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  1. Well, several generations of Chicagoans have disagreed. Count me among them. First, if there's a combined storm and sanitary sewer then a backwater valve can actually trap storm water and prevent it from draining out. And you can actually flood your own house by running water when the backwater valve is closed. Second, if the house drain doesn't slope much then a backwater valve can actually put too much resistance onto the sewage flow, slow it down, and cause sludge to build up. Certainly over time this can happen even with good slope. But mostly the failure mode of a backwater valve is terrible. If it fails open then it's doing nothing to help. And if it fails closed then it's trapping all the water in your house and it won't let you flush any of the toilets. An ejector doesn't prevent backups because of the check valve built into it. An ejector (or more properly, an "overhead sewer") functions because the high loop in the discharge line means that the sewer would have to back up not just to the basement floor to flood the basement, but several feet higher than that. And if the sewer is backing up that much then you've got a lot worse problem to think about than your basement. And if an ejector pump fails then you lose the ability to use things in your basement. But you can still run water upstairs and you can still use the toilets upstairs. So the failure mode is much much better with an overhead sewer than with a backwater valve.
  2. In my experience, nobody with any authority in Chicago will notice -- let alone care -- that your installation doesn't match the plans. Chicago has combined storm and sanitary sewers -- all the rain water goes out the same pipe as the poop water. So Chicago used to have terrible problems with sewer water backing up into basements when it rained hard. So to fix this problem, about 50-60 years ago builders stopped connecting any basement floor drain directly to the sewer. They all went to an ejector pit, or sometimes just a basic sump pit if it was just for laundry discharge. This has been the standard in Chicago for many decades. Even now, although Chicago has made great strides in stopping the sewer backup problem, all new construction that I see has an ejector system (an overhead sewer), regardless of whether or not the house drain can discharge by gravity to the city sewer. It's just what everyone does all the time. Even in the suburbs of Chicagoland this is pretty much all I see -- ejector systems. I saw two new construction houses in Naperville this summer and they both had ejectors. And nothing that I see prohibits this. The code that Mike Lamb posted describes what has to be done if the building drain can't discharge by gravity. But it doesn't prohibit using an ejector if you want to protect yourself from sewer backup. Probably your plumber thinks an ejector is required because it's all he sees. But I'd say that your architect is correct that a gravity drain meets any code requirement. I can imagine that some home inspector might see this when you go to sell the property and think it's weird that there's not an ejector and warn his client. But that's the only reason you might want to go the ejector route. Steve Nations
  3. I inspected a small condo today, about 800 square feet. Now my client is upset that I didn't measure the size of the unit and give her the square footage. She doesn't seem to think that she can adequately gauge the cost of the condo without knowing the square footage. This seems like a job for (if anybody) an appraiser. But her agent seems to agree with her that I should have done it. Her father is also claiming that when he's bought property the inspector measured the square footage. I've never heard of anything like this and I think it's ridiculous. Am I missing something here? Is it a common thing for home inspectors to measure the size of a property? Does anybody actually do this? Are they just confusing my role with that of the appraiser? Thanks Steve Nations
  4. I think you should use boiler plate content. Why waste your time writing the same thing over and over? I don't get that. "I saw signs of extensive mold beneath the roof sheathing at the north side of the attic." What signs did you see? The mold itself? That's not a "sign" of a problem. That's the problem. I think you should be more direct about what you saw. "There's a lot of mold on the roof sheathing in the attic." From a technical standpoint, when I see a lot of mold in the attic it's almost always caused by a particular problem and not just a general humidity issue. Mostly it's a wet crawlspace. So I tell my clients to fix the water problem in the house that's allowing the attic to become too humid. I'm confident that I can usually identify what that water problem is. I think it's great sending your client to EPA for more information about mold remediation, but isn't there a specific website that you can direct them to?
  5. Kurt, I'm with Marc here in not understanding what you mean by needing thermal mass. The concept of mass wall doesn't have much use in Chicago, where winter temperatures get low and stay low. So thermal energy is always going in only one direction -- out. A good and proper amount of insulation isn't going to perform any differently with 3/4 inch drywall or 1/2 inch drywall or even 1/64 inch drywall (assuming such a thing existed), as long as the drywall is airtight.
  6. That's one way to put it, I suppose. But the intention is to not have any induced flow in the secondary loop when that loop is supposed to be off. The intention isn't to not mess up the flow rate when that loop is active. No, I don't think that's right. The secondary loop might be quite large and need a big circulator. You'd simply size the secondary loop circulator for whatever flow and head loss requirement you have -- big or small.
  7. My bible for this stuff is "Modern Hydronic Heating" by Siegenthaler. When you have two closely spaced tees on the primary loop there is very little pressure difference between them. And that's what you want. If the tees are far apart then there's a pressure difference, and that pressure difference will induce flow between the points through the secondary loop. To minimize turbulence in the flow you want at least 8 pipe diameters of straight pipe in the primary loop before the first tee, and at least 4 pipe diameters of straight pipe after the second tee. In Kurt's picture it looks like the primary circulator is bigger than the secondary, so you won't get the short circuiting. But Siegenthaler says that if the closely spaced tees principle is done right the primary circulator doesn't need to be any bigger than the others -- just sized right.
  8. The OP starts like this: "The 2x4 cleats on these 4x4 posts are attached with deck screws. Is that ok?" So how can you possibly say that the cleats were incidental to the OP? From my reading the cleats were the entire point of the OP. And the cleats aren't wrong; they're entirely useless. My point about the bolted connection is that not everything that's wrong is equally bad. Of all the things that a homeowner has to fix and maintain, fixing something that's never going to fail should be pretty low on the priority list.
  9. I don't know why you'd write up the cleats, or the screws in the cleats, or anything associated with them. The cleats aren't doing anything all. And their use even violates a basic rule of mechanical design. You have two load paths of wildly different stiffnesses. One load from the beam and through the bolted connection to the post, then to the ground. That load path is very stiff. It's where all of the load is going. The load path from the beam through the cleat, through the screws, and into the post is extremely flimsy, even if you can install it in such a way that the cleat was originally able to take some load from the beam (which you can't). So that load path isn't taking any significant amount of load because it's so elastic. It's a basic rule that you shouldn't have two load paths really at all, but especially if these two load paths have such different stiffnesses. Because you always want to know where the load is going, and you can't know that with two load paths of different stiffnesses. But in this case the load path through the cleat is clearly so flexible that the cleat is just window dressing and can be ignored. Also, I know it's wrong according to the deck rules, but as far as I can tell no deck has ever failed because this type of bolted connection failed. If anybody knows of such a failure I'd love to hear about it.
  10. Amen, brother. Old Sailor, you've got a nice camera, and I'm sure you like putting it to good use. When I go a long time without my IR showing anything of interest I get a little impatient, and sometimes I start to see things that aren't really there. Over-diagnosis starts to be real problem. There was a study done a few years ago showing that older people with knee pain had MRI's showing problems. Then they took random people off the street with no knee problems and did MRI's. They found that 85% of all people had MRI's that showed problems. So clearly this imaging tool was leading to over-diagnosis simply because it showed something that wasn't perfect. I don't think that a 7 F temperature difference is a problem. And I'm not aware of any epidemic of fires on electric range circuits. And I don't think that your IR images even help to diagnose the source of the "issue". By any chance did you repeat any of your IR imaging after tightening the connection at the breaker? You'd need to do this to help confirm that tightening the connection had done any good at all.
  11. Well I suppose that saying it isn't allowed because nobody has ever proved that it works is not completely unreasonable. Still, I have to believe that somewhere, somehow, somebody on some code-making committee has a theory as to what might go wrong.
  12. I understand that this isn't allowed. But I'd like to better understand why it's not allowed. The solution is to install a single terminal lug, right? So that would put all of the current at just one section of the terminal bar. So clearly the danger isn't that the terminal bar might be overloaded. Electricity flows primarily along the surface of the wire, right? So I don't see the physical problem with load carrying capacity being reduced. Maybe the problem is that splitting up the strands can cause some sort of arc among the different strands. Does that sound right? Anybody know for sure?
  13. Yes. IRC 2012 section 1103.5 (Also IECC 2012 section 403.5) Outdoor air intakes and exhausts shall have automatic or gravity dampers that close when the ventilation system is not operating.
  14. You need a temperature difference between the inside and the outside in order to scan the wall for insulation issues. You don't need a temperature difference to look for water. The evaporation of the water creates its own temperature difference, that you then look for with IR. Or you can let the sun heat the wall, and then let the different heat content of the water show up on IR. This is basically how you'd look for roof leaks.
  15. The difference between natural convection and forced convection is dramatic. I'm convinced there would be a big difference. It's the same idea behind a convection oven, which we know cooks food much faster than a regular oven.
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