Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tools of the Trade Part II

In our previous “Tools of the Trade”post we focused on the “Blower Door.”
The blower door is the device that we use to simulate a 20 mph wind coming at the home from all directions, simultaneously.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

We talked about the blower door being a peripheral of the laptop computer that is used, the software and the pressure and flow gauge that help us in gathering the data that tells us how air-tight the home is.
We showed you one of the low-tech tools used to locate specific areas of air-infiltration, the smoke stick.

This week we want to show you the high-tech version of this “Tool of the Trade” that we use to locate specific areas of air-infiltration, the Infrared Scanner/Camera.

Infrared Scanner/Camera

Infrared Scanner/Camera

In the hands of someone that’s been trained in the science of infrared imaging (Thermography), such as our Home Performance Professional, this is a very powerful tool of the trade.

Once we’ve depressurized the home to 50 pascal by running the blower door, we use the IR scanner to locate any air-infiltration, by scanning all of the “usual suspects” for air-infiltration.
We scan all exterior walls, window and doors, roof assemblies and where the roof assembly meets the exterior wall.

Scanning for Air-Infiltration

Scanning for Air-Infiltration

We are able to take pictures of the images that the IR scanner produces and attach the images to the reports that we generate for review by our carpentry crew, our insulation trade contractors and by our clients.

When we enroll an existing home in the Home Performance with Energy Star program, we refer to this testing process as a “Whole-House Energy Assessment”
We use this information to determine deficiencies in the existing homes that we test, so we can define the scope of our work for taking corrective measures.
We refer to this initial test as “Testing In.”
The homeowner is provided with the performance data compiled during the initial test and with a “Prescriptive Path to Remedy” any existing deficiencies.

Once the owner of an existing home approves the scope of work necessary to correct deficiencies, we perform the corrective work and then we “Test Out.”
By doing so, we provide the homeowner with improved performance data and documentation that they’ve done due diligence in improving the efficiency and performance of their home.
This leads to more than a lower energy bills, greater comfort and a healthier indoor environment. It leads to higher re-sale values.

We use these same tools of the trade and methods to test our new homes as well.
Here in Northern Wisconsin, we enroll the new homes that we build in the “Focus on Energy New Homes Program.
The performance data that we gather by testing verifies that we’ve met and in most cases, exceeded program standards for certification.
As the folks at Focus on Energy say, “Testing Trumps Talk.”
We don’t expect our clients to simply take our word on how efficient their homes are.
We put science to work and third independent testing services to verify the efficiency of the homes that we build.
At Great Lakes Carpentry, we believe that by building to higher performance levels and testing our projects, we provide. much more than just added value.  We provide peace of mind by using science to prove that what we’ve done was done right.

What we’ve shown so far are just a few of the “Tools of the Trade” that we use for testing our high-performance new homes and energy remodeling work that we perform.

We’ll showcase some of the other tools of the trade in our next post.

Tools of the Trade

Here, in the lakes region of Northern Wisconsin we rely on many tools during the course of  building the beautiful, energy-efficient homes that we build.
The log, timber-frame and Structural Insulated Panel homes that we build requires us to deploy a good  number of specialty  tools and we take pride in our ability to work with what we consider to be our “Tools of the Trade.”

Perfect Log Cuts

Perfectly Cut Logs  Produce Air-Tight Joints

In our quest to build responsibly, we rely heavily on a second set of specialty “Tools of the Trade” and we consider these to be the tools that help us to bring the greatest amount of added value to the homes that we build.

We consider the knowledge and specialty tools that our Home Performance Professional brings as very special and critical “Tool of the Trade” in our high-performance home building tool set.
We consider this professional and what he brings as one of the most valuable tools brought to the process.

We like to bring him in early on during the design phase as a second set of eyes and as an adviser in planning and executing our most efficient and cost-effective, energy-saving strategies.

Once we have specifications called-out he uses licensed computer software to run an energy model that will help to predict the energy consumption of the home, based on design criteria.
This helps us to set efficiency and performance goals and in working together, along with the homeowner in the decision-making process, to achieve these goals.

Next to our H-P Professional’s skill sets, the “Blower Door” and its’ peripherals are probably the most important tool in the set.
The blower door is used to depressurized the home to 50 pascal, which is the prescribed level of depressurization for measuring air-tightness in a home.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

The Minneapolis Blower-Door

The fan is mounted in the bottom of the canvas face-frame that seals the entry door opening. All windows and any other doors in the home are closed and locked.
The blower door is connected to a pressure & flow gauge that senses outside and inside air pressures and communicates with the blower door and a laptop computer that runs sophisticated software.

DG-700 Pressure & Flow Guage
DG-700 Pressure & Flow Gauge

Once everything is connect and we’ve checked that there will be no conflicts with combustion appliances or any safety issues, we begin the test.
The blower door fan ramps up to the precise speed that it needs to be at, in order to depressurize the home to 50 pascal via communication with the pressure gauge and software.
This simulates a 20 mph wind coming at the home from all directions at once.

The pressure and flow gauge is communicating with the fan and the computer software which gives us the information we need to estimate the air-leakage rate of the home and how many air changes per hour we have during depressurization at 50 pascal and what we can expect under normal operating conditions for the home.

Now that we have a 20 mph wind coming at the house from all directions it’s the perfect time to visually check for areas of air-leakage.
The low-tech way to do this is with a smoke stick.

This can be used around window and door openings to detect air leaks.
It can also be used at roof to wall connections and anywhere where one might suspect air leakage.
This is old school method of detecting air leaks, but still has its place in the tool box.

There is a much more high-tech method for visually detecting air-leakage and we’ll cover this and some of the other “Tools of the Trade” for building high-performance homes in our next blog post.

The Added Value Proposition

One of the best decisions made at Great Lakes Carpentry was to become engaged in building sustainable, high-performance homes.

In 2006 green-building and building science best  practices were just starting to gain traction in the home building industry and as responsible builders, we knew that this was a movement that we wanted to be a part of.

At the time, we were focused on building full-log homes and we decided to make the bold move of enrolling one of our full-log home projects in the Wisconsin Energy Star Program and the Green-Built Homes program.
This is something no one had ever done in Wisconsin and we were eager to be the first to succeed at this noteworthy achievement.

First Energy Star Log Home

First Energy Star Log Home

By implementing building science best practices for air-sealing and ventilation this home is comfortable, and efficient. The homeowner has lower heating/cooing bills and healthy indoor-air quality.
By performance testing the home, the homeowner was provided with the data to prove that his builder had done due diligence to ensure that the home performs and operates as it was intended to and will continue to do so for the life of the home.
By certifying the home in the Green-Built Homes program, the owner was provided with certification showing the that his builder took resource efficiency and our environment into consideration, before, during and after the construction of his home.

There are many that hold these attributes in high regard and this is where the added value proposition comes into play.

The homeowner will realize a return on investment for the life of the home.
He started saving money/energy the day we handed over the keys.
He’s able to take comfort in knowing that his home is a safe haven, providing comfort and a healthy indoor environment. He has peace of mind, knowing that things were done right, from the beginning.

If/when the day comes that the owner wants to sell the home, people will line up to purchase this property.
Not only is it gorgeous and efficient. It holds a place in the record books as a first of its kind.

First Energy Star Log Home

First Energy Star Log Home

Full-log homes are very appealing to many people in the north woods of Wisconsin, as they are steeped in history. They were the predominant form of construction in the bygone era of  pioneering settlers, woodsmen and trappers.

We’ve come a long way in improving the look, feel, functionality and now, the efficiency of full-log homes.

First Energy Star Log Home

First Energy Star Log Home

Great Lakes Carpentry is proud to have had the courage and audacity to believe that we could do what others thought couldn’t be done.
By accepting the challenge of building high-performance full-log homes, we’ve raised the bar for the added value proposition.

Great Lakes Carpentry specializes in building high-performance full-log, timber frame and SIP super-insulated homes.
If you’re interested in the added value realized in building to higher standards call or e-mail us today.
Visit our website:

Great Lakes Carpentry is “Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow.”

Future Proof Homes

At Great Lakes Carpentry we believe that we best serve our clients by taking the long view approach to the home building process.
We often refer to our approach to building as “Future Proof” home building.

In this uncertain world of energy and climate, sustainable building and green housing are rapidly moving from novelty to necessity.
As practitioners of sustainable, green home building methods we understand the importance of implementing best practices of building science and the need to take not only energy, but resource efficiency into account as well.

The housing market is back on the rise and along with it, the cost of materials.
Like never before, we will need to be vigilant in choosing products and techniques that will add the most value and provide the highest return on investment, from aesthetics to energy and resource efficiency.

Enercept SIP structure with Alpen High Performance glass technology.

Enercept SIP structure with Alpen High Performance glass technology.

At the onset, we develop relationships with our clients that are built on trust.
We set to work on educating them of the many benefits that are realized by building to higher levels of performance and sustainability.
We consider it our responsibility to act as adviser, consultant and advocate in helping our clients in choosing from a wide array of design options, products and techniques that best suit their needs and their budget.
Be it a Timberpeg timber frame home, a high-performance full-log home or Enercept SIP super-insulated, systems built home, we are steadfast in our goal to ensure that our homes provide a safe haven of comfort and safety that perform to a level of efficiency that will help to defer the rising costs of energy and negate environmental impact for generations to come.

Timber Frame InteriorLog Sided Exterior

Timber Frame Interior
Log Sided Exterior

We take great pride in the fact that we take responsibility for the structures we leave in our wake and that we’ve consciously  taken a leadership role in the home building industry.
By building “Future Proof” homes, we provide our clients with much more than beautiful, one of a kind homes that are durable, safe,energy and resource efficient. We bring our clients sense of pride, for doing the right thing, on their own behalf, for our environment and for generations to come.

If you’d like to realize the benefits and sense of pride in building a “Future Proof” home, contact us today.
Great Lakes Carpentry is “Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow.”