Did You Know: About Cultural Differences in Appliances?

If you have traveled to Europe or South America, you may have noticed that when you order water or soft drinks at a restaurant, the liquid comes at room temperature and without ice. Many folks around the world find iced drinks an unnecessary nuisance – with those cold cubes nipping at warm lips. Because Europeans don’t use much ice, German, Italian, and other external appliance manufacturers don’t offer icemakers in their refrigerators, be they Liebherr, Míele, Bosch, or Gaggenau. Although for the US market, they provide conversion kits with an ice maker as an upgrade.


In the same vein, European dishwashers come without a heated dry cycle. Since many of us run the dishwasher at night, or after breakfast and the dash off to work, the dishes will dry on their own. Some European brands now pop the door open slightly to allow circulation is helping dishes to air dry.

My source: Mountain High Appliances


Did You Know: Why we Frame at 16-inches On Center

Our wood construction traditions came from England. Where English carpenters were right at home building houses framed with studs set at about 16-inches on center for walls with wood lath and plaster.

The lath was made from riven slats, deftly pealed with a hand ax off logs about 32-inches long. This was the length a man could reliably cleave a flat ribbon of lath with a single blow. Because applying plaster over 32-inch slats of lath nailed only at the ends proved springy and unstable, carpenters added a center stud to stiffen the lath. Hence, studs were set a 16-inches on center.

Unless you’re finishing your walls with plaster over wood lath, there’s no point to framing with a 16-inches module, try 19.5, 24, or any other permitted spacing.

My source: Advance Residential Engineering Services

Did You Know: Why Dairy Barns Are Painted Red (or White)?

The traditional gambrel (or Dutch) barn roof comes from northern Europe and prevails in places like Wisconsin and Minnesota with a heavy northern European heritage. Many immigrants to these states came from milk producing regions with specialized knowledge of cheese making.

Early on, these cheesemakers separated curds from whey and considered the latter a waste product, used for fertilizer and whitewashing agricultural buildings. To keep the whey from spoiling, they blended it with iron oxide, which rusts, yielding a dull red we refer to today as “barn red.”

Later, as milk producers were promoting the quality of pasteurized and homogenized milk, they wanted to show off its healthfulness and began painting their dairy barns white to advertise dairy’s nourishing and pallid purity.

Unprocessed milk, incidentally, is often not white, but pale yellow.

My Source: The Science of Cheese

Did You Know: Windows Can Get Altitude Sickness?

Double-pane windows have a hermetically sealed airspace between two sheets of glass, the gap provides the insulation. If the seal between windowpanes breaks, moisture can get between the glass sheets and cause fogging. However, the engineered, hermetic seal traps more than gasses between the panes, it traps the ambient air pressure as well.

Sort of like a scuba diver must decompress on the way up from a dive, windows made at low elevations face their own risk of “the bends” when traveling to the high country, which is where I live near Vail, Colorado.

A sealed glass unit built at low altitude and then installed here at higher elevation must incorporate tiny, stainless steel or aluminum capillary tubes that allow the insulated glass windowpanes to equalize and remain flat and parallel.

If you want to learn more, a lot more, check out: “Residential Windows: A Guide to New Technologies and Energy Performance 2nd Edition.”

Did You Know: China Consumes More Concrete?

Reading in the Economist last month, I ran across the surprising fact that over the previous 100 years the United States consumed a whopping 4.4 gigatons of cement. Meanwhile, during the three years between 2011-2013, China consumed 6.4 gigatons of cement, 45% more than we did during the last 100 years. According to economist Elliot Eisenberg, the reasons lie in China’s vastly larger population, and concrete-based building methods, whereas we use a lot of wood.

What’s in a Threshold?

In colonial times, the wealthier people had homes with stone floors. In winter, these slick floors became slippery, with muddy shoes and melted snow. To absorb the muck, homeowners spread thresh — or straw — onto the floor at the entry. This thresh would pile up and then spill out the door. To keep it in, homeowners installed a board in front of the door to hold the thresh. SOme say the this threshold eventually evolved to become today’s modern door sill that sits under the door, while the name stuck as the “threshold.”

Still others say that the board was put on the outside of the door, not to keep thresh in, but to keep barnyard debris out. I like the first story better, since it goes onto explain why folks that did not have stone floors were called, “dirt poor.”

Image: By Infrogmation of New Orleans – Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18071782