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Sealing Up the Barnhouse For Greater Efficiency | 2021 Modern Barnhouse

With frost already covering the ground, it’s a race against the clock for owner Amy Matthews and builder Chad Maack to get the Idea House sealed in before the temperatures plummet to their typical below-zero mid-winter Minnesota temps

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Lights, Camera, Action!

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

A video camera crew captures Amy and architect Colin Oglesbay discussing their vision for the Modern Barnhouse. Hear what they have to say, here.

SIP Construction

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Instead of traditional stick framing, the building envelope of our Modern Barnhouse is made of structural insulated panels, or SIPs. Like a sandwich made with a core of insulating foam and skins of structural oriented strand board, SIPs have the strength of traditional stick framing but offer much better energy performance because the insulation is uninterrupted by heat-conducting wood studs or rafters. “Using structural insulated panels built in a controlled environment just makes sense,” says Amy. “It reduces waste, increases construction efficiency, and means the building shell goes up quickly.”

The Benefits of SIPs

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Amy and builder Chad Maack of Hartman Homes oversee the installation of the SIPs while marveling at their benefits, which include:

  • Large spans that don’t require expensive truss systems
  • Insulation value of up to R-51
  • Ability to stand up to heavy Minnesota snow loads
  • Speedy installation
  • Tighter building envelope which can result in up to 58% savings on heating and cooling costs
  • A healthier indoor air environment that resists mold and reduces the infiltration of dust and pollens
  • Factory engineering that assures correct sizing and eliminates jobsite waste

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress
A crane lifts an SIP roof panel onto the steel beam framework of the all-glass “snow globe” dining room wing
Courtesy Amy Matthews

Speedy construction

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

The factory-built panels for Amy’s house took about two days to make, including the detailed cuts required to precisely fit the whole panel package to the outlines of the house. Here, the SIPs will be raised by crane and slid into place between the 30-foot beams at the far end of the house.

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress
Banjo, Amy’s Australian shepherd/pit bull rescue dog, surveys the jobsite where the last of the windows are getting installed.
Courtesy Amy Matthews

Frigid winter worksite

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

With the sun going down and the temperature dipping into the single digits, workers race against the clock to seal the roof deck. Plastic sheathing holds in some of the warmth provided by propane-powered heaters inside until the front door and window above it can be installed

Oversize window install

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Jobsite foreman Jeff Mears oversees the careful installation of one of two 9-foot-tall windows that form the glass bridge connecting the main house to the owner’s suite.

Windows: Sierra Pacific Windows

Wall-to-wall windows

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Knee walls flank the otherwise all-glass sunroom with two doors that lead out to the wooded yard and soon-to-be-built patio.

Windows and patio doors: Sierra Pacific Windows

Waterproofing a flat roof

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Both the dining room and sunroom wings feature flat roofs that are sealed watertight with EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer), a synthetic rubber. The roof is actually slightly taller in the center and pitched to each side. Openings are cut into the roof edges and lined with metal scuppers (or channels) that drain away and prevent pooling water and debris from damaging the roof.

Smart, solar-powered skylight

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

A worker installs a skylight in the owner’s suite bathroom. The unit features a solar panel that captures available daylight and uses it to charge a concealed battery-powered remote that opens and closes the skylight. It’s also equipped with a built-in rain sensor that will close the skylight in the event inclement weather arises while the homeowner is away.

Solar-Powered Fresh-Air Skylight: VELUX

Temporary access

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Rough, site-built stairs in the light-flooded, U-shaped stairwell provide easy access to the second floor for crew members. These will be replaced by a dramatic steel and white-oak-tread floating staircase.

Nailing it

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

The Western Red Cedar vertical siding has been pre-finished in a driftwood gray bleaching stain to accelerate an even-toned weathering process. Our installers take care to lower the pressure on the nail gun so that the stainless-steel ring-shank nails sit proud and can be finished by hand-nailing to flush.

Western Red Cedar Siding: RealCedar
Stainless Steel Nails: Maze Nails

Not for the faint of heart

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Our sub-contractors first had to brush off a foot of snow in sub-zero degree weather before they could begin installing the galvanized panels to the roof. Luckily, this system features revolutionary 2” snap seams that make short work of the install and then allow for the panels to be locked into place once the whole roof is installed.

Metal Roof: Bridger Steel

Scenic view

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

The view from the owner’s suite bathroom takes in both the classic red barn and the quaint milk house.

Windows: Sierra Pacific Windows

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress
With the building envelope sealed and the space heated, Amy is able to set up a temporary office so that she can supervise construction and work on DIY projects throughout the build.
Courtesy Amy Matthews

Jobsite jig

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota, Progress Courtesy Amy Matthews

Installers use a custom jig to provide stability and accuracy while ripping and cutting the up-to-20-foot-long Western Red Cedar siding panels with a circular saw.