Tag Archive for wilkins contracting

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 (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 (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.

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!

Custom Home Construction (Part 1)

Over the next several months, we will be writing posts about the process of building a new home.  We’re excited to be starting construction on a custom home and will be sharing the process and details with you as we build from start to finish.

Holtz GroundThe most important part of starting your building project would be finding the location.  Where are you building your home?  What style of home fits at this location?  What about utilities?  Are there any easements needed?  A lot of questions need answered and your builder can help you through all of them.

You also will work with your lender so you know your budget.  The bank will let you know how much you can spend on a home so that you can begin the process of creating plans and working with your builder.

The beginning of the process will keep everyone very busy.  You start with numerous meetings with the builder in conjunction with the architect who will be drawing up the plans for your new home.  In the process of all of these meetings, the architect will prepare a “concept drawing,” which is a technical drawing of your building project.  These drawings made according to a set of conventions, including the floor plan, units of measurement and scales and are used by the architects, builders and others for a number of purposes like:

  • developing a design idea into a proposal
  • communicating ideas and concepts
  • enabling the builder to construct your home

holtz planOnce the drawings are done, the fun begins.  You work with the builder on specific details of the home (i.e., room sizes and amenities).  Decisions are made on the type of heat you want in your new home; conventional, hot water, or cutting edge geo thermal.  You decide on other items as well like, windows, bathroom fixtures, flooring, etc.

Comprehensive plans will then be created by the architect and provided to the builder and the financial institution that will be financing the new home.  Your financing is then all set up including a payment schedule to the builder.  Your closing will be scheduled so that all the appropriate paperwork can be signed.

Once a letter of commitment is sent to the builder by the financial institution, the building process begins with permits and plan reviews.  This process varies by city/township but is handled by the builder.

Stay tuned for the next post which will begin with breaking ground!