Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Brace of Bracing

About two and a half years ago we promoted Simpson Strong-tie's Wall Bracing Calculator.  A new contender has entered the ring, APA (the plywood people).  We played around with their new calculator and found it to be a little different than Simpson's.  For one, the walls are adjustable more on the fly.  With Simpson, you need to use their Java back button and re-enter inputs.  With APA you can see changes as you go.  The biggest difference is that you can enter each braced wall section and opening so that APA can calculate not only the total wall bracing needed, but each panel as qualifying or not.  Pretty slick.

To play around with it, go here.  You will need an account to access their website but it's totally worth it.

And make sure you save your work (as an XML file, very cool) before exporting to a pdf.  The pdf feature is temporarily broken.  *edit* PDF function fixed.  But the xml feature tells me that I could edit the hard data in a text editor, similar to a Google Earth kml file.  Take that, Simpson!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ebook is Live!

"200 Square Feet" our first ebook is now live and free for a limited time.  You can find it on Amazon or check here for other international markets.  Free promo period will end on Saturday at midnight PST (UTC -8:00).  If you are interested in tiny house ideas, details, and designs, please check out the book.  We've included over a dozen different plans for 200sf and smaller shelters.  We've also set up a support website for the book.  Of course, your referrals and reviews are highly appreciated.  Send us your questions and comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Busy Elsewhere - Announcement

For the last few months we have been busy writing.  Not on this blog, obviously.  All of our wordsmithing efforts have been going into creating an ebook on tiny home design.  Several designs are being created to go along with the book.  We are aiming for a Cyber Monday release.  Standard price will be $3.99 for the book in either pdf or Kindle version.  But during Cyber Monday week (Monday through Friday) we'll be introducing the book for the low price of free.  For five days only you'll have the opportunity to see our content for nothing out of pocket.

What you'll get:
Ideas, some building theory, comparisons of construction types

What's not included:
Building on a trailer (plenty of others doing that), detailed step by step construction guide.

Stay tuned to this blog or use the subscribe feature on the right to be the first to know.

*edit: if you want to add yourself to the notification list, visit http://eepurl.com/87lin

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Unbuckling Your Walls

Pop Quiz:

Why does wall sheathing buckle?

If you answered something like studs at 24" o.c., I'm sorry to disappoint you.  The most common cause of wall sheathing buckling is because it wasn't properly gapped.  We've hounded on this before.  But now the APA has developed a mobile tool that will help educate builders on some of the most common building issues.

See this and many more tips at the APA website.  Tambien en espaƱol!

  • Prevent Buckling with Proper Spacing includes spacing recommendations for APA Rated Sheathing, APA Rated Sturd-I-Floor®, and APA 303 Siding. (Form M300, now available in Spanish)
  • Construct a Solid, Squeak-Free Floor System describes how to prevent floor complaints and callbacks with proper floor sheathing installation. (Form Q300, now available in Spanish)
  • Minimize Nail Pops describes how to reduce nail pops through recommended fastener selection and installation. (Form S300, now available in Spanish)
  • Storage and Handling of APA Trademarked Panels provides guidelines to help protect panels from damage in storage, during shipment, and on the job site. (Form U450)
  • APA Panels for Soffit Applications provides information on recommended panels and spans for open and closed soffits. (Form N330)
  • Finishing APA Rated Siding describes recommended finishes and application recommendations for APA Rated Siding. (Form Q350)
  • Proper Storage and Handling of Glulam Beams provides recommendations for storage and handling of glulam beams. (Form R540)
  • Minimize Glulam Checking Through Proper Storage and Handling provides tips for preventing glulam checking. (Form F455)
  • Proper Installation of APA Rated Sheathing for Roof Applications provides step-by-step instructions for roof sheathing installation. (Form N335)
  • Proper Selection and Installation of APA Plywood Underlayment includes information on selection, handling, installation and fastening APA Underlayment panels. (Form R340)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Installing Solar Now Even Cheaper

The City of Portland, OR recently announced that they have been able to streamline their solar application process.  This means that they were also able to reduce the fees on a solar permit.  Press release follows:

July 1, 2014.  Effective immediately, the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services will be reducing the building permit fees for Prescriptive Residential Solar Permits from $554 to $263, a 52% reduction.  In an effort to be responsive to the Solar Industry concerns about existing fees and the City’s goal of encouraging more sustainable energy sources, the Bureau worked with Solar Industry representatives in an assessment of the current fees and associated solar permitting and inspection process.  This evaluation realized efficiencies in the permitting process, allowing the building permit fees associated with solar projects to be reduced.  Separate electrical trade permits continue to be required and their associated fees remain the same.

“We are hopeful that the reduction in building permit fees for solar installations on residential structures will encourage more homeowners to adopt this sustainable energy source, helping the City to meet sustainability goals,” stated Commissioner Amanda Fritz.  Bureau Director Paul L. Scarlett added “This is a great example of where we were able to work with industry partners to realize permit fee savings, while maintaining cost recovery on the important life safety and livability services the City provides through the building inspection process.”

Overall, the Prescriptive Residential Solar Permit fee retains cost recovery levels for the Bureau, while achieving a level of review and inspections that ensures compliance with applicable building, electrical and land use codes.  Field inspections will verify installations adhere to approved plans, assuring safety and code compliance at the time of panel installation.

For more information, please contact Ross Caron, BDS Public Information Officer at ross.caron@portlandoregon.gov or (503) 823-4268.

End release.

Interested in installing solar?  Check that little blurb to the right and see if you could get solar installed on your home for little to no upfront cost.  We had solar installed via a lease option and have been pleased with the results.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Planned Downtime

Istockhouseplans will be changing web services over the next couple of days.  Access to our website may be unavailable for a short time.  We apologize for any inconvenience or undue migraines this may cause you.  We promise it will be as good as new within a day or two.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Raise Your Heels

The APA (those wood people again) have issued a report on raised heel (AKA energy) trusses.  Typical trusses do not allow full height insulation out to the outside edge of an outside wall.  This means that the thermal envelope of your house is compromised where the roof comes down to the wall.  This would be akin to the back of your neck where your coat doesn't quite reach up to nor does your wool hat reach down to.  So consider raised heel trusses to be a scarf for your home.

Builders harumph about several issues.  Mainly plywood and siding and the extra cost.  How much extra cost, Captain Pennypincher?  Yes, it does cost extra.  But could you perhaps use all those drops from your sheathing in that extra 8-12" space?  But the taller blocking is also a somewhat valid point

The report gives some simplified methods for securing the trusses without complicated blocking.  The report is applicable for trusses with a heel between 15-1/4" and 24"; using continuous plywood (CS) as a prescriptive shear bracing method; for homes in seismic zones A, B, and C; for homes with wind exposure of 110mph or less; a whole list of other fairly typical conditions.

In essence, plywood has been found to be adequate to replace blocking between the tall trusses for all but the top chord itself.  That is, rather than using stacked 2x12's (illegal anyway) or a truss company built blocking solution, the plywood can extend to the bottom edge of the top chord.  Typical 2x4 bird-blocking can be used on top of that.

Thankfully, you as a builder do not have to figure this all out.  Talk to your designer about simplified solutions for energy heel trusses.  Here at Istockhouseplans, we're always happy to help you get the most bang out of your buck.

See the full report here (an account or login may be required):


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Two Point Oh!

First off, we apologize in neglecting this blog for the past several months.  The promised new website has run into more roadblocks than expected.  However everything seems to be agreeing with one another now.  We still have a few multi-family and garage plans to add yet.  And we have a couple of new plans as well, as mentioned.

The biggest change has been moving away from GoDaddy's hosting service and revamping the plans catalog to be more searchable by feature.  Granted you can't pinpoint a plan that is 4000 square feet with 5 bathrooms (wouldn't be one of ours anyway).  But with the exclusive number of fine plans we offer a single search term will narrow the plans down to a reasonable number.  You might even find something unexpected!

Please take a few minutes and let us know what could be improved.  While the new site is highly functional, we are certainly open to more functionality and ease of operation.