Monthly Archives: November 2013

Hydronic Radiant Heating

Hydronic radiant heating, or more specifically under-floor heating, can be accomplished in several ways.

Using a natural gas-fired tankless water heater for both domestic hot water and space heating is one alternative. This is the method I have used in several houses. It as been very successful

hydronic radiant heating

Schematic of a recently installed heating system

n example of Hydronic radiant heating

An actual 3 zone system, nearly complete.

This plan was for heating three separate areas of the house, main floor, basement, and garage.  A separate thermostat controls each 24 volt zone valve.  The zone valves in turn control the pumps with line voltage end switches.  The diagram shows 3 circuits on each manifold but there could be more or less, depending on the area heated. The maximum length of a circuit should be less than 250 feet.

The three-way valve are for flushing the heater when needed. The pumps are Armstrong three speed with check valves. Their capacity is 10 gallons per minute.

The zone valves are Honeywell 3/4 inch, motorized, with end switches.

A pressure only relief valve is used. Maximum temperatures are ensured by integral limit switches in the water heater.

The heat exchanger is a single wall plate type. It is oversized for maximum heat transfer at lower temperatures. I am not sure this was necessary, but the cost difference was not significant.

Wiring zone valves and pumpsfor hydronic radiant heating

Wiring zone valves and pumps

 Wire the zone valves and pumps as per the above diagram. Place a switch in the live 120 line for ease in servicing.  Provide grounds to all 120 volt components.  Provide a grounded outlet for connecting the water heater.

No extra controls are necessary for the heater as it will turn on as soon as flow is initiated by the primary circulating pump.

There should be a separate, dedicated, electrical circuit for the system.

Another way to distribute hydronic radiant heating

An alternate method of heat distribution

 An alternate method involves using a circulation pump for each manifold.  The pumps can be controlled with line voltage thermostats, or you could use low voltage thermostats and relays.

This is the system I use, when I only have one area to heat, but it would work as well for multiple areas.

I used the zone valves as I found them for under $75 each. The pumps were about $150 each.

If you use a boiler, the configuration would be different.  Probably, something like the next illustration.

In this case you would likely use a heat exchanger and a tank for supplying domestic hot water.

wiring for hydronic radiant heat using a boiler

Boiler wiring

When plumbing all the parts together, you can do a very neat job with copper lines and fittings.  It is, however, more costly than pex and will radiate considerably more heat into the mechanical room.

I place a the radiant heating lines under the floor at a maximum spacing of 16 inches.  In a conventional floor, that normally means one line in each of the joist spaces.  It doesn’t seem to matter if there are two lines in a occassional joist space if that is necessary for things to work out.

In a concrete floor slab, place 10 mm rebar in a 16 inch grid. Tie the pex piping to the rebar before pouring the slab.

The distance from the floor surface to the pipe circuit does not seem to be important. Place it where it is least susceptible to mechanical damage.

It is a good idea to put more than one radiant heating circuit in parallel under a slab in case a leak develops.  I have never heard of this happening but that does not mean it is impossible.

Place insulation under the pipe in a basement ceiling. R14 fiberglass works well and is inexpensive.  You might also place a layer of reflective material under or over the insulation. Ordinary foil food wrap placed shiny side up is a low-cost choice.

If you have an area where it is difficult to place radiant heating coils in the floor, it is possible to use a fan coil for heat. You lose the benefits of under-floor radiant heating, but it is easier than installing second source of supplementary heat.

Many tankless water heaters can be run at temperatures up to about 185 degrees fahrenheit.  If you choose to use higher temperatures, be sure to install a mixing valve in the domestic water supply, to reduce the risk of scalds.

If you require more capacity than can be provided by one tankless heater, it is possible to install two or more in tandem.

The approximate cost of material, for the system illustrated by the first diagram, was $3000.00. This compares very favorably to a forced air system and a hot water tank.

Hydronic heating systems can be expanded to include other uses besides space heating.

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Heating with a Hydronic Radiant System

Hydronic heating is a system which uses water or steam  as a heat transfer medium.  Radiant heating is a method of heating objects by heat radiated from a warmed surface.

Unlike forced air heating, or gravity furnaces, there is little, or no reliance on convection.  In other words, heat is not distributed by moving heated air.  The heat may be radiated from floors, walls, or overhead ceiling panel

The heating system I am going to discuss uses the floor as a radiator.  This is the system I have used in several houses, either partially or as the total heating system.  It is the sole source of heat in the home I have just built.  The same source of hot hater is utilized for domestic use.  I have just installed a more complicated, three zone system, in my sister and nieces new house.  I had also installed a similar system in my sister’s previous home which has operated very well and trouble-free for the last six years.  This system utilizes piping, run under the floor surfaces, to distribute the heat.

This climate reqires a robust heating system

Our heating system has to deal with this climate. This photo was taken in mid November.

While my research and experience is not sufficient to qualify me as an expert, I have certainly gained enough insight for competent comment.  I am going to use a question and answer format, Some of these questions have been  asked of me, and many are questions that I have researched  for myself.

Q/  What about cost?  Isn’t hydronic heating more costly to install?

Not necessarily.  utilizing a single heat source for both domestic hot water and heating reduces cost considerably.  A high-efficiency tankless water heater, and pex pipe, can reduce the cost to less than a conventional forced air system and separate water heater.

Q/  Is Hydronic radiant heat more efficient and have lower operating costs?

I can’t be certain of that without a controlled experiment, but logic would indicate that it is, and my experience seems to reinforce it.  Comfort seems to be achieved with a lower air temperature. As there is little air movement it seems that less heat is lost when a door is opened.  It is ,however a little more difficult to lower the temperature for short periods, such as during sleeping or work hours.

Q/ Doesn’t the floor get uncomfortably warm when the system is working?

A warm floor with hydronic heating.

Toasty toes on a warm floor. It looks as if I should trim my toenails

No. In fact the floor remains at an almost constant temperature, which is only slightly above the room temperature, and always comfortable.  So comfortable, in fact, that I hardly ever wear slippers.

Q/ Under slab heating has become common in garages.  Is it necessary to have supplementary heat for fast recovery when large garage doors have been opened?

Actually, recovery seems to be faster than with conventional fan forced heat.  This is likely because less heat is lost through the loss of circulating heated air, and because of the large heat sink of the floor.

Q/  Do we need to place insulation under the floor?

Yes and no.  In the case of an upper level floor, the heating will need to be isolated from the space below with some degree of insulation.  R12 fiberglass seems to work well, and it is low-cost.   A reflective surface above or below the insulation may also be beneficial, but likely not critical.  Ordinary foil food wrap placed shiny side up is an economical approach. Some jurisdictions have building codes which require insulation under heated slabs.  Experience has shown me that this is largely a waste of money except in certain circumstances.  If the water table is within a couple of feet of the underside of the floor, then insulation may be beneficial.  It is, arguably, also beneficial if the slab rests on solid rock.  While reasonably dry dirt is not a good insulator, it is nevertheless an insulator, and you have an almost unlimited depth.  The difference in temperature between the earth and the slab is also not great.  In most places it is only about 20 to 30  degrees fahrenheit (11 to 22 degrees celsius.)  Of course, if you are building on permafrost it must be protected from the heat of the floor.  The extra heat sink provided by the soil can actually be beneficial, by aiding in recovery, and in case of system failure.  It is important that the foundation walls are well insulated to at least 24 inches (.6 meters) below the surface.

Q/  Can this or a similar system be installed in an existing home?

Yes, there are several ways it can be done.  It is not likely that it is cost-effective though.  You would, probably, be better advised to spend money on increasing insulation, and on sealing air leaks.  Even replacing windows with more efficient ones may be more cost-effective.

Q/ Could this be a DIY project to install?

Yes, if you have basic plumbing skills.  Electrical skills would also be useful.

Q/  What is the best heat source?

My preference is a gas-fired, high-efficiency, tankless water heater, although almost any source can be used.  The difference is largely in the control mechanisms.  Your choice would depend on what sources of energy are available, the level of heating required, and cost.  Because heating requires so little of the capacity of many tankless heaters, it should be used for domestic hot water as well.  This will ensure that it, at least occasionally, runs at full capacity and should reduce maintenance issues.

Q/  How large should a tankless water heater be.

In our climate, with incoming water temperatures at about 40 degrees F. (about 4.5 degrees C.), a tankless heater needs to be about 200,000 BTU per hour input. This will supply two or three hot water outlets at once.  The space heating needs of a modern well-built home, should require only a portion of this.  Since hot water needs are normally only for short periods, there should be plenty of excess capacity for this purpose.

Q/  Are there any situations where you would not use a tankless?

Some water can damage, or quickly reduce the efficiency, of a tankless water heater.  The water heater,  in this case, could be isolated by using heat exchangers and tanks,  which are less costly to replace.  It may be easier to use a boiler in a closed system. Water softeners,  Filters or other water purifying systems may be in order.  Water heaters are available with stainless steel heat exchangers, which may be a little less susceptible to corrosion, than copper.

Q/  Is a high-efficiency, condensing, water heater worth the extra cost.

If you use high volumes of hot water, I am sure it is. I am not sure the efficiency is as great for heating, as the heater will run at far below capacity, when in use for heating alone. The cost difference is not so much that I would be discouraged from going with a condensing model.

Q/  What effect has the choice of flooring have?

It doesn’t seem to make much difference.  My preference is for wood, laminate, tile or vinyl flooring. Carpet is not an advantage when the floor is always warm.  I am writing at my desk this morning, in a house coat, and with bare feet on a laminate floor.  It is minus 25 celsius outside with a minus 30 wind chill.

Q/  Can I heat multiple floors or separate areas with the same system?

Heating casn be controlled with a line voltage thermostat.

A simple line voltage thermostat.

Yes you can.  It may necessitate  more complicated system utilizing several zone valves or circulating pumps.  Separate pumps can be controlled with line voltage thermostats or with low voltage thermostats and relays.  Low voltage thermostats can be used to control zone valves which in turn will control pumps through line voltage end switches.  I will detail these systems in a my next post.

Q/ Where can I find parts and supplies?

Most of what you need can be found or ordered at local hardware stores at a reasonable price.  The more uncommon parts are available from plumbing supply and electrical supply sources.  You can often find the more unusual parts through the internet at dramatically lower cost.

Q/  How much piping will be needed?

I like to space pipe runs at 16 inches or less.  If more than 250 ft. of pipe is required, then manifolds should be used to provide several circuits. This is using oxygen impervious pex pipe designed specifically for hydronic heating.  Pex, or cross linked polyethylene, is not very conductive and is not efficient at transferring heat.  This does not affect the efficiency of the system at all, but it does mean that more piping is needed than with metal pipe.  More piping does mean a more even distribution of heat. Plumbers will sometimes tell you that glycol is needed for efficient heat transfer.  Once again, this does not effect the overall efficiency of the system at all and only adds extra cost and an element of risk.  Glycol is poison, and I do not want it anywhere near my water system.

Q/  Is placement of the pipe in relation to the floor surface important?

It doesn’t seem to be.  If in a slab, the depth of concrete over top of the pipe seems to be insignificant.  If in a joist space, it doesn’t seem to matter as long as the pipe is between the insulation and the under surface of the floor.  Expensive metal plates for heat distribution seem like a unecessary expense.  Simply fasten the pipe where it is convenient, and the least susceptible to damage.

Q/  Is this an environmentally friendly system?

As a rule of thumb, the most environment friendly system is the most energy-efficient.  Secondly the least use of material and whether that material is recyclable is important.  This system compares favorably with other methods. the use of natural gas as fuel releases the least pollutants to the atmosphere.

Q/  What about building codes?

If using a water heater for both domestic hot water and space heating, the most recent Canada codes I am familiar with, requires a circulation system to replace the water in the heating portion periodically. An alternative is to separate the heating and domestic with a heat exchanger and this is required in some jurisdictions. These are bigger concerns if you are using untreated water. Some authorities will even require a double wall heat exchanger so that a leak between will be visible. A double wall heat exchanger is much less efficient at heat transfer, and requires a much larger and more expensive unit.  North American codes in relation to this type of heat are still in flux due to unfamiliarity.  The biggest concern seems to be with legionnaires disease although I cannot find a single case that has been traced to single family residential heating . It is possible to route all water use through the heating system so stagnation is not possible.  I have used heat exchangers in mine and my sisters houses.  Do your own homework, in regards to codes, for your locality.

Q/  How hot should the water be?

I have found 140 degrees fahrenheit (60 degrees celsius) to give efficient heat transfer. This temperature also keeps bacteria growth low.  This temperature is easily regulated with a tankless. Most boilers need to operate at higher temperature for efficiency.  If using a boiler, mixing valves will be required to lower the water temperatures.  You may want to use a mixing valve, to lower the temperature for domestic use, if you have small children.

Q/  Are there maintenance issues?

If your water is hard, you will need to flush a tankless water heater with vinegar periodically, to remove scale.  This is a simple procedure that you can perform yourself with some garden hose lengths, a small submersible pump, and a pail with about 4 gallons of vinegar. How often this needs to be done depends on the water.  There is at least one in line water filter which may need to be cleaned if flow slows down.   With soft water at my last house, the heater required no maintenance in 6 years.  A forced air system requires filter changes several times a year at the least.  In case of failure, the various parts of a tankless, are replaceable with no need to replace the entire unit. Scale build up in a conventional tank type water heater usually means that the entire unit will need to be replaced.

Q/  What about safety?

A simple hydronic heating system.

The simple hydronic system in my house.

This is a low pressure, low temperature system that poses very little danger of burns or explosion. Temperatures are just high enough to restrict bacteria growth.  By using a direct vent system for the water heater, the chance of carbon monoxide release into the house is practically eliminated. There is no duct system to facilitate the spread of fire, smoke, or airborne pathogens.   No chemicals are used.  I believe this is one of the safest heating systems.

Q/  What are the space requirements?

From 4 to 6 ft. of a ouside wall should be sufficient.  A chimney is not required. The equipment can be located in a basement or upstairs mechanical room or in a crawl space.  In warmer climates it can even be located outdoors with minimal protection.

Q/  What happens if the system is meeting space heating requirements when you need hot water?

Domestic hot water can be given priority simply by taking hot water before it reaches the heating system.  I have never noticed a significant water temperature drop if the heating kicks in while I am showering.

Q/  What are the major advantages of this system?

No air movement to stir up dust and carry it around the house. The system is almost totally silent. Comfortably warm floors.  Using a tankless means you never run out of hot water.

Q/  what about disadvantages?

It is difficult to make quick temperature changes.  It may be difficult to find a plumber familiar with hydronic systems, or tankless heaters, if repairs are needed that you cannot perform yourself.

If you have any questions that have not been answered here, I will reply to comments. I will go into detail and include some drawings in my next post. I will discuss a couple of specific systems I have installed that are in use. Until next time

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Baseboards and Casings

Once your interior doors are installed, the next step is to fit the baseboards and casings.


Winter starts with a BANG. I guess my deck and fascia will have to wait for spring.

I am still finishing the baseboards and casings on my house, as weather forced us to move in before we were completely finished.

Crown moldings

An excellent job of  fitting crown, in a custom factory built home.

You may want to add crown moldings to add some interest. Extruded foam crown molding may even provide some extra insulation along the top of exterior walls. This is a corner area that is difficult or expensive to insulate well.

See to your tools first. Make trial cuts, and fits, to make sure saws are perfectly accurate. Check you owners manual or the internet if adjustments are needed. Make certain you have appropriate blades for this type of work. They must be sharp and true.

You will likely be surprised by the amount of material needed to finish a house. The cost can be substantial.

Baseboard and casing

My choice for baseboard and casing

I chose to make my own baseboards and casings from 5/8 inch MDF. I used a plain flat profile in a 3.5 inch width. I will not be installing crown moldings. This is quick and inexpensive. I needed about $200 for material as opposed to a $1000 or more for moldings.

Because MDF is heavy, and hard to handle in sheets, I used a light, cordless circular saw with a guide, for cutting the strips. It worked quite well, but a straight edge and clamps would probably  have been just a little more accurate. I sanded out the saw marks, and eased the corners, using 60 grit sandpaper and an orbital sander.

Crown over door

Crown added over door

On doors visible from the main living area, I added a small crown. It was made from 5/8 MDF using a router. Simple and quick. On these, I used butt joints at the top with about 1/2 inch overlap on the ends. The result, though simple, is quite attractive. Most other joints were done with a mitre.

I prefer to put on primer and a coat of paint before applying the trim. Ready made moldings from  MDF or pine will be primed for you. With wood grain I apply the stain and at least one coat of varnish or urethane. Caulking or wood filler and a final coat of paint or varnish is applied after installation. For a fine finish, fill and sand nail holes and imperfect joints twice before the final coat. On wood grain use a filler that closely matches your stain in color. Filler rarely takes stain well. I use paintable caulking for painted trim. it is easy and fast.

casing relieveStart with the door and window casings. Measure the inside of frames and jambs and make your cuts a little longer to leave a relieve. I like to leave about a 1/8 inch relief, but it is up to you. Up to about a 1/4 inch will leave adequate nailing space. Use 1.5 inch brads or finishing nails to attach to the frames. An occasional nail into the rough frame will hold things flat. A nail may be needed diagonally at the corners for a flush fit.   A quick swipe or two with a sanding block across your end cuts may make the joints a little tighter. Use care.

usinga miter saw for baseboard and casing

Using a Mitre saw for a baseboard cut.

Baseboard requires near perfect cuts for a neat job. If the height of your baseboards is 3.5 inches or less, you can make your cuts on a 12 inch mitre saw with the boards on edge. To make a 45 degree cut across the face of a board takes extra care, if it is laid flat on the saw. The saw can be easily forced out of true. It may be easier to use a circular saw.

Outside corners will usually fit well with 45 degree cuts. You can remove imperfections in the wall with a knife or sandpaper. Ease the edge a bit.

Baseboard and casing cuts

Extra care is needed to prevent forcing the saw out of true with this cut. It allows for wider cuts.

Make joins over studs if possible with 45 degree cuts and two nails through both boards. Use 2 inch brads or small diameter finishing nails.

A 45 degree joint rarely fits well on inside corners. With painted trim you could simply use caulking to  correct the imperfections. A more professional way is to use a coped fit. This is a butt joint cut to fit the profile of your trim. To make  perfect fit, cut your board at a 45, and cut with a coping saw along the cut line on the face. Emphasize the line with a pencil if necessary. It is possible to cope using the mitre saw alone. it takes care.

A flat profile means no coping cuts are neccessary.A simple butt joint can be used on the inside corners of baseboard.

Crown moldings are a little different. It may take a little practice on scrap until you can visualise the cuts. Crowns usually do not fit tightly into corners and are a little more tolerant of imperfect drywall finishing. Inside corners will be done with 45 degree joints.

It is possible that you have a few corners that are other than 45 degrees. Your mitre saw will have settings to accommodate these cases.

I like to caulk the top of baseboards, along casings, and any joints that are not perfectly tight. This eliminates hiding places for spiders, flies, and other bugs. It also provides a more professional finish. Use a paintable caulk of an appropriate color. In bathrooms, or on any floor that may be mopped, I caulk the bottom of baseboards with colored silicone to prevent water damage. It must be done carefully as silicone will not accept a finish.

A final caution or two. Wear safety glasses. Brad nailers have a habit of sending  sharp projectiles flying at times. Watch you fingers. It is harder to judge where the saw blade will be when making angle cuts. A brad nailer can hit a knot, or nail, and do a 180 right into your finger. Do not attempt to pull brads if ends protrude. Cut them off with a good side cutter, preferably just below the surface.

Remember, if you cut a board too short, you will have to cut a new one. If you cut slightly long, it can easily be trimmed with a power mitre saw.

The super

Our supervisor is less busy now that we are nearly finished

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Finishing Carpentry, the Final Touches

Finishing carpentry adds the final trim to your homes interior. It includes installing the interior doors, applying door and window casings, and installing baseboard. It can be simple or elaborate, depending on your taste and your skill level. Finishes can be paint or wood grain and material used can vary considerably.


Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Beautiful, but the storm is on it’s way today.

Over the years, I have seen metal jambs and casings on doors, plastic casings, rubber like cove bases, extruded foam  crown moldings, and the wood or MDF trim common today. Wood grain trim is elegant and beautiful but takes the most skill and care to apply and finish. It is also the most costly. It is commonly available in oak with multiple configurations. It is possible to make your own or have custom moldings made from any type of wood available.

For ease of application and low-cost, my own preference is MDF (medium density fibreboard.) It is very consistent, cuts and molds easily, and takes a paint finish very nicely. It does have disadvantages and many cabinet makers and carpenters detest it. It is very dusty to work or sand,and is very heavy. It may contain formaldehyde in the glue that binds it, but I do not see that a significant amount could off gas especially once it is primed and painted. It does not hold fine thread screws well, especially in the edges, but it glues up very nicely. I prefer to do cutting and sanding out-of-doors. It is important to wear a dust mask. It is manufactured from wood residuals which makes it easier on our forests.

You can, of course, hire professionals to do your finishing carpentry. It is, however, not that difficult to do yourself. It does require a lot of care and a few rather inexpensive tools. Power tools are big help. Mitre boxes with a backsaw are fine but a powered mitre saw will save a lot of time and likely improve your accuracy. A good blade is essential. A table saw can be handy but a circular saw with a guide will work for the few rip cuts you may have to make. Finishing nails can be used for fastening but a brad nailer works faster and no setting is required. You will need a sanding block and some sponge sanders, An electric orbital sander can save time in some cases. If using nails on wood, you may have to pre-drill to avoid splitting, and to improve accuracy. Always a good practice when finishing with nails. A stand for your mitre saw, with extensions, is a great help. You may need a coping saw. You will need a 4 or 6 ft. level or a shorter one combined with a straight edge.

On a new house, the finishing carpentry starts when the walls have been painted, and the floor coverings are installed.

Sometimes, carpets are not installed until the finishing carpentry is done. In this case space should be allowed under bases and casing.

A bi-fold and a swinging door.

Bi-fold door and an uncased swinging door

The first step is to hang the interior doors. You can buy pre-hung doors, easy fit doors or make your own jambs, and purchase door slabs. For speed and ease I prefer pre-hung doors. In this case you must specify left or right hand swing when purchasing. You will need to assemble jambs for the openings of bi-fold doors. Make the jambs with 3/4 inch material cut in 4.5 inch strips. Assemble  the jambs before installing in the rough opening. Swinging doors should be fully assembled in their jambs before installing. Bi-folds require an exact width and a height within about 1/2 inch. Make sure swinging doors have some clearance, about 1/8 to 3/16 inch top and sides. Make certain the jamb is square and plumb in the opening and shim if needed. Do not be too concerned if the face is not exactly plumb unless the two sides of the door are much different.

The common practice is to use cedar wedges for shims. Overlap them from both sides for an exact fit. For myself I save scraps of material of various thicknesses, including plywood, veneers, flooring or anything else that is at hand. The important part is to be able to build thicknesses to within 1/16 inch or less. Fasten by pre-drilling through the shims. Use screws or 2 inch finishing nails. 

The following is for installing swinging doors. Use the longest level you have (6 ft. is nice), and check the hinge side for plumb. Tack in shims if needed, preferably behind the hinges. Place the jamb and door in the rough opening. With the jamb firm against the opening on the hinge side. check the clearance between the top of the door and its jamb to see if the hinge side will need to be raised to allow for squaring the door. If needed place a temporary shim under the jamb on the hinge side. Make certain the jamb is flush with the drywall and fasten the hinge side. I prefer to remove one screw from each hinge and replace with a longer one. Raise the jamb on the latch side to square if needed, Use the door itself as your square by checking for an even clearance at each top corner. Shim and fasten the latch side of the jamb in at least three places, one of which should be just above, or below, the latch.

Place your fasteners as unobtrusively as possible. With an easy fit door you can put on the door stops after the door is in.  Fasteners can then be placed under them and be perfectly hidden. You do not need many fasteners in the frame as it will be held securely when it is cased.

Lever latch set

Lever latch set


You can now install the latch set. Choose whether you need a passage set, privacy set or a lock set. Adjust the striker plate or door stops for a close fit, not tight. If seniors or small children are using the doors, it might be wise to use lever sets. They do not need as much strength to operate, and are less painful for arthritic hands.

There are other types of doors, such as pocket doors or saloon doors but I have not installed enough of them to feel qualified on the subject. Specific instructions should be available from the manufacturer or the internet in this case.

Installing a pocket door.

Install a saloon door.

With a little care you will get a perfectly fitting door. It may not last. Houses often settle or shift slightly, especially in the first couple of years. You may have to plane an odd door to keep it working smoothly.

Well that’s enough for one session. I will continue with finishing carpentry in my next post

Gage the super

Tired, after a day of supervising, Gage is taking advantage of someone’s carelessly dicarded coat to park his butt.

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Cost to Build Our House

I think it is time to explore the cost to build our house to date. We are close enough to completion to get a fair estimation of the final cost. About all that is left to buy is gutters, deck material, steps and walks.

Final cost to build can be estimate when completion is near

Close enough to completion to estimate the final cost

Yes, the weather is getting colder, and I am more inclined to work less, and to spend more time on this blog. From now on I should be able to get back to doing a couple of posts or more per week. It is about time, as my mother used to say, when I dragged myself from bed.

We are not quite within our original cost expectations, although we did not completely blow our budget. This, however, is not unusual or unexpected so does not create any major problem. I was prepared for overruns of up to 20%. The importance of planning for the unexpected is emphasized. As I have mentioned before, it is important to have as much as a 20% buffer.

Our original cost to build estimate was 85,000 dollars (Canadian), which included the cost of land.. I am not certain of the accuracy of my accounting, but it appears that our cost to date is just over 90,000 dollars.There is still some cost to go, but our final cost to build will be considerably less than 100,000. This is for a 1008 sq. ft. house, with a 16 ft. by 24 ft. detached garage, on a 100 by 120 ft. lot. For most of the world that is a 93.6 m^2 house, a 4.9 m by 7.3 m garage, and a 30.5 by 35.6 m lot. Approximate conversions of course.

Related posts you may find interesting. – A house for less than 100000 dollars – The footing ,foundation and floor is in progress – Buying wisely, buying for less, buying early – Installing Water and Sewer .

The house is on a crawl space. Adding a full basement would have increased the cost by 10 to 20 thousand, mostly because I am to damn old to pour a concrete floor and would have been forced to hire a contractor. .

Part of the purpose of building  was to prove a point. The goal was to build a good quality home for less than 100,000. As a result, a lot of time was spent bargain hunting. A lot of used tools were purchased, All the appliances were used. As much material was repurposed as possible. Care was taken to purchase only what was necessary, at least until time became more important than cost.

An unexpected expense was the cost of installing a sewer main extension. Estimated extra cost-7000 dollars.

ICF foundation a sinificant partof the cost to build

ICF foundation

A change from a planned wooden foundation to  an insulated concrete form foundation (ICF) cost, very roughly, about 3000 extra. This type of foundation took less labor and considerably less time. Important, since we were delayed about a month in starting.

I somehow managed to order about 300 dollars worth of unneeded drywall. I can use it on other projects

I paid extra to have drywall and shingles delivered and placed where needed. Worth every penny when you do not have help.

No time was available to bargain hunt for siding, soffits and the like. I do, however, believe the local store gave me a very fair price.

Several hundred dollars worth of extra electrical, plumbing, and gas fitting material was purchased to reduce travel time making up shortages. The time saved was the primary motivation, but travel is a major consideration when much of the material is not easily available locally.

The natural gas installation cost about 600 dollars more than I had guessed.

All the utility suppliers were different from those I had used before and required substantial deposits. This is not an expense, but still requires cash.

I used a standard of construction somewhat higher than normal. This cost a few hundred more. Examples are, heavier than required wall and roof sheathing and higher rated shingles. Weather conditions may be a little more severe in the future, and I wanted a little extra strength.

All these items added up to substantial extra cost, but I was able to save more than half this amount in other areas. For example, I had planned for the cost of hiring a little extra labor for jobs that cannot be done alone. Friends, family, and neighbors were all there when I needed them, and I spent nothing at all on labor.

We did find tremendous savings in many areas which greatly reduced the cost to build.

All our light fixtures were purchased used from yard sales and habitat for humanity. Cost was likely only about 10% of new retail.

Kitchen appliances

Range and dishwasher— total cost $200. microwave—$75.

All our appliances were used and cost a total of 625 dollars. The surprising part is that we ended up with far higher quality units than we would normally buy. The style in favor right now is stainless steel. Good, nearly new, white appliances are easily available, very cheaply. We purchased almost all ours through Kijiji.

Sink and faucett

Sink and faucet—total cost $150

We found a new kitchen sink for 100 dollars. This one retails for over 600. We acquired a new kitchen faucet for 50 that usually costs about 400. Lavatory sinks complete with faucets cost only 50 dollars each from Habitat for Humanity Restore.

My water heater, which retails for as much as 2700, I found for 600. About 200 worth of extras was included.

Similar bargains were found for windows, flooring and cabinets.

Since I had disposed of most of my construction tools at retirement, I had to repurchase many. Almost all were found on Kijiji or at yard sales,for a  very a  low cost. Their cost is included in the cost of the home.

Our old living room suite was getting shabby so my wife, Bobbi, spent a couple of months watching ads for a good used set. She found a set for free. We only had to travel, about 80 km (about 50 miles to my American friends), round trip to pick it up. It is in new condition but a little dated in style. Included was a hide a bed, love seat, swivel rocker and cushions. The colors suit us perfectly. We didn’t care that it is a little out of style since myself and Bobbi are a little past it too. We gave our still usable old set to a family that could use it.

mitre saw

an almost essential tool—cost for saw $40 cost of stand $50

I think I have proven that the cost to build a home can be less than 100,000. Of course I am reasonably adept at all aspects of home building and have had considerable experience. I am good with my hands and familiar with the tools of the trade. My wife and I are adept at bargain hunting and bargaining. Remember, however, that I am nearly 71 years old and not nearly as quick and tough as I once was.

If you do not have at least some of these skills, or feel you can not acquire them, then a project like this could be considerably more difficult for you. You may need a couple of years for planning, and acquiring knowledge and experience.

Total cost includes the purchase of the land. We acquired our site, which included the garage, for 35,000 dollars. This leaves the total cost of the house alone at about 60,000.

It should be noted, though, that our end result is considerably more than just a basic house. We are very happy with it, and feel it suits our needs very well.

We do live in Alberta which has no sales tax. Our national sales tax, the GST, is partially recoverable when building a new house. Taxes could be considerable in other jurisdictions.

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