Last week, we took a look at the energy savings and practicality of 2×4 versus 2×6 walls and this week we will dive a bit deeper into the more abstract differences between them.
After the end of World War II, American soldiers returned home and began to use the GI Bill to buy homes across America. The construction of these homes, while creating much needed jobs and providing a place for a newly come-of-age generation, were also built quickly and not made to fit individual needs or desires. That has all changed now, Americans are utilizing custom builders to help them create their own personal castle; a home where they can raise families and live out their lives in comfort in their own unique way.
Here in Texas, we love our high ceilings and using 2×6 walls is ideal. You won’t just have more structural stability (2x4s are prone to twisting under heavier loads while the 2x6s are steady as a rock), they also just look better. Even the untrained eye can pick out the subtle difference between a cookie cutter home and a home with 2×6 exterior walls. The thick walls add to the feeling of your home, the place where you can kick off your shoes at the end of a long day at work and feel as though you are in a luxurious environment that is built for the sole purpose of providing you with shelter and comfort. Thicker walls also come with deeper window wells, which can add charm to your home and make it feel less utilitarian.
Some clients have elected to go with even thicker walls to add to the sophistication and refinement of their homes. When you walk in, you can really feel the difference in a tangible way; a home with thicker walls is quieter which only brings you back more and more to the feeling that you are truly in your own castle. Choosing 2×6 walls also helps to create the illusion of an older home with character, one that was built with quality and long-life in mind, as opposed to a new home that has been quickly thrown up and will not pass the test of time.
As the world and the USA become more eco-conscious, designing your home to be more energy efficient is becoming not just popular but a necessity. Though a 2×6 wall offers more insulation which, of course, leads to a savings in utilities, is it really worth it?
Here in Texas, the majority of the time we need to keep our houses cool, in order to figure out if two inches of added insulated will significantly save you money, you need to think about your location and the cold days that you experience. The University of Illinois Building Research Council determined that there are two factors to saving energy. The first is how far above sea level do you live? In San Antonio, we are about 772 feet above sea level. Because the air near sea level is denser, heat travels faster between air molecules, every 1000 feet above sea level, heat loss by conduction is reduced by 5 percent.
Now, let’s look at the second factor: how long is the cold season and how low does the temperature get? The degree day method is the best way to measure this in your city: add the high and low temperature for each day in a year then divide this by 2. Take this number and subtract 65 for each day. If you end up with a number that is higher than 5750 then 2×6 walls would be significantly energy efficient, the higher above that number, the more energy efficient your walls would be. The initial costs will be high, keep in mind that you will have higher upfront costs for top and bottom wall plates, wall studs, window and door extension jams, and insulation. Ask your custom home builder to show you the difference in costs between a house that uses 2×4 and one that uses 2×6 exterior walls, from there you can compare your energy savings to your upfront cost.
Location, location, location. You’d be surprised how much your home’s location comes into play when making choices about your building materials and design. The importance of talking to your custom home designer or architect about their recommendations cannot be stressed enough; their experience and knowledge can help you make the right choice for your area.