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Newsletter #226

Finished Basement

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

James Todd
June, 2004
Happy Father’s Day

All past newsletters are archived online at:



1. Window Selection
2. Central Vacuum Installation
3. Finish your basement now or later
4. Thought for the Day
5. Subscription Information

Please forward this newsletter to anyone whom you think may be interested!

1. Windows - The Basics and Energy Rating

Windows and patio doors are collectively one of the most expensive components in the building of your new home. They are also responsible for a major operating expense throughout your occupancy because they are accountable for most heat transfer (loss)between your living environment and the great outdoors. Where a typical insulated wall has an R factor of R-20, a standard double glazed window has an R factor of R-2. So we gain or lose 10 times as much heat through our windows as our walls. There are several things that can be done to windows to minimize heat transfer and these all add to the cost. One simple thing that will save you money is to minimize the windows and patio doors with a westerly exposure.

There are a wide choice of windows available and we will present more articles on choosing windows in the near future. However, in this first article I will cut to the chase and give you some targets to think about.

There are important government and industry standards that will help you choose the right windows for your climate and your budget. The two most important standards are the Resistance to heat flow or R-value, and the Energy Rating or ER. Fortunately, these standards are consistent across the US and Canada making window comparisons possible.

The ER standard is a valuable consumer tool because ER is based solely on a window's performance regardless of how, or with what materials it was built. The higher the ER numbers the better.

A common, poor performance, fixed window, with an aluminium spacer between the glass panes and double glazing (2 panes of glass), might have an ER of -35. The minimum ER for what is considered to be a high performance fixed window is +2 and the ER for the opening version of the window is -11. A moderate cost, high performance, fixed window, with insulated spacer, double glazing, low-E coating, and argon filled should have an ER of +5 and the opening version should have an ER of -8. The highest performance, fixed window, with insulated spacer, triple glazing, low-E coating on 2 surfaces, argon or krypton filled gap has an ER of +15 or more. It is also the most expensive.

If you are concerned about energy costs to heat or cool your home, you need to consider the ER number when choosing your windows. There are many other considerations including appearance, price, durability, condensation resistance, wind resistance, water resistance, lower sound transmission, and coatings for reflection of sunlight. Generally speaking, if windows are certified to have high ER numbers they will have been built with enough to ensure that many of these other items have already been included.

Be sure to buy windows that are certified by a trusted standards body, have a visible certification on the window, and are guaranteed to meet the standards that you require.

What's Next? In next month’s newsletter we will be exploring what you should look for in window frames. In the following newsletter we will discuss Low E Coatings and Other Films on the glass.

Useful Links

For a Glossary of Terms see:

For more interesting reading on this topic see:

Fiberglass framed windows:

Window manufacturing:


2. Central Vacuum Installation
Central Vacuum installation is relatively straight forward, however there are a number of important factors to take into account during the construction of you new home, which will ensure trouble free use. The following decisions should be considered: 1) Location of each inlet 2) Number of Inlets 3) Size of power unit 4) location of power unit – inside or outside the main living area 5) Tips during installation phase 6)Protection of the PVC during construction. We will discuss each of these areas in detail and provide several references for you to refer to.

Location: Just like location in real estate, placing your inlets is also important. Most vacuum hoses are 30 feet long; make sure that you will be able to reach all of the nooks and crannies from the outlets you install. Usually two inlets per floor are enough depending on the size of the home.

The next thing you should consider is the placement of your furniture. There is no sense in installing an inlet in an area, only to place a desk or another piece of furniture directly in front of it. You should also make certain there is an electrical outlet within 3 feet of each inlet, to provide electricity for the electric rug beater.

Dream Home Source has over 15,300 house plans easily searched from their online database. You decide how many bedrooms, bathrooms, and garage stalls your new home will have, along with many other key features. Dream Home Source has an enormous variety of house plans for every taste, from traditional to contemporary, from 500 to 10,250 square feet. Register and receive a free home plan CD-ROM or DVD-ROM. Visit us today!

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The New House Building Guide – Learn How To Save Thousands Building Your New Home

Intimidated by the idea of being your own builder? You’re not alone. Most people don’t have the time, expertise, or contacts to perform this task. The good news is that you don’t have to. You can use your own builder and still save thousands. Get the House Building Guide and learn how. The Guide contains step-by-step instructions, sample specifications, an example building-contract, and dozens of money saving, convenience and healthy house building tips. This is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in building a new home.

Custom Home Building Plan
Create an all-you signature home then see it before you build with our “from scratch” 3D walk-thru on-line design. Shop our all-original Plan Library of pre-priced house plans or customize your favorite one. All Custom – No Limits! Visit us today!

Number of Inlets: This issue is closely related to location or placement of inlets, however for convenience you may want to place an extra inlet in specific rooms. Also consider one inlet in the garage and inlets in your basement, even if it is unfinished. Some owners will also have an outlet in their workshop with an extra hose.

Size of the Power Unit: You should discuss this topic with the dealer or company you are buying from. A final decision should be made based upon the size of your home, the number of outlets and the overall length of PVC piping that will be installed.

Location of the Power Unit: The power unit needs to be installed close to an electrical outlet and in a location with easy access –for empty the discharge container. Additionally the selection of an installation location should always minimize the number of 90-degree bends. Finally, for those people who suffer from allergies, you may want to consider installing the power unit in the garage, since all exhaust air will then be vented to the outside. The negative side to this selection is that air is drawn out of the house, which means it will be replaced with new air that enters through doors, windows, and the fresh air intake vents. This may result in higher heating and cooling bills.

Tips during the Installation Phase: Regardless of whether you are doing the installation or you have hired a contractor there are a few tips that will help ensure you are satisfied with the end product. Here they are: a) Plan your layout to minimize 90 degree bends and overall length of the longest run. b) Ensure there is an electrical outlet near every inlet c) Coordinate with the furnace installation to ensure that the PVC piping is not in the way of the hot or cold air returns for your furnace. d) When cutting the piping minimize all rough edges. Hacksaws can leave a rough cut. Deburr them if necessary. e) Install all piping inside walls just before the drywall is attached f) Drop a plumb from the 2nd floor to ensure a straight run for the piping. g) and use the plumb to line up the outlets as well.

Protecting the PVC & outlets during construction: It is important to install the piping before the plaster or drywall is added- or any other material that will close the wall in. While it is not impossible to install a central vacuum after the house is finished it is certainly a lot easier if done ahead of time. Once you have the pipes installed you will want to ensure that the pipe is protected. You can use temporary plaster or plywood guards to protect the piping.

Visit some of the useful links we have provided if you would like additional information.

Useful Links

Central Vacuum Installation Manuals

How To Do It.

3. Finish Your Basement Now or Later

Should you finish your basement and turn it into useable living space now as you are finalizing your construction plans for your new home or should you wait a few years? This is an important question for many people and the answer is of course different for everyone and depends on their personal needs and financial situation. This may be a non issue for many folks in southern climates using slab construction techniques. However, in northern climates, the majority of homes are built with some kind of basement or crawl space.

We have listed a number of issues on both sites of the discussion to help you decide which alternative is most appropriate for you. Here they are :

Finish your basement during the construction phase.

  • Financially you may be able to include the extra funds needed to finish your basement in your construction financing mortgage.
  • It may be easier to obtain required permits now as part of the original permit application phase..
  • Do you need the extra space now for living, recreational or home office needs?
  • Do you need extra bedrooms, playrooms, craft rooms or entertainment space?
  • Do you want your home office to placed away from the main living area?
  • Will you have an exercise room or do you want the teenagers to have a place to entertain their friends?
  • Do you intend to use your basement for storage only.
  • Large families can benefit from an extra bathroom, shower etc in the basement.
  • Walkouts from your basement to your backyard may be a consideration regarding finishing your basement now.
  • Where will you entertain guests, family get-togethers, formal and informal situations? Do you want to have a game room for the children or even the adults?
  • Where will guests sleep when staying over? Do you want privacy for them and you?
  • Will you have live-in help and where will they have their living quarters? Personal space, showers, bathroom etc.

Finish your basement a few years after you complete initial construction of your home.

  • Will you have the financial resources you need to pay for the completion of your finished basement a few years from now?
  • The types of permits you will be required will vary by state and province, however they could include all or some of the following.
    • A building permit
    • An electrical permit
    • A mechanical permit for any heating systems and other appliances
    • A plumbing permit
  • How difficult will it be to hire contractors to finish the basement?
  • Will access be problematic to deliver materials etc
  • Will the disruption of additional construction in your home be problematic for you or for your family (dust, access, time off work etc.)

Regardless of which option you chose, you should plan your basement for your future needs. Placement of your furnace, water heater, ducting, support members, well and sewer inlet locations will all play a part in the eventual aesthetics and cost of finishing your basement.

Many people find it easier to finish their basements prior to moving in to avoid the additional stress of completing their basement sometime in the future. They avoid the dust and disruption to the household and they have the additional living space immediately.

Visit some of the useful links we have provided if you would like additional information.

Useful Links

The benefits of basements

Keep basements in mind to meet future space needs.


4. Thought For The Day - Human Dignity
Spend as much time developing the inner you as you do maintaining the outer you. Pay attention to stuff like character and integrity. That’s the stuff that counts in God’s all seeing eyes.

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