Have you ever lost a project because you were too “expensive”? I sure have! Last year I gave a “ballpark” estimate to a client & architect based on a schematic design and the clients couldn’t image why the cost to build the house with my company was “x” amount higher than another builder. Aren’t the plans and specs the same? How could there be such a difference in price between builders? Well, you know the ending… I lost the project.
But, I had a chance to drive by that other builder’s work a few weeks ago and I’m getting a pretty clear picture of why they were less expensive. So, I’m going to do a few blog posts that I’ll call “Rookie Builder Mistakes”. Let’s start with this house I visited (not one of my houses)
Looks like a pretty average American house to me, right? Well, let’s look closer.
Notice the mistake? The siding was installed and painted before the trades did their rough-ins. The Electrician had to cut his box into the siding! How can that possibly be water-tight? It’s certainly not air tight as you can see from the daylight streaming in from the back of this box. They eventually went on to install fiberglass batts in this cavity and I guarantee this house is leaking air through this electrical box. And, this is Austin so the air coming in is hot & humid. That moist air will likely find a cold condensing spot on the back of the drywall to deposit and mold will grow.
So, first lesson… Don’t put on your cladding until all the trades HVAC, Plumbing, & Electrical have finished their rough-in’s.
So, what should we do beyond that? First, I don’t like the typical bubble covers that are required by code to provide a weather tight seal over these standard outlet boxes. These bubble covers rely on a caulk joint at the cladding to remain water/air tight and caulk will always fail eventually. This is what Rookie Builder is going to use over that Blue standard box in the photo above.
I much prefer the Arlington In-Box! They run about $20 compared to the standard bubble so it’s DOUBLE the cost, but how many exterior outlets do you have on a typical house? Maybe 3-4? This is a cheap upgrade but so worth it.
Here’s one installed, and the photo below is what it looks like inside the wall. They do stick inside the building by about 2″. (I’m using closed cell foam on this house to get an air seal from the box to the wires.)
Next it’s time to flash them with the correct flashing tape. I’m using Cosella Dorkin here so this is their flashing tape. Now I can either caulk the box to the stucco or Not. I typically don’t caulk them.
These work perfectly with stucco, or really any cladding because of the depth of the box.
Make friends with your Clients & Architects and surprise them with this easy upgrade! And… be sure to sequence your trades correctly. What’s the black AC line-set you ask on the left? Well, come back soon for part 2 of Rookie Builder Mistakes.
– Risinger Homes in Austin, TX
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