Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Through the Woods and Back in Time, Part One
More than four years ago, we embarked on the project of building a home in the woods, a place that could be used year-round, be an extension of the old camp in the summer to accommodate friends and family, and to be our home away from the city. Since the day we received the certificate of occupancy in 2004, when we mistakenly thought we were "done", we have been on a quest to reach the real finish line with the place. Looking back, we have found many mistakes we made and things we overlooked in our planning for the house. Some of them we have fixed, others still cause grief. So for those of you with the will and the faith to build a new house, in the Adirondacks or elsewhere, here is the first post with a few of the mistakes we made. We hope you avoid them in your project. (1) Radiant Floor Heat. First, we regret not installing a radiant floor heating system. We knew that we wanted to do it from the start, but because of the extremely cold temperatures in Old Forge and the major changes in temperature that can come up quickly, we were advised to install a forced air system only. In retrospect, we think the radiant heat would have been sufficient alone but even if we needed a supplementary forced air system, it would have been worth it to install radiant heat. There is just a quality to it that cannot be replicated with forced air or other heating options. It is also silent and clean. (2) Anticipate a Battle with Nature. The single greatest thing we underestimated was the power of nature to impact the house. We insulated with spray foam insulation. We used high quality materials. We reinforced the roof and structure to withstand enormous snow loads. Still, we failed to anticipate the enormous stress water, wind, snow, cold and heat would have on the house. One thing we had to do was install gutters to deal with water flow off of the roof. The amount of water was more than we anticipated and you just never know how it will react with the house until it is standing there. Without gutters, you also get drip lines in all of your planting beds. We had to install freeze detectors on every floor and in each section of the house to detect cold temperatures to avoid bursting pipes in the event power fails. We had pipes burst, we had flooding, power failed and so did the backup generator, and we learned that we needed multiple layers of protection against these risks. We replaced the generator with a more reliable model. In the Adirondacks, in winter, a backup generator is essential. The worst of the problems relate to the screened in porch. It takes a whipping from the water and wind blowing off of the lake and has leaked into the basement below. If you have living space beneath an exterior porch, you must be certain that it is weatherproofed and waterproofed, and then check it yourself before flooring is installed.