What You Need to Know About Continuous Insulation-Part 1

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

Living in a very cold climate where wintertime temperatures colder than -20°F aren’t uncommon, you would think contractors and homeowners in my market would be excited to use continuous insulation (CI) on every new home under constructed along with every existing home having the exterior cladding replaced.  In reality, I rarely see either happening.  Part of the reasoning, my state and local building codes don’t require CI.  Cost is another driving factor.  As both homeowners and builders become better educated on the benefits of CI, this should start changing, I’m advocating for its inclusion on projects I’m involved in.

There are many reasons to use continuous insulation.  Reduced energy consumption is one benefit, though lowering heating and cooling costs are, in my opinion, less important and a secondary reason to add CI.  Improving comfort (thermal and sound) and expanding durability are more important.  (I’ll get into durability in detail later in this article.)  Building codes have begun to align with building science and we are seeing more areas across the country adopt continuous insulation as part of the energy code.  The scary part for most builders is the unfamiliarity of installing insulation on the exterior of a wall.  What insulation can be used?  What thickness and R-value are required?  How do I detail window and door openings?  How do I secure the insulation?  How do I attach the cladding?  Where does the house wrap go?  What about other penetrations such as exhaust vents and electrical penetrations?  What about the vapor retarder?  We will be discussing these topics and more over the next two articles.  In this post, we will be discussing the building code requirements along with the building science principles covering CI. Continue reading “What You Need to Know About Continuous Insulation-Part 1”

Five Tips on How to Successfully Install Windows

This post originally appeared on the Andersen Windows and Doors blog. ProViews | Andersen Windows

I write a lot about the four control layers every building envelope has. There is an order of importance:

  1. Water control layer
  2. Air control layer
  3. Vapor control layer
  4. Thermal control layer

A window needs to be able to perform the functions of all four control layers in order to be successful. Window manufacturers design their units to be effective at controlling the movement of water, air, vapor, and heat through good product design and manufacturing techniques, but where they lose control is in the installation of the window. Often the success or failure of a window will come down to the installation, but there are ways to limit risk from water and avoid some of the window installation failures I’ve come across.

Continue reading “Five Tips on How to Successfully Install Windows”

How to Temporarily Heat a Structure During Construction

We are just coming into the heating season (lucky us).  If you live in a northern climate and you’ve made a career out of construction, or even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you may need to temporarily heat a space your working in.  In this post, I’m going to discuss several different heating fuels, the amount of heat they can provide along with current costs, and how the choice of the temporary heating system can affect a building.

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NorthernBuiltPro now on YouTube

The NorthernBuiltPro YouTube channel is live.  (It has been for a while, but now we are producing some YouTube only content.)  The blog will continue as it has but watch for additional content on YouTube and please hit that subscribe button.

FORTIFIED Home-How to make your home more resilient when severe weather hits.

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.  www.greenbuildingadvisor.com

In 2013, a thunderstorm with high winds took a large section of shingles off the roof of the home I owned at the time leaving the roof deck exposed to the heavy rainfall that followed.  For more than a half hour I stood by helplessly watching rainwater enter the home, soaking the attic insulation and dripping down through every light fixture in the affected areas.  Fortunately, the shingles and a couple pieces of siding were all that were affected by the winds, the public forest behind the home was not so lucky, thousands of trees were uprooted.  The clean-up and repair along with dealing with the insurance company took weeks, but eventually the home was made whole again.

Continue reading “FORTIFIED Home-How to make your home more resilient when severe weather hits.”

Energy Audit-Blower Door Testing a Barndominium

This post first appeared on the Rockwool R-Class Website

The first time I visited one of Kyle Stumpenhorse’s (RR Buildings) jobsites was in December of 2022.  I made the trip to Illinois to blower door test one of Kyle’s Barndominium projects, the project he calls “Building a Barndominium”.  The barndo we tested was post and frame construction using closed cell spray foam (CCSF) as both the insulation and air sealing for the project.  The home tested very well, 0.41 ACH50.

Kyle (Left), Dan Edelman from Rockwool (right), and me at Kyle’s first blower door tested barndominium, December 2022.

I got to know Kyle a little on that trip, I was very impressed by his attention to detail and willingness to learn.  He pushes himself to do better on every new build.  I wasn’t surprised to find out his next project he was planning on using Rockwool insulation.  He also had a goal, beat the blower door score of the project using closed cell spray foam as the air barrier.  Could it be done?

Continue reading “Energy Audit-Blower Door Testing a Barndominium”

Construction Materials-Better Alternatives to Silicone

Silicon (notice the spelling difference from “silicone”), is number 14 on the periodic table of elements and happens to be second most abundant element in the earth’s crust.  It was first isolated as an element in the 1820’s and has since been used to create products we use in everyday life.  It is used in semiconductors and photovoltaic panels.  Silicon dioxide, or silica, is used in concrete and in the production of ceramics.  Silicon is also used to create silicone, a manmade compound with many applications.  It is used in the medical community (think implants) and as a lubricant used in both industrial applications and for food preparation (non-stick cookware).  What this article will focus on though is its use in the construction industry, as a sealant.

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Energy Conservation-Shallow Energy Retrofit-Low Hanging Fruit

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor website.

Through the years, I’ve taken a lot of training and attended dozens of conferences about reducing energy consumption in existing homes.  Everything from BPI’s Building Analyst certification to Huber’s Building Science Crossroads.  Many of these training courses discuss the easiest and most cost-effective areas of concentration for energy reduction, the so-called low hanging fruit.  In this shallow energy retrofit blog, we will be discussing the most common location to improve a home’s performance, the attic and/or roof.

Continue reading “Energy Conservation-Shallow Energy Retrofit-Low Hanging Fruit”

Construction Design-Windows-Climate Matters

This post originally appeared on the Andersen Windows website.

Where do you live?  Is it cold or hot, wet or dry, or something in between?  I live in an area that is considered cold and moist, Northern Minnesota.  My climate is much different than Tucson, Arizona or Kansas City, Missouri.  Because of the climate differences, some of my choices in building materials will be different than if I were located in one of those other areas.

Figure N1101.7 (R301.1) Climate Zones-2021 International Residential Code (IRC)

This climate zone map is published by the American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and is included in the International Residential Code, Chapter 11, Energy Efficiency.  ASHRAE’s purpose is to create standards of how an engineer or HVAC professional calculates and designs heating, cooling, and ventilations systems to match the insulation, air sealing, and moisture profile of a building.  When designing these often-complicated systems, where the structure is located becomes key, this is the reason the map was created. Continue reading “Construction Design-Windows-Climate Matters”

Construction Education-Westford Symposium on Building Science (Building Science Summer Camp)

From July 31 through August 2, 2023, I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Westford Symposium on Building Science, better known as Building Science Summer Camp.  490 invited building science enthusiasts from all walks of the construction industry attended the annual event.  An estimated 550 showed up to Dr Joe Lstiburek’s back yard at the end of each day (more on the end of day networking in a bit).  The three-day event included presentations from some of the best building scientists, architects, and builders in the industry.  People like Katrin Kingenberg, co-founder and executive director of Phius (Passive House Institute US) who gave a talk on the past, present, and future of passive house.  Building Science Corporation’s own Kohta Ueno discussed multifamily buildings and summer humidity.  And my personal favorite, Mark Rosenbaum’s Monitoring-Using Data to Solve Problems.  A total of 14 different courses were presented to all the attendees in one giant classroom over the three-day event.

Even though the education was great, and was the main reason I attended, this blog isn’t about what I learned.  I wanted to write about the experience, what it was like to attend my first building science summer camp. Continue reading “Construction Education-Westford Symposium on Building Science (Building Science Summer Camp)”