Archive for September, 2010

Leaky basement?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Why does my concrete basement leak? Most people do not realize how porous concrete really is. Air pockets, or tiny pores constitute 12 to 18% of the concrete mass. During the drying and curing process of a concrete pour, almost half of the water has to evaporate. As this moisture rises to the top of the slab, it creates channels of air that become a vast network for channeling water. In addition, water that collects behind concrete, whether under the floor or against the sidewalls, builds pressure until it drives through the surface into the home. Almost every house has an issue with moisture in the basement, even those built with the best of intentions. The older the house, the worse the situation is.

Moisture in home can cause BIG problems. The basement is the number one source for water infiltration into a home. High levels of humidity in the home can cause the growth of mold and mildew, encourage and facilitate rot and decay of structural members, increase condensation on doors and windows, cause floors to buckle and walls to crack, provide a thriving environment for insects like ants and termites, and cause irritation and allergic reactions that can trigger asthma, migraines, and other health problems for starters. Controlling the moisture in your home is a big deal.

To help keep your home safe, we can provide you with the following services:

  • install a working sump pump.
  • remove damaged, cracking, or buckling foundation walls and replace.
  • install drains in the slab or around footings.
  • waterproof the exterior of your basement walls and regrade and reseed your lawn.
  • inject a high-pressure epoxy or polyurethane solution into cracks.
  • insulate your basement with a closed cell foam product that is moisture resistant and does not allow the passage of water vapor.
  • install seamless gutters and downspouts on your home, including gutter guards and extensions.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider tackling if you have a problem with water in your basement:

  • check your gutters and downspouts. Inspect your eaves troughs to make sure they are not plugged with leaves and other debris, and make sure that the water coming down your downspout can get away from the edge of the house, preferably 4 to 6 feet away. If necessary, install extensions on your downspouts to direct water away from the foundation.
  • Watch out for shrubs and other plants that are too close to your foundation. Root systems from plants and larger shrubs can create pathways for water to flow against your foundation. Keep plants at least 12 inches away from the foundation.
  • Check your landscape for the proper fall. Ideally, there should be a minimum drop of 2 inches per foot as you move away from your house. Even if you capture all the water exiting your roof, surface water on your lawn can still flow toward your basement walls if the ground is not sloped correctly.
  • Seal the walls and slab in your basement with a penetrating sealer, such as RadonSeal. Any mold, mildew, salt, lime deposits, or efflorescence (white gritty staining) must be removed with a muriatic acid and elbow grease prior to the application of the sealer.
  • install a dehumidifier with a garden hose attachment and drain it into your sump pump.
  • Go to your local hardware store and buy a sump pump with a water pressure backup option

For more information on any of these services or a free quote, contact us today!

Getting your home ready for winter.

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Although the weather is still warm and you’re probably thinking about pumpkins, wiener roasts and hayrides, winter weather is just around the corner. We can all look forward to freezing temps and higher heating bills.

 Here is a list of services we can help you with:

  • Professionally inspect your furnace. Clean your ductwork and check for leaks.
  • Professionally inspect your fireplace and chimney to make sure it is in working order and to prevent rodents and birds from entering your home.
  • Clean out your gutters and install gutter guards to prevent water build up and ice damming.
  • Install high efficiency replacement windows and doors.
  • Tuck-point or seal foundation cracks and inspect sill plates for dry rot or termite damage.
  • Insulate exposed plumbing pipes in crawlspace. Install heat tape to prevent pipes from freezing. Install a tankless hot water system.
  • Seal driveways brick patios and wood decks.
  • Check flashings on roof and walls to ensure water cannot enter the home. Replace worn or missing roof shingles.
  • Add cellulose insulation to the attic floor.
  • Remove casing around doors and windows and insulate with a minimally expandable foam
  • Inspect steps and handrails and make sure that they are safe and in good working order
  • Perform a semiannual inspection on all areas of your home
  • Provide you with firewood

Here are some really simple tips you can do on your own to help make it just a little bit easier: 

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches to prevent them from falling on your house or car when loaded with ice. After all the leaves have fallen, clean out your gutters and remove fallen leaves from around your foundation. Secure crawlspace entrances and other entry points to keep small animals from crawling under the house.
  • Change your furnace filters for forced air units, and remove the shroud and vacuum around electric heat baseboard units. Remove any flammable material that might be around your furnace. Install working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Buy a fire extinguisher or replace an extinguisher that is more than 10 years old. Install a programmable thermostat. Turn down your thermostat and dress a little warmer.
  • Check and replace any leaking door seals, including weather stripping and thresholds. Inspect the exterior of your home for any cracks and fill with caulking. Cover any window wells to basement windows with plastic shields. Remove summer screens and replace with glass inserts.
  • Close off bedroom doors and other rooms that are not used. Open blinds to rooms that receive a lot of sunlight, and use heavier window treatments and close them at night. Install a window insulation kit from a local hardware store
  • Disconnect hoses and shut off water to your exterior faucets. Make sure your main water valve is functioning properly. If you go on vacation, leave the heat set to at least 55°.
  • Service or tune-up your snow blower. If burning wood is an option and you have a place to store it, by firewood now while it is plentiful and cheaper.
  • Prepare an emergency kit, including indoor candles or lamps, working flashlights and batteries, extra bottled water and nonperishable food items (including pet food), blankets, and a first aid kit in an accessible location. Keep important contacts, like your utility companies phone numbers, handy.
  • Talk to your accountant to see which energy tax incentives you may qualify for

For a free estimate on any of these services, please contact MJ Construction. We would be glad to service your home. Have a great winter season!

Help, I need a new roof!

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Replacing a roof on a home is a big investment.  How do you know which products will get you the best bang for your buck?  Who should you have install it?

 First you need to find the right contractor.  Just thumbing through the yellow pages and dialing the first name that jumps off the page is not going to cut it.  Find 3 or 4 local firms and start doing some research.  Does this company carry insurance in case someone gets hurt at my house?  Is this contractor licensed?  What happens if there is a rainfall during the process or removing my roof and my home is not protected?  What kind of warranty does this installer provide?

Poor installation can ruin a roof job.  Notice the joints of successive rows are in line with each other

Poor installation can ruin a roof job. Notice the joints of successive rows are in line with each other

Other more subtle questions that don’t often get asked might include “Does this guy really know what he is doing to my home?”  I have been to so many calls where a brand new roof is leaking, and it’s always the installation that causes the problem.

A good roofer can make the poorest of products work, but in the hands of a poor contractor that doesn’t understand what he is doing, even the best products will not perform.

The most important things you can do are to check references, check references, check references.  Ask the contractor for names and addresses of past clients so you can go see his work and talk to his customers.  What kind of work does he really do?  How does he treat customers?  How does he respond to warranty issues?  A little extra time and effort can save a lot of trouble later.


What about products?  Is one shingle better than another?  The market is flooded with different shingle types and manufacturers.  Shingles have come a long way from the tar blobs of the 70’s and the fiberglass curlers from the 80’s.  Today’s shingles now boast a combination of a fiberglass mat for tear strength and stability, and an asphalt additive which provides the water resistance and bonds the shingle together.  In addition to the actual product, you must consider the manufacturer behind them.  Is this company in good financial standing?  What happens if there is a problem 10 years down the road and this shingle company is out of business?  What kind of warranty does this company provide for their products?

I recommend CertainTeed Corporation®, an innovative company that has been around for quite awhile and appears to be staying put.  CertainTeed manufactures many types of building products and is an industry leader in shingle technology.  By first educating and then working with contractors, they provide a warranty that is second to none, and the best part of it is that it doesn’t cost the customer.

Generally homeowners are only concerned with two areas when it comes to putting on a roof:  the color and style of shingles.  However, a good roofer knows that the roof is comprised of more than just the shingles alone.  A roof system that will last the test of time must be designed and applied to shed water underneath the shingles, as if they weren’t even there; because guaranteed: water will find its way under the shingles.

In addition to providing contractors with the proper education to install a good roof system, CertainTeed also requires the use of quality underlayment products and flashing procedures.   Details like flashing, penetrations, ventilation, and ice dams, to name a few, can ruin a roof job and potentially other parts of the home if installed incorrectly.  Other manufacturers also carry similar warranty programs.  Make sure you select a certified contractor from the manufacturer where your shingles came from to receive the best warranty possible.

Three areas are key in deciding what product to use on your roof:  Quality, Cost, and Curb Appeal.  The better the curb appeal, the higher the cost.  The cheaper the shingle is, the more the quality will suffer for it.

Landmark Series 50 year Burnt Sienna

Landmark Series 50 year Burnt Sienna

CertainTeed provides several options for any homeowners taste.

 The Landmark Series® shingle is an architectural (often referred to as laminate or “fake shake”) line of shingles providing a good quality shingle at an affordable price.  As the name suggests, the shingle is comprised of two layers laminated to each other to provide a nice weighty shingle that has increased wind resistance and sealant capabilities.  The Landmark is available in 25 different colors and three different durations.

The cheapest shingle by far on the market today is the old style three tab or three in one, which was very popular from the late 40’s to the early 90’s when the architectural style began to take its place.  This shingle is thinner and has issues with wind resistance, particularly out in the country, because of its light weight and design.

Three Tab Shingles are becoming outdated.

Three Tab Shingles are becoming outdated.

We do not typically install these shingles unless we are matching an existing roof or have a special situation that requires their use.

 The Presidential style shingle is a very nice, heavy shingle that performs very well and promises great wind resistance capabilities and a long life.  The shingle is composed of three layers, giving it a meaty appearance with very stark profile contrast for enhanced aesthetics.  This heavier shingle will add cost both for the material and the more intensive installation cost.  The Presidential line comes in 14 color options.

In the past I have suggested to people to delay replacing their roof as long as they can to increase the relative longevity of the next roof, but in today’s fast changing and unstable market, that is no longer the case.

Presidential shingles have a distinct profile appearance

Presidential shingles have a distinct profile appearance

As fluctuations in the oil market drive costs, shingle prices continue to increase as well as other asphalt based products involved in building a home.  Any large investment in your home should pay you dividends down the road.  Taking a little time and effort to make good decisions now will benefit you in the long run.