Q&A Spotlight

How to Install a Foundation Drain

Posted on September 9, 2013 by Scott Gibson

On its face, the location of a foundation perimeter drain seems like the simplest of details. The perforated drain line is run around the foundation next to the bottom of the footing.

At least that's what many construction drawings show. But in some parts of the country, the drain is placed on top of the footing rather than next to it, and this discrepancy is at the root of Steven Knapp's dilemma.

How to Fix an Old Farmhouse Chimney

Posted on August 26, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Between the spalling bricks and a persistent leak that has damaged a mudroom ceiling, the chimney on Page Hyler's 1900 farmhouse is proving to be a problem that just can't get fixed.

What Makes the ‘Best’ Air Barrier?

Posted on August 12, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Bill L. is planning a high-performance house in Massachusetts and is wrestling with options for the air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both., that all-important building detail that enhances both energy efficiency and building durability.

Above-grade walls will consist of a 2x4 structural frame sheathed in 1/2-inch plywood, followed by I-joists packed with cellulose insulationThermal insulation made from recycled newspaper or other wastepaper; often treated with borates for fire and insect protection., another layer of 1/2-inch plywood, a corrugated plastic product to provide an air space, and fiber-cement siding. The primary air-barrier plane will be at the plywood over the 2x4 studs.

Finding the Insulation Sweet Spot

Posted on July 29, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Anders Lewendal, a builder in Bozeman, Montana, is wrestling with a familiar dilemma: What's the right amount of insulation to put in a house?

"Our theory," he writes in Q&A post at GreenBuildingAdvisor, "is that too little insulation wastes energy and equally, too much insulation wastes energy. Where is the sweet spot in each climate zone?"

To that end, Lewendal is proposing more performance testing.

Putting the Duct Back in Ductless

Posted on July 15, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Ductless minisplits have a lot going for them. These high-performance air-source heat pumps operate efficiently at much lower outdoor temperatures than standard heat pumps, and they don't suffer the same energy losses due to leaky ducts. A tight, well-insulated house may need only one or two wall-mounted heads to maintain comfort indoor conditions, in summer and winter.

It's the "wall-mounted" part, however, that not everyone warms up to.

Fixing a Hot-Water Problem

Posted on July 1, 2013 by Scott Gibson

John Metcalfe's San Francisco renovation included the installation of two tankless water heaters and a small circulation pump in his four-story, 3,200-sq. ft. home. The water heaters, connected in series, are located on the second floor, which is a more or less central location.

His hot-water problems should be over, right? Except they're not.

Rebuilding in Tornado Country

Posted on June 17, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Tornadoes have struck the Midwest with a vengeance this year, killing dozens of people and causing widespread destruction of property. In the city of Moore, Oklahoma, a tornado with winds topping 200 miles per hour struck on May 20, reducing whole neighborhoods to rubble.

Many homeowners will rebuild, so what should their new houses look like? In a post at GreenBuildingAdvisor's Q&A forum, David Gregory raises that question.

How to Insulate a Flat Roof

Posted on June 3, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Most of the houses that Atlanta architect Scott West designs are contemporary, and they typically come with flat roofs. Construction often consists of 12-in. deep I-joists or open-web 2x4 trusses capped with oriented strand board (OSB) sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. . Roofs are unvented, and the use of recessed can lights is probably unavoidable.

Pondering an Attic Conversion

Posted on May 20, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Rob Graff is getting a new roof, and with it an opportunity to turn his vented attic into an insulated, conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. .

But he’s also got some concerns.

How to Deal With a Vapor Barrier Edict

Posted on May 6, 2013 by Scott Gibson

Christopher Solar had a simple plan for an addition to his Ottawa home. The one-room structure would have a shed-style roof with a cathedral ceiling and vertical board siding. Solar liked a wall assembly he'd read about at GreenBuildingAdvisor, which consists of exterior foam, batt or blown insulation in the stud cavities and airtight drywall on the interior. An interior polyethylene vapor retarder never entered the picture.

And that's where his story gets complicated.

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