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Old 01-14-14, 12:12 PM   #1
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Default New home in development, yet to be built questions.

So we're looking at buying a yet to be constructed house in a development. The builder says we can't make any changes during construction and they won't iether. Offline conversations with the construction supervisor reveals that he'll let me make some changes after inspections provided it doesn't affect him from a liability standpoint.

There are 5 floor plans to choose from and our choice of which lot. The lot we've chosen has good southern exposure to the living area, the side with the most windows, though south window exposure is still only about 3% of the total square footage, it's the best we could do. The roof line had two options, I chose the one best suited for future PV panel installation. The city requires a natural gas tankless hot water heater (don't yet know which brand/model is being installed, probably the cheapest) and a crappy 80% natural gas furnace.

The framing and rest of the construction is the typical conventional overbuilt 16" OC, massive thermal bridge, 2x6 walls probably r-19, don't remember what ceiling insulation is required by code.

2133 sf, two story, no name gas fireplace in living room without fan, three car garage, no AC (not really needed here).

So, given that the builder will let me sneak in some very minor work during construction what are the most beneficial things I could do? So far this is my list, please comment on what I've missed or if these are just a waste of time and material.

1) Seal around each stud to the sheathing, in each cavity, on all exterior walls before insulation goes in. Sealing material for long term adhesion and flexibility recommendation please.
2) Seal around each window and door. Sealing material for long term adhesion and flexibility recommendation please.
3) Seal around each ceiling and floor opening such as can lights, ducts, fixture, electrical boxes, etc. Again, sealing material for long term adhesion and flexibility recommendation please.
4) Install a conduit from the garage to the attic for future PV connection to panel. Place firestop material in ends. There is an unused 2nd story cavity that can be used for this.
5) Insulate garage just before sheetrock.
6) Remove/install better bath and laundry room fan or just the damper.
7) Try to work with insulation contractor to install extra attic insulation.
8) Insulate around tub and shower just before sheetrock. They are on exterior walls.

Any other ideas or criticism of the list is welcome! Thanks in advance.

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Old 01-14-14, 01:42 PM   #2
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Sounds like you found a potential winner! Can't wait to see what the house will look like. You shouod see if you can take construction pics, especially before sheetrock goes up.

I think the list you have is a good start. You may want to try putting higher R-value insulation than R-19 for the walls (if it's available). I would also look into installing the mounts for the solar panels, that way, the roof won't need to be messed with during solar installation. Another good idea would be the heating/cooling PEX tubing in the ground before landscaping (the name of that project escapes me ATM). Radiant floors would be really, if you're in a cold region. This is just off the top of my head, I'm sure others here will have some other great ideas.

Where are you residing?
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Old 01-15-14, 08:28 AM   #3
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I like most of your ideas, but I don't understand why you want to seal your wall studs to your sheathing. I think that you can accomplish more by ensuring that your housewrap (Tyvek, Typar) is installed carefully and completely. There is a companion product, tape, (Tuck tape, mfg. name, red in colour) that is used to seal all seams and perforations, including windows.
To seal and insulate you windows to your studs I would recommend "low E", low expansion spray foam. Low expansion foam will not put pressure on your window and door frames, warping them. Trim any housewrap in the stud openings back to expose bare stud, so that the foam will bond to both surfaces.
The sealant that I use for most vapour barrier issues is "Acoustical Sealant", it stay soft and flexible, allows the house to settle without failing. Beware of it though, neatness is important, it can quickly cause a sticky mess.
The light cans, glad you brought this up. This is an item that can render all your other efforts useless. Be SURE that they are VAPOUR tight- look for the compliance label. There is a different grade- "insulation safe", these are not necessarily vapour tight, they are designed to be safe if insulation is installed against them, but, often air can travel through them.
If you are installing a conduit through to the attic, why not install two? A second pipe would be handy for an AC circuit, such as an attic fan, power vent or whatever.
Lastly, when your heating ductwork is installed seal the boots to the subfloor with aluminum foil tape. Probably the most important factor here is the workmanship of the ductwork guy- the better the fit between the boot and plywood the better. Once I watched a guy cut the holes with a chainsaw. It was a nightmare trying to fix that one.
Good luck! And keep us posted!
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Old 01-15-14, 06:13 PM   #4
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It would sure help if I knew where this home is located . . .

But I would seal the sill plate with silicone caulk even if a layer of "sill seal" is used. Then I would seal up everything you can possibly get your hands on BEFORE sheetrock is put on.

Do everything you can to seal up the house. When you move in consider putting in an air to air heat exchanger to provide ventilation. It would be great if those ducts could be put in during construction.

One area where a huge influence can be done is to seal up the washer/dryer area in a room with a door with good weatherseals (I use outside door frames for this, but use interior doors. Inside this room, put in a duct to the attic. The duct in the attic is sealed up with filters so dust doesn't come in. This allows "make up" air to be used for dryer operation and you don't suck out conditioned air via the dryer. Do not put in any HVAC ducts into this washer/dryer room.

Air that goes out of the house, must come in - and it is outside unconditioned air you have to heat or cool.

A dryer uses about 400-600 ft3 per minute and just 40 minutes of use will cause about 20,000 ft3 of air to be lost to the outside. A 2500 sq ft house with 8 foot ceilings has a total volume of about 20,000 ft3 . . . .

If you have kids, then I bet you are doing a load (or more) or laundry every day. Think about the savings when you don't exhaust all the conditioned air every time you turn on the dryer.

See if T8 bulbs can be put in and dimmers that are compatible with CFLs and/or LEDs.

Can you negotiate to put in a higher SEER AC and a higher efficiency gas furnace at your cost?

You will be rewarded very well for your time and effort.

Good luck!
consulting on geothermal heating/cooling & rational energy use since 1990
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Old 01-17-14, 01:43 AM   #5
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Just a few ideas from my experiences.....

Put a light switch and sockets for light bulbs in the crawl space. I gave the electrician a $100 and he did both the crawl space and the attic too. The blown in insulation guys sure did a lot better job when I can see their work!

If they use blown-in insulation in the attic, find out how many bags it should take and count them WHEN they are blowing it in. I built three houses and found that they NEVER put in the correct amount. I learned to watch them from the first time I had it done. Don't tell them before hand or they will bring empty bags with them.

If you put up Christmas lights, have the electrician put in a few outlets on the eves at the front of the house and hook it to a light switch in the garage. When they are done, put in a timer.

I had outlets installed under the vanity in the bathrooms, behind the mirrors and in the kitchen under the cabinets for rope lighting. It tied in with the Christmas light circuit and came on at dusk. I was told that the soft light doesn't wake you up like turning on the lights in the middle of the night. It really was a nice touch.

I installed a recirculating pump on the hot water line. It came on just before we got up. You can step into the shower right away without having to wait for the water to get hot.

Before they pour the foundation, have the concrete form layers put in a couple of 4 inch pvc pipes where you can run your a/c or lawn irrigation supply lines or geothermal lines, or electrical/auxiliary lines. It beats having to use a hammerdrill and costs a couple of dollars. I put the plastic caps on the ends and when the time came to put in the heat pump line set, they popped out in seconds.

Seems like they always miss one or two outlets on a wall where you really need one. I know they are supposed to have one every so many feet, but I see it happen a lot where they don't have one. Its good to go around before they sheetrock it.

In all of the homes that I have had built or bought, every exterior door jam leaks at the top. Weather it is the sliding door, man door to the garage, or the front door, they are never sealed between the sheetrock and the molding. Anybody else reading this, check, you will see that most of the time there is a space where it isn't sealed and if you have a blower door test done, you will find out that it is a big leak.

I insulated every wall in the house. Even the interior walls. It was very nice when you didn't hear the kids/wife in the other rooms. I had solid doors installed instead of the hollow doors. They didn't cost much more, but it made a difference on the noise and the feel.

The wall between the garage and the house I added furring strips for a 1/2" or so gap and a 3/4" piece of insulation under the sheetrock. You couldn't hear the garage door opening if you were in that side of the house.

I added extra insulation under and behind the bath tub and it kept the tub water hot longer. I was surprised to see the large opening at the drain into the crawlspace after the insulating crew left. It was a great place for cold air to congregate under the tub.

After I complained to the insulation company they sent a crew member back and he spent at least 6 hours going through the crawl space resetting the batts resealing the outlet boxes.

The absolute worst was the caulking at the floor to bottom plate on all exterior walls! The crew didn't clean out the sawdust from the crack and when I was checking it and pulled the dried string of caulking up with dried up sawdust stuck to it, I was mad. I vacuumed up all the sawdust and resealed it to my satisfaction. Today I would insist that the drywall crew uses the sealant on all exterior wall footer and headers prior to installing the drywall.

I refused to pay the final insulation bill until it was right. I understand that most of the time the crew is just wanting to get out of there and on to the next job.

If I could do it over again, I would use closed cell spray foam for the entire envelope of the house. There would be minimal thermal transfer in the attic, crawlspace and the walls. Of coarse a fresh air heat exchanger would then be a must have too.

Make sure all of the heating ducts are sealed with mastic and the vent boxes are sealed at the floor/ceiling openings. I would find out in your area if the electric company offers a free or low cost blower door test and thermal camera and see how the crew did when they leave.
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Old 01-17-14, 04:00 PM   #6
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I would consider insulated the concrete slab of the crawl space and look into further ways to reduce thermal bridging from the rest of the foundation and main floor. I would look into reducing the thermal bridging from the ceiling joists and 2x6 walls, I expect a material would be laid on the outside wall stud sides
In short I would study up on thermal bridging and see what can be done or what you want or can afford to do.
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Old 01-17-14, 04:01 PM   #7
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I'd try to get a few inches of foam on the outside of that 2x6. That'll really help out.
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Old 01-22-14, 05:44 PM   #8
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you don't say if there is a crawl space, slab, or basement. Either way, make sure it is well insulated,especially under the floor if it is a slab or basement. I would be wary of a builder that will refuses to make any changes. After all, extras are $$. As mentioned earlier make sure to use a good housewrap(they are not equal) and make sure all of the openings are taped and sealed properly. Spend the extra and get the walls and attic spray foamed. You'll be a lot warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Keep in mind you will only have a one year warranty from the builder and crews will short cut every place they can. If you don't like something, question it immediately. Educate yourself so you'll know if the explanation is reasonable or if they are blowing smoke. READ YOUR CONTRACT to make sure you understand what the builder will and will not do. That alone can save a lot of headaches and grief.

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