tumblr_m7ybmrV0SP1rbigxwo1_500                                                     tiny-houses                                                 The-Small-House-01

Why aren’t tiny houses more popular? They’re like way cool and they gotta be so cheap to build ’cause there’s like nothin to ’em.

Or are they?

Here is what I’ve found. Yes and No. Yes the bottom line for a 400sf mod-cottage will be less than the cost of the average 1,500sf single family. However the cost PER square foot can sometimes be doubled. Some of the costs will be the same no matter how small the house is. A smaller range or sink will not necessarily come with a smaller price tag. In fact they could be even pricier Because of the rarity. In addition, the installation cost of specialized fixtures and appliances will likely be just a expensive due to efficiency of scale.

The choice of material will be a great factor. “It’s so tiny we could make it out glass and aluminum and the roof could be one big giant solar panel”. CHA-CHING!!!!

Small-houses                                                     minimalist-house-design-noyack-creek-exterior                                                     modern2


The cost per square foot dose not take into account the cost of financing a mortgage. EXAMPLE:  A 1500sf house that sold for $250,000.00 or $166 per sf cost a great deal more to finance and maintain than is represented in the cost per square foot number. A homeowner will pay $179,000.00 in interest alone for a 30 year mortgage on $250,000.00 at 4% interest so the total cost will be $429,000.00. Not including insurance and maintenance.

modern-house-design-on-small-site-witin-a-tight-budget-1                                                      Designing-a-Beautiful-and-Low-Cost-House-1                                               3-tiny-homes-smallworks-homebuilder_31f08a927480846a4ab5dc3a241f138a_3x2_jpg_600x400_q85


On the other hand, a tiny 150 sf house hight cost around $40,000.00 or $266 per square foot. Although the cost per square foot is much greater the total cost of the tiny house is 10% of the total cost of the larger.  The down payment of the larger house could pay for the entire tiny house. I’m just sayin.

Anyhow I want one.





40bf2142a2f28cabbbf7a4c30796530c1b2a6950  Having a home inspected can be nerve racking and it doesn’t have to be.  As an Inspector it is not my job to talk you into buying a house nor is it my job to talk you out of it. My roll in the home buying proses is to place all the cards on the table. This is why you have the inspection BEFORE you sign the bottom line.

“Knowledge is Power” here are the most common problems found during a home inspection. Keep in mind, all of these issues can be addressed and fixed.
1) Improper Surface Grading and Drainage
By far the most frequent problem. It is responsible for the most common household aggravations, including water penetration into the basement or crawlspace. All basements will eventually leak. a lot of drainage issues can be fixed by leveling or sloping the ground next to the house. extending roof gutter downspouts away from the house/foundations will do wonders in keeping your basement dry.

2) Improper Electrical Wiring
A number of respondents found this to be a significant defect. This includes such situations as insufficient electrical service, inadequate overload protection, and amateur (often dangerous) wiring connections. My wife and I purchased a house as rental property. it had only 60 amp service to the electrical panel. an electrician upgraded it to 100amp service and breaker for under $350.

3) Roof Damage
Ranked third, leaking roofs are a frequent problem. This is caused by old or damaged shingles or improper flashing and drainage. Here is an area that you as the buyer can use as leverage. Remember, all roofs will leak eventually. find out the age of the roof and know that they only last 20-25 years.

4) Heating Systems
Defect items in this category include broken or malfunctioning controls, blocked chimneys, and unsafe exhaust disposal. A gas furnace should last 15-20 years. they may work very well right up until they breakdown. know the age of the furnace before you buy and if it is getting near it’s life expectancy, then be prepared to buy a new one.

5) Poor Overall Maintenance
A common problem with all homeowners. Signs of poor maintenance include cracked, peeling or dirty painted surfaces; crumbling masonry; makeshift wiring or plumbing; and broken fixtures and appliances.

6) Structurally Related Problems
As a result of problems in one or more other categories, damage is sustained by such structural components as foundation walls, floor joists, rafters and window and door headers

7) Plumbing
Though not ranked as a number one problem, plumbing defects still rank high. This includes the existence of old or incompatible piping materials, as well as faulty fixtures and waste lines.

8) Exteriors
Flaws in this category, such as windows, doors and wall surfaces, rarely have structural significance but may pose discomfort to the occupants due to water and air penetration. The most common culprits are inadequate caulking and/or weather-stripping.

9) Poor Ventilation
In an effort to save energy, many homeowners have “oversealed” their homes, resulting in excessive interior moisture. Significant moisture can lead to rotting and failure of both the structural and non-structural elements. Calking and weather striping are the number one thing a home owner can do to save energy. keeping heater filters clean, adding dehumidifiers, maintaining roof venting clean of debris will improve ventilation and the longevity of the roof itself.

But remember, all of these items can be fixed, and everything will needs to be replaced eventually. keep1


Thanks to the industrial revolution and guys like Andrew Carnegie and Westinghouse, Pittsburgh has it’s share of big, beautiful houses.

Unknown      To the north is Heartwood Acres, erected and paid for with money from the lumber trade in 1927  by John and Mary Flinn Lawrence.

Clayton-HCFFP000801_POST     Henry Clay and Helen Frick turned a modest home in Point-Breeze into Clayton, one of our great historic homes.

P9098978e images   Falling Water and Kentuck Knob grace the Laurel Highlands thanks to Edgar Kaufmann and I.N. and Bernadine Hagan. who knew ice cream could get you a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

There is one other. In my opinion, the best kept secret and greatest jewel of local architecture or in fact of architecture anywhere.

frank-house  1761051403_Frank_HERO2_tcm52-1836181  The Alan I W Frank House is a private residence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, designed by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and partner Marcel Breuer, two of the pioneering masters of 20th-century architecture. This spacious, multi-level residence and its furnishings and landscaping were created by Gropius and Breuer as Gesamtkunstwerk or a ‘Total work of art.’ In size and completeness, it is unrivaled. It was their most important residential commission, and it is virtually the same today as when it was built in 1939-40, original and authentic.

With four levels of living space and an indoor swimming pool, the main building encloses 12,000 square feet, complete with curved glass facade, nine bedrooms and 13 bathrooms. Including the five terraces that are part of the house and the rooftop dance floor, the floor plan totals 17,000 square feet. The stonework of the exterior walls and the dramatic entry of this innovative house suggest a detailed and richly textured building. Inside, graceful curves prevail; walls are paneled with warm pearwood, English sycamore, and redwood, or are travertine or stone.

The Frank House took shape in 1939-40 as the grand family home of Cecelia and Robert Frank, the third generation of Pittsburgh industrialists in his family, who had founded and was building a new company, Copperweld Steel. An engineer and inventor, Robert Frank was open to new ideas, including modern architecture. As his family grew, Robert and his wife Cecelia started planning a new home.

Cecelia and Robert considered Walter Gropius, who had recently come to the United States and become head of Harvard’s Department of Architecture, to be the world’s leading architect. When Gropius came to Pittsburgh to give a talk, Robert attended. Interested in what the new architecture could achieve and its potential to realize their ideals — Cecelia, Robert and their young son Alan met with the architect at his office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and visited Gropius home in Lincoln. Long letters followed the meetings, and a collaboration was formed.

Robert Frank contributed significantly to the project as an engaged architectural client. His and Cecelia’s correspondence with the architects runs to hundreds of pages. During design and construction, suggestions, instructions and queries sometimes filled three eight-page, single-spaced typewritten letters a week.

Gropius and Breuer came to Pittsburgh many times during the project, first to look at various pieces of land that were for sale, and then repeatedly throughout construction. Cecelia and Robert contracted with a leading national construction company to do the building, and arranged for Pittsburgh architect Dahlen Ritchey, who had been a promising student of Gropius at Harvard, to supervise the construction.

The project was completed in 1940. It became, as one scholar describes it, “a machine for living,” especially for healthy, comfortable living. Its sunlit rooms, outdoor terraces and indoor pool provided a warm and friendly environment in which to raise a young family. In addition to its advanced architecture and furnishings, the home incorporated an integral system for cleaning air, an innovative internal phone and light signal system, built-in projection equipment to turn the recreation room into a movie theater, lightning rod systems made of Robert Frank’s Copperweld, and a heating and cooling system that used the water from the indoor swimming pool for thermal management and energy conservation.

In 1941 the home was profiled in Architectural Forum. Photos were taken of the home and furnishings by renowned architectural photographer Ezra Stoller.  In the decades that followed, the home fulfilled its promise as an environment designed for family life, and Cecelia’s active involvement with the Pittsburgh arts and education communities made the home a well-known site for cultural and social events.

large_frankinterior history-new foundation I can not wait for this place to open to the public to tour. I’ll be the first in line.




STANDING SEAM METAL ROOFS once required a lot of custom work and that’s still true for features such as dormers, towers and turrets. However, panelized roofing that looks similar is now sold by the sheets in home centers and in even bigger pieces from manufacturers.

Metal-Roofing c

Traditional, hand crimped seamed panels are all but impervious to water if installed properly.


They are rated to withstand winds of 110mph and can last over 100 years.


Light weight allows better cooling of the attic space. Not to mention the myriad of color choices. $10 – $15 sq.ft. Why are they not more popular in the Pittsburgh area?


This is another kind of Tin Roof. At about $7 sqft, it will last about 10 minutes.



51pBxLaTZFL._SY300_I don’t know. They are fire traps.

Full of undulations and corrugations they trap lint and that causes them to heat up.   9835068_80938_full

The aluminum types are bad enough and the plastic versions are flammable without being stuffed with lint.  images





This can be purchased at Home Depot or Lowes and installed for under $50.00. Ten feet of pipe, 2 – 90% bends and the exterior vent cap.

They will need to be cleaned however they do not have the lint trapping corrugations of the flexible tubes.



So,the house you’re looking at has aluminum (Lower Branch) wiring and you’ve heard horror stories. Is it as dangerous as they say?

Here is the deal.

In the late 1960s thru 70’s aluminum was much less inexpensive than copper. Though It is slightly less conductive than copper. You would only need to use slightly heavier gage wire to carry the same amperage. The up-shot of this is by using aluminum wire the electrician could actually make a profit and stay within code.

The problem with aluminum wiring is not the wire itself but how it is connected to dissimilar metals (copper) or, the various receptacles.


A qualified electrician can usually fix the problem. You could do an entire rewiring of the house. That WILL fix it and WILL be very expensive. The electrician may suggest “Pigtails”. Pig tailing is a process of splicing copper “pigtail” ends to the existing aluminum wire and then attaching the copper wire to the existing electrical device. The splice of the copper pigtail to the existing aluminum wire uses special wire nuts, special crimp connectors, or special miniature lug-type connectors.

Repairing older pre-1970s aluminum can be done by replacing electrical devices (switches, outlets, etc.) with ones that are rated for use with aluminum wire (CO/ALR rated devices). These modern devices are tested and listed for both AA-1350 and AA-8000 series aluminum wire. Although the CPSC does not recognize this as an acceptable repair method, they are not the Authority Having Jurisdiction. The devices are tested and listed for use with aluminum wire and are acceptable according to the National Electrical Code.

As of April 2011, the CPSC has also approved the AlumiConn miniature lug connector as an alternate to the COPALUM connectors for a permanent repair. The AlumiConn pigtail connectors are easier for local electricians to install as they only require the electrician to use a special torque screwdriver.



SALT: How much is too much?

We have had a cold and icy winter so far, here  in Pittsburgh.

The first ting you usualy wan to do is throw down some salt to create a safe pathway.

Some things to consider:

Sodium Cholride, also known as Road salt, is harmful to concrete.

It will cause cracks and peeling in your driveway.

It is also doe not work below 0 degrees F.

It is harmful to pets, and irritates their paws.

Potassium Cholride can be harful to foliage.


Better Alternatives:

Sand or Ash provide traction only.

Magnesium Cholride and Calcium Cholride: Work by generating heat, and work at much lower temperatures.



 Pet Friendly Products:

Road Runner  Ice Melt:   Made from Magnesium Cholride and melts ice in conditions below -15 degrees F.


Safe Step Ice Melter:  Non Toxic, Pet Friendly, No Residue and and melts ice in conditions below -15 degrees F.


Pet Booties:  Good all year around.

pug in boots