Barndominium Part 4-Insulation and Air Control

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.  Residential Post-and-Frame Construction, Part 5: Insulation and Air-Sealing – GreenBuildingAdvisor

Cavity Insulation

I was brought on the barndominium construction team after many decisions were already in place.  The design was, for the most part, finished.  Many of the assemblies had been designed, such as the decision to use laminated posts six foot on center with the horizontal wall girts both inside and out.  The original plan for the insulation was to use up to seven inches of closed cell spray foam in the walls.  I was able to change the insulation strategy with a plan for a more “forgiving” assembly.  We chose to go with Rockwool’s 7.25-inch ComfortBatt, which has an insulation value of R-30. Continue reading “Barndominium Part 4-Insulation and Air Control”

Construction Design-Service Cavity

This post was first published at

There are many methods used to make a home airtight, it all comes down to one simple rule, continuity.  Continuity is easily attained when there’s nothing that penetrates the air barrier.  No electrical boxes, plumbing drains and vents or ducts that need to extend from inside a building’s envelope to the outside.  Of course, there are times when different things need to extend from inside to outside, like the need for an outside water faucet.  But there are also many occasions when different systems end up outside that don’t need to be outside.  For example, forced air heating and cooling ducts that leave the conditioned space of the home simply because there was no space to keep them hidden inside the home.  Planning a service cavity can help keep most mechanicals inside the building envelope. Continue reading “Construction Design-Service Cavity”

Testing-Setting up a Home for a Blower Door Test

This post was originally published in the April 2022 issue of the Journal of Light Construction.

Blower door testing a home requires much more than simply setting up the equipment and running the test.

When setting up a house for a blower door test, should you seal off the bath fans? How do you address that six-inch combustion air vent in the mechanical room?  Should the overhead garage door in the attached garage be open or closed? Continue reading “Testing-Setting up a Home for a Blower Door Test”

Barndominium Part 3-Windows

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

When I first started planning the water and air control details for the barndominium project, I knew the windows were going to be one of the tougher parts.  Window framing for a typical post and frame building consists of a simple 2x wood frame extending horizontally between two posts, which in the case of this structure are six feet on center, with two vertical boards fastened between the upper and lower horizontal frames.  Once the basic frame is constructed inside the wall cavity, horizontal wall girts are placed over the framing, a kind of window buck, if you will.  My original thought was to have the window buck placed around the window rough opening, flash the buck so I could extend the window flashing back to the Majvest WRB, then add the needed wall girts for fastening the cladding.  In my mind, this wouldn’t be a difficult assembly to build, the framing crew didn’t agree.  They insisted on not changing their usual assembly of having the exterior wall girts installed, then for me to have to figure out how to extend the window flashing to the WRB. Continue reading “Barndominium Part 3-Windows”

Barndominium Part 2-Foundation and Shell

*This post originally appeared as two articles on the Green Building Advisor website.*

The bardominium, part storage facility, part shop, part man-cave with a home inside.  Working on this type of project has had its difficulties.  We have taken the framing crew outside their comfort zone, though they are well versed with post and frame structures, they were not familiar with many of the materials I was asking them to work with.  I was able to have them change some of their sequencing, but I lost of few of the battles.   On top of those difficulties, the project started about a month later than expected forcing crews working during sub-zero temps, that’s, 0°F.  Progress at times has been slow.  The foundation portion earlier in the fall went well, though I think I would change a couple of the decisions we made.  More on that in a bit. Continue reading “Barndominium Part 2-Foundation and Shell”

Construction Design-Air Sealing Windows

I often hear during energy audits, complaints about windows.  Many homeowners feel the windows are cheaply made and replacement will result in substantial energy savings and an increase in comfort for the home.  Sometimes the windows are a major cause of comfort problems, more often, the window installation is the issue.  This blog post is about three different ways we air seal windows today.

Continue reading “Construction Design-Air Sealing Windows”

Shorts-Attached Structures Outside the Air Control Layer and Blower Door Testing

Whether you are performing blower door testing or hiring someone to perform the test for you, it’s a good idea to understand how a home should be setup for the test.  Should a door be open or closed?  What can be sealed off?  How to address rooms attached to the house but are outside the air control layer?  That’s today’s topic, attached garages and three season porches.  How should those spaces be setup for a blower door test?

Continue reading “Shorts-Attached Structures Outside the Air Control Layer and Blower Door Testing”

Shorts-Climate Zone and Heating Degree Days

I have a confession to make, but you will have to read this blog post before you’ll know what that is.

I woke up this morning to a very cold temperature.  Nowhere near the coldest I’ve ever experienced, which was right around -50°F.  (I remember that stretch of weather back in 1996, Minnesota set its all-time low temp about an hour away from where I live, that temp was -60°F.)  This got me thinking about the climate zone I live in and heating degree days.

Continue reading “Shorts-Climate Zone and Heating Degree Days”

Construction Materials-Tape Test-Part 3

This is the final post on this round of construction tape testing.  As you might recall, the first tape test post was about cold temperature application of the tapes, and then trying to remove the tapes off various substrates while remaining cold.  (See the first tape test post here.)  Some performed better than others, but none had the tack of the second round of testing which was performed on plywood at room temperatures.  (See that post here.)   This final round of testing came about because I still had a question.  Will the tape bond increase if the tape is applied at cold temperatures and then warmed, much like a normal construction application might experience?

Continue reading “Construction Materials-Tape Test-Part 3”

Construction Materials-A Less Common Sheathing

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor’s website.

When I first started working in the trades as an electrician back in the mid 1990’s, we worked for a couple contractors that liked to use buffalo board sheathing.  I suspect the product was given this name because of its resemblance to buffalo chips.  (If you don’t know what a buffalo chip is, you’ll have to look it up, it’s not the kind of chip you eat.)  I’ve heard it called several other names, bildrite, beaver board, brickboard, bagasse, but it is best known as fiberboard sheathing.

Continue reading “Construction Materials-A Less Common Sheathing”