Archive for Custom Home Building

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.

Custom Home Construction (Garage Walls and Roof Trusses)

100_0223Work continues this week and the guys are really going strong!

Now that the backfill has been completed, we brought the crane back on site and the garage foundation walls were installed.  These walls are the same construction as the basement foundation walls and built by Superior Walls by Advanced Concrete.  These insulated pre-cast concrete wall systems have a minimum 5000+psi and were custom built to our specifications.  The crane and certified crew put the walls in place in a matter of a couple of hours.

Once the garage foundation walls were in place, the excavator proceeded to backfill the same way he did around the exterior of the house.  As mentioned in our previous post, this is done to provide full support and drainage for the exterior walls.

The exterior wall panels above grade were also secured into place.  These panels were constructed the same way and with the same material as the first floor house walls.  They are pre-engineered and built with 2×6 boards and 7/16 OSB.

We also installed the glulam beams for the garage door headers.  Glulam, or glued laminated timber, is a structural timber product of multiple layers of dimensioned timber bonded together with durable, moisture resistant structural adhesive.  By laminating a number of smaller pieces of timber, a single large, strong, structural member is manufactured.  These are then used as vertical columns or horizontal beams, but can also be produced in curved shapes for archways, etc.

Now that the walls are in place, the house is ready for roof trusses.  100_0242Roof trusses are delivered to the job site pre-assembled.  They are lifted onto the frame of the house by a crane and secured to the house with a specialized fastener called FastenMaster TimberLok heavy duty fasteners.  These fasteners are used specifically for roof trusses and replace hurricane ties that are typically used.  They also meet all building and safety code requirements.

The house is now ready for roof sheathing.  Watch for our next post for photos and details on this phase of the project.

Custom Home Construction (First Floor Walls and Backfill)

It was another busy week atExterior Walls the site of our new home construction.  This time of year gives us some warm and some cold days.  We’re making the most of the great weather and our guys are working hard to get it under roof before the first snow.

After the basement walls were finished, the next phase was the first floor exterior walls.  The wall panels were secured into the place so they are ready for roof trusses to arrive next.  The walls were pre-engineered and built with 2×6 boards and 7/16 OSB (oriented strand board).

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.  The high mechanical properties make OSB suitable for load-bearing applications in construction.  Common uses are as sheathing in walls, flooring and roof decking.

In addition to the first floor walls, the excavator returned to back-fill 100_0169the exterior of the house.  In order to provide full support and drainage for the foundation walls, the guys firmly pack 2B shale around the perimeter of the foundation.

Usually, the backfilling is a combination of stone, soil and other materials that were left over after the main excavation was completed.  However, additional backfill may be transported to the building site if necessary.  In our case, the excavator hauled in 375 tons of dirt and stone and 75 tons of 2B shale, all of which was used as backfill and ensuring the proper slope of the property and driveway.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next blog post.  A lot of work is being done and we’ll keep you updated.  Coming up next…garage walls and roof trusses.

Custom Home Construction (Interior Basement Walls)

Interior Basement WallsThe weather turned cold on us but our guys bundled up and worked hard last week getting the interior basement walls built.  The basement floor was poured.  After the floors have cured sufficiently, we start building interior walls.  Following the building plans provided by the architect, enough lumber was delivered to build the interior basement walls.

The contractor has to accommodate for specific energy codes in addition to building codes when ordering lumber and other materials.  This would include the specific size and types of lumber used for specific areas of the home.  For exterior walls, there is a minimum requirement of 2×6 studs to accommodate at least R21 insulation.  Interior walls are usually 2×4; however, some contractors, including Wilkins Contracting, also use 2×6 walls for interior areas where plumbing is located.

All walls will also have a bottom plate and a top plate.  These are used to build walls onto and to join walls where rooms join together, etc.  The size and type of wood used depends on the application and location.  For example, anywhere the wood comes in contact with concrete, you need to use pressure treated lumber.

Pressure treated lumber is a rugged exterior building product that’s rot and insect resistant and necessary to ward off moisture when building against concrete.  Pressure treating is a process that forces a chemical preservative deep into the wood.  The wood is placed into a large cylindrical holding tank and the tank is depressurized to remove all air.  Then, the tank is filled with a preservative under high pressure, which forces it deep into the wood.  This process makes the wood resistant to vermin, insects, and fungus and accounts for its 20 year lifespan even under harsh weather conditions.

Headers were also built above doors and windows.  The size of the headers can be 2×6, 2×8 or 2×10 depending on the size of the door or window.  These are built in to prevent sagging from the weight of the building above these openings.

After the interior basement walls were complete, the floor joists and sub floor for the 1st floor were added.  We used TJI Joist.  TJI joists are the number one brand in the industry and are available with a fire-resistant solution called TJI Joists with Flak Jacket protection.  These joists meet building code requirements for single and multi-family homes.  No special handling is required for these and they can be cut and drilled as needed.

Once the floor joists were added, a ¾” tongue & groove sub floor was glued and nailed in place.  Now we’re ready to build first floor walls.

Next, we’ll be busy building the first floor walls, adding trusses and plan to also have the garage walls put in place.  Keep checking our project gallery for the latest photos of this custom home construction.

Custom Home Construction (Foundation Walls)

100_0119We’re happy to say the weather has held up pretty well and the excavation went as planned.  Over the weekend the plumbing rough-in was completed and we are ready for foundation walls.

Tuesday morning was the day the foundation walls are delivered and put in place.  Wilkins Contracting used Superior Walls by Advanced Concrete for this project.  Their system is a process that begins with your custom design and ends with your pre-insulated basement.

Superior Walls by Advanced Concrete Systems are insulated precast concrete wall systems that are custom manufactured to each building’s specifications and have a minimum 5000+psi.  The product forms a concrete cavity wall panel with concrete studs reinforced with rebar and polypropylene fibers providing additional structural strength.  These walls are water-proof and energy efficient providing a built-in insulation with an R value of 21.  They include access holes that are built-in for wiring and can for plumbing as well so no additional framing is needed.

The walls are custom designed to virtually any architectural style to include window and door openings, beam pockets and brick ledges and are available in 4’, 8’2” and 10’ heights.  They are manufactured in a climate-controlled facility and delivered directly to the job site.  With the use of a crane and certified crews, the walls are installed in less than a day.

Now that the walls are in place, the basement floor will be poured and basement interior support walls will be built.

You can see a photo gallery of this and other projects by clicking here.

Custom Home Construction (Excavation)

100_0071It’s an exciting week for Wilkins Contracting.  We’re digging in the dirt!  Our excavator has his equipment on the property and has started clearing the ground for the new custom home we’re preparing to build.

Prior to excavation, the builders take the plans, a laser transit and measuring tapes to stake out the ground.  This is done to show the exact locations of where the house will be built.  It will mark specific areas of the building, like where the garage attaches to the house, and any other details that designate areas for walls, plumbing, etc., and also the driveway or other roads around the house.

Last week, our excavator went to the site to dig test holes on the area that needs to be cleared.  This gives him an idea of what is underground and what obstacles he may run into while digging.  The land clearing equipment depends on the specific piece of ground they need to clear.  If there are trees, they need to be removed.  Depending on what’s under the ground’s surface (i.e., slate or large stones) will also determine what specific equipment is needed to clear the ground for building.

The excavator also pays close attention to how deep he is digging.  They have to be careful not to go too deep…but they also have to be sure to dig deep enough.  The laser transit is used to determine the correct depth.

After the bulk of the ground is cleared, the excavator will lay piping for french drains.  Pea gravel is then spread throughout as substrate for the concrete.

Now we’re ready for walls to be delivered and the floor to be poured and we will talk about that in our next blog post.

Custom Home Construction (Energy Efficiencies)

picture-windowsAs ground breaking approaches, now is a good time to begin thinking about energy efficiencies for your new home.  You want to think about the best options in windows and doors depending on the type and location of your home.

A lot of builders have a primary window vendor they work with.  A relationship is built with this vendor and the builder will know that he can count on this company to produce quality windows and stay on schedule.  More importantly though, your builder will know what is available to you as you begin window selection.

Some things to consider when selecting windows:

  1. Are the windows thermally efficient?  Do they have an Energy Star rating?
  2. Are there code requirements for the types of windows you will use in your home? (i.e., egress window requirements for bedrooms)
  3. What type of window will look best in each room (colors, wood grain, etc.)?
  4. What features will you want in each window (i.e., number of panes, grids or no grids, sliders, double hung, or casement)

Your builder will help you with window selection and will be aware of any code requirements.  Wilkins Contracting proudly uses Simonton Windows because of their great reputation for producing quality, energy-efficient windows.

The same things need to be considered when selecting doors.  Did you know that an interior door between the house and an attached garage is required to have a 20 minute fire rating?

In addition to the code requirements, you can choose different door styles.  Front doors come in many different designs and options and you want to make sure you get the door you choose the best door for the style and location of your home.  For interior doors, you have many choices including different colors and wood types as well as solid core vs. hollow and even panel or smooth.  Again, you will want to look for the best match to the other finishes in your home and a style that will complement the planned décor in your home.

Your builder should know all of the code requirements and can recommend the best options for your home.  They can also help you decide what will work best based on the plans for your home.

Custom Home Construction (Temporary Power)

Electrical service (temporary)Plan review on our custom home construction project is complete.  All the needed permits have been obtained.  This week, some trees were removed to prepare for the excavation to begin.  The next step before construction starts is to set up temporary power.  Temporary power is needed in order to use power tools and other equipment during construction.  In a later blog post, we will talk about the permanent electricity supply to the house.

Construction work requires electrical power for many purposes during the entire project.  However, special consideration is necessary that is not needed in completed structures, like the exposure to weather, any relocation of the temporary power and rough use.  Because of the hazards that could be encountered, strict standards need to be established for installation.

First, the builder contacts the electricity supplier and schedules a time to meet their engineer at the building site.  They review the plans and decide on the best location to install a temporary pole.  The contractor will install the temporary pole at the approved location.

Once the pole is in place, the builder sends an electrician to install a temporary power panel and meter socket.  Before power is turned on for use, it will need to be inspected.  Once the electrical inspector approves the temporary setup, the power company will run a line to the temporary pole and electricity is turned on and ready for use.