A Tale of Two Rooftops

14 02 2011

The snow on my rooftop is melting much more slowly than that on on the other houses, since my house keeps the heat in! And, note the beautiful new siding!


Inside Foam Job cont’d

6 02 2011

When we decided to foam the basement walls, we had to make a decision about whether to put in a perimeter drain. Liane’s basement is generally fairly dry (except when there’s a plumbing leak). But in this era of climate change, extreme weather, and biblical floods–even in Somerville–we decided that the responsible thing was indeed to install a perimeter drain. We would connect it to the foundation walls by means of a drainage mat which could send any moisture coming through the walls–down along the perimeter drain. A pump in a sump at the low end of the basement could pump any accumulated water out if necessary (whatever its source). So that’s what we did.

The diamond blade that cut along the perimeter of the basement

Diamond saw marks

A little (actually a lot) of drilling

Abi putting up the Cedar Breather, which actually worked as a more affordable approach to a drainage mat.

Rick and Abi with the Cedar Breather--and note that the electrical panel has been moved inward temporarily

Laying out the filter fabric wrapped, perimeter drain line which was installed deeper than what is shown here. Btw, the foundation walls are fieldstone with brick above.

Concrete covering the perimeter drain. Yes, we had to go around the Pheonix because of the switch in how to deal with the basement.

We did decide to cover the basement windows and to later foam over them. Liane only uses her basement for storage and the building systems. If she wants to have windows in her basement at a later time, they can always be cut out through the rigid and the spray foam from the outside.

and there's the sump...

No, we haven’t seen any closed cell foam in the basement yet–but it’s coming in the next post. Just wanted to let you know what we needed to do before we could foam. Dealing with moisture is probably one of the most important things in any retrofit–deep or not.

Air By-Passes…

19 01 2011

Ambrose, one of our DER gurus checking out the sidewall for bypasses

While you’ve got to have good air for your human lungs to breathe in a house, you don’t want to have uncontrolled holes letting air in and out, and giving an easy ride for lots of heat to exit and enter.  Air by-passes, thermal bridging and moisture penetration are anathema to a deep energy retrofit.  You’d think that with a superinsulated retrofit, we wouldn’t have an air bypass problem, but we did—because of the structure of the house. The rafters were sitting on 2×10’s laid flat across joists that protrude outboard from the sidewalls like the fins on a motorcycle engine (wierd metaphor, but that’s what they reminded me of).  Needless to say–a “chainsaw” retrofit–to keep a continuous air and water plane, became out of the question.

Joists above the southeast sidewall

Rafters and joists with structural plate in between

"Motorcycle fin" joists above southeast sidewall

"Crenellating" the rigid foam around each joist--2 layers worth...

Yes, we could have boxed everything in–but that didn’t happen. Instead, we spray-foamed the ____ out of all the air-bypasses at the joists (at least I hope we did…). And then used some nano-paint to try to “assuage” the conductive heat loss. I’m not sure the strategy really worked. An infrared scan will let us know soon enough.

Spray foam (closed cell) at the soffit joists

Nanopaint at joists but not at "joist-tails" that are just extending the roof eaves visually.

How we might have dealt with air bypasses and thermal bridging from the inside--if the attic sprayfoam had gone according to plan--see next post...

Resuming the Blog

1 10 2010

Okay, the time has finally come to resume this blog.  The end of the summer came and went, with vacation breaks for most of us working on this DER.  Our wonderful intern Natalia returned to her architectural studies, and we have been working mostly on the interior of Liane’s house this past month.  We are not promising regular blog entries (since we are not as young as Natalia) but we will keep you posted as we can.  Thanks so much Natalia, for all your documentation help this summer—we miss your energy, capacity, and enthusiasm. So, what’s been happening at Liane’s place? To pick up where we left off—the back entry stair and landing–here’s what it used to look like. It sucked up moisture and the landing area had begun to rot the sill of the house.
After much demo, debris removal, and digging out of rocks, this is the back entry area without the old, moisture absorbing, concrete stair. And here is the new wood stair, turned into a mini back porch–just about complete–with a nice shed roof to shed the rain.

Trim and Foundation

5 08 2010

It has been raining most of the afternoon today – so Liane’s house, especially the windows, are getting tested for leaks. I’m sure all will be well since our hose test showed just how serious the Serious windows are when it comes to moisture penetration. The house is wrapped in its insulating coat and the roof is all finished, flashing included. All that remains is the siding and systems.

The sand has been moved to the side so that work on the new stairs may begin.

The hole where the new foundation will be poured.

We have to go 4' down!

The trim around the roof is finished.

And flashing is in place to divert water.

A hole is cut in the wall of the 3rd floor apartment to allow access to a future HRV.

Rick works on the access hatch.

New Roof!

28 07 2010

The new roof is looking great!  It should have a chance to prove itself tomorrow since we are expecting rain.

Look at that gorgeous roof!

Close up of the tiles. Notice how light they are: this will help reflect heat rather than absorb it.

Notice all the layers of the roof! All that extra stuff required extended rafters to support the new roof.

Joist and rafter "tails" extend the roof and resolve the fattened geometries of roof and walls nicely. Note the ends of the old attic joists sticking out--more on them later...

We actually had issues with leaky windows. But the problem had not been with the windows at all. The issue was with the detailing at the roof, particularly under the dormer and at the front bay of the house. Rick figured out the problem and reflashed properly. Thank you Rick!

We once had some back stairs...

...but they have been demolished and will be replaced by a much nicer wooden staircase.

Finished Windows

28 07 2010

The Serious windows have all been installed, and now it’s time to finish them on the interior: no more visible ice & water shields or house frame!  All the windows are fitted with Pressure Capillary tubes which are used to make sure that pressure between the panes of the window is equalized (they were manufactured at a higher altitude than where they have been installed).  This makes sure that the glass remains flat and doesn’t bow out.  The balloon at the end of each capillary tube should remain slightly inflated (not droopy) if pressure is equalized.

Finished window with capillary tube and balloon.

Instructions for the capillary tube.

Triple-pane Serious windows.

All done!

Work has also continued on the roof:

The plywood is nearly covered in the ice & water shield.

Left side of the roof: already has trim applied to the edge.

Right side: still needs trim and a little smoothing.