Welcome To Our 'Homes That Perform' Blog

Problems With Battle Creek Ranch Style Houses

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Oct, 11, 2017 @ 12:10 PM

I know ranch homes are popular in the Battle Creek area. I ran across someRanchHomeProb.png helpful information for those who live in this type of home; especially when it comes to preparing this fall for winter season.

As the author points out they don't necessarily have large heating bills but they have some unique problems during the heating season. First let's define what is considered your typical ranch style home

Ranch Style Houses – Ranches are typically a single floor layout with a wide profile and a long shallow-pitched roof. The roof line can have either end gables or hip roofs. The roof eaves usually extend far past the building foot print, providing essential shade from the Southwest summer sun. The floor plans are open, simple and spacious, often including an attached garage; maybe some bay windows and French doors.

The Advantages - They’re reasonably priced and work well as starter homes. Because the framing is so simple, it’s quite easy to insulate and air seal (hey, insulation advantage).
The open layout of ranches are often incorporated into landscaping and views, creating nice living environment. Ranches are an obvious choice for elderly couples looking for single level living.


Ice Dam edition Do ranch style houses have intrinsic problems with heating and cooling (yeah, I wouldn’t have used the word ‘intrinsic’ if they didn’t). Partly it is a result of originating in the Southwest. Building features like the low pitch roof and extended eaves make great sense in a predominantly sunny climate. They provide extra shade during the long, much hotter summers. In a cold climate, this is a formula for ice dams. Ice dams are formed when an upper portion of the roof is over the freezing point and a lower portion is below it. The snow melts at the top and refreezes on the lower edge.

Roofs in northern climates usually have sharp pitches, enabling them to shed snow. The ranch’s shallow pitched roof allows snow to accumulate more easily. More snow means more snow to melt and the extended eaves are just more roof for the water to refreeze. Tada. 8″ ice dams.


Now, THAT'S an Ice Dam

Cold Spots: Another issue is cold spots. Random cold spots crop up in ranch-style houses. There are many thermal bypasses common to all house designs. Holes through the frame like the chimney, plumbing chases, recessed lighting and interior wall seams all whisk heat out of the house. This aggressive heat loss wouldn’t be as noticeable in a 3 floor colonial. It wouldn’t be any less but just not as noticeable. The single level living of ranch style houses means cold drafts can be unavoidable. If the plumbing chase makes the bathroom in a big Colonial unbearably cold … go to another (warm) bathroom. With a ranch, the cold bathroom may be the only one.

Excessive Foundation Heat Loss: The extended footprint of a ranch means more exposed basement concrete. The most aggressive heat loss in a house is usually through the above grade foundation. The foundation concrete has almost no insulating value (about R-1 per 8 inches) and 12-24 inches of it protrudes out from ground level. Take two 1500 square foot houses, one a 2-story colonial, the other a ranch. The colonial will have a foundation perimeter around 160 linear feet while the colonial would have one around 110 linear feet (very ballparky, of course). In this example, the ranch house would have 45% more exposed foundation concrete than a colonial of the same size.

Lastly, ranch style houses are often built on slabs. These concrete slabs are very rarely insulated since the era of ranch construction (post-World War II through the 70s) pre-dates slab insulation as a best practice. In extreme cases, the cold edge of an uninsulated slab can be a moisture condensation point. An uninsulated concrete slab is a massive heat sink though the majority of heat loss can be addressed by trenching out around the perimeter and installing edge insulation.

Ranch style houses gained popularity in the Baby Boom generation. They were well suited to expansion in the Southwest but were not ideal for cold weather climates. Keep in mind those heating challenges of the ranch design and you can make your home warmer and more comfortable.

Source:Erik North

As always, we hope to provide credible information that helps homeowners in the Battle Creek area.

If You Want Your Furnace To 'Fire-Up" Like You Hope And You Haven't Had A Tune Up In Several Years, Give Us A Call Or Schedule Below

New Call-to-Action

Topics: Ice Dams, Comfort, Cold Drafts

Energy Efficiency Tips For Battle Creek Homeowners: Attic Ventilation.

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Apr, 16, 2014 @ 17:04 PM

Energy Efficiency Tips: The next logical discussion after talking about slowing the 'Stack Effect' is attic ventilation.

We talked about to minimize the amount of heated air in Winter getting up in the attic throughSoffit Vent the conditioned, living space below. Ventilation works best when air can come in low in the attic, mostly at the eves, and then allowed out at or near the top of the attic as the heat and air in the attic rises.

Here are the key benefits to proper ventilation:

  • Icicle or Ice Dam Reduction – Insulation is the main part of reducing icicles by stopping heat from getting to the attic, but insulating the attic only reduces heat transfer. The other part is letting the warm air that still gets into the attic out quickly, hopefully before it melts the snow on the roof and causes ice dams. A well ventilated attic will be very close to outdoor temperature, reducing any ice formation.
  • Longer Roof Life – If you've ever been up in an attic in the middle of a hot summer day, it can get up  to 140-150 degrees or more. That can “bake” the roof which can lose as much as 10-20 years of life. You may have to 'pony up' for $6000-14,000 that much sooner. If your shingles “curl” at the bottom, there's a good chance it 'baking' your roof. Proper ventilation reduces attic temperatures significantly, which helps your roof last.
  • Reduces Moisture  – When warm air from the house gets into the attic, it can cause condensation, or at least drastically increase the humidity in the attic. If moist air gets into the attic, it will condensate if the temperature is below 37 degrees, possibly causing mold and likely causing some sort of slow water damage. Letting this moisture out of the attic quickly reduces those problems, and is the job of attic ventilation.
  • Utility Bill Reduction – A poorly ventilated attic can get 15 -35 degrees hotter than a well ventilated one. Temperatures can get as high as 145 - 150 degrees in poorly ventilated attics, but well ventilated ones generally top out at 110-120 degrees, even on very hot, sunny days. If the attic is 145 degrees, your air conditioner has to work very hard to maintain 72 degrees in the house compared to a 110 degree attic. A well vented attic translates to lower utility bills and a more comfortable house.

Here's a perspective from a TOP building science expert where he discusses the "Rules for Venting Roofs"

Building Science Fundamentals: Roof, Part 1: Ventilation By Dr. Joseph Lstiburek
Dr. Joseph Lstiburek talks about the not-so-controversial ways to maximize the efficiency and airflow of your roof and attic.
There’s been so much stuff said about roofs that you sometimes lose perspective. I’m going to start off by saying what might seem controversial but really shouldn’t be.
This is a vented attic, and it’s probably one of the most unappreciated building assemblies we have in the history of building science. It’s beautiful. It’s hard to screw this up.
For 20% of the effort, it gets us to 80% of optimal performance, and it works in hot climates, in mixed climates, the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Amazonian rain forest — it works absolutely everywhere. The value proposition of a vented attic, meaning the money that you invest in building one of them — it’s hard to argue with the benefits. But for all kinds of reason, we manage to screw it up.

The single most important thing you have to remember about a vented attic is that the ceiling plane — the gypsum board layer, the drywall layer — needs to be airtight!

1) The ceiling plane MUST be airtight.

Absolutely airtight. Above the airtight ceiling plane, the only thing that should be seen is insulation and air, nothing else. Not last year’s Christmas decorations, not your high school prom dress, not the tuxedo you were married in and can no longer fit in. Nothing but lots of insulation and air. Just an airtight ceiling and nothing else.

2) If you’re going to vent the roof, then VENT THE ROOF.

If you’re actually going to vent the roof, let’s be serious about venting the roof. Wash the underside of the roof deck with air. That means the entire perimeter of the roof needs to have air inlets, meaning continuous soffit ventilation. It’s dumb to have baffles every third or fourth bay, the entire underside of the roof deck should be washed. Where the air leaves isn’t as important — whether it’s a ridge vent, or mushroom caps, or gables. What’s important is that you have continuous air entry at the perimeter of the roof down low.

3) Put more vents down low than up high.

This is where the code tends to have it wrong. You want more entry points at the perimeter than exit points at the top.
People say you want to balance the lower down ventilation with the upper ventilation, and a lot of people interpret the codes to say that if you get it unbalanced you want more ventilation up high. That is absolutely wrong; you don’t want more places for the air to get out than to get in. The reason is, if you construct a house with a leaky attic ceiling and you have lots of ridge vents or you have lots of vents up high, the makeup air is going to be pulled from the house rather than being pulled from the outside. That scenario is a disaster.
Attics should be ventilated with air from the outside, not the inside. That’s why I hate these whirligig turbine vents — because they depressurize the attic, and if your attic ceiling isn’t perfectly airtight, you suck air conditioned air or heated air out of the house.
It’s even crazier when the powered attic fans can actually suck on the roof and they’re controlled by a thermostat. How stupid is that? Of course the attic is going to be hot. You turn them on and they suck all the air conditioned air out.
What you really want to do is make that ceiling plane airtight, make it airtight, declare victory and be done. Don’t mess around with permeability’s and calculations and whatever.

Want some great illustrations, check this out.

Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Sealing, Air Leaks, Attic, Ice Dams

Energy Efficiency Tips: The Problems With Icicles And Ice Dams

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Feb, 07, 2014 @ 15:02 PM

Energy Efficiency Tips: Don't Ignore Or Just Treat The Symptoms, Large Icicles and Ice Dams Tell A Much Bigger Problem

In the middle of Winter, when the icicles begin to form, homeowners experience anxiety and worry---Is water going to start leaking into my drywall, ceiling, staining it or dripping on my furniture!!

This winter unfortunately are perfect conditions for significant icicleIce Dams formation. Just look around, and if you're reading this article, your may have the problems on your home. Check out where the melting water ran down the siding and formed ice trails underneath the soffit overhang. That situation is not good.

Here's the problem, just because it will everntually go away this spring doesn't mean damage hasn't occurred. In fact where lumber gets wet for a length of time and remains wet it usually attracts insects which cause further damage. Unfortunately, it's difficult to solve in the middle of winter when the problem stares you in the face, again.

Here’s what happens, the escaping heat from your home warms the attic causing snow melt on your roof. The snow melt results in water running down your roof until it meets a colder surface (the eaves) and then freezes and makes ice. As more snow melts and water runs down to the colder area, the ice builds on itself; consequently you can have massive ice buildup and icicles. Escaping heat from your home carries moisture with it which ends up in the attic. So don’t just treat the symptom by venting the attic (it may already have some ventilation), fix the problem.

Take a look at this home:


Ice damming causes early roof failure and other structural damage. Mold and mildew can pose serious health risks to your family. Cold drafts make your home uncomfortable and raise your heating bills. All of these problems are caused by uncontrolled air leakage in your house through gaps, cracks, leaks, and holes.

Fact: Ice dams can be prevented.

Fact: Ice dams cause premature roof failure and allow water into the attic where it rots wood and can cause toxic mold.

Most people think the only way to deal with ice dams is to sweep the roof clear of snow.

FACT: Ice dams, the ridge of ice that builds up on roof eaves, are a common wintertime problem for Michigan residents. They cause costly structural damage to houses every year. The shelf of ice and the icicles hanging from the gutters are obvious to the homeowner. What isn’t so apparent is what causes the ice dam.

Take our Online Comfort Consultation CLICK HERE.

Home Performance



Topics: Energy Efficiency Tips, Air Leaks, Ice Dams, Roofing

Solving Problems In Your Home, Begins With Identifying Them.

Homes That PerformPatCLICK HERE to take our 'Online Comfort Evaluation' for your home. We'll email you information to help you solve many common problems.
New Call-to-action
Best Price Air Conditioners

Subscribe via E-mail

Latest Posts

Posts by category

Follow Me