Doors & Windows

 

    One may have worked at home improvements stores for quite some time or may have been taking related courses at college. One may have been working at construction sites every now and then or working along contractors doing renovations whenever needed but home improvement is a topic that has endless possibilities and hence to be an expert on all fronts is next to impossible. One can either be a jack of all trades or a master of one! Doors and windows is one such topic that might be worth considering for extensive research. After all, most of the time the job is a one time gig with little maintenance other than garage doors.

   Doors whether front or back are not only for aesthetics but they are also a key aspect to security. Doors often left unlocked lead to home burglaries, house break-ins and even lead to casualties in extreme crime cases. One of the major expense for homeowners is a finished basement. Though, doors are the least of all worries, they too are a piece of work. Many times openings are to be made through the concrete walls which require tools and experience. A few wrong measurements is all it takes to mess up the entire passageway or stairs area leading down to the basement. A larger opening than the size of the door leads to an expensive fix. Not to mention, the time that area of the house is left exposed as work prolongs. The door opening must be large enough to move in furniture, mattress and appliances. Their patterns of movements should also create “between and within spaces appropriate to uses and activities housed by the spaces (1). They should have “watertight seals and maintain thermal insulation of the exterior walls they penetrate (1). A door frame is a key to maintaining the appearance of the doorway. The threshold or the sill of the doorway should provide further weather protection. There are also minimum maneuvering clearances at doorways for wheelchair accessibility.  The type of door is also important as it is constantly being exposed to weather elements like snow and mud in the passageway. Unlike a front door of the house, the basement door usually does not have a porch or a patio. Even though, there are building code requirements even for basement doors in terms of “fire resistance, emergency egress and safety glazing (1). Fire door assemblies include fire resistive door, door frame and hardware. Door frames “must be grouted with mortar or plaster for structural rigidity and increased fire resistance” (1). The front door of the house is the one that needs to aesthetically pleasing as well as suit the wall or paint color. Door designs include panel doors and panel doors with sash. The most convenient type of entry door is the door with swinging operation. These doors “turn on hinges about a side jamb when pushed or pulled”(1). They also need space around the doorway for door swing with minimum check clearance. These doors are also fitted in with thermal and acoustic insulation for weather resistance and maybe fire rated. The hardware for these doors is another topic for extensive research. Though most hardware is easy to operate, there are times when key changes are needed as the door locks rust over period of time. The “mortise locks” of these entry doors are housed in an opening in the door edge which makes locks available on both sides. The lock is also “concealed except faceplate at the door edge, knobs or levers, a cylinder and an operating trim” (1) Doors usually have peepholes with chain brackets as a security measure. They also have a door stopper in the bottom corner of the wall to avoid damage caused by the swing of the door. Should there be a door knocker on the door as is the case in most residential condo doors, it must be properly examined before installation in terms of the damage it might cause in the future. Next, there are doors with a hydraulic or pneumatic device especially the ones linking garages to passageways. These hydraulic door openers may also be custom fitted in to any interior doors to reduce the shock to the frame from door slams as a result of violent wind.  Building codes require the use of self-latching, self-closing doors with UL rated hardware to protect openings in firewalls and occupancy separations. Interior doors without self-latching or self-closing features like a bedroom door may have a door stopper on the other side of the door. Closet doors are usually additional features that are installed during renovations that might include replacing tiles for kitchen floor or hardwood /laminate flooring for living and bedroom. Then, there are patio doors that slide along a track on the floor. They do not need any operating space but could be a challenge in sealing against weather and sound. Since, they usually lead to a snow-filled patio or deck the wheels that slide along the track are prone to corrosion. These are usually sliding doors in the kitchen and may require some maintenance from time to time. “Weatherstripping is often supplied and installed by manufacturers. These weatherstripping must be “durable for extensive use, non-corrosive and replaceable“. The closers for the glass sliding doors must be “concealed within the floor construction” (1). Then there are shed doors. These doors are usually frozen in time in terms of design and construction. These doors, either panel doors or panel with sash doors should be waterproof with non-corrosive hardware. If garden gates are also doors, they must be designed with wind resistance in mind. Overall, doors play a key role in aesthetics, security, functionality as well as real estate value.

   Windows are also a key aspect of home design and improvement. Living rooms and bedroom windows are usually similar in construction and design. A rough masonry opening is made with space at the top of leveling and shimming of the window opening. Then, there is a casing trim around the window opening to be fitted in with “head and jamb casings, window sills and aprons”.(1) The head is the uppermost member of the window frame while jamb on the two sides of the frame. Next, are the sills and sub sills to shed rainwater. Also, there is exterior casing with drip cap or head casing. An insect screen may be installed as per requirement. The building code requirements for window construction and installation are “Natural light and ventilation, Thermal insulation of window assembly, structural resistance to wind loads” (1), clear opening or emergency exits for windows, safety glazing as well as type and size of glazing in fire rated walls and corridors. A visit to window manufacturing facility may reveal design process that includes trimming and leveling of window frames as well as the procedure of fitting glass inside the frame. Hardware such as casement handles and accessories are also pre -installed in a manufacturing facility. Since the casement handle and accessories are most exposed to weather elements, they must be made corrosion proof.  Blind and curtain installations on new and existing windows are also an essential part of home improvement. They not only improve the aesthetics of the room but provide privacy as well as block sunlight. Overall, windows are also a key aspect of home design and improvement.

   In conclusion, doors and windows are a key component of home improvement that affects real estate value among other factors.

(1) – Francis D.K. Ching. “Building Construction Illustrated”. 2014. Published by Wiley.

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Scaffolding & Ladders

Scaffolds are used extensively on construction sites. Scaffolding is usually placed to provide reach and support. It is used by carpenters, electricians, roofers and so on. Many scaffolds could be as high as three to four stories. Hence, scaffolds are usually placed as if building the structure itself. Scaffolds and Ladders, both have their safety requirements on construction sites.

   In residential structures, scaffolds are placed for framing, wiring and even roofing. Without the scaffolds, it is almost impossible to move from floor to floor and from one ceiling joist to the next. Since scaffolds are essentially ladders, they must be placed with safety codes and requirements in mind. Avoiding these requirements is not only a hazard but fined by the safety inspectors who visit these sites every now and then. Scaffolding requirements include horizontal and vertical guard rails as fall barriers. An improvised anchor point for a harness is also recommended.

Even ladders must be used with safety in mind. When ladders are transported from site to site, they must be properly secured to the vehicle’s roof. If ladders are not secured, then they are considered a hazard to road traffic. Once on the site, the ladders are usually placed on a dry surface inclined to a wall at a forty-five-degree angle. Steep inclinations are not considered safe and hence avoided. A ladder must also have a spotter. For example, a three-step ladder usually has a spotter to hold the ladder in case it slips from the base down.

 In conclusion, “OSHA statistics show that 61% of construction accidents were due to rebar impalements” (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction/falls/rebaraccident.html). Hence, it’s a hazard for construction workers who work around the rebars especially on ladders and other heights. As a result, scaffolding and ladder safety requirements must be met with thorough detail! Scaffold locks, Stepladder base support and step ladder lock for vehicle roofs are just some examples where consumer products might make safety hazards a thing of the past!

Water pumps: Applications

Water pumps are mechanical and electrical machines to pump water in and out of a site. In a mechanical water pump, water is pumped from the pipes submerged in a drain or a sewer. This water is pumped in by a mechanical engine of the water pump that creates a suction. The water then goes through the mechanical engine that consumes petrol or gas to run at its peak. The water from the engine is then released to a safe location via a network of pipes or hoses. These pipes or hoses are connected to each other with a hose fitting. Electrical pumps, on the other hand, are used as submersibles. The pump is plugged in an extension cord and lowered into a space filled with water. The water goes through the pump and out of the network of hoses connected to the electrical pump. They have mainly used to waterproof a construction site or stop flooding.

   Water pumps at construction sites are used for existing water features such as wetlands, streams, watersheds. flood plains etc. In a residential construction, the water pump is usually used to keep water away from the foundation of the building. A structure built in a center of a terrain with a slope is more likely to gather water at its foundation. This water then affects the load-bearing capacity of the structure as the soil underneath the foundation retains more moisture than needed. This water is usually pumped out using an electrical pump away from the construction site on to sewer, drains, fields, and open spaces. Water that gathers in the form of a swamp around a site usually creates mud and unsuitable conditions to move around or operate machinery. These machinery and equipment include Bulldozers, Forklift equipment (For Lumber), Cranes etc. Transporting materials like lumber, steel columns and roof trusses in and around the perimeter of a structure becomes a hazard. Not to mention the damage caused by water to the building materials lying around the perimeter of the structure. Water pumps may also be used along with heavy-duty vacuum suction for waterproofing structure interior. These vacuums may be used on laminated veneer lumber as well as small crawl spaces like an elevator under construction to avoid damage done using a snow shovel for example. Underlayment and plastic blankets may also be used to cover structure elements exposed to snow and rain. Waterproofing is also done before concrete pours over to avoid air bubbles from forming in concrete which leads to cracks and damage as a result of severe weather. Hence, water pumps on constructions sites are essential tools of the trade.

   Water pumps may also be used to contain flooding. Whether tsunami, hurricane or a basement flood. Water pumps can be used to safely pump the water out of the target locations. Usually, water pumps for flood control are near sea or ocean shorelines. These pump facilities are the size of a factory. They use electricity to operate and keep the water away from land. Without electricity, these pumps can not function. For example, the one used during hurricane Katrina in New Orleans failed as the flood water filled the parts of the structure where pumps were located cutting electricity and making the pumps in operational. Water pumps to control basement flooding are a totally different story. Electric submersible water pumps may be used to pump out water in a basement flood. These pumps may run fully submerged in water up to several feet deep as long as the wiring of the pump can handle. Though basement floods are usually controlled using drain systems and gravel to soak rain and flood water around a perimeter of a structure, water pumps do come handy in extreme situations.

   In conclusion, waterproofing construction sites and basement floods are done using water pumps. Though these pumps are mainly used for the applications above, they are also used for firefighting and Irrigation. A structure with a handy mechanical water pump may be successful in fighting the flammable fire to a certain extent. In a rural and isolated area where emergency response takes time to arrive, these pumps could be a lifesaver. Even small forest fires may be controlled using these pumps. They may also be connected to a fire hydrant to provide water in an emergency. Water for field irrigation either for gardening or agriculture may be done using these water pumps. Extension hoses connected to these pumps may be spread across a field like a network. These pumps may act as sprinklers in places which otherwise would take hours to water. Further innovations in science and technology may prove beneficial to water pump design as well as economics related to its applications.

Fireproofing: Home, Auto & Life


   The Fire has been one of the major cause of property damage and casualties in human history. In ancient times, a fire was extinguished using a bucket full of water on building materials that were often fragile and combustible. Since this method took a lot of time and damage, innovations were made to make structures fire safety and improve emergency response. These innovations included use of flame retardant materials, structure fire resistance rating and fire insurance policies.

  Fire retardants are often a subject of controversy in the consumer market. Some regard fire retardants as effective in stopping fires while others think about the term as a “bluff” in the consumer market. Nevertheless, fire retardants in structure interior design play a huge role not only in product pricing but also fire insurance premiums. Furniture, Couches, bed, and upholstery all are considered fire safe if their material is a fire retardant. In fact, many regional and national fire safety laws consider fire flammability requirements in articles of furniture and upholstery. It is not just limited to residential elements but also auto and business. Fire safety is often considered in the custom upholstered car and vehicle seats. Businesses like restaurants and factories often use flame retardant sprays on equipment and machines. Though fireproofing interior elements like flame retardant furniture could be helpful in stopping a spark from leading to a fire (for example, cigarette ash), it is not the ultimate fire safety standard in North America. Building safety requirements start with its construction more than interior design.

   According to the building performance requirements, the structure should be tested for “structural compatibility, integration, and safety”. “Heat and airflow should be controlled through building assemblies. Building codes and “zoning ordinances” (1) must be followed.  As per the national fire protection association (NFPA 5000 or international codes) the NFPA-70, NFPA 101 and NFPA 13 are important safety codes that must be followed during commercial or residential construction. The NFPA-70 or the national electric code ensures public and building safety as well as its contents from “use of electricity for light, heat, and power” (1). NFPA-101 ensures minimum fire safety requirements as well as protection from fire, smoke, and gases. This is done through fire alarm systems, extinguishers and emergency response system. NFPA-13 governs the installation of fire sprinklers. IBC (International Building Code) has fire resistance rating requirements and classifies different building construction as per these standards. Type one buildings are constructed from non-combustibles like steel and concrete. Type two- buildings have a reduced fire resistance rating requirement compared to type one. Type three have “noncombustible exterior walls and interior elements” (1) as defined by the code standards. Type four buildings have non-combustible exterior walls and interior elements like solid and laminated wood.  Type five protected buildings have structural elements that require all building elements except “non-bearing interior walls and partitions” (1) to be one – hour fire resistive construction. Type five unprotected buildings have no requirements for fire resistance. Building elements for rating requirements include a structural frame, exterior and interior walls, non-bearing walls, floor construction and roof construction. IBC (International building code) specifies area and height of each floor in a building as per occupancy and construction type. This includes size of a building, fire resistance rating and nature of occupancy. The larger the building and more occupants means more fire resistance requirements in order to protect a building and contain fire long enough for safe evacuation. Firewalls will need fire resistance rating to prevent spread from one part of the building to another. Also, a saving or non-combustible material must be installed on each floor within column covers and in between wall panels as well as slab edge or spandrel beam as a fire spread prevention strategy. The building codes also list requirements for fire resistance for structural frame and curtain wall panels. “Fire door assemblies consisting of fire resistive door frame, and hardware, are required to protect openings in fire rated walls” (1). “Door frame and hardware must have a fire-resistance rating similar to that of a door” (1). According to the building codes, the distance of travel to ta nearest fire exit must be based on occupancy size, building’s use and degree of a fire hazard. They also list the minimum distance between two exits and limit of dead-end corridors. Emergency lighting should be available on all exit paths in case of power failure. And the exit paths must be clearly identified by “illuminated signs” (1). According to NFPA’s life safety code, fire alarm systems should automatically be triggered by fire detection systems which include heat sensors like thermostats and smoke detectors. The safety codes also require “installation and hard-wiring of smoke detectors in residential occupancies as well as hotel/motel units” (1). Fire sprinkler system is often a requirement in “commercial or institutional buildings” (1) as well as “multi-family housing” (1). Structural steel in a fire resistive building is required to have “fire rated assemblies or coatings” as steel can rapidly lose strength in a fire and melt. These coatings are also required for “beams and floor framing systems” (1). Also, floor joists require finishing flooring and ceiling to have a fire-resistance rating. The same is true for roof rafters that rely on roofing and ceiling materials for its fire resistance rating. “Wood shingles and shakes are flammable unless chemically treated to receive a UL class C rating” (1). Hence, residential and commercial structure safety requirements are important during the construction phase of a structure rather than interior design or renovation with flame retardants.

   The type of construction also has an immediate effect on fire insurance rates. Most insurance policies provide financial protection for fire and lightning damage. Some extended coverage also protects from smoke, chemical, water and other damages by firefighters during extinguishing a fire especially when liquid nitrogen is used for maximum impact. Annual fire insurance premiums cover buildings and its contents. However, the type of coverage will depend on the fire rating classification of a building as mentioned above. For example, fire insurance premiums for a high rated building standard is lower than buildings with lower fire resistance rating. Insurance premiums are also dependent on other factors such as the location of the building in reference to fire hydrants, emergency facilities like fire truck stations and combustible structures. A structure located near a gas station, for example, will have a higher insurance premium than one away from the gas station and within the vicinity of emergency response. Combustible materials and equipment in warehouses, factories, restaurants and other business avenues affect fire insurance premiums just as much.

   In conclusion, fire is undoubtedly a powerful force of nature. Fire safety standards and emergency response make life much safer today than it was coupled hundred years ago. Fire-insurance policies protect individuals financially from home or business. In fact, since fire is not just limited to properties, auto insurance, and life insurance policies is a must have coverage for many consumers. Nevertheless, it is said, “Prevention is better than cure”. This prevention of fire damage includes adequate fire protection systems like remote monitoring and stove guard systems. Innovations in science and technology passed on to consumer products and consumer protection systems are a contributing factor in reducing fire-related damages and casualties. Also, avoiding indoor smoking and promoting utilization of smoking areas can stop one’s place of residence, workplace or business avenue from becoming a statistic figure!

(1) – Francis D.K. Ching. “Building Construction Illustrated”. 2014. Published by Wiley.

Noah’s Ark: From all perspectives

   Noah’s Ark has been the center of focus for expeditions on Mount Ararat for years. Numerous scientists, archaeologists, and geologists have tried to find the Ark on the Mountain but with little success. The story of Noah’s Ark suggests that Noah and his family lived somewhere near Mesopotamia some 5000-6000 years ago. Noah’s story also talks about a wooden boat that carried Noah, his family and a pair of all living creatures on the planet during a flood that engulfed Earth. It is said that Noah was to arrange the construction of the boat as well as the loading of all creatures, big and small in just seven days for a flood that would last years. Although Noah’s story is popular in many cultures and mentioned in many holy books, several geologists and archaeologists are not convinced about the proportion and intensity of many things in the “epic tale”. Many argue that the story might be misunderstood or the words in the books could be misinterpreted.

    First of all, geologists argue that the wooden boat, the size talked about in the books could not have existed at the time of Noah. “Even nineteenth-century engineers” would have struggled to build a boat the size of Noah’s boat completely of wood. The boat size of Noah’s would need some steel reinforcements to hold the wood against the crashing waves of the sea. Otherwise, it would leak from inside out and drown. Next, geologists point out that the water in the oceans, ice caps, and the earth’s surface is not enough to cover all the continents and “engulf the earth” as mentioned in the books. If there ever was a flood that would engulf the earth, the atmospheric pressure itself over the oceans would crush any living thing on the planet let alone Noah’s ark. Then, they point out about the “water from the hot springs” that gushed out from the planet’s core during the flood. Geologists and scientists argue that there isn’t enough hot spring water on the planet to cover the landmass and if there ever was, the temperature of the hot springs itself would melt anything on the water surface let alone Noah’s wooden arc. Then, there are photographs taken by the US planes sometime during 1950-60’s and released around 1995 that show the presence of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat. Researchers and photo investigations show that this “poor quality photos” show many dark spots in the shape of Arcs on Mount Ararat that can be mistranslated as Noah’s Arc. With such observations, scientists, researchers, and archaeologists conclude that there should be an alternative to Noah’s story. This alternate version of the story is told from the scriptures and clay tablets found during archaeological digs in Iraq at around 1850’s – 1900’s and later translated by a librarian in the British Museum.

    The alternative version of Noah’s story starts off somewhere in Shuruppak (Sumeria), the “cradle of civilization”. Sumerians invented the wheel, writing, and accounting. Noah here is depicted as a rich merchant and businessman dealing with silver and gold. In fact, he is said to be the “king” of Shuruppak. And instead of a huge boat, the king must have had smaller cargo vessels made of timber of those time tied together to construct his arc. And instead of marching animals “2 by 2”, he would be loading animals, grain, and cargo. Also, the kind of Armageddon storm talked about in the books would not exist in those warm climate areas. Instead, there is a possibility of tropical storm or hurricane. A storm that would carry Noah’s cargo boat from the Euphrates river bank into the Persian gulf hence the “salty water” mentioned in the scriptures. They couldn’t see land for seven days because they could have been drifting in the Persian Gulf… as “he looked upon the sea”. And instead of landing on Mount Ararat, he would’ve returned to the shores of Persian Gulf either Shuruppak or Dilmun (Modern Day Bahrain) as indicated by the Babylonian scriptures.

    In conclusion, though the reality of Noah’s story might present a twist to the original depiction by many books. Nevertheless, the lessons of debt remain the same in both ancient days and present time. Debt can force a “king to slavery” and it forgives no one.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

   Ground source energy systems or geothermal heat pumps serve as an H VAC system for residential and commercial applications. It is used to heat them up in winter and cool them down in summer. With a million existing installations worldwide and several thousand installations a year throughout North America, Earth energy systems are efficient HVAC systems because of their operating principles and unique design.  However, these systems have certain requirements that must be met for them to be truly effective.

    Ground source Energy systems are efficient HVAC systems based on their operating principles. First of all, earth energy systems or ground source heat pumps have heat exchangers filled with a refrigerant that allows them to draw and dissipate heat. The refrigerant exchanges heat with water drawn up from a well in an open loop system or from coils of underground pipes in closed loop systems. Next, the refrigerant mixture goes through the heat pump in the house. When the refrigerant in the heat pump boils to become a vapor, the reversing valve takes the vapor to the condenser. Later on, the condenser compresses the vapor causing it to heat up. During the process, the reversing valve takes the hot gas to the condenser coil or duct system. Finally, the air passes through the coil to heat the entire property. This process can either heat up one room or all the rooms in residential or commercial properties simultaneously without the need for a mechanical room.   As a result, Earth Energy systems are efficient HVAC systems based on their operating principles.

     Earth energy systems are also efficient systems because of their unique design. In contrast, with regular combustion furnaces, geothermal heat pumps can be used with both hydronic heating system and forced air system.  Also, these systems can be designed to install either heating only, heating with active cooling or heating with passive cooling. Although heating systems don’t cool the surroundings, passive cooling systems provide cooling by pumping water without using a heat pump. Unlike regular combustion furnaces, water from a house water heater can be pumped through the condenser in earth energy systems which is used to heat water. While some require the heat pump to be at a balanced point and not at a full working capacity, others provide hot water on demand as the entire machine switches to provide domestic hot water on demand. Also, Earth Energy system’s output is relatively constant so they can be designed to meet almost all space heating requirements. Additionally, Earth energy systems are available for all sorts of extreme climates, whereas combustion furnaces and other HVAC systems only suit certain weather conditions. Though running a heat pump will use less fuel or gas, it will use more electricity compared to other combustion furnaces. Nevertheless, these electricity costs can be overlooked if one considers using alternative sources of energy like solar panels and rooftop windmills to existing main grid electricity to lower electricity bills along with several other benefits, especially in commercial and industrial applications. The unique design of Earth Energy systems can provide savings in heating and cooling costs as well as domestic hot water costs. More significantly, Earth Energy systems can be installed to existing HVAC systems and come with warranties of 20-25 years at the least which make it an efficient and reliable option compared to other HVAC systems.

     With all the benefits of the design and its operating principle, there are installation and maintenance requirements that must be matched when it comes to Earth Energy systems. All earth energy systems must be installed by qualified contractors and match the standards set by standards association as well as follow manufacturer’s instructions. Also, this unit must be inspected once a year by a licensed contractor. Filter and coil in the compressor must be maintained at all times as they reduce air flow and cause compressor damage. The fan must be cleaned once in a while and must be checked for incorrect pulley settings as a loose fan can affect motor speed and overall performance. Moreover, ductwork should be inspected and cleaned. One must make sure that vents and registers are not blocked. Also, the heat pump should be cleaned by a qualified contractor as mineral deposits can accumulate over time. And, in severe weather conditions, supplementary heating systems should be considered. Hence, by meeting the installation requirements and maintenance of Earth Energy Systems, one can enjoy efficiency and reliability of these systems in residential, commercial as well as industrial applications.

                In conclusion, Earth energy systems are efficient H VAC systems because of their operating principles, unique design and when their maintenance requirements are met by a qualified contractor. These systems though expensive to install compared with other H VAC systems, cover their initial costs in operating costs over five to ten years. And the best part is they can work alongside regular furnaces as split-air systems.

Heat sink pipes to melt snow over concrete after pour over

heat sink pipes to melt snow over concrete after pourover

Roof Truss

     One of the major advantages of having a security license is being able to work at construction sites as a handyman if needed. This includes but not limited to setting up scaffolds for roofers, assisting cranes to lift trusses and checking delivery papers and roof truss condition as they come pre-assembled from the factory. One might ask why a security guard might be hired rather than a handyman? The answer is the roof truss alone in most major construction projects are worth well over a million dollars as well as the rental equipment used in construction like forklift, cranes, bulldozer, snow removal, trucks can be an added liability if moved or stolen from the construction sites. Besides, worksite safety is also important.

Following are the steps leading up to roof truss placement for most major residential or commercial construction projects.

  1. Measurements are taken by engineers for roof truss – rafter length and the angle at the construction site.
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Created with Nokia Smart Cam

2. Roof truss come preassembled from Factory/warehouse (eg. Sarnia)

3. A Crane used to lift the truss is set in position.

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Created with Nokia Smart Cam

4.  Chains are used to hook trusses to the crane.

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Created with Nokia Smart Cam

5. The Crane then lifts up the roof truss at an appropriate angle as required for the placement.

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Created with Nokia Smart Cam

6. Roof Trusses are finally nailed in and secured.

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Created with Nokia Smart Cam