Published on Thu, Mar 10, 2005 by Jack Kintner

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Home Improvement

By Jack Kintner

There’s everything you need at the home show

“If you can’t find it here, your house doesn’t need it.” This was Bill Quehrn’s energetic introduction to this year’s edition of the Lynden Home Show, officially the 2005 Home and Garden Show sponsored by the Building Industry Association (BIA) of Whatcom County.

The ever-bubbling Quehrn, who once ruled the local am radio airwaves, getting most of the county out of bed every day as KGMI’s morning host, is BIA’s executive director. His ardent enthusiasm is as infectious as the flu but a lot more fun to have.

Quehrn was right about the sheer amount of stuff at this year’s home show, bigger and better than ever. It was bigger, he pointed out, by having 40 more exhibitors than last year. It was also a lot better in that this year the weekend was dry compared with last year’s three-day drenching.

One major theme was energy conservation, starting with home show chairman Scott Corzine, who works for Puget Sound Energy. There were dozens of booths dedicated to saving energy in various ways while building or remodeling a house, from vinyl replacement windows and energy-efficient gardening practices to houses built with insulated concrete walls, solar panels and low-volume toilets.

There was a BuiltGreen booth staffed by BIA members who showed comprehensive approaches to saving energy in a lot of innovative ways, and across the aisle the Sustainable Connections folks had even more ideas plus a list of 10 county homes using innovative ideas. A tour is scheduled for next July 9 and 10.

Twice on Saturday and once on Sunday local high school students built a pre-fab house under the supervision of members of the Associated General Contractors of Whatcom County.

Scott Shuman of Dream Decks built an impressive structure right at the main entrance, a 20 by 20 foot deck with cedar posts and “timber tech” ersatz no-maintenance deck boards joined to a small house from where the BIA leadership ran the show.

The uprights connected to an almost over-built shade arbor, a structure begging for a grape vine or a nice big purple wisteria. They did have a couple of planters filled with primroses for color, but all that wood had a comfort all of its own and Shuman and his wife Stacy found lots of friends dropping by for a chat and a cup of coffee. No one needed to ask what a deck is for.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years” said Shuman, who worked in King County’s silicon valley north – Redmond and Kirkland – for much of that time until migrating north a few years ago. “A lot of homeowners think that they can build their own deck, and many of them can, but we’ve been doing this for so long we can do it fast and do it right the first time,” Shuman said, “with a consistent level of quality even the handy home-owner may not be able to match.”

The deck Shuman and his carpenters built for the home show, all 400 square feet, was to be given away by KAFE-FM, “and when we find out where it goes we’ll install it in a day,” he said. Shuman has seven two-man crews, each consisting of a carpenter and a laborer, but recently sold his 2,400 square foot shop in the Hannegan Business Park.
He knew that his crews liked having a place to gather in the mornings, to store tools and to do the occasional off-site job. In an innovative business move, he made them an offer: “no more shop, but in return I’ll completely fund your medical plan. They like it, too. They take the vans home now instead of back to the shop, and they gather right at the job sites.”

Shuman finished with words of praise for Blaine’s city officials, who he works with when doing much of his work in our area. “Blaine’s booming right now, and I can see why. It’s a nice little place, right on the water.”

He added that it will grow fast for a while, “just like so many other places have in the area. It can’t be stopped, but your city officials know that it can be controlled, and they’re doing a pretty good job of that, from my point of view.”

Ciscoe Morris was back this year for his popular one-day “Gardening with Ciscoe” program, and Marcy Plattner of the Garden Spot Nursery in Bellingham sold a lot of two-dollar bags of sweet pea seeds. “Plant ’em now!” she said, about four inches or so deep!”

Tami Hansen was back with her Akita, demonstrating invisible dog fences that are amazingly effective, and was joined at the show by a new dog act this year, Kathy Dwyer representing the service dog agency Paws with a Cause. Paws is a national organization that trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities and provides lifetime team support which, she says, encourages independence. Her striking black lab mix named Rico ably and promptly demonstrated picking up car keys, even a quarter, and opened doors, removed shoes and even “called for help,” pressing a large paw-shaped buzzer on the floor that presumably can be connected to a telephone to dial 911. Dogs are trained at a national facility before being sent to a regional field administrator to work directly with clients.

Lorraine Vinish, owner and operator of Lorraine’s Window Coverings, illustrated one of the enjoyable parts of the show in that people who attend usually get to talk directly with the boss, or with someone pretty high up in the company. It leads to a working relationship that is otherwise more difficult to establish, though Quehrn emphasized that all the resources available in the show are available through referral by calling them at 671-4247.

The boom trucks arrived and poured...

Dan Scherck’s styrofoam and concrete house took a big step toward completion this week as two boom trucks from Cowden Gravel and Ready Mix poured about 50 yards of concrete into the styrofoam wall forms earlier set up by contractor Mark McGary.

Pouring the concrete is the seventh of a nine-step process involved in building with insulated concrete forms (ICF) that Scherck is using to build the basement floor of his new house, essentially an elaborate platform on which he will build a living area topped out with a master suite on a partial second floor. The rest of the first floor will have an open ceiling.

The steps, in order, are first to prepare the site. The concrete footings must be substantial, especially if walls are to be more than one floor in height (one can build floors and even gabled roofs with special ICF forms), and level within one-quarter inch. The second step is to snap a chalk line and begin setting the first two courses a bit like building an igloo, one row at a time working the same direction around the foundation.

Step three is to check after two courses for level and square, trimming or filling where necessary. When it’s level and straight then it’s glued to the footing with low-expansion foam adhesive. Step four is to install reinforcement, primarily lengths of re-bar set inside the walls horizontally and vertically.

Step five is to install windows, doors and service penetrations – holes in the walls lined with plastic or metal sleeves for water, sewer and electrical service. Windows and doors are framed with buckboards that both hold back the concrete as it’s poured and provide a fastening surface to install trim.

When four courses (which makes a six foot wall) have been installed, it’s time for step six. The walls are aligned using external steel channels that run vertically on the inside walls and which support scaffold brackets. These can be seen in the photo showing the inside walls.
Step seven is pouring the concrete, a normal if somewhat finer mix than used for a driveway or sidewalk. A vibrator is used after each three to four foot course is poured to eliminate voids in the walls. Cowden took less than a day to fill the forms for all the walls. It will take about a week to fully cure, McGary said, before the walls can be covered with a rubber sealant and back filled to bring the yard up to grade.

Step eight will be to install rough electrical and plumbing service. In Scherck’s case, this includes a special basement floor heated by hot water. Regular water and drain pipes that are to be buried in the basement floor are laid down, then a layer of styrofoam covers that. The styrofoam panels have channels on the topside for water pipes, and the water will be heated with either natural gas or propane with thermostats for each room. Then a regular concrete floor is laid down over the pipes and styrofoam. As Don Scherck said, “when your feet are warm, you’re warm.”

Step eight will be interior and exterior finishing. Stay tuned.