Renovation Timeline: June - September 2009

Armstrong House Project: Renovation

Armstrong House

Armstrong House



















June through September, 2009

We have been working on the building envelope since our completion of the structural renovations to the house. As the building shell ultimately defines the long-term energy consumption of the structure, it is arguably the most important component of sustainable building and requires attention to detail perhaps beyond that conventionally given.

Since the house has already been super-insulated with soy-based spray-foam insulation, the biggest threat to the energy efficiency of the house is air infiltration. Air infiltration into and out of the structure through every hole and crack commonly accounts for an estimated 25% of energy loss even in a newly built structure. Here is a pie chart of how energy loss conventionally occurs:

pie chart





U.S. Department of Energy


During the summer months, to ensure that the building is as ‘tight’ as possible, we completed caulking all seams and hand-packing smaller pieces of foam into the exterior sheathing. Once completed, a high performance insulated foil-faced house-wrap barrier was added between the sheathing and the siding, sealing all edges and points of transition with aluminum tape. Recycled and salvaged pine corner boards were cut to fit and installed and soon after, we began installation of the reclaimed 6 inch, beveled cedar siding. So far we have completed the north and west facades of the structure. The siding was nailed in by volunteers in early September. We then ran-out of re-claimed siding and are currently looking for additional materials! We’re hopeful to find a house slated for demolition in a nearby town where siding can be removed and transported to the project site. Our hope is to be able to ‘close in’ the structure before winter.

Improvements to the original windows have been made to make them more efficient while maintaining the rustic, historic character of the home. Each of the close to 40 windows have been re-glazed (by volunteers), trimmed and refitted in their newly renovated openings. All rot has been removed and wood repairs were made with reclaimed lumber, meticulously cut and fitted by hand. All window stops were removed and reapplied with caulk and a neoprene weatherstrip gasket has been installed around each window. The window openings and sills were reframed with reclaimed lumber and new wood storm windows have been custom made on site to fit each window. These carefully restored windows are now fully operational and functionally air-tight. We aim to find and install recycled window hardware in the near future. (This is also on our wish-list). The same overhaul and handcrafted retrofitting is scheduled for the doors and door openings, signaling a transformation of the original 1912 structure into an exemplar of energy conservation in a renovation. (Renovation in this manner in lieu of new construction as so often happens is critical to maintaining Pound Ridge’s historic community character.) Windows have been primed and some have their final coat of exterior, non-VOC paint.

In addition, several volunteers have had individual summer projects. One was creating custom fitted drip caps above several exposed windows. This was done using reclaimed cooper flashing. Another summer project focused on getting water to the house and the solar hot water tank which, we are proud to say, can be manually run. Missing only at this point is the pressure switch to enable it to run electrically. The hot water is plumbed to the temporary kitchen sink. Still outstanding is the cold water plumbing to the sink and connecting the hot water tank to the solar hot water panels on the roof. We reclaimed an Amtrol water pressure tank and all the valving and electronic controls from a structure slated for demolition. This has been installed and is in use along with the original well pump, still functioning after many years of non-use!