Armchair Builder

Build My Home The Right Way

Build my home

I want to build my home the right way….can you give me some tips to do that?  This was a recent reader question here at the Armchair Builder blog.  The short answer is…Yes, we can.  One of our goals here is to provide unbiased, quality information to those of you that are planning to build a new home or remodel an existing one.  There are some simple ways to build a better home without spending a fortune.  We can’t share them all with you today, but we will share with you one of our favorites for saving energy and improving comfort.  If you’re new to our blog and site, take a look around as we have some great free resources for you to build your home the right way.

Build My Home for Warm Showers

Ok…here’s a true story for you.  I had a friend…no really, it was a friend of mine from college, who had a new home built by a local general contractor.  It was a beautiful home with very few problems…until he called me on a very cold winter day.  My friend said, “I know you didn’t build my home, but can you help me figure this out?”  Of course I would help…I love a challenge.  Apparently his guest bathroom shower was quite cold.  So cold in fact that the floor was frozen.  One of the kids had left a wet towel on the tub/shower floor and it froze…yes, froze to the shower floor.    What could be causing this?  Why would the bathroom appear warm but the shower floor be sooooo cold?

Insulation Behind Tubs and Showers

One of the big items people miss when building bathrooms, are the walls behind the tubs and showers.  You see, prefabricated tub and shower surrounds are typically installed by the plumber just after the home is framed.  This is fine except the insulation hasn’t been installed at this point.  If the tub or shower is located on an exterior wall, this can pose problems to the unsuspecting contractor and homeowner.  The problems created by not properly sealing up the wall behind these tubs and showers include…

  • Comfort – it’s never fun to step into a freezing shower
  • Energy Efficiency – if the shower floor is that cold, it must be costing you on your energy bills
  • Frozen Pipes – if the floor is getting cold enough to freeze, the plumbing probably isn’t far behind

So, you either need to have the insulation contractor come out and insulate the walls behind the tubs and showers prior to securing them into place, or you can give the plumber some insulation and have them do it (see Air Sealing below for details on how to do this correctly)  If I were going to build my home today, this is one of the top items I would insist my insulation and/or plumbing contractor gets right.  Check out the photo below of a bathroom during construction where spray foam insulation has been used on an exterior wall prior to setting the whirlpool tub.

Spray Foam under Tub Deck

Spray Foam Behind Future Tub

Air Sealing Behind Tubs and Showers

If you use spray foam on exterior walls behind tubs and showers…you are good to go.  But what if you don’t want to pay the extra money and trip charge to your insulation contractor for this?  Another acceptable way to go that will save you some money and will provide a similar result is to use fiberglass batts and an insulated sheathing.  By installing a thin insulated sheathing over the insulated wall, you enclose the fiberglass creating a more effective wall assembly.

Without getting into all the science behind it, think about the walls in the rest of your home.  They all have drywall on the inside wall surface and sheathing on the outside.  The drywall is doing more than creating a nice space for paint and pictures.  Fiberglass insulation is not an air barrier.  So by enclosing it on all sides, your create a tighter wall.   So when we say insulated sheathing, what is the best option?  You want something that has minimal thickness so it will fit behind the fiberglass tub and shower surrounds.  Many of these have very little clearance behind them.  So go with a 1/4 inch thick product like Thermoply (or similar brand).  If I were going to build my home today on a budget, this is the route I would go.  Spray foam is expensive and creating an extra trip for the insulation contractor will definitely increase your overall house costs.

For those of you that want more Build My Home tips…and want to save money in the process, check out this link to our resources page, Build Your Own Home.

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