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How would a colder climate affect building plans?

Carmencita327 | Posted in General Questions on

In the future my husband and I plan to build our own home in the Carolinas. I have the blue prints of my childhood home my parents built here in S. Florida where we currently live. Basically I’m asking what do I need to take into consideration to modify the building plans for a colder climate. My childhood home is much like a ranch style 1 story house. I’m just trying to get as much info as I can. Thank you.

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  1. user-2310254 | | #1

    Carmen. I suspect you want to build a house that is energy efficient, comfortable, affordable, and healthy. You can achieve these goals by pursuing what some refer to as the Pretty Good House strategy. To get started, I suggest you read this article ( along with the links in the sidebar.

  2. LucyF | | #2

    I live in Upstate SC so I am familiar with the climate. The changes in your plans are basically the changes you would make to do as Steve suggested - changes to make your home more energy efficient, comfortable, affordable, and healthy. Even in the NC mountains, the climate is not so extreme that you need to do radical alterations to the plans you already have - mainly, better than code insulation, decent air sealing, and planned ventilation.

    Steve's suggestion for the pretty good house as a basic approach is a great idea.

    Your childhood home in Florida probably had 2 x 4 walls which would not be sufficient without exterior insulation in the Carolinas. I built a home recently with 2 x 6 walls and exterior insulation and it is amazingly comfortable and inexpensive to heat and cool. I suspect that is the biggest modification you would have to make.

    Keep asking questions. The more specific, the better because you will get incredible advice specific to what you want to build.

    I would also like to commend you for asking this advice long before you actually get to the building phase. The hardest problems to solve are those where the person building the home asks how to make it more energy efficient after the building has already commenced.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    It's hard to tell from your description whether you plans will work. It depends on the plans. Some features that are a good idea in south Florida -- for example, multiple sliding glass doors -- might be a disaster in the mountains of North or South Carolina. It's also possible that you might want very small windows on your east and west orientations in Florida, where solar heat gain is almost always undesirable -- whereas a large east window might work in the mountains up north.

    Working with an experienced architect might be a good idea.

  4. JC72 | | #4

    Yes! Other than aforementioned changes to wall and windows you'll probably have to specify raised heel roof trusses in order to make room for the added depth of insulation in your attic space.

    Building codes have improved dramatically compared to what was required when your childhood home was built and I think you'll find that for a 1-story ranch the modifications won't be daunting.

    Good Luck!

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