Tag Archives: insulation

The hardest working wall in the house

The hardest working wall in the house is in the kitchen, where the cooktop, exhaust hood, sink and dishwasher will be installed. There’s a ton of blue and red PEX water lines roughed-in behind the insulation foam — and miles of electrical cable for switches, outlets, power for appliances. Plus framing structure, drains, lighting cans.

Standing back from the kitchen wall for an overview ...
Standing back from the kitchen wall for an overview …
The plumbers wrapped the blue and red PEX with insulating foam. Then the foam insulation was sprayed into the stud bays. Then the insulators shaved off the extra foam that stood proud of the vertical studs -- shaving off some of the black foam and exposing the PEX inside.
The plumbers wrapped the blue and red PEX with insulating foam. Then the foam insulation was sprayed into the stud bays. Then the insulators shaved off the extra foam that stood proud of the vertical studs — shaving off some of the black foam and exposing the PEX inside.
Here's the red PEX, for a hot water line, with dark insulation shaved and the PEX exposed. This will be reinsulated with foam from a spray can.
Here’s the red PEX, for a hot water line, with dark insulation shaved and the PEX exposed. This will be reinsulated with foam from a spray can.
The exhaust hood has arrived, for test fitting against the hardest working kitchen wall. We need to know how high to mount it above the cooktop, and where to cut a hole through the wall for exhaust gases to be sucked out of the kitchen. The consensus is to put the hood as high as possible, to ensure anyone standing in front of the cooktop does not lean in and whack a skull against the horizontal bottom glass.
The exhaust hood has arrived, for test fitting against the hardest working kitchen wall. We need to know how high to mount it above the cooktop, and where to cut a hole through the wall for exhaust gases to be sucked out of the kitchen. The consensus is to put the hood as high as possible, to ensure anyone standing in front of the cooktop does not lean in and whack a skull against the horizontal bottom glass.
Standing back from the kitchen wall four days after the first photo above. The red PEX is protected again with foam from a spray can. Cris from Ranserve installed sheets of plywood as blocking to mount the exhaust hood -- and he began to cut the hole through the wall to eject exhaust gases out of the kitchen.
Standing back from the kitchen wall four days after the first photo above. The red PEX is protected again with foam from a spray can. Cris from Ranserve installed sheets of plywood as blocking to mount the exhaust hood — and he began to cut the hole through the wall to eject exhaust gases out of the kitchen.
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Foamed and batted — insulation

Energy Guard Foam Insulators began work just before Steven departed to Berlin for ShowStoppers @ IFA. Steven returned to an insulated house, almost ready for drywall — if only the low voltage and structured wiring decision was made and the house cabled for network, telephone, AV, security.

Even at this stage, the insulation is keeping out some of the Texas heat. Two weeks ago, if you walked upstairs, the thermal layer boundary in the stairwell hit you in the face and triggered sweat. Not now. The temperature difference between the cooler downstairs and warmer upstairs — heat does rise — is probably less than 10 degrees.

Here are a couple of shots of the foam sprayed into the stud bays on the exterior walls and underside of the roof, and conventional batts on interior walls used as soundproofing between rooms.

This will be Steven's office. Drywall delivered and stacked on the floor. Foam in the exterior walls.
This will be Steven’s office. Drywall delivered and stacked on the floor. Foam in the exterior walls.
This will be bedroom 3, also known as the model train room. Drywall delivered and stacked for installation. Foam sprayed into the stud bays on the exterior walls and the underside of the roof.
This will be bedroom 3, also known as the model train room. Drywall delivered and stacked for installation. Foam sprayed into the stud bays on the exterior walls and the underside of the roof.
The laundry/utility room upstairs. Batts in the stud bays at left of photo, in what will be the wall between the laundry/utility room and the master bedroom. Foam sprayed on the exterior wall at the front of the house and the underside of the roof.
The laundry/utility room upstairs. Batts in the stud bays at left of photo, in what will be the wall between the laundry/utility room and the master bedroom. Foam sprayed on the exterior wall at the front of the house and the underside of the roof.
Foam sprayed on the underside of the roof over the master bedroom.
Foam sprayed on the underside of the roof over the master bedroom.
The exterior wall of the master closet, insulated with foam.
The exterior wall of the master closet, insulated with foam.

 

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The back side of the chimney

As purchased by the Leons, the back side of the chimney was flashed with metal to prevent water running down the roof from penetrating the brick.

After 50 years, it’s time to approach this problem differently — because water got into the brick and ran down the brick and down the interior framing. Mold grew against the tar paper sheathing inside the walls. As we discovered when Ranserve opened up the walls during demo.

As a first line of attack, the roofer built and installed a metal "cricket" at the back of the chimney, inserting the metal under roof tiles. Instead of water cascading down the roof, slamming into and through the chimney brick, the V shape of the cricket diverts water away from the brick.
As a first line of attack, the roofer built and installed a metal “cricket” at the back of the chimney, inserting the metal under roof tiles. Instead of water cascading down the roof, slamming into and through the chimney brick, the V shape of the cricket diverts water away from the brick.
Inside bedroom 4 upstairs, Matt from Ranserve steps back to examine the tar paper sheathing he tore away from the backside of the brick. After 50 years, the tar paper rips easily and is dried out; it crumbles, actually. Water stains run down the brick and paper. Ron will spray the brick and lumber with bleach to kill any mold.
Inside bedroom 4 upstairs, Matt from Ranserve steps back to examine the tar paper sheathing he tore away from the backside of the brick. After 50 years, the tar paper rips easily and is dried out; it crumbles, actually. Water stains run down the brick and paper. Ron will spray the brick and lumber with bleach to kill any mold.
After applying the bleach, and letting it evaporate, Ron and Matt stapled Tyvek sheathing to the studs and up against the chimney brick. Two of the foam insulation installers suit up for the next step.
After applying the bleach, and letting it evaporate, Ron and Matt stapled Tyvek sheathing to the studs and up against the chimney brick. Two of the foam insulation installers suit up for the next step.
One of the installers sprays a light coat of foam against the corners of the Tyvek and studs. This pushes the Tyvek tightly into the corners and seals the joints.
One of the installers sprays a light coat of foam against the corners of the Tyvek and studs. This pushes the Tyvek tightly into the corners and seals the joints.
With the joints sealed, the installer begins spraying the entire stud bay.
With the joints sealed, the installer begins spraying the entire stud bay.
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Insulation begins

It’s a big day. Ranserve is insulating Emerald Hill. Framing is done.  Plumbing rough-in is done. Drywall comes next.

Eleven years ago, when we built Sea Eagle with Hagy Custom Homes, we were one of the first homes in Austin insulated with BioBased spray foam.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is a spray-applied plastic that can form a continuous insulation and air sealing barrier on walls, roofs, around corners, and on all contoured surfaces. It is made by mixing and reacting unique liquid components at the job site to create foam. The liquids react very quickly when mixed, expanding on contact to create foam that insulates, seals gaps, and can form moisture and vapor barriers. SPF insulation is known to resist heat transfer extremely well, and it offers a highly effective solution in reducing unwanted air infiltration through cracks, seams, and joints. Spray foam makes sense.

Sea Eagle is tight, comfortable, efficient. We believe our utility bills run about half that of nearby homes built about the same time that use conventional fiberglass batts.

So we planned from Day 1 to insulate with foam.

Before Energy Guard Foam Insulators pulled up to Emerald Hill this morning, Ron and Cris from Ranserve walked the house sealing up small penetrations with cans of spray foam. They also took the time to spray behind every electrical outlet in every exterior wall — “because the big guns the insulators use don’t always hit behind the electrical boxes,” said Ron.

An example of the attention to detail from Ron and Cris as they prepared the house for insulation -- spray foam applied behind every electrical box in every exterior wall, sealing any air gaps.
An example of the attention to detail from Ron and Cris as they prepared the house for insulation — spray foam applied behind every electrical box in every exterior wall, sealing any air gaps.

To spray two liquids that instantly react to create foam, you have to have a surface to spray — so Ron and Cris installed drywall on the shared walls between the mudroom and garage — the first drywall screwed into Emerald Hill!

Ron, left, and Cris, right, in the garage, with drywall wrapping around the mudroom.
Ron, left, and Cris, right, in the garage, with drywall wrapping around the mudroom.
Downstairs, in bedroom 1, the insulation team begins installing sound insulation -- fiberglass batts designed to attenuate the transfer of sound between rooms and floors. Expanding foam insulation is not as efficient at reducing noise as the loose batts, which trap sound in voids and fibers.
Downstairs, in bedroom 1, the insulation team begins installing sound insulation — fiberglass batts designed to attenuate the transfer of sound between rooms and floors. Expanding foam insulation is not as efficient at reducing noise as the loose batts, which trap sound in voids and fibers.
The batts come squeezed into sausage-like bales.
The batts come squeezed into sausage-like bales.
Here's the back end of the pumper truck. Blue barrels of the liquid foam components on the right side of the truck. Batts waiting to be used on the ground, still in protective wrapping.
Here’s the back end of the pumper truck. Blue barrels of the liquid foam components on the right side of the truck. Batts waiting to be used on the ground, still in protective wrapping.
About one hour later, most of the ceiling in bedroom 1 is insulated with sound-absorbing batts -- and, already, noise reverberates significantly less.
About one hour later, most of the ceiling in bedroom 1 is insulated with sound-absorbing batts — and, already, noise reverberates significantly less.
The East and South walls of the master bath, foamed. At right is the wall between the master bath and master closet, with plywood blocking installed to support the shelving and storage that Jacquela plans.
The East and South walls of the master bath, foamed. At right is the wall between the master bath and master closet, with plywood blocking installed to support the shelving and storage that Jacquela plans.
Liquid parts A and B mix just ahead of the spray nozzle. As the mix hits the wall, it's a liquid. In seconds, it begins expanding into every corner that conventional insulation would never reach.
Liquid parts A and B mix just ahead of the spray nozzle. As the mix hits the wall, it’s a liquid. In seconds, it begins expanding into every corner that conventional insulation would never reach.
The installer moves quickly from stud bay to stud bay in the master bedroom.
The installer moves quickly from stud bay to stud bay in the master bedroom.
Overhead, a second installer has begun spraying foam against the underside of the roof decking. When this job is done, the attic and exterior walls will become one system, sealed and insulated with foam -- a cooler turned upside down, pinned against the concrete slab, able to keep drinks and humans hot and cold for long periods of time with minimal use of energy.
Overhead, a second installer has begun spraying foam against the underside of the roof decking. When this job is done, the attic and exterior walls will become one system, sealed and insulated with foam — a cooler turned upside down, pinned against the concrete slab, able to keep drinks and humans hot and cold for long periods of time with minimal use of energy.
The model train room gets foamed.
The model train room gets foamed.
And here's the train room after the installers shift to the next-door loft.
And here’s the train room after the installers shift to the next-door loft.
The loft, foamed, with one of the spray guns hanging from the ceiling rafters.
The loft, foamed, with one of the spray guns hanging from the ceiling rafters.
Ron asked the installers to spray a "loaf" of foam against a plastic sheet. Ron will use this to seal any holes he has to make in the house as construction continues after insulation is complete. He will slice out chunks as he needs them. The foam weighs almost nothing. This loaf is probably four feet by eight feet and you can pick it up with one hand.
Ron asked the installers to spray a “loaf” of foam against a plastic sheet. Ron will use this to seal any holes he has to make in the house as construction continues after insulation is complete. He will slice out chunks as he needs them. The foam weighs almost nothing. This loaf is probably four feet by eight feet and you can pick it up with one hand.
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Notes, 19 Aug. 2015

  • Ferguson reports replacement for the bath 2 shower pan will be 20 August.
  • Without the shower pan, Ron Dahlke and the City of Austin inspector opted to delay the framing inspection — because the plumbers are still punching holes in lumber.
  • Custom Plumbing began today to test drain lines — pulling a hose through the house to fill drains with water in the master, laundry/utility, bath 3, mudroom. The master shower leaked and was quickly fixed. It’s better to test now, before the insulation goes in and the drywall goes up …
  • The painters caulked the bottom plates where the lumber met the slab, sealing against air, water and insects. If you build new today, the framers unroll a thin layer of foam that adheres to the bottom of the bottom plate — the foam was not invented in 1968 when Emerald Hill was built. Silicon caulk is the alternate to ripping down the house and starting over with new lumber and foam.
  • The painters caulked today because Ranserve will spray borate on the exposed framing of the first floor. Termites don’t like borate. Steven and Jacquela and Ron don’t like termites. We’ve seen the damage termites do. The framers were forced to replace a lot of lumber that the bugs chewed through. The borate is a line of defense — and it is also required by the Austin Energy Green Build program.
  • Ron now plans to re-attempt the framing inspection for Friday this week, or early next.
  • Ron put the insulation team on alert to start next week as soon as Emerald Hill passes the framing inspection — with drywall anticipated for the first week of September.
  • Steven received and is reviewing updated quotes for door handles and hardware, and for tile — and the potential third garage bay.
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Notes, 5 Aug. 2015

Ron, left, and Steve, right, show four of the different types of electrical wire that Capstone is threading through studs, joists and rafters. Yellow to power the microwave and oven, black to power the induction cooktop, and two different yellow wires -- "two pair" and heavier gauge "three pair."
Ron, left, and Steve, right, show four of the different types of electrical wire that Capstone is threading through studs, joists and rafters. Orange to power the microwave and oven, black to power the induction cooktop, and two different yellow wires — “two pair” and heavier gauge “three pair.”

Electrical. The electrical walk continues, locating switches and outlets in the house. It’s day 3 of the electrical rough-in. Steve from Capstone Electric, Ron from Ranserve, and Steven focused today on the family room, kitchen, pantry, office, mudroom, garage, exterior lights.

Steven has homework — a run to Ikea over the weekend to purchase samples of the LED puck lights that will be used in display niches in the entry hall, and linear LED light strips with motion sensors that will be used inside closets. Steve the electrician needs one of each to figure out how to wire them up properly — “because no LED light fixture is wired the same as another.”

Almost two hours. With 10 minutes left over for Steven and Ron to talk about the flooring and building of stairs. Ron thinks he has it figured out. More detail to come.

Plumbing. Albert and the team from Custom Plumbing continue to install red, white and blue PEX tubing for water lines, while also pressure testing the gas lines.

Painter. Ron has the painters working in the house for the first time, caulking all the holes and sealing open joints in the exterior framing and siding, preparing the house for expanding foam insulation that would escape through any punctures in what will become a “sealed envelope.”

Habitat donations. Steven contacted Habitat at Ron’s request to ask for a fourth pickup — we have more stuff pulled out of the house for Habitat to recycle.

Draw 2. Larry at South Star reports the wire transfer payment by the Leons to Ranserve executed today. Kathleen at Ranserve is cheering.

 

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Notes, 22 July 2015

Third meeting of the busiest week yet for Steven with Ron Dahlke, who is cranking hard and fast on 12 cylinders. And it’s only Wednesday. Today’s agenda:

  • Roofing. Ron met with and Steven approved quote from Potter’s Roofing Co. to install sheetmetal and waterproofing at several locations; to remove existing and install new vent flashing in the lower and upper roofs; to patch where mushroom vents and the skylight are removed — and other damaged areas; and to replace the chimney flashing with a new cricket that will move water away from the brick at the back of the chimney where it meets the roof; water flows directly against the brick and existing flashing when it rains. This is wrong. Some of these tasks are built into existing line-item budgets. Some of this work will require change orders. Why the change orders? Ron and the framers opened up the framing behind the chimney and discovered signs of water penetration traveling down the brick.
  • Pocket doors. Ron finalized and Steven approved quote from BMC for interior pocket doors — built into the framing materials line-item in the budget.
  • Exterior doors. Steven also approved second quote from BMC for exterior doors at the kitchen, back door and at at the mudroom into the garage — not including the front door and not including the back door to the garage. The front door is an entirely different task — and Ron is researching whether the back door to the garage must be fire rated.
  • Vanities, medicine cabinets, electrical. Steven delivered dimensional plans for the bathroom vanities, and the medicine cabinets that will be used in bath 2, the mudroom and master bath. This enables Ron and the framers to properly nail lumber into position for the medicine cabinets, which insert into the wall between studs. It also enables Ron, Sean the electrician, and Steven and Jacquela to properly position electrical outlets for the medicine cabinets, which feature built-in LED lighting, and for wall outlets adjacent to the vanities.
  • HVAC. Ron advises that the HVAC rough-in begins Thursday/tomorrow, 23 July.
  • Kitchen cabinets. Also 23 July, Aaron Pratt at Centex Custom Cabinets is scheduled to visit, to begin measuring for the kitchen cabinets.
  • Pending. Ron continues to track pending submittals from subcontractors for refinishing the wood floors and laying new wood; how to get electrical power through the slab to the kitchen island; and the candidates for the potential front door.
  • Discovery 1: Structure. Taking out the hearth to the left of and in front of the fireplace reveals the brick may be the only thing holding up the ceiling beams above the fireplace — and we may need to add structural support across the front of the fireplace under the ceiling beams. Ron is researching this with the structural engineer, Ben Feldt at Feldt Consulting Engineers.
  • Discovery 2: Insulation. Ron advises that the sheathing between the brick and studs on the first floor may need additional sealing DSC_2230— every time that demo took out an old cable or fixture, that left a hole in the sheathing. One way to fix this may be to deploy the painters with silicon before we begin insulation. Another approach might be to use expanding foam insulation instead of blown-in insulation. The building plan already calls for foam in the attic, upper and lower roofs, with blown-in insulation in the walls. There’s a cost delta to switch out to foam — should we do this selectively, only where needed, stud bay penetration by stud bay penetration? Or, should we just foam everything? Ron offers to schedule a meeting with the insulation contractor. Steven notes his history with foam — the current house is the first built by John Hagy Homes that is insulated with foam, helping to qualify the house for 3 stars with the Austin Energy Green Building Program — 11 years ago, when foam insulation was new to market. And … the foam yields an airtight house that is much easier to heat and cool, and vastly more efficient.

Separately, Steven met with and walked the house with one of the candidate companies to install the structured wiring system — security, low-voltage cables for TV, sound and phone, and the computer network.

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