CivDesignr Journal

A collection of articles and ideas on construction and maintenance. By Alan Howard BSc. Civil (UWI - Trinidad), MEng. Civil (U of Toronto)
Who I Follow

Tile Surface Preparation Materials

(Source: Schluter-Ditra)

A few weeks ago I did a post on surface preparation. In it i pointed ou tthe importance of making sure that your surface is clean and prepared according to specification, and also making sure you use good materials.

One such material is Schluter-Ditra from Schluter Systems.

It is lightweight, and acts to both prevent cracking and waterproof the tile floor. Prevention of cracking is important but waterproofing is also vital to protect both wooden sub-flooring in wet environments.

Ditra also can reduce vapor pressure on the tiles above. Vapor pressure arises when moisture in your floor tries to diffuse into the room space above. This creates a pressure on the base of the tile which can cause it to pop up over time. Since Ditra is a plastic sheeting it acts as a barrier to the moisture thereby eliminating vapor pressure.

Home Preparation diagram

Source: Miami Herald Hurricane Preparation Guide

Following on from my last post on construction for hurricane protection I have a few more tips but this time for wall construction using concrete blocks (concrete masonry units - cmu). 

This type of construction is very common in the Caribbean and southern Florida due to the higher hurricane resistance of this type of construction.

In order to ensure that your hurricane resistance is maximised first and foremost a qualified structural engineer should work with your contractor to confirm proper practice is adhered to. As a client however there are a few things you can look out for as major red flags.  it is vital that your roof structure is properly connected to your walls. This is usually done using a capping beam and reinforcement in the block holes approximately every 4th block hole in non loadbearing walls and in each hole for walls carrying heavy loads. If this is not the case on your site ask a question of your contractor and/or your engineer. 

Your wall reinforcement should continue all the way to the foundation and tie in correctly there as well. It is also good practice to include stirupps in the corners and wall intersections and to reinforce and pour all block holes in these areas. This will cause your corners to act like columns and bring greater stiffness and strength to your structure. 

A Beautiful Australian Home with an insane view. I came across these pics on a forum i follow and fell in love with the design. See more great pics at

You gotta be kidding me. This is so good.

Kaffee Partner Headquarters …see more on Architizer

How can good surface preparation help with Painting



Some time ago I mentioned how important it was to have a good surface prepared before placing any construction material (Surface Preparation Post). 

One place where surface prep is important is painting. Most home owners have painted a room before and this is one area where surface preparation can help improve the quality of the finish.

If you are painting a raw wall in concrete or drywall priming the wall is a good place to start. But even before priming use rags to remove any dust or dirt on the wall. Do this to allow the paint to adhere to the wall instead of adhering to loose dirt on your wall.

With a clean wall your next step should be to protect any surfaces that should not be painted. All wall sockets, base-boards and other surfaces should be taped and a drop-cloth placed on the ground to protect your floor. At least one coat of primer should be placed on new walls in order to seal the wall and enhance the bond between the new paint and the wall all while preventing the wall from sucking up all your paint.

To calculate how much paint you need you can use my paint calculator here.

How fast should your project progress

Source: Wikipedia

I first heard this line in a class at university on civil engineering materials and my lecturer was relating how important material selection was.

In my working life, however, I have realised that Engineers, Contractors and othe building professionals have a perception that people want evertything fast good and cheap all the time but this is a misconception.

What some professionals don’t realise is that most home owners:

a) know that they can’t have everything and

b) really do want the best end product.

All they need is the knowledge and that is what the builder should provide.

This may seem a bit silly but a good building professional should be like my favourite and current dentist.

She makes my visits so easy to deal with because she keeps me in the know. She lays out what is going on and my options and what the costs are. While she is working she lets me know what is happening and what decisions need to be made along the way.

Most home owners are willing to pay a little extra to secure their investment. If they don’t take the option you present at least they know the risks and consequences. And this makes for a happier customer in the end.

Which two would you pick?