Posts Tagged 'remodeling'

Vanity Mishap

So remember how we had a custom vanity and storage cabinet made for our main bathroom? And remember how we were going to have furniture like feet? Well apparently the cabinet maker didn’t. I had clearly explained it and drew up multiple drawings that were dimensioned out. Anal? Yes. Useful? I thought so but he only took the drawing of the front and not the side.

So when we finally got around to trying to install the cabinets and we realized the base was built with a standard toe kick that was recessed 4″ behind the face of the cabinet we were frustrated. You couldn’t see the feet all all under the cabinets nor the actual toe kick behind it. We had to delay installing the vanity until the following weekend but unfortunately we weren’t able to get what I originally wanted because the face of the cabinet was built to overhang the box like a standard cabinet. So the best compromise we could come up with is having the feet just behind the overhang of the face. Not exactly what I wanted but it did end up looking intentional and you can see the feet.


Installing a toe kick + furniture feet is an idea I came up with to help keep the area under the cabinets clean. I loved the look of furniture feet but I didn’t want to have to do exploratory digging to get dust bunnies out from under the back. A full plate toe kick set 4″ behind the feet took care of the issue and was barely able to be seen in the farthest away point of the bathroom. But to make it even more invisible we painted it black to look more like a shadow.

Installed it doesn’t look half bad. Glad that fix turned out so well!

We did have a slight issue with the side panel being too tight. I guess he didn’t design the back of the cabinet to be attached exactly flush to the wall. Flannel Man later pried the panel back out and trimmed it down so it can expand and contract like it was meant to.


Flannel Man and Papa Flannel got a tight fit around the pipes in the base of the cabinet (which is another thing that is nicely hidden by the toe kick). They had to turn the water off and drain the lines so they could turn the handles to be in line with the pipes.

I knew the sconce would be close but it looks closer than I had planned. The pivot mirror I got pushed the sconces out farther than I would have liked. The cabinet fits so I guess that is all that matters.

The organized array of electrical boxes is starting to look good with the switch, timer, in-floor heat thermostat, and GFCI outlet installed.

We’re a little worried about the gap the panel along the cabinet. Hopefully the granite will line up and cover that. These floating side panels ended up causing a lot of issues.


Overall we love the cabinets though! (Ignore the sawdust and tools or the fact that the doors and drawers are still downstairs I was too excited taking pictures.)

Look we have a vanity and a storage cabinet!


Mudding, Priming, & Painting

We finally got around to mudding the drywall. It’s only been 3 months since we hung the drywall. We started with smaller taping knives and worked our way up to wider ones with each layer of mud.

The first coat of the long living room wall. A built-in will be going in the opening on the right.

The master bedroom’s first coat.

Second layer.

On the last layer we tried wet sanding with a damp sponge. We had wring out the sponge a lot and be careful to be very gentle so as to not take off too much mud. It worked pretty well though. We did follow up with a light dry sand afterwords.


Onto the main bathroom where we’re focusing all of our efforts right now. We just finished the laying down the tile floor and grouting it with epoxy grout.

Toilet nook:

And the ceiling that we weren’t planning to have to drywall until the electrician fell through it…twice.


Next up was priming and we added the sand texture into the primer. That worked OK but I think we need to find a way to apply the texture more evenly than with a roller because we had a lot of areas that needed more texture to make it look even.

The future access panel for the shower shut off valves next to the toilet.


Then I asked Flannel Man to skip ahead and install the light fixtures temporarily so I could pick the paint color for the upper half of the walls. The construction light we were using up to this point was just too yellow to pick out paint.

We had a minor issue in that the lights couldn’t sit flush with the wall. The center bolt that holds them on was meant to fit into a standard depth electrical box not the shallow pan boxes we had to use because of studs being in the way. Flannel Man was later able to cut down the bolts without messing up the threads.


The bottom half of the room was going to be painted white to look like wainscoting but the top half I wanted some type of light blue or green color. I had a whole pile of paint chips from various stores.

I considered the tile neutral so I thought any color would look good but holding the swatches up to the tile I found the tile had a very blue undertone to it. So the greens and green grays seemed off to me.


I narrowed it down to a few favorites and taped them on the wall. At this point I realized that the G24 base light that came with the bath exhaust fan was a soft white so it gave off a slightly yellow glow. But the florescent bulbs I picked for the sconces were a bright white. We liked the bright white better so all of the white in the room didn’t look dirty or yellowed. Eventually we’ll replace the bath light with a similar temperature light but for now we looked at both for picking out the paint colors. Soft white light with pure white Azek moulding:

Left to right: SW 2640 Skylark, SW 6218 Tradewind, Behr UL220-12 Urban Mist, Behr 720E-2 Light French Gray, Behr 720E-3 Rocky Mountain Sky, the sliver on the end was just from Tradewind’s long card.


SW Skylark is actually an exterior color but it color matches BM’s Glacier Lake which I saw in an inspiration picture I liked so I was considering having it mixed in an interior formula.

Bright white light with American Olean Catarina Coliseum White tile:

My two favorite were the two on the left. In the end I felt Skylark might be too pale and not contrast enough with the white wainscoting but I liked the mix of green, blue, and green that still managed to work with the tile. I went with the gray/blue Tradewind which I hoped would give the room a nice pop of color. Plus it’s one of interior designer Phoebe Howard’s favorite blue colors along with the one shade lighter SW Top Sail…so you can’t go wrong with that!


At this point Flannel Man started with the wainscoting paint. I had tried to get it color matched with a piece of the vinyl trim we were using for the wainscoting. But the color reader was acting up that day so the Sherwin Williams guy attempted to come up with the color mixture by eye. Four tries at tinting, shaking, and drying a drop of paint on the sample and he thought he had something. At that point I just wanted to get the heck out of there after waiting around for almost an hour! So I told FM we’d try the color and if it wasn’t right we could have it re-tinted. Well FM must have not been paying attention because I talked to him the next day and he had painted all of the ceiling and the wainscoting before realizing the color was PINK!

Taking a closer look at the trim we had I realized the straight pieces of vinyl we had bought were a different color than the Azek moulding order that came in after we had bought them. Originally, we were going to get the matching straight Azek but it was textured on one side, had a rougher finish, and didn’t have rounded corners. Plus the Azek was 3 times as much as the stuff we found at Menard’s. The straight pieces didn’t match the pink color of the wall or ceiling at all but it was darker than the Azek. So I guess we would be painting the trim after all (we were hoping we could get away with not).


I took the pink paint back and both of the samples and the Sherwin Williams lady was very sympathetic. She found that the straight bright white base they use matched the Azek exactly so matching it between types of paint (for the doors) became very easy. Too bad they don’t give you a discount for not needing any tinting! With a two new cans of Duration; one in the bright white base and one in Tradewind the room was looking much better.

Sophie is tired of her humans spending so much time in this room.

DIY Epoxy Grout: It’s Really Not That Hard

I wanted to title this post “Epoxy Grout: The Best Grout Ever Invented!” but I seeing as we just installed it I don’t have any daily bathroom observations of it yet. I have a feeling though I might have a post tiled that in the future because let me tell you this stuff is kind of amazing.

I know many of you are wondering what epoxy grout even is. It’s a two part resign based product just like regular epoxy but it has sand and coloring mixed in. It is often used in high traffic areas of commercial buildings or areas where chemicals are used. Unlike standard cementitious based grout it is waterproof, stainproof, and never needs to be sealed. Yes you heard that right never needs to be sealed! Everyone I know seals their grout when it’s first installed and remember to reseal it for about a year after that. Then “re-sealing the grout” falls off the radar and their grout slowly gets more and more stained. There are thousands of products out there that claim to make your grout look like new but if you could avoid the whole issue would you? This is especially easy to see in light colored grout.

We wanted to use a light gray grout color to match the gray veining in the tile but I didn’t want to be constantly cleaning and re-sealing the grout. The main bathroom is the most used bathroom in the house so it needed to take a beating and still look good.

The downsides of epoxy grout is that it costs a lot more than traditional grout and that it’s harder to install. It’s also not the best to use natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate because they are porous and cleaning the grout out before it dries could be a challenge. It can be done though if you seal the tiles before grouting and are very meticulous to clean off each tile. With a natural stone you should be sealing the tile every 6 months to a year anyway so you might as well save yourself some money and use a cemetitious grout. For these reasons many pro tilers don’t like to use epoxy grout others think it’s great and consider it “bulletproof.” Some think it’s a little extreme for residential applications and they are probably right but you can’t deny the positive aspects of using it. Our pro tiler friend immediately tried to talk us out of using it. It was too late to change our minds though we had already bought it and I had extensively researched it before deciding to use it. He wasn’t going to be the one to have to seal it for the next 50 years or live with stained grout or even be the one installing it. We felt confident in our decision and stuck to our guns. Knowing this is our “forever” home made that decision a lot easier. A little extra upfront cost would save us a lot of maintenance and hassle in the long run. If you know me I over engineer everything and we don’t ever plan to redo this bathroom again so the tile and grout are here to stay.

After extensively researching how to install it and preparing for the worst we were pleasantly surprised to find it really wasn’t that hard after all! I swear. This is our first tiling job ever so you don’t get any more green than us and we didn’t have any issues with it. We did however mix it up in small batches and carve out a large chunk of time to install and clean it off the tiles before the grout dried. I can see why pros don’t like to use it because it takes more time to install and they can’t just put it in and clean it off right away. Leaving the job site to come back the next day to clean off the last bits of grout off the tile isn’t an option either. There are ways to clean dried epoxy grout off the tiles but you really want to avoid them if possible by meticulously cleaning off the tile before the grout dries. If anything epoxy grout is better suited to DIY because you’ll be home and able to spend as much time as needed to clean it all off.

We went with Laticrete’s SpectraLOCK Pro Premium epoxy grout in Silver Shadow. From what I’ve read the CEG Lite epoxy grout found at Home Depot doesn’t preform near as well. Laticrete’s product has been around for longer, better customer service, have a lifetime warranty, and are highly recommended by the professionals. So we drove over 2 hours away to pick up the grout in mini units from Lowe’s (they only sell mini units). At the time I couldn’t find anyone else who would sell to a non-contractor in our area but since buying this a new tile store has opened up and they are willing to work with us. Note Laticrete’s “Where to Buy” function on their website only gives you a list of distributors which is less than helpful. Maybe someday they will expand that.

For added assurance that all of these little batches would match in color we tried to get all of the Part C cartons from the same batch (pink underline). But they didn’t have enough from any one batch so we had to get one from a different batch and from what I’ve read their color matching between batches is near perfect.

Flannel Man had done all of the tile cutting so I said I would do the epoxy grout but he ended up helping anyway.



Step-by-Step Epoxy Grout Installation

1) Have everything ready. Clean thinset out between the tile joints. Find all of your grout floats (you’ll want to use the hard rubber ones that say they are for epoxy grout). At minimum you’ll want one large float and one margin float (aka. the smaller ones). Have sponges and buckets of water handy along with paper towel for any spills.


2) Mix parts A & B like the instructions say making sure to get out every last drip out of the bags.

Then mix in the sand/coloring mixture. Mix this in slowly and save 10% of it until you see what the texture is going to be like. Add more as desired.

With cementitious grout you use sanded grout for wider grout joints and unsanded for thinner grout joints. The sand used in Laticrete’s epoxy grout is very fine and can be used in any grout line but for thin grout lines they say you can leave up to 10% of the sand/color mixture out. We found that we preferred the slightly smoother finish it had when we left 10% out and used that even with our 1/8″ grout joints.


3) Now spread the grout out right away. You have a total of 80 minutes before the grout dries starting from when you mix it. Half way through it will be very stiff to work with though. With bigger full or commercial units you can either separate the parts individually before mixing or mix the full unit and put half of it in the freezer for an extended working time. For a first time user buying individually divided Mini units sounded like the safest option.

Because we were using large format tile we tried using a grout bag to keep clean up only to the edges of the tile. There was no need to drag the grout across an 18×18″ tile. It worked OK but it was an extra step and the epoxy grout is hard to squeeze out of the end. Plus we went though a lot of bags with all of the separate batches.

Spread the grout diagonally across the grout joints like you would do with any grout only make sure to use the hard rubber grout floats made for epoxy grout.

The grout is thick and takes a bit of power to force into all of the small cracks. You want to make sure everything is sufficiently packed full and don’t worry about a little of it being on the tile. You want all of the grout joints to be nice and full if not overflowing so as you clean the sponges don’t take too much off of the joint. Stop grouting before you use the whole batch. Use the last extra bit to go around and check that there are no low spots before or after cleaning. We were too careful about making everything look perfect in our first batch and had to go through and to some of the grout joints after our first cleaning.


4) The first cleaning should be done within 1 hour of mixing the grout. Use a vinegar/water mixture of 1/2 cup of vinegar in 2 gallons of water. Fill low spots as needed.


5) One hour after the first cleaning do your final inspection and wash. Mix up another vinegar/water mixture and a new sponge. We used a sponge with a terry cloth on one side. It gave everything a nice clean finish.


6) Repeat steps 2-5 as needed. After the final inspection we felt confident with the process and mixed up two mini batches at once to finish off the room. I carefully applied it before the first batch was completely dry. The thought was that they would blend more seamlessly that way. It worked OK but I’m not sure you would ever be able to make out a small seam if there was one since the end of the batch wouldn’t be perfectly straight or flat.

For this batch I kept everything a little messier and it worked out better.


The next day everything was dry and ready to go.

Overall I loved the look but the slightly warm undertone of the Silver Shadow do bug me a little next to the very cool toned tile. I am very picky about my colors though. I was trying to match the gray veining of the tile and this was the closest color Lowe’s had. I had read that all white epoxy grouts tend to dry with a yellow tone because of the amber matrix.

You can see a few flecks of sand to give you an idea of the fine texture.


This bathroom has come so far from the 70’s harvest gold disaster it once was!

The room looks huge with the wide angle and without the cabinets in it yet. It was a lot of extra work, time, and materials to tile under the vanity but someday if we ever want to change it out we’ll be happy we did it.

Pretty white tile!

We grouted all the way around the sink supply and drain lines.

Same with the toilet ring and supply line.


But wait! It was at this point we realized something didn’t look quite right. Can you see it?

Yes we messed up our quarter turn tile pattern on one tile. Of course it has to be right out in the open area that won’t be covered up by cabinets or hidden in the linen closet. Dang it! *smacks head into wall* Too late to change it now so let’s hope people won’t notice it.


All Sophie wants to know is “Are you done in here yet?!”

No, sorry we’re not done yet but we’ve picked up the pace and are making good progress. Stay tuned for some big changes happening soon!

And….We Have Tile!

Once the electric floor mats and Ditra was put down and sufficiently dried we went back and filled the Ditra squares. Pros and experienced tilers will do this step at the same time as laying down the tile but we decided to take everything nice and slow especially after messing up the previous layer of thinset. To fill in the waffle like texture we just used the flat side of a trowel. Since the squares are undercut it’s very important to pack them from every direction with thinset.

Making this a separate step also gives you a better surface to mark out and lay the tile so we plan to do this again in the future.


Next up we had to figure out our tile pattern. The American Olean Catarina Coliseum White tile I fell in love with only comes in two square sizes for the floor, 12×12 and 18×18, so that limited our options. For the walls I liked the 10×13 size because it was like an oversized subway tile but it only comes in glossy which I didn’t like the look of in person. The matte tile looked much more real and would help hide water spots. So I had to use one of the two square size tile options in the shower too. I wanted to break things up a bit and not use the 12×12 tiles on both the walls and the floor so I went with 12×12 on the shower walls and 18×18 on the floor.

I knew for at least one of the areas I wanted to use a classic running bond pattern. But because 18×18″ tiles are considered large format they will have some cupping in the center. Non-large format tile (12″x12″ and smaller) has cupping as well but it’s much less obvious. Running bond pattern doesn’t work as well with large format tiles because the low center will be right next to the higher ends of the tile right next to it. Tilers recommend offsetting the tile by 1/3 instead of 1/2 of the length of the tile to counteract this.

Keeping that in mind a 1/2 offset with the 12×12 tiles in the shower would work the best with the length and side of the tub being divisible by 6″. But having a 1/2 offset in the shower and 1/3 offset with the large format floor tile would look strange. Like someone wasn’t thinking the design through before laying it out. So the only other options were a square or diagonal pattern. Of course I wanted the diagonal pattern because it’s much more visually interesting! Putting large tiles on a diagonal meant a lot of cutting. I know I like to make things difficult.

With the tile pattern figured out we had to pick what direction we wanted the “grain” of the tile. One of the downsides of this fake marble tile is the limited number of grain patterns. There were only about 4 different printed grains so you have to be careful with what tile you put where. Flipping the tiles 90 or 180 degrees also helps diversify the look. Originally I thought I would want the grain to all go in one direction like this:

The other option is what our tile pro family friend recommended. It’s called a quarter turn grain pattern where every tile you lay is turned 90 degrees from the previous tile.

This essentially makes a checkerboard pattern of tile directions. We really liked how it helped hide the fact that there was a limited number of grain options. It also doesn’t lead your eye to any one direction like the lined up grain lead your eye to either the toilet or the tub. Quarter turn it was.


Now it was finally time to laying out the tile! Our tile guy recommended we dry cut the tile first because it was a large format tile in a small space. We started the design by snapping a caulk line to base all of our tile off of and measuring off additional lines from that line. Walls and tubs aren’t necessarily straight so don’t measure off of them or your whole floor may be crooked.

We started near the front of the tub since that was the most crucial edge being the only tile edge that wouldn’t be covered by baseboard.

Knowing we’d be cutting a lot of tile between the two bathrooms I bought a heavy duty wet saw off Craigslist months earlier. This was our first time using it and it…um…left something to be desired. More on than later. It worked for what we needed to cut but luckily we had a lot extra.

For the small cuts we bought an angle grinder and a diamond tipped blade. Worked like a charm on the intricate toilet ring cut and the small square cuts around the piping. First Flannel Man cut lines in the area he wanted to remove.

Ooh look sparks!

Then he carefully followed the curve of the line.

Making sure to wet the area with a sponge every once and while.

I think that is one of the nicest looking toilet ring cuts I’ve ever seen! He’s such a perfectionist.

Since we’re tiling under the vanity as well we had to cut squares out for the piping. This was done by drawing the square on the backside and slowly plunging the diamond blade on the angle grinder into the back of the tile. Stopping to wet the area has he went. He cut each side until the most of the front had been cut but stopped short of cutting the full line at any one time. That way when he moved on to the next side the tile was still sturdy enough in the corner to not flex the tile and crack. Once all of the sides were mostly cut he carefully finished off each side to complete the corners. All of the cutting was done from the backside so the backside corners had overlapping cuts due to the radius of the blade. Because of that you have to be careful when handling or laying down that area of the tile. This tile took two tries to get right. The first one cracked between the drain line and the nearest copper pipe.

Same thing was repeated for the toilet water supply. Unfortunately this had to go in the floor as the toilet is on an exterior wall.

The linen closet also had some fun cuts.

This piece miraculously only had to be cut once.

Busting out the wide angle lens to show you the dry fit run.

Note we just eyed the grout joints as closely as possible and checked them occasionally with tile spacers. Our tile pro says one of the biggest mistakes DIY tilers make are to make the grout joints too thin and to rely more on measuring than your eye. Being an engineer I kind of side eyed that last comment but I trusted Flannel Man and gave him the benefit of the doubt that he could get it as close to exact as possible. He is a machinist who works in the 1000ths of an inch. His eye is trained to be able to pick up small variations.


Once all of the tiles were cut our family friend tile pro stopped by to help us lay the first couple rows and show us how it’s done.

We quickly learned large format tile = lots and lots of pulling up the tile to reduce lippage.

The margin trowel (on the floor) became our new best friend.

Here you get a good idea of how big these tiles really are.



Steps to Laying Large Format Tile (bigger than 12×12″)

First you mix up the thinset (we used modified thinset) to a consistency that is thick enough to hold the notch of the trowel but wet enough that it still sticks to the tile. Then keep a sponge and bucket of water handy.

Next smooth over the Ditra one more time to make sure all dimples are filled in.

Then run more thinset over the area with the notched side of the trowel. We used a 1/4″ x 3/8″ trowel.

Now back butter the tile with a thin layer of thinset. Just enough to cover the square pattern on the back of the tile.

In the corners we added a small extra dollop of thinset. This accounts for the higher corners of the cupped large format tile. Most of it gets squeezed out but it ensures the corners are solid and won’t crack from a lack of support.

Next you lay down the tile by getting it in the right spot and dropping it ever so slightly into place. Followed by a firm press you should have even coverage of the thinset under the tile. Pull up your first couple tiles to double check this.

With the tile down slide it up to the neighboring tile on one side and check that the whole length of the tile is flush. Our tile pro and this tile pro recommend this procedure. If it isn’t flush pull up the lower tile and add more thinset on the back of the tile in that area.

Wipe off the excessive thinset and pull the tile back into place.

Repeat on the other sides of the tile. This should give you a level floor and fairly clean grout joints.



Overall Flannel Man’s tile cutting job was pretty flawless but when it came to the tile around the sink piping some minor adjustments with a Dremel was needed.

As we tiled the available floor space got smaller and smaller. Soon I was kicked out and let Flannel Man to pull up and put back down tile after tile. I’m not kidding when I heard “Sigh…that is at least 4/1000ths of an inch of lippage!” come from the room.

Going Geothermal Part 3: Calculating Residential Heating and Cooling Loads

As I mentioned in my previous post using accurate heating and cooling loads to size your geothermal system is very important.  In this post I’ll show you how to calculate them yourself so you can compare your results with what your potential contractors come up with.  I’m going to try to make this as concise as possible but you have to understand it takes over 100 pages to explain this in ASHRAE’s (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Fundamental book.  The calculations are very easy though once you have all of the information gathered.


Step 1: Determine the U-values of Your Home

Today home owners are more aware than ever about energy efficiency.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of R-values on things like windows & insulation.  Well in the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) industry we use U-values which are just the inverse of an R-value.

U-value = 1/R-value

R-values are the thermal resistance of a material so the higher the R-value the better.  Looking at the equation above you can see that means the lower the U-value the better.  Collect as much information about your home’s R-values.  If you don’t have any info on a certain material google it and just use an average value.  Or better yet go get your hands on an ASHRAE Fundamentals book.  Check your local library or buy an older version for cheap online (they are updated every 4 years but anything from 1990 on will work).

For exterior walls you’ll have to calculate an overall thermal resistance using the R-values for each material that makes up the wall.  But don’t just go ahead and add everything up you have to account for the studs in the wall!  Here’s an example of a typical 2×4 exterior wall:

Stud R-value Cavity R-value
Outside Air Film, 15 mph wind 0.17 0.17
Vinyl Siding, un-insulated 0.61 0.61
Rigid Foam Insulation, 2” 10.0 10.0
Plywood, 0.5” 0.62 0.62
Wood Stud, 2×4 nominal 4.38
Batt Insulation, 3.5” 13.0
Gypsum, 0.5” 0.45 0.45
Inside Air Film, still air 0.68 0.68
Total: 16.91 25.53

If the studs are 16” on center then the stud R-value accounts for roughly 25% of the wall and the cavity R-value accounts for the other 75%.  So to get the overall thermal resistance:

Wall R-value = (0.25 x 16.91) + (0.75 x 25.53) = 23.375

Wall U-value = 1/23.375 = 0.0428 [Btu/h*sf*degF]

Other common building material R-values:

  • Lapped cement board, 0.25” = 0.21
  • Hardboard siding, 0.44” = 0.67
  • Insulated vinyl siding, 0.375” = 1.82
  • Particleboard, medium density, 0.5” = 0.53
  • Batt insulation, 3.5” = 13-15
  • Batt insulation, 5.5” = 19-21
  • Expanded polystyrene = 5/inch
  • Loose fill insulation, 3.5-5” = 11
  • Spray applied polyurethane foam = 5.9/inch
  • Spray applied cellulosic fiber = 3.2/inch

To find your window’s U-values your best bet is to get them from the manufacturer but if that isn’t an option you can use general values.  Here are a few average U-values for vertical oriented operable windows:

  • Aluminum frame with thermal break, single pane = 1.2
  • Aluminum frame with thermal break, insulated, double pane = 0.88
  • Aluminum clad wood, single pane = 0.60
  • Aluminum clad wood, insulated, double pane = 0.55
  • Wood/vinyl, single pane = 0.55
  • Wood/vinyl, insulated, double pane = 0.49
  • Insulated fiberglass, single pane = 0.37
  • Insulated fiberglass, insulated, double pane = 0.32

A few door U-values:

  • Solid wood door = 0.40
  • Steel door with urethane foam without thermal break = 0.38
  • Steel door with polystyrene core without thermal break = 0.29
  • Steel door with polystyrene core with thermal break = 0.20
  • Steel door with urethane foam with thermal break = 0.20

Next you’ll need to calculate your attic/roof U-value.  You could go through and try to calculate an overall R-value of the drywall, trusses, and insulation.  But because in most homes there is a significant amount of air beyond those layers you can skip that step and just use the insulation and drywall values.

Useful attic R-values:

  • Gypsum, 0.5” = 0.45
  • Gypsum, 0.625” = 0.56
  • Batt insulation, 3.5” = 13-15
  • Batt insulation, 5.5” = 19-21
  • Batt insulation, 6-7.5” = 22
  • Batt insulation, 8.25-10” = 30
  • Batt insulation, 10-13” = 38
  • Loose fill cellulosic insulation = 3.4 per inch
  • Loose fill mineral fiber insulation, 3.75-5” = 11
  • Loose fill mineral fiber insulation, 6.5-8.75” = 19
  • Loose fill mineral fiber insulation, 7.5-10” = 22
  • Loose fill mineral fiber insulation, 10.25-13.75” = 30

*Remember to convert them to a U-value.*

Partitions also need to be considered.  Partitions are any vertical wall between a conditioned space and an unconditioned space (or less conditioned space).  Interior walls between garages, crawl spaces, or unconditioned mechanical rooms are all good examples.  To calculate the U-value of a partitioned wall use the same method I showed you for calculating exterior wall U-values.

Finally, you need to calculate the U-value for your basement walls and floor.  Below grade walls transfer heat differently than exterior walls.  Heat transfer occurs in a circular motion between your walls and the surface of the ground.  The farther down the wall you go the less heat loss you have.

Different soils will have different conductivities but an average soil is 9.6 Btu*in/h*sf*degF.  Using that conductivity heat loss for below grade concrete walls is as follows:

Feet below ground Un-insulated R-4.2 R-8.3 R-12.5
0-1 0.41 0.15 0.09 0.07
1-2 0.22 0.12 0.08 0.06
2-3 0.16 0.09 0.07 0.05
3-4 0.12 0.08 0.06 0.05
4-5 0.10 0.07 0.05 0.04
5-6 0.08 0.06 0.05 0.04
6-7 0.07 0.05 0.04 0.04
Total 1.15 0.624 0.445 0.348

So for an un-insulated basement wall that is 7 feet below the ground each linear foot of wall will have a U-value of 1.15.  For basement floors use the following table to determine your U-value:

Depth of Floor Below Grade [ft] Shortest Width of House [ft]
20’ 26’ 32’
5 0.032 0.0275 0.023
6 0.030 0.026 0.022
7 0.029 0.0245 0.021

If your house is wider than 32 feet just interpolate the U-values to the size you need.


Step 2: Calculate your areas

Now that you have the hard part out of the way you need to go around and measure your house.  If you can create a spreadsheet for this it will make your future calculations easier.   Add a row for each room in your home and put the area type (ie. wall, window, door, etc.) in separate columns at the top.  You will need the areas of your walls, windows, doors, & partitions as well as the floor area of each room and the linear foot of your basement walls.  Keep track of which direction (north, northeast, east, etc.) your windows and above-grade exterior walls are facing by creating separate columns for each direction.  Make sure that you subtract your window areas from the overall wall area so you aren’t accounting for that space twice.  When you have the overall floor area calculated (in square feet) multiply that by your wall height to determine the volume of air each room can hold (in cubic feet).  This will be used later in the air changes per hour calculation.


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Step 3: Determine your design temperatures

To do a heating or cooling load calculation you need t o figure out what your “design day” is.  A design day is basically a worst case scenario.  For your heating calculation it is the coldest day of the year and for your cooling calculation it is the hottest day of the year.  Your local contractor should be able to tell you what design temperatures they use for your area otherwise get your hands on an ASHRAE Fundamentals book like I mentioned above.  You also need to determine what temperatures you want to keep your house at in the summer and in the winter.  I’m going to show you how to calculate the heating load first so you can just enter the winter temperatures for now.  Next you will need to come up with a temperature for the spaces on the other side of your partitions.  The only partition we have in our home is our garage wall.  Typically a garage temperature would be close to the outside design day temperature but half of our garage was converted to a workshop so they have supply air registers in the space.  Even though we have them closed completely they leak air into the space and keep it milder than outside (which we plan to change in some of our future renovations).  So I used a partition temperature of 30 degF.  Finally, you need to find out what the average ground temperature is in your area.  ASHRAE uses this diagram of the ground temperature:

For Wisconsin I used a ground temperature of 23 degF.  Insert these temperatures at the top of your spreadsheet and use them to calculate three delta Ts.  Equations as follow:

  • Heating Delta T = Room Design Temp – Outside Heating Design Day Temp
  • Partition Delta T = Room Design Temp – Partition Temp
  • Ground Delta T = Room Design Temp – Ground Temp

Keep all of these temperatures at the top of your spreadsheet so we can reference them in our calculations.


Step 4: Calculate your heating loads

In your spreadsheet create columns for each of the following: wall, window, door, roof, partition, basement wall, basement floor, infiltration, and total.  Above each column name put the corresponding U-value you calculated earlier for each of the construction types.  Above the infiltration column put your air changes per hour (ACH) rate from the table below:

Use your design day temperatures for the winter and summer outdoor temperatures and take a good guess on your homes tightness.  I used a medium tightness for our home so our winter air changes per hour is 0.91 and our summer air changes per hour is 0.48.  For now just enter the winter air changes per hour over the infiltration since we’re starting with the heating calculations.

Now onto the actual heating load calculations.  For each room enter the corresponding equations:

  • Window = (Sum of window areas) x Window U-value x Heating Delta T
  • Wall = (Sum of wall areas) x Wall U-value x Heating Delta T
  • Door = Door area x Door U-value x Heating Delta T
  • Roof = Floor area for rooms with roofs x Roof U-value x Heating Delta T
  • Partition = Partition area x Partition U-value x Partition Heating Delta T
  • Basement Wall = Basement wall linear feet x Basement wall U-value sum x Ground Delta T
  • Basement Floor = Floor area for basement rooms x Basement floor U-value x Ground Delta T
  • Infiltration = (Room volume x winter air changes per hour/60) x 0.018 x Heating Delta T
  • Total = Sum of the equations above for each room

Now all you need to do is add up the total column to find out the overall heating load of your house.  You finally have your answer!  I do need to not e that this total is a sum of each individual room peak so it might be slightly higher than it will actually be.  But for our house my hand calculated heating load was 71,652 Btuh whereas the computer generated heating load was 70,720 Btuh.  So that’s pretty accurate if you ask me!


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In cold climates like we have here in Wisconsin residential units are sized to handle the heating loads but in warmer climates where the cooling loads are higher they are sized base on cooling loads.  So let’s go on to calculate your cooling load.


Step 5: Calculate your cooling loads

Cooling loads are more difficult to calculate because you have to take into account your latent load (humidity) too.  For residential calculations ASHRAE has come up with some generalized numbers to do cooling calculations by hand.  The accuracy of the calculations is reduced but there isn’t many other alternatives.

For walls ASHRAE uses cooling load temperature differences (CLTDs) and for windows they use glass load factors (GLFs).  Both are dependent on the wall/window direction.  Use the tables below to find a CLTD for your walls, roof, and partitions and a GLF for your windows :

Put these CLTDs and GLFs at the top of your spreadsheet.  Then add the summer temperature (room design, cooling design day, & summer partition) as well as the delta T’s calculated from them (cooling delta T & summer partition delta T).  You can assume the ground temperature is the same but you will need a new ground delta T using the cooling design day temp.  Next you’ll need to determine your summer air changes per hour using the table below:

Now all you need to do us enter in the following equations for each room:

  • Window = (Sum of north window areas) x North GLF + (Sum of east window areas) x East GLF + etc.
  • Wall = (Sum of north wall areas) x North CLTD x Wall U-value + (Sum of east wall areas) x East CLTD + etc.
  • Door = Same equation and CLTD as walls
  • Roof =  Floor area x Roof CLTD x Roof U-value
  • Partition = Partition area x Partition CLTD x Partition U-value
  • Basement Wall = Basement wall linear feet x Basement wall U-value sum x Summer Ground Delta T
  • Basement Floor = Floor area for basement rooms x Basement floor U-value x Summer Ground Delta T
  • Infiltration = (Room volume x summer air changes per hour/60) x 1.1 x Cooling Delta T
  • Total = Sum of the equations above for each room

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For my cooling loads I came up with 41,000 Btuh but my computer generated calculations came up with 26,000 Btuh.  So those generalized numbers obviously overestimate the cooling loads!


And that ends the longest post I’ve ever written! Wasn’t that fun?  I hope that was helpful.  Leave a comment if you have any questions.

To see the entire Going Geothermal mini series click here:
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[Figure & Table Source: ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook 1997]



2008 Acomplishments & 2009 Goals

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.  Sorry life is busy.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

Considering that we bought our house in May I feel that we accomplished quite a bit in 2008.  We didn’t get everything done we had planned to do because we changed our priorities.  Instead of worrying about cosmetic things like painting we focused on winterizing our home for the harsh Wisconsin winter.  Here’s what we did in 2008:

All our hard work is paying off too.  We’re on track to use less than 1/2 of the energy the previous owner used last winter at 1/4 of the cost!  (More about that later.)

We’ve put together a master plan for DIY remodeling our entire house and well…it’s a 7 year plan.  Mainly because we’re paying for everything as we go and trying to avoid taking out a HELOC (but we may have to for the kitchen remodel but that is one of the last things we plan to do so we’ll have to see what we have saved up by then).  Our plan is to get the guts of the house repaired first and then go on to pretty cosmetic stuff later (besides paint that is).  So here’s our goals for 2009:

  • Install seamless gutters with Gutter Glove
  • Dig in underground drains for the downspouts
  • Paint and prime the entire house, this includes the ceilings because we have water stains in almost every room
  • Do some basic landscaping, define flower beds and start planting
  • Make a master landscaping plan for the future, from my last calculations we have nearly 20 flower beds/planting areas around the property
  • Create a yard for our dog Sophie?, clear out brush and install temporary fencing, we have to wait for spring to see if this is even possible there or if the ground is too marshy
  • Cut the second garage door back in
  • Install two new garage doors and openers
  • Figure out how to fix the draining issues in the garage
  • Install a new propane tank
  • Remove the old oil tank
  • Install a new top of the line furnace and condensing unit
  • Change the ductwork in the house to be multi-zone
  • Install and program new thermostats
  • Start building the walk-in gun safe
  • Interview architects we may want to work with

So what do you think?  Crazy?  Doable?

Our Secret Weapons

In honor of father’s day I thought I’d share a little bit about our fathers, our secret remodeling weapons. You see both of our dads are carpenters and although Flannel Man & I have never remodeled a house before we’re not strangers to the construction business. We both grew up around shops, tools and construction sites.


After working at a lumber yard and some small construction companies my dad started his own milwork business. He made custom trim, moldings, and other specialty wood products. He helped restore historic buildings like churches, government buildings, and residential homes by cutting custom blades that matched the existing trim and matching the stain color. I remember going over to his shop and being amazed a how he took curved solid wood for large church windows. He also did things like fancy receptionist desks for banks, inlaid hardwood floor patterns, custom doors, and anything else you could throw at him. He became known in the area for his high quality of work that resulted from the fact that he’s a type A perfectionist (which is a trait I picked up from him). Where most new businesses last only a year or two his lasted 11 years. He finally closed it so he could spend more time with us and now works as a maintenance supervisor for the multiple state research farms in our area.

Since I love pictures here’s some old family pictures:


My dad’s old shop. [Note: Some of these photos were scanned in from the scrapbooks my mom made through the years so that’s why they are funny shapes.]


“Helping” my dad stain.


I loved that hard hat!


See I’ve roofed before! The shed wasn’t my first time.


Breaking ground on the new house my dad built (I’m the oldest in the back).


Sitting on the beam of our new house. My dad and I are the only ones smiling because my sisters were afraid of falling. (View Image to enlarge)



Flannel Man’s dad is also a carpenter. Papa Flannel also worked for some small construction companies before starting his own business. But his business was building residential homes where he specialized in log homes. He built log homes all over the area for 8 years before deciding to work for a local large construction company. He also was trained to be a home inspector so he knows the ins and outs of home ownership. It was common for Papa Flannel to gift FM hand tools when they began to wear out and FM would take them with him everywhere. One gift in particular FM remembers…

“One year my dad gave me a 5′ long wooden step ladder. I loved that thing and dragged it all over the house much to my mom’s dismay. I would bring into the living room and watch TV on it, I would put in the kitchen to eat my cereal on it, and I would bring it upstairs to read books on it. I loved that thing.”

And of course here is FM’s family pictures:


Note the needle nosed pliers his dad had given him.


“Helping” paint.


Honestly, could this picture be any cuter? FM was bringing his kitten to see what dad does.


The Flannel’s displaying Papa Flannels business hats. Flannel Man is in the middle.


Flannel Man has also helped roof before.


In Papa Flannel’s bobcat.


Our other secret weapons are our wonderful grandpas. Both are extremely handy and like to help any way that they can no matter their age. Flannel Man’s grandpa was a painter. Last year at 80 years old he was up on the roof helping Papa Flannel re-roof his house.


My grandpa was a farmer and later worked for my dad’s business. Here he is helping build our house:


We are truly blessed to have such wonderful dads and grandpas. I hope they had a great father’s day.


And on a side note I want to wish a happy birthday to my youngest sister Sara!

This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
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