Traverse City Record-Eagle


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Everyday Engineering

Erin Parker is a licensed professional engineer who loves breaking the art and science of engineering down into simple terms. His blog aims to help Record-Eagle readers by providing practical solutions to ‘everyday engineering’ problems they may have. Please feel free to contact him with questions or problems at

Night of the Living Crawl Space

By Erin ParkerA trip down into the crawl space under your house may be the closest you will ever get to experiencing true terror. Even though you won’t find any living dead down there, many crawl spaces resemble a scene out of a horror movie – dark, damp, moldy, stinky and full of all kinds of creepy crawlies – and even the toughest among us quiver with dread when forced to descend into the depths of these subterranean terrors.  Truly scary … More »

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A backyard shed – the perfect spring project!

By Erin ParkerWell, spring is on the way, and now is definitely a great time to start thinking of outdoor spring projects.  Just about everyone can use some extra storage space, and one truly useful and rewarding project to consider is designing and building your own backyard shed. More »

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Condensation: The silent enemy within

By Erin ParkerMoisture is the mortal enemy of all buildings, and air – or more precisely, condensation from the air – is its silent accomplice.  Moisture from a leaky roof, a foundation crack or a leak in the plumbing is usually pretty easy to spot, causing obvious wet spots, water stains on ceilings and walls, sagging drywall or bubbled paint.

Moisture carried in the air, on the other hand, is invisible and when condensation occurs in hidden spaces, it can go undetected for long periods of time, sometimes years. More »

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Driven to distraction? Tips for better driving

By Erin ParkerWhen driving, the focus should always be on getting safely from one point to another.   Most drivers do just that – most of the time anyway –  without giving it a second thought.   The problem is, even the best drivers sometimes slip up, get distracted, and become part of the grim statistics. More »

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Growing pressure for mounds?

By Erin ParkerOver the years, hundreds of property owners throughout northern Michigan have been forced onto holding tanks when their local health department determined that their property didn’t “perc.”  This happens with both new homes and, increasingly, with existing homes on older failing septic systems. More »

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Carpenter ants invade!

By Erin ParkerA common and pesky pest problem in northern Michigan homes occurs when carpenter ants decide to sneak inside your house or outbuildings and take up residence.  Ants are social little critters, and if they aren’t controlled quickly, they soon establish colonies in concealed spaces, munching out tunnels and cozy nest chambers inside your home’s wooden framework, including: beams, posts, floor joists, sill plates, wall studs, etc.  Over time, the ants will weaken or even destroy the structural integrity of your house. More »

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Water damage — are you covered?

By Erin ParkerAll homeowners need to have adequate insurance to provide basic coverage for their home and possessions for the many types of damage that can and often does happen.   What many people don't realize is that certain types of damage, including certain types of water damage, are not covered by typical homeowner's insurance. More »

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Be careful on that ladder – tips to keep you out of the ER!

By Erin ParkerOur family has been having a real tough time with ladders this year. Earlier this summer, my brother fell off a ladder while working inside his new home in Alaska. He only fell about five feet, but he landed right on top of the ladder with his ankle stuck underneath and at last report he's still limping. Not to be outdone, my dad fell 20 feet (that's two stories) off a ladder while he was re-shingling a roof last week!   He's pretty darn lucky — he escaped with relatively minor injuries including a broken wrist, but could easily have been killed or seriously hurt. Was this unfortunate series of events a coincidence, or is there something going on here? More »

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The BP Gulf oil catastrophe — a ‘wake-up call'

By Erin ParkerAs we all know, the uncontrolled offshore oil well blow-out off the coast of Louisiana has spewed out massive quantities of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for about two months now.   We've seen the ongoing failed efforts to stop, or at least to contain the millions of gallons of crude that are blowing out of the well every day.   We've seen the horrific, widespread environmental and economic devastation to the Gulf coast region, and the early efforts to try and clean up this huge mess. Our hearts go out to the people who have been, and will be directly affected by this disaster. This massive and ongoing oil spill  should be considered a real ‘wake-up' call. More »

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Alternative septic systems — what's 'holding' you back?

By Erin ParkerMost people in rural areas of northern Michigan don't have access to municipal sanitary sewer service.   For the majority of these people, this is not a big deal because they can dispose of their wastewater on site using a low-cost and reliable conventional septic system.   More »

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