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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
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.
Above — the boneyard in the driveway continues to grow. It’s astounding how much old wood has been carved out Emerald Hill’s skeleton — undersized, termite weakened, insufficient for the house that Emerald Hill is becoming.
- Potential garage addition. Ron and Steve met with architect Brett Grinkmeyer to begin planning a potential third garage bay; Jadin will be driving soon and Steven’s tablesaw needs a home.
- Stairway. Ron and Brett continued separately to review design plans for the stairway. Ron plans to demo the existing stairs next week, building new to code.
- Structured wiring. Steven met with a candidate to install structured wiring — phone, network, AV, alarm, etc.
- Save the oak floors? Ron and Steven met with a flooring expert. We might not be able to save and refinish the existing oak floors. More info to come.
- HVAC. Kyle from Elite Heating & Air Conditioning inspected the install to date by his team. Steven took the opportunity to ask about adding a third duct into the Great Room — the combination of the family room and kitchen. Kyle advises against — it will compromise airflow elsewhere in the house, and the additional airflow will not be needed. Steven opts to have Ron expand the vertical chase in the laundry room on the second floor, to make it easier to install this potential duct run more easily, if we discover it is needed while we live in the house.
- Foam insulation. Mark Rehberg and Ron Dahlke from Ranserve advise Steven it will cost $400 additional to insulate the entire exterior envelope of the house with expanding foam, instead of blown in, not just the attic. Steven knows from insulating Sea Eagle View with foam 11 years ago that this is the smarter route. Steven approves the additional cost. Ranserve will deliver change order.
- The range hood. Jacquela and Steven choose the final appliance, a Zephyr Brisas range hood. Kristin at Harway updates the paperwork. Jacquela and Steven to review. Steven sends specs to Ron for HVAC team to frame in ducting at kitchen wall.
Flashing helps direct the flow of water around openings. Since water can seep into your home’s walls, deteriorating building materials, causing structural damage, and creating moisture and mold problems, it is very important to properly install flashing when constructing a new house or altering the exterior of a house. Flashing is used beneath the first course above ground level in a masonry building, above all wood trim on shelves, doors, and windows, where exterior stairs and decks attach to the house, and around any features in the roof structure. Below are some of the common flashing details on residential roofs. DIY Network.
The Tyvek is up. Don and his crew from Potter’s Roofing nail the roof flashing into place, tucking it under the Tyvek.
When Ranserve took out the interior drywall, Steven stood upstairs, in the center of the house, turning 360 degrees — and daylight intruded into the house through gaps between the original cedar siding and the top of the lower roof. The flashing and Tyvek begin to seal those gaps. The house won’t be airtight when Ranserve is done, but a lot less heating and air conditioning will escape, helping the house qualify for the Austin Energy Green Building program.
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 — 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.