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Ask the Architect

‘Is he just giving us a hard time?’

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Q. A building inspector just told our contractor the inspection didn’t pass on our renovation. We have a split and the first floor is getting a new kitchen, plus we are taking out the ceiling and making it taller. The inspector says the insulation is wrong and he only saw a few “Tecos,” but needs to see them all. The insulation on the architect’s plans was foam, which turned out to be much more expensive than fiberglass, so we switched it. Tecos are metal straps, I think, and the inspector says he wants to see them and check the nails. Is this right? Do you think he’s being picky because he didn’t get a call before we insulated? The rest of the house doesn’t have Tecos, and he didn’t say anything about it. Is he just giving us a hard time?

A. Some jobs seem more unpopular than others. Who appreciates meter readers giving out parking tickets, except their few family members, or the people who make you form a line at the license bureau, but they have a job to do. Teco was a company that made metal connectors and brackets to join lumber together, strengthening structures because, unlike ordinary nailed connections, nailing at an angle to wood grain with properly spaced nails makes you safer.

You won’t find Teco connectors anymore, since they stopped producing them over 25 years ago, but you will find other brands. Simpson is the leader, and they make hundreds of specialized brackets with tested spacing of many nails per bracket to resist heavy stresses and strains, which most people don’t realize even exist. Brackets that attach roof rafters to the ridge board at the peak of the house, for example, increase the resistance of your house coming apart in high winds by as much as 30 more miles per hour.

If the house were hit by a windstorm, average homes built in 1950 to 1970 are rated for approximately 100 to 110 mph. Hurricanes and tornadoes produce winds high above that threshold, and one occurrence in your lifetime is one too many, but it can happen. When I was 12, my Toledo, Ohio, home was hit by a tornado and severely damaged. Forty-three people died in that midwestern storm on July 4, 1969, and we were fortunate that our home and family survived.

Every hole in brackets must be nailed, not just some. The insulation substitution was a penny-wise, pound-foolish idea, aside from defying code, which is a law. The amount of money saved from better insulation will pay for itself, over and over, lowering utility bills. Rigid foam strengthens the structure while acting as a vapor barrier as well. Fiberglass has lower thermal resistance, no structural value and less moisture resistance. The inspector was following common sense, and the law. They may only have required that affected structures get connectors, but adding them everywhere is advisable. The inspector wasn’t picking on anyone, just protecting you while doing his job. Stay safe!

© 2020 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question”  in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper,  architect.