Building a Sunlight home from start to finish.


Building the new Sunlight headquarters

Hi, this is Evan Davis owner of Sunlight Homes. Welcome to my photo journal documenting the construction of my home, and the new Sunlight headquarters. If you are curious to see what it takes to build a Sunlight home, here’s your chance!

The house, designed for a family of 4, is 1,796 square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half baths and the detached office is a 371 square foot casita. The design is a contemporary take on traditional northern New Mexico vernacular architecture, combining both pitched and flat roofs with traditional interior and exterior finishes. As with every Sunlight home, the structure of the house is a post and beam skeleton sheathed in SIPs. Every Sunlight home is one of a kind, and this house is no exception.

Preparing the Land
July 2nd 2015

  • Scraping the lot clean so we can lay out the house. First order of business was to scrape the lot clean and remove the weeds and debris.
  • Scraping the lot clean so we can lay out the house.
  • Surveying the lot.
  • This is where the master bedroom wing will be located.
  • Surveying the lot.
  • Since the lot was mostly flat, we opted for a monolithic slab foundation. It’s a bit less labor and since the footings and slab are poured together and reinforced with steel it is a very strong foundation.
  • View of the entire lot.
  • Once the lot was scraped clean we began laying out the building perimeter. Since the house was touching all four setbacks, I hired a surveyor to come out and shoot the corners of the building so there was no chance we’d accidentally overshoot the setbacks.
  • More clean-up!

Footing & Plumbing
July 15th 2015

  • Footing dug and forms up.
  • Keenan helped me trim the Mulberry tree in the front. I thought I might have had to chop it down, but it looks like there will be enough room between the office and the tree so we can keep it! Yessss!
  • Footing dug and forms up.
  • A look at the front Mulberry.
  • We used Pex pipe for the water lines. The hot water lines were insulated with foam but the cold lines were left as is. All the water lines that will run under the slab are continuous with all joints are above ground.
  • Once all the sewer lines and vents have been installed, they are capped. The plumber left one vent tall and filled it with water. This allows them to verify that there are no leaks in the sewer lines’ PVC joints.
  • After the plumbing rough-in inspection, they backfilled the trenches and re-compacted the soil.
  • Backfilling & compacting the plumbing trenches
  • We got water!
  • Electrical conduit to connect the office electrical panel to the main house panel.
  • Once everything was smoothed back out and level we began to run the sub slab and perimeter insulation. We used 2” of XPS foam insulation (R-10).
  • Foundation insulation and rebar going in.
  • Foundation insulation and rebar going in.
  • Not only did we run the foam around the perimeter and below the slab but also on the inside edge of the footings. This means the only part of the foundation that is not insulated is the bottom of the footings. It’s actually possible to run the foam insulation under the footings as well, but we determined it was not worth the hassle in this climate.
  • Foundation insulation and rebar going in.

July 28th 2015

  • Footing poured, starting on the colored slab now.
  • Concrete trucks ready to pour!
  • Pouring concrete at the crack of dawn. We used gray concrete for the footings and a brick red colored concrete for the slab since it’s going to be left exposed. The color added about $1.00 per square foot to the cost of the concrete. Pretty cheap option for a finished floor!
  • Footing poured, starting on the colored slab now. Unfortunately we poured the slab at the hottest time of the year here in Albuquerque so we needed to work fast. We also got more cracks than I would have liked but it was to be expected since we were pouring concrete on top of a vapor barrier in very hot weather.
  • Footing poured, starting on the colored slab now. Unfortunately we poured the slab at the hottest time of the year here in Albuquerque so we needed to work fast. We also got more cracks than I would have liked but it was to be expected since we were pouring concrete on top of a vapor barrier in very hot weather.
  • Watching the new concrete being poured.
  • I had the concrete finishers throw handfuls of a slightly darker red pigment hardener on the slab as they went to give the concrete a more brick-like modeled look.
  • Spreading the concrete.
  • Pouring the garage
  • The second of three passes to burnish the concrete.
  • Office slab with the colored hardener. We used a square edge control jointing tool that makes the control joints look saw cut. Once the house was built I grouted them solid to avoid them collecting dirt.
  • We had quite a bit of the pigment hardener left over so I decided to use it on the garage floor as well. Looks pretty… wild.
  • Garage framing lumber delivered. Framers started on the garage first while they waited for the SIP delivery.

Lower Level Wall Panels
August 7th 2015

  • Custom joist hangers I fabricated to support the entry’s decorative trellis beams.
  • Garage walls up. Big LVL header for the 18’ wide garage door.
  • SIP delivery. The SIPs come in plastic wrapped bundles so they can be left outside until they are ready to be installed.
  • The framers laying out the exact locations of the bottom plates with chalk lines. It’s important to get this step right and ensure the plates are in the right place and square.
  • Using a forklift to unload the panels. This forklift was a bit too small but they made do. The bundles were not too heavy, just big and cumbersome.
  • It sure is nice having an empty lot next door to put everything!
  • Double bottom plate installed. It’s a pressure treated sole plate anchored to the foundation with a regular 2x6 glued and screwed on top. The top most 2x6 is what we fasten the SIP skins to.
  • Setting the first panels! I had wanted to use the 6 1/2” Polyurethane (PUR) SIPs (R-41) but in order to meet our tight budget I was forced to reduce costs and go with the 6 1/2” EPS SIPs (R-23) for the walls. For this climate they offer plenty of insulation but I prefer the PUR SIPs whenever possible.
  • Setting the gable end panels. Note the pre-cut window and ridge beam pocket. We used the “jumbo” 8’ wide EPS SIP wall panels which helped reduce some labor. The PUR panels only come in 4’ widths so it was a small benefit to using the EPS SIPs.
  • Tipping up the last gable panel. They are not terribly heavy but their size makes them a bit unwieldy.
  • Installing the post in the panel that will support the ridge beam. This post also separates the two large south facing windows.
  • For this wall we tried attaching all three panels together flat on the ground and tilting it all up at the same time. It went fine but we concluded that one panel at a time was easier.
  • Starting on the main house wall panels. The tall panel is the stair well.
  • It's coming together! They are planning on having all the main house wall panels up in one day.
  • Using the fork lift to help tilt up the panel.
  • Office wall panels up! Still need to install the window and door inlet lumber which provides something to nail to when installing the windows.
  • About to start on east wall panels
  • First of three east wall panels. These high windows are going to be great.
  • Great room wall panels
  • Screw panels & beam pocket
  • All lower level walls up!
  • All lower level walls are up! I like how the three high windows in both the house and the office tie things together.

Trusses & Upstairs Wall Panels
August 11th 2015

  • Floor trusses from below. They are set inside the wall panels so there is no interruption in the insulated SIP envelope.
  • Looking into great room.
  • Upstairs floor trusses installed and decked.
  • Entry panels
  • Garage trusses are up
  • Garage framing
  • Glulam beam delivery. This house was designed with a post and beam skeleton that is sheathed in SIPS. The SIPs resist the lateral loading while the post and beam structure supports the gravity loads. This allows for almost no wood in the SIP walls which means very little thermal bridging.
  • The house is beginning to take shape!
  • View of entry from sidewalk.
  • Backyard view.

Roofing & Interior Framing
August 17th 2015

  • Post and beam connection. Routing the corners of the posts. Going to require quite a bit of sanding...
  • Setting the smaller beams. You can see the beam pocket in the corner that will receive the beam.
  • Setting the long upstairs glulam ridge beam.
  • Ridge beam in and braced. The orange stuff coming out of the walls is excess foam used to seal the panel joints.
  • Upstairs roof panel progress
  • Beams are in, now it’s time to start setting the upstairs SIP roof panels.
  • The two guys making it all happen. John is a really knowledeable framer and Rigo has the crew. Together they do good work.
  • Starting to set the roof panels in the office.
  • First roof panel for the office is up!
  • Glulam beams have been set in the office and we are now setting the 12 1/4” EPS roof panels (R-45).
  • Office roof on.
  • Living room beams up.
  • View of entry. Shadows.
  • A view of the entry. You can see the post and beam structure and the 2x2 furring strips. We prefer to fur out the exterior walls for wiring rather than run conduit in the panels. It allows for more flexibility in placing fixtures and plugs.
  • Downstairs interior framing done, just need to finish the stairs.
  • Living room roof panels on. That's all the panels!
  • Framing the stairs.
  • Master Bedroom. All the furring strips are up.
  • Upstairs! Still need al the interior walls framed.
  • We applied tapered sleepers to the flat panel roof and then re-decked it with 5/8” OSB to create the low slope roof. We decided to go with an elastomeric roofing system on the flat roof sections of the house. It’s a built up system with alternating layers of elastomeric coatings and fiber mesh reinforcement. They started by reinforcing the seams of the OSB roof deck.
  • I had some custom aluminum canales fabricated. We cut slots a few inches back which will drain into rain chains. If we get a big storm the water can still run out the end as normal though. The aluminum will go well with the galvanized corrugated metal that we’re using on the roof and a couple walls.
  • Interior soffit framing. We’re using this soffit to run lots of plumbing and wiring to the kitchen.

Porch & Windows
August 29th 2015

  • Porch post footing and rock which will be embedded in the concrete and used as post base.
  • Forming the patio slabs. We used rocks as post bases in a couple areas. We coated them in dish soap to keep the concrete from staining them.
  • Pouring back patio.
  • Pouring a portion of the front walk. Can't pour the whole thing because we still need to run a gas line through the area. Needed to pour this section for the trellis footings.
  • Pouring the back patio slab. Nice overcast day to pour concrete.
  • Brush finishing the concrete to keep it from being too slick when wet.
  • Back patio cement done.
  • Post base rock. We epoxied 3/4” allthread rod into the rock and post. Made for a very clean look.
  • Installing the Pella triple pane windows and exterior doors.
  • Front door getting installed.
  • We’re waiting till the end of construction to pour the rest of the driveway and walkway concrete so it doesn’t get damaged.
  • Working on the entry patio roof.
  • Front covered porch and trellis beams.
  • Setting the entry trellis beams.
  • Post base rock in action!

Building Paper, Lath & Cedar Siding
September 16th 2015

  • Building paper and lath for stucco getting installed. Building wrap and stucco lath applied.
  • View from the street.
  • Cedar ventilated rain screen finished. Since it’s on the north side of the building and protected on all sides by the shadow box I figured the wood would last a long time without much maintenance. Out here in the high desert Southwest, the sun really does a number on exposed wood.
  • Installing the cedar rain screen in the office’s north facing shadow box. I used 1-1/2” wide black coroplast strips that I had cut by my local plastic supply house. This creates a capillary break between the cedar and the exterior wall so that everything can breath.
  • Garage door installed and metal flashing going up around the opening. Preparing for the corrugated galvanized steel accent that’s going around here.
  • Dumpster delivered for the growing pile of trash.
  • Decided to cap the exterior beams and parapets with galvanized steel. Should make everything last a lot longer and didn’t cost very much extra. It’s hardly noticeable from the ground.
  • Roof vents for the little space between the roof panel and the low slope roof deck. Only a few inches of space in there but it still needs to be vented.
  • Elastomeric cool roofing complete. When this roof starts to give out in about a decade, it only requires a power washing and another application of the elastomeric coating and it will be good for another 10 years.

Wiring, Plumbing & Sheetrock
September 18th 2015

  • Interior framing finished. Plumber and electrician getting their work done.
  • We went with a high efficiency dual fuel (heat pump with backup gas furnace) forced air system for the house and ran all the ductwork in the floor trusses. We also ran the ductwork for the ERV here as well.
  • Wiring and plumbing is not the most photogenic thing.
  • Wiring and some plumbing run in the furred out exterior wall cavities. It’s very nice to have this space to run infrastructure. If we ever decide to remodel we won’t have to chew into the SIPs to make electrical changes.
  • Sheetrock delivery. They used this crane to lift the upstairs sheetrock on top of the garage roof. They then (carefully) passed it through one of the upstairs windows.
  • Sheetrock being delivered through upstairs window.
  • Blown-in fiberglass insulation installed in the garage walls and roof. Just a little more expensive than batt insulation and worth every penny.
  • Acoustic batt insulation installed in floor trusses and interior walls. Very inexpensive and really helps keep sound from traveling through the walls and floor.
  • Digging up the road to connect the new gas and sewer lines.
  • Sound insulation in floor trusses and Aprilaire ERV (energy recovery ventilation system)
  • Tubs installed!
  • Sheetrock hung in master bedroom.
  • Great room sheetrock. The fur glulam beams really pop against the white sheetrock.
  • Downstairs cedar in process of being sealed.
  • Cedar rain screens sealed with Penofin.
  • All finished. Looking good!
  • Garage sheetrocked.
  • Kids loft sheetrock. Left the post supporting the ridge beam exposed.
  • North bedroom.

Painting, Tile & Stucco
October 13th 2015

  • Entry porch ceiling done. Recessed lighting in the middle.
  • Installing the porch’s pine T&G ceiling. I decided to use a pine flooring material so there wouldn’t be the any chamfers between the boards like you get with typical T&G material.
  • Seams taped and bedded. This is the first of three coats. We're going with a smooth wall finish so they will skim the whole wall then sand smooth.
  • In the great room looking west.
  • Office
  • In the great room looking east.
  • Tapping and bedding the sheetrock. We decided to go with a smooth textured sheetrock. It’s a bit more labor but it looks much nicer than your typical textured sheetrock.
  • Upstairs sheetrock going well.
  • Back porch done.
  • Starting on the tile and shower pan in the office bathroom.
  • Painter has tapped off everything and sprayed the primer coat.
  • Cabinet delivery.
  • Figuring out where the cabinet boxes go.
  • Kitchen cabinets installed.
  • Getting started on the stucco brown coat. We decided to use a 2 coat system with an elastomeric color coat.
  • Working on the upstairs brown coat.
  • Almost done with the brown coat.
  • Running the new gas line from the street to the house.
  • Office tile shower almost complete.
  • Tile tub surround in the main house bathroom. Little splashes of color.
  • Shelving going in. Still need the cedar face frames to finish everything off.
  • Elastomeric stucco color coat done. Looking good!
  • Office brown coat complete.
  • Stucco done! They primed the concrete with a stucco primer then applied the color. Only took them two days to do the whole house. Still need to clean and finish the beams outside.

Finishing Touches
January 8th 2016

  • Electric service hooked up. We got light!
  • Countertops installed. Granite for the counters and a maple butcher block for the island.
  • Kitchen tile backsplash almost finished. A splash of color here as well.
  • Appliances installed.
  • About ready to pour the walkway and driveway concrete.
  • Pouring the driveway concrete. You can see the entry planter in the foreground. The plan is to plant bamboo here.
  • Getting there.
  • We used left over cedar from the exterior to finish off the shelves.
  • Carpenter finished with the built in bookcase and closet shelving in the office.
  • Galvanized corrugated steel getting installed on one of the walls. It's a really nice accent against the stucco and cedar walls.
  • Galvanized corrugated steel installation done. We used it on the roofs and two walls as an accent.
  • Plasma cut the address out of a sheet of steel. Going to mount it in the north office shadow box.
  • Address band installed in the office shadow box. Used galvanized nuts to keep the bare steel away from the stucco so it won't stain the stucco as it rusts.
  • East side of the house. Almost there!
  • Courtyard view.
  • Courtyard view.
  • Approach to the front door.
  • Rain chains installed. The aluminum canale and rain chain go well with the galvanized corrugated steel.
  • I had a carpenter build a wall mounted entertainment center from the cedar I had leftover from the rolling gate. Romi approves!
  • Final blower door tests to get my Build Green New Mexico certification. This is the tightest house my rater has ever tested. We came in at 1.2 ACH50, that’s pretty darn tight. Certified for BGNM Gold. Not bad!
  • Upstairs carpet installed and custom loft ship ladders installed. I came up with this design to allow the ladder to stow flat against the wall when not in use.
  • We used a three lite shaker style glass door for the office bathroom and wheat pasted tissue paper to the glass to obscure it. Makes for a beautiful door that let's a bit more light into the bathroom.
  • It fits!
  • Moving in my office furniture and books. Making good use of that bookcase! You can see the ductless mini-split heat pump wall unit next to the bookcase. We went with a SEER 28 LG unit to heat and cool the office.
  • Had a custom Sunlight Homes logo sticker made. Makes it hard to miss the office door.
  • Things are coming together in the office. Still need the guardrail installed in the loft but it's close!
  • The outside looking finished. I love the cedar and corrugated metal accents.
  • Finished building the new island light. No fasteners or glue, only pegs!
  • Connection detial.

Gabion Wall & Rolling Gate
February 22nd 2016

  • Getting started on the block planter along the rear wall.
  • Footing poured with impeded steel plates for the front yard gabion wall. Going to start working on the steel frames next.
  • Vertical supports and cross braces welded in place.
  • 1/4” thick welded wire mesh attached to verticals.
  • Detail shot.
  • Close up of rolling gate.
  • 8.5 tons of stone delivered to fill the walls.
  • Rolling gate frame finished.
  • First bay of the gabion wall filled.
  • Cedar installed on gate.
  • Gate is finished and installed. Two bays filled with stone, seven more to go.
  • The rear block wall’s footings were a bit exposed so we built a split face block planter a couple feet inside the wall. Going to plant this full of bamboo to eventually obscure the wall.
  • Gabion wall and cedar gate finished.

Landscaping and Solar Panels
July 15th 2016

  • The bamboo really sets off the entry!
  • A neighbor was kind enough to offer up some bamboo that had begun to take over so I transplanted it in the little entry planter.
  • 4 zone drip system manifold installed.
  • Courtyard fence posts.
  • Gate installed.
  • Courtyard wall finished. Steel verticals with horizontal cedar pickets.
  • Getting started landscaping the courtyard with shade loving plants.
  • Courtyard landscaping coming along nicely.
  • Courtyard looking towards the office. Still need to lay crusher fines in the walkway.
  • Getting started installing the PV system! We decided to go with Sunpower modules with micro inverters. They are American made and have a great warranty.
  • Bending wiring conduit. These guys (Positive Energy) did a really nice job.
  • Six panels over the garage and seven over the great room. It's a 4.24kW system that will generate about $80/mo on average. This should make us just about net zero.
  • The panels above the great room. The rack we used is made here in Albuquerque. It's nice because it doesn't penetrate the roof and is held down with ballast blocks.
  • Front yard landscaping done! All hooked up to the drip system so it should be very little work.
  • Nice rainy day.

Outdoor Structures
August 26th 2016

  • Installing the south facing shade louvers. These will help properly shade some of the south windows. Who says passive solar has to be ugly?
  • Working hard.
  • Office louver.
  • Margie was kind enough to donate the old shade structure I built for her years ago. This structure was designed for plants to grow on it. I'll be planting grapes and trumpet vines in the spring.
  • I had small footings poured to support the legs.
  • Louvers done! Now I just need to do something about the master bedroom windows to the bottom left. I have an idea...
  • Haley approves. We're going to put Romi's sandbox under there for now.
  • Starting on a patio.
  • IMG_1765
  • Sandbox frame under the shade structure.
  • Much taller on this side unfortunately. A coat of paint should help.
  • Needed more privacy in the back yard so we built up the block wall a bit.
  • Getting started on the new storage shed. Going to be a really beautiful little shed.
  • Floor joists.
  • Floor decked.
  • Framing coming along nicely!
  • Most of the exterior sheathing is done.
  • Fairly reflective. I might hit the metal with an acid wash to dull it some, we'll see.
  • Corner detail.
  • Another corner detail. No exposed fasteners.
  • Flat seam galvanized metal panels going on the storage shed. Very cool cladding system!
  • Garden beds done and planted with a cover crop to start building up the soil. We'll plant veggies next year.