Saturday, May 7, 2011

Friday 6 May - Windows, doors, landscaping - And Skylights?

Yesterday was a pretty successful day.  We spent part of the morning with our landscape designer walking the grounds of the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and then reviewing our plans.  Lots of great plants that are part of the plan and we got to see them in their native habitats which really helped.

 In the afternoon we met with our builders who had received a window from a canadian company that makes a good quality fiberglass window.  We liked the window but it didn't seem quite as sturdy as the German made windows - several of the seams less precise than something that costs as much as these windows.  We've decided to go with the German units (after spending most of Thursday with their salesman and an engineer who flew over from Germany at just the right time).  They're really working well with us on adjusting the designs for optimal performance and keeping within budget.  The windows will be vinyl with a U-factor of .16 (R-6.06) and a Solar Heat Gain of just over .50 which are hard numbers to match in a US-manufactured window.  This will be an important decision since the lead time is 8 to 14 weeks and the Europeans start their vacation "months" in July - where workers take an entire month off to spend with their families.  Now those Europeans know how to live!  We're going to finalize the window schedule this weekend - making sure we have the appropriate window sizes and that the operable sections of the windows is correct.  We will provide them the updated schedule for costing and once they price it out, we'll go over it one more time and sign it.  We simply can't afford to get anything wrong here - either from a timeline or cost perspective!  We will purchase the exterior doors from the same company and we may be able to share the container costs with another homeowner who is considering the same manufacturer (though a different profile). That cuts delivery costs in half which is a good thing for both of us.  We'll also try to buy the tape systems and have them shipped with the windows unless we can find a vendor in the US that sells them.  We're really impressed with the systems they use for waterproofing and air-tightness.

For the interior doors we visited a vendor's showroom in Efland NC and much to our surprise, chose a different style of door than we'd originally had in mind.  We've changed from a 3-panel (horizontal stiles) shaker style to a 2-panel (vertical stiles) shaker and we really liked the birch so that's where we're headed.  For the interior doors to the living room and formal dining room we would really like to get the antique "rolled glass" look.

With luck this coming week will be contract signing day with the builder, submission of mortgage applications, and visiting the property with the builder and surveyor one more time to clean up the flags on the property and ensure the house and septic are easily identified.  Once that's done we'll start clearing/excavation the last week of the month.

Todays' big find was skylights that appear suitable for passivehaus use - they use NanoGel technology and there are several manufacturers.  At present we've found them from a company called Wasco ( but we're still researching the possibilities.  Wasco also makes a triple-glaze but at present all their skylights require a minimum 3:12 grade which would simply mean changing the skylight to sit on one of the roof planes instead of straddling the ridge.  Researching the web, these skylights are not that much more expensive than standard brands available at the home improvement stores.  One thing about the nanogel is it appears to be opaque white so it's a diffused light and not direct sunlight so the shadowing will not be as pronounced and fading should be minimized as well. This is a big deal because we really want a skylight in the main entry but using a standard unit simply wasn't going to cut it and using a passivhaus certified window drives the cost through the roof.

 This was a good week!  Window vendor chosen, plans delivered to subs for estimates, interior door selections narrowed significantly, and we have found skylight options.  Next week we're hoping to sign paperwork and start moving out on the construction. First shovel planted will be before the end of May and that could mean weathertight structure by the end of August.  WoooHoo!


  1. Which window manufacturer did you go with? Was it Intus?

  2. John, we're building a house in the Asheville area (2014) , and as a native German and an American husband well used to the Tilt & Turn windows in Europe, we are looking for them here. I found European Tilt & Turn Windows out of the Charlotte area using Heinzmann windows. Which manufacturer did you end up using? Also, we're looking at GeoThermal HVAC system (cannot afford Solar Panels). Is using radiant heat (floor heating) in just the MBathroom worth it? Can't afford the entire first floor :-(

  3. Gabriela,
    Our windows are by Hoco - the dealer we used was Armin Reishl with Eurostar Fenestration. He's in Charlotte but their offices are in Ashville. He provided great service and has worked through the small issues we've had. One window had a broken seal, one was damaged during shipment, and the front door mechanism started sticking after about a year. In all cases he got warranty replacements shipped from the manufacturer at no cost to us. His business contact information is at the bottom of this comment. . Armin also spent a great deal of time helping us during the design and construction even helping with the installation to make sure we got the mounting and air sealing right.
    As far as the geothermal, we have had great success - with something around 5000 sq ft of heated space (includes entire basement and some "attic" spaces over those rooms with lower ceilings) we're spending a max of $110 in peak months. Neighbors with geothermal both rave about the ability of the geo system to provide hot water throughout the summer months. We don't get quite the same benefit but it does do a good job preheating the water (with a desuperheater installed). I mention that because being an uber-efficient house we are not the normal for heating and cooling requirements. Our roof is R60, walls R40 and basement slab is R20 just to provide a reference.

    Hoco windows had a good R-value without breaking the bank and they worked special design requirements as well.

    Eurostar Fenestration LLC
    10 Crispin Ct.
    Suite # 106
    Asheville, NC 28803
    Toll Free: (877) 467-8335
    Mobile: (704) 907-7397
    Direct: (828) 209-0377
    Fax: (828) 209-0378