What is a Berm Home?

A berm home is a home designed for maximum energy efficiency. To accomplish this, the berm home is built using a permanent wood foundation (PWF) treated grade of lumber. This is the same material used for PWF treated wood basements. There is no basement in a berm home nor is there a crawl space. The area beneath the floor of the home actually serves as a super insulated heating plenum. There are several advantages to having this heating plenum but the one you will probably appreciate the most is that your floors will always be warm during the winter months.

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Is Berm Construction a Time Proven Technology?

Yes, berm construction is a time proven technology. DeShano Companies has been building energy efficient berm homes for nearly 30 years. We have built approximately 1,000 berm homes, condominiums and office buildings in central and northern Michigan and now have customers coming back wanting us to build their second or sometimes even their third berm home. Our customers tell us repeatedly how much they love their berm homes and how much money they are saving on their energy bills each year.

Is the Berm Home Approved by All Building Codes?

Yes, the berm home is approved by all of the major building codes. Berm homes can be financed by Banks, Savings & Loan Associations, Credit Unions, Mortgage Companies, FHA, Rural Housing, VA, MSHDA and Farmers Home Loan Guarantees.

Can the Berm Design Be Used for Commercial Buildings?

Absolutely. DeShano Companies has incorporated the energy efficient berm design into office buildings (including our own), doctor’s offices, government buildings, retail businesses, condominiums and even into apartment projects. In fact, there are at least a half dozen USDA offices in the state of Michigan that we built using berm design. In addition to being extremely energy efficient, it is very easy to comply with handicap accessibility requirements due to the elevated grade around the structure.

How Permanent is a Permanent Wood Foundation?

All wood used below grade on our berm homes bears a stamp “FDN" which stands for Foundation Grade. FDN lumber is designed for ground contact and is treated with twice as much preservative as regular treated lumber. Pertinent to the life expectancy of this treated wood is the following statement taken from American Plywood Association form No. D415 “The long life of pressure-treated wood in the ground has been demonstrated time and again over the years by railroads, public utilities and marine installations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in fact, after 40 years of testing treated wood for durability, predicts a service life well beyond 100 years.

How Energy Efficient is a Berm Home?

DeShano Companies recently completed a berm home in Harrison that earned a 5-plus star rating from Energy Star. The 1,580 square foot home was evaluated by a third party inspection to verify its energy efficiency. Energy Star estimates an annual heating cost for the home of $850 using a propane, forced-air system.

How Does the Cost of a Berm Home Compare to Other Homes?

Our berm homes usually price out either the same as or less than an identical home that is built on a block or poured concrete crawl space. While similar in cost, the berm home will be significantly more energy efficient than a home that is built over an unconditioned crawl space. Even with an insulated crawl space and insulated duct work, the berm home will outperform the crawl space in energy savings.

What is the Warranty Period for Berm Homes?

All of our berm homes include a full two year “Gutter to Gutter" warranty which covers nearly everything except light bulbs! Our berm homes are also covered by our 10 year major structural warranty as well to ensure that your investment is adequately protected.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Berm Homes?

The only disadvantage of a berm home is that, due to the design and engineering requirements, we cannot build these homes with a basement. For those customers who definitely want a basement without sacrificing all of the energy saving characteristics of a berm, we suggest they consider a permanent wood foundation basement instead. All of our PWF basements are insulated with R-19 fiberglass insulation as standard. Additionally, the PWF incorporates moisture control features that provide the warm, dry, livability of above-ground rooms, NOT the damp and musty feeling associated with concrete or masonry basements. PWF basement walls are insulated and finished just like any other room in the house without sacrificing floor space.

Do You Build Homes with Concrete Foundations?

Absolutely. We have a lot of experience with PWF’s including; berm homes, treated wood crawl spaces and treated wood basements however approximately half of the new homes we build each year are homes that have cement block or poured concrete foundations. Many of the energy saving techniques that are included in our berm homes are standard in ALL of the homes that we build. For example, we use roof trusses that are built with a 10 energy heel to maximize the amount of insulation at the eves and eliminate ice damming on the roof. We also include stabilized blown wall insulation as standard on all of our homes as well. There are numerous other items included as standard, all of which help to ensure the energy efficiency of your new home. As a Certified Energy Star Builder, we pay very close attention to details that will help maximize the energy efficiency for every home that we build.