Radon Mitigation

July 15th, 2019

Radon Mitigation for houses is one more reason residences are among the most complex project types for Architects and Builders.

SWAT Environmental was assigned the radon mitigation for this particular house, by Merry Soellner, Real Estate Broker in Cashiers, NC. 












Since this house won an international global Architectural Design Award in 2018, it was important that the Radon Mitigation system be as inconspicuous as possible.  SWAT did not disappoint, with Joseph, one of their most experienced technicians on this effort.


If you’re keeping track on this project’s step by step documentation, this is step 143.  So building a house, particularly in mountainous regions is not a simple task.  It’s a long, complex, carefully coordinated design and construction effort.


So what’s the deal with radon?  What is is and why is it important to get rid of it if it exists under your house?

Okay: The US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) indicates that breathing radon gas is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking.  Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is inert, colorless and has no odor.  Radon, when dispersed rapidly, is of little concern.  But when it builds up in or under your house, it can kill you.  Venting the radon using exhaust piping with vent fans is the most common and economical solution.  Breathing radon over time increases your chances of lung cancer.  Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths.  The EPA estimates 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer.  The EPA suggests that levels of radon higher than 4 pCi/L could be dangerous to your health ( 4 Picocuries per Liter).  Radon is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil and water.  Unless you test for it, there is no way of knowing if your house has it.  Tests are downright cheap.  Low levels of uranium exist widely in the Earth’s crust.  In other words: you may have it under your house.   It is found throughout all 50 states in the USA. 













Once formed, radon moves upward through the ground to the surface, into your basements and crawlspaces and up into your house.  Kind of creepy, isn’t it? The EPA indicates that no level of radon is safe, however, 4 pCI/LL is a realistic level that can be achieved with economical technology and the risk is lower once reduced below that level (but not entirely removed).


Many homes in mountainous areas, like along the Appalachian Mountains and Rocky Mountains have crawlspaces under the houses due to the uneven terrain.  These crawlspaces are ideal places to install the radon mitigation exhaust piping.  The best system would be to install the vent piping UNDER crawlspace encapsulation membranes (often a thick vinyl or polyethylene plastic) that help reduce the amount of moisture in the crawlspace air (and therefore in the remainder of the house above).  Then the exhaust piping (often 4″ diameter PVC) is passed through a bored hole in the rim board of the floor framing to the outside, then turned upward into an exhaust fan housing, secured to the exterior wall, then run up past the top of the roof, where the lighter than air radon gas can be dispersed into the general atmosphere harmlessly beyond the level of occupation in the house.

Alright, so how do you go about having radon removed (“mitigated”) from your house.  If your house is under construction, your Architect and Builder can suggest you contact a Radon Mitigation company, who will take the steps indicated below.  If your house already exists, your Real Estate Broker or others may also suggest you contact a Radon Mitigation company.   They will take the steps similar to the following (if you have a basement with a concrete floor, the solution will have some similarities, but there will be different techniques involved).












  1.  You figure out where the exterior bore hole needs to be to get you up the wall and above the roof level.

In this case, we found a point to the side of an HVAC floor register (under the window) in the crawlspace and aligned it












under the wooden vertical left side jamb window trim, so will be a nice hard wooden surface (pressure treated) where screws can be installed to secure the exhaust piping into place.


2.  Your Radon Mitigation technician runs a solid exhaust pipe to a point where it will pass under the crawlspace moisture barrier (in this case, a nice 20 mil polyethylene encapsulation), then slits the moisture plastic and installs a perforated PVC pipe through that for about 10 feet or so.  Then he seals the vapor barrier back over the top of the perforated radon exhaust pipe with quality tape (in this situation, they used Gorilla Tape), so the PVC pipe is creating a suction under the vapor barrier, drawing that radon-laden air to the vertical exhaust pipe, then horizontally outside the house, then into the fan housing outside.  That effectively removes the radon from the house interior.



3.  The radon tech now installs the exhaust fan to the horizontally exiting pipe, then turns it vertical.

On this project, the piping was spray painted dark brown, to blend with the exterior colors of the house. 


4.  Next, the radon tech installs a vertical exhaust pipe to above the roof.  He has pre-painted it to blend with the color of the house and also made it out of standard metal downspout material to blend with the other normal downspouts around the house.

The previous planning regarding where to install fastening screws now comes in handy.



5.  Final electrical wiring connections from an interior GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) convenience outlet in the crawlspace to the exhaust motor housing outside.



6.  Done.


If you move your eyes around the house, this radon removal system is not very obvious to the untrained eye.  More like a normal downspout.  May come back and spray paint the motor housing brown also.  Note how the Architect had the Tech install the top part of the exhaust so that rain cannot easily enter, and the exhaust air pressure should also keep out insects.  Evenso, the Architect-Owner is considering getting some insect screen and a zip-tie and installing that up there.   A nice, clean job by SWAT, in association with the Owner-Architect and Real Estate Broker.



Small Circle Park for Front Driveway

July 9th, 2019

Small Circle Park for Front Driveway is about how an Architect designed a small park in the middle of his new driveway turnaround circle.

Actually this lovely little park is for the Architect’s 7 pound Maltese dog.
















There’s a bunch of asphalt in the driveway, particularly at the 83 foot diameter circular turnaround in front of the house front porch entry.  And this is rural North Carolina, USA, land of ticks, chiggers and other bugs.  So the Architect wanted a civilized oasis of controlled and manicured green grass to spray and keep free of bugs so his family dog could remain insect free.  Everywhere else on site is rugged rural land or gravel, uncontrolled and too full of bugs for the little dog.  And too far away from the front door of the new custom house.


Up until about a month ago, this pretty little park was surrounded by 3″ railroad gravel as a setting bed for the new driveway asphalt which also received a final substrate of compacted ABC gravel for the 2″+ of asphalt.  The Architect personally hand-shoveled about 30,000 pounds of topsoil over various parts of the 5 acre site, including over the barren soil in the circle park, which was virgin woodland.  Then he added grass seed, but nothing grew.  So he decided to get fescue sod from a grass farm about 30 miles away and haul it back on his trailer with his pickup truck (a pallet of sod weighs about 2,500 pounds around these parts).   But before laying down the sod, he got 10 large bags of lawn soil and spread that over the topsoil he had already laid there in the park area.  Then he watered the lawn soil, then laid down the sod.


Oh yeah.  About 6 months ago, the Architect/Owner had a local rockyard deliver those 2 large boulders and dump them near the middle of the park.  The larger one is about 7,000 pounds and the smaller gray one about 4,000 pounds.  Those big rocks add a lot of drama and interest to this little park.  He also had several dozen smaller boulders about 18″ around and hand laid those to form the circle park curb edge.  The paver worked up to that barrier with the asphalt.










There are 16 knockout red roses (2 gallon doubles) evenly space in a 2 foot wide planting bed ring just inboard of the stone curb.  The Architect dug the holes for each first, then shook in Black Kow composted manure into each hole, then sprinkled in some Bayer 3 in 1 rose fertilizer/disease protection/ insecticide granules.  Then he laid down commercial grade weed barrier fabric (that allows water to seep through) and used garden scissors and a razor knife to cut holes in the fabric for the roses.  Then he planted the roses, then shook in some more manure to fill in the planting holes.  Then he folded the weed fabric over the rose holes tight to the roots.  Then he laid down Earth Essentials Pond Gravel (multi-color, about 1″ to 2″ size), completely covering the weed fabric and tight to the roses. These rocks look nice and eliminate the ridiculous yearly chore of installing mulch or straw in bedding areas.  Not a good idea. Why: costly in terms of labor and time, and carpenter ants and termites love mulch.  Better to have a permanent bedding material.  Once and you’re done for life.  Rocks aren’t going to go away.  The Architect’s Real Estate Broker wife added the rusty rabbit sculpture for humor.












That’s about an 80 foot tall red maple, growing in the wild.  It stands about 18″ off the Architect’s center spot for the entire project.  It has nice shade, but also allows ample sunlight to filter through to hit all the roses during the day.



Cost: Less than $100.  Using the Owner/Architect’s own labor.  Each 11.7″ square x 2″ thick concrete paver was $1 from Lowes, on sale.  They allowed the walk to achieve interest and accommodate horizontal and vertical offsets.  The Architect didn’t want to damage the tree roots, so these pavers can allow for give and take around the tree.  The Architect also liked the grid of the paver marching through, giving some order to the otherwise rather rough-hewn composition.  He’s considering hiring a mason next year to lay down some mortar to hold their levelness better than the 1″ of builder’s sand he shoveled over the top of the weed fabric he placed under the walkway area (to avoid maintenance of weeds coming up through the paver joints).

Bitsy, the family dog, seems to like the park, named after her. 


The Owners wanted to be able to walk on a paved hard surface that remained clean, while allowing the family dog to do her business on a manicured lawn.  The walk through the center of the little park accomplishes this objective and also allows visiting guests who park on the far side of the turnaround circle driveway to also walk through the park paved walkway, out of the way of other circulating vehicles, such as during an event like a party.


The Architect planned for lighting at night, with 3 large LED landscape lights with only 18w actual, but the equivalent of 250w each.  The light fixtures were only $24 each (a real bargain) and the LED lamps only about $16 each from Cashiers Electric Supply.  Also, the driveway and park enjoys very efficient LED solar lights with about a 4-1/2″ square charging panel for each.  Remarkably cost efficient at around $10 each from Lowes and much more light than from earlier solar lights in the past.

Email this Architect if  you’d like to have a special custom park and house designed for your family.


Smart Casework for Home Office

July 8th, 2019

Smart Casework for Home Office is about how an Architectural firm designed the counters and support cabinetry for their Senior Architect’s own custom house.

The photo above is the “reveal”: just part of the slick end result.  Most of the other photos below show you how the Architect got to that end solution.











Below: Bitsy shows us the substructure that supports the counters:




The Architect designed the vertical supports out of 3/4″ thick MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), because he didn’t have much money left at this point in the project.  He did have all the sub-counter boards he needed, however, plenty of long SYP (Southern Yellow Pine) and stud grade 1x12s and 1x10s.  It is best to have them in unbroken lengths for each run of counter, if possible.  Why: because broken lengths could result in uneven surfaces for the finish countertops.  The 1x12s and 1x10s take screws well and hold on tight forever.  The Architect chose to drill holes first, then use 2″ long lifetime guarantee star-drive deck screws to attach the sub-counters to the vertical MDF slabs.  Note: while Home Depot says the MDF holds screws well, the Architect noticed that sometimes the screws cracked the MDF, so don’t try driving screws into it without drilling those pilot holes first.  Also, don’t drive the screws in lickety-split.  Use short bursts on the screw gun (Architect used a Porter Cable 20v cordless drill with #20 star drive bit (sized for the deck screws)).


Some other features of the MDF panels:
1.  Very economical.  Spent a total of around $193 for all the MDF used in the project, resulting in about 45 linear feet of 24″ deep counter, and 16 vertical slab panels supporting the counters.  That’s a lot of material for a very low price.
2.  No imperfections.  MDF is perfectly flat with no gouges or other mars to the even surface.
3.  MDF takes paint well and the paint lies level and even and the surface does not absorb much paint.   It only used about 2/3 of a gallon for this entire home office project.
4.  The MDF edges, after painting (factory edges and table saw cut edges) are an adequate exposed surface for medium grade cabinetry.  Smooth and straight and no trim is necessary (IF you can cut it smooth and straight or only expose the factory edges).

(continued below):











5.  Yes, MDF can hold a screw, but predrill the holes and take your time driving in the screws so you don’t crack the MDF.
6.  There is formaldehyde in MDF.  Make sure what you use inside your house has had adequate time since its manufacture to off-gas so you won’t be breathing those vapors. 


The MDF “blades” or panels or slabs are approximately 24″ deep x 29-1/4″ tall (just a hair taller than most available 2 drawer file cabinets you can buy or order and assemble yourself.  The support panels are 3/4″ thick.  It is important to get the attachment screws for the sub-structure 1x12s and 1x10s exactly centered into the MDF slabs.  Why: so you don’t spall off the top side of the MDF with a screw too close to the face of the panel. 











Raceways for wires are a critical element to “Smart” cabinetry and casework.  Without them, today’s electronic wires will be running willy-nilly all over the tops of the counters and the floor is a disorganized mess (looking ugly and making it impossible to clean the floors).  Much better to have the wires invisible, tucked away just under the countertops, toward the rear of the counters.  In this solution, the Architect designed a 3-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ slot-gap into the rear of the vertical support panels, then installed 2x4s continuously  into these slots and screwed them down into the MDF panels.  He made sure the 2 drawer file cabinets (typically about 19-1/2″ deep from front to rear) would fit in front of these wire raceways, so the file cabinets would not interfere with the wires connecting everything.  Notice that the slot for the the 2×4 raceway tray isn’t all you need.  You still have to have space above that for the actual wires.  The Architect made that space 2″ tall x about 5″ wide, so there would be plenty of room to fit fingers and wires to get from one side of each support panel to the other.  Lots to think about. 


Yes you do need wires.  And lots of them:
A.  Main incoming Internet wire.  Usually in the form of a normal RJ11 phone wire with a normal phone jack on each end.  This will usually come into your house in the form of a normal telephone receptacle.  You have to connect this to the router your Internet provider gave you (or recommended) into the router’s main Internet connection port.
B.  Category 6 Internet cable connecting each device you intend to be communicating with the Internet.  This is often limited to about 4 devices, for instance:
     1.  Your main computer.
     2.  Your spouse’s computer.
     3.  Your main television device (such as a main Roku).
     4.  Other devices.  If you get over this amount, you’re going to need something else.  And these other devices exist. Talk to some knowledgeable Internet people.
C.  Electrical cords for electrical power to your devices from electrical convenience outlets and from and to surge protectors and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply devices). 

The idea: you manage the arrangement of your wires.  You run your cords (cables, wires) along the wire raceways built into the casework, under the countertops. 


Often in the form of circular holes drilled into the countertops.  In this case, a 2″ hole saw was used to drill through the countertops near the rear of the counters, above the wire raceway below them, for convenient access to the raceway, with wires coming from devices sitting on top of the counters.


For instance: that’s the Arris router for this house’s internet system, sitting on top of the counter to the right.  All those wires coming and going from it to the left are neatly handled going through the 2″ round hole in the counter nearby the router.  Now isn’t that slicker than having those wire just running crazy all over the place in every direction?  Makes for a much neater installation, and allows changes because the wires are tidy, making them easier to modify.

And as a finishing touch: higher end governmental and corporate interiors would have used a black plastic grommet to trim these wire holes in the countertops.  The Architect didn’t have the cash, time, source, or money for those, so instead, he simply painted the hole interiors with the same color paint as the counters.


Wait for it…wait for it:  can  you guess?
Right: MDF.  And the color: dark gray, matching the painted kitchen cabinets and other cabinets in the house.  However, a painted counter would not be very durable and would scratch very easily.  So, the Architect added 2 coats of clear polyurethane over the painted horizontal surface of the counters.  Same polyurethane he used to protect the stained wood on his interior staircase.  So on a counter, this should be adequately durable for a long time.  Instead of using a brush, which could have likely left pronounced brush strokes, he used a 4″ roller.  This produced “tiny bubbles” in the finish, that at first horrified him then his wife said: “that’s not so bad, I kind of like it.”  It produced an uniform clear coat with tiny bubbles, each about 1/32″ in diameter. More like a textured plastic laminate, but obviously not.  If  you’re trying to duplicate the methods used and have access to spray equipment and can protect yourself, you might consider using that so the finish is smoother.


And looky there: Plenty of room for printers, computers, UPS, monitors, TV and other items for running a nice home office.  See how the file cabinets fit under the counters flush to the front of the counters, but have space behind them for the wire raceways and 2″ holes in the counters?  Can’t tell all those “smart” features are even there from first glance, can you?  The overall appearance just looks neater and the floors uncovered with the typical snakes of wires.  Pretty slick.

If you’d like a custom house designed for you with a home office with Smart casework like this, contact the Architect you see at the top of this web page.




Deferred Maintenance

June 16th, 2019

Deferred Maintenance is Not a good thing for your house.  If you have a 2nd vacation house or your main living house in one location, deferring maintenance that is needed NOW (until later) is not wise.

“Defer”, in this context, means: putting off until later, what fixes should be done today. 












This is almost always done to save money now.  Unfortunately, what this ends up doing is COSTING MORE LATER, because the environment and other elements continue acting on the affected portion of the house, causing more pronounced damage.  Especially in the case of wood, metal that can rust, plumbing, pavement, gravel, soil and other items that are degrading or that have problems NOW.


Thinking that there is no problem does not make it go away.  Penetration of water Must be stopped, erosion of soil and other surfaces around the house and grounds Must be corrected and other circumstances causing damage have to be corrected or they will get worse.


This is especially an important consideration for vacation (2nd) houses.  A house that you own and that you visit once in a while.  The main problem is the psychology of some owners is this:
“This is my toy that I play with once in a while and it will remain brand new and safe in my toy box until I return to play with it again, forever.”  NO, that is not what happens.  There are these environmental factors: rain, snow, ice, wind, bugs, heat, cold, seismic movement, settlement of soil under the house, flooding.  Those continue to act on the house, causing degradation.  You HAVE to maintain your house with paint, cleaning away mold, sealants, replacing of rotten materials with new, patching failed areas of siding, pavement and other items unless you don’t care about losing your investment in the house.


And if you are deferring maintenance because you’re thinking about selling, think again. 

(continued below):













Buyers have the assistance these days of licensed Home Inspectors, who write up long and detailed reports about the failing conditions of a house.  So: if you want a higher price for your house, you better have it in top condition, or the Buyer will tell their Real Estate Broker to demand a price reduction due to the house inspector’s long list of deferred maintenance items, possibly costing you tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales price just because you were a cheapskate and didn’t take care of the expensive toy  you visited once in a while.  That’s not good business.  Spend what you need to, in order to keep  your 2nd house and main living house in tip-tip condition or you will lose much more than the cost of maintenance when you try to sell it.


Do you really think no one will notice that your house is deteriorating?  Especially a Licensed House Inspector?  They get paid to Find Problems, just so the Buyer of your house can chisel the price down, while pointing to the line items on the inspector’s report.  This is very real.  So if you think you are “saving money” by not maintaining  your house, you are dead wrong. And it will cost you far more than if you had fixed problem areas when they were first noticed. 


Cost you how? 
1.  In lower selling price (because the new owners will need to fix all those things you should have maintained, but did not).  And by lower, we’re not just talking about a few hundred or a few thousand dollars less.  It can be much more than that, if the buyers get the idea that the deferred maintenance seen is only the tip of the iceberg.  And that the unfixed items run much deeper.  In other words,  you can scare your buyers into offering much less than you want for your house.

(continued below):













2.  In higher maintenance costs later, if you allow the deteriorating items to continue deteriorating worse, than if you had fixed them when they were first discovered.


So: if you see some rusty metal somewhere around your house, call a Licensed Contractor and have him replace it.  If  you see rotten wood siding: do the same thing.  If  you see water penetrating a roof, wall or floor: same thing.  Except for the roof, call a Licensed Roofer.  If your toilet’s leaking, call a Licensed Plumber (a real one, not a handyman).  If you have electrical problems, call a Licensed Electrician.

And if you want to expand or renovate your house: call a Licensed Architect. Always hire a professional.  And don’t put off for later what needs to be fixed today.  It will only get worse and cost you more tomorrow.






Why You Need an Architect

June 8th, 2019

Why You Need an Architect is about the reasons people planning a project need a real Architect.

The Award-Winning Mountain View Meadow house (recipient of ArCHdes2018 global design award).


Project results like the above don’t “just happen.”  They have to be designed, requiring engineering, details, floor plans, roof plans, building sections, wall sections, specifications, site plans and on-site coordination.  And homeowners can’t just wave their arms around because they think they know what they want inside their heads. 

(continued below):













It takes a tremendous amount of experience, education, skill and drawings to deliver award-winning solutions like you see above.  For instance, the wind zone there is 110 mph.  That huge wall of glass has to resist that or the house (and its occupants) would be destroyed when big winds blow.  Take a good look through the glass at the timber frame bracing: horizontal, vertical and diagonal.  All of it acts together to resist forces of nature to keep the house intact, and its owners comfortable.  And look at those couple of large cantilevered beams over the fireplace on the left side of the main living space.  Those are actually a double pair of large LVLs (Laminated Veneer Lumber) girders with special order pine board trim sheathing with custom mitered, glued and finish nailed corners to give the final visual result of large solid timbers, without any intruding posts into the living area, while supporting the Loft outer area above.  And check out all that glass!  Not many houses have that much window area devoted to the grand view.  Well, this one does, because a real, Licensed Architect designed it. 


Are you starting to understand why you need an Architect?  An Architect ties everything together into a beautiful whole.  They are the system integrators.  Without them, all there is are bits and pieces.


The text under the above photo explains some of it.  But there’s much more.  An Architect with experience can value-engineer solutions to help their clients save money, while delivering outstanding, handsome solutions.  The house above would easily have cost $325/HSF (Heated Square Foot) under normal circumstances.  The Architect personally supervised the entire project, bringing it in around $225/HSF. That’s a savings of around $220,000. 
(continued below):












Some homeowners only see value in what they believe are “hard” costs of construction and everything their General Contractors do.  And they sometimes don’t see any value in the “soft” costs of design provided by an Architect.  They are dead wrong about that. 


There’s a phrase: “Pay me now or pay me later.”  This is a version of that: Pay your Architect now, or pay your Builder later, to provide the same information, and not as well integrated.  There are pieces of information necessary to build your project.  Having your Architect provide them during the Architect’s design & construction document work is the best time to have this information provided and will make your project move faster. 


What the Architect produces is MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLAN.  A Floor Plan is NOT all the Architect needs to provide to build your project.  He also needs to create elevations, sections, specifications, details, door schedule, finish schedule and much more (see other list near the top of this article for more) .


And what is the largest “purple elephant in the room” about needing an Architect?  How about design skill?  Creativity?  The ability to pull together all the separate elements of your project and make it a beautiful, cohesive whole design that functions properly and conveniently?  Can you do that?  No?  Well most builders can’t either.  That’s why you hire an Architect.  Not because you are forced to, by some regulatory agency, but rather, because you Want to and Need to, if you want a good design that you will enjoy living in for the rest of your life.  Architects design and solve problems.  Builders build.  That’s why Builders are called Builders. 













Try going to a Builder and waving your arms, telling him/her what you want to have built.  At some point, they are going to say:
“Hey: we need to have all this great stuff you want documented in the form of drawings, that pulls it all together, then we’ll need to get a Building Permit.  You can’t do that without drawings and specs, and that’s what you hire an Architect to do.  You NEED an Architect.”  And yes, you’re going to have to pay the Architect to provide those documents.  Just as you pay your Real Estate Broker to handle the purchase or sale of your home and land.  Or as you pay your Dentist, Surgeon, Attorney or Engineer.


Here’s an interesting comparison: you don’t mind paying $45,000 to over $100,000 to drive a vehicle that provides you with the level of functionality, comfort, reliability, status and beauty you want, do you?  Well, even if you mind, you pay it, don’t you?  Why would your wanting to live in a work of art that has all the comfort, reliability, functionality, status and beauty you desire be anything different?  That’s what your Architect provides you.  And that’s why you need them. 

Here’s another example: can you perceive any difference standing in a low-end tenement apartment and a nicely designed spacious mansion?  Yes?  There’s another reason you need an Architect: to give you that higher-end feeling.  You can’t get that any other way.  And your Architect can help you get that feeling without it necessarily being a mansion.  They can design a mid-range house that captures that feeling of spaciousness and possesses a high-level of functionality.













Okay, that’s all been on the subject of beauty, functionality, wind load and comfort.  How about some nitty-gritty issues?  For instance: termite flashing details and sealants and roof and window flashings?  What is flashing?  Usually strips of specially formed metal or flexible adhesive backed vinyl/plastic that are designed by Architects to keep out water and wind.  Sealants also help keep out water and pests (like insects).  Without these flashings, your home can and will let in water and air.  Your home will rot and leak and become pest-ridden.  Ask Terminix.  They see things like this all the time.  And so do I. In addition to being a Licensed Architect in multiple states, I’m also a Licensed Home Inspector.  I’m here to tell you: Contractors and their workers rarely install termite flashings these days, because they either aren’t aware of this requirement in the Code and also because County and Municipal inspectors usually don’t catch this flaw.  Result: termites can march up into your house and eat it to the ground.  And most Contractors don’t know how to properly install window flashings (either rigid metal or flexible tapes). And when they do, they have been seen using such ridiculous materials as Duct Tape over asphaltic felt, where the adhesive fails within about 15 minutes and falls off.  Not to mention that a cloth-based tape like that will rot and fail in a matter of months.  Having a Licensed Architect detail and specify and observe their proper installation on-site can greatly improve this situation. 

Moral of the story: hire an Architect to design and detail your next home project (renovations, additions or new), if  you want a better quality design that looks and feels better, that value-engineers costs of materials and systems, that isn’t as leak-prone and that is more durable (lasts longer with fewer problems).

Wrong way to do a house project: exclude an Architect and let the Builder and his/her workers do whatever they’re used to doing.  You will think you are saving money, but your design will not be as nice or as life-fulfilling, joints will tend to leak more, pests will have more inroads into the structure and other suspect situations can occur, including your house actually costing you more, because no one participated to value-engineer products and systems.



Latest Vacuum for House Cleaning

May 31st, 2019

Latest Vacuum for House Cleaning is about an Architect’s perspective of the coolest new vacuum cleaner for house cleaning.













At first glance, this modest Bissell vacuum cleaner looks pretty ordinary.  But look more closely: the center part is a break-away module that is also a stand-alone hand-vac.  And the whole thing is battery operated. 











Rechargeable with a plug-in.  Lithium ion.  And when the hand-vac part is clicked back into place in the center of the unit, there’s a nice agitator at the floor line that rolls around, so the vacuumed air coming through it is siphoned up into the hand-vac part’s dirt compartment, like a normal, 1-piece stand-up vacuum.  And whole thing is super lightweight.  I don’t see any specs, but I would guess maybe 4 or 5 pounds?

There’s no expensive paper filters to buy or change.  The hand-vac part breaks apart yet again, into smaller sections, where you can dump the gathered dust and dirt out of the vacuum.  You can also break that part down even further, to dump additional debris from the inner vacuum compartment, letting you reinvigorate the original suction power.












The vacuumed debris gets woven into something that resembles a lint rug, that you can shake out of the debris cup very easily, and with minimal friable particulates in the air (less small fibers for you to have to breathe).















And the bottom agitator unit breaks down to remove hair and other elements from the roller, so it can be restored into like-new operating condition.  My wife’s long hairs have killed 3 Roombas.  But the cleanability of this Bissell ought to make it last much longer, if we clean it once in a while.


The main feature I like the best is the ability to instantly click and remove the hand-vac from the unit so we can quickly clean our stair and other items, without taking the entire assembly along for the ride.  However, if your main task is to clean a floor or rug, leave the entire unit together and use the bottom agitator to kick up dust and debris from the rug and hardwood floor that the vacuum snarfles up into it, for easy cleaning when  you’re done.


FAIRLY QUIET OPERATION (compared to the jet engine of our Dyson)


yeah: $99 pricetag at Target.  With tax, I think we paid around $106.  Can’t have a price like that with our older Dyson (which is also as heavy as a tank).  Our Dyson will suck the chrome off a bumper, but when all you want to do is clean normal household dust and dirt quickly and comfortably (1st or 2nd floor): the Bissell is a real pleasure to use.


I’m not sure I understand why Bissell calls this “Pet”.  I don’t have any pets (dog especially) that would sit still to be vacuumed.  Bitsy would freak out, growl and run away.  But as a general, everyday house vacuum, it works just fine.

Here’s the link to the Bissell website for this unit:

There’s even several YouTube videos on how to clean the various components, which is especially good for us Guys, because we don’t have the patience to read directions.  Duh.  So the vids teach us what we need to know so we don’t kill the thing. 

Oh: there are several manufacturers that build similar units.  But the Bissell had the right combination of features, name recognition for quality, and price point (under a hundred bucks). Well done Bissell marketing and engineering working together.