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P A P E R   F O X    C O L L E C T I V E

expertise used in the industry (opinion based)

Land, Real Estate

  • Septic: conventional system is cheapest, mound system is 4x a conventional but saves space. This is all if you cannot connect to the public system (cost savings in not paying connection fees with a septic design, but paid out in septic design / construction).

  • Soils: How will it impact grading / digging / foundation type.

  • Power Installation: Obtain cost to connect service

  • Water Installation: See what average well height is in area, connection costs for city possibly.

  • Driveway Cost: Estimate, do hybrid

  • Impact Fees: Some towns have impact fees just for developing, some have fees from multiple offices.

  • Town Regulations: Check specific ordinances.

  • Deeds, Easements, Zoning: Perform a self ALTA to make sure none exist in areas wanting to build

  • Permitting: Double check the process where land is


  • Require title search of land, prove who owns it.

  • Confirm deeded access to the property (public road / easement). Thousands of properties are land locked.

  • If existing house on lot, pay for thorough home inspection

  • See if land transfer tax would apply

  • property tax adjustment: if who you are buying the land from has lived on that property for quite some time, his / her taxes may be very different from what yours will be. Once the property is resold at the price you buy it for, many times the tax will be reassessed and increase.

  • Make sure you check to see if there are any unpaid mortgages on the existing piece of land.

  • Cheaper houses usually have cheaper construction / energy efficiency.

  • Inspectors can be horrible at their job as well, pick a qualified inspector.

  • Look into title insurance when purchasing land

  • - be very careful with “reclaimation” lots, which were lots that were filled with dirt to reclaim it for construction. They may also have organic material, which will have voids. 

  • Check Vtel's fiber optic coverage maps

  • ask about winter heating costs for the home (does it have a wood stove or pellet? Last time it was inspected? Has an energy audit been done?) When the January and Spring thaw happened does water get into the basement? If your looking close to a river, is it a flood zone (much of Waterbury was flooded with Irene and we are seeing more crazy temp swings which will lead to more flooding.)


ZONING (Vermont): The zoning process in Vermont can be complex, and efforts to obtain a permit can involve multiple layers of appeals. The zoning regulations governing a property that you are considering purchasing must be considered before you close on a purchase. Often people from other states are surprised to learn that it is a considerable feat to obtain a variance in Vermont; as a rule, these are only granted in Vermont if zoning laws make it impossible for an owner to reasonably use their land.


WETLANDS (Vermont): Class I wetlands are the most protected and the most rare. Class II wetlands are substantially more common and there is a presumption that any wetland greater than ½ acre in size is classified as a Class II wetland. Development in and within 50 feet of a Class II wetland is heavily regulated and a permit is required for any such development. Class III wetlands are unregulated. 


VERMONT WATER: In Vermont, all waters are classified. Class A water is everything above 2,500 feet as well as water used for drinking purposes. It gets the highest protections. Class B water is suitable for bathing and recreation. Everything else is Class C. Knowing the classification of the water on or near your land is essential in what you can try to do with it. 


What is the deal with the 30 acres? It sounds like it is farmland in which case it is likely not eligible for conventional financing and is considered "income producing" or in other words "commercial". That may explain the terms that are being offered. 




  • Typically you will need the following initial money before getting money from the bank

    • Lot costs

    • Closing costs (construction loan closing)

    • Permits (building, water, sewer)

    • Site preparation (clearing, grading, and excavation)

    • Foundation

  • Mark everything down in your contract you expect, even things that seem known like toilets, etc.

  • Mortgage should never be more than 32 percent of your gross income. 

  • Be weary buying a house that has just been flipped, the people trying to make money flipping most likely cut corners / didn’t have the construction knowledge someone building a house would. 

  • Most lenders use a generic form called a Residential Loan Application

  • There are many softwares out there to help estimate the costs of all construction projects. Take-offs.

  • If ordering from suppliers, get discounts from early payments (ask if they offer this). Pay your accounts early.

  • Burlington has strict rental laws, read tenant/landlord rights handbook available at In terms of renting, I don't think it would be worth the hassle. The laws up here really favor the renter 

  • Last year a new septic 3 bedroom with cabin, 10 acres for a cost 22K.

  • Check Vermont has high property tax / high cost of living, check this.

-construction loans from a lender. Most will let you purchase a lot and finance construction all in one loan. Some lenders also have lot loans if you're not ready to build yet. You usually need a large cash reserve to qualify. Once you cross that $453k loan amount threshold, your loan is considered a portfolio product.

- Construction-to-permanent loans provide the funds to build the dwelling and for your permanent mortgage as well, once the house is complete and you move in, the loan is converted to a permanent mortgage. The benefit of this approach is that you have only one set of closing costs to pay, reducing your overall fees.

-A construction-only loan provides the funds necessary to complete the building of the property, but the borrower is responsible for either paying the loan in full at maturity (typically one year or less) or obtaining a mortgage to secure permanent financing. The funds from these construction loans are disbursed based upon the percentage of the project completed, and the borrower is only responsible for interest payments on the money drawn. Construction loan rates are almost always tied to the prime rate plus a margin. Additionally, they might have a higher rate than traditional mortgages. Construction-only loans can ultimately be costlier if you will need a permanent mortgage because you complete two separate transactions and pay two sets of fees.

- With a builder purchase contract, 20% down, plus a healthy contingency of 10%+ for overages

- You can typically find a lot loan product at a local credit union. You can then use your equity in the land as a down payment for construction loan.

- mortgage: A standard rule for lenders is that your monthly housing payment should not take up more than 28 percent of your income

- You need two loans, a land loan and a construction loan. You don't have to buy the land outright. The construction loan cannot cover the purchase of the land, hence the land loan. For our bank, they required a minimum of 20% down for the land loan, no exceptions. Get construction loan, low down payment. Once co obtained, balances of land loan / const loan both rolled up into mortgage. Restrictions apply. 

- Generally the land can serve as the downpayment on a construction loan, if it’s worth enough

-  there are still conforming loan to value ratios we are conscious of, which is generally 80%. your cash is in first to build the equity in the project then we'll come in and finish it off, which it sounds like you'll be right there at the 80% on 375 w/ 75 to put in

- If you have a lot - you can use that as your down payment and it rolls into the loan. So if you use your 70k down payment to buy a 70k lot that's valued/assessed at 70k, you're basically giving the land to the bank as the construction loan down payment rather than cash.


  • Construction Loan: 90% Financed, 10% down. Higher rate is 4.75%, then with their premium checking it drops .25% to 4.5%. If I went with the 80/20, it would have been .25% less, but I needed the 90/10 loan. Minimum credit score was 720 to qualify for the 90/10.


Know and understand how your bank does draws so you can pay your suppliers and subs.


  • Appraise house - If you spend money adding things that don't add value, you can run out of money and have something that won't appraise. So just be very careful sticking to your plans. Cost overruns can happen innocently, but that should not be a huge deal. Where people can get into trouble is they just mismanage the budget, usually because they add stuff that doesn't make the place worth more when you are done. Cost does not equal value.

  • constructions loans have limitations where a builder must be part of it and not the homeowner acting as a GC as almost all homeowners lack the skill to do that effectively and lenders do all they can to reduce risk.


FHA 203k Loan: rehab loan good up to 380,000 in burlington. Need 203k consultant to be involved, required. Contractors must be 203k certified. And passed the 203k contractor certification program and have certificate. To get this applicants must take courses (750) and pass a 70 question test (80% passing), once done, they must submit application (100) which includes license information, insurance, business references, costumer references, company financial information. 99.9% lenders require the contractor to be certified when being used for a 203k loan. A limited 203k loan is not eligible for a remodel, only repairs.


  • ALL FHA LOANS are owner-occupied, meaning loan applicant must live in property for at least 1 year, affidavits are signed to ensure. 

  • You won't get a good deal, no one will want to deal w/ it and if you're chasing flips you likely going against all cash offers. Most flips are bought with liquid cash.

  • I purchased a HUD home with an FHA 203k loan in 2016 as my first flip. There are advantages and disadvantages, but be prepared to be very frustrated, and SHOP FOR A LENDER. My lender had no clue what they were doing and took 116 days to close, which caused me to pay 3 HUD extension fees. A few important notes:

    • They hold a 15% contingency, so your "real" rehab budget is $29,750. Your budget must be less and they release the remaining funds on completion. 

    • You must work with a contractor. Your contractor must agree to their terms. 

    • 50% down and 50% on completion inspection. Not favorable to most contractors. 

    • You must do and detail every tiny bit of work that whatever appraisal you get details. Example: If your scope of work says "Tear off and replace roof" and your appraisals states there is a shingle missing, you must also update your scope of work to show "replace missing shingle referenced in photo XXX". 

    • You will revise every document 30 times. At the beginning of every month, be ready to send your statements in. 

    • Summary: This loan was a huge headache, BUT it allowed me to buy a home at 22 years old with 3.5% down that I now have $90k of equity in even after a cash out refi. The numbers worked and it ended up being a great vehicle to get me into an 80% position and a brand new house. Do your homework when finding a lender though, and just be prepared for what lies ahead. 



Concrete & Brick


Batter Boards: Boards that are stacked in the ground with a 90 degree angle. These boards provide a precise reference for the foundation subs to install the foundation forms. They will be using the lines set up by the batter boards, not through any on site survey. 


Curing: Initially the temperature will rise quickly then start to drop. Wet curing keeps the slab from drying out too fast during this process. Cover a fresh slab with a layer of burlap immediately after finishing and keep it wet for at least 3 days (ideally 7). Or, cover the slab with a layer of plastic. Wet curing will ensure even and controlled curing. Allow slab to dry before possibly placing finishes and ENSURE you do not create a vapor barrier on top of the slab (if have one below) or you will be trapping moisture. 


Concrete Finisher: May or may not be the same sub as the concrete sub and will charge by the square footage finished. Don’t use a crew less than 3 men, concrete can set in a half hour.


Concrete Masonry Unit Size: The 8”x8”x16” normal  block is actually 7-⅝” wide by 7’⅝” tall x 15-⅝” long, laid with a ⅜” mortar joint. 


Concrete Masonry Unit Wall: Due to their mortar joints, they are not as strong as concrete walls and are more prone to moisture issues. 


Concrete Sub Contractors: full service company, subcontractor to dig and pour footings, labor to lay concrete block walls, concrete finishers, concrete supplier.


Driveway: Generally 4” thick and are allowed to cure for 2-3 days. Usually installed during trim work to avoid heavy vehicle traffic. 


Expansion Joints: Should be placed every 12’ feet for driveways and every 5’ or less for walkways. 


Fiber Mesh Reinforcement: In lieu of welded wire mesh, eliminates extra chairs for installation and simplifies pour. Fiber is easier and cleaner to install. 


Footing Contractor: will be hired to dig the footings and to supervise the pouring of the footing. Footing subs usually charge for labor only and will charge by linear foot of concrete poured (pier holes will be extra). You must provide the concrete,  will charge more if they provide the forms. Full service foundation companies exist and cost more. Sometimes the sub to do the excavator can dig the footings as well.


Footing Forms: If your sub used your lumber, have them clean and stack it for later use for framing bracing.


Foam Under Slab: Insulate under a slab with dense packed spray foam. Apply over crushed stone base, instead of gravel (The voids of the gravel allow for a tighter bind, using sand / smooth surface that has top particles, the tensile strength of foam curling will lift and curl on edges). Foam is also brought up to the foundation wall 12-16 inches to get above slab tie ins and allow for continuous air seal. Foam can in fact support the slab (can be used in garage slabs as well). 


Footing DImensions: Footings are normally twice as wide as the wall they support. 


Footing Drains: New integrated footing form / drainage channels eliminate the need to remove footing forms after the pour and replace the traditional french drain, saving cost and labor.


Footing Needed: The upside down T shape of a footing acts like a dam that can impede the ability of water to drain away from the bottom of a footing. Footings can be unnecessary if a poured wall / SIP is used above, in lieu a well compacted trench of crushed rock will provide as much stability and allow for natural drainage. 


Foundation Forms: Form work can cost approximately ⅓ the cost of the footing job.


Foundation Backfill: Foundation should be backfilled with a sandy soil to encourage draining. Clay is a horrible backfill and should be avoided. You should not attempt backfilling for the foundation wall until the floor slab and ceiling framing is in place, Otherwise the basement walls can shift under the weight before there is reinforcement. 


Foundation Drain: Use a 4” perforated plastic pipe (known as a french drain). Place around the perimeter of the foundation on top of a bed of gravel that extends down to the bottom of the footing. The holes in the drain must be pointed down . The pipe will only serve a purpose if it drains off into daylight. Use a mesh cover to avoid unwanted pests. 


Foundation Steps: Dig footings, Exterminator treats soils, inspector inspects footing holes, footings poured, foundation walls poured / laid, plumber / HVAC sub lay water / sewer, plumbing is inspected, slab is poured, basement wall waterproofed, basement drainage system installed.


Foundation Wall Below Grade: Waterproof treatments are applied for all and consist of either: hot tar, asphalt, poly film behind foam insulation board, filtered drainage mat. 


Ground Vapor Barrier Under Slab: 6 mil polyethylene sheeting is a great option. 


Hot Weather / Cold Weather: the main problem with hot weather is rapid drying which induces cracking and reduction in concrete strength. Not allowed to be above 85 degrees fahrenheit. Cold weather, the main issue is the ground, frozen ground must be heated prior to pouring or frost heave may happen after pouring. 


Installing crushed stone at foundation: With absence of filter fabric to prevent silt clogging.


Interior Load Bearing Walls: Should always have a footing poured underneath, the transfer of load needs to hit soil in all conditions.


Isolation / Expansion Control Joints: These joints are placed between concrete structures in order to keep one structure’s expansion from affecting the other. 


Isolated Footing Calculation: Structural Load (lbs) / Soil Capacity (psf) = Footing Surface Area Required (sq. ft.)


Joints: Divide your slab into symmetrical squares. Contraction joints can be hand tooled right after the bleed water leaves the surface, cut with a saw right after finishing, or formed in the wet concrete using plastic / metal joint materials. A contraction joint should be ¼ the depth of the slab, and less it may not crack, any more and it may weaken the slab. Try not to go beyond a 1.5:1 rectangle (in lieu of squares). Avoid closely spaced re-entrant corners, additional steel may help cracking. 8-12 foot squares is normal. Additionally have control joint at perimeter.


Lag Bolts: Place lag bolts at least 4” into the concrete with a wide washer on the sunken end for greater holding strength. Make sure to not place bolts in areas that will interfere with studs or door openings. Make sure bolts are straight up as well.


Masonry blocks Cement Globs: If you see globs on the blocks, wait until it dries to clean it off, it will come off in one piece. 


Masonry Blocks Dampness:  Masonry blocks and the first coat of portland cement are dampened before applying more coats. The second coat is left damp for at least 48 hours. 


Monolithic Slab Calculations: Treat the slab as a separate footing and slab to determine costs and quantities.


Permanent Wood Foundations: Not as popular as they should be but only require one sub (as you have eliminated the concrete sub). Great strength and durability can be accomplished but need to know what you are doing. 


Pest Control: All slab and footing areas must be permanently poisoned prior to laying any gravel, poly, or concrete. Poison must be allowed to soak without any rain. The second poison spray will be applied around the base of the house after all work is done.


Poured Concrete Wall Cost: Sub-contractor will normally charge by the linear foot for setting forms. Usually the price quoted for pouring includes concrete. 


Pipes in slab: Pipes or conduit laid directly on the ground will weaken the slab. It has the same effect as scoring a ceramic tile before snapping it, however conduit suspended 1 inch from the bottom will have no effect. 


Subgrade: imperative that subgrade is uniform and properly compacted. Compaction will be expressed as a percentage at optimal moisture content (usually 95% or greater). Run a plane tamper or jumping jack until there is little impression left from making a passing run along the subgrade. Soil is to be compacted in lifts, ideally 6 inches at a time, never more than 10 inches. If you go over 10 inches the soil will look compacted but below 10 inches it wont be. 


Standard Curb Cut: Is 14’ wide. This allows for a slight flare on each side of the driveway. 


Steel Placement: Steel is usually placed ⅔ the way up for a concrete slab and in the middle of a concrete stem wall. 


Slab Curling: Typically at the edges, and is a result of moisture differentials while curing. Burlap curing (wetting) is the ultimate way to cure concrete. 


Slab Finisher Labor Needed: Rough screed with a floater, Rough trowel, Power trowel, finish trowel. 


Slab Forms: If the slab is the floor for a basement, the basement walls will act as the forms.


Separation Layer: Create separation layer from the basement layer to wall finishes. Moisture will wick into gypsum, wood or other materials that are in direct contact with the slab. Keep finishes ½” from the slab. If can use cold form steel for basement studs, they won’t mold. 


Sidewalk / Patio Slab: Should be poured once the ground has had ample time to settle, usually poured during driveway operations. 


Stub Plumbing: Ask plumber to install a foam collar around all sewer lines that protrude out of the slab. This makes all adjustments to the pipe easier during finish plumbing. If the pipe needs to be moved slightly, the foam can be chipped away, make sure any resulting gap is resealed. 




Advanced Framing: If a window unit is less than 22 inches wide and you are using 24” on center spacing and 2x6 walls, the code does not require a header or jack studs. The horizontal head and sill boards are all that is needed.


Bridging Between Studs: Unnecessary waste of lumber and can make insulation installation more difficult and less effective. Older carpenters tend to use this approach to help brace :frame, but code requires the corners of each structure to be braced.


Cornice Framing: Typical pieces of wood needed are:

  • Fascia board: 1x6 or 1x8

  • Drip Mould: 1x4 (between fascia and shingles)

  • Soffit: ⅜” exterior plywood

  • Bed Mould: 1x2

  • Frieze Mould: 1x8


Floor Trusses: Can span much greater distances than typical floor or engineered joists.


Floor / Roof Truss Strength: The overall strength of a truss is derived from the distance between the top and bottom plates, the web in between is only there to create that distance. This makes cutting (in acceptable locations) in the web fine during construction, but not the plates (or chords).


Headers: There is no structural advantage in installing headers where they dont belong (not supporting load). There can be downsizes (cost) and large depth lumber is more likely to result in drywall cracks as dried lumber expands and contracts with seasonal humidity changes. 2018 IRC R602.7.4 Load bearing headers are not required in interior or exterior non load bearing walls. A single flat 2x4 member shall be permitted for openings up to 8 feet in width, the space between the flat head board and bottom of top plate cant exceed 24 inches. You also don’t need cripples in this situation. Headers aren’t needed unless the wall bears the ends of the floor joists, roof rafters, trusses, or a concentrated load. Use table R602.7(1). When using the table pay attention to the amount of jack studs needed (NJ). 


House Wrap Window Connection: Make sure house wrap is folded inside the rough-in framing before the window or door is set. 


In-Line Joist System: Using engineered, longer I-joists to span the entire floor. Using a single I-joist over the center support will also help reduce labor installation and quantity of fasteners. It also results in a stronger, straighter floor.


Joist Height / Engineered Lumber: Due to the shrinking that will occur in lumber verse engineered I joists, place lumber joists ⅛” higher (not flush) to allow for shrinkage.


Kitchen / Bathroom Walls: It is crucial that these walls remain straight, as cabinetry will need to be installed on them. 


Load Bearing Walls / Floor Joists: Load bearing runs should be aligned over joists when the wall and the joist run parallel.


Lumber Site Location: Make sure to stack lumber out of the sun or cover it with tarp. Sunlight will cause uneven drying, warping in framing pieces can also be reduced by using a higher grade of lumber. 


Lumber Type: Specify douglas fir for he best job. Avoid mixing douglas fir and pine lumber as their shrinkage rates will vary and create gaps in framing. 


Sheathing Nailing: Sheathing to be installed vertically and nailed every foot along studs. All gaps over ¼” to be taped.


Stud Grade Lumber: Is more expensive than a standard framing 2”x4” (considered utility grade). You should not frame walls with utility grade as stud grade lumber are more uniform and straight with fewer cracks, this is crucial for installing drywall. Additionally utility lumber may not be rated to handle the strength required for a stud.


Wall Strapping (Earthquake Areas): Structural sheathing that extends from a lower level to an upper level will act as strapping. 9’-0” and 10’-0” sheathing can be used to anchor the first floor to the second floor and reduces labor as well.




Gutter Installation: Gutters should not be installed until the cornices are primed and painted and the exterior walls finished.


Ice Dam Additional Protection: Have the roofing sub an additional layer of waterproofing membrane underneath the last courses of shingles. 


Pitch: Roof pitch is either for water shedding or for water proofing. Pitches over 3:12 are for water shedding. Lower than 3:12 are water proofing.


Ridge Beam vs Ridge Board: A ridge beam is a structural member used to support the ends of the rafters at the ridge, transferring it's loads to posts or gable end walls.  Ridge beams are required by code if the roof slope is less than 3 in 12 (IRC section R802.3). Ridge beam sizing is based on the span of the beam between supports, and the amount of roof load supported by the beam. A ridge board is a non-structural member that serves as a prop for opposing rafters to rest against and connect to.  Ridge boards can only be used in roofs with slopes from 3 in 12 up to 12 in 12. Ridge boards shall be at least 1 inch nominal thickness and not less in depth than the cut end of the rafter (IRC section R802.3).


Roof Types:

Stick Built Roofs: A roof built by creating the frame from scratch on site with lumber.

Roof Trusses: Very sturdy for their size and weight and usually require no load bearing wall in between the exterior walls. Are generally cheaper than stick built because of the significant savings on labor. Major disadvantage is lack of attic space although “space saving” trusses help alleviate this.


Shingle Self Adhering Backing: If a shingle has a self adhering backing to help fuse it to the shingle above it, it is important that these shingles be installed during the summer as they need the summer heat to chemically fuse. 


Shingle Size / Overlap: Shingles usually come in 12”x36”  tall strips (comprised of 2 to 3 tabs per strip). 5” of the shingle remains exposed, while 7” of the shingle is overlapped (hence a 7” top lap). 


Shingle Weight:  180 lbs (on the cheap end of the spectrum) and 340 lb (on the high end). The heavier the more durable. 


Standing Seam Metal Roof Average Life Span: typically 30-40 years


Standing Seam Metal Roof Color: When painted in lighter colors, they are great at reflecting sunlight. 


Roofing Shingles / Felt: Felt comes in 500 square foot rolls. Roofing shingles comes in 100 square foot squares (100 square feet is considered a square and packages usually contain 3 squares). Install roof felt immediately after the roofing deck has been installed and inspected. This step protects the entire structure from damage.


Overhang: 1’-0” needs to be the minimum but more is recommended to protect the wall assembly. 


Tile Flooring: Tile grout can crack and lead to molding underneath. If used, be sure to use a cementitious, glass mat or fiber reinforced backer board meeting behind it. 


Valley Flashing:  Run a continuous roll of waterproof membrane / flashing down entire length of valley. The amount of water that will collect in this grove is substantial. 


Energy / HVAC


Exhaust Fan Sizing: Bathroom / Toilet Room: 20 cfm (averaged over each hour), Kitchen / Vented range hood: minimum 100 cfm (downdraft exhaust fan: minimum 300 cfm)


HVAC Design: All components of an HVAC system must be designed, this includes the equipment, ductwork, registers, and controls. Most homes have a properly sized central heating / cooling system with an undersized duct system. The building envelope’s thermal and air sealing characteristics will dictate the size of the HVAC.


HVAC Duct Location: Locate all ducts within conditioned spaces will assure that any air leakage won’t be lost. It also helps avoid durability issues such as the formation of condensation on the outside of cooling ducts located in humid spaces. Additionally use straight duct runs and avoid all bends within 2 feet of the fan to minimize static pressure and fan noise.


HVAC Duct Size / Slope: Make sure duct size is at least 4” diameter, preferably 6”. Slope duct away from fan housing as much as possible so that condensation flows outward if it is created.


HVAC Filter: Inexpensive fibreglass filters (aka rock-stoppers) are only effective at preventing large particles from being distributed on equipment coils. Higher efficiency pleated and electrostatic filters will stop much smaller particles and help improve indoor air quality.


HVAC Location: If you can keep the HVAC system located in the middle, you will reduce the duct work needed for the system as well as create a more efficient system. They also reduce the chance of leaking and labor costs. If you must run piping in exterior walls or within the band joist area or in floor cavities of uninsulated crawl spaes, use rigid board or spray foam behind the pipe to minimize infiltration 


Indoor Humidity: The turnover of indoor door via an intentional whole house mechanical ventilation system not only removes indoor contaminants, but it also helps maintain desirable humidity levels inside. Maintain indoor humidity at or below 60 percent 


Intermittent HVAC Operating System: The fan operates at least 1 hour in every 4 hour segment. 


Mechanical Exhaust: Although not required by code, always provide mechanical exhaust ventilation to the outdoors in bathrooms, kitchens, and other locations prone to moisture, odors, or air contaminants. When sizing, it is always easier to throttle down a pipe with a damper, as opposed to boosting the flow of an undersized system. 


Overhang Calculation: The solar angle factor is used in calculation to determine overhand width. OL (overhang) = SAF (solar angle factor) x WD (wall distance below overhang to shade).


Range Hood Oversized: Avoid “commercial grade high capacity” range hoods as a substantial depressurization of the kitchen is likely to occur. This causes air to be drawn out of the home, increasing the potential for backdrafting


Reservoir Cladding Materials: can absorb bulk water from rain which hits their surfaces and is absorbed. Cladding materials made of masonry, stucco, fiber cement wood, can all absorb some amount of water. When wet and exposed to high levels of sunlight, the cladding materials experience much higher temperatures and vapor pressures. The elevated vapor pressure drives water vapor inward towards the interior. This is because the interior will have less vapor pressure (it contains much less humidity due to air conditioning).


Roofing Material for Solar Panels: Standing seam metal roof. Due to the installation of solar panels on asphalt or tile roofs needing to drill through the moisture barrier (resulting in possible leaks while shortening the lifespan of the roof). Additionally in areas of high wind, more complex support systems will be needed for the panels. Most solar panels are dimensioned to fit standing seam metal roofs. 


Solar Panel Average Life Span: typically 25-30 years.

  • U.S. states benefit from the federal Investment Tax Credit for installing solar energy equipment, Vermont has additional incentives for going solar—including equipment and property tax exemptions and the ability to sell back electricity.


Solar Radiation: Generally received between 9 am and 3 pm.


Sunlight Types: Made up of visible light and non visible light (ultraviolet or UV rays and infrared or IR rays). The more light absorbed and the less heat capacity (thermal mass), the greater the object’s ability to be heated by sunlight. 


Sunlight Affects: Provides a chemical reaction (breakdown) from ultraviolet radiation and heat and a physical reaction (expansion and contraction) from daily temperature cycles. Can cause colors to fade and materials to biome brittle, warp or crack.


Sun - Material Color Chosen: Light colored materials and finishes can be selected. White is excellent and aluminum reflective type coatings are even better. Light colors can reduce summertime cooling load by lowering solar heat gain into the building. The effect of building exterior color on solar heat gain is important. Light roofs will reflect, dark roofs will allow more solar absorption. 


Sun Summer / Winter: The sun is higher overhead in the summer (June 20) than in the winter (December 21). At more northern higher latitudes the sun is lower in the sky than at lower latitudes. 




Bid: Sub contractors in plumbing usually charge by the connection.


Copper Pipe Sizes:  It’s best to use ¾”, the larger pipe (some use ½”) will hold more water volume but will result in longer times for hot water to reach fixtures. 


CPVC: Use in lieu of copper pipe for the plumbing system. Cons include an increase in expansion and contractions, in order to alleviate this from being a noise issue, don’t anchor the plumbing to the wall, leave space around joints to avoid any cracking sounds when being turned on or off (for hot water primarily).


FIxture Drain Dimensions: toilet drain 12” from any wall (for fixture to fit), tub drain 15” away from any wall, 


Vent Roof Distances: Vent should not be less than 6” above roof system, not less than 1’ away from any vertical surface. 10’ from and 3’ above any door / window.


Well Water: the cost of drilling a well is extremely expensive. 


Water & Sewer Service: Your water bill includes sewer service, unless you opt for a septic tank. 


Water Meter & Spigot: This needs to be installed early as masons will need a good source of water when they work. 




Bid: Sub contractors in electrical usually charge by the outlet.


Drywall / Trim / Finish Work / Cladding


Carpet / Vinyl Flooring: sold by square yard, and sold in 12’ wide rolls.


Corner Board: 4”x1” on one end, 3”x1” on the other end. Inner dimension is 3”x3”.


Joint Finishing Compound / Joint Tape: comes in pre mixed 5 gallon cans. Joint tape comes in 250 foot rolls. Estimate for every 1,000 square feet of drywall you will need 1 roll of joint tape and 30 gallons of joint compound.


Molding Material: If you intend to paint the molding, use finger jointed molding to save money.


Non-Paper Faced Gypsum Board: increased moisture / mold resistance.


Paint - Doors: Primer can be applied to the doors prior to hanging them, this can save time and efficiency. 


Pre-Hung Doors: come with pre-assembled jambs with trim work already installed. 


Siding: Make sure siding being sold is by actual square footage or by “coverage area”. Coverage area is the amount actually covered by the siding when applied (one includes the overlap, one does not). 


Trim Band: 2”x3.5” on top of a 1”x6.5” 


Wallpaper: Buy all wallpaper at one time, as rolls made later can come from a different dye lot. Look for the same lot number (runs) on all rolls purchased to assure a perfect match.




Survey Scope: request that surveyor install corner stakes when surveying. This will be harder to do yourself.


Excavation Sub: This sub will be paid by the hour. This is usually tracked by the hour meter on the bulldozer. Don’t let the machine idle while non work. Avoid clearing in the mud as it will take more time.


General Contractor


Concrete Supplier: Concrete supplier will charge by the cubic yard of concrete used. A standard truck will hold 8-10 cubic yards.


Framer Selection: Your framer will be the most valuable contractor you use, They will be involved with the project longer than any other member and have the largest impact on quality of your home / schedule. 


Sub Contractor’s Affidavit: protects you from liens that the suppliers or subcontractors might try to place on the property from any legal claims that may arise from poor work / payment problems.


Worker’s Compensation Policy: Most insurance companies will allow you a credit on your insurance policy if the sub-contractor has his own policy. This will be applied at your audit. This is required in every state. Keep track of what subs have their own workers compensation. If they dont have workers compensation, make it clear to them that you intend to withhold a portion of their payment to cover the expense.


Labor / Sub-Contractor: Labor generally refers to employees who are working for you and have employment tax and withholding taken from their pay. Subs are usually in business with themselves and withhold their own taxes. Using contract labor will save you money because you are not paying their withholding taxes.


Companies with Last Names: Typically if a sub contractor has a last name company that is an employee / owner, they are more invested in the company and are less likely to close business / start a new one if they go under / have a bad reputation.


Target Payment Schedule for subs: 45% after rough in, 45% after finish work complete and finished, 10%. Tell then your pay schedule up front. The 10% is paid once the punch list is complete (utilities turned on).


Equipment: Have in your specifications that the subs provide all equipment. If you don’t have saw horses available for your framing crew, they cut them with your lumber.


Pay with Cash: Subs will want to be paid in cash more. To keep record of this, Write a check in the sub’s name and have it cosigned. Then cash the check.


Vermont: In the state of vermont, general contractors are not licensed.




  • Either alaskan slab (frost protected shallow foundation) (which is common) OR basement. Basement allows area for mechanicals, for utilities to come through the wall, and storage. ALSO try to use basement as garage would double up on need for slab foundation in basement. Basement is also the cheapest square footage (only conc walls).

  • Mudrooms are a must, mud season is a real thing

  • Common styles: barn house, roman, federal, greek revival

  • Wall cabinets are usually set 18” inches above finished countertop.


Cabinet Sizes: Cabinets usually come in 3 inch increments starting at 12” and ending at 48”. This comes in a standard 2’-0” depth with 3’4” backlash typical.  


Circulation Paths: Try to combine circulation paths between rooms at ends. Because each room will need circulation paths, overlapping them will allow more space for room use and not circulation.


Dark Colors: make a room feel smaller but give depth. Keep out of small kitchens. Red / yellow / orange tend to make a room smaller and cozier.


Dimensions: The golden dimension is 12’ for drywall, framing.. 16’ design: Design all sides of your house to be in 16’ increments.


Foundations: If you are building a small wall crawlspace or elevated slab, use a CMU for cost savings. BUT if you are building a basement wall, a concrete stem wall will be cheaper due to the need of rebar and grout in the CMU wall. Also the labor needed to construct a CMU wall that tall will be costly. If basement wall, use concrete. 


integrated project delivery (IPD): which intertwines the design and construction phases


Interior Walls : Use space between studs (if using 24” O.C.) for storage, design ideas, if not used for plumbing, literally just dead space inside.



Doors: try to have any kitchen doors avoid the work triangle.

Work Triangle: The work triangle should not be more than 26’. No single leg should be shorter than 4’ or longer than 9’.


Landscaping Location: D (distance between object obstructing the sun at highest point and house) = SAF*(ho-hs). SAF = Solar Angle Factor, h0 = height of object obstructing sun, hs = height of object ot be shaded.



Bathrooms: place vanity light on both sides of the mirror is the best light for the face, to come from both sides, no shadows.


Moisture Control: Consider tying your HRV system into your bathroom fans, place fans above or near the shower for best moisture control.


Plumbing Walls: Try to place plumbing walls for tubs, showers, toilets between the bathroom and closet. Try to avoid bedroom walls as the shared wall, due to the sound of water in pipes being loud. Additionally avoid plumbing in exterior walls as they are more likely to freeze in the wintertime. Put water heater ganged with other plumbing, hot water will be quicker too, use 2x6 or 2x8 walls for plumbing.


Warm Colors: tend to make small spaces feel bigger. Light blue colors tend to enlarge a room.


Outdoor Kitchen:

there needs to be connectivity between indoor and outdoor kitchen. If they are separated, they will not function properly. Need to be connected to be used all the time. Have sink in each one.

- have outdoor kitchen be fully functional, make it so that you can use it every day

- Landing widths: sink 1.5 feet each side, grill: 1 foot one side, 2 foot one side

- Blur lines between indoor and outdoor kitchen

- Screws need to be noncorrosive

- Stain resistant materials are very important

- Need drip edge on counters, drain angle countertops if backsplash

- Recycle water to gardens if possible

- U shape kitchen keeps guests out (have access in from one side, have bar on other two sides. back wall is door inside to kitchen.

- Winterize plumbing

- Design for wind, wind screen, do not want smoke blown in face

- Cook in rain (goal)

- Price (increase as listed): prefab, custom frame (cold formed steel w/ cement board skin), block systems

- Zones

      - Hot zones: grille + dedicated space to support (landings surrounding)

     - Cold zones: Frig + ^

     - Wet zones: sink + ^

     - Dry zones: prep areas (landings)

- Process to think about: prep, cook, eat, clean

- quartz wont break but will change color from sun bleaching

- counter top frontage (idea is 48")




Backfill: Backfill is very important once foundation slab is poured. If it is not compacted enough it will settle down, causing positive drainage towards the house (common problem). Pea gravel is a great non settling backfill material to use. Have excavation sub contractor specify backfill specifications in contract. Granular solis are preferred to allow water to penetrate to the foundation drainage system. 


Seasonal Water Table: Do not build below grade spaces lower than this.


Soil Samples: Should be taken at least 2 feet below the footing. 


Large Rainfall: Review conditions of a plot of land immediately after a rainfall to understand drainage problems. 


Hardscape Swales: Use swales along each side of hardscape to integrate a swale into the design of the land. 


Grade at building edge: Most code requires a grading fall of at least 6” for a drop of 10’ from the building edge. 


Hardscape Settling: Slope at 2% and properly compact below so that it does not alter drainage path towards hose. 




Brick Estimation: There are approximately 675 bricks per 100 square feet of wall. Add 5-10% waste. Motar: Each bag requires sand (20 shovels), one bag will cover 125 bricks OR 28 CMU blocks. 


-  LifeStyle Homes promises to build highly energy-efficient homes through our SunSmart program. Backing this promise with a guaranteed HERS rating of 60 or less means that a third party will essentially 'check our work.' This gives our homebuyers greater confidence that the homes we build for their families will save them money in the form of lowered energy bills.



- Planning timeframe: You should spend roughly the same amount of time planning as you are constructing. If you are building within 6 months, you should plan for 6 months. 


- House Life Expectancy: 75 years is the typical design life.


Common Code VIolation Problems: Landscape slopes toward the house, lack of exterior water control (gutters), bathroom exhaust vents into attic, lack of weep holes in walls, improper deck flashing, 


Insect Types: Termites, Carpenter ants, Wood Boring Beetles, Carpenter Bees.


Termites: there are 57 species, placed in two groups: subterranean (ground inhabiting) and non-subterranean (wood inhabiting). Sub are the most common and responsible for most termite damage. They need moisture in wood to flourish. 


Termite Practices: Chemical soil treatment or baits, termite shields, use of termite resistant building materials. 


Termite Rules of Thumb: Divert water away with properly functioning downspouts, gutters, etc. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from home. Keep mulch 15 inches from foundation. Keep indoor humidity low in crawl spaces, attics, basements. 


Termite Application: A certified pest control operator (PCO) is required for the application of most termiticides. A contract with usually involves initial treatment, followed by annual inspection. Chemical treatments have limited life because of leaching or chemical degradation. 


Termite Shield: Is placed between a foundation and wood framing to prevent termites from gaining access to wood components. These can be in the form of slab on grades, masonry construction, and brick veneer.


Termite crack to travel: They are able to get through a crack 1/32” wide to travel inside of houses. 


Termite Wood Protection: Wood can be protected against termite damage by use of preservatives. Use this in areas such as sill plates, floor framing directly above foundation is better cost effective than replacing all framing. There is also decay resistant wood such as heartwood, redwood, eastern red cedar.