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re: FL construction

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Richard has it right with newer homes in FL, although my house was built in the 50s and older homes often are crawspace on CMU stem walls and piers with wood frame walls. I like the look of heavy timber such as in ski lodges, and in log cabins, so it has its place. I am about to do a back porch addition out of exposed wood rafters with a 1x tongue and groove ceiling/decking. In dry, western, seismically active regions, I see why timber may be used as a preferable material. But I am a CMU guy all the way for Florida for all the reasons others have stated: wind pressure, wind borne debris debris, uplift resistance, termites, and moisture and vapor control, thermal R values, sound, and moisture and rot damage. In new construction in S FL you barely see wood at all except for trusses and interior walls. I did a forensic job at a house in Miami with a steel joist and concrete floor system, I was amazed...

Since I have been doing a lot of forensics the last five years all over the state, a lot of the wood damage I have seen has made me a believer that it is an uphill battle in a sub tropical climate. Of course these things cannot be overlooked but usually are: sprinklers near buildings, the MUST of gutters and getting water away from buildings, proper and functional roof slope design (too many funky hips and valleys always creates problems), and flashing flashing flashing.... Just general smart architecture would help.

Did a job a while back at a house with moisture damage and roof issues. They were from Bosnia and also not impressed with our construction methods. 

I think a lot of it has to do with the fast track nature of much of home construction during the bubble, especially in FL and probably in AZ, CA and other hot real estate market states. Big tract housing was thrown up at huge scales using untold numbers of subs who used unskilled immigrant workers (not their fault, just fact). The bottom line often wins out over quality. I got the same complaint from northerners/Yankees who pissed and moaned about how much better they did it up north. Maybe they have a point. But another dirty secret in the housing market, absent of a company like Richard's, is that many houses are not designed by professionals. I am not saying they are not signed and sealed by professionals, just not designed. It is the biggest off the shelf plan and copy and paste scam, and they can always find someone with a seal to rent. I know about if first hand, which is why I rarely did full residential jobs, and never did neighborhoods. Sorry, I will not just review and seal your drawings Residential Cad Design Inc. for $200.

I digress, sorry this was long winded. Go CMU and concrete! Wood, sorry, you have your place. My dream house in FL will use wood on the floors, cabinets, balconies, and maybe some of the roof. Also, I am a big fan of a safe room. Every room in 'cane country should just take a master walk in closet or something like that and make it a safe room. CMU with #5s @ 40" o.c., all solid grout, 4" slab ceiling. No windows, hardened or steel door. 12" thick mat foundation. Bring it on! Then just design the rest of your house to code or a little higher. To me, that is the best mix of safety and practicality and economics...

Andrew Kester, PE

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