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Tiny House – Big Impact

Our first ThermalBuck installation in a tiny house is a big deal. And when you’re lucky enough to have a passionate do-it-yourself duo like Jesse Taylor and his father Bernard working together on the project, it becomes more than a job site, it’s a story.

Not Your Average Treehouse

Jesse’s folks retired a few years ago and moved to Vermont. Jesse had grown up working on projects with his dad. Both men are good with their hands, and Jesse – with details. 

It became a passion of Jesse’s to try to live “smaller”, to use less resources, less space, and lessen his impact on the environment. The idea of building a tiny house started to look like a really good idea. Spending time together with his dad was a large part of the inspiration behind this project. 

“I’m so fortunate to have the experience of building this with my father. I feel so blessed. The tiny house is just a byproduct of the time with him.”

They went into it knowing it would be a learning experience. There were setbacks. But watching this house develop was empowering. “I know what is inside the walls, and I can fix it,” said Taylor.

Building a tiny house is just as involved as a big house. Every element is there – plumbing, roofing, electrical work, framing, building stairs, installing windows – but it’s on a compressed level. “It’s even harder, to some degree, because you don’t have room to swing a hammer sometimes, let alone move around a ladder,” said Taylor. “But is was so worthwhile. This was the treehouse he never built me.”

Living with Less is More

One of the primary reasons Jesse Taylor built his tiny house, was to reduce his carbon footprint, to consume as few natural resources as possible. 

“We knew the house would have to be as energy -efficient as we could possibly afford,” said Jesse. That meant it had to be well insulated, and it had to be built with energy-efficient windows and doors.

But installing windows with exterior insulation isn’t easy. “We needed to bump out the rough openings to line up with the insulation, but we didn’t want to add all of that extra wood to the framing. It adds weight to the tiny house, and it needs to be as lightweight as possible to save natural resources in transport.”

ThermalBuck adds up to a lot of square footage on this little place, and makes a huge impact.”
– Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder 

Jesse found ThermalBuck to be the perfect solution. “Not only is it strong and lightweight, it’s preventing all of that energy loss around our windows. It adds up to a lot of square footage on this little place, and makes a huge impact.”

 

Sharing the Lessons

The tiny house movement has come a long way in the past 4-5 years. Back when they started to plan this project, there weren’t nearly as many resources online for tiny house builders.  “We wanted to share our story to save other tiny house some of the headaches we discovered along the way.” 

 “We wanted to save other tiny house builders some of the headaches we discovered along the way.”
– Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder 

 

DESIGN

Jesse thought purchasing plans would give him a safety net and make it all easier, but that wasn’t the case. They realized the plans were a major issue when he tried to source the windows. Windows come in standard sizes, yet the ones for the tiny house design were so unusual in shape, he contacted more than 50 manufacturers before finding one who could make them for him. The placement of the windows really makes an impact on how economical your plans are to execute. “You lose so much glass with these windows. And they were expensive. I would advise anyone – Build your house around the windows.”

“I would advise anyone – Build your house around the windows.”
– Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder 

The rest of the materials were simpler. Jesse used 1” EPS insulation in the trailer-between the pan and the c-channel cross members, and 1.5” EPS on top of that. “Due to the thermal bridging of the metal cross members beneath that top 1.5”, I’m not sure the insulation underneath does as much as I’d hoped. Also – by putting the 1.5” insulation and 3/4” plywood on top of that, I lost 2.25” of head height from the start- lessons learned.”

 

FRAMING & SHEATHING

One the base was finished, it was time to start framing. It’s easy to measure each of the sides of the rectangle and think it’s square – but that’s not the measurement that matters. “The most important measurement is diagonally from corner to corner,” says Jesse. The corners must be 90°, or the four walls won’t fit together properly. Guess who found this out the hard way? “My advice to anyone framing in their first tiny house would be – Don’t forget to square your walls.”

Since sheathing comes in 4 x 8 sheets, where you position the studs really matters. Whether 12” or 16” on center, the spacing needs to be easily divisible by 4 or 8 to save yourself some cuts.

 

THERMALBUCK, WINDOWS, & INSULATION

“The best video I found online was the full ThermalBuck installation video.”
– Jesse Taylor, Tiny House Builder 

Jesse had never installed a window before. But within a week, he’s installed all of them. “I was constantly scouring the internet to find a video that showed every single step. The best video I found online was just John installing ThermalBuck in the full installation video. It showed me everything I needed to know.”

 

Life in the Tiny House

Jesse continues to work on his tiny house, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking about the first time he hits the road. The inaugural trip will be from Woodstock to Burlington, then he will live in the tiny house on his own piece of land while troubleshooting any issues with the composting toilet, the solar panels, the grey water – life with less. Then he plans to head to Maine, and spend most of his time living near Arcadia National Park. “The tiny house community is a great group of people. These homes bring people closer together. So many people out there are doing amazing things to reduce their impact on the environment. We want to share our experience with them, and keep learning. I believe anyone can build a tiny house. I believe you can do it.”

 

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Building an Affordable, High-Performance Home

Working for Habitat for Humanity is a life-changing experience. We knew going into the high-performance home build in Randolph, Vermont, that the work was important. Affordable housing is one of the most critical issues in communities all over the world – and Vermont is no exception.

But what we didn’t know, was that we would be most impacted by the people.

Join us as we work with the team of volunteers in Central Vermont, and you’ll witness the true spirit of giving back – building up your own community through hard work, patience, and laughter.

 

 

Affordable Housing in Vermont

To better understand the challenge that low-income families face, it’s important to understand the term “housing wage.” It’s the amount a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a modest apartment – while spending no more than 30% of his or her income on rent and utilities. National Low Income Housing Coalition – nlihc.org

Vermont has a housing wage of $22.40 — ranking the 13th highest in the U.S. But the gap between the average hourly wage renters make, $12.85, and housing wage ranks even higher, at fifth in the country, making affordable housing out of reach for many Vermonters. Vermont Digger – vtdigger.org

 

The High-Performance Habitat Home

The Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity (CVHH) is familiar with high-performance building. They’ve got a passive home under their belts, and considered the same for the build in Randolph.

Architect Neil Husher, Vermont Architects Collaborative, designed the home in Randolph to maximize energy-efficiency, and the focus was on tightly air-sealing the entire building envelope.

“We couldn’t do a passive house here because we didn’t have any sunshine, but we could do high-performance, so that was our target to shoot for.”

– Neil Husher, Architect, Volunteer, Vermont Architects Collaborative

 

“With all of the details, it was a learning curve for me. This is framed differently than I’ve ever framed before, it’s actually balloon framed, even up to the rafters,” said Husher. “We also attached the ledger boards for the decking on the inside of the ICF, so there are no rim joist insulation problems, which you normally have on houses.”


Efficiency Vermont

Vermont is a progressive state in regards to energy efficiency, and much of the growth has to do with Efficiency Vermont.

Founded in 2000 as the nation’s first energy-efficient utility, Efficiency Vermont provides technical and financial support to improve the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, and communities.

“Efficiency Vermont is really keen on helping with the social responsibility of living in Vermont.“

– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont 

 

For the folks at Habitat, this meant not only a significant refund for achieving an established list of standards, but also personalized help in the support of a Residential Energy Consultant, Jennifer Severidt. Detailed air sealing and continuous insulation were essential components in this build, and Jennifer was not only on hand to explain and review installation details, she worked right along with the rest of the volunteers to install the building materials herself.


The High-Performance Building Materials

To maximize energy-efficiency, Rockwool COMFORTBATT insulation was used in the interior wall cavities, and Dow Styrofoam Blue Board continuous insulation was used on top of the sheathing, to limit thermal bridging through the studs.

“But when we started to look at putting insulation on the exterior walls,” said Severidt, “We thought – What are we going to do about the windows?”

They chose ThermalBuck, which extended the mounting point to create a flush plane with the Blue Board, and insulated the rough openings, to limit thermal bridging in the building envelope.

“ThermalBuck takes care of that problem, of how to create a thermal break at the window, and still have things line up.“

– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont

ThermalBuck, the high-performance window buck, is made up of an extremely dense EPS, insulating 4 -times greater than wood window bucks. Coated with a waterproof resin and installed with DAP Dynaflex 800 Sealant and nails, it makes for a complete air and water barrier at the rough openings.

 


The Right Fit for the Build

The team of volunteers in Vermont is led by Project Lead Anne Walker, a former engineer with extensive knowledge of architecture and building.

Crew leaders Glen Seifert and Ken Stevens provided the ideal balance of work skills and people skills, keeping the crew moving along and enjoying the process.

The skill level for the majority of Habitat volunteers is best described as “do-it-yourselfers,” the materials used need to have simple installation methods, easily replicated by a revolving door of people. Not an easy task.

“With wood bucks, you need to have each piece at the right depth. It’s a lot fussier. ThermalBuck is much more precise, and much more forgiving.“

– Anne Walker, Project Lead, Volunteer, Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity 

 

ThermalBuck was an ideal fit, its unique “L” shape makes installing it at the right depth simple.

“ThermalBuck turned out to be a much easier approach to seal our windows, and gave us the added benefit of the thermal break,” said Anne. “With plywood, you’re creating a thermal conduit. But with ThermalBuck, it’s rigid, it’s structural, it’s much easier and faster than having to go around and manually build out the plywood bucking to get these windows aligned with our foam. It was really the perfect product.”


Just last year, The Washington Post reported statistics issued by Freddie Mac, which revealed that between 2010 and 2016, the number of apartments considered affordable for very low-income families across the United States decreased by more than 60 percent. To learn more about planning this high-performance home and the work of Habitat for Humanity, click here.  

Training Day: GMP Rutland Innovation Home

We’re proud ThermalBuck is an important component of the most energy-efficient house in Vermont, the Green Mountain Power Rutland Innovation Home.

It’s a one-of-a-kind project: a contest created by a utility company, giving away a brand new home to the winning entry of an essay competition. They’re looking for the right person who can contribute their talents and energy to help revitalize the beautiful town of Rutland, Vermont. And they’ll get to do it while living in a brand new, energy-efficient, mortgage free home. We call that a win-win.

The GMP Rutland Innovation Home Contest serves a dual purpose. One, to highlight the strong job market and redevelopment efforts of this beautiful region in Vermont. And two, to showcase the future of building by using the latest building material technology to build an incredibly energy-efficient house, easily replicated in other regions.

 

“It’s not only just a house that we’re giving away. It’s also a benchmark for what we’re hoping to strive for in the future for how we build homes.”

– Nick Stone, R.K. Miles Building Material Supplier, VT

 

The Home

NBF Architects designed this 1,500 sq. foot traditional New England farmhouse featuring the latest in smart-home technology. High-performance building materials were used to make the home as energy-efficient as possible. Building material supplier R.K. Miles installed their high-performance wall system, the VOAT-Wall (Vapor Open, Air Tight), featuring The Henry Company Blueskin WRB, Rockwool ComfortBoard mineral wool exterior insulation, 3.0″ ThermalBuck insulating window buck, and Marvin Windows & Doors.


The Team

Green Mountain Power, NBF Architects, Naylor & Breen Builders, and the United Way of Rutland County, organized the collaboration. It was made possible with the generous support of R.K.Miles Building Materials Supplier, and nearly 60 manufacturers such as Henry, Rockwool, Tesla, and ThermalBuck, who donated their high-performance materials. The talented crew from Naylor & Breen Builders volunteered their time and manpower to make the house come to life.


The Video – Training Day

Join us as we take you through training the team from Naylor & Breen Builders on the ThermalBuck installation in Rutland, and you’ll learn some tricks and tips to simplify your installation. Then get moving on that contest entry. The deadline is June 18th.

 

 


You can take a video walk through of the house in its final stages by checking out the media coverage it’s received by news networks in Vermont. Follow ThermalBuck on your preferred social media account to follow the progress, and find out who the lucky winner is.

ThermalBuck.BRINC        thermalbuck_windowbuck       @ThermalBuckThermalBuck 


Green Mountain Power is described as an “energy transformation company” providing power and innovative products and services to most of Vermont. Their focus is to help customers use less energy and save money, while meeting their existing energy needs by generating clean, affordable energy. GMP was recently named a Top 10 Innovative Company in Energy. Read more here

 

 

Net Zero Energy Retrofit in Vermont - Ready for Roxul

Perfecting an Energy-Efficient Haven in Vermont

It’s a pleasure to work with architects to solve the challenges of retrofitting existing structures. When they specify ThermalBuck for their own personal projects, it becomes a real privilege.

Alan Benoit, Principal Architect, Sustainable Design of Vermont, chose ThermalBuck to mount his energy efficient windows for his net-zero energy office space, and we jumped at the chance to work with him personally on the installation.

 

A Passion for Sustainability

Alan & Nancy Benoit are an incredibly talented team. Alan is an award-winning certified Passive House Consultant & Architect, Nancy is a skillful designer of everything from footwear to furniture.

Together they focus on utilizing reclaimed and repurposed materials for their personal passion project: the inviting home, garden, workspace, and guesthouse they’ve created together on their remarkable homestead in Vermont.

“Be patient. Never settle if it’s not right.”
– Nancy Benoit, as quoted in Vermont Magazine

There is a reason their work stands out, and you can see why in the philosophy that guides them. Everything is built with respect and consideration for preserving and stimulating the natural environment, promoting a harmonious lifestyle in an inspiring setting.

Vermont Magazine recently featured their beautiful spaces in their Sept/Oct 2017 issue – you’ll love seeing the details and reading in-depth about their design process.

 

Sustainable Design of Vermont

 

We could get used to sustainable living.
We could get used to sustainable living.

Sustainable design is the focus of their work, whether new construction or a simple addition to an existing structure.

In addition to running their own businesses, Alan is extremely active in the Vermont green building community, and volunteers his time and knowledge through his Sustainable Living Series.

When you work with people who live & breath sustainability, even lunch is a treasured experience, with homegrown tomato sandwiches fresh from the garden.

 

Net-Zero Energy Retrofit

Local architects, builders & craftsman watch the ThermalBuck installation in Manchester Center, VT.

In 2017, Alan & Nancy decided to relocate their growing business to the beautiful barn they had build a decade ago on their property.

It was time to plan a full blown net-zero energy redesign, capable of meeting their needs year round. 

They planned to insulate the interior and exterior walls, insulate the roof, and install new energy efficient windows, mounted with ThermalBuck. Complete air & water sealing for a tight building envelope is essential in achieving net-zero energy.

Working in conjunction with building materials supplier RK Miles, Alan arranged a demonstration of ThermalBuck for local architects, builders, and fellow green-building enthusiasts. We couldn’t have asked for more when Alan gave us his feedback on using ThermalBuck to mount windows with exterior insulation.

“We are now specifying it on all future projects.
What a time/labor/material savings it is!”
– Alan Benoit, Architect, Sustainable Design of VT 

Materials 

  • 2.5″ ThermalBuck high performance window buck
  • 2″ Roxul Comfortboard
  • Henry Blueskin WRB & Flashing system
  • 5-1/2″ dense packed cellulose on interior walls
  • 2″ foil-faced polyiso for the roof slope, 3″ for ceiling flat
  • 1″ closed cell spray foam for the roof
  • 9″ dense packed cellulose on the remaining roof slope & flat ceiling cavity
  • Marvin Integrity casement windows

 

Details Make the Difference

2.5″ ThermalBuck prevents compression of the Roxul, and insulates the rough opening.

Knowledge of building science is especially important on retrofits, as installation details often require modification based on the uniqueness of the project.

Alan & Nancy wanted to reuse their vertical cedar siding, which meant running the rainscreen horizontally. Drainage would not be an issue, as Alan planned gaps every 2′ for ventilation, and has a screen at the bottom, and vented space at the top of the walls.

Roxul permits water to drain through it as well, allowing the horizontal strapping to properly dry out. The building will have a HRV system, and the Benoit’s have planned to utilize a community solar project in order to achieve net-zero energy.

The barn renovation is projected to be complete in December, 2017. It was inspiring to work with Sustainable Design of Vermont, and we look forward to following Alan & Nancy on the rest of their net-zero journey.

 

ThermalBuck Installation Gallery

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Sustainable Design of Vermont is presenting their next Sustainable Living Series on November 16th, at 6:30 pm at the Manchester Center Vermont Public Library. Alan will explain the major elements of “Building Science”, in hopes of helping homeowners avoid common mistakes with renovations. To learn more, visit sustainabledesignofvt.com.

 

Net Zero Deep Energy Retrofit – Energy Conservation Specialists

Bill McKnight is no rookie when it comes to energy-efficient building. His company, Energy Conservation Specialists, is a leading New York residential and commercial energy-efficiency consulting firm, specializing in the field of historic preservation and restoration in the Hudson Valley.

Bill and his wife, Melinda Terpening McKnight, are passionate about history, their community, and energy efficient building. With over 20 years in the field of deep energy retrofits, Bill has achieved both BPI Accreditation and Energy Star Certification, teaches building science at Ulster University in NY, and has been featured in Home Energy Magazine.

 

Vibrant History, Energy-Efficient Future

We had the opportunity to work with Bill  and Melinda on a recent net zero deep energy retrofit of a historic Port Ewen home that will soon become the new ECS company headquarters.

Originally built in 1850, the house has been in the Terpening-McKnight family for nearly 40 years, and was in danger of being torn down after a devastating fire. Bill and Melinda decided to restore it, and move their company into the space. The building will not only be energy-efficient, it will achieve net-zero certification, meaning it will consume only as much energy as it produces.

WATCH:  Net Zero Deep Energy Retrofit with ECS and ThermalBuck  

A signature of deep energy retrofits, is both interior and exterior insulation on the walls and roof, completely eliminating the thermal bridge through the building envelope. Thorough air sealing is crucial to achieving the desired performance. Having worked for years installing windows with rigid foam, Bill knew the challenge they presented in creating a thermal break at windows and doors, as well as potential moisture damage in the building envelope.

“You wouldn’t be able to seal a wood buck like that. We can feel confident that everything on the outside is completely sealed.”

-Bill McKnight, CEO, Energy Conservation Specialists

 

ThermalBuck Integration with The Building Envelope

Bill chose to install his triple pane Earthwise windows with ThermalBuck because it extends and insulates the mounting point to reduce thermal bridging, and create a flush plane for cladding. It also acts as an air and water barrier, and completes the continuous insulation of the building envelope. With his background in building science, he knew it would do a better job preventing moisture than a wood buck in the building envelope.

WATCH:  ThermalBuck Installation with Energy Conservation Specialists  

The proper integration of building materials is critical to an efficient building envelope. Take a look at how simple the installation of ThermalBuck is, and how easily it integrates with the WRB.  You’ll see why Bill McKnight feels a lot more confident keeping moisture out of his building envelope with ThermalBuck.

 

Behind the Scenes in Port Ewen

 

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For more information on deep energy retrofits, read “Planning is Key to Net Zero Deep Energy Retrofit”.

 

The Griffiths Home, Orderville, Utah

The Do-It-Yourself, Energy-Efficient Dream Home

When a customer calls and tells you that the energy-efficient home they are building happens to be in one of the most beautiful settings in the Western U.S., you ask them if you might tag along and do some filming.

Located at the crossroads of climate zone 3, 4, and 5, resting at an elevation well over 5,000 feet, this unique region provides more than beauty. It presents the opportunity to truly challenge ThermalBuck, on an energy-efficient window installation with high-performance window manufacturer Alpen HPP.

 

The Griffiths Family, Orderville, Utah

The view from the living room of the Griffith's family residence
The view from the living room of the Griffith’s family residence

Thomas and Melissa Griffiths are not your average do-it-yourself homebuilders. Thomas is an engineer, and Melissa a successful blogger and homemaker, raising a busy family of 5 children not far from the beautiful Zion National Park.

 

Land isn’t easy to find in this part of the U.S., with 90% of it owned by the federal government, and devoted to national parks. They have been planning their dream home for years, finally buying a beautiful piece of land that Thomas used to take care of when he was a young man, right next door to where he grew up.

 


Planning the Energy-Efficient Window Installation

The Griffiths broke ground in 2015, after years of researching building materials, and creating the architectural drawings themselves. Thomas knew he wanted to build the most energy-efficient home he could afford, and ensure year-round comfort and good indoor air quality for his family.

 

“I just wanted to have as thermally-efficient a home as I could afford. I wanted to stop all of the thermal bridging that I could.”

-Thomas Griffiths, Homeowner, Engineer, Hardware Store Owner 

 

Doing most of the work themselves, the Griffiths wanted to invest that savings into large, high-performance windows, to bring the beauty of the setting into the home. They selected Alpen triple pane windows, utilizing suspended coated film technology. These insulated fiberglass frame windows offer an R-6 thermal performance, advanced framing, and customized technology for the glazing of each individual window, based on its exact exposure and placement in the home. 

 

 


Step-by-Step ThermalBuck Installation: Polyiso Continuous Insulation as the WRB

Thomas knew he needed to insulate both the interior and exterior of the building envelope. Taking the climate into consideration, he decided to use  2″ Atlas Energy Shield polyiso on the exterior as both the WRB and insulation.

Researching energy-efficient homebuilding, Thomas came across ThermalBuck, and recognized it as the ideal solution to mount his high-performance windows, and prevent compression of the rigid foam. The 2.5″ ThermalBuck has an R-value of 11, is extremely durable and will provide a long-lasting window installation to match the lifetime Alpen window warranty. Thomas wanted to utilize ThermalBuck to support the weight of the windows, insulate the mounting point, and maintain the quality of the window installation.  

 


High-Performance Window Q&A with Alpen HPP

If you’re lucky enough to have an installation expert like Nate Maybon, of Alpen High-Performance Products on hand during your build, you take advantage and ask questions. Watch this short Q&A with Alpen video, and you’ll learn what makes up a high-performance window – from the insulated fiberglass frames to suspended film technology. Nate also talks about common causes of window failures. You’ll quickly understand why high-performance windows are an investment that will pay you back in more ways than energy-savings.

 

 

“I definitely like the ease of use. I’m surprised at how durable it is. But the performance is what we’re after.”

Alpen Certified Installer attaching window into ThermalBuck
Fasteners must penetrate through ThermalBuck into the structure min 1-1/4″.

-Nate Maybon, Alpen HPP Window Installation Specialist 

Alpen High Performance Products  is a national distributor for ThermalBuck, located in Niwot, Colorado. They were the first window manufacturer in North America to achieve PHIUS certification for their windows, and are widely recognized as passive house experts.

Alpen HPP & ThermalBuck offer a PHIUS-Verififed Window Installation Detail featuring 2.5″ ThermalBuck, and the Alpen 925 Series Fiberglass window. Contact Alpen HPP, our high-performance partners at www.thinkalpen.com 

 

 


Behind the Scenes in Orderville

If you’d like to keep up with the Griffiths, visit Melissa’s blog, blessthismessplease.com. You’ll see why we loved our time with this inspiring family.

 

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