You will probably be turning your Air Conditioner on soon.  Just in case you are not up on how an A/C works, here are some tips.

An A/C actually removes heat and humidity from a home rather than add cold air. If air flow is obstructed, it will overload the condenser and prematurely wear it out.

Make sure bushes are not blocking the visible vents at the condenser. If you see visible damage to the soft aluminum fins due to rocks from mowing or hail, you may want to have them combed. This will increase the efficiency of the unit.

 If an A/C is over charged with coolant or air flow is blocked, the “A” coil which is mounted on top of your furnace will ice up, blocking the air flow and cooling affect. Check all your vents and dampers to make sure they are open.

 Last but not least, replace the filter at the beginning of the season.



It's that time of year to consider adding further insulation to your attic and making sure that your attic is properly insulated.

If you determine you need insulation, a good do it yourself solution is to use fiberglass roll insulation.  Always work from the soffits inward toward the attic access, laying the fiberglass perpendicular to the rafters, making sure you are leaving space for air flow at the outermost part of the attic.  This is properly done by placing vent chutes against the roof decking between the rafters.

Never lay insulation closer than 4" from recessed lighting.  Wire mesh can be placed around the lights to ensure the spacing or sheet metal.

In summary regarding ventilation, the objective is to create a "COOL ATTIC" summer and winter.  This will eliminate or reduce ice damming in winter and reduce cooling costs in the summer.

If venting is done properly, cool air will be drawn in through unblocked soffit vents when the warm air travels vertically through the roof vents creating a draw.  The temperature controlled living space will be maintained by proper insulation. 

Good luck and here's hoping this wonderful fall weather will last a long time!



Construction season is coming to a close and if you are thinking of siding it is time to decide what kind of siding to go with.

If you have covenants which dictate this decision then your choices are obviously limited. Many common covenants require wood or similar appearing siding.  A cement board siding product would be the best choice in this situation since it is very LOW MAINTENANCE and is impervious to destruction by critters.  The most familiar brand name is James Hardie, although there are are few competitive lines.

If vinyl is acceptable and NO MAINTENANCE is your preference then a high quality vinyl would be your best choice.  Vinyl is a composite of several ingredients some of which are more expensive than others.  A lesser grade of vinyl will lose its resilience and color if the manufacturer limits the thickness and ingredients during the production process.  Unfortunately people tend to only notice poorly installed low quality vinyl products and believe incorrectly that this is typical of all vinyl.

Associate building products distributed by Alside invented aluminum siding in 1947 and makes a high quality vinyl siding which I can vouch for named "CHARTER OAK".  It comes with fade and breakage guarantee that is transferable.

There is aluminum, steel and fiberglass siding available but two of these can dent which an be a drawback if you mow your lawn or live in a hail zone.

The best of products can be poorly installed so be sure to ask your contractor for past installation references that you can look at in person.


When water is found in the home, the roof is generally assumed to be the problem.  Often flashings around windows and doors on upper floors are the culprit.

Take a look at the top of the windows and doors above where the water has pooled.  There should be metal flashing above both doors and windows regardless of the type of siding and it should extend the full width.

If you have vinyl siding there will be a vinyl extrusion called a "J" channel.  The ends of the J should be curved into the J channels running vertically to direct water away from the window/door.  If it was cut the same width or shorter than the window/door,  water will flow behind the siding and to the bottom of the wall.  This is a common mistake made by poorly trained siders. 

In any case, never caulk the metal flashing as you will trap moisture behind the siding.  It is very important that any moisture must be allowed to flow out.

If you have a patio door at an upper deck the water problem is quite likely the flashing under the patio door as well. 


Bruce Murray, owner of Phoenix Builders, has been in the commercial and residential related construction business for over 30 years. These helpful hints are provided by Bruce to help any homeowner spot potential problem areas in, on or around the home. Look for new tips every month.

Do you have questions? Email them to me at
or call me for a no obligation consultation 651.491.6503.


It is that time of year again to decide whether to paint or replace the exterior of  your home. 
If you have an older home you are probably at it more often than not.  The construction of the home may contribute to the need to constantly paint. Painting a home only maintains the value of a home whereas siding may increase the value of a home. 

Moisture from the inside of the home travels through the wood or other permeable wall in addition to weather wear.  When siding a home older than a '60's era, be sure to use a permeable house wrap and siding with moisture relief.  If care is not taken, damaging moisture could result inside the walls.
In general, a variety of sidings can be used on any type of home depending on preference. Maintenance free choices include steel, aluminum, vinyl, fiberglass and more.  Low maintenance
would pretty much be a concrete composite product such as James Hardie which will hold a high quality paint for up to 25 years and the product comes with a 50 year warranty.

I caution however when considering vinyl as all vinyls are not the same.  A high quality siding has expensive ingredients that make it demonstrably durable.

Point to consider:  You must paint to maintain the value of your investment but maintenance rarely increases value.  On the other hand, choosing a style appropriate no or low maintenance siding generally does.

Have a wonderful summer!







There could be several causes and solutions to a wet basement but (as I keep saying, am I sounding like a broken record yet?) start out with keeping the water away from the home.

Homes with small soffitts (6" to 1'0") are, by their very design, most likely to suffer water intrusion since the water drop line is so close to the exterior walls.  Gutters and properly placed/sized downspouts are critical for this type of home.  If trees are present and higher than the eve height of the home then covered gutters and oversize downspouts should be used.

Check the grading around the exterior walls to ensure water is properly draining away from the walls.  Take a 24" minimum level touching the exterior wall and make sure you ahve a 1/4" per foot slope away from the wall. 

Spring has sprung, enjoy.


​​MN License BC514573


Do you have a wet basement, walls and floor?  The first thing to check is the slope of your landscaping around the home.  It should slope away from the exterior wall at least 2'0" although more is better.

Next make sure your downspouts extend at least 3'0", again more is better.  This assumes you know how necessary gutter are to protecting your home.  If you have not had them installed do so.

Concrete block can and will wick water several feet vertically causing problem mold issues if not addressed which can be a huge barrier to selling a home when the time comes.

Now is the time to put in corrections before the snow falls.  Once winter is underway it is difficult, if not impossible, to take care of these issues for a variety of reasons.  Not to mention that, believe it or not, the snow will turn into water again and become a seasonal problem.

Enjoy this wonderful weather we are having so far.



It is commonly believed that moisture on the inside of a new window is an indicator that the window is defective or that moisture in a ceiling means a leak in the roof.  

 If either of these situations occur during cooler weather, it is most likely an indicator of excess humidity in the house relative to the outside temperature, combined with insufficient ventilation of both the living space and attic.

 The old windows most likely allowed air flow which created a less humid environment. The attic likewise, requires air flow from the (unclogged) soffit vents directly up to the (unclogged) roof vents. 

A common mistake when adding bath vents and/or kitchen vents is to simply install the vents without making sure they are ducted to above the roof line.  If not properly vented, it is possible for enough moisture to be vented into the attic to collect on electrical wires and travel to the ceiling causing spotting or worse.

To insure proper humidity balance, procure an inexpensive humidity gauge to be used inside.  Along with an outside thermometer you can balance this yourself with ease.


+20 degrees outside            35% - 40%
    0     "     "                   25%
   -10   "     "                   20%
   -20   "     "                   15%

If you find you have too much humidity, turn on your ducted vents.  Too little humidity, you may want to add a humidifier.

Spring is bound to arrive, enjoy,