Construction Design-Windows in Shower Enclosures

As a homeowner, would you choose a design that included a window in a shower?  As a builder, are you comfortable with warrantying a window in this location?  What changes to the shower enclosure over a normal custom shower are you requiring sub-contractors to make?  As a building science nerd and a builder who has built his fair share of custom showers, I have my thoughts.  More on those in a bit.

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Recessed Lighting in Older Homes-The Issues and the Fixes

The post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.  

Recently, I’ve been on a few energy audits and assessments where the homes were built or remodeled in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Electricians working in those times were installing the traditional recessed light fixtures, also known as recessed cans or pot lights.  This type of lighting fixture usually doesn’t have any issues when installed inside the air and thermal boundaries of the building envelope but can be very problematic when they end up displacing insulation and interrupting the continuity of the air control layer.  I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of this type of lighting as well as how we can improve the performance of a home that has existing recessed cans.

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Construction Design-Caulking 101

This is the intro in a series of sponsored post, I’ve partnered with Sashco, the maker of Big Stretch and Lexel sealants to talk about the basics of caulking and sealants, we are calling this Caulking 101.

You’re ready!  The tube of caulking is in the caulking gun, the tip is cut, and the inner seal has been punctured.  You’re ready to start squeezing that trigger.  But are you really ready?  Are you using the right sealant?  Have you designed a proper joint?  Has the surface been prepped?  Did you cut the tip properly?  What’s the plan for tooling?  Caulking is more than just smearing some pookie on a joint, the end product should look good, but more importantly perform and last.  Caulking and caring.

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Roofs and Water-Where Leaks Occur

I recently began writing blog posts for several manufacturers.  This specific post was written for Sashco, a sealants manufacturer (Big Stretch and Lexel are two of their product lines).  They also produce a line of log home stain and finishing systems.  I recently visited their facility near Denver, Colorado and was blown away by their values and company culture.  Learn more about Sashco at

There are four control layers to every home, water, air, vapor and thermal, but none are more important than water.  If we can’t keep water out of our building assemblies, none of the other control layers matter.  Water management starts on the roof.

Design has a lot to do with how a roof will shed water.  Simple roof designs with steeper pitches and large overhangs are much more effective at protecting the rest of the structure than minimally pitched (flat) roofs with no overhangs.  Down, out and away rules the day.  Dormers and skylights will add natural light to the home but will also add a layer of complexity to how we approach water management.  Chimneys, plumbing vents and electrical masts, exhaust fans and roof ventilation products may need some sort of hole through the roof.  All these require well thought out flashing and sealing strategies.

This log home with its steep pitch and large overhangs is good at managing the water from rain and snow events. The roof intersects, different planes, dormer and chimney all add a layer of complexity.

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Barndominium-Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing and Final Blower Door Numbers

This post first appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

Work on the “barndominium” project is nearly complete after 18 months of construction.  You can read parts 1-5 here on GBA (linked at the bottom of this post) and on this blog, links to the right labeled Barndominium Project.  This final post will discuss mechanical systems, blower door numbers, along with the challenges and benefits of this type of building method.

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Sealing Electrical Penetrations

This post originally appeared on the Green Building Advisor Website.

I’ve been a licensed journeyman electrician since 2000 (I haven’t worked as an electrician since 2005, but still keep my licensing requirements up to date).  Back in those days no one was asking us to seal the penetrations for electrical equipment we were making to the outside or into unconditioned spaces.  Even today, with building codes requiring all air passageways between conditioned and unconditioned spaces sealed, it’s rare that the electricians are performing those duties.  It’s usually left to the insulating contractor, a member of the carpentry crew, or in the case of holes drilled to the exterior of the building, the siding contractor.  I can speak with experience that, with a little training, the residential mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) trades are more than capable of sealing their own holes and penetrations.  I’m finding the MEP contractors I’m working with are taking pride in performing those duties.

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Construction Education-Zero Failures, a Factory Training

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

I’ve taken training from many manufacturers over the years.  Manufacturers have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.  If you have a good experience, you will probably use their products again, but if you have a poor experience, you’re going to talk about it, and not in a good way.  The good manufacturers will provide some sort of product training, whether it’s in a video on YouTube or information on their website.  Many will also offer on-site education with a factory representative.  I’ve had two manufacturers send representatives to answer questions on jobs I was involved with over the past year, Rockwool and Siga.

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Ten Requirements for High Performance Buildings

How do you define high performance?  If you build to code and accidently end up with a super tight enclosure, are you high performance?  (I’ve tested a code-built house that ended up at .33ACH50.)  Or do you need to build above code in all four of the control layers, water, air, vapor and thermal to reach the high-performance accolades?  To tell you the truth, I don’t particularly like the term high performance.  If you are shooting for a certification, then you are building to “Zero Energy” or to “Passive House” or whatever model you are trying to achieve.  If you are not going for a certification, then you are simply building above code, or building better, but for clarity with this blog post, we’ll call it high performance.

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Types of Home Energy Audits

This blog originally appeared on the Rockwool R-Class Program website. ROCKWOOL – R-Class Builder Program – United States (English)

Energy audit, energy assessment and building diagnostics, what are the differences?

Part of my work is in a niche discipline in the residential construction industry where I test and inspect both new and existing homes for construction errors and other deficiencies that cause a home not to meet its owners’ expectations.  A home can have a comfort or cost to operate issue.  There may be moisture or indoor air quality issues that cause health problems for the occupants, or maybe there are structural durability concerns due to water infiltration.  Sometimes this testing and inspecting simply becomes an education session to teach the homeowners how their homes work.


There are three different types of analysis I perform, an energy assessment, energy audit and building diagnostic.  They are all related, but a little different.  The first two deal with the movement of energy in a structure, the last is usually more about the movement of moisture, but not always.  Let’s dig a little deeper into each.

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North Central Building Science Symposium

I’m going to shamelessly make a sales pitch.

On May 9th and 10th of 2023, the Midwest Building Science Symposium (MWBSS) will be coming to Minnesota.  This two-day, all building science education event is to be held at Surly Brewing Company, 520 Malcolm Ave SE in Minneapolis.  There are a total of five speakers scheduled, we will get to that list in a bit, but first, let’s talk a little about the Building Science Symposium.

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