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Materials » Our Sustainable Home
Browsing Topic: Materials

NOW we’re getting toasty

October 13th, 2009

Jerry’s Insulating Co. paid us an unexpected but very welcome visit on Monday. Up until now the roof has been uninsulated and our second floor dropped to 15’C at night (we’ve been bundling the baby in 4 layers at night as he’s not one to keep his covers on).

From what I’ve read on HomeStars, Jerry’s Insulation seems to have a real problem with their spray-foam division, but like others on that site, we were very happy with the guys who came to do our loose-fill insulation for the attic. Professional, friendly, and accommodating. Because our baby needed to get down for his nap at the time they showed up, they rushed in, got the attic done and cleaned up in just 30 minutes.

They did show up without notice, though and we’ll leave that as our one gripe (someone couldn’t have called?). I don’t want to get the story too complicated but someone else was booking the insulation and we were trying for over a week to both rush the job (because it was getting colder at night) and find out when they were coming.

But at least we’re all cozy now (and the baby had no trouble getting down for his nap as soon as they left -whew)!

It’s worth mentioning Foam Comfort again, who are the excellent folks who put in the spray foam in our loft area. It seems they also have been reviewed positively on HomeStars, if interested.

Posted by Colin
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Front Doors Installed

July 7th, 2009

I should open with some bad news on the finishes front: Raw Linseed Oil apparently attracts mildew; It just loves the stuff.

I found this out *after* I had treated the our brand new front doors with it.  But the doors should be fine. After waiting 4 days for the Linseed to dry (that’s an other problem with it) I put on the requisite coats of varnish, which should seal out any mildew that might otherwise want to take up residence in the door.

We’re currently investigating the Circa 1850 line of non-toxic finishes and cleansers for our baseboards, kitchen counters, etc.

So all is well, and the doors were finally installed today!

Front Doors Progress 25: Front doors and porch

Posted by Colin
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Madawaska Doors arrive early!

June 25th, 2009

After searching for weeks for alternatives (none of which we liked) we decided to bite the bullet and get the fine folks at Madawaska Doors to build us a set of front doors. (Since sidelights are about as expensive as doors, we decided just to go with two doors.)

Unfortunately, by the time we ordered, the doors weren’t due to be finished until the early July but they knew we had some time pressure and were able to deliver them well ahead of schedule.

We’re going to need to seal them as soon as possible to avoid them coming into contact with the drywall dust, however; It’s apparently very bad for the door.

I should pass on a quick tip here as well for others on a restricted budget: Madawaska Doors has a clearance center in Schomberg where one can buy doors that are either slightly damaged or for some other reason returned by their former owners. They don’t come with any sort of warranty but are at least half price! We picked up a dozen knotty pine interior doors there. We’re going with a bit of a rustic look for the interior finishes so the knotty pine should fit right in.

The clearance center was probably also a contributing factor in our decision to have them make the doors for us. (After seeing HUNDREDS of beautiful wood doors, but none quite right to be our front door, it was hard to think of our front door being steel or *gasp* vinyl.)

We’re VERY happy with our purchases both at the clearance center and the front doors they made just for us!

At the moment, we’re looking at using raw Linseed Oil for the kitchen countertops, baseboards and doors, but will probably need something else (more weather resistant) for the exterior door.

Posted by Colin
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More delays for trusses

May 15th, 2008

The person who was handling our account at the truss manufacturer left the company and somehow took our designs with him. We’ll have to wait a week or so for them to re-engineer our roof.

Posted by Colin
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Redesigning for ICF

March 25th, 2008

Today the architect and Project Manager (PM) had a conference call to discuss the design changes that will be required to move to an ICF system for framing the house.

The PM performed a quick estimate indicating the cost of stick-frame materials and labour would probably be about equal to the materials for ICF. The labour for installing ICF walls for the entire foundation and house came in around $20,000, making it quite reasonable considering it will leave us with around an R50 wall!

Note: The ICFs will frame the house as a ‘box’ only. It seems using ICF for the gables would have involved quite a bit of additional labour so a different wall system will be used for the entire roof area of the house.

The architect has someone redesigning the plans as I type and hopes to have them ready by early next week.

Posted by Colin
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Using ICFs to build the entire shell of the house?

February 10th, 2008

A new option has presented itself to us for the framing of the house.

We had initially planned on using Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) for the foundation walls of the house, but it has been suggested by a number of people that we may want to consider using ICFs for the entire shell. Some of the benefits include

  • Longer lasting and more durable than wood-frame construction
  • Fire resistant
  • Termite proof
  • Improved sound resistance
  • Highly insulative
  • Extremely low thermal bridging

We’re still working out what the cost of switching from the high-efficiency wall design we have now to an ICF would be, but we think it’s an excellent candidate.

We recognize there may be added embodied energy from using so much concrete, but if the house will stand for 1000 (?) years instead of 100-200 years for a wood-frame house, that seems worthwhile.

Our current ICF of choice would be Durisol, since they use recycled materials instead of styrofoam to structure the wall, and additional insulation is provided by mineral wool (Roxul).

 

Posted by Colin
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Aerogel Building Materials

August 19th, 2007

We’ve been big fans of Aerogel (aka “Solid Smoke”) for many years and have even considered making some of our own as a fun project.

If you haven’t heard of it, Aerogel is the lightest solid known to man. If you were ti take a fish tank full of Nitrogen gas (pure nitrogen is slightly heavier than air so it will just sit in an open-topped tank) you can ‘float’ Aerogel blocks on the surface of the nitrogen. It also happens to have remarkable insulation properties.

The last we heard, Aerogel had a small defect that prevented it from being used widely: it was quite fragile. But the fine folks at Aspen Aerogels have apparently gotten that problem solved and now offer a wide range of Aerogel products, including some specifically for building construction.

We’ve dropped them a note to ask about pricing. It would be incredible if we could actually manage to incorporate this material into the shell of the house.

Posted by Colin
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Proposed building enclosure

April 21st, 2007

For our initial meetings with contractors Joanne & Alex had put together a list of materials we will likely use in the home’s construction. Here they are:

Below Grade Enclosure

  • Foundation Wall Assembly
    • Clean, Free-draining backfill
    • 2″ Roxul DrainBoard Foundation Insulation
    • Damp-proofing on cement parging
    • 10″ Durisol ICF
    • 3/4″ strapping
    • 1/2″ DensArmor Plus
  • Basement Floor Slab Assembly
    • 4″ Compacted Gravel Base
    • 2″ EPS Insulation
    • 6mil Polyethylene Sheet
    • 4″ Concrete Floor Slab

Above Grade Enclosure

  • Wall Assembley (R40)
    • Fibre Cement Board Cladding
    • 3/8″ Strapping
    • 4″ Polyisocyanurate Insulation
    • 1/2″ ZIP OSB Sheathing
    • 2×6 SPF Framing at 600mm o.c.
    • Cellulose Cavity Insulation
    • 1/2″ Gypsum Board
  • Roof Assembly (R60)
  • Windows and Doors
    • Fiberglass framed, double-glazed, low-e (SHGC < 0.5, VT > 0.5, overall U-value < 2.0 w/m/K), argon filled, superspacer windows
    • Insulated metal-clad wood entry doors

Mechanical / Electrical

  • Space Heating and Domestic Water Heating
    • Source: High-efficiency condensing boiler (high temperature DHW and low temperature space heat) with integral or external heat exchanger.
    • Distribution: Hydronic Radiant Floor Slabs (all floors)
    • Rough-in for future solar pre-heat and power.
  • Ventilation
    • Direct outdoor air system (DOAS) – dedicated ducted supply with Heat Reclaim Ventilation (HRV). Supply points in all bedrooms and living rooms, exhaust from kitchen and bathrooms.

I think the ZIP OSB sheathing is one of the more interesting products to be used in this project. It differs from regular sheathing in that, once installed, creates a perfect water barrier for your home, before siding is even attached. As a result once the sheathing is on, work can actually proceed on the interiors while work continues to complete the exterior shell.

Neat!

Posted by Colin
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New LED bulbs are promising but expensive

February 9th, 2007

Treehugger notes a new 9W LED Bulb that produce 308 lumens of light (the equivalent of a 70W traditional incandescent bulb). This variety of LED bulb is designed to plug into an ordinary bulb socket making it an easy transition for most homeowners. As far as I know, this is the brightest LED bulb (for typical homeowners) available to date, so it’s great to see progress being made with this technology.

Unfortunately, at $65 per bulb, it would take over 10,000 hours (or over 7 years at 4 hours per day) of operation before the investment would break even.1 While LED bulbs last far longer than 8000 hours, at these prices it’s still a very long term investment.

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1 Break-even was calculated assuming a regular 8000 hour bulb costs $1; Energy savings were 61W per hour or 16.39 hours to save 1kWh. If 1kWh is assumed to cost 10 cents, one would save $1 in electricity for every 163.9 hours of runtime.

Posted by Colin
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Lumber Reference Guide

February 5th, 2007

CyberYard has a set of reference tools for looking up the qualities and uses for a wide variety of woods.

They also have a glossary of lumber terms and various calculators. Most of the functions of the calculators would be easier to perform on a hand held calculator, but the building charts at the bottom of that list could be useful.

Posted by Colin
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