A good tip for sweating copper to a plastic outlet box

If you are sweating copper water lines to a plastic outlet box at a laundry or fridge or any appliance, you have to be very careful not to melt the plastic box with your torch. At the same time, it is a delicate balance because you need to make sure it is HOT enough to give you a good connection. Otherwise, your pipes will leak, and that is BAD!

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We wrap our pipes with wet rags around the connection to the outlet box while sweating the connections.  This drops the temperature at the specific location of the plastic that needs to be protected and, meanwhile, allows the region of the pipe being soldered to get significantly hot enough to make the connection.

A very strong residential entry lockset

There are lots of entry locksets out there.  Once in a while, I get calls to come and secure doors after break-ins. When I explain to homeowners how easy it is to break through a door and actually show them the assembly and anatomy of a door and lock, the homeowners are usually shocked how easy an intruder can get through their door.

There are a couple of aspects to consider. An old friend from Havana told me that when he was growing up, people didn’t even have door locks in the city and no one stole from one another. The repercussions were extreme and that alone was enough of a deterrent, interestingly. Then he came to the US and was shocked to have to be on guard from crooks from every angle. It is an interesting perspective.

Here too in Capitol Hill, for home security, it all comes down to perspective and application. Most crooks are just looking to steal things when no one is looking. And, although crime as a whole continues to decline in DC, some crooks will smash a door in.  And 99 percent of entry doors can be smashed in easily with a swift boot to the lockset.

One way to stiffen your door is to install a steel angle or jamb stiffener with strong grade 4 or better steel fasteners all the way back to the structural framing. A good locket can also protect from picking and kicking. (It is a different topic, but I am also always amazed how easy pros can pick a regular Schlage or Quikset keyway.)  A disc tumbler or Super Spool Lock are a lot harder to pick and the hardened steel provides an additional level of security.

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This picture shows a Super Spool Lock I installed recently on a door that I rebuilt after it was broken in.  It will be very hard to break into this door again.

The 12-Gauge Garage

I discovered a great personal website: 12-gaugegarage.com

The owner has a perspective and style that I really admire.  It is a really cool website and concept.

I spend a lot of time designing and building and organizing my workshops here on the Hill.  The biggest challenge here on the Hill is that you can hardly find a large space and they are expen$ive!  So, like this guy, I spend a lot of energy making solutions to do more with less space.


Inspector’s Handbook: HVAC Condensate Discharge Lines

Working on old Capitol Hill homes, I commonly find problems with condensate discharge lines in many HVAC systems. Even when I find them currently functioning properly, they are often built out of code. The common code problems I find with HVAC condensate discharge lines are as follows:

1. Sizing — the building code requires 3/4″-minimum diameter piping to be used.

2. Materials — the building code allows for copper, CPVC, PVC, and polyethylene pipe to be used for condensate discharge drains.

3. Interference with other systems — condensate discharge drains are not permitted to enter into overflow pans, or drains for other systems.

Following the code allows pipes to discharge with lower tendency for backup and destruction from flooding caused by backups.

Levels of Gypsum Board (drywall) Finishing, a reference guide

I spent a lot years working specifically in commercial construction.  In that arena, people talked about the level of the drywall finish in a scale that goes from 0-5.

Level 0 has no finish at all.  Level 5, on the other hand, is the most finished it could be — the entire surface is covered with joint compound or plaster. In the middle, there are varying degrees of the level of finish.

Click HERE to see the USG product manual which goes through the degrees of finish with a detailed description for each.20141101- Drywall-Finish-Levels

Cold Weather Masonry Construction – What are the limits?

It is currently getting into the fall season and we are hurrying to wrap up our outdoor jobs that will be affected by cold weather.  It’s not that we mind working outdoors in the cold; it’s that some materials do not perform well if applied in adverse weather conditions and temperatures. Paint and cement are perfect examples. A mild winter goes a long way to keep the construction moving, but there really is no telling what we will get.

Most contractors just go with their gut to determine the limits, but real quality control has established limits that should be followed. We use the Building Code and the International Masonry Institute’s (IMI) standards as a guide.  In this case, we suggest following the IMI Technical Brief Section 2.5.6.

You can download this guide for future reference.

Cold Weather Masonry Construction IMI 2-5-6

Masonry work outside of the regular limits can be done but adds costs due to special provisions.

How to roll a seamless gutter

At big box retailers, you can buy 10-foot sections of gutter. They are cheap, usually a little scratched up at the big box stores, but they work. The problem with gutter sections like this — in addition to the fact that the big boxes only carry an inventory of about half the accessory parts you need to finish the job — is that the short 10-foot sections require splice seams in the middle of the runs. That is a problem because, over the years, they will leak. It’s also more expensive to install.

An alternative to the big box stores is to use a seamless gutter roller. This machine can make gutters as long as your roll of coil stock!

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Color Schemes for Exterior Painting

Selecting a good color scheme for the exterior façade of your house can be tough. But there are a few tools out there that can help. Sherwin Williams has a Color Visualizer App. (check it out here.)  And below you can see how to change the look of a house, virtually! One of the color schemes that I like is the mid range field color with a black accent color. This is a simple but bold two color scheme.Image

See what the house on the left looks like in SWP Rumba Orange.

Front Facade color selections - SWP Visualizer.


Another cool trick that I like with matching colors — especially between different brands — is using an online tool like an RGB decoder.