Michael Chandler, Chapel Hill, NC, US

Michael Chandler is president of Chandler Design-Build and has been designing and building high-performance homes since 1978.

Michael volunteered with the NAHB Research Center to help create the new NAHB-ICC National Green Building Standard and also worked with his local HBA to establish their Green Building Council and implement a credible third-party certification process. He’s a long term Energy Star Partner and a charter member of DOE’s Builders Challenge program.

His company has been a finalist at the NAHB National Green Building Awards twice for green custom home of the year and has received national recognition for excellence in aging-in-place design. He’s been named one of the top fifty builders to work for in America twice and has won a Pacesetter award for his profit sharing plan.

Michael is a frequent contributor to Fine Homebuilding magazine and he’s also an advisor and Blogger at

Gender: Male

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Small Pond

Small Pond

It was one of those homes that always made me smile, a homestead done right behind a reflecting pond. A modest stone-wrapped cabin with an old tin roof set in a lawn studded with fruit trees. And then the phone rang and I was being asked about a whole house remodel. The potential to screw this up was huge, the budget was so small the building inspectors actually giggled when I told them. An 1850 era log cabin that had been moved to this site in 1900 and added on to subsided into the muck for 50 years and been "stabilized" at 8" out of level in twelve feet. It had been wrapped in asbestos (surprise!)then cedar and then added onto again and again. It had snakes in the crawl and bats in the attic. But it was the heart and soul of this community and an opportunity to do right(and get paid)and have fun doing it.

Energy-efficient framing practices for hurricane and tornado country

Energy-efficient framing practices for hurricane and tornado country

Builders have been slow to adopt 24" OC 2x6 optimum value framing due to concerns about the strength of the structure. We have adopted several framing techniques that work with OVE to improve storm survivability while also maintaining good energy efficiency and stiffness.

Why I Dont Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

Just because it’s recycled doesn’t mean it’s green. Let me explain why I won't use cellulose or blue-jean insulation. . .

Recent comments

Re: Self-Taught MBA: Getting Social With Guerrilla Marketing

I really enjoyed having dinner with you all the other night. I got a lot out of IBS I really recommend that you take a look at the Tradies app for I-Phone and Android and at infinicards from

As far as my approach to Facebook goes I have to look back to when I was just starting out and a mentor/early employer/ friend took me aside and said that to be successful in sales it is important to meet people in non-sales environments such as social events, non-profits, church groups and school events. Even coaching your kids sports league can give people who would never call to set up an appointment a change to connect, ask a few informal questions and "suss you out" to see if you feel like the kind of person they can trust and work with.

So my Facebook presence is not as a building company but as an approachable person who owns a building company. I highlight that I'm an environmentalist and recreational musician, sculptor, inventor and a guy who loves being a dad and mentoring young musicians.

I do put pictures of my construction projects and links to upcoming classes and events where a person might easily approach me and talk about building. I post notices of accomplishments and industry recognition that spreads the word that I'm an expert in my field.

I don't typically "friend" current clients. I want to be sure they're enthusiastically satisfied before I give them the ability to post on my wall. Once I'm sure of that, they can be a great source for positive comments and "likes".

Not having a "commercial" presence on Facebook keeps me from getting hit with charges from Facebook and it means that people "friend me" rather than becoming "fans" My goal is to be seen as knowledgeable, approachable and a creative problem solver. I want folks to click through to my website when they are ready to talk business.

My partner actually has two Facebook personalities - one as a home designer and another for her dance and dance apparel business. She feels that it might be un-productive for folks who think of her as a designer of cool eco-homes to be seeing rambling new-age posts and images of the latest fashions from Burning Man festival. She doesn't "friend" me on her dance wall, maybe she wants to shelter me from that too.

I don't "friend" my teenager either. Neither of us really need to have the other's friends showing up on our walls.

Re: Q&A Spotlight: Can Solar Heat Be Stored for Next Winter?

I've done the floor cooling idea and it does cool but does nothing for humidity. we put a motorized valve on solenoid hooked to a t-stat and ran a line from the well, through the floor (on a 24/7 circulater w/ injection) to a boiler drain with a rubber disc with a 1/8" hole in it to regulate the flow and on to a submatic drip irrigation system. When the day warmed up the t-stat kicked on the valve and turned on the irrigation.

Issue arose when the client (now my wife) left the windows open on a cool morning that later warmed up with a late afternoon shower. The humid air hit that cool floor and condensed. She came home in the evening to damp floors. Other than that the system worked and is still working. We still have the house as a rental. You can see it at

Re: Can Bark Outlast Vinyl Siding by Fifty Years?

While the siding was more expensive than the red label shingles we usually use, it certainly did go up a whole lot faster.

We scattered pallets of the shingles around the house wherever we had work stations to minimize hauling so we covered and banded it every night. It may not have been necessary but it was easy to to.

Everybody loves the look (especially the home-owners.) The stone mason landscape designer came through this week and it was "oh yeah, this is going to be fun." from both of them. the crew are real happy to be working on this unique project.

Re: Can Bark Outlast Vinyl Siding by Fifty Years?

We are using it on a project right now and the product is very easy to work with and looks great. You need to strap it back into the pallet presses every night to keep it from curling and it nails 3"oc w/ 8d ring-shank gun nails but overall a very good product, somewhat more expensive than red label cedar shingles but we are finding it to be a dramatic way to give a rustic flair to a lakeside retreat we're building.

The tree huggers love it due to the fact that it is made from sustainably harvested, FSC certified, poplar logs that are headed to the furniture industry and if the bark were not harvested from the logs it would be shredded at the sawmill for mulch or fuel. It employs folks who need work in the mountains of North Carolina and keeps them on their land.

Due to the fact that it is a rustic material to begin with it is easy to patch and repair, minor dings and blemishes disappear into the overall texture of the product. We do have wide roof overhangs on our buildings and we apply it over a double wrap of tarpaper over taped tyvek wrinkle wrap. so the "sponge" issue is no problem. I can't imagine ever painting or caulking this stuff, that would be like painting drystack field stone, why would you?

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

Response to "CelluloseFacts"

Normally I don’t respond to the type of derisive commentary exhibited by folks like “CelluloseFacts” but the potential to cause confusion is such that I feel like a few items here need to be addressed.

He asks what is included in the cost I recently paid to insulate a 2,600 sf roof with 8” of foam. The $5,700 price quoted is what I paid my insulation subcontractor for a completed job inclusive of all material and labor costs, insurance, taxes, fuel and his profit. The price to the home owner was included in the price of the house and I do include a profit in that, 40% of which goes to my employee profit sharing plan.

Re: my “silly argument” about durability. He says that if the roof or plumbing leaks there will be huge damage and the insulation is an insignificant factor. The reality is that many leaks in homes are small and persistent and by no means catastrophic. In many cases if the insulation allows the leak to be detected it can be repaired before major damage occurs, often well before drywall or even paint needs to be repaired. As noted many roof leaks such as those due to drifting snow or wind driven rain never get detected at all, they simply get the insulation wet and later it dries up. Cellulose in my 30+ years experience holds onto that moisture and allows it to accumulate in the building far more than foam or fiberglass.

He brings up the issue of fire retardant qualities of cellulose and the toxic smoke of burning foam stating that “the victims are more likely to die from the foam fumes than from burning” but the reality is that foam needs air to burn and most foam is installed in sealed attics and enclosed wall cavities. By the time the fire opens the house up enough for the foam to burn the fire is already advanced to a significant extent. Both fiberglass and cellulose attic assemblies require ventilation. Fire can run up the building siding and in through the soffit vents and across the attic ceiling involving the entire home without igniting the insulation. A foamed roof assembly has no soffit or ridge vents to provide access from a brush fire or to fan a fire once it has penetrated the attic. It is much more resistant to fire than a ventilated cellulose or fiberglass roof assembly. I don’t use fiberglass in my ceilings either, at least we agree on something.

He accuses people like me of using “bait and switch” tactics to trick homeowners into blowing foam in walls but using fiberglass in the ceilings. Had he actually read my article he would have noticed that I use micro filament “spider” blown-in-batts in my walls and spray 8” of foam on the underside of my roofs. I don’t know of any builders who use foam in the walls but put fiberglass in the attics, makes no sense to me either. I think this is what is called a “red herring” or a “straw man argument”.

He wonders what are these “blowing batts” and guesses “it's chopped up fiberglass created to market the worse insulation on the market.” The blown-in-batt I use is called “spider” and has fibers much smaller than the fibers seen in common fiberglass batts, which I don’t advocate that anyone use in walls either. These “micro-fibers” are blown out of a hose and sprayed with a water based adhesive while they are in mid air. They adhere to the framing and fill all the gaps behind pipes and wires leaving no air gaps as might be found in a conventional batt installation. Once dry they form a matt that has the same R-value as open cell foam, is formaldehyde free, firm to the touch but soft enough to snake a wire through and is not itchy. For double stud type walls that are thicker than 6” we staple a mesh to the face of the studs and fill the wall with insulation with out the water based glue to avoid trapping moisture in the walls.

Most humorous of his allegations is that “that most homeowners made insulation decisions based on the information fed them by high pressure fiberglass and foam salesman. Inferior products take extra-ordinary means to get consumers to buy. Fear tactics about cellulose is the bases for many fiberglass and foam sales.” I can only imagine how LOW PRESSURE this guy must be on a sales call…

I realize that there are many very reputable, green and high performance builders who have had great success for many years with cellulose insulation in walls as well as in attics. I don’t feel that it’s “not green” like I do about blue jean insulation. I just know that it’s not for me. And I feel very strongly that I am not cheating my customers by making this decision.

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

A good source of information on foaming the roof of an 1876 farmhouse would be the Q&A section at

There will be a lot of different opinions and concerns. Your location is critical and the ability to reach the entire envelope of the attic is crucial when applying spray foam as is the risk of accidental damage caused by foam dripping onto siding, roofing, sidewalks and even living spaces through gaps in the envelope. It can be very damaging esp to porous and damp items such as siding and roofing and concrete. (Think foaming Gorilla Glue) You will want to completely encapsulate the attic area if you go this way and that means exposing and embedding the top plates in foam and making a continuous barrier between the top plates and the roof out of the foam.

Cellulose might look pretty good in this application especially once you look at the price. Again, a lot depends on your geographical location.

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation


I've had a couple of roof leaks with Demelak roof insulation and it came right through, made the ceiling wet, we fixed the leak and there was very little dampness captured by the foam.

do a test in your bathroom sink. take a small cube of spray foam of the type of product you are thinking of using and leave it in the sink for a couple of hours with cold water dripping on it to simulate a roof leak. now do the same with cellulose or fiberglass. let the samples sit for an hour or two and see which has taken on more water...

I like Demelek a lot but Icenene is much cheaper in my area so I use Icenene since I'm spraying 8" and it adds up. (my last roof @ 2,600 sf, 8" thick cost me $5,700) I use a blown-in-batt fiberglass system, not regular batts, in my walls. If I had to stop using foam in my roofs I would consider cellulose but would probably go to Spider fiberglass but it would be a difficult decision.

The conversation has gotten a little heated here. Just to be clear I am not a "front man for the fiberglass industry." I'm a small builder trying to make a living building homes I can be proud of with a gang of employees who enjoy working together. Someone from the cellulose industry did recently offer to insulate one of my homes for free and I turned him down.

I don't accept any kickbacks or subsidies from any manufacturers ever. I make a decent living building homes and I like being able to write about the trade from an independent perspective.

Re: Why I Don't Use Cellulose or Blue-Jean Insulation

What I am trying to get at here is to ask people to look critically at the claims made by manufacturers and to consider durability and effectiveness for the purpose above recycled content.

I also wanted to make the point that one of the big values of third party certifications such as LEED-h, NAHB-green, and the regional green building certification programs is that they push us beyond "silver bullet thinking" to a systems approach that values effectiveness and durability along with resource conservation.

I admit that I picked on Cellulose and Denim insulation because I thought I'd get a reaction. And I did point out that you will get green points for using these products in your homes. While I do believe that cellulose has an important role to play as an additional layer of insulation to be blown into attics during an energy retro-fit (after ceiling draft stopping) I think it is a mistake to use it closed up in walls and I won't use it in my homes when blown-in-batt systems such as JM spider and the like offer similar R-value at reasonable cost but with what I believe is better resistance to both fire and water damage.

The two leaks that I based this piece on did not involve plumbing in exterior walls. One was a slight headed pin in a radiant heated upstairs master bathroom floor which only leaked when the pipe was hot for an hour each morning. The leak fell on the drywall ceiling below it and ran out to and down the exterior wall and eventually dripped out at a window header below after the leak had been going on for several weeks. The other was a bad tile job that leaked only when the family used the guest bath shower.

I've been up in many attics that showed water staining from wind-driven snow that had blown in through 5-V metal roofing and soffit vents and melted on top of the fiberglass insulation. I pulled seven trees off my roof after Hurricane Fran and the fiberglass insulation was dry in no time and the shingle roof took 45 minutes to repair. (Had it been a steel roof it would have taken weeks to repair)

Water happens, we need to build with that inevitability in mind.

Every building site and set of circumstances is unique. I generally oppose calling products green (or not) and prefer that people look at the whole system using a third party green building certification system as they evaluate what makes sense for their climate, design and budget. For me this means no cellulose or denim insulation.