Tankless Water Heaters - A Good Idea Gone Wrong

Not long ago I completed a project in central Texas. While in the planning stage, the owner indicated to me that he wanted to install a tankless water heating system in the space. I asked him how many he wanted installed. He gave me a look as if I had asked him how to hang a door. He knew me as a knowledgeable professional, so his surprise at my ignorance of tankless water heaters took him by surprise. [...]

Design Drawings: Exhibit A

The design drawing is Exhibit A in any legal proceeding. A contract can have the word count of War and Peace but cannot fully describe the work the client expects and is paying for. The drawing is the final “word” on the project. The design drawing eliminates confusion and conveys the client’s vision for the project in a way that the builder knows exactly what the client wants. [...]

Pro Building Tip: Roof Decking – Why can I see the outline of the Plywood under the Shingles?

Drive through any subdivision and you will see geometric shadows on every roof beneath the shingles where the 4×8, 7/16″ decking has swollen from exposure to moisture. Back in the day the standard was 1/2″ CDX plywood. (CD is the grade of plywood: C grade on the exposed side and D grade on the “down side.” The “X” indicates it is rated for exterior applications, though not ground or water contact. In lumber grading, the material finish rating is as high as “A” (finish quality) to as low as “D” (filler or shim materials.) [...]

The Tract Home Builder Trap

I was at a local restaurant having lunch earlier this week. A couple seated at a nearby table leaned close together and held a conversation in hushed but urgent tones. Between them they had spread as widely as they could a rolled set of blueprints. I learned, from the small part of their conversation, loud enough to overhear, that they were distressed about the cost over-runs they were experiencing with their nationally known major builder. [...]

A Return to Craftsmanship

As a young man, I worked with one of my father’s carpentry crews. Notice I didn’t specify framing crew, trim crew, cornice crew, concrete crew, roofing crew, or sheetrock crew. In those days we built everything from the foundation to the shingles. Today, each component phase is subcontracted to a “specialist team.” Because I learned every skill and performed every phase of construction, I learned that constants exist across all phases of construction. I also learned the value of nail patterns, nailing techniques, and nailing points. When you have to manually drive thousands of 16 penny nails, you learn to make each one count.[...]