Ask An Architect

Q I am planning to build a 42-by-60-foot studio using pole-barn construction. I understand that a 2-inch polystyrene layer provides good insulation under the floor slab. Where is it best placed? I am also interested in using a ``Re-Verber-Raz'' radiant heat system as I will have 18-foot-high ceilings. Is this a good system? Jon Hudson

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Place the 2-inch layer of expanded polystyrene directly under the slab. Beneath that will be your gravel base and then a visqueen vapor barrier. Each inch of the material has an approximate R-value of 4. Don't forget to place this same type of insulation along the outside perimeter of the footing as well.

The heating system is more complex. I am not familiar with the manufacturer you mention. Radiant heat is certainly an excellent method of heating high volumes, but heating-cycle lag time seems to be one of its big drawbacks.

Hot-air and hot-water circulation under the slab, as well as baseboard and ceiling electrical-resistance heating, are some of the broad varieties in use. It would be most beneficial for you to buy a couple hours of a local mechanical engineer's time to help you evaluate various options.

His opinion would be unbiased because he doesn't have a product to sell and would be familiar with local fuel costs as well as the initial costs and operating efficiencies of the various system types. Q Last year I had new rain gutters installed on my home. The workmen used a product which, I thought, was called Liquid Rubber. I can't seem to find it locally and recall that it was manufactured in Ohio. Could you assist me in identifying the product?

Edward E. Andrews

Birmingham, Mich.

Mameco, at 4475 East 175th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44128, is the only source in that area that I've been able to come up with. The company has a polyurethane sealant, called Vulkem 116 or 119, which would probably do the job. Some rain-gutter installers also use a polysulfide-based sealant as well.

The amount and types of caulkings and sealants on the market shelf are absolutely bewildering. Reading the labels and asking questions should help to avoid polyconfusion! Q We wish to add a fireplace to our home, which is on a raised foundation with a wood floor. We would like to do as little work as possible on the existing structure and prefer the look of used brick. Could you suggest something that will accomplish this project on a modest budget?

A reader

Use one of the many ``zero clearance,'' prefabricated metal fireplaces on the market which can be set directly on your wood floor, framed around, and brick veneered. The triple-walled metal flues and all of the pre-made caps and flashings make for easy installation.

Be sure the unit and the installation comply with local building codes. The cost of this type of installation can run to one-half to one-third the cost of a masonry fireplace. To the real estate editor:

I located a firm -- Gusguard Products, PO Box 577, Arroyo Grande, Calif. 93420 -- which appears to have well-engineered earthquake supports for a mobile home, such as you suggest. They provide cushioning, both up and down as well as sideways.

I understand there is state legislation pending to make earthquake supports mandatory for mobile homes. It cost me $1,800 to have these installed on our 24-by-48-foot coach.

Helen L. Lenox

Santa Cruz, Calif.

If you have a question on designing, improving, or maintaining your home, school, church, or place of business, send it to the real estate editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Mr. Kent is a practicing architect in southern California.

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