Monthly Archives: July 2012

Understanding Attic Insulation

Today’s rising energy costs are leading to an increase in energy-saving home improvements such as attic insulation, window replacement, wall insulation, etc.  If you are considering taking on one of these projects, make sure you first understand the facts!

When considering attic insulation, remember that not all types of insulation perform the same.  The three most common types of attic insulation are: traditional fiberglass, blown-in cellulose and spray foam insulation.  (Spray foam insulation is better at sealing against air infiltration from the outside, and is mainly used for insulating stud walls.)  For attic insulation, professionals are using either rolled-out fiberglass, or blown-in cellulose.

Attic floor insulation is vital to a comfortable, energy-efficient home.  The goal, in the winter time, is to keep the heat that your furnace produces within the envelope of the home.  Since heat rises, the majority of heat lost within the envelope is not lost through the walls, but through the ceiling and into the attic.  Attic ventilation plays a significant roll in this process as well.  If the attic’s exhaust ventilation exceeds the amount of intake ventilation, then the exhaust components (ridge vents or can vents) will draw their intake from the envelope of the home, literally pulling warm air from the home only to be exhausted through the vents!  Proper attic insulation will help to keep the warm air in the envelope in the winter, and keep hot air building up in the attic during the summer from radiating through into the living spaces below.  Read our article: “Tips about Roofing and Attic Ventilation” here.

When choosing the right type of attic insulation for your home, you should understand the math behind your options.  Insulation is rated by an “R value” (R stands for resistance); the higher the R value, the more resistance to heat transfer, and therefore a better insulator.  Traditional fiberglass insulation has an R value of around 3.2 per inch, while blown-in cellulose has an R value of 3.9 per inch. Blown-in cellulose is more energy efficient because it creates a monolithic blanket, whereas fiberglass leaves gaps where heat can still seep through and into the attic. For northern climates, such as Michigan, Energy Star recommends a R-55 for attic insulation. 

What does this mean for you?  First determine how much insulation you have currently.  Most homes today have at least 5″ of fiberglass rolled out on the attic floor  So for example, if you have 5″ of fiberglass, you have about R-16 currently.  So to reach R-55, you would need to add at least 10″ of cellulose (R-39).  Most professionals will exceed the minimum amount by a couple of inches to account for settling of the cellulose over time.  Cellulose will rarely settle more than an inch or two over a period of 10 years.

The most common mistake made when blowing in attic insulation is poor preparation.  Professional installation should include boxing off/around things in the attic such as recessed lighting, vents, duct work, etc.  This will prevent the cellulose from falling through the ceiling into the living spaces below.  Also, make sure baffles are used to prevent the cellulose from covering intake ventilation for your attic (usually at the soffit).  The last thing you want to do is to suffocate your attic; you need to maintain a constant flow of air along the entire underside of the roof decking.  If you don’t install baffles when blowing in cellulose, you risk blocking the flow of air into your attic.  This can result in premature shingle deterioration, shingle curling and mold/moisture issues in the attic.

To talk more about your specific attic insulation needs, call Kopke today at (586) 777-6633.

Tips for New Home Building

I have been receiving emails lately asking advice about New Home Building. As you may or may not know, we offer Custom Home Building services, and would be happy to chat with you about your personal questions or concerns!

A new home is going to cost between $100 and $150 per square foot, plus land costs, plus driveway, landscaping, sidewalks, etc. When you build a new home, there is a lot of extra expenses that the builder does not usually mention.

We are a different kind of builder, where we want you to know up front the true overall costs that you need to budget for.

When building a new home today, the things that matter are different than years ago when energy was cheap. Today you should consider high efficiency products that will cost more up front, but will cost less in the long run.

Although there are at least 100 decisions that affect the price, the biggest price difference is the decision to go with full brick or not.

I built a new home in Romeo in 2009. It is a 3000 sq. ft. ranch with a full finished walk-out basement, including upgrades to all phases of construction. The cost was $450,000 ($150/sq. ft.), including the yard, driveway, landscaping, full brick, 3 car garage, a swimming pond, and 5 acres of land.

So if you build a 1,500 sq. ft. ranch with some high efficiency products, no finished basement, brick front, sided sides and back, etc. I would expect the price to be closer to $150,000 plus land, and extras, for a total of $250,000 +/-.

That being said, can you buy a 1,500 sq. ft. home, and fix it up to what you want in a home for less than $250,000? It really depends on your priorities. My personal feelings are that a new home is a better value for several reasons, the main one being energy efficiency, and the fact that it would be 100% brand new. We can design the home to be exactly what you want in terms of room sizes, etc, to make sure that no square footage is wasted on rooms that don’t get used. (i.e. the front living room of most older ranches).

As the housing market comes back, home values will rise, and the newer homes will rise the fastest, especially if they have incorporated high efficiency and low cost of ownership into the design.

The cost of building is also going to rise rapidly, as soon as the demand for new homes comes back, because suppliers and sub-contractors have been waiting anxiously to raise prices as soon as demand increases for their services.

We build anywhere – in the woods, or subdivisions – doesn’t matter to us.

Step 1 is to decide on a house plan, so that the width of the home is known.

I recommend that you look at the “Cool House Plans” web site (www.coolhouseplans.com) and pick out a home that you like. But don’t buy the plans – just write down the plan number and send it to me. With the plan number, I can tell you how much it would cost to build.

 
 

Step 2 is to obtain land that the home will fit on with at least 10 ft. extra on either side. (A 40 ft. wide home would need at least a 60 ft. wide lot, etc.)

Some things to consider when looking at land:

  • Flat is cheaper to build on.
  •  Look up, and stay away from giant towers with overhead wires.
  •  Nearby airports are noisy.
  •  School system reputation affects resale value.
  • Trees are expensive to remove.
  •  Dirt roads are hell on vehicles, and lowers resale value.
  •  Try to buy a lot where the rear faces south or west.
  •  Square lots are better than deep ones.
  •  Main roads and Mile roads lower resale value.

For more information, email Dave Kopke: davekopke@kopkehome.com

Choose a Remodeling Company with an Interior Designer

As a consumer, many ideas may come to mind prior to picking a company for your kitchen or bathroom remodel. If you want to make sure to incorporate some or all of those ideas into your plan, it is important that you are dealing with a remodeling company that has an Interior Designer on staff. There are countless complicated issues that can arise during kitchen and bath projects which require design, planning for hidden obstacles, color, form and function. Many of these things cannot be properly addressed with just any old contractor.

An Interior Designer is able to eliminate much confusion and bring clarity to a project. Explaining your ideas to your Designer, he/she is able to see your needs and this will enable the designer to bring forth a more functional design plan to address these needs. He/She is also able to incorporate the latest design trends along with his/her unique vision. This in turn will bring a one-of-a-kind, yet timeless design to your newly remodeled space for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

Choosing the Right Glass for Your New Windows

Today’s rising energy costs make choosing the right window a crucial decision.

When replacing windows you must first consider that 80% of the window is the glass, therefore the most important part of your window. There are so many different types of glass available today that it can be very confusing for consumers.

There is clear glass, insulated glass, Low-E glass, tinted glass, double-pane glass, triple-pane glass, laminated glass, tempered glass, the list goes on and on. So which is the best for your particular needs?

Just about all replacement windows now will have a minimum of clear insulated glass, which is 2 panes of glass spaced anywhere from 1/2″ to 1″ apart, and then filled with argon gas. The argon gas between the glass is an inert gas (that is significantly thicker than oxygen) which acts as an insulator by slowing the heat from passing through the glass. Some companies are using krypton gas instead of argon in the window because it is thicker and heavier. However, the cost difference between the two is significantly greater for the krypton gas. The energy savings, however, are not as significant. So in my opinion, your money is better spent upgrading the glass itself than upgrading the gas between the panes.

Low-E glass is nothing new; it has been around for decades. Ford Motor Co. originally started using Low-E glass in their cars to keep the dashboards from cracking, and interiors from fading from sunlight. Over the years, it has made its way into the replacement window market. The original purpose of Low-E in residential windows was to filter out the UV rays from the sun, keeping your carpet, drapes, and upholstery from fading. Since then, it has also been marketed as an energy saving feature. However, not all versions of Low-E glass perform the same as others. Low-E stands for Low Emissivity, NOT Low Energy, as some consumers are lead to believe. There is hard coat Low-E, soft coat Low-E, double Low-E, Low-E squared, not to mention that different companies use different chemicals in their Low-E coatings such as: tin nitrate, silver oxide, or combinations of different chemicals.

So how do you choose which one is right for you? And since they all look the same, how do you know what you’re really getting?

The government has now made it mandatory for all replacement windows to have a label that tells the consumer what the particular window’s U-Factor is. The U-Factor is the speed at which heat is lost or gained through the glass. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the glass is. For a replacement window, you must have a 0.35 U-Factor or below to be Energy Star approved. In order to qualify for federal tax credits, the U-Factor must be 0.30 or below. There are now some windows that have a U-Factor as low as 0.20 and others that are as high as 0.45. Usually the more energy efficient the window is, the more expensive it is to manufacture, therefore having a bigger price tag for the consumer. However, additional costs to upgrade to a high performance window are usually recouped within about 3 years just in increased energy savings!

The bottom line is: you have to consider what your intentions are with your home. If you’re planning to live in the home for several years, it may be well worth the extra money to upgrade to a high performance window. If you’re planning to sell the home in the near future, you may want to elect to go with a less efficient product to keep the cost down.

Visit our website to learn more.

Tips about Roofing and Attic Ventilation

The most common problem with roofs installed today is poor ventilation.

Ventilation is the single biggest indicator of how long your new roof is going to last.  I’ve seen 50-year shingles fail after only 8 years, and conversely I’ve seen 25-year shingles last well past their warranty period.The key to achieving longevity with your new roof is to create a “Balanced Ventilation System”.  A balanced ventilation system means that the amount of exhaust ventilation is equal to the amount of intake ventilation.  Most roofers today understand that you need to have exhaust ventilation to allow hot, moist air that accumulates in the attic to be expelled.  However, most roofers today do not fully understand that it takes equal or greater intake to truly flush out the hot air.

 

A well-ventilated attic not only prolongs the life of your roof, but also helps reduce utility costs and make the home more comfortable.  The ideal ventilation system will provide a constant flow of cool, dry air along the entire underside of the roof decking.  Think about the old Hawaiian Punch cans that you used to have to punch two holes in for the juice to pour out.  What happened if you only punched one hole in the can?  You would have a huge mess, because the juice would not pour out smoothly.  The second hole was necessary to allow air to enter the can at the same rate as the juice poured out.  The same principle applies to roof ventilation.  You can have plenty of exhaust ventilation (ridge vents or can/box vents), but if they are not matched with an equal or greater amount of intake, they are of little use.  Today’s building codes require a minimum of 1 square foot of N.F.A. (Net Free Area) per every 300 square feet of attic floor space.  It is O.K. to exceed minimum code requirements, as long as you can balance the exhaust with equal or greater intake.

For Example: a 1200 square foot attic would require a minimum of 4 square feet of N.F.A.  To achieve balance, you would want to have 2 square feet of exhaust and 2 square feet of intake.  This is now an exact science, so when choosing a company to replace your roof, make sure they have a good understanding of roof ventilation and the math involved.

There are several factors that can “short-circuit” your ventilation system.  You must take into account any gable vents on the home , as they may actually disrupt the flow of air from your intake vents to your exhaust vents.  Some homes do not have overhangs, thereby making intake ventilation more of a challenge.  However, experienced roofers can create adequate intake even on homes without any overhangs at all.

Keep the following basic rules, and common mistakes in mind when interviewing a contractor for your roof replacement:

  • How long has the company been in business? (96% of roofing companies fail or change their name within the first 5 years)
  • Is the company licensed and insured?
  • Are they providing any additional coverage other than the manufacturer’s limited warranty?
  • How do they plan to achieve a balanced ventilation system?
  • You should never combine 2 different types of exhaust ventilation (ridge and can vents) on the same home.
  • When using a ridge vent for exhaust , all gable vents should be blocked off from the inside to prevent a short-circuit.
  • The best performing ridge vents will have an external baffle to deflect wind driven rain and snow, and create better airflow.

The key thing to remember is that while exhaust ventilation, such as ridge or can vents, are important, just as important, but more often overlooked, is intake ventilation.  Exhaust ventilation is of no use if it is not matched by an equal or greater amount of intake.

Visit our website to learn more.