Ranch House: 8 advantages to build one

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Ranch style houses have a lot of advantages compared with a 2-story plan.
  1. No stairs (the lazy factor)

If you’re a fanatic for exercise, you like stairs.  If you’re like the rest of us, stairs are a hassle to go up and down. Some people also have disabilities, and is very difficult to handle with stairs, as we discuss below.

  1. Less noise (from above)

Noise from above, footsteps included, is not good.  The majority of 2-story homes aren’t built with perfect noise proofing between floors – mainly because it is expensive for builders to work with that feature.  Some are better than others but I’ve yet to be in a house where I don’t hear noise from above.

  1. Great for mobility issues

At some point stairs are more than a hassle: they’re an obstacle.  Many people with mobility issues sell their home because they cannot go up and down stairs.  If you’re building or buying your forever home, this is a good consideration.  At some point many of us will not be able to navigate stairs.

  1. More renovation flexibility

Load bearing walls make knocking down walls a problem.  Beam-work can replace a load-bearing wall, but it’s expensive. When you have a rancher, it’s much easier to knock down walls and add on extensions because there’s much less weight to consider.  Consequently, it’s easier to create open concept living areas.

  1. Easy to add skylights

In fact, it’s not only easier, it’s pretty much possible anywhere you like.  You simply punch a hole in the roof and create the skylight.   This is not possible when you have a second floor. The potential for adding natural light is enormous.  This can be a very nice benefit if you like a light-filled home such as a light-filled kitchen or bathroom.

  1. Easier for exterior maintenance

To maintain a single story home over a two-story home is also a huge advantage.  Imagine you cleaning gutters 20 feet in the air, and compare with a 10 feet up (it isn’t so bad, don’t you agree?). Thing goes with washing a house, cleaning windows and performing any roof maintenance.

  1. High cathedral ceiling

It’s far easier to add cathedral or tall ceilings to an existing single story home than it is to a 2-story home. Cathedral ceilings are very nice interior design features, and you can easily incorporate them in any plan for a single story house.

  1. More deck/patio potential

With a single story, you have more rooms from which to add a deck or patio.  Just create a door and a patio and you’re done.  It’s not so simple from a second story. It will be also more expensive to do it in a 2-story house.

Of course you have some “not so good” points when dealing with planing for a single story house. In other post we will talk about that.

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The 5 pillars of super-efficient houses

Energy efficiency is becoming a very important topic to be addressed in home building. Here you can find the 5 principles that guide this practice:

  1. Localize your energy source in your house – you normally live one room at a time, so if yo can plan your air conditioning system independently is a good idea.
  2. Insulate your house efficiently – roof areas and cool basements are important area to have a good insulation system for your home to be efficient. Some choices like insulated concrete prefab systems can help you on that.
  3. Design glass and shading for maximum benefit – the location and size of your windows are important factors that can affect your energy efficient proposal. You have to ideally plan the arrangement of all windows before buying them, and also try to work with systems that can help you avoid the inside-outside thermal changes. A good landscape design (considering tree shade positions) is also helpful
  4. Minimize air leakage and control ventilation – a window or door that is not correctly installed can be an important air leakage area that will damage the efficient index of your house. Also it will cost you a lot of money in electrical bills.
  5. Always select high efficiency appliances – more recently a lot of brands are working better with energy efficient devices. We recommend you access the Energy Star website clicking here

Water spending: You probably don’t know the numbers

Water is a big problem in some regions of USA because of a lack of lakes and water treatment related with conservation rules. So it is quite frequent for a lot of houses to have a water well.

Pie chart of our water use

Many people underestimate the amount of water they use. Here you have some interesting numbers related with that:

  1. Dishwasher: can use up to 16 gallons of water per cycle (old models). EnergyStar ® models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle and also save electricity.
  2. Shower: A low-flow shower-head uses about two gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A standard shower-head uses 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes.
  3. Toilet: water use can vary significantly. Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.

In Massachusetts the estimated average of water use per person per day is around 75 gallons. For a family of 4 they have to be prepared to use 300 gallons per day of water (if you don’t have a large garden with an irrigation system).

Think about these numbers if you are installing a new well in your house.

Water use and population growth chart
Source: EPA website

Weather protection: the secret for you house health

To build a new house is not a big deal itself. Of course is a very demanding job, but if you are an organized person and like to control budgets you can do small projects by yourself. The difficult part is to work on building process and renovation projects that are expected to last forever. Or, at least, for the next 50 years.

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A good roof project can help a lot your house to be protected from water infiltration

Having in mind this concept, one of the most important topics here is moisture and water. Regardless if you are an experience builder or not, water will find its way to penetrate a house. It doesn’t mater also the type of exterior finishing you are using (PVC, vinyl, wood, fiber cement, stucco or even metal). Instead of fighting against this reality, you have to think about water getting away from sheathing and framing.

  • Create a water resistant barrier (house wrap your house – it will be the “rain coat” to protect the water to enter the walls)
  • Put in your plans a roof overhang of 12 inches at least (is like an umbrella for your walls – if you don’t have it, the only protection will be the “rain coat” and you will need a great one if your goal is to stay dry)
  • Choose a 1 story house (the amount of water pouring in the wall will be much less compared with a 2 or 3 story house)
  • Avoid shallow-pitch roofs
  • Use good quality materials for your exterior walls
  • Carefully look for wrap products that can be a potent barrier for water

We like to use in our projects the Zip Wall sheathing from Huber. In projects that use Hardie-Plank materials you can use some strips to help in the water barrier. You have a lot of products that can be used also, but it depends on the specificity of your project.

If you need more information, don’t hesitate in contact us

 

Home building and Robots: now and then

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ZEROLABOR® automates the construction process in high-end plans.
In a recent new deal with modular construction Katerra, Swedish firm Randek brings its automated workforce to the U.S. home building market.

Perfect squared walls and studs without any bowing. Window and electrical openings placed according to CAD in pre-fabricated walls. Conduits and insulation installed in a control temperature environment. Minimal waste to be handled. Yes, we are talking about the HOME BUILDING 2.0: an era of robots taking care of the home building business.

Despite the majority of home builders today can’t use this technology, it is already a reality for some companies that would like to work with this innovation. Faster process to build walls, roofs and trusses, with computer precision, maximizing the labor time. That’s the goal, and believe you or not it is starting to gain more and more adepts.

A perfectly framed wood home can be built by a team of two robots: precisely as designed by the architects and engineers, in record time, without delays or injuries.

ZeroLabor Robotic System® is one of this multifunctional application of mass-produced robotics with the ability to produce framed buildings. The first one was installed by  Moelven (a Norwegian forest products company) at its plant in the western Sweden in 2016, and the plant saw productivity increase by 5 times without any increase in staffing.

Photo from Randek website: http://www.randek.com/en/wall-floor-and-roof-production-lines/zerolabor

Swedish company Randek, which makes high-performance machines and systems for prefabricated house manufacturing in 36 countries and developed the world’s fastest wall line for Toll Brothers in 1992, is bringing its robotics revolution to U.S. production home building: Menlo Park, California (modular construction company Katerra recently purchased three ZeroLabor units, to be delivered next spring).

The robot screws, staples, nails, glues, and cuts out openings for windows and electrical as needed. It even straightens studs before nailing and marks building components using an inkjet printer. At the end of the task, the robot automatically separates waste and places it in the appropriate bins.

The future is coming, faster than we expected.

(OBS: to write this post we use information provided by the builders.com website)

 

How long does it take a slab to dry out before flooring can be installed?

This is a very important question. Moisture is a problem with fresh concrete slabs, and if you install your floor in a wet slab you will have a lot of problems in the future.

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Concrete slab in the basement after finishing. We are now around 2 months after the installation. The concrete walls are already insulated (we used Superior Wall pre-cast foundations in this project)

Variables that affects the concrete moisture include:ambient relative humidity, concrete permeability, amount of water in the concrete when it is placed, slab thickness, presence (and thickness) of a vapor barrier in contact with the slab bottom, and method used to finish the surface.

Here you have the needs depending on the type of floor to be installed:

  1. Impermeable flooring (Vynil, for example): Internal relative humidity around 85% or surface moisture–vapor emission rates (MVER) of 3-5 pounds of moisture per square-feet over 24 hours
  2. Wood floors: 75% internal relative humidity and an MVER of 3 pounds of moisture per square-feet over 24 hours (National Wood Flooring Association recommendation)

In practical terms, just remember that to achieve the recommendations it takes time. In normal average conditions (relative humidity around 50% most of the time and temperature above 65F, concrete water-cement ratio of 50%) a 4-inch slab can take up to 3 months to dry before you can apply a floor there. But remember that this 3 month period starts only when the cement is dry.

You have some specific tests for that, that are too technical to describe here. Just to mention, the calcium-chloride test and the internal relative humidity test are tow that can be applied for this evaluation.

One of the most important features is the vapor barrier/vapor retarder. Without a vapor barrier the slab will never dry out. That’s why the construction codes put the obligation to use a 6 mils vapor barrier there. The 10mils and also the 15 mils poly sheet can better control the moisture. The best location for the vapor barrier is in direct contact with the bottom of the slab.

If insulation is used over the concrete slab a 4-month drying time should be respected before installing the EPS (normally the EPS absorbs 0.5% by volume).

To have more detailed information about that you can click here and check the Concrete Construction magazine