Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dear Mr. Bildrong

Dear Mr. Bildrong,
First let me say how much I love your column. Now for my question: I'm building a house, and I want to make sure that rot sets in to the whole thing. I'm working on the foundation now -- how should I proceed?
- DAB, Oakland, California

Dear DAB,
You don't need to make the whole house rot, just the framing -- the rest will follow. The easiest way to make sure the framing rots is to put some of the wood below grade. That is, make the top of the foundation below where there can be water when it rains, lower than the ground level. It doesn't need to be much, even 1/2" will do. That way the sill plate will get wet every time it rains or you hose off your front walk!
- Mr. Bildrong

Dear Mr. Bildrong,
Great suggestion! However, I live in California where it only rains in winter. It's pretty dry the rest of the year. My neighbors look at me funny if I hose off the walk -- something about wasting water. I really want to make sure the house rots, and I'd like to make it as friendly to termites as I can. They're so cute!
- DAB, Oakland, California

P.S. I read in one of your older columns about stuffing a rag into a pipe instead of bothering with one of those pesky caps. It's a great idea -- I'll be sure to use it when I get to the plumbing.

Dear DAB,
This is getting pretty advanced, but if simply having the top of the foundation below grade isn't enough, I'd suggest having a small depression for the sill plate to sit in. That way any water that gets in will be kept there for the wood to soak up. Be sure not to use pressure treated wood.
- Mr. Bildrong

Dear Mr. Bildrong,
The only non-pressure treated wood I have is some redwood 3x8, and some scraps of redwood siding. Will that do? I plan to wedge the scraps in between the sill plate and the floor joists instead of building the foundation the right height.
- DAB, Oakland, California


Dear DAB,

Redwood is OK for this, but it will definitely slow things down. Some Douglas Fir would be better, but sometimes you have to make do with the materials you've got. The termites won't like the redwood at first. But if you're patient and let the water start to rot the wood, it will leach the natural protection out of the wood and your little termite friends will soon be happy as proverbial bivalves. Once they begin tunneling, the water will be able to spread more easily, and things will really get rolling.
- Mr. Bildrong

P.S. Be sure to buy my new book, available at bookstores next month! It includes advanced framing techniques, like putting floor and ceiling joists at irregular intervals. And I devote a whole chapter to great ideas like wooden gutters!

3 comments:

Sandy said...

Gee, I'm thinking there will be a gazillion copies sold! Hopefully the printer will be able to keep up! LOL

It's a shame it wasn't done right and now you're the one paying for their stupidity.

Liz said...

Hilarious post! And I love the cat-friendly additions you made to your house - very clever.

Gene said...

Thanks. It was either laugh, swear or cry. I did some swearing, but opted primarily for laugh :-)