Difference Between Composite Decking and Real Wood

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difference between composite decking and real wood

With summer not far off, many people are looking forward to spending warm evenings on their decks. Others are thinking about building a deck, and wondering what materials to use. At Sisler Builders we are often asked about the difference between composite decking and real wood. We do have an opinion.

Composites

We feel composites still have issues that make them less desirable than wood. They have resin, cellular PVC, and fiber-based fillers. The fillers expand, causing the boards to swell, which could affect drainage and runoff. The resins and PVC get uncomfortably hot in summer, so bare feet are not an option. Composites also lack dimensional stability, so they sag between structural members, leaving a warped surface on which porch furniture will wobble.

Wood

difference between composite decking and real woodWood decking comes primarily in three flavors, listed here in ascending initial cost: pressure-treated southern yellow pine, red cedar, and a tropical hardwood called ipe. Pressure treated is infused with chemicals to make it rot resistant. It lasts 20 years, but shrinks, cracks, and splinters, causing a rough unattractive surface. Cedar is beautiful but requires costly maintenance. Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) can be sealed, giving it a gorgeous teak look, but then needs resealing. We prefer untreated ipe which weathers to a nice medium gray, lasts 50 years, and long term is the lowest cost.

Also called Brazilian walnut, ipe wood is typically found in South America and some parts of Central America. It is one of the densest hardwoods available, three times harder than cedar. You can source ipe at most lumber yards, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, or order it online at Ipedepot.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the difference between composite decking and real wood, you can get started on a new deck and be ready to enjoy the first warm days of summer!

 

Stowe Slugs at Jackson Hole for Slugs vs Moose

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Slugs vs. Moose “Give a hit, take a hit. Get in the game.” I remember an old hockey coach saying. I chipped the puck off the boards and into the zone, then braced for impact. I lean in for the contact with a small jump. Survived. And the game, Slugs vs Moose, gains momentum.

I play on a hockey team, the Stowe Slugs. We are the premiere old-man team in Vermont. There’s a league for non-contact hockey that guys out of college like to play, called the Catamount League. The pace is quick, but there’s no hitting allowed. We all know that we need to get up and work on Monday. The Slugs have won the Catamount League championship three years running.

Now, however, we were out in Jackson, Wy., playing contact hockey against their home-town team, the Jackson Hole Moose.

Jackson gets rowdy for hockey. They have games Friday and Saturday nights at 7 pm. In addition to hockey, there’s live music between periods, co-ed youths playing before they do the ice, local beer for sale, pizza, kids running around in fashionable red Moose Hockey sweatshirts with skate laces for neck draws. Typical attendance is 1,100 fans, an incredible turnout for a town of 10,000. It’s an all-around good time.

Slugs vs Moose Face-off

We were invited because I lived in Jackson for two winters and had the privilege of playing on the team. They are in their own league, the Black Diamond Hockey League, but they invite out-of-conference competition, like us—the Stowe Slugs—to come play. They provide lodging, transportation from the airport, a gear stash room at the rink, a pregame skate Friday morning, and discounted lift tickets to the Snow King ski hill in town. Again, it’s an all-around good time.

But, they play contact hockey. For some of the guys on the Slugs, this is the first game of contact hockey they’ve played in two decades. We are in it now, though.

The first play of the game, my center won the draw clean, and I, the right winger, backed out into space and moved up ice. The pass put me into the danger zone with their D-man, who stepped up to play the man. I chipped the puck past him and took the hit. My mind was in it.

After 5 minutes the Moose are up 2-0. The Slugs are working into the game, trying to catch their breath at 6,200-feet elevation, and playing their first full-length game. We warmed into the game slowly, 3-0, 7 minutes in. Dang.

Everyone got their second shift and settled in. Finally, 3-1 with 2 minutes left in the first. A well-executed breakout, a decent entrance to their zone, and a sloppy goal gave us hope.

The hockey games were back and forth. Lots of Vermonters on the ice. Much of their team is from the East Coast and many from Vermont. It’s good competition, with some former college players and a few ex-pro’s, but everyone goes to work on Monday. Jackson is so far away from real quality hockey, or professional sport of any kind, that the Moose are revered. Their youth program is a part of the Moose organization, so many of the players are coaches. This helps create the aura of good hockey. We put on a show for the fans and enjoyed the rest of the trip. There was one fight, stitches in the locker room post-game, hits, net-front skirmishes, goals, and celebrations. Everything you could want in a hockey game.

Slugs vs. MooseAll-around good time

During the days the team rented snowmobiles to go nine miles up a roadless back canyon to a hot spring, others went skiing at the world renown Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, some relaxed and went into the national elk refuge to see the elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bison. Did I say yet that it’s an all-around good time?

When it was all said and done, we lost both games by one. But really, we let them win. Because—as the ref said in explanation of a bad call—“no one is here to watch the Slugs win.” That said, our trip was a success.

Slugs return to Jackson!

The Slugs go to Jackson Hole for another round of Slugs vs Moose, February 1-2, 2019. Come join Slugs team sponsor Sisler Builders and other Stowe fans for some great hockey. Don’t forget your skis!

 

Sisler Builders’ Renovation Process

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Sisler Builders renovation process Building projects run most smoothly and cost effectively when there is a good team, open communication, and mutual trust. This house went through a significant renovation process, and, even though the owners were not entirely clear on what they wanted initially, the renovation process was successful, because it had the right ingredients.

Sisler Builders built the house in 2000 for a Realtor who worked extensively in Stowe. She and her husband wanted a house large enough to accommodate them and their grown children, who were starting families of their own. The main floor was designed for single-level living, with a master suite, open floor plan, cathedral ceilings, and tasteful accents. Kids’ bedrooms were upstairs, and the basement had a rec room and storage.

Sisler Builders renovation processWhen they put the house on the market 16 years later, prospective buyers, Frank and Sue Zilka, consulted with Sisler Builders before buying it. “We knew Sisler Builders had built the house so we contacted Steve and asked him to come take a look and see what he could do for us. We wanted it to be a gathering place for us, our three children, and their friends,” Frank explains. After a conversation with Steve, they bought the house and asked him to renovate it to accommodate their needs.

The renovation team consisted of the owners, builder, and interior designer. Communication was easy, fast, and non-contentious. At first, Frank and Sue just wanted to upgrade a few rooms to be more to their taste. “It had a Cape Cod-style interior and we wanted a more modern feel,” Frank says. “Then we got ‘builder’s creep’ and kept deciding to do more, Our intention was to spend six months a year in Stowe, so once we got rolling we decided to go for it.”

Nailing down the design

Even though it took Frank and Sue awhile to figure out what they ultimately wanted, by keeping communication open and offering suggestions based on many years of knowledge and experience, the project moved along efficiently.

Frank has a building background as well as a mechanical one, and knows how complicated a renovation process can be. He was impressed with how easy it was to work with Sisler Builders. “The house was completely torn apart, but it all came together within six months. Sisler Builders has an amazing crew and the project manager, Brian Irwin, was super to work with. Steve has great oversight of his staff and contractors and provided a premium, top-quality product.”

Sisler Builders renovation process“It was very easy to relay my visions to Steve,” says Sue, who grew up designing and building homes with her father. She was involved in building her family’s first house, and from there became interested in interior decorating. “Steve has knowledge and vision, too, so it was easy to work together.”

The original house had good bones, which also helped streamline the process. The majority of the renovations took place in the basement, where Frank and Sue wanted a bedroom suite with radiant heat and to change the office into a bunk room, with custom bunk beds based on Sue’s vision. “I drew my bunk bed idea on a napkin and we had a 10-minute meeting,” she says. “Steve got the idea right away. He talked to the finish carpenters and they took the idea and ran with it. That’s what you get with an experienced builder.”

Sisler Builders renovation processThe rec room was also completely revamped, and now has a stunning gas fireplace surrounded by a magnificent granite slab. The room was enlarged by incorporating the former storage room. All the floors were finished in the same antique heart pine flooring the upstairs has. “This might be my favorite room,” Sue says. “It’s soundproof, so you can’t hear anything else going on in the house. The granite slab is about 8 by 12 feet and has a beautiful grain. It took a lot to get it to Vermont, cut out a section for the fireplace, and get it into the basement. It’s magnificent!”

One eye on energy efficiency

Upstairs Sisler Builders upgraded the air conditioning, remodeled the bathrooms, enlarged the mudroom, and installed attractive wainscoting Sisler Builders renovation processthroughout the foyer. They also did some energy upgrades by changing the oil boiler to a high-efficiency gas-fired one, and did significant air sealing and insulation improvements.

Outside, they expanded the patio that is accessed from the walk-out basement, changed the deck support system to be more airy, added a staircase between the upper deck and the patio below, and installed a hot tub. The main-level deck was redone, with new Ipe decking and a transparent railing. A clever pan system with integrated gutters was installed under the new decking to protect the patio below. The exterior was completely repainted with fresh colors.

Sisler Builders renovation processThe end result is a comfortable haven to come home to after a day on the slopes. “It’s a real livable house,” says Frank. “The previous owners had a good vision and that gave us a good start.” Despite lacking a complete plan, the project ran efficiently, changes were easily incorporated, and costs were reasonable, because the optimum ingredients were in place: a good team, open communication, and mutual trust.

How We Build An Affordable Dream Home, Part Two

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Two months ago we posted Part One of “How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable.” We pick up here with Part Two, a home that had it’s own challenges, but with experience, knowledge, and creative solutions, we were able to build another affordable dream home.

Little River Overlook

A family from Virginia wanted a vacation home in a three-season-town. They also wanted airport accessibility and to be close to outdoor recreation. They were open to all options and were willing to buy or build, as long as the project was affordable. While visiting relatives in Montreal, they spent a weekend in Stowe and knew it was where they wanted to be.

“We started looking and found a property with a 1974 chalet on it. We bought that and an adjacent lot,” said the wife. “My husband loves designing houses, and he envisioned one to put on the property next to the chalet. We met with Steve Sisler and began by renovating the chalet first.”

Affordable Dream HomeWhen work began on the adjacent lot, the couple hired Cushman Design Group to design the house’s structure in partnership with the husband’s vision. The challenge was not the house, but the site. It is situated on a steeply sloping lot overlooking the Little River. We acted as the owners’ representative to work with surveyors, civil engineers, and town representatives to achieve adequate setbacks and a site that was feasible to build on. The initial design had sloped the house along the steep contours, which is expensive to build. Instead, we employed a simple retaining wall system that saved $25,000 in foundation costs.

Affordable Dream HomeThe dramatic three-level home has modern touches on the inside, including black painted kitchen cabinets, structural steel stair supports, and transparent cable balustrades. Tasteful details include partial Douglas fir timber frame, main living area paneling and trim, also of Douglas fir, Brazilian cherry floors at upper levels, a radiant polished concrete floor on Affordable Dream Homethe lower level, and exotic tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms. A screened porch is outfitted for grilling and the patio is situated for outdoor creek-side dining.

“The house is beautifully done,” said the wife. “We were in Virginia and we got weekly photos from project manager Shawn Thompson. Once in awhile we’d go up to see the progress. It went so smoothly and was a good experience. We love it all year round, but especially in summer.”

To see more photos of this home click here.

Rebuilding Stowe Street Apartments

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Sisler Builders is known for building stunning and unique custom homes that reflect the owners’ dreams and personalities. But they also do equally gorgeous renovations, rebuilds, and makeovers. One reason is to keep their employees busy between bigger jobs. Another is because they like bringing green building projects to their community. Also, it’s in Steve Sisler’s blood. His mother was involved in historic preservation. The enjoyment he experienced while working for her was the seed that grew into the construction company he owns today.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

One property they are in the midst of is rebuilding Stowe Street apartments in Waterbury. It’s a 200-year-old apartment building in dire need of a total makeover. They demolished it and are completely rebuilding it on the existing footprint. The new building will have five apartments. Three are designated for seniors on the bottom floor and will have handicap access, and two on the second floor will accommodate local families. Sisler Builders is making the building really green, with optimum insulation, solar panels, and super-efficient heat pumps.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

Construction began in April and will be completed by mid-winter.

Here as an article that ran in the Waterbury Record about the Stowe Street construction project.

We will do another blog in the future showing the progress of rebuilding Stowe Street apartments.

Rebuilding Stowe Street apartments

 

How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable

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How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableExperience, knowledge, and creative solutions make dream homes more affordable.

Due to Sisler Builders’ extensive experience and knowledge, we have the ability to devise creative solutions for challenging scenarios and guide clients to quality, value-conscious choices, which result in cost savings during construction. We are also able to save money in the long run for our clients. When we build a house, we do it right the first time, so that 50 years later the building still performs well, without having major costly problems. We have been called in to fix other builders’ mistakes—rot, ventilation, insulation, air sealing, poor indoor air quality—that are avoidable. Whether it’s  engineering challenges, design guidance, energy efficiency, or product sourcing, we have the expertise to steer a project so that it is most cost effective. Here is one example of a house where, with our expertise, we were able to save the owners money while building their dream home.

How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableFamily Getaway

A skiing family took a vacation at Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort and decided to visit Stowe. They fell in love with the town, the ski area, the people, and the fact that it was only a three-hour drive from where they lived on the coast of Massachusetts. A decision was made: Stowe was where they would vacation and where they would eventually retire. It was 2013 and real estate inventory was slim. They couldn’t find a suitable house, so they decided to build. They found a lot they liked, and they found Sisler Builders. The couple spent two years planning, and in 2015 they started the building process. The lot was located in Robinson Springs, a neighborhood near the ski slopes that consists of generally high-end luxury homes. This one was going to be on the lower end of that spectrum.

How We Make Dream Homes More AffordableThe site was difficult, with a steep grade on one side that required a massive retaining wall to create a level area to build on. The owners and Sisler Builders collaborated with Cushman Design Group. With our guidance we turned the steep grade to our advantage and placed the bedrooms in the window-rich basement level, rather than the usual second story above the main floor, reducing the overall cost. Sisler Builders and the owners detailed the rest of the house as they proceeded through the building process.

 

 

How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable How We Make Dream Homes More Affordable

Thanks to our expertise, professionalism, and good communication the owners were comfortable working exclusively with us, avoiding design fees and saving additional cost by streamlining the process. The main level has timber frame accents, native maple flooring, a spalted maple dining bar and staircase handrails, and antique barn wood for the kitchen and bath cabinets and accent paneling. These tastefully implemented accents make the house special without breaking the budget. “For me, the process was all pleasure,” said the wife. “I had my own ideas and Sisler Builders had input and was easy to work with. I love the wood trim, the way the house smells, how cozy and warm it is. And I love the relationships we’ve developed with Steve and Sharon Sisler and project manager Brian Irwin. It was all so much fun to build my forever home.”

For more photos of this home, please click here.

In Part 2 of this blog we describe another house, “Little River Overlook,” where it was necessary to devise equally creative solutions for another challenging scenario.

 

Sisler Builders’ Crew With Kids

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By Kate Carter

At Sisler Builders we feel that in order to attract and retain hard-working, capable, and motivated employees we need to respect their busy lives. Our staff is comprised mostly of men. We call them crew with kids. Some are starting families, while others have grown children. It can be tough to juggle schedules to meet everyone’s needs. We know. We raised two boys. Meet five exceptional employees who appreciate a flexible schedule so they can be dependable dads, present for their kids.

Crew With Kids Seth and GirlsSeth Allen

Seth works in our woodworking department and has been with Sisler Builders for seven years. He has two daughters, Francis, age seven, and Coco, age five. His wife, Erica, is a freelance photographer and often travels for work. “Steve gives us the ability to tend to our kids. He knows family is important. Sometimes I have to take the kids to school and don’t get in to work until 10 a.m. and Steve is totally flexible about it.” Seth was recently diagnosed with nodular sclerosis lymphoma and has missed work due to chemotherapy and its side effects. His job building beautiful cabinetry and furniture is waiting for him to return full time. Seth is grateful and says, “Working for Sisler Builders turned out to be Crew With Kids Bryan and Finna pleasant surprise. Steve’s been good to me and my family.”

Bryan Kelley

Bryan is a project manager for a large house going up in Robinson Springs. He started with Sisler Builders two years ago, when he and his wife, Tara, moved to Stowe. Their son Finn is eight months old and goes to daycare most days. Juggling pick-up and drop-off times would be a problem if it weren’t for the flexibility Bryan’s job provides. “It’s awesome working for Sisler Builders,” Bryan says. “Family is important, it’s not an afterthought. It’s nice to know that my employer understands that. I’ve worked for companies where this was not the case. It’s great to have a fresh mindset.”

Crew With Kids Nate and JackNate Lewis

The new kid on the block, Nate has been working for Sisler Builders for just over a year. He’s been doing construction since he was 16 and is currently a site supervisor for a renovation project in Stowe Hollow. His wife, Chelsea, also works full time. They have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, Jack. “The company is understanding if I have fatherly duties to tend to. It’s an advantage, just understanding that when Jack is sick at daycare I will have to pick him up if Chelsea can’t.” Jack has been to his dad’s job site to see what he does all day. He likes it and looks forward to seeing the excavators. “The flexibility we have at Sisler Builders is an added bonus,” Nate says. “It’s a real advantage to be working for a company that cares about its employees.”

Crew With Kids Sivan and JuliusSivan Mesner

A carpenter at the Liftline project at Spruce Peak, Sivan has been with Sisler Builders for four years. His wife, Mandy, is a gardener; their son, Julius, is three. Mandy has taken Julius to see his dad on the job site. “Although he’s only three, he knows what I do all day,” Sivan says. Schedule flexibility is important to Sivan, especially when it comes to child care duties and also emergencies. “I come in late two days a week so I can drop Julius off at day care, and I make up the work another time. If Julius is sick at day care, I am able to leave and go help with that.” Sivan says Sisler Builders is a good company for work culture, flexibility, and varied schedules. “As long as we are producing results, we can have some freedom.”

Crew With Kids Shawn and LilyShawn Thompson

Shawn has been with Sisler builders for six years, moving through various jobs to where he is now, project facilitator. “I’ve known the Sislers for most of my life and have a special relationship with the company and the family. When Lily was born they gave her an ‘intro to carpentry’ toy tool set.” Shawn’s soon-to-be-wife Samantha does bodywork and has an unpredictable schedule, so Shawn especially values the company’s flexibility and commitment to family. “I am able to leave at a moment’s notice to pick Lily up at day care if she’s sick,” he says. Lily, age 2, is too young to understand where daddy goes everyday, she just knows he goes somewhere. “Her mom always tells her I’m at work and she replies, ҅daddy working.’ ”

Backcountry Skiing the Birthday Bowls

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Prepared for a day of backcountry skiingBy Luke Sisler

Clicking out of my skis on the notch road I replay the backcountry skiing run in my head. It was a bit after 4 p.m. and I had just finished work, hopped on the big quad at Spruce Peak, just before closing. It got me most of the way up to help drop me in the trees on the north side of Smugglers’ Notch. I now had to shoulder my skis and walk a few hundred vertical feet to the high point and get myself back to the house Sisler Builders is building at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort, where I parked my truck nine-and-a-half hours earlier.

Powder skiing in the backcountryIt was a good day. I watched the snow pile up, but I had things to get done. So, I put in eight hours of mechanicals, framing changes, light fixtures, and creating functional art. All the while planning my descent. They call the backcountry skiing area in Stowe the Birthday Bowls. All you do is go up the big quad at Spruce Peak and drop down the backside. It is a committing feeling walking out the gates and dropping away from civilization of a guaranteed lift to the top. So, most people don’t take the drop.

I enjoy it though. The walk up is therapeutic, the long runout is more time on skis. And in my opinion, more time on skis is good. This run down was exceptionally good. I had solid memories of a few quick face shots, a sweeping turn through pine trees, and hop down the short end of a cliff. The pow was soft, fluffy, and floaty. What more could I want?

measuring snowThere are some gnarly features in Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch State Park. I aim to explore most of them, some other places in the greater Appalachians, too. Skiing in the backcountry, however, is serious business. I know Vermont has real mountains and Mansfield is one. In the past, people have died skiing the notch. I do not plan on being another of that statistic. My experience skiing in more documented avalanche terrain has taught me the way to avoid it is knowledge of terrain, respect for the mountain, realization of bigger things than yourself, and proper planning.

A few jubilant and committed pow turns into my descent it occurred to me that I am alone, and an injury here would be a real chore. My next few turns were a bit more reserved. I hit my groove and had a blast avoiding all the tracks I could. I love fresh snow and that particular winter was exceptional in that regard. This was the third of three storms that gave us three feet each. Quite the privilege!

No doubt my previous winter as a night janitor for Jackson Hole provided more time on skis, but pow skiing does happen in Stowe. It is here for us to go get. I’m happy to get it after a productive day at work or whenever I can.

Luke Sisler is a site supervisor for Sisler Builders, and an avid skier, hockey player, and mountain biker.

European Inspired Mountain Chalet

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European Inspired Mountain Chalet-summer exteriorWhile traveling in the French and Swiss Alps, the owners of this European inspired mountain chalet became captivated by the rustic charm of the over 200-year-old chalets they had seen there. They perused numerous books about chalet design, becoming both well informed and even more enthusiastic with the building style. Working with architect Paul Robert Rousselle of Stowe and Steve Sisler of Sisler Builders, they incorporated design cues from traditional chalet construction, their own carefully cultivated theme ideas, and state-of-the-art energy usage desires to bring their unique European inspired mountain chalet to fruition for the 21st century and beyond.

European Inspired Chalet-north side windowsThe couple and their three children, ages 13, 18, and 20, are originally from Long Island. They moved to Stowe for its quality of life, easy access to sports, and the outdoor activities they enjoy. They rented a home while beginning the process of designing their house, finding an architect, and deciding on a builder. After meeting with Steve and checking with a variety of reference sources they chose Sisler Builders. Steve had done similar chalet-style construction, and they felt that besides his reputation for perfection and integrity, he and his team were well suited for the job. They also knew that Sisler Builders is committed to building highly energy efficient homes, a priority for them.

European Inspired Chalet-living roomEuropean Inspired Chalet-dining room view

Beyond being committed to the chalet aesthetic, the couple’s primary objectives were an open and functional layout, natural flow, and ease of use. They wanted to maintain a timeless look, so the house never felt dated. They also wanted to take advantage of the fantastic sloping site, situating the house so that it made the most of the jaw-dropping views of Stowe’s ski trails. The floor-to-ceiling windows all across the main living areas did the trick for this last desire!

“There was a lot of collaboration during the building process,” said the husband. “Every square inch of the house was discussed with the architect and builder, weighing all factors of design, engineering, and the actual building process.”

Energy efficiency

The nearly 4,500-square-foot structure is extremely air tight and energy efficient. It is heated with geothermal wells connected to electric heat pumps, which are partially powered by photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. A wood stove, cleverly connected to duct work that is part of the air conditioning system, allows heat to be distributed throughout the home, instead of being concentrated to the area close to the woodstove. The structure tested out at 0.82 ACH50, which means it has a nearly Passive House air exchange level, and is remarkably air tight. It has radiant heat tubing embedded in the concrete slabs of both the lower and first floor levels. This is a well-thought-out system, as the heat pumps can readily produce water at just the proper temperature for optimal radiant heating. With the exceedingly low natural air-exchange rate, a mechanical heat recovery air exchange system was mandatory.

Sisler Builders optimized the amount of insulation installed by computer modeling the front-end cost of different thicknesses of insulation versus the operating cost associated with those thicknesses. With this proper engineering and holistic mechanical system approach, the owners have found that the wood stove heats the entire house, and are ecstatic about the inexpensive heating costs and comfort they feel year round.

European Inspired Chalet-dining room European Inspired Chalet-bedroom

Staying local

European Inspired Chalet-kitchenLocally sourced materials strongly influenced the house design. A significant contributor to its look and feel was the use of native hemlock beams and paneling that were procured and milled nearby. Sisler Builders took special care to purchase and sequence their installation in order to facilitate proper drying of the wood. The wife’s favorite aspect of the interior is the mix of rustic and modern design themes throughout the house, which were achieved with materials such as the native hemlock beams juxtaposed with refined tile and crisp sheetrock detailing, finished in striking colors.

The husband’s favorite aspect is the kitchen, which he says is the house’s focal point. “I like to cook. I wanted a kitchen that is functional. We put a lot of thought into multiple work stations and the layout works well for us. I like all the systems and finishes we integrated.”

European Inspired Chalet-winter exteriorThe owners would have preferred to take a year up front to flesh out the house’s design, but they did not have that luxury, so decisions were made almost daily during the building process. “The project manager, Matt Rouleau was brilliant,” the husband said. “He coordinated everything and it was a pleasure working with him. He is extraordinary. Our experience with Sisler Builders has been great. They stood behind everything they did and we continue to have good relationships with Steve and Matt and all the carpenters and subcontractors we met through the process. We’re very happy with our Vermont chalet.”

European Inspired Chalet-aerial

What is ACH50? All You Need to Know is Right Here

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The last five houses that Sisler Builders completed have all tested with ACH50 less than .85. But what does that mean? What is ACH50? Get ready for some physics!

What is ACH50?What is ACH50?

ACH50 is the abbreviation for air changes per hour at 50 pascals (Pa) pressure differential. It is how we measure the energy efficiency of a house. It is the number of times the air volume in a building changes per hour at 50 Pa of pressure. During a blower door test we depressurize a building to negative 50 Pa pressure, with regard to the outside air pressure. We accomplish this by continuously exhausting a measured volume of air from the building with the blower door, while simultaneously measuring the pressure differential from inside to out. We adjust the bower until we reach our target pressure differential of negative 50 Pa, and then record the volume of air being exhausted to accomplish this in cubic feet per minute (CFM). This measurement is called the CFM50 of the building and quantifies the air leakage of the structure being tested. The higher the CFM50, the leakier the building.

What is ACH50?CFM50 is the building performance standard used almost universally to quantify building air leakage, but it is not a very useful number for evaluating how “tight or leaky” a building is, unless we know a little more about the structure. For example, a giant warehouse may be quite tight, but have a high CFM50 compared to a small house that is quite leaky, because of the enormous discrepancy in the volumes of the two buildings. In order to compare the relative “leakiness” of separate buildings we need to account for this potential difference in structures’ volumes. To do this we use both the CFM50 and volume to calculate what is called the ACH50 – air changes per hour at 50 Pa pressure differential – of the structure. This number indicates the number of times in one hour the total volume of air in the entire building will be exhausted through the blower door when it is maintaining -50 Pa pressure differential with regard to the outside air pressure.

The CFM50 tells us how many cubic feet of air are being exhausted from a building every minute to reach -50 Pa. To calculate ACH50 values we multiply the CFM50 number by 60 minutes per hour to determine how many cubic feet per hour are being exhausted. Now we divide this product by the total volume of the building in cubic feet and we know how many times this volume will be exhausted in on hour at this pressure. Voila. The ACH50 values!

A building’s ACH50 number indicates how tightly a building was originally constructed (or later air-sealed) and is an excellent gauge for comparing leakiness between buildings. The lower the ACH50 values, the tighter the building. Vermont’s residential energy code currently requires new houses to have an ACH50 of 3.0 or less. By comparison, many older houses we’ve tested have ACH50 numbers of 10 or more, and some have been much, much higher. Today’s high-performance houses typically have ACH50s closer to 1.0.  The last five houses that Sisler Builders completed all have ACH50 of less than 0.85.