Readers of GreenBuildingAdvisor’s Q&A forum, and the bi-monthly Q&A Spotlights, are probably used to thorough parsings of seemingly small details in high-performance construction. But GBA reader Peter L. brings our attention to an elemental question: Are we still in the dark ages of residential building?
A case in point is a partially completed house near Phoenix, Arizona, that Peter says is missing only a layer of rigid insulation and building paper before it will be finished with a coat of stucco. The photos he sends show whole sections of wall without sheathing, and a bizarre detail of using building tape to seal window flanges to nothing but air.
“Brand new build going up in Phoenix,” Peter writes. “What you see is completely 100% framed and ready for stucco. The missing OSB sheathing is done on purpose. They do ‘open framing’ and use sheathing only where required. The rest is open 2×4 framing.
“They will stuff R-13 batts within the 2×4 walls, staple on some building paper, then put 1 inch of rigid EPS on the outside, and use conventional stucco to finish it off,” he continues. “A recent blower door test on a home like this showed 15 air changes per hour. All of the ductwork and air handlers are installed in the 150°F unconditioned attic.”
Construction at this level has some obvious problems and some not-so-obvious flaws as well. With no sheathing in spots, for example, burglars can get inside with nothing more formidable than a screwdriver.
Is this type of construction typical? And what would home buyers think if they could look beneath the skin of a house like this? Or maybe we’re just generally too fussy. Those are topics for this Q&A Spotlight.
Damage to exterior foam and building paper is…