Siding and Flooring for the Flatrock Passive House

When building a house there are so many choices that it can be overwhelming to a home owner.  When we decided to build this house I really wanted to cut through some of the those choices and explore simple options available locally.  I think that obtaining products locally, that are managed for sustainability, can have a huge impact on CO2 emissions associated with the transport of such goods.   It is a good choice that is good for the planet and also supports the local economy directly, and provides income for local families.

         Newfoundland is accessible, yet remote.  Most goods are shipped from mainland Canada.  There are no bathtub manufactuers, slate tile quarries,  or door knob producers.  However there is one thing we do have.....wood! And lot's of it.  The fact that we are surrounded by wood was the reason that I felt that a high efficiency wood stove ( should be part of my energy mix in this house.  Traditionally it has been used as a primary heating fuel here for years.  Of course, burning 8 cords per year involves an amazing amount of harvesting, transportation, and work in splitting, stacking, and drying.  It is also huge amount of fuel for one family.  It is not sustainable.  If everybody were to go out and install a wood stove our forests would be depleted pretty quickly.  However in a performance home the story is different.  About 7 1/4 cords different!  At 3/4 of a cord during the heating months,  8 cords could be split between 10 families.  Imagine that.

         Despite the technology involved in building a home like this, my vision was that of a simpler time.   Only 60 years ago, there were places in Newfoundland and Labrador that weren't connected by road (some communities still aren't).  People lived differently than they do now.  There were no big box stores or supermarkets accessible by paved roads.  Often times travelling to the next community meant a boat ride in an open skiff powered by a simple 5 HP puff-n-putt motor.

People had to make local choices as a means of survival.  But the choices were simple because there were no other options.  Going back to this simpler time meant that we would be making choices that would have been available locally.  With our fuel choice out of the way it was time to start thinking about some exterior and interior work.

       Years ago people used wood products because they were available, durable and with the right installation details stood up to our unpredictable and unforgiving climate.   With the exception of wealthy merchants, most people laid plank flooring in their homes and white washed it or painted it; Simple! It was about functionality and what was available locally.  There were no pre-finished wood floors with polyurethanes and 10 year warranties! There were also no tools for refinishing so people needed a floor that offered long term durability and could easily be "spruced up" by finishing themselves.   It was going to be a floor that stayed with the building till the end of time. We were inspired by a photo we had seen from a house in some Newfoundland outport community and decided we would do the same.  Likewise, all of those jellybean row houses in St. Johns, sporting colourful wood siding was inspiring.

Painted Floors in a Newfoundland Outport Home.

Jellybean Row.  Wood siding with inspiring colors will brighten you up on a grey foggy day.

         There are many wood product manufacturers in Newfoundland.  Cottle's Lumber & Wood Products is one of them (  I have used their products before and naturally, because of the quality, I decided we would purchase more materials from them again.  This weekend I visited my parents in Carmanville which is about 50 minutes from the Cottle's Mill.  We went to Cottle's in Summerford and picked up about 1200 sf of 5 1/4 random length spruce flooring for the second level of the house.  At $1.80 per square foot, its a great price for a local product.  Unlike in the old days, this flooring has tongue-and-groove and is also end-matched.  I think that it will make a great painted floor.

Local spruce end matched tongue-and-groove flooring.

Most knots are small, edges are beveled and the back is grooved to help prevent cupping. 

Cottle's also manufactures and sells 1/2" spruce bevel clapboard and trim.  Wood siding is more environmentally friendly than other choices, comes from managed forests and when installed correctly with a rain screen cavity,  will last for years with little to no maintenance.   People think there is a lot of upkeep; and years ago there would have been when people where using non-breathable alkyd paints for siding.  If moisture made its way behind the paint, it would bubble and chip and required a huge amount of maintenance.  However, modern acrylic latex based stains with UV protectants will provide a long term breathable coating which will last for years and require very little maintenance.   At $0.36 per linear foot for siding and $1.58 for trim, its a steal of a deal!  I estimated that I needed about 11000 linear feet for the house plus about 1200 linear feet of trim.  The total bill for trim and siding was about $6400.  I haven't factored the cost of stain into the picture yet but I expect it to be reasonable compared to purchasing pre-finished siding.

Loading clapboard in Summerford.

Bevel clapboard,  ready for stain!

 Unloading trim in Carmanville.



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