ASK ROY

Your favourite home im­prover

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - POP­U­LAR ME­CHAN­ICS’ SENIOR HOME EDITOR SOLVE S YOUR MOST PRESS­ING PROB­LEMS. BY ROY BE R ENDS OHN askroy@pop­u­larme­chan­ics.com @ askroypm

What’s bet­ter, a GFCI out­let or a GFCI cir­cuit breaker? BILL H CASPER, WYOMING

BOTH ARE life­sav­ing de­vices that have con­trib­uted to the steady drop in elec­tro­cu­tions from consumer prod­ucts, down from 481 in 1968 to 30 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Elec­tri­cal Safety y Foun­da­tion oun­dat In­ter­na­tional. l. Out­lets and nd break­ers wit with GFCI, which hich stan stands for ground fault u cir­cuit in­ter­rupter, mo mon­i­tor cur­rent flow on the uun un­grounded (the hot) and the h grounded con­duc­tor (the th neu­tral). When a tiny dis­crep­ancy sc oc­curs be­tween the et two con­duc­tors, that in­di­cates ca an elec­tri­cal leak or “fault” ” tto to ground. This trips the de­vice ce a and cur­rent flow stops. A per­son rson may re­ceive a small shock but not a deadly y elec elec­tri­cal al jolt.

One big ad­van­tage e of a GFCI out­let is that it’s sim­ple to o test and re­set, since the but­tons onns are right there on the out­let. Youy You don’t have to go to the ser­vice ervr­vice panel. Also, the re­cep­ta­cle e can be in­stalled nearly any­where—like, ywhere—like, say, an old bath­room. This im­me­di­ately pro­vides safety ety ben­e­fits, since the pres­ence nce of wa­ter in that roo room in­creases creases the risk of elec­tro­cu­tion. cu B But t if you have an old house, yo you of­ten have small and crowded elec­tri­cal ca boxes. A GFCI is slightly larger than a stan­dard out­let, some­times mak­ing it t a tough fit.

That’s when you’re re bet­ter off with the cir­cuit breaker. W Whichever you use, I would ad­vise leav­ing eavi the in­stal­la­tion of ei­ther GFCI to a lic­cen li­censed elec­tri­cian.

How crazy would it be to use a con­crete chain­saw to en­large the open­ing in my house’s foun­da­tion for bet­ter crawl-space ac­cess? YARAN N HUD­SON, MAS­SACHUSETTS

FOR F THOSE OSE WHO have never s seen a co con­crete-cut­ting e-cut­ting chain­saw, it’s like its wo wood-cut­ting g coun­ter­part, ex­cept ex­cep that it us uses wa­ter fed to di­a­mond-tipped teeth. It’s ideal for the work you pro­pose since it makes neat plunge cuts and you don’t have to overc over­cut the cor­ners to get the waste ste piece to drop out, as you would when he en u us­ing a saw with a cir­cu­lar blade.

H Hav­ing said that, I have sev sev­eral con­cerns when a ho home­owner tack­les some­thing hing g t this am­bi­tious. First, re­mov­ing a piece of the foun­da­tion means the house above is no longer com­pletely sup­ported. You h have to deal with that with bo both a tem­po­rary sup­port and d a pe per­ma­nent one, like a header over the en­larged open­ing. Se­cond, nd, a con­crete-cut­ting chain­saw re­quires sa a lot of wa­ter. So pic­ture this: you dig an ac­cess hole down to the foot­ing, then you be­gin saw­ing out the side of the foun­da­tion. The wa­ter from the saw is go­ing to go into the crawl space and into the hole you’re stand­ing in. Be ready to pump or bail as you work. Fi­nally, phys­i­cal ex­er­tion is no small mat­ter when you’re talk­ing about a cou­ple of hours or more with a saw that weighs nearly 10 kilo­grams, and that’s not count­ing the drag ex­erted by the wa­ter hose at­tached to it. You should also think care­fully about the ex­tremely heavy waste piece of ma­sonry that you will pro­duce. You don’t want that tip­ping back at you while you’re knee-deep in muck run­ning a chain­saw.

Is it me,or has the qual­ity of lum­ber gone down­hill in re­cent years? LIZ B MT PLEAS­ANT, SOUTH CAROLINA

PEO­PLE HAVE BEEN talk­ing about this sinc since I was a kid. There’s some ev­i­dence to sup­sup­port sup­port this view view: some build­ing codes have bbeen been tight­ened to ac­count for the reduct re­duc­tion ction in streng strength of fram­ing lum­ber cut from om trees tha that ma­ture quickly and are harv har­vested rvested wh when they are quite young and of small di­am­e­ter. But I rem re­main very y pro-wood. I fi find it re­mark­able th that four cen­turies af­ter Euro­peans p ar­rived here, there iss is sttillt still plenty of wood to haarv har­vest. To me, that’s h an unnd un­der-told trib­ute to ththe the fore for­est prod­ucts in­dus­try. I I’m not sayi say­ing that good wood is abun­dant, bd or cheap. h Like it was when I started work­ing with it 40 years ago, good lum­ber is ex­pen­siv ex­pen­sive. And still worth it.

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