Mold in the Attic

- Any time small cables or wires pass through the top plates of walls in to the attic, the holes for the wires should be sealed up.  This is the result of years and years of air leaking through the insulation; the insulation acts like a filter, and traps all the dust in the air, turning it black.  Sealing these gaps can be easily accomplished with a can of foam insulation.  Even though these tiny holes don’t seem like a big deal, having them all over your attic can have a huge effect.  Do you see how some of the insulation in the photo below has been darkened?  It’s not mold. .  When they’re not sealed, they leak air ..More

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Unintended Consequences of Adding Insulation

- Houses that are leaky and have low levels of radon will often see an increase in radon levels after the building enclosure is tightened. Any change to the natural ventilation rate in a house can cause a change in the radon levels.  Once this source of ventilation is removed, radon levels increase. . This is due to a change in the natural air change rate, which dilutes radon levels ..More

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Ionization vs. Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

-  The sensitivity level of the ionization sensor in dual-sensor alarms is often reduced by manufacturers to give little to no benefit. Post update 7/16/13:  I recommend photoelectric smoke alarms. ..More

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Deck Ledger Attachment Methods

-  Without all things being equal, there are certainly ways of installing through-bolts improperly. All things being equal, a through bolt makes for the strongest connection per fastener. .  In the examples below, taken at a townhouse in Edina, you can see the end of the bolt where a washer and nut were fastened.  The problem with this installation is that someone didn’t have long enough bolts, so they had to chisel out a bunch of holes in the ledger to sink the washers and nuts in to ..More

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Are ‘Hot Roofs’ allowed in Minnesota?

-  The current version of the Minnesota State Building Code uses the 2006 International Residential Code, with amendments. ”  This section says “Unvented conditioned attic assemblies (spaces between the ceiling joists of the top story and the roof rafters) are permitted under the following conditions:” … and then goes on to list a bunch of conditions. Are hot roofs allowed in Minnesota?  This is a tricky question. 4 are met. .  If we turn to section R806. 4, we find a section titled “Conditioned attic assemblies.  So it would seem that hot roofs are allowed, as long as all of the requirements of R806 ..More

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