Score One For The Made In China Brand


Reid said his research indicates at least some drywall imported from China during the homebuilding boom years of 2004 and 2005 was made with waste materials from scrubbers on coal-fired power plants.

Those materials can leak into the air as gases combine with the moisture on an air conditioning coil to create sulfuric acid, which appears to be dissolving solder joints and copper tubing – creating leaks, blackening the coils and even causing the system to fail, Reid said.

Unanticipated Problems From Environmental Regulations

From Enertech Labs…..

The Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD (S-15)) that we started to receive in mid 2006 has shown some dramatically different cold weather characteristics from the earlier High Sulfur (HSD (S-5000)) and Low Sulfur Fuels (LSD (S-500)).

These new characteristics including higher temperature gelling, wax dropout, icing, and difficulty in treating have in the first year and will continue into the foreseeable future to provide some significant challenges to distributors and end users during cold weather.

Due to these new characteristics users in areas of the US where they have not seen cold weather problems in the past, are now and will continue to see serious issues with gelling, wax dropout, and icing.

This is not the end of the world. But I have heard of reports of this causing problems for school buses and the like. Mostly out in western states.

Honest/Dishonest Design

Spipican Cottage quotes Andrew Jackson Downing as saying….

…the highest principle in designing or building a cottage, that it should be truthful, that is, should clearly express the modesty and simplicity of cottage life. Hence, not only should the cottage aim to look like a cottage, but it should avoid all pretension to what it cannot honestly and faithfully be. And as its object is first utility, and then beauty, the useful should never be sacrificed to the ornamental, but the latter should more obviously be connected with, and grow out of the former, in a cottage than in a more elaborate dwelling.

To be truthful and useful should be the guiding principle of ever designer. With that in mind compare this house built in upstate New York with these ones profiled by the New York Times.

The cottages profiled by the New York Times strike me as being very fake. I think this is because the houses profiled in the New York Times article are trying to portray their owners as having different values then they in fact posses. This is not the case with the house built by the King of Scrounge.

Thoughts on Obama’s promised investment in infrastructure

America’s aging infrastructure is in the news a lot these days. A lot of this is due to politics. Obama thinks he can create a lot of jobs by rebuilding infrastructure, so he and his political allies have an interest in explaining to everyone why the infrastructure needs to be repaired.

As for me, I have mixed feelings about all this. I am on record as being one of those who is worried about America’s aging infrastructure. I would rather see the government spend money on infrastructure then on bailing out the automakers or investment bankers. But why is everyone so worried about our infrastructure now that we are in the middle of an economic crisis?

The answer is obvious. People feel the need to stimulate the economy. And rebuilding infrastructure seems like a better idea than paying people to dig holes in the ground and then refill them. Thus, what the politicians are really after is jobs, not infrastructure.

This is a problem. Infrastructure built to provide jobs tends to be poor quality and built in the wrong places. This type of infrastructure will not do much to help the underlying problem that threatens to bring America’s infrastructure to third world levels.

A good example of how not to invest in infrastructure would be Japan. They have been trying to pave their way to economic growth in the most literal way possible for the last 20 years or so. But all they have got for their troubles is a lot of empty roads that no one uses. At the same time, their subway lines are still jam-packed to unsafe levels.

American politicians seem determined to follow Japan’s example in almost every respect. I have no real hope that Obama’s promised investment in infrastructure will be any different from Japan’s misguided efforts. I have no doubt that he will throw a lot of money at the problem, I just don’t think we will get very much infrastructure for our money.

What is the proper slope for drain and waste pipe?

This is not as simple a question as it might seem if you are talking about doing the bare minimum to follow code. There are a couple of major plumbing codes in use in America and they don’t all agree as this conversation from the Ask Me Help Desk forum makes clear.

From this Forum Post….

Plumbing codes in the USA mandate that pipes 3″ and smaller get 1/4″ pitch per foot minimum.

Pipes 4″ and larger can have a minimum 1/8″ pitch per foot.

If not on commercial job using a transit level to keep track of slope I take a 4 foot level and I tape a 1/2″ block of wood at the very end of the level which is equal to 1/8″ pitch per foot so that when I place the level on the 4″ or 6″ underground pipe, for example, and get a level reading from the level I know I have a properly pitched pipe for sure!

From another post on the same forum…

I got this from Google,

Minimum 1/4″ of fall per foot on 2″ pipe or smaller.
Minimum 1/8″ of fall per foot on 3″ or larger.

1/2″ per foot is Maximum.

Which garnered this response…..

MUST be IPC code…all others that I know of require as I posted…1/4″ per foot 3″ and smaller, 1/8″ pitch per foot 4″ and larger.

Always seems to be some exception to every rule!! I swear!

I know I wouldn’t go with only 1/8″ pitch per foot on a 3″ toilet line…just seems to be asking for trouble.

The IPC coder referred too is the International Plumbing Code. It is one of the plumbing codes that are used in America.

I agree with the last commentator that 1/8″ pitch per foot is risking it for a 3″ toilet line. In general, I am a steeper is better kind of guy.

But some people argue you should never pitch any waste drain for more then 1/2″ drop per foot. If you over do your pitch, the water is going to out run your waste. This means that the waste could build up and block your drain. Other people argue that this is just an old wives tales.

I think that there is usually some truth to those old wives tales. I would not doubt that you can overdo pitch if you try hard enough. However, I have never seen good sold scientific support for the “no greater than 1/2″ drop per foot rule.”

I wonder why this is. One would think that someone would have settled the issue in a scientific matter by now. But if they have, I have never come a crossed it.

The importance of bond breakers in caulking jobs

Most people in the trades think that caulking is a simple thing. You buy the right caulk for what you want to do. If you want to make small cracks in your indoor wood trim disappear you would use Acrylic Latex. For sealing around the outside of a window you would use a Silicone based caulk. And if you are not overly worried about fumes that it could give off, you can use polyurethane caulk just about anywhere you want to in a standard residential dwelling.

Of course, it is a little more complicated than that. With recent advances in technology, there is a bewildering array of different types of caulk that you could use. But most people who have been around the trades for any length of time have a reasonably good idea of what the trade-offs are. And for those who have not, there are plenty of how-to articles to help you out.

But what most people don’t know is the proper way of applying caulk. Or rather, they don’t understand the proper way of preparing a crack before they caulk it. As a result, most people apply caulk in a manner that significantly reduces its effectiveness.

In order for caulk to perform the way it was designed, it must form a bond with just two sides (i.e it should not bond with the bottom of the crack) and it must not be applied any deeper than half the width of the crack. Failure to keep these principles in mind will lead to premature failure of a caulked joint.

Of course, we don’t get to choose the size or depth of the joints and cracks that we have to caulk. Nor can we make the caulk hover in space until it cures. That is why they make bond breaker tape and backing rod. Both backing rod and bond breaker tape are designed so that caulk will not bond with them. With these you can control both the depth and the width of the caulking job.

This is no great secret. This spec sheet for a polyurethane caulk says….

Install backer rod to set the depth of the sealant. Sealant depth measured at the center point of
the joint width must not exceed joint width and in no case should depth be greater than 1/2 inch
or less than 1/4 inch. Use bond breaker tape to prevent 3-sided adhesion in shallow joints.
Approval of the backer rod or bond breaker shall be made by the engineer.

But even though the spec sheets call for these things, you will almost never see them used in residential work. This is a reflection of the poor quality of work that goes on in most residential work. If you want to know if a contractor really knows his stuff, you would be wise to follow the recommendations of this article and ask the contractor if he uses bond breakers when he caulks.

For further information on this topic, read Success with Caulking by Steve Maxwell.

I never would have thought….

I never would have thought that the Japanese would treat their houses as throwaway objects. I have always heard so much about what fine craftsmen the Japanese were that I always imagined that they built their houses with the same kind of care. They don’t.

The typical lifespan for a house in Japan is only 30 years and buying a used house is almost unheard of. You can read more here.

I never would have thought that rising construction cost would so quickly become a problem for governments trying to build or repair their infrastructure. Obviously, I knew that this was going to be a problem in the future because I wrote a post on the problem. But serious problems are starting to pop up now.

This article from the New York Times explains why.

A word on the nomenclature of pipes, tubes, and their standard measures

If you ask an engineer a pipe is vessel and a tube is a structure. The standard measure for a pipe (i.e, the size you use to spec it) is the inside diameter because it is a vessel for transporting gas or liquids. The standard measure for a tube is measured by outside diameter because it is used for structural support.

If you ask a plumber, a pipe is any thick walled tube that can be threaded. A tube is anything that carries gas or liquids and is too thin walled to be threaded. Most plastic pipe is not threaded. However it is thick walled and that is why it is called pipe (You can also get plastic tubing).

In general, a plumber use inside diameter as the standard measures for both pipes and tubing. But Black Iron (and other ferrous metal pipes) and plastic pipes nominal size is only an approximation of the inside diameter. What’s more, the inside diameter will vary by thickness of the pipe wall (which is indicated by the pipe schedule). So a schedule 40 pipe will have an inside diameter that is almost twice as big as a schedule as a schedule 120 pipe even though they are both the same nominal size. To make matters worse, from 14” the nominal size is based on outside diameter.

To make matters even more complicated, the standard measure for annealed copper refrigeration tubing (otherwise known as ACR tubing) is always outside diameter. But this stuff is used by HVAC technicians, not your average plumber.

I don’t understand I why we all can’t be more like engineers. Do we really need a bunch of different standard measures for pipes when they are all used for transporting gas or liquids?