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Hazards in the Home

Home may be where the heart is, but it is also - unfortunately - where a whole host of hazards are. We have come a long way over the years, bringing awareness and enforcing legislation for things like asbestos, lead paint, radon and carbon monoxide, but there are other real threats that loom large. In a recent article on MarketWatch.com, four such hazards are highlighted and they are ones that many of us have never given a second thought.

The Wrong Smoke Detector
Most of us feel very comfortable knowing that our homes are fitted with working smoke detectors. As long as they are UL approved and we check our batteries twice per year - that should be sufficient, yes? Well, not really. There are two main types of smoke detectors designed for home use: ionization and photoelectric. 95% of homes are fitted with ionization units as they are the least expensive and most easily found. Statistics show, however, that these popular detectors take an average of 20 minutes longer to detect smoldering fires - fires that begin with things like cigarettes on synthetic fibers or faulty electrical wiring. While the ionization units trip more easily with fast flames or quick smoke plumes from things like burnt toast, they do not react quickly to the thick, slow-moving smoke from smoldering fires. It is suggested that photoelectric detectors be placed in vital areas of the home like the kitchen, bedrooms and basements, but in areas like hallways, bathrooms and living areas, ionization units should do fine.

Old Gas Lines
If your home was built between 1860-1915, chances are you have defunct gas lines that were formerly used to supply lighting to homes. Many have been capped off or converted to electricity, but if they are active and open, there is a very real danger of explosion if disturbed during construction. Even some modern lines made from thin stainless steel tubing were found to be susceptible to lightening strikes. It doesn't even need to be a direct strike, according to experts - just enough heat and energy in the approximate area can create an explosion. If you are homeowner with have any concerns about your gas lines, contact a private gas line specialist to first determine if you or your municipality is responsible. In many areas, gas line reconstruction is on the public infrastructure "to-do" list but can be moved along with enough pressure from the community.

Light Construction
Light or "truss" construction, while great for starter or inexpensive homes, has shown to be a major factor in more swiftly moving and more destructive fires. While sturdier homes are made with wood joined by bolts, screws and nails - lightweight structures are put together using gussets that join corners - gussets that are simply clamped onto the area that needs fastening. The main problem with truss construction is that in the case of a fire, the heat generated is often enough to pop the gussets out as easily as they were popped in. While there isn't much one can do to change this basic structural feature, it is very important for homeowners living in a lightweight construction home to take extra precaution against fire.

Topsy-Turvy Appliances
There is now one more good reason to not let your television be your child's babysitter. Between 2000-2010, nearly 170 children were killed from large, flat-screen televisions tipping over and causing fatal head or internal injuries. While making sure that the television is on a very low media table (never on a high dresser) can help decrease the risk of serious injury, the best way to avoid problems is to have large flat-screens professionally mounted to the wall. Using a skilled installer is crucial because if a wall-mounted TV is not properly secured, it can pose even a greater risk to children than one simply placed on a table.

Another dangerous appliance is the stove - and not for reasons that you may think. According to MarketWatch, in 2008 Sears settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit as a result of more than 100 deaths or injuries from faulty mounting mechanisms on stoves. The vast majority of stoves sold today are light enough for even small children to tip over if they climb or grab onto the unit, and if not properly mounted, can cause very serious problems.

While these risks may seem to be remote, "better safe than sorry" is really the takeaway. Installing a few photoelectric smoke detectors in key areas, making some calls about your current gas lines, being extra fire-cautious in homes built of light construction and properly mounting appliances can mean the difference between a safe, healthy home and a major disaster.

Built of plywood in four weeks.

The CNC House

The architects at 1:1 Arkitektur would like us to believe that they have built a home of the future.

And we may just believe them.

It's not so much the home itself that is futuristic but the manner in which it was built. And that manner itself does not involve futuristic technology -- it simply takes existing tools and materials, accounts for challenges presented to our current method of building homes, and completely changes the game.

The firm has built what they call a "Printable House" using little more than a CNC machine, a computer and many sheets of plywood. A design fed into the CNC machine tells it to make cuts in sheets of plywood that then get assembled in a specific order, sort of like a puzzle. Except at the end of this puzzle you get a house.

And it's a house that goes up in very little time (four weeks), requiring very little in the way of cost and labor and producing very little in the way of construction waste. Additionally, there is not much else besides the plywood that goes into the construction process. No concrete, no nails.

Sustainable, inexpensive, quickly-erected. Sounds pretty futuristic to us.

TruSlate's tile's, installed with a special clip to keep them on even in hurricane winds.

User-Friendly Generators on Display at IBS 2011

Our man Greg down at International Builders Show 2011 in Orlando is making the rounds on the showroom floor, reporting back on the cool and interesting products and advances in home building and renovation. He's taken a look at a few interesting products, including:

  • Generac's user-friendly and easy-to-install generators.

  • Gaf's "TruSlate" shingles that install with a special clip and come with a 50 year warranty and 130 mph wind warranty.

  • Huber Engineered Woods' AdvanTech products for sheathing and flooring.

  • Looks like Greg might pop in from 3-5pm tomorrow to try to meet Norm Abram. We'll keep everyone posted on his success or failure in securing an autographed floor board.

    Follow the action on the IBS 2011 here.

    Photo courtesy of Oskay.

    Easiest Demolition Job Ever?

    After failing to find a buyer, the house built entirely out of Legos in Surrey, England, is being dismantled brick by mult-colored brick. Built by James May of the BBC's Top Gear, the home was never intended as a permanent structure and was built on a vineyard without the necessary permits. It did however feature a working toilet, shower and a "very uncomfortable bed." One visitor apparently made off with the Lego constructed cat.

    Alas, the vineyard needs to grow its grapes and May had to sell or dismantle. Legoland was interested but could not afford the moving fee. So the 3.3 million Lego bricks are coming down and will be donated to charity.

    What do you think: Silly waste of time or Genius tourist attraction?

    Beware the cracks and pops of drywall seams. Beware the cracks and pops of drywall seams.

    Seam, Crack, and Pop

    Have you ever tried to repair a cracked ceiling or wall? I love drywall compound—it slathers on and makes that great swipe. It covers anything in its path! So why, when I've completely covered the crack, does it come back? And, moving on to drywall 201, why can't I just make those popped seams disappear? Well, it turns out the two conditions require two different responses: retape the crack but smooth out the pop. Until it happened in my newly drywalled addition, I had no one to ask (okay, blame) for these errors—I'd always done the work myself. But as the drywall finisher came back for the third time, he explained that cracks will never go away until they are retaped. Who knew!?!? He covered the popped seam with a layer of joint compound that he feathered, returning two more times to make sure it was perfect. The cracked seam got a new sheet of tape and drywall compound, plus the extra visits for special care. Oddest of all, he said, was finding cracks after just two weeks. Looks like the moisture content in "kiln-dried" framing really is higher than we're thinking. Ah, but that is a discussion for another day!

    Win this saw in time for holiday home projects. Win this saw in time for holiday home projects.

    Fuego Saw Giveaway

    There's no better time to sign up to win power tools than at the holidays! Ridgid, the tool guys, are sponsoring a 25-day giveaway of the new Fuego 6 1/2" framing saw on Toolmonger.com. The 'Monger bloggers have set up a contest where tool lovers write in with a project they'd undertake if only they had this light, fast, framing saw to work with. Each day the guys at Toolmonger.com select a new winner based on the project that really rings their chimes. So dream big and jump in. Send them a writeup and go for the saw. There's no limit to the number of projects you can submit. And, there are only 10 days left, so get cracking.

    Norbord's Windstorm OSB wall sheathing Norbord's Windstorm OSB wall sheathing

    Uplifting News

    Hurricane season is here and coastal communities are bracing for the storms. Every year brings new building codes to protect homeowners in storm-threatened areas and new products to help builders meet code without sacrificing the bottom line. Norbord Windstorm OSB (Oriented Strand Board)provides continuous sheathing to connect directly to the sill and top plate and resist uplift and wind shear. Using a single panel to connect the sill to top-plate eliminates the need for blocking, U-straps, filler strips and wall uplift hardware. This means faster sheathing and greater exterior integrity that is code approved for communities with wind speeds in excess of 110 miles per hour. An engineer-specified nailing pattern operates in place of costly uplift hardware, saving builders time and equipment costs. This sheathing was used in the NextGen House at the 2006 International Builders Show, where contractors clamored for hurricane-proof building materials. Windstorm OSB is available through local building suppliers.

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