Ask Stan

Building a New Home or Remodeling?

Where should I start? First of all you need to protect yourself from non-reputable companies who could cost you thousands of dollars or more. That’s why you should start your search with builders and material suppliers who are long-standing members of the Home Builders Association (HBA) in your local area. HBA members must be certified as a reputable company by the local HBA to be a member. These members are required to carry workers’ compensation, general liability, and builder’s risk insurance on themselves. Also, all their subcontractors and material suppliers working on your job must also carry workers’ comp. and general liability on all their employees. This will help insure that YOU the owner are protected from claims if someone gets hurt on the job and faulty workmanship and materials. FYI, Hawthorne Creek Homes has been a proud member of the Springfield HBA since its inception.

Wood Floors - Solid or Manufactured/ Engineered Hardwood?

Is solid better than manufactured? There are several thoughts regarding this matter. First of all, engineered wood flooring will have more of a selection of styles, species of wood, and various price points. Engineered will have a better warranty than solid due to the manufacturing process of multi-ply construction versus solid. The problem with solid flooring is that there is no old-growth forests anymore. All the lumber used in solid flooring today is being cultivated from new growth and has more of a tendency to shrink and buckle, depending on the inside environment and care within your home and the proper drying by the manufacturer. Engineered hardwood is more dimensionally stable and maintains the texture and integrity of solid wood. In many ways, especially in construction, the Old Way may not be the Best Way. With technology as it is today, in many ways the products being manufactured are much better than their predecessors. However, it’s always your choice!

Building with 2X4 versus 2X6 Stud Walls?

When and why were some homes built with 2X6 walls and not the standard of 2×4? Simply answered, in an effort to when “Energy Efficient” building became a concern, the first move was to build better insulated homes. It stood to reason that thicker walls would allow more insulation to be installed in the walls. Why do 98% of all national builders use 2X4 construction? Well, first of all lumber costs play a role. A 2X6, costs 50% more than a 2X4. However 2X6 construction is not significantly stronger than 2X4 construction. So what about insulation then? Again, technology steps in, and advancements in insulation, especially open and closed cell foam in the exterior walls, provide a better insulated home by virtually eliminating air passage through the walls from outside in and outside out. Supposedly foam can cut down this air transfer as much as 2-5% versus Fiberglass or Cellulose Batt insulation, which can have as much as a 30-35% air transfer. The foam creates a much tighter, and thus more efficient, home. In fact, a foam-insulated home will allow you to reduce the size of both your heating and air conditioning equipment, again saving you on the required equipment and your energy bills throughout the life of your home. FYI, all Hawthorne Creek Homes are built with foam-insulated walls.

What Is Manufactured Lumber and Why Is It Being Used by Most “Quality Builders”?

As previously discussed in my flooring blog, all lumber today is manufactured from new growth forests. It has a very high moisture content that can lend itself to twisting, warping, shrinkage, and bowing as it continues to dry over a period of time. This occurs especially in the larger sizes of dimensional lumber like 2X8, 2X10, and 2X12, which are commonly used in your crawl space for your girders and floor joists, and in the home itself for all those beams used to eliminate load-bearing walls. These manufactured beams provide those floor plans that are more open, which is preferred to accommodate today’s lifestyle. Have you ever had uneven floors in your home (such as when your furniture rocks), floor squeaks, cracked floor tile, ceiling & drywall cracks, or other similar issues? This is caused by the use of dimensional lumber as discussed above. Manufactured structural lumber like glu-lam beams, micro-lams, and truss joists are not susceptible to the issues of conventional/dimensional lumber. Thus, in turn, it is a significantly better floor system and inside framing far and above the old way. Yes, it is more expensive, but in the long run, it will prevent costly repairs down the line. Again, technology makes for building a “better home”. What does your builder use? Before buying that new home, check out that crawl space. If he cuts costs there, then where else did he cut costs? FYI, Hawthorne Creek Homes uses only manufactured components for their floor system and inside their homes. Remember the old saying, “You get what you paid for”.

Crawl Space. What’s the Best Way to Handle a Crawl Space?

First of all, I will not even attempt to qualify myself as an expert on this issue. I can only relate what we have done, what has worked, what has not worked, and what solutions are available to you the owner. I will state this emphatically – every lot in a community or an area on a particular piece of land will have different conditions that directly affect the environment in your crawl space. Different soils, different water tables, rainfall & drainage, and any other number of variables have an effect that cannot be comprehended before or during the building process. We have had homes in several communities that are maybe only 10 feet apart where one home has water or excessive moisture in their crawl space and their neighbor is completely dry. We have vented the crawl space and tried placing a rock over plastic and then tried plastic over rock. We even waterproofed the stem wall and footing, much like a basement in an effort to eliminate water infiltration. We eliminated all outside vents, insulated the crawl space, and provided a conditioned crawl space through our HVAC system. There are companies out there which specialize in sealing off crawl spaces, but they are very expensive. It can cost thousands and thousands of dollars depending on the size of the home and the conditions that exist. If you have an issue with water or excessive moisture, then don’t spend the money until you have lived in the home for a while unless it is self-evident you have a serious problem. For water, we have found that sump pumps will help alleviate or eliminate, along with a proper drainage pattern away from your home. For excessive moisture or extremely high humidity in the area as evidenced by sweating of ductwork or moisture on your lumber, then a good de-humidifier designed for crawl space usage works really well. Note: If you are going to purchase a de-humidifier, then I recommend you buy one appropriate for the square footage of your home’s crawl space, and one which has a pump & hose to pump the water to the outside. Good luck! Gee, I wish we would build on slabs here in SW Missouri like the majority of the country. Oh well – when in Rome, do as the Romans do.