CONSTRUCTION 101

Over the last 30 years that I have been involved in construction I have heard several people say how much they did not enjoy the experiance of building or remodeling their home.



Decks; To Take In the Outdoors, They're Worth It!
 

Mark Eastman                   4/2/10

 

 

          Spring is here and with it comes, warmer, sunnier, longer days, causing people to think more about spending time outdoors. A deck can be a great place to spend time outdoors. One thing that comes to mind, when you think about a deck is having fun outside with family and friends. For an increasing number of people a deck is as valuable as any other part of the home. Homeowners who want to enjoy a low maintenance addition to their home might consider a deck. According to a recent survey done by Remodeling Magazine, adding a deck returned 86.7 percent on the original investment.

          Once you’ve decided that a deck is what you need, there are some questions that must be answered. First, what material should be used to build it? It used to be that your choices were wood, wood and wood. Nowadays there are a variety of materials to choose from and some of them don’t contain any wood. Wood, whether it’s treated pine, smooth cedar or redwood, is still a reasonable and affordable option. Another product that is currently available and gaining popularity is composite decking, which is a combination of wood bi-products and plastic. Also there are some aluminum, vinyl and plastic decking products out there as well. The main focus of this article is going to be the comparison of wood and composite.

          The biggest advantage that wood has over the other materials is cost. Wood is typically the easiest to purchase due to the availability and familiarity of the product. Some people prefer the natural appearance of wood even though some of the alternative products have a very natural wood grain look; they are still simulated. The fact that wood needs to have a finish applied allows for some flexibility for changing the appearance of the deck periodically without changing the material. Wood is a high maintenance product that that needs routine cleaning, staining, and painting, all of which are time consuming and expensive processes. Molding, cracking and splintering are also some of the problems that are common with wood.

          Composite decking began to show up in the early 1990’s as a product that was intended to be environmentally friendly. It was made from recycled plastic milk cartons and ground up pallets. Since then many of the manufacturers have started using virgin plastic and wood fiber from other sources or some combination of recycled and virgin products. The wood fibers help protect the decking from UV damage and add stability. The plastic fibers help prevent rotting and splitting. Some composite products are manufactured without using any preservatives. This problem has shown up as the wood fibers deteriorate leaving voids in the decking that leads to failure. For that reason it is important to use brands that are treated with a preservatives and anti-fungal chemicals. Composite decking is more durable and weather resistant; it maintains better color retention and requires less maintenance over the life of the deck than wood, normally just washed a couple of times per year. Even though composite decking is more durable, it is not completely immune to scratches, marks, stains and damage so there are some products that can be used to restore, protect and beautify your composite decking, anything man made can be man improved.  The cost for composite decking is more than wood, but normally will pay for the difference in the long run by minimizing maintenance. The structural capacity and tensile strength of composite decking is less than wood and it should not be used as load bearing components such as joists or beams. None the less composite material is very strong and if installed correctly is able to bear the weight of every day usage. Another advantage of the composite product over wood is the recent introduction of the hidden fastener systems available from several of the manufacturers. Most manufacturer’s offer composite post sleeves, railings and balusters that can be added to the completed deck. There are a wide variety of accessaries than can enhance your outdoor experience. Cutting and fastening of composite decking is similar to wood, but it is important that it be installed correctly to not void manufacturer’s warranties.

          There are a few other products out there that are less popular than composite or wood that includes hollowed profile plastic decking and hollow extruded aluminum. These are the least natural looking, but have some great longevity characteristics. These products also offer hidden fasteners for clean installation.

          As you can see there are many options to consider when building a deck? So if you are planning to build a deck, be sure to contact a qualified builder for help with your choices and do your research. A deck, even though it is a large investment, it is a great way to enjoy the out doors for years to come. So let you imagination go and consider all those ideas and dreams, build that deck, then get out the grill and enjoy.





Heat Loss & Gain; It's More Than Just Temperature

Mark Eastman            12/10/09


As the temperature on the thermomotor drops into the teens I find myself thinking about ways to make our home warmer. If you live in an older home like ours, 20 years old or older, it most likely is not as efficient as it should be. Not enough insulation, single pane windows and air infiltration are all issues that need attention.

Understanding how heat moves into and out of your home can help you determine what projects you need to do first. A basic misunderstanding about heat is that it flows upward. Although hot air does rise because it is less dense than cool air, heat is unaffected by gravity and flows in all directions. For example if you put a heating element in the center of a metal block, the bottom will get just as hot as the top and sides.

Heat moves through your home in three ways. First way is conduction, which would apply to the metal block example or the handle of a cast iron skillet on your stove. This is how most of the heat moves through the walls, ceiling and floors in your home. The temperature difference on either side of a wall determines how fast heat will flow through it. The higher the R-value of insulation in that wall the slower the heat transfer.

Convection transfer is similar to conduction, but occurs in fluids and gases. When it is windy outside, cold air increases the heat loss from the wall more than if the air, at the same temperature, was still. This is the “wind chill” factor you hear weather forecasters talk about. Convection ovens use this form of heat transfer to cook by moving hot air.

The last type of heat transfer is radiation, which is probably the most difficult to understand. Radiation does not need a transfer material to move heat. This is how the sun warms the earth though millions of miles of empty space or how the top of a steak gets seared in the broiler. Radiant heat transfer is generally more of an issue in the summer, but can not be ignored during the winter. Radiant heat is not blocked by standard insulation, but rather by reflectivity. An example of this would be the way dark colors of roofing, siding, etc. absorb heat and light colors reflect it.

For example if your home has a particularly cold wall on the northwest, there is likely both conductive and convective heat loss to blame. Adequate wall insulation and high quality windows and doors in the wall would be the best place to begin. Also wind breaks, i.e. evergreen trees or privacy fences, can help too. There are several small ways to make improvements, including new weather stripping, filling voids in foundations with spray foam, sealing around electrical and plumbing openings, etc.

NOW is always a good time to invest in these home improvements because they will keep you warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, as well as provide a reasonable economic payback with lower utility bills. Timber Creek Construction can help you determine what if any improvements or weather proofing projects you need to have done. We would be happy to meet with you at your convenience and evaluate your specific needs.

Right now is an even better time considering that the Federal Government is offering a tax credit as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, available now through the end of 2010. With this tax credit you can recover 30% of the cost of materials when adding insulation, windows, entry doors and roofs designed to reduce your home’s heat loss or gain, up to $1500.00. Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, provides guidelines on what qualifies for tax credits at www.energystar.gov, keyword “tax credits”.

You can file for energy tax credits using IRS Form 5695. Remember to get a Manufacturer Certification Statement for your records. Some state government offices offer further subsidies or rebates to consumers who want to make their homes more efficient. For a listing of state and local energy efficiency assistance available, visit the Database for State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, at www.dsireusa.org.








       "In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord." - Ephesians 2:21
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