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!”

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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.

Spring House Maintenance – Interior

Spring is just around the corner! Now is the time to be thinking about what 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!

Early crocus are a harbinger of Springtime in the Northeast.

House Interior Maintenance

Spring Cleaning:

We know you keep your house meticulously clean. But in every home, there are areas which only need bi-annual attention. These are the areas to focus on in spring cleaning, working from high to low. First, do a thorough cleaning of fixtures, such as light covers, ceiling fans, window blinds and shades, duct-work cover louvers and the top of door and window trim. If you have draperies, take them down and have them professionally cleaned. You would be amazed at how much dust collects in these areas! Next, vacuum all upholstered furniture and bed mattresses. Finally, tackle baseboards, floors and carpeting. You can dust the baseboards with a dryer sheet to help repel dust. In the bathrooms and kitchen, you might want to wash the walls, if there is grease residue or mildewed areas. In the bathroom, check that the caulking and tile grout are intact and have no cracks or breaks which could allow water infiltration.

Basement:

As the weather warms, you will notice higher humidity levels in your basement area. Be sure to have a dehumidifier set up to control this. Also, check your basement foundation walls for cracks at the base and water seepage and look at any exposed framing for evidence of termite activity (furrows or mud tunnels). If you notice any bulging of your basement foundation, call in a professional ASAP.

Attic:

Check for signs of water leaks here as well. If your beams are exposed, look for darker areas that you don’t recall. Often, when water enters through a damaged roof, it will travels along the beams, so where you see the dark spot may not necessarily be where the leak is. Another thing to check in the attic is for critter infestations. These could be termites, mice, spiders, wasps, bats, or any number of pests. A final thing to check in the attic is for the presence of mold, which could indicate water infiltration. Mold will develop if humidity from your bathroom fan vents into the attic. Always be sure your vent leads to the outside, not to the attic area.

Pipes:

Is anything leaking? Examine hoses to your dishwasher, wash machine, hot water heater and ice maker – if there are cracks or bulges, replace them. In addition, examine the base of toilets and the water heater to be sure there is no wetness there. Toilets have a wax seal at the base to prevent leakage, but over time these seals deteriorate and need replaced. Water heaters can develop internal rust, which may cause leakage. It’s far better to notice this when it’s a small leak than to miss it and have a flooded basement.

Air Conditioning:

As with other hoses, check these as well. Also, be sure that the unit is open to free-flowing air on all sides, and gently vacuum out any dust or debris that may have gotten into the tines (take care, as they are very fragile). Also check the drain pan for good drainage and no obstructions. If you see any issues, such as leaks or bent tines, be sure to call a professional in for repair.

If you follow these maintenance steps, your house interior will be in top shape for the Spring.