Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

July 2002

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Living With a Tight House

Today's energy-efficient wood-frame houses are the most expensive, the most comfortable, and very likely the least durable residential structures ever built in the United States. Over the past 20 years, moisture-caused problems in new houses have skyrocketed. Homeowners complain increasingly of window condensation and mold indoors; of mildew, staining and peeling of exterior coatings; and of rot in windows, doors, trim, siding, sheathing and framing, all within a few years of construction.

History Under Foot

When antique dealers Mark and Elen Grove built a new timber-frame house outside Charlottesville, Va., last year, they sought the best building materials they could find. Fir for the house's frame, for example, was cut in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to a mill in New Hampshire for processing. When it came to flooring, the couple settled on century-old longleaf pine salvaged from a Worcester, Mass., distillery and re-milled into random-width flooring.

The Lowdown on High-Definition TV

If you want the best picture money can buy, high-definition television (HDTV) offers jaw-dropping clarity. But when you start making decisions about which set to buy, that picture looks muddy. As with any new technology, the prices are falling - they already dropped about 40 percent over the last three years, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and are likely to fall further. And the bells and whistles are becoming more sophisticated as competition increases. So there's a lot to be said for waiting.

Planning Maintenance for Your Home

Do you feel overwhelmed when faced with caring for your home? A common reaction is to do what you can to make the place look good and hope for the best. Often the need to get serious about maintenance is recognized only after disaster strikes. Many times I've been called to a home when owners wake up in the morning to find their gutters and cornices lying in a decayed heap on the lawn. Decades of ignored gutter cleaning finally claims their undivided attention.

Sprinklers Find a Following

Depending on where you live, the new home you build may require a feature that most people have never thought to include before: a fire-protection sprinkler system. These cousins of the systems found in commercial and institutional buildings are steadily making their way into new construction and some older homes as well, thanks in large part to local ordinances that mandate sprinkler systems in new construction or in major renovations.

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