Tag Archive for custom home building

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 (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 (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 (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 (Plan Review)

Plans reviewThe next phase of custom home construction is called Plan Review.  Plan Review will get the permits needed for your builder to break ground on your new home.

One of the most important parts of this process is talking to adjacent neighbors.  You’re probably wondering why.  Property owners surrounding your property can tell you about “little known” underground utilities.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Pennsylvania 811, or PA One Call.  Before any excavation can begin on your land, the builder or excavator must call PA One Call.  Once the PA One Call system receives the information about your job, its members go to the job site and mark the location of underground lines.  This ensures the safety of you and your builder’s staff, or anyone in the vicinity of the job site.

So, why is it necessary to talk to the neighbors if PA One Call is marking the underground utilities?  Well, Wilkins Contracting discovered an unanticipated gas line by talking with one of the property owners that share a property line with their client.  Gas wells are labeled as to who owns and operates that line.  By contacting the adjacent land owner, they showed us where it was located.

Another part of plan review involves presenting a site map to the local code enforcement officials that will show the position of the proposed house.  The site map needs to show setbacks, or how far you’re building from adjacent property lines.  Stakes and markers are also placed on the property showing where the house is to be built.

Construction projects must meet the requirements of Pennsylvania building codes.  Different phases of all building projects need to be inspected by a code inspector in the municipality of the building project.  We will discuss inspections in a future post.

Stay tuned for our next post.  Excavation begins soon!