with newspaper thereby creating a low R-value in the exterior wall cavities. During WW11 to save energy they required houses to be insulated the houses using insulation that was batt of fibrous material about 1 1/2” thick placed into the stud cavities.
Today we have to tighten our budget again because of the high cost of living. One place to do this is to insulate our houses from the exterior than install new siding over the insulation, but there is a catch if done wrong it will rot your walls, what would take nature 60-80 years could be done in as little as 3-8 years.  Houses built before 1950 were designed to breathe, it wasn’t until the last 10 years that we had no idea as to how much water vapor actually passed through the exterior walls of our houses. If our house has a crawl space, cement floor, basement foundation walls, that are now waterproofed on the inside (not water resistive paint) you could be absorbing anywhere from 10-150 gallons of water per 24 hour period into your homes atmosphere this water vapor wants out of your house because there is less humidity outside than there is in your home, thereby forcing its way through your exterior walls to the out side.
Now the Law states you must install a house wrap. House wraps work great in the far south, but what happens in the north is a world apart from the south. The inside temp of the house is 70° outside is 30° automatically the water vapor in the house wants out the humidity in the air outside is dryer than the air inside so it forces it’s way through the exterior walls.  If your installer installed a house wrap under your siding this is what is happening the water vapor just past through the insulating and wall sheathing, the next surface is colder so now it freezes on the back side of the house warp (you have white frost between your wall sheathing and your house wrap). When the temperature warms up the frost now turns to a liquid, with tarpaper the paper sucks up the water and spreads it to help it dry out the back side of the siding. While if you installed a name brand house wrap it now pooling up behind your siding. It a liquid not a vapor so it is not allowed to pass through, but instead it starts freezing and thawing on your wall sheathing breaking it down.

Adding more insulation on the exterior of the wall if done right will save you a boatload of money. On the exterior of a building you best results are going to be from a rigid insulation board. There are at least 2 types 1st is just an insulation board and the 2nd has aluminam foil on both sides you must choose according to the siding you want to install as to what insulation board is best. For example; horizontal cedar lap siding does not like aluminum for behind it. Before installing any type of rigid insulation on to an exterior wall surface you must make a way for the water vapor to escape to the outside air.

I recommend 1 product “mortairvent” Made by Benjamin Obdyke, it’s only 1/4” thick installed over the tarpaper, than you install you insulation board next and finally your siding. It’s made of woven plastic with enough rigidity to keep 1/4 inch air gap to allow the water vapor to escape either by going down the wall to be vented at the foundation line or vented at the soffit line of the house.

Heat ducts hard metal VS Insulated flex pipe

On hard metal pipes the air moves swiftly through the pipes with little to no hindrance the pipe walls are smooth galvanized metal with adjustable elbows as needed. The minor drawback of this type of pipe is the metal you must hot or cool the pipe first before tempering the room that it’s being sent to. The good thing about this type of ductwork it never comes apart all the joints are screwed together and all seams are now sealed so no air leakage. Finally when its time to have your duct work cleaned, they guys bring in 2 hoses a large volume vacuum hose and a large volume air compressor hose with these hooked on ether end each duct the volume of air used to clean the pipe run handles is with no problem.

Now with insulated flex pipes the air moves swiftly through the pipes with little to no hindrance the pipe walls are made of a spiraling piece of wire in beaded in the poly tubes pipe wall than covered with insulation and a 2nd poly to keep the cavity air space that the pipe is passing through. Sorry to say the inexperienced installers use this ductwork a lot and in places that it was not intended to be used. Granted this pipe is very flexible but bending the pipe in a hard 90° or even 180° and/or squeezing it down to fit a 3.5 inch space cavity. When the inside pipe measures 6” and the out side measures 8 1/2. A 6” round duct has 28.26 Cubic inch of open area when you crush it down to 3 1/2” on the exterior; the interior only has 5 cubic inches of open area. The bad thing about this ductwork is if too much air pressure and vacuum is used in the pipe run and the connections come apart and contracts to the vacuum side of the cleaning.

When you need this type of ductwork cleaned, many things can go wrong 1 the joints can come apart. The compressor hose can puncture the inner poly wall of the pipe, or if there is a restriction in the pipe and there is debris in the pipe it could clog. Remember these entire ducts are running in concealed spaces between your ceiling and 2nd floor or your basement ceiling and your main floor. If they disconnect there is no way to re attach them with out remove 1 of your finished surfaces.

Kitchen countertops

6 major types of countertops; Laminate, Wood, Metal, Corion, Tile, and Stone tops.
Looking at these different types of tops, how are they going to perform for your needs?
1. Making bread or cookies the worst type of counter top is tile, it’s not the tile but the grout joints, the flour and doe get into the grout areas and you have to work hard to get it clean.
2. Cutting Vegetables, fruit on the counter; Laminates and Corion IE plastic base polymers not do go with cutting utensils will leave cut marks in surface. Metals will scratch, while wood will age and look more rustic looking, while stone and tile will dull the utensils.
3. Putting hot items on the countertop; Laminates will leave a blister mark where the hot item was set. Wood tops will leave a darker brown mark above 400° while as polymer base products will turn a different color again above 400°. Metals, and stone have no problem handling the heat. Tile above 800°depending on the finish on the tile, Metals above 1500° and Stone above 5000°
4. Spoiling of oil or juice; wood will sock up the fluid like a sponge, tile grout joints will stain, stone not sealed, will allow fluid to migrate through the stone to the underside of the countertop.

5. Cutting raw meat; the only one that is not good, are the polymer base products. A case study was done after a prolonged use study, bacteria was able to establish it’s self even with proper cleaning with dish soap. On the other hand wood counter tops had bacteria right from the get go, but after a period of time the wood built up a resistance to bacteria and was more health for you.
6. Clean up; For a Kosher kitchen I recommend stainless steel you can scrub them, they can take a lot of heat, they a durable and will last a lifetime.

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.

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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