Building on Piers in a Cold Climate
Preface-I’m new to all things building.
We just purchased 16 Acres of woods in Western Massachusetts from our neighbor. Winters are cold, summers can be very humid. We are planning to build a small house approx 20×30, with 1.5 or two floors. No basement.
We are people of the student debt generation and have relatively low joint income, and we are dreaming of the possibility to build a small and simple home without going into “normal” American levels of debt. We’re living in a rented small cabin in the same area, that was converted to a full time living space years ago. Its plenty warm when the wood stove is going but does not retain heat well, and the floors can be cold when the fire has been out for a while, which doesn’t cause us to weep and moan much because its affordable to live here and that’s our main goal.
Is it possible to build a small full-time residence in cold climate, on piers, that is comparable in warmth and function to a house with a cement foundation or insulated slab? – I’m imagining PT 2×12 Floor joists being sprayed with foam or the cavities filled with another method or insulation. Putting up hardware cloth mesh to keep out the critters. Then sealing the underside with a plywood.
Thoughts on containing and insulating the plumbing underneath? Is it possible without skirting around the perimeter? The concern is that the skirt will become it’s own contained environment in humid summer and get moldy and invite more critters.
We would like to heat primarily with wood, as we have plenty of it around. We will have full southern exposure once the trees are cleared. Secondary heat source can be whatever meets code, is affordable and keeps the pipes from freezing when we can’t feed the wood stove. Thoughts on a 2nd heat source system for when we’re away from the wood stove? Preferable the smallest sized systems as to not take up space in mechanical room in small dimension home.
A neighbor friend who is a retired builder, is all for the piers, but most people I speak with in Western Ma have basements and think it’s a bad idea. Is paying more money for an insulated slab really going to make a large difference worth the expense?
General and or specific thoughts on building on Piers in cold climate?
GBA Detail Library
A collection of one thousand construction details organized by climate and house part