A Little on Internet Plans

Most, if not all, do not have the information required to obtain a building permit.  The permit is the goal of all plans in order to become a home or addition to a home.  C. L. Shade Drafting strives to provide all information needed to obtain this building permit by providing all information needed to construct the home or addition.  These items include:

  1. Foundation plan
  2. Floor plans
  3. Roof plans
  4. Elevations
  5. Wall sections
  6. Structural information
  7. Braced Wall Design

The United States generally works under a building code known as the International Residential Building Code or IRC.  This code provides for standard building methods across the country and most any home designer can now design for many different regions.  Of course you should consult with you Builder to make sure that this information is relevant to your areas because localities can impose their own requirements and some manufacturers products may need to be substituted for locally sold products.  A good example of this is the east coast has Hardees’ and the west coast has Carl’s Jr, same product different name.  But in general; if it works in Richmond it can easily be made to work in Memphis.

The second great fallacy of internet plans is how square footage is calculated.  Stairs, two story, clerestory areas do exist.  Even though there are big, sometimes giant, holes in the floor the Builder and his trades count this air.  Over the years it has generally been that internet plan square footages are about 25% low due to this space not being included in the square footage. While not including this space in the finished square foot number is accurate, the unfinished space as well a clerestory space can and should be shown separately for an accurate representation of the home.  Think about that when you are looking for a 2500 square foot home and the Builder looks at you and says it 3000 square feet when you ask why is it so expensive.  C. L. Shade Drafting calculates all the square footage under roof and will have an accurate representation for you based on ANSI standards and this document is available on request.

Thanks for reading and please enjoy my website


Green Building

The Green Movement has been building in earnest for many years now.  Some simple steps were taken and demonstration homes were built 30+ years ago.  Throughout time everyone has been working to build an energy efficient home in order to stay warm in the winter.  Recently the global community has been rallying to mitigate the effects of what is now labeled global climate change which in and of itself would help make our winter warmth a bit easier to achieve. To that end home builders and community activists are pushing green building initiatives such as Green Globes, Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED), and Earth Craft Home certification. These programs seek to achieve energy efficiency thru a variety of check lists and points system and rise to environmental stewardship as well thru the use of sustainable and recycled components. Many of these choices have been incorporated into homes by builders because they last longer and create fewer warranty calls for the builder to have to address. By doing so the building community has begun creating better products for the homeowner and is helping to make the environment better.

What do you want to achieve?

Environmental friendliness? Sustainable building materials? Less carbon footprint? Lower energy bills? Safe worker environment? Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) allergy tolerance mitigation? These are a few of the areas where a green building initiative can come into play.  You can do very simple things that will make the home energy efficient or you can do very invasive things that will go even further. It truly is up to you and making sure that you have a builder that is capable of providing this service to you.

I’ll write more on this subject in the ensuing weeks.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Does your Home Suck?

As a home designer for the past 10 years and a believer in energy efficient homes I feel pretty confident in how to design and implement an energy efficient home.
Insulation R values are a valuable tool but are not the end all be all of keeping energy costs low. Even doubling the R values required by the code (especially with batt fiberglass) will not have a cumulative effect if air-sealing is not part of this system. Too many builders ignore air-sealing of the exterior envelope to make the most energy efficient building systems.
Good holes, i.e Windows, Doors, Walls tightness; is the best way to create an energy efficient home. $150 vinyl windows are not the way to achieve this regardless of their NFRC ratings. They will fail.
Testing of the system when implemented by a Builder who has decided to create an efficient home thru the use of quality windows, doors, air-sealing and HVAC is the only way to achieve any long term energy efficiency in a home.
Retrofitting old homes with “new” “energy efficient” windows is a band-aid at best and will be money thrown down a well for the most part if the space between the jamb and the framing is not air-sealed. This can be done well if a balance pocket is present (something you see on Grandma’s windows) but is not present on more modern windows. The only way to do this is to remove the trim on the interior or the brick mould on the exterior. Education of the public may help but don’t count on there being a critical mass of purchasers making the change to informed consequential home design and building.
The use of Green Building in the industry has become so abused that it is now for the most part feckless in determining whether or not a home is built well or efficient. And the illusion of payback over time can be demonstrated for some systems and product choices but these are few and often have too many variables to predict. One of the energy efficiency gurus that I have worked with over the years likes to point to a spot in the house and say “My house leaks right there!” He knows where he has controlled the movement of air in the house and knows that what he has put in place will work. There are far too few looking at this level of design or implementation. Don’t fall into the trap.

Tips for Garages

Garages are very personal buildings. In the nine years I have been designing I do not believe that I have created the same Garage twice. Some want access to a second floor for storage or an apartment. Some need to stack cars on lifts to feed their auto Jones and others just need a place to park all the toys. Thinking about what you are hoping to achieve from your Garage may not be as simple as just saying “Honey, we need a garage”.

What is the main purpose of the Garage?

Most are looking to park a car for dry and warm access in times of inclement weather. For this you need to ask if you want to attach to the home or have a covered breezeway. Local jurisdictions will have say over how this breezeway can be attached and limitations to its size for the zoning in your area so having a knowledgeable designer and builder is helpful at the beginning. How many cars, what type of car, what type of toys, and how much storage are questions that need to be asked before and during the design process. The size of the garage may most depend on the potential vehicles that it will house. Think about the parking lot at the local grocery store. Are you comfortable getting in and out of your car? An average parking space is eight feet wide. Would you like more room in your Garage to get out with the groceries and the baby seat?

A quick calculation would look to have six feet +/- for the car and three feet (think of your homes front door) to either side for door swing. This would be a space of 12 feet per car. Making a two car garage at least 24’ wide to the interior! Add a typical foundation wythes to this mix and the Garage should be 25’-4” to the exterior. This exterior dimension also plays well with the current Residential Building Code when using a 16’ or 18’ overhead door. The doors themselves could add to this dimension and we will talk about that in another post.

Keep in mind that this has left no real room for storage to the sides if you want complete access although this is rarely addressed as part of the design despite what you may be told. The depth is usually pretty good at 24’ although as little as 22’ can be done. Keep in mind your vehicle when thinking about depth. You may be driving a midsize car now but the family van or SUV could be in the future. 22’ can get a little thin for that type of vehicle.

Interior stairs to a second floor will usually take up a side wall and generally rise to the center of the upper floor perpendicular to the ridge so that there will be sufficient headroom at the top of the stairs. This stairwell will eat into a bay of the garage fairly well and needs to be considered during the design process.

When designing a garage, there are certain building codes that can affect the design. For example, the overhead door sizes and the building code drive the width of your garage. The space required on either side of the door to meet the braced wall panel requirements of the Residential Building Code can drive the overall width of the Garage. It may not be as easy as having a 24’ square garage with two nine foot wide doors; it may need to be wider to accommodate the intent of the code.

There are several ways to meet the intent of the building code and each has their advantages and disadvantages. A particularly tall garage may have to have an engineer provide for the wall bracing. A tall foundation may need to be shortened to make the proscriptive method work thus resulting in a frame wall that is too tall and needs to be reviewed by an engineer. On the other end of this there are ways to work within the building code that can be implemented easily in the field and these are spelled out ad infinitum in the building code but these methods may limit how the Garage can be built. The builder and framing contractor should be aware and follow these methods but if more information or knowledge is needed then the designer should be able to answer the questions or these choices should already have been made during design.

Universal Design

Universal Remodeling and Design

As we grow accustomed to our homes we find that our needs change in the spaces that we have been living in. Windows are not as easy to open, doors seem a little too thin, and stairs just keep getting steeper.

It may be time to think about Universal Design, a concept by which the home can be remodeled to be easier as we mature. It may be time to move the master bedroom to the first floor. Is there a room (or rooms) that can be converted? Do you need to add on for the space? Is there a bath accessible or do you need to add one? There are lots of ideas and directions that you can go to fulfill your needs. Spending time to answer a few simple questions can lead to a world of satisfaction.

  • Access to kitchen
  • Access to bath
  • Access to the exterior
  • Access to bedroom
  • Dealing with stairs
  • Wheelchair or scooter access
  • Low or no threshold showers
  • Door handle-sets

Consultation with an home designer who has had these questions asked of them before can help to guide you in your future needs. Universal Design is not all about making the house look like an institution. It is about wedding different aspects of accessible and adaptable design. It is oriented around all age groups in a family being able to comfortably live in a home together.

Why Are Homes Expensive?

Among the obvious reasons are commodity, material, and labor prices as well as the run up in number of homes that where built and the availability of money. Among the lesser known reasons is the building code, minimum lot sizes, and expected amenities.

I have two 150 square drawings that I like to show clients. One is 10 x 15 has four corners and a 50’ perimeter. The other has an 86’ perimeter and 22 corners. We used to build them quick and inexpensive now we build them complicated and expensive. In the first 20 years I have been building it was rare to see a concrete pump truck visit a job-site. We used wheelbarrows and our backs. Now I’m not one to impede progress but that is a $500 item tacked onto every house. Granite was reserved for the well-to-do. Now it is in homes down in the $200k range. Irrigation systems are becoming normal, jetted whirlpool tubs, three and four bathrooms, and on and on and on. There is a point when the cost of a home outweighs the value of the home. That is part of what we have been seeing in this housing downturn.

The building code is designed for the safety and welfare of the homeowner. While it seeks to create a balance between cost and safety it generally errs on the side of safety. The most recent major change concerns an item known as Braced Wall Panels (BWP). More engineers and the plywood industry are making a bundle because of these regulations and for the most part the requirement is superfluous at best. But this requires additional work on the part of the home designer, the builder, the masonry contractor, the framing contractor, possibly the drywall contractor, and the building official at both the plan review stage and conducting inspections of the home during construction. Permit fees and construction time has increased because of this which leads to additional finance and carrying charges.

Many factors contribute to the cost of a home and most will ask for a cost per square foot. This can be terribly misleading and difficult to pin down because a lot depends on the choices of the homeowner. Most commodities that do fluctuate tend to not change the cost structure by too great a degree but a home owner never has a hard time finding a $600 sink that they just can’t live without.

Crawl Space

Most homes have them some do not. You may have a basement or be on an on-grade slab. To a certain extent this will pertain to basements that were built say 30+ years ago. Not so much now as there are very good waterproofing systems and methods that are required to be implemented when building new homes.

As a homeowner you need to inspect your crawl space at least once maybe twice a year. With a basement this is much easier in that you can walk around as opposed to crawling and possibly slithering in a crawl space, and basements usually have overhead lights which make this inspection easy. Crawl spaces should have lights installed there also to aid in this inspection over and above the required service light for mechanical equipment and such. Inspection may reveal a water intrusion from the exterior that is not readily visible because of plantings and mulch built up over the years through landscaping. Gutters can get clogged or broken. The yard can potentially slope back to the home instead of away. A hose can be left on to slowly drip drip drip without you knowing it. In the extreme this water can cause erosion of the footing under the foundation causing cracks and the foundation and interior wall surfaces. A small crack in the house may lead to a larger problem that could easily have been found early by just looking.

Less likely would be a pipe coming loose. Water pipes are usually pretty quick to find since you will hear water running or waste pipes too as there will be an odor associated with this disconnection. Slow drips or slight leaks are the ones to look for. Having the crawl space covered in a 20 mil or thicker poly will aid in this since puddles will form instead of being soaked up by the ground below. Kitty litter can be an affective way of cleaning up bulk waste (we had the kitchen sink pipe come loose after a clog was cleared by a drain snake and noticed an odor several days later after many a grind of the disposal sending leftovers to the waste facility) that may have escaped.

Other items may include running another phone line or outlet for Grandma’s newly acquired tiffany lamp and having a well lit crawl may keep your cost down because it makes the job easier.

Don’t forget the crawl space it is part of your home just like the exterior that everybody gets to see.

Thanks for reading and please visit my website

Mechanical Space

When I started writing this I was using the acronym HVAC for Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling. Since none of the equipment ventilates the areas that it conditions I am going to just call it HaC for Heating and Cooling

I prompted my Wife that the home we now own was the right one to purchase partially because the heating and cooling equipment is within the building envelope. It was built in 1954. Is full masonry construction and has old leaky windows. Having the HaC equipment within this envelope is a situation that rarely happens in new construction. Something that I discovered later and to my dismay I had abandoned is that each room of the home had a supply and a return in it. Interestingly the supply is in the center of the home and the return was at the exterior wall. Both of these are at floor level which is not generally accepted these days but we often still feed from the floor and return under a staircase which is generally low in the wall. Or in the case of second floors is fed from the ceiling and returned from the ceiling.

Today we supply over or below exterior openings since these are usually cooler or warmer depending on the season and through a process called the stack effect the warmer air moves to the top or the cooler air moves to the bottom creating convection in this area that helps to mix the air. (I would assume this is fairly localized and does not mix all the air in the room well.) In my case we abandoned the floor returns and placed a sealed duct return in the attic to the HaC equipment in the mechanical room. This allows for the air to be moved from floor to ceiling thus helping to even the temperature throughout the space. New construction HaC equipment is relegated to crawl spaces and attics. Generally this unconditioned space is either extremely hot or relatively moist in relation to the surrounding environment.

In the former the air-conditioning has to cool that 140 degree attic air before it can cool the air in the home. On top of that cooling is a process of removing moisture from the air, so unless the system is sized right and allowed to run for extended periods of time it will not remove latent and occupant moisture from the air and therefore not cool. The crawl space system may have an easier time of conditioning the air in its environment but it has the unenviable task of keeping all that dirt, grime, and possibly mold associated with crawl spaces out of the air-stream. This in and of itself is the best reason to seal duct work in the crawl space.

Conditioning the crawl space helps with the ducting problem and goes a long way to mitigating moisture and other contaminants in the crawl space environment. This also will allow the equipment to generally only work with conditioned air and will have an easier, read equipment sustainability, time of maintaining the temperature set at the thermostat.