Last week we hit a number of big milestones. The house has new ductwork, is completely insulated, and the crawlspace encapsulation is almost finished. Mitch Sosebee with Sosebee Services replaced all of the ductwork on the heating and cooling system. The old system was poorly installed and incredibly filthy, but is now in good shape. I’ll publish a detailed post about that process soon.
The house is also insulated! I’m not going to lie, it was beginning to feel like this day would never come. We’re using spray polyurethane foam (SPF) insulation along the roofline, exterior walls, and crawlspace walls. The spray foam is from Premium Spray Products and was installed by Advanced Energy Insulation (AEI). GreenShortz is producing a short video about the spray foam, which should be online soon.
Tom Mills with GreenShortz interviews Moody Ozier with Premium Spray Products.
Renovating the Green on Gift home has made it very clear that I would be terrible at flipping homes for maximum profits. There may be people out there who can renovate and sell homes profitably without compromising quality, but that tends to be pretty rare. While I was house hunting, I saw many homes that were clearly renovated to sell quickly while ignoring or, most commonly, hiding major structural and building performance problems that are costly to correct down the line.
One such example of corner-cutting to save cash is the old porch that was previously discussed. During the renovation, we discovered that one of the wood framed walls of the old porch had no structural sheathing (Figure 1). In new homes, structural sheathing is generally 4’x8′ sheets of plywood or OSB installed on the exterior of the wall framing (vertical and horizontal studs). The combination of sheathing and wall framing is what gives the wall its strength. The Wood composite siding was attached directly to the wall studs and then covered with vinyl siding, which has not held up well over the years. The vinyl shows signs of melting, either from a grill or the reflection from the neighbor’s windows (Figure 2). Another wall of the old porch is finished with fiber cement siding. I don’t know why they opted to use two different types of siding, but it definitely looks junky. Read more
Okay, I’ll admit it. What we’re doing with the exterior walls may seem a little odd. Since the house is structural masonry there is no easy way to insulate the exterior walls, let alone add electrical outlets or light switches. We’ve opted to fur out the walls on the interior to provide space for insulation and utilities.
Framing these walls, however, posed an interesting problem. On the one hand we want to keep the new framing separate from the brick wall to prevent moisture wicking into the wood. We also want to use the smallest dimension lumber possible maximize the space for insulation in the walls and to stay within budget. We’re insulating the walls with spray polyurethane foam insulation (SPF), which is great at filling in small cracks and works well when the substrate is uneven (in this case a combination of plaster and exposed brick). It also provides some added strength to the wall by “gluing” the components together. SPF is a combination of two liquids that when combined rapidly expand, similar to shaving cream. Unlike shaving cream, it’s rather forceful and can actually bend, twist, and bow wood. So how do you install 2x3s approximately 1 inch off from a brick wall that will be insulated with spray foam?
A significant element of the Green on Gift renovation is the conversion of the enclosed porch into a second bathroom. At some point, a previous owner converted the back porch, accessible through the living room, into a storage room. They likely did this to increase the square footage of the house, but the transformation was incomplete–an exterior window remained looking into the second bedroom, and the floor became uneven over time.
Left: The original bedroom window was removed and the opening converted to a doorway. Right: The enclosed porch pre-renovation.
I decided to convert this unusual porch/storage room into an en-suite second bathroom. Early in the demo process, we created small holes to see if the walls were insulated. The wall on the left was, but the back wall was not, so both walls will be insulated with spray polyurethane foam insulation. Read more
Here’s the latest video explaining the big surprise we discovered in the walls… the Green on Gift home is constructed of structural brick! Please subscribe to the YouTube channel to get video updates.