October 29, 2013 AsktheBuilder Newsletter & Tips
Yesterday morning, while it was still pitch black, I hopped into my car and began to drive sixty-four miles southeast to the Atlantic Ocean. I was headed to Portsmouth, NH to attend an all-day Home Projects Connectors and Deck Workshop that started at 7:30 am. It was organized by Simpson Strong-Tie and the speaker was Jim Mailey. He's one of Simpson's lead trainers.
When you signed in at the workshop, you received a large binder filled with all sorts of technical information about metal framing connectors. The common ones you may recognize are joist hangers. The workshop also covered the fasteners used to attach these metal parts to wood framing. Fasteners are VERY IMPORTANT.
I was conflicted about going a week ago. I wondered if it would be a wise investment of time to spend a day listening to things I thought I already knew. It's a good thing I went - a VERY GOOD thing. I discovered many new things, some of which troubled me as it affects you and your loved ones.
The day almost got off to a bad start as 500 feet from the hotel where the workshop was held I was pulled over by a NH state trooper. I tried to enter the giant Portsmouth traffic circle at the end of NH Route 16 from the wrong lane.
The trooper approached the car on the passenger side and said, "I'm sure you know why I pulled you over."
"Oh, you bet I do. I thought both lanes could enter the traffic circle and didn't realize my lane was the ramp to northbound I-95."
"You and hundreds of others make the same mistake. It's very dangerous this time of morning with rush-hour traffic."
He asked for two pieces of documentation, my drivers license and car registration, but I gave him four. The trooper got the two he wanted plus my concealed carry permit, alerting him that I was indeed carrying a firearm, and my CERT ID card.
The trooper was very thankful I handed him my concealed carry permit and said so. He asked me if I was carrying and where the firearm was located and that was that. It was very professional.
"CERT, what's that?" The trooper was bent over looking through the passenger window.
"It stands for Citizens Emergency Response Team. We assist first responders like you when something big happens so you can do the things you're best at. We're trained in traffic control, first aid, rehabilitation, search and rescue, etc."
"Why I've never heard of this before! That's pretty cool. Stay here with your hands on the steering wheel. I'll be right back."
I sat there with my hands clearly in view and in a flash he was back at my window.
"Mr. Carter, I just want to give you a warning this time. Please don't make that mistake again. Have a great day!"
I politely thanked him, extended my hand so he could shake it, he did, and drove away. Ninety seconds later, I was in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn. I backed my car into a parking spot right next to the roadway and who was racing up the exit ramp but the trooper with his blue lights blazing.
He pulled up behind two young men who probably did the exact same thing I did. He was just 16 feet away from me. Mr. Trooper didn't look happy. I headed for the hotel sliding door.
My guess is the driver left that encounter with a piece of lightweight cardboard. Ouch. We'll never know if the outcome would have been different if he had a CERT ID card.
Maybe you need a CERT ID card, but get it for the right reasons - to help you and your family be prepared and to help your community.
Because of the events of yesterday, most of this newsletter is focused on safety.
TIP OF THE WEEK - IS YOUR DECK SAFE?
Jim Mailey, the Simpson Strong-Tie instructor, did a fantastic job yesterday. He knows how to take very technical information and make it interesting to a group of building inspectors, architects, structural engineers, builders and a random syndicated newspaper columnist.
His talk was sprinkled with photos and real videos taken of deck collapses. Some of these photos and videos took my breath away. You may not know me, but that's HARD TO DO. I've seen so much, it's pretty hard to shock me. I was disturbed and troubled by what I saw.
People died at some of these places and others are now quadriplegics. Tens of thousands of others have been severely injured and will suffer for the rest of their lives. Not only do they suffer, but those around them have had their lives altered - and not for the better.
Here's one of the videos we watched. This one was tame.
Why is this happening when most decks are seemingly not complicated structures? I'll tell you why.
Decks are complicated. Decks are HEAVY. You'd be stunned at what the average deck weighs. What about decks with hot tubs on them? A cubic foot of water weighs 62.42 pounds. Think how much your filled hot tub weighs.
A vast majority of decks in this nation are built incorrectly. They were built with the wrong materials, the wrong methods, untrained workers, DIYrs that have great intentions but no real construction skills, etc.
These decks are unsafe. They were doomed from day one. Is your deck one of these?
Each day existing decks become more UNSAFE because the treated wood is rotting, yes it ROTS, and the metal connectors and fasteners used to connect the wood can be corroding.
The deck at my own home is one of these unsafe decks. I live in a home here in New Hampshire built by someone else. My deck was built by a band of morons and I intended to retrofit it this past summer. It didn't happen for a number of reasons. I, so far, have dodged the bullet. Stupid. Very stupid after watching videos yesterday.
After seeing the photos and videos yesterday, my deck is now CLOSED. No one's going on my deck until it's fixed this winter or next spring.
Is your deck safe? What are the danger spots? How can you, a homeowner with limited structural knowledge, know what to look for?
One more question.
If I produced an affordable simple guide, less than $20, identifying the primary problem areas in decks using photos and then offered the solution how to solve the problem, would you purchase it?
If you say "Heck Yes!" then reply to this email and change the subject line to HECK YES!.
I'm only going to invest the time to produce this guide if enough people respond. I'm sure you understand why.
PUBLIC SERVICE AND HAM RADIO
This past Saturday, I donated time and resources to help keep some runners safe. It was fun. Four of my good buddies from the Central New Hampshire Amateur Radio Club helped me too. We provided the safety communications for the first annual Trick or Trot 5K walk/race. It was uneventful. That's always a good thing.
Here are a few of us having a meeting prior to the event. I'm Mr. Lime Green. Glen Aldrich, KC1AAI took the photo. Missing in the photo is Cliff Dickinson, N1RCQ. Lee Hillsgrove, KB1GNI is in the orange hat and Frank Towle, KC1AAQ is in the middle.
I also added a fun article about a different event to my ham radio blog. I have a feeling you might enjoy reading this impish article. The link is just below. It's important you read it. Seriously. Go read it.
Earlier this month I hinted at a secret project I'm working on. Read this article and leave a comment if you like the STYLE of the writing.
You may not care one iota about ham radio. That's not the point. Just tell me if you liked the story and if it kept you interested.
I promise I'll share my secret project with you prior to Thanksgiving. If you want a clue about what I might be doing, you need to read this story.
The secret project has NOTHING to do with ham radio.
RENE M., DISHWASHERS AND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Rene M. from Mahomet, IL emailed me several weeks ago with some questions and I promised her I'd answer them in this issue.
Here's what Rene sent to me:
"Reading through today's AsktheBuilder.com News, you mention dishwashers and septic systems. Are they compatible? I have some friends who say they can never have a dishwasher in their house because they heard using one would negatively affect their septic system.
Might hooking a dishwasher to a dry well be an alternative solution to draining to a septic system, given there is not a lot of food/detergent/water produced per dishwasher cycle and is likely run only once per 24 hours as is the case in our household of six? Is Stain Solver septic safe?"
Rene, these are all great questions! Let's charge through them.
Dishwashers and septic systems are compatible. Your friends received some bad advice from someone or someplace. Healthy septic systems can consume and digest the food waste a dishwasher puts into the septic tank.
The key is to scrape off large food particles into a garbage can and wipe off grease from plates, bowls, etc. with old newspaper before you load them into the dishwasher. Put those greasy newspapers in the garbage as well.
I would not hook a dishwasher to a dry well. For starters it could become a health hazard. There's a good chance your local plumbing code will not allow it.
There's no need to do this and it can become problematic for a future homeowner who might not realize the drain line enters into the dry well. In periods of wet weather, the dry well will not be dry. It will be completely filled with water. What happens to the gray water at that point? That's a rhetorical question.
Stain Solver is a magical additive for septic systems. Anyone who has a septic system should add it every other week. That's what I do. I add one-half cup to my septic system every 14 days.
Here's why. I'm a master plumber and have installed septic systems as well as aerated septic systems. I've also toured massive municipal sewage plants.
Have you ever thought how large sewage plants work? They don't have massive leach fields. The waste that finally makes it to a sewage plant is usually a very thin watery puree by the time it makes it to the plant. The sewer plant allows the waste to settle to get the worst solids to go to the bottom of giant holding tanks.
That waste is then pumped to a system that adds AIR to the wastewater. The oxygen in the air ACCELERATES the breakdown of the waste. The bacteria in the waste THRIVES in the presence of oxygen. Once the wastewater has been aerated for a given amount of time, it's released back into a local river or stream. Seriously, that's the basics of how a municipal sewage system works.
In a septic tank, oxygen is pushed out of the tank because the breakdown of the waste creates methane gas. The septic tank becomes anaerobic - meaning there's no or limited oxygen in the tank. The bacteria in the tank struggles to break down the waste.
Years ago, and you still may be able to install these in certain areas, you could install a miniature sewage plant at your home. I've done it. These systems were designed for houses on smaller lots that could not support a larger leach field. They're called jet aeration systems. If you're a boater, you might appreciate this.
When installing a jet aeration system, you first installed a regular septic tank. In the first chamber of the tank you'd find a propeller attached to a hollow shaft. This shaft extended up to an electric motor that was outside of the tank. This motor would not only spin the propeller down in the tank, it also injected outside AIR into the septic tank through the hollow shaft. Think of this as a household blender on steroids.
Remember, there was NO LEACH FIELD attached to this tank. Why? The addition of the air into the system helped to break down a vast majority of the waste in the swirling water. Yes, the air from outside that contains oxygen being blended into the septic waste water was all that was happening.
When you sent five gallons of waste water into the jet aeration septic tank, five gallons of treated water would come out the other end of the tank. It was CLEAR and it passed through a sand filter then a chlorine tablet to further purify it. The pipe then just dumped out onto the ground! The water was pure enough to drink, although I never tried it.
Where is all this going? It's all about AIR or oxygen. If you add oxygen to a traditional septic system, the beneficial bacteria in the tank THRIVES and does a faster and better job of breaking down the waste.
What do you think it costs to rebuild a leach field? Thousands and thousands of dollars. You can avoid this if you follow all the above advice and pour one-half cup of Stain Solver into your toilet every other week. Flush the toilet TWICE in a row to ensure the Stain Solver makes it into the tank.
Rene, I hope this clears up some of your plumbing questions.
FALLING OFF A LADDER - MULTIPLE VICTIMS
A subscriber to this newsletter, who must remain anonymous because of a legal settlement, and I wandered into a discussion about a very tragic accident. He fell off a ladder.
He was trained to scale ladders. He was a volunteer firefighter, not some rookie DIY homeowner that tilts a piece of aluminum up against a house. He fell twenty-two years ago. He lived, but his life - and those of MANY OTHERS near him - were permanently affected. NOT for the better I might add.
I want you to read the following and STOP and THINK. Think about how you've dodged the bullet. THINK about the chances you took to save time or ??? Feel FREE to forward this newsletter to all in your family, to your co-workers, your friends, etc. They need to read the following:
"I have absolutely no recollection of the accident other than details others have provided. The day was cold. I had been up the ladder several times. I must have been on the way down because the light I was working on worked when tested after I was released from the hospital.
The cost: long hospitalization (the medivac helicopter was $2800), loss of job with financial disaster for family - have not worked since 1990, epilepsy, severe memory loss, no short-term memory now. I don't remember yesterday, plus more.
I thought I knew ladder safety. Lessons learned: do not trust ladders - tie them off, especially secure the bottom. The height of the ladder does not affect the fall risk. If you are working high, tie yourself off independent of the ladder. The type and brand of ladder are not the issues. Being off the ground is. Limit your reach and movement when on the ladder. Don't reach - move the ladder.
Tim, I'm fortunate. Married 44 years - more than twice as long as at the time of the accident. I've watched the nine-year-old boy that discovered his father after the fall, grow to be a fashion designer for a world-famous fashion house. I'm able to tell my story so others might be safe. Accidents hurt more people than the one injured."
GULP....... Moment of reflection...... Even for me. Do you know how many times I took STUPID chances on ladders? Never ever again.
Do you have a similar story? Would you like me to share it? I can keep you anonymous. You have to tell me if you want your name used. I'm HAPPY to create a FREE downloadable document filled with similar stories to SHARE.
I'm creating a NEW section at my shopping cart. It's a section of FREE downloads like this. I would include this Safety Stories publication in that section of the shopping cart.
Maybe you cut off a finger on a saw. Maybe you fell off a roof. Tell your story and what caused it so others may avoid hurting themselves AND the people they love around them.
LINEAR FRENCH DRAIN DVDS SHIPPED YESTERDAY
Did you order the special STOP BASEMENT LEAK DVD? It's the one about installing one of my Linear French Drains.
CLICK HERE to stop basement leaks permanently.
Your DVD SHIPPED to you yesterday. You may have received a somewhat confusing overnight email from "customer service".
The return email is in this email is:
It's legitimate. Open it to see tracking information.
Kunaki is the company in Nevada fulfilling the orders for these DVDs.
PLEASE let me know how you like the DVD. I'd love to hear from you.
I'll have a I Didn't Know That for you next week.
More tips next week.