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Assorted Home Improvement Planning questions...

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Gooserider, Mar 4, 2008.

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  1. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The GF is going to have the mortgage paid off on our house in about a year, so we are looking at a bunch of different sorts of home improvement projects that we will be able to afford given the lack of a mortgage payment. Mostly we are in the "data-gathering" stage right now, looking at different ideas and options. We have decided on a few things as absolute priorities, but aren't sure about just how we would best meet them. Thus I have a few questions that I'd like some opinions on...

    Baseline - the house is about 30 years old, walls appear to be 2x4 stud w/ fiberglass bat insulation, probably not done all that well... Windows are double pane, some original, some replaced about 5 years ago, no storms. The style is contemporary, sort of a "ski chalet" style w/ a 12/12 pitch roof, full basement 2.5 bath, 3 BR, living room, and combined kitchen/dining room. The VC Cat Encore in the living room, running pretty hard, but within it's limits, keeps us barely around 65* on the first and second floors, with a little help from the gas HVAC system, but does nothing for the basement.

    1. One of our given's is that we want to significantly improve our insulation values - To help figure this out, I'm using the Slant-Finn "Heat Loss Explorer" program they offer as an aid to boiler sizing. This works but a lot of their factors are very approximate - does anyone have a suggestion for a better program, or a way to better calculate my insulation factors for our exact wall construction, etc. I want to get as exact a set of numbers as I can, so that I can best evaluate what impact a given change would have on our heating comfort...

    2. We have a severe allergy to maintainance - at least when it can be avoided by appropriate product selection... The house currently has vertical shiplap siding, pretty, but it leaks on the vertical seams, I have no idea how much rot may be under it. We want to replace this with vinyl siding, and add as much insulation as we can at the same time. We've been told there isn't much that can be done with the fiberglass batts in the walls, so our only real option is to go with either a foam backed siding, or a regular siding with a special foam insulation board under it, neither will add more than about R-3 to the total, if that... Are there any better options?

    3. While we are reasonably happy with the Pella windows that we put in a few years ago, (Aluminum exterior, wood interior) we have several others that are in need of replacement - the wooden bits aren't in good shape, visible seal failures, etc... We have been talking with people like "Renewal by Anderson" about their higher quality composite wood windows, vs. others selling higher end vinyl replacements - The vinyl replacements tend to be triple pane, Kripton gas filled, with much better U-values than the double pane, Argon filled wooden windows - but the wood composite people claim their windows hold up much better and claim rapid seal failure on the vinyls and other quality problems... The pricing was about the same on both... Assuming that we were comparing top-quality vinyl windows (not Home Depot specials) and the high end composit wood windows, is there any reason to avoid going for the triple pane vinyls?

    4. The basement is about 4' above grade, w/ bare concrete walls on the exterior, most of the interior is insulated with 2x4's, fiberglass batts, and wood plank panelling. Is there anything cost effective we can do to improve the insulation on the exterior of the basement walls?

    Lots of other questions, but that is a starter...

    Gooserider

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  2. jgoodnow

    jgoodnow New Member

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    Sounds like you have a forced hot air system, but you might try John Siegenthaler's Hydronic Design Studio, which has a heat loss module. I also recommend reading Chapter 2 of Siegenthaler's Modern Hydronic Heating on heating load estimates.

    Regarding replacement windows, I looked at Renewal by Andersen as well as top-of-the-line replacement windows from Andersen, Pella, and Marvin. I found Renewal by Andersen to be horrendously overpriced. Ultimately I went with Andersen 400 Series Woodwright® Double-Hung Insert Replacement Windows. I got 15 windows for about $10K, not including installation (the windows were wood with vinyl exterior cladding, 6-over-6 with permanent interior and exterior grilles and between-the-glass spacers). If you really want to go high-end you might look at some European brands. I don't know of any specific brands or dealers, though.

    One thing you might consider is having a professional energy audit done to help identify cost-effective improvement projects. This would include an infrared scan and blower door test. It would cost several hundred dollars but should be well under $500.
  3. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    Try http://www.masssave.com/customers/. They may have some answers. There is a ton of info on the web, just google your questions. Sometimes it may take a while to track down the answers but it's worth it to do it right and also get the best bang for the $$.
  4. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    Anderson 400 windows are going in my house in Wisconsin. I have 4 large ones to go and 3 in the basement. I stand infront of the single pane windows and they are coooooolllllddddddd. I go to the new ones at 10 below and nothing. My experience is extreme with single to double and low e but it probably would lower my needed btus by a third. Also the amount of insulation around the windows was bad at my home. I used window dap spray foam and now the brick, windows, and around the windows are airtight. No breezes here! Pook said r-10 foam...just make sure it is covered. There is a vinyl or you could green treat the outside with slats and foam in between then use the new siding over it to give a more finished look. Thats my 2 cents worth. Congrats on fending off the bank by the way!!!
  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Well one of the things that has been interesting is that we went to a Home Show a few weeks ago, and got signed up with all sorts of people, and most of them seem to want to come see us and sell us their services... Biggest callers are Window, Siding and Sunroom types, or combinations thereof...

    The siding folks all seem pretty consistent that they don't think you should put up heavy foam insulation - such as the R10 stuff, some even claim it's against code, others just say it will cause mold problems because it will keep the house from breathing. They all want to either do the 3/8" thin foam board, or the foam backed siding, but nothing more than that. However I know I've SEEN houses that looked like they were being covered in the heavy foam board....

    Most tend to say that if we are going to do windows and siding, we should do the windows first as it makes the siding easier to work with and fit around the windows better - I'm inclined to believe that...

    We were thinking about sunrooms, but the more we look at them, the less interesting they seem to be, as there seem to be issues about heating them (one guy claimed that if you have a wall with more than 60% glass it has to be isolated from the rest of the house, and can't use the house heating system.) and really not being sure they fit our lifestyle...

    I've been fantasizing about additions and / or more garage / shop space, trying to put in a gasification boiler and slowly converting the house over to hydronic from the current HVAC setup, etc... The question is how to pay for it all...

    (One minor debate I'm having with the GF - assuming we need to do some sort of home loan to pay for the upgrades, are we likely to be in better position to negotiate with the lenders with the mortgage fully paid off, or trying to do a re-finance with the current situation of having a bit less than a year to go? - any thoughts? (Either way, I'm pretty sure we'd be a good mortgage risk as we have no other debt besides the mortgage and keep it that way...))

    Gooserider
  6. jgoodnow

    jgoodnow New Member

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    Goose, it sounds like most of your projects fall into the realm of energy efficiency upgrades. There are Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) available for this. I think you can get them to buy an energy efficient house or to do energy efficient remodeling projects. I also think the terms are better than what you can get for a standard remodeling loan or mortgage.
  7. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    I have 2x6 walls with R19, outside is covered in 1" foam board, no problems here. Even has house wrap over the foam board. Then wood shakes made out of vinyl. 1" or foam board is = to R-5 I believe.
    You want to do the insulation first, then windows, then siding. Your research will probably give you more & more complete answers than siding contractors. They want in quick, slap it up, make the cash and on to the next one.
    Thats why they want to do thinner sheets, or the stuff siding with insulation built in. How tight can you imagine insulation on siding is if it has seams every pc of siding? DO avoid foil faced insulation at the very least on walls that get sun. It has the potential of warping & semi melting the siding/ It will also cause the siding to buckle during the time its in direct sun. Usually tightens back up as the sun goes down and temp cools. Best I can advise is just stay away from the foil faced insulation.
  8. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    In Wisconsin new home by code have to have r-10 foam on the outside. Steer clear of those siding guys. Yes, do the windows 1st... You can do them yourself if you are a little bit handy. As for the loan, I am in finance. It only matters what risk you are. The lenders look at amount borrowed, value of the home, credit score, and debt to income ratio. Owing a few grand more will not make a difference based on the amount of money you are looking for. Heck, if its under 125k in my area you are actually penalized and pay a higher rate because the bank/broker makes less on the back end funding of the loan. If it were me I would line everything up, get a locked price in, and then take it all to the lender for the loan and borrow 15% more or open a home equity line of credit. That way there is no interest until the loan funds and you are not paying for idle money.
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