Home building has come under great scrutiny in the past decade or so. New home defects are at an all-time high, customer satisfaction is at an all-time low, and litigation is soaring. Why is this? Have we forgotten how to build houses? Why is there a perception that a home built 50, 75, even 100 years ago may be better than a home built in the last ten? Were the secrets and methods of the craftsmen that preceded us not passed on?
Well, to some extent they were not. Many of the methods of the craftsmen that came before us have been eliminated, replaced by products that are manufactured in a factory. These products are designed to install faster, perform better, be more energy efficient, and last longer. Great! So what is the problem? Well, the problem is that in many instances builders chose to ignore the laws of physics and installed these products without thinking about the consequences.
The major consequence of ignoring science is that it creates a lack of durability. We can install the greatest window in the world, but if we choose to ignore the fact that water can eventually make its way into the opening that allows that window to be there, the wall around that beautiful window will be destroyed.
There have been three major changes in the way we build homes in the last 50 years. The first major innovation was the introduction of thermal insulation. The second was the evolution of tighter building envelopes. The final major change that has a major effect on how our homes perform was the advent of forced-air heating. Now, not all homes have forced-air heating, but almost all incorporate the first two changes.
The introduction of insulation and the tighter envelope both do the same thing, just to different elements. Thermal insulation was installed to stop the flow of energy, designed to help keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Tightened envelopes were designed to stop the flow of air, which affected our heating and cooling as well, and ultimately our comfort. What else happens with the flow of air and/or energy? Well, the one that is most important to a wall assembly is drying. Before these innovations, walls were drafty and inefficient, but they were very forgiving. If water were to get into the wall assembly, it would most likely dry. Now, with restricted air flow and resistance to energy, walls have a harder time drying. The result is mold and rot.
SO WHAT DO WE DO? Do we go back to building it the old way, without insulation and effective air barriers? Of course not, but we need to be aware of these things, and plan accordingly. At Fish Builders, we treat a home as a complete, integrated system, not just an assembly of parts. Each material affects the assembly it is a part of, and each assembly affects the system as a whole—ultimately affecting health, safety, durability, comfort, and affordability. For example, house wrap is a material in a wall assembly, and the wall assembly is part of the envelope of the house. Which house wrap we use, and how we install it, affects the wall, which in turn affects the envelope, which ultimately affects how your home performs.
Basically, building houses is about the durability of people (the health and safety of occupants), the durability of the house itself, and finally the durability of the environment. Fish Builders promises to consider all of these when building your home.