Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Condensation on Windows - What's the deal?

A friend of mine has a 1950's house in which cheap replacement inserts were installed. He asks,

"Hey Abe, I want to pick your brain a bit. We have vinyl double hung windows in our home now with storms on the outside. When the weather cools down, moisture and frost almost immediately appears...a few of the storms are cracked so we ended up removing them yesterday, and they appeared to be pretty snugly installed, somuch that I broke a couple of the windows during this process since they were cracked already.

I'm not sure if the brand of windows matters, but do believe they aren't very high quality. Not sure if purchasing new storms would help? Any ideas or suggestions for a cost effective solution would be greatly appreciated."

The cause & solution depends: Is the frost on the storm window or on the interior window? Frost will almost always appear on the storm window and it usually indicates that the interior window is working OK! That's because it is keeping the heat in the house and the storm window is the cold surface.

However, it can occasionally indicate a different problem which is leakage of humid air from the house outside. This is sometimes from the replacement windows themselves, and other times due to the fact that they are an "insert" and there is leakage around them. It is hard to say.

I generally recommend leaving the storm windows in place. If the frost is inside the house, that is a different problem for us to talk about. That is probably a problem with humidity levels inside the home, or, having window coverings left down too long, or, in the mild fall weather, a VERY inefficient window.

You can also have a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR test completed to help determine other sources of air leakage and heat loss, and that testing will evaluate the potential energy savings from window replacement as well.

Degnan Design Builders Announces Alliance With New Business Associate

Abe Degnan, President of Degnan Design Builders, Inc. of DeForest, Wisconsin, is pleased to announce his company's alliance with AnneMarie Dresen of AnneMarie Design LLC. AnneMarie is an interior designer with over 20 years of experience. "We have chosen to work with AnneMarie because she has a heart for the interests of our clients, a long list of satisfied clientele, shares our values and has a wonderful talent for interior design."

AnneMarie received her training at the Colorado Institute of Art in Denver, Colorado. Since graduating, she has built experience through association with interior design firms in Colorado, North Dakota and Wisconsin. She has owned Annemarie Design LLC for over seven years.

Are you choosing to build, update your existing home through a massive remodel--or perhaps a less drastic change? Degnan Design Builders and AnneMarie Design will work together to create a unique and beautiful environment by giving their attention to the tiniest details so that your home will function well, represent your personal lifestyle and tastes, and be attractive to all who enter your home.

Our firms recently collaborated on a condo remodel project in Merrimac, Wisconsin. While Degnan Design concentrated on the construction aspect of the project, AnneMarie worked her charm to create a warm, inviting aura of Wisconsin in each remodeled condo.

One of the fireplaces at Summer Oaks,
a remodeled Condo in Merrimac WI.
General Contractor, Degnan Design,
coordinated the construction
while AnneMarie Design created the
"look and feel"

One of the values we share is that AnneMarie listens until she understands your needs. Her goal is to create a custom environment that is tailored exclusively to your taste, your unique individuality and any special dictates of the space. She provides benefits and needs that become uniquely yours.

A custom look created by
AnneMarie Design LLC

Together, Degnan Design Builders and AnneMarie Design strive to exceed your expectations. We at Degnan Design work out the construction details while AnneMarie devises the look and feel that is distinctively you. The result is minimized stress, an enjoyable remodeling process and the satisfied confidence that a knowledgeable team is guiding you.

Call us when you are ready to begin your next remodeling project. We will be happy to involve AnneMarie in our discussions to guide you with the decorative aspects of your remodel project planning, furniture layout, color consultation, custom window treatment, or to consult on space planning while we put together your remodeling plans.

Visit AnneMarie's website at http://www.annemariedesign.com/ to see more photos of her work.
Visit http://www.degnandesignbuilders.com/ to see photos of our projects.
You can find us on facebook .

Friday, December 4, 2009

How should you build your walls - balancing cost and efficiency?

A former employee of mine, Nick Thompson (who is also my cousin) recently asked me a question about how we build our walls now, compared to the early 2000's when he worked for me. For most of this decade we followed the principles of the Intelligent Wall method. Nick observed that on arecent project, we changed our methodology somewhat. We did this for specific reasons. Here are the details.

Nick asks, "Reading different stuff, some from your Facebook page, and comparing to what I thought I knew and what we did when I worked for Degnan Design Builders, Inc. Why is house wrap over foam not redundant? I always thought builders who put house wrap over foam were throwing money away."

The fact is, Nick - it is redundant, in a way. But as we've done some projects in the last 3 years we found reasons why to use Housewrap in addition to foam.

1) We found out how much foam shrinks over time. In 2007 we remodeled a home where my dad had done an addition in 1987 with 2x6 walls and 1" foam sheathing. When we re-sided, we found that all the seams in the foam had been taped. But, the foam shrunk and the tape broke loose, leaving some gaps and air infiltration. The housewrap will prevent that from happening.

2) On the big house in Pewaukee, we were intentionally redundant. We had a lot of stucco for the finish on that house, and we wanted a bond-break between the foam and the OSB wall sheathing. That house was fully sheathed in OSB, then it has housewrap over it, then it had foam, then the masonry or stucco finish. The stucco wire lath was fastened over the foam, and the stucco will adhere to the foam. The housewrap created a bond break to allow the stucco and foam to move interdependently (a tiny bit) compared to the structure of the house. This will keep the house energy efficient and air-tight and also it will help prevent cracking of the stucco.

3) So my new general rule is this: There should be 2 layers of "something" and the seams should overlap.
-When re-siding a house and adding a layer of foam over existing sheathing, those 2 layers will provide air tightness just by their sandwiching together. Taped seams will suffice for air sealing, and the sandwiched layers of material will provide the backup if there is shrinkage over time.
-It is noteworthy that Polyiso foam such as Tuff-R or R-board does not seem to shrink, based on the same 1987 project - Tuff-R on the old house did not shrink, but Styrofoam on the addition did shrink. So, using polyiso might be another solution.
-When building a new home, if you are using just foam you should also use housewrap, so that you have a redundant air barrier of the housewrap as the foam may shrink over time.
-If you apply OSB to the entire house first, then foam over it, with the seams offset, you should be OK to skip the housewrap in most cases (with vinyl siding or brick, for instance) because the OSB and foam will work together to form a redundant air barrier sandwich. Still, tape the seams during construction, as maybe the foam won't shrink in the future.

4) I also have some possible new methods using spray foam insulation, but that is a whole other story!

Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

THE REVEAL! 2009 Green Built Home Makeover


On November 6, the 2009 Green Built Home Makeover turned the keys back over to Terry and Tammy Moss. The family had not seen the inside of their house since the Sept. 25th kickoff. They are excited about their new home, its new look, comfort, and the energy efficiency savings. They have AnneMarie Design to thank for the tasteful d├ęcor of the home. The boys’ bedrooms were decorated with new beds and storage pieces from American TV. The entire house was painted and new lighting fixtures and fans installed.

Little Terrell couldn't wait for the "Reveal" to see his new home.
He just had to take a sneak peak.

Abe Degnan of Degnan Design Builders coordinated the project by lining up volunteers and scheduling the crews so the work could be completed in 5 week’s time. It was challenging but particularly important to keep the work flow moving along and overseeing quality control, and that we met the projected deadline for the family to return to their home.

Volunteers, family, and friends gathered at the "Reveal" Open House held on November 6 to see the changes that were made and share the Moss family's excitement.

Tammy Moss, Abe Degnan and
AnneMarie Dresen in Tammy's new living room at the "Reveal"

New beds and storage pieces

Merry Christmas to the Moss family from the Madison Area Builders Association, Project Managers Abe Degnan and AnneMarie Dresen, product and material donors, and all the volunteers who worked on the project.

Visit us on Facebook!
See a complete list of this year's 2009 Green Built Home Makeover donors. Click here.