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7 Common Home-Building Mistakes To Avoid In The Pacific Northwest

How To Build A Custom Home That Withstands Rainy Days

The average lifespan for homes in the Pacific Northwest is approximately 17 years - which is less than the standard mortgage rate.

This means that before you’ve paid off your custom home, it will need significant renovations - to the tune of $50,000 or more - to continue providing comfort and safety to your family. 

We don't like those numbers, and we're guessing you don't either.

Which is why our team at NZ Builders is determined to help custom home builders, architects, and homeowners build sustainable, durable, and innovative homes that handle the Pacific Northwest’s rain and winds.

So sit down and buckle up as we walk through 7 common custom home-building mistakes in the Pacific Northwest and how to avoid them. 

#1 Not Designing For The Climate

We will get into specifics about what designing for the wet Pacific Northwest climate looks like, but the truth is that your entire home needs to be built with it in mind.

As Dave, our Chief Operating Ginger (aka business operations) says, “some things are made to be wet and some aren’t, just like dolphins and cats.”

This means before you start grading the land, laying foundations, or thinking about sealant, you need to collaborate with your architect and home builders to ensure the entire structure is built with high-quality materials and up-to-date technology.

If your custom home is built using materials not designed for the wet Pacific Northwest climate, your home will deteriorate faster and require costly maintenance. The upfront investment in making your home durable will save you money, time, and stress in the long run. 

#2 Poor Air Ventilation System

As sustainable home build techniques improve, homes are built more airtight to improve heating efficiency - which we love. Yet, these homes can become moist and mouldy if they don’t have proper air circulation, leading to serious health issues for occupants - which we don’t love. 

Damp air can cause respiratory issues, headaches, allergic reactions, and even leads to bacteria growth that makes you sick! To ensure your family breathes in fresh air without fear of moisture or mould, it’s important you install a high-quality air ventilation system to replace stale, polluted air with clean air. 

Avoid poor air ventilation by adding a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to your custom home. 

#3 Not Properly Grading Your Site

Grading a site means levelling the surface of the land to create good drainage away from your house. In wet climates, it’s essential you grade your home on a slope to direct water away from your home’s foundation.

For example, if you’re backfilling against a foundation wall and your living space is on the other side, you need a drainage plane installed on the exterior. This will direct water down the plane, to your drains, and far away from your home (that is, unless you want your brand-new basement to become a leaky, muddy, pool). 

When your land is not properly graded, water may pool below and create hydrostatic pressure, which causes moisture problems and compromises the integrity of your custom home. Avoid this mistake by grading your home’s build site to slope away from the foundation. 

#4 Not Installing Correct Drainage Systems

If you’ve taken a walk through a Pacific Northwest neighbourhood on a rainy day then you’ve likely come across a downspout shooting out water like a hot tub jet. 

Now imagine that downspout pointed directly at your basement windows, home foundation, or hard-loved garden.

The heavy rains of the Pacific Northwest make your home vulnerable to flooding if your drainage system is installed incorrectly or if the wrong drainage system is chosen. Avoid this home-building mistake by properly placing your drainage systems (gutters, downspouts, and drains) to manage excess water. 

Our favourite gutter system? Lindab Rainline Gutters. These galvanized steel gutters are durable, easy to install, and efficiently flush out any dirt or debris.

#5 Choosing The Wrong Roof Materials

Your home, especially your roof, protects you from the elements and provides comfort. 

And it shouldn’t blow away in Wizard of Oz-esque hurricane winds.

While there isn’t necessarily a wrong material to use for your roof, different types of roofing materials perform better in certain weather. To keep your home secure and your wallet happy, you need to select the best roof style and material for your climate. 

For example, terra cotta tiles are popular in hot locations because they help keep homes cool. In contrast, the high winds and rain we experience in the Pacific Northwest make metal roofs a top choice for your home.

Avoid choosing the wrong roof by researching the appropriate material for the climate. 

#6 Building With Wet Wood

Getting a custom home built without a day of rain is nearly impossible in the Pacific Northwest. But how does wet wood impact your home build?

Wood needs to be kept at a low moisture level (9-14% for exterior use) before cladding to create an effective layer of insulation. If the wood has a higher moisture level, then it’s more susceptible to rot, cracking, or breaking down over time. 

Avoid building with wet wood by testing the moisture level of your lumber, and…you guessed it, keeping the wood dry. You may also choose to explore alternative materials, like steel or concrete for your framing needs. 

#7 Working With A Builder Who Doesn’t Understand The Climate

The biggest mistake homeowners make is not working with a building team who understands the Pacific Northwest climate and the latest in building science. 

Without understanding key elements of your climate, such as horizontal rain, humidity levels, and temperature fluctuations, your home builder won't be able to identify the right building materials or know how to install them correctly.

As a team, we take pride in our ability to keep a grin on our faces even in heavy downpours and in continually expanding our knowledge of sustainable and innovative home-building techniques.

Bonus Home Build Concerns in the Pacific Northwest

Floods and high winds aren't the only environmental concerns of people who live in the Pacific Northwest; earthquakes are as well.

If you’re worried about The Big One  - and curious about earthquake-proofing - then it’s best to consult with a structural engineer to oversee the seismic integrity of your custom home. The cost to upgrade your home to a Class F earthquake rating is minimal compared to the overall cost of your home, and the peace of mind alone is worth it. 

Another unique environmental condition of the region is our cloudy climate and its impact on solar design. 

Despite clouds potentially reducing solar panels' effectiveness, the angle and direction for optimal sunshine is the most important factor when installing them. When it comes to solar passive design though, your custom home will be built for efficiency in all seasons - rain, clouds, or beautiful sunshine. 

Building Custom Homes With The Environment In Mind

Did you notice our list of common home-building mistakes in the Pacific Northwest is dripping with one theme?

Building a custom home means more than building for your daily life and comfort, it also means adapting to the climate. For us in the Pacific Northwest, that means keeping your home warm and dry throughout the rainy season. 

Carpentry technology has evolved significantly over the years and our team is committed to educating ourselves on new advancements in the construction industry to best provide your family with a durable and long-lasting custom home.

Contact us today to discuss your custom home plans.