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Whether you're building a new house, renovating or adding on, there are good building practices you should follow if you want the structure to be sound and lasting.

What are homeowners looking for? A completed project that they love. All of us want to have the best things. We want our house to look like it came out of one of those glossy magazines, so we buy the things to make this happen: granite countertops, tile or wood floors, fancy crown moldings. Then we go crazy with lighting and fixtures. Unfortunately, this is a trap a lot of homeowners fall into, sinking money into things that are visually pleasing instead of making the house as structurally strong as possible.

Framing Floors

When a builder "builds to code," he adheres to a set of rules that, for example, dictates the length and spacing of floor joists so that you'll never have to worry about the floor breaking. But it may have a little bounce to it. When the kids are running through the kitchen the plates in the cupboard may rattle a little; when they're playing upstairs the light fixtures in the dining room ceiling may swing a bit. These and many other problems can be avoided by a few simple changes, and that is why my crew always goes beyond the building code. If the code calls for 2x10 floor joists, we go to 2x12. Even better, instead of framing 24 inches on center, we drop the spacing between each joist, making it 19.2 or even 16 inches on center. We don't stop with the floors. How we cover the structure and the products we use make a huge difference. For subflooring, it's 3/4-inch tongue-and-groove plywood glued and nailed to the structure. When applying the construction adhesive, we never use more then can be covered in a matter of minutes. Applied too far ahead of the plywood, the adhesive will form a skin; when the plywood is laid on the joists it will not adhere. Result: The floor will start to squeak in a few years. Worse than that, the system is not as strong as it should be. Bridging—those little X-shaped pieces of wood between the joists that everyone thinks are there to keep the joists from tipping over—is really there to distribute across the joist system the load put on the floor. Every 9-foot 1-inch span or greater should have wood or metal bridging, and it has to fit nice and tight. When using conventional lumber, wood bridges can be installed right away; with the metal, we nail the top to the joists but wait until we're ready to install the finished ceiling before nailing the bottoms. This way, the joists get to dry out first, because if the joists shrink, the metal bridging will loosen. This is not a consideration, by the way, when using engineered I-joists. They can be bridged immediately.
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