With the Fall Parade of Homes underway, I thought it might be worth some time to address some things you might not consider when shopping — or even just window-shopping — for a new home.
What’s behind the sheetrock?
I know it’s thoroughly predictable that an insulation contractor would start with wondering ‘what’s in the walls’ but this is more of a ‘how is the wall designed’ thing. Does the builder use 2×6 walls, for thicker walls that can hold more insulation (more common further north)? Did they stick with traditional 2×4 walls? Is there continuous insulation on the outside of the wall, which eliminates thermal bridging? What kind of insulation is there, or more importantly, what’s the R-value they’re putting in?
House orientation & Drainage plan
It’s no secret that most new home subdivisions don’t have large trees. A lack of trees is perfect for those of us that hate cleaning the gutters or raking the lawn, but the trade-off is a lack of natural shade from the sun. While we naturally think of east and west exposures as being important, don’t forget to account for the south side either. The sun may not be as intense when it’s further to the south, but those exposures do get it all day long. The north side should be Low-E windows, period.
How does or will rainwater flow off and away from the house? Most new home areas have a master drainage plan for the development, and there’s probably an easily discernable slope to each lot. However, it’s important to consider how your new home will fit in, as far as how the water will flow in and around your new home, plus how any adjacent homes are set up to deal with heavy rains.
Acoustics in the home
Have a kid who plays the drums? Will you be near a busy street? How about trying to sleep when you’re visiting relatives are arguing in the next room? Whatever the case, be sure to consider how the sound will travel in your home. You can account for it through design and materials if it’s an issue for you.
Fresh air machine?
This is very much NOT the technical term, but we’re using it anyway. The actual term is ERV or HRV, and in either case, they’re devices that make sure a home has enough fresh air when a home is built very tightly. In ‘ye olden days,’ houses leaked enough air to make sure occupants weren’t breathing stale or possibly harmful old air. As we’ve tightened up homes in the name of energy efficiency, sound control, and better building practices, we’ve sacrificed the primary source of incoming fresh air. Adding a ‘Fresh Air Machine’ solves this problem and should be installed if you’re significantly upgrading your home. In other words, don’t tighten the home shell without a plan!
Why not check the (HERS) score?
I know a few houses in this area have been getting a HERS score but, hey, why not ask about it anyway? https://www.resnet.us/hers-index gives you the scoop on what it is and why it exists.