Job Site Morale

Coming up through the trades as a young man, I had the opportunity to work for some really great builders and really good superintendents. I modeled my business after the builders who I respected and who also took the time to mentor me.

The ones I remember were the ones who took the time to talk things through and help me give them what they were looking for. Along the way, they also helped me to be a better carpenter. I could also see early on that these builders had happier people working for them, who in turn, did better work and worked together. For the other builders and their jobs, words like nightmare got tossed around and everyone was disgruntled as there was no clear leader on site to lead the orchestra. I also remember the builders who always wanted to beat everyone down on price and constantly low ball everyone. In the end, I never saw a great result on these job sites.

I can’t stress enough about how important job site moral is and how it can affect the end result, good or bad.
When subs are asked to make constant changes and don’t have a clear path, they get frustrated and the work goes downhill very quickly. When subcontractors have to chase money and argue about money or feel they have been beat down, the work follows and goes downhill, and/or never really gets completed. With the level of complexity of today’s architecture and the high level of expectation, it is more important than ever to keep job site moral high. This means that the builder, the project manager, the architect and even the home owner play a big part in this.

Realizing that people need support and help understanding the plans and expectations goes a long way here. A good project manager has to stop and take the time to help each and every sub succeed in their phase of the job site. This can try one’s patience sometimes in the hectic world of building as somedays it just seems there is not enough time to spend with each and every person.

Custom home building is a very personal business and takes many different trades and craftsmen to pull it off. When one takes this time to actually help their people the job is always better off.

The home owner also plays a key role here as well. When my home owners take the time to introduce themselves and get to know the subs, I see a difference in the level of attention. When the subs and suppliers are paid in a timely manner, this also has a benefit as they stay focused on the job as opposed to being focused on why they are not being paid on time. When owners can make a decision and stick to their decisions, they end up with better results. When people are asked to constantly change and or rework things they have put their heart into, it eventually wears them out, regardless of what they are being paid.

We all have to remember, houses are built by humans, and most people want to do good work and deliver a good result. Sometimes the little things like a compliment or spending a bit of extra time with someone can make all the difference in the quality of work delivered and the attitude of the people who we all depend on to create these wonderful homes.

BOARD-FORMED CONCRETE

“Board-formed Concrete” is a process of patterning concrete that leaves a wood grain and joint line image on the finished face of the concrete. This method of construction is being used more frequently as concrete is becoming well-suited as a finished material in modern building designs. By having the wood joints and grain imprinted on the finish surface, it visually softens and warms concrete’s hard appearance. 

Another one of our unique projects is coming to an end where one of the main exterior features on the home is a very tall and long concrete wall that encloses the garage. In order to make this feature truly appealing and more than just a concrete wall, the architect chose board-formed concrete method. When doing a wall such as this there are several important factors that affect the finished product, such as rejecting boards with defects to prevent any blemishes from showing up in the finished product and using brand new, hand selected lumber to make sure all lines and edges are straight.  Do this will ensure a cleaner, crisp out-come.

The concrete wall on this project is approx. 14’ tall and close to 30’ in length, with a space in the corner for a butt glazed steel frame window. The window was intentionally aligned with the board coursings to create clean and intentional lines. The wall stands taller than the roof and ties into both the structure of the roof and the roofing materials. The roof’s structural members were set into imbed plates that were set in the concrete wall as it was being formed, so that the finished product has no exposed plates or fasteners.

Forming for these walls can be very tedious since the amount of pressure of the wet concrete is truly something to consider. In order to combat the immense pressure there are a few things that are key to a successful pour.  Using massive amounts of bracing on the forms, to withstand the force of the wet concrete is key to not losing the wall.  Also by mixing the concrete on the dry side and adding it very slowly and deliberately to prevent the formwork from blowing out, losing the whole operation.  When pouring it is impossible to see if the concrete face will be smooth without blemishes or air pockets until the form boards are removed.   By extensively hitting the sides of the formwork, it helps to settle the concrete and knock out any air pockets. It is quite difficult to patch or touch up any voids or pockets that appear once the forms are removed.

There’s one chance and one chance only to get walls like this to come out right. If it fails it is a total do over or a long intensive patch job. It’s close to impossible to get one of these to come out perfect, but this one came out pretty close. 

 

BOARD-FORMED CONCRETE PROCESS

Foundation

FSB recently poured the cement for the foundation on a current project. The design of the foundation is to help minimize the movement in Austin’s Clay soils. Since clay expands and contracts most modern foundations are designed to rest in deep piers with a void or air space under the actual concrete slab. This is accomplished by drilling and pouring deep, with bell bottomed piers for the slab to rest on. The interior of the slab is then voided. This creates the desired air space or void for the soil to move up and down and never come in contact with the underside of the slab.

One thing that is difficult for such a large slab is that it all has to poured at the same time. In this case, it took 15 men and approx. 14 hours from start to finish to get this one done. This slab also required a very large and long pump truck with a serious boom on it. All went like clockwork on this pour. Our thanks to our concrete man Dan for pulling it off on time in spite of the rain we’ve had almost every day in the month of May.

Attic Assembly

Now that our Texas summer has arrived in full force, lets explore attic assemblies that best fit our climate.

Have you ever felt the blast of hot air when your HVAC kicks on?

If your HVAC equipment and air ducts are located in your attic space, which most homes in central Texas are, you need to understand how the extreme heat build-up in attics affects the performance of your home.

In a typical vented and traditionally insulated attic you can expect to see temperatures 30-40 degrees hotter than the outside air temperature.  That’s like placing an oven directly over the space you plan to keep cool.  Having a traditionally insulated attic means the insulation is placed on the ceiling of the living space, leaving the attic space outside your insulated area.

This has a number of negative effects on the performance of your home.

  1. It increases the workload your HVAC equipment has to manage, driving up your monthly cooling cost and shortening the life span of your HVAC equipment.
  2. It creates an environment that will not be conducive for storing anything you don’t want to melt.
  3. If you have a composition shingle roof, it will also shorten the life span of your shingles.
  4. You will find it best to wake up in the middle of the night to change your media filters.

The concept of venting an attic in a hot humid climate is no longer the preferred method of construction for most builders.  We now prefer to create a tight sealed envelope to keep all hot, humid air infiltration to an absolute minimum.  Using spray foam insulation on the backside of your roof deck and in all exterior walls is the first step in achieving a tight envelope.  Spraying the roof bays and creating a tight sealed envelope will create useable attic space that will be dramatically cooler than the outside temperature.

Of course the decrease in attic temperature will vary depending on the quality of your insulation installation and the degree to which all air infiltration is sealed completely.

Adam Clark