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  1. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by FeelGoodHomes View Post
    All good points indeed. I never did the blower door test - just too busy trying to get everything built. In hindsight, I should have paid the $250 and had it done before all the insulation and sheetrock went up. I imagine it's pretty good as when I turn off my ERV, my CO2 meter goes from 622ppm to 1200ppm in a few hours. I'm thinking that means there are minimal leaks getting through.

    My contractor was an LG certified technician. I thought he knew what he was doing, but he did overcharge my system by 3 lbs! Again, I will probably have to pay another person to come look at his work. What do you think?
    i would not jump to have a tech out to check your units right now... but when ever you have someone out to to PM and a general system checkout, i would pay him extra to have the systems checked out in depth instead of just coil cleanings etc.

    again though you have a pretty large home with lots of occupancy... id say you are doing pretty damn good atm.

    regarding the blower door. Its definatly not a bad idea... its cheap insurance at the very least, and something you can show to whoever you sell the house to... and maby you will find some serious leaks, who knows.

    if you do get a blower door, id suggest you get a smoke pencil or cheap fog machine and walk around the house checking windows, outlets and pretty much all penetrations.

    BNME8z makes a very good point about the system being potentially oversized... hell alot of these small passivehaus's are manual J-ing to like 9kbtuh cooling in northern climates lol. not too much equipment in that range, though i think mitsubishi makes a 9kbtuh single head unit.

    IMHO, before you spend money chasing more effieicny you should definatly do the manual J on your basement and the rest of your house if you have not already. If you have a blower door done, plug the leakage data into the manual J under 'envelope leakage rate' and you will get very accurate results.

    the manual J and blower door will tell you where you stand at the moment, and will tell you whats worth improving.

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  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by BNME8EZ View Post
    I don't need to run anything in my basement, it runs about 4 cooler than the main floor. The system is zoned with the basement on 1 zone that has only been open in the winter and when I test the system.
    Yeah my basement gets pretty cold because a lot of the walls are above ground and I do have a fair amount of windows. It might be different once it's insulated, but I'm sure I'll need some additional heat.

    It looks as if my base load will probably be around 900 kwh/month. Cooling for the month of July - August was around 800 kwh. I'll have to wait until my condenser stops in 15-20 years to downsize the units!

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by BNME8EZ View Post
    Didn't read all posts close enough to understand all your issues but I think one is the unit is oversized. I have a 1996 SqFT house, full basement, finishes and I am using a 2 ton 2 stg Geo unit that was only running 66% of the time when we had 100+ high temps and lows in the upper 70's - low 80's with high humidity, 50% of that time was on low speed. So if you have 4 ton you are running way more equipment than you need, especially when you consider that you are better insulated than I.
    So I talked to an LG engineer today and he said that my 4 ton condenser can throttle down to 14,400 btu for cooling. I think that is pretty low. He said if the condenser was running, at a minimum it would be drawing around 900 watts. I've been monitoring my system now that temperatures have gone back into the lower 80s and it looks like my system isn't short cycling. It's staying a constant 920 watts.

    That's about $0.11/hour. Not bad, but I hope it goes down to a few watts at night when the temperature drops into the mid-60s and my condenser shuts off.

    Compared to your systems, are these good numbers or not?

  5. #30
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    I really can't tell you at this point, I have not monitored the heat pump. I did think my bill was higher than it should be and have had the loop guy down to look at the loop as it was hotter than I thought it should be. I did however monitor my electric water heater. It has a recirculating line on it. I found the the element would come on for anywhere from 4-7 minutes every hour. I figured it had to be the recirc. line so I put a valve in it and shut it off. I have the data logger on it now and will pull the data this weekend. Since my heat pump has a hot water generator on it I didn't figure my water heater would be running that much. It comes out over 100 minutes a day which I don't think it would run that much without the hot water generator and just run as needed to reheat after use. Since the preheat tank the HWG works on is over 100 the water heater should not hardly have to run.

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by queequeg152 View Post
    i would not jump to have a tech out to check your units right now... but when ever you have someone out to to PM and a general system checkout, i would pay him extra to have the systems checked out in depth instead of just coil cleanings etc.

    again though you have a pretty large home with lots of occupancy... id say you are doing pretty damn good atm.

    regarding the blower door. Its definatly not a bad idea... its cheap insurance at the very least, and something you can show to whoever you sell the house to... and maby you will find some serious leaks, who knows.

    if you do get a blower door, id suggest you get a smoke pencil or cheap fog machine and walk around the house checking windows, outlets and pretty much all penetrations.

    BNME8z makes a very good point about the system being potentially oversized... hell alot of these small passivehaus's are manual J-ing to like 9kbtuh cooling in northern climates lol. not too much equipment in that range, though i think mitsubishi makes a 9kbtuh single head unit.

    IMHO, before you spend money chasing more effieicny you should definatly do the manual J on your basement and the rest of your house if you have not already. If you have a blower door done, plug the leakage data into the manual J under 'envelope leakage rate' and you will get very accurate results.

    the manual J and blower door will tell you where you stand at the moment, and will tell you whats worth improving.
    Thanks for the tips. I have to do a separate manual J for basement and the rest of the house? Or can I put it all into one calculation? I am going to use a trial version of the Right-J software to get the numbers. Hope the learning curve it not too steep.

  7. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by BNME8EZ View Post
    I really can't tell you at this point, I have not monitored the heat pump. I did think my bill was higher than it should be and have had the loop guy down to look at the loop as it was hotter than I thought it should be. I did however monitor my electric water heater. It has a recirculating line on it. I found the the element would come on for anywhere from 4-7 minutes every hour. I figured it had to be the recirc. line so I put a valve in it and shut it off. I have the data logger on it now and will pull the data this weekend. Since my heat pump has a hot water generator on it I didn't figure my water heater would be running that much. It comes out over 100 minutes a day which I don't think it would run that much without the hot water generator and just run as needed to reheat after use. Since the preheat tank the HWG works on is over 100 the water heater should not hardly have to run.
    That sounds like a complex system. We are like the pioneers or guinea pigs testing out all this new technology. I started to monitor Stiebel Eltron 300e Heat Pump Water Heater, which is estimated to cost me $155/year to operate. So far, during the summer, it looks like I'm using $0.11/day to operate it, which comes out to about $43/year. I'm sure wintertime will bring that amount up as my basement gets colder.

    Crazy thing is my two basement freezers (one for my parents and one for my family) is drawing 200 watts, which equals $192/year. My huge refrigerator only draws about 7 watts. No doubt about it - we must consolidate everything into one freezer!

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by FeelGoodHomes View Post
    Thanks for the tips. I have to do a separate manual J for basement and the rest of the house? Or can I put it all into one calculation? I am going to use a trial version of the Right-J software to get the numbers. Hope the learning curve it not too steep.
    you can do a "room by room" calc, or a "block load" calc.

    the room by room is as it sounds, a calc for each room. This is usefull for sizing ducts

    the block load is usefull for sizing equipment... but the room by room calc will also yield a block load as the sum of the rooms.

    IDK what your basement looks like, but a block load of JUST the basement would probably work, however if you have not done a manual J on the entire house... id highly suggest that you do so.

    i assume you have detailed drawings for your walls and ceilings so it should not be hard at all.

    if possible i would get in touch with your architect and get an autocad or REVIT BIM drawing and use DWG Trueview( for .dwg files), or A360 for revit files.

    with trueview or A360 you will be able to take dimensions form the drawings directly and hence will not have to run around with paper tape and Philadelphia rods to get window elevations etc.

    btw, do you have a build blog or anything documenting the construction of the house? alot of passivehaus people do these blogs, so i thought id ask.

    id love to see how your place went up... double stud walls and all... this sounds amazing.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by queequeg152 View Post
    you can do a "room by room" calc, or a "block load" calc.

    the room by room is as it sounds, a calc for each room. This is usefull for sizing ducts

    the block load is usefull for sizing equipment... but the room by room calc will also yield a block load as the sum of the rooms.

    IDK what your basement looks like, but a block load of JUST the basement would probably work, however if you have not done a manual J on the entire house... id highly suggest that you do so.

    i assume you have detailed drawings for your walls and ceilings so it should not be hard at all.

    if possible i would get in touch with your architect and get an autocad or REVIT BIM drawing and use DWG Trueview( for .dwg files), or A360 for revit files.

    with trueview or A360 you will be able to take dimensions form the drawings directly and hence will not have to run around with paper tape and Philadelphia rods to get window elevations etc.

    btw, do you have a build blog or anything documenting the construction of the house? alot of passivehaus people do these blogs, so i thought id ask.

    id love to see how your place went up... double stud walls and all... this sounds amazing.
    Thanks. I covered the early part of my build on another website called Bigger Pockets. You can take a look here. There's some good pictures of my double stud wall during a snow storm. https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums...h-in-law-suite

    Here's a pic of the finished home.
    Name:  20627030_10213203019252094_4654667624715755805_o.jpg
Views: 53
Size:  135.2 KB

    I tentatively scheduled a blower door test and infrared camera imaging with a company for $340. I hope it is worth it. I am actually the architect and builder. Designed the home with pencil and paper and then graduated to a free CAD program called LibreCad. Built it mostly working on weekends with my dad and taking a few months off at the very end. We subcontracted the more labor intensive things out like foundation, drywall, HVAC, and roofing, we moved in after 1 year and 7 months of construction. We did all of the framing and siding though. Still on a temporary Certificate of Occupancy - need to finish my carport and insulate/sheetrock the basement.

    Looking to start a company to build energy efficient spec homes. Got to get my builders license first. As far as HVAC goes, what I've learned about ductless minisplits is as follows:

    - Make sure the contractor does not overcharge the system - the condenser was pulling 30-50% more amps because it was overcharged and the system was short cycling like crazy.
    - I don't like the ceiling cassette units, especially if they stick up into an unconditioned attic space. Between floor joists might be okay. The only advantage is that the cassettes can be ducted to a nearby room, but unless the room is a few feet away - the CFM is so low, you'll barely feel the conditioned air in the other room. The standard wall mount units I feel have better throw, provide better comfort, and are more efficient per the data.
    - Make sure the contractor actually does a good manual J so you don't oversize the system. I kind of winged it and my contractor did too. Our saving grace is that these new condensers can throttle down to about 25% of their capacity.
    - After much consideration, I think having one condenser is better than two smaller condensers that equal the same capacity. At it's lowest operation speed, a 2-ton condenser will be drawing 700 watts. A 4-ton condenser will be drawing 900 watts. So if you have two - 2-ton condensers modulating down to it's lowest operation speed that would equal 1400 watts vs. 900 watts. And I imagine it would be double the standby losses, which is minimal.

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  11. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by FeelGoodHomes View Post
    Thanks. I covered the early part of my build on another website called Bigger Pockets. You can take a look here. There's some good pictures of my double stud wall during a snow storm. https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums...h-in-law-suite

    Here's a pic of the finished home.
    Name:  20627030_10213203019252094_4654667624715755805_o.jpg
Views: 53
Size:  135.2 KB

    I tentatively scheduled a blower door test and infrared camera imaging with a company for $340. I hope it is worth it. I am actually the architect and builder. Designed the home with pencil and paper and then graduated to a free CAD program called LibreCad. Built it mostly working on weekends with my dad and taking a few months off at the very end. We subcontracted the more labor intensive things out like foundation, drywall, HVAC, and roofing, we moved in after 1 year and 7 months of construction. We did all of the framing and siding though. Still on a temporary Certificate of Occupancy - need to finish my carport and insulate/sheetrock the basement.

    Looking to start a company to build energy efficient spec homes. Got to get my builders license first. As far as HVAC goes, what I've learned about ductless minisplits is as follows:

    - Make sure the contractor does not overcharge the system - the condenser was pulling 30-50% more amps because it was overcharged and the system was short cycling like crazy.
    - I don't like the ceiling cassette units, especially if they stick up into an unconditioned attic space. Between floor joists might be okay. The only advantage is that the cassettes can be ducted to a nearby room, but unless the room is a few feet away - the CFM is so low, you'll barely feel the conditioned air in the other room. The standard wall mount units I feel have better throw, provide better comfort, and are more efficient per the data.
    - Make sure the contractor actually does a good manual J so you don't oversize the system. I kind of winged it and my contractor did too. Our saving grace is that these new condensers can throttle down to about 25% of their capacity.
    - After much consideration, I think having one condenser is better than two smaller condensers that equal the same capacity. At it's lowest operation speed, a 2-ton condenser will be drawing 700 watts. A 4-ton condenser will be drawing 900 watts. So if you have two - 2-ton condensers modulating down to it's lowest operation speed that would equal 1400 watts vs. 900 watts. And I imagine it would be double the standby losses, which is minimal.

    wow you did an amazing job here. i really applaud your work... doing a home by yourself is no joke.

    if you dont mind a few questions and comments here...

    it looks like you used larson trusses to push out the wall correct? im acustomed to hearing "double stud", with respect to literally two walls, both with sill plates, top plates etc, and very minimal lumber connecting the two. Is it usual to call these wall assemblies double studs there? around here its always called the larson or even modified larson( TJI larsons w/ geotextile vents for denspack).

    had you considered using ply for bridging the larson studs? the thermal bridging is minimal regardless obiviously, but a big wide plywood member can be superior in some respects.

    have you ever looked at TJI larsons over structural sheating and vapor barrier/air control layer? you mention the additional labor for the traditional larsons. some people have tinkered with "modified" larson trusses by using TJI's nailed or screwed into studs through the sheathing and air control layers... assuming your sheating is straight and planar, this wold hugely lessen any laser leveling or stringing you had to do with the traditional larsons.

    you mention not liking foam board products. Have you ever looked into mineral wood board products like Roxul comfort boards? They are not readily available in all markets... but they are an exceptionally good product for exterior insulation in more humid cooler climates where you are trying to dry agressivly to the outdoors due to an interior vapor barrier combined with lower perm paint etc. inorder to leverage this drying potential though you need a lower perm exterior vapor retarder/WRB or what ever you are using for your climate... something like 20-30 perms is a good figure to promote drying to the exterior.

    your horizontal furring is concerning TBH, did you do any venting around these furring strips? or maby some honeycomb ventilation products like cor-a-vent? My concern would be a loss of the convective movement of water vapor up through the rain screen and out to the exterior through your upper rain screen ventilation. combine this with your composite wood siding(very low perms), and excellent quality paint( use the same stuff on my hardi lap, trim and fascia) which again is lower perm than normal grades of exterior paint... im having a hard time with that decision TBH.

    is the asphalt paper your only air/vapor control layer? or are you doing interior vapor barriers for your climate? if so are you worried about condensation against the interior vapor barrier during the cooling season given the asphalts super high perms?

    what made you go with the engineered composite wood siding over say hardi? its been my experiance that hardi only costs marginally more, though its not as tolerant to bad install practices.
    im not criticizing the decision... they are just different products with different demands, but both are fine when done correctly. its my experience that Hardi has a certain... high end 'cache' to it that people like, at least here in the south.

    regaring your last part about HVAC:

    first i would not fixate on making sure your contractor does any one thing in particular... i would fixate on getting a real good hvac contractor on your side that you can trust to do things right. i would speak with other high end builders in the same market as you and see who they recommend.

    second. IMHO, wall and ceiling cassets are for renovations or alternations( unless we are talking about a hunting cabin or work shop or something)... not for new construction. its just my opinion though.
    good air distribution throughout the house is important for eliminating cold spots in and around windows etc, and you just cannot do this without a duct system and a blower capable of decent static pressures.

    i would highly suggest you look into ducted "slim" air handlers and even full sized air handler cabinets available for minisplits. additionally i would not be afraid of traditional condensing units... you can get VRF( if thats especially important to you) equipment from pretty much any big brand now. look into bulkhead trusses and the like if you are looking to keep ducts inside the conditioned space, otherwise you will need to bury the duct as per 2018 IECC, or move your insulation to the roof deck(costly).

    yes on the manual J suggestion. you can do this yourself at the design phase, but you must insure that your detailing is adhered to, and that you hit the air tightness you designed for.

    lastly, there is no 1 solution for hvac equipment. let your situation decide whether or not you need two condensing units.
    yes often times you can get one unit to run both floors of a house + a basement, but this requires zoning or VRF manifolds operaing one or more air handlers. Zoning has its own set of issues however. its very difficult sometimes to load shed during zoning calls and some equipment does not operate well when small zones are calling for cooling or heating thus requiring a dump zone or other means to shed the excess load. the worst thing about proper zoning systems though... is it can often be very difficult to fine people that are very good with zoning controls that can engineer and install these systems to operate well.
    also consider that a single condensing unit means you will loose alot of compactness with respect to your duct system and hence will gain more heat( if not in conditioned space) and will spend more on labor and materials.


    on an unrelated note, id love to hear how you did with the blower door. please post back when its finished.

  12. #36
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    The double stud wall that I did is different than a Larsen truss in that they do not go on the outside of the sheathing. Larsen trusses are like a ladder that is then nailed on the outside of the sheathing. In my climate zone 4, I don't have to worry so much about cold sheathing/moisture accumulation so I don't need to do exsulation (e.g. foamboard insulation or Larsen trusses on the outside of my sheathing). Doing TJI's instead of Larsen trusses would be too expensive for my zone. Yes, if I wanted R-50 walls then I would consider it.

    I connected my 2x4s (outer studs) to my structural 2x6 studs with 1x3 gussets. I didn't use plywood because it would take too much time ripping them.

    Horizontal furring strips have 3/4" ventilation channels routed into them every 16". Again, I'm not concerned because of the 3/16" gaps between the boards where the battens are placed over it. I could of used Coravent strips, but they are very expensive.

    No interior vapor barrier. None is needed in my climate zone. For that matter, most climate zones probably don't need that polyethylene vapor barrier on the interior. The cellulose insulation has hygroscopic qualities that can hold and disperse moisture throughout the assembly until it can dry out. With my setup, my walls can dry to the interior or exterior. There are those smart vapor barriers now that can open and close depending on the season. The advantage of these smart vapor barriers is that you can dense pack cellulose into them and they also act as a good air barrier. My plywood and zip tape are the main air barriers on the exterior. The wet spray cellulose is also a great air barrier. I did do open-cell spray foam at the sill plates and band joists.

    I liked the LP smartside because it's easier to work with and comes in 16' lengths. Makes it look nice in vertical board and batten applications. 50 year warranty. Never tried Hardie, probably won't because I like working with the LP smartside so much and don't need to get additional tools like electric shears, hardie nails, and hardie nail guns.

    I like the Roxul boards. I hate all the labor of doing the double stud walls, but I love cellulose. 80% recycled content, good fire retardant, good air barrier, hygroscopic qualities, biodegradable, and boric acid for mold. I'm not sure what I will do next time for a spec house. I have to balance costs with efficiency for a market in which people may not care too much about extra insulation. I think if I were to do it again, I would do a double stud wall that shared a bottom and top plate. Then insulate the rim joists and sill plate with 1-2."

    For HVAC, I will have to do more research on the newer centrally ducted systems. I do love my minisplits. The difference in temperature between rooms at most is 2 degrees for my situation. It's okay for me, but maybe not for the average home buyer.

    I'll let you know how the blower door goes. Although, I'm probably going to wait now until I insulate my basement to get a more accurate reading of the entire assembly.

  13. #37
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    I have had the valve in for a week and checked on the data for run time. It went from 4-7 minutes every hour to 7-8 minute 1-3 times a day.

  14. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by FeelGoodHomes View Post
    The double stud wall that I did is different than a Larsen truss in that they do not go on the outside of the sheathing. Larsen trusses are like a ladder that is then nailed on the outside of the sheathing. In my climate zone 4, I don't have to worry so much about cold sheathing/moisture accumulation so I don't need to do exsulation (e.g. foamboard insulation or Larsen trusses on the outside of my sheathing). Doing TJI's instead of Larsen trusses would be too expensive for my zone. Yes, if I wanted R-50 walls then I would consider it.

    I connected my 2x4s (outer studs) to my structural 2x6 studs with 1x3 gussets. I didn't use plywood because it would take too much time ripping them.

    Horizontal furring strips have 3/4" ventilation channels routed into them every 16". Again, I'm not concerned because of the 3/16" gaps between the boards where the battens are placed over it. I could of used Coravent strips, but they are very expensive.

    No interior vapor barrier. None is needed in my climate zone. For that matter, most climate zones probably don't need that polyethylene vapor barrier on the interior. The cellulose insulation has hygroscopic qualities that can hold and disperse moisture throughout the assembly until it can dry out. With my setup, my walls can dry to the interior or exterior. There are those smart vapor barriers now that can open and close depending on the season. The advantage of these smart vapor barriers is that you can dense pack cellulose into them and they also act as a good air barrier. My plywood and zip tape are the main air barriers on the exterior. The wet spray cellulose is also a great air barrier. I did do open-cell spray foam at the sill plates and band joists.

    I liked the LP smartside because it's easier to work with and comes in 16' lengths. Makes it look nice in vertical board and batten applications. 50 year warranty. Never tried Hardie, probably won't because I like working with the LP smartside so much and don't need to get additional tools like electric shears, hardie nails, and hardie nail guns.

    I like the Roxul boards. I hate all the labor of doing the double stud walls, but I love cellulose. 80% recycled content, good fire retardant, good air barrier, hygroscopic qualities, biodegradable, and boric acid for mold. I'm not sure what I will do next time for a spec house. I have to balance costs with efficiency for a market in which people may not care too much about extra insulation. I think if I were to do it again, I would do a double stud wall that shared a bottom and top plate. Then insulate the rim joists and sill plate with 1-2."

    For HVAC, I will have to do more research on the newer centrally ducted systems. I do love my minisplits. The difference in temperature between rooms at most is 2 degrees for my situation. It's okay for me, but maybe not for the average home buyer.

    I'll let you know how the blower door goes. Although, I'm probably going to wait now until I insulate my basement to get a more accurate reading of the entire assembly.
    re: the larsons.

    OOOH ok i see now. i didnt see exactly how you set up your wall there... i looked back at your blog and see now that your "larsons" are actually sitting down onto your rim joist and not overhanging...

    yea i would consider that a double stud and not a larson. for some reason i assumed you were overhanging the rim joists hence i considered that a larson truss at first. my bad.

    re the venting:

    i hear what you are saying about the routed gaps... good idea and much cheaper than a boxes of cor a vent. the gaps in the boards under the batten strips is something i had not considered. good point.

    ive never done board and batten. TBH it remides me too much of T1-11 cladding which i hated at my moms place. i do like the architectural hardi panels with the extruded reveals though... 3/8" hardi costs an eye watering sum though.

    no interior vapor barrier is what i had figured here. While i dont know much about the climate in VA, im guessing its pretty warm.

    Re: siding

    i hear what you are saying about the LP. i work with hardi alot around my place... im 100% used to its quirks, but its still annoying to work with... especially when im working alone which is the norm for me.
    suprisingly hardi moves alot more than you would think... dont even tough the stuff if its been drenched by rain. it needs to bake dry before you put it up. i found this out the hard way. out side miter joints opened up like 1/8" which pissed me off because i spent so much getting them dead nuts perfect with a miter gauge and urethane sealant etc. it could have been the sub fascia framing i guess... but im pretty sure its the hardi.

    do you have to prime the cut edges of the LP smart side like you do with hardi? IMO this is the most annoying aspect of hardi. i ended up thinning out some benj. moore alkyld primer with a syringe of xylene to get it to dry out faster and just do a second coat while the first was still tacky. 100% xylene did not swell the hardi FWIW, so i think its fine. it sucks though waiting 30 min or more before you can put up the boards you cut...

    nailing hardi is annoying without a proper siding nailer- yes this is true. but i use a hitachi NV65AH. best siding nailer ever imho. i got it used for around 2 bills and rebuilt the seals seals. works like a dream at 110 psi for trim boards, and like 90 psi for plank siding.

    re: roxul.

    100% hear what you are saying. i like cellulose too, but you cant beat the r value per inch of board insulation. your double studs are fantastic imo, but if you look at the wasted space from the standpoint of a potential buyer... that lost 200+ square feet is significant, and the extra labor in framing and dense packing is going to cost you more than board insulation imo, though im not a builder. 2x6 studs with 3 or 4 inch board insulation should be able to get you into the same ballpark r value wise, but without loosing the interior space and get installed quickly. i hear siding over the roxul boards is tricky owing to the compressability... but im guessing there are work arounds because its getting more popular.

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