Is dimensional lumber becoming a thing of the past? Opinions vary, but statistics show that, yes, with a tight building envelope, there are more pros than cons of working with engineered lumber and perhaps using dimensional lumber will become a thing of the past. There has certainly been a major uptick in the amount of engineered lumber usage in the past 10 years.

Recently I ripped down and  installed an off-sized, dimensional 2×6 that was purposely analyzed and deemed straight for a tile shower wall only to come back a few days later and see that it had twisted probably 20-30 degrees out of line.

Even though this is probably inexhaustible content, here are 3 primary reasons Birch & Beam would like to use engineered lumber in your new house.


  1. Dimensional stability. Since raw wood harvested from trees is always drying out from tree to end use, there is almost always going to be instability (warping, twisting, bowing, cracking, etc) and movement even, and sometimes especially, after installation in a house that becomes climate and humidity controlled. Much could be said about the relationship between humidity and wood because wood finds its EMC (equilibrium moisture content) relative to whatever environment its in. Therefore, because wood is often stored in higher humidity environments and has a higher capacity to retain moisture, once installed in a climate controlled environment, it will once again aclimate and dry out, causing down-the-road issues such as wall irregularities, drywall recalls, and cracked tile. Engineered lumber starts out with a lower original MC (moisture content) and greater dimensional stability because of the manufacturing process of resins, glues, and wood particles instead of raw wood. Engineered lumber also always comes straight and true ensuring that every piece can be used and there’s no waste of time or material sorting and analyzing the lumber like any good framer should do.
  2. Structural integrity. It seems strange and impossible that a vertical web of 1/2″ OSB sandwiched between dimensional, but sometimes engineered, webbing (aka I-Joist) provides greater strength, durability, less deflection under load, and longer spans than traditional lumber of the same size, yet that is exactly what the science and load testing consistently tells us.  Many tests have shown a 2-3 times increase of strength and integrity from dimensional lumber to certain engineered products of the same size such as an LVL (laminated veneer lumber).
  3. Resistance…to fire, insects, and mold. Some I-joists now come with their own code compliant fire resistance, and many, if not most, manufacturers are incorporating insect and mold resistance into their engineered lumber products.

For more great articles on this topic, check out this link

or this list of 5 fundamental changes we’re experiencing as an industry and slowly acclimating to.

Till next time,

Build Tight, Ventilate Right

If you’re in the market for a high quality custom home builder who is educated in all the fine details that are involved in building a home, give us a call @ 570.713.4157.  We’d love to talk to you about what it looks like to build a home that will withstand the elements for years to come.


Does a house need to breathe?  What a question! Probably one that has sparked more controversy in the construction industry than any other. Here are 5 reasons you need to Build Tight and Ventilate Right.

Codes. New houses today need to meet more stringent building codes than they did 30-40 years ago and for good reason. Every builder knows that to get away with as little as possible in this regard only asks for trouble down the road.

Energy loss. It’s been said and documented that up to 40% of energy consumption is because of leaky houses. Most new construction air tightness codes fall somewhere in the 3-5 ACH (air changes/hr) range. That simply means that the entire volume of air inside a building is replaced/exchanged 3-5x per hour as demonstrated by a blower door test. (Many times, you can actually get much less than that with a few simply procedures.) Also, pressure differences from top to bottom of the house means that warm air escaping out the top is simultaneously drawing cooler air at the bottom. Since any temperature air always carries moisture to some degree, mold and rot is inevitable wherever that air finds different temperature surfaces.

Moisture sensitive materials. Gone are the days of building houses out of solid wood. Those that are built well are often very structurally sound a hundred years later, but terribly inefficient in terms of energy usage. Tearing into some of these old cavities can reveal wood or products with very little damage simply because air passed through and dried things out. In todays industry, we’re using things like OSB, drywall, & mdf…all products that have a high “hygric buffer capacity” which is the ability to retain moisture. Engineered lumber is making technological strides to mitigate this, but is still fairly vulnerable to moisture. The problem lies in making more efficient building envelopes, but with cheaper materials. Ideally, you want as airtight an envelope as possible with higher quality materials that resist moisture such as Huber’s Zip System sheathing or Low-E’s reflective foil.

Ventilation. We DO want houses to breathe, but on our terms. Just like our bodies intake air at one location and then filter and distribute that oxygen, we want HVAC systems that incorporate fresh air from the outside and stream it through the house properly without having it go and come through penetrations in the building envelope.

Comfort. Lastly we want that air coming in to be as pure and free from contaminants as possible, ensuring a happy, healthy, and even sterile environment for us to relax and call home.

Summary: Build Tight, Ventilate Right. With a Birch & Beam home, you can rest assured that many details like energy efficiency and airtightness are not just afterthoughts. They are an integral and well-taken-care-of part of the building process. We do this by using quality materials, sealing every penetration, caulking between plates, and installing numerous types of air & moisture barriers throughout the building envelope.


At Birch & Beam our detailed, authentic care for our clients begins with that first point of contact, whether it be a phone call or an email.

Taking that first step in selecting a contractor you can trust to be your custom home builder can be intimidating. But we like to make it easy. Prior to our in-office consultation we have you fill out an intake form that allows us to begin establishing builder/client expectations. That first meeting is the time for us to explore a possible relationship. It’s important to us to tell you about our company and about our work and values. But more than that, we listen to you. We look at your plans or inspiration photos, listen to your dreams/needs/wants and get a clear picture of what you are hoping to see and that allows us to give you an accurate estimate. And we do this gathered around our big dining room table that Delmer built, with cups of coffee and papers spread around us! What we want most from this meeting is to gain your trust. For you to know that if you decide to move forward with Birch & Beam, you and your dream home are in the best of care.

Contact Birch & Beam, your premier custom home builder for the exclusive building experience of a lifetime!  Call Delmer today at 570.713.4157


Do you know what sets us apart?

We establish and carry out our Gold Standards to provide clients with peace of mind. By using only the best materials and attending to every detail, we produce first-rate homes of unsurpassed quality. We go above and beyond in every way so that the journey of building your home is stress-free.


No one ever said it’d be easy, this thing called running a business. Worth it? Yes, or at least we hope! Worth it to see our dreams becoming reality? To do what we love, and to work together? To be building our own dream team? Yes, yes, and yes!!

We couldn’t have done it without the influence of so many key people. Twice a month we sit down with our business coach from Action Coach. Besides our gratefulness to God for this opportunity to own and operate Birch & Beam and for His direction, we wouldn’t be here without our coach. We’ve spent hours with him, learning, growing, being challenged (sometimes to tears), and working ourselves to the bone on assignments from him. But it’s been so worth it! We leave each week, inspired and ready to hit the ground running once again.

So get yourself a coach, or a mentor. Someone to speak the truth and pick up the pieces and give you the courage to move on and do big things!


In Part 1 we talked about the fact that choosing the right contractor to build your home is a monumental decision.  In this post we’re going to talk about the next two very important areas – Education and Communication.

3) Education.  This goes both ways.  Is your contractor educating you – about their company and what you can expect, about the building process, about materials and techniques?  Will they welcome you to their jobsite and show you what’s happening, or do you feel like they may have something to hide? Maybe more importantly, is your contractor educated? Does he know the current building codes and does he care to implement them carefully?  Does he exceed expectations by doing work that is beyond current building codes and the standards among other contractors in the local market?  A lot of the important things in a home are behind the walls, things you don’t see, but they will either make or break your custom home experience in the years to come as the errors or inferior work of your contractor comes to light and you need to begin costly repairs to things that could have been prevented.  We are all human, and none of us are super computers – Will your contractor utter the magic words – “I don’t know, but I can certainly find out for you and let you know.”

4) Communication.  What sort of communication do you expect to have with your contractor?  The builder/client relationship needs to be a very open, and close relationship for the next year of the building process. Can you tell what it will look like even before signing a contract?  Do they quickly return phone calls, texts and emails?  Is your communication with them warm and welcoming or vague and evasive?  Are they answering your questions and explaining things clearly?  Does it feel to you like they actually want your business and you are a very special, individual client, or just another in a long list of prospects and homes they are pushing through for that year?


What about those Christmas colors on a house anyway? Is it just to look cool or trendy on a house during the framing stage? The fact is, it could be any color really, and the fact is, Huber Engineered Woods has revolutionized the building envelope by creating a simple, yet comprehensive “zip system” weather resistant cladding that exceeds most building code requirements.

Here are a few reasons your custom home builder should use zip sheathing in place of commodity OSB and traditional housewrap.

-3rd party testing by Architectural Testing, Inc revealed a greater than 90% drainage capability vs less than 10% by the leading housewraps

-Zip System panels provide greater shear and envelope strength

-All panels incorporate a WRB (weather resistive barrier) permanently fused onto the surface during manufacturing. This WRB also has a perm rating of 12-16 which is actually higher than the engineered panel behind it. This means there’s no moisture getting “trapped” anywhere and it also promotes a greater “drying to the outside” than that of housewrap with a lower perm rating.

-Penetrations? While the manufacturer recommends sealing any fastener that penetrates more than halfway, this does not void any warranty. The unique blend of resins and glue used in the panel far exceeds that of commodity OSB and provides a continual resistance to moisture throughout the panel.

-Installation of panels and tape can be up to 40% more efficient than previous methods

– With its “system” of engineered panels and tape sealing of seams, Huber provides a 30 yr system limited warranty. This is 3 times that of Tyvek or other housewraps.


Beginning the process to build your custom home is a very exciting time.  It can also be a bit overwhelming as you are faced with a million decisions.  Not only are you trying to choose a floor plan out of countless options, and hoping you’re getting it right the first time, but then it’s time to choose a contractor!  Could we say that this might be the most important decision you’ll make?  The right (or wrong) contractor will determine what the building process looks like for you, the amount of the stress the next 10 or so months holds for you, and whether or not the years following will find you relaxing on your new patio, or scrambling to find a contractor to fix what wasn’t done right the first time around.  Sounds fun, right?

So let’s talk about contractors.  As you begin meeting with potential contractors, there a number of things you’ll want to look for.  1) Do you trust them?  For you to be able to establish trust with your contractor is monumental.  To know that they will do what they promise…that when you pay them for the next phase in the project they are actually doing the work they said they’ll do.  That the project will be finished on time, and that if mistakes are made (we’re all human!) they will make it right.  Do you feel cared for?  Do you understand the expectations they have – and do they understand your expectations entering the process?  2) Are they listening to you?  Do you feel like you and your time are valuable to them?  Do you feel cared for?  You will spend the next year making many decisions together – do they value what you have to say as you talk about your dreams, the things you hope to see in your home, any anxieties you might have about the building process?

Next time we’ll talk about Education and Communication – two other very important parts in choosing a contractor!


Do you know what the number 1 enemy is of anything metallic subject to outdoor elements? Corrosion…probably accounts for more years of job security and devaluation in terms of bridge and structure maintenance over their lifetimes than any other phenomenon. Some could possibly argue that rust is a living organism, but are chemical reactions “living”? Whatever you want to call it, rust IS a metallic cancer that spreads and, if left untreated or unmitigated, can cause even the strongest steels to fail over time. At Birch & Beam, we strive to be knowledgeable about ALL types of fasteners we use, whether indoor or outdoor, but especially outdoor. Fastener coatings usually fall into 1 of 3 general categories: zinc coated, galvanized, or stainless steel. Stainless steel is resistant to rust throughout the entire fastener due to the high levels of chromium present. This makes it the optimum go-to fastener for many applications, but usually also the most costly. From there, galvanized (or sometimes called hot dipped) is the next choice of fastener with a thicker coating of molten zinc dipped or “burned” onto the surface. Regular “zinc coated” fasteners have a much thinner layer of protection and should never be used for an application of construction requiring any kind of longevity. Since we build “valuable” (not cost driven) custom homes that will last a lifetime and beyond, even the fastener details can make all the difference.


“Hard work is not the answer.  You need to combine it with smart work.”  One of the things we’ve had to go over with our coach more than once (sometimes we’re slow learners!) is time management.  But we’re pretty sure many of you could use some brushing up in this area as well.

Planning is being proactive – you’re doing it in advance.  Insert the default calendar – your new best friend!  The place where you prioritize and schedule in your tasks and order out your day so the most important things get done first.  Not the “low hanging fruit”, all those little things you’d like to quickly cross off your list, because those things suck in all your time and can leave you feeling like you put in a hard days work without really accomplishing anything because the most important tasks are still undone.  Most likely the tasks you’re pushing to the side (read: trying to avoid) are the hardest ones or the ones you like the least.  The pre-habit stage is hard.  Learning to work through your day with a calendar is a habit you need to learn.  You’ll be scheduling your time so everything you need to do gets done and you are successful.  Maybe this time around we’ll finally get it!  And guess what?  If we don’t – – no coaching session in 3 weeks!  It’s called tough love, folks!



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