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Articles About Building High Performance Custom Homes

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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A few hundred dollars of prevention can save future headaches.

By Tim Biebel / June 25, 2017

Radon is a no stranger to this area of the country. Not all homes have a radon problem but it’s impossible to know if a new home will have a problem until it’s complete. Trying to remediate the problem after a home is finishes is cumbersome and ugly. It’s better…

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Down the Up Staircase – How an Eyesore Became a Centerpiece

By Prudent / June 16, 2017

When Tom and Sarah purchased an 1870 farm house and barn in West Windsor, Vermont, in 2003, their farm was already famous. For example, they were told by several locals that “Good Morning, America” had once used the barn as a backdrop for one of their programs. And a 500-piece…

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What Is The Value of a Human Life?

By Prudent / June 9, 2017

Reflections on Forty Years of Building Codes by Paul Biebel, Founder and President, Prudent Living, Inc. Forty-three years ago, when I was just starting to learn different facets of the building trade, I worked as an unofficial apprentice to a licensed electrician in his eighties who had been around since…

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How Does a Grid-Tied Solar Photovoltaic System Work In Your High Performance Home?

By Prudent / May 29, 2017

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems provide clean electricity that has many benefits. Renewable energy is better for the environment, better for your bottom line, and is long lasting. So while it is easy to understand the benefits of clean energy, it is not alwayseasy to understand how it is produced. Certain components required by code have been left out…

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The 3 Latest Technologies You Need to Build a Net Zero Home in Vermont

By Prudent / May 25, 2017

  Are you thinking about building a net zero home in Vermont but find the technical terms confusing? Many of the terms used to describe net zero can be confusing only because they are new terms. A net zero home in Vermont or New Hampshire—regions known for temperature extremes—needs to…

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The Construction of a High-Performance Home: Week 12

By Prudent / April 28, 2017

An air tight barrier in a high performance home is critical to making the home perform at a high level of energy efficiency. To ensure that we are meeting our own expectations for air tightness, I perform a blower door test on the house at least once during construction to identify…

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The Construction of a High-Performance Home: Week 11

By Prudent / April 24, 2017

I have this dream that I will one day live in a high-performance home. It’s hard not to want to when you are involved with building them each day. Super tight construction, high levels of insulation, largely maintenance free, and inexpensive to heat and cool! Who wouldn’t want that? At…

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The Construction of a High-Performance Home: Week 10

By Prudent / April 21, 2017

Week ten was one of those weeks where it would be difficult to notice how much work was accomplished on this high performance home if you hadn’t been on site all week to see firsthand. These are the times when the crew loves it when I show up and say,…

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Why Build a High-Performance Home?

By Prudent / April 14, 2017

If you’re thinking of building a high-performance home, and you want the best “bang for your bucket of bucks,” prudence suggests that you consider the advantages of going high-tech, even perhaps aiming for a net-zero home. “Net-zero” describes a home in which the renewable energy sources that are incorporated into…

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The Construction of a High-Performance Home: Week 9

By Prudent / April 6, 2017

With insulation planned for the coming week, the crew has turned their attention to preparing the air barrier on the exterior walls of this high-performance home. The air barrier, which is Intello Plus Membrane, is stapled to the studs on the exterior wall and will hold back the dense packed…

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The Construction of a High Performance Home: Week 8

By Prudent / March 28, 2017

I stopped by the high performance home site today and listened to the subcontractors in the attic above me murmuring about how it was such a pain to get anything done with the membrane already installed on the ceiling below. I chuckled. As high performance home builders, paying attention to energy…

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