Infills are all the rage these days. It’s estimated that 2017 will be the most successful infill construction season yet (see below). In only a few years since the trend started these homes have become increasingly prominent in mature neighbourhoods . Contrasting materials, funky features, creative use of space, not to mention government support to develop urban “transit corridors” all lends to the appeal.
If you don’t already know the term “infill” describes a development where a new structure is built on an older lot and the old structure is removed.
Besides the aesthetics of a newly minted infill, there’s a lot more to the home build than meets the eye. Given the rapid growth in popularity of infills some people may rush to invest in their dream home and often overlook (or don’t consider) important aspects of the home during construction.
Here are some modern building techniques to look out for. These methods will improve the efficiency, longevity and safety of your new home!
Investing in insulation upgrades will increase your comfort, reduce your energy costs, and even increase your home’s value. Best of all there’s usually no maintenance. The best place to start is where you’d least expect it — where most people do little or no insulation — in your foundation. Heres some tips:
ICF Foundation: Insulated Concrete Foundations are made of foam forms that concrete gets poured into. These forms then remain in place to provide a continuous R-24 around your foundation.
R-value of insulation measures its resistance to heat transfer.
Bonus tip: wrap your ICF Foundation in double layer waterproofing to give you peace of mind that your home won’t flood in even the most wet conditions. Water damage is a major problem (and expense) in Alberta and regularly occurs in basements.
Under Slab Insulation: basement floors are known for being cold on the feet. This is because most homes have little-to-no insulation under the slab. In order to provide comfort for your feet and not require an extra heat source in your basement, you need to insulate under the slab. Using at least 6 inches of Type 2 foam under the slab will provide R-24.
A slab is a single layer of concrete, several inches think.
Roxul Wall Insulation: this product not only has superior insulating value, it also provides fire protection. Because it’s made of rock fibres, it will remain intact to protect the wood frame from catching fire. Roxul also has a 10% higher R-Value than standard insulation. Check out this clip:
Attic Insulation: It is important to have quality insulation in your attic, for two reasons:
Bonus tip: to combat these effects, attic insulation should have R-60 or better.
Building a new infill is just the beginning. Before long you’ll likely be repairing and maintaining different parts of it. The goal during construction should be to reduce the of risk of over spending in the future for major maintenance in important parts of your home such as mechanical systems. Here’s some ideas how to do so:
HRV Bath Fans: typically, there is one hole cut in the wall for each bath fan to vent. Instead, running all the bath fans through an HRV means that only one hole is cut for all the fans to share. This is much better for your building envelope. The HRV also uses heat from the venting air to pre-heat fresh air coming into the furnace, without mixing the new air with the old.
The building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and exterior of a building.
Recirculation Pump: Is a pump that continuously moves hot water through a system near every tap and shower. This allows you to save water by not requiring that you run the tap for a few minutes to get the desired temperature.
Separate Basement Heating & Ventilating: With a separate HVAC system for the basement, a homeowner can adjust temperature independently from the basement suite. Allowing for maximum comfort if the basement gets a lot of use or maximize savings if it does not. This system also provides completely separate ductwork between suites, which minimizes sound transfer between floors.
Heated floors: In floor heating is the cornerstone that pulls together all the rest of the comfortable aspects of the basement. With this system the basement floor controls the temperature for the entire basement, so your floor is always room temperature or higher and never cold on the feet.
Secondary Heat Source: Having a fireplace and in-floor heat in the basement is not just a luxurious feature, it’s also an important fail safe if you were to have furnace trouble. This alternate heat source can keep your home safe from freezing even in our cold climate.
Solid Core Doors: Solid-core doors are important for reducing sound transfer between rooms. Plus, they act as a dampener in case of a fire, helping to contain the fire in or out of a room.
Solar Ready: with solar systems for homes becoming more cost effective every year some builders will run a conduit from the attic to the electrical panel, which can be prepped with enough amperage for a solar install in the future. The Provincial Government is offering solar rebates. Check out Efficiency Alberta
Electric Vehicle Ready: using 200 AMP electrical service in the garage will allow the homeowner to run two EV charging stations with room to spare for any large tools or accessories, such as a welding unit, air conditioner or hot tub.
Given that individual infill homes are built on smaller lots some risks arise. Here’s how to best protect yourself.
Fire Resistant Siding: All of the siding on the home pictured below is made of a concrete fibre board, called Hardie Board. This product can withstand extreme heat and last for hours against intense flame. Metal siding is also a great fire retardant. Wood and stucco are not as great. Be mindful of cheap vinyl siding which actually acts as a fire accelerant.
Construction and Building Codes: You need a fence around your project, and everything — your materials, equipment, and debris — should remain inside. Otherwise you could risk getting a ticket just see the link below.
All of the items listed above are in line with building codes. Please make sure to familiarize yourself with the codes and follow them. If you’re not sure, talk to a bylaw officer or check out the city of Edmonton infill website. The city has recently introduced a Worksite code of conduct and permit notification signage as part of improved infill construction practices.
Here is an example of a recently completed home in central Edmonton that has implemented all of these better building techniques mentioned above:
If you need an an opinion from a skilled contractor on a new build, addition or renovation give TradePros a try today (it’s free)!