Frequent questions to the show include recommendations for Texans building a new house. Jim sat down and listed the key areas he would focus on when planning a new-build.

First, I would have a soils test done to determine the best type of foundation.  Too often we decide what we want the home to look like then try to make it happen on the lot we have.  You really need to find out from the soils engineer if it should be a slab on grade,pier and beam or block and base type foundation and then design the home from there.  If it is a slab on grade,I would use conventional rebar instead of post-tension in most cases.  I know most new slabs are post-tension, but I prefer the stiffness that the rebar gives me versus the cables.  Make sure to build the foundation up if it is a slab, too often the slab is put in and by the time the yard is finished you really do not have enough height to slope the soil away from the home adequately.

On the walls I would use standard 2x4 on 16-inch center constructions with plywood on the entire outside to provide stability. I would use a radiant barrier that is multi-layered over the plywood. When using siding instead of brick or stone, I would install furring strips then the siding leaving a gap on the bottom and top for air flow which is called skin venting. That will keep the walls cooler - just like being under a shade tree.

For insulation I would use spray foam in the walls and fiberglass bat insulation in the attic areas.  This allows me to have a good seal in the walls which have limited space. And, I can achieve the highest R-value and in the attic with fiberglass where I have ample room, and this will allow the home to still breath yet be energy efficient. Homes that cannot breathe must rely on the A/C to bring fresh air into the home and in too many cases you start getting sick home syndrome from mold because of higher humidity. If the A/C does not run enough to dehumidify you can have this problem.  Additionally, the A/C system must be sized properly for the insulation, types of windows, doors and the direction everything faces.

On the A/C system the current minimum rating allowed is 14 SEER, but I would get  an 18 SEER variable speed system. They ramp up and down according to the load and do a really good job of dehumidifying. Another system to consider is the mini-split where each room has a head unit and you can control the temperature room by room.  These systems have been in Europe for decades and are growing in popularity here in the last 10 years. The mini-split or ductless systems work fantastic and are the most energy efficient systems you will get right now.  

For a water heater go with a tankless. When looking at them you want a very efficient system, I like the heaters that use PVC to vent instead of stainless steel because you have less heat loss and that means increased efficiency. 

My water lines would be PEX. They are easy to install and very durable. They really have no down side.

On the roof again it would be 16-inch centers on the rafters decked with plywood, not chip board, and again a radiant barrier. Then the finished home’s outside would be protected by a radiant barrier for energy efficiency all the way around. The style of home and the weather patterns where I was building would determine the type of roof I would put on the home.

The windows are pretty much regulated by the government for energy efficiency, so you would be making your selection based on what is esthetically pleasing.

When you plant your trees keep them as far away from the home as you can. Remember the trees will grow and so will the root system which can cause problems for your foundation later.

These are the basics I would start with…….Happy Building!