The Green Builder in Little Rock, AR


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Pest Control of Homes in the colder winter months of Arkansas

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Roach on wood

Roach on wood

Homeowners combat pests throughout the year—especially during the colder winter months when pests try to move indoors.

As a new-homes professional, you can help keep pests out of homes year-round while reducing the need for harmful chemicals, which are a concern of many homeowners—especially those with small children or pets.

The Indoor airPLUS Construction Specifications includes two guidelines for Pest Management:

  1. Seal foundation joints and penetrations, including air-tight sump covers.
  2. Install corrosion-proof rodent/bird screens at all openings that can’t be fully sealed.

Employing these two simple strategies during construction will help your customers avoid pest problems and use fewer harmful pesticides.

To see the full, detailed construction requirements for Indoor airPLUS Pest Management, click here.

The before shots of a major renovation near Pinacle.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Shop now. Master bath to be.

Garage and shop now. Family room to be.

I love the beginnings of a project.  The existing conditions tell you nothing of what the remodeled space will look like.  You have to squint and imagine.  I scratch out plans and show them to the clients, but the project tells the better story.  Piece by piece, we remove the old structure.  Element by element, we weave a new architecture.  We plan on a warm contemporary feel.  We want to choose green materials and energy strategies.  Still, the reality of the project is the actual work. Only the studs and openings feed back to our sense of space.  They inform us on what to do next.  They lead my design in new directions.  I can’t wait to see how the story progresses!

Hillcrest guest house remodeling

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

A client in Hillcrest has a very special guest house that needs a little updating.  The lead paint on the siding is special indeed and will require special handling according to EPA standards.  EcoHouse will remove and rebuild the guest house on the same foundation to preserve the yard and the oak tree roots.

Look for design sketches and progress pictures as we remodel.

EcoHouse uses safety protection at work

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Boots and Gloves

My daughter Izzy demonstrates our enthusiasm over safety.

Remodeling deals not only with green design and building, but common sense safety.  The environment we live and build in has many hazards such as lead and toxic contaminants, abrasive material handling, and dangerous power tools.  Be safe.  Take safety precautions.

Simple trim carpentry for a Craftsman Bungalow

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Door header trim detail

We are trimming out a bungalow in the Capital View neighborhood of Little Rock and want to keep the original and traditional trim style, but want to use the economical and green materials of modern construction.  The proportions of a simple trim for a window and door gives the openings their elegant appearance.  We place a 1×4 on the jamb casings, a ledge trim and a 1×6 header casing.  The change in width of material gives the doors and windows a taller look.  The edges are square to give a more strong, less frilly look. The ledge trim hides the joint between materials, and allows the eye to overlook minor imperfections in an old remodeled wall.  Trim carpenters have always sought to make the best of aethetics with the most economic means and materials.  Being green follows the same historical trend.

The difference between age-old and modern trim carpenters, besides their awesome tools, is their use of modern manufacturer’s materials to help in the process.  Instead of consuming large stands of old growth forest to harvest high grade wood to make the door jambs, smaller rapidly renewable trees are used for smaller pieces of wood that are finger joint cut and glued together.  This conservation practice is both green and economic.  The casing trim is even finer bits of wood compressed into medium density fiberboard, MDF.  It has the benefit of not warping or having knots.  It takes the intended paint very nicely.

We have installed traditional 3/4″ wood hardwoods to match the existing front rooms.  The boards are laid first, so that the trim and doors are placed precisely and level.  We will come back later, after the painters have cleaned up their mess, to sand and finish the hardwoods.  Overall, we will achieve a handsome traditional look to match the historical neighborhood, without much fuss or unnecessary expense.

Craftsman wood carpentry details

How to build a craftsman bungalow porch column.

Monday, April 26th, 2010

How to do craftsman architectural details like porch columns?  Look at the classics.  The most distinctive element in this bungalow house is the craftsman columns adorning the generous porch facing the street.  How we make this time honored detail makes the house.  In the day, these craftsman details were aptly named because a craftsman carpenter would craft them from small pieces of wood and hand nail them with an eye to proportion and frugal use of material.  Painters would preserve the work in near-toxic paint.  Those skills seem lost in the production of houses these days, some for good reason, but our builders now have new materials and methods that make labor savings and durability the more prized attributes.  Still, the look of these columns are essential to building even a new bungalow.  We take a look at how modern craftsmen build the better, more efficient craftsman bungalow porch column.

Perhaps in the reverse order that you might suspect, the house and roof are constructed first by a lightning fast framing crew who leave the job site holding up the strong porch beams with “deadmen,” or 2×4 temporary posts that stand up the porch day and night in wait for trim carpenters to place the real columns.  Tim, our Master Carpenter, surveys the work done by the framers and checks the beam and porch for level and divergence.  Minor deviations are tolerable because he will be covering most of the framers work with more precise trim material.  He judges how much shimming he can do and if he needs to correct any previous out-of-tolerance work first.  With plumb bob string lines from the beam, he marks where the column centers will be based on the architectural plans, the built work and what he thinks will look best.  A lot of measuring is involved to divide the porch length correctly and space the columns evenly once he determines how far in from the edges the outside columns will be.  And after all that, he steps away to the street, turns and looks back to the house with the eyes of a potential purchaser or a critical visiting auntie who wants to find anything wrong to talk about.  He creates a mental picture of how his work will look.  He particularly looks at how the columns will divide the view of the back wall of the porch.  The columns must grace the house, not block the windows and doors.  He does not trust the architect’s sketches or blueprints (often called the funny papers by the trades)  Rightfully so.  How could the architect predict how all the thousands of contractor decisions and material purchases that are involved in a house construction really will look in the end?  In this case, the architect was correct in his number and placement of the columns.  The Master Carpenter will concede to the design…in general.

Having specifically placed the columns, the carpenter gives the porch over to some hand picked masons to lay the concrete blocks of the column base.  The first masonry crew who did most of the house brick work, had tried to build column bases on what they thought were the column details.  This first work was removed as unsatisfactory.  The new masons measure once and measure twice.  They know the dreaded Tim will check their work.  The dimensions of the block base are kept to an easy 16″ by 16″ square footprint.  These dimensions are dictated mostly by the size of a Concrete Masonry Unit (cmu) which is nominally 16″ by 8″ by 8″.  They lay the brick from top to bottom in their measurements, a tricky proposition that gravity does not allow easily.  Tim has given them a rough height.  He in no way means that the measurement is rough.  Far be it.  He only means the rough material of cmu shall be at a certain height which he has calculated based on the known sizes of his finish materials and a certain tolerance for error.  He sets the rough material height a bit higher than perfect dimensions would suggest, since he knows he can cut the trim material to fit, but he cannot stretch it.  Knowing where the cmu will have to top off, the masons start laying the block carefully on a strongCarpenter levels the 24"x24"x3" cast stone base on  the 16" square CMU base for the bungalow column mortar bed set directly on the foundation spread footing so that the actual height of a cmu and a standard mortar joint will course out correctly at the top dimension.   Tim returns to check the mason’s work.  The tops have to be sanded with a block rasp to remove the coarseness and get a level bed for the cast stone bases, but he approves… roughly.

His journeymen set the trim board on the bottom of the porch beams, which involves moving the deadmen around and keeping an eye on the weight of the building and avoiding potential cracks in the bead board they have already put on the porch ceiling.  Meanwhile the Master turns a trusting back to his journeymen while he concentrates on the first finish material of the column to be placed.  It is a precast concrete pad 24″ by 24″ by 3″.  It must be level to the eye.  It must look strong like it can hold up the house better than a couple 2×4 deadmen.  The architect, builder and carpenter had discussed the thickness of this material and had gone to other houses to look at their column bases and weighed various sizes in their discussions until they could come to a consensus.  3″ looked best.  The 24″ was chosen to cover the finish stone that will be laid over the 16″ block.  One might set the base an equal 4″ around the 16″ cmu column, but there is no guarantee that the string lines or the masons’ work would be exact.  Tim checks and rechecks the dimensions of his columns and determines that he will set the 24″ finish base where it should be for the column and ignore the bases.  The various setbacks from the 24″ base to the 16″ cmu can be mitigated in the stone work itself.  The trim is less forgiving.

Permacast Craftsman Columns were purchased off the shelf.  Unlike their wood forefathers, these cast plastic shells will weather our Little Rock humid climate without rotting or warping.  They come in standard 52″ lengths with a 16″ base and a 9″ top.  Molding is applied on top of that.  Tim has made the finish opening between the beam trim and the base a little less than that for tolerance sake, so he has to measure each one and cut to length.  But first, he must find square.  On a tapered column, this is not a quick task.  Having acquired the knowledge somehow through trial and error and then finally asking someone, he knows to mark the center point of each column face at the top and bottom.  Drawing a line between the two center points, he has the center line.  He can cut square from this line and can plumb the column itself on each face without having to do trigonometry on each column face.  With a lift of a 2 ton house jack, he nudges the beam a bit higher and lifts the column into place making sure it is plumb, square, and beautiful.  Lowering the jack, the column is set.  The molding is added to trim it all out.

A fieldstone that matches the porch floor is applied to the concrete block for its rustic appeal.  However, before the steps can be finished and the columns painted, a spring robin moves in to build a nest.  Nature approves the construction, but paint will have to wait.

Ready for paint.

Start with a site.

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

There is no place better to start than the beginning. Whether you are building from scratch or remodeling, one must look and learn from the site. The way the rain falls or the sun sets on a project will be constant no matter what is designed or what is built. You can’t change that. SO use it to your advantage. A plan pulled from a drawer or bought at a grocery store magazine rack will only be as good as how you place it on the site. It is the fundamental beginning for fung shui, and still important for western designers. The sun can be good or bad for the house solely on how the building relates to it on the site.

The first architect, the Roman Vitruvius, once blogged his top ten list of siting tips.  My favorite of his wise lessons was, “never build a city downwind of a swamp.”  Truer words have never been spoken.