♪♪ Kevin: On "Ask This Old House," our experts travel across the country to answer questions about your house.
♪♪ Today, what rules and regulations do you need to know about, if you're building near a wetland?
Jenn will explain.
Then we'll introduce you to a contractor worth celebrating -- New Jersey's own Zack Dettmore.
Plus, do you know the quality of the air inside your home?
Ross will show you how to test it and share why it's so important.
On "Ask This Old House."
♪♪ Jenn: Hi, everybody, and welcome back to a new episode of "Ask This Old House."
I'm on my way to meet a homeowner who is trying to build on a property with wetlands.
So, wetlands are an area that's either covered with water or water coming from the ground, but it's a very important ecosystem and it's very important to protect.
Now, when people hear wetlands, they get nervous.
But if you really work with your town and the conservation commission, they'll guide you through the process.
I mean, I do it for my work all the time and it's just a permit process you have to go through and that's a bonus for you and the whole ecosystem.
It's a win-win for everyone.
Steve: Jenn, nice to see ya.
Jenn: Nice to see you again.
So, catch me up on what's happening here.
Steve: Well, I was lucky I found this lot available and I went to the Realtor and said, "Can I walk the property before I put an offer in?"
Jenn: Very smart.
Steve: So, when I did, I thought some areas might be wetlands.
So, at that point, I decided that I need to go to the town and have them tell me what I need to do, if there are wetland plants.
Jenn: Yeah, so, people think it's very scary, very intimidating, if they have wetlands on their property.
"Oh, I'm not going to be able to build."
But if you work with the conservation commission or your town bylaws, it's very doable.
Steve: Yeah, I found them to be very cooperative and they told me the process of what to do to build a house, which is my bottom line.
Steve: And they said the first thing you need to do would be to get the wetlands marked.
And that is why I introduced you to my wetlands specialist friend Tim.
What he does is mark everything out for you, right?
Steve: Yeah, he did.
So, he's out back.
You want to go talk with him?
Jenn: Love to.
Tim: Hi, Jenn.
Good to see you.
Jenn: Good to see you, too.
Tim: Steve, how are you?
Jenn: Alright, so, let's just recap here.
Under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, if you're doing any work within the 100-foot buffer zone, you have to get a permit from the town, correct?
Tim: That's correct.
Regulations vary at the state level, but here in Massachusetts, the first step is going before the town for permission.
Let's talk about why it's important to protect the wetlands.
Tim: So, wetlands provide a lot of different functions to the ecosystem, including providing habitat for a lot of wildlife species, including many that are listed as threatened and endangered.
They act as an area of flood control and can prevent floods from local residences, as well as the filtration of water before it enters the groundwater and other drinking supplies.
Jenn: Yes, and it's a natural filtration system.
Tim: That's correct.
What are the ways that you identify a wetland area?
Tim: Definitions of wetlands also vary at the state level, but here in Massachusetts, they're defined as having 50% or more vegetation species that are listed as wetland indicators, as well as other indicators of hydrology, such as wetland soils, root buttressing, standing water, et cetera.
Jenn: So, like in this area, what type of species do we have here?
Tim: Sure, so, we have a lot of great wetland indicator species here.
This, for example, is spinulose wood fern.
We have some poison ivy on the ground, that I won't touch.
Tim: Some New York fern here is another wetland species.
Some jewel weed and sensitive fern down here as well.
Jenn: Okay, I see that.
I see that.
And it feels like I'm walking through an intermittent stream.
So this is an intermittent stream.
They often flow through or adjacent to wetlands, but being intermittent means it dries up for certain points of the year, such as right now.
Tim: So, this is a highbush blueberry as well, another good wetland indicator species, very common in Massachusetts.
Jenn: Yeah, I love them.
[ Laughter ] So, we talked about the indicator plants.
What about the soils?
How do you take a sample?
Tim: So, soils can be determined with a simple test, using a hand auger, like this.
Would you like to see?
Jenn: I would love to see.
Let's take a look.
Tim: So, we'll do the soil test here.
Tim: This seems like a good spot.
Tim: So, I just take my hand auger, stick it in the ground, and give it a few twists.
Tim: So, at this first pull, we're seeing some pretty dark soils that seem to be indicative of hydrology... Jenn: Okay.
Tim: ...but we need to see what's below it in the next horizon.
And upland soils are generally more orange and brown, due to the presence of iron.
Yeah, so, here we go.
You can see the clear difference between Steve: Sure.
Tim: the darker topsoil and the gray.
This one's pretty sandy.
Jenn: So, we look at soil and plants.
That determines the wetlands.
Tim: Those are the two indicators.
Okay, so now that we've determined there are wetlands here, what are the next steps to get you to be approved?
So, because we found wetland indicator vegetation species, as well as the presence of hydric soils, we have determined there are wetlands on the property.
The next step is to perform what we call a wetland delineation, where a wetlands expert, like myself, will go out and physically hang flags in the field, to mark out the exact locations and boundaries of the wetland.
Those will then be shot in by a surveyor and shown on a site plan and the surveyor will work with the engineer to design a proposed project, as they've done for Steve.
So, we have the plans in front of us for the project, that was recently approved by the Conservation Commission.
So, here we have the wetland line, shown with these notations going around the property.
So, this is the wetland system that we were standing in earlier, when we were talking about soils and vegetation.
Here's the intermittent stream that's right behind us now, that we were in earlier.
So, this marks off wetlands in this area and then kind of in the middle here, with uplands on this side and this side of the wetland line.
So, in order to access these uplands back here, to construct the house, so, we will need to impact some wetlands, in order to do that.
Under the Mass Wetlands Protection Act, you are allowed to fill wetlands, so long as you create a replication area of greater than or equal to the size of that.
So, we impacted about 770 square feet of wetlands here, in order to get the driveway through.
Those are going to be replicated over in this wetland replication area.
Jenn: And with all the indicator species that we saw earlier.
So, everything that goes into the wetland replication area should be a wetland indicator species, so that the area will survive in the future as a wetland resource area.
Steve: I went and had the wetland plants delivered.
Steve: You want to get your hands dirty, let's go plant them.
Tim: Let's get started.
Tim: So, we made sure that the surrounding elevation of the wetlands was matched by the replication area.
How do you amend your soil for the replication area?
Tim: We need to make sure that there's at least six inches of nutrient rich organic topsoils, so that the wetland plants that we'll be putting in will thrive and it'll have similar conditions to the surrounding wetlands.
♪♪ Tim: Finally, once the plants are all in the ground, we'll spread the seed mix, which is a New England variety of native wetland indicator species that will spread across the area.
Jenn: Alright, so, the replication area is complete and I actually think it looks really good.
And you just follow the guidelines and if you didn't know what to do, you hire a wetland specialist, like Tim, to help you talk to the Conservation Commission and get all the right information.
Jenn: I'm really excited about this process, but what happens from here?
What's the next step?
Tim: So, now, I'll let the Conservation Commission know that Steve's all set and has constructed the area and we'll be back out twice a year for the next two years, just to ensure that the area thrives and succeeds and all the plants survive.
And then you should be all set.
So, everything will be established.
Tim: That's right.
Well, guess what.
I'll see you guys in two years.
Jenn: I'll see ya later.
Kevin: We meet contractors all across the country who go above and beyond in their trades, so, we thought we would celebrate everything that they do.
And today, we're going to start with a general contractor named Zack Dettmore.
Zack: I'm Zack Dettmore.
I'm the owner of Dettmore Home Improvements and I'm a carpenter.
I think I started carpentry around nine, I think.
I made some cutting boards and some basic little projects, like stools.
I felt obligated to go to college because my parents were well-educated and I thought that was a path to success, but I always felt conflicted because I didn't really want to be in college, so, in 2010, I sort of made the hard switch to leave college and do this full-time.
So here's the job site binder.
Inside, we have contact information for everyone in our company and the homeowners.
We have a job schedule.
We have all the finishes in the whole project, sorted by type, so, appliances, electrical, et cetera.
So, yeah, organization is extremely important to me.
I try and keep every part of the business as organized as possible.
On the job site, we've recently switched to using color-coded signs that sort of designate to the different subtrades' layout.
So, for the plumbers, they're obviously blue and those blue signs would tell the plumbers there's going to be a pipe here.
And, for the electrician, they'd be yellow.
So, it just makes it a little bit easier, not so much for the subtrades, but for the clients, when they walk in the house, they immediately understand where switches are.
Because a lot of contractors and architects don't really think about the fact that homeowners don't know how to read plans.
So, by using this color-coded system and showing the customer on the wall, "This is where your switch will be," really makes it a lot easier for us to make those switches before any wires have been placed or any pipes have been run.
I've sort of adopted this system.
There is a QR code on the container of the screws.
Just scan that on your phone, which brings you to the website, to where to order more, and then those get delivered to the shop and, basically, the van is always fully stocked.
One thing I feel really strongly about is I have a bunch of tools that I leave on the job site and, instead of putting them in a lockbox and locking that, so no one can use it, I just leave them there.
And, if my subcontractor is missing a driver bit or a drill bit that they need, they can go to those tools and use them.
And the reason I do that is because we're all one team.
We're all trying to push this job towards the finish line and I would rather a subcontractor use a tool and maybe forget to put it back than attempt to have to run out and get something and maybe delay the project timeline or try and not use that tool and have an inferior result.
So, just leaving those on the job site is really beneficial and I think it's one of the keys to my success and I don't see a lot of people doing that.
I mean, it's definitely self-serving, too, because I want them to want to work with me and I want them to show up on time.
I want my project to succeed and it's completely dependent upon them.
It's 100% [ Laughing ] not going to happen, if they don't show up, so, I'm just controlling what's in my control.
I chose to be a carpenter, not because I didn't have better options.
I got into this work because I wanted to do it.
I want to show people that this is a really valid career and you can get a lot of fulfillment out of it and you can be active and you can be on your feet and you can have a really successful life.
Kevin: Do you know a contractor who's worth celebrating?
Well, we'd like to meet them, so, send us an email and tell us who they are and where we can find them.
Ross: What's up, Kev?
Kevin: So, where are we with the latest on indoor air quality?
Sort of your specialty here.
So, you know, houses are getting tighter, right?
They're getting more airtight and so what happens is we're trapping those, you know, chemicals and contaminants inside the building, so we -- Kevin: And we're tighter for a couple of reasons.
I mean, we've got better insulation.
So, the blown-in stuff that we use, the expanding foam, that we love it because it really does tighten it up.
Code requires us to get to higher insulation values.
Ross: That's right.
That's right, yep.
The buildings are tighter and the thing is, most people think that the buildings are static, in terms of like what's happening inside the building.
And what's actually contrary is that it's dynamic, right?
What happens in a building is a function of the people, the outdoor climate, you know, what's happening inside, you know, are we cooking, are we, you know, running showers?
And so all of these are going to cause different chain of reactions inside the home.
Kevin: So, Monday to Friday, no one's really at the house because they're at work, kids are at school.
It's sort of mellow.
Ross: Steady state, yep.
Kevin: Weekend, you start cooking a big dinner party for a bunch of people, you've introduced a lot of stuff.
That's your point.
Ross: That's right.
And if it's cold outside -- Kevin: The weather outside -- Ross: Yeah, if it's cold outside and warm inside, air's trying to get into the building, right?
That cold air.
Kevin: Because why?
Oh, the heat trying to -- So -- Ross: That's right.
So, that 70° area you've heated is now trying to rise up by stack effect and try to leave through the roof.
As it leaves through the roof, air has to be replaced, right?
What goes out must come back in, so, that same amount of air is coming right back in and so that stack effect is happening all the time and sometimes it can be reverse stack effect in the summertime, right?
Where it's coming down.
Kevin: So, when you say a house is dynamic, what does that mean to a guy like you, who's constantly chasing this data?
So what we're looking at is using IAQ monitoring devices, things like this, where we can actually measure certain things inside of a building.
And we can't measure everything, but what we do is we typically pick like six or seven proxies for indoor air quality.
So, that could be carbon dioxide, like what we breathe out.
It could be particulate matter, like when we burn stuff.
VOCs, like off-gassing of chemicals from furniture and carpets.
Radon is another big one.
Temperature, humidity, right?
So, we focus on these things to get a really good understanding of the building's air quality and we try to put these in places like the basement, the first floor, second floor, to get a general understanding of how that house is performing.
Kevin: We have got equipment, now, that lets the residents of the house, you know, the civilian, the regular person, measure?
Ross: Yeah, exactly right.
So, here's one.
Kevin: Regular people.
Ross: That's right, the regular people.
Now, DIY, consumer-friendly devices that measure those six things I talked about.
This one does that.
Ross: And so VOC, CO2, radon, particulate matter, temperature, relative humidity, and pressure.
Ross: So we can measure all of that and these all measure different things and so, when we deploy these and we monitor, over time, that continuous monitoring, the data doesn't lie.
It tells us how the house is performing.
Kevin: Where does this data go, though?
Do I have to keep looking at it here?
Ross: Yeah, so I have it here on my computer.
Ross: So, we can pull it up on a, you know, a tablet or a phone, but, in this case, I'm pulling it up on my laptop Kevin: [Indistinct] Ross: and so I can see real-time.
So, what we can actually do is, you know, as an example, brought some hairspray.
Kevin: Did you go through my bathroom again?
Ross: [ Laughs ] Oh, this is yours?
Yeah, that's right.
Kevin: [ Laughs ] Ross: Then I can spray this.
I'll just give it a spray, right?
[ Hissing ] And, by doing that, and look at the spike to 890, the VOCs, right there.
Volatile organic compounds.
In this case, total VOCs is what we're looking at right here.
Kevin: For the regular people, [ Laughs ] the homeowners who put these in, they're going to get the data.
Kevin: What are they going to do with it?
Like they look at it and then this is going to tell them, "I don't know why it's happening, but you do have a spike."
So, if one of these, or even multiple, of these six or seven proxies are out of line, right, much, much higher than what you expect to see, that's where you have to bring in the professionals for professional monitoring, right?
They can get into really, really targeted data and they can monitor precise, you know, chemicals or compounds and things like that.
So, it's basically one of those things where this is kind of like the first line of defense, to see what you have in your house, and then you bring in the professionals, if you see that these are out of line.
Kevin: So, you've got one here.
It's doing its thing.
The differences between, say, that, this, and these little guys?
So, this one does temperature, relatively humidity, and CO2.
Ross: This one does the same thing -- temperature, relative humidity, and CO2.
These do temperature and relative humidity.
So, there's a variety that are on the market.
They all have pros and cons, in terms of accuracy and precision and kind of the features and how, you know, are they Bluetooth-enabled, are they Wi-Fi-enabled, et cetera, so.
We use these and a variety of other sensors to really deploy them, to get an understanding of how that house is performing.
And, I guess, if you put them in and everything's sort of flatline, below the thresholds, at the very least, it gives you peace of mind that you've got a good situation.
Ross: That's right.
I appreciate it, Ross.
Kevin: [ Coughing ] I'm... choking on your hairspray.
Look at that.
Look at the VOC spike.
♪♪ Mauro: Julia.
Julia: Hi, Mauro.
Mauro: Nice to meet you.
Julia: Nice to meet you.
Thanks for coming out.
Mauro: Love the house, the location.
Julia: Thank you so much.
Mauro: You wrote me something about the foundation.
Julia: Yes, that's right.
So... Mauro: Okay.
Julia: ...we bought the house last year and we redid the landscaping.
And, when we moved these big shrubs out of the way... Mauro: Yeah.
Julia: ...we noticed the foundation paint was chipping a little bit, looked like it hadn't been done in a while.
And we've done some inside paint projects, but the outside's a little out of our comfort zone, so, we'd love your help.
Mauro: I'd love to help and I got the paint for this project.
Julia: Let's do it.
Mauro: Well, Julia, it's time for preparation.
First thing we have to do is remove the mulch away from the foundation about two inches.
We're going to dig it out and then we're going to lay down flat a drop cloth.
And I have some tools here that can help us with scraping all the peeling paint from the foundation.
And why does the paint peel from the foundation?
Mauro: One of the main reasons is the external weather, like snow, rain, and heat.
Julia: We get a lot of snow here.
Mauro: Watch out, first, for moisture.
Mauro: Moisture is the one that causes a lot of leaking inside of a foundation.
Okay, once all the prep is done, it's time to paint.
And the paint we're going to use is this masonry paint.
Mauro: And I know the color.
Julia: Platinum gray.
Mauro: Platinum gray is beautiful.
Julia: [ Laughs ] This paint is great to get a good adhesion to a hard surface concrete like that.
Julia: Do we need to prime, first?
Mauro: We do not need to prime because this is a self-priming, but we need to apply two coats Julia: Okay.
Mauro: and we have to wait four hours in between coats.
Julia: Oh, okay.
That's a little bit of time, but we can make it work.
Mauro: Well, you can make it work and it's going to look nice.
It's looking beautiful.
And you ready to go?
Julia: It'll be worth it.
Let's do it.
Mauro: Alright, let's start it.
Well, I like to take this downspout out of the way because it's much easier to paint, instead of going behind.
Mauro: Once the paint is dry, we'll reinstall the downspout.
Let's do this.
Let's lay it down flat right here.
There we go.
Alright, let's get to work, Julia.
Julia: Let's do it.
♪♪ Mauro: Alright.
Let's put this drop cloth down, Julia.
[Indistinct] Julia: Great.
♪♪ ♪♪ Julia: How do you know when to stop?
Mauro: Once the paint starts to feel like it's firm there.
Mauro: But if you scrape a little bit and it comes off, just keep going.
Julia: Just keep going?
Mauro: Well, let's use the stiff brush.
Just make sure nothing is left behind.
Alright, all we got to do is clean up a little more.
♪♪ Well, Julia, ready for the fun part of this?
Julia: Let's do it.
Notice that we put the drop cloths back clean because, as we're starting to cut and the roller, I don't want any dropped paint on the ground.
Let's open this paint can and we're going to be ready to paint.
Julia: Let's do it.
Mauro: Here we go.
Julia: Do you need to give it a mix?
Mauro: Let's do some stirring, first.
Mauro: Notice how this paint is thick.
Julia: That's really thick.
Mauro: Really thick.
And the color's perfect.
Looks almost just like what we have already.
Mauro: That's it.
Alright, let's pour some in this paint tray.
If you'll hold that for us.
Look at that.
Now, what we're going to do, we're going to cut in, first, and then we're going to roll.
So, we're just going to go like this.
Mauro: Just dip your brush in here and just go on an angle like this.
Give it a good stroke.
We're going to cut the top, the sides, and the bottom.
Julia: Does it matter how far down I go?
Mauro: Just make sure you spread the paint really well.
Mauro: Just like this.
Mauro: Do you think -- I think we're ready to do some rolling.
Julia: Let's do it.
Most important -- don't go all the way down and don't get dirt on the roller, alright?
Seems like what's nice about this is it doesn't have to be perfect-perfect.
Mauro: No, because notice that the foundation has a texture to it.
It's not a smooth foundation, so.
So, anything we do here, as long as we covered the whole field, is going to be fine.
Mauro: After allowing the first coat to dry for at least four hours, we are ready to paint the second coat.
Julia: Yeah, this looks great.
Mauro: You're going to look like a pro now.
Julia: Oh, yeah!
Mauro: There you go.
Mauro: Well, Julia, take a look at it.
Julia: It looks amazing.
Mauro: It looks beautiful.
Second coat is done.
Wait to dry and then you can push the mulch back.
But one important thing -- always keep the foundation clean and this paint job will last for a long time.
Julia: That's great.
Mauro: Well, if you have any questions about your house, I love to hear them.
Just keep them coming.
Until next time, I'm Mauro Henrique for "Ask This Old House."
Thank you very much.
Julia: Thank you!
♪♪ ♪♪ O0 C1 Kevin: Next time on "Ask This Old House"... Mauro will show you the right way to paint a fireplace.
Then Jenn has enlisted the help of landscaper Lee Gilliam to show you how to give your lawn tools a tune-up.
And, on "Build It," we'll help you up your relaxation game by demonstrating how to build a bathtub tray.
All that on "Ask This Old House."