Answers to Unasked Questions

This week I'm writing some longer pieces on construction and renovation in general, in response to both e-mail and some things I've noticed in the search logs -- the questions people ask when they aren't asking anybody in particular. It's funny how people find this site, and most of the time it's by searching for things that totally make sense. But sometimes there are questions in the search logs that are interesting, scary, or flat-out bizarre. So today, frequently (un)asked questions from the search logs:

can a contractor charge a 25% overhead on work not completed

Sure. A contractor can charge you anything he wants. Do you have to pay it? Depends on what is in your contract. 25 percent overhead is a LOT. 10 percent for profit and overhead is a generous and honest amount for a contractor to be charging. And asking for payment before work is completed is a bad sign. So I'd say that if you're in this situation, you'd better check your contract, and you should be keeping a good eye on the guy.

how to do cribbing to support the sides of a hole

Well, cribbing supports vertically, not horizontally, but assuming this searcher meant shoring, the way you build it depends on the depth of the hole. For shorter holes, like 2-3 feet deep or so, stakes driven into the ground with plywood or planks holding back the soil should be sufficient. For deeper holes or for longer periods, you want real shoring and should just hire a shoring contractor who knows how to handle that sort of thing (and is insured and bonded). If you are a shoring contractor, please tell me this is not how you are getting your information.

paint fascia without a ladder

I guess it depends on how short your walls are, right? I guess you could use scaffolding, or stilts, or even just hang out a window and do it. But why no ladder?

what happens when you call on performance bond

The surety calls the bonded contractor and yells at them, then eventually gives in and pays up to the bond amount to complete the work.

what is a cantilever slab

Any slab (slabs are horizontal planes of generally reinforced concrete, but they can also be stone or wood) that is unsupported on one end (cantilevered).

what is bituthene

Bituthene is a waterproofing membrane applied to concrete. Concrete, you see, wicks water. If a concrete wall is holding back a bunch of wet dirt, the concrete will get damp. So you apply something like Bituthene to keep the water away from the concrete surface and keep your basement drier.

cost per square foot to build yard sheds

Cost depends on a lot of things, not in the least the level of finish you want. A prefab metal shed is going to cost a lot less per square foot than a hand-built wooden shed with custom windows and slate tiles on the roof. If you want to price out a shed, just make a few quick drawings and estimate materials roughly, then add 20 percent for ignorance.

Our prefab 120 square foot metal shed cost $600, delivered, or $5 per square foot, not including labour. I'm not sure how much the concrete for the foundation will cost.

digging under foundation footings


Seriously. No no no no no.

OK, here's how you do it. You support the house on cribbing, so the foundation is not holding the house up. Then you can dig under the footing, but as soon as you do that, you have to rebuild your foundation wall and pour a new footing that sits on undisturbed earth (or engineered fill). If you do not, you've effectively removed the foundation in that part of the house. So don't dig under your footings. If you need to send a service through the foundation wall, drill through.

directions on digging house foundations

Use a shovel. Dig to the depth required by your plans. Make sure it's level and square. Or better yet, just hire somebody who knows what they're doing. If you're looking on the internet for information on how to dig a foundation, chances are you can save yourself some serious time and suffering and likely a future foundation replacement by just having the foundation done professionally.

fence or sod first

We did sod first. You can do either. You would probably rather do the fence first, so the fence guys don't wreck your sod, but if there is going to be the space of more than a few months in between, the order matters less.

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posted by ayse on 10/17/06