Your favourite home improver
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.