Fine Homebuilding (FHB) magazine has been one of the most widely recognized voices in the building industry since it’s first printing in 1981, nearly 40 years ago.
What makes Fine Homebuilding such a valuable resource to builders is the quality of the content. Written by builders who are considered experts in the field of homebuilding, the articles focus heavily on the details of homebuilding that most builders will encounter on the job site.
Much has changed about the way we build over the years, and the content is now both a combination of best real-world practices for building, and new technology and building materials.
Windows in Thick Walls
In his article entitled “Windows in Thick Walls”, September 2019, FHB, Maine residential design/build contractor Michael Maines explains the challenges of installing windows in thick, highly-insulated walls. He presents detailed illustrations that review 5 typical situations:
One: Recessed windows with extension jambs as exterior trim
Two: Recessed windows with traditional casing
Three: Recessed windows with shingled returns
Four: Windows curbed to the exterior
Five: Curbed windows installed with ThermalBuck
Maines utilizes his experience building many different types of wall assemblies in the article. His solutions address not only moderately high-performance envelopes in climates 3 and up, they can also be modified to suite warmer climate zones, and the highest performance levels of Passive House building.
“Thick, highly insulated walls . . . present some challenges for builders when it comes to installing windows and doors . . . (ThermalBuck) is a great, problem-solving product line.”
—- Michael Maines, Michael Maines Residential Design + Build, Contributing Editor, Fine Homebuilding
Also in the September 2019 issue of FHB was a feature by Senior Editor Patrick McCombe, in the SPEC section, which covers new building materials on the market.
“The best solution I’ve seen is ThermalBuck.”
—- Patrick McCombes, Senior Editor, Fine Homebuilding
When it comes to challenge of properly installing and flashing windows and doors in walls with exterior insulation, most experts don’t recommend installation directly over foam. Not only does it compress the foam and leave air gaps, but it also introduces some potential issues for the window. The most commonly known way to address this is to build a wood buck to extend the mounting point for the window. However, adding wood works against the goal of creating a continuous insulation layer on the building envelope.
See why Fine Homebuilding Senior Editor Patrick McCombes says “The best solution I’ve seen is (the) ThermalBuck,” and learn more about its features and benefits at finehomebuilding.com.
For detailed coverage of real-world ThermalBuck installations, visit Installation Stories at thermalbuck.com. For more ThermalBuck coverage in the media, review Media Coverage at thermalbuck.com
BRINC Building Products, Inc. has expanded ThermalBuck distribution in the Northwestern U.S and Canada through a partnership with Small Planet Supply, a well-known regional high-performance building material supplier for over 10 years.
Small Planet Workshop (the original company name) emerged from a division of West Coast Associates to support the growing demand for net-zero and passive house education and training in North America. The “workshop” side of high-performance building soon developed into a burgeoning business as a trusted building material supplier, specializing in materials designed for super-insulated, airtight structures.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors,” said Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply. “This makes it a vital piece of the puzzle towards energy-efficiency and we’re proud to offer ThermalBuck alongside our other high-performance building products,” said Lavelle.
“Adding exterior insulation is a no-brainer for most projects, and ThermalBuck eliminates the challenge that goes into detailing critical areas – like windows and doors.”
– Kieran Lavelle, Sales Manager, Small Planet Supply
While Small Planet Supply has grown the materials side of the business, they’ve maintained their reputation as an excellent resource for building science knowledge and installation expertise. Year-round training and workshops remain a priority – both in the U.S and Canada. Based in Vancouver, BC in Canada, and Tumwater, WA in the US, Small Planet Supply services customers in WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, and parts of MT, UT, and AZ.
ThermalBuck on the West Coast
The building community on the west coast has initiated the highest standards in the country for energy-efficient and sustainable design for years – California in particular, setting the bar for other regions to follow.
ThermalBuck was first introduced out West in 2016, as part of the Wise Workforce Instructions for Standards and Efficiency program (WISE), a combined effort of ConSol, the State of California Energy Commission (CEC) , and the California Homebuilding Foundation (CHF).
The WISE program was designed to advance the education and implementation of high performance building solutions for building professionals in preparation for Title 24. It allows industry experts to share best practices and real-world solutions to building code and efficiency standards with California builders. BRINC Building Products, Inc. was selected as a participating manufacturer, and ThermalBuck is referenced in the 2017 CASE Initiative High Performance Walls Report.
In 2017, BRINC Building Products President and developer of ThermalBuck, John Brooks, was invited to present in San Diego at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the largest homebuilding trade show on the West Coast.
By the year’s end, John Brooks was named Hive Top 50 Honoree by Builder Magazine, and honored at their annual awards celebration in Los Angeles.
Small Planet – Big Opportunity
Until now, all ThermalBuck sales were handled by long-term national distributor of ThermalBuck, Alpen HPP – shipping out of their Niwot, Colorado warehouse.
“Alpen does a fantastic job working with passive house customers all over the US, but we’ve been looking to expand out distribution network with a physical footprint on the West coast. Education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors”, said John Brooks. “Developing the right network to service the needs of our customers is a challenge – and a priority. We’re proud the team at Small Planet has chosen ThermalBuck to complement their line of high-performance building materials,” said Brooks, President of BRINC Building Products, Inc. “We look forward to a future of exceeding the expectations of the high-performance building community.”
Alpen HPP remains a national distributor for ThermalBuck, focusing on the passive house market. Canada is now serviced by both Performance Haus, Inc., and Small Planet Supply.
“We know that education and a desire to promote sustainability drives the mission of Small Planet Supply – that really matters to us when choosing distributors.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Small Planet Supply distributes a wide range of building materials in the categories of air barriers, insulation, and mechanical systems. They also have their own building material success story – Thermacork.
This 100% natural cork insulation made from the outer bark of the Oak tree, was developed and launched by Small Planet Supply, and has a multitude of applications – including roofing, flooring, ceilings, exterior and interior walls. walls.
ThermalBuck joins a respected line of high performance building products at Small Planet Supply, which includes:
Small Planet is offering 3 workshops to demonstrate installation techniques for multiple building envelope applications. Join ThermalBuck creator John Brooks July 9th in Vancouver, BC; July 11th in Tumwater, WA; or July 12th in Portland, OR. These workshops are free, and open to any interested homeowners or members of the local building communities. For more information and to receive notice regarding future workshops, please visit smallplanetsupply.com.
For purchasing information through Small Planet Supply, please contact one of their 2 distribution centers, or contact Steve Lamburg at the sales office in Eugene, Oregon at (541) 521-6270
Tumwater, Washington 1-855-367-7442
Vancouver, BC 1-855-367-7442.
Most people would assume it makes zero sense to build a passive house in a hot climate. The indoor/outdoor temperate differences aren’t as extreme as they tend to be in other climate zones.
But a passive house still offers a huge performance increase from traditional building methods, and a great improvement in the indoor air quality – a major attraction to homeowners. Not to mention the reduction in energy bills. In a cold climate, a passive house is projected to reduce energy expenses by 90%. In a hot climate, more like 70%*. Still a signifiant savings, and worth the investment in additional time and materials up front.
Choosing Investment vs. Expense
From the financial side, the theory is that you’re spending more money on performance, then that money gets divided over the life of your mortgage. If you can spend $30 more a month on a mortgage, while achieving $100 savings a month in utilities – you’re at a major advantage.
Not only does it make a lot of sense, it’s something energy efficient builder Mark Larson, CPHC, Built Green Texas, can readily convey to his clients as a professional builder and consultant.
“When you allocate your money this way, you’re choosing to invest in the value of your home, not the expense of living in it.“
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Performance Metrics Make the Difference
Mark Larson started his career in corporate real estate. He decided to make the leap into building because he loved that side of the business. If he was going to completely change careers and build houses, he wanted them to be the best ones on the market.
That’s how he discovered passive house design. It’s the most stringent building metric in the world, but also the only one that is performance based. It’s not prescriptive like LEED, meaning certified to operate a certain way in theory. Passive houses MUST perform as they are designed, or they don’t achieve passive house certification. They have to hit certain metrics for air tightness, measured with a “blower door test”.The fact that the performance is completely measurable was much of the appeal.
“I’m a huge fan of performance based metrics – which is exactly what passive house offers. I knew my family would live and breathe in the highest indoor air quality. It really matters.”
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Blower Door Testing
IAQ Texas conducted the initial blower door testing. But Mark didn’t get the results he was hoping
for, so he employed his own blower door contraption to help find leaks. Mark used a 2500 cfm construction ventilation fan and taped roof underlayment around the door opening.
He found some opportunities for better air sealing between the top plates, and at plate boards butted together. The attic hatch was also a source of leaks. Zip tape was sealed into a 90 degree corner, but air leaked out the ends of the length of tape. Some random nail holes and a few casements windows needed slight adjustments to better seal when closed.
Once those changes were made, Mark’s passive house rater from ATS Engineering did another blower door test before adding interior insulation. These results surpassed Mark’s expectations, and made it below the Passive House metric of .6ACH, and hit .57ACH. (via instagram, Feb 1, 2019). This figure is expected to drop even lower once interior insulation and drywall are added.
The Building Envelope
Mark spent a significant amount of time researching the materials he wanted to use for his home. For the building envelope, he used 2″ x 6″ studs, 16″ on center, Zip sheathing, Rockwool ComfortBoard exterior insulation, and Alpen windows. He had discovered ThermalBuck years prior, and was excited about finally having the chance to use it on his own home.
“ThermalBuck simplifies the water, air, and thermal control layers of window and door installation. It solves a specific problem of how and were to flash windows within continuous insulation. ThermalBuck will always be a tool in my design toolbox to solve the complexities of “outies” in CI,” said Larson.
“It solves a specific problem of how and were to flash windows within continuous insulation.”
-Mark Larson, CPHC, builder, Built Green Custom Homes, Austin, Texas, and homeowner
Passive House Austin
Mark is part of a dedicated group of building industry professionals working to make passive design well-known in the Texas market. Passive House Austin promotes the principles of passive design through events, podcasts, workshops, and most notably, the Humid Climate Conference. Held annually in Austin, the Humid Climate Conference recently featured Joe Lstiburek, widely recognized as the leading building science expert in the industry. It draws building professionals from all over the South, to focus on issues specifically related to their climate – offering a huge benefit over national or international events.
To learn more about Passive House Austin, and view more photos from the recent Huber sponsored happy-hour event at Mark Larson’s passive house build with IAQ Texas and Positive Energy, click here.
New Bethlehem, PA – Geoffrey Sloane, a high-performance building material professional with a background in architecture, historic renovations, green building and the building material industry, has been appointed by BRINC Building Products, Inc., as Market Development Manager – Northeast.
His most recent position was in Commercial Sales with LaValley Building Supply, a well-known building material supplier with 10 locations in the Northeast.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck.”
– Geoffrey Sloane, Market Development Manager – NE, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Geoffrey has always been passionate about the building industry, having earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY., and acting as both designer and general contractor for his own home. His professional knowledge and experience in both the architect and builder roles allows him to understand the challenges that face both sides of the build. Sloane’s work in the building material industry provides him with an extensive knowledge of a wide array of materials, and an understanding of how important it is to consider the relationship between different building materials in the building envelope.
“BRINC BP is offering comprehensive solutions for forward-thinking design and construction. I’m excited to employ my experience in all phases of the building process to develop the New England market for ThermalBuck,” said Sloane.
ThermalBuck falls into an unusual category of the building material market – there’s nothing quite like it.
Use of exterior insulation on residential and commercial buildings is a growing practice in construction, for its ability to limit thermal bridging.
But it creates a new challenge – now that the insulation extends anywhere from 1.0″ to 6.0″ or more past the sheathing, how do you mount the windows?
Before ThermalBuck, the only option for architects and builders to extend the rough opening was to build a wood buck out of 2 x’s or plywood. Rough openings have always been the weakest spot on any building for air and water infiltration, and “bumping” the window out only makes it more difficult to achieve a good air and water seal. Wood bucks are a challenge to flash, and they can rot, shrink, or warp over time.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for.”
– John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
The European and Canadian building markets have long recognized the need to build tighter, well-insulated homes. The U.S. building industry is quickly catching up, driven both by the adoption of newer IECC codes, and an increased focus on energy-efficient and high-performance building.
“Architects and builders are looking for solutions on how continuous insulation affects the window installation,” said Brooks, “ThermalBuck is the ideal solution.” Boise Cascade distributes ThermalBuck in New England through their Westfield, Massachusetts distribution center.
“Geoffrey offers a unique balance of knowledge and experience in the building industry. His passion for providing green building solutions to architects and builders is exactly what we were looking for. He’s a great asset to our team, and the ideal fit to manage the growth of ThermalBuck in New England,” said Brooks.
Sloane lives in New Hampshire’s capital region with his wife, Nicole, and their children – Suzie, Peter, and Meredith. Stop by Booth #1037 and meet him in person at the 2019 JLC Live show in Providence March 29th & 30th! Contact Geoff at email@example.com, or 603.268.4640.
BRINC Building Products, Inc, headquartered in New Bethlehem, PA, is the manufacturer of ThermalBuck, the high performance window buck. ThermalBuck is now available through Boise Cascade and Alpen HPP in the U.S., and via Performance Haus in Canada.
The biggest building show in the Northeast, JLC LIVE kicks off in downtown Providence, RI March 27th – and this year, exhibitor ThermalBuck joins Rockwool, DuPont, and 3M as part of Bill Robinson’s building clinic, “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation”.
JLC LIVE New England is widely known as the best hands-on construction show in the business. Focused on live product demonstrations and popular building clinics, this show stands out as a great training opportunity for builders who want to fine-tune their building science knowledge and installation techniques.
“JLC Live is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss.”
-John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc.
Two packed floors of exhibitors await the thousands of builders in attendance, and three days of educational sessions are open to all attendees. “JLC LIVE is the one show all year that I can promise you, we won’t miss,” John Brooks, President, BRINC Building Products, Inc. If you’re not already planning to attend this year’s show, please consider joining us for the show!
Grab your FREE PASS here – just enter promotion code EX235 and be our guest on the exhibit floor. You’ll find ThermalBuck at BOOTH #1037 – check out the floor plan before the show!
Building Clinics & Workshops
This is what makes JLC LIVE unique amongst trade shows – everywhere you look, you see action. JLC always has a packed schedule of exhibitor installation demonstrations, building clinics, and educational workshops. It’s truly a “hands-on” show, and that’s what makes it so popular.
This year, we’re proud to announce that ThermalBuck will be a part of nationally recognized trainer and building expert Bill Robinson’s building clinic “Managing Moisture in Walls with Continuous Insulation” held on March 29th & 30th, at 9:30 am on the upper level.
ThermalBuck joins distinguished building material veterans including Rockwool ComfortBoard, DuPont Tyvek, and 3M Corporation to help show builders how to successfully deal with the challenges of installing windows with exterior insulation.
Check out the full event program for a complete listing of clinics, and demonstrations that you won’t want to miss. You’ll want to catch Fine Homebuilding editorial advisor and well-known builder Mike Guertin for his popular Roofers Workshops, located on the second floor ballroom at JLC. His clinics include Roofing in High Wind Zones, Critical Roof Flashings, and 4 Ways to Shingle a Valley.
ThermalBuck at JLC
The 2017 show was our first time at JLC, and it couldn’t have been better. The highlight was when the Journal of Light Construction Senior Editor, Tim Healey, stopped by to shoot a short video to introduce ThermalBuck to readers of JLC who might have missed the show.
“This is one of the coolest new products I’ve seen.”
– Tim Healey, Senior Editor, The Journal of Light Construction, JLC Live 2017
Booth #1037 is where you’ll find ThermalBuck at the 2019 show, on the lower level, right by the Simpson Strong Tie demonstration booth. We’ll demonstrate how ThermalBuck solves many of the common challenges wood window bucks create: potential for moisture damage, shrinking, warping or rotting – all things that challenge the long term operation of windows. Not to mention wood is a thermal bridge, the very kind you’re trying to eliminate by adding continuous insulation in the first place. You’ll be able to compare the flashing steps for wood bucks vs. ThermalBuck, and see how much easier it is to get an airtight, watertight building envelope with ThermalBuck.
JLC Networking & Special Events
All work and no play is never a good idea, and plenty of fun is on the schedule. And this year’s JLC is no exception. This Old House has teamed up with JLC to help Rebuild the Trades, and offers several events promote the importance of apprenticeship programs to the future of the building industry. You’ll have the chance to hear from your favorite This Old House personalties such as Charlie Silva and Tom Sweenor, as well as highly-successful builders such as Matt Risinger, of Risinger & Co.
Check out all of the great networking events here, and don’t miss the Welcome Party Friday night from 5pm – 6pm in the Level 5 JLC LIVE Lounge. These events offer great opportunities for fellow attendees and speakers to connect, build relationships, and celebrate the future of building.
Since the March weather feels a lot like winter, take a few days off of the job site to expand your knowledge and invest in your training and skills in New England. We promise – the payback will be worth it.
BRINC Building Products, Inc. is proud to announce that the BASF Corporation will feature ThermalBuck as a continuous insulation solution in their 2019 exhibit at the International Builders Show on February 19-21st in Las Vegas, Nevada.
High-performance builders have consistently used a combination of interior and exterior insulation to achieve desired R-values for their wall assemblies. With the rapid adoption of advanced energy codes across the U.S., and increasing demand by consumers for energy-efficient homes, use of continuous insulation is becoming the standard for most builders. As this practice grows, more building professionals, insulation manufacturers, and window manufacturers are becoming familiar with the challenge this presents for window and door installation.
“BASF has always been an industry leader in building material technology. We appreciate the opportunity to work with them to share best-practice installation details with the building community at IBS.”
-John Brooks, president, BRINC Building Products, Inc., manufacturer of ThermalBuck
The Innovations of BASF
BASF is a company well known for its commitment to technological advancements in the building industry. Their Neopor® graphite polystyrene (GPS) rigid foam insulation provides architects and builders with maximum efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability for exterior insulation on construction projects.
Easily recognized for its steel-grey color, Neopor® GPS is comprised of many small pockets of air within a polymer matrix containing graphite. The graphite reflects radiant heat energy like a mirror, increasing the material’s resistance to the flow of heat, or R-value. Most polymer-based foams exhibit a greater ability to slow the movement of heat as the temperature decreases. Neopor® GPS is in a unique class because it increases in R-value as outdoor temperatures drop (neopor.basf.us).
When it comes to insulating value, Neopor®consistently outperforms traditional EPS, XPS, polyiso, and mineral wool insulation. But like these others, it creates some challenges for window installation. Commonly used in Europe for decades, GPS insulation is now experiencing solid growth in the U.S., and BASF has found ThermalBuck to be an effective solution.
ThermalBuck Continuous Insulation
“Builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the problems they face when installing windows with foam,” said BRINC President, John Brooks. “When insulation is added to the exterior of any structure, the rough opening remains set back at the sheathing. This can present problems with cladding attachment and trim, and the thicker the insulation – the bigger the problem,” said Brooks.
The traditional way builders dealt with the different planes was to build a wood buck to match the depth of insulation, install the window, then flash the window and wood buck. But wood is a poor insulator, and creates potential for moisture damage at each rough opening. Not to mention it creates a thermal bridge – a conduit for energy to pass through the rough opening around each window and door. When you’re adding insulation to a building, creating thermal bridges at all of the penetrations is really working against the goal of insulating.
“Builders have been so receptive to ThermalBuck because it’s such a simple, effective solution to the problems they face when installing windows with foam.”
-John Brooks, president, BRINC
ThermalBuck is a proven solution to the challenges architects and builders face with installing windows with exterior foam. It’s unique “L” shape goes inside the rough opening, and extends outward to match the continuous insulation and/or rainscreen depth, creating a flush plane for cladding.
With an r-value of 4.4 per inch, ThermalBuck insulates the rough opening to prevent thermal bridging. It supports the window and allows structural attachment, transferring shear and wind loads to the framing. Made of a high-density EPS with a waterproof coating, ThermalBuck is installed with high-quality window & door sealants, that allow it to act as an additional air & water barrier at the rough opening, simplifying flashing with exterior insulation. Lightweight, flexible, and durable, ThermalBuck comes in 8′ lengths and is cut to fit on site. It’s ideal for both residential and multi-family residential retrofits and new construction.
We look forward to sharing the stage with BASF in Las Vegas at the 2019 International Builder’s Show in Booth PB2, as part of the Professional Builder’s Show Village. Look to BRINC Building Products for more building envelope solutions in the future.
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
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.”
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.”
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, RockwoolCOMFORTBATT 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.
Fairbanks, AK — When ABC Inc. building material expert Jeff Pino discovered ThermalBuck, he knew it was just the right product to meet the needs of his customers who build in one of the most extreme climates in the U.S.
“We have two seasons here – Winter, and Construction,” says Pino, Building Materials Sales, ABC Inc. Fairbanks is located in the Alaskan Interior , and it has the most significant temperature changes in the U.S. The temperatures range from 90°F during the summer, and below −50°F in the wintertime. Heating costs can be extraordinarily high, making energy-efficient design an absolute essential. “We build to extreme energy-efficient standards here in Alaska, and we install a lot of high performance windows,” continues Pino, “The climate demands it.”
“We build to extreme energy-efficient standards here in Alaska, and we install a lot of high performance windows – the climate demands it.”
-Jeff Pino, Building Material Sales, ABC Inc., Fairbanks, AK
Building in Alaska
“When it’s building season, and the daylight runs 24 hours a day, we work as much as humanly possible. Products that save us time are essential,” says Pino.
“ThermalBuck saves money, it saves time – and the thermal break around the window is critical to prevent condensation. We have a company that we work with that does a lot of retrofits – and it’s perfect for that,” says Pino. “In some cases, it almost pays for itself in the reduction in window size. Dropping that inch overall in the size of the window can save the homeowner money – without sacrificing enough glass to make a difference.”
“ThermalBuck saves money, it saves time – we have a company we worth with that does a lot of retrofits – it’s perfect for that.”
-Jeff Pino, Building Material Sales, ABC Inc., Fairbanks, AK
The History of ABC
ABC Inc. was formed 1995, as a local Fairbanks company specializing in maintenance-free seamless steel siding. It has since grown into a full service building material supplier and construction company, focused on energy-efficient, high-performing buildings designed to withstand life in the Arctic. It’s Building Energy Efficiency Standard (BEES) certified staff helps to meet the needs of both builders and homeowners to find the most energy efficient building materials on the market. ThermalBuck joins a premium assortment of high performance building materials carried by ABC Inc., including Alpen HPP Windows, Therma-Tru Doors, and Edco steel roofing and siding.
Although ABC Inc. is located in Fairbanks, as any business located in Alaska – they are masters in logistics. ABC Inc. will ship ThermalBuck anywhere in the state – and provide the customer service and support to ensure a good installation.You’ll find the energy-efficient experts at ABC, Inc. at akabc.com.
Habitat for Humanity’s vision is simple: A world where everyone has a decent place to live. It’s achieving it that’s the complex part. The team at the Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity (CVHFH) is working hard towards that goal, and an even loftier one – building one of the highest performing Habitat for Humanity homes to date, in Randolph, VT.
Energy Efficiency: an Essential Need
Building to higher energy-efficient standards is an important consideration for any building project. But the impact on personal health and well-being can be even more significant when making ends meet is a struggle.
“The fluctuating price of energy goes beyond what our families can afford”, says Bruce Landry, Affiliate Building Chair, Volunteer and Weatherization Technician, CVHFH. “The families we partner with start out with very tight budgets and every dollar counts. An energy-efficient home gives stability in heating costs and utility payments.”
“An energy-efficient home gives stability in heating costs and utility payments.”
– Bruce Landry, Affiliate Building Chair, Central VT Habitat for Humanity
Not Their First High Performance Rodeo
The home build in Randolph was designed by architect Neil Husher, of Vermont Architects Collaborative. Neil brought three original designs to the table for consideration, which he modified to suit this specific plot of land, and fine-tuned the energy-efficient features for maximum impact.
Although the CVHFH chapter had completed a passive home build in the past, it wasn’t an option for the Randolph home. For instance, there wasn’t enough southern exposure to provide sufficient solar gain. Differences in the wall construction also make this design a bit simpler – building to passive is more detailed, and takes more time. It wasn’t that the volunteer building crew couldn’t handle the technical details and complexity of a passive house, it just wasn’t the right fit for this project.
The High Performance Building Components
The two-story house features 2′ x 8′ wall construction, and an impressive list of high performance building materials including: Rockwool Safe ‘n Sound batt insulation, Partel VeraPlus smart membrane, Advantech sheathing, 2.0″ Dow Blue Board Styrofoam XPS insulation, Typar WRB, ThermalBuck high performance window bucks, Pella 350 Series windows, Stego Wrap Vapor Barrier, and an Amvic ICF Foundation.
2.5″ ThermalBuck was selected to extend the mounting point for the windows and doors, insulate the rough openings, and prevent moisture at the rough openings – traditionally a difficult detail of any building envelope. ThermalBuck helps simplify the challenge of mounting the windows with the exterior insulation, and integrating the WRB.
“ThermalBuck makes it easier to do the high performance seals.”
– Anne Walker, Project Manager, Central VT Habitat for Humanity
Employees of BRINC Building Products, Inc., manufacturer of ThermalBuck, will be volunteering to help the CVHFH chapter with their ThermalBuck installation in September, 2018. Keep informed on the next steps of this high performance home by following ThermalBuck on social media:
Energy Efficiency in Vermont: More Accessible than Ever
One of the reasons this build was possible? Because it was in Vermont. Efficiency Vermont, founded in 2000 as the nation’s first energy-efficient utility, provides Vermonters with technical and financial support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, businesses, and communities.
For Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity, this meant not only a significant refund for achieving an established list of standards, but also personalized help in the support of a consultant, Jennifer Severidt. Jennifer was assigned to the project, and provided not just a few answers, but guidance throughout the entire project, answering specific questions like “What specific heat pump would work best?”
“We wouldn’t have been able to attempt this without Efficiency Vermont.”
– Debbie Goodwin, Executive Director, Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity
Follow this helpful link to view more information about how to work with Efficiency Vermont to receive energy consultation and eligibility for certification, rebates, and third-party testing at efficiencyvermont.com.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat’s mission Is based on the premise that affordable housing plays an integral role in building abundant, strong, and stable communities. Habitat for Humanity is one of the most recognizable efforts to support sustainable housing not only in the U.S, but internationally. To learn more about the efforts of Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity, and how to find local chapters in your area, follow these links:
Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program. They offer partner families a no-interest mortgage for their home. In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, the homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (sweat equity) into building their new home. Families selected are those who need simple, decent housing, but who are unable to get a loan through any conventional means. Read more about how a family can apply and be selected here.