BRICK WALL DRAINAGE WEEP HOLES - home - CONTENTS: Definition & explanation of brick wall weep holes or weep openings used to provide drainage for the building wall or shell: shell drains & wall drains.
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Weep holes in brick walls:
Here we give construction specifications & details for proper location, flashing, & protection of weep holes or drain openings & vents in brick or other masonry veneer walls. We explain how these weep or vent openings in brick walls work, where and how they should be installed, and what special products such as opening screens & flashings are available.
This article series explains the purpose of drainage openings & rain screens in solid brick walls and in some brick veneer walls: brick wall weep holes and recommends their use in new construction and in some brick wall repairs or retrofits. Weep holes in building exterior masonry walls (brick or stone) are a drainage system that is used in cavity wall or rain-screen wall construction methods to get rid of water that has penetrated the outer wall skin or surface.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Weep Holes in Brick Veneer & other Masonry Veneer Walls
Brick veneer construction [and some other masonry veneer construction such as thin stone over wood framed walls] incorporates a drainage
cavity to deter water penetration into the building. This air
space creates a physical separation between the brick wythe
and the inner steel stud wall.
When the wind-driven rain
penetrates the veneer wythe, the cavity allows the water to
drain down the back face of the brick. This water is then
collected at the base of the wall by flashing and channeled
out to the exterior through weep holes. (Arumala 2007)
Watch out: Both structural brick walls and veneer brick (or stone) walls may be designed either as a barrier wall or a cavity/rain-screen wall. Before you can evaluate the condition of a wall you need to understand how it was built and whether or not the as-built matches the as-designed conception of the wall.
Our page top sketch, courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, a Toronto home inspection & education firm, shows both the reasons for and the typical design details used in weep openings on brick walls.
[Click to enlarge any image].
The beautiful Flemish-bond structural brick wall (left) on the Vassar College Campus was constructed with very subtle drain or weep openings at the wall bottom. It has survived intact even though the building is located in a seasonally wet and freezing climate.
Watch out: In February 2016 in the U.K. The Telegraph reported that the Cavity Wall Insulation Victims Alliance (CWIVA) was lobbying both industry and government to obtain relief from insulation companies who were selling this bad approach to building energy savings by representing that their insulation was "government-backed" - it was not and it is not.
Some of these news reports "mould in wall cavities is caused by insulation" describe a real problem but do not necessarily offer a correct explanation of the cause of the mould contamination. Insulation does not itself cause mould growth. Mould spores are present everywhere, all the time, in air. But when conditions are right, particularly trapped moisture and perhaps temperature, mould growth will be encouraged in and on buildings.
Since the mid 1980's building scientists have known stressed that air leaks into and out of wall cavities at penetrations (openings for receptacles, switches, wires, pipes) is a particular source of moisture problems.
If we combine leaks or moisture with improper placement of insulation, such as pumping or blowing styrofoam bead or other insulation into the air space between a brick veneer wall and the building's structural (usually wood-framed) wall, then yes, that's a recipe for trouble. Brick veneer walls are not waterproof and must be designed to permit water to drain out of the wall rather than into the wall interior.
This article provides details about the importance of providing proper drainage for brick veneer walls.
Definition & Images of Veneer Wall or Masonry Wall Weep Openings
Weep openings are drainage holes left in the face of a brick veneer wall [and possibly some other constructions] in order to allow water that has penetrated the wall to escape downwards through the wall cavity and out to the exterior of the wall surface through the weep openings. As will be explained later, I think the weep openings in the veneer wall shown above, though properly located, are probably not working.
This escape passage and wall design are a method for reducing water intrusion into the structure interior. According to the Masonry Design Manual, weep holes are
Openings placed in mortar joints of facing materials at the level of flashing, to permit the escape of moisture, or openings in retaining walls to permit water to escape.
Above we illustrate the most basic brick wall weep opening.
To diagnose a building water entry or moisture problem originating at its exterior walls we must first understand the construction concepts that were used to build that wall: two very different concepts apply, though they often appear mixed or even confused in buildings: barrier wall construction methods (the wall exterior skin keeps out water) and cavity or rain-screen wall construction (the wall is designed to handle and get rid of water that penetrates the outer skin).
See WALL CONSTRUCTION BARRIER vs CAVITY for definitions and explanations of barrier wall construction compared with cavity / rain screen exterior wall construction methods, objectives, and damage vulnerabilities.
Below we show a brick wall (a veneer in this case) with weep openings at regular intervals at two heights above ground level.
Below is a close up of one of the drainage openings.
Veneer wall weep or drain openings are placed at least at the very bottom of a brick veneer wall cavity and sometimes as vents openings are placed higher in the wall in some designs.
For the wall shown in the photos just above, we suspect that an air space behind the veneer does not extend lower than the weep holes in our photos. Why? The lower wall is solid masonry construction with no air space rather than frame construction. The lower brick courses were laid tight, with no cavity at all, against a solid concrete or masonry block foundation wall, thus forming a solid composite masonry wall.
Typical Construction Specification for Brick Veneer Wall Containing Weep or Drain Openings & Wall Cavity Vents
Here are three examples of wall cavity vent and weep opening specifications adapted from the Brick Industry Association (BIA), our industry expert source, and from two example construction specifications for brick veneer walls that offer more details.
Note: the specifications for any particular building project should be made by a qualified design professional such as a licensed professional engineer or licensed architect.
Weep Hole Wall Vent Construction Specification Example #1 - BIA
The Brick Industry Association recommends veneer wall weep opening specifications as follows:
Open head joint weeps spaced at no more than 24 in.
(610 mm) o.c. recommended
Most building codes permit weeps no less than 3
/16 in. (4.8
mm) diameter and spaced no more than 33 in. (838 mm)
Wick and tube weep spacing recommended at no more
than 16 in. (406 mm) o.c.- BIA 28B cited below.
Above, these weep openings are properly located: above the upper surface of the wall bottom flashing, and they might meet the BIA's 3/16" (4.8mm) diameter, but in my opinion they are inadequate.
At BRICK VENEER WEEPS BLOCKED or MISSING we show that these tiny tubes inserted as veneer wall drains were mostly blocked by mud placed by mud-dauber wasps. Little wall-bottom tubes are also very easily blocked by falling mortar and debris in the wall cavity. Good location, weak weeps.
Weep Hole Wall Vent Construction Specification Example #2
Wall shall use pre-formed control joints using rubber material. Provide with corner and tee accessories and fused joints.
Weep openings: use molded PVC grilles that are insect resistant, located above-grade and not blocked
Install weeps in veneer walls at 16" (400 mm) on center horizontally above through-wall flashing, above shelf angles and lintels and at bottom of walls
Install cavity vents in veneer walls at 16" (400 mm) on center horizontally below shelf angles and lintels and at top of walls.
Install cavity mortar diverter at base of cavity as recommended by manufacturer to prevent mortar droppings from blocking weep/cavity vents.
Do not permit mortar to drop or accumulate into cavity air space or to plug weep/cavity vents.
Wall cavity mortar control: Semi-rigid polyethylene or polyester mesh panels, sized to thickness of wall cavity, and designed to prevent mortar droppings from clogging weep openings and cavity vents and designed to allow proper cavity drainage
Venting a Veneer Wall Supported on a Foundation
[Click to enlarge any image]
Above: Brick veneer wall construction details showing weep openings immediately above flashing that is in turn atop bottom brick course of a brick veneer wall constructed over a steel stud cavity wall. These details are for a brick veneer wall that rests atop a masonry foundation.
This illustration is adapted from BIA Technical Notes 28B, Figure 1 as used in Arumala 2007 cited below. Critical wall bottom flashing is shown in red, brick veneer weep opening locations above the horizontal portion of that flashing are shown in green, and house-wrap / water barrier fabric(s) are shown in dark gray.
Watch out: Less evident in our sketch but important: the water barrier affixed to the wall sheathing should extend over the top of the wall bottom flashing, not behind it. Otherwise water in the wall cavity may pass behind the bottom flashing and thus will fail to drain from the wall cavity.
Venting A Veneer Wall Supported by Steel Lintel
Below: Brick veneer wall construction details showing the location of weep openings immediately above wall bottom flashing that is in turn immediately above the upper surface of the supporting steel lintel in a lintel-supported brick veneer wall design.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Notice that when the brick veneer is supported by a steel lintel, the weep openings are immediately over the wall bottom flashing that is in turn immediately over the upper surface of the supporting steel lintel. This illustration is adapted from Figure 3, "A Typical Section of a Brick Veneer Wall with Steel Stud Backup Wall" - Arumala (2007)
Weep openings & vents in upper levels of brick veneer walls
As our photograph above illustrates, in tall brick veneer walls additional weep openings and air vent openings may be specified by the architect/engineer for placement higher in the wall.
Air, Cavity & Weep Hole Wall Vent Specification Example #3
Air Vents: Flexible ultra violet resistant polypropylene co-polymer DA1006 Cell
Vent by Dur-O-Wal Inc., 7777 Washington Village Dr., Ste. 130, Dayton, OH
45459, (888) 977.9600, www.dur-o-wal.com.
Size: Height 2-1/2 inch maximum except as indicated otherwise, by full width of brick.
Color: To match mortar color.
Weep Vents: Flexible ultra violet stable recycled polyester mesh, rectangular
shape by Mortar Net USA Ltd, 541 S. Lake St., Gary, IN 46403, (800) 664-6638,
www.mortarnet.com, CavClear Weep Vents by Archovations, Inc., PO Box 241,
Hudson, WI 54016, (888) 436-2620, www.cavclear.com.
Size: Height 2-1/2 inch maximum except as indicated otherwise, by full width of Brick.
Color: To match mortar color.
Cavity Wall Mortar Net: Lightweight polyethylene, 90 percent open woven mesh
by Mortar Net USA Ltd, 541 South Lake Street, Gary, IN 46403, (800) -664-6638,
www.mortarnet.com. or CavClear Masonry Mat by Archovations, Inc., PO Box
241, Hudson, WI 54016, (888) 436-2620, www.cavclear.com.
Size: Height 10 inches, thickness as required to fill cavity.
Size: Full height of wall, thickness as required to fill cavity
Form weep holes in mortar joints of exterior wythe of cavity
walls at bottom of cavity over foundations, bond beams, through
wall flashings, and other water stops in wall.
Form weep holes by leaving head joint free and clean of mortar,
and raking out bed joint at weep hole.
Space weep holes approximately 24 inches oc. Keep weep holes
free of mortar droppings and other obstructions.
Pointing & Cleaning at End of Wall Construction
At completion of masonry Work, fill holes in joints (except weep holes) and tool.
Brick Veneer Wall & Curtain Wall Venting & Research
Arumala, J. O. and Brown, R. H., “Performance Evaluation
of Brick Veneer with Steel Stud Backup”, Department of
Civil Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson, South
Carolina, April 1982.
Brick Industry Association, "Technical Notes on Brick Construction", Brick Industry Association, 1850 Centennial Park Drive
Reston, Virginia 20191
firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.gobrick.com, retrieved 2016/06/21,original source: http://www.gobrick.com/Technical-Notes
Brick Industry Association, [BIA], "Brick Veneer / Steel Stud Walls, 28B", [PDF] Brick Industry Association, op.cit. (December 2005), retrieved 2016/06/21, original source: http://gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Technical%20Notes/TN28B.pdf Excerpt included in the article above
BIA, "Brick Veneer Construction: Basics of Resisting Water Penetration in Residential Construction", [PDF] Brick Industry Association, op.cit. (Issue 1), retrieved 2016/06/21, original source: http://www.gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Publications/Builder%20Notes/Builder_Notes_1.pdf
Through-wall flashing is an
impermeable membrane placed in the
wall that extends from the sheathing,
across the air space, and all the way
to the exterior of the brickwork (see
Figure 1). One should place flashing
at all points where the air space is
closed off. Model building codes
require flashing at the foundation,
above window and door heads, at
window sills, and where the roof of
a one-story wing meets a two-story
brick veneer wall.
... Flashing should extend from the
outside face of the veneer, through
the thickness of the brick veneer,
across the air space to the backing,
and then up at least 8 inches. The
flashing should either extend up behind the water-resistant barrier
or should be attached to its surface
with a termination bar. Flashing held
back from the outside of the brick
veneer— even just 1/2 inch—could
allow water to re-enter the wall.
BIA, "Lo Esencial sobre la Construcción de Revestimiento de Ladrillos
y Lista de Control de Trabajo", retrieved 2016/06/21 original source http://www.gobrick.com/Portals/25/docs/Publications/Builder%20Notes/Builder_Notes_Spanish_Issue2.pdf
BIA, “Brick Masonry Cavity Walls: Introduction,”
Technical Notes on Brick Construction No. 21, Rev., Brick
Industry association, Reston, VA., 1998.
BIA, “Brick Veneer/Stud Panel Walls,” Technical
Notes on Brick Construction No. 28B, Rev. II, Brick Industry
association, Reston, VA., 1999.
Choi, Edmund CC, and Zhihong Wang. "Study on pressure-equalization of curtain wall systems." Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics 73, no. 3 (1998): 251-266.
Abstract: In recent years, aluminium-curtain-wall systems are often used in southeast Asia. Many of these curtain-wall systems can be classified as a two-barrier system with a front-panel (the rainscreen) and the back-panel (the air barrier). The back-panels of such systems are usually thin and flexible. Compared with the brick or brick-veneer rainscreen walls, where the back-panels are very rigid, the pressure-equalization characteristics are expected to be quite different. To improve on the understanding of the behaviour of such systems and to evaluate design parameters, full-scale measurements were carried out. A numerical model which takes into account the flexibility of the back-panel has been developed for the prediction of cavity pressure in curtain walls. The results based on this model show good agreement with those obtained from full-scale experiments.
Drysdale, R.G. and Kluge, A., “A Summary of Performance
of Brick Veneer/Steel Stud Wall Systems Subject to Temperature,
Air Pressure and Vapor Pressure Differential,”
Seminar on Brick Veneer Wall Systems, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, June 1989.
ICBO 1997, Uniform Building Code, International Conference
of Building Officials, Whittier, CA, 1997.
Keeton, B., “Prevent Water Intrusion and Minimize Exposure
to Claims by Building with Mold in Mind” Construction
Executive, vol. 13, No. 7, pg 46-48, Association of
Builders and Contractors, 4250 North Fairfax Drive, 9th
Floor, Arlington, Virginia 22203, June 2004.
Masonry Standards Joint Committee (MSJC), “Building
Code Requirements for Masonry Structures”, (ACI 530-
05/ASCE 5-05/TMS 402-05), American Concrete Institute;
Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of
Civil Engineers; The Masonry Society, Boulder CO, 2005.
McGinley, Mark W., “An Alternative Design for Brick
Veneer Steel Stud Walls”, The Masonry Society Journal,
The Masonry Society, Vol. 18, Number 2 pp. 9-22, December
Reneckis, Dziugas, James M. LaFave, and Wade M. Clarke. "Out-of-plane performance of brick veneer walls on wood frame construction." Engineering structures 26, no. 8 (2004): 1027-1042.
Full-scale brick veneer wall panel specimens, representing typical residential construction practice, were investigated under static and dynamic out-of-plane lateral loading on a shake table. The tests captured the overall performance of the wall system, including interaction and load-sharing between the brick masonry veneer, corrugated sheet metal ties, and wood frame backup.
The tests evaluated the effects of two different tie installation methods, as well as a veneer-to-backup connection repair using post-installed mechanical anchors. The progression of system damage was noted up until partial collapse of the veneer walls; tie stiffness and strength were found to significantly affect wall performance at all stages of behavior.
Analytical models for veneer wall systems are being developed based on these experiments to further study the vulnerability of this type of construction.
Straube, J. F., and E. F. P. Burnett. "Rain control and screened wall systems." In Proc. 7th Conf. on Building Science and Technology. Durability of Buildings. Design, Maintenance, Codes and Practices. Toronto, pp. 20-21. 1997.
Treshsel, H. R., editor, “Moisture Control in Buildings”,
ASTM manual series MNL 18, 1994 American Society for
Testing and Materials (ASTM), pp. 224-225, 1994.
Van Straaten, Randy. "Measurement of ventilation and drying of vinyl siding and brick clad wall assemblies." (2004).
Control of moisture and heat flow through building enclosure assemblies is a critical component of overall building performance. This thesis shows that significant drying of moisture in wall assemblies is possible and that ventilation of cladding significantly increases the rate of drying in some assemblies without having detrimental impact on the enclosures thermal performance.
A review found that thermal and moisture buoyancy, wind pressure gradients and mechanical equipment drive ventilation airflow. This ventilation flow can theoretically increase the effective water vapour permeance and thermal conductivity. Ventilation has the potential to increase outward drying through relatively impermeable claddings at the low flows expected to occur in service.
The impact on thermal conductance is much less. A methodology for assessing the complicated airflow resistance characteristics of lap sidings was developed and applied to a representative vinyl siding. Field drying studies showed that the sample tested is well ventilated. Field brick veneer clad wall samples were also tested for system airflow resistance over a range of driving pressures.
Theoretical predictions under-estimated the measured flow rate for given steady driving air pressures. Measurements of naturally driven cavity air speeds and smoke pencil testing showed that flow rates were commonly occurring that would in theory significantly affect the hygrothermal performance of the walls. This was confirmed with field drying studies. A field drying study of east-facing test wall with vinyl siding and brick veneer cladding was conducted in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Significant amounts of drying and inward moisture redistribution were measured. Wall sheathing dried quickly in hot summer conditions but in some cases significant inward driven moisture flow occurred. In cool and cold weather the wall dried more slowly and much less moisture moved inward. Increased cladding ventilation significantly increased drying rates and reduced internal wall assembly moisture levels.
It was concluded that cladding ventilation acts to increase the effective vapour permeance of cladding and to reduce solar driven inward vapour drives. The use of spun bonded polyolefin sheathing membrane in lieu of #15 asphalt impregnated felt was found to improved hygrothermal performance in the test walls.
The difference observed was concluded to be due to the higher vapour permeance of the spun bonded polyolefin and may not hold for wall assemblies with lower permeance sheathings (e. g. oriented strand board and foam plastic). Walls clad with vinyl siding dried faster than those clad with brick veneer. It was concluded that the vinyl siding is a well ventilated cladding system.
Williams, Mark F., and Barbara Lamp Williams. "Water Intrusion in Barrier and Cavity/Rain Screen Walls." In Water in Exterior Building Walls: Problems and Solutions. ASTM International, 1991.
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Howell, Jeff, "Could the cavity-wall insulation scandal rival PPI?", The Telegraph, 16 February 2015, original source: Could the cavity-wall insulation scandal rival PPI?
Excerpts: Many victims’ cases were described by the MPs, and all had features in common. One was the way in which the idea of CWI had been presented to them by door-stepping and cold-calling salesmen, describing cavity insulation as being “Government-backed” or “Government-funded”. This is not the case. ... Another factor that the victims’ cases have in common is the role of the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA), which issues 25-year guarantees. Salesmen often describe these as “Government guarantees”, which they are not.
 Williams, M.F., Williams B.L., "Water Intrusion in Barrier and Cavity / Rain Screen Walls", Water in Exterior Building Walls: Problems and Solutions, ASTM STP 1107, Thomas A. Schwartz, Eds., American Society for Testing and Materials, ASHRAE, Philadelphia, 1991, retrieved 8/10/12, Abstract:
Exterior walls are designed and constructed using barrier or cavity / rain screen wall principles. Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) are typically constructed as barrier walls; masonry is often constructed as a cavity wall. These wall systems are discussed along with common deficiencies that allow water intrusion to occur.
[Mark F. Williams and Barbara Lamp Williams are president and vice president respectively of Kenny/Williams/Williams, Inc., a building diagnostics firm at 945 Tennis Ave., Maple Glen PA 19002.]
Airolite BVC Brick Vents (extruded aluminum), The Airolite Company, LLC, PO Box 410, Schofield WI 54476, TelP 715-841-8757.
Brick Development Association, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London, WC1E 7BT, England, U.K., Tel: 020 7323 7030, Email: email@example.com
Arlene Puentes, ASHI, October Home Inspections - (845) 216-7833 - Kingston NY
Greg Robi, Magnum Piering - 800-822-7437 - National*
Dave Rathbun, P.E. - Geotech Engineering - 904-622-2424 FL*
Ed Seaquist, P.E., SIE Assoc. - 301-269-1450 - National
Dave Wickersheimer, P.E. R.A. - IL, professor, school of structures division, UIUC - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Architecture. Professor Wickersheimer specializes in structural failure investigation and repair for wood and masonry construction. * Mr. Wickersheimer's engineering consulting service can be contacted at HDC Wickersheimer Engineering Services. (3/2010)
Masonry structures: The Masonry House, Home Inspection of a Masonry Building & Systems, Stephen Showalter (director, actor), DVD, Quoting: Movie Guide Experienced home inspectors and new home inspectors alike are sure to learn invaluable tips in this release designed to take viewers step-by-step through the home inspection process. In addition to being the former president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), a longstanding member of the NAHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the Environmental Standard Organization (IESO), host Stephen Showalter has performed over 8000 building inspections - including environmental assessments. Now, the founder of a national home inspection school and inspection training curriculum shares his extensive experience in the inspection industry with everyday viewers looking to learn more about the process of evaluating homes. Topics covered in this release include: evaluation of masonry walls; detection of spalling from rebar failure; inspection of air conditioning systems; grounds and landscaping; electric systems and panel; plumbing supply and distribution; plumbing fixtures; electric furnaces; appliances; evaluation of electric water heaters; and safety techniques. Jason Buchanan --Jason Buchanan, All Movie Review
Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
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TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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