Finally! Starting Construction At My House
Not new, not green from the start, but it's happening
After paying for two home designs, with one turned down and one approved by the local historic commission, I ultimately decided not to build a new house, mostly for financial reasons. Instead, I am renovating my existing cottage and adding a small office, a storage area, and a screened porch (an excellent feature in the South).
The financial reason that I'm not building a new house is that I'm unable to obtain a mortgage for construction. It has been a while since I applied for one and, apparently, you now need not only a pulse, but you actually have to show that you earn enough money to make all the payments. I'm self-employed, and while I have what feels like a very comfortable lifestyle, the banks didn’t like my position enough to lend me the money.
Holding the conditioned area to 800 square feet
So, looking at my options, I came to the conclusion that fixing up my existing house made the most sense. It is small (750 square feet), but having lived in it for almost eight years now, I realize that I don’t really need much more space, nor do I need to increase my debt at this point in my life.
My goal is to keep the house small enough that it could be the accessory building for a future new house in the front of the property. This required me to keep the conditioned spaceInsulated, air-sealed part of a building that is actively heated and/or cooled for occupant comfort. to a maximum of 800 square feet, although I will be able to add unconditioned storage and porches. I did consider making it larger, but I didn’t want to limit the opportunities for the property, either for myself or a future owner.
The plan is fairly simple: an office and storage room will be added at the back, the kitchen and bathroom will be renovated in place, and a porch will provide very useful year round unconditioned living space and shade the west-facing kitchen windows.
Zip sheathing, Home Slicker, asphalt shingles, and minisplits
I was looking forward to trying some new/old techniques on the new house I was planning to build, including using no spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation. I also wanted to use mineral fiber exterior sheathing, metal roofing, and minisplit HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building.. But since I installed SPF on the roofline and floor of my house many years ago, it doesn’t make sense to change products or the thermal envelope location for this project.
I would like to install a thermal break on the walls, but since my size constraints are so tight and since local authorities measure a building to the outside of the exterior wall finish, I am forgoing any added exterior insulation on the few new exterior walls I am building.
The historic district board turned down my request for metal roofing on the new house, and having recently replaced the roof with fiberglass shingles, I will be sticking with the same material for the addition. Since I have already installed minisplits in the house, I have gotten to experience how well they work
I will be using Huber Zip Wall for the first time on this project. Combined with Home Slicker to make a vented rainscreenConstruction detail appropriate for all but the driest climates to prevent moisture entry and to extend the life of siding and sheathing materials; most commonly produced by installing thin strapping to hold the siding away from the sheathing by a quarter-inch to three-quarters of an inch. , this should improve the durability of the solid wood siding that needs to be installed to match the existing.
A tankless water heater
I went around and around on my thoughts about a water heater. I considered installing a heat-pump tank model, a high-efficiency electric tank model, and finally settled on a Rinnai tankless unit. Since space is so tight and my hot water use so small, installing the heater on the outside of the house frees up a lot of storage area and will meet my needs efficiently.
One product I am very excited in trying for the porch floor and railings is Perennial Wood, a heat and chemically modified pine that is resistant to rot, warping, cracking, expansion, and contraction without the toxicity of traditional pressure-treated wood.
First on the agenda is relocating one of the minisplits I installed last year, when I didn’t think I would be renovating. Then the new water heater and new electrical service will be installed. Once those prep items are complete, the demolition starts. Stay tuned: there will be lots of pictures and comments.
- Carl Seville
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