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Choosing a Safe Wall Assembly

Wall assemblies that are both well insulated and free of long-term moisture problems are a frequent topic for the Q&A Spotlight. Hasn’t this subject been raked over enough in the past to answer just about every possible question? Not according to Nat, a GBA reader and structural engineer who is planning his own house in Climate Zone 5. Even after poring through GBA and other websites, Nat finds himself uncertain about the planned wall assembly on his budget-conscious new home. The house design is simple. A plain box with a gable roof and a full basement, roughly 1,100 square feet…

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Seizing an Air-Sealing Opportunity

The soffits, fascias, and gutters need to be replaced, and that opens up an air-sealing opportunity The number one thing you need to do to protect a building is control water. As the Canadian building scientist Gus Handegord said, “The three biggest problems in buildings are water, water, and water.” So, with the 1961 house I bought this year, one of the first things I discovered was the failure at the edge of the roof. The gutters weren’t working well, resulting in water getting into places it shouldn’t be and rotting out the soffit and fascia boards in multiple places…

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Tesla Unveils Another Version of Its Solar Roof

Tesla is now taking orders for the latest version of its solar roof. Installation should begin later this month. Photo courtesy of Tesla. Tesla’s solar roof—the breakthrough that seems perpetually right around the corner—is now in its third and most promising iteration and should be ready for installation in the coming weeks, the company’s CEO says. In a conference call with reporters late last month, Elon Musk admitted that earlier versions of the long-delayed solar roofing tiles “really didn’t work,” according to an article posted at Quartz. But the newest glass-topped tiles are larger, easier to install, and have higher…

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Critics Claim Agreement Helps Home-Building Industry Block Tougher Energy Codes

An undisclosed pact between the nation’s most powerful home builders’ lobby and the organization that writes model building codes has slowed the adoption of energy-saving requirements for new homes, critics have claimed. The arrangement is between the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which represents some 140,000 U.S. builders, and the International Code Council (ICC), which publishes the International Residential Code, an influential model building code that has been adopted in many states. In a published report last week, The New York Times said a deal first signed in 2002 guaranteed NAHB four of 11 voting seats on the committee…

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Solving a Basement Odor Problem

Henry has completed a basement renovation at his 1950s Toronto bungalow and is now grappling with an unexpected problem: One room of the house smells strongly of old, damp brick. From all appearances, the renovation was done carefully. The foundation wall, consisting of concrete block with brick above, now includes exterior waterproofing, damp-proofing membranes, and a layer of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam in an interior 2×4 wall. And yet, he writes in a Q&A post, all is not well. The odor is coming from the floor and/or wall of one of the rooms in the northeast part of the house,…

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Can Buildings Take Vacation Too?

This question has come up several times in the last few years: what sort of moisture issues do we need to be concerned about if a building is “shut down” for an extended period of time? First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page about what it means to “shut down” a home. I have been asked about all three of these scenarios: Complete, intentional shutdown: In this scenario there are no occupants living in the home for an extended period of time. Both power and water are turned off and the building is prepped with all water…

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