Elfur Logadóttir noted the affordability of underfloor heating: >>Absolutely ... given that we're talking about the same thing ;) >>Back home (Iceland for those that've forgotten ;) we mostly >>build concrete houses and use hot water for heating. >>as my parents decided to renovate their kitchen / dining room area, >>they had water pipes inserted into the concrete. >>And, actually here as well. The flat I live in here >>in Norway has floor heating as well. But oak parket, not >>cheramic tiles. Hi Elfur, Hope you are having Big Fun in Norway. ;-) Thanks for the heads up. I really do find it interesting hearing how things are done differently in different places. New construction in Houston (and there is a ton of new construction in Houston) is ALL about shaving a few more pfennigs off the purchase price. Nothing else matters. Nothing. A few observations on home construction here: - Most of the homes here are brick. Brick on three sides. The backs of the homes are HardiPlank.  Why? Because putting brick on that 4th side of the house would raise the purchase price roughly $2k to $4k. [The average house sold in Houston last month changed hands for about $185k.] - Less than 5 years ago, Houston changed their building code to require multipane windows. Less than 5 years ago! Find *any* house built in Houston more than 5 years ago and the odds are very very high that it has single pane windows. Is that foolish in a climate with extreme temperatures? Why yes, yes it is! However, it was done to keep the purchase price lower. <mini-rant> The heck with operating and maintenance costs. Those are, apparently, irrevelant down heah! </ mini-rant> - Honestly, I hear about more pipes freezing and bursting in Houston than I ever heard of breaking up North. Why? Because no one installs cut-off valves on the exterior faucetts here. That would cost money - so that would be bad. Sometimes I really don't understand these people ... <sigh/> ... but it *is* heartening to hear that intelligent life does exist elsewhere!, ;-) RonL.  Explanation swiped from somewhere: HardiPlank and HardiPanel are brand names for fiber cement siding manufactured by James Hardie Building Products. The siding is made from portland cement mixed with ground sand, cellulose fiber, and other additives. Explanation from Ron: they look like 1x6 wood panels. A little more fragile to install but guaranteed to last 25 years or so. Not quite as low maintenance as brick, but more durable than wood. Priced in-between too.