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Cara's Forum Posts: 38
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By Cara in Orlando, FL on 8/21/2005


Hi all! I have been a lurker for months, but as the time approaches to break ground, I find that I have tons of questions... Hopefully I have posted in the correct forum (if not, please yell at me and tell me where to post instead :))

We have our property (in Wedgefield, East Orange County FL) and are working on plans and wetland mitigation. I think we'll have both of those ready to go by late September... Sooooo I am in search of a contractor whom I'd be able to use as a consultant.

Basically I need only a few things from whomever I hire - I need to learn the critical path for home construction specifically in Orange County, and also names of subcontractors. Alternately, if I could find another owner-builder who has gone through the process, that could work too.

Thanks in advance!

Cara & Jason

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By Jeff in Provo, UT on 8/21/2005


Have you tried owner-builder connections on this site? ownerbuilderbook.com/ob
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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 10/31/2005


We built a garage apt. in downtown Orlando as O-Bs and are now getting ready to build a house. We can suffer together. We learned a lot on the garage, but are still nervous about the next project. I find that I try to communicate clearly but the subs want "generalities". I do have some reliable, honest subs.
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By David in Ocoee, FL on 11/5/2005


Cara & Jason

I will be building a home in Bithlo. A two-story Mediterranean-style home built out of autoclaved aerated concrete. I am going to find my own subs, as I know a few people in various trades, and I am willing to pick up the phone book and call a few numbers. UBuildIt is a company in East Orange County that will consult for you for approx. 7% of the cost of construction. However, I am going to let my subs do their own thing. I just won't pay them in full until the work passes county inspection.

Thanks,

David


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By Julie on 12/12/2005


Cara and Jason,

My husband and I would highly discourage anyone from using UBuildIt. Their consulting fees are outrageous and you do not get what you pay for; it's no longer the "7%" they claim. We are also building a home in Wedgefield. We decided after Phase I with UBuildIt that we can do it better on our own. We have many contacts helping us with this job. If you need guidance or have any to give, please let us know.

Julie


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 12/13/2005


Julie,

I have been researching building materials for some time now, with a special emphasis on energy conservation as well as product durability. I have several areas where you can save a lot of money in the long run, but the "up front" cost is higher. My advice is to not be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to building your dream home. Just two examples:

Better Bilt (Florida) windows bessed.com/betterbiltwindows cost a bit more than the other insulated windows, because they use swiggle-seal technology. I have seen insulated windows half filled with water because they were made cheap and sold cheap.

American Standard americanstandardair.com air conditioners are the same product as Trane, but at a more moderate price. An 18 SEER unit costs more than a 13 SEER, but you will recoup your cost in under three years and be more comfortable as well. 

I have many, many more examples, such as cement fiberboard, waterproofing shower stalls, ceramic paint, floor coverings, metal roof tiles, wood cabinets, etc. Please let me know what specific area(s) you would like more information about, and I will do my best to point you in the right direction. Thank you for being candid with me about UBuildIt.  I don't think I will be using them.


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By Julie on 12/13/2005


Thank you for your help. I would love to know of some window (energy-efficient) and insulation providers in the Orlando area. I don't mind paying extra for better windows; I know the benefits - it's a no-brainer.
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By David in Ocoee, FL on 12/14/2005


Windows: Please try to avoid calling a window salesperson out of the Yellow Pages. You will surely get ripped off, because they will try to sell you cheap windows at an inflated price. I have settled on Better Bilt windows, because they use swiggle-seal technology. You used to be able order these windows from Home Depot or 84 Lumber. The manufacturer can recommend an installer. Contact them for more info: betterbilt.com/contact.asp

Insulation: If you are truly serious about insulation, you will stay away from the blown-in or rolled-on fiberglass stuff. It looks pretty, but is rather ineffective as an insulator. If you want to save big money on energy and be in a position to downsize your A/C unit (that's right, downsize), check into sprayed-on polyurethane-foam insulation: Here is a vendor out of Sanford, Fl: tailoredfoaminc.com/residential. Or you can have your roof deck made out of SIPs (structural insulated panels). These panels have an effective R-value of 7 per inch. So if you order 6" roof panels, you would have an R-value of at least 42. And another bonus with SIPs is that you do not need roof trusses if you are building a gable roof. You will have a cathedral ceiling. In fact, I am building my entire house out of SIP, roof, walls, interior walls and floor. 

I have just scratched the surface here when it comes to energy conservation. Other areas include the use of an E.R.V. (energy recovery ventilator), ceramic insulating house paint, tankless water heater, compact fluorescent lighting; too much to list. I can go on and on all day. However, It would probably be best if I addressed a couple of things at a time. Please let me know what you would like more information on.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 12/16/2005


Structural insulated panels:

A couple of questions arose concerning insect infestation and roof leaks in structural insulated panels (SIPs). Please let me respond. There are two types of SIPs: EPS (expanded polystyrene) and urethane. In my opinion, EPS SIP panels are crap. The gentleman that I am going to work with, sipsupply.com, only sells the urethane-foam SIP. Urethane foam is what is inside your refrigerator walls. It is what they make walk-in coolers out of. It is closed cell, which means that it is composed of millions of individual urethane bubbles. When it is installed, more urethane foam is applied to all four sides, completely sealing each panel. The following quote is from the Commercial Building Products website, cbpmagazine.com/articles

"With the advantage of resisting all types of weather damage, rot, and splintering, urethane pieces also resist insect infestations, including termites. These characteristics make the products long-lasting and easy to maintain."

The following excerpt is from sipweb.com:

Q: Are ants and termites a problem in panels? No more than in conventional construction. In climates where either termites or ants can cause problems, panel manufacturers recommend that all homeowners use the same preventive treatments (topical sprays around foundations, termite shields, etc.) they would use in a stick-framed home. Note, however, that foam within panels does not provide food value for insects.

More web sites: pbspanels.com

I would also add that I am building three feet above grade on a concrete block foundation, so insect infestation is less likely, although still a possibility. As for the roof, you are correct. The best way to address leaks is to ensure as much as possible that they do not occur in the first place. This is why the following company that makes SIP panels has also come out with a roof underlayment product and a housewrap that is vastly superior to the old 30# felt paper. Their website: permarproducts.com

Home Depot also sells a synthetic roof underlayment product, but I don't remember the brand name right now. Or depending upon your budget, you can go with a high-end, self sealing, self adhesive underlayment: carlisle-ccw.com There are many ways to keep your roof from ever leaking or absorbing moisture.

And if none of this convinces you, you can go with an AAC (Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) roof, which is composed of nothing but air and concrete.


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 2/20/2006


Hello Julie,

Would you mind telling us who you used for your electrical contractor, your framing contractor, and your drywall contractor?

Anyone else who has good experience with these trades in Orlando, feel free to post also.

Thanks,


Jason

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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 2/20/2006


Jason,

We have used Complete Electrical Solutions, owner Steve Splitter: 321-299-6828.

We used him on our old house, and will use him for our new build. His work is excellent. He will point out things that you might not have thought of and make recommendations for better service or saving money.

Lyn


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 2/20/2006


Lyn,

Thank you. This is very important. We will be listing all of our contractors and how well they perform as we use them.

Being owner-builders, this is probably the most vital information of all to anyone thinking about doing this.

So if anyone else has something to share in any form... please do.

Jason


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By Julie on 3/1/2006


Jason,

Sorry for the delay - we have been slammed busy aside from building, and I am 6 months pregnant so I don't get on here every day. Where are you building, again? The electric company we are working with is Southeast Electric located on Curry Ford Rd., the framing company (a referral from our block guy) is Janego Construction (352.735.1029) and we have not hired a drywall co. yet. Have had several referrals... if you would like to come out to our site in Wedgefield or have any questions about these subs, please feel free to call us. PM me and I can give you phone numbers.

Julie 


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/1/2006


I have attached the estimate from our HVAC representative; the unit is as follows:

XL19i Two-Stage Heat Pump with a SEER rating of 17.6

The exterior walls are sandwich foam. There are furring strips on the inside. I don't remember the R-value off the top of my head, but it is better than block. We have a one-acre, very-shaded lot. Lots of tall trees in all directions. Direct sun will be minimal at most parts of the day.

Yes, drywall will end up costing close to $12K installed. But we like "dryway" anyway. It's softer.

There are many ways to build a home. We chose this way. There are plenty of other ways to build it (SIP, block, AAC) but this just works out too well for us. I cannot think of a more streamlined process. It's the reason why every new commercial building out there is using it. Is it cost effective?... last year... not so much... but we got a quote on regular block and it would be stupid to go with it at the current price. It's now "affordable" and construction firms are just 'now' willing to do it for residential homes. It will be standard building practice in the years to come for southern Florida homes. Many high-end builders only use tilt-up now, and several of the more popular companies offer it as upgrades (hurricane).

Julie, we are just north of you on Quarterly Parkway, Lot 7. Cara and I will stop by soon to say hello and check on your progress. Drywallers are the hardest people to get, so I have heard. Even the big construction companies my relatives work for have a hard time securing them.

-Jason


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 3/2/2006


Jason comes through again! Here is more information about the wall system that Jason is describing:

Thermomass Brochure.

Although Thermomass is a trade name, I imagine it is still very close to what Jason is using, if not identical. How clever! In a nutshell, this wall system addresses all the issues that I expressed concern about; thermal mass and R-value. This type of wall system contains two inches of polystyrene insulation sandwiched between two 4" layers of concrete. As the website states, it has an effective R-value (here we go again with R-value) of about 22. Because the thermal break is in the middle of the wall as opposed to the outside or inside, you would get the benefits of both thermal mass and R-value. 

Just one more question Jason, if I may. What made you select spray-on insulation over fiber-cement-skin SIP roof panels? Was it cost, convenience, availability? I think it is great to be able to save folks so much research time and money through this forum. 

Thanks again, Jason! 

David


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/2/2006


Just to clarify, these are the companies we met with. They are all comparable in price. Pick your pleasure. These are the local guys. We have sorted through all the mess. This is it if you want to go this route. No one else is feasible or willing. Tilt-up walls are like 6" thick, actually. We will gain 55 extra sq ft just using this exterior wall versus 8".

SWS Florida: Poured in place.

Weaver Precast: Done off site - Tilt-up walls.

Precast Homes: Tilt-up. This is who we are using pending on one condition that I will explain later. Watch video on website to understand process.

Spray-in attic insulation was chosen because it is easy. No work for us. Done in a day or so. Ties the entire structure together. Waterproof. Reliable. Non-toxic. It's $7K for the attic. It will keep temperatures between sealed attic and house within like 6-8 degrees of each other. We do not want cathedral ceilings. We want flat 12' high ones.

-Jason


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 3/2/2006


Sorry to bore you folks, but you only get one chance to build your house and build it right. As energy costs soar and hurricane season approaches, this issue is going to become more and more important. We are back to R-value and overall costs again. 

When dealing with sandwich-wall construction, whether it be pre-cast tilt-up, or pour in place, you will see the following numbers: 2/1/2 or something similar. 2/1/2 means that the sandwich is composed of two inches of concrete inside and two inches outside with a one-inch layer of urethane foam in the middle. The R-22 value that I mentioned earlier is for a 4/2/4 wall, which would end up being 10 inches thick, total! The company that Jason is using) normally uses 2/1/2 which according to their own video clip is only rated at R-7. Not acceptable! R-7 is nowhere near being Energy Star compliant. No rebates to the builder, higher energy costs to the homeowner. In fact, if you look at the pictures on the website, the urethane foam insulation does not even cover the entire wall. 

At this point I am not certain of exactly what the "numbers" for Jason's walls are, except for the dry-in costs that he provided. I would be more interested in getting exact figures on the exact composition of the wall and its whole-wall R-value, its TRUE R-value. 

I would also be interested in seeing data on its flexural modulus. In other words, how strong is this sandwich panel, really?  Can you suspend the panel and drive a truck over it, as in the case of the ThermaSave panel? I am certain that the dry-in costs that Jason quoted earlier for a 5" or 6" thick sandwich panel will not render anywhere near the R-26 value that the ThermaSave or Structall wall has, and comes nowhere near the strength of the SIP. And at R-7, it would certainly not qualify for an Energy Star certification. I believe that we are talking apples and oranges here. 

Oh how I wish I were wrong! I would love to use a sandwich panel that has a whole wall R-value in excess of R-22 at a dry-in cost significantly lower than what I have already been quoted by ThermaSave and Structall and be as strong or stronger than an SIP panel. According to my research, it seems very doubtful.

David


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 3/2/2006


I missed an important detail. The 2,100-sf cost that I quoted earlier is the sf of air-conditioned home. The actual cost and size on the Structall envelope is as follows:

3,122 total sf - $64,233.

This includes all exterior walls and roof panels, all interior load-bearing walls and beams, extrusions, fasteners, window and door openings and ERV.

Also, please keep in mind that the Structall panels do not have to be finished. Which means that you do not have to put roof shingles or stucco on it if you do not wish to. 


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/2/2006


David,

------------WARNING - LONG POST-------------

I can sense your concern. We as the builders here must look at the 'bigger' picture. As R-22 is better than R-7 or R-12, depending on the foam used in-between the sandwich. Then end result though, no matter which one you choose, is a more-efficient wall than what you are currently living in. Whether it be block or frame. Your roof and attic are what absorb the majority of the heat soak. That is what is extremely important for energy savings. We also live on a highly-shaded lot.

1) To go with SIP would raise our construction loan cost close to $22K! That's $22K financed, also. The interest + initial cost is not cheap! Please... where is the breakeven point on ROI? Even if you reduce your electric bill by $50 or so a month because of this, you would take decades to break even. 

2) Do you honestly think that R-22 will be your major energy savings? In our case it will not. Why? Well, our current electric bill is about $175 avg per month. This is with four adults living in a 1,550 sf block house, with standard batt insulation, standard water heater, and old-school aluminum windows with no low-E. If I replaced my windows alone and put better insulation in the attic, I could reduce this probably by 15%. I do not because my ROI will take forever. It cannot justify the cost.

According to the Dept of Energy a standard electric water heater accounts for 30% of most families' electric cost per month.

3) This is a newly constructed home we are building. You and I are very energy savvy. Cara and I are looking at the big picture here, though. We will have the best insulation on the market. We will have vinyl low-E glass windows. Will will have R-7 or better walls. We will have an 18 SEER two-stage Trane A/C system. To top it off, we will have all gas appliances and a Rinnai tankless water heater. These items alone, regardless of the R-value of my exterior wall, will have offset my electric bill so much that it is not feasible to spend the extra $22K for SIP.

If you have not noticed, I feel that spending the extra money on an SIP shell is excessive and this project would NOT benefit from that added expense at all. I would hope most people agree with me on this. We are talking dollars... the same reason you want energy savings... to save dollars!

Strength

Also, if strength is a concern, a tilt-up wall is 10 times stronger than a block house and has extreme amounts of tensile strength. How many block homes do you see get damage in a hurricane? A very small percentage in comparison to the whole (frame). Laws have changed drastically since hurricane Andrew, if that's what you might be thinking of. A hurricane will not knock these walls down... all bets are off with a tornado, and that goes for any wall system. As far as strong enough to support a truck sitting on top of it... meh... that's excessive! It all adds up to more dollars. It looks great on paper, and it's great in theory, and it's a great resale... but it's like what's the point of owning a Lamborghini if you don't live near the Autobahn? You will not make your ROI unless this is the last house you will ever live in.

Owner-Building

I can see that you might disagree with me. That's fine, no hard feelings. Our way of thinking pertains to what we want out of our project. We have so many very nice upgrades going into this house, and when I look at my line-item budget... removing these in favor of SIPs would have tremendous impact of the final value of our home. So much so that I would not be pleased with the outcome and would never be able to get the resale value I am aiming for.

If thinking of reselling in the future, think of what will be most beneficial to your wallet. The SIP or all those upgrades. My bet is with the latter, and there is not a person in the market for a home on a fixed budget that would bet against that.

My final thoughts

I am curious as to how much your total project is going to cost and what upgrades besides SIPs your house will feature over the average home.

In this type of project, you must constantly be making choices in the stages of planning. You cannot always get the 'best' of everything. But, as an owner-builder you can get the 'best' deal for your money.

SIPs is not a deal for its asking price anyway you slice it. Not because it is a lousy product; it's great. It's because - and I hate to hear these words - but "prohibitively expensive". You can just add so much more value in other places for the money. SIPs may be well within your means, but not for this couple.

The fax credit of $2,000. Inconsequential. Honestly, as far as we are concerned...

R-22 stands for an extra 22... thousand dollars!

-Jason


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 3/3/2006


Jason,

Once again, I thank you for your wealth of information. Keep up the good work! You are correct concerning my focus on energy conservation. My concerns are that we do not know what energy costs will do in the future, and the fact that my lot is sunny. Could energy costs possibly double or triple in the next couple of years? I don’t mean to sound so negative, but it’s just that one of your earlier posts stated that your wall R-value would be somewhat comparable to mine and that really got my hopes up.

However, you bought out an excellent point. I have not done any research on what portion of my total energy bill is for a/c., high R-values in roof as opposed to walls, or how long it would take to realize an ROI for the higher R-value of the walls. By chance, do you have any figures on what it would have cost to increase your wall R-value to approx. 13 (approx. an additional inch of urethane foam)? This would represent a compromise for me between what you will use and what I am considering using. I still love the cost savings you mentioned, but the combination of R-7 walls and my full-sun building lot is a concern for me.

I thank you again for your time on behalf of everyone reading these posts. I am sure that many folks are benefiting from our Q & A session here, including me.

Dave


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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 3/3/2006


David and Jason

1.  It is my understanding that heat gain is the least in walls - what is a reasonable R-value, before you get to law of diminishing returns?

2.  It's not the heat, it's the humidity. Our temps only fluctuate about 15 degrees from normal.

If 72 is optimum, then we stay between 50 and 90 most of the time. A method to reduce humidity is as important as R-value. No leaks.

3.  I have two adults and two teens in 1,200 sq feet, new construction. Our elec. bill including taxes and fees was $129 last month. It only goes up about $50 in the summer. 

4. Unless something drastic happens, energy costs will go up, how far and how fast I don't know.

5. A non-energy consideration is termites, mold and mildew, and allergies. Foam is better than batts in these areas.

Lyn


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/3/2006


That's pretty much what I am trying to say condensed down.

R-value is not the most important thing to building a good, insulated home.

Your #5 response is higher on my priority than R-value will ever be.

Gas appliances, low-E windows, high SEER A/C, and foam insulation will net you all your energy savings. They incur recurring costs each month.

-Jason


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 3/3/2006


Earlier, I posed a question concerning the effects of increasing or decreasing wall insulation (R-value) and its effects in terms of energy and cost savings. It seems as if Jason has a leg up on this research and by all indications he is right on target once again. But now I can refer you to an official study that proves Jason's position. Please note that two of the subject homes were right here in Cocoa and Merritt Island. Pretty cool (no pun intended)!

Here is the report done by Karkaszi, S., Parker, D., "Florida Exterior Wall Insulation Field Test: Final Report," Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN, December, 1995. Please go to the website: Field Test Report.

I wish that the SIP vendors would make this information more readily available on their websites.

Now, on the subject of attic insulation and running your ducts within the air-conditioned space, I am pretty clear on the benefits of doing that (I think). Would anyone like to elaborate about spray-on foam insulation? What type foam? Vendors? R-values? Special roof-deck considerations for spray-on, etc.? Conventional truss and OSB deck vs. SIP-panel roof? Metal roof trusses?

Thank you,

Dave


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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 3/3/2006


In 2000 we built a 1,200-sq-ft apt. over a two-car garage.

1. We used all steel: studs, trusses, joists. At that time it was competitive with wood, so we weren't going in the hole for steel. The supplier and installer were unsatisfactory, or we would be considering them again.

2. We got two bids on Icynene (I didn't know of any other foam then); they were within a few dollars of each other. Batt insulation was about $2,500 - Icynene was $4,800. They did the walls and ceiling of the garage (fire and soundproof), the walls of the first floor of the apt., and around the bathroom, the knee wall (4') of the second floor, and ceiling of the apt. No venting - closed envelope. The air handler is in the house and the duct work is encapsulated in Icynene wherever there is Icynene.

3. I have no way of knowing if I am saving money on electric. I don't have anything to compare it to. Our old house was wood framing and batt insulation. When Charley hit, the batts absorbed tons of water. (We tore the house down to build a new one, we were going to do that anyway, Charley just moved it up). We also had rats, mice, squirrels, roaches and ants. I don't miss them.

4. I wish the best products were more competitive. It is one thing to say you will save $50 a month on your energy costs, but if you are spending $10,000 extra, that's a long payback.

Icynene is open-cell foam. What I have read about closed cell doesn't make it worth a higher price to me. Our Icynene is 6 years old and we haven't had any problems. There is a website for DIY foam. I will look into that when I get my bids in.

Lyn


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 3/3/2006


From what I have read, air infiltration is your biggest factor in heat loss and gain in the envelope. R-value at a reasonable price is certainly a worthwhile expense, and the roof is where it counts most. I think the diminishing-returns point is too dependent on local factors to make a generalization. I am going to shoot for ENERGY STAR - I think that is R-22 walls; correct me if I am wrong.

No doubt about it, energy costs will only go up. We have reached the peak oil-pumping point. Good ole Mother Earth just doesn't have any more to give up, and with China and India coming online with energy needs, we are sunk. I am considering solar hot water to help with that 30% of home-energy costs. Solar hot water is your best return on investment when it come for alternate energy. Of course, it depends on your individual site and location.

Yes, humidity is very important. That's why an ERV and proper sizing of HVAC is so important. HVAC contractors are only now beginning to understand tight envelopes and super insulation. If your AC is oversized, you will not get proper dehumidification. In fact, it's hard to find a small-enough unit for a moderate-sized tight house. Check this thread: HVAC Sizing, to get info on this topic.

Notice that Jason is going with a two-stage AC unit; that's what you need to go with to get proper dehumidification, and this will keep the mold down. It's also a high-SEER unit, just what David recommends.

The tightness and proper sealing will help keep the insects out.


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/4/2006


Good. I am glad to see everyone is on the same page..

Jim - your post is right on the money with HVAC. I used to work in HVAC, and it has come a long way since then.

I checked into solar-power systems a while ago... especially for water heating and a possible 12v power house for running low-voltage lighting. I was thinking about getting a cabin in NC in a remote area. Windmill power was also on the top of the list. Highly effective. But, the start-up costs in comparison would be significant here in Florida. Up there I really did not have much of a choice. If you have not, I suggest you to check into a tankless gas water heater. It will only use gas when you use hot water. After that it is dormant.

Here are my quotes for gas install. LP is the gas of choice for us.

$2,550 --- 250-gallon (I WILL OWN IT) tank installed underground. Includes two meters and 15 feet or so of pipe.

$2,500 --- plumb my entire home for all gas appliances and back lanai for grill. Also includes plumbing to tankless water heater and home standby generator.

It is virtually a maintenance-free system with a decent warranty.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

I will get you all a list of all the vendors that supply spray foam, with their literature if I still have all that laying around. There is so much fluff in that industry right now. I will have quotes for each one also...

OK, I am off to Fun Ford Weekend at the track.

--Jason


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By Julie on 4/26/2006


Jason,

Sorry - I thought I responded to this. Our electrical contractor was Southeast Electric. They have been great and the guy they sent to work on our house was AWESOME!!! The framing contractor has been a nightmare, so stay away from them. It was Janego Construction and came as a referral. The only bad referral we've had in this process. He said it would take 20 days to do the job and they are now at about 60. As far as drywall, we are narrowing down this week who we are going to hire.

Julie


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 4/26/2006


Julie -- good to hear from you again.

(Your house looks big! Is your house the one with the trampoline and camper out front?)

Thanks for the heads up. I think we are going to be going with All Phases Electric. Although the bidding is still on the table. If you don't mind answering, how much was your total electric cost?

We are around $19K-$20K and that is with us purchasing the fixtures separately and me hanging all the recessed cans. We have about 30 of these going into the house with a few 3-way dimmer$. I know our wiring is extensive, but it still seems high. Are your costs this high also?

We are going to go with the (Solid Wall Systems/Space Coast Truss/Mercedes Homes) as our framer. They are all part of the same intertwined company. They are doing our slab and walls already. We were quoted at $4.50 a sq ft for all framing labor not including materials.

$4.50 x 3,887 (total under roof) = $17,941.50

Can you check your pricing and let us know if these are in line with your costs?

We are sitting at $115 a finished sq ft right now with all upgrades including home standby generator, not including the land. We are very happy with that price for what we are getting, but I would also be happier if it were lower.

As a side note, I went into the Magnolia Homes model today on Bancroft to check on the current pricing. They are selling at $130 per sq ft, not including land, for a base model. They are a true custom home builder and offer a good product, but everything is an option and not base. I would imagine they would charge $175 or more for how we are building ours. So that reassures us that we are really saving some money, considering all the new construction out there by those custom builders.

Also of importance, UCF Medical School is a go, the industrial research parkway is to go on the south of 528, and the county bid just went out to connect Alafaya to 528. Est. cost is $30 million to connect these roads. Bidding closes mid May and construction begins. Wedgefield is in for a boom this year. We are not complaining. I wish I owned more land!!! I would like to see Wedgefield build a very nice community pool and clubhouse. I would pay membership for this.

--Jason


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 4/27/2006


Here is some more pertinent information concerning the expansion of east Hwy 50 from 436 east to 520. This is straight from the Florida DOT website.

Expansion Information.

Design for six-laning 9.4 miles from SR 436 to 1.7 miles east of the SR 408 (East/West Expressway) interchange is in progress. Construction along the 3.6 miles from SR 436 to SR 417 is planned in FY 06/07 at an estimated cost of $45 million (including a SR 50/SR 436  interchange); along the one mile from SR 417 to Dean Road in FY 08/09 at an estimated cost of $14.2 million; and along the 5.2 miles from Dean Road to east of Old Cheney Highway in FY 09/10 at an estimated cost of $37 million.

This is the reason that I decided to sell my property in East Orange County and buy in a rural area of Tallahassee. By the time east Hwy 50 is completed, it will be clogged with traffic again because of the housing boom (more like explosion) that is occurring on the east side. Good for property values, bad for folks who long for the simpler life.

My advice: wait two or three years, sell your place, and come join me on Lake Talquin!


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 4/27/2006


I have some news for anyone who is considering using the Structall metal skin SIP or any other panel system for that matter. I just went to the State of Florida website, floridabuilding.org where you can find out certification information on the building material you would like to use. The Structall metal skin panel is neither impact resistant nor high-velocity-wind zone approved.  

I have some more news. Has anyone heard of the ThermaSteel panel (see picture)? thermasteelcorp.com/homeowner This panel is impact resistant as well as high-velocity-wind zone approved! It can be used on the walls, gable ends, roof (including hip roofs) and subfloors; it has electrical chases already in the panel; it is designed in such a way as to eliminate thermal bridging; it does not require an external structural sheathing or vapor barrier. Since I am going to be using HardiePlank lap siding and standing-seam metal roof, I will not need any additional sheathing. But you could use vinyl siding, Hardie Board vertical siding or lath wire and stucco if you wish. I have been looking over the specs. This panel appears to be promising in terms of strength, cost and customer support.

Would anyone else like to evaluate this product? I know full well that nothing is ever going to be as strong as 6 inches of poured, steel-reinforced concrete. But I still would like to build with something that is economical, relatively strong, energy efficient, versatile, and does not require the use of wood for the structure.


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 5/6/2006


David,

I have read what is available on the Web on All Wall Systems and ThermaSteel. The All Wall (Concrete-Insulation-Concrete) System is strong and very energy efficient and takes advantage of thermal mass (for what it is worth in the FL area). Steven, in a message, in this thread, on 04//19/06 referenced this post: ownerbuilderbook.com/forum/messages, as a good discussion on building methods/thermal mass/R-value in the Green Building forum. Included are links to studies on performance of various methods of placing insulation on inside, middle or outside of concrete walls in various climates.

It was Darren who got rude replies from the All Wall guy, maybe John from All Wall was just having a bad day. I think that the reply from Jason was good advice indeed: be prepared to talk the talk when you call any of these subcontractors. You don't want to be marked as a dummy or sucker. You have got to research it to the max.

As far as ThermaSteel is concerned... I think I may be in love. I haven't tried to compare prices between ThermaSteel, All Wall and Jason's Solid Wall Systems, but I gotta love the R-value and strength of ThermaSteel (though admittedly not as strong as concrete) and I've also got to love the simplicity of construction with ThermaSteel. Since I expect I could erect the exterior walls with a pick-up framing crew, I'm sure I would save money over the other systems but the bids will tell the story. There is a "ThermaSteel of Atlanta" (I currently live in Atlanta, but will build near Flagler Beach, FL) that I am going to call to see if they are putting up any projects around here so I can check it out in person.

Check out Jason and Cara's journal; they have broken ground. Congratulations big time. I'm sure all in FL forum and OBB.com are rooting for you and will follow your project with envy.

Jim

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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 8/12/2006


David,

"There are two types of SIP: EPS (expanded polystyrene) and urethane. In my opinion, EPS SIP panels are crap."

I know it was months ago, but I am trying to decipher the difference between EPS and urethane. I understand that urethane has a better R-value and it is a closed-cell vs. an open-cell foam. Could you expound on this and the differences? I have two SIP companies here in AZ that I have spoken with, but both use EPS. One is a steel SIP: biiaz.com and the other is an OSB: premier-industries.com.

I spoke with both at a home show yesterday and think that SIP will be less expensive than the ICF method and provide a great insulation for my home. Any thoughts?

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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/13/2006


Justin,

You are correct in saying that urethane has a higher R-value. However, both urethane and EPS (encapsulated polystyrene) are both closed cell. In fact, EPS is so closed cell, that fast-food restaurants serve coffee in cups made of the stuff. The cheap $4 white coolers that you can purchase in convenience stores are also made of EPS.

It turns out that very few panel manufacturers use urethane to build their panels. The panel manufacturer that I have settled on, ThermaSave, does not offer a urethane panel at all. Having had the benefit of months of investigation and meetings with panel manufacturers, I now see that the reason very few use urethane is simply because of cost. And cost is the main reason why the SIP panels are so attractive to many folks. Here is how one panel manufacturer explained it to me. If you want R-24 walls, just order 6" thick EPS panels as opposed to 4" thick urethane panels.

Justin, the point is that EPS SIP panels are more cost effective per unit of R-value. And a 6" thick SIP panels are stronger than 4" urethane SIP panels. I did not know this information when I made the comment about them being crap. I will be more careful in the future.

I agree with you when you say that it is more cost effective to build with SIPs than with ICFs. If you want more information about how to compare the cost of one system (ICF, CMU, AAC, wood frame) against another (SIP, tilt-up, pour-in-place), please let me know. This is a subject that I feel most folks do not fully understand. Because most folks want to look strictly at the cost of the panel vs. the cost of the ICF and concrete. There is much, much more that needs to be factored in.

David


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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 8/14/2006


David,

Thank you for solving the EPS vs. urethane puzzle for me. I may have mentioned that Friday I went to a local home show here in Phoenix. I spoke with at least four ICF companies and two SIP companies. I liked what the ICF guys said, but as was mentioned in this post I don't think it is really worth the cost.

I like the SIP system including a quick dry-up time and it is something I can definitely handle with a little help. Plus the representatives from one of the SIP companies offered to bring their tools and help direct the work!

I still wonder about the different types of SIPs. On this forum someone mentioned that cement-fiber SIPs can simply be painted on the inside and out, which would obviously save money, because you won't need any further sheathing or foam lath. I am leaning toward a steel SIP system as found at biiaz.com. They seemed most helpful and having erected several steel-framed homes, it would be easy for me to do. But I still am not sold.

On a separate thread, I have been talking with Keith from Tucson who does structured wiring (he is very wise man in this area). He has dealt with SIP and ICF construction and wiring. Obviously, the exterior walls are harder to work with than normal stick construction. I wonder if a 2x6 stick frame with Icynene or a spray-in foam would be close to the insulating values of an SIP wall and allow more flexibility with wiring and plumbing in the exterior walls. Obviously, it would take longer to erect, but you wouldn't get such a tough time from the subs who haven't worked with SIPs before. He also mentioned that each additional run that you have manufactured into the SIPs will cost more.

Sorry for the long post, but if you could fill in any blanks or answer any questions I would be very grateful. BTW you Florida folks are lucky there are so many of you on here. I wish I had more desert rats like myself to cavort with : - )

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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/14/2006


Justin,

The website you are referring to is exactly the same product as the ThermaSteel product that Jim and I went to check out in Ponte Vedra. I would use that steel-frame SIP panel if I were building with Hardie Board lap siding, because it must be covered with some type of sheathing.

The ThermaSave product does not have to be covered with a sheathing. You only need to apply an elastomeric (flexible) textured coating (stucco) outside and regular texture inside, and then paint it. 

Justin, if you will notice, none of us have even mentioned framed walls at all. One of the reasons is because we live in Florida. And all of us agree that you would be crazy to build with wood as your primary building material anywhere other than the desert Southwest. The other reason would apply even to those building in the desert Southwest. If you build with wood frame, you will have thermal bridging every 16” on your exterior walls and every 24” on the roof. All that thermal bridging would sort of cancel out some of the benefits of using Icynene. Plus, Icynene is expensive stuff! For more information on this subject, just Google “thermal bridging”.

In my home, I will not even be using wood where it is required. The ThermaSave panels require P.T. wood attached to the foundation as a means of attaching the bottom of the panel to the floor. I will not be using wood here. I will be using structural-grade plastic lumber for this purpose. 

Concerning the electrical being more difficult to install; please try to avoid thinking in terms of degrees of difficulty or ease. You will drive yourself crazy doing that. It is all easy. It is just that some systems are more “costly” than others to work with, because it requires a bit more man-hours to install. It is all a give and take. When you put the electrical or HVAC or plumbing out to bid, the contractor will know what type of material they will be working with. They will either bid on the job or not. Don’t worry about it yourself. Let the subs worry about it. Get tough! You are the boss, not the sub! Go in there and ask lots of questions. If you don’t like the answers or the price, as Jason said: “go on to the next one”!

A word of caution here: Please do not ask or expect any contractor to educate you on how to build a house. This will upset them and you will eventually not have any contractors who will take you seriously. The contractor is there to build your house, not teach you how to do it. If you need remedial help, pick up a book, hit the Internet, post a message here, or hire a consultant.  

David


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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 8/14/2006


Awesome advice David, THANKS!

I will look into ThermaSave, as we will be stuccoing the outside.

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By Sue in Tucson, AZ on 8/14/2006


Justin,

Hello, fellow desert rat! I am located in Tucson and am looking to build a small SIP cabin in the mountains. I have been trying to contact the ThermaSave company that is located in Winslow, but have had no luck. I am wondering if they are a rep or a manufacturer. I really like the idea of not having to spend extra on the exterior siding and interior drywall, but am worried about cost and damage in shipping and whether the fiber-cement boards would be more likely to crack. Although I would prefer to not use wood, I have met w/Premier Building Systems' local rep and found him to be very informative. PBS panels are made in Phx, so shipping would not be a major concern. In the end, cost will probably be our deciding factor as to whom we choose.   

If I remember correctly, the biiaz steel SIP does not have a skin on it. Won't this complicate hanging drywall, siding, and cabinets? Kind of like finding studs in stick framing? 

Have you had any luck contacting ThermaSave? If so, what did you think? 

Thx,

Sue


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By Kathlyn in Orlando, FL on 8/14/2006


Sue,

Check out RocioRomero.com. If you mean small. She has several modular cottages. I did not study them extensively because I was just curious.

Also, check out Katrina Cottages. After the hurricane, a lot of modular companies are making small modular homes that would be great for a vacation getaway. Various price ranges and construction materials. Again, nothing I can use, so I did not investigate thoroughly.

Lyn


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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 8/14/2006


Sue,

Glad to see other Arizona residents O-B'ing. What mountains will you be building in?

Funny thing that I ran into the owner of BII again today at the Reprographics store in Mesa. I reintroduced myself and we chatted for a while. Yes you would need to finish both the inside and outside of the BII SIP. I was going to drywall the inside anyway and stucco the outside. As far as hanging drywall and cabinets from BII panels, it is no more difficult than from stick-framed houses. While they don't have a full OSB to screw into, they do have the steel "studs" spaced evenly as a normal frame would be. Attaching anything to that would be as easy as measuring the spacing and screwing away.

I emailed ThermaSave. I may try calling later in the week. I saw the Winslow SIP guys before. No response from them?

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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/14/2006


I guess we Florida folks created such a popular forum, that now folks from all over the country are flocking to it for advice. Oh well! everyone is welcome.

Someone made a comment that the cement-fiber skin of the ThermaSave panel can crack. You may want to go to their website and see a video of a pickup truck driving over a ThermaSave panel that is suspended. I cannot imagine what force would be needed to crack a cement-fiber-skin SIP. If you are referring to the joints cracking, the reason that you use elastomeric stucco on these panels is so that it does not crack. These coatings can expand to as much as 600%.

If I lived in a dry climate, I would not hesitate to use an OSB-skin SIP. You would have an energy efficient home for cheap. The advantage is that OSB SIPs can be purchased from certain manufacturers in what is called jumbo panels, up the 8'x24'. Can you imagine how quickly a house can be erected with that size panel!?

Before my Florida cohorts go criticizing me for recommending a product made of wood, let me tell you my experience with the desert southwest. Years ago, we flew into Bakersfield, CA and drove across the Mojave Desert. We stopped at a place called Calico Ghost Town in the desert. We were outside in 100-degree heat and did not sweat a drop. I kid you not. The sweat would evaporate before you could feel it. You would end up with salt crystals all over your body by the end of the day. We stayed at my aunt's house in Las Vegas. She had a lawn mower sitting on her patio exposed to the elements. Since the lawn mower did not have a bit of rust on it and looked brand new, I asked her if she had just purchased it new. She told me that the lawn mower had been kept out on the patio for two years, uncovered. The climate is so dry that there are no mosquitoes or fleas. They cannot live there. So I do not think that they have to worry about mold, mildew or fungus like we Florida folks. That is the price we must pay for having quick access to the Gulf, the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/15/2006


Hey folks. Here is another invaluable source of contractor leads and information for the active O-B. Every state and municipality has a home builders association.

For instance, here is the website to the National Home Builders Association: nahb.org

Florida HBA: fhba.com

Here is the HBA for Orange County, Florida: hbaofmetroorlando.com

This is the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association: sahba.org

Anyway, you get the point. These websites can be invaluable resources for folks. Poke around and see what you think.

David


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/15/2006


Hey folks,

Here is another one of those items that has been used successfully for decades in commercial applications and is now available for residential use. It is called a gas-absorption chiller/heater. Here is how it works: instead of investing in a gas ventless fireplace for heat and a separate high-efficiency straight-cool electric HVAC unit for cooling, why not purchase one single natural-gas-powered high-efficiency unit that does it all. It turns out gas is by far the most-efficient way to cool your house as well. There are several reasons why:

The unit costs less than a high-efficiency HVAC heat pump.
The unit has a higher efficiency rating than even the highest SEER-rated HVAC unit.
The unit has less moving parts, so it lasts longer and is quieter than conventional HVAC equipment.
Get this one: NO DUCTS OR VENTS REQUIRED, plus each room becomes a separate zone. Instead of cold air running through a system of ductwork, the chilled water is piped into each room to a unit that looks like a baseboard. Each one of these baseboard units is controlled by a separate controller. So you get zoned heating and cooling for a fraction of the cost of zoned ductwork. You only heat or cool whatever rooms you are using.

There is only one company (that I am aware of) that is currently producing the chiller/heater. robur.com

Here is a company that produces a gas-absorption cooling unit: coolingtechnologies.com

This last is the only UL-listed unit of its kind at this time. It would be great for someone who wants a gas-fired air conditioner but still wants the romance of a ventless gas fireplace. I think I fall into that category.

I hope you all appreciate the countless hours that I am putting in finding all this information. A few stars on some of my posts couldn’t hurt, you know!

David


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/16/2006


A bit more information about the gas-absorption chiller/heaters:

I must make a couple of corrections here. These units do not cost less than a high-efficiency HVAC heat pump. They cost about double what a 14 SEER conventional HVAC condensing unit costs. And the baseboard units are only for heating, not cooling. For cooling, the cold water must still run through one or more conventional air-handler units.

These units are particularly suited for large, high-end homes in areas where energy costs are very high, where the homeowner wants the comfort and convenience of multiple zones throughout the house. 

Man, that's a lot of hoops to jump through!


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 8/17/2006


HVAC

We are using a Trane A/C for the house. I like living in a house that stays at 74 degrees or lower. We splurged on this unit a bit, but with our cooling habits it will pay back.

trane.com/residential

The unit has a 19+ SEER rating. This may seem like overkill, but it uses two compressors. This is where it will start to save money. It will also be able to keep humidity at acceptable levels and comes with the best whole-house air purifier you can buy. Cara and I both get stuffed up quite a bit due to allergies, so I cannot wait to see what it feels like to breathe really clean air. It ain't cheap at $15K installed including vent fans and ducting, but it will be a strong selling point on our way to Energy Star certification.

Pouring the slab


We are pouring the slab on Wednesday next week. It will be a decent-size pour, as it will be close to 4,000 sq ft for the house slab. I have had a few people come up to me when I am out at the property and tell me they have seen our website and are very interested in watching us build. It actually pulls up on Google when inquiring about O-B'ing. Awesome!

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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/17/2006


Jason,

I am super jealous of your two million five hundred thousand SEER Trane HVAC unit. You got the best of the best, man!! The power company is going to have to pay you at the end of each month!

For those who want to purchase the best (Trane) without paying full price, there is a way. I know what you are thinking, STOP!

On February 24, 1984, Trane was acquired by American Standard Inc. trane.com (search on "American Standard"). American Standard sells HVAC units under the name of Trane and American Standard. According to my HVAC contractor friends, American Standard americanstandardair.com sells the same exact unit as Trane with the American Standard label at a significant discount. It is sort of like buying a Toyota as opposed to a Lexus. Same car, different price. Jason, if you could please verify if this is true, I would be very grateful. You are in the perfect position to find out.

Folks, The following information is very important: Please pay close attention.

The day that your HVAC unit is installed, please make sure and be on site that day. As soon as the unit is installed, you will need to take precautions to either put a steel cage over the top of the condensing unit, or deface (scratch, dent and spray paint) the condensing unit, or better yet, do both.  Do whatever you need to do to make sure that your unit does not walk away. Please don’t allow some #@!!&%* *%?!% to ruin one of the most joyous experiences of the entire project, the day that your HVAC unit is installed. Face it folks, we live in a wicked world. Please heed this warning and take the necessary precautions to make sure that someone does not walk away with your unit. Don’t wait a few days. Do it immediately after the unit is installed. You will not regret it.

David


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 8/18/2006


Hi Everyone,

Small hiatus due to fighting a multi-issue causes at my daughter's old school (Four Corners Charter School). 

Following has nothing to do with construction, so skip the small type if not interested:-

I along with some other outraged parents have been up against a New School Management (Charter School USA (Yuk)), new principals, a school board member who has received some unethical, but legal campaign contributions and then the rest of the school board, which covers members from Lake, Osceola and Orange. Even been in the papers, The Reporter, Orlando Sentinel (I was actually quoted) and due to be in the News Gazette (Osceola). The upshot is we withdrew our daughter on Monday to what we understand is the best school in Lake County and a public magnet school. As have other parents; I believe they call it voting with your feet. However, our new school is full now, so I really feel for the other children, teachers and parents and the teachers who have been left behind. For anyone who is interested, my first letter which has never been responded to and my last email are on my construction journal. You just never know, one of you might know someone who knows someone who may be of some help to our cause.

Now my daughter is in a new school. Brill. So hopefully we can give full attention to what will be my life until it is built. Our house. Plans have been ticking along, amendments made. We get the foundation and electrical end of next week, then will go after bids, then after deciding if we can afford it with or without the bonus room, it will go to the engineer for three weeks and then on to permitting (Lake County). We are being quoted three weeks presently!?! We'll see.

Please let me know what you think, even if bad; now is better to hear it, than during the build. It is very similar to the model home we saw back in 2002 and are lucky enough to be renting (sheer fluke). Basically an L shape. The office is the only thing to be altered, the closet will be in the bottom left (NE) corner and smaller, so it is not opposite the double doors.

Visited Stock Building Supply, yet to get the costs of various windows from Thad.  Seeing Buck again re: doors on Thursday. Met with Sears for contractor prices on Sears appliances. They have yet to get back as well. Got some more contacts to follow up next week. Found one interesting thing at Stock Building Supply. Sun Tek does a Sky Tunnel called the Spyder. One dome feeds to several different areas. I will look into that further. Thanks for the advice on the HVAC: American Standard. Off to another window person. Found my granite, it's from China:- Panda Blue Pearl Dark. builddirect.com/Granite

Just need a prefabricator and an installer! So much to do, so little time.

Good news that Cara and Jason are through permitting. We paid the school impact fee, just before they put it up, figuring they are putting it up >100% even credit cards don't charge that much. That said, road fees have gone up, so we are about square. David, I will look into your door sites, thanks for that.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 8/18/2006


Just a quick question. We are thinking of low-E glass with grills for the front. I have found half circles of acrylic (glass) block. Thinking of using tinted windows purely in the side of the garage, below the balcony to sort of mirror the spaces in the tower over the front door. Would it look strange when the rest of the windows are not tinted? It would just provide some privacy in the garage, as with having children we have the toy factor in the garage.
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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 8/19/2006


Lisa,

I have wondered about Build Direct, they have some nice stuff.

How does shipping work for us Florida O-B's? Does the container come in at the Port of Jacksonville?

What is the lead time like?

Thanks,

Jim

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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 8/19/2006


Jim

Most of your questions are answered on their FAQ's, which are really comprehensive, quite impressive actually. All they require is you order the stated minimum for whatever product you are buying, be it a pallet (2-3 weeks, although some items 1-2 weeks), or containers (10-12 weeks). We like the slate tiles for the bathroom and showers, Raja Multi (16x16). That said, do we need to spend  >$2,000 to get approx 570 sq ft? I have to do the mathematics first. Not sure where the materials come in, but they clearly say they deal with that side of it including Customs, and it's considered delivered when it reaches your driveway.

If anyone likes the same items maybe it's worth ordering jointly. 

I have been looking for the granite I mentioned (after seeing it in Lowe's for outdoor kitchens) since end of May. No one could help me. I went to a Lowe's in Ocoee, and they found out it came from China and then I stumbled on Panda from BuildDirect. It may sound silly; I like granite but was not particularly struck by any of the colours or patterns until I saw this. On a large scale it is beautiful. Not so dark that it will date, and although they call it blue it is actually more gray. I need to find a prefabricator and installer who can tell me if he can work with these sizes first, which I doubt when it comes to our island. That said, I am also going to hit granite warehouses to see if they have this granite as what I needed most was its name. But it will have to wait two weeks as I am booked up this week and next with other house-related stuff, plus IF (Big IF) permitting goes smoothly, I will not need it until early Feb.

If anyone wants to see this granite in person on a larger scale, go to a large Lowe's and look for the Jenn-Air outdoor kitchens; one is set in a large granite island and this is the granite they use. 

I thought I may have found an installer, but a friend used them and were mucked around and lied too and it took over 10 weeks to just install the countertops. I had a weird feeling when I spoke with them, getting them to agree to lien waivers and they wanted 100% money the day they install it, which I refused (I was going to hold a min. of 10% back until I was happy with the installation job). Frankly, I stuck to my guns and they were going to accept my terms, but if they are this much hassle I'll move on to the next guy. 

Hope this helps.

Lisa.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/19/2006


If you want to personally see entire slabs (6'x14') of marble, granite, travertine, or any other stone, go the the warehouse where 99% of the granite in Florida comes from. It is called Keys Granite. Website: keysgranite.com

There are several locations throughout Florida, including one in Orlando. You can go and ask to go to the warehouse. You can actually pick a slab and reserve it if you want. Or just write down the name of the stone and relay it to your installer.

If you want to save some money on granite and installation, don't go to the middleman (Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.). Instead, pick up the phone, call several granite countertop installers and get prices. Or use the links from one of my previous posts to send out request for bids electronically. Granite installers are a dime a dozen nowadays. I have a brother and a good friend who are both in the business in the Orlando area. Granite installers usually have the most common types of stone in stock at all times.

I went with a rare Australian granite in my kitchen, verde fuoco chooseby.com

David


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 8/19/2006


David,

Thanks for that. I looked at the site, my granite was not there; it is very different from the Blue Pearl that Lowe's, etc. normally do. But I will call them this week and ask, then go over and have a look around. Your granite looks extremely unusual and I am very interested to see it in a larger scale. It may sound daft, but the kitchen is the main selling point in our future house, so it is important we get it right. With the largest selection I have seen on line, it will be an interesting visit. Would your brother or/and friend be interested in giving me a quote? 

I must say you sound like a goldmine of information as are Cara and Jason, and your research is excellent, I have learned so much from your posts, thank you sincerely, it has helped big time.

Who did you deal with re:windows who was not so good at Stock Building Supply? Sorry your experience was not a good one. I will bear that in mind and will of course shop around.

Thank you again,

Lisa.


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 8/20/2006


I found Stock Building Supply to be very competitive with doors and lumber. The guy I worked with, (I have misplaced the paperwork at the moment, so I cannot give you his name), was on point. We talked for about a half hour or so, and he took meticulous notes. When the bid came back, about three days, all the information was there just like I asked. Some was for house stuff, other for carpentry interests.

Their prices on windows, which were quoted for PGT, were about double what AmCraftsman windows are costing us. This did include installation, but even so, they would have been more expensive. We have met with all types of window reps... no one can beat the price of American Craftsman. Normally I would raise a brow about them being the cheapest, but I have family members who have had them installed for years through the hurricanes... no problem whatsoever. They still look brand new.

As far as the doors and trim-work wood offered through Stock Building Supply, I would have to say that they were the cheapest. We were quoted on Jeld Wen doors for interior and Therma Tru for the exterior. The one nice touch about working with SBS was that the rep asked me what type of finish on the hinges I would like on the door. He was the first to do that... I did not even think about it until then, but it will make a difference.

For anyone interested in any type of hardwood, a place I order from is based out of N.C. It is called Wall Lumber. If you think you know a place that can beat their price and service let me know.

walllumber.com

--Jason


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By Phillip in Tampa, FL on 8/20/2006


I got some PGT quotes and found them to be high as well.

We are leaning towards MI/Better Bilt for our vinyl doors and windows. Compared to AmCraft, I couldn't tell any difference, and can get them for about the same price as the AmCraft through 84 Lumber. 84 Lumber has also been extremely helpful and responsive, sounds very similar to your experience with Stock. Wish I could say the same about Home Depot.

For everyone's benefit, here is a price comparison I found on the Home Depot/American Craftsman vs. 84 Lumber/Better Bilt pricing. This is for a welded vinyl insulated window with low-E and grilles between the glass, top pane only, finless, Oriel configuration (quoted in early August in Tampa):

SIZE         HOME DEPOT      84 LUMBER         NOTES
30"x54"          $238.26                  $195.03            Tempered single hung
20"x72"          $129.83                  $129.28            Single hung
36"x72"          $272.89                  $273.40            Tempered single hung
36"x72"          $161.98                  $175.00            Single hung
30"x72"          $280.52                  $273.40            Tempered single hung
36"x36"          $111.10                  $117.82             Fixed
36"x54"          $168.10                  $145.88            Single Hung
72"x72"          $395.29                  $351.23            Single hung, 2 windows mulled

For interior doors, we found Home Depot to be much cheaper, especially for our interior Masonite Palazzo Capri doors:

SIZE         HOME DEPOT      84 LUMBER         NOTES
30"x96"           $228.00                $260.65     
36"x96"           $279.00                $298.99             1 3/4" with seals
30"x80"           $161.00                $206.99

We want to go with 84 Lumber wherever possible due to their infinitely better service, but as you can see Home Depot does have the upper hand on some prices. Further, HD will give you another 10% off your full window and door order if you open a contractor's account with them... further savings that are hard to ignore. I'm just worried I won't get what I ordered, as many other O-B's can attest.


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 8/20/2006


Lisa,

The only reason that I mentioned my brother and my good friend is to demonstrate the fact that there are a lot of people in the granite business. My brother is swamped with contracts and my good friend does high-end work at high-end prices. He did my stunning Verde Fuoco 1" thick granite counters at a discounted $100 per s.f. I would hate to see what he normally charges. You will be able to do better by getting some bids. I can give you his number if you are still interested.

I agree that Jason and Cara are a wealth of information. They are actually underway with their project, so everything they post now is not theory. It is real life, real-time experiences that they are currently going through. There is no better source of information than that.

As far as the windows at Stock Building Supply, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc., I am trying to adopt a contractor mentality concerning supplies. When I start my home services business in Tallahassee, I will not have time to waste trying to get prices and information from a multitude of discount suppliers. I plan to pick between two or three suppliers and keep tabs on the most common types of windows, doors, trim, etc.

For instance, I have chosen Pella and Andersen as my window suppliers. The reason is simple. You cannot match the customer support that they offer. Pella has its own showroom/sales offices: pella.know-where.com. Just go to the website and put in your zip code. They will answer any question you have concerning any Pella window and get you and instant quote.

Andersen also has contracted with several building-supply companies throughout the U.S. to serve as a showroom for them: andersenwindows.com

Again, just put in your zip code.

The folks at both these locations are experts in their respective product lines. My thought is that if I have to spend two hours at Home Depot to try and save $20 on a window, I have probably lost $100 in wages because of wasted time. I plan to work smart, not hard. In any event, I can always contact the places mentioned above, get the information and price that I need, and then contact Home Depot and Lowe's for an additional quote.

Here is another bit of information that a lot of folks may not know. Many companies that sell to Home Depot and Lowe's make cheaper versions of their regular products exclusively for sale to these stores. This is especially true when it comes to floor coverings and paint. For instance, Home Depot sells the cheap inferior-grade stuff through their Home Depot stores and the good-quality stuff through their Home Depot Expo stores. This is what I have heard. Please do your own independent research on this before accepting my word as truth. 

David


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By Jeff in Orlando, FL on 9/14/2006


Has anyone here considered installing solar panels not just for hot water, but actually to generate electricity, thus lowering overall electric utility bills?

I have only begun to scratch the surface with my research, but I'm guessing one could calculate ROI on this given the cost to install and electricity generated.

Has anyone already pondered this possibility?


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 9/14/2006


Trusses went up in one day with the help of a big crane

Jeff--

I put in a decent amount of effort of figuring out a cost of a solar-panel system for my house. It was close to $20K when it was all said and done. However, the government has pretty significant rebates out there for this at the moment to help subsidize the cost. Upon looking into it further, I realized that wind power is a lot cheaper and way more efficient. This is the reason why so many new windmills are being put in across the USA.

You can get a system like the Skystream 3.7 for around $5K or so and it would generate about 400 kW a month here in Florida. This is substantial. The neat thing about this is if you were an energy-conservative person there would be many times when your meter would spin backwards and you would sell back power to the power company. Federal law mandates they must buy back excess power.

So if you have enough land and want a better form of green power, wind power is the best choice.

--Jason


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By Jeff in Orlando, FL on 9/14/2006


Jason,

How many kW do you figure your $20K solar panel system could generate? And do you know what the mean time between failure rate is on solar panels vs. windmills?


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 9/15/2006


Jeff--

I got this figure when pricing out a system that would give me somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 kW, maybe slightly more depending on the efficiency of the panels. The $20K price reflected having it installed by a professional before the government rebates. For a decent-sized solar panel system you can expect to spend somewhere around $8-$10 per watt. 

I do not have an answer for your second question. To save the most money the easiest way (read cheapest) on your monthly electric bill use fluorescent light bulbs where you can and get a tankless gas water heater. You will cut your energy bill by 30% every month. For those of you who have electric tank water heaters and do not use hot water during the day, you can set it up on a timer to shut down for 9 hours or so while you are out of the house an/or for 7 hours while you sleep at night. Even if it were off and you needed it, the water would still be hot enough for a quick shower. Plus you will be using off-peak power. This piece of equipment is about $50 for a basic one and can pay for itself in just a few months. Click here for more info.

I have attached an informative .pdf file that you should read created by the Department of Energy on solar panels. It is actually very good.

--Jason


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By Jeff in Orlando, FL on 9/15/2006


Jason,

Very good information. Thanks.

Yes, for those of you who want to save money without upgrading to solar water or gas or tankless, the water heater timer is an easy way to go. You can actually pick up a basic timer at one of your home-improvement stores for no more than $30 and install it yourself provided you have basic electric wiring skills. It can go anywhere on the line between the heater and breaker box, but you'll want to mount it somewhere where you can easily access it. Or a free way to go is to manually turn off the heater by switching off the breaker (just remember to switch it back on when you need it!)


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By Jeff in Orlando, FL on 10/12/2006


Lisa, Jason, and anyone else who has gone through permitting:

Can you outline exactly what you needed to submit to Orange County as part of the application for your building permit? I'm almost there, but still need a few key items like final engineering-stamped plans and truss design. Thanks.


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 10/12/2006


Jeff--

You must have two copies of everything. Plus, there are incidental papers that need to be notarized that are supplied by O.C. if you are owner-building, things like notice of commencement and such. If you have not been down there you need to go. You may be able to DL this online as well.

First you need to get through zoning. This is where they assign an address. In order to satisfy this you will need plot plans, surveys, drainage district approval if needed, and flood-zone certification.

If you pass that, then you may proceed to permitting. Hopefully you have no wetlands... if you do... all bets are off at this point.

For permitting, you will need a full sets of stamped plans. Do not forget to have your engineer approve details for gables, dormers, door jambs, garage-door jambs, window bucks etc. They will want to see this. You will need your truss layout as well, your HVAC engineered load calcs, and insulation information. Make sure you have wall details that show how you will weatherize the exterior walls. A cross sectional.

You will also need to be signed off by the health department before going to permitting if you need a well and septic. If so, do this now; it takes a good three weeks.

Last but not least, you will need engineering approval on all exterior doors, windows, skylights, garage door SGD's etc. Anything that is exterior you will need approval on. You must get all this yourself.

you can find that info here: floridabuilding.org

I am sure I missed something... there was always one more piece of paperwork those people needed.

Hope you have fun dealing with O.C.... it will be the worst months of your life!

--Jason


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By Julie on 12/18/2006


Hey Jason, Cara, Jeff and everyone else on this journal in Central FL:

We finally got our C.O. But it wasn't without a WHOLE BUNCH OF HEADACHES!!!!

Some things we learned about Orange County that I wish someone had told us ahead of time, so I am telling you guys:

Orange County inspectors (most of them) hate Owner-Builders. Here's the thing; since your first inspection is free, and the inspector has nothing to gain from passing you on the first inspection, such as under-the-table handouts like they get from general contractors, they are super tough and fail you on purpose for dumb stuff they would otherwise pass for a G.C.

We had one inspector who actually passed us the first time and once he found out we were O-Bs, he never passed us again. We had both a sub and an inspector admit that it was because we were O-Bs.

Here's another warning: stay on top of your subs. Write down every conversation you have with them because they will try and blame you because you are an O-B and not a GC for any problems and/or delays.

For example: our plumbing company never called in a final inspection on our septic and we never knew it, until we went downtown to get our C.O. (even after a phone call to make sure everything was OK). This delayed our C.O. by almost two weeks and the sub tried blaming us. After finally speaking to someone at the county who was willing to help us and actually knew what they were talking about, it was very clear to us that it was indeed the sub's responsibility and we are now disputing our bill.

We've also had several issues with Home Depot that are now going on three months trying to resolve. What a nightmare the orange square is. Buyer beware.

So I guess the point is: C.Y.A. I am certainly not one to participate in throwing money into the hands of any Orange County inspectors because I don't work that way. But it's very clear that's the way they work and I was naive enough to try and think that wouldn't impact us, but unfortunately it did and I wanted to share it with the rest of the O-Bs out there.

I tell you what though - now that we are in the house, it was all worth it. We are still doing some things like finishing trim and the kitchen backsplash, but it was definitely worth it. Hang in there and just dream about being in the new house. That's the only thing that kept us going.

Julie


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 12/19/2006


Jeff,

This might be a little late but, Hillsborough County has a complete checklist of what is needed and how many copies of everything. I know it is not necessarily the same in each county, but Hillsborough's checklist is pretty thorough and should be a good starting point for most any county that does not provide one of their own.

Several of the documents I had to fill out required a notary but also required application-number info so I went to the county office before signing and they very kindly helped by notarizing the necessary documents right there.  They were very helpful for me as an Owner-Builder. 

Although I have not heard back yet, there is a site they provided where I can check on the progress of my plans through their system. Also, it is the holiday season, and things really slow down this time of year. I was told to expect about four to five weeks for the review process.

At any rate, if anyone wants a copy of the Hillsborough County checklist, just PM me and I will be happy to forward it along.

Joe H


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By Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/19/2006


Hey Julie, Congratulations! Question - do you have some sort of a checklist from the county saying exactly what's needed to C/O? My understanding is that you MUST have certain things, but can technically move into a house before every last thing is done... I just am wondering which are the non-negotiables and which we can finish up as we move in.

On a side note, our drywall is getting hung today!!!! So stoked to go check out our actual rooms!! :)

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By Julie on 12/19/2006


Cara,

Orange County does not have a checklist for C.O.s; we did ask. Basically to get your CO you have to have all of your final inspections passed: Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Building, Gas, Septic. We did what we had to to pass and are still working on things as we are living in the house. For example, all floors (as part of the building inspection) have to be covered with something such as carpet or tile or sealed if you want to wait to do something else to the floor later. It can't be bare cement unless it's sealed and then it's not technically bare anymore. They don't care about cosmetic things like crown moulding, trim, base, etc. And in fact, my husband is completing the rock on the fireplace as we speak and I have been working on the backsplash in our kitchen. One thing we thought a little odd was that you had to have shelves in your closets to pass your electrical if you have a light in the closet, because the top shelf has to be at least 12 inches or more from the light. But that's something your subs should know. Ours did so we got our closets done before they called in their final.

One thing I would suggest is that when you get closer to the end, identify a date you want to be able to get your CO. Give your subs a drop-dead date to pass their final inspection two weeks before the date you want to get your CO. That should be enough time for anyone who failed any part of their inspection to get it fixed and reinspected.


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 12/26/2006


Here is the Hillsborough County complete checklist for a building permit that Joe from Ruskin provided. He suggested that I post it on the forum so all could download it.

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By Richard in Eustis, FL on 3/10/2007


Hi Joe

I am building in Lake County (Eustis), actually a home makeover/addition that's more than 80% of existing. Long story, but pretty much building a house with added headaches.

I am getting my paperwork together for permitting. Do you know where I can get an example of the letter of commencement? I have the form, not sure what all to put on it and the length of detail.

I am told that the inspectors do not closely monitor the exact windows and doors that are on you materials list, so a nice generic one e.g.. MI window # ???? and door # ???, along with all the strapping #s. I don't know how to look up all the individual items. This would be good info to know. I am building a 2-story, 2x6 base, 2x4 second story, stucco ext.

Thanks for your help

Richard


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 3/11/2007


Hi Richard,

As far as the Notice of Commencement goes, I used the Hillsborough County form which just lays out the address, builder, owner of the property, etc. It does not go into detail about what is being used for products. 

For Florida Approved Products, the Florida Building Code home page has a lot of useful info available dca.state.fl.us/fbc.

I don't know that I would simply start installing items different from what your plans call for as it could prove to be a source of irritation for the inspector and end up causing further difficulties. My game plan is to speak with the county before I even consider purchasing any alternative products for use in my construction that are not outlined within my building permit/plans. The County Building Department Staff has always been more than happy to answer questions and offer suggestions so far and I see no reason why that would change. If I get their blessings beforehand, I think I will stand a better chance of approved inspections more quickly.

I do know that you mentioned changing window sizes in your note and that changes positioning of structural items like headers and also even affects the computation of the energy calcs for the HVAC system.

Best of luck on your build/remodel.


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By Jason in Orlando, FL on 3/11/2007


Richard--

Joe is right on with his comments in the last paragraph. Changing the windows or other items can have more adverse effects than just your inspector grilling you.

If I were you, I would know what product you were going to use as far as windows go before you submit to the county. In Orange, they are extremely strict. For example, the engineered specs sheet that you must get from the link Joe provided must be approved by your county. These records stay on site. When your inspector comes, he will pull these stamped sheets from the county and view the install guidelines from this versus your windows. When stuff does not start matching up, you will be sorry. You can always resubmit another engineered product sheet for approval, but that can take weeks around here thus delaying your project.

In fact, until you know everything about your project and get your load calcs and plans squared away, you should not even submit anything.

As far as the notice of commencement goes, the above info Joe provided plus a notary stamp should be all you need to get going. You will also just write "REMODEL CONSTRUCTION" on the form along with "Owner-Builder" as the contractor. However, if you are applying for a loan from the bank... DO NOT FILE A NOTICE OF COMMENCEMENT before they process your loan. It will be a mess.


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By P in North, FL on 3/11/2007


Attached is a Notice of Commencement form.
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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 10/5/2007


I was just reviewing some information, and found a checklist to apply for an Orange County building permit. Maybe someone will find it useful.

Frank


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