Q: I would like to build a shed to house a tractor and a couple of pieces of equipment. It would be about 18 feet by 20 feet, open at the front and back, and slope from 8 feet high in front to 7 1/2 feet in the back. I would like to use six 6-inch posts in concrete, and tie everything together with 2×6 rafters. Is this suitable for a building this size? -Tom A., via e-mail
A: For the size of the building you are contemplating, I think the lumber sizes you’re proposing are too small, both the number of posts and the size of the rafters. Also, a 6-inch slope over a span of either 18 or 20 feet (depending on which is the width and which is the length) is pretty flat, and you’d be better off with more slope.
In most areas, a building this size will require a building permit (some jurisdictions have exceptions for buildings used strictly for agricultural purposes). I would strongly suggest that you talk with your local building department to determine if a permit is going to be required, and to get a copy of the portion of the building code that relates to lumber sizing. Some local lumberyards can also help you out with sizing a pole barn of this type if you purchase all the lumber from them.
Q: My son has a metal patio door, and the frame has begun to pull away from the brick veneer that borders it. It’s moved about 1/4 inch in the center of the frame, and seems OK at the top and bottom. I wanted to drive a long screw through the frame to force it back, but I can see behind the frame now and there doesn’t appear to be a stud behind it. Do you have a solution? -Carl F., via e-mail
A: When the house was framed, there would have been a horizontal header over the top of the sliding glass door, and vertical framing on either side of the door to support the header. So, even if it’s not readily visible, there will be some type of framing behind the patio doorframe.
I would suggest first drilling a small hole through the doorframe in the area where the latch is. Insert a small, stiff piece of wire through the hole until it contacts the wall framing. Measure how far the wire went, add 1 1/2 to 2 inches to that length, and use wood screws that long to pull the doorframe back into place. Be careful that you don’t over-tighten and bow the frame in the opposite direction.
If, in probing with the wire, there is no framing there at all, then there are some potentially serious structural problems. I would have a contractor or a door company come out and examine the situation and see if they can offer any solutions, but my feeling at that point is that the door frame would need to come out to determine exactly what is going on.
Q: We recently discovered that the underside of our house is not insulated. Our hardwood floors are always cold, and we’d like to lower both our heating and cooling bills, in addition to gaining comfort under our bare feet! Is there an easy way to put insulation there ourselves? -Judith M., via e-mail
A: Insulating the underside of a house is one of those projects best described as not particularly difficult but not particularly enjoyable. Basically, you place kraft-faced fiberglass batt insulation between the floor joists, with the paper side (which is the vapor barrier) facing up so that it’s in contact with the underside of the subfloor above. R-25 batts are normal and required by most building codes.
To hold the batts in place, strips of lath are nailed to the underside of the joists about every 2 to 3 feet. Lengths of rot-proof string or light wire can also be used in place of the lath. For any water pipes under the house, you can use lengths of foam pipe insulation, which just slips over the pipe, or you can wrap them with fiberglass insulation as well. Finally, a layer of 6-mm black plastic sheeting is laid over the ground to act as a vapor barrier to prevent ground moisture from affecting the insulation.
You might want to check with your local utility company as well. Many have weatherization programs in place that can help you out financially if you want to have a contractor do the work, or even with the materials if you want to do it yourself.
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