Monthly Archives: November 2012

Ice Dam Prevention

The long winter months can be hard on your home.  Snow build up on the roof can get heavy and cause damage either while it’s on the roof or as it’s sliding off. One of the most common problems in the winter are ice dams.

An ice dam is a build up of ice right at the edge of the roof.  Since heat rises, the snow that is on top of the roof melts, as it melts, the water travels to the edge of the roof.  If your home has an overhang, the water will get trapped there and freeze because the roof is not heated in that spot anymore.

A few ways to prevent this from happening include:

1. Making sure all openings to the outside, such as attic hatches and exhaust ducts are tightly sealed. It is also important to make sure all the vents lead outdoors and not to an open space in the attic or between walls.  Spread fiber-reinforced mastic on the joints of HAVC ducts and exhaust ducts.  Covering them entirely with R-5 or R-6 foil faced fiberglass will keep heat from escaping as well.

2.  Add insulation to the attic floor to keep heat where it should be, in your home. This will prevent the heat from inside your living space from escaping through the roof.

3. Caulking penetrations is also important to preventing ice dams. Seal around electrical cables and vent pipes with fire-stop sealant.

4.  Keep your whole roof at the same temperature. If the middle of the roof is warmer than the edges, the snow will melt in the middle which will then travel to the edge of the roof. Since the edge of the roof is colder, the water will freeze again causing an ice dam.

Great Lakes Carpentry understands the importance of of preventing ice dams from becoming an issue in your home. Implementing building science and best practices will prevent snow and ice build up on your roof.

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Holiday Energy Savings

Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean we have to forget about saving energy.  In fact, saving energy is even more important around the holiday season than any other time of the year, because most likely we are using more of it. Here are few tips on how you can save energy during the holiday season, provided by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

1. When cooking on the stove, make sure the pan size matches the burner you are using. A 6 inch pan on an 8 inch burner can waste over 40% of heat.

2. Just before the food is done cooking, turn off the oven or the burner.  The pan is hot enough that the food will still cook.

3. Defrost meat in the fridge to reduce the time it take to cook or using the microwave.

4. Running tap water constantly can waste up to 2 gallons of water every minute. Be conscious about  how much water you are using.

5. Scrape dishes clean instead of rinsing them.  This could save up to 10 gallons of water every meal.

Stay tuned for more energy saving tips from Great Lakes Carpentry. Check out our Facebook page and Twitter page as well!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Holistic Approach to Home Building

Understanding the science behind building a home is what the holistic approach is all about. Green builders understand that a home works as a system.  One part of the home cannot operate correctly without working in unison with another. Changes to one component can dramatically change how other components perform. Hiring a contractor that understand these concepts, like Great Lakes Carpentry, has many benefits ranging from durability, to safety, healthy indoor-air quality, to energy saving.

The kind of air we breathe in every day directly affects our health. Controlling the air quality inside the home is a key component to the holistic building approach. Having exhaust fans in  rooms where there is more moisture, such as the bathroom, will hinder mold growth which can pollute the air.  Also, having range hood ventilation in the kitchen is important to controlling combustion gases, moisture, cooking odors and the air quality in the home. Drawing the right amount of air out of the home is important to air quality.  If too much is drawn out, back drafting can occur which might pull hazardous flames and combustion gas back into the home. Good indoor air quality will make your living environment more comfortable and healthy for your family.

Understanding that the home works as a system will help reduce your energy costs.  Having a contractor who instills the holistic approach can help ensure all your appliances work together to save you money. Since your appliances will be working efficiently, they will also last longer.

Try as we might, there are things we cannot control such as the weather. Applying the holistic approach to home building can make your home more durable and less susceptible to weathering. It is important to take into consideration what climate zone you are in when building your home.  If you live in a very warm climate zone, you want to use the outside temperature to your advantage when heating your home. Like wise, if you live in a very cold climate zone, you may want more insulation and use the sun to your advantage to save on heating costs.  Make sure your contractor is aware of these details when buying products such as insulation and windows for your home.

Great Lakes Carpentry always applies the holistic approach when building  new or remodeling a home. Building a new home is a huge investment. We want to make sure your home is built right the first time and will last you for generations to come.

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Thinking Like a Raindrop

Water is a vital resource to our existence.  We cannot survive without it, but there are some places we don’t want water. Over 90% of all damage to building components in structures is from water, which is why we implement building science best practices for all flashing details, drainage planes and rain screens, in order to help manage moisture.

Using proper building paper behind the siding is essential to keeping moisture out of the home. This is something your contractor should be aware of, but not all contractors are looking out for your best interest. Skimping out on building paper between the building envelope can cause some major water damage over time.

This is a direct result of vapor diffusion, or the transport of liquid through a solid. AKA: Water getting under the siding.

Great Lakes Carpentry understands the phenomena that wind and vapor driven moisture will find its way behind any cladding that we install, so we insure that we have a drainage plan beneath any siding that we install.  We take it to the next level by installing a rain screen on top of the drainage plane (house wrap) in order to create a slight air gap that will allow this driven moisture to drain and then dry. We also make sure all flashing’s are installed in a fashion that will provide a drainage path away from any building components that could be compromised by moisture.

Proper ventilation in areas where there is high moisture, such as in the bathroom is crucial to expelling moisture out of the home. Water vapor in the air can cause just as much damage to wall assemblies. In cold climates, humidity in the home will find its way into wall cavities through unsealed openings, such as electrical outlets. As a result moisture builds inside the wall, where it can saturate exterior wall sheathing on the inside where mold can form contaminating the air. This water vapor can soak framing members and cause rot. Wet wood also attracts termites and carpenter ants, as they need wood to be moist for digestion.
Air-sealing the home is every bit as critical as exterior moisture management.

This is what happens when building paper is not installed between wall sheathing and cladding.

As a green building expert, Great Lakes Carpentry understands and implements building science principals in all that we do. By installing these building practices, we increase durability of all exterior components to framing, sheathing, and siding to exterior coatings of paint or stain.

If you have any questions about how to prevent moisture in your home or need some moisture damage repaired, don’t hesitate to contact us! Visit our website, find us Facebook, or find us Twitter!

HERS is to Home as MPG is to Car

You may or may not have heard of a rating index for homes called a HERS score. That stands for Home Energy Rating System, and was developed in 2006 by RESNET. Just like a car has miles per gallon, which can help you determine how efficient your car is, a HERS rating can tell you how efficient your home is running. The lower the number your home has, the more energy efficient it is.

One of the first requirements a car must have these days, is good gas mileage. When buying a home, one of the requirements should be a good HERS score. Homes that can prove they have a good HERS score make the home more valuable. A HERS rating can also allow the home buyer to anticipate how much energy its going to take to heat and cool the home.

Typical existing homes score between 130 and 140 on the HERS index, which is not that great. A standard new home scores 100, and an Energy Star Rated home scores a 85 on the index. A home that scores zero on the index is considered a net-zero home.

Our most recent project that we refer to as “The Energy Sipper” achieved a HERS score of 37, while achieving “Passive House” air-tightness standard.

If you would like a more technical explanation of the HERS index, click here.

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