Endurance across four decades and beyond
If you've ever seen a dilapidated, run-down old house, freeze that image and prepare to mentally zoom in on each and every thing that went wrong.
Which things could have been prevented by building with different materials or using different construction techniques? What could have been prevented? What could have been corrected?
Every house is a compromise, a trade-off between its cost and its looks and its comfort and its convenience and dozens of other factors. Still, some factors emerge that merit attention.
Water has a lot to do with a house's viability over time. People underestimate the long-term effects of water. Few people even recognize all of the places water can play a role.
Water under a foundation can weaken the soil and promote foundation collapse. Natural ground water flow across a property can seep down under-surface walls (as in basements or crawl spaces for familiar examples) creating lateral pressures on them that can also seriously compromise the integrity of the structure. Water allowed into wood, even treated wood, eventually promotes warping. Water can get into window frames, making glass and glazing lose their grip. And pipes rust.
In freezing climates, frozen water is even more dangerous: As heat escapes from the house, it melts the bottom layers of snow and that trickle can get into tiny cracks or nooks where it refreezes and, in so doing, expands. It's a slow-motion pry bar that can tear away shingles and siding. It can also tear gutters away from roofs.
Wind can also lift asphalt shingles or leave hardware holes when shutters get torn away. And wind delivers the leaf, seed and twig loads that clog gutters, neutralizing their ability to defend.
Over time, any home weathers many storms; their effects are dramatic and obvious; but over time, the less dramatic, less obvious impact of slow-but-steady damage from more commonplace factors will be even more consequential.
Is there any such thing as warp-free wood? Traditionally, houses have been built using dimensional lumber, meaning wood milled from trees. These days, there are also engineered wood products available. In engineered wood, the wood fibers are encapsulated in polymer and this aggregate is then reconstructed into traditional board sizes and shapes. Since water can't get into the encapsulated fibers, there's no water warping; it's also stronger and lighter as a building material. One variation, oriented strand board (OSB) continually alternates grain direction across a sheet; it may look like plywood but it, too, is stronger, lighter and lives longer. Quality polymer siding, which can look like wood or shake or brick or stone, outlives most alternatives .
Plastic replaces metal piping for immunity to rust and other corrosion. A central control “manifold” panel (think of it as the water version of a circuit breaker box) has one valve for each of the dozens of hot and cold pipes that connect directly to each service point, like a sink or tap or toilet; this arrangement totally eliminates pipes connecting with each other and the plumbing failures that tend to associate with those connections.
Metal roofing can't blow away or lift off like asphalt shingles and outlasts them 3:1.
The lowest foundational level of support under the house, its footings, are formed from concrete; when those concrete forms incorporate drains, they keep routing water away from footings for centuries. Formed barrier sheets adjacent to foundation walls, plus water repellent films adhered to those walls and termite-bouncing borate treatments within the foam of insulated concrete form (ICF) foundations block most causes of foundation deterioration.
So one of the first principles of endurance is to choose materials designed and proven to endure longer.
Extending life expectancy
Our inspiration for this project came when we found that LED lighting fixtures could run 50,000-100,000 hours, many times longer than traditional lighting. We can make that longer by doing things like adding whole-house surge protection.
We can extend the maintenance-free life expectancy of shower heads, water heaters and more by adding water filtration that addresses scale. We can protect wiring by running it through conduits. We can get most electrical things to last longer by being better at turning them off when they're not really needed.
So another principle of endurance is the need to understand and address chains of consequence.
© Copyright 2016, 2017 and 2018 Newstips, Lord Martin Winston and J2J Corporation; all rights reserved
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