We Don’t Build Gingerbread Houses Part II

Authored by: Matt Henke, Builder

Except for a few holdouts that just can’t part with their decorations, Christmas is clearly in our rear-view window. We couldn’t help but take one more look at our gingerbread house from a slightly different perspective. It is hard to believe but many homes are still being built like gingerbread houses. The walls don’t offer significant insulation and the envelope of the home offers little protection when it comes to the penetration of air and water.

Building science has come a long way in the last 20 years, and we continue to see significant improvements in products and techniques that make our homes efficient and comfortable. In this part of the country, Austin, Texas, we have a predominantly hot-humid climate. That has profound implications for the way our homes should be built. Our biggest challenge is keeping our homes cool and keeping moisture outside the structure. Not to mention, we want to accomplish all of this while minimizing our utility bills. That’s why it is so important that during the design phase of your remodel or new home we take these factors into consideration. It would be a shame to spend all that time and money to build your dream home, only to find yourself fighting water leaks and high temperatures. That is exactly what many homeowners are faced with today.

It is sad to see this happen when the cost of prevention is so low. It merely requires that we use some best practices in pre-planning, designing the envelope, insulation, and mechanical systems which become front-line defenses in the protection of your home. Your roof, when built correctly with overhangs, acts as an umbrella that sheds water and limits heat gain. But this doesn’t happen accidentally. Your walls, when designed correctly, provide a drainage plan that moves water down and away from the house. This coupled with properly installed windows and doors keeps water out. And your HVAC system handles the task of making you comfortable while removing excessive humidity out of the house. This doesn’t happen accidentally. It requires careful planning with regards to each home’s unique site orientation, size, and occupant lifestyle.

There are a lot of gingerbread houses that look pretty, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live in them. We feel morally obligated to build homes that reflect both beauty and integrity.