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

May 2002

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A Bricklaying Glossary

Admixtures: Materials added to mortar to impart special properties to the mortar. Backfilling: Rough masonry built behind a facing or between two faces. Backup: That part of a masonry wall behind the exterior facing. Bat: A piece of brick. Bed Joint: The horizontal layer of material on which a masonry unit is laid. Brick: A solid masonry unit of clay or shale that is formed into a rectangular shape while plastic and burned or fired in a kiln. Buttering: Placing mortar on a masonry unit with a trowel.

Water and Sewage

In the last issue, we discussed getting access (road or driveway) and electricity to a building site. In most states a plot of land is not considered buildable - you won't be allowed a building permit - unless it is served by a sewer line or the soil is acceptable for on-site sewage disposal. This brings us to the remaining site services: water and sewage. WATER If you buy bottled water, you've seen distilled water on the shelves as well. The process of distillation - evaporation followed by condensation - removes all impurities from water, making it pure and nearly tasteless.

The Mysteries of Switches

Multiple-switch circuits can be mysterious things. Controlling a light from both the top and bottom of a stairway is accepted without question. Even controlling a single light from three, four or more locations is considered unremarkable by most homeowners. But how many of us understand how this is accomplished? Could you troubleshoot or replace one of the multiple switches in such a circuit? Understanding how three- and four-way switches work will allow you to design complex lighting circuits, as well as repair them when they go bad.

Foundations: Technology Beats the Heat

Keeping a home warm was relatively simple once we had fire. But making a home cool in hot weather was a problem that took millennia of human history to solve. Even the usually clever Romans were technologically helpless against sweltering Italian summers: They resorted to sacrificing dogs in hopes the gods would lift the heat that accompanied the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, every July.

Banishing the Mushrooms

If you've ever installed a deck made of composite material, you know that standard deck screws produce an annoying phenomenon. When the fastener is screwed in tight, the head pushes up a little mushroom of material (above, left), causing your new deck to look a little ragged. The manufacturers suggest flattening those mushrooms with a mallet when you're done, but that's about the last thing you feel like doing after a long day in the sun. TrapEase deck screws from FastenMaster are designed to make the process neater and faster.

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