The Dimension Bible for Remodelers and DIYers

The Dimension Bible is really 3 books in one. It is a type of building code book for single family homes written in English, so everyone can understand it, a how to or where to install things in your home book and a handy estimating guide for remodeling projects. Even saying that there is some general information that is included in the book that doesn’t fit into those 3 categories.

Dimension Bible

A Home Owner Building Code Book That Speaks English

The questions that every person who has ever remodeled or built anything has had; “Where do I install this, How high do I mount this, Where does this go, How do I calculate the material needed?” These questions and more just like them have puzzled remodelers and DIYers for ages. Author John Knoelk aka “Contractor John”doesn’t believe these questions should stop you from undertaking your project, or completing it in a professional manner. Building or remodeling a home or a room is something worth accomplishing, and he wants to be there for you every step of the way.

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In his new reference book, The Dimension Bible for the Remodeler and Do-it-Yourselfer, John presents readers with an all-inclusive building guide that goes from the inside out of building and remodeling. Whether it is creating that stylish, but functional, kitchen, to how to develop the most practical driveway, John answers every question of the reader through charts, measurements and a general insight in an understandable way.
“This book is the result of my forty years of remodeling and building experience. While no book can address every measurement for every situation, I believe within these pages you will find the vast majority of measurements, dimensions and formulas to calculate and arrive at the correct answer you will need to complete your project.”
 John approaches discussions of each area of the house in a clear and concise manner, thoroughly explaining each step for the new builder, DIYer, and the seasoned remodeler. As he has seen over his forty years of building, nothing is of greater satisfaction than seeing the project that is drawn on paper actually coming to life right before your eyes.


Visit ContractorJohn’s YouTube Channel for additional helpful videos


Guide to Setting up Your Home Office

Establishing your own home business has its own set of challenges but it can be an exciting prospect for the most part. Setting up a home office where you take care of most of your business is critical. A quality office space will help you to treat your home business as a real business.

Setting up an office in the home that makes working convenient and efficient has several essential components that you need to incorporate into it. It is often said that location, location, location is the key to buying real estate and the same can be said for setting up a home office. Since you will be spending a maximum amount of your time each day in your office space, make sure it is a place you are comfortable.

A key Question answering the location question is in which part of the house do you set up your home office? Consider the year-round conditions of that particular area in the house. Make sure that it provides a convenient place for you to attend to business and work essentials. Find a quiet place in the house. Setting up your home office away from areas that offer a lot of distraction will help you increase productivity. This is always an important consideration but critical if you have young children at home.

After you have identified the area of your home to set aside for your office you may want to draw a space plan, and add essential office furniture to it, to make sure everything fits. A quality computer friendly desk and comfortable chair are an absolute necessity, as well as a file cabinet. The file cabinet may require locks if you have sensitive material and other people have access to the area where it is located.  Do you need a table and chairs for meetings, or a display area is another design question?

Office equipment is yet another component in your home office. You will need to identify what equipment you need to have in your home office for your particular type of business. This equipment can include computers (either laptop or desktop), printers, scanners, fax machine, and a copier. Proximity to internet and phone access is also a consideration. Included in office equipment expenses would be industry specific business software packages.

In selecting a computer make a list of the top 5 tasks you will be using the computer for before you go shopping and share that list with your salesperson. This will enable the salesperson to match memory, processor, and graphics cards, among other things to your needs. When selecting a printer ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I need to print photos?
  • Do I need a copier?
  • Do I need a scanner?
  • Will I need a wireless connection?
  • Will I need to print forms that have multiple parts?

Communication tools such as internet, telephone and independent fax machine line are essential questions you must have answers to. Another communication decision you will need to make is if you will need a separate phone line dedicated for business use, which is separate from your home line. What hours will you be operating your business, is an important question which the answer to it will determine if you can utilize space in your home that is used for other activities during hours you are not working.? This “flex space” use can double or triple your office space in certain circumstances.

If you be meeting business associates in your home office, you need to plan space for it now.

In this modern world, business professionals utilize email communication for a more efficient communication system. Email is a necessity to the modern business. There are many options in the marketplace. I personally recommend you utilize Gmail, Google’s email product. Gmail works well with smart phones has a fantastic calendar program that you can access from anywhere there is internet access.

Other business essentials like a quality website, and being active on social media platforms, are tasks you may be able to do yourself. Memberships or affiliations with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce are also a must.

The information included in this article is a great start for most home business endeavors. There are additional points that will be critical to a specific business that you will need additional research to uncover. I wish you good luck in your new venture.


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Septic Tank Do’s and Don’ts

I don’t talk or write about septic systems and septic tanks very often mostly because I live and have lived in an area all my life where we have public sewer service, although I have built a few homes that used a septic system. Maintenance for your septic tank is critical to a properly functioning septic system. Let’s talk about a few things you need to know about your septic system and a few tasks you can easily accomplish to keep your septic system healthy.

First and foremost it is critical for you to understand your septic system is a living entity. The living component the bacteria is what breaks down the solids. Household soaps, an abundance of water and cleaning products can serve to kill the bacteria that are necessary to maintain a healthy septic system. There a several quality commercial products that you can add to your septic system to maintain a healthy bacteria level, one of which is Rid-X.  You can also mix up your own by combining 2 envelopes of active dry yeast and 1 lb of brown sugar. Mix thoroughly in a bowl and then add 4 cups of warm water. Let the mixture sit for about 15 min in a warm location until it expands and becomes foamy, then pour it in your toilet bowl and flush.  Either of these methods will add the necessary bacteria to keep your system healthy.

Products to avoid adding to your system are any type of alcohol, including wine and beer. Another item that kills bacteria is tobacco of any kind. Cooking oil and grease can harden and clog the system. Lint particles from the washing machine are very small and tend to stay suspended in the liquid. They do not settle to the bottom of the main tank, and will be carried through the system and can clog the pipes in the leach field. Always use a lint screen on the washer discharge line.

Diapers, tampons, paper towels and tissues do not break down and should not be flushed into the system.  Garbage disposals are not items that are conducive to a septic system. Items like egg shells, coffee grounds, cat litter and any kind of lint, including hair, shouldn’t be introduced into the septic system. Cleaning paint brushes in a sink and allowing residue to enter the system is also not a good idea. You need to be careful what cleaning supplies you put into the drain, If you don’t feel comfortable using any chemical without gloves including drain cleaners it isn’t a good idea to send them through the system.

A healthy tank still needs to be pumped out every 2 to 5 years. Size of the tank and use will determine the frequency. When your tank is pumped out ask what was the level of the tank was so you get an idea how often it should be pumped out in the future.

Now you know quite a few do’s and don’ts of your septic system. Take good care of your septic system so you don’t incur repairs that can easily run into thousands of dollars.


Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Real Estate


Beginners in real-estate investing and first time home buyers often experience costly mistakes when they purchase a house.  To avoid such mistakes you will have to learn a couple of things, what these common mistakes can be and secondly how to avoid them.

The biggest mistake by far is:

  • Lack of research

When buying properties start with one of the core basics; which is doing some research before proceeding with any kind of purchase.  Research is asking questions about the house or the property, and receiving through answers. You could ask questions similar to the following:

  • What are your reasons for putting the property for sale?
  • How long have the current owners had the property?
  • Are the Real Estate taxes pain and current?
  • Are there any liens or are there any encroachments on the property?
  • Are there any problems with the house’s foundation?
  • Are there are any problems in the area where the house and property are located like being in or near a flood plain, termite problems, etc.
  • Are there any plans for major construction projects in the area?

Your research would also include the current price and any recent sales prices of this property and similar properties in the area.  It is better to look at houses and properties as far as a comparable that have been sold than those houses still up for sale.  Buyers should use these sold as a basis for bidding and not getting emotional and carried away.

Aside from the upfront price of the house or property, buyers should not forget to factor in the maintenance cost of the house.  Without considering the maintenance cost, homebuyers could find themselves buried in debt.  The cost of any imminent repairs should definitely have an impact on the price of the house and the amount of your offer. Having the home inspected could seem like an unnecessary expense, but never sacrifice it.  Always get a good home inspector even if it means spending a little more.

There is nothing wrong with waiting for the right house. Sometimes a little patience can save you a lot of money.  It is very difficult to find a home that would fit 100% of your wants and needs.  Homebuyers who are looking for everything usually bypass homes that would meet nearly all of their criteria, and often wind up paying more.  Another cost factor is the ever-increasing cost of homes. Homebuyers who wait around for their perfect home often wind up paying more. To help avoid this, it is important to sort out priorities, into two categories, wants and needs.  Identify the top needs, what the home has to have and if you have to sacrifice trim from the wants list.

Another common mistake that most homebuyers make is that they think can purchase a house on their own, without the aid of a Realtor.  There is nothing wrong with buying property without any professional help, if you have all the time to look and do all the research yourself. Real-estate agents have the resources, contacts, and tools that will make the search quicker. Aside from the real-estate agent, find a good attorney, one that specializes in real estate. Other professional’s you will need are insurance and home inspectors.

The largest purchase of your life should not be done alone. Employ real professionals to guide you along the way. Notice I said guide, not do the work for you. In the end you will be living there for years to come and paying all the bills, so do your research along with the professional and your chances of purchasing a quality property will increase

Purchasing A New Home? Points To Consider

People will plan for months or even years before they finally make the decision to purchase a new home. Purchasing a home will change your life considerably. Change, especially one that is this significant should be considered at length and with the involvement of everyone in the family. If every member of the family is not involved in the decision making process they may not feel that their feelings and needs are important. Young children are especially vulnerable to emotional turmoil, especially when you consider that they may be leaving friends behind and will be moving into a strange environment.

Begin by assessing your needs. Spend some time to create a needs and wants list. A 3 bedroom 2 .5 bath home may be great because you can use the extra bedroom for an office but you could save considerable money by using a space in the basement for an office. Simply put, match your needs with your capacity to pay for them.  Also, you should spend some time researching your credit score. If you find errors on it, have them removed or attach a note of explanation as allowed by law, before you see your lender.

The general location of your new home is something you should decide on early in the process of purchasing a new home. There is a wealth of neighborhood specific information on the internet today, to aid you in your research. Don’t forget to research the school district, the junior college district, park district, library, commuter stations and access to area highways. Real estate taxes in the area are very important to research as they will directly affect how much home you can afford. It’s important that you connect with the neighborhood you are planning to buy in, because you will be living there a long time if not for the rest of your life.

Talking about connecting with your new home, the same thought goes for the mortgage company that you will be using to purchase your new home. You should also have some sort of connection with the mortgage company and the mortgage consultant who will guide you through your loan process. Remember, your money will be tied to them for quite some time and it’s a good idea to actually have a relationship with them.

Now let’s take a closer look at what a mortgage is. In simple terms, the mortgage is the loan that you will obtain to pay for the purchase of your new home. There are technical differences in a mortgage that vary from state to state but the basics stay the same. It serves as a lien or legal claim to your home and gives security to the lender that holds your mortgage loan. This means a lender can take back your home if you neglect to make your payments; and yes there is a repo-guy for homes too. All mortgages have two things that they share in common regardless of the company you are getting it from: principal and interest. Principal means the original amount of money that you borrowed from the lender. The interest is the percentage that goes on top of the original mortgage loan. The interest is compensation to the lender for the use of their money.

How does a mortgage actually work, you may ask?  First of all, the lender determines the LTV, or the loan to value, ratio of your property. Let’s say the lender will lend a 95% LTV on a property that has a price tag of 50,000. Simply stated this means you can borrow up to 95% of the home’s value, or in this example, 47,500 of the total value of the property. You are personally responsible for the remainder of the money, $2,500, in this example, which can come from your personal savings or in some situations from a gift.

You should never purchase any property without a lawyer. There are many legal documents that you will need to understand. Some of which protect your rights as a new homeowner and some protect the rights of the lender. The lawyer’s responsibilities are to protect you and your future. Think of it as an insurance policy. Should the lawyer make a significant mistake, his or her professional insurance may cover any penalties or losses. A lawyer will also help you to obtain a title insurance policy. This policy guarantees there are no liens, or money owed to other individuals that otherwise owning the property would make you liable to pay for.

They say the home is where we build our dreams and watch them come true. Take your time, do your research, and buy what you can truly afford, or your dream will turn into a nightmare.


Credit Card Delinquencies; The Real Trends

Surveys and reports seem to give us answers to questions that we already know the answer to. Seems to me we do not need all these expensive individual surveys to uncover every single nuance.

Using a handful of basic time-tested surveys with a little common sense will get you there.

A “go to” report I have always relied on was the credit card delinquency rates. When things get bad people will pay the mortgage, rent and utility bills but credit cards go to the back of the line.

If you watch the stock market or economy you generally have a gut feeling where it is or headed without a mountain of reports. Imagine my surprise when I expected to see credit card delinquency rates in the mid 4% range instead finding it in the mid 2% range, time to take a deeper look.

With the rash of bankruptcies recently behind us it would stand to reason the credit card balances would be “new” and lower, and easier to make those monthly payments. Factor in what I call an increase in” communal homes”, kids living with their parents after college, elderly parents living with children, less expenses equal less credit card debt.

But, you knew a “but” was coming, with the huge increase in college debt and double-digit unemployment, and under-employment rate for college graduates, time to look deeper.

Overall credit card debt had its second significant quarterly increase, ending in Q4 in 2014. The last quarterly increase of 4.3% is the highest growth rate since 2008. There has been a recent increase of sub-prime consumers receiving credit cards; although it is too early to see how that segment of the credit card market will affect delinquency rates we will have to watch for an uptick in overall delinquency rates. Where there is smoke there usually is fire. The economy is in a delicate position, I know we as people who live and work in it every day know that, but do our politicians?

My advice is to be cautiously optimistic, we don’t want to be so careful, and frugal as to help stifle the economy but at the same time we have to protect ourselves because they won’t.

Glass Interior Doors, Dress It Up

Most of the homes I have built have been spec homes. A “spec home” is a home built without a specific buyer in mind. The builder is speculating that once complete he will find a buyer. As a spec builder I am always looking for different feature/s to add to a home without breaking the budget. One such wow feature is a glass panel door.


Frosted Glass Bathroom Door

I have installed them as a kitchen pantry door and a master bathroom door. Take a look at the pictures I have included here. Depending on your likes and/or the style or look you are striving to achieve, you have many choices. Keep in mind although you cannot see through the frosted glass you still can see shadows, so this type of door will not be appropriate in every application.

If you have added a different type of feature to your project, tell us about it.

The Common Nail is Not So Common

There are so many types of nails; it is often difficult choosing the correct one for the job. Choosing the correct nail is critical if you want a joint that will stand the test of time. Choosing the correct nail will depend on the type of material you will be joining together and the application. Using the wrong nail for the job can cause damage to the wood and lack holding power.

Nail History 101
Wherever you buy your nails I am sure you have seen sizes such as 16d or 8d nails, or heard the term 16 penny nail.. Have you ever wondered how nails got their names? Let me explain the history.

There are a couple of schools of thought as to how the name “penny”, such as 16 penny stuck through the years. The most often and believable story is that since nails used to be sold by the hundred, the small nails cost less since they weighed less and a hundred two-penny nails cost two pence, a hundred eight-penny nails cost eight pence and so on.

In this day and age the “penny” notation refers only to nail length.  The most frequently used nails are the 16p which is 3 ½” long and the 8p nail which is 2 ½” long. Typically these types of nails will come in 2 types, a common nail with a disk-shaped head that is typically 3 to 4 times the diameter of the shank and a box nail which has a thinner shank. Box nails are not used for conventional framing because of this thinner shank, which simply equates to less holding power.

Typical Nail Sizes and Their Length in Inches

2d nail = 1” 9d nail   = 2 ¾”
3d nail = 1 ¼” 10d nail = 3”
4d nail = 1 ½” 12d nail = 3 ¼”
5d nail = 1 ¾” 16d nail = 3 ½”
6d nail = 2” 20d nail = 4” considered a spike
7d nail = 2 ¼” 30d nail = 4 ½” considered a spike
8d nail = 2 ½” 40d nail = 5” considered a spike


Holding Power

There is also a coating that can be added to common framing nails. Nails that are coated with this adhesive (cement) for greater holding power are called “cement coated”. This coating melts from friction when driven in, and when it cools it adheres to the wood. The “cement coating” color varies by manufacturer, although tan and pink are common colors for this coating.

A good rule to follow is to choose a nail that is three times as long as the thickness of the material you are fastening. If you want to hold 1/2″ drywall to a stud wall, the length of the nails should be at least 1 1/2″. This is a reasonable guide most of the time. When nailing very thin materials into wood, a minimum of 1/2″ of penetration is necessary.  If you are attaching something very heavy and the nail is the sole support or attachment point, consider using screws.

Other Types of Nails

Cut Nails were first used in the 1700’s. Cut nails are often used to attach wood to concrete block, mortar joints, and brick or to fresh concrete. For best results you want about 3/4” of penetration into masonry for good holding power. Cut nails are cut or sheared from steel plate and are generally hardened. They have a wedge shape with a square, blunt point which reduces spalling during penetration into concrete or masonry. Cut nails are thick and because they displace more wood fiber, they have greater holding power than standard nails. Since the end is blunt it tears through the wood fibers instead of spreading them like a pointed nail.

Duplex Head Nails are a specialty nail useful for temporary construction, such as concrete forms, or building temporary scaffolding. The nail’s double head (duplex) makes it easier to remove and pull out of the form boards or other temporary construction.


Drywall or Ring Shank Nails are another specialty wire nail that has rings on the shank providing better grip and additional resistance to pull-out of the lumber. This type of nail is also used for drywall nails or deck board nails because of the pullout resistant feature of the annular rings on the nail shank.

Brad Nails are used in light finish woodworking. Because of the small shank diameter and the small head, these nails greatly reduce the possibility of splitting when used in hard wood. Brads are ideal for general joinery and are usually countersunk below the surface of the wood and filled to give smooth appearance.

Casing and Finishing Nails are similar and differ primarily in the shape of the heads. A finishing nail has a small slightly rounded head just a tad bit bigger than the nail shank. The head is designed to fit into a nail set to be countersunk and the nail hole filled.

A Casing Nail is often used in exterior applications and is often galvanized. The nail head of a casing nail is tapered and may be set flush or just below the wood surface.

Roofing Nails are used to fasten shingles, roofing felt, or sheet metal to wood. The shanks can be smooth or ringed for increased pull out resistance.

Galvanized Nails are more a treatment to the nail rather than a different type, this type of weather and corrosion resistant coating can be attached” to the nail, through several different processes.

Specialty Nails

There are, of course, specialized nails for use with different materials, some of which we spoke about above, but there are many more. Nails are also made out of all sorts of metals… aluminum, iron, steel, and rustproof stainless steel. Some are coated with zinc, known as galvanized nails, to be more rust resistant. Some are hardened by heat so that they can be hammered into very hard materials, such as cement nails. There are also special nails for hardwood flooring, and upholstery. There seems to be an ever-increasing array of specialty nails, with new nails being developed as new products are also developed.

There is an entire family of nails for use in power actuated nailing guns. These nail guns driven by electricity or compressed air, use nails that are manufactured in strips, or coils. A nail gun can be used to install trim, roof shingles, or even in the framing of a home. They are very helpful but also can be dangerous if used improperly.

When you are going to fasten an unusual material you will want to check with the supplier or manufacturer to see if they have a speciality fastener. One such product that comes to mind is foam insulation board, or Celotex (brand name). There are specifically designed “cap nails”, a ring shank nail with a plastic washer about the size of a quarter that helps to keep the nail head from pulling thought the soft foam material

There you have it, a quick lesson on nail history and uses. If you need a few tips on how to hammer a nail, check out my video “How to Hammer a Nail” at the Contractor John Web Site.




Student Loan Debt Slowing Real Estate Market

The headline on a recent article I read was “Student Debt May Not Be To Blame for Housing Woes”. Seems an official from the U.S. Treasury Department pointed out it was the because of the higher education wealth building potential of these students it was not a problem to be burdened with college debt and that was not stopping them from buying houses. Her additional “logic” was “unlike many other forms of credit like credit cards, student loans fund an investment, rather than consumption”. With “logic” like that it is no wonder our government is in the mess it is in.

She went on to compare numbers from 2007 and 2012 and came to the conclusion that the 2012 borrower pays $800 more per year now than in 2007. That equates to $66.67 less per month for the mortgage payment. Take into consideration that the same $66.67 will equal $12,320 in lost borrowing potential.

The numbers above reflect only the increase in student loan payments since 2007. Add to that an average student loan amount of $28,400 which equals $151.48 in monies lost per month that are available for a mortgage payment. Adding these two figures up we arrive at $218.15 less a month to pay the mortgage with. Using a cost factor of $5.41 per thousand dollars borrowed you have $40,000 less in buying power in 2012 vs. 2007. Add to that the huge increase of college attendees from 2007 to 2012 and you begin to see the problem, and we haven’t even touched upon the huge default rate on college loans and how they affect a borrower’s credit rating, and consequently their ability to borrow and purchase a home.

I guess if you work for the government you can put the spin on anything to support your point of view.

The bottom line is that college debt is crippling our children, and it is negatively affecting many areas of our economy including the home building industry.

The governments “logic” doesn’t stand up to the facts.


Repairing Caulk Joints on Your Home’s Exterior

Spring is time to walk around your home and find the damage winter has done. If you are not in a region that has winter like conditions it is still a good idea to do a walk around inspection of your home 2 times a year. This quick video will give you ideas of the areas to look for caulking repairs.

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