Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor
In our enduring mission to construct remarkable residences, even houses that are just built well, a pervasive belief persists that quality is intertwined with inflated prices. However, through strategic design and innovation, it is possible to build exceptional homes at reasonable costs.
As workers, and onlookers in architectural design and construction sector, we can attest that affordable excellence is achievable with clever planning, and this home is builder led, meaning the builder is the one pulling the strings to achieve greatness on a miniscule budget. Something that many aspire to, but few achieve.
As you’ll see in Matt’s video, this reviewed model home in Tyler, Texas embodies optimized energy efficiency using cost-effective building techniques and products. Thermal breaks in staggered stud wall studs improve insulation performance while reducing material costs compared to conventional 2”x4” framing. Strategic use of ledgering on the porch and roof simplifies the structure and streamlines construction timelines and labour cost. Further value engineering with LVL in place of standard wood for headers realizes additional savings because the labour is reduced, making LVL headers more cost-effective.
A high-performance HVAC system is designed for optimal airflow and efficiency through zoned ductwork and a conditioned attic space, an absolute necessity when building airtight homes, and a concept that we have to teach globally. By optimizing thermal performance, energy expenditures are minimized without inflating the budget. Only the highest quality finishes are specified, including energy-efficient windows, whole-house dehumidification, and ERV ventilation to ensure resilience, comfort, and indoor air quality.
Every decision focuses on maximizing value and performance. Advanced sealing techniques and strategic fire blocking strengthen structural integrity while avoiding unnecessary complications and costs that can arise from cutting corners. Solutions are evaluated based on quality, durability, and cost-effectiveness.
Collaborative building and design communities also propel affordable excellence. By exchanging ingenious techniques and cost-saving measures, collective knowledge empowers homeowners and builders to achieve remarkable quality at reasonable pricing. Uniting our specialised expertise enables progress.
As you’ll see in Matt’s video, quality construction and affordability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. As designers and developers ourselves, we’ve seen firsthand how strategic planning and value engineering can catalyze quality outcomes that are still affordable. By challenging norms and innovating collectively, we have the power to transform dwellings to meet the highest caliber of building performance. The potential for improvement is within your grasp; all you need to do is invest time at the outset of your project. Researching the best design, building system, and products will put you a step ahead of the rest.
Building Quality Homes at Affordable Prices
Bill’s show is on the road today coming to you from Tyler, Texas. Check this out – the house behind me under construction. Believe it or not, this is going to be for sale for $200,000. I’ll tell you what – this has some better details than most $2 million houses in Texas.
We’re going to be visiting a really smart builder in Tyler, talking about some build show details that he has learned and absolutely implemented on these fair, moderately priced houses.
Today’s build show is all about Josh McAlp – really cool houses. Let’s get going.
All right guys – Josh McAlp. Josh, what are we looking at here? This is a development – two-phase two of an 11 house development. Over on this side, we built seven already and they’re almost all sold – just two more left. But this one we just constructed and this is the most energy efficient home in Smith County, legitimately. Am I right that this is going to be on the market pretty soon for like $200,000?
Actually it’s a little bit less – so numbers are going to fall about 190, 195 somewhere around there.
That’s crazy – that’s not bad at all. It’s the only four – all four of them are Z certified homes. Zero energy ready homes through Energy Star – that’s correct. And it’s only four certified in Smith County – holy cow!
How about that?
Now from the street I got to say Josh, it looks like normal construction. Doesn’t look like anything special – are there some secrets that we need to see here?
There are a lot of Matt Risinger secrets through the entire thing. I love it – let’s go check it out. He’s got a mockup for us in the back of the house so let’s walk back there.
All right Josh – so from the street it looks like you’ve got a carport out front, full Zip System sheathing. Always like that – makes for a great air and water barrier. Some relatively normal looking Jeld-Wen vinyl windows – it looks like closed SOP details. Nothing super special here quite yet.
I am noticing though – looks like you’ve got some Fum tape. The whole house is completely Fum taped so there’s some high performance – there’s a high performance detail you don’t see every day, let alone on an affordably priced house.
Okay – so back porch. I’m already seeing something that’s different Josh. Look at this y’all – I’m seeing that this porch ceiling framing is ledger on rather than going through the building. And I’m guessing that the roof framing is also ledger on – is that true Josh?
That’s just correct. So it actually goes all the way up to it just like the same houses that you build – the other big houses. Everything’s going directly to the top and it’s full monopoly style framing. Modi’s baby – monopoly framing!
And here you can see it on the back. Oh Josh, this warms my heart my friend. Look how nice this looks and you actually have this in stages for me so we can see it right?
That’s correct yes sir. Yeah – the we finished the first three houses already completely framed. So he, he, he wanted to get it completed but I was like “Hey Matt’s coming. We got to leave him something so we can see” – on the little modification of the framing that I kind of just came up with honestly. Just I watched a couple videos from people and I was like “Man, there’s got to be a good way – affordable way to do it.”
And this is kind of what I came up with.
This is fantastic. So no overhang here and I’m seeing that 2×4 ledger on – is that the start of your SOP right there?
The start of the S – that’s the band. That’s exactly it. Okay it’s completely banded here so that then will form the basis for his SOP right there and monopoly framing.
You know you guys are probably hearded – if you’ve seen the Build Show before we’re talking about where the wall transitions right to the roof and that’s a taped joint so we can get a nice airtight seal there and of course watertight – but then every bit of framing that makes overhang is after the fact right?
That’s correct. Every part of it is actually after it and you can see on this line right here where we’ve already done it – that whole line. It’s not, uh, it’s already been airtight sealed on it. That’s just covering up the porch part of it of the overhang where it’s coming out over. So there’s this tape line right there that I’m sort of pointing to that is the start of his monopoly framing.
And so I’m guessing like this little section you’ve left off here that you’re adding another piece of Zip on the porch or on the overhang rather and that’s then forming that overhang – right?
That’s correct. That’s exactly what it’s doing. So up through here we’re just going to extend it. I just wanted to leave it open to where you could kind of see the um…engineering behind it I guess you’d call it – not really engineering.
Just your standard blocking on it, your framing all the way through it, coming up on the top of it as well. You can see where it’s already been sealed so the extra piece that’s going to come up over just like that one will get taped again just for the water barrier side of it.
Dang – that’s fantastic Josh. I love it. Just threw it so the 2x4s are your sub-fascia, then he’s got a fascia board that comes on. He’s got a SOP so when it’s all put together this will look like any other house with a – I don’t know – was that an 18 inch overhang maybe – something like that?
16 – 16 inch overhang, 18 total with the 2×4 but it’s 16 inches through there.
But look at that view right there – I mean that just tells the story guys. Beautiful work. Monopoly framing. All this is added on outside of the envelope – perfectly air sealed and uh… As we walk inside Josh, tell me – tell me how you’re able to do these houses at such an affordable price. What’s the genesis here?
So basically what what we wanted to do is make it the most energy efficient home here and this is actually a grant funded through HUD and it’s for the City of Tyler. Um…it’s for low to moderate income. So the City of Tyler is actually your client – the City of Tyler is actually the people that we are building for. Um…they contracted me to come in and do all 11 of these houses.
Holy cow – that’s awesome! And as we walk inside, this looks like pretty traditional framing – nothing special here.
Wait a minute – there is some specialness going on here. These are 2×4 walls but am I seeing staggered stud? That is staggered stud – check that out. That’s awesome. So 2×6 bottom plate bottom and top and then your studs are on 24 inches on center staggered. I’m guessing 24 inches center stagger – that’s exactly it.
So we got two foot over here, two foot on that side. Fantastic. Now I am noticing though that it looks like there’s an occasional extra stud in here that looks like a 2×6 in the wall. What’s going on with that Josh?
So the first house that we framed, the inspector came out and uh…came out to inspect it for the framing side of it and he called me and was like “Hey, the there has to be a single stud in here for fire block every 10 ft. That’s required by code for a fire block even on foam insulation.” That way there’s no fire – it just creates a cavity for flame to go through basically.
Yeah and if I’m sure people watching this know but staggered stud construction allows you to have a nice thermal break because this is approximately two inches in here between the face of this stud and the back of the Zip. And that insulation that he’s going to use – what are you going to use for insulation here?
Spray foam insulation. Okay – open cell will be able to go in here and kind of zigzag around these studs.
You’ll also notice he’s got nice California corners so he’s got nice full depth insulation on that corner as well with maybe one thermal bridge here for fire blocking reasons – that’s correct. Uh…with that 2×6 in the corner but other than that looking really good.
Am I also noticing that you’ve got an insulated header pocket too? That’s exactly it. Watching Steve and I love his shows – Steve’s awesome isn’t he? Steve Basel – everything that he puts out I always try to take note of it and I saw this.
It was a while back when he did it but the LVL – so it’s a 9 and a half, 2 inches on these front windows which are about 5 and a half feet wide. So we went with a 9 and a half inch LVL for that very reason to where I could have a pocket for – there’s no thermal bridging even in my headers.
So it’s an LVL on it and believe it or not, running a 9 1/2 inch LVL was only like a dollar less than a dollar a foot. Holy cow! More than that – that was literally it as compared to doing a double 2×12 header on it. Yeah double 2×12 with some plywood in the center. That’s exactly it where by time you swap that out to an LVL, it’s really not bad. It is not more expensive. That’s fantastic!
And Steve always says, you know, bringing the continuity in, bringing it all through here…the, um… Yeah, so you’ve run the Zip R into the, uh, into the jams as well. That’s correct. And then it looks like you’ve put some Big Stretch or some other caulking.
That’s it – that’s exactly backer rod all the way behind it and then put some caulking in front of it for the sill tightness of it. Oh, that’s fantastic! Way to go.
And I saw there, uh, Zip System stretch tape, STR tape on the bottom on the sills, on the sills on the inside. It is completely Zip taped – the house. And then talk to me about your attic. It looks to me like, uh, you’re probably getting yourself set up for a conditioned attic. Is that right?
That is correct. So everything will be, um, in the conditioned space and, uh, I had guys over at Rose City
AC. They are just phenomenal. We went with an upgraded system so it was something that I had to have them kind of engineer and it was somewhat new for them. They’d done it on the commercial side but no builders here in Texas really want to spend the money, you know? Let’s go see if we can find Will from Rose City and ask a couple questions.
Will, I’ve got to tell you, Josh gave you a pretty nice envelope to start with. I’m guessing not every builder you work for here in town gives you such a well insulated and tight envelope to work with.
Uh no. Most of them don’t. Josh did really take care of this one pretty well. Yeah, you definitely did. So I’m guessing you guys probably started with Manual J on this job before you get started on really doing design. Talk to me about the Manual J. What did you find out on this house?
Uh, found out it was going to be a pretty good envelope. Uh, when we’re designing the Energy Star houses, the we started the Manual J with the energy audit. Uh, this one was going to be a pretty fun project. Uh, the low square footage with the amount of equipment that we’re putting in here…it, it was, it was pretty fun.
So what did you find out? This is 1300 square feet. I wonder what your tonnage is on this thing? Uh, it calls for, and I don’t have it with me, but 1.2 tons, 1.3 tons. 1300 square foot to the ton basically, which is a fantastic! Oh yeah, yeah! It makes it nice. It’s a very high efficient envelope. Yeah and we like those. We want to see more of those for sure.
So talk to me about the equipment you’re using. What are you putting in here? Uh, we’re putting in some Ruud 18 SEER, SEER 2, uh communicating, full modulating equipment.
Wow, fantastic! All heat pumps, I’m assuming? Yes sir. Okay. And then any other equipment besides, uh, heat pump? You putting dehumidifiers in here at all? Or what are you guys doing for fresh air?
We’ve got a 70 pint, uh, Santa Fe dehumidifier, uh, an Aprilaire ERV, and, uh, we also have makeup air for the municipal codes. Fantastic! Now I don’t normally think of affordable housing as getting an Aprilaire ERV. Is this kind of standard for you guys? Is this…I don’t think it’s standard for anybody, but, uh, this is kind of a flagship for us too. We’re trying to hopefully make this a more common thing.
That’s awesome, man! Super impressive! Now, how, how are those devices – are they not communicating to each other? Like for instance, how did you run that Santa Fe? The Santa Fe is hooked into the, the Ruud communicating system as basically a backup because the Ruud communicating system will take care of dehumidification by itself, okay?
And so if it’s in dehumidification and the system is having trouble keeping up with, you know, Texas humidity, uh, the Santa Fe comes in as a, as a, as a backup source.
Oh, interesting! Okay. And how did you run that – separate ductwork or utilizing the house’s ductwork? Uh, both. It has its own separate return centralized and then we, uh, supply into the existing supply ductwork through the plenum, uh, with backflow dampers and things like that.
My friend Sean Harris, who’s a big HVAC nerd like me, says he likes putting the dehumidifier into the plenum because then it’s going to dry out all that ductwork if there was any incidental moisture in there and just make sure it’s nice and dry.
But I would tell you too, like this – all this ductwork which is running through your air conditioned space, you know it’s not going to have sweating up there. It’s not going to have issues. It’s going to be in real nice shape.
Interesting – you had a lot of vaults in here to work with though, so you had kind of a limited amount of attic space with these vaults, didn’t you?
Yeah, it was very limited, uh, and it was fun designing it out, uh, which I know this stuff isn’t supposed to be fun but it, it really was, uh, combination of hard pop and flex ducting and, you know, just really, uh, you know, kind of coming up with it on the fly on some things.
Yeah. Now I’ve got to ask you a question. Well, I get in a lot of expensive houses. I’ve done very expensive fresh air systems in some of my houses. This pretty affordable house at 200k – did you get pushback from Josh about, you know, putting an ERV in, putting a dehumidifier in – some of that kind of stuff?
I wouldn’t say pushback. Uh, you know, we, we worked – me and Josh worked on this from from square one. It wasn’t a typical bid situation. Yeah, uh, we both attacked this as soon as he came to me with the project, uh, and we worked with the city, you know, the municipality that’s paying for it.
Yep. And once we came to a decision of what we wanted to do, uh, the economy of it was kind of second nature at that point because we wanted it to happen. It needed to happen and, and we made it happen with the budget that was allowed.
That’s awesome, impressive work, Will! Very impressive, man! If you guys are watching this anywhere near Tyler, I would definitely give these guys at Rose City a call. I mean, everything here is clean, well done. I love that they did a true Manual J, really looked at the envelope, the windows. Impressive, Will! Nice job, brother!
Yes sir, thank you! Thank you, Josh! This is an incredible build for 200k, man! Are you making money on these?
I’m trying! That is for sure, but it’s not…it really wasn’t a thing for me and my wife of making the money ‘cause I’ve got oil and gas interests. I got other things that I do. Yeah, so it was more of an opportunity for us to somewhat give back in, in, in a way and, and not charge what a normal builder would charge. And it was more of a kind of a heart thing for us that we really wanted to be part of this project.
But I want, I want to just say, man, I mean these are $200,000 houses that even if you built them for no profit, these details are still far better than I see on $2 million houses in Texas, which is, I think how I started the video. I mean, all of this envelope detail, really good HVAC system – this is not standard for us in Texas.
No, it is not, but I’ve had a great mentor. His name is Matt. Um…I think I have watched every single video.
I’m that dude! I truly watched every one of them and learned every technique truly from the Build Show with Matt. I mean, not with Matt, but with, uh, um…Steve. Steve and those guys – everybody like all the stuff that they’re doing. So I’m like, I can implement this and it really was a thing to me when I reached out.
Was, was I build smaller houses, not everybody. I don’t build million dollar houses, 2 million dollar houses, but I’m like, you know what? If if another builder – if this is what was a teaching thing for me – is, is to let other builders know that you can do this on a budget. I mean, I proved it. Not that it has anything to do with me.
Me, but my Subseverybody, it was some learning curves, you know. The old saying is like, “Oh, we don’t do it like that. Why? Why do we don’t do it? We don’t build like that anymore, you know.” But it’s new, everything’s changing. You don’t have your same bag phone you had in the 80s, right? We all got iPhones. Everything’s changed. Why not the building side of it?
So that brings a question for me. Like, when I see these Monopoly framing details, I’m working on the framer that I’ve worked with for, you know, 15 years, Bill Wood and his crew. I mean, they do all my work. It was really easy for me to, you know, show them how to do it.
I didn’t have to talk him into it. I suspect you’ve got some trades that haven’t worked with you before. What did they say or how did you train them when you started to tell them some of these framing details in particular?
So Octaviouh Sarah is my framer. Alexandria, um, Alexandra’s construction is who he is, and he loved it. Like, he was the one guy who was like, “Dude, let’s go. Show me what I need to do. Teach me, and I will do it on everyone.” And he took pride in it. So it was, uh, it was, I cannot praise him enough on the details that he put into it with his guys. He was on top of them.
Like, he knows exactly what I wanted. This was the last house out of the second phase. Okay, so the first one was kind of that learning curve. Second one, he was learning it more. Third and fourth, I’m telling you, he’s like, “Man, I want to tell my builders that he wants to start building this way. Want to start framing this way.” So it was great.
Alright, so then let’s talk the proofs and the pudding. What kind of numbers were you getting on this house? Have you done a blower door test? What kind of performance are you seeing?
So I did, actually. So the first two houses pre-insulation, both of them blew a 3.7, okay, which in Tyler code is three, yep. So after insulation, I blew a 1.1. So spray foam insulation, then 1.1 spray foam insulation, 1.1. And then two days later, Arrow barrier came out, and Arrow with Arrow barrier, the end result was a 0.34, both houses BL. And I’d like to point out that these are not like passive house level.
These are like some basic Gelwin, um, you know, vinyl windows, right? It’s correct upgraded. I went with, I think it was Energy Star code 7.3, okay. But it was, I wanted to get it proof for the following year. So the numbers look pretty good.
I mean, when I looked at that UOR on that window, it’s like 11, 12.64, that’s right. So it’s almost an R4 window. Most windows in mu code are like R3, so that’s a 30% jump in performance even though those numbers don’t look like a passive house number. That does make a big difference, doesn’t it? A huge difference.
So for this whole house upgrading it to from just basic to what it needed to be for ZR certified house, upgrading it to this was literally less than $400 on the whole house package. Holy cow, that’s crazy. So it’s minimal money. And that’s something that I want builders to know is doing the techniques, doing these things, it’s minimal.
The most expensive part that I had in this was the HBAC system. Yeah, I mean, you put a better system in, but what I’d like to point out is that, you know, you didn’t put a top-of-the-line Zender, you know, like the Lamborghini, you put the Toyota Camry of systems in, which is that broneAI.
I suspect that’s maybe a $3,000 system, and, you know, that’s 1%, 2%, 1.5%, let’s say, of the price of the house. But that’s really important when you build a tight house to bring fresh air to do it continuously, just as important for an affordable house as it is a luxury house. And yet, so many luxury builders aren’t doing anything for fresh air or they’re doing some crappy system where you only bring it into the return side. And yet, you’re doing a true ERV.
Yes. So this system, honestly, the only upgrade that I had in it was doing the RV, doing the um, the humidifier in the full system, the whole house dehumidifier, whole house ERV system. It cost me an extra, as instead of going with just a regular HVAC system, was about $6,000 more. $6,000 bucks. Not bad at all.
And that was, as you always say, it’s the lungs of the home. When we’re building high-performance building homes this tight, we have to upgrade our system. So if you’re building a million-dollar house, maybe that’s less than 1% of your construction cost. It might have been two or three % on a house of this size and scale, but that’s money well spent.
It’s going to be with the house for the life of the house, the best money, especially on the system, on the efficiency side of it. That’s pretty awesome. Anything we miss detail-wise that’s covered up that we can’t see today that you wanted to mention that you’ve learned from the Bill show?
So, one, the rainscreen, you know, the first seven houses that I built over here, um, those were all I did rainscreen on those as well, and I went with a 1×4, okay, all around the windows, the walls, everything.
Did the uh, uh, bug screen underneath it, did everything with it, and it added about $400 per house, okay. So I was looking at this one, and I knew this extra stuff I wanted to do. So I’m thinking, how can I save? So I actually found a product.
We did it at one of my buddy’s houses. We did a stucco house for him, and I had some of this left over. So I looked at it. I’m like, this is going to work great. And this whole entire roll, it’s a massive roll, I can’t think of the exact footage of it, but it was like literally $300 bucks. Oh my gosh, that $300 roll is going to finish this fourth house.
So did you cut it into strips like I’m seeing here?
Yeah, so it comes in a big roll. We just cut it to the length, which is about 74, I believe was the length of it, and 4 in wide. We’re putting it on every foot. That’s fantastic. And this is just like a 3D mesh type product. Looks like it’s maybe St 3/8 inch thick.
You didn’t necessarily need the um, filter fabric on there that would have been to make sure the stucco doesn’t fill up the hole, but you don’t need to take it off either. No, not at all. It’s fine, man. Impressive. Anything else on the outside you did that you want to mention?
So Aqua bibs on each house, okay? Sweet. Also, I did Eric’s Titan, um, how the outlet boots for your HBAC outlet boots with HBAC, which will had never done before. And he saw them, and he absolutely loved him.
He said, “Man, I will provide this now for every single home.” That’s killer. Are you going to do the line set cover as well, that PVC line set cover? Yes, sir. I did it in white. So on an affordable house to have a line set cover to make sure that the insulation doesn’t degrade.
Now you’ve got a house that you’ve given to these homeowners that’s going to last a couple of generations. I mean, this is a really well-built, really tight, and crazy affordable house. I am super impressed, Josh. Anything else that you missed that you wanted to mention?
No, I think that’s pretty much everything.
Okay, so I got to Gig you on one thing because it’s something I’ve thought about too, and I asked his permission before I did this. I noticed you’ve got one double beam coming through your envelope here. I’ve made that same mistake before, and I’ve got a house coming up that I was about to make that mistake on in my CAU up.
When you’ve got two beams penetrating through the zip, it’s really hard to air seal them, and you pointed this out to me off-camera, by the way. I’m not gigging in here on-camera, uh, so what uh, Josh told me is the next time he builds this plan, he’s going to go with a single LVL there, and I said another option too could be do an exterior post in that location.
But I like the single LVL, that way when that penetrates the zip sheathing, you could tape it, you could liquid flash it, you can air seal it, but when you have two coming through, it’s almost impossible to air seal it. So that’s one small amount of leakage, and of course, a little leakage isn’t going to kill us, and he’s got Arrow barrier. But everywhere you can seal it down tight, which you really have on this house.
I mean, I saw the Siga Fent tape on the outside. Uh, I’ve seen that you’ve gone in and preo before your insulation contractor comes, just tightening everything down. It looks to me like, uh, on your penetrations, you’ve stuck with the Jake Brutin one hole for one thing method, so you’ve really sealed this house up tight. And don’t forget, you’ve got less forgiveness on a 12,200 ft house than you have on a 3,000 ft house, literally.
So we did the exact same thing. I built a house, helped my buddy build it for his parents, and he had never done, like, a kind of high-performance type building. So I was more, more or less a consultant with him on it, and, um, that house was 3,300 ft, excuse me, 3,200 square ft, um, we didn’t do a blower test before, but afterwards, we blew a 14, 64.80, and then after arobar, we blew a 0.4, and that was a 3,200 all 10 ft plate line, massive vaults everywhere. So it was, uh, it proved my system.
Excuse me, your system. It’s no, it’s all our systems. It’s all our systems. I’m just a normal builder like you, man. Josh, super, super impressive, man. I’ll put, uh, if you guys need Josh or you’re interested in talking to him, I’ll put his email address in the description below.
But, uh, you know, there’s literally thousands of you just like Josh out there that are watching these videos, learning from all the Build Show Network contributors. There’s no new information. None of this is stuff I’ve thought of. I’ve nailed, I’ve grabbed it from other people as well.
Josh is now teaching Tyler how to build this way as a community, and I suspect there’s going to be other builders that are going to pick up these methods, and Tyler, your framer is going to take that over and talk to a couple of his builders about what you’re doing here.
I bet people have visited that you don’t realize and said, “What the heck are they doing here?” Because this is different, and it’s better. And what’s awesome about it is it didn’t cost a crazy amount of money. It was a couple of percent more on the bottom line, and it’s worth it. So, Josh, well done, my friend. Great job. Hopefully, I’ll see you at Build Show Live in November in Austin, Texas.
Absolutely, I’ll be. We might need to get you in a speaking role because you’ve really got a lot to learn. You’ve got a lot to teach, and a lot of people have a lot to learn from you. So anyways, guys, big thanks for joining Josh and I for a job site tour here. If you’re not currently a subscriber, hit that subscribe button below. We’ve got new content every Tuesday and every Friday. Follow us on Tik Tok or Instagram. Otherwise, we’ll see you next time. Do you know I close this out? Have you ever seen any of my videos?
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