I have broken my back for years as a blue collar worker, raising buildings and making things happen. Over there years I have learned a great deal through trial and error. One truly significant resource for me has been the internet. There are literally millions of tools, tips and tricks for contractors to learn, grow and succeed with. My objective is to create a positive atmosphere for kindred spirits to share their thoughts, experiences and hard earned knowledge with one another.
Why? Because despite your education or experience we all have something to learn from one another. Despite your expertise, you can always learn something more from another. A contractor in the masonry field may have great depth of knowledge that is not other wise known by a plumber. It is the small, incremental insights that separate the good from the great. Thus this site is here to provide the conduit for us all to achieve great things. So please open up and share a bit.
What kinds of topics will be covered here? Contracting is such a broad term that it can apply to almost any trade. Although my experience has been in general contracting, this site can be beneficial to consumers, diy’ers and even aspiring contractors. In all reality even someone with limited knowledge on any given subject can benefit from the various compiled resources found here.
A property is a very dynamic structure with intricate framing, finishes and mechanicals. Top it all off with a bit of designer touch and you have a complete package! The exciting part of it all is the new and emerging trends in the industry. With geothermal energy, radiant heat, smart home technology, remote monitoring and more it’s pretty easy to get carried away. Even more the reason to bring it all together under one roof. Most any electrician could learn a few wiring tricks from a smart home specialist. As we all know even master electricians know very little about low voltage wiring and controls. The same can be said about framers and mechanical techs, they both work hand in hand but often have limited knowledge of the others trade. How about a insulation contractor installing a hot water system? Scary eh? Imagine a contractor that had a firm grasp on every concept of building. Such a individual would prove to be very profitable and successful.
So where do we begin? At the beginning of course. This site will be laid out in the order of construction, although this may be debatable below are the primary categories that will be targeted here:
1. Planning – this is the engineering, architecture and bidding stages of construction planning. A very large part of any project but I feel fits into one group.
2. Ground work – the actual movement of earth with tools and equipment to get the surface prepared for the project. This also includes the final touches of landscaping and such. Essentially all things that fit into ground work go here
3. Foundation – this is typically composed of mostly masonry work such as footers, slabs, poored walls and etc. Masonry certainly spills into other aspects of the project, however generally speaking a large portion of a mason’s job is during initial construction stages.
4. Framing – this is the bones of any structure. It is the framework that holds glues all the aspects of the job together – ground up.
5. Roofing – The decking and roofing materials and accessories. Materials being flat roofs, tin or shingles and accessories being vent boots, equipment curb boxes and etc.
6. HVAC – this is simply the heating, ventilation and cooling of a space. Encompasses duct work, equipment and associated controlling devices.
7. Plumbing – the drainage and waterlines that service the building. Including fixtures such as toilers, tubs, showers, fountains, faucets and etc.
8. Electrical - the electric service as well as the additional low voltage electrical components. ie. smoke detectors, security, phones, internet and etc.
9. Insulation – the stuff that saves you $!
10. Dry wall and Paint – these are grouped together as they work hand in hand. Drywayll includes all forms of wall coverings ie. waynes coat, paneling, metal and etc. Paint is pretty self explanatory.
11. Doors and Windows – although typically installed pre dry wall, they can be installed afterward to save contamination from drywall and paint.
12. Flooring – a diverse topic to cover. From wood, tile to carpet and more. All things that cover your floor will be discussed here.
13. Finish work aka the punch list. This is trim and finishing touches to make the completed structure more appealing. This includes the cleaning, touch up paint and installation of all parts. aka. faucets, lighting fixtures and etc.
14. Interior – this is often handled internally by the building occupants, however many properties hire out interior designers. Do not overlook this facet of building as it is a much appreciated field. After all how many of you could outfit a building properly?
As you can my brief list above sounds exhausting, yet it just skims the surface of what goes into the contracting industry. We are simply discussing the jobs and associated parts. There are many other contractor related topics like fitness, ppe, products, tools, clothings and more. Please stay tuned as new topics are added, discussed and updated. In the meantime offer your advice, comments and thoughts so that we can all benefit from our worldly knowledge.
Masons have a very diverse skill set that makes their services crucial to the building and trades industry. Many go to some form of technical school to attain their skills and experience. Contrarily, many learn on the job and simply grow as their repertoire of skills expands. Below are some of the basic functions a mason may perform on any given job site.
It is important to note that Masonry is not only the pouring of concrete for the foundation but also for mortar border around the cracks of bricks, tiles and such. Materials commonly used by masons are brick, travertine, granite, limestone, glass, tile, concrete and stucco. Masonry is highly regarded as one of the pillars of the building and its two types commonly used are brick and concrete.
One of the main advantages of Masonry is the proper use of the materials that increase the thermal mass of a given building. Mortar and brick, do not usually need painting or any other form of secondary coverage. This is a great protection because it has characteristics of high resistance. A Mason notes that most of the buildings were constructed by using brick and limestone lasted more than 500 years. Some insulating value, thermal mass and weather prood durability are the primary benefits to masonry.
It is important to note that there are limits to the use of masonry. For example, areas with extreme weather are not ideal for masonry structures. This is because they are likely to deteriorate over time. It is advisable to use other means of construction in these areas. As mortar and brick are quicker to deterirate in extreme ice, snow and cold. This is because the cold will erode the structure of the building. In addition, such climates are very difficult for masonry professionals to treat. Extreme temperatures make for the curing of the concrete (drying period) very difficult. Concrete, brick and other materials can be heavy and difficult to use because they require strong structural bases.
One of the biggest weaknesses of masonry is low tensile strength, concrete is noted for its compression strength. This is why you see concrete on roads, sidewalks and bridges. Modern building that use concrete are now embedded with metals and iron to assist in the strengthening of concrete. This explains why the solid masonry is likely to become obsolete nowadays. Many of the large buildings of modern architecture use concrete with the reinforced method discussed above.
Masons are very skilled workers that need an extreme amount of working knowledge to be successful in their perspective field. The forming of foundations, walls, steps and such takes a great deal of not only general construction knowledge, but also expert knowledge in on the masonry will react to those forms. Addtionally masons must closely watch the mixtures, drying times and overall outdoor conditions for each and every project. A poorly supervised or constructed masonry job will prematurely crack, split, warp or crumble. Which are obviously very bad attributes for large buildings.
Landscaping is a very labor intensive job that often requires a “passion” to be good at. A labor of love one could say. This could be said about any trade, skill or job. However, landscaping is a very important aspect of any property. In the eyes of spectators is the landscaping is poorly designed, the property will as a whole have the same reputation. Taking a few simple steps in the layout and design of your yard can go a long way in appeal and value. Thus here are a few quick and easy ideas that will assist the landscape challenged in achieving a small level of success.
Keeping up with the Jones Landscaping is a rather difficult task. Landscaping is one of those details that many people look at when they visit or pass a house, but many people neglect the improvement of their own landscaping shortfalls. Keep reading for some simple ideas to improve the landscape.
1. Consider adding a water feature in your yard, like a fountain or pond. Adding water points such customize your garden and invite wildlife in. Just be careful when you lift a fountain because it takes electricity to operate, so a carefully chosen location is where you should put it.
2. Consult a professional before starting any type of landscaping your garden. Although it is not necessary to carry out all the work, you can use their experience and knowledge to get the look you want. This is especially true if you are new to landscaping.
For some items, you can use a less expensive product. Cutting corners on containers, pots, mulch and etc. can save a great deal of money and in the end yield the same results. Note: Check your plants carefully, however. Stores that sell them at a lower prices may not have taken cared for them properly.
3. Create spaces that can maintain and prevent weeds from growing. Otherwise weeds will invade and thrive. Concentrate your efforts on the implementation of a very dense, healthly coverage. Weeds may not be a problem if they do not have enough sunlight or nutrients. The supply factories covering with all the water and fertilizer they need to stay strong.
4. Identify all the necessary documents before you embark on any Project. The worst thing is having to stop your project in the middle because you’re short on mulch or missing an essential tool.
5. Wildflowers are great options if you’re looking an inexpensive and easy way to introduce bright colors into your landscaping project. Wildflowers can be purchased for pretty cheap and easily planted. With seeds, you will get a variety of flowers of all colors and types. Wildflowers make beautiful bouquets.
6. Edging is a way to make your garden look more professional and it also happens to promote the health of your garden. You want to remember to do things like edge where the dough meets the grass, which can really improve the appearance of your home.
Landscaping is a great way to go out and have fun while improving your property. You can get everyone involved in improving the appearance of your home. Get your spouse and children with you there. Not only will you create great family memories, you will create a beautiful home that you will be proud of.
In closing, even if you don’t want to worry about creating new planters or planting flower and such there are others basics you can do to improve your lawn. Cutting you lawn, fertilizing the lawn and regular watering will keep the lawn plush and green. Also the obvious trash picking up, cleared driveways, edged walkways and etc. go a long way. If planting is really against your grain, improve the landscaping by utilizing bird feeders, an outdoor fire pit or other landscaping feature. Despite your experience, passion or ability small improvements will go a long way.
Frame construction is one of the most important steps in getting your home built just the way you want. During the scoping process, you can make all your changes to room dimensions and arrangement. Make sure your contractor talks over the project if you make changes to the configuration of the walls. This will save you a lot of money because they will not have to rebuild anything or remodel after the fact. (as the placement of frame work is permanent and influences all other aspects of building)
Framing construction is also very important because this what holds up you house! The huge loads of weight from the roof down take proper knowledge, planning and execution. A good carpenter can spot a bad design from a mile away. Despite what the engineers say, somethings just won’t work in reality. Forcing a long span in a improper area may only lead to disaster. Thus hiring good contractor from the go is important.
In many areas of the country a contractor is not only the framer, but electrician, plumber and wall / floor covering person. A carpenter, often used synonymously with contractor or general contractor may very well be the single point of contact for the entire project. Perhaps the “jack of all trades”. This is actually a good things in many cases, because the oversights that often kill a project timeline are not missed. If one person is responsible for the smooth operation of a project from start to end, its in their best interest to plan for things such as relocated walls, doors and added spaces. Otherwise a subcontractor may simply build to the plan and go about his merry way as changes were not part of his job description.
What are the biggest problems with a general contractor (outside of poor craftsmanship that is)? Money management. It’s often that a GC (general contractor) simply keeps a running tally of expenses in some mental bank. This is a huge mistake many young GC’s make. A small oversight on a big project can literally flip a job site upside down. Thus having a smart sense of budget with a backbone of checks and balances goes a long way in the construction industry. Even hiring a 3rd party to help track this function of the job is often ideal. Thus the GC can focus on the task at hand and allow a more qualified professional handle the budgeting.
One additional thing to add about a GC is they must be personable. If one person is responsible for the scheduling and organization of dozens of subcontractors they must be a fairly reasonable person. Although, it is unlikely any contractor would make it far otherwise. So hiring a bear of a person to run a job will likely be disastrous in the end. Don’t get me wrong a bit of assertiveness is needed to keep people honest, yet assertive with a personable touch is ideal for overall productivity.
Electricians are very technically inclined individuals that are paramount to the internal workings of a project. To ensure you hire reputable and knowledgeable electrician you may want to consider a staffing agency. I have utilized this type of service in the past and my results were great. Many agencies depend upon repeat customers, so they do the best to find the best. There are always great union workers, independents and other types of free range electricians. This is simply a bit of info on how to use a staff service for finding a short term electrician.
Even if the technologies evolve and become more complex, most homes and businesses still rely on the expertise of business professionals to maintain the daily functions of their buildings. Electricians, for example, are required not only in installation of new construction, but also for the maintenance of electrical components. Electrical staffing agencies provide an invaluable service to both electricians looking for work and employers seeking electric work.
Usually, staffing services use resumes and information on electrical applications to help match the qualifications desired by employers for specific jobs and projects. Additionally a interview process is given, saving time for both parties. This type of staffing service is often free for individual electrical workers and employees. Employers are often seekers who typically pay the staffing agency for the allocation of workers. In some cases, the utility will even be paid by the staffing agency rather than directly by the company, they end up working for.
Staffing Services are really useful for certified electricians because their work tends to be on a short term basis. In fact, if an electrician has done its job and does it well, we hope they will never need to do again. Thus, the electricians will be in a constant search for the next task. Those who create a good relationship with an employment agency will have a simpler experience and less pressure to find a good amount of work. In addition, because the electrical work is considered an artisan, electricians may negotiate of a fair wage for their work.
While some recruitment agencies specialed in placing only electrical job just a few years ago now many companies and sites that are more construction and investment trade oriented. These agencies have a broader general electrical work in their greater stages of the construction and trade. Services specialized in staffing can be beneficial, because they tend to be specific and informed. They put specific trade information and may be more able and trustworthy because of this specificity. However, large projects that require more than one specialty often save time and money through one company for all their personal contact instead of several types of agencies. Being able to hire carpenters, plumbers, electricians, project managers, etc. all at once and throughout the same service saves the employer time, confusion and money. In this way, companies multidisciplinary staffing may be more beneficial for job seekers and employers. Larger projects may need to hire more workers, increasing employment opportunities and income for electricians represented by recruitment agencies they use. Also, if a company has been successful in the past, hiring a type of worker through an agency, for example, carpenters, are more likely to hire other workers, such as electricians by the same agency.
The fact to be noted here is the importance of finding a good electrician. As I have found staffing companies often are held responsible for locating those skilled workers, it may be worthwhile to keep a few on staff year round. As a good electric man is often readily employed by the first available job.
Most homeowners do not think too much about their heating and cooling until they stop working. But having a contractor perform regular system maintenance is the best way to keep it running smoothly and minimize downtime. It also helps to have a basic knowledge of how the system works so that your repair technicians can have an idea of what could be the problem before going to service your heating system and cooling.
The primary components of heating and air conditioning are: source of treated air, a duct to send the main source of air and a device to control the equipment. (thermostat) In most cases, the furnace uses the same pipe to distribute the conditioned air around the house. It is often that an entire home operates on only one thermostat a well. Don’t be surprised when there is some kind of problem with the heating and cooling system as the components of the system can be the source of the problem.
The first thing to conceptualize about hvac equipment is that although heat and cool are polar opposites, they work in the same manner. ie. hot air is always moving toward colder areas. Thus if heating or cooling the heat is always moving either indoors or outdoors depending upon the season. It’s really a vicious cycle or seasons. While cool out you blow warm air around indoors, yet when hot out you blow cool air indoors – and thus pump the hot air outdoors.
It is also important to realize that regardless of heatin or cool, you are always going to consume some form of energy. Air Conditioners burn electricity, while furnaces may use electricity or gas. A heat pump operates with electricity and the same applies to geo thermal and solar equipment.
When any of these pieces of equipment is on, it is consuming energy. This causes the air to produce hot or cold temperatures and is pushed to different areas within your home, often through ductwork (some units are ductless though). After passing through the ducts, the air then exits into the appropriate rooms for adequate conditioning.
Air Conditioners and heat pumps work by utilizing the process of refrigeration. Although a very technically sound process, it can be easily visualized. Picture spraying water through a hose on a hot summer day….it always feels really cold right? This is what happens in a a/c unit. The refrigerant quickly disperse from high to low pressure and creates a massive temperature drop. Thus you can take advantage of to cool your home.
The whole system is controlled by a thermostat, which operates according to the temperature that is around it. So if your thermostat is placed in your main living area, it is the temperature that will affect the rest of your home. Other parts of your home could be hotter or colder depending on the distance between the thermostat. If you do not already have a digitalis a good idea to invest in one because they can save you a lot of money on your heating and cooling. The idea behind them is they can be set to adjust based upon your schedule. Thus you don’t have to maintain a fully comfortable, more costly temperature when you are away. Of course there are products available so that you can individually control each room. aka zoning controls. This is for another section of the website though. Please stay tuned.
Plumbing is one of the lest appreciated and most expensive items in a building project. Despite the overall dirty reputation a plumber may get, they are paramount to a buildings success. And at first glance it seems pretty easy to do, but trust me plumbing is really technical and hard work. Planning out the routing of drains and water lines to pitch correctly yet miss all the walls, doors and windows while heading down 10 flights is a difficult process. The same applies to the place of waterlines and their exposure to hazards. To make things worse a line place too shallow in a wall may catch a screw or nail after the fact and end up wreaking havoc on a multi story building. Thus you must take a few precautions, as listed below, when dealing with the plumber.
New homes in most cases are falsely perceived as perfect and flawless. However, many homeowners are facing problems of plumbing, lighting and related construction. These can be the result of negligence, the use of inferior materials or the complexity of the housing plan. The biggest plumbing obstacle seems to be the lack high quality equipment and materials. To help reduce the cost of construction, most plumbers use cheap plumbing, but with questionable quality. Most errors are experienced in plumbing behind the walls and under the floors. Which are the worst places for things to go wrong.
While it is exciting to move into a new home, it is strongly recommended to take the time to inspect and try to detect weaknesses in the plumbing system. The most common problems in new homes are leaks, drainage problems, clogged drains, and pipe vibration. Noticing these problems are not easy because they start as insignificant signs, and develop further later. There are a number of ways you can protect yourself against problems related to plumbing in your new home. During the inspection phase of a new home, it is very useful to look out for any gaps in the structure of plumbing. If you do not have considerable expertise in plumbing, consider engaging the services of a professional plumber. ie. pressure testing water lines, filling drains and fixtures and etc.
If a good plumbing contractor is hired from the go, there should be little concern here. Most any licensed plumber is going to do a proper job of pressure testing soldered fittings, pex fittings and the associated fixtures they are attached to. This only a small part of the process though. It is really wise to check the vents pipes from the roof as well. Many homes have as much as 3 plumbing vents protruding from the roof. And although they may never see pressurized water, they will continuously see moisture. Finally all drains much be plugged and pressurized to test for a worst case scenario. Ie. plugged drain in the basement that now holds a full pipe column of water upstairs. This is the only true way to test for the leaks that sneak up on you.
Finally, check for loose water lines that will cause a conditions known as water hammer. This is the slamming or rattling of pipes when a faucet, toilet or other device is turned on and off. Although very annoying at first, it is not damaging. In fact this problem can be greatly reduced with the use of water dampening devices. ie. bladder tanks and water hammer arrestors. This is not usually a problem with solid copper pipes, more a common issue with pvc and pex piping.
As you can see it can be one slight plumbing oversight on a home that cause catastrophic damages to a structure. To avoid any of these commons pitfalls listed here, ensure you hire a reputable plumber from day 1. (and make sure he is on the job, not just a assistant that was recently hire) Also just as a safety measure ensure the plumbing inspector asks the right questions and double checks all the parts of the plumbing installation.