What is LEED Certification?

It is likely that you have heard of LEED certification. You probably have heard it in association with the construction of a new building, or a redesign of an old one.

You know that it means that the building meets some requirements for sustainability or “green” construction.

But what exactly is LEED?

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” It is the name of a series of rating systems from the US Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promote sustainability in building. They promote responsible use of resources.

There are five categories and a total of ten specific specialties offered for LEED certification.

The “Green Building Design” category descriptions of sustainable achievement in the areas of New Construction, Core & Shell, Schools, Healthcare, and Retail: New Construction and Major Renovations.

In “Green Interior Design & Construction” there are specifications for Commercial Interiors and Retail: Commercial Interiors.

The remaining three categories each have only one specialty. These are Green Building Operations & Maintenance, Green Neighborhood Development, and Green Home Design and Construction.

Within each specialty, four levels of achievement are possible: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These are earned by meeting the meticulously described specifications that award points to each sustainable portion of every project.

Why is LEED certification important?

Setting aside the whole “save the planet” mindset, and whether or not it matters that an individual building’s construction can help accomplish that goal, there are still lots of great reasons to seek LEED certification and to hire companies that are experienced in earning it.

LEED certified companies take care to use recycled materials that nonetheless meet demanding specifications. They generally work sustainably, wasting less that other companies. With more thought to their footprint and use of resources, they often make up in efficiency what they seem to lose in upfront cost. This is especially true in their resource use over time. It is true that there is additional cost just for seeking the certification, because the evaluation process is not free.

One of the longterm benefits of earning LEED certification comes from savings in the use of resources. Sustainable design takes advantage of natural light and elemental truths to create healthier and often less expensive solutions to common problems.

Using reclaimed or recycled material for waterproofing is one common-sense step toward LEED certification. This doesn’t mean simply placing old materials into a new construction site. Instead, using upcycled plastics shifts waste that would end up in landfills to instead create a permanent water barrier in a building for a generations to come.

In this way the impermeable permanence of certain plastics becomes a benefit to exploit to protect your building, rather than a permanent problem in a landfill, a stream, or the ocean.

Having the opportunity to win on both sides of the spreadsheet – longer lasting solutions with less waste – is a great reason for every builder and customer to seek out LEED certification and LEED certified suppliers.

What Does it Cost to Waterproof a Basement?

More than half of American homes with basements have some amount of moisture in their basements. Understandably, these homeowners are looking for economic solutions to a problem that can cause property damage, the loss of belongings, and health concerns.

And selling a home with a wet basement, even in a hot market, can be a challenge.

There are three approaches to waterproofing your basement, with their own cost range, depending on your individual situation.

Do-it-yourself ($3-$5 per square foot)

When to choose this option: The avid do-it-yourselfer might be inclined to choose to do the waterproofing themselves. Is there a single small leak, or one that only under the most adverse outdoor conditions delivers a little moisture inside the basement? Or perhaps it is a question of a windowframe rather than a breach in the foundation? Then this is the option.

For the situations described above, the local hardware store will provide all of the tools you need. Sealant, caulk gun, grout, trowel, small bucket, and a putty knife or stronger tool to chip or clear the area. These are the primary costs, since doing it yourself obviously means not paying someone else to do it.

Hiring someone to patch ($6-$8 per square foot)

For moderate jobs, you’re going to want an expert who has done this sort of work before, or a company that will stand behind their work.

When to choose this option: When the work is slightly more than you can handle on your own, or too important to trust to your own devices. Also choose this option when the work focuses on one wall or specific location, and the preponderance of the issue is really close to ground level. Choose this when heavy rains cause problems with leaks more than once or twice a year.

This expert might look at solutions inside the home and outside. They will use more than one intervention, or apply a new solution (like a large patch) to an area that’s far larger than the specific leak or problem by itself.

Hire a company to do a major permanent solution ($10+ per square foot)

When to choose this option: You can tell the job is too large if water is coming in from multiple locations, or from an undetermined source. Also select this option when the amount of water coming in is more than merely a wet spot and instead includes puddling or a trickle into a nearby drain.

A company that will fully address the problem will request access to the inside and outside of the foundation. Their solution will likely involve adding waterproof sheeting or coating, addressing the flow of water against the foundation with additional drainage that ties you’re your home drainage system, and might even include altering your home’s current drainage plan or sloping.

This most comprehensive approach should come with an extended guarantee that will add value to you home now, in resale, and for years to come.  

Weather Resistant Sheeting

A study of claims on home insurance show that nearly 2% of homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage, flooding, or freezing every year. These claims average nearly $9,000 each, and add up to almost $9 billion in damage annually.

This is why waterproofing is such an important part not just of the final structure, but of the complete building process.

Often builders will place an additional water resistant barrier between the cladding and the frame of the building. Of course, because this needs to be a nearly permanent solution, builders depend on the highest-quality barriers.

Over time, this has led to the use of ventilated rainscreens.

These perform a special function that is more sophisticated than just blocking water. Instead, they take water that has gotten past the first seal and direct that remaining moisture to safely drain. Counter-intuitively, they also promote the circulation of air. While this might seem inefficient, any small heating or cooling loss is more than made up by creating a moisture-free environment.

Installation requirements vary

This step in the building process has become so commonplace that many exterior cladding manufacturers not only require it, but they have specific requirements for how these sheets should be used during the building process.

Their use has been mandated or at least strongly recommended within the International Residential Code. Specifically, the code reads: “The exterior wall envelope shall be designed and constructed in such a manner as to prevent the accumulation of water within the assembly by providing a water-resistive barrier behind the exterior veneer, as described in section 14040.2, and a means of draining water that enters the assembly to the exterior.”

Many United States and Canadian municipalities have added this requirement to their own building codes.

These requirements are not prescriptive. Instead, they describe a general approach or concept that your waterproofing company should be able to address.

Waterproof barrier options

When considering the waterproofing company to entrust with your significant investment, it is important to ask how they solve this problem.

They should be able to describe a barrier that works improve drainage and promote evaporation. There is not an accepted best construction, best design, or best product to do this, but an expert waterproofing company should be able to explain why they have selected the option they have, and how it meets the requirements for local building ordinances.

More importantly, they should be able to explain how it promotes the safest, most dry internal environment for your structure.

Also, the use of such a product should be included in your plans and blueprints. Mentioning it here might cost a bit more upfront, but this is better than finding out later that it was indeed a requirement and having to add it at greater expense. Also, since it is widely regarded as a best practice, you will want to include it to add a level of certainty to your building plans for today and for the future.

A Quality Whole-Home Ventilation System Does These Things

Inside and out, if you could observe everything that was floating in the air, you would like be less eager to breathe.

Fortunately our noses and lungs are adept at filtering out pollutants.

If only our homes had similar systems.

Unfortunately, many homes have only the most rudimentary systems for processing air. This means that often in the environment we consider most secure, we are being exposed to more pollutants than we would like.

Here are the elements of a quality whole home ventilation system.

  1. Ventilation and moving air in all parts of the house.

You might not think of it this way, but you want your house to breathe. Contrary to our vision of the house as an airtight bubble sealed off against the rest of the world, it should instead work as a filter improving the air that we breathe while inside.

Part of the important work of keeping air quality high is keeping the air moving. This includes all of the following:

  1. passive or active venting in the attic,
  2. a heating and air-conditioning system that moves air through all of the inhabited rooms,
  3. passive or active venting in the furnace and/or water heater rooms, especially if either of those systems use natural gas,
  4. active venting in rooms or spaces that are below ground or father other high-humidity conditions.
  • Filtration

Filtration happens in several ways.

First in a most basic way, screen doors and windows serve as a sort of filter against certain kinds of pollutants. We mostly think about the mosquitoes and pass it keeps out, but large pollens and other potential breathing hazards are likewise capped out by screens.

Second your HVAC system likely has one or more filters that air passes through before being recirculated through the ductwork. These filters come in different degrees of filtration ability. The most basic ones are made of coarse fiberglass. Finer fiberglass and fiberglass with a sticky coating are more protective. Some higher quality filters are HEPA rated based on their ability to filter out specific allergens, and recommended for those with breathing conditions and severe allergies.

  • Humidity Control

The relative humidity of the air dramatically impacts how hot or cold it feels. This is because dry air allows our skin to efficiently evaporate, causing us to feel cooler. This is why your friends in Arizona tell you it doesn’t feel like 110° because “it is a dry heat.” However, in the winter, dry air contributes to itchy skin and static electricity.

An Active and fully functioning HVAC system will work to keep relative humidity in a comfortable range.

That means that in the summer a lot of the work your air conditioner is doing is not cooling the air but instead removing moisture from the air.

In the winter, your HVAC system should be adding moisture to the air not to the point of putting water on the walls, but just enough to help keep you comfortable and warm.

Different Types of HVAC Filters for Your Home

We have explored elsewhere the important work that an HVAC system does. In essence, it functions as the lungs of a building.

In many ways, it is just as important to the building as your lungs are to your body.

Your nose and throat work as a filter for what can and can’t enter your lungs. Similarly, your HVAC system has one or more filters that also keep out pollutants and help keep you – and the whole system – healthy.

Those systems vary in their effectiveness, their cost, and their purpose. Here is a short guide to make sure you are getting the quality of filtration you need for your circumstances.

Fiberglass Filters

Fiberglass filters are filled with a thread-like material that is coarse to the touch. By forcing air through this mesh, large particles of dust, dirt, or other pollutants are trapped in the fiberglass. The air that enters the heating chamber or cooling chamber and is then blown through your vents is much cleaner.

Some fiberglass filters are treated on one side with sticky residue. This residue collects pollutants that otherwise might have gotten through the fiberglass filters. That makes these filters slightly more effective.

These enhanced filters are generally efficient enough for typical household use.

Pleated Material Filters

Pleated filters resemble handmade fans. They are paper or fabric, fluted or folded to better capture pollutants.

These come in different levels of effectiveness, as determined by the number of visible folks. Having more flutes makes the filter more effective because it allows for greater capture of allergens and pollutants, while allowing sufficient airflow to keep your system blowing efficiently.

Electrostatic Air Filters

Electrostatic air filters generate a charged surface area that help trap additional pollutants in allergens.

Despite the title, these air filters do not need to be plugged in nor do they use electricity. Instead the way they are constructed generates an electrostatic charge as the air is forced through the layers.

For people who can make a slightly larger upfront investment, and who don’t mind a little bit of extra upkeep involved in periodically cleaning these filters, electrostatic air filters are a good investment in your air quality.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are the highest quality filters the average consumer would need to buy. Recommended specifically for people who have severe allergies or other medical conditions that require the highest level of air quality, HEPA filters trap almost all pollutants.

HEPA filters are very effective, and very expensive. The average homeowner who does not have an underlying health condition would be unlikely to benefit from or notice a difference from the far less costly other options.

UV Filters

In some situations and additional filter is added either in the HVAC system or somewhere else inside a home environment. This filter uses UV light to kill microorganisms that might otherwise get through all other sorts of filters.

Few homeowners need the benefit of this expensive cutting-edge filtration system.

A word about washable filters

Some of the fiberglass, pleated, or electrostatic filters are washable. Among these, only the electrostatic filters truly retain their effectiveness after one or more washings. Chin the other types of filters should be done only in cases where frugality is an important consideration.

While some homeowners have the time and energy to invest in maintaining washable filters, there are many inexpensive options that don’t require this level of maintenance. Active homeowners will find that changing your filter on the appropriate schedule is enough HVAC maintenance for them.

There is little benefit in washing most filters.

Is it a Mold Allergy, or is it COVID-19?

In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were still not using the word pandemic, and were more likely to call it “coronavirus” than COVID-19. People who were experiencing a large number of symptoms, even those that mimicked the little-known virus simply shrugged them off.

“It’s probably the flu,” they said. Or, “It’s my allergies.”

Some of them were right. And some of them were very wrong.

Although it acts in some ways as an illness of the blood, COVID-19 first mimics many common breathing related elements including the flu, asthma, and a wide range of allergies including mold allergies.

But how can you be expected to know whether you have contracted COVID-19 or are suffering from a mold allergy. Mold allergies are follow the same seasonal patterns, and are made worse by quarantining in hot, wet spaces without adequate ventilation or dehumidification.

In the heat of summer, you will want to know which of these dangerous foes you are fending off.

This handy chart will help clear up similarities and differences between mold allergies and COVID-19.

SymptomCOVID-19Mold allergy
SneezingYESYES    
Weepy eyesNOYES 
FeverYESNO
Runny noseYESYES
CongestionNOYES
FatigueYES NO
Difficulty breathingYESYES
DiarrheaYESNO
Inability to tasteYESNO

It is clear that there are many overlapping symptoms between COVID-19 and mold allergies. Ultimately you know yourself better than anyone.

Think it’s mold?

If your symptoms are consistent with the mold allergy, examine your surroundings. Are there places where the symptoms seem to get triggered more frequently? Do they go away if you leave? Are you able to visually inspect all of the areas, like under carpets or in ceiling tiles to detect the existence of mold?

If you suspect a mold allergy you should have someone confirm by doing testing in that location. Or you can hire someone to do an in-depth inspection.

When this is confirmed, you should immediately take steps to remove the or treat the mold. Although rare, mold allergies can sometimes lead to fatal consequences.

Think it’s COVID-19?

If your symptoms are not consistent with typical allergy symptoms, or have the addition of one or more of the COVID-19 symptoms, do not panic. Instead, call your doctor. She or he can give you more specific information and ask more detailed questions to make a better determination.

Your physician will also be able to identify a location where you can get tested it COVID-19 is suspected.

There is no reason to wait or to simply hope that it is not COVID-19 when the symptoms are all present.

How much does it cost to waterproof a basement or foundation? – Building on high ground, low ground, and hills.

As with most home repairs, costs associated with waterproofing a basement or foundation can vary greatly depending on several factors.

Some questions to ask as you start to price your project include:

  1. What are the factors on my property that will affect the amount of water that presses against my foundation?
  2. How much am I willing to spend to guarantee results?
  3. Do I want to do internal, external, or a mixed approach to waterproofing?

Several important aspects of your property directly impact how hard it is to waterproof your foundation. Thus they directly impact how much it costs.

Is your property on high ground?

Properties near the tops of hills or on high plateaus generally face lower waterproofing costs. Because water flows downhill and away from these properties, their foundations are naturally exposed to less water.

However, in some cases, these higher areas can face unique issues. Springs and other natural phenomena can keep water present even on top of hills, putting unexpected pressure on foundations. These are rare, and generally present themselves pretty readily during an inspection.

Is your property on low ground?

Homeowners find locations near lakes to be attractive. However the presence of a natural lake or pond indicates an abundance of water in the ground. A foundation that goes to or below the common pond level will face a great deal of water pressure over its lifetime.

Waterproofing companies have ways to deal with this amount of water and it does not mean you cannot build there. It just means that you should anticipate that the cost will be higher as the waterproofing interventions will be greater.

Additionally, properties on low ground and newly urbanized areas find that water runoff from streets and newly developed properties is a problem. In many places the rainwater trains are not sufficient to deal with the runoff from the largest storms. Homeowners in these situations find themselves subject to periodic flooding.

If you are building in a newer large subdivision, consider investing in stronger measures to protect your biggest investment.

Is your property on a hill?

Gravity works everywhere. So if you’re planning to build a house on earth, examining the flow of water on your property is an important step. Consider the topography of the larger area, three to five houses away from your building. Does it direct water toward your home, or away?

Even a slight slope towards your house will necessarily mean increased water pressure on that part of your foundation wall. Your water management plan and waterproofing planned should factor that in. As always, this is not a deal breaker. It just means that you will need to invest properly in waterproofing measures to keep your home safe and dry.

There are dozens of factors that influence the cost of your waterproofing project. At Mar-Flex we have trained and experienced experts willing to guarantee that your project will stay dry.

Looking for a cost estimate to plan your budget? Visit homeadvisor.com and use their handy assessment tool to get estimates for this work in your ZIP from nearly 4,000 HomeAdvisor members. https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/basements/seal-a-basement-or-foundation/

How much does it cost to waterproof a basement or foundation? – Materials and labor costs

In this series of articles about the cost to waterproof the basement or foundation we have already examined some of the most important factors.

We have looked at the location of the home. Specifically we have asked whether it is on a hill, in a valley, or on a high plateau.

We have looked at how to take the key measures to determine the size of the job. Specifically we reviewed how to measure square footage, perimeter, and depth of your foundation.

As you might suspect there remain more variables.

In this article we will look at the materials and labor costs for waterproofing.

Materials

Materials for waterproofing generally fall into four broad categories: membranes, drainage supplies, concrete and concrete repair, and sealants.

Membranes – membranes are impermeable materials that are essentially wrapped around your house or property, either inside or out. To the touch they can feel like rubber or hard plastic. They work essentially like galoshes, only for your property instead of your feet. With special care taken to fill the spaces and seal the seams, membranes can be used around your entire foundation, or to address a particularly problematic section, such as a wall that faces a downhill slope.

Because membranes need to cover the entire surface in order to be fully effective, these are often the most expensive solution. These are most easily applied during construction. If needed after a building has been built, application often involves a great deal of digging and labor costs will increase.

Drainage supplies – a comprehensive approach to keeping property dry will necessarily include treatment outside. This often means the implementation of drainage trench is just under the surface of the soil against the foundation of the building. This can be achieved by using French drains, drain tiles, and a series of related supplies designed to keep water away from your foundation in the first place.

 Concrete and concrete repair – the most straightforward repairs for a wet basement often involve new concrete and concrete repair. Concrete itself is semi-permeable, which means that a little bit of moisture can get through by design. In many parts of the country where there is ample rainfall and standing water, the moisture allowed in to a concrete basement can often be solved with air-conditioning or the addition of a dehumidifier.

However, there should never be enough moisture to prompt water droplets or running water. When this happens the solution will often involve redoing the cement in the affected area.

Sealants – sealants are often made of similar materials to the membrane mentioned above. Whether in a tube or in a bucket, sealants are designed to be spread in the troubled area. This can happen inside or outside of the foundation.

These come in different grades depending on the amount of water they should be expected to to protect against.

As you are determining which company to use to waterproof your basement, you will want to ask about these approaches and materials.

How much does it cost to waterproof a basement or foundation? – Square footage, depth, and other considerations

Waterproofing the basement of a home or business is an important investment every owner should make. As with other investments, choosing the cheapest option often turns out to be a bad choice in the long run.

Of course if you don’t understand much about waterproofing and building, it’s easy to run the decision through the cost filter then decide on that one factor.

This is why it is important to gather as much information as possible. With this information you can make better decisions and invest wisely.

One of the key dimensions that your waterproofing company will need is the square footage of your basement, the external/perimeter measurement of your foundation, and the depth of your foundation.

How do I know the square footage of my basement?

All of these dimensions are easiest to find if you have the blueprint of your home or planned home.

If you don’t have it, your local zoning board or similar agency, located in city hall, likely has a copy of it on record.

Of course, there is a simpler way to go about finding the square footage or your basement.

Math.

If you are lucky enough to have a square and empty basement, this is easy. Measure the length of one side in inches, then measure the length of the next side. Multiply those two numbers together. Divide by 12 to get the final square footage.

But what if there are bump-ins, carve-outs, walls, and more? When things get tricky, there is a more comprehensive guide here: https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/how-to-calculate-square-feet/

How do I measure the perimeter of my house?

Again, gather your tape measure. This time, you will be working outside of the structure.

Again, it is easier if it is a square.

Measure one side in inches, then measure the adjacent side in inches. Then measure the third and fourth sides. Then simply add these measurements together. Divide by 12 to get the final measurement in feet.

One word of caution. My porches and patios can look like they are part of your house, but they do NOT have foundation under them. They do not need to be measured to be part of your perimeter for waterproofing purposes.

How do I measure the depth of my foundation?

This is perhaps the simplest of all the measurements.

At each window or other location where a pipe, vent, or wire goes through the foundation from inside to outside, you will need to make a measurement.

First, measure the distance inside from that window, pipe, vent, or wire to the floor of your basement. Do this for every one of those items.

Then go outside and for each one of them take a second measurement. Measure the distance from the ground to that extension.

So if you have a dryer vent, it might work like this:

  1. Measure the distance inside from the vent to the floor. (Let’s say it’s 65 inches.)
  2. Measure the distance outside from the vent to the ground. (Let’s say it’s 8 inches.)
  3. Subtract item B from item A. (In this case 65-8=57)
  4. Your foundation is 57 inches deep in that location.

The more of these measurements you can give your waterproofer the better.

If you are using a calculator before contracting with a waterproofer, you will need the average depth of your foundation. Add these measurements together, then divide by the number of them.

This will help get you a good estimate of the average depth of your foundation.

With these measurements you are better prepared to approach your waterproofing companies and seek estimates for this important investment.

How Water Damage Hurts Property Values, Especially During Property Transfer

Property owners have a love-hate relationship with water. We need water to be available in many parts of our building. We love a beautiful water feature outside including perhaps a pond and fountain. We know that well-constructed property handles the water that falls from the sky in the form of rain or blows and flows in during storms.

However, we are too aware of the many ways that water can damage our investment. Here’s a list of some of the expenses that arise when water damage is visible in a property about to be bought and sold.

  1. Seeking an estimate. The first expense that is certain to come up to address water damage is an inspection and repair estimate. The prospective buyer will want a comprehensive inspection. An inspector with integrity is expensive, and will take as much time as is needed to not only determined how to repair the damage but to also address and correct the source of the water. Just the estimate can cost hundreds of dollars.
  2. Billing for interior repairs. When the initial estimate is complete, the buyer will also want to assess or subtract the estimated amount of repairs. This can include inches of foundation, framing, drywall or other wall or ceiling surfaces. It can also include inner wall surfaces if the source of the water is outside of the property. These repair costs include not only materials and supplies, but compensation for the workers.
  3. Billing for exterior repairs. Of course the most expensive repairs are those which include dealing with water along the foundation. Exterior repairs can then include digging out the affected area, regrading, water management including drains and pipes, and landscaping when the work is complete.
  4. Rounding. In building and planning, there is always the chance for the unexpected event or the need to address something that was not seen originally. For this reason many estimates provided by buyers include significant rounding. The unofficial explanation is “just in case.” This habit, if not carefully checked and asked about, can end up taking hundreds of dollars from the seller’s pocket.
  5. Seeking a competitive estimate. If the buyer’s estimate seems too high, the seller may want to invest in a competitive inspection and repair estimate. While this seems to add to the overall expense, it might actually save money in a major or expensive repair. This is especially the case if a contractor is already employed by the seller, because their time will be factored in to the overall business. A competitive estimate might help pay for itself of the buyer can be shown reasonable places where their estimate is too high – or if one or more of the buyer’s assumptions for costs do not match local averages.