DIY Remodeling; Shearwalls Matter

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A shearwall is a wall that is designed to handle not only vertical loads, but horizontal loads from factors such as wind. Most building’s exterior walls are shearwalls since they will be exposed to these horizontal loads. This is important to know when looking to remodel or add-on to a shearwall.

Shear Wall pic

Photo credit : http://blog.buildllc.com/2014/05/shearwalls-101-why-you-cant-have-a-window-there/

Garage Header Project:

For example, CBS was recently called out to look at a garage header project. The inspector who examined the garage requested that an engineer examine the structural integrity of the project. Complete Building Solutions went to the property and looked at the current garage header over the garage doors and a few other factors contributing to the structural integrity of the structure.

The beam itself was sufficiently supported by the columns that were constructed. This means that the structure was able to support the vertical load. See picture below.

Garage Header-shear wall calc

However, the horizontal load also needed to be taken into account since the garage exterior walls were shearwalls and would be exposed to wind. Our engineer took measurements and performed calculations to account for the horizontal load. He was then able to determine that the current wall was NOT designed properly as a shearwall.  Efficient solutions were then laid out to the homeowner so the proper shearwall design could be implemented.

The above example demonstrates that many factors contribute to proper shearwall design and integrity.  If you are planning on remodeling be sure to contact Complete Building Solutions to help you validate the integrity of your plans.

What’s with the Frost in my Attic?

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Frost accumulating on roof deck with text

This January the temperatures in Minneapolis have reached a low of -16 degrees F and a high of 47 degrees F. These are the kinds of temperatures swings we expect to see over the course of a Minnesota winter. However, these drastic temperature changes can expose symptoms from underlying problems in your home. One of these symptoms is frost in the attic.

Why is there frost in my attic?

When our team gets complaints about “booms” in the attic, ice dams, high energy bills, and leaks, we expect to see frost in the attic. This is an indicator that airflow is being allowed to move from the conditioned living space of the home into the attic. The attic is meant to be a cold space, but becomes semi heated when warm air flows through hidden air passageways, known as bypasses, and into the attic.Frost in attic

You may be wondering what frost has to do with these open bypasses. Well, when warm air rises, flows through attic bypasses, and meets the cold components in the attic, condensation is formed. This condensation will freeze when temperatures become low enough, hence the frost. The frost itself isn’t a huge problem, but when the temperatures increase and the frost melts, insulation is damaged and pools of water can begin to break down crucial attic components. Even worse, the roof deck plywood can actually become delaminated if exposed to moisture for long periods of time. This means the wood literally becomes unglued. The fix for this is replacement of the roof deck. You said it, “Expensive!”

 

Should I add insulation?

Many people’s first instinct when they notice frost in the attic is to add insulation. That is NOT a solution. Insulation is irrelevant when your attic bypasses are left open for warm air to pour into the attic. Remember, this warm air forms condensation when it meets the cold attic which ultimately creates moisture intrusion issues. If you are looking for a real solution to the problem, it should be addressed in the following order:

  • Seal attic bypasse
  • Add Insulation
  • Address ventilation

Complete Building Solutions understands the science behind a healthy functioning building. We love helping clients discover hidden issues that have been producing ugly reoccurring symptoms in their home. If you have noticed leaks, ice dams, high energy bills, or frost in the attic, give Complete Building Solutions a call. We are here to help you find the culprit responsible for the issues.

3 Factors Contributing to Mold Growth in your Home

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Three factors must be present for mold to grow and thrive in your home. When the combination of these factors exists in the right proportions, you may start to see or feel the presence of unwanted fungal growth. The issue should be addressed immediately for the health of your family and home.

mold in home -complete building solutions

Ok, are you ready for the three factors? It’s actually pretty basic stuff…oxygen, moisture, and food. We know that oxygen is present and we aren’t going to try to change that. Food is present in the form of sheetrock, so that needs to stay. But we can eliminate the moisture.

You may be wondering where this moisture is coming from. There are 2 rules that apply here 1) Moisture moves from warm to cold and 2) Moisture moves from more to less. In winter months, warm moist air is generated from every day activities like breathing, cooking, and boiling water. The air inside the home is warmer and holding more water molecules than the air outside of the home. Because of rules #1 and #2, the air will travel through the wall. This process is known as vapor diffusion. When the warm moist air meets the cool air within the building envelope, condensation occurs. Voilà, moisture is now present and fungal growth may kick in.

Look at the thermal camera image below. Do you notice the blue and red colors present? Blue represents cold air while red areas show warm air. This means that warm moist air is meeting cool air in the building envelope leaving your home victim to potential moisture, rot, and mold issues. The home in this picture was suffering greatly from the moisture problem.

Moisture intrusion-CBS thermography

In order to stop mold growth and the deterioration of your home, we need to eliminate the presence of water resulting from warm air meeting cold. Complete Building Solutions has over 80 years of collaborative experience in building performance. We design solutions to create and maintain healthy homes. For questions regarding your home’s mold issue give us a call today.

wood deterioration -Complete Building Solutions

 

Thermal Imaging-Through Engineer’s Eyes

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Thermal imaging is like unlocking a secret code and reading the heat loss in your home. Where is your money seeping out of your walls and attic? This is a question that needs to be asked more regularly to prevent small problems from growing larger. Engineers and contractors can inspect a home and immediately locate disparities between hot and frigid air by a visual inspection. Here are some obvious signs that a homeowner can use to gauge their home’s performance and heat loss in the chilly winter month

Symptoms such as high electric bills, ice dams, mold, nail pops, roof degradation, drafts, moisture intrusion, and loud “booms” in the attic are all clues that an underlying problem may exist. Frequently, the issue is due to heat loss in the attic. If heat is allowed to flow freely from your home’s conditioned living space, into the unconditioned living space, such as the attic, your house is NOT optimally performing. Heat loss is not only costly, but if left “unleashed”, it is potentially causing serious damage to the structural components of your attic.

 

ice dam nail pop-complete building solutionsmoisture intrusion in attic of home-complete building solutions

One way that Complete Building Solutions helps clients discover heat loss is by use of infrared thermography, otherwise known as Thermal Imaging. We take images of your home and discover where temperature disparities are located, such as insulation anomalies, air leakage, and heat loss are occurring. Some of the common locations are windows, doors, outer-wall electrical outlets, vents, etc.

Example of Client’s Thermal Image – Blue show heat loss at the top plate of the exterior wall.

thermography

We have worked with many homeowners, townhome and condo associations who were having incredibly high energy bills and ice dams. After our investigations, we provided our clients with a detailed report of issues and provided a scope of remedy and managed the project through completion. Our clients saw a significant energy bills decrease. Read the client testimonial here!

If you have questions regarding your home’s performance, please give us a call at 612-868-2922.

 

 

What walls can I remove in my home?

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The most common remodel questions we get at Complete Building Solutions are regarding the removal of a wall for expansions and making open floor plans. Commonly these inquiries would include walls between the kitchen and the living room to create a great room concept. Homes built in the 1930’s-1970’s typically had 11’x19’ kitchens leaving the cook of the house feeling boxed in and isolated from the rest of the family. In this modern era, we find homeowners looking for a more open floor plan that allows the whole family to interact. Because of this, our phones ring off the hook with questions from realtors, homeowners, and home flippers regarding how to proceed with a wall removal.  Typically, this is our recommendation.

Before you hire a contractor or decide to remove a wall yourself, you must determine if the wall is load bearing. Load bearing walls support or transfer the load of a structure from one area to another. Removing a wall such as this without replacing it with a new form of support can be detrimental to integrity of the home. Often times a new beam & column system will be required to replace the wall. If this is the case, you will need to hire an engineer to design the system and be sure that the new column transfers the load properly. Depending on where the column sits on the floor, blocking may be necessary. See the diagram below.

 

Load Bearing Wall Engineer Sketch Sample

With this said, it is smart to move forward cautiously while removing a non-load bearing wall as well. There are several factors to consider before the wall demolition begins. What heating, air conditioning, ventilation, plumbing, electrical, thermostat or other unknown challenges may be present? These are all questions you can ask Complete Building Solutions.

It is also very important that you check with your city before moving forward with the wall removal and installation of a new support system. Frequently, a permit will be required to proceed with this work. Our engineers can provide you the specifications in obtaining a proper permit. We can help you determine if the wall is in fact load bearing and design a replacement beam and column sealed with an engineer’s stamp for city approval.

If you are still having questions about your specific remodel, please feel free to give us a call.

 

 

The Dangers of Cutting Concrete without an Engineer

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x ray machine-concrete slab

Complete Building Solutions was recently called out to inspect the concrete slab on a 36 story building in Minneapolis. A contractor working on the site was looking to install new plumbing and would need to cut into the concrete to do this. After X-raying the floor he became concerned that the slab was structural. He noticed that some of the slab was poured 7-12 inches thick, the footings were 20 feet deep, and some of the existing rebar was placed only 2-3” apart from each other. Because of this, he no longer felt comfortable to proceed without an engineer’s opinion.

Concrete Slab

The video below shows our team and the contractor working together to examine the floor.

Complete Building Solutions determined that the slab was NOT structural and that it was safe to proceed with the plumbing installation.   Our engineer’s then provided a scope of work to the contractor on how best to fill the voids under the concrete floor and place the new concrete floor with the proper rebar installation.

Engineers -structural slab

Is my Wall Load Bearing

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Most homes built before the 1980’s were hand framed which means any wall removal or addition project typically needed to be structurally engineered by a professional. The replacement of hand framing with trusses during the 1970-1980’s simplified the whole process making it easier to pull out a wall.

However, wall removal/additions can still be very complicated and frequently require an engineer’s stamp of approval to acquire a permit. Because of this, customers call us weekly to help them determine if a wall is load bearing.

The picture below is a great example of one of those calls. The owner of this two-story home wanted to remove an entire wall and create a new beam and column system in order to open up the existing great room.

Load Bearing Wall

Complete Building Solutions performed an onsite inspection and determined that the wall was load bearing with an existing header. Our engineers then designed a column and beam to replace the entire wall.

If you are looking to remove/add a wall or start a new remodeling project, feel free to give Complete Building Solutions a call today for questions 612 868 2922

 

Sump Pump Running Nonstop

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Sump Pump

Have you noticed that your sump pump is running constantly or more than it should be? A sump pump system really exists as a backup in case your water management systems fail or are not capable of handling periodic weather-related moisture such as heavy rains. Because of this, a sump pump should not be running every 5 minutes or nonstop. If it is, the best thing to do is to have an engineer take a look at the problem. Sometimes natural springs or high-water tables cold be the culprit, but it may be as simple as poor water management. We will examine a few principles that can make a whole lot of difference in protecting your foundation from water.

Working gutters with downspouts & extensions:

Gutters are extremely important for running water away from the home. However, gutters alone will not prevent water from pooling at your foundation. You need working downspouts and extensions to carry the roof water away from the foundation.

When was the last time you cleaned out your gutters? If you cannot remember it is definitely time to do some investigating. Plugged gutters may be contributing to the sump pump issue.

Positive grade:

Another important factor regarding water management is the grade around your building. A negative grade around a building will invite water back to the foundation and could make the sump pump run more frequently. To remedy this, there needs to be a positive grade  around the foundation. International building code states that the ground must fall away from the foundation at least 6 inches within the first 10 feet. This is extremely important if you are interested in preserving both the health of your buildings foundation and your sump pump.

Proper landscape:

Sometimes certain landscaping features hold water near your foundation. One example is a planting bed near the base of your home that has a metal or plastic edging to keep the ground saturated for the plants. The plants may be happy, but your home is not. That sitting water can do damage to the foundation and seep into the basement.

Properly installed hardscape:

Varying types of “hardscape” such as decks & patios can trap water around the foundation. To protect the foundation, these hard surfaces must be built with a pitch capable of draining water away from the home. Proper and correctly installed deck flashing is also an element that is crucial to deflecting water.

Without a professional to take a closer look, it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly why your sump pump is running frequently. However, even just one of the above factors could be causing the issue. Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog that will discuss in detail other important factors that go into having a DRY basement.