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”
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.
I’ve heard it said, if we didn’t have to put windows in houses, we could build one heck of an efficient home. But who wants to live in a house where you cannot see outside or let daylight and fresh air in. Windows are an important part of every home. When choosing a window, do you understand what that sticker stuck to the window glass is telling you? You should have at least a basic understanding of the information.
Code compliant blower door testing of a small home can be very frustrating for both the person performing the test and the homeowner or contractor who are required to have the test. A few months ago, I tested a 952 square foot, newly constructed home with a volume of 7616 cubic feet, one of the smallest I’ve tested. The house had a leakage rate of 416 cfm which resulted in a 3.28 ACH50 number. A failed blower door test (my climate requires 3 ACH50 or less). If we take that same CFM rate but increase the ceiling height to 9 feet, which changes the volume to 8568 cubic feet, 2.91 ACH50, a passing test. Either way, 416 CFM of air moving through the blower door isn’t much, some kitchen exhaust hoods can move more air than that. Seems unfair to punish smaller homes when blower door testing, especially when the blower door test is testing the surface of a structure, not it’s volume.
Several years ago, I performed a roof replacement for a customer, the customer wanted to change their older and failing asphalt shingled roof to a steel roof. We stripped the old shingles and existing underlayment off, installed new synthetic underlayment and new steel over the 10/12 pitched roof. I felt confident that this new roof would last many years.
The following year, the same customer asked if we would replace several windows in the upper level of his story and a half home. The old windows were due for replacement, the single paned wood units appeared to be from the mid-1900’s. Woodpeckers had pecked a hole nearly completely through one of the windows. Several others were painted shut. Again, a straight-forward job we had done dozens of times before.
The spring after the window replacement, I received a call from the customer saying his roof was leaking. He had water dripping in several areas in the upper level of the home. A visit to his house did indeed show water damage, though it was not the result of a bulk water leak from the roof, but instead, air leaks from the interior had formed frost on the attic side of the roof sheathing, the home had never had this issue before. I surmised that replacing the five upper-level windows had changed how this home handled air and moisture just enough to cause frost to form in the attic. My first building science lesson about the unintentional effects of a shallow energy retrofit. Continue reading “Energy Conservation-Shallow Energy Retrofit”
How do you define comfort inside your home? Thermal comfort is the big one, not being too hot or too cold. Thermal comfort is one of the most important questions I ask during building investigations and energy audits. Having the right indoor humidity is another, not too damp and not too dry, which can affect not only comfort, but also human health and the durability of the structure. How about the visual aspect of comfort, it’s always nice to be in a room that “feels good” simply because of the way it was designed or how it is furnished. This discussion on comfort though is going to be on sound, the noises you experience inside the home and how noise pollution can affect comfort.
You’ve done the work, installed that new bathroom vanity and countertop. You’ve got the plumbing hooked up and tried out the faucet, yep, everything works. All that’s left is to seal the countertop to the wall, that finishing touch that completes the installation. Is that bead of sealant simply cosmetic or is it to prevent water from flowing behind the countertop and vanity possibly causing damage? Do you use a cheap caulk from the hardware store? Maybe some silicone? Which product is right for this job?
Probably the most difficult decision for any caulking job is knowing what to use when and where. With so many choices, walking down the caulking aisle in any hardware store can make your head spin. With this post, we are going to talk about the chemistry of sealants, just the basics, enough information so you can make an informed decision the next time you need to choose a sealant.
If you’ve been in the construction industry long enough, chances are you’ve had to remove an old mineral wool insulation product during a renovation. I know I have. It’s itchy, easily falls apart, and it often doesn’t completely fill a cavity bay. I’ve had many conversations with other builders who will not consider using a mineral wool product because of their past experiences with the older mineral wool insulations. I can tell you; the old stuff is nothing like modern stone wool.
Before having a conversation with someone about a specific topic, you really should know the subject matter, the definitions and terminology related to the topics being discussed. Talking about sealants and caulking is no different. In the coming blogs, we will be chatting about many different topics with regards to sealants, this thing we are calling caulking 101. This blog post is the prerequisite for those conversations.
Caulks, sealants, adhesives-what are the differences?
Caulk is a type of sealant that has less movement or flexibility to other sealants. It’s often used as a cosmetic solution instead of a true “keep things out of a joint” product. To caulk or caulking can also be used as a verb, the application of a sealant.
According to code, a garage is considered an accessory building when detached from a dwelling, and outside the conditioned envelope when attached to the dwelling structure. They don’t fall under the same energy code requirements as a dwelling. That being said, it’s common in my market for both attached and detached garages to have some sort of heat source (I live in a very cold climate). If you are going through the trouble and expense of conditioning a garage, it’s probably wise to also think about its efficiency, both insulation and air sealing.