Options for a house siding

If you are working on your new house the siding material is a very important decision. Also remember to check your new home location – if you have a HOA (home owner association) you can have some limitations of the siding materials to put in your home.

Siding Fiber Cement Wise Home Building
Fiber cement siding

These are the most frequent types of siding used for home building:

  1. Wood: is a pretty good option, but remember that the maintenance is high for some products. Prepare yourself to repair it in 5 – 10 years, or even before this period.People love it because of its beautiful and natural look. Commonly options are: pine, cedar, spruce, and redwood. You can either leave the wood in its natural state or paint it. You can also chose the profile for them (we will discuss it in other posts)
  2. Vinyl:  is a synthetic material that has low maintenance, is durable and has a low cost for material and also labor. Extreme weather condition sometimes can damage the material – you will find some videos and pictures in the internet about the damage of vinyl siding with heavy sun exposure.
  3. Fiber cement: usually created to mimic good quality wood sidings. It is a very reliable and durable solution. The labor cost for installation is higher, as the price of the siding itself. But you will save money for the long term because you will not have a high cost of maintenance.
  4. Engineered Wood: Unlike vinyl or fiber cement, engineered wood actual contains real wood. They also offer a great warranty time (sometimes 20 to 30 years). It requires little maintenance, and can be a good choice for your project (more expensive than vinyl though).
  5. Stucco: is a mixture of cement, lime or sand although it can be made using different recipes. The exterior is created by layering the mixture all over the house. It is not a good option for regions that have a high humidity environment. It is also very expensive to install.
  6. Brick: one of the materials that have almost no maintenance. The problem is that the labor costs for installation are extremely high.
  7. Metal: long lasting and durable, it does not rot or mold due to water damage. Some types of metal may rust if not well finished and maintained. Some people don’t like the aesthetic of metal siding, and also you can have limitations to use it because of the local HOA (if you have it already established).
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Insulation: the best ones to control your house temperature

Insulation is anything that blocks the movement of heat. Heat flows when molecules with more energy (more heat) bump into molecules with less energy (a colder place has a low movement of the molecules). We have a lot of ways to control this movement, and insulation is the building process that can do that. The simplest way to block heat conduction is the creation of an empty zone that has no matter. Unfortunately it is not possible to create vacuum in your walls. Because of that we have to install some material that will help our goals to block the heat exchange.

SprayFoam photo Wise Home Building
Spray foam application (Photo credit – http://www.techomebuilder.com)

The following are the most common types of materials used for insulation

  1. Batt insulation
    • Fiberglass batts and blankets
    • Rockwool Batts and Blankets
  2. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
    • Polystyrene SIPs
    • Polyisocyanurate SIPs
  3. Loose-Fill Insulation
    • Loose-Fill Fiberglass
    • Loose-Fill Cellulose
  4. Spray foam
    1. Open-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam
    2. Closed-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam

You can do some of the batt insulation by yourself, but ask for a pro if you are thinking about a spray foam system.

 

Hard water: how to solve it

In a recent post we discussed the problems that you may have with your water when you have a well. Hard water is a common condition here in New England, and to solve this problems you have to install a softener system.

Salt Water Softener Wise Home Building
Water Softener System (with the salt tank in the left side)

Waster treatment systems also have a lot of other functions. There are multiple systems by which water treatment systems companies can remove contaminants and the hardness from water:

  • Point of entry systems: they are able to treat all of the water entering a home and are installed after a water meter or storage tank – you can install after your pump filter, for example, inside a mechanical room (if you have available space).
  • Point of use systems: used where people directly access the water, like a kitchen sink or a shower head.

Specialized companies perform several different types of water treatment, such as treating hardness with water softeners and removing pollutants. They can also be treated by ionic exchange and granular active carbon.

Hard water treatment

Water softening by definition is the process to remove calcium and magnesium from the water through a process called ion exchange using a polymer resin bed which gives off a sodium particle in exchange for hardness minerals. You need salt on the system to do it, and that’s the most common process used (at the least expensive)

Salt based water softeners use an electronic metered valve mounted atop a fiberglass resin tank that meter water by the gallon and then run a cleaning cycle when the ion resin bed reaches a saturation point. During the cleaning cycle, the electronic valve cycles a series of back flushes to purge the hardness particulates that have been captured from the system and flush them down a drain line. The sodium is also replenished in the resin bed during the cycle and all is ready to go again.

Some systems are salt-free, and doesn’t remove the naturally occurring healthy minerals such as calcium and magnesium from your water. Also they don’t put excess salt waste or chemicals into your waste water or the environment. Some of theses systems are available at the internet. Salt free water softeners are actually not softeners, they are water conditioners. We don’t have experience with the use of these systems, but it seems reasonable to think about that.

Hard water: myths and truths

If you have a water well in your house probably you are familiar with this term. But if you are starting to look for a way to have a well in your house and are confuse about that, you can find some information here.

Water well wise home building

As water moves through soil (after some rain, for example) it dissolves very small amounts of minerals and holds them in solution. Water described as hard has a high amount of dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. Hard water is not a health risk, but a nuisance because of mineral buildup on fixtures and poor soap and/or detergent performance. Hard water is very common to be found in New England region because of the characteristics of the soil.

Hard water can satin my clothes during washing: TRUE 

Hard water interferes with almost every cleaning task from laundering and dish washing to bathing and personal grooming, and even more problems can happen:

  • Clothes laundered in hard water may look dingy and feel harsh and scratchy.
  • Dishes and glasses may be spotted when dry.
  • Hard water may cause a film on glass shower doors, shower walls, bathtubs, sinks and faucets
  • Hair washed in hard water may feel sticky and look dull.
  • Pipes can become clogged with scale that reduces water flow and ultimately requires pipe replacement

Hard water can damage my appliances: TRUE

Hard water also contributes to inefficient and costly operation of water-using appliances. Heated hard water forms a scale of calcium and magnesium minerals that can contribute to the inefficient operation or failure of water-using appliances. The water filters in some refrigerators can quickly be clogged.

Hard water is dangerous for health: MYTH

Hard water is not a health hazard. In fact, the National Research Council from the National Academy of Sciences states that hard drinking water generally contributes a small amount toward total calcium and magnesium human dietary needs. They further state that in some instances, where dissolved calcium and magnesium are very high, water could be a major contributor of calcium and magnesium to the diet.  The problem with hard water can be the arsenic content, and because of that is recommended for every well installation that you perform a test in qualified lab facilities.

Hard water can easily be managed by installing a softener system: TRUE

The water softener is just a special type of “filter” that removes the calcium and magnesium in hard water by using plastic beads and cleans itself periodically by a process called regeneration.

Water softeners have three main components: a mineral tank, a brine tank, and a control valve. We will talk about them in other posts. The cost to install a system can vary from several hundred dollars up to several thousands, depending on what you would like to do with your water within your house. You can also add filters and more complex process (like the reverse osmosis) to have almost a completely sterile water.

Keeping your grass green and healthy

We all love to see our garden clean and healthy. In New England we have tough conditions for all plants and grass gardens, but even in these conditions we can make our grass happy by applying for some simple concepts.

Grass picture wise home building

Spring is over (officially, at least), and now the summer is coming and is time to water your grass frequently. Ideally the best option is an irrigation system, that can be installed for mild to moderate prices, depending on the size of your garden. But before installing your systems remember to measure the pressure. The average water pressure for most homes and businesses is between 30 psi and 50 psi, and most sprinkler systems are designed to use pressures of around 30 psi. The better the pressure the easier it will be to align your budget, because you will probably need a lower number of sprinklers.

Watering is one of the most important things for your grass, but also remember that some pests love it and if you have a lot of moisture you can specifically be susceptible to have lawn grubs there.

Grubs are a big problem in the Northeast, Midwest and Southwest, where irrigated turf provides a grub oasis in the otherwise desert country. Grubs make their presence known by creating patches of dying lawn as they devour grass roots. Sometimes you’ll also notice places where the lawn has been burrowed as hungry skunks or armadillos dig for grubs. Treatments for grubs include milky spore, granular pest control products and nematodes.can kill it if you don’t pay attention.

Fertilizers and aeration are also important, and you have to look for a professional recommendation – or at least study a lot in the internet – to adapt your grass needs for the specific fertilizers you have available. If you put too much or too little you will spend money and will not see any clear benefit.

One think that is specifically important is to mow it adequately. Use the 1/3 rule – removing more than 1/3 of the grass blade will stress out your lawn. If you cut or take out too much of the grass blade, your lawn will have a difficult time thriving and will instead look burnt out. Your lawn’s appearance is enhanced by sharp mower blades. Cleaner cuts of grass are provided by sharp blades. Grass will be able to recover from mowing faster when it is cut by sharp blades.

 

Deck railing: pay attention to the rules

timbertech-banner-deck railing Wise Home Building blog
TimberTech Radiace® railing system

Regulations and codes are a pain in the neck for builders. But they are necessary, and some of them are really important to make your house a safer place to live. Deck railing codes are really important, and remember them when building your deck (if you are not using a contractor)

All decks higher than 30″ above grade must have a guardrail. But if your deck is lower than 30″ and you would like to install a railing system you must still meet code requirements. The International Residential Code (IRC) for single family houses requires guardrails to be at lest 36″ in height measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail. You are allowed to build taller guardrails as long as they conform to all other requirements stated in the code (click here to check all code recommendation for deck construction).
Deck Cantilevers

cantilevered-deck-crop Wise Home Building blog
Image credit: https://boston-decks-and-porches.com

Instead of putting a girder at the end of the joists, you’ll need a beam under the joists, so they can extend past that support. This framing style is called post and beam, and the overhang is a cantilever. If you would like to have a a cantilever deck the code have the rules in Section R507.5. Deck joists can cantilever up to 1/4 of the joist span. But you’ll notice when you look at the portion of the span table for joists with cantilevers that the joist span for decks with a cantilever is often less than the span for the same sized joist without cantilevers. The next subsection requires that solid blocking is required over the beam when there is a cantilever.

Even if your local code jurisdiction hasn’t adopted the 2015 IRC, most building officials will look favorably on an ICC sanctioned code provision. So run the table by your building official for approval before using it. And stick with a builder or contractor that understand the rules and local codes, of course.

House decks: a simple guide for you

Summer time is coming, and if you don’t have a deck in your backyard probably you’ll be jealous of your neighbor.

If you think about having a deck in the future, one of the most important aspects for the long term durability is the type of material you’ll use for the floor. We’re living in a time of abundant choice – even a water in the restaurant is never only a water (still or sparking, with or without ice…and even water with flavors). When you think about options for your deck it involves decision about the beauty and aesthetics, maintenance and price.

Trex Deck Composite Wise Home Building St Stephensen Roswell website
Photo credit – http://www.ststephensroswell.com/mold-on-trex-deck/

1. Composite deck: Composite decking represent the fastest-growing decking materials sold today. They are durable, the maintenance is easy and the options of colors can be fantastic to meet your aesthetics needs. Composites like Trex and TimberTech, to name some of most well-known, are composed primarily of wood fibers and recycled plastic. They are extremely weather-stain-resistant board that won’t splinter, warp, rot or split. They are more expensive than regular wood, of course, but it is worthy. Normally they have a 25-year warranty.

2. Plastic lumber – like Azek DeckForeverDeck and Leisure Decking – are similar to composite, but they are made from 100 percent plastic (recycled and/or virgin). It contains no wood fibers, and are also highly resistant to staining and decay, and free of knots, cracks and splinters.

3. Pressure-treated lumber – Most pressure treated decking is milled from yellow pine, and then chemically treated to resist rot, fungus and wood-boring bugs. The two most common sizes of treated decking are 2 x 6 and 5/4 x 6-­in. planks. Occasionally 2 x 4 are used, but typically only on small decks or railings. The popularity of this type of deck lumber isn’t surprising: it’s affordable, readily available, and easy to cut and fasten with nails or screws. It is also the cheapest option.