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Old 12-19-2009, 07:10 AM   #1
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Hello folks,
I grew up in a family where it was assumed that all problems should be fixed by the homeowner, but since my Dad was the black sheep of the family (a scientist, not a carpenter) a lot just didn't get fixed. Add to that the fact that I didn't pay attention that well and now I'm an adult that thinks I probably could do a lot of projects myself - but I usually want advice from more experienced folks before I start.

My husband grew up in a family that does nothing themselves. (I had to show him how to use a hammer.) So he's not much help in the DIY realm. ("Just pay someone, honey." "But handymen get over $80/hour around here." "Well, let's just not fix it then.")

We live in Maryland, where it is *way* too hot & humid for me in the summer, but still gets plenty cold & dry in the winter so we've got to make our house work for both heating and cooling. Our house is a 1957 brick on block ranch with a lot of stuff wearing out. I've already learned plenty from prowling the forums, I hope I can get as much from my own questions.
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Old 12-19-2009, 07:19 AM   #2
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Welcome. You have found the right forum. Most all you questions can be answered here. Many may have already been discussed so use the search feature first. Also check out the guideline documents.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:12 AM   #3
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Hi!

It doesn't matter if you're a girl or a guy -- anyone can learn to do stuff.

When my wife and I got serious she called her parents to introduce me to them on the phone. I'll never forget -- one of the first things she told her mom was, "He fixes things."

Good tools and good books will take you a long ways. You don't need to buy the books either -- the library has all sorts of good info. Just be mindful of the dates of the books you read.
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Old 12-19-2009, 02:13 PM   #4
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Hey,

I'm in the middle of a book about how working with one's hands is passe. Well I'm not sure about that-he's near NYC- I think its also a geographic thing-we're still pretty handy here in Maine. As one who can do about anything-he says humbly, I am sometimes stopped in my tracks when I hear stories somewhat like yours. Growing up, I though everybody had at least some handy competence.

Anyway, that isn't why I wrote-just got on the forum (avoiding the nasty cold).

After a career that involved alot of residential construction, I'm focusing on energy efficency in buildings. I've just finished all my certifications and as I learn more about the field it becomes more nuanced and interesting-but I've developed a strong passion for effeciency. I've always been heavy on insulation when the customer allowed it, but now I see how much more is possible as the field of building science has evolved with modeling for individual building etc.

For you, if your family has the wherewithal, I would consider dealing with the whole building as a system. To get a clear picture of what's happening in your house, you really should have an energy audit. This involves several elements-a discussion with yor family about current energy usage, building usage patterns and your objectives, coupled with an energy loss evaluation which involves depressurizing the house to help locate infiltration points, evaluating heating equipment, seeking sources of excessive moisture levels, scanning the structure with an infrared (thermal imaging) camera to identify structural and other elements that impact heat loss/retention. All this information is gathered together to create a computer modeled plan that guides work to achieve energy effeciency targets. It is not uncommon to set 50% savings or higher as a target. This is achieved through intensive insulation, sealing of air infiltration pathways and other practices.

With a house the age of yours, you may consider energy modifications in concert with other remodeling to achieve maximum results.

There is currenty funding available to assist in weatherization-contact your state energy or housing office. Also, qualified personnel are certified by BPI-the Building Performance Institute-many states, including mine, require certification to work on project with state or federal funding.

If you decide to go this route look for a company that integrates energy audit and weatherization capability. One might thing that there might be undesireable collusion-which I'm sure has happened. But more important is that you want a team that effectively communicates so that the auditor's findings are reflected in the work. Also a followup audit is essential to assure proper workmanship. An "insulating" company will not do. They are not up to speed on current practices.

In terms of learning skills-on possibility is the Shelter Institute, here in Maine that has courses for, like yourself- I believe there are similar operations scattered about.

Best to you, Will

Last edited by Due North; 12-19-2009 at 02:16 PM.
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
It doesn't matter if you're a girl or a guy -- anyone can learn to do stuff.
Pyper - I'll agree that gender doesn't matter, but I'm not sure about the second part of your statement - you weren't there for the hammer holding lesson, it was painful. Still, he's better than his step-father, who also doesn't hold a hammer properly, but attempts to use them to fix all things, including lamps. (If it doesn't work you shake it, if it still doesn't work, hit it with a hammer, if it still doesn't work, throw it away & buy a new one.)

Due North - I am also rather passionate about efficiency, though I've been a bit hap-hazard about applying that passion. We have solar electric and hot water. Soon after the solar was installed we got an energy audit. He said we needed to seal the air leaks, insulate the attic & replace the furnace and air conditioner. Just a few months later the furnace died. It was already spring. We lit a fire in the fireplace for 2 days and then it was warm enough that we didn't need a furnace. There was some issue with installing a high-efficiency furnace where the old furnace was, while we were trying to work that out our AC died. Losing them both at once actually made it economical to get a geo-thermal heat pump. We also got the attic insulated so now we're doing the easiest & cheapest of his recommendations - caulking all the cracks.

In the spirit of treating the whole house as a system - do you think I should ask all of my questions at once? I was planning on dividing them up and asking them one by one but they are inter-related.
I've got a lot of air leaks into the house, through the old brick on block, completely uninsulated walls, and through a poorly built wood framed addition, and through some oddly made windows. (3 questions)
On the other side of the coin, I find it hard to really ventilate when I want to. Maryland has a lot time in the fall and spring where the weather is very hot during the day and cool at night. I open all the windows at night but the air flow just isn't good enough to cool the house. (at least on question)
I also believe that I have some serious mold issues in the bathroom walls due to poorly installed fixtures. I haven't been brave enough to open the walls and take a peek, because as soon as I do I'll have to demo the bathrooms. However, 5 of the 6 residents have asthma so we can't avoid it for too long. (at least one more question)
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Old 12-19-2009, 09:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by aggyanna View Post
Pyper - I'll agree that gender doesn't matter, but I'm not sure about the second part of your statement

12 years ago I totally agreed with you, but I met this girl who told me she didn't believe in IQ tests, and that everyone could learn. Well in the last 12 years I've seen that it's true.

She's a music teacher, and her students always sound good. Better than the other teachers. But her pool of students are no different from the others. I think she'd be the first to tell you that she doesn't really know any techniques that are any different from her fellow teachers. I think the only real difference is that she expects them to be successful, and she believes that they all can be.

After my dad (also a teacher) met her (we've been married 11 years now, btw), he came up with, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I wouldn't want to be in her class.... No wait, I'd only want to be in her class if I wanted to learn."

You don't stop learning when you get old -- you get old when you decide to stop learning.
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Old 12-26-2009, 12:22 AM   #7
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Howdy from Texas,
I like you already. Your funny, honest and to the point. Im sure the good people here would be glad to help and answer anything you want to know.
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Old 12-26-2009, 01:24 AM   #8
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When the multi-bilionare Ross Perot still owned Electronic Data Systems the company that made him so rich there standard hirering practice was to send you to another state for your second interview. They wanted to make sure that if you were needed somewhere fast you could hope on a plane and get there.


I did some hirering for EDS and it was a lot different. It didn't matter if your degree was in computers, if you were good enough Ross would pay to train you. If you had less than a 3.5 you didn't get interviewed and then a major part of the interview process was why they didn't get a 4.0. My Senior project was getting the Muscular Dystrophy Association computerized at no cost to them. They sent me to Dallas and Ross himself asked If I'd like to work with him. By company policy everyone was on a first name basis including Ross. About 2 months later I went to Dallas for the 2 week orientation and Ross walked out of his office and remembers my name.


With the help of a couple of friends I added a bedroom and full bath onto the back of our house when I was 15. The only problem was not being able to drive to get suplies.


Take your time and ask questions. They give classes at the Home Depot and I think Lowe's as well.


It can be nasty sweaty and a lot of work, but when you finish your first DIY project and stand back and you say to yourself I did that, and feel good about it, your hooked. It won't be long before you get mad when they move things at Home Depot becasuse you know where everything is, and won't ever pay anyone $80 an hour (except mabey A/C guys) again. You'll Do-It-Yourself.
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