Monday, 29 August 2011
Breathing Fresh Air Into Bathroom
Powerful, quiet exhaust fans and their smart switches have made it easy to avoid mold, mildew, and stale air in the bathroom.
BY SCOTT GIBSON
Bathroom fans have been around as long as their owners’ reluctance to use them. Like a low-flying jet, early generations of bathroom fans were so loud they could rattle your teeth. So people left them turned off, mirrors steamed up, and bathroom walls glistened with condensation.
In an older house without much insulation and with a row of drafty windows, the bathroom typically would dry before the bad stuff started—but not in a new house. Contemporary houses are built to be tight, with low-infiltration windows and walls packed with insulation that stops drafts cold. That’s good news for your heating and cooling bills, but it’s bad for unventilated bathrooms, which now are prone to mold, poor indoor-air quality, and structural damage from long-term moisture exposure.
The good news is that the latest bathroom exhaust fans are so quiet that you barely can hear them. Homeowners can choose from self-contained models that mount in the ceiling or wall, or from remote units that mount some distance away from the bathroom and can draw air from more than one inlet. In addition to features such as built-in lights and heaters, exhaust fans can be controlled by circuitry that cycles the blower on and off in response to humidity levels in the room.
A single well-designed fan installation can solve whole-house ventilation problems by removing moisture from multiple sources.
Choosing the right fan comes down to two considerations: how much noise the fan makes and how much air it moves.
Start by choosing the right fan size
For bathrooms up to 100 sq. ft. with an 8-ft. ceiling, an exhaust fan should move 1 cubic foot of air per minute (cfm) for each square foot of floor area. A 70-sq.-ft. bathroom, for example, requires a fan rated for no less than 70 cfm—enough to change the air in the room eight times an hour.
In bathrooms larger than 100 sq. ft., the rule of thumb is based on the number and type of fixtures the fan will serve. Enclosed water closets, showers, and bathtubs each require 50 cfm of fan capacity, while a jetted tub needs 100 cfm. Separate exhaust outlets over each of the fixtures or a single exhaust point that handles the entire bathroom can provide ventilation. Exhaust intakes should be away from air-supply ducts, and bathroom doors should have a 3/4''. gap at the bottom so that makeup air can enter the room.
Fan-capacity recommendations assume the fan will move the amount of air that it’s rated for, but that’s not always the case. Manufacturers arrive at cfm ratings by testing fans against 0.1 in. of static pressure. This rating assumes a nearly ideal installation: a short, straight run of rigid duct and a cap that doesn’t restrict airflow. If your installation will require a duct run longer than 12 ft., more than one elbow, or flexible duct, you should check the manufacturer’s recommendations and increase the fan size accordingly.
Surface-mounted fans serve a single exhaust outlet
Ceiling-mounted fans are designed to draw air through a single port and exhaust it through a cap in the roof or wall. Installation is relatively simple because the fan and grille are one unit. Capacities typically start at 50 cfm (the minimum required by code in a bathroom without an operable window) and range upward to about 400 cfm. Prices begin at about $100 for quiet, Energy Star-rated models from manufacturers like Broan-Nutone and Panasonic. Pricier models have built-in lights and infrared or electrical-resistance heaters.
■ With a remote fan, use soft, flexible duct for the first 5 ft. to reduce fan noise.
■ Insulate ducts in unconditioned spaces to reduce condensation.
■ For ceiling-mounted fans, choose galvanized steel or PVC duct, which have less airflow resistance than flexible vinyl or aluminum.
■ Install a UL-listed fan in a shower stall or over a tub, and put it on a circuit protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter.
■ Ceiling inlets are more effective than wall inlets at gathering heat and moisture.
■ Always duct exhaust air outside through a cap, never into an attic or a basement.
Ceiling fans don’t need big plastic grilles. Broan-Nutone’s combination recessed light/fan mounts in the ceiling for easy installation. Available trim designs blend in with traditional lighting.
New-generation fans operate with less noise than the refrigerator in your kitchen, a noise threshold described as 1 sone.
Because warm, moisture-laden air collects at the ceiling, these fans expel it quickly. One disadvantage, though, is that ceiling fans can’t pick up exhaust air from more than one point. Bathrooms with separate water closets need an additional unit, and in large bathrooms, a high-capacity fan has to draw exhaust air relatively long distances. Bigger fans mean more noise and a larger grille in the ceiling.
In-line fans such as the bullet-shaped Fantech mount directly in the duct and offer installation options. They are capable of venting several areas.
American Aldes multiport fans have a separate port for each duct run. This model has two 50-cfm ports and a larger port capable of 100 cfm.
To mask the appearance of ceiling fans, Broan-Nutone recently developed a recessed light/fan combination with trims designed to match those of conventional recessed lights.
Wall-mounted fans are another option. Although they can be easier to install than a ceiling unit when remodeling, through-the- wall units typically generate more noise than ceiling units and also admit more noise from the outside. Moreover, drawing air from the wall instead of the ceiling is not as efficient. As a result, manufacturers generally don’t suggest them as a first choice.
The Watson by Tama-rack Technologies is mounted in a gable-end stud bay. A discrete exhaust vent slides through the siding to mate with the fan.
A roar or a whisper?
Noise levels for ceiling and wall-mounted fans are described in sones. Unlike the more familiar decibel scale, the sone
scale is linear: A 2-sone fan makes twice as much noise as a 1-sone fan.
Older fans or inexpensive models can reach 4 sones. Yet one of the new Broan-Nutone models and several Panasonic models are rated at less than 0.3 sones.
Noise levels, however, increase with fan capacity. For example, Panasonic’s 60-cfm WhisperCeiling model is rated at less than 0.3 sones, while its 290-cfm model has nearly five times the flow but also produces 2 sones of sound.
Sone ratings don’t apply to remote-mounted fans because there are too many installation variables at work.
SWITCHES MAKE THEM SMARTER
Remote fans can handle multiple pickup points
In large bathrooms or ones with separate water closets, remote fans have one big advantage: They can pull air from several grilles in different parts of the room, or even from adjacent bathrooms. And fan motors can be as far as 50 ft. from the grille, reducing noise.
There are several types. Cylindrical in-line fans, such as those made by Fantech and Con-tinental, are mounted in the duct. In a bathroom with two or more pickup points, connections are made in the duct before it reaches the fan housing. Rectangular multi-port models, such as those from American Aldes, have a separate port for each length of duct. Other types of remote fans, including those made by Tamarack Technologies, are installed against an outside wall.
Intake grilles on remote-fan systems are much smaller than ceiling-mounted fixtures, and versions with integral lights are available. Grilles can be installed in the shower or over the sink to collect moisture close to its source. Serving more than one pickup point with a single fan, however, means that all pickup points are either on or off. If a single remote fan is used for back-to-back bathrooms, for example, both will be ventilated even when only one is being used.
The right switch improves fan performance
Bathroom fans often are less effective than they could be because they are turned off too soon. The fan is switched off right after a shower, but most of the moisture is still in the room, clinging to the ceiling and shower walls and trapped in damp towels. Expelling moisture actually may take 20 to 30 minutes.
A variety of switches allows fans to run longer, or to cycle on and off automatically as they are needed.
Programmable switches like Tamarack’s Airetrak can be used to ventilate a whole house.
The simplest type is an electronic or mechanical timer programmed to keep the fan running for a set amount of time. Leviton’s version lets you select the running time with the push of a button. A variation is Energy Federation’s delay-off switch, which keeps the fan on after the switch is turned off. An adjustment screw behind the cover plate allows users to set the extended run time.
Automatic controls, such as Tamarack’s Airetrak, are more sophisticated, allowing a fan to be programmed to cycle on and off throughout the day. These controls are especially useful when the bathroom fan (typically a large remote fan) is used for whole-house ventilation to provide the 0.35 air changes per hour recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. A boost feature on some models temporarily increases fan speed when the shower or bath is used.
When the relative humidity reaches a preset level, this Tamarack Humitrak activates the fan.
Leviton’s timer switch shuts off automatically after a specified amount of time has elapsed.
Humidity-sensing switches turn on a fan whenever relative humidity reaches a preset level. An override switch allows the fan to be turned on regardless of humidity.
Finally, motion detectors can be used to power up a fan as soon as anyone enters the room, then turn it off after they leave.
Tuesday, 23 August 2011
A step by step walk
through too healthy doors
BY SCOTT MCBRIDE
Doors are unlike countertops, fire-place mantels and many other building components: They’re designed to move. We depend on them to open and close smoothly, day after day. When they stick or bind, it’s nothing but aggravation.High humidity is a temporary condition that can swell a door in its frame. But a sticking door also can be the outward sign of something years in the making: a settling foundation, shrinkage in the framing or hinges that have loosened.
It may seem sensible to plane the latch-side edge of a door where it rubs against the jamb. Nine times out of ten, however, the real problem is on the opposite side: the hinge side. One of the best aids in pinpointing the problem is the gap between the door and the jamb. Ideally, it should be an even 3/32in. or so on the sides and top, and enough to clear the floor easily. Finding where the gap (also called the margin) is either too large or too small can point to the real culprit and suggest a long-lasting solution.
Loose hinge screws cause binding on the latch side
As the screws securing the top hinge loosen due to constant tension, the gap at the hinge side of the door widens, and the gap on the latch side of the door gradually closes until the door starts to bind at the top. To identify this problem, open the door slightly and pull upward on the knob while looking at the uppermost hinge. Check for play between the hinge and the jamb and between the hinge and the door.
When the door’s edge binds against the latch-side jamb, the real problem may be on the hinge side.
A WARPED DOOR
A door that doesn’t latch may be warped.
RACKED DOOR OR JAMB
Binding at the threshold or head jamb may mean a racked door or opening.
Binding at the threshold or head jamb may mean a racked door or opening.
Also, note whether there’s any movement in the middle or lower hinges. A loose lower hinge allows the bottom of the door to move toward the hinge jamb, worsening the problem.
Improperly sized pilot holes for hinge screws often lead to trouble. When pilot holes are too large, screw threads can’t bite into the wood; when holes are too small, the wood may split. Pilot holes should be the same size as the root diameter of the screw, the part of the shank between threads.
If there are loose hinge screws in either the door or the jamb, open the door as far as it goes and insert shims between the bottom of the door and the floor to take weight off the hinges. One by one, remove the loose screws, drill new pilot holes, and install screws about 1-11⁄2 in. longer than the originals. There’s no point in replacing the screws closest to the hinge barrel on the jamb leaf because they’ll probably grab only plaster or drywall. Screws closest to the doorstop, however, should be long enough to penetrate the stud behind the jamb.
Door binds here.
For latch-side binding, look for loose hinges
To narrow the gap on the hinge side caused by loose hinges, replace the original hinge screws in either the door or the jamb with longer ones, which relieves binding on the latch side of the door. Replacing the outer screw on the jamb leaf may be ineffective, but inner screws should reach the stud that frames the door opening.
Replace original screw with one that reaches stud.
A longer outer screw here may bite only in drywall.
Second, look for a bent hinge
If there’s still binding on the latch side and the hinges are tight, the problem may be a bent hinge. The remedy is to use an adjustable wrench to bend the hinge-leaf knuckles attached to the door, which shifts the door in relation to the opening and eases binding on the latch side of the door.
Insert shims to stabilize door and take weight off top hinge.
HINGE PROBLEMS CAUSE DOOR TO BIND
Binding on the latch side is a symptom of a wider than normal gap between the door and jamb on the hinge side, often caused by loose hinges. A loose bottom hinge makes the problem even worse.
Door may bind against floor.
Loose top hinge causes door to sag.
If the hinge leaf on a hollow-core door has loosened, longer screws may not work because wooden stiles inside the door are often only 1 in. thick. A longer screw hits only air. On this type of door, try reinserting the screws with a dab of five-minute epoxy on the threads. Keep the door propped up until the glue has set. If that doesn’t work, consider re-locating the hinges or replacing the door. Screws also may work loose in doors with a solid core of particleboard. In that case, try using long screws—3 in. to 4 in.—and drill the pilot holes slightly smaller than you ordinarily would.
For hinge-side binding
The best way to treat binding on the hinge side is to widen the gap between the door and the hinge jamb by inserting cardboard shims beneath the jamb leaf. After shims have been added and screws retightened, trim excess cardboard with a utility knife.
Adding shims moves door away from jamb.
Bent or improperly mortised hinges also cause latch-side rubbing
DOOR OR DOOR FRAME IS RACKED
Binding at either the head or the sill is a symptom of a racked door or jamb. Foundation settlement or shrinkage in the framing may cause a door frame to rack; old doors usually rack from failed glue joints.
Door frame is racked.
Door is racked.
Fit the door to the opening
The proper cure for a racked door or opening is to use a pair of dividers to scribe a line on the door along the door’s binding head or sill. Cutting along this line yields an even gap.
Use dividers to scribe door; then trim the top to fit.
Adjust strike plate when door won’t latch
When the latch bolt can’t fully engage the recess in the strike plate because of racking, the door won’t stay shut. Moving the strike plate slightly, or filing the opening, corrects the problem.
When hinges are fastened tightly but the door still binds on the latch side—typically at the top—the problem may be a bent hinge. To adjust the margins at the top of the door, bend the hinge knuckles with an adjustable wrench. First, lift the pin until it engages only the top knuckle. Leave the knuckles on the jamb leaf alone, but use the wrench to bend the knuckles on the door leaf gently. Moving the knuckles toward the lock narrows the margin on the hinge side and widens it on the latch side. If you overshoot the mark, simply reverse the procedure, then reinstall the pin.
An alternative to bending hinge knuckles to increase the gap at a hinge is to insert cardboard shims between the hinge leaf and jamb. Most of the time, this adjustment is necessary at the bottom hinge, which is under compression. Widening the gap at the bottom hinge narrows the gap between the door and the head jamb on the latch side of the door. Shimming a hinge also is useful when a hinge gain, or recess, has been cut too deeply and the door binds on the hinge side.
To shim the bottom hinge, open the door and loosen the screws on the jamb leaf a few turns. Cut cardboard strips about 11⁄2 in. wide and almost as long as the hinge is tall. Lift the door on the latch side with one hand, which opens a gap between the hinge and the jamb (for heavy doors, use a pry bar). Slip a shim or two into the gap with your other hand until it presses against the hinge screws. Tighten the screws, and test the door’s fit. When you have installed the correct number of shims and retightened the screws, trim off any excess with a utility knife.
When a door begins to look like a potato chip—because one or both stiles warp—the latch-side stile will not contact the doorstop evenly. To close the door, a lot of force may be needed to bend the warped stile flat. The same problem crops up when one leg of the door frame doesn’t lie in the same plane as the other. There are two solutions. One is to move the position of the stop on the latch-side jamb. The other is to move either the top or bottom hinge away from the doorstop. The door or frame still will be warped, but it will close with less difficulty.
Racking and swelling may mean refitting the door
Sometimes no amount of hinge adjustment allows a door to close properly. One of two things usually can be blamed: Either the door opening or the door itself has changed shape. The door frame may have racked because the foundation settled or the framing dried unevenly.
WARPED DOOR OR JAMB
Moving hinge can compensate for warping
A door can be coaxed into closing smoothly by shifting either the top or bottom hinge outward at the jamb.
Move stop to compensate for warping
If moving the hinge doesn’t work, it may be necessary to move the doorstop so that it contacts the entire latch side of the door.
That’s common in old houses. Alternatively, a door may sag as the joints that hold it together loosen over time. This situation is more common with doweled doors than with mortise-and-tenon doors. It may be possible to knock the door apart and reglue it, but it’s usually quicker simply to trim the door or to replace it.
Racking causes the door to bind on the latch side, either at the top against the head or at the bottom against the sill. The solution is to trim a tapered piece of wood from the top or bottom of the door. Rather than use a straightedge to lay this out, set a compass to at least 11⁄8 in. and scribe along the binding head or sill. If the frame or floor wavers, the scribe transfers the line accurately to the door so that the gap remains constant.
After one end of the door has been trimmed, a tapered piece can be added to the other end to make the gap even at the top and bottom. Wet glue can make a tapered filler piece curl at the feather end, so to produce a tight joint, I attach an oversize piece and then trim it to fit after the glue dries.
High humidity can swell a door and cause it to stick in the jamb. Check first to make sure the gap on the hinge side is correct and that hinges are tight. If the hinge-side gap is an even 11⁄8 in. and the door sticks on the latch side, the door should be removed so that the latch-side edge can be planed to fit. If the entire edge must be planed, the latch has to be removed. After the edge is planed, the latch-plate gain must be deepened.
Also, if you plane down the edge enough, a cylinder lock might end up rubbing on the inside edge of the face bore when you rein- stall it. Similarly, in the case of a mortise lock, the knob spindle might rub the sides of the spindle bore. In either case, you need to en-large the bore slightly with a rasp or router. Don’t use a jigsaw for this task; it may chip the wood’s surface. Then plane the latch-side edge with a bevel of about 3° so that the inner corner clears the jamb as the door closes. Paint dulls a plane iron immediately, so it’s a good idea to scrape or sand off any finish before taking your prized jointer plane out of the toolbox.
Adjusting a strike plate
When a door or door frame racks, the latch bolt may no longer line up correctly with the strike plate. Although the door may close smoothly, it refuses to latch. No amount of slamming seems to make it any better.
If the door contacts the latch-side stop at the top but not at the bottom (or the other way around) and is difficult to latch, the door is warped, or the frame is twisted.
To fix it, swing the door nearly closed, and mark the jamb where the latch bolt intersects it. Then open the door and check whether the strike plate must be moved up or down. Remove the plate, enlarge the gain with a chisel, and reinstall. Try, however, to move the strike plate at least 11⁄4in. so that you can drill fresh pilot holes for the plate screws. If you move it less than that, the screws may wander back into the old holes. Use epoxy filler to conceal the newly exposed portion of the gain.
Sometimes the opening in the strike plate is so close in size to the latch bolt that the plate can’t be moved 11⁄4in. In that case, enlarge the opening in the plate. Remove the plate, reshape the opening with a file, and reinstall.
Monday, 15 August 2011
Adding an Outside Outlet
Did you ever need power in the backyard? Here’s how to get it, safely.
BY CLIFFORD A. POPEJOY
In most cases, adding a receptacle on the outside of a house is a straightforward bit of work. You locate the new exterior receptacle in the same stud bay as a general-use receptacle inside the house, cut an opening in the outside wall, fish cable from the existing electrical box to the new one, and make the connections. Most newer houses are wired in nonmetallic cable, in which both insulated conductors and the bare ground wire all run inside a plastic sheath (one brand name of the stuff is Lomex). If you encounter nongrounded cable, BX (armored cable), or knob-and-tube wiring, I’d strongly recommend adding a new, grounded branch circuit from the panel (but that’s a subject for a different article).
It’s important to remember that the circuit you tap into is a general-use or lighting circuit, not a specialized circuit such as one supplying kitchen-countertop receptacles, the clothes washer, an air conditioner, or a bathroom receptacle. These circuits are heavily loaded to begin with, and the National Electrical Code (NEC) forbids adding a general-use outlet to them.
I always total the wattage of the appliances and lights that are regularly supplied by the circuit I’m tapping into. To this number, I add the wattage that the new outlet is likely to draw. If that sum is greater than 1440w on a 15-amp circuit, I recommend running a new one.
Cut power to the circuit before removing the cover plate. Removing the outlet can cause a loose wire to pop free. You could be shocked, or the wire could short out in the box.
Use a voltage tester to check the slots in the outlet for power before removing it; then check the wires themselves.
Look for evidence of overheating, such as discol- ored insulation, or signs of arcing, such as metal spatter or divots in the wire. Are the standard wiring color conventions used? Black is hot, con- nected to the brass terminal, white to silver, and ground to green. Fix any problems you find.
With all connections secure and the cover plate on, turn on the breaker. Test the GFCI using its test button, and check both receptacles for grounding and polarity with a circuit tester.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that outdoor outlets be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). GFCI outlets cost less than $15, and they offer protection from electrocution.
Pigtails and wire nuts connect receptacle.
Incoming cable, usually 14/2 with ground
New cable size matches existing.
Existing cable feeds downstream lights and receptacles.
New GFCI receptacle mounts in old work box.
An old work box doesn’t mount to a stud. Instead, a pair of ears flips up at the turn of a screw and clamps the box to the wall.
Code now requires “in use” type cover.
Incoming power goes to the “line” terminals. The “load” terminals would be used to feed additional regular receptacles in spots requiring ground-fault protection.
Thursday, 4 August 2011
Extension Ladder Basics
How to move, raise, and secure these essential tools safely
BY BILLY ROMP
Like extension cords or hammers, ladders are one of those tools that have no substitute: Nothing else will get you up to paint that gable. Unlike smaller tools, however, ladders can be downright cumbersome unless you know how to maneuver them.
As any Three Stooges fan can tell you, ladder safety is a big concern. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that every year, more than 164,000 people are treated in emergency rooms and clinics for injuries related to ladder use. Most of the injuries are cuts, bruises, and broken bones, but more than 200 people die every year from ladder-related incidents.
“If ladder users would read and heed the labels that every ladder carries, most accidents could be avoided,” according to Alan Kline, president of Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding, a big New England manufacturer. “On my drive to work, I often see people using ladders in ways that make me cringe—like they read the label and did the opposite. (They are) accidents waiting to happen.”
As it turns out, a safe setup is more comfortable for your body, which lowers stress, increases efficiency, and improves work quality. Safer, heavier ladders, while more expensive at the outset, last longer and wind up being more economical. Safe ladder use has no secrets—it’s printed right on the ladder—and you can safely reach anywhere you want if you take the time. Because the equipment itself seldom fails, nearly all ladder-related injuries result from user errors. Please use this article’s guidelines to stay safe.
MATERIALS AND DUTY RATINGS DETERMINE A LADDER’S USE
There’s quite a range of extension-ladder types that are differentiated by their material and the total weight they can carry safely. Created by the American Ladder
Institute, ladder ratings are as follows: type III, 200 lb.; type II, 225 lb.; type I, 250 lb.; type IA, 300 lb.; and type IAA, 375 lb.
The light-duty type-III ladders are intended for occasional, nonprofessional use. Going up the rating scale gives you a stronger, more durable ladder that costs and weighs more. A 40-ft. fiberglass type-IA extension ladder might cost as much as $800 and weigh between 85 lb. and 120 lb.
Aluminum extension ladders far outsell those of fiberglass; wooden ladders are a distant third. The reasons are weight and cost, areas where aluminum has a decided edge. Aluminum ladders can be found with any rating, but it seems that most manufacturers make fiberglass ladders in only type I or heavier.
RAISING A LADDER WITH HELP While one person holds down the bottom of the ladder, the other starts at the opposite end and lifts hand over hand until the ladder is vertical.
Secure the ladder by setting its feet against a foundation or wall, and walk the ladder into a vertical posi- tion. Alternatively, the feet can be placed against concrete porch steps, the curb, or, as a last resort, stakes driven into the ground.
Overhead power lines can electrocute you
Never move a ladder without keeping a sharp eye out for electrical lines. Even a wooden ladder can conduct electricity under the right conditions.
When you’re shopping, choose the lightest ladder that makes you feel comfortable facing the worst-case scenario (fully extended ladder, set at less-than-ideal angle, wearing full tool belt, handling heavy materials). You probably will end up with a type II in the shorter lengths and a type I or IA in the longer lengths. Although light weight is always appreciated, if you plan to use ladder jacks and planks, you’d be better served with a heavier type-IA ladder. Incidentally, the type-IAA (375 lb.) ladder rating was developed recently in response to the increased rate of obesity in the American work force.
◆ 15% heavier than aluminum. ◆ More expensive.
◆ Favored by electrical workers because of its poor electrical conductivity.
◆ Available only in heavier type-I to type-IAA ratings.
◆ Lighter than fiberglass or wood.
◆ Typically less expensive. ◆ Available in all ratings,
light to heavy duty.
WALKING A LADDER
Plan your route for safe footing, away from electrical wires or other overhead obstructions. Squat slightly and grab a low rung of the base (the ladder’s lower half) with your strong hand, reaching overhead with your off hand to grab a high rung. Don’t look up. You can judge how vertical the ladder is by looking at the bottom 4 ft. while watching your footing at the same time. On the other hand, if the ladder is fully extended, plant your feet wide, look up, and move the ladder a foot or two at a time. It may be safer to lower the ladder, move it, and raise it again.
1 TIPS FOR
SECURING A LADDER
Top of the ladder
If the ladder feels unsafe, it can be tied to a padded 2x4 1 that’s placed against the upper portion of a window’s interior trim. The higher location keeps the 2x in position when the rope is tightened. 2
Keep 3 ft.
above a roof
Keeping the ladder top above the roof edge means safer transitions between the roof and the ladder.
Maintain the proper angle
Most manufacturers and OSHA recommend setting a ladder at a 75° angle. The three ways to approximate this angle:
1. Eyeball the L-shaped guide on the ladder’s safety sticker.
2. Set the ladder so that its base is 1 ft. out from the wall for every 4 ft. of vertical rise.
3. Stand with your toes at the foot of the ladder, hands outstretched and just touching the rungs.
Both ends of the rope should be tied firmly to the bottom rung of the top half, the flyer. With your feet planted firmly, lift the flyer by hand one or two steps at a time until it is over your head. Reach around behind the ladder with your strong hand and pull down on the rope while pulling up on the rope in front with your other hand. Hold the front rope tight while you get a new grip on the rear rope.
Bottom of the ladder
Ladder feet have teeth 3 that can be angled into the ground for stability. Rubber treads 4 provide traction on smoother surfaces. Stakes driven into theground 5 cansecurethebaseof the ladder.
If your belt buckle goes outside the rails, it’s time to move the ladder.
When you’re ready to work, position yourself for maximum stability: Spread your feet apart and point your toes outward, hooking your feet against the rails.
When climbing or descending, grab the rails. Sliding up and down, the hands keep contact with the ladder rails and free you to watch your footing.
3 THREE WAYS TO
LEVEL A LADDER
One way to keep the ladder’s feet on an even keel is to use leg levelers that bolt to one or both legs and adjust to uneven ground. The author often levels one foot with a maximum of two 2x10 blocks or excavates below the opposite foot. To test the balance, just hop on the bottom rung, and pull the weight of the ladder off the wall. The ladder will tend to tip if one side is low or soft.
OSHA recommends a hand line as a safe way to haul tools up and down.
Keep traffic away
from the ladder
Sawhorses and planks, surveyor’s tape, or even signs alert other workers. If you are near a driveway, park your vehicle where it protects your ladder from inattentive drivers.
Ladders can create a lot of cosmetic damage on a finished house. When an unsecured ladder is leaning unattended against a house, a gust of wind, a bump from a load of planks, or a yank on a power cord can send it down in a damaging arc, or worse, hurt someone. To avoid leaving a ladder unattended, it’s a good idea to have all tools and materials nearby before you set up. Also, take it down at lunchtime, or tie it in.
Even with the plastic end pieces found on most ladders, you risk leaving marks or dents on the siding or trim of a finished house. The first line of defense is ladder mitts on ladder ends. These mitts get dirty quickly, though, and you may need to cover them with a rag secured with zip ties or duct tape to keep painted surfaces clean. Drip edge, shingles, and rain gutters are damaged easily. This is where a standoff stabilizer comes in handy. Also called spreaders, these simple U-shaped or C-shaped aluminum braces keep a ladder off the wall. Most stabilizers are one piece, 40 in. or 48 in. wide, with a standoff of 10 in. or 12 in., and they attach to the ladder rungs with U-bolts and wing nuts. Better-quality models clip to two rungs for a stronger attachment. Adjustable stabilizers offer up to 39 in. of standoff. Attached 40 in. from the top of the ladder, they allow you to reach the most delicate roof while your weight rests on the wall below. Some stabilizers have large round pads that spread the load over a larger area. Be sure yours at least has rubber tips to protect painted surfaces.
Ladder standoff stabilizer
Total height: 331⁄2 ft. from the ground
Never stand 30 ft. higher than the third rung from the top.
Sections of ladders over 36 ft. must overlap by at least 5 ft.
A 75° angle equals about 8 ft.
5 HOW FAR DOES A 40-FT. LADDER REACH?
Commonly available from 20 ft. to 40 ft. in 2-ft. increments, extension-ladder lengths are not actually the length of the ex- tended ladder, or the height you can climb on it. A 24-ft. ex- tension ladder is comprised of two 12-ft. sections that must overlap by at least 3 ft.; over 32 ft. requires a 4-ft. overlap; over 36 ft. requires a 5-ft. overlap. A 40-ft. ladder leaned at an angle of 75° and extended to its full length of 35 ft. will touch the wall at a spot approximately 331⁄2 ft. from the ground.
Firefighters says, “Grab the rungs”
The article “Extension Ladder Basics” recommended that when climbing or descending a ladder, you should grab the rails, not the rungs. As a former professional firefighter from the Los Angeles City Fire Department, I can state categorically that this is an all-too-common mistake. Our training in the use of ladders emphatically stated that the safest hand grip on the ladder is to place your hand straight out in front of your face near the center of the rung, maintaining one hand on the rung at all times, when ascending or descending. In the event of a misstep with your feet, your grip on the rung will afford you the best grip to prevent falling. Trying to sustain your entire body weight by gripping the rails is not as effective or safe.