Watching paint dry actually IS exciting

The Build The USA house painting started late last week. We’ve chosen G.A.C. Remodeling and Painting (highly recommended by our GC) as our painting subcontractor. G.A.C. will be using PPG PORTER PAINTS® (also highly recommended) for all the paint on both the exterior and interior.

For the exterior walls of the home, we chose Super Premium Acri-Shield Exterior Acrylic; color ‘Rain Barrel’ (see color choice in picture above). Acri-Shield is a 100% acrylic paint with superior adhesion and exceptional application properties. We spoke with PPG PORTER PAINTS® Noah Lohr, who confirmed that all Porter products we are using are made in the USA, in a variety of locations including East Point – GA, Dover – DE, Batavia – IL, Houston – TX, Louisville – KY and Reno – NV.

The products we are using on the exterior of the home are:
ACRI-SHIELD® Acrylic Bonding Primer (primer for trim)
ACRI-SHIELD® Satin Exterior Acrylic Paint (exterior walls)
ACRI-SHIELD® Semi-Gloss Exterior Acrylic Paint (stucco bands and trim)

Thank you Noah for all of the information, and thank you PPG PORTER PAINTS® for American manufacturing. We’ll have more information on Porter when the interior of the Build the USA home is painted.

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Time for Stucco

The stucco work has begun on the Build the USA home. This phase of building involves lath, fasteners, sand, and stucco mix, all of which are distributed by RS Elliott Speciality Supply, founded by Randy Elliott. The lath and fasteners were written about in a previous article, so we will focus on the stucco in this posting. Building with American made products takes an extra bit of work, as all items need to be researched and confirmed. A special thanks to RS Elliott Sales Manager, Gene Van Glahn for going the extra mile in helping us select high quality, American made stucco materials.

The stucco mix is manufactured by American Cement Company. AmStar Stucco Cement is made of high quality portland cement, plasticizers, workability agents, and air-entraining additives. It can be applied to any interior or exterior flat or curved surface that is dimensionally stable. The stucco cement glides on easily, instantly clings to itself and makes it easy to define texture and create a beautiful, weather resistant finish.

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One Man’s Ceiling…

Late last week, Darren McCaffery Stucco started work on the exterior ceilings. Tongue & groove ceilings were the original choice, but after a bit of pondering (and hearing from our soon-to-be neighbors about the chore of keeping the outside of the home clear of bugs), we decided to go with ceilings that were smoother, more durable, and easier to maintain. For this we chose a combination of fiberglass sheathing, polymer base coat, and acrylic polymer finish.

The fiberglass sheathing, called DensGlass, is manufactured by Georgia Pacific. DensGlass, more commonly used in commercial construction, is and inherently mold-resistant and moisture-resistant construction material. This makes it ideal for a patio in Florida. The DensGlass is distributed by RS Elliott Specialty Supply, which has several facilities throughout Florida.

The polymer base coat and acrylic polymer finish are both manufactured by Master Wall, Inc. The polymer base coat adheres to the DensGlass and provides a suitable material for the acrylic polymer finish. Many thanks to Darren McCaffery, our stucco contractor who reached out to Master Wall to confirm this was an American-made product. Master Wall confirmed, saying they are indeed manufactured in the US and that they are one of the last companies to do so.

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The lathing on the Build the USA home started today, preparing the home for stucco. This primarily is for the 2nd floor but also applies to the front entranceway, around windows and doors, as well as a few other areas on both floors.

The lathing serves two purposes. The first is to provide a felt moisture barrier for the walls. The second is to provide a wire mesh for the stucco to ‘stick’ to.

The lathing is manufactured by Chase Metals (Umatilla, FL).
The vinyl bead is manufactured by Amico Building Products

Unfortunately, the lathe staples are foreign sourced. We were told originally that the staples were indeed American-made but when they were to be picked of from the building supplier, we learned otherwise. A search was then underway for an American-made equivalent, but we had no luck finding such. The show must go on, but this component (a very small percent of the total lathing cost) would be foreign sourced.

If anyone reading this knows an American-made source for lathe staples, please use the contact page on this website to send us a note.

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Down to the Wire

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘low voltage’ as it relates to construction, this typically involves cable, internet, telephones, & audio systems. Hidden behind the drywall of every home (more so with new homes) is a vast array of wires controlling the modern ‘needs’ of a home.

Below are the low voltage components used in the Build The USA home, all of which are Made in the USA.

Cat 6 wiringSouthwire
Coax cableColeman Cable
Low voltage gang boxesRomex
Electrical Tape3M/Scotch
Nail Staples and Coax StaplesGardner Bender.

Many of the above companies manufacture both in and outside the USA. Check your labels carefully.

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Think Inside the Box

A funny thing happened on the way home from Lowe’s. After checking the box for ‘Made in the USA’, I purchased a surge protector outlet (from Legrand) to install in the Legrand wiring panel. I then passed this onto our GC to give to our electrical contractor. The next day, I was told a few things that surprised me. First, the unit did not meet code for new construction. The surge protector was missing the tamper-proof feature. But more surprising was what was in the box.

The primary component inside the box was the surge protector itself, manufactured by Pass & Seymour in Mexico. Strange, the box packaging said the product was Made in the USA, but the key component was Made in Mexico. Hmmm… misleading to say the least.

The second component in the box was the electrical box, presumably the next highest cost piece included. Stamped in the metal on the box… ‘Made in Canada’. Again. Misleading.

The last product in the box was clearly the cheapest of the three, a plastic outlet plate that was… finally… Made in America.

So, whether this was intended to mislead, or simply a packaging error, the packaging indeed leads the consumer to believe that the product was Made in the USA.

Needless to say, we returned this item and went with another option, but out of curiosity, I have reached out to Legrand for an explanation regarding the packaging. I’ll post an update if I hear back from them.

UPDATE – 10 SEP 2012 – Never heard a response from Legrand.
UPDATE – 26 SEP 2012 – Never heard a response from Legrand.

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Awh Nuts!

It’s been almost 3 months since we broke ground, and we just used the first non American-made item. Nuts! That’s actually what the item was: a coupling nut. A series of threaded rods are used to secure the first and second floors. To connect those rods, a coupler nut is used (see photo to the right).

When the delivery showed up at the job site, I noticed the box said ‘Made in Taiwan’. Immediately, our GC was on it, contacting his network of suppliers. I searched the web and felt certain we would have good news soon. A few days passed… no luck. Then a promising lead on the internet; a company in Washington whose website stated they had coupling nuts made in their factories in WA. This sounded good. But a quick phone call told use that they were not in stock, but could be made custom. This was an option, but when we learned the cost of custom milling a small number (28) of these nuts, we were back to square one.

Another week passed by. We knew the custom option was well outside our budget and we still had not found an American-made option. So, after an exhaustive search and knowing we needed to continue construction, we decided to use the ‘Made in Taiwan’ coupling nuts from Simpson Strong Ties.

28 nuts were purchased at $1.61 each for a total of $45.08. This represents a total of less than .035% of the expenditures thus far.

For the record, Simpson manufactures many items in the USA. But they also make numerous items outside the US. As we have stated previously, make sure you check the label!

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High and Dry

Weeks ago, we selected Gold Key Roofing as the roofing contractor for the Build the USA home, handling both the roof and the 2nd floor balcony dry-in. I’ve watched enough cable home shows showing the destruction caused by water leaks, so I was particularly paranoid about the drying in of the balcony. I wanted to take every precaution to keep the balcony (and the trusses underneath) dry. We’ll be covering much more about the roofing soon, but for now we wanted to list the products used in the process of drying in the balcony.

The balcony underlament (Flintastic Nail Base) and the cap sheet (CertainTeed Flintastic Torch White Granular) is manufactured by Certainteed in the USA.

The metal flashing on the outside bottom edge of the balcony is ColorClad, made by Peterson metals in PA.

The 30 lb felt is used as an underlayment to be applied over the deck prior to the installation of torchdown. The felt is manufactured by Tamko in Missouri.

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Let Me Show you the Door (III)

The exterior doors recently arrived at the Build the USA home. The four exterior doors (front, rear garage, side garage, and back guest master) are manufactured by Plastpro, Inc. I assumed that doors would be just another ‘been there, done that’ experience for our GC, so I must say I was a bit surprised at the excitement he showed towards the doors we selected.

When we first arrived after the doors were roughed in, John, our GC, gave us the door tour. First came the front door. John started by calling the front door ‘fancy’. I’m a no frills guy, and the ‘fancy’ description really wasn’t doing much for me. I wanted facts, benefits, etc. And that’s soon what I got. John immediately began describing the durable fiberglass construction, the wood grain finish, and the strong core; oh yeah, and the fact that the doors will never rot, crack, or splinter. Then came the finale, when John showed us the triple locking door system. Ok, I’ve got to admit… I was impressed. Perhaps I’m more of a door fan than I thought.

Below are some pictures of the doors roughed-in. We’ll have more pictures once the finish work and painting is complete.

Plastpro believes in American manufacturing and operates a 200,000 square-foot plant in Ashtabula, Ohio. The plant is capable of producing 1 million finished doors per year when running at full capacity.

We also want to thank Millwork Sales in Orlando for all their work. Millwork Sales, a millwork and building products company, takes the door planks from Plastpro and prepares them for installation. This includes building the door frames and installing hinges, locks, and hardware. I’m a stickler for things being done right, and they definitely were. We couldn’t be more pleased with these doors.

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Rough-in It

Recently, the electrical rough-in began at the Build the USA home. Approved Electric (Orlando, FL) was chosen as the electrical contractor for the project. We’ve spoken with Approved numerous times over the past few months and over that time, we have seen first hand just how much research they have put into researching the products. On multiple occasions, I have stopped by the project site and had Russ from Approved Electric show me the American-made products being used that day. Fantastic.

The electrical portion of the home has more distinct products than any other area, and they have taken great care to ensure that nearly every item was made in the USA. Yes, I said nearly. But we’ll cover that later.

Electrical Panel – Eaton
Cable Ties – Gardner Bender
Gang Boxes – Carlon
Metal Staples – Gardner Bender
Zip Ties – Thomas & Betts
Wing Nuts (various sizes) – Ideal Industries
Wire (various gauges) – Colonial Wire and Cable
Wire (various gauges) – Cerro Wire
Wire – United Copper Industries
Ceiling Fan Box – Arlington Industries, Inc.
Firring Strip Cable Stacker – 3M
Exterior Outlet Box – Arlington Industries, Inc.
Recessed Can Lights – Juno Lighting

More electrical products will be identified once they have been installed.

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