Diamond Pier: decks without digging machines

Diamond Pier Photo Wise Home Building blog

When dealing with deck additions and renovations one point is extremely difficult to address: the excavation needs to support the code rules to have a stable and strong foundation.

Decks causes of failure can vary from a bad connection with the house to a foundation block or post that is not designed to support that amount of weight. And to have a good foundation we have to dig a hole with huge machines sometimes. Not anymore.

Pin Foundations, Inc., manufacturer of the Diamond Pier, has been designing and manufacturing foundations for over 25 years. And their idea to design a better product is that the Earth is the actual foundation, and soils, in their natural undisturbed state, have the strength and structure to do the job.

That’s why they designed Diamond Pier based on Pin Pile TechnologyPilings keep the Earth’s existing soil strength and structure intact and are easy to install if they do not need to go too deep. Traditional footings spread loads more widely, but the digging breaks apart the soil, weakening it and blocking or exaggerating water flow.

By grouping short bearing pins, which can easily be driven into intact penetrable soils, and setting them at angles to work more like a shallow footing, a sound foundation can be constructed that requires no excavation. This high-strength, precast component is a driving guide, a pin piling lock, and a structural connection all in one.

As a driving guide, the pier maintains the pin angles so that their capacity is definable and consistent. As a lock, the pier is designed to increase its grip on the pin cluster when loaded up, down, or side- ways—getting stronger and tighter as loads increase. And as a connection, an embedded anchor bolt and precast, post-matching shape make it a simple and proportional complement to its supported structure.

The Diamond Pier provides a solid, stable, economical foundation that both captures and preserves the supporting strength and natural functions of the Earth’s soil and, in turn, solidly and simply connects to and protects the permanent structures above.

The only limitation we have to use them appears when we deal with a rocky soil.

If you want more information about that, contact us.

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.

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

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

 

Fun for your kitties at home (with a little charm)

Great ideals are not necessarily practical. Many people who think outside the box sometimes forget that in addition to having a fantastic idea what really matters is to make things happen, and preferably without much questioning who will see all that crazy stuff in the real world.

Architecture firm Because We Can, led by interior designer Jillian Northrup and her husband architect Jeffrey McGrew, transformed an under utilized room in a private residence into a highly functional and inspirational place to be (and work also). And also an inspirational tube for their cat run and hide. Northrup calls it “the fist step to greater cat mobility throughout the room”. The Cat Tube stretches around the room and gives the cat access to the top of the armoire. There’s also a couple of small windows that let you see where the cat is going. Enjoy the photos (from the website BecauseWeCan.org)

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Save money with roof trusses

With the decreasing availability of large structural lumber work with trusses for your roof construction can save you money and also comply with all structural needs for your project. The length of lumber subject to bending stress are broken into smaller sections, and that’s the main reason you can work with cheaper lumber products. But take care of some extra costs when doing trusses for your roof.

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Photo credit: click HERE

You have a lot of types of truss designs, and during the design of your project you have to adapt all your load needs. The maximum allowable span depends on the type of wood you are using in your construction (Southern Pine, Douglas-Fir and Spruce Pine-Fir – also known as SPF – are the most common) and also on the pitch of the top cord.

You have some places in the internet to help you on calculating the allowable span for trusses in your project. Click HERE to redirect you to one of these websites.

A final message: remember that in the majority of the houses you will be building with roof trusses you’ll need a crane to help one the truss installation. The costs will vary from region to region, and for a house around 2,500 sf, ranch style, you will need at least 8 hours of crane work if you have a trained team to installed them. Don’t forget to include this cost in your project.

Keep in mind these numbers in your design

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Photo from the website HGTV.com

Sometimes we see dwellings with old designs that looks really strange. Kitchens that are very difficult to use, boots that do not fit in the closet, and windows that are to high or too low. Here are some important numbers to remember:

  • Windows – 38 / 42

Window heights are important on both inside in outside. From an outside view the ideal is to align the top heights of the windows and exterior door, mainly in the main entrance (ideally for the entire building). Sill heights of windows adjacent to furniture or counters should be at least 42″. View windows sill should not exceed 38″

  • Closets – 24 / 36

Plan to allow at least 36″ of closet pole per occupant, with a hanger depth of at least 24″. Remember that an ambient is only consider a bedroom if you have a closet there – so, provide at least one closet for each room. You can add closets near front and rear entrances (for coats and shoes also, in case you have ancillary entrances for a mud room), a linen closet an at least one generous walk-in closet in the main bedroom.

  • Passageways: 36 / 40

Width are dictate by the needs to move large furniture. For stairs, landings, main and minor hall, interior and exterior doors the minimum is 36″ but we recommend at least 40″ to have good room for movement. Basement doors need a minimum of 36″ but ideally use 48″

  • Kitchen work aisle: 42 / 48

The width of a work aisle should be at least 42″ for one cook and at least 48″ for multiple cooks. You need to measure it between the counter frontage, tall cabinet and the appliances. Also have in mind that the passageway close to the working aisle should be at least 36″

  • Shower size: 30 / 36

The recommended size is 36″ x 36″ with a minimum of 30″ x 30″. If a person with disabilities will live in the house you need to revise the ADA of 1990 (Americans with Disabilities Act) – Appendix A of page 36 – that specifies all the needs for this population. We will do a post on this specific topic soon.