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Doing Due Diligence

pvc drain pipes

When you hope your builder and subs do everything right, you’re making a huge mistake. (C) Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

Doing Due Diligence Story

I discovered years ago that you like stories and hate to be lectured to. Stories can be fun and intriguing. Lectures tend to make your brain hurt. I’ve got a story for you that I think you’ll really enjoy. It’s been unfolding over the past eight weeks with a random visitor that stumbled onto my AsktheBuilder.com website.

This story is about hope. Hope is an emotion you experience when you wish for things you can’t control. For example, you hope you’ll get rescued from a deserted island. You hope the weather will be nice for your vacation.

But you should never ever hope that everything in your new home is going to be done the best possible way or to the highest level you can afford. Some upgrades cost very little extra money but pay huge dividends down the road. One of these is cast iron drain pipe.

Building a New Home in New Jersey

The visitor who showed up at my website is a professional who’s building a new home in New Jersey. Like thousands and thousands of others who build new homes each year, he undoubtedly thought he had done his homework and hired a knowledgeable builder who’d do every aspect of the job the right way.

That’s where the trouble begins. What’s the right way?

The Building Code Is a Set of Minimum Standards

Often you’ll hear builders or others say something’s built to “code” or everything in the house passes all the building inspections. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The building code is a set of minimum standards. If your home passes all the inspections, it’s like getting a 70 percent on a test. You just passed by the skin of your teeth. You can always build something to a much higher standard than the building code mandates.

The man building the home in New Jersey used my Ask Tim page and asked me a fairly complex question. I developed a phone consulting product a long time ago for these situations where back-and-forth questions and answers are required to offer the best advice. He was overjoyed to discover he and I could talk on the phone.

His first questions were about the strength of the concrete being used in the footings, foundation walls, and his basement slab.

stepped footing

Here's a foundation footing that's making a transition from one level to another. It's poured continuously for extra strength. Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

I gave him all the answers and told him that they were in past columns on my website he could read for free. He told me he’s so busy he doesn’t have time to sort through all the information and would rather just talk to me.

A week later, the homeowner wanted to discuss gaps in the plywood wall sheathing that covered the exterior walls. Then a week later, he wanted to talk about how the walls were joined together.

PVC Plumbing Pipes are Noisy

Every week a new set of questions came up about whatever work had just been installed. Just this past weekend, he sent me photos of the PVC plumbing drain pipes that had been installed. After reading a past column on my website, he became very concerned that he was going to hear lots of rushing water noise in the pipes.

PVC Drain Pipes

These are some of the PVC drain pipes the homeowner thought would make noise. He was right! Copyright 2018 Tim Carter

I’ve been a master plumber since age 29 and can tell you that PVC is a great piping material because it doesn’t rust or develop cracks. But its shortcoming is that it’s very noisy. When water rushes out of a toilet and cascades down a vertical drain stack in a wall, you’d think you’re living under Niagara Falls. This rushing-water noise is horrible and it’s preventable.

Soundproofing PVC Pipe Options

This homeowner didn’t want to hear any noise and asked me how to stop it. I told him that the pipes can be covered with a foam sleeve, sound-deadening fiberglass batts could be placed in the wall and ceiling cavities and the sound-deadening board could be nailed to the wall studs and ceiling joists before the drywall was installed.

Or, he could remove as much of the larger-diameter 3-inch drains as possible and replace them with no-hub cast iron pipe. This is what should have been installed in the first place. It’s very expensive to try to correct the problem, but not so expensive to install noise-proof cast iron.

Related Links

Cast Iron Drain Lines Are Fantastic

Insulate PVC To Stop Sound? May Be Cheaper To Start with Cast Iron!!

Free & Fast Bids

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local plumbers who can install cast iron drains for you.

One wonders why many builders don’t mimic car manufacturers. Builders are keenly aware of the different model levels of pickup trucks today. You can buy a basic pickup truck or one that’s got every option and the plushest interior you could ever imagine. Of course, you pay more for the better things, but if the buyer wants it, then sell it to her/him.

You Must Do Due Diligence, Sorry!

This homeowner hoped that the builder would automatically build the home to the highest standards. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. It’s up to you to determine what the best is. You need to do your due diligence. You need to do the research and find out how to avoid all the pesky problems that await you a month after you move into your new home.

Electric Wiring Tip

Fortunately, I was able to give this homeowner a few tips about his electric system as the wiring had not been installed. I told him that he should consider installing nothing less than 12 gauge wire in all normal house circuits. This wire only costs (2018 prices) $25 more per 250 feet. The cost of the circuit breaker for this wire is the same as for thinner 14-gauge wire.


This is a standard roll of 12-gauge wire used in residential homes. CLICK the image and compare how much a 250-foot roll of 14/2 wire costs. You'll be BLOWN AWAY. Always use 12/2 wire!

The advantage to using 12-gauge wire is it’s rated for 20 amps instead of 15. There are lots of reasons you’ll appreciate this extra capacity on a circuit. I also told him to make sure there’s plenty of exterior outlets in strategic locations for holiday lighting. All of these should be controlled with indoor switches.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS  from local electricians who can install 12-gauge wire for you!

I could go on and on and on about the best things for a home. Maybe I should write a book about them. What do you think?

Go down to the comments below and type "Yes, write the book!" If enough ask for it, I’ll do it for you.

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58 Responses to Doing Due Diligence

  1. Tim
    I book might be a good idea. I’m on my third home. And through each one I’ve learned a lot. But knowing before doing is much better than learning through the process. So a book with all you know would be a valuable asset
    Thanks for all the advice.

  2. Tim,
    A book from a trusted source is a great idea. We've built 3 homes with great success but there are things that could have been done better. I grew up building things but many kids today do not. A book like yours would have been a great help to our daughter and son-in-law who just built a home. Be sure to include cost estimates for your ideas (like the 12 gauge wire example) as that is very helpful.
    Thanks for your column and advice,

  3. Yes, write the book. The tips would also work for additions.

    The 12 gauge wire is a biggie for me. In my house, the garage has 15 amp outlets! It was built by a "professional builder" who built it as a "spec" house. I can only run a 1 hp air compressor and then only barely. It sometimes trips the breaker. If I run a shop vac at the same time, it trips for sure. I could go on but as Tim says "that's enough for today".

    • Depending on how recent your house is, the wiring may well be 12 gauge. The outlets tell you nothing about the gauge wiring that feeds them. Nor does the size of the breaker protecting the wiring.

      15 amp outlets are used because most appliances and/or power tools need 15 amps or less.

      Just keep in mind that just because there are several 15 amp outlets on a circuit does not mean that you can run all sorts of 15 amp devices at the same time on that circuit.

      Both your compressor and shop vac should have plates on them stating their maximum current draw.

      The one HP compressor should not be tripping a 15 amp circuit. One possibility is that the breaker is defective. Another is that there is some other occasional load on that garage circuit.

  4. Tim, I suggest writing the book!!!! As I have said before, there is nothing more valuable than the condensed knowledge of someone who has spent a lifetime working at and mastering something.

  5. I think a book is a good idea, it could possibly keep the contractors on their toes by seeing an educated consumer. The questions and concerns to the contractor should be asked before building starts, as change orders during construction could add a lot of unforeseen costs to the project.

  6. Sure, write the book ~ just way too late for us. Perhaps the book should be directed at the home building industry to get them to look out for their customers and NOT just the bottom line! I know, a pipe dream...

  7. Yes Tim. Please write a book filled with helpful tips and best practices to use in home building. But somehow you will need to differentiate if the best practices differ based on the region of the US. I have decided to become an Owner-Builder for our retirement home in the mountains and making sure I am aware of theses tips and best ideas, would be very helpful. Thanks, Mike

  8. Yes, write the book. We are going to need a bit more information about building than plumbing. Such as electrical, foundations, insulation, sound proofing between floors and rooms, roofing (you already did this one), HVAC, windows and doors, etc. This could really be a master reference for anyone to use to keep tabs on their contractor and perhaps give an exam to the contractor before hiring him!!!

  9. Write it and hurry up already! I'm planning to start construction this fall and have no idea what I'm doing or what my contractor should be doing.

    • Unfortunately, there is no way that Tim could have the book ready by this fall - not if he is to do a thorough job.

      Such a book, even if somewhat abbreviated, is likely to take a year or two - depending on how much Tim can draw on past material he has written.

  10. Think about it first. Where is your webinar events with Sara going? What would happen to your paid consultant time? Where would you get the time to write a book? Why haven't these people who are seeking advice already contacted an architect in their area about their project. Not a good idea.

    • Unfortunately, even architects often do not know what are best construction practices. Other than the codes, which provide minimum standards, they have to rely on experience or outside research to improve their design abilities.

  11. I am a 55yo female landlord with invaluable DIY skills thanks to you. YES!!! Please write a book...it would be an unprecedented resource. Also thank you for your webinar...love, love, love your work

  12. Clamer,

    All great points! The webinar with Sara was a test. I can tell you already where they're going. There will be just a few free ones in my future. If I decide to jump into them feet first, they'll be pay-for-view and for sale on Amazon.com.

    The issue is it's a tremendous amount of work to produce a webinar/streaming video course that would get lots of 4 and 5-star ratings. When they're for free, I don't let any subjective negative comments bother me. But you must have first-class production quality for a paid product.

    That's the hurdle. Keeping that production cost down so you get an ROI on all the work to create the course.

    My paid consulting work is going UP in volume because each person's situation always has some variable involved that's not mentioned in a video, column or ????.

    Many people are unaware of the questions to ask an architect before they engage one. I'm going to produce a short book on that process.

    The comments here so far have given me the input I needed to move forward on a series of tiny downloadable books showing the Best Choices for each aspect of a project.

    The challenge is getting enough photographs as fast as possible to put into each tiny book.

    In reality, it's a great idea. The content will be evergreen to a very large extent. You'll see at least two or three of these tiny books in 2018 for sure.

    Right now I'm finishing up on my first one:

    Sewer Gas Smell

    I LOVED LOVED LOVED your comment. I surround myself with advisors who I want to be the Devil's Advocate for my ideas.

    So keep your ideas and thoughts coming. Comments like yours help me justify what I'm thinking of doing.

  13. You should consider writing the book because you are a valuable authority given your background. Then, as the "Professional" who called you indicated he/she has little time for snaking around the web. Good point for people who have more dollars than cents. Note, I did not say "sense".

    I'm not sure about the issue with 12 gauge wiring throughout a home. A few years back I would've agreed. But with LED technology ruling the universe from TVs to lights, consumption and capacity for current is not what it used to be. Another example: years ago an electric range would require 50 amps. Now it's 40 and that could change with evolving technology. You realize that even current technology is such that HD table and miter saws can now be powered with a pair of batteries replacing the power cord. Ala Flex-volt technology from Stanley.

    Smart planning for wiring yes. Universal overkill, debatable these days. By all means, 20 amp circuits in kitchens, baths, basements, garages and outside. Besides that's code.

    I would seriously consider adding built-in outlets that charge USB powered devices throughout the house.

  14. Yes, write the book! But keep it aimed at the homeowner, not the builder. Might even have a section for remodeling for folks that aren't building a home! I work in the Lumber & Building Materials industry and I can tell you something like this would be huge, coming from an expert like you, instead of a typical DIY book written or compiled by WHO KNOWS WHO!!!

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