Construction Materials

Mar
18

We had a big step today. We had the insulation installed. That’s a big one because it means we are done inside the walls. I’ll be honest. It was a bit scary. I’ve been working for the past 2+ months on the electrical. And now that we’re closing up the walls, that means I had better be done or I’ll be making a huge mess to get back into the walls. Anyway, the guys showed up early this morning. By the time I got there at 8:30 they were well on their way. There were just two guys, but you could tell they knew what they were doing.

But there was just one problem. As I walked around I noticed they were putting batt insulation in the rim joist bays, but we had ordered closed-cell spray foam in those areas. We wanted spray foam mainly because the foundation company had screwed up and their forms had slumped during the pour so the tops of our foundations were lower in the middle than the corners. So the foundation company came back and grouted the rather large gap between the foundation and the sill plate the framers built, but I didn’t trust that and we wanted a good air barrier in that area. So we had opted for the spray foam. I called the salesman and he said there was a clerical error and they would spray that foam in tomorrow morning. I talked to the guys on site and we all agreed it would be better to get it all done today. So I drove one of them to get their spray foam truck while the other one kept working.

Just one more example of how you have to check on every detail. It wasn’t the installers fault because the spray foam wasn’t on their work order. But if I hadn’t been there to check, it wouldn’t have been right and would have costed us at least a day. Frustrating, but just the nature of construction. No matter how hard you try, someone isn’t going to do their job right. That might sound really negative, but it has happened so many times on this project, I’ve come to accept that it will happen at virtually every step. Now at least I know to watch for it and hopefully catch the mistakes before they cost us too much time.

We ended up using four different types of insulation in the house. In the exterior walls we used Net-And-Blow or Blown-In-Bats (BIBs). Since our exterior walls are 2×6 we figured it would be good to use the full cavity. And with the loose fill blown in, the insulation goes around everything in the wall like wires, cables and outlet boxes. They cover the walls with a fabric and then blow the insulation in (see video above). This results in a R-24 insulation. As I mentioned earlier, we had 3″+ of closed cell foam sprayed in the rim joist bays (video below) resulting in about R-21 or so. Then in the basement ceiling we had foil faced batts installed for an R-11. This was mostly to help force the main floor radiant heat upwards. Then once the drywall is put on the ceilings on the main floor, they’ll fill the attic with 3 feet or more of loose-fill insulation resulting in an approximate R-50 insulation value. Hopefully this will make sure we stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer and have no drafts on our necks.

Some photos too:

Mar
17
Posted by Mike at 10:44 pm

Way back when we were working on the design of our house, we wanted to keep the house under a 1,500 sq ft footprint. It sounds easy, but it’s really not. We ended up getting there with the help our our architect. He came up with a great idea to bump out the foundation around our staircase. This helped by saving space inside the house, made the roof line a bit more interesting, and also helped to make the front of the house more interesting.

We decided to accentuate this part of the house by using a different material on the exterior. We considered wood but decided against this after we realized this would get more sun that we first anticipated. And with the sun and UV being extremely strong in Colorado that would mean a lot of maintenance. After more consideration we decided on a dry-stacked slate stone. This is real stone that comes in 2 sq ft panels and corners. There is no grout and the stones are of different thicknesses. This gives it a look like the stones are stacked without mortar (or dry). It was nice that our soon-to-be neighbor to the west (Leonard) is a stone mason. Friday and today he and his helper (Mike) got the job done. We think it turned out great. You be the judge.

Feb
22
Posted by Mike at 9:34 pm

Our roof is now complete. It’s been a long process, but finally we’ve got the house and garage roof on. We got bids from several companies, but their prices were really high. We ended up getting a referral from another couple nearby (Janet and Steve) that are building a house as well. It just so happens they’re using the same building consultant as we are. They’re a couple months ahead of us and have been a great resource for us on our project. They’ve been very generous to share mistakes and problems they’ve run into and Steve and I have been known to get together for a few beers to vent about the building process. Their roofer was someone they knew that works at a high-end custom roofing company (think clay tiles, copper, and more) and does roofs on the side on the weekends. We decided to use him on their recommendation.

It took while for him to get us in his schedule, but it all worked out ok. When we were ready to get the roof dried in, even though it had snowed the night before, he was right there. Last weekend he and his partner got the house roofed and then today they roofed the garage. It looks great to have the house covered. Now we need to get our gutters installed.

One note on the shingles we chose. We definitely wanted the dimensional (or architectural) shingle. This is generally a shingle with overlapping layers to create a layered or textured effect similar to old-world ceder shake shingles. Not only does it look better, but it provides a stronger roof more resistant to wind damage because the multiple layers make the shingles stiffer. And since we’re building close to the foothills of the Rockies, wind can be an issue. Another significant issue living in Colorado is hail, the number one cause for insurance claims. So one of the options for roofing is IR, or Impact Resistant, shingles. The shingles are a little more expensive, (maybe 10%), but most insurance companies give up to a 20% discount on insurance if you have IR shingles. With that discount, the additional cost of the materials will be paid of in 2-3 years. Also, if the IR shingles can prevent a claim, they would save us the cost of our deductible which would easily be three times the cost of the upgrade to IR shingles. So overall, I think it was a good idea. Check out the new roof.

Feb
22
Posted by Mike at 8:52 pm

We’ve got stucco… well at least the first part of it. It looks great. After looking at OSB sheathing for a couple months, it’s nice to see a somewhat finished surface now. Here are a few photos and below the story of how we got our stucco.

A couple months ago I met with three different companies and reviewed their bids. On several occasions, picking a contractor was really difficult. In this case it really wasn’t. One guy (let’s say company C) showed up without any paper or a pen to write down the details. He was out from the start. The other two were both very friendly and professional. Company B offered an option to tent the house if it was too cold (under 40F or 9C). Since we often have warm weather in the Colorado Front Range even in winter, and we weren’t really in a hurry, that wasn’t really a factor in my decision, but was nice nonetheless. The third company, (we’ll call them company A) offered fiber mesh at no extra cost in their scratch/brown coat to reduce cracking. Company B offered this too, but at an additional charge. Also, our framer had miscalculated the width of our overhang and left a 3/4″ gap from the wall to the soffit material. The final stucco is only 1/2″ think so we’d have 1/4″ (6cm) crack all around. Not a huge issue, but not good for moisture, dirt, and bugs. Company A offered to add a band to cover this space at no extra cost, for Company B it would have been a significant add-on. When the bids came back, both bids were over the budget our building consultant had suggested (a common issue). I asked company A if they would match our budget and they did. So that was it. We had a stucco contractor. We met again, signed a contract, and planned to start when the weather was agreeable.

Not long after we had a signed contract, a crew showed up at our house to setup the scaffolding. It was a cold windy day, but they worked all day and got the entire house and garage surrounded. A few days later they showed up again and wrapped the house in a waterproof breathable material. You might see something called Tyvek on a lot of construction projects. This is a product by DuPont, a synthetic material made of polyethylene fibers. Our guys used a product called Jumbo Tex, an asphalt saturated kraft paper (or tar paper). This provides an effective water barrier while still maintaining a breathable barrier. Then they wrapped the house is stucco lath. They couldn’t quite finish because we didn’t have all our doors in place yet. A couple were special ordered and not in yet. For our main entry door we’re having a custom door built and they were a bit behind schedule. Over the past couple weeks we got all our doors installed and the jamb for our main entry installed as well. So the stucco crew came back and finished up the wrap and lath. We called for an inspection last Wednesday and everything went well.

I called our guy Thursday to say the inspection was good and he said he could meet Saturday morning at 9:00 to go over the details. I showed up at about 8:30 and there was already a crew of 5 or 6 guys that had taped all the windows and doors and were ready to go. I went over some details with the foreman and they all started off. By 6:00 that evening, our entire house and garage were covered in the scratch/brown coat of stucco. WOW!  The last step will be for us to pick a color and have them come back and put on the final coat. This layer contains the color, so the color is actually mixed into the stucco. That was one the biggest reasons I wanted to use stucco as the exterior surface. Once it’s on, there is very little maintenance needed. And as long as there are no major cracks, all should be good. Also, stucco is great in the harsh Colorado high UV sun.

So on we go to the next step in the building process. It’s nice to see things moving forward. I hope to have some more good news to report. I’ll keep you posted.

Feb
18
Posted by Mike at 7:33 am

Last week Rick and Sarah were up at the house checking on the progress. Rick is there pretty regularly, but it had been a while for Sarah. She was excited to see things coming together; after all, she has been helping us make decisions for the past 2 years!  So we were a bit surprised when we folded back the big “Wall O’ Doors” and it wasn’t what Sarah had expected… in a good way though. She thought it was amazing (we do too). She was thinking the panels slid over one another, which was one option we considered. But in the end, we really wanted the entire opening. So just to make sure others know how our folding door works, I made a short video. Enjoy!

Notice our two folding chairs. This is where I eat my sandwich for lunch most days.  🙂

Feb
16
Posted by Mike at 10:34 pm

We finally got all our exterior doors installed. The big folding door had been sitting in our garage for many weeks until we were ready to get that installed. You can read about that at our post on our La Cantina Folding Door. But for the rest of our doors it took a while mostly because of us dragging our feet and poor planning. But it didn’t really hold us up much. For a week or two I had to screw on a piece of plywood over our walkout door and unscrew it if I didn’t want to walk all the way upstairs, around the house, and down a dirt slope. But when our doors did come in, our framers installed them the next day. The two special order doors  were just the walkout door that has a full window (or a full-light in door speak) with built-in blinds and the garage service door that is just a blank slab with no panels or windows.

For the garage door, we decided to go with an insulated door with steel on both sides. The door is 16-feet wide and 8-feet tall. We had some frosted glass windows put in on the top to let in some light and hopefully match the design of our house a bit. The door rolls on nylon wheels for noise reduction and the insulated door cuts down on noise as well. For an opener we got a belt drive Chamberlain that is known for quiet operation.

 

Amy and I were both really surprised at the lack of options when it comes to exterior doors. It seems there are really only a few manufacturers and they all make basically the same doors. It really is pretty crazy. There is hardly any innovation… that is if you want to stick to the main manufacturers. For the two mentioned above, that was ok. But for our main entry we really wanted something specific. So we decided to have a door custom made. That allowed us to make the door a bit wider and design it ourselves. It will have a 12 inch side-light, five horizontal windows, be made of African Mahogany, and be 3 1/2-feet wide by 8-feet tall (1,2 m wide and 2.6 m tall).  We actually had seen the door we are having made on various design websites such as www.houzz.com but not at any of the manufactures. When we have that door complete and installed, we’ll post some more pictures. That will be a while though because we don’t want it to get damaged during construction.

Here are some shots of the doors as they sit today. We’ll be painting them once we decide on a color. More decisions…

Jan
23
Posted by Mike at 9:47 am

We finally got the folding door installed. It was delivered at least a couple months ago and due to delays it has been sitting in our open garage since then. I’m glad to finally have it installed. This was a huge part of our vision for the house and it does not disappoint.  This door is 15 feet (5 m) wide and fully opens by the five panels folding against one side. This leads from our kitchen/dining room to the 550 sq ft (50 sq m) patio. Now we just have to figure out how to provide some privacy.

Jan
14
Posted by Mike at 10:37 am

The stucco crews have started on our house. The first step was to come in and set up scaffolding. Once that was complete, they started wrapping the house in Jumbo Tex. This helps to make the house air and water tight while still providing some breathability. You may see other products such as Dupont’s Tyvek being used on construction products. Once the house is wrapped, they added flashing around anything the protrudes through a wall like windows, doors, and outlets. Then come the stucco lathe that will hold the material on the wall. This is a wire mesh that is stapled to the wall. Once all the preparation is complete, they’ll put on the brown-coat layer. This is the bulk of the stucco wall. Then they’ll wait until the roofing is completely installed and the drywall is hung. This will allow the considerable weight of these materials to settle and prevent cracking. The final coat contains the color mixed into the concrete. This provides a (hopefully) maintenance free exterior.

Jan
02
Posted by Mike at 10:46 am

On a cold new years day, our roofers started to dry-in our house. This is putting a layer of underlayment material on the roof to keep out snow and rain. Our roofers used DuPont Roofliner. We’d gotten a little snow that morning, so they had to sweep the roof first. I’d already done that a couple of times and let me assure you, it’s not fun when you’re looking down the 20+ foot (7 m) drop on the backside. My brother-in-law Rick and I had already covered the garage with tar-paper a while back and we gave that roof edge plenty of space. Now that the roof is dried in, I just need to put some boards of the door openings and I can start the electrical.

Dec
03
Posted by Mike at 8:44 pm

We’ve been working on painting the fascia and staining the soffit for the garage and house. The fascia is the board that covers the end of the trusses and that  you see just under the edge of the roofing material (in our case asphalt shingles). The soffit is the area under the overhang.

For the fascia we ended up using an engineered material with a wood grain. It’s thickness is called 5/4 but it’s actually 1 inch thick (2.5 cm) and 7.5 inches tall (almost 20 cm). This gives it a pretty solid dimension. It comes pre-primed so we could have just had it installed and painted it later, but because there are areas where this material is more than 20 feet (almost 7 meters) off the ground, we figured it would be nice to paint it before it was installed. Fortunately the weather cooperated and we had three near perfect days in the mid 60s (27 c) with no wind. Amy chose a nice dark brown for the fascia. There is over 220 feet of material needed for our house and an additional 100 feet we already used on our garage.

For the soffit we used a pine bead-board that we stained a mahogany color. We would have loved to have used real tongue and groove material for this but not only is the material really expensive, but the time to stain it extensive, and the labor to install it expensive. We felt the pine bead-board was a good option at a reasonable price and were pleasantly surprised with the results. It looks great!

On the garage we put the lines of the bead-board parallel to the walls. On the house we’ll go parallel to some of the walls, but on the west side with the 7-foot overhangs we’ve decided to put the lines perpendicular to the house. This should give it a nice effect and also help to minimize the joints between the panels. We have over 730 square feet (67 sq m) of soffit area on the house and another 360 sq ft (35 sq m) for the garage. That’s more than 30 – 4′ x 8′ sheets of material. Needless to say it took a while to stain.

We’ll add more pictures once this has been installed.