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Old 03-11-13, 03:46 PM   #1
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I just started looking for my first home. From those who have done this before, what should I be watching out for?

any issues with manufactured vs stick build?

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Old 03-12-13, 08:18 AM   #2
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I'd highly recommend getting an energy audit done on any house before you buy it. That'll tell you how leaky it is and show you problem areas. I think mine cost about $300 to have done. Other than that, you can get general utility info from the utility company to kind of guess how much you'll be spending.

Beyond that, for me, I knew I wanted to go the route of solar hot water and space heating. So, something with a good southern exposure and a decent place for hot water panels was important.

Then again, there is nothing bad with an old leaky house, its just that much more work you'll have to do if you want to get things buttoned up.
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Old 03-14-13, 09:52 AM   #3
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I would look for a newer home, less than 50 years old, framed with dimensional lumber and platform framing. Be sure that all walls and floors are reasonably plumb and level. You will find that all your future projects will be easier to complete, fewer headaches and compromises. If you think of projects like doors, windows, trim, electrical and communication wires, plumbing, and ductwwork you'll begin to see the advantages of a newer home.
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Old 03-14-13, 10:42 AM   #4
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I've been through a couple of homes in the last 8 years. The first was a "newer" home. Except some of these newer cookie cutter homes have issues if they're not built right. The house isn't really settled, the joists in the basement ceiling were already starting to bend...after 2 years, when I went up into the attic they didn't put vent soffits between every joist, the kitchen was made very cheaply and we found air leaks everywhere when we did an energy audit. We paid good money for that house too. It was just very disheartening. The good thing about the house was the foundation was done fairly well and the floor in the basement wasn't cracking barely at all after 8 years after being built.

Our second house that we live in now was built by a really good builder 26 years ago. Everyone I asked said "oh that guy builds a solid house". There's a couple creaks in the floors but nothing major and nothing loud. The basement floor after 26 years is barely cracked although it's not really level so I'll need to deal with that. There are vent soffits between every joist. There's no leaks in the basement that I've ever seen in the last 2 springs we've had. The house is well kept. When I got an energy audit the house barely had any leaks at all. The only real issues I have with the house are things like cement cracking in the garage and driveway (which is normal after 26 years). The windows are old and use to ice up, but we had a new furnace/AC/HRV put in and they didn't ice up once this winter (although the seals are broken so it fogs up a bit in the summer). The house isn't even really set up for an HRV as it just has some cold air returns, but it still worked really well. The two boys rooms are over the garage and don't get good heat pumping through to their rooms, but that can be easily fixed with a vent fan. The attic needs a bit more insulation. The house only has 3 small south facing windows. And there are some minor electrical and plumbing issues but nothing major. We really love the new house.

So things to look out for:
- Don't always go for new...but if it is new make sure it's not built cheap unless it's easy to replace or it's something you can live with until you can replace it.
- Look for a solid foundation. I would look for a home that is at least 10 years old who's foundation has been tested and the basement floor doesn't have many cracks in it. Or if there are cracks that they're not more then a millimeter in width.
- Check the floors on the other levels. Make sure you don't hear a lot of creaking or that there are no dips in the floor. Jump up and down in each room if you have to. I did that.
- Check the basement ceiling and look at the joists and make sure they're not bending and that they're no more then 16 inches apart. If the ceiling in the basement is finished, find the utility closet...people don't usually finish the ceiling in there.
- If the basement is unfinished...look around, see how things are built. If the basement isn't built well...chances are the rest of the house isn't either.
- Check the walls outside the house. Especially the lower walls connecting to the ground.
- Keep an eye on things you have to repair or replace. Bring a notepad with you and jot things down as you're going through each house.
- Check all the faucets in the house for leaks. Check under the sinks to make sure there are shut off valves. The first house I bought, they never put shut off valves under our bathroom sinks...it was stupid.
- Check the years of the HVAC and HRV (if there is one) as well as the water heater. You don't want to overspend on a house and find out you have to replace it all.
- If it comes with the appliances, do a check on the appliances, some people flip a house and put in some cheap appliances into it and you think you're getting a deal when you're not.
- Make sure it has enough electrical. I believe the norm today is 200 - 240V? The old was 120V which is barely high enough for today's standards.
- Established trees in the yard are a good thing. They will block the wind and shade you in the summer. Just watch out for really old trees, especially if they're near the home. You may have to deal with cutting them down.
- Just mostly keep your eyes pealed. Look for anything and everything. Keep notes. And make sure your furniture will fit.

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Old 03-15-13, 11:52 AM   #5
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Check out this one.. Alaska House Is Tightest Ever Recorded | Alaska Dispatch

And try to find one like it..
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Old 03-23-13, 08:51 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xringer View Post
Check out this one.. Alaska House Is Tightest Ever Recorded | Alaska Dispatch

And try to find one like it..
the issue with this is sick building syndrome. you need air changes to keep things healthy. but you can do it with a heat exchanger to minimize cost.....
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Old 03-23-13, 09:10 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weather Spotter View Post
the issue with this is sick building syndrome. you need air changes to keep things healthy. but you can do it with a heat exchanger to minimize cost.....
At the link above, there is a Facebook post.. And a link to some neat pics.


Kristin Donaldson University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hello, I am the owner of the house discussed in this article. I appreciate all of the comments and have some clarifications:

1) The $900 per year is the total energy bill (heating, lighting, etc.). The portion for heating itself is about $200 per year. If anybody is interested, http://energy-alaska.wdfiles.com/loc...ady%20Home.pdf has more details about the numbers.

2) The 0.05 ACH (air changes per hour) number does not refer to the ventilation rate. It refers to the air leakage through imperfections in the building envelope, as determined by a blower door test at 50 pascals. Ventilation is provided through an HRV (heat recovery ventilator), and the rate can be adjusted based on occupancy and activities. This results in superior indoor air quality.

3) The house certainly has additional windows on the south side (not seen in the AK Dispatch photo) and does have good day-lighting. The good day-lighting is not achieved through a large number of windows, but rather through careful selection of glazing materials (high visible transmittance) and locations of the windows. Many people, who have visited the home, have attested that the interior has a very pleasant feel. If anybody is interested, Passive House Project 2012 - a set on Flickr has some interior pictures.

4) Correct, it costs more to build a super efficient home and the payback isn't super short. However, a well built home is likely going to be here for a very long time and save a lot of resources in the long-term.

If anybody is interested, Net Zero Energy Ready Home in Dillingham, Alaska - Alaska Energy Wiki has more information about the house. Thank you for your interest.
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Old 03-23-13, 09:37 AM   #8
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thanks for the additional info.
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Old 03-31-13, 06:34 AM   #9
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how good is r19 insulation for ceilings? I found a house I am interested in and it block built, is that a good thing?
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Old 03-31-13, 07:54 AM   #10
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To find the heat loss per square metre, simply divide the temperature difference by the R value.

If the interior of your home is at 20 C, and the roof cavity is at 10 C, the temperature difference is 10 C (= 10 K difference). Assuming a ceiling insulated to R2 (R = 2.0 mK/W), energy will be lost at a rate of 10 K / 2 Km/W = 5 watts for every square metre of ceiling.
R-value (insulation) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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