A lot of the houses built by Cooper Homes have wood siding. This is a lot cheaper than using brick or stucco, but it requires maintenance (painting). A lot of other houses use vinyl siding, which looks a lot like the wood siding (well, from a distance), but does not require painting.
Since we wanted a contemporary look, we opted for stucco. The back and right sides of the house are up against the property line and shielded by trees. Since these walls will rarely be seen, we decided to save $20,000 or so and cover those walls with vinyl siding. It is pretty common in the Village to combine brick or stucco with siding, so it was not an inappropriate design.
As for the stucco -- nobody uses "real" stucco anymore. Instead, they use "synthetic" stucco -- mostly a brand named Dryvit. In the Dryvit system, the mortar coat and outer "elastameric" coat are applied over a 1" thick styrofoam.
In the last half-dozen years (prior to 1998), there have been a lot of reports about problems with Dryvit. The problem has come about when water gets into the styrofoam behind the Dryvit and causes the wood behind the styrofoam to rot. Whole walls have to be ripped out and re-done, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The Dryvit company supposedly fixed the problem by improving drainage out of the styrofoam.
We were still concerned about the potential problems, but Craft (our builder) uses a different system of synthetic stucco called DuRock. In this system, concrete board is used as a base instead of styrofoam. The advantage is that concrete board will not retain water, so no rot occurs.
The color for the stucco is added to the elastomeric coat, rather than being painted over it, so there is no paint to peel.
|First the studs are sheathed with oriented strand board and then covered with a vapor barrier. Then the concrete boards are nailed over that.|
|The concrete board is covered with a skim coat of fiber reinforced mortar.|
|Finally, the elastomeric coat is applied which has the desired color mixed into it. Real stucco is made up of multiple layers of concrete, but the DuRock system goes up easier and does not crack as readily as concrete does.|
Our stucco gets a green stain a foot or two from the bottom of the walls. It gets a dark stain in other places. This is not uncommon. Some people say that stucco needs to be cleaned at least once a year.
Some people, including us, have a problem with woodpecker attacks. There are a dozen quarter-sized holes in the stucco around our windows where the woodpeckers like to grab on and look at their reflections in the glass.
The problem is that the frames around the windows are not concrete board. They are some sort of hollow material which the woodpecker easily pecks through. We assume that if concrete board had been used, this would not be as much of a problem.
Prior to insulating, all holes to the interior from the crawl space or the attic should be sealed with cans of foam designed for that purpose.
Such holes are created for plumbing, electrical, etc., and if not filled, will allow bugs, spiders, and even mice into the house.
|Craft used blown insulation in the exterior walls and attic. After the exterior wall sheathing goes up and before the sheetrock is put up inside, netting is put across the studs on the inside to hold the blown insulation.|
|In the accompanying picture, you can see a blue horizontal streak above the windows. That is where the netting overlaps. Right above that you can see holes where the hose insulation was blown in. Similar holes can be seen below the windows.|
|We got a pleasant surprise at the amount of extra insulation Craft uses. In addition to the exterior walls, batts of insulation were put into a lot of interior walls for sound-proofing purposes. In the picture on the left, insulation is being put between the dining room and the guest bath and laundry room areas. This will cut down on noise from the washer/dryer.|
|Here, insulation goes between the kitchen and the study/bedroom.|
|Insulation was also used between the master bedroom and the living room. This will help let us sleep even when someone is still watching TV in the living room or playing music in the den.|
Blown insulation usually has a higher R value (more insulating) than the same thickness of batt insulation. Foam insulation is even better. Of course, the higher the R value, the higher the cost.
If batt insulation is used in the attic, check to make sure that it is not blocking the flow of air from the soffit vents in the eaves. to the ridge vents (or wind turbines). Incidentally, the soffit vent holes are also places where insects can get into your attic, which is why you want holes from the attic to the living areas to be sealed.
Once the insulation is in place, a vapor barrier (a thin sheet of plastic) can cover the inside of the wall, stapled to the studs. The theory is that during cold weather, without the vapor barrier, warm, moist inside air will move through the sheetrock and at some point reach cold air in the insulated wall space and result in moisture condensing, soaking the insulation.
We did not get a vapor barrier in our house and as far as I know, have never had moisture in the walls, but it may be something to investigate.
A friend was upset about the sheetrock job done on his house. It was rather sloppily put up with large, irregular gaps between some sheets. He talked to the builder and they took some kind of corrective action.
|We told Craft about this and he reassured us that his subs would do a good, tight job, which they did. However, one thing we had to insist on was the use of sheetrock screws instead of nails.|
Home building shows on TV have said "nobody nails sheetrock anymore", but it turns out they do around here. We have never had a house where nails used on sheetrock did not pop out eventually. Craft said that the sheetrock sub uses nails initially to hold the sheetrock and then finishes it off with screws. We would have been happier with no nails at all, but we hoped the screws would keep the nails from popping.
It didn't. Nails have been popping out ever since we moved in. Craft had the popped nails fixed during the warranty period, but after 4 years, we are having to pay to get them fixed ourselves, now. I would urge others to insist in writing in the contract that NO nails be used in the sheetrock.
Update: I specified "no nails" in Judy's contract, but when the sheetrock was being installed, the builder told me that he had to pay extra for "screws only". We had a fixed-price contract, so it didn't cost us any more, but if it had, I think that it would have been worth it.
Around windows and doors, Craft used rounded corners, called "bullnose". (Some builders charge extra for this, so be sure to specify it in the bid request if you want it.) This is done with a rounded metal piece which is covered with spackling and textured like the rest of the wall. It results in a very nice looking and stronger corner than just butting the sheetrock together and putting tape over it.
How To Help Assure Good Sheetrocking
Sheetrock is installed on the wall and ceiling framing, so if it has problems, the sheetrock will not look good. After the framing has been done, go in and inspect all the wall studs and ceiling joists to make sure that no twisted or bowed lumber has been used. You can drag a long, straight board down a series of studs to make sure they are aligned properly.
Also look for any other problems, such as nails sticking out where the sheetrock will go.
Sheetrock subs should butt sheets of drywall against each other in the middle of studs so that the edges of both sheets can be screwed into the stud. If they do not meet at a stud, a vertical board should be added between the studs for the end of the sheetrock to be screwed to.
You probably won't be around while the whole sheetrock job is done, but you can go in afterwards and see if there are screws near the edges of the sheetrock. If not, the joint may crack later. If you have specified that ONLY screws be used when attaching sheetrock, you can also check at that time that no nails were used.
You have many choices when it comes to texturing the walls. We chose a style where heavy texture is put on and then rolled flat and we were very pleased with how it turned out. They call this "knock-down texture".
At Judy's house, the sub put on a very thin layer of "mud" and by the time it was flattened, we were afraid that a couple of coats of paint would completely hide the texture.
Since we had specified a heavier texture, Buss spent a couple of weeks trying to get someone to do the texture right. When he finally got someone, they twice did not show up when I went to see the sample. Finally, I told them that I didn't need to see it because all they had to do was put down a texture much heavier than what was done the first time.
When I checked back later, they had put another thin layer of texture over the previous thin layer. This is not like putting a thin coat of paint over a previous thin coat where you get the desired thickness of paint. With texture, it's the space BETWEEN the globs of mud that give the wall its texture. With one thin coat over another, the space between globs of the outer layer are at least half filled with the first thin layer of mud, so it still looks thin.
The moral is that you cannot just assume that there is no way for something to be done wrong. Insist on seeing a sample of the texture first (in the garage is a good place).
Picking paint was probably the hardest decision we had to make. On the outside, we wanted gray stucco and on the inside, light gray walls with medium gray trim.
|We drove around looking at other gray stucco houses to see what color and style of trim we preferred. With stucco, you normally have a 4"-6" wide band of trim around each window and an 8" (or so) band of trim around the floor level of the wall.|
Some gray stucco houses had darker gray trim and others had white trim. We chose to go with the white. One reason for this choice was that the windows have white vinyl trim on the sides, so the white stucco would blend with it better.
On the inside, we wanted to make sure we did not get too dark a gray for the walls, so we chose a light shade that we thought was about the same as the walls of our last house.
The painters used that shade to prime the walls, and it looked white to us. Because of all the windows, there is a LOT of light in the house and it takes a darker shade than it would in a normal type of city house.
The painters, who were very nice and patient with us, put up several darker shades for us to see. We tried a darker shade, and it was still too light. We ended up with a shade about 6 or 7 levels darker than we had originally picked, and when the walls were done, it STILL looked white to us.
We think that when the flooring and the furniture are all in, the shade will be all right. But if you are going to have a lot of windows in your house, you don't have to worry much about the wall paint being too dark.
Update: After 8.5 years, we had the entire inside of our house repainted, partly because the wall paint had faded from gray to a PINK color!! Nobody has been able to explain how that happened.
I've written a lot about making specifications to insure you get the features and quality you want. Paint is one thing that is easy to overlook. and paint ranges in quality from poor to excellent, and it will be almost impossible for you to tell which quality you are getting when the paint is first put on.
Before getting bids, go to one or more paint stores and talk to them about the various types of paint and stain. Most people use flat latex for walls and semi-gloss enamel for trim. If any of the exterior will be painted, check out that paint too.
Talk to the dealer about the different qualities of paint and what you get for the money. To really be thorough, you could make notes and then Google on the Internet for more information and to verify what you are told. (Store clerks are not always the most accurate sources of information.) Sites like ThisOldHouse.com and HGTV.com provide lots of good info about paint as well.
After you have decided on the brand, type, and color of paint, get a pint of each, take it home, and paint a cardboard box or something so that you can see what a large sample of the paint looks like. (Even better would be to go to a building site and pick up a good-sized scrap of sheetrock and trim.)
Choosing paint colors by the little 1"-chart samples is completely unreliable. The same goes for small samples of wallpaper. Choose it in advance too, and buy a roll and hang it up in your present house with tacks so that you can see what it really looks like.
Once you have selected the brand, types, and colors of paint, add those to your specs given to builder for bids.
Before painting is done, check the paint cans and look at a sample of the paint on the wall and trim to insure that the painter has gotten the paint you wanted and that the store mixed it right.
Get the painter to paint a small piece of sheetrock and trim with the paint that HE got (since it may have some variation from the sample you got previously) and put it in the house out of sight but where it is still exposed to the ambient light which the walls with the same paint are exposed to. Then years down the road when you need to touch up the paint, the paint store can computer analyze the sample (which has probably faded somewhat over time) to get the actual color of paint to use. If you save the original paint in cans, chances are that it will not match paint which has been exposed to light for several years.
Someone recently told us that when their house was built, they picked paint colors from those little sample cards while out of town. The lady said that the color on the walls was not what she was expecting and that she has always hated the color. They recently got it repainted, years earlier than they would have had to if they had selected a high-quality paint in colors they liked.
And repainting the entire interior of a house is very, very expensive.