Friday, February 26, 2010

Insulated Shades

Intro to Insulated Shades
Due to significant storm damage and power/telephone/internet outage the workshop scheduled for Saturday February 27th has been postponed one week and will be held on Saturday March 6 from 9:30-10:30.

If you are interested in attending or were registered but cannot make the new date please let us know:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Insulated Shades

Window Quilt Insulated Shades are 30% off Models 100 and 400, which have been retailing for $20.00 per square foot are going to $14.00 per square foot. Model 200 Velcro Panel Quilts which have been retailing for $12.00 per square foot will now be $8.40. Even replacement layers will be dropping -- by $2.00 per square foot.

Window Quilt qualifies for the 30% Residential Energy Tax Credit. Call or stop by for details and a copy of the measuring instructions.

Glass is one of the worst building materials in terms of heat loss. A single pane of glass has an R-value of 1, a double pane of glass has an R-2 and a triple pane of glass has an R-3. Windows typically represent about 14 percent of the overall loss of heat in a home. So it is more cost effective to weatherstrip, caulk and insulate your entire home before you begin to worry about the heat loss through the glass. Consider the idea that if the roof and walls of your house are uninsulated, heat loss from your windows is minimal. Once the building envelope of your home is well sealed, or if you are starting with a super insulated structure like one of our timber frame kits with structural insulated panels, it begins to make sense to plug up the only remaining holes in the house -- the windows. In a well insulated home, windows account for 30-50 percent of heat loss.
The secret to effective insulated shades is a tight seal on all four sides of the window. A seal completely isolates the cold surface of the window from the living space and stops or greatly reduces convection caused by the cool air touching the window and falling.
There are a number of ways of achieving that tight seal from tracks mounted on the wall for a curtain to ride in to a sdder system that clamps the shade to the window frame and even magentic and steel tape. Join us for a FREE one hour workshop, Intro to Insulated Shades to discuss insulated shades from those you can make to prefabricated kits that simply require installation and the pros and cons of each. February 27th 9:30-10:30

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eco-Pecha Kucha at the Frontier Café

Maine people show how their organization or business sustainably manages natural resources and models green practices in 6-minute presentations, Thursday, February 18 at 6:30 PM at the Frontier Café, Gallery & Cinema, Ft. Andross, 14 Maine Street, Brunswick. Adopt-a-Loon, Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk, Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, Cathance River Education Alliance, The Lobster Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, National Parks Service, Cold River Vodka and Shelter Institute join in this program of information and inspiration. Gaius Hennin, P.E. will be presenting on the merits of building energy efficient structures.

Entry Fee: $10 in advance or $12 at the door.
Location: Frontier Café, Gallery & Cinema, Ft. Andross, 14 Maine Street, Brunswick
Reservations recommended: 725-5222

Benefiting the Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk this night of Pecha Kucha is a part of the month-long celebration of Longfellow Days—an eclectic mix of family entertainment and educational experiences. Top-flight lectures, poetry-readings, concerts, exhibits and tours. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy a community-wide mix of entertainment, history and cultural enrichment.

The Androscoggin Brunswick-Topsham Riverwalk is a joint endeavor by the towns of Brunswick and Topsham, modeled after the successful restoration of the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge. With Topsham as the designated project administrator, the project has received an initial grant from the Maine Department of Transportation for funding through MDOT’s Quality Community Program, the same program that funded the restoration of the Swinging Bridge. The first grant covers up the 80% of the cost of one portion of the Riverwalk. The committee continues to fundraise and locate grants for the completion of this very worthwhile project.

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It's a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Best Burning Practices

Saturday February 6, 2010
2:00-3:00 pm
It is cold outside and those of us with woodstoves are burning like crazy and those of us without wood stoves might be considering purchasing one. Join us for a one our presentation on how best to heat with a woodstove. Our guest speaker, Bob Anderson a Vermont Castings wood stove specialist will provide tips on what you might do to an existing stove to maximize efficiency. We'll also discuss venting materials and stove types. Vermont Castings Wood Stoves qualify for Energy Star Tax Credits when purchased within 2009 or 2010 calendar year for an existing home.

This is a FREE one hour workshop with a question and answer session at the end but you must register in advance as space is limited. Send an email with your name, address and phone number as well as the class subject and date to or call 207-442-7938 to reserve your spot today.

Monday, February 1, 2010

GRK Fasteners

by Gaius Hennin, P.E.

Caution: The following blog was written by an engineer who likes to hear himself write. It is boring, wordy and overly technical. Before attempting to read, warn a family member about your whereabouts, as a deep slumber may spontaneously overtake you.

Those of you who have taken our design/build class have heard me describe the phenomenon of ‘cam-out’ in the Sheathing, Insulation and Fasteners class. Those of you who have driven a traditional 3” decking screw through 5/4 pressure treated decking have probably experienced it first hand. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it, let me explain. Cam-out is the very frustrating event where the torque provided by your drill exceeds the friction provided by your (usually Phillips) driver in your drill causing the driver to lift out of the screw head slightly and grind against the screw without turning the screw. Almost immediately, the screw and perhaps the driver become slightly damaged, making further progress even more difficult. If another cam-out incident occurs, damage to the screw can preclude even removal of the screw. As it turns out, the very shape of the Phillips driver was intended to allow, if not encourage, cam-out to happen to prevent the unskilled laborers on Henry Ford’s assembly lines from over-torquing screws.

About 18 years ago we were introduced to a screw manufacturer named GRK Fasteners™, whose line of screws utilizes a TORX™ bit (sometimes referred to as a star bit) instead of a Phillips bit. The beauty of the TORX™ driver is two-fold. First, unlike the tapered Phillips bit, the TORX bit is straight in profile so the resistance to turning provided by the screw does NOT tend to push the bit up and out of the screw head, resulting in cam-out. Second, the TORX™ bit has six flutes radiating out from the center of the bit compared to the Phillips bits’ four flutes, which increases the contact area and therefore the friction between the driver and the screw.

The use of a TORX™ driver is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what sets GRK fasteners apart from most other screw manufacturers. GRK offers a complete line of fasteners from trim head screws to pre-painted screws to lag screws up to 20” in length. Everything about the screws says “Uber-grade” (their phrase). All GRK fasteners (except their PHEINOX line, which is stainless steel) are coated with a Climatek™ coating consisting of six layers of zinc and polymers. Climatek™ is an International Code Council recognized corrosion prevention coating (see ICC-NES Report NER-643) which allows the fasteners to be used with the new, highly corrosive pressure treated lumber. The screws have a patented detail at the tip which GRK calls their W-Cut™ Thread Design. This is a saw-like edge cut into the threads of the screw so that the screw slices through the wood as it is driven (like a circular saw blade), rather than pushing the wood to the side to create a space. This reduces required driving torque and virtually eliminates splitting which allows the screw to develop and maintain a high withdrawal strength. In addition the W-Cut™ Thread, the screws have a slice in the steel of the screw, perpendicular to the thread which makes the tip very sharp and allows for easy starts in even the driest and hardest woods. GRK calls this a Zip-Tip. The basic workhorse of the GRK screw line is the R4™ Multi Purpose screw, available in 59 sizes from 4x3/8” (#4 gauge 3/8” long) to 12x12” (#12 gauge 12” long). These screws, in addition to the features listed above, have a four threaded feature just above the regular thread of the screw, which slightly enlarges the hole in the wood as the screw is driven. This enlarged hole (after the threads) allows the unthreaded portion of the shank to pass easily through the wood, increasing the clamping force between the two pieces of wood being joined which increases the available shear strength of the screw. In short, it makes it much easier to draw two pieces of wood together tightly. Another nice feature of the R4™ is the self countersinking head, accomplished with six cutting edges on the underside of the head which, like the W-Cut™ Thread, actually slices the wood under the head rather than pushing it aside. This makes for a super clean countersink with no splinters sticking up around the head and no splitting. We use these screws for installing 2x6 and 3x6 decking on our timber frames, installing jamb extensions around windows and doors, building templates and deck framing (specifically using engineered lumber) where other screws just break. The R4™ is a pleasure to drive resulting in reduced installer fatigue. We have also noticed that our cordless drills can drive many more R4™ screws per charge than other types of screws due to reduced friction. Lastly, these screws lend themselves well to temporary applications like scaffolding and bracing due to high shear strengths and the fact that the TORX™ head does not wear out easily: these screws can be set and pulled dozens of times with no wearing or marring of the screw where the driver engages the screw.

GRK also has a line of screws designed for attaching to concrete. The Caliburn™ line of screws is available in ¼” through 19/64” in diameter and lengths from 1 ½” to 4 ¾”. These screws do not use a lead shield, so require only a small diameter hole to be drilled in the concrete. The hardened steel of the screw then cuts into the concrete as the screw is installed, resulting in ultimate withdrawal strengths as high as 5,724# per screw. We use these for installing sill plates into the vertical portions of a stepped foundation in lieu of j-bolts.

Several of the specialty fasteners offered by GRK include cabinet screws, composite decking screws, metal siding screws and Top Star™ Shim Screws. The cabinet screws, as the name implies, are intended for installing and constructing cabinets. The screws are quite thin to prevent splitting when attaching face frames to each other and have a built-in washer to distribute clamping forces over a greater area. This is very helpful when attaching cabinets to a wall where the screw is installed through the rear thin plywood of the cabinet. GRK’s composite decking screw has a self-countersinking head and rings under the head which trap the composite decking fiber to eliminate mushrooming of the fiber up around the head during installation. These screws also have the CEE thread feature which enlarges the hole in the decking, allowing the screw to easily pull the deck board tight to the framing. The Kameleon ™ line of composite decking screws comes in six colors to match most available decking brands. The metal siding screws combine all of the unique thread details of the GRK fastener with a built in washer (powder coated) and rubber washer to create a watertight fit between screw and siding or roofing. Lastly, the Top Star™ screw is incredible, though difficult to describe. It is intended for use installing doors and windows to allow the jamb to be moved in or out to level and straighten the jamb. This fastener consists of a screw within a screw. Using a specialty driver provided by GRK, the fastener is installed through a predrilled hole in the window/door jamb into the rough opening frame. Switching bits at this point allows the driver to engage a smaller screw within the fastener; turning this screw walks the window/door jamb in or out to get it perfectly level and straight. Without the Top Star™ this same procedure is typically accomplished through the use of shims and screws working against each other.

The last GRK I will discuss is my favorite, the RSS™ (Rugged Structural Screw). This screw is available in sizes from #10 x 1 ½” up to 3/8” x 16”. It has a built in washer, a CEE™ Thread, Climatek coating, a W-Cut™ thread, and hardened steel. With ultimate load capacities as high as 5,990# loaded in withdrawal and 2,065# loaded laterally, this is truly a structural screw. The thread on these screws is DEEP, which allows it to really bite into wood, more so than a traditional lag screw. The International Code Council has recognized the performance values of these screws (see ICC Report ER-5883) as equal to or greater than lag screws. Due to a thinner shank comprised of harder steel and deeper thread gullets, these screws can be driven with less torque than a lag screw without pre-drilling. Some of the RSS screw sizes are available in PHEINOX™ stainless steel, great for decks, docks and any other outdoor structures along our salty coast.

Why has it taken 18 years to write about GRK you ask? Well, we are finally stocking and selling them at our Woolwich, ME location. Please feel free to e-mail or call with any questions; chances are GRK has a high quality, easy driving, specialty fastener to make your project easier, and we have used it. As always, thanks for reading and remember-life is too short for bad screws.