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Re: FL construction

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I would be careful that you are not mixing up general residential
construction quality with the use of specific materials.  While the two
issues are kind of tied together, to me, your issue has more to do with
residential construction quality than type of material, per se.

You can design and build a perfectly good wood stick framed home...if it is
detailed properly for envelope issues and structural resistance to loads and
then build by a competent, quality construction company that does not place
"getting it out the door" over "doing it right".  To me, in today's
residential construction world, there is WAY too much focus on the "fluff"
(i.e. The kitchen cabinet color, type of counter tops, whether or not the
appliances are stainless steel...both by the buyers and the home builders to
satisfy the buyers) and not enough on the "meat" (i.e. Building envelope
sealing issues, structural systems, etc) and this can result in some of the
"bones" of the home getting neglected during construction.  Since wood stick
frame construction is the overwhelmingly predominate material of choice for
residential home construction in the US, this is why it is easy to associate
the poor construction issues with stick frame me at a
least.  Since masonry or reinforced concrete or steel construction is much
less common in residential construction, you have much better odds of
getting a contractor who is willing to do it right since no too many have
this area of "expertise" and thus, there are lot less "yahoos" out there who
do it for the "bottom-line buck" only and are more likely to to "get it

This is a big reason why when I have looked at homes for myself, I tend to
look at older homes.  Both of my houses that I have owned have been built in
the 50s.  Some of the construction of "tract homes" that I have seen in the
90s and later just scares me in terms of quality.

The point is that I would argue you could certainly design a stick framed
home for Florida that would work just fine if you had an engineer and/or
architect detail it properly (including site issues such as NOT sloping the
ground toward the house) and a contractor who took the time to build it
correctly with quality in mind rather than just speed and bottom line cost.
But the reality is that most consumers do not know about or focus on that
type of stuff.  They focus more on the "fluff" stuff such as stainless steel
appliances, granite countertops, the right paint color, the trophy master
bathroom, etc as all that other stuff is "greek" (so to speak).

Now, I do suspect that if you do detail such a home properly and get a
contractor to do it right, you will likely see a lot of the cost advantage
of the stick framed home disappear compared to a residential home in
masonry, reinforced concrete, and/or steel.

The end result is that if I ever build my "dream home", I will likely
consider masonry, steel, reinforced concrete, or some non-stick framed
construction as I would more likely be able to get a quality product, not
because they are inherently a better material.  The problem with stick
framed construction is that there are just too many people out there doing
it that really should not be doing it as they do not care to do quality
work.  This does not mean that you cannot get it done with quality, but more
that you will have a tougher time getting a contractor who does do quality

Just my 2 cents.


Adrian, MI

On 10/8/09 4:23 PM, "akester(--nospam--at)" <akester(--nospam--at)> wrote:

> Richard has it right with newer homes in FL, although my house was built in
> the 50s and older homes often are crawspace on CMU stem walls and piers with
> wood frame walls. I like the look of heavy timber such as in ski lodges, and
> in log cabins, so it has its place. I am about to do a back porch addition out
> of exposed wood rafters with a 1x tongue and groove ceiling/decking. In dry,
> western, seismically active regions, I see why timber may be used as a
> preferable material. But I am a CMU guy all the way for Florida for all the
> reasons others have stated: wind pressure, wind borne debris debris, uplift
> resistance, termites, and moisture and vapor control, thermal R values, sound,
> and moisture and rot damage. In new construction in S FL you barely see wood
> at all except for trusses and interior walls. I did a forensic job at a house
> in Miami with a steel joist and concrete floor system, I was amazed...
> Since I have been doing a lot of forensics the last five years all over the
> state, a lot of the wood damage I have seen has made me a believer that it is
> an uphill battle in a sub tropical climate. Of course these things cannot be
> overlooked but usually are: sprinklers near buildings, the MUST of gutters and
> getting water away from buildings, proper and functional roof slope design
> (too many funky hips and valleys always creates problems), and flashing
> flashing flashing.... Just general smart architecture would help.
> Did a job a while back at a house with moisture damage and roof issues. They
> were from Bosnia and also not impressed with our construction methods.
> I think a lot of it has to do with the fast track nature of much of home
> construction during the bubble, especially in FL and probably in AZ, CA and
> other hot real estate market states. Big tract housing was thrown up at huge
> scales using untold numbers of subs who used unskilled immigrant workers (not
> their fault, just fact). The bottom line often wins out over quality. I got
> the same complaint from northerners/Yankees who pissed and moaned about how
> much better they did it up north. Maybe they have a point. But another dirty
> secret in the housing market, absent of a company like Richard's, is that many
> houses are not designed by professionals. I am not saying they are not signed
> and sealed by professionals, just not designed. It is the biggest off the
> shelf plan and copy and paste scam, and they can always find someone with a
> seal to rent. I know about if first hand, which is why I rarely did full
> residential jobs, and never did neighborhoods. Sorry, I will not just review
> and seal your drawings Residential Cad Design Inc. for $200.
> I digress, sorry this was long winded. Go CMU and concrete! Wood, sorry, you
> have your place. My dream house in FL will use wood on the floors, cabinets,
> balconies, and maybe some of the roof. Also, I am a big fan of a safe room.
> Every room in 'cane country should just take a master walk in closet or
> something like that and make it a safe room. CMU with #5s @ 40" o.c., all
> solid grout, 4" slab ceiling. No windows, hardened or steel door. 12" thick
> mat foundation. Bring it on! Then just design the rest of your house to code
> or a little higher. To me, that is the best mix of safety and practicality and
> economics...
> Andrew Kester, PE
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