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Robert Lamoureux: Block wall 101 and attic fan installation

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 29, 2010 11:24 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Hi Robert,
I live in the Santa Clarita Valley, and I have a wooden fence that I’d like to replace with a brick or concrete block wall about 6 feet tall. Do I need a permit for this? Enjoy the column. Thank you,
Lauro M.

Hi Lauro,
You don’t want to use common brick for a free standing wall because it’s not structurally sound. You can use concrete block and then apply a veneer, a false face, which is fine. This comes in sheets so you can cover a lot of wall space quickly.

To install the veneer, put it up and grout the joints. It will give the appearance of common brick and is held in place with mortar.

Or if you like the common red brick look, you can also use pavers, which give the appearance of standard-size brick although they are very thin. 

If you’re using block, like precision or slumpstone, and if you go five courses of block or more, then you will need permits.

Permit fees, as a rule of thumb, are usually 1 percent of the total cost of the job. If you go to four courses or less, then no permits are necessary, even if you add either a wooden or wrought-iron fence on top of that.

If you want to put in a standard wall that’s common throughout the community, the building inspector will want to see the footing and the steel.

This is what the permit is all about. They don’t want something heavy falling and hurting someone. 

After four courses, put on the horizontal rebar.

The block is notched on the top and the rebar sits in this notch, for the length of the wall, wire-tied to the verticals.

The rebar is installed at the fourth and eighth courses, if required. After the inspector sees the horizontals in place, you can finish with the wall. 

You’re going to have basically three inspections — the footings, the first horizontal and then the final. 

Your plans will call out the steel detail.

Before you pour your footings, you must let the inspector see the steel before it’s buried — or he has the right to have you dig it up and start over.

So, lay all of your rebar, then call the inspector. Make sure every other cell has rebar and is filled with concrete.   

With the final, he’ll check that you have your caps on and everything is graded and clean.

From my standpoint, if there’s one thing I’ve learned after 30 years in this business, it’s that inspectors love to see a clean job site.

We are always getting complimented by the inspectors, who say it’s nice to see a company that works neat and clean. It’s indicative of quality.

My advice to anyone working is keep a clean job site. It’s much safer, prevents injuries and is easier to keep up with tools and materials. 
   
Dear Robert,
I went up in my attic over the summer and almost passed out from the heat. Now that it’s cooling off, I want to send my husband up there to install an attic fan. Is there a way to mount a fan without going through the roof, which is relatively new? Thank you,
Marie V.

Hi Marie,
There are whole house fans that work very well. These are usually installed in the ceiling of a central hallway.

You need to cut a hole and frame out for the fan and then run electrical for the power. Typically, you open the windows to your home in the morning when it is cool and turn the fan on.

It will pull the cool air into home and out through your attic, which will help keep it cool for the rest of the day. 

If you want to install an attic fan, have your husband go to the gable ends at the peak of the house inside the attic.

Remind him to be extra careful and be sure to walk slowly on the ceiling joists.

One slip or misstep and he will come crashing through the ceiling — and it happens all of the time.

Once at the gabled ends, break and frame out from the attic to accommodate a louver or an exhaust fan. This can be done on both ends.

For this type of installation, a wood frame is required. If you want to use fans as opposed to louvers, then electrical will have to be run and permits will be required. 

Thermostatically controlled fans are available that you can set at 90 degrees so the fans will come on automatically when needed. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia.
His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to Robert@IMSConstruction.com.

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