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Ask a Building Trades Professional

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by ReindeerThistle, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    Spoiler :
    April Fools!


    Hi Folks!

    Are you baffled by the complexities of your toilet? Does the contractor you are hiring to re-do your kitchen sound like an alien? Ever wonder how electricity works, or what all those gadgets on your furnace are?

    Those of you who know me as a panelist on the Ask a Red thread might like to also know that I have as part of my 21 year organizing history, 18 years of work in the building trades. So, I am starting this thread for the purposes of answering questions about the following:*

    1. Carpentry/ framing
    2. Cabinet-making and installation
    3. Woodworking and woodwork refinishing
    4. Plumbing and electrical
    5. Kitchen and bath renovations
    6. Standard household repairs and maintenance
    7. Appliance repair
    8. Window and door installation
    9. Stained and leaded glass repair and production
    10. Boilers, furnaces and water heaters.

    Plus, ask a question in a category not specified above, and I will endeavour to answer it. I have been trained by professionals in all of the above fields,spent 9 years as a building superintenant, plus 9 years as a remodeling consultant -- voluntary, of course, as I work with all-volunteer organizations of low-paid workers.

    * DISCLAIMER: This thread is for advice and information only in assisting lurkers and posters with questions about construction and renovation. This is NOT a how-to thread. I am not responsible for injury to persons or damage to property as I own no control over what an individual does with the information. Laws and licensing and certification are different from country to country and from state to state. Obey all local, state and national laws and building codes. If you are not a qualified electrician, plumber or frame carpener, do not attempt electrical, plumbing or structural repairs on your own.


    Ask away.
     
  2. Glassfan

    Glassfan Mostly harmless

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    So you're one of us "old" guys?

    What do you think of the recent News about the surge in construction jobs?

    In refinishing our dinner table and chairs, what's best, traditional varnish or the newer polys?
     
  3. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    Yes, I'll be 45 this year.

    I am encouraged by any growth in jobs, but wary that in general these construction jobs come without unions and often, in spite of the initial parity wages, without the dubious protections of Davis-Bacon in the US, there is usually no prevailing scale -- which is what Davis-Bacon act is supposed to guarantee.

    In regards to the dinner table and chairs:
    I am not a big fan of traditioal wood finishes, as I have spent weeks of my life in one room removing alligatoring varnish from old wood. Modern urethane-based finishs come in a variety of finishes that simulate the look of olf finshes, but will last a lot longer.

    For best results, all of the old finish should come of.

    The surface should be sealed with a universal sealer (where permitted) -- a dewaxed shellac that forms a bridge between the old material and the new poly.

    If you are taking about a DAILY-use table and chairs, your best bet is a modern high solids (VOC, or Volatile organic content of 350 to 450 grams per liter) polyurethane. If you are in California, USA, the laws do not permit certain volatile chemicals, so be prepared to lose the use for at least 72 hours after the final coat.

    Use a semi-gloss finish, since the daily handling and sitting will keep the surface buffed.

    For more occasional uses, I guess the same applies, but you can use a lower VOC (350 gpl) poly.

    Hope that answers your questions. Thanks for the query.
     
  4. ace99

    ace99 Chieftain

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    Hm...where should I turn in my man card for shredding?
     
  5. Old Hippy

    Old Hippy Chieftain

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    are you like most building professionals and your home is never quite finished, soon as one project is done the next is started...
     
  6. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    No, I tend to finish the project I'm on before moving on. I reached a stage in my apartment 5 years ago, after refinishing all the wood, and do only minor projects. All my work is volunteer. So, as for those projects, well, that is another story -- more like what you describe.
     
  7. emzie

    emzie wicked witch of the North

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    What's the craziest bad/lazy job you've ever seen? You know, the type of thing that more than just made you shake your head in sadness, but actually left you speechless while you contemplated how anyone other than an evil contractor could ever do something so shoddy.
     
  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    That's easy. The average house built in the 80s. ;)
     
  9. GinandTonic

    GinandTonic Saphire w/ Schweps + Lime

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    Tragically what the fool who owned my house did in the eighties.
     
  10. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    This question deserves it's own thread. So, I will do a series. I will start with a plumbing job I did in one of the buildings I takes care of. The tenant adjacent to the kitchen we were plumbing had had someone repair a leak in the common waste stack. A leak, hell, this was a six-foot long crack in the cast iron that had been "repaired" with plumber's epoxy and duct tape! :crazyeye: We had discovered this when we opened the wall to run new drain and supplies for a washing machine. Well, we HAD to repair it, so we went out and got as much plumber's epoxy and duct tape we could find and re-wrapped the pipe replaced the ten-foot section with new cast iron pipe, shaking our heads and, yes, cursing the now-former tenant into oblivion.

    More to come...
     
  11. emzie

    emzie wicked witch of the North

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    That's shoddy construction. I'm thinking along the lines of removing drywall due to extensive water damage and finding the source: a garden hose with some o-rings feeding a shower. That's my best that comes to mind right now. Doesn't beat a caulked stack though.
     
  12. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    All I can say is that I learned some of my favorite and most colorful curses from listening to my dad talk about the guys that built our house.

    Question: Do you know what materials might cause a cell phone to completely lose reception? My cell phone has full reception in the basement of one of the campus buildings, but as soon as I go up to the 3rd floor it completely loses reception.
     
  13. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    Oh, yes. Unfortunately, it's not consistent. I can get 4g signal from the front window of my apartment but only a weak 3g out the back. I can get a Truconnect hot spot 4g signal in my basement and everywhere else -- only because it's the most expensive.

    So, the building material that is the biggest hindance to cell phone reception is lead. As my OP states, I also do leaded glass -- and according to my brother, a wireless engineer (hey, maybe he can do an Ask a Busy Father of Five Who Works 72 hours a Week thread), leaded glass is "the enemy to wireless.". Other than that, I can't say. Talk to your cell carrier. The nearest tower may be positioned such that the basement gets reception, but something obstructs the third floor.


    My brother also says that microwave ovens can also interfere with cell reception.

    Craziest bad/ lazy jobs I've seen #2

    That's good. I fixed a shower that had been fed with buried braided flex lines (which are steel braid-enclosed plastic tubes that aren't even code in NYC for exposed water supplies, let alone to be buried in the wall!

    However, that's not crazy bad/ lazy job #2. This is:
    For those who don't know, copper or bass cannot be connected directly to steel, the two create electrolysis and the steel will disintegrate into nothing. I had to replace all the main cold water supplies in three buildings because someone 20 years before had replaced the brass mains with 2" steel pipes (75-foot runs) connected to eight bathrooms and eight kitchens. The average pipe flow was about a half-inch (I.e., 3/4 of the pipe was blocked with rust deposits -- like clogged arteries. Best two weeks of my life. I made so much money from scrapping the steel I could pay the phone bill for 3 months!
     
  14. ace99

    ace99 Chieftain

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    What would cause an entire building and just that building to be a deadzone in terms of reception? Just leaded glass? There's not that much glass. Because pretty much my entire law school is. Did they do it on purpose?
     
  15. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    I don't know that leaded glass would cause an entire building to block reception. 15 years ago, no one in my buildings got cell reception and now, it's better. Ask the building super if he/ she knows if the school is blocking reception. Also, contact your carrier.
     
  16. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    That would be the house my sis used to own. Now that place was built in 1975, so the original building was all done to modern code. But the previous owner didn't like the electrical service layout. So he put a foot square junction box in the basement away from the breaker panel where he could run as many possible wires into it that ran through the basement, and then just mixed and matched circuits. I think his plan was to have no one room on one circuit. But he didn't know how to do that and some of the white wires ended up being hot and a direct shot from the breaker box somehow bypassing any of the breakers.

    Further, the house was built with a 1 car garage that just had an overhead light in it. He built a 2 car detached garage and put in garage door openers on all the doors. And ran the opener, and the entire other building, by running 1 14 gauge cable from that light fixture to the other garage. I imagine it didn't work so well, so he put a 30amp breaker on that circuit. A circuit that included some of the wall outlets in the children's room.

    Took me better than a week of vacation time to rewire it all.
     
  17. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    See: Faraday Cage. The lower level of my house is a dead zone because the building code requires a lot of steel reinforcing. Upstairs the issue isn't that bad because there's more windows and the roof doesn't as much steel reinforcing. I do know that secure buildings often have something like chicken mesh in the walls because that makes for a very good Faraday Cage. Having worked in one, its a major pain in the ass.
     
  18. GinandTonic

    GinandTonic Saphire w/ Schweps + Lime

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    Its bad 70's and 80's work on old Victorian houses that gets really special. The Victorian terrace where the ground floor had been opened up without an rsj, knocking out the only supporting wall in the house. The surveyor took one look and literally walked out refusing to renter til there was a scaffolding crew with him. Or my mates end of terrace where the last guy had decided since he had central heating he may as well knock out the chimney brest to make space, so there was nothing bracing whole structure from it's slow slump into the beer garden of the pub on the corner.

    A common bodge is to install the mandated plumbing isolators in bathrooms in places where it is impossible to get to them once the rest of the plumbing is installed. Or tiling over them so it is impossible to locate them.
     
  19. ReindeerThistle

    ReindeerThistle Zimmerwald Left

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    Thanks, Masada, that bears repeating. I spoke with one of my work crew, who is a natural/ physical sciences grad, fellow Red, and computer genius, and he confirms this theory viz. the Faraday Cage (I just like to confirm wikipedia entries, thay's all). Also, diamond lath, a steel mesh reinforcement used on concrete and ceramic tile foors and finish-in-place plaster walls, does act as a good Faraday cage.

    My brother, the wirelss guru, was noticeably silent on the issue when I brought it up, since he deals with interior wireless and, like me, has limited personal experience -- which I am mainly drawing on for this thread.
     
  20. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    It depends a lot on how the house is built. Because the upstairs wireless doesn't reach the rooms downstairs because the ceiling and internal walls are also steel reinforced. Other considerations include that all the houses here have steel mesh on their windows (to keep the sun and insects out) and security grates on the groundfloor windows (it comes standard with the unit) like the below. We also have steel or aluminum frames because of termites. Mine are a bit more extreme than the photo because I have louvres instead of windows, so the mesh covers everything.



    I ended up dropping a cable through the floor which I took a hell of a lot of care to seal because of the omnipresent threat of ants.
     

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