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

3 Easy Ways to Seal Air Leaks

Good insulation is the secret for a comfy house. Remember that the winter is coming again (every year we have it), and if you suffered last year and forgot to revise your insulation remember to check these topics:

Insulate around recess lights

The majority of the recess lights have vents that open into the attic. This represents a direct route for heated or cooled air to escape. Some houses can have more than 50 fixtures like that, and some researchers already pinpointed them as the leading cause of air leaks. Lights labeled ICAT (Insulation Contact and Air Tight) are already sealed – look for the label next to the bulb. If you don’t see it, assume yours leaks. An airtight baffle is a quick, 10-second fix (normally they cost around 10-25 dollars). Remove the bulb, push the baffle up into the housing, then replace the bulb.

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Picture of an ICAD recess light

 

Use the Foam in Medium-Size Gaps

Once the biggest attic gaps are fixed, move on to the medium-size ones. Low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is great for plugging openings 1/4-inch to 3 inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents. A standard 12-ounce can ($5-6) is good for 250 feet of bead about 1/2-inch thick. The plastic straw applicator seals shut within two hours of the first use, so to get the most mileage out of a can, squirt a lubricant such as WD-40 onto a pipe cleaner and stuff that into the applicator tube between uses.

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Great Stuff ® (is a well-known foam used for sealing

Caulk small gaps

Caulk is the best gap-filler for openings less than 1/4-inch wide. Silicone costs the most ($8-9 a tube depending on the brand) but works better next to nonporous materials, such as metal flashing, or where there are temperature extremes, as in attics. Acrylic latex caulk (around $2 a tube) is less messy to work with and cleans up with water.

If you have some time this weekend and would like to study a little bit more about air sealing we recommend the Department of Energy website (https://www.energy.gov/). They have great information about how to save energy and also you can learn a lot in their SAVE ENERGY, SAVE MONEY section. Enjoy.

Common spots for air leaking in a house

Insulation: controlling your house temperature and your money

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

Take a look at your electric, gas, or oil bills from past years. Thousands of dollars are wasted every single year because homes are not weatherized to today’s building standards.

Properly air sealing and insulating is the most cost-effective home improvement you can make today. Our state has has the Mass Save program, and you and your home energy specialist can determine the most economic solutions. If your house is an old one consider changing the HVAC system if you are planing a renovation. Heat Pumps are among the best in class to help you if your goal is to decrease your bills.

As you can see here, a good advice is the start. Then consider looking at the internet the educational materials available. If you have some doubts, contact us for more specific details. Have a nice weekend