Deferred Maintenance

June 16th, 2019

Deferred Maintenance is Not a good thing for your house.  If you have a 2nd vacation house or your main living house in one location, deferring maintenance that is needed NOW (until later) is not wise.

“Defer”, in this context, means: putting off until later, what fixes should be done today. 












This is almost always done to save money now.  Unfortunately, what this ends up doing is COSTING MORE LATER, because the environment and other elements continue acting on the affected portion of the house, causing more pronounced damage.  Especially in the case of wood, metal that can rust, plumbing, pavement, gravel, soil and other items that are degrading or that have problems NOW.


Thinking that there is no problem does not make it go away.  Penetration of water Must be stopped, erosion of soil and other surfaces around the house and grounds Must be corrected and other circumstances causing damage have to be corrected or they will get worse.


This is especially an important consideration for vacation (2nd) houses.  A house that you own and that you visit once in a while.  The main problem is the psychology of some owners is this:
“This is my toy that I play with once in a while and it will remain brand new and safe in my toy box until I return to play with it again, forever.”  NO, that is not what happens.  There are these environmental factors: rain, snow, ice, wind, bugs, heat, cold, seismic movement, settlement of soil under the house, flooding.  Those continue to act on the house, causing degradation.  You HAVE to maintain your house with paint, cleaning away mold, sealants, replacing of rotten materials with new, patching failed areas of siding, pavement and other items unless you don’t care about losing your investment in the house.


And if you are deferring maintenance because you’re thinking about selling, think again. 

(continued below):













Buyers have the assistance these days of licensed Home Inspectors, who write up long and detailed reports about the failing conditions of a house.  So: if you want a higher price for your house, you better have it in top condition, or the Buyer will tell their Real Estate Broker to demand a price reduction due to the house inspector’s long list of deferred maintenance items, possibly costing you tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales price just because you were a cheapskate and didn’t take care of the expensive toy  you visited once in a while.  That’s not good business.  Spend what you need to, in order to keep  your 2nd house and main living house in tip-tip condition or you will lose much more than the cost of maintenance when you try to sell it.


Do you really think no one will notice that your house is deteriorating?  Especially a Licensed House Inspector?  They get paid to Find Problems, just so the Buyer of your house can chisel the price down, while pointing to the line items on the inspector’s report.  This is very real.  So if you think you are “saving money” by not maintaining  your house, you are dead wrong. And it will cost you far more than if you had fixed problem areas when they were first noticed. 


Cost you how? 
1.  In lower selling price (because the new owners will need to fix all those things you should have maintained, but did not).  And by lower, we’re not just talking about a few hundred or a few thousand dollars less.  It can be much more than that, if the buyers get the idea that the deferred maintenance seen is only the tip of the iceberg.  And that the unfixed items run much deeper.  In other words,  you can scare your buyers into offering much less than you want for your house.

(continued below):













2.  In higher maintenance costs later, if you allow the deteriorating items to continue deteriorating worse, than if you had fixed them when they were first discovered.


So: if you see some rusty metal somewhere around your house, call a Licensed Contractor and have him replace it.  If  you see rotten wood siding: do the same thing.  If  you see water penetrating a roof, wall or floor: same thing.  Except for the roof, call a Licensed Roofer.  If your toilet’s leaking, call a Licensed Plumber (a real one, not a handyman).  If you have electrical problems, call a Licensed Electrician.

And if you want to expand or renovate your house: call a Licensed Architect. Always hire a professional.  And don’t put off for later what needs to be fixed today.  It will only get worse and cost you more tomorrow.






Why You Need an Architect

June 8th, 2019

Why You Need an Architect is about the reasons people planning a project need a real Architect.

The Award-Winning Mountain View Meadow house (recipient of ArCHdes2018 global design award).


Project results like the above don’t “just happen.”  They have to be designed, requiring engineering, details, floor plans, roof plans, building sections, wall sections, specifications, site plans and on-site coordination.  And homeowners can’t just wave their arms around because they think they know what they want inside their heads. 

(continued below):













It takes a tremendous amount of experience, education, skill and drawings to deliver award-winning solutions like you see above.  For instance, the wind zone there is 110 mph.  That huge wall of glass has to resist that or the house (and its occupants) would be destroyed when big winds blow.  Take a good look through the glass at the timber frame bracing: horizontal, vertical and diagonal.  All of it acts together to resist forces of nature to keep the house intact, and its owners comfortable.  And look at those couple of large cantilevered beams over the fireplace on the left side of the main living space.  Those are actually a double pair of large LVLs (Laminated Veneer Lumber) girders with special order pine board trim sheathing with custom mitered, glued and finish nailed corners to give the final visual result of large solid timbers, without any intruding posts into the living area, while supporting the Loft outer area above.  And check out all that glass!  Not many houses have that much window area devoted to the grand view.  Well, this one does, because a real, Licensed Architect designed it. 


Are you starting to understand why you need an Architect?  An Architect ties everything together into a beautiful whole.  They are the system integrators.  Without them, all there is are bits and pieces.


The text under the above photo explains some of it.  But there’s much more.  An Architect with experience can value-engineer solutions to help their clients save money, while delivering outstanding, handsome solutions.  The house above would easily have cost $325/HSF (Heated Square Foot) under normal circumstances.  The Architect personally supervised the entire project, bringing it in around $225/HSF. That’s a savings of around $220,000. 
(continued below):












Some homeowners only see value in what they believe are “hard” costs of construction and everything their General Contractors do.  And they sometimes don’t see any value in the “soft” costs of design provided by an Architect.  They are dead wrong about that. 


There’s a phrase: “Pay me now or pay me later.”  This is a version of that: Pay your Architect now, or pay your Builder later, to provide the same information, and not as well integrated.  There are pieces of information necessary to build your project.  Having your Architect provide them during the Architect’s design & construction document work is the best time to have this information provided and will make your project move faster. 


What the Architect produces is MUCH MORE THAN JUST A PLAN.  A Floor Plan is NOT all the Architect needs to provide to build your project.  He also needs to create elevations, sections, specifications, details, door schedule, finish schedule and much more (see other list near the top of this article for more) .


And what is the largest “purple elephant in the room” about needing an Architect?  How about design skill?  Creativity?  The ability to pull together all the separate elements of your project and make it a beautiful, cohesive whole design that functions properly and conveniently?  Can you do that?  No?  Well most builders can’t either.  That’s why you hire an Architect.  Not because you are forced to, by some regulatory agency, but rather, because you Want to and Need to, if you want a good design that you will enjoy living in for the rest of your life.  Architects design and solve problems.  Builders build.  That’s why Builders are called Builders. 













Try going to a Builder and waving your arms, telling him/her what you want to have built.  At some point, they are going to say:
“Hey: we need to have all this great stuff you want documented in the form of drawings, that pulls it all together, then we’ll need to get a Building Permit.  You can’t do that without drawings and specs, and that’s what you hire an Architect to do.  You NEED an Architect.”  And yes, you’re going to have to pay the Architect to provide those documents.  Just as you pay your Real Estate Broker to handle the purchase or sale of your home and land.  Or as you pay your Dentist, Surgeon, Attorney or Engineer.


Here’s an interesting comparison: you don’t mind paying $45,000 to over $100,000 to drive a vehicle that provides you with the level of functionality, comfort, reliability, status and beauty you want, do you?  Well, even if you mind, you pay it, don’t you?  Why would your wanting to live in a work of art that has all the comfort, reliability, functionality, status and beauty you desire be anything different?  That’s what your Architect provides you.  And that’s why you need them. 

Here’s another example: can you perceive any difference standing in a low-end tenement apartment and a nicely designed spacious mansion?  Yes?  There’s another reason you need an Architect: to give you that higher-end feeling.  You can’t get that any other way.  And your Architect can help you get that feeling without it necessarily being a mansion.  They can design a mid-range house that captures that feeling of spaciousness and possesses a high-level of functionality.













Okay, that’s all been on the subject of beauty, functionality, wind load and comfort.  How about some nitty-gritty issues?  For instance: termite flashing details and sealants and roof and window flashings?  What is flashing?  Usually strips of specially formed metal or flexible adhesive backed vinyl/plastic that are designed by Architects to keep out water and wind.  Sealants also help keep out water and pests (like insects).  Without these flashings, your home can and will let in water and air.  Your home will rot and leak and become pest-ridden.  Ask Terminix.  They see things like this all the time.  And so do I. In addition to being a Licensed Architect in multiple states, I’m also a Licensed Home Inspector.  I’m here to tell you: Contractors and their workers rarely install termite flashings these days, because they either aren’t aware of this requirement in the Code and also because County and Municipal inspectors usually don’t catch this flaw.  Result: termites can march up into your house and eat it to the ground.  And most Contractors don’t know how to properly install window flashings (either rigid metal or flexible tapes). And when they do, they have been seen using such ridiculous materials as Duct Tape over asphaltic felt, where the adhesive fails within about 15 minutes and falls off.  Not to mention that a cloth-based tape like that will rot and fail in a matter of months.  Having a Licensed Architect detail and specify and observe their proper installation on-site can greatly improve this situation. 

Moral of the story: hire an Architect to design and detail your next home project (renovations, additions or new), if  you want a better quality design that looks and feels better, that value-engineers costs of materials and systems, that isn’t as leak-prone and that is more durable (lasts longer with fewer problems).

Wrong way to do a house project: exclude an Architect and let the Builder and his/her workers do whatever they’re used to doing.  You will think you are saving money, but your design will not be as nice or as life-fulfilling, joints will tend to leak more, pests will have more inroads into the structure and other suspect situations can occur, including your house actually costing you more, because no one participated to value-engineer products and systems.



Latest Vacuum for House Cleaning

May 31st, 2019

Latest Vacuum for House Cleaning is about an Architect’s perspective of the coolest new vacuum cleaner for house cleaning.













At first glance, this modest Bissell vacuum cleaner looks pretty ordinary.  But look more closely: the center part is a break-away module that is also a stand-alone hand-vac.  And the whole thing is battery operated. 











Rechargeable with a plug-in.  Lithium ion.  And when the hand-vac part is clicked back into place in the center of the unit, there’s a nice agitator at the floor line that rolls around, so the vacuumed air coming through it is siphoned up into the hand-vac part’s dirt compartment, like a normal, 1-piece stand-up vacuum.  And whole thing is super lightweight.  I don’t see any specs, but I would guess maybe 4 or 5 pounds?

There’s no expensive paper filters to buy or change.  The hand-vac part breaks apart yet again, into smaller sections, where you can dump the gathered dust and dirt out of the vacuum.  You can also break that part down even further, to dump additional debris from the inner vacuum compartment, letting you reinvigorate the original suction power.












The vacuumed debris gets woven into something that resembles a lint rug, that you can shake out of the debris cup very easily, and with minimal friable particulates in the air (less small fibers for you to have to breathe).















And the bottom agitator unit breaks down to remove hair and other elements from the roller, so it can be restored into like-new operating condition.  My wife’s long hairs have killed 3 Roombas.  But the cleanability of this Bissell ought to make it last much longer, if we clean it once in a while.


The main feature I like the best is the ability to instantly click and remove the hand-vac from the unit so we can quickly clean our stair and other items, without taking the entire assembly along for the ride.  However, if your main task is to clean a floor or rug, leave the entire unit together and use the bottom agitator to kick up dust and debris from the rug and hardwood floor that the vacuum snarfles up into it, for easy cleaning when  you’re done.


FAIRLY QUIET OPERATION (compared to the jet engine of our Dyson)


yeah: $99 pricetag at Target.  With tax, I think we paid around $106.  Can’t have a price like that with our older Dyson (which is also as heavy as a tank).  Our Dyson will suck the chrome off a bumper, but when all you want to do is clean normal household dust and dirt quickly and comfortably (1st or 2nd floor): the Bissell is a real pleasure to use.


I’m not sure I understand why Bissell calls this “Pet”.  I don’t have any pets (dog especially) that would sit still to be vacuumed.  Bitsy would freak out, growl and run away.  But as a general, everyday house vacuum, it works just fine.

Here’s the link to the Bissell website for this unit:

There’s even several YouTube videos on how to clean the various components, which is especially good for us Guys, because we don’t have the patience to read directions.  Duh.  So the vids teach us what we need to know so we don’t kill the thing. 

Oh: there are several manufacturers that build similar units.  But the Bissell had the right combination of features, name recognition for quality, and price point (under a hundred bucks). Well done Bissell marketing and engineering working together. 


Why Architecture Takes So Long to Create

March 19th, 2019

Why Architecture Takes So Long to Create is about this architectural firm’s explanation to the world of Clients regarding the time Architects take to produce their designs and documentation for those designs so that Contractors can build them.

(C)Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC.  Project nearing conclusion, before paving and final paint on left wall.















Okay, so you’ve hired an Architect and he/she/they seem to be dragging their feet and taking an awful long time to produce first: your design, and second: the CDs (Construction Documents) that illustrate to the Building Department and your Contractor how that design is supposed to be built.

Hey, from your perspective (the Client), you’ve already paid your Architect a ton of money and they already “drew-up” the floor plan you wanted, so doesn’t that mean they are close to being done?  The “plan” is drawn, so what’s the big deal?


Nope.  Guess again.  The floor plan(s) are often less than 5% of the entire architectural effort.  There are also Elevations, Building Sections, Wall Sections, blow-up section and plan details, specifications, door information, finish schedule, Roof Plans, Cabinetry, Electrical, 3D imagery and more. 
And if  you project is a renovation of any existing home or building and you do not have electronica documentation of that home or building, then guess what?  You’re going to have to pay your Architect to document (or at least draw) the existing building on a computer program, like AutoCad, Revit, ArchiCad or other architectural computer program.  Why?  Because no (or very few) Architects these days are willing to risk the inaccuracies involved in drawing things by hand, or the inherent value of just paper drawings.  Much faster, better, more accurate and multiple-archival making drawings on computer.  So: if your job involves renovations, expect an extra 5% or so OVER the normal architectural fee when starting from scratch.  Why?  Again, because it’s HARDER to have to check on the hundreds or thousands of conditions that lurk within the existing house/building.  And no Architect with any sense of liability will state that they are in fact documenting the “As -Builts.” 














Rather, they may indicate that they are preparing Record Drawings that have been based off of paper drawings, which may or may not have any field verification, which often is left to the Builder to verify, mainly because the Client usually doesn’t want to pay the Architect to go out to the project site many times to actually measure existing conditions.

Okay, getting off on a tangent there.  So we’ve established that an Architect WILL charge More, not less to do a renovation/addition on a relative percentage basis, even though they may charge by the hour. 


So let’s get back to the subject of Architects and why it takes so long to produce the design and documentation for your project (assuming you are a Client of an Architect).

TIME is what an Architect sells, in addition to SKILL and CREATIVITY and SOLUTIONS to both technical building problems and hard to imagine DESIGN solutions to complex Client needs/demands/desires.  Architects have prepared their entire lives waiting for you and your project, up to the minute you called them or walked into their office.  That’s probably going to be over 50 years.  So the Architect have spent often more than half a century honing their craft/ profession in order to serve you, just as your MD (Medical Doctor) or surgeon has spent decades preparing to treat you and make you well.  Also, just as your Attorney has spent decades in school, interning and practicing and becoming licensed to serve your needs and help you.  Or an Engineer.  Or Certified Public Accountant.  Catching the drift here?  An Architect is a licensed professional, who spent decades educating themselves, including typically 6 to 8 years to often earn a Masters degree in Architecture, spent often a decade in an internship capacity, then had to prepare for, take and pass a State Architectural Board exam,

(continued below)












that often lasts several days and for which there is a high fail rate and then apply for and prove to at least one State that they are worthy to be trusted to design, document and administer architectural design and construction projects involving life and limb of other humans, to whom their well-being is entrusted, then to be thrust into the real world, earning a living for decades, proving themselves over and over again, earning additional certifications and licenses, taking yearly CEUs (Continuing Education Units), solving thousands of problems, honing themselves to be one of the best problem solving people on the planet, all fine-tuned and ready to serve your wishes.  Whew.  That’s quite a lot of preparation, isn’t it?  All so that you can tell them how large you want your new Master Suite.  What an enormous amount of horsepower to bring to bear on your needs. 


VALUE OF CONSTRUCTION & PERCENTAGES: Once again: this effort ultimately amounts to time. And the Value of the construction.  What does the cost of construction have to do with anything if an Architect is mainly selling their expertise and time?  Well, it has long been understood in the design and construction world that there is a corresponding amount of design and documentation effort associated with the construction cost of a project.  Why?  Because a $1million house will ALWAYS be more involved and larger and take more time for an Architect to program, design and document it than a $100,000 house.  Roughly 9x more effort on the larger budget house.  Makes sense, right?  Because that’s real.

(continued below)













So how does that work, then?  How to evaluate a proper Architectural fee for either a small, simple house or a large, complex project?  Hmmm.  Well, it so happens that the Architectural world out there KNOWS what the approximate percentages should be, in terms of rules of thumb.  And also, nearly any Architect who has been working for over 10 to 20 years knows these rules of thumb as well.  No architectural organization that represents the interests of Architect is allowed (in the USA) to publish such rules of thumb.  The Government doesn’t like that.  However, no one cares if any company, Architectural or otherwise, or individual, Architect or otherwise Can publish these rules of thumb. 

No harm, no foul.  One such Architect from another firm (we believe, from Canada) has performed her own personal in-depth research all over the world, including the USA, and has published these rules of thumb.  They are mainly based on percentages of the cost of construction.  She published her findings in a third-party Public Information website called: .  Check it out.  But that’s really not the purpose of this online article here. Rather, we’re trying to explain why it takes so much time to produce a work of Architecture, for a house, or any other project, for that matter.


Let’s look at this issue from another angle.  Our Senior Staff Architect just moved into his new house for his family in North Carolina, USA.  By most standards, it is a fairly modest effort, with only 2,188 HSF (Heated Square Feet) and 3,818 GSF (Gross SF including garage and porches).  This project had a great deal of Value Engineering to keep things as simple and cost-effective as possible.  Most of the interior is drywall, with a few timber posts and beams and wood stair.  The outside is 70% metal siding, with some cementitious horizontal lap siding and front and rear timber posts.  Some minor amounts of rock inside and outside.  Metal roof. Vinyl windows.  Comparing with many mountain houses, this is a simpler project.


NUMBER OF LINES AND OBJECTS IN THE DRAWING FILE(s): The Architect just audited the AutoCad drawing file for this project and it indicated that it checked 1,297,851 lines or objects.  If that is the entire amount of lines and objects in the main drawing file, then the Architect had to evaluate and think about all of those lines and objects in one way or the other.  If you could count to 1,297,851 and your could verbally state 4 numbers each second, it would take you  324,462 seconds just to count to the number of objects the Architect had to deal with during the creation of his design and documentation (at least those within the AutoCad file, which does NOT include his time involved in being on-site, dealing with Contractors and workers, the Building Department, his family, selecting and purchasing decisions for hundreds of items and more).  That’s 5,407 minutes.  That’s 90.1 hours.  Which is more than 2 normal work weeks, just to Count the number of objects involved in the Architect’s work for a single detached custom home.  Now, if you had to think, perhaps for a minute, just 60 seconds for each line involved, that would = 77,871,060 seconds.  Divided by 60 = 1,297,851 minutes, divided by 60 = 21,630 hours divided by a normal 40 hour week = 540.7 weeks divided by 52= 10.39 years of thinking for this one modest project.  Now then, if we say that perhaps half to 2/3 of the lines and objects were imported from other projects and reused and that decisions and reuse of these lines and object was much faster, perhaps applying a 67% factor, about 3.1 years of normal 40 hour a week actual time was involved.  And it did in fact take the Architect 4.5 years from the time he bought the land until he built his house.  So that may be a valid correlation.


Understanding the vast amount of lines and object involved in ANY architectural project with which the Architect must deal, are you beginning to understand one of the reasons architecture takes so long?  Even on relatively simple projects, there are a tremendous amount of lines and objects involved that the Architect must handle in one form or another.  And that takes time.  Okay, so much for that explanation.  Let’s look at another…


NUMBER OF DRAWINGS: How about the number of drawings and specification sheets an Architect needs to produce for a project?  Well, for this particular Architect, he created 38 sheets of 24″ x 36″ drawing sheets.  This Architect used to work at a firm in downtown Orlando, at a time when drawings were hand-drawn.  The Principal Architect in charge of Production there said that each drawing was worth from $2,400 to $4,000 each, in terms of manpower (person-power).  38 sheets x $2,400 = $91,200.  38 x $4,000= $152,000.   If you divide by the Architect’s hourly rate of $125/hour, that would = 729.6 to 1,216 hours, which is probably about what the Architect did on this particular project, with all the daily time spent on it, including in person on-site visits for months at a time during the construction.


HOURLY RATE INTO NORMAL RULE OF THUMB %: Let’s look at another method of time/project value.  That website for architectural fees indicates roughly 10% for basic services for a new project (like a house) and 15%+/- for a renovation.   So, if the cost of this Architect’s house was around $655,000 with the land and the land was $135,000 then the cost of the house and related improvements is around $520,000.  Since this is a new house and IF the Architect’s services only included Basic Services (which doesn’t include many, many other things that he actually did do) that might be around 10%.  10% x $520,000 = $52,000.  That’s probably a good ballpark for a simple fee and now if the Architect’s hourly rate is $125, let’s divide that into the ballpark fee for an estimate of hours (just of Basic Services) = $52,000/$125 = 416 hours.  If the Architect works on this project 40 hours a week, that would involve about 10.4 weeks or about 2-1/2 months.  Understand: Basic Services doesn’t involve many services many people take for granted.  Like electrical plans, bidding/pricing with Builders, documentation of existing conditions (for renovation), Construction Administration (site visits and many other activities during construction), cabinetry elevations, and many other things, including project management, interior design, etc.  Meaning that this would be a very spartan amount of time and fee for this Architect on this project.  Most projects would likely be double that amount of time, or perhaps 5 months or more.


So: for even a small, new simple house, expect at least 2.5 to 5 months.  That should be fairly normal.


CHANGES: No Client in the world thinks that the time involved with the Architect making their requested changes affects anything, including the amount of time the Architect needs to produce the drawings and specifications for their project.  IT DOES.  Everything takes time, nothing is as simple as it seems and TIME is the result. 


DRAWING SESSIONS: The Architect checked the number drawings sessions on this project file.  There were 457.  He said he routinely manually saves about every 2 hours or so, meaning there may have been 914 actual drawing hours involved for him on this project.




Cost to Build Mountain Houses 2019

January 26th, 2019

Cost to Build Mountain Houses 2019 is about how an Architect of custom mountain houses just completed a new house in the mountains for his own family and the costs involved with that.











Almost new every Client this Architect has believes (for no good reason) that they are going to be able to get their new house constructed for around $100 per square foot.  And even worse: Per HSF (Heated Square Foot) which they think includes a large garage for multiple vehicles, generous rear and front porches, timber framing and plenty of goodies.

Reality check: That ain’t gonna happen. 

Why: because the Architect knows, through personal experience, that even managing the construction directly and personally for his own house for 9 months, and value engineering every aspect to save on the cash invested, it is just about impossible to build a custom mountain house for less than around $225/HSF (within himself running the entire operation) and more realistically, closer to $275 to $300/HSF with a General Contractor.

Why: that’s what it costs in mountainous regions to build.  Kind of like asking why the sky is blue and if  you can change that.  It really doesn’t matter what the reasons are, it just is.

And do you really think that because you are a graphic designer, or housewife, school teacher, or a high-powered executive, that you’re going to be able to change that reality? Or be able to make some genius drawings (that your Architect with over a half-century of experience can’t)? Don’t count on it.  Many have tried, none have succeeded.  There’s a lot more to architectural documents than just floor plans.  And costs are costs.  You don’t get stuff for free.  Especially from busy builders in the mountains. 


But you may want to learn something about these costs.  This particular Architect knows every penny of the costs involved with his own house and many of those for his Clients.

See below for more information:













For instance: can’t you really get the cost for a mountain house down to under $275/HSF? 
Yes you can.  But, the question is: do you really want such a house? 
Why?  Because when you get under about $225/HSF (if you really are capable of managing your own construction with you being there every day for about a year or more) you start getting into:
— 30″ wide white plastic appliances
— No garage
— No porches
— 8′ tall ceilings
— No rock
— No wood finishes inside
— All drywall & paint
— Carpet floors
— Vinyl tile in bathrooms
— Little to no trimwork
— Electrical minimums: no outlets where you want them.  Minimal power box amps.
— Cheap asphalt roof shingles with tar paper underlayment
— Not many, if any built in light fixtures.  Mainly switched outlets for your lamps.
— Cheap windows that leak energy and not many windows and those that are provided are small.
— Cheap doors that warp and leak energy
— Minimum insulation levels that leak energy to code minimums.
— Cheap plumbing with no water purification filtering (code shorten your life).
— Little to no sitework: you may have a hard time moving your vehicles around and/or parking.
— The above item also means that your land better be almost dead level, because you’re not going to be able to afford the complicated foundations that go along with steep land.
— Plastic wall siding outside that screams “cheap”.













The point being: do you really want a cheap house like that for the mountains?  Kind of ruins the whole idea, doesn’t it?


And oh: a really big item: when you get under the $275/HSF barrier, that means you probably will no longer have a Licensed General Contractor (or anyone else) there at your jobsite managing anything at all, which means: that becomes YOUR job.  Every day for over a year.  Can you really take the time to do that?  Do you know how to build a house, including all of its systems?  Do you have strong muscles and are you capable of lifting 100 pounds or more (a situation you will face), or will that kill you?  Do  you like to sweat and face grueling work every day?  If you’re over 35 years old, you probably don’t want to even begin to think about doing this.  And if you have a real job, where a company pays you big bucks to make money for them, you’re not going to have the time to devote to running your own project, so the approximately $50/HSF of a normal budget allocated to this becomes very important, and not something you can just cut out of your project.  You need someone on your jobsite daily, pushing to get things done swiftly and properly or you’re going to have huge problems.  And if you don’t have someone out at your job site every day, here’s what’s going to happen:

If you think you’re going to call up subcontractor and order them around from your office desk in Orlando, or Houston, or Miami, or New York, guess again.  It is almost impossible to get local subcontractors to even appear at your job when you are there, demanding that they work.  If you don’t believe this, do a little experiment: (see below):












Call 3 different Plumbers phone numbers in the Cashiers, NC area and leave messages for them to call you (because they’re not going to answer your phone call), and then wait for them to return your call.  That’s probably not going to happen. 
Why?  Because they have too much work to do for rich people who pay them a lot of money and they really don’t care who you are or what you need.  Sad, but true.  Not enough skilled Plumbers, HVAC, Electricians, Carpenters, Concrete pros to go around in the mountains.  That’s the reality.  They don’t care who you are or how angry you get.  They just ignore you.  So if you think you’re going to get people like this working on your job while you’re somewhere else, forget it.  Unless you’ve got a professional here managing your job every day, who know these local tradesmen.  This ain’t Jacksonville or Cleveland.  The subcontractors here don’t really want your work; they have too much to handle already.  So threatening them to not give them your business makes them laugh.


Having said all this and popped your low-budget balloon, you really need to be planning on $300/HSF and up.  Let’s be clear on what “HSF” means: as in per “Heated Square Foot.”  HSF cost generally includes whatever GSF items there are (Gross Square Feet), like porches, garages, decks and the like.  This means, for instance, if the interior, heated space = 2,000 HSF, the cost per HSF generally is understood to include the cost of the 3,000 GSF project.  So when there are a lot of additional goodies in the GSF, like garage, porches, exterior stairs, etc., the cost/HSF skyrockets.  So instead of paying $175/HSF for a bare bones house with no garage and no porches, when those items are added to the project, the cost could easily become over $300/HSF. 

However, you must understand that when you get below the ranges of cost indicated in this article, there likely will not be any such additional items.  Those aren’t free.  And before you think it or say it: no: basements are NOT free and they’re not cheap.  Forget that.  And neither are bonus rooms over garages: those can easily add another $100,000 or more to the cost of just the garage. 
You have to pay for those, and no, you won’t be able to finish them yourself, because that’s demanding, hard, heavy work that you probably can’t handle by yourself, and you’re going to need a licensed Plumber, Electrician and HVAC subcontractor. 

And once again: garages aren’t free, and neither are porches or exterior steps and stairs, or paved areas or decks.  They all add to the cost of your house.  And no, there’s nothing you can do or say to get a builder to give you those things for nothing or next to nothing.  Won’t happen.  Because: they have too much work right now anyway.   You might think you’re a savvy, clever person who can talk anyone into anything.  Just try that with some mountain subcontractors or general contractors.  They will sigh and say something like: “Yeah, we’ll be in touch.”  In other words: “Goodbye Mr. or Mrs. Cheapskate, go away and don’t darken my door again, because I have well-to-do people paying me big bucks up the whazoo, and I don’t need your kind of trouble.”


This has been Tough Love 101 Mountain House Construction Costs.
Contact the Home Architects if you want to understand what to do.  They can help.

Yeah, so with all this gloom and doom about costs, what do the Home Architects do?  Well, for one, they program and design your house.  And that’s huge.  They are a licensed Architect firm.  Wouldn’t you like to have your mountain house designed to comfortably accommodate your desired Lifestyle and your Land?  For instance: taking advantage of those spectacular views?

And they can solicit Contractors they know and many of whom know and trust them, so perhaps you might have a better chance of getting people to work on  your job, and they can help you during construction by administering the construction.  They can go to the jobsite, if you pay them to do so, to check on the work in progress, and provide written PDF reports with digital photos, updating you on the progress of your new house construction.  Something you are probably not qualified to do, or won’t be in a position to do, if you’re from out of town.  They can also help you make a decision of what property to buy, before  you pay for it, to help you save on  your sitework costs.  And they can help you value engineer your project to help control costs (which are already very high).  And they can perform other services to help you get your mountain house project to become a reality.  That’s a lot.  Give them a call.

Thermal Wall Sheathing

August 11th, 2018

Thermal Wall Sheathing is insulation typically installed outboard of the Structural Wall Sheathing on some newer projects. This Architect firm is using it on its latest custom houses. 


thermal sheathing















Structural sheathing is normally OSB (Oriented Strand Board) or plywood.  Structural Wall Sheathing is good practice and highly desirable: it braces wall stud framing together and unites walls with floor rim boards and roof side framing.  It also is a nail base for fasteners that mount cladding (siding of many types).  Also, the Structural Wall Sheathing is a nail base for the fasteners holding Thermal Wall Sheathing to the wall, and/ or any other systems requiring attachment to the wall.  Because: nails through cladding don’t always end up centered in studs.  Better to have wood sheathing there.  And the sheathing is just one more barrier to help keep out air (infiltration) and water.















HOME ARCHITECTS ® prefers ringshank nails rather than smooth shank nails to secure the Structural Wall Sheathing to the exterior face of wall studs.  Why: ringshank nails cannot back out.  If you try to pull one out with a nail remover (like a small crowbar), you pull the head off the nail and the nail shaft will remain. This means ringshank nails can’t pop.  Nail pop is where smooth shank nails lose their grip in the material in which they where embedded and begin to back out.  You don’t want that.


So, what is Thernal Wall Insulation?  We’re using a GAF Polyiso with foil backing.  This means polyisocyanurate.  It has an R value of around 6.1.  There are other types, such as Styrofoam (Dow), which is blue, and nearly identical XPS (Owens Corning), which is pink.  These have an R5.  All Thermal Wall Sheathing in this article are rigid foam panels 1″ x 48″ x 96″.


This Architect likes T&G (Tongue and Groove), but as of today’s date, only the Dow and Owens Corning appear to offer that option.  And only the Polyiso panels offer a foil backing (GAF, Johns Manville), as far as this firm is aware.  


Shrinkage and Contraction: Building Science Corp. States what should be obvious: all building materials contract and expand based on the temperature around them.  That’s normal.  The panels may expand 1% to 2%.   If we accept 1%, then that means these panels could shrink and expand 1/2″ (horizontally) to 1″ (vertically), if the panels were initially installed at the midpoint of the temperature cycle.  This means that the T&G feature may turn out to be useless (unless all of the panels shrink and expand with each other (for which one could make a good logical case). 













And it becomes crucial to have installers use a chemically compatible flashing tape at the horizontal joints as Z flashing, starting over the face at the top of the panels (at the top of each course), over the top of the panels, then up the Structural Wall Sheathing.  If everything stays in place, the idea is that this Z flashing prevents water that comes into the wall from penetrating further past the Thermal Wall Sheathing (at the top and bottom).  If the panels shrink or expand, the idea and hope is that the flexible and sticky Z flashing remains in place, doing its job.


At vertical joints, on one particular project, the Architect is using foil tape vertically over the face of the panels.  Once again, the idea and hope is that if the panels shrink or expand, the tape will remain in place, keeping water out of the joints.

Now then, there may be some thought about whether or not the applied tapes will stay adhered to the foil backed polyiso panels.  Good question.  But it isn’t as if the tape is staying warm when the polyiso is cold, and vice versa.  In other words, the tape should be subject to the same shrinkage and contraction that the polyiso panels are experiencing.  So, it makes sense that the tape, whether the adhesive remains bonded to the panels or not, will likely remain in a position of water resistivity.  For instance, some builders might just use a few inch ribbon of polyethylene as the Z flashing, with no adhesive backing whatsoever.  And it will still shed water.  So, the added feature of high quality flashing tapes like ZipTape and foil tape should simply be added insurance over that homespun solution. 













The above is a logical evolution of the old-fashioned WRB (Water Resistive Barrier) nailed over the wood sheathing.  And the oldest is 15# asphaltic felt over the wood sheathing.  There’s really nothing wrong with that.  Asphalt impregnated felt works well.  And after that, came TyVek, which this Architect is not fond of: it can trap water behind it and doesn’t really seal much where nails and screws penetrate it.  But neither one of those incorporates CI (Continuous Insulation), which the exterior Thermal Wall Insulation does.  And this offers a distinct advantage over previous systems: better wall insulation, along with the water resistive barrier, which is also an air barrier (when taped).  The house becomes much tighter than ever before.

But then again, this latest combination of thermal insulation rigid foam panels with foil backing is water resistive (<1% water absorption), but doesn’t allow the wall to breathe /dry to the outside (because the perm rate is <0.3.  And that may not necessarily be an issue: as long as the interior of the wall system lets construction moisture to dry inward, there should be no problem.  Just never use polyethylene as the interior vapor barrier over the interior side of the studs.


BOTTOM LINE: this new system of continuous rigid foam polyiso with foil backing and taped joints (including Z flashing at head joints) is probably one of the most effective wall sheathing systems at the present, when overlaying standard OSB wall sheathing.   The foam panels should be installed vertically (so there are fewer Z flashing head joints) and all of the thermal wall panel joints should be offset from the wall sheathing joints (never on top of each other).  This will aide both in air blocking and water penetration resistance.   If this is all done properly, utility bills should be lower and comfort higher.


If you’ve been paying attention  you’re probably understanding this is all very technical and very important.  Contact an Architect that knows what’s he’s talking about.  Shaving hundreds or thousands of dollars a year off your utility bills might come in handy, along with keeping water out of your walls.