Posted on 16. Dec, 2014 by in ordinances and permits

Georgia Residential Energy Code Compliance Certificate missing a few lines

Built to a Higher Standard

Codes, Ordinances and Permits are the regulatory foundation our homes are built on.  They are designed to protect buildings and people, to promote safety and function.  Standards (Codes, Ordinances, and Permits) reflect changes in climate, materials, methods and culture.  They correct past mistakes, adjust to new conditions and provide a path forward. It’s never been easy to disseminate new ways of building from their inception to the job site.  Doing so now, during a period of extraordinary and rapid change, is a challenge.

It’s all Local

Hell on earth is located on the 3rd floor of Atlanta city hall.  The toils of Sisyphus are child’s play compared to obtaining a building permit there. A convoluted and labyrinth process is made worse by ill-tempered staff and interminable lines. The faulty, poorly designed website not only fails to inform, it doesn’t provide a means to comply. Smaller metro municipalities vary in their degrees of hellishness.

DIY Homeowner had it wired in all the wrong places

To Permit or not to Permit?

Permits and inspections add cost and uncertainty because of delays.  Getting a permit is like filing a tax return, it’s a complex, costly process requiring the patience of Job and costly specialists.  Larger firms use in-house personnel or hire expediters. Contractors and tradesmen transfer permit and inspection costs to their clients or offer a no permit option.  If you’re caught the project is shut down “red-tagged” until required permits are obtained.  Many Do it Yourselfers are ignorant of or choose not to follow the permit process.

Why are permits such a hassle?

Politics and bureaucracy play a role.  Reform-minded department heads rarely receive the financial and political support needed to provide better service.  Inspectors, routinely overworked and underpaid, may lack technical skills and experience. Standards change during each code cycle and interpretation of code language may vary from individual to individual. Some municipal inspection departments rely on outdated, inefficient paper systems. Scheduling inspections is a particular nuisance.  By definition contractors assemble labor and materials on the job site. Failed or postponed inspections delay the whole project, a common occurrence when municipal inspectors average 25 site inspections per day.

Building Science in practice: crawl space retrofit healthy and efficient

National Codes, Local Ordinances

The International Code Council (ICC) is the primary code organization in the US.  http://www.iccsafe.org/Pages/default.aspx
Revised codes allow cities to mature into mixed-use, walkable communities http://transect.org/codes.html
Decatur to require higher efficiency standards in 2015  http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/green-building-curmudgeon/new-green-building-ordinance-decatur-georgia
Big homes on small lots and aging storm sewers led to this stormwater ordinance.http://saportareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Proposed-Post-Development-Ordinance-10-08-2012.pdf.pdf.pdf
Drought and limited water supply the impetus for water conservation
http://www.dekalbrealtors.com/Documents/GovtAffairs/GAR%20White%20Paper%20Explaining%20Ordinance.pdf

Rivers of Savings: DeKalb’s Inefficient Plumbing Fixture Ordinance reduces water use 2 gallons per flush

Making Functional, Safe and Financially Sustainable Communities

In my nearly 30 years as an inspector I’ve seen the very real and positive results of building to higher standards.  As our society changes towns and cities are re-evaluating development models. One part of that change is to encourage durable, efficient and healthy construction. Encouraging good building makes economic sense.  User-friendly websites and inspection departments that assist and encourage this goal can help. Educating the public to the benefits of a well-run building department helps too.  Here are some examples:

Avondale Estates hires a “Permit Concierge”:
http://www.decaturish.com/2014/11/avondale-hires-pine-lake-official-for-concierge-job/
Permit Process in steps:  Fairfax County VA
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/construction/permit_process.htm
Trying to be helpful:  Pierce County WA
http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/Index.aspx?NID=117

Then we can get hell to move somewhere else……..

1995: The 9/11 of Home Construction

Posted on 09. Nov, 2014 by in Older Homes

Bare Minimum: A house built to code is the worst house you can legally build

When researching my next inspection I always check the build date.  If it’s between 1978 to 1995 I’ll be on the lookout for questionable workmanship and defective products.  1995 represents a turning point, a time when established presumptions about how to build houses proved inadequate for new products and updated efficiency requirements.  The change was not as immediate or catastrophic as 9/11.  Yet 1995 represents as well as any other year a benchmark; a time when old ways failed to serve new needs.

A series of events; a wide-open profit-driven market, new code requirements for tight, insulated homes, defective products and un-informed construction methods culminated in a series of legal judgements. The ensuing storm of financial loss continues to this day.  Notable failures in Metro Atlanta were Polybutylene water pipe (PB), hardboard lap siding, particularly Louisiana Pacific Innerseal brand, and EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish Systems), commonly referred to as Synthetic Stucco.  These products dominated their markets in the go-go years of Atlanta’s suburban expansion.

By the early 90’s inspectors knew something wasn’t right.  We were searching for the answers to why“They don’t build them like they used to” yet our suspicions had to wait for an accumulation of evidence, research and, ultimately legal action, for confirmation.  During the great Atlanta suburban expansion builders and manufacturers ruled the market.  When inspectors raised doubts they were viewed as a nuisance (see link below).  Manufacturers claimed, correctly in some cases, defects were the result of improper installation.  Moreover, material failures were exacerbated by a lack of understanding about Building Science-the interplay of environment, materials and use in buildings.

The frequency and magnitude of failures 
occurring within such a short time period indicated a larger problem. Homeowners wanting third-party review of new construction were the catalyst for the formation of GAHI, the Georgia Association of Home Inspectors.  GAHI membership requires code certification.

My research led to an understanding of How Homes Work.  Some will remember the class I taught of the same name.  I learned that heat and moisture control-especially in the humid Southeast-is critical.  And that composite building materials used in the 80s and 90s fail more readily when exposed to heat and moisture in newer, more tightly built and insulated homes.

Managing risk: PB pipe might last a long time….but then it might not.

Here’s a brief outline of PB pipe, Hardboard Siding and EIFS.  For a more detailed discussion of these topics review the links below.

Polybutylene Water Piping
PB pipe was tested using fresh water.  Most utilities add chlorine to disinfect water.  Over time chlorine causes the pipe to become brittle.  Pipe failures occur where the pipe is stressed:  at improperly crimped joints, where it enters the home, is not adequately supported or subject to vibration.  Qest, Vanguard and Shell are common brand names.

Slow Rot: Hardboard siding failing at nail pockets and bottom edge.

Hardboard Siding
Hardboard siding is a thin stiff sheet made of compressed sawdust, wood pulp or wood chips bound together with a plastic adhesive or resin under heat and pressure.  Cut into boards it was used as exterior siding.  When exposed to repeated wet-dry cycles it begins to swell, especially at the bottom edge and nail penetrations.  Painting slows, but does not stop, failure.

 

EIFS failure Trifecta: Un-sealed EIFS, un-sheltered wall, heat and moisture sensitive OSB wood panel sheathing

EIFS

Synthetic stucco is a type of building exterior wall cladding system that provides exterior walls with an insulated finished surface and waterproofing in an integrated composite material system.  Failure occurs when water is trapped behind the cladding.  Face-sealed systems depend on keeping water out by carefully caulking and sealing entry points at the roof and walls.  Poorly sealed EIFS led to significant wall framing damage.  Installation and maintenance are critical-failed or misapplied caulking being the most common source of damage.  Building codes were changed to require a pathway for water to drain from behind the siding without damaging walls.  EIFS retrofits improve flashing and caulking.

Despite builder resistance the private inspectors’ role in construction is now the norm. We’re both striving to satisfy a more demanding public.
http://tk-jk.net/judi_dan_archive/aboutinspections/lament.html

Polybutylene PB
http://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/PB_Piping.php http://www.ashireporter.org/HomeInspection/Articles/Take-Another-Look-at-Polybutylene-Plumbing/955

Hardboard Siding
http://www.atlantapros.com/home-buyers/defective-siding-products.htmhttp://www.sidingsolutions.com/pages/classtat.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana-Pacific

EIFS
http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/digests/bsd-146-eifs-problems-and-solutions

An End of an Era and Beginning of a New Millennium
Product and workmanship failures reached their apex in 1995. 
The construction industry responded with reformulated products, informed construction practice, revised codes, and a deeper understanding of the complexities of building science.  Though these changes are not equal in immediate effect to those made after 9/11 they are moving residential construction toward a healthier, more sustainable future.  Atlanta’s own http://www.earthcraft.org/ is one of several programs leading the way forward.

Check out my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ecoinspector

Lend a hand to Dan Curl/Comprehensive Home Inspections at Google Review
https://plus.google.com/105379744050065013937/about

 


2014 So Far: The Good, the Bad, and the Future

Posted on 03. Oct, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, New Homes, Older Homes

The end of spring/summer real estate season is time to catch up on personal business, analyze trends and plan ahead.

Armed with flashlight, screwdriver and little gray cells here’smy look around the housing industry

Mega-trends

I’ve worked for up-and-coming multi-degreed professionals, investors, software engineers/designers/managers, medical professionals, first-time buyers, retirees, divorced and widowed persons; everyone except my main source of income; the middle-middle class.   Many homes are still underwater…. there are mega-reasons it’s taking Atlanta so long to recover:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/28/how-the-recession-turned-middle-class-jobs-into-low-wage-jobs/  

Commons place with View

Atlanta

Accessible Atlanta is fact, and not just with Millennials.  Walkable Urban Places, WalkUPs, are where the money is: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/2013/10/03/new-report-reveals-historic-shift-in-real-estate-demand-in-atlanta-ga/

Codes and Safety: avoid the 200F wall

Contractors, Permits and Appraisals 

Most inspection defects aren’t the fault of reputable contractors-they’re caused by homeowners who believe they can do it with just a click of the mouse and a trip to the big box DIY store. http://www.freep.com/story/sponsor-story/hire-it-done/2014/09/26/contractors-are-people-too/16258659/

Un-licensed homeowners, flippers and jackleg contractors cost morein the long run.  Here’s a list of trades requiring licensure.  http://www.contractors-license.org/ga/Georgia.html

Revised appraisal rules taking locally established professionals out of their literal areas of expertise, are a mixed blessing
http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=21080260

Licensed plumbers know sewer should drain downhill

Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Healthy Home

The oft-misunderstood DeKalb Water Conservation Ordinancediscussed in detail:  http://dekalbrealtors.com/realtor-tools/

Energy improvements offer above-market returns, not to mention healthier air and better comfort.  Here’s a link to certified energy contractors http://www.bpi.org/tools_locator.aspx?associateTypeID=CT 

Whole-house dehumidifier at Villa Curl also provides a dedicated source of fresh air

 

 

 

 

 

Builders get the first part of the “Build it tight, ventilate it right”equation, they’ve yet to master the second.  Here’s a good first step to understand how to breathe easy.
http://www.southface.org/ez/media/gapoweriaqbooklet.pdf

 

Next time:  History Lesson:  Why 1995 was the 9/11 for Atlanta housing.

Put in a good word for Dan Curl and Comprehensive Home Inspections at Google Review
https://plus.google.com/105379744050065013937/about

 

Letters Home

Posted on 16. Aug, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Ethics, General, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature, New Homes, Older Homes

Moore’s Law in practice: Duct system zone control motherboards that used to cost 9000 are now 400

Inspectors typically work Point of Sale transactions.  A lot of what we do gets lost in the buyers rush to negotiate, move and settle. Here are my reasons to schedule aMaintenance Inspection every 6-9 years.

The science of how we build and live in homes is changing.  Materials, methods and lifestyle all have an impact on function and durability.

 

The Whole Enchilada: Electric code now requires upgraded mains, panel, breakers, wiring and fixtures. Main panel should have been moved during this kitchen renovation

IT makes for affordable components and systems. There’s no reason to assume that the way we build homes will remain unchanged while the world around us is speeding along at the rate of Moore’s Law

Because of bureaucratic hassle obtaining a building permit in metro Atlanta may be considered an option, not a requirement.  Most Building Codes are updated every three years.  Significant codes changes respond to major disasters or building component failures.

 

Dirty cooling fins reduce efficiency and appliance life

A home built or renovated to code is worst structure you can legally build. Go below that minimum at your own risk.  Exceed it and you’ll benefit in the long run.

Systems and components last an average 6-15 years.  Simple and easy maintenance extends service life

Latent, long-developing defects due to sunlight, heat and moisture are less noticeable and, eventually, more costly to repair

 

 

Moisture wicking through foundation wall makes a moldy basement and reduced wall strength

Additions, renovations and energy upgrades alter the movement of heat, air and moisture inside the home. Good time for an inspection.  Not going to move?  Don’t count on it.  I inspect Never-gonna-move-again homes all the time.

The culture of how we build communities is changing:  http://wabe.org/post/what-do-you-do-broken-suburb.  Keeping up with the Jones is more about re-sizing and lifestyle options.

 

 

 

Not Good Housekeeping. Are you using your mechanical closet for storage?

Lost in Translation:  “the idea that houses can loved and beautiful…..has been reduced to a grim business of facts and figures, an uphill struggle against the relentless urge of technology and bureaucracy, in which human feeling has almost been forgotten.”  Buildings, especially homes, should speak the character and aspirations of their owners.  A home can be more than just new countertops.

Homeowners, builders and realtors may not know all that is, and is becoming, aboutHow Homes Work. That’s my job, let me help.

 

 

House-smart realtor Peggy Desiderio noticed a knothole-split deck stair stringer

Applied Building Science. Adjacent crawl vent feeds moist 93F air onto a 55F supply air duct. The result: 100% saturated subfloor and mold

New methods, durable materials. Moisture barrier and weather-resistant stainless steel exhaust housing

 

 

Postcards from the field

Posted on 30. Jul, 2014 by in Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Older Homes

These recent intown Atlanta inspections put my understanding of building science to the test

Nowhere to run: organic clays do not drain

1.  Poor Drainage

A reputable builder purchased mid-block properties in an older neighborhood.  Local ordinance required he dispose of roof and surface moisture on-site, not to the storm sewer.  He built a comfortable, durable and efficient Earthcraft home.  This property and adjacent lots contain large amounts of organic clay soil. Organic clays do not disperse water, they adsorb it.  My client has a wonderful house and a permanently wet yard.  The builder has a problem:  he’s built himself into a wet corner.

Spliced knob and tube wiring is a fire hazard. Bathroom exhaust is not vented outside. Note that exhaust is directed through the recessed light fixture and further degrades the cloth-covered wiring

2.  Faulty Wiring

While inspecting an infill home in East Atlanta the A/C circuit breaker kicked off.  When reset it kicked again.  I’ve seen the tripped breaker, flickering light, crazed electronic poltergiest before:  voltage drop from loose service main conductors caused a compensatory spike in amperage tripping the breaker.  A bootleg tap (unapproved connection to the public power supply), proved to be the poltergiest.  Make your electrician pull a permit for major improvements.

 

 

Amateur repairs below the chimney were hidden by drywall. Unless properly supported roof framing in this area will eventually fail

3.  Roof Leaks:  The Chimney Cricket and the Soft Wall 

A chimney cricket is a small false roof built behind a chimney on the main roof to divert rainwater away from the chimney.  While inspecting I found a cricket, new metal crown, newer shingles and new siding.  All good, right?  After closing the my client’s painter noted “soft” drywall at the room below the chimney.  Further investigation revealed amateur wall framing repair.

 

This furnace vent connector is blocked by fallen masonry where it enters the chimney compromising both function and occupant safety

4.  Unsafe Heating System

Equate gas appliance operation to a fire: everything’s good as long as there’s plenty of combustion air to feed the flames and an open flue to disperse the byproducts of combustion.  Finished basements rarely provide enough combustion air-especially when gas appliances are closeted.  Gas appliances vented into unlined chimneys are readily blocked by fallen bricks.  The solution for both is to install direct-vent appliances.  They’re designed to draw combustion air from and vent exhaust to the outside.

Moisture from the unvented dryer affects comfort and health: high moisture levels are uncomfortable and conducive to mold growth

5.  Poorly Maintained

We’re all guilty of procrastination when it comes to home maintenance.  Left undone deferred repairs will not only kill a sale, they often lead to expensive repairs.  Always change your furnace filter-when it gets dirty. Install the 4″ pleated fabric type for best results.   Clean your dryer vent inside and outside.  Never vent the dryer inside or under your house.  Replace plastic dryer vents with metal, they’re a fire hazard.  Don’t vent dryers near your A/C unit.

 

 

 

20 years after copper laterals were replaced the vertical galvanized fixture legs are failing

6.  Minor Structural Damage

Understand the redundant method of wood construction:  each repetitive framing member supports and is dependent upon the others around it.   One rafter or joist failure may not lead to an immediate system failure yet progressive failure will occur if the damaged structure is not repaired.  Make sure your contractor understands construction-no amateurs!

 

The lack of external pressure reduction valve and internal thermal expansion device coupled with a rusted-shut water heater safety valve is a potentially explosive situation!

7.  Plumbing Problems

When galvanized piping fails plumbers replace the laterals-the horizontal sections of piping below the home.  They do not replace the main line or or vertical legs (shorter sections run up through walls) unless they’ve failed.  And fail they will, 20 years on.  I called out compromised flow and fouled faucets in an otherwise acceptable 94 year old Virginia Highlands bungalow.Rusted-shut temperature and pressure relief valves are an all too common and potentially explosive safety issue.  Manage water piping pressure with reduction valves, thermal expansion devices and water hammer arrestors. And make sure your water heater relief valve is operable.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMDTEjJUImw

 

 

8.  Window Woes

After the painter has gone verify at least one window per bedroom is operable.  If there’s a fire you need to get out quick.  Windowsills are by definition exposed to heat and moisture.  Keep them in good repair, especially newer finger-jointed lumber. Double-pane window seals fail faster when exposed to direct sunlight.  There are several lawsuits pending against manufacturers of vinyl and metal-clad wood windows, they rot.  Give your window frames a squeeze.

9.  Inadequate Ventilation

Build it tight but don’t forget to ventilate it right  Whole house and thermostatic exhaust fans are out-they create negative pressure within the building. Install passive roof exhaust like ridge vents and turbines. Negative pressure induced when running exhaust fans, especially in tightly built homes, should have a replacement mechanism.  Here’s one solution: http://www.aircycler.com/

There is no provision to replace air combustion and makeup air and the mechanical closet is stuffed with Volatile Organic Compounds (paint cans)

10.  Environmental Hazards

My client, who had a history of respiratory sensitivity, decided she didn’t want  to purchase a home that made her sick, no matter how nice it looked.  My analysis revealed inadequate ventilation and the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds in a tightly built, beautifully appointed Brownstone.

A comprehensive, whole-house approach informed by Building Science gives me the tools I need to assess the condition of your home, old or new, big or small.  Reach me at www.dancurlhomeinspector.com 

Cool in June

Posted on 17. Jun, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature

The Streetlight Effect: convenience trumps reality

Thermostat Wars and The Streetlight Effect

Too much A/C gives me sinusitis, too little and I can’t sleep.  You may be comfortable at 79, but it’s 78 for me. Family beach week is a constant battle between the 70F-crew and grumpy uncle Dan.
Individual comfort depends very much on the specific needs of the comforted. How homeowners solve cooling deficiencies depends upon their understanding of the problem. When I see a fan in every room during an inspection I consider the Streetlight Effect.

The Streetlight Effect 

The easy fix is tempting.  The quite human tendency to accept the most convenient solution is known as The Streetlight Effect
http://io9.com/5983112/how-the-streetlight-effect-keeps-scientists-in-the-dark

Ceiling fans (Air velocity) is just one of six comfort metrics. 
http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/factors.htm

Common Cooling Fixes: 

More fans may be a simple answer but not the right solution

Appliances:  Rule of thumb load calculations and latent discomfort

Rule of Thumb vs Load Calcs
Determining appliance size and duct layout with default measurements from what was done on the previous job is a Streetlight Effect shortcut.  Make your HVAC installer perform appliance and duct load calculations to determine the correct amount of energy it takes to heat and cool.  Too big, small, fast or slow may compromise comfort. Software makes the math easy.  Meet the Code, do load calcs 

Over-Loads: 500 square foot vaulted west-facing addition with 12 windows and 3 skylights

 

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity  Latent heat control is the key to comfort.  Opt for dehumidifiers and variable speed appliances. Unmanaged humidity is conducive to mold.
http://www.buildingscience.com/documents/bareports/ba-0214-conditioning-air-in-the-humid-south-creating-comfort-and-controlling-cost

Building Enclosure:  Don’t let living large=costly discomfort

Fouled filters are the HVAC equivalent of going for run with sock stuffed down your throat

 

Big homes don’t have to be energy-expensive and uncomfortable.  Atlanta has a corps of energy-savvy design and installation experts trained to fix problems like:

  • Energy-hogging FROGS (family room over garage)
  • Hot-topped, cold-bottomed split level homes
  • Vaulted, glass-walled, skylit BIG ADDITIONS 
  • Burning Hot Poptop attic conversions

Atlanta’s Southface http://www.southface.org/ is a clearing house for energy efficient, healthy design

Use industry standards for comfort and health

Don’t monkey around with Ducts

Obsess about furnace filters.  Dirty filters are bad for airflow, equipment, and air quality
Balance airflow with larger, strategically located return air openings
Support and straighten ducts. Crushed and sagging ducts slow airflow and dehumidification. 

Holes in pressurized duct systems blow your dollars away.   Secure and seal ducts and plenums
Take it inside  Ducts and equipment in 150F Hotlanta attics are 45% less efficient than those in conditioned space

Cooling comfort is attainable and sustainable.  Contact a comfort-smart independent inspector who knows his BS……before you buy that next fan.

A Question of Balance

Posted on 23. May, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home

Five small windows work where one big one would not. Reflected light on the counter and island complete the effect. Architecture Tourist TK agrees

Economies in Equilibrium

Efficient systems require balance.   Part of my job is to discover out-of-balance components before they compromise function and safety.  I rail against the over-emphasis on appearance at the expense of durability because I know, sometime in the future, failures will occur.
Appearances do make a difference, especially when they express common architectural language with a unique voice.

nman Park window vernacular, three color scheme, simple lines and durable features

Lowes and Lead Paint

Contractors are tasked with identifying and controlling lead paint during renovations. This new approach is still a bit out of balance:
http://www.remodeling.hw.net/business/regulations/lowes-to-pay-record-500k-penalty-over-subs-lead-paint-rule-violations_o

Simple screened porch jazzed-up with red floor and bright fabrics. Curtains moderate light and privacy

Pressure Balance

Pressure Regulating Valves (PRV) protect your water piping from excessive external pressures generated from the public water supply.  Thermal expansion devices protect piping from internal pressures.  You need both.

Valves prevent high street pressure from damaging pipes, fixtures and fittings

Too small return forces the airhandler to suck cold from the slab foundation. Increased air speed whistles Dixie

Negative Returns

Balanced airflow in a forced air duct system is critical.  If the area of return openings is insufficient pressure is balanced by drawing air from outside the conditioned space.  This often leads to comfort and air quality deficiencies.  A house without adequate return openings is pressure negative.  It sucks.

Thermal Expansion Devices control internal pressures like those created when heated water expands

 

 

 

 

 

2014 Atlanta Home Trends

Posted on 22. Apr, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Energy, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Intown Neighborhoods, Nature

These real-world trends in the Atlanta market are worth a look. Thanks to agent Peggy Desiderio and landscape contractor David Curl for your knowledge and advice

 

Boomer-town Decatur is popular with the 50 and over crowd

Walk To Pizza

What was once a lifestyle decision is now an economic necessity.   This nation-wide trend holds for Atlanta, ITPand OTP.
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/05/why-you-pay-more-walkable-neighborhoods/2122/

 

 

Walkable Neighborhood: Jazz night in Oakhurst

Sprawled Out
Hell on Wheels Atlanta traffic has put the brakes on outward expansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take the Last Train to Boomerville 

Ranch-condo quads for the 55 and older set are hot properties if they have the right features:  lock ‘n leave maintenance, water and energy efficiency, big kitchens, good detailing and NO STAIRS!

Seaside, Florida designer Andres Duany explains
retirement communities:  http://vimeo.com/6517061

Icycylene foam insulation helped transform this 100 year old crawl into a dry, conditioned basement-like space

New Science for Crawl Spaces

Cleaning, sealing and conditioning your crawl space works. I know.  I’ve done it at my house.

http://www.crawlspaces.org/

Direct, Efficient Solutions

Direct vent gas appliances allow installers to draw air for combustion and dilution from outside, a logical choice where finished basements limit available air and in older homes to bypass failing masonry chimneys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjZa-S-b7F4

Killing Two Birds with One Foam

Icycylene foam forms an efficient pressure and
thermal barrier.  Foam keeps moisture and bugs out while increasing R-values in roofs, walls and floors. The nature of the material allows it to fill irregular spaces traditional materials cannot.

 

Hardscaped Outdoor Room Fire pit, sit wall, water feature, Cherokee stone patio

Hardscapes and Edible Gardens 

Landscape clients spend more on patios, sit walls and fire pits than on trees and shrubs.

Many prefer kitchen gardens with fruit trees, berries and herbs and designs that reduce water use

On the Way Out……

Road Warrior no more  Commutes over 30 minutes are no longer the norm.

Chimneys don’t make energy sense.  Switch-activated gas appliances provide convenient, safe heating.

Rarely used jetted tubs are giving way to the oversized stall showers.

Made for another era furnace humidifiers, whole house, attic exhaust and ceiling fans often do more efficiency and air quality harm than good.  Better to have a tight building with a designed ventilation system.

http://www.panasonic.com/business/building-products/ventilation-systems/index.asp

Dan’s List: Media, Products and Services With not much of an apology to Angie

Posted on 29. Mar, 2014 by in Architecture, Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning

They’re smiling because someone else is paying

Homes on TV

Tearing houses apart makes for a show, not an inspection.  The inspector’s goal is not to entertain but to assess and recommend cost-effective repairs. If Tom tells Kevin “We’ll just have to tear it out and start over” he’s spending money most of my clients don’t have.  

The success of This Old House created a market for home-style reality TV.  Many of these shows do not reflect the true nature of the industry.  It’snot real. That’s why they call it entertainment.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0iPVF-SZw

 

Knowledge, experience and ethical conduct saved Scott a toolbag’s worth of cash

Fear Factor Moisture Control

Scott still had moisture in his crawl space after following my drainage recommendations. Waterproofing contractors bid 15K, 7K and 3K to fix it.  We took a look and found water entering through a small opening at the stepped foundation. True cost of repair:  7.99 for a tub of hydraulic cement
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzFY0Q0TBPQ

Dirty Ducting:  The Old Bait and Switch 

Every con artist knows how to manipulate Greed and Fear.  The bait, a cheap duct cleaning fee,  is followed by the switch, the misunderstood, hot-button, scientifically vague, four letter hazard-of-the-moment word MOLD.
http://www.americanownews.com/story/22110668/air-duct-cleaning-scams

Monkeying Around This install illustrates an all-to-common ignorance of basic design standards

Flexduct: Cheap and Non-Durable

Flexible plastic ribbed ducts have replaced metal ducts as the industry standard.  HVAC contractors save money by going cheap on ducting-and it shows.

http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/building-science/should-flex-duct-be-banned

The Hail You Say

I got some nasty emails when I first published this article
http://tk-jk.net/judi_dan_archive/blog/HailChasers.html
Be on your Gutter Guard

These very expensive products work as long as it doesn’t rain very hard.  A niche product at best.
http://www.pressurewashinghickorync.com/gutter-guards-do-they-work
Leaky Windows update 8.1

Inspector Marko Vovk is back with another great video.  His observations and knowledge of building science accurately describe how and why windows fail.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP0o9do4eSc
 

Don’t let misconception, misunderstanding or ignorance translate into financial loss Invest in an impartial, third-party inspection BEFORE you write that fat check.  770-457-2787

Open Up

Posted on 12. Mar, 2014 by in Building Science, Caring for your Home, Eco-Inspector, Healthy Home, Heating and Air-Conditioning, Nature

Rotting windowsill on a not-so-old house

For 28 years I’ve seen the windows of neglect: bound with paint, sashes screwed shut, locked-never to be opened, damaged hardware and screens, rotted sills.

No matter what type home, town or country, big or small, rich or poor, black or white, folks do not open windows.

 

Windows are designed for the simultaneous and independent control of:

Natural illumination

Natural ventilation:  The subject of this newsletter 

View out

View in

Passage of insects

Passage of water

Passage of heat-radiant, conducted, convected

Lots of un-opened windows

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is up to five times worse inside your home than outside.  The situation is getting worse as people spend more time inside and tightly built homes limit infiltration

Spring and Fall are the shoulder seasons, the interim between cold/dry and hot/humid.

The Japanese understand and appreciate ventilation.  Their building codes guarantee access                                                   to sunlight and wind, nature’s cleansing mechanisms

Designed for ventilation and ease of operation. Will the owners trouble themselves to open the slider doors?

Americans are special.  We love to mechanize our solutions.   Ultra-violet lights and ozone air purifiers emulate the healthy effects of sun and wind.

House deodorants, scents and candles emulate the smell of freshness.

Poor ventilation and filtration worsen your indoor air by trapping air pollutants.   Open windows on opposite sides of your home for ten minutes daily and the cross ventilation will improve your indoor air quality

 

Kiwis think so too.  http://www.energywise.govt.nz/your-home/ventilation

 

There’s something deeper to this than neglected windows

 

Building Science informs us that homes are environmental separators that provide a designed environment for human use and occupancy.

 

In these hectic, uncertain times homes have become psychological separators.  They are our castles, our place of refuge.

 

Windows stay closed to separate us from the outside of traffic, nosy neighbors, pollen, criminals, darkness, dogs barking, leafblowers roaring, planes ascending-from the craziness of a world we don’t want to let in.

 

At Villa Curl I’ve found pleasure in the sounds of wind-shuffled leaves, of trains and planes, church bells sounding the hour and the pastry-sweet smell the local pie factory.  Yes, the traffic is noisome, dogs bark, the world can have sharp edges.   I’ve come to accept these things.

 

Try opening windows ten minutes each day.  It’s guaranteed to improve your home and your health-and it just might improve your peace of mind.