Home Improvement


Home Improvement in East Tennessee

Improvement, remodeling, & repair – my experiences

  Tuning Your 1947 Roof –An older roof does not have trusses to support the roof plank. Yes, I said plank., Modern houses use sheets of synthetic wood or plywood. Older homes use strip planking laid across and horizontally. Since the rafters are available though, hand made truss members can be cut and installed without too much worry. The tuning part is the use of a hammer to adjust the angle of each truss until the sag in the roof is gone. One truss for each rafter is the rule. If you’re on a tight budget, you can halve the number with no risk. Stock 2x4s are used for trusses and a plank is laid down on the ceiling joists as a base and footing for the trusses. The length of the trusses is variable. The top end needs to be near the center of the rafter as that’s where the force needed will be least. The base of the truss needs to be close to that point under the rafter peak. If you think about it, this all may become obvious.
Attic trusses installed in ’47 woodframe house
Tree Origami 
in the course of remodeling/repairing/improving my home and caring for my aging father, I applied basic Origami to cutting down trees. The application of the term Origami may be a misnomer, but a creative one. Fold a strip of paper down, top-to-bottom and you have the way most people cut down trees. Fold down and across at an angle and you have a way of felling the tree in a direction determined by the angle as much or more than Gravity. This page shows and tells more.

Building Walls Without Mortar
There is a way to build a better-than-ordinary cinderblock wall without using mortar. Most home use cement/concrete product makers make a pmix that is applied to the outsides of walls of stacked block. No mortar, just stacked block, will result in a stronger, waterproof, white wall when the mix is applied to outside and inside walls. I used this product last year on a replacement foundation wall. Check your local building codes for restrictions. Here the limit is two stories high. You can find downloadable specifications and usage manuals at manufacture’s sites. The process is commonly referred to as “block drystack” and the mix is called “surface bonding cement” . The manuals have charts with block sizes, wall lengths, etc. Your local public library may have a copy of the local codes, if not the local government may make them available. Quickcrete’s Quickwall and Bonsal’s Surface Bonding Cement are just two that have manuals available online. The SBC is applied in one of several ways, common is a trowel, or a cement spray gun. The idea is to get a consistant 1/8″ thickness across the whole wall. The most work goes into getting a straight and level foundation poured. If your foundation is level, you won’t have to level the base with a trowel and concrete. Use a brick layer’s string and story pole to make sure your wall is level and straight. If the wall is good, all you have to do is stack the block in the usual pattern (known as English bond I believe.) Here is the authoritative reference from Haynes-Simmons (1974).
Collapsed foundation and house jacks.
The government and the law

  • Permits – Almost anything added to your property requires a permit., repairs do not
  • laws regarding DIY, what you can do.
  • Sewers – repairs and easements, blocking right-of-way, sanitation.
  • Grandfather clauses, Avoid needless modifications.
  • Good Neighbor law. Applies to public officials and city ordnances too.
  • The Spirit of the law versus the Letter of the law.
  • The relevant court, Chancery?
No Figure Available
Along with a sagging roof, a 1947 house may be accompanied by old clay pipe. Replacing all clay piipe with standard Shedule 40 PVC is a good idea. Especially when the weight and mess of clay is considered.. All that is required is a tractor or maybe just a Bobcat(R) to run over the pipe area and you could get a crack. Once you gat a crack, eventually, a tree root will find its way into the pipe. The time and effort is really worth the peace of mind. Clay is difficult to cut and easy to chip. I used a carborundum blade on my hacksaw. The going was so slow I cut the blade in half and trimmed the tang with metal snips and used a battery powered reciprocating saw (e.g.”Sawz-All”(R)). PVC is light, easy to cut, and glued instaead of packed with cement. The cuuting allowed me to do a section at a time, patching PVC and clay together temporarily with a rubber boot. This way I could spread the replacement out over months.

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