Spring Cleanup and Repairs

springIt’s that time of year when the weather starts to get warmer and you can’t wait to get outside and begin cleaning up around your house.

As you walk around your property, be sure to take note of the condition of different areas of your home for any needed repairs or maintenance.  Are there any areas of your home that will need painted this Spring?  How does your siding and shingles look?

With the cold winter that will soon be leaving us, a lot of people have had issues with ice damming.  You may have thought those icicles hanging along the eaves of your house looked pretty.  However, they tend to cause problems because the same conditions that allow those icicles to form, also lead to ice dams.  An ice dam is a thick ridge of solid ice that builds up along the eaves of your house.  These ice dams can tear off gutters, loosen shingles and can cause water to back up and come into your house.

The issues caused by ice damming could result in peeling paint, warped floors, stained and sagging ceilings.  You would probably also find soggy insulation in the attic, which would have lost its R-value and will become a magnet for mold and mildew.

You want to inspect your home thoroughly now that the weather is getting warmer so you can get ahead of any issues that may have been created from ice or winter weather in general.  Getting ahead of any issues now can prevent problems as a result of those Spring showers that are just around the corner.

Custom Home Construction (Finalizing Inside Details)

100_0478Some final details on the inside of the house that all seem to happen simultaneously are painting, floor covering and appliances.  Once these are complete, a temporary certificate of occupancy can be obtained and the homeowners can move into their brand new home.

The homeowner has already chosen paint colors and floor coverings for each room.  Whether it be carpet, tile, etc., it is usually installed after the painting is complete.  You want to be sure that carpet, actually all of the flooring, is installed by experienced installers to ensure it is done correctly.

Once the flooring is complete, the appliances can be delivered.  Whether you ordered new or are moving existing appliances in, be sure the floor is protected against scratches in the tile or snags in the carpet.  Once everything is in place, the covering can be removed.

It is a good idea to do a walk through the house after the flooring is installed to ensure there are no marks on the wall that will need cleaned or repaired.  You should have some spare paint and any marks can be easily fixed by the painters.

We were able to get the homeowners a temporary certificate of occupancy so they could move into their new home in early February.  Some outside work still needs to be completed and once the ground thaws, the front porch and sidewalk will be poured, a front porch roof built, and the ground grade and seed will be completed.

A big thank you goes out to the Wilkins Contracting crew who worked hard during this entire project.  From start to finish, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to build this home.

Custom Home Construction (Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors)

Smoke DetectorAll new home construction projects have certain State and Federal codes that must be followed.  One of those codes outlines the requirements for how and where smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in the home.

The code for smoke detectors states that “all smoke alarms shall be listed in accordance with UL 217 and installed in accordance with provisions of this code and the household fire warning equipment provisions of NFPA72.”

The household fire alarm system installed needs to provide the same level of smoke detection and alarms required by the State code.  The smoke detector and audible notification device has to be installed as a permanent fixture of the house and in the following locations:

  1. In each sleeping room
  2. Outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms
  3. One each additional story of the dwelling, including basements and habitable attics.  This does not include crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics.
  4. In dwellings or dwelling units with split levels and without an intervening door between the adjacent levels, a smoke alarm installed on the upper level shall suffice for the adjacent lower level as long as the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level.

When more than one smoke alarm is required, the alarm devices are interconnected in such a manner that the actuation of one alarm will activate all of the alarms in the individual unit.

The code for carbon monoxide alarms in new construction states that in new construction, an approved carbon monoxide alarm is to be installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms in the dwelling units where fuel-fired appliances are installed and in dwelling units that have attached garages.

It’s important to make sure your contractor knows these requirements.  Non-compliance will result in failed inspections and more expenses associated with building your home.

Custom Home Construction (Central Vacuum System)

Central Vacuum SystemWhen planning to build a new home, there are many amenities you need to think about as possible options to be built into your home.  One of those amenities could be a central vacuum system.

A central vacuum system is a type of vacuum cleaner appliance.  It is installed into a building as a semi-permanent fixture.  These systems are designed to remove dirt and debris from homes and buildings, sending the dirt particles through tubing installed inside the walls to a collection container in a remote utility space.

The power unit is a permanent fixture, typically installed in a basement, garage or storage room, along with the collection container.  Inlets are installed in walls throughout the house or building that attach to power hoses and other central vacuum accessories to remove dust, particles and small debris from interior rooms.  Most power hoses typically have a power switch located on the handle.

A typical standard central vacuum system is equipped with a 30 foot hose, plus standard cleaning tools similar to those used with portable vacuum cleaners.  Some owners will keep a hose and set of tools on each floor of a multi-story building.  When not in use, the hose is loosely coiled around a wire rack mounted on a closet wall or the back or a door.

Some advantages of a central vacuum system include:

  1. Increases suction power – because the vacuum cleaner motor and dirt collection system need not be portable, the weight and size of the unit are not as constrained as they are in a portable system.  Additionally, bagless and filterless systems avoid the loss of suction that appear in filtered systems caused by collected dust that clog the filters.
  2. Complete removal of allergens and noxious odors – Central vacuums typically do not recirculate exhaust air back into the space being cleaned.  This contrasts with the well- known acrid “vacuum smell” of fine dust and hot air that is exhausted from a portable vacuum.
  3. Low noise – Since the motor of a central vacuum system is located remotely in a utility space, a well-designed central vacuum is very quiet at the point of use.
  4. Convenient cleaning – Setup, use and stowage of a vacuum hose and cleaning tool can be quick and efficient.  Cleaning stairways is much easier because you won’t have to balance a heavy appliance on each step or dealing with the electrical cord and vacuum hose.Central Vacuum

Adding a central vacuum system to your new home should be decided early on in the design and planning of your home.  Since most of the pipes and hoses and run inside the walls, this would need to be installed prior to the drywall, typically when the electric and plumbing rough-in is completed.

Custom Home Construction (Drywall and Drywall finishing)

DrywallOnce the insulation was installed throughout the house, the work on the interior walls continued with installing drywall and finishing those walls to prepare them for paint.

Drywall, also known as plasterboard, wallboard, or sheetrock, is a panel made of gypsum plaster and pressed between two thick sheets of paper.  It is used for interior walls and ceilings and is usually supplied in 4×8 and 4×12 sheets.   The plaster used to make drywall is a building material used for coating walls and ceilings.  It starts as a dry powder that is similar to mortar or cement.  Mixed with water, the powder forms a paste which then liberates heat and hardens.

Standard drywall is a pale gray or ivory on one side and a darker gray or brown color on the other side.  The lighter surface is the side that faces into the room.  The opposite side will have manufacturers’ logos and visible seams down the edge.

There are also other types of drywall that you can select from depending on the type of environment it will be installed in.  Three of those types include:

  • Moisture & Mildew Resistant – For walls in rooms with high moisture, like bathrooms and kitchens, it is better to use a moisture resistant drywall.  When this type of drywall is made, it is also impregnated with waterproofing materials.  It is breathable so the surface beneath the board can “breathe” through the surface of the wall.
  • Foil-backed – This type of drywall has vapor-resistant paper on one side so it is less protected than moisture-resistent sheets.  It has a silver foil-like layer on the nondecorative side.  This type of drywall is used in cold climates but not for moisture resistant materials or humid climates.
  • Fire-resistant – This drywall has greater fireproofing qualities than standard drywall.  The best use for this type is with integral garage ceilings, stairwells and some corridors.

The drywall is attached to the walls with drywall screws and drywall glue.  Once the drywall is hung throughout the house, there is additional work done to prepare it for primer and paint.  Seams and nail holes need to be smoothed out.  This is a labor intensive process and the time it takes depends on the number of seams and the overall size of the project.  The finished project will create the illusion that the wall consists of one flat piece instead of several 4×8 or custom cut boards.

Where two pieces of drywall meet, drywall tape is applied.  Any seam and especially the corners need to be taped.  Then, drywall compound, or mud, is applied to add a seal to all joints.  You also want to make sure that all of the screws or nails are firmly embedded into the drywall sheets and add drywall mud over those as well.  Once the layer of drywall compound is dry, it must be sanded.  Two additional layers of mud are applied and each layer sanded.

The sanding should create a seamless, smooth finish.  Most drywall finishers follow the “6 foot finish rule.”  This means that if you stand 6’ away from a wall, you can not see any seams, bumps, bubbles, nails, screws or imperfections.

At this point, the wall is perfectly smooth and ready for primer and paint.

Custom Home Construction (Insulation)

insulationWith the geothermal heat system being installed, it’s important to ensure it can run as efficiently as possible.  One of the best ways to do this is by installing good insulation throughout the house.

When working on a new home construction project, you need to be careful to follow federal, state and local energy codes.  This includes codes concerning insulation.  Codes for insulation usually include minimal requirements, but you should exceed those mandates to ensure your home is energy efficient.

To properly insulate this new home, the builder will determine where to insulate and the recommended R-values for each of those areas.   The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry.  Under uniform conditions, it is the ratio of the temperature difference across an insulator and the heat flux, the rate of heat energy transfer through a given surface.

For this new home construction, the insulation was a blown in fiberglass product.  Air vents and blockers were installed where needed as well as R-30 band board.  This band joist is usually the same size as the floor joists and runs around the entire perimeter of the building.

We used R-23 BIBS blown fiberglass insulation in the side walls.  BIBS® is a proprietary insulation system that blows dry white fiberglass insulation into walls, floors, attics and cathedral ceilings.  The BIBS® system makes a custom filling around wiring and fixtures that eliminates costly voids and air gaps.  BIBS® is an industry leader in new construction as well as retro fit projects.

In the ceiling, we used R-49 ISSP blown fiberglass.  ISSP, or InsulSafe SP, is a fiberglass blowing insulation used in residential and commercial construction as a thermal and sound absorbing insulation.  It is designed for pneumatic installation in open (attic) and closed (sidewalls and floors) construction cavities.

This level of insulation along with the geothermal heat will ensure this home has one of the most efficient heating and cooling system possible.

Custom Home Construction (Geothermal Heating & Cooling System)

Geothermal Well DrillingNow that most of the outside work is complete on our new home construction, a lot is going on inside the house.  That one item that is happening outside is the beginning of work on the Geothermal heating and cooling system that is being installed in this home.

Geothermal heat is the direct use of thermal energy that is generated and stored in the earth.  Geothermal energy originates from the heat retained within the Earth since the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals and from solar energy absorbed at the surface.

Most high temperature geothermal heat is harvested in regions where volcanic activity rises close to the Earth’s surface.  However, even cold ground contains heat, below 20 feet the undisturbed ground temperature is consistently at the Mean Annual Air Temperature and can be extracted with a heat pump.  For this home, we are using an electric forced air heat pump.

A series of holes are drilled at a designated area on the property.  Then, a series of pipes, commonly called a “loop,” connect the geothermal system’s heat pump to the earth.  There are two basic types of loops: closed and open.   Open loop systems are the simplest and have been used successfully for decades.  Closed loop systems have become the most common of geothermal heating.  When properly installed, the closed loop system is economical, efficient and reliable.

Water (or a water and antifreeze solution) is circulated through a continuous buried pipe.  The length of loop piping will vary depending on ground temperature, thermal conductivity of the ground, soil moisture and the geothermal system design.

Geothermal heat pumps are among the most cost and energy efficient heating and cooling systems available today.  They use less electricity and produce fewer emissions than conventional systems.  They also provide a comfortable indoor environment for your home.

Custom Home Construction (Siding)

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding

The cold weather isn’t slowing us down.  Our productivity continues on the new home construction as the siding was completed this week.

Once the exterior walls are built and installed, the house is covered with Tyvek, or house wrap.  House wrap prevents outside water from entering the walls and helps seal the home and keep outside air from coming into the house.  Once the house wrap is attached to the house, window flashing tape is applied around all window and door frames to seal out water and eliminate drafts.  Then, vinyl siding can be installed.

Vinyl siding is a plastic exterior siding for a house and used for decoration and weatherproofing.  Vinyl is used instead of other materials, like aluminum or fiber cement.  It is an engineered product manufactured primarily from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin.

Approximately 80 percent of vinyl siding’s weight is PVC resin, with the remaining 20 percent being ingredients that impart color, opacity, gloss, impact resistance, flexibility and durability.  Vinyl is the most commonly installed exterior cladding for residential construction in the United States and Canada.

Vinyl siding was introduced in the late 1950’s as a replacement for aluminum siding.  It was first produced by an independently owned manufacturing plant, Crane Plastics in Columbus, OH.  The process was originally done through mono-extrusion and the blending of colors was done manually.  This process made it difficult to produce and install a consistent, quality product.

Beginning in the late 1970’s, the industry changed its formulation to improve the product’s production speed, impact resistance and range of colors.  In the following decade, vinyl siding grew in popularity in large part due to its durability, versatility and ease of maintenance.

Today, vinyl siding is manufactured by coextrusion.  Two layers of PVC are laid down in a continuous extrusion process.  The top layer is weatherable capstock, which comprises about a third of the siding thickness.  The capstock includes about 10% titanium dioxide, which is a pigment and provides resistance to breakdown from UV light.  The lower layer, known as substrate, is typically about 15% ground limestone (which is largely calcium carbonate).  The limestone reduces cost, and also balances the titanium dioxide, keeping both extrusion streams equally fluid during manufacturing.

For this new home construction project, we used 4.5” Dutch Lap Profile Vinyl in Pebblestone Clay by Mastic Home Exteriors.  Whether you are remodeling your home or building a new home, you can eliminate painting your home forever.

Keep checking back for the latest updates on this new home.  The wells for the geo thermal system will be dug and insulation should be installed soon.

Custom Home Construction (Electrical and Plumbing Rough In)

It’s a busy week at the site of the new home construction in Carrolltown, PA and this week some electrical and plumbing work began.

Electrical Rough In

Electrical Rough In

The electricians are on-site and started the work on the electrical rough in.  Following the house plans, electrical wires are pulled and outlet and switch boxes are installed.

At this point, the house is still connected to temporary power.  The new meter box was attached to the house and a main disconnect was installed and inspected.  The new service wires will be run underground, through conduit, to the location of the new pole.  Penelec will be installing the new pole, transformer and underground feed wires this week.  The permanent new electric service can then be turned on to the house.

With our new home construction in Carrolltown, PA, the conduit was run under the driveway.  In this case, we used SCH80 conduit as it is a thicker and stronger pipe than SCH40.  From the pole, we are using 3” conduit for the electric into the house and 2” conduit for the phone and communication lines.

The wiring used throughout the house is a 12 gauge standard Romex wiring.  However, 14 gauge wire was used to connect the hard wired inter-connected smoke alarm system.

The electrical rough in needs to be completed and pass inspection prior to adding insulation or installing dry wall.

The plumbing rough in was also completed.  The plumber installed supply pipes that will deliver clean water into the house and to the plumbing fixtures like sinks, toilets, etc.  He also installed waste pipes that will drain the water and waste from the fixtures.  These pipes will later be

Plumbing Rough In

Plumbing Rough In

connected to the fixtures that you will see and use throughout the house.

Supply pipes can be iron, copper or numerous varieties of plastic.  Wilkins Contracting used PEX, or crosslinked polyethylene, pipe for this new home construction.  This pipe has several advantages over metal pipe or plastic pipe, like PVC.  PEX pipe is flexible and resistant to scale and chlorine so it won’t corrode or develop pinholes over time.  It also has a higher burst strength than copper pipe.

DWV, or Drain Waste Vent, pipe was also run.  This is a SCH40 pipe and is the system that removes sewage and greywater from the house.  It also regulates air pressure in the waste system pipes, which facilities flow.  Waste that is produced at fixtures, like toilets, sinks and showers, exit the fixture through a trap, which is a dipped section of pipe that always contains water.  The traps are necessary to prevent sewer gases from leaking into the house.  The traps are connected to waste lines which will take the waste gases to a soil stack, or soil vent pipe.  This vent pipe is attached and rises (usually inside a wall) to and out of the roof.  Waste is removed from the house through drains that take them to the sewage line or septic system.

As with the electrical rough in, the plumbing rough in needs to be completed and inspected prior to adding insulation or installing drywall.  The plumber will cap the system and pump compressed air into the pipes to assure there are no leaks.  If the air holds for 24 hours, there are no leaks and the inspection is complete.

A lot more work is happening this week.  The guys have started siding the house.  So, stay tuned for the next post and more photos!

Custom Home Construction (Roof Sheathing and Shingles)

I have to send out a bigCustom Home Construction - Roof thank you to our crew working on this project.  They are working hard and their efforts are appreciated by us and the homeowners.

The crew finished out last week by completing the roof shingles and sheathing on the house and garage.  This was a large undertaking and our entire crew worked hard to get it all done.

The first part of the roof is the sheathing of 5/8” OSB.  As discussed in a previous post, OSB is an engineered wood particle board formed by layering strands (flakes) of wood in specific orientations.  It has a rough, variegated surface with the individual strips lying unevenly across each other.

After the sheathing, we added an aluminum drip edge that directs water run-off from the roof.  This forces the water to run toward the rain gutters.

Next, we add two rows of ice and water shield.  Ice and water shield helps prevent wind-driven rain from leaking through the roof deck, or melting ice and snow (caused by ice dams in harsh winter climates) from leaking into property’s interior.

Wilkins Contracting no longer uses builders felt, which would normally be applied next.  We now use synthetic UDL (Underlayment) that is applied using button cap nails.  Synthetic UDL is warranted to protect the roof for 6 months or more without shingles.  Then, once the shingles are applied, it provides a second line of defense against water leakage.

So, after the UDL is applied, we added the shingles.  We used an architectural shingle that is warranted for 30 years or more.

The top of the roof also has a Vent-A-Ridge, also known as a shingle-over ridge vent.  When the sheathing is added, a space is left at the top to provide exhaust and allow air to ventilate the underside of the roof.  These roof decks are fire rated in accordance with UL standards for ICC approval. They are the only externally baffled Class A fire-rated shingle-over ridge vents available.  Design features include an external baffle and internal weather filter for optimum airflow and weather protection.

An additional item that is added where necessary is flashing and counter flashing.  This is added in locations where the roof-line meets another vertical wall.  Roof flashing is placed around discontinuities or objects which protrude from the roof of a building (such as pipes and chimneys or the edges of other roofs) to deflect water away from seams or joints and in valleys where the runoff is concentrated.

While completing the roof, roof boots were added to accommodate DWV (drain waste vent) or venting for plumbing.  This is installed to ensure that plumbing has the proper venting to work correctly.

Next, we will be installing windows and doors.  Stay tuned for our next post.