Abode November 2013: Would you ever use basketball court flooring in your home?

Check out this month’s Abode for coverage on the reclaimed flooring from a north Philadelphia high school gym we put in at Palatine Avenue, as well as in our own house on 6th Street. Source: Provenance

Abode November 2013: Basketball flooring


Project: Palatine Ave · Tags: , · Comments Off on Abode November 2013: Would you ever use basketball court flooring in your home?

Appraisal Institute Enters Into Agreement with Resnet

One of the hurdles of making energy efficient features cost effective for builders is that they are rarely are incorporated accurately into the sales prices of homes, at least not consistently across a market. One of the key players in this equation is the appraisers, who use available one year comps in the immediate locality to determine if a sales price is “fair market value,” or justified for a bank to make a loan. If a buyer values paying more for an energy efficient home with the expectation that their long term operating costs will be lower than a comparably built home (in size and location, without such efficiency features), but the appraiser cannot show why that additional value is justified, then the buyer may not get the appraisal they need. If builders cannot find buyers with cash to pay for the the additional features, they may have difficulty selling, and then less likely to incorporate said efficiency features in future homes. This is not the fault of the appraisers individually, but more of the whole multiple listing system and appraisal standards, which have not developed simple ways to compare homes based on energy efficiency.

Various parties have been at work nationally to bring the appraisal process up to speed with the growth in the number of energy efficient features that can significantly change the value of a home more than just its age, square footage and location. Just this week the Appraisal Institute entered into an agreement with Resnet, which developed the HERS index, one of the leading green building rating system, to produce their Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. This is a good step towards making energy efficient features more of an integral part of any appraisal. We are still pretty far from that uniformity, but each step is appreciated. Here is more info if you are interested:

Appraisal Institute Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum

RESNET News about partnership

In practice, we have not chosen to cut back on energy efficiency features, although we are not sure if we are getting the appropriate value they deserve when looked at life cycle value. We have always had appraisals come within about $3000 of the sales price (always over), which leads me to question how the appraisal process works, as I have trouble believing that our pricing is so exactly in line with other new construction. However, I would say that we do keep fairly close to the general market, as we do not want to overbuild for a particular neighborhood, which is very possible building on infill lots in older neighborhoods.



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Open House this Monday: 4 to 6pm!

Come see Latitude 38’s newest completed home at 310 Palatine Avenue! We are turning it over to the new homeowners on May 1, so please help us welcome them into their new home.

Open House
Monday, April 29, 4-6pm
310 Palatine Avenue (next to Quarry Park, off of Rt 20 South on the way out of town to PVCC)

Low key, light refreshments (beer and juice), and information on our next project.

Parking: Try to park in the gravel lot between the house and the baseball field. There is a fair amount of parking, but no marked spaces, so please just try to not block anyone in.

For building aficionados, you can check out a few things we have never done before (open tread stairs, European large tilt and turn windows, passive air inlets as part of our thoughtfully and efficiently designed hvac system, reclaimed basketball flooring from a Philadelphia high school, reclaimed barn siding from an Ivy barn.)

Project: Palatine Ave · Tags: · Comments Off on Open House this Monday: 4 to 6pm!


Adventure day wouldn’t be the saga that is has grown to be without apocalyptic weather phenomena, spectacular car crashes, banquets of fried pig, and the fall of the entirety of Europe to Iceland. Our well-conceived plan, as all good intentioned meticulously configured Latitude 38 plans go, began to fall apart when the East Coast woke to find themselves buried in hundreds of millimeters of frozen hell. The switch boards lit up as, soon to be action hero, Jeff Erkelens phoned to confirm that he would be picking me up any minute. I attempted to persuade him, but the allure of trying out his new four wheel drive won the day.

After some time had passed and I was beginning to feel certain I would have to hitch my crew of snow dogs and set out in search. However, to my surprise, Jeff made it with only a few less horses in his windshield wiper motor. After the opening credits, we began our journey across Middle Earth. At the bottom of Whippoorwill Hollow, I commented to Jeff that, “this is where everyone gets stuck.” This statement is apparently the toggle switch on the universe for at the exact moment we began sliding sideways into a powdery ditch. Our attempts to rescue the car were thwarted as any attempt to escape were met with freezing, fluffy quicksand. On the bright side, Jeff managed to scrape clean enough road with his snow shovel to safely land a 747.

Eventually we both made it into town. The rest of the crew was already elbow deep in bacon and eggs supplied by Master Chef Joey. Breakfast bliss was broken with news that an entire redwood tree had fallen in the middle of the street and the Super Friends 38 would be required to clean it up. Jack and I took a stroll down the street in time to move a few twigs off the road, watch Jack fall in a snow puddle, and help save a car from an unscheduled trip to the IGA on its roof. Good deed for the day done, Eagle scouts returned to Latitude headquarters.

At that point, a heated discussion of the strategic disadvantages of Kamchatka began to take hold. Risk began, most of the crew left, having never rolled higher than a 2 in their lives. Tom stayed until he remembered he needed to wash his hair. Jack was next, after his triple front war fizzled in Great Britain. DeBellis surrendered as he was in a complete daze the whole game. He later reported that he had been smacked in the face by one of his “friends,” and ruptured his eardrum. This was not a Latitude 38 friend, we solve our differences with hugs. Game given to Jeff and I, we called a cease fire. The mere action of ending our war had the effect of parting the clouds and bringing warmth back to the Earth. The snow melted and Adventure day ended.

– Devin

Category: Adventure Day · Comments Off on Risk!

Reclaimed Floors and Accent Walls

We recently went with the reclaimed look in a major way at the house we are building on Palatine Avenue. Through Devin’s father-in-law, we were able to get a bunch of old barn siding from out in Free Union that we installed as accent walls in each of the bedrooms.

Playing off that are the hardwood floors for the entire upstairs: maple strip basketball flooring that came out of a demolished high school in North Philly. It was a beast to install and created an extremely uneven surface, so we decided to sand off most of the finish and get back to a smooth floor. This created a really nice light colored floor with some pretty variation that wasn’t visible with the previous orange stain. As a gesture to its prior history, we left a “rug” of it in the upstairs hallway. Now if we could only reclaim a non aching back after all that…


Project: Palatine Ave · Tags: · Comments Off on Reclaimed Floors and Accent Walls

under roof…

It wasn’t quite an old fashioned barn raising with the compressor drowning out any neighborly conversations and the hydraulic lift dangling 150 pound roof trusses over our heads. With a crane operator who casually planned out his next adventure on the phone while simultaneously steering the crane with the unearthliness of Vishnu playing x box, we got the roof assembled with minimal stereotypical “construction workers standing around doing nothing” moments. The following day, we lofted the roof sheathing into place employing only the brute strength of some exceptionally exceptional builders. We rolled out the ice and water shield as if rolling out the red carpet for the rapidly setting sun. At the base of the scaffolding, we were met by the owners and a thank you loaf of pizza bread and Eight Point lager.


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Breaking ground in Belmont

Excited to be be getting a second house going in Belmont to carry us through another winter.  This one, on Druid Ave, is only 3 blocks away from the spec house we are building on Palatine. More importantly, also just 3 blocks away from where our older daughter is going to preschool, forming the perfect equilateral triangle.

Our excavator DIGS dug out the foundation a few weeks back with them hauling away mountains of dirt for the mostly below grade basement. Superior Walls came in this past week to set the foundation.  A few more odds and ends to take care of, and we will be framing away.

Project: Druid Ave · Comments Off on Breaking ground in Belmont

final touches

Eleanor helps with final touches the other day as another excited family gets ready to move in.  Officially in the punch list stage, so I thought we would put up a few photos.

Project: Sun Ridge Rd · Comments Off on final touches

Fourteen Miles with Buddha

Thought I”d go with the weepy character study this time. The “Musings of an Asshole” shtick was getting kind of tired.
– Tom
Adventure Day V: Fourteen Miles with Buddha
Fourteen miles of rapids and our boat never protested so much as when he climbed aboard. He wore a biker”s skullcap, a mustache like the Saint Louis arch and had

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the stout, leathery limbs of someone who rolls boulders through the countryside in their spare time.

He gave no name.
But the guides piloting the other rafts here on the Gauley River in West Virginia-fit twenty-somethings-called this elder riverman Buddha. Sitting with paddles at the ready in his looming, gumdrop shadow, we noticed a vague resemblance to the ancient sage. We imagined, however, that the name pointed towards something more than mere appearance.
He ordered us to paddle and our boat entered the current.
“I”m from right here, a West Virginia hillbilly”, he informed us after bringing us through the first rapid. “A long time ago, my brother convinced me to take a raft guide training course with him. I found myself falling in love with the river. My brother dropped out of the class. He works for the phone company now.”
“Falling in love with the river….” We were on a brown stream through chopped-up, nameless hills; the smoke of distant coal stoves hung in the air. This was not the Colorado or the Nile.

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To profess one”s love for it seemed extremely noble-considering most river guides are young guys just looking for a good time and perhaps a temporary escape from real life. Buddha, on the other hand, had made this river his life. He described the world-class white water in Africa and New Zealand and told us that he hoped to run it someday-but he hadn”t left yet. One could tell, as he looked at the shale cliifs running for miles through the riverside woods, that he had assimilated more information about this valley than we could even imagine was present for

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“That cable up there is all that”s left of the old miner”s bridge. There was a ferry here, but it was too expensive for most miners. So they built themselves a bridge. Tied up their horses on one side every morning

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All for another season on the Gauley.
He was, it seemed, a Real Man of the Interior. The type of person one only encounters in the mountains, on the prairie or perhaps on the open ocean. By never lifting his feet from his home range, he had paradoxically

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“The New comes down from Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. The gorge in West Virginia is two hundred miles distant. But she”s under the sun that entire time, so she”s mighty warm if you happen to fall in.”
Stay put and pay attention

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long enough- like Buddha had- and the local river becomes a giant snake, sunning itself across three states. A conception that would make the Australian aborigines proud. But not one a person would ever learn from the voice in their GPS.

Buddha was too expert of a guide that day. Instead of the advertised adrenaline buzz, we came instead to river”s end with a deep sense of relaxation. A celebratory round of beers with the day”s other rafters and guides only added to the hypnosis. As an old bus carried us back upriver-rocking on spent springs through minor mountain passes with the wind throbbing in the windows- everyone finally surrendered to the hot-eared fizz that comes of spending a day between water and sun. A burbling stream of aimless conversation filled the cabin. A guide napped with gaping mouth. The driver held his hand against the low orange sun, his beer still waiting in the cooler. And in the seat right behind him sat Buddha-alone. He had removed his skullcap, revealing a cropped, native-style mohawk. His hands were clasped in his lap and he stared straight ahead through the windshield.
Photographer”s note: Not the greatest pics

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this time around on account of not wanting phone to get soggy. Believe it or not, we did actually go through white water.

Category: Adventure Day · Comments Off on Fourteen Miles with Buddha

Under roof and open treads

We’ve been under roof at our latest spec house in Belmont for a good two weeks or so, but really haven’t had a chance to really appreciate it. We’ve been busy racing to finish our house on Sun Ridge Road and get a second house going in Belmont for winter.

In the last day or so, Bryce and Jeff were able to sneak back over there and build steps to the second floor. Typically, we’ve gotten pre-built stairs made that we just pop into place, but we wanted to break up the monotony and try and build something from scratch.

In particular, I’ve always wanted to build a proper open tread stair that feels like it is floating out of the wall. This is the perfect house for it as we have switch back stairs with a landing that has 5′ wide by 10′ tall window. The large window not only gives nice moment of pause to take in a little league game from the landing, but also has great morning light. With the open tread stairs, we are able to bring a lot of that light into the kitchen and dining area.

There was probably a way to build this with less wood, but we built a platform for each step. Then, not to make it a nightmare later for our drywall guys, we went ahead and put up drywall. We then notched out the drywall and slipped in the treads. We used 9 1/2″ wide by 1 3/4″ microlams. We will eventually wrap them all the way around with 3/4″ material that I will think will give a nice mass to each tread.

Project: Palatine Ave, Uncategorized · Comments Off on Under roof and open treads