Archive for Custom Home Building

Choosing the Right Vinyl Siding Contractor

You’ve decided add new siding to your home.  You have an idea of what you want as far as style and color.  Now you need the right siding contractor.

Siding is a big investment.  It can change the appearance and value of your home.  So, choosing a siding contractor involves much more than just your cost.

A contractor that improperly installs siding by taking shortcuts may void the manufacturer’s warranty.  Checking your contractor’s references and evaluating their siding education and history is important in ensuring you get the best result.  Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor questions.

VSI Siding Installer LogoOne way to ensure you will get the best results and your siding will be installed correctly is to hire a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer.  This accreditation is achieved by successfully completing and passing an examination by the Vinyl Siding Institute.

Choose a contractor who is knowledgeable in all aspects of vinyl siding.  Choose a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer.

You can find a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer in your area by visiting

VSI Certified

Tim Wilkins, Jr. – Certified Vinyl Siding Installer

Tim JrIn May, 2014, Tim Wilkins Jr. completed a training course and examination sponsored by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) and is now a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer. By completing this course and passing the examination, Tim joins the top vinyl siding installers in the United States and Canada.

The VSI Certification training course was taught by a VSI Certified Trainer. Before taking this course, you are required to have at least two years’ experience in siding installation. Tim’s certification is valid for three years at which time he will be required to recertify in order to remain on the active list of CerVSI Siding Installer Logotified Installers.

The main things a homeowner will look for in an exterior cladding are low maintenance, beauty and durability. They want and deserve advice and recommendations from a contractor who is knowledgeable in all the aspects of vinyl siding installation. To ensure you’re working with a Certified Vinyl Siding Installer, you can visit

Congratulations to Tim on this important achievement.

Are you ready for summer heat?

indexIs your house prepared for a hot summer?  As cold as this past winter was, you can anticipate an equally as hot summer.  Will your house stay cool if the temperatures get hot?

Insulation plays a key role in keeping your home cool in the summer, just as it does to keep you warm in the winter.  With a properly insulated home, you are sure to stay comfortable the entire year, no matter what the temperature is outside.

Having adequate insulation in your home will ensure your house is energy efficient.  This means your attic and walls should be properly insulated.  Some things to consider when looking at insulation is:

  • R-Value – Depending on what part of the county you live in will determine what the recommended R-Value is needed for your home.  For example, if you live in a colder climate, like Pennsylvania, you would want a higher R-Value throughout your home.  R-Value is the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.
  • Type of insulation – Depending on where you need insulation will determine what type you use.  Your attic, for example, will typically use Fiberglass.  Walls can be rolled or blown-in insulation, which can be fiberglass, foam board, etc.

Your contractor can provide you with recommendations and options for you based on the type of home and location where you live.  They can evaluate what you already have and where improvements can be made to keep you as comfortable as possible throughout the entire year.

Siding is Not Just Siding

SidingAs warmer weather approaches, many homeowners start thinking about improvements to the exterior of their home.  One of those improvements is new or replacement siding.  Siding comes in many different colors, but it comes in different types as well.

Some siding types to consider include:

  1. Traditional Lap Siding – mostly referred to as “vinyl siding,” Traditional Lap Siding is the most popular cladding for homes.  Because of its simple lines, it is easy to install.  Today’s vinyl siding includes many different textures, shadow lines and colors to meet individual homeowner’s needs.
  2. Fiber Cement Siding – This type is similar to traditional lap siding with specific performance attributes relative to the climate where the siding will be used.
  3. Insulated Siding – A home insulation system can have many benefits.  Insulated siding provides a natural beauty from longer flat faces, significant insulation values, sustainability and usually includes a lifetime warranty.
  4. Vertical Siding – This siding comes in different profiles and dimensions to accommodate a wide variety of design styles.  Vertical siding has become more popular as an accent element or design feature.  This has been a great choice for entryways, low porch walls, gables and dormers because of the powerful effect of the pattern of vertical lines.
  5. Shakes and Shingles – This type of siding traces its history throughout American home styles.  Shakes and shingles offer an authentic appearance and eliminates the significant weakness of real wood products, like wood rot.  This siding gives you a true American look of wood without the lifetime maintenance and repair that comes with real wood products.

When selecting your siding style and color, there are some things to consider:

  • Ease of installation – if you’re installing this siding yourself, make sure it is within your skill set and requires no special tools.  Some siding can also create harmful dust when cut.  So, it is important you prepare for that.
  • Energy efficiency – Check the R-value rating for energy savings.  This will help you understand what will be needed as far as insulation under the cladding.
  • Aesthetics – Your new siding will be in full view every time you come and go.  Make sure it is what you want and looks beautiful to you.
  • Durability – When choosing siding, you want to ensure it will have the strength to stand up to every day wear and tear.  Depending on where you live, temperature shifts and severe weather can affect the durability of your siding.

A good contractor can help you choose the appropriate siding for your home style and geographic area.  To ensure your siding is installed correctly, your siding should be installed by a certified VSI (Vinyl Siding Institute) Installer.  VSI Certified Installers are trained in the proper techniques, which will ensure a quality installation on your home.

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.