From the February/March 2020 Issue  

Conversations with Kate: The Basic Elements of a Home

 |  Architect Dan D'Agostino  |  Interviewer Ren Miller

Framing, sheathing & more

The framing is up and the sheathing is on the home that social media guru Kate Rumson is building in central New Jersey. Kate is the founder and creative director of The Real Houses of Instagram (@the_real_houses_of_ig). Design NJ introduced you to her new project in our December 2019/January 2020 issue, just as construction was beginning, and will bring you updates throughout the 18-month project. In this installment of “Conversations with Kate,” we learn how she arrived at her decisions on framing, sheathing, exterior cladding, roofing and windows — elements that few of us think about but that make all the difference in the world in creating a safe, sound, comfortable and beautiful home.

Ren: What are the most important things you’ve learned about framing a house?
Kate: I always pay extra close attention to framing and structural design. There are many different ways to design a house, so I worked closely with my architect as it was very important to me to understand how my house is constructed and what purpose every engineered beam and column served. Because of the overall layout of the house, it made a lot of sense to go with roof trusses for a much more efficient structural design.

In most cases, roof trusses are supported by the exterior walls and span the width of the building, eliminating the need for many posts, beams and columns throughout the house that would have otherwise been required to support a stick roof. I’m a big believer in roof trusses, I feel it’s a much more efficient, sustainable and greener way of building as it requires significantly less wood, takes less time and generates no waste.

Another very important part of framing that is often overlooked is the subfloor — no one likes squeaky floors, so I made sure to go with AdvanTech® floor system to ensure my house will have perfectly flat and quiet floors.

Ren: The windows align in the main section of the front of your new home. Is the same true for the back?
Kate: When it comes to houses, people and everything else in life, what’s on the inside is always more important than the outside. Having my ideal floor plan was paramount, but I did want to make every possible effort to make my dream interior work with the beautiful European exterior I’ve always envisioned for this home. I wasn’t too concerned with the perfect window alignment in the back of the house as I knew I had way too many asks for the interior layout and exterior front so I had to be realistic.

Ren: When it came to choosing a wrap for the structure, which option did you choose and why?
Kate: I chose to go with ZIP System® R-sheathing because of its water and air protection and built-in insulation. Unlike traditional plywood or OSB sheathing, ZipSystem doesn’t require house wrap. The structural panels with a water-resistant coating are installed around the entire house and taped with their special tape to seal the entire building envelope and protect it from water and air leaks. Another great benefit of going with Zip is that it’s designed to withstand exposure to the elements for up to six months. We experienced a few delays and started construction later than expected, so by the time we were finished with framing and windows, it was too cold to begin stucco, as stucco is a cement-based material that’s sensitive to temperatures during installation. The house will have to stay uncovered until spring, so I’m glad I don’t need to worry about weatherproofing since there’s already so much to think about in every step of the construction process.

Ren: What types of roofing did you consider and which did you choose?
Kate: I looked into all possible roofing options. Energy efficiency and durability, as well as aesthetics, were the main deciding factors. I chose aluminum shingles by PermaLock for my home because of their Energy Star rating — since aluminum reflects heat, it helps keep the house cooler. I also loved the way they look — in a way they look similar to traditional asphalt shingles but a little more modern and sleek. Another huge benefit of aluminum shingles is that they have a lifetime warranty — I will never have to worry about changing my roof no matter how long I live in my home. If I ever decide to sell the house in the future, it will be a big selling point as their warranty is transferable and non-prorated.

Ren: You plan to use stucco on the front and sides of the home and are evaluating options for the back. What are you main considerations when choosing these materials?
Kate: To me stucco looks stately, formal and elevated — all of the things I would want for the front of my house. But when I think about my ideal backyard, I envision something more relaxed, something that feels effortless and cozy. I can’t see myself continuing with stucco in the back of the house, so I’m currently looking at a variety of different siding options that would offer more of a casual feel to my outdoor space.

Ren: Tell us about your choice of windows.
Kate: I’m a big fan of double-hung windows. They are easy to operate, the inside of the window isn’t exposed to the rain when open and the screens are located on the outside, making all details of the window clearly visible from the inside. I went with Andersen 400 Series Woodwright® windows because of the beauty of their clean and well-designed wood interior, combined with durability of the composite exterior and all of the energy-efficient features.

Follow along Kate’s day-to-day progress on her Instagram, @KateRumson.