Today we are going to venture into dangerous waters and tackle an age old “truth” about building a quality home. Yes, we expect a barrage of emails and comments telling us how wrong we are or from a few how correct we are.
For starters let’s look at what is Common Practice throughout Vermont when it comes to building a quality home. It seems as though everyone knows that a quality home has exterior walls that are built out of 2x6” lumber and everything is placed 16” on center. That means that the framing for the home is all 2x6” and that every 16” there is another piece of framing lumber. That method is what has been done since 1973. Every home built in the United States prior to 1973 was built using 2x4” lumber because everyone knew full well that a 2x4” house was very structurally strong. There was no need to build using anything heavier, it would simply be a waste of hard earned money.
The severe energy crisis of 1973 shocked the nation and forced everyone rethink how we could save on oil consumption. Almost immediately residential construction shifted away from 2x4” to 2x6” and the ONLY reason was to create a bigger cavity for insulation. Common practice changed within months and has remained that way for the better part of 45 years. Back then the fiberglass insulation in a 2x4” house was R-11 and it jumped up to R-19 in a 2x6” house. Those numbers have been revised with product improvements so now it is R-13 and R-21 respectively. The use of 16” o.c. framing has not significantly changed and remains as the common-practice throughout Vermont and New England. The stereotypical measure of quality in 2016 revolves around a 2x6” wall that is build 16” on center.
Enter Vermont Modular Homes that does not build that type of home. For starters we have increased from 2x6” lumber to 2x8” lumber and the ONLY reason is to create an even larger cavity for insulation. Instead of using R-21 Fiberglass we now are able to use R-30 insulation. Again we are able to significantly improve on the performance of the wall by increasing the amount of insulation.
The controversy surrounding our exterior wall centers on whether to build everything 16” o.c. or to jump to 24” o.c.; we have chosen to build the exterior walls 24” on center and for a very good reason.
For today’s discussion we are talking about the framing lumber. In all homes, regardless of how they are built, the lumber transfers heat very well. So, each piece of lumber is a significant source of Heat Loss. Doesn’t it logically follow that if we have fewer pieces of lumber we will have fewer significant sources of heat loss? The answer is as obvious as it seems. Each piece of framing lumber is a Thermal Bridge from warm to cold.
When a house is built using framing that is 16” on center ( 16” o.c. ) the framing lumber has almost double the impact as the same framing lumber when built using 24” o.c., the impact is significant.
Conclusion: Vermont Modular may build a home using non-conventional or non-common-practice techniques but, we believe it is a superior home that will be more energy efficient. Tomorrow we will address exactly how we deal with the remaining Thermal Bridges by creating a Thermal Barrier.