Monday, April 17, 2017

Questions for my wife

Questions for my wife

Many times during tours questions come up that are best answered my by wife. The questions are generally asking for a different perspective from mine. It makes sense. I am, after all, selling Passive House Design and Tradesman services through Airtight Services. So how much can you believe from a salesman?

 My wife Brianna has offered to answer some questions from our most recent open house. Here you go! These questions are in no particular order.

Hi Everyone! Brianna here. Before I go into answering these questions just know that I am not a designer, architect or engineer. Many of the finishes in our house I found on pintrest. Some of these questions are hard to answer, but I will do my best.

What was the biggest challenge with the layout / floor plan in order to keep it "Passive"?
  • Definitely working within the "simple shape" I am really not good at visualizing how large a space will be from the prints, so we ended up with bedrooms on the 2nd floor that are too big in my mind. I would love to move some of that square footage back to the 1st floor. No fireplace was a challenge too when it came to decorating the family room / dining room area. I've always had a fireplace but we never really every burned anything. But losing the focal point in a room is a challenge. 

What is it like to cook on an induction cooktop?
  • I have cooked on standard electric and gas, but I really like the induction. You have to really watch it. The days of turning the pot on to boil 30 min early are over. If you boil a lot of things, you will boil something over. It is really easy to clean up though - since the water doesn't burn into the cook top like on a standard glass top. A damp cloth will clean it right up every time. There also is no gas smell in the house when the burner is on.

What was it like dealing with the Amish for your kitchen? Why didn't you have them do your bathroom cabinets also?
  • Working with the Amish was certainly an experience. It really gives you an appreciation for ALL of the modern day conveniences. There was no show room, there was no photos of previous work, there was no "options". When we sat down with them in their shop the piece of paper was blank. We had our "design" and photos of the style we wanted, a color sample we liked and that was it. We could have anything. I suppose this was the start of the endless decisions you get with a custom home. 
    • Choice of wood - Oak, Maple, Poplar, Cherry, Hemlock, Rustic Hickory, Walnut, Pecan... you name it. 
    • Color - stain color, paint color
    • Style - inset drawers, full overlay, etc. style for sides of cabinets not tight to a wall, etc.
    • Design - We were working around 2 load bearing posts, and had to tie them into the island. We also could choose from any of the kitchen cabinet gadgets like spice drawers, garbage drawers, hidden areas, adjustable shelves. They really wanted us to utilize every inch of possible space.  
    • We put in our order, wrote a check and just had to trust that they would deliver
  • If I could do it all over again, I would have them stain the lower cabinets and have our painter paint the cabinets. The Amish don't have a "clean room" so the finish on the paint is kind of rough - but they have been great working with us, and are always happy to "rebuild" cabinets if necessary. I also would have used a less expensive wood for the painted cabinets. We used maple on the lower cabinets
  • We put in our kitchen order with them very early in the process, and totally missed our window to have them build our bathroom cabinets. We may have saved a little bit of money on the bathroom vanities since we bought ALL of them on the clearance rack at like 50% off, we certainly got an cheaper product.  
  • I have told Matthew to write a blog post on our dealings with the Amish, since he is the one who took 3 or 4 trips down there to meet with them while they were building them. He has some good stories.

Are all of the rooms really the same temperature?
  • No. This winter the kids bedroom was about 2-3 degrees cooler than the master bedroom. We have a thermometer in there to make sure they didn't get too cold. We also opened up their door when we go to bed. The basement was also 3-4 degrees cooler than the 1st floor. 

How are you dealing with all of these open houses?
  • Thinking positively, it forces us to keep the house clean and any "projects" we are working on have to be done before the next open house. 
  • It can be difficult, particularly for the Veterans Day Weekend when we do a multi-day open house. But if we can bring in some donations for the area veterans, it it worth it! 

What is the biggest difference in this house from other houses you have lived in?
  • This is a hard one. It is definitely quieter, not only from outdoor noise, but there wasn't a loud furnace that kicked on every so often. Everything is quieter. I also grew up with a bedroom over a garage - and it was ALWAYS cold. There is no room in this house that is ever cold.

What is the biggest drawback from building such an efficient house?
  • Reduced options for appliances (no gas) - I am not complaining at all about the dryer, but we did need to buy a ventless one and there was only 1 choice. We also needed to have an electric stove, again not a big deal, and I LOVE the induction cook top. And designing a focal point in our family room that is not a fireplace is hard. We will end up building a fake one where we can burn candles or something. 

Where did you get your kitchen floor from?
  • Phew, an easy one! Matthew showed me an ad in one of his builder magazines for Armstrong Architectural Remnant Line. There was a local company in Rochester that is a dealer for that line of floor (Rochester Linoleum and Carpet One). Once I saw it at the store I knew I wanted it! Much of the color scheme in the house is based on the floor. I was going to be VERY UPSET if that color, or line was discontinued. I am not sure what would have happened if the floor had to be changed. Our kitchen cabinet color was based on that floor color, our paint scheme was based on that floor color, the stair tread stain color was based on the the floor color. The day we placed the order I was much happier! 
  • Here is the exact flooring: Armstrong Architectural Remnant Natural L3103
This was fun! Send me more questions!


  1. Did you vent the toilets vent stack through the roof?

  2. Per local building code, we have 1 stack through the roof, the majority of the plumbing fixtures are vented with air admittance valves. The plumbing stack that does penetrate the roof is insulated throughout the inside of the house.

  3. Very informative and useful information. Thank you!

  4. I find this fascinating. Did a brief search to try to find cost information. How much does it cost to build a home like this? I'm currently in NH, so a similar area as you.

    1. Jeremy,
      We have found the up-charge is in the 10-15% more than code built. Usually your finishes have a bigger impact on the overall costs. A lot depends on the simplicity of the design.