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Articles About Building High Performance Custom Homes

The modified Cape / Farmhouse look fits the neighborhood

By Tim Biebel / November 20, 2017

 Cost and energy efficiency considerations drove many design decisions for the ProHOME project. But the upgrades inside, like the cabinets and counters in the kitchen and the radiant heat in the bathroom, help to make the sale. Watch this video to see how these factors related to finish a…

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ProHOME mechanicals demonstrate reasonably priced principles of efficient design.

By Tim Biebel / November 8, 2017

 The ProHOME is an all-electric and solar-ready house. Designing the mechanicals starts with the target R-values, then the design for the heating system. Minisplit heat pumps take care of heating and cooling. Because the ProHOME is airtight, it uses a ventilation system. We use a heat-pump water heater for…

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The Zehnder Ventilation System: Running The Ducting

By Tim Biebel / October 31, 2017

Tight houses need air exchange. Period. Our target air exchange rate for this house is less than 1 ACH50 and with a goal like that, a clean source of fresh air will be necessary. This was our first time using the Zehnder system. We’ve relied on another heat-recovery ventilator(HRV) product in…

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Boral’s TruExterior Siding & Trim offers a sharp, clean look

By Tim Biebel / October 28, 2017



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Minisplit System for a Happy Mother-in-Law

By Tim Biebel / October 19, 2017

The system is sized for temperature control in each room. The ProHOME is heated and cooled with Mitsubishi Heat Pumps. Specifically, there are two outdoor units (MXZ-3C24NAHZ2) that feed five indoor units (two on one outdoor unit and three on the other). This provides 48,000 btu’s of heating capacity, which…

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Triple-Pane Windows for Performance and Comfort

By Tim Biebel / September 28, 2017

Mathews Brothers windows are high-performance and locally manufactured. The windows of choice for the ProHOME are by Mathews Brothers. We like triple pane windows because they provide more R-value than a double pane, are less likely to have condensation than a double pane, and there is some added marketing value,…

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Traditional-Looking Clapboard Siding for a ProHome

By Tim Biebel / September 24, 2017

Boral siding will stand up to the weather without moisture concerns. Boral Bevel siding looks really sharp. The lines are crisp and blind nailing makes for a clean appearance. Other than blind nailing, it is installed just like wood clapboards. Chalk lines are snapped every four inches and boards are…

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Exterior Trim Painting

By Tim Biebel / September 10, 2017

Holding off on the roofing saves time painting. When possible, we like to spray paint the exterior trim of a house because it is a lot faster. Of course, no roofing can be in place and additional prep work such as covering the windows and doors with plastic is required,…

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Boral TruExterior Trim — A First Look

By Tim Biebel / September 7, 2017

Production builders try the composite building material and conclude that it is competitive with traditional wood options. The ProHOME has been our first experience with Boral TruExterior Siding and Trim. Because I hadn’t used the product before, I called up our local supplier to hear his thoughts on it. He…

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Second-Floor Air Barrier

By Tim Biebel / August 25, 2017

The interior air barrier is installed before framing the interior walls. A continuous air barrier is critical to a high-performance home. At the ProHOME, and most of our recent builds, we rely on Intello Plus membrane to carry the bulk of the workload when it comes to air sealing. Installing…

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Max Nail Guns Prove Popular at the ProHOME Build

By Tim Biebel / August 23, 2017

The crew foreman likes the new nail guns. “Hey, did your deodorant give out?” I heard one guy on the crew ask another as they were stapling 1×3 strapping over the Intello Plus membrane in a tight space on the second floor of the ProHOME on a hot, humid afternoon.…

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Detailing Window and Door Openings

By Tim Biebel / August 17, 2017

Thick walls mean tying together inner and outer rough openings. We are always tinkering with our framing techniques to try and improve them, but one that has worked well for the double-stud wall is to wrap the rough openings for doors and windows with Zip System sheathing and tape. It…

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Engineered Headers: Weyerhaeuser Parallam PSL beams

By Tim Biebel / August 14, 2017

For the window and door headers, we used 3½-in.-thick Weyerhaeuser Parallam PSL beams. Using Parallam PSL speeds up the framing process as they don’t require any assembly, the way sandwiching a piece of ½-in. plywood between two pieces of dimensional lumber would. Just cut them and nail and screw them into…

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Extra-Deep Roof Framing

By Tim Biebel / August 7, 2017

The ProHOME includes a clever approach to creating 20-in.-deep rafter bays for extra dense-pack cellulose insulation. For the most part, the roof framing of the ProHOME is standard:  2×12 rafters and 3.5-in.-by-16-in. Eastern Parallam PSL ridge beams provided by Weyerhaeuser make up the brunt of the framing. In addition, 6×6…

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Site-Built Approach to Roof Ventilation

By Tim Biebel / August 2, 2017

Dense-packed rafter bays need rigid vents.   The roof slopes in the ProHOME are dense-packed with 20 in. of cellulose. To provide adequate roof ventilation there is a ¾-in.-high air channel in each rafter bay directly under the roof sheathing. Dense-pack cellulose and cheap Styrofoam vent baffles don’t mix, so…

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Floor Framing Hung Off a Ledger

By Tim Biebel / July 31, 2017

Hanging a floor system off balloon-framed walls isn’t too different from platform framing. The floor system is comprised of Weyerhaeuser’s TJI joists, Microllam LVLs for ledgers, Timberstrand LSL Rim Board, and Huber’s Advantech flooring. Microllams are used where joist hangers are needed to support the TJIs and the LSL rim…

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“Temporary” Power

By Tim Biebel / July 20, 2017

How we start framing with permanent power installed Ideally, we want to have the permanent power operational before we begin framing. But, the utility meter needs to be installed on the building, at least in this area of the country. That poses a bit of a challenge: How can the…

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Foundation Air and Vapor Strategy

By Tim Biebel / July 10, 2017

Insulation is critical, but a continuous air barrier is just as important. A few years ago, we began using 15 mil-thick plastic as part of our under slab air and vapor strategy. Plastic that thick may seem like overkill to some, but I’ve remodeled multiple houses where the scope of…

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ProHOME is Part of a High-Performance Development

By Tim Biebel / July 7, 2017

The 2017 ProHOME is a part of an eight-house development of affordable, net-zero homes. In 2015, we set out to build the first ever net-zero community of homes in Vermont that could be priced as close to the surrounding existing market as possible. A local site contractor owned a 2.5…

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Foundation Insulation Strategy

By Tim Biebel / June 27, 2017

Like my head of hair, our foundations designs have changed over time. What once was full and blonde is now looking thinner with a few random grays, and what once was known as a standard foundation is quickly becoming obsolete. While the various past designs we have used are energy…

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Bringing Back Balloon-Framed Walls

By Tim Biebel / June 25, 2017

This framing method helps create a more energy-efficient thermal envelope and air barrier. On many of our homes, we balloon frame the exterior walls. This way, the studs carry past the floor system, instead of the more traditional method that has the floor system sitting on top of the wall.…

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