Ask the Architect

ResCheck, Part 2


Q. We’re in a quandary about insulation. Our house was built in 1948, and isn’t insulated well. We decided to add a master bedroom and kitchen extension and insulate as much as we can. Our building plans examiner wants something called a ResCheck from our architect, and wants to know how much of the house we’re going to do. We only want to tell them about the additions, even though we want to do our attic and the whole exterior from the outside, if we can. We understand that if we tell the plans examiner about the rest of the house, they can make us do a more expensive energy analysis, which we don’t think is necessary. Also, our contractor wants to only insulate the attic floor, but the architect said that the latest energy code requires us to insulate the roof and not the attic floor. Can you advise?

A. Last week I described the ResCheck energy analysis to show the designed heat loss that architects and engineers are required to prepare for most renovations, and the more expanded Home Energy Rating System that is prepared by a certified engineer for projects that constitute over 50 percent of the home area or value. 
From what you’ve described, your contractor just wants to do whatever they want, and although the approved construction plans are supposed to be binding and the contractor must abide by them, this doesn’t happen as often as you would expect. Many times, the contractor waits to see whether the building official will notice that the plans weren’t followed, and the contractor then seems enabled to do whatever they want to when their work passes, anyway. 
Since the owner usually just wants to get the job done the cheapest way possible, the building designer, who was held to a higher standard by a plans examiner than the contractor, is left to wonder why so much effort went into the energy analysis in the first place.  When the plans require changing to match what the contractor did and what the inspector passed, the owner often uses the “m” word, for mistake, to describe to the architect why the plan changes should be done for free. Basically, the process becomes muddled in a power struggle, when the real intention was to protect the owner from expensive utility bills for the rest of their life in their home and to cut waste.
The reason for the attic rafters to be insulated instead of the attic floor is because many people have cooled air-conditioning ducts running through hot attics. Somebody figured out that this makes no sense, and that insulating the attic to be part of the air-conditioned space, at about 75 to 80 degrees instead of 120 to 130 degrees, just makes more sense. The latest energy codes require an incredible R-49, which is more than a foot-thick insulation, unless a “parts” method is broken down and identified, piece by piece, in the ResCheck previously described.  Good luck!

© 2023 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.