The elements of endurance fall into two broad classes: measures and countermeasures. Their goal, as we said in discussing plans, is as universal and ubiquitous as possible a failure to fail.
Measures, for example, include selecting manufactured lumber that resists warping and resists water incursion; its countermeasures might include termite prevention or, depending on its application, additional moisture barrier surface coatings.
We try to take the same care with the elements inside the envelope of the house as we do with the gross construction elements.
This is, after all, a home that we want to last for forty years without requiring major maintenance or replacements. With that as a core requirement, in our explorations of materials, we faced the challenge of separating claims from reality. While we may nonetheless get some things wrong, here are the conclusions we reached.
Engineered lumber, like the joist shown at the left, provides the best long-term choice for structural integrity. Engineered lumber is better at enduring stress, better at supporting loads, much less likely to warp and does not create additional weight loads on the supporting piers and footings. We also explored steel alternatives, which are more usually found in commercial structures. Steel has wonderful structural strength but a significantly higher cost, an innate vulnerability to electrolytic corrosion and much higher thermal transmissivity.
Metal roofing (like the Decra stone-coated steel roofing on the right) can last more than three times longer than shingles, weathers storms better and transmits significantly less heat to the roofing board below. It comes in more than enough of a variety to not handicap aesthetics.
SIP walls are Structural Insulated Panels, the exterior shell of the house. They (left; click for a larger image) sandwich OSB, an oriented strand board form of engineered lumber, around a completely filled interior of dense insulating foam.
SIP panels offer greater structural strength than traditional stud framing plus outstanding insulation.
Windows of good quality present few challenges to endurance, but their framing must also be of good quality, and there are layers of other attributes to consider: thermal breaks in the window frames to prevent them from conducting heat into or out of the house... thermal characteristics of both the glass and the gases between panes... noise reduction... whether the placement will be east-west or north-south... and the climate at the residence. Click on the Ply Gem window cross-section at the right for a more detailed image.
We will have more information on these and other materials under the Products tab (or use the search box).
The difference between treating materials versus using them naked (as supplied) can make a lot of impact on endurance, as can choices in how to use them. Applying Foamsulate 220 closed-cell polyurethane foam (right) to the roof of an attic rather than its floor, for example, means that the elements we place in the attic (like HVAC, ducts and wiring) are closer to room temperatures than to outdoor temperatures, and that reduced thermal stress can help them endure longer. Foam around duct runs helps seal them against leaks, thermally insulates them and reduces their contributions to background noise levels in the house.
Water barriers at the foundation help avoid degradation there. Borate in the foam of the ICF (insulated concrete forms, right; click on the image here to open a larger one) and crawl space floor underlayment sheets form a moat against insect (especially termite) incursions. Steel conduit around wiring makes them much less vulnerable to accidental cuts or breaks, provides less of an attraction for rodents that may want to gain entry and helps reduce surges.
Scale elimination during water treatment prevents scale clogs of faucets and shower heads as well as of less visible ports in clothes washers, dishwashers and the water heater, helping those endure for considerably longer than in a scale-carrying environment.
Again, we will (sooner or later) have more information under the Products tab.
And now, you may have a better understanding of why we characterize endurance as involving a blend of measures and countermeasures.
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