Using Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure Treated lumber (PT lumber) is a very convenient and affordable choice for your exterior construction applications. It offers durability, rot resistance and termite protection. The chemical process which infuses these characteristics, however, can have some undesirable consequences. One such consequence is twisting over time.

Warped Pressure Treated lumber

How Pressure Treated Lumber is Created

Originally, manufacturers preserved Pressure Treated lumber with a chemical known as Chromated Copper Arsenic. The EPA eventually decided that the toxicity of this chemical was quite dangerous and recommended that such wood be treated with a penetrating oil finish bi-annually. But over time, lumber manufacturers stopped much production of the arsenic-based preservative in favor of less toxic chemicals, such as Alkaline Copper Quaternary, Copper Azole, and Micronized Copper Azole. But no matter which chemical the lumber supplier uses, the application process is the same. Prior to pressure treating, the manufacturer places the wood into a tank which can depressurize. This tank removes any air in the wood and then floods those air voids with one of the above chemicals. After treatment, the wood has a high moisture content for a period of time. This moisture can become the bane of builders.

Moisture Problems and More

After chemical pressure treatment, PT lumber must dry quite a bit before you use it in construction. Some builders use the wood before it dries and hope that the anchoring of nails and fasteners will prevent its twisting as it dries. However, this procedure is not the optimum for best results. If you use PT lumber before it dries, the customer may experience very twisted results down the road. The warped pieces are not structurally compromised, but they are an eyesore. Another issue Pressure Treated lumber can experience is called checking, which means that the wood splits and splinters. But both twisting and checking can be minimized, if you follow some simple steps.

Be Picky

As you select the Pressure Treated wood for your project, plan ahead. Not only does the grain and pith affect twisting and splitting, but the grade and type of lumber plays a part as well. When choosing the grade and type, look for Pressure Treated lumber Grade 1 or higher, and also look for the Kiln Dried After Treatment (KDAT) marking. Both of these factors will ensure you have a high quality wood and lower moisture content than is standard. In addition, examine each individual piece carefully as you select it. Check that the grain is straight and runs parallel to the long face of the board. Also, look at the pith, if it is part of a 4X4 or 6X6 piece. The pith is the center of the growth rings, and the inner rings have a tendency to not be as stable. Another thing to be aware of is that a piece which includes the pith will be more likely to check. If you must buy lumber which has the pith, be sure it is centered and matches on both ends of the piece.

Final Prep for Use

After heeding all of the above and you purchase your Pressure Treated lumber, you can do a few more things to ensure that your wood stays on the straight and narrow. First, if you did not buy the kiln dried version, you will likely need to allow the PT lumber to dry out a bit before you use it. Step one is to paint the ends to prevent moisture from escaping unevenly. Next, stack the wood on stickers and add weights to help stabilize it as it dries out. The drying process can take several weeks, so plan ahead. Also be sure to buy a little more than you will need, as some pieces may twist anyway and will not be usable. Finally, if this all seems like too much work, consider using cedar or redwood instead, as they are more stable.

Is a contractor doing your exterior construction at the same time he’s building a home for you? If so, don’t miss the chance to ask him to provide a 10-Year New Home Warranty from American eWarranty! It’s the best coverage you can get!

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Landscape Purposefully: Trees

We’ve all seen “those” homes … you know, the ones which have a giant maple tree or some such arboreal entity looming about 2” from the house.

These trees are far too close to the house.

It may have looked cute when it was a sapling, but in full size, it’s far too close for comfort. And that’s just the part you can see. The part you can’t see, below ground, poses a huge threat to your home’s structural integrity. Let’s learn how to landscape purposefully to avoid such issues as your home ages.

These trees are planted well away from the home's foundation.

Space, the Final Frontier

When you plant trees, you must know exactly how far their roots will spread. Some species, such as willow, maple and aspen, send out roots very aggressively and invasively. These roots, seeking water, can infiltrate your underground pipes, break up your sidewalks and driveway or even damage your home’s foundation. It is wise to be proactive and to allow a great deal of space between your house and your tree plantings. A good rule of thumb is to gauge that the roots will extend to 3 times the tree’s crown’s circumference. So if a mature tree has a 10 foot crown, plant it 30 feet away from any structure it could damage. For willow, maple and aspen, add extra feet onto that. Another factor to consider is the location of power lines and overhead wires. Again, think about the mature size of the tree’s crown in relationship to those things as well. Space is the key. One more extremely important caution: before you dig, ALWAYS check to know where underground pipelines and conduits run. From any US state, call 811 and the local One Call System will mark where such underground hazards cross your property.

Scale

No, we’re not talking about how much your tree weighs. Rather, consider the mature scale of the tree compared to your home and other structures. Too large a tree can make a small house feel miniature. In the same way, a shorter-growing tree can make a two-story home loom and tower. Think proportionally, and always remember that when you first plant, while the distance between your new plantings might look huge, once those trees mature, they will appear much closer to each other.

Keep it Native

While the exotic tree from South America might seem like a cool idea, it’s best to choose trees and shrubs that are native to your area. Not only will they have a better chance of thriving, but also they will be more resistant to local pests and diseases. Another factor is that some non-native species can be invasive when planted where there are no inhibitions to growth. While not technically a tree, bamboo is an example of such a species.

Plant with Purpose

After considering all the above factors, finally, decide what purpose the tree will serve. Is it a shade tree? A fruit tree? A climbing tree for kids? An ornamental tree? The purpose will help determine further which tree to use in a particular place. For example, a shade tree near a patio area would need to only be about 10 feet tall when mature to provide sufficient shade, but a shade tree near a house would need greater height and crown spread to shade the home well. For an ornamental tree, consider growth shape, fall foliage color and maintenance, such as pruning needed.

With careful consideration, you will be able to landscape purposefully and create a stunning, safe and effective yard which compliments your beautiful, new home.

Tile Style

Tile is still an exciting trend in new home construction and in remodeling as well. But as with most trends, the styles and patterns for kitchens and baths are changing for 2017. We’ll let you know how!

Subway Tile

In recent years, subway tile, with its clean lines and pristine white glaze, has become a staple for kitchen and bathroom walls. This tile style is still going strong, but with a twist. Instead of only the white glaze, manufacturers are promoting pops of color for subway tile. From pastel pinks to bold turquoise, subway tile options are booming. In addition, installation styles are changing. Instead of orderly, horizontal rows of these tiles, try installing them in a herringbone or chevron pattern for extra interest.

Atypical Tile Shapes and Hues

2017 is the year of variety in tile choices. Some popular shapes are hexagonal (honeycomb), fish scale, intricate geometrics, textured natural stone, arabesques, penny tile and elaborate florals.

Tile Style

In addition, this isn’t your mom’s tiled kitchen! Colors star in vivid hues and finishes. Trends are definitely moving away from simple lines and neutral shades and are venturing into detail and variety. For example, the fish scale style tile comes in ocean-hued iridescent glass and it conveys a tranquil subaqueous ambiance.

Tile Floors Too!

Another recent trend is installing floor tile that resembles hardwood. The ceramic and porcelain flooring industry has exploded with wood look-alikes. The amazing thing is that some of the tile floors look so authentically like wood that you can’t tell it’s not wood unless you touch it. Digital image quality and high tech production techniques have fostered this advancement. The variety of images and patterns make the tile flooring appear authentic. Now, wood-look tile can have radiant heat underneath it via sub-floor heating which allows you to install tile directly over it.

Should you install tile? It’s definitely a great selling point for new home construction, and recent innovations such as genuine wood-look appearance and easy-install radiant heat help boost its appeal. Go for it! Oh, and don’t forget an American eBuilder Warranty to close the deal on a perfect home!

Thank You, Veterans!

On this Memorial Day Weekend …

… we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to all those who have sacrificed for America’s freedom. Thank you to active service members, to veterans and to those service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. America, always remember that freedom is not free; it has been bought with a price. We are the land of the free … because of the brave! Why not thank a service member today?

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day!

Maximizing Outdoor Living in Your Remodeling Offerings

As we noted last year, a trend began in 2016 which sought to bring the outdoors inside. This trend utilized large windows and expansive patio doors which opened to an outdoor space. The outdoor living trend has only intensified in 2017. Spacious entertaining and cool areas without using a lot of energy are the primary driving forces which are promoting this trend.

Outdoor Entertaining, Outdoor Living

Top Remodeling Project

Adding a fully functional outdoor living space is one of the most requested remodeling projects reported by contractors across the US. Qualified Remodeler Magazine reports, in its April 2017 issue, that 84.4% of remodeling contractors indicate that they are doing outdoor space remodeling project requests. If you’ve not considered adding this offering to your remodeling services, you might be missing out!

Types of Outdoor Living Projects

What sorts of outdoor living projects are homeowners requesting? The most prominent request is that families want comfortable spaces outside where they can enjoy time with friends and family. Such spaces can include an outdoor living room, full-featured cooking and dining spaces and even entertainment centers complete with media systems and fireplaces. Decks, pergolas, and roofed but wall-less structures define these spaces.

Outdoor Kitchen, Outdoor Dining

Materials

This trend emphasizes natural materials as well as easy-care products. For the flooring and structure, composite decking materials receive the highest rating, although pressure-treated wood is also popular because of its affordability. Another popular floor treatment is concrete paving, stamped in an attractive pattern. Many manufacturers offer weatherproof appliances, such as refrigerators, stove-tops, grills and storage units for outfitting the outdoor kitchen. Stone and manufactured stone surfaces provide weatherproof cabinetry and also protect the electrical and gas lines from weather damage. In addition, durable and weather-resistant furnishings for outside use have skyrocketed in variety and availability. Finally, don’t forget lighting needs as part of a remodel in the outdoors. From accent lighting to path lights, LED lights are taking the place of outdoor lights which use more electricity.

With your remodeling, don’t forget that American eBuilder offers 5-year Remodeler’s Warranties on your work. What a great way to give even your remodeling customers peace of mind and assurance that your work is the highest quality!

Are You Happy with American eBuilder’s Warranty Services?

If you have had a great experience using American eBuilder’s 10-year new home warranties, we’d love to hear about it! As a builder, what is your favorite aspect of using our warranties? Is it the speedy delivery? The convenience? The ease of purchase? The friendly staff? The customer service? Please take a brief moment to visit our Yelp profile and give us a review! That will assist other builders who need new home warranties as well. Thank you in advance! Simply click here to review us.

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Roof and Rain Gutter Maintenance

As a new home owner, you want to keep your house and yard in like-new condition for as long as you can. If you do periodic maintenance, you will ensure that your home stays as beautiful as the day you bought it. Let’s start at the top: maintenance of the roof and drainage system.

Roof Types

A roof is a system of your home which is designed to last a long time, if you take proper care of it. Areas which require periodic attention include flashing, drainage waste vent stacks, shingles and gutters. To be sure everything is working as it should, you should have a professional roofer examine these areas every three years.

On the Roof

FLASHING: Flashing is metal, plastic or rubber pieces which protect your roof wherever there is a join – between roof and chimney, between dormers and roof or in valleys where two different roof slopes meet. These pieces ensure that no water infiltrates those areas. Usually, metal and plastic flashing will last as long as your roof does and will not need replacing until replacing your roof.

DRAINAGE WASTE VENT STACKS: These vents are the white pipes which protrude from your roof. They are designed to allow air to help your waste water flow without impediment. The vents are very durable, but the special flashing around them, called a “boot,” is not. Boots are typically made of rubber and extend from a seal around the base of the vent and under several rows of shingles. Sun and weather take a toll on these boots, and they typically will fail after about 5 years. If a boot fails, you will get water under your shingles, and may have roof damage or damage to your ceilings inside your home. If you have a roofer examine the boots every three years, he will be able to replace any faulty one before it causes a problem.

SHINGLES: Shingles, typically made from asphalt, slate, wood, metal or plastic, overlap and are designed to allow water to freely flow off your roof and into the rain gutters. Asphalt shingles, the most commonly used in America, will last between 15 and 20 years. As they weather and age, they will become brittle and begin to crack. That process signals you that it is time to replace the roof. Again, if you have a roofer examine the roof periodically, he will discover when the shingles are too brittle to function well and will need to be replaced.

Rain Gutter System

Assisting Your Roof

Another integral part of your roofing system is the gutters and downspouts. The rain gutters are the rain water evacuation system for your roof. Always keep them free-flowing – free of debris, ice and snow. Paying attention to the maintenance of these components will protect your home’s exterior as well as your foundation. When a gutter is clogged with debris, such as leaves, bird nests or tree limbs, rainwater overflows rather than drains. This drainage can crack your foundation! Keep the gutters clear!

Several products are on the market to help avoid debris clogging your gutters:

MESH: A mesh gutter guard attaches to your roof’s shingles and covers the gutter to prevent debris from entering. This guard has holes to allow rain to flow into the gutter. Small holes are better than large ones in this type of gutter cover.

BOTTLE BRUSH: A bottle brush gutter guard is covered with bristles which resemble a round, nylon hair brush. The bristles fill the gutter to prevent debris, but water filters through them and drains to the downspout.

REVERSE CURVE: This gutter guard bows upward to deflect debris, but has a small slit to direct water into the gutter.

FOAM: A foam gutter guard fits into the gutter and blocks the debris from entering.

NYLON: Nylon gutter guards also insert into the gutters, but do not attach to the shingles.

In addition to preventing clogged gutters, you may need to do a few other tasks to keep your rainwater draining happily. While vinyl gutters never need painted, aluminum ones will need an occasional coat of paint. All other metals must be painted with rust resistant paint every 4 to 6 years.

After every winter, do a visual survey of your roof and rain gutters to assure that snow and ice have not caused any damage or detachment from your home. Also check your downspouts for clogs and install drainage hoses to direct water away from your foundation.

Year-Round Lawn Care

Everyone has one of “those” neighbors … you know, the ones whose gorgeous, lush emerald green lawn looks as if it popped right out of the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Obviously they pay big bucks to achieve that level of lawn care, right? Great news – not necessarily! With some savvy and the right resources, you can also develop a lawn that is the envy of your entire neighborhood. It takes a little time, but you CAN do it!

Lawn Care 101: Lush and Healthy Emerald Green Grass

The important point to note is that nurturing your lawn into a thing of beauty is not just a summer activity. Throughout the year, you will need to take certain steps to achieve this. Let’s begin with the spring.

SPRING LAWN CARE

Spring Lawn Care: The new grass is light green in Spring

Test-Thatch-Treat is the triple play for spring. First, to figure out where you’re starting, begin with a soil test. You can pick up a soil tester at your local extension service or nearby nursery. Some nurseries even offer this for free. The results of this test will tell you the alkalinity or acidity (pH) of your soil. The best soil pH for healthy grass is around 6-7. If the pH of your soil is not correct, your nursery or garden center can help you in determining the proper treatment to apply. Generally, dolomite lime will raise the pH and make the soil more alkaline. Sulfur will lower the pH to make the soil more acidic.

After you’ve determined the pH and before you apply any treatment, do a bit of dethatching.  Unless you bag your grass or use a mulching mower, over time, dead grass builds up and packs into the turf. If the thatch remains, it will create a barrier which prevents air, water and nutrients from reaching the soil. Use a metal-tined rake to pull these dried grass clippings out and aerate the lawn. After dethatching, you might also want to run a plug aerator over the area. This will pull out small plugs of dirt and allow the soil to breathe.

The final spring activity is to treat. If your pH is in the normal 6-7 range, the best thing you can do is to put down a pre-emergent weed herbicide and a few weeks later, a slow-release nitrogen-based fertilizer. If you must modify the soil pH, do that several weeks before you do the pre-emergent herbicide.

A final spring note: if you have bare spots, this is also a great time to spread some grass seed; the seed will germinate and take root before the searing hot weather of summer.

SUMMER LAWN CARE

Summer Lawn Care: Grass needs water in the hot summer

Summer is mostly a lawn care maintenance time. If you gave your grass a healthy start in the spring, it should be looking rather robust by the summertime. One part of summer maintenance is applying a weed and feed product. Slow-release fertilizers work best in the summer; they do not burn the lawn as readily. Always apply summer weed and feed before rain, or water after application. This will also help to prevent burning. The weed element during the summer fertilizing actually kills existing weeds, but it will also make your lawn more vulnerable if there is a dry spell.

Did you know that lawns can get stressed? It’s true. The summer heat, especially in southern US states, is brutal to your lawn’s health. Part of our summer regimen will include alleviating that stress with watering. A normal lawn requires around an inch of water weekly to stay healthy. If rainfall is minimal, you will need to supplement this water requirement with sprinkling. A gentle watering over a prolonged period is better than a short, fast watering session. The hydration needs to reach the roots. In the summer, water thoroughly every 5 to 6 days, unless it’s extremely hot and dry.

Another aspect of nurturing a healthy lawn is to mow correctly. Always do your trimming BEFORE you mow. That way, the trimmed pieces will get cut more finely when you mow and be less likely to produce thatch. Also, many homeowners cut their lawns too short. Keep your grass at about 2 ½” high. This height will discourage weed germination and will protect the lawn from drying too much. While it’s tempting to lower the blade to reduce your mowing frequency and save time, resist that urge and allow your grass to thrive.

The final summer task for a lovely lawn is to treat for pests. Rather than using a fertilizer that has built-in bug control, buy a separate bug control product that is catered to the type of critters your lawn has, such as grubs.

For summer, if you see brown spots appear, you may need to spot treat. Pet waste can cause such spots, but so can grubs or fungus. The best approach is for you to snap a photo on your phone and take the photo to your extension office for them to diagnose it. Never take a sample in unless they request it, as you do not want to spread any contamination.

FALL LAWN CARE

Fall Lawn Care: Clean up leaves on your lawn in Fall.

The fall season of lawn care begins with a good raking to collect leaves and branches. If you are ambitious, instead of bagging the leaves or putting them out for collection, try creating a compost pile. Leaves which have composted add nutrient-rich elements back into your landscape beds and plantings. Next, in early fall, apply a fall fertilizer, which is high in potassium rather than nitrogen.

It’s time for another aeration in the fall. This creates holes for the top-dressing. Top-dressing is a mixture of sand, compost and loam, which you brush into the aerated lawn holes. Do not leave any top-dressing on the grass, as it will smother the lawn and will not allow sunlight to penetrate.

The final fall task is re-seeding any bare spots. Since the ground is still warm, the seed will germinate and root without the stress of summer heat.

WINTER LAWN CARE

Winter Lawn Care: Not much to do here

There’s no a lot to do in the winter. But take note of two things. First, be sure to winterize any gas-powered equipment with a gas stabilizer. Second, mark your walks and driveways so that when you do snow removal you will not damage your lovely lawn.

If you follow these lawn care tips, your grass will look progressively better with each passing year. Then YOU will be the envy of all your neighbors!

Technology for the Builder

In the past, we’ve discussed the use of technology in construction from a homeowner’s viewpoint. It is true that the Internet of Things has blossomed wide open for homeowners to have “smart” homes. But tech is not only transforming the construction experience for the homeowner – it’s changing the way builders work as well. We will examine several innovations which will make your job, as a builder, easier.

Digital Pen

Headgear

Wearable gear is one way to use technology to both enhance your capabilities or to increase your safety. For example, Augmented Reality glasses or a visor can superimpose 3D models on a live site, can allow the builder to see where electrical cables, pipe or ductwork run behind an existing wall and can merge plans with reality. An example of this sort of technology is the Microsoft Hololens (https://youtu.be/AQOGBPYf2Mg). Another type of tech gear is the enhanced safety helmet. While most construction professionals wear a hard hat on site, this gear takes the hard hat into the 21st century. The DAQRI Smart Helmet (https://daqri.com/products/smart-helmet/), using Google Glass technology, has sensors and cameras, which it uses to gather data about the immediate environment. It includes a clear visor, lenses and 4-D Augmented Reality. This helmet can warn the wearer of possible dangers and also assist in task completion.

Wearable Technology

Another type of wearable technology designed for construction are devices you wear, such as GPS-enhanced safely vests or gesture-activated wristbands. The safety vests use GPS technology to track movement and location on a job site. This in turn can notify a worker who is entering a hazardous area. Wristbands connect to devices which are digitally enabled, such as the Augmented Reality glasses discussed above. Through gestures, the wearer can control those devices without touching.

Airborne Tech

Drones are also offering assistance on job sites. A drone can perform a multitude of functions, such as surveying land, mapping a job site, documenting job progression, and securing the site from theft and vandalism. If a drone records footage of the site, that recording can be used to project job completion and to update job progress to customers. The tech industry is now creating specialized drones designed specifically for construction and industry.

On Your PC and Phone

A recent improvement in computer technology is Building Information Modelling or BIM. This technology merges various data about the project and create high-detail, interactive 3-D models, which are far more informative than a simple blueprint.

As regulations and codes change, your PC and phone are valuable tools for staying abreast of all those changes. Apps also can assist you in streamlining your business. For example, some builder productivity apps are BuildCalc, which includes equations and calculations for hip roof construction, Fast Concrete Pad Calculator, which figures out how much rebar and concrete you need for your project as well as a cost estimate for those, DeWALT, which is a calculator for volume, length, construction materials (such as quantity of nails or number of drywall boards), PlanGrid, which allows contractors to save PDFs of project designs and to share them to workers’ devices, and Estimate ALL PRO, which helps you estimate materials costs after you input the item and the cost per unit. Additionally, apps are usually quite affordable comparative to their functionality.

Another great tech-related tool is … drum roll … the 10-Year New Home Warranty, from American eBuilder! Did you know that we are now mobile-friendly, and you can order your warranties straight from your smart phone or tablet? From its start, American eBuilder was prescient in this area; we were providing the convenience and ease of warranties purchased online before anyone else! But with the mobile-friendly site, we’ve taken our technological convenience a step further. “On-line, on-time, un-equaled!”

Maintenance Tasks for the Spring – House Exterior

Spring is just around the corner! Now is the time to be thinking about what exterior house and yard maintenance tasks need to be done for the season. Take a look at these areas and prep by purchasing any materials or parts necessary for the job. Then, when warmer weather hits, you’ll be set to GO!

Forsythia and Tulips grace the home exterior

House Exterior

Roof and Chimney:

Just as with the inside, start at the top. While you might not feel comfortable getting up on a ladder, if you have a pair of binoculars, you can step back from the house and examine pretty much the entire roof from the ground. On the roof, look for missing shingles, shingles which are raised up, flashing that’s out of place, or nail pops. Around the chimney, if it’s made of brick or stone, look for missing mortar or any greenery growing out between the joints. Also examine the flashing around the chimney and places where different roof pitches meet. Be aware that if you have any vents on your roof, the rubber boots around them, which create a waterproof seal, can deteriorate over time. These boots must be replaced at least every 4-5 years. The final roof area to examine is your rain gutters and downspouts. Check that they are secure, have no blockages and are not bent from ice or snow.

Exterior Walls:

No matter your finish, examine the exterior walls for any issues. If you have a brick or stone finish, look at the mortar joints to note any holes or gaps. If you have siding, look for any panels which may have been displaced by winter weather. For all finishes, note any staining, which could indicate water infiltration from gutter problems. For exposed wood, look for holes or damage that would invite wood bees, carpenter ants or woodpeckers to wreak havoc. Fill these with a high grade wood filler.

Exterior Foundation:

If your foundation shows any cracks, don’t delay getting a pro in to do a repair. A stable foundation is vital to your entire home, and this is not a repair you can adequately do yourself. While some do-it-yourself sites may tell you to repair it with caulking or masonry crack repair, the only way to truly stabilize cracks is with a special epoxy that chemically bonds the cracks.

Yard:

In addition to raking up debris and tidying up your landscaping, this is the time to begin your lawn fertilization program for pre-emergent weeds and healthy grass. When you’re working in your landscape beds, keep an eye out for larval termites. It’s far better to stop them there than to let them mature and to eat their way into your home! If you have any patio or deck area, again check the wood and masonry as you did for your house exterior.