Ceiling/Wall/Floor Finishes

Video: How to Hang Airtight Drywall (1 of 3)

Myron Ferguson shows how drywall can make your house more energy efficient when installed with caulk, canned foam, gaskets, and airtight electrical boxes

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Produced by Colin Russell and Daniel Morrison

Justin: Stopping air leaks is the single most important part of making a house more energy efficient. You can stop air on the outside with plywood, housewrap, and tape, but the best 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. is more of a system that incorporates all the components of a wall or roof assembly.

We decided to drywall the garage shop in Fine Homebuilding’s project house using the Airtight Drywall Approach. Partly to show our readers how to do it and partly so that we could make Myron Ferguson do our dirty work for us.

The outside of the house will eventually be covered with housewrap and foam 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. , so the drywall is not the primary air barrier; it is part of a larger system.

Myron: When it comes to materials, drywall is going to be our chief component in making the interior of this wall and these ceilings airtight. Drywall makes a nice air barrier because it's a relatively solid piece of material. The only place you have potential air leaks is through little openings or along seams or inside corners. I'm comparing this to, say, a knotty pine tongue-and-groove ceiling. Now that's not an air barrier at all. It's just full of holes. So drywall to start out with is going to be a very good air barrier.

Justin: The other main materials Myron uses in this project are pretty common on most job sites: construction adhesive, latex caulk, and canned foam. Some other materials are a little less common on job sites: mainly foam boxes for sealing electrical outlets.

Myron: A good practice for any drywall job, regardless of whether you are going to do airtight drywall, is to walk through with a building contractor a few prior to the delivery of the drywall. That way you you can identify any potential problems and all that can be corrected before you actually do any drywall work.

Justin: This garage has a 2x6 bottom plate, but 2x4 studs. Before Myron came out, we placed blocks in each stud cavity because without blocks to glue the bottom of the drywall sheets to, a considerable amount of air could flow through the wall assembly.

If not already done at the pre-construction walk-through, seal all of the gaps between framing members.

Around windows, around doors, and at the gaps between king stud and trimmer, between header and top plateIn wood-frame construction, the framing member that forms the top of a wall. In advanced framing, a single top plate is often used in place of the more typical double top plate., and between the double – or, in this case, triple – top plates.

Myron: If the gap is wider than 1/4 inch, it's a good idea to use spray foam instead of the caulking. It's important to use flexible caulk, because you don't want to use a caulk that will dry out and shrink, or maybe not even stretch and move should the structure expand and contract, because we don't want these gaps to open up. Then there would be a passage for the air. We've done all the air sealing that we can at this point, so we'll start to hang the drywall. We're going to start with the ceiling.

If you are a GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com Pro member, click here to see episode 2: Video: How to Hang Airtight Drywall (2 of 3).

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Air sealing at attic hatch // finish screws

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Lead Paint Law Claims First Contractor

EPA files a complaint against a Maine contractor for violating RRP requirements designed to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint

Posted on May 16 2011 by Richard Defendorf

By the end of 2010, after most remodelers and installers had complied with training and certification requirements under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, we were on the lookout for an EPA enforcement action.

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Blog Review: Kitchen-Exchange

Straight talk on kitchen remodels, appliances, and sensible budgeting by Peggy Deras

Posted on Feb 23 2011 by Scott Gibson

Peggy Deras is a certified kitchen designer and certified interior designer in the San Francisco Bay area who launched her Kitchen-Exchange blog as a companion to her Web site, Kitchen Artworks.

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Is Carpet a Four-Letter Word?

Stop, Look, and Read On

Posted on Jun 11 2009 by Annette Stelmack

If you are considering wall-to-wall carpet for your home or project—stop, look, and read on. Take a minute to think about the pros and cons of your carpet choices before you buy that next roomful.

Carpet is synonymous with comfort—it's soft, absorbs sound, and makes a house warmer, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, it also contributes to poor indoor air quality (IAQ)—off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), absorbing and retaining moisture that can lead to mold, and is a huge sinkhole for dirt and dust mites.

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Remodel Project: Bathroom

While You're Updating the Fixtures, Don't Forget about Water, Moisture, and Ventilation Issues

Choose durable green materials

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A moldly oldie goes new and green

With a 5-by-8-foot bathroom combining 1960s décor with original features from 1940, the homeowners hoped to renovate eventually, when they could budget it. They ended up acting sooner after discovering that mold in the bathroom was the cause of their recent breathing and sleeping problems. A house inspection team uncovered the mold infestation and recommended taking the bathroom down to the studs for full remediation. The couple took advantage of the problem to create a visually appealing, nontoxic and mold-resistant bathroom within the existing space. They tailored the bathroom to meet their needs while also keeping in mind future resale.

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Provide good ventilation and durable, nontoxic finishes

The old bathroom had no ventilation, causing consistently high humidity, and its galvanized steel pipes had corroded, saturating the floor around the tub and toilet areas and damaging the floor and subfloor. The couple’s highest priority was to create a durable bathroom that would remain mold-free. This meant proper detailing and rethinking plumbing, ventilation, and finishes. They also wanted to include as many environmental features and materials as their budget and the small space would allow. They chose a bathroom theme celebrating water and nature as works of art, and a style befitting an average suburban home, making it suitable for resale.

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Key Systems

HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building.
*Ventilation ducted to outdoors

*Low-flow fixtures for sink, toilet, and shower
*Low-flow showerheads designed for efficiency (not
retrofitted with flow-restrictors)

*Natural lighting provided by skylight over shower

*Tile floor and tile walls throughout the bathroom
*Durable marble baseboard
*Breathable (natural-colored) clay plaster finish
*Nontoxic grout and grout sealer
*Waterproof detailing

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Compromises cut costs but not priorities

The homeowners found they had to make some compromises to
meet their budget for the project. Although they used nontoxic finish products and prioritized durability in aspects such as plumbing and tiling, they passed on other, less affordable features, such as recycled-content tile. Because Larry performed so much of the actual work, he was less prepared for the unknown than a professional may have been. While mixing the mortar for the tiled shower pan, for example, Larry discovered—
too late—that the instructions he had didn’t match the included illustrations.

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Team and processes

Taking one year to complete the project, the couple hired
skilled contractors to do the mold remediation, plumbing, and electrical work but did the finish work themselves. An extra toilet in the house and a shower in their rental property nearby gave them the flexibility to take whatever time they needed. They made sure to research correct tile shower installation to avoid future leaks. Larry first installed cement backerboard underlayment
on walls and floor instead of paper-faced greenboard, which is cheaper but cannot tolerate the amount of moisture generated in a bathroom). He then used nontoxic, thin-set mortar to hold the tile and applied nontoxic grout and grout sealer to finish the job. Their research on tile shower installation led Larry to follow
the methods and materials of Ontario Tile Setters (www.debraslist.

Location: Clearwater, Florida
Homeowner and Environmental Consultant: Debra Lynn Dadd
Homeowner and Amateur Builder: Larry Redalia
Area affected: 40 ft2


Debra and Larry had not budgeted for this emergency bathroom remodel. Although their insurance paid for basic mold remediation,it did not cover the cost of updating fixtures, furnishings or finishes. By undertaking much of the design and construction themselves, the homeowners were able to budget more for materials and consider products'durability and style, not just affordability. They also shopped architectural salvage yards to acquire, at lower cost, quality materials such as handmade tile.


Green Plumbing Layouts
Exhaust Ventilation


Bath Details


Bath Strategies


LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. For gut rehabs that include the bath, EQ5 (Environmental Quality) offers 1 point for installation of an occupancy sensor, automatic humidistat controller, timer, or continuously operating bath exhaust fan. WE3 (Water Efficiency) offers up to 6 points for efficient toilets, lavatory faucets, and showerheads.

NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. -Remodel Refer to the ANSIAmerican National Standards Institute. National nonprofit membership organization that coordinates development of national consensus standards. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used meet the Institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process. standard and follow the appropriate path based on conditioned floor area involved in the remodeling or addition project and the year in which the original home was built. NGBS



New fixtures should use as little water as possible. Choose low-flow shower heads, high-efficiency toilets and water-conserving aerators on sink faucets. If a water heater needs replacement, pick a high-efficiency model and consider a tankless heater or a hot-water circulation option if the main water heater is some distance away from the bathroom. Include a plumbing access door for shower valves.

Water management
Be sure your choice for tub and shower surroundings sheds water effectively and is easy to clean. Never use gypsum drywall (even the moisture-resistant variety) under tile in a shower or around the tub.

Install a quiet fan of appropriate capacity and vent it to the outside. Consider more than one fan if the bathroom is large, and timers or humidity-sensing switches to ensure that the fan runs long enough after a bath or shower.

Wall, ceiling and floor finishes
Use durable materials that are not unduly affected by moisture. Consider tile made from recycled materials, and use paints, finishes, grout and caulk that are low in volatile organic compounds (low-VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production.). Reuse existing subflooring and flooring where possible. Avoid carpeting.

Be careful when using particleboard or MDF; lower grades are not moisture tolerant at all, and contain adhesives that can off gas VOCsVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production.. But high-density particleboard made with low- or no-VOC adhesives perform quite well in moist situations. Kitchen designer Peggy Deras (CKD, CID) in San Francisco, Calif is quite enthusiastic about industrial-grade particleboard (45-lb.) with a laminate or vinylCommon term for polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In chemistry, vinyl refers to a carbon-and-hydrogen group (H2C=CH–) that attaches to another functional group, such as chlorine (vinyl chloride) or acetate (vinyl acetate). interior wear-layer that makes cabinet interiors easy to clean.

As a testament to moisture tolerance, she cites a flood to an Ohio cabinet factory’s showroom filled with particleboard laminated cabinets; when the mess was cleaned up, only the wood moldings had to be replaced. The cabinets were fine. See our product guide for GreenSpec listed particleboards and make sure to specify high-density particleboard in kitchen and bath cabinets.”

Also, install environmentally friendly counter tops on top of those cabinets.

Image Credits:

  1. Julia Jandrisits/REGREEN
  2. Debra Lynn Dadd/REGREEN
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Choose light colors for interior finishes

Reflected light makes small spaces feel bigger.
Light colors reflect more light than dark ones, improving light distribution around the house and making interior spaces feel larger and brighter. Indirect, reflected light also makes pleasant task lighting. Avoiding saturated colors also reduces the use of tints, which may contain heavy metals or petrochemicals.

Learn more in the Green Building Encyclopedia

Sun: Passive Heating and Daylighting

Use paint with higher gloss for high traffic areas

Glossy paints have a harder surface.
High-gloss paints are a good bet in bathrooms, kitchens, and other high-traffic rooms. The harder surface resists wear, and glossy paints hold up to frequent washing more successfully. Many painters have long preferred oil-based enamel paints, but newer high-sheen, waterborne acrylic paints offer excellent performance and are lower in volatile organic compounds.

Learn more in the Green Building Encyclopedia

Integrated Design Overview

Let carpeting air out before installation

Allow volatile organic compounds to dissipate.
Some carpeting emits harmful VOCsVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production.. If possible, unroll carpeting and store it in a well-ventilated warehouse where VOCs can disperse prior to installation. Look for carpeting manufactured with low levels of VOCs.

Learn more in the Green Building Encyclopedia

Integrated Design Overview

Learn more in the Green Product Guide

Flooring & Floor coverings

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