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SF Prices in Austin


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By Cris in Austin, TX on 3/28/2006


I'm considering an owner-build West of Austin, near Spicewood. Does anyone have any knowledge of the current per-square-foot (heated) prices? I've heard through my network a large range of prices - just trying to get a handle on what we can build.

Also, if you want to share your lists of subs with me, I've collected a few from recent builds done by friends (builders included!). Local lender suggestions would be helpful as well.

cd...


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 8/16/2006


The range of costs per sq ft that I've heard is from about $50 to $150. Obviously that's a wide range of variation--I'm hoping to budget out to about $80, maybe even a little less.

I'm building in western Hays County, outside Dripping Springs, aiming to start in the spring.


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By Mark in Dripping Springs, TX on 9/28/2006


Hi Michael,

We're also looking at building next spring just outside Dripping Springs (about 5 miles south). Interested in keeping in touch - what construction methods are you looking at?
-Mark

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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 10/7/2006


Hi Mark,

I'm looking at fairly conventional construction framing--stick framing--with as much stone on the exterior as seems affordable, and probably HardiPlank siding for the rest. Two-story plan that we bought the blueprints for some time ago, and since have changed around quite a lot inside. Have an immediate need to locate a designer/draftsman to do up accurate new blueprints that I can get bids on.

My wife and I went thru a long dalliance with a timberframe hybrid framing concept, either for this plan or another, and so we looked closely at SIP's in general. But preliminary cost estimates led me to conclude that was going to be a much more expensive way to go, and without enough benefit in terms of energy savings to justify it. 

But I am planning to do everything practical to maximize energy efficiency within a conventional framework. And also may do some non-structural "timber-work" in the interior of the great room, kitchen, etc.

I'll be starting to seek bids within a couple months, so I'm very keen to start sharing names of subs with anyone who has built in the Austin/San Antonio/Hill Country area, or who's now planning.

Michael

...now in Dallas, but soon building in Dripping Springs


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By Cris in Austin, TX on 10/10/2006


Hey, ya'll, just rechecked this thread! Glad to see some folks in the area. Sub list attached! P.M me if you want to get together and trade notes.

...cd
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By Cris in Austin, TX on 10/10/2006


Oh, and if you are a MS-Project weenie like me, here is my "best case" project plan.
...cd
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By Nori in Houston, TX on 10/14/2006


Chris, first of all I consider you a godsend. Many thanks for being so generous in sharing your contractors list, which I'm aware took hours to compile. My time frame is to build in 2 1/2 yrs. or less - that's when I plan to retire from work. So far I'm still in the house planning stage and tossing up the idea of O-B.

My property is in Austin's ETJ (between Mansfield Dam and Lakeway) so I don't need the city's building permit. However I will need the septic tank permit from LCRA and utilities permits from the city and Travis County and hope the subs can take care of it.

Will be looking forward to your progress postings and wish you all the best.


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By Julie in Austin, TX on 10/25/2006


Cris,

Thanks for the sub list! We are O-B'ing between Oak Hill and Dripping Springs. If the building gods are with us, we'll break ground in December. Of course we're supposed to have a wetter than usual winter... which I know we need desperately... so  you can thank us for that. I figure our building plans has spurred this El Nino phenomenon on!!

We have chosen to build the ICF wall systems because of its energy efficiency. (We plan to be in this home for many years.) We also hired UBuildIt to hold my hand through this process, since I will be doing the bulk of the work. (Hubby has to work at the office!) We are very impressed with Mark Pritchard at UBuildIt so far.

I would be very interested in staying in touch with O-B's in this area to share/compare experiences and subs.

Julie


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By Cris in Austin, TX on 11/10/2006


Hey, Julie:

What are your sq/ft prices coming in at? We slowed down our project due to me having to work more (at my day job) and to get a better grip on prices. I'm at $112/ft today. I'm also getting down to the nitty-gritty bids. I'll update my sub list in the near future.

Anyone else have ideas on sq/ft prices?

cd...


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By Julie in Austin, TX on 11/11/2006


Hi Cris and others in the Cen Tex area! We don't have a good idea about price per sq. ft. yet. We are still pricing materials and labor out. We are building an ICF house and are planning to put in really quality materials as far as the building envelope is concerned. We're very interested in getting the most energy efficient home as possible. So this may skew the numbers a bit... it's not really comparing apples to apples.

Thanks for your sub list. I have already called a couple. It was also nice to see that some who made your list are also on ours! Can you recommend a good person who does clearing?

We are working with UBuildIt in Austin. So far, they have been very helpful. I sure would like to see this thread become a bit more active!

Julie


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 11/27/2006


Hi Cris,

I wanted to add my thanks for your posting your spreadsheet of subcontractors for the Austin area. That's very generous, and very helpful. I've started adding others that I've heard about (mostly on this website). Haven't called any yet, but I'm planning to start some preliminary discussions with subs this week.

Along with navigating the Texas Owner-Builder Hindrance Practices to secure financing, my most immediate challenge is in revising my house plans. I've talked to a couple designers who've quoted 75 cents a square foot. That's okay, but I'm wondering if anyone has worked with a designer who's less expensive, or just that they'd strongly recommend.

We have a complete set of blueprints which we bought, but we've made quite a few changes to the interior floorplan. Can't go back to the original designer, as he's deceased. I want to have as detailed and complete a set of plans as possible, for bidding and guiding the construction.

Anybody have any recommendations for a designer, either in the Austin area (where I'm building), or in the DFW area (where I'm still living).

Michael (building this spring in Dripping Springs)


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By Cris in Austin, TX on 1/5/2007


Hey, Austin O-B's, here's an update on our project:

We just couldn't make the original plans work without really messing up the architecturals - my wife calls our style, "designy". Also, work is getting in my way right now, so much that I won't be able to be the GC. We have identified a builder that will allow us to be the "supervisors". Not his business model, but he's trying it out with us.

That said, we put some plans together in Chief Architect - spendy software, but really helps me get ideas in print. There is a guy in Austin who teaches/trains on the software that I have used two times already - David Potter (Google Chief Architect David Potter). He really helped out with rooflines and general layout.

My plan is to use him to refine (correct!) my work and ultimately wring out the working drawings. His rates are realistic and fair in my opinion.

Someone above mentioned ICF, and budget pending will be using it in our casa. We're about a month from breaking ground and I'm chomping at the bit to get going.

If anyone has an Austin house underway, I'd love to come see it and trade notes - or if not - maybe we could meet up at La Madeline sometime - just a thought.

All for now - good luck with all of this!

cd...

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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 1/5/2007


I ended up using a designer up here in the Dallas Fort Worth area, Chris Acker of Blue Line Design. So far we've done the first draft of the floorplan, and should get back the next draft early next week. I'm hopeful that we'll have biddable plans and a construction budget supported by subcontractor bids by the end of the month, so we can complete construction loan applications. 

Right now I'm aiming to have three or four lenders lined up to complete applications with, probably a couple banks and a couple brokers. I'm hopeful that I won't have to pay off a owner-builder consulting company to get the financing done, but to play it safe I'm going to have that lined up as well--just in case it turns out to be necessary. Feeling pretty confident that the financing will work out, just not sure how many hoops we'll have to jump thru on the way.

Michael


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By Peggy on 1/16/2007


Shout out from the Spicewood, TX area ...just south of the mighty Pedernales, which is finally flowing again!

We plan to break ground within the next few months. Pretty sure we're going with Help-U-Build. We're just redlining the plans one last time before it goes to bid. We used Nick Mehl for the plans, a great guy, efficient, professional, and easy to work with. AIA architect, too. Decided against SIPs because of cost; will do 2x6 stick instead with cellulose insulation. 2,205 sq ft total. Prelim cost is at $126 per sq foot, I believe. We have a source from Monterrey for Cantera columns, mesquite and iron doors, copper sinks, other Cantera and iron details.

Anyone know of a good sub for roadwork? Fellow who did ours did a terrible job and the culvert is popping out of the earth even after he's come back a few times to 'fix' it.

I'll be glad to share what I can, but once we sign with HUB, I think their sources are proprietary.

Cris, have you already used any of the subs on your spreadsheet?

Ciao e grazie!
peggy

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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 1/16/2007


As far as roadwork/grading/etc., one name that's been recommended to me repeatedly is Bob Parrott, who owns Bob's Rental on RR12 around Wimberley.

Your source in Monterrey for columns, doors, and iron details sounds intriguing. Is that Monterrey, Mexico? Do they have a website?


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By Peggy on 1/17/2007


Hmmm, Wimberly is quite a haul from here. I wonder if Bob does any work up this way. Do you have his number?

Yes, Monterrey, Mexico - but he comes up to the Austin area frequently to make deliveries. His name is Antonio Ampudia 512-789-2485 mxcustom@hotmail.com.

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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 1/20/2007


Peggy, thanks for the info on mxcustom.

The numbers for Bob Parrott, who does backhoe and lot grading work out of Wimberley, are off: 512.847.6100, and cell: 512.757.0600.

I understand that Spicewood is some distance away, but so far I've found people to be pretty liberal about how far they're willing to drive to do work in the hill country area.


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 2/4/2007


I just wanted to try to solicit a few more people reading this thread to contribute something about their actual or projected SF prices on their home build in this area.

So far Cris had a preliminary figure of $112 per sq ft, and Peggy's preliminary price was $126.

Is there anyone who's finished their build in the last year or so in the area, who could post what their cost turned out to be? It would also be helpful to include something about what might be large "economy" or "luxury" factors in your budget.

Today I came across a pretty informative thread over on the Florida local forum, entitled "Current Florida building budget", which included some specific figures from quite a few contributors. According to my notes, the figures I found were respectively $64, $74, $88, $100, and $115/SF. I believe all these were w/o land--several were from a few years ago, several this year. 

Gotta admit I envy how active those guys are over on the Florida local forum. We Texans need to catch up.

I'm going to be working on my budget over the next few weeks, and I'll for sure post what I'm coming up with as my preliminary number.


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By Cris in Austin, TX on 2/14/2007


Just built this for our "plan C" (third plan is a charm...). We are printing a copy for each room. We'll fill out the specs and take them with us to the interior designer. Ultimately, this info will make it's way into the specs for the casa.

 

Hope it helps!

cd...


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 3/9/2007


I worked up a preliminary budget (verrry preliminary) for my plan, using Building-cost.net, which came to $95 sq. ft.

It's been a very helpful exercise to do that, and to kinda of live with the numbers for a little while, but I know it's not very real until I actually have real bids from subs and suppliers, which I've only begun to solicit.

I met with Jon Higgins of Texas Help-U-Build earlier this week. He's got a very honest and straightforward way of developing business, which involves doing up a budget for your project, based on your plans and his experience with the subs he works with and recommends. He said he didn't want to see my budget, that it might color his estimate, but that he wanted to approach it "without prejudice". He does the budget estimating for free as a business promotion tool. His office is very interesting, with thousands of pictures of all sorts of owner-built houses, blueprints spilling out everywhere. 

I'm still hoping that I'll find an angle to finance my project without spending the money for a consultant, but I will say that Texas HUB seems to have an excellent service--well worth checking them out. As far as I can tell, he's not a franchise, it's just the one office in Austin. I'm very eager to see what budget total he'll come up with (supposed to be ready within the next week).

I'm still hoping that more readers of this Texas forum will contribute their estimates or actuals as far as sq. ft. prices--I think it could be very helpful in the early stages of planning a house, especially if the raw sq. ft. info is accompanied by some info about grade of finish, special luxury or economizing factors, etc.

I did find another discussion thread about sq. ft. prices on this site, entitled "Cost per Square Foot", under Construction Bargain Strategies. It was mostly in 2005, from Nevada, Florida, Wyoming, Illinois, and Colorado, with prices $127, $60, $80, $110, $50, $130, $73, and $75/SF.


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By Peggy on 3/10/2007


Hi All:

We're collecting actual bids right now... and the price is drifting up from the initial estimate. But there are still several large line items to come in, so it is too early to say. I'll try to remember to post once we have a final number and corresponding specs.
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By George in Wharton, TX on 3/19/2007


Michael,

I'm two years from groundbreaking, so no s.f. info, but I noticed you still have issues with financing without a consultant. I spoke with a friend who runs our local Capital One Bank and she will accept a "straw builder". I am meeting with her and the corporate guy who handles this for them (I believe he is in Dallas). I will be looking to confirm exactly what they expect. If you still are looking, I will report my findings after the meeting. This guy in Dallas could be the same one you would deal with in your area.


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 3/25/2007


Thanks very much for the info about Capital One.

In fact, I've just got off my loan app docs to two lender prospects, and Capital One is one of them. I'm not sure if this part makes any sense, but my contact with Cap One who I'm applying to is in Houston (Woodlands). Her name is Kristin Louviere, office number 713.435.5527.

The other lender I've applied to is Brian Crumbie of Builder's Priority Mortgage, also in the Houston area (Magnolia). His number is 936.321.2701.

They are both able to consider owner-builder loans, and can accept a Builder of Record who has no building experience (such as my mother). They do apparently work a lot with consultants, but are willing to consider it without them.

By the way, many of the financing-related posts on the Texas Forum have been relocated under one topic heading:

O-B Finance in Texas.


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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 3/25/2007


Update on my budget: my estimated cost to build is now $110/sq. ft. for 3,028 sq. ft. cooled.

They're not exactly "luxury features", but I do have a few out-of-the-ordinary items included in my budget that are worth mentioning to help with comparisons.: Septic, Water Catchment system with 12,000 gal tank, pump, etc. (but no well to drill), and I've included a moderate cost to build a separate workshop building (but have not included its square footage). If these three items are factored out, my cost comes to $97/sq ft. That does include a 5% contingency. Note these are still just estimates without sub bids.


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By George in Wharton, TX on 3/25/2007


Sounds like you are pretty far along in your planning. Besides the septic and workshop, is there any explanation why your estimated budget came out so much higher than your original hope of building for $80? Is this a dream-type home?
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By Michael Penn in Dripping Springs, TX on 3/31/2007


No explanation other than that in doing the detailed budget and getting some fairly rough estimates for all the detail items, it "just adds up." I wouldn't say that it's a dream home, although I think it's gonna be pretty nice.

Again, my budget's still tentative. I'll update when I get most all my bids in.


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By George in Wharton, TX on 5/22/2007


Hey Michael, any update on your budget?


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By Dorothy A. in Wimberley, TX on 5/26/2007


Hi, Peggy,

Michael gave you Bob Parrott's name, and I want to tell you a bit more about his business--I am a customer, not an employee.

Bob is moving all of his operations from the one listed as Bob's Rental to The Stoneworks. The Stone Works is a few miles closer to San Marcos than the other yard. The number is 512.392.9242.

Bob sells stone, gravel, sand, and a bunch of other stuff. I know he works as far away as Houston, so you aren't out of his area.

He put in our road base, widened the driveway entrance, and has done some grading for me. He was also the supplier to my septic system installer for our LPD bed. We plan to buy our stone from him and have him to some filling for terracing when the house is complete. That will involve moving a lot of rocks around to make the terrace look like I want it to. I have had the septic installer put all the rocks and dirt he won't use in a big pile to use later. I have more room that a lot of folks, so I am doing my best to recycle all the dirt and stone. Bob will also do our permanent driveway that will be decomposed granite. He doesn't do asphalt or concrete as far as I know. Decomposed gravel makes a good, durable drive that I think is more appropriate than asphalt or concrete. This is the Hill Country, not the city.

Oh, yes. He will be replacing one end of my drive that a lumber delivery driver destroyed last Monday. That was the start of a very exasperating week. That drive entrance is 35-feet wide; how can anyone run over it? The lumber company will pay for the repair, and they asked who built it, so they will be calling Bob to repair my driveway entrance. In fact, I learned of the damage from Bob. I called to talk to his office man about stone, and Bob got on the telephone to ask me what I had been doing to my driveway. It just got back to him through the grapevine because his drivers were delivering load after load of sandy loam for that bed. I would have been more angry than I was except that it was, in the end, funny--how I learned about it and who was telling the story.

You may want to get other bids, but I went with Bob on the recommendation of a neighbor who used him when he was building.

Bob is a big, blustery older man who works more hours than most of his much younger employees. I say "older" with a grin; we are the same age. Neither of us believes that over 70 years old means the rocking chair.

Good luck on your project,

Dorothy


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By Dorothy A. in Wimberley, TX on 5/26/2007


Michael,

Bob Parrott is combining his operations at The Stone Works. It is a few miles closer to San Marcos. That office number is 512.392.9242.

Dorothy
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By Larry in Larue, TX on 10/15/2007


Hi Michael,

Do you have an update of your budget costs? Thanks.


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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/17/2007


Hi Cris! We are also building west of Austin, off 71W in Travis Settlement! After researching three owner-builder programs, we decided to go with UBuildIt. They ended being the most thorough, responsive, and professional of the three networks. We also checked their references, and they received stellar reviews here in the Austin area. So here was the cost breakdown for us to join up (with UBuildIt, Northcross location).

2,419 square foot home x $5.50 per A/C square foot = $13,304

This includes:
- 20 site visits throughout the process
- Advice and guidance from professional builders
- Comprehensive manual on what to do next
- A list of reliable/tested subcontractors that we can use which is completely optional
- Financial backing when getting financing for your construction loan (they basically are responsible for your home if you don't end up finishing it!)

All three networks are listed on Better Business Bureau, and you should meet with them for an hour or two to see what kind of vibe you get. The people we talked to (Mark Pritchard and Glenn Davis) are incredibly professional, easy to contact and friendly. We definitely got a good vibe there and the great thing is that they charge by the A/C square foot only. You can also check out my green dream home blog at "my construction website".

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By Jenee in Katy, TX on 10/17/2007


Myleen,

Love the website! You guys over in Austin are leading the way on the green building front. I would like to incorporate some green building techniques and materials in our owner-build project a few years from now. We still want our house to be traditional in look and feel although my husband probably could go strictly modern and be happy. I am glad you have some blogs discussing topics in green building and I will look on your site for more resources to check into. Please keep the forum updated with your sq ft costs and if you could offer some cost comparisons as well, that would really maybe push more to go 'green'.


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By George in Wharton, TX on 10/18/2007


I would seriously consider SIPs if the cost were close to stick-built. I have read some places including your blog that it is almost the same, but frankly most of the people I hear say that are connected in some way to selling SIPs. If there is anyone who has actual experience with the cost, I would like to hear from them. Also, living two and a half hours from Austin in a small town, I think I might have a problem getting subs to handle a SIP build. Anyway, thanks for posting. I enjoyed your blog.
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By Peggy on 10/18/2007


We got a couple of bids for SIPs and they were significantly higher than stick... even 2x6 stick with Icynene, which is what we went with. By the way, 2,419 square feet isn't very green, now is it?
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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


Peggy, I don't understand the point you're trying to make. Square footage alone doesn't say how "green" a home is, and when you consider that I am doing rainwater collection, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, SIPs walls and roof from local manufacturer (within 500-mile radius), recycled countertops, concrete floors with fly ash, chem-free pool, no VOC paints, cork and bamboo flooring and an organic roof garden, I'll bet that mine is greener than yours any day of the week. Yes of course SIPs are higher than stick, but you get the savings in energy costs ($500 electric bill compared to $75 bill). I don't mean to sound rude, but your comment didn't sound very friendly either.

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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


Thanks for coming by the blog. To answer some of your comments, I am NOT a salesperson from an SIP manufacturer, but yes, I highly endorse SIP walls over Icynene walls any day of the week. SIPs have a tighter envelope and better insulation value than Icynene. Icynene is still based on stick-built technology and every 2x4 or 2x6 going up for your stick-built frame generates what's called a thermal bridge, which lowers your insulation value. People that use that don't think about that; all they see are $$ signs and bottom line, but if they only spend more money upfront for better quality, the payoff is better, I agree.

Even my geothermal installer told me he sells Icynene on the side, and still prefers SIPs; you get more return on value. About getting a framer for SIPs, any framing crew can learn it. Most SIP manufacturers will allow you to hire an SIP trainer and train your crew in a day. I am even learning and going to a class tomorrow. As a mechanically challenged female, if I can do it, most people can learn too! There is EH Systems in New Braunfels. Contact me if you want more info.

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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


Genee, thanks for coming by the blog! Yes, you can make the exterior to your taste, as that can be done with SIPs are well. I will definitely keep sq. ft. costs available, but realize that green building can be much more upfront costs, but lower maintenance costs in the long run and you're doing something good for the planet. You simply can't be shortsighted when you get into it. Green building can mean a lot of things - and deal with energy efficiency, energy savings, eco-friendly material or chem-free/healthy products. Also, you have to think about what is available locally and your climate. So, there's a lot to learn, but it's so much fun! We are enjoying the build of our house. Contact me any time if you need additional advice.

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By Peggy on 10/18/2007


Thermal Breaks

A thermal break is an insulating material, intended to prevent structural elements such as studs and concrete slab floors from acting as a thermal bridge. One typical example of thermal break would be foam sheets placed over the exterior sheathing of a building. The thermal break provides a layer of insulation that will resist heat flow through the thermal bridge.

Sprayed or Injected Foam

Sprayed or injected foam can provide a thermal break for the various thermal bridges in a wall assembly. When the foam is sprayed into the wall cavity it will flow between the stud wall and the sheathing. The foam between the studs and sheathing is a thermal break. This design will increase the whole wall R-value of the building.
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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


Typo - exchange thermal break for thermal bridge

Icynene and stick-built is still way worse. Many thermal bridges in sticks.

Icynene is still inferior in quality to SIPs, being my point.

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By Peggy on 10/18/2007


Look, I really have no dog in this fight. In my experience, in this area, SIP is more costly than stick plus Icynene. That's it. There's all kinds of green for all kinds of budgets. I'm sure we'll all look back in 20 years and laugh about how little we all knew about green building. resourcecenter.pnl.gov/cocoon
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By Jenee in Katy, TX on 10/18/2007


I have to say I think the best thing is that whatever level of 'green' you decide to put into your project is a good thing (anything from energy efficient light bulbs all the way up to solar panels). It is better than not even discussing the topic. It is a step in the right direction...


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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


I am not really arguing it's cheaper, so maybe we are fighting over nothing. I agree SIPs are more expensive than stick built, but I'm arguing the benefits in the long run will offset and pay themselves back, not now but later, I've heard up to 5 years they'll pay themselves back in cost. I'm just pointing out that you can't just look at upfront costs, you have to see long term when doing green building, and in my experience getting bids, it's a LOT more upfront! Good luck with your project, I think going with Icynene is better than going straight batt.
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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/18/2007


You're right, be as green as you can afford, I try to follow that...
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By George in Wharton, TX on 10/19/2007


Myleen & Peggy,

Thanks for the helpful comments. I want to have an efficient home but it has to make monetary sense. If SIPs can pay themselves back in five years I am very interested. Also, I have been told that a SIP house is structurally stronger than 2x6. Is that your understanding? Myleen, have you received "stick-built" bids on your own build for comparison? I think I will look up that group in New Braunfels you mentioned.


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By Peggy on 10/19/2007


Hi George,

It's really hard finding research-based, non-biased facts regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the various building envelopes available. This article comes close... sensiblehouse.org

I think one of the .gov websites has a comparison of energy savings over time versus initial investment. Something akin to a cost-benefit analysis. I'll post it if I come across it again.

Each method has certain benefits and tradeoffs, and what works well in one climate would be totally unsuitable in another. BTW, we have a "My Construction Website", too. It isn't anywhere as helpful and content-rich as Myleen's, but it has pretty pix! :)


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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/19/2007


Peggy and George,
I have some updated information on SIPs and Icynene, as I just now took a SIPs class today. And there are some things I'd like to correct or clarify on Icynene. But with anything, definitely do your own research and prove to yourself if you believe what I have to say below.

Icynene and stick built will give you a higher R-value rating where the foam is, HOWEVER, there are so many thermal bridges in the frame, that the energy efficiency is drastically reduced because the R-value rating is not the only factor in energy efficiency, it also has to do with the heat gain created by the thermal bridges as well as infiltration and exfiltration. And, interestingly enough, Icynene is supposed to be more expensive than doing SIPs. This was what was told at the SIPs class, but then again, this is a sales guy, so verify everything I wrote above.

I do have a cost comparison for SIPs vs. Stick on my blog. Here's a snippet from my article

"Good Questions on SIPs and using a Designer/Architect":

Q: Did you get quotes on what the cost difference was between traditional framing and SIPs?
A: Yes, we certainly did a cost analysis, and basically, 2x4 or 2x6 stick-built wood framing costs approximately $5.50-$6.50/sq ft for labor+material versus SIPs that would cost about $9-10/sq ft. HOWEVER, if you were to, at best, save 50-70% on your cooling costs, through time, SIPs pay themselves off and are cheaper to maintain, as well as extremely energy efficient. Basically, much of green building is a higher upfront cost, but cheaper in the long run in use and maintenance. Besides, we all need to think about global warming and our planet! :-) When deciding on a getting a SIP home, you are investing in more than just your house value, but in a legacy home that will last forever and be cheaper to maintain for years to come.

Here's an example:
Let's say for a 2,500 sf home, it costs you $13,750 to stick build (using $5.50/sf calculation), but $25,000 to use SIPs (using $10/sf calculation). And for this same home, averaged out throughout the year, you pay $300/mo for electric or $3,600/year with a stick built vs. $75/mo or $900/year with SIP frame.

In energy costs, you saved $2,700/year on your electric bill. The additional $11,250 you paid to get SIP frame ($25,000 minus $13,750) would be paid off in a little over four years ($11,250 / $2,700 = 4.16 years). This is what I mean that they will pay themselves back in less than five years, and it's definitely worth it to take a look.

Also, according to the class, stick frame will be considered obsolete and may be out of code in the very near future, as energy prices soar to such a high level; stick built will be considered too energy inefficient to build and maintain. Realtors are even predicting that house values will be directly proportionate to your home's energy efficiency because energy is such a precious resource and will play a much larger part in home prices. Who will want to buy a cheaper home if it will cost you very much money to upkeep and maintain? If you have that mindset, then it's not really being frugal if you think about it!

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By Terry in Torrance, CA on 10/21/2007


Myleen,

For some people, your cost/benefit analysis is a huge understatement. Some will not be paying for their home with cash, but will instead be paying on a mortgage. The extra cost of the SIP construction might be about $70 or $75 dollars a month more in mortgage payment amount.

Now, add to that, that for some, that $75/month may be nearly 100% deductible (at the beginning of the loan when most of the payment is interest), effectively reducing that amount. If they were in a 15% bracket, then the cost of that might be only $63 per month. Since the utility bill savings you project exceed this amount, you are looking at payback from day one, not in four or five years. I think your figures were $300 vs. $75. If that is the case, then with the loan and tax considerations, you are seeing something like $300 - $75 = $225 utility cost - $63 payment = $162 in your pocket that you otherwise would not have had.

Now, these numbers change as the percentage of your payment moves from interest to principle, but you get the idea. However, as your payments make that, you begin losing deductibility, but only around $10 a month. So, that $162 might actually average out to $157 across the life of the loan. On a thirty-year loan, that would be $56,520. It doesn't end there.

Your property value will likely increase over time, so you are gaining money from that as well, plus, as utilities rise in the future, your savings will also rise. So really, the investment in something like SIP panels puts a huge amount of money in your pocket; but, there is more still.

If you were to take that $157 dollars that you save each month, any add it to your mortgage payment,  then you would pay down your house faster, reducing the amount of money you would otherwise lose to interest on the loan; this is tens of thousands of dollars more.

Now, I assume the numbers you gave about the savings, are only in the worst months, not year round, but people can work this all out for their own situation of construction cost, utility cost, loan cost etc., and see if it makes sense to them. Looking at numbers this way may make people consider spending a little more to save a lot.

By the way, thanks for adding the tip about staining in the floor of the closet, I should have mentioned that - nice catch.


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By Myleen in Austin, TX on 10/21/2007


Hi Terry,

Yes, I might have oversimplified the equation, partly due to my inadequacy in math, but also to explain the point that they pay themselves back. So isn't what you're basically saying, is that you will pay off that SIP vs. stick difference FASTER, because if you pay down your mortgage principal with the energy savings, you're saving even more money because you are putting it into your mortgage? Did I read that right? If so, then I agree. It's putting the money in your own pocket/mortgage as opposed to putting it in the utility company's hands.

Post a pic of your staining if you get a chance!

Myleen

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By Terry in Torrance, CA on 10/29/2007


Myleen,

I never said oversimplified, I said understated. So yes, what I was saying is that it would pay for itself dramatically faster, and save/earn you money in the long term, not merely recover its cost.

As far as a pic of some staining, I have to stop mentioning things, as people always want pics, and for some reason, I don't take them. I hope to finish up work on my current home, and there is a living room of about 400 square feet that has a bad carpet and a concrete floor. I'll consider doing a stain job on that floor if the concrete looks good. If I do that, I'll photo-document it and post some pics then. I just returned from a concrete countertop industry convention, and QUIKRETE had a display there. The had three one-gallon cans on display there, which only had computer printed labels on them. As I recall, they referred to them as etching stain. Apparently, they are going to come out with acid stains in three colors soon, so it looks like maybe acid staining is going a bit mainstream if they are getting involved. I have no reason to believe that their product will be superior to anyone else's, but I am going to guess that they will stick with color choices that are the most successful for first-timers. If they are out when I do my floor, maybe I'll give them a try just to see how they work.

Addendum: I just poked around the Web a moment and noticed that QUIKRETE considers its etching stain to be a professional product, which sometimes means not available at Home Depot, etc., except by special order. Yet, I see Lowe's has it one their site for $72 a gallon. This is a bit confusing, I have to wonder why they show up at a trade show with tacky cans with simulated labels when the product is already at stores - hmmm.


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