You can’t beat the durability and the low maintenance advantages of synthetic, faux wood materials. But I’ve seen lots of synthetic, wood-look materials, and although a few of them look pretty realistic, some people feel that no synthetic material can match the natural beauty of real wood. And for those people, that beauty is worth the extra maintenance required to use authentic wood for the exterior of their homes.
For those of us considering using real wood on our new homes, whether as decking, or as exterior wall cladding, fences or garage doors, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most popular wood species used for exterior applications to help us decide which wood might be best for our projects. We’ll also briefly consider composite and plastic wood alternatives.
Soffits and fascia are parts of the house that don’t often get a lot of thought or attention from homeowners planning to build their dream homes. But they’re important not only as design elements for your home, but also because they protect your house. And choosing the right materials for your fascia and soffits can reduce the required maintenance for your home. This week we’ll talk about soffit and fascia options so you can make the best choice for your home. Okay, let’s start by establishing exactly what and where soffits and fascia are.
Last week I traveled to Austin, TX for their Parade of Homes. I like going to different parts of the country to see what new homes features are popular in different areas. If we incorporate some of our favorite features from different regions, it can make the homes we build more interesting. As you know, too often designers and builders tend to do what they have always done and that can translate into all the houses in an area looking the same, void of character and uniqueness. Sometimes the only way to incorporate fresh ideas, is for us homeowners to make fresh suggestions. A great way to get new ideas and inspiration is by looking at houses in areas outside our region.
That’s why I suggest you go to Parades of Homes or new construction and model homes outside of your area. You don’t have to make a special trip, but if you are traveling for work or vacation, stop by some new homes and see what they’re doing outside of your region. If you don’t like to travel or can’t get away, you can get lots of ideas online. Google “new homes" or “new construction” in different states or cities. And don’t forget to take a look at the Google images. You can also check out sites like Realtor.com, Zillow, or Trulia and search “new homes” in several different parts of the country. You might find some regional design elements that you want to incorporate into your own home.
This year’s parade of homes in Austin Tx had only 5 houses available to tour, and one was a tiny house. But even with such a small number of houses, it was one of my favorite Parades of all time. The homes were examples of casual, timeless elegance at its best. There were light, bright transitional interiors (remember transitional is a balance between traditional and contemporary features). There were lots of clean lines, both inside and out, but the houses weren’t so clean that they felt minimalistic or cold. My husband even commented on how great the homes were. We didn’t really get any new ideas, but touring those homes confirmed to my husband and I that our house design is on trend, without being too trendy.
So, let’s get right into some new home features that I saw at the Austin Parade of Homes. I’ve seen some of these features in other parts of the country too, and we’ve talked about some of them before in other episodes, but some of the features are definitely more prevalent in Austin. Like #1 on our list...
Whether you believe in global warming or not, it seems that storms are becoming more and more prevalent and damaging. And even if you don’t live in tornado alley, or a coastal region that’s prone to hurricanes, you might want to consider adding some storm proofing measures to your new house. Storm proofing materials and techniques will not only make our homes stronger and more wind and water resistant, but also more airtight and energy efficient, in many instances.
Since high winds and heavy rain can potentially occur in many regions outside of areas classified as “storm prone,” it’s beneficial to learn about what we can do to protect our homes from even occasional, unexpected stormy weather. Case and point: Hurricane Michael. Not only did it bring hurricane force winds to coastal areas, it also brought 155-mph winds and associated tornados to inland communities, far from the coast. So this week, we'll go over a list of storm resistant features that might makes sense for your new build.
Before we move into our mini lesson, a shout out goes to Trista, for giving me this great show idea. Thanks Trista.
Okay, let’s get right into some Best Practices for Building a Storm Resistant House.
As we prepare to start construction, I have been calling around for quotes for the insurance that will need to be in place before we begin work and I’ve run into some challenges. There are two policies that you'll need to protect yourself if you are acting as an owner builder, one is Builders Risk insurance and the other is General Liability insurance. If you are hiring a general contractor, he or she is responsible for purchasing those policies.
We talked about Builders Risk and General liability insurance way back in episode 2 called
“You Could Save Money, Lots of Money, But Should You Build Your Own House?”
PoP Quiz: Do you remember the other name for Builder Risk Insurance? I know it’s been a long time since we talked about it, so don’t feel too bad if you can’t remember.
Well, the other name for Builders Risk Insurance is Course of Construction Insurance. And It covers loss or damage to the house under construction, as well as loss or damage of any of the materials and equipment used during the course of construction. Owner builders or builders should purchase enough Builders Risk coverage equal to 100% of the anticipated construction costs. So, if are building a $200,000 house, your Builders Risk policy should cover the full $200,000.
General Liability Insurance is the other type of insurance that you’ll need to protect yourself. General Liability safeguards owner builders or builders against potential lawsuits over accidents, injuries, and illnesses that occur on the job site. Lending institutions and building permit departments often require Builders risk and General Liability insurance.
Building a tight house is the goal for most of us. What that means is that the unintended openings, gaps and holes in the home’s exterior shell and in the duct system should be sufficiently sealed to keep outside air from leaking in, and to keep inside air from leaking out. A tight house will be more comfortable and have increased energy efficiency and lower utility bills. That’s because conditioned inside air produced by your HVAC system is less likely to escape and unconditioned outside air is less likely to sneak in through unwanted gaps. A tight house is also quieter, cleaner, and has better indoor air quality because outside noise, pests and pollutants have fewer opportunities to enter the home.
If you’ve listened to past episodes, you know that if we build tight, we should also ventilate right. You’ll hear old school contractors say that building a tight house is not a good idea because, they argue, a house should breathe. Modern building science has proven that old school contractors are wrong to avoid a tight building envelope. But, that old adage that a house should breathe is actually right. However, instead of house breathing through the uncontrolled air infiltration of a leaky house, we want a house with a tight building envelope that breathes through controlled ventilation.
This week. we’ll discuss ventilation systems for the home. Like last week’s moisture control mini lesson, the majority of the information this week comes from the US government’s website, energy.gov.
Let’s get started.
Uncontrolled moisture, in the forms of liquid water and water vapor, are huge enemies of any home. If not controlled, moisture can cause heating and cooling inefficiencies, resulting in an uncomfortable house and higher utility costs. Uncontrolled moisture can also lead to rot, mold, structural damage, and poor air quality.
What specific methods you use to control moisture will depend on the climate in your region and the design and construction of your home. This week we’ll go over some moisture control strategies that will work for the majority of us, but always consult with local contractors to a make sure these strategies will work for your project.
The information in this episode comes primarily from the US government’s website Energy.gov and energyvanguard.com
Let’s get right into it.
I’ve gotten lots of emails from many of you stating that you love the show, but that you decided to hire a builder. It’s almost as if you were apologizing for hiring a builder. But this podcast is for anyone building a house, so we can all build a quality dream home with or without a general contractor.
Some people just aren’t interested in contracting their own homes. They don’t have the time or interest to make all the decisions that builders have to make. They don’t feel comfortable hiring and managing subs, and, for them, hiring a general contractor is the best course of action. There should be no shame associated with hiring as much help as you need to build your house.
The purpose of this podcast/blog to help all of us make informed decisions and better understand the construction process, whether we use a builder or not.
Should you hire an interior designer? Interior designers will tell you that you should absolutely hire them to help you decorate your new house. But ask a barber if you need a haircut and you know what he’ll say.
Whether or not you hire an interior designer is an incredibly personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. To help you decide, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about some things. First and foremost, ask yourself if you can afford to hire an interior designer? If your budget is tight, you may have to forgo this service.
Secondly, you need to know your strengths, personality and sense of style. If you’re not into shopping for furniture and accessories and coordinating colors, if you don’t really have a good sense of style, and if you get overwhelmed when you have to make too many decisions, you’ll most likely benefit from hiring an interior designer to help design all or most of your house.
When thinking about interior design, you have to be able to balance aesthetics and function, while also considering how each individual piece will fit together as a whole. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, hiring an interior designer can help you.
According to the National Council for Home Safety and Security, only 17% of houses in the US have a security system. Many people have avoided home security because of the costly, long- term monitoring fees and annoying false alarms that plagued home security systems decades ago. But systems today have improved. They are both simpler to use and more sophisticated than ever before.
Homes that are targeted for crime are usually unoccupied homes with lots of cover, such as lots of tall bushes around the house. Homes with easy escape routes and easy access through unlocked or unsecured doors and windows are also favorites of criminals. Home security system deters criminals. Think about it, when an alarm sounds and interior lights come on in response to an alarm, and when exterior lights start flashing, or a voice comes through a video doorbell when a potential intruder approaches, the bad guys are more likely to leave your house alone and go after an easier, quieter target.
Homes without alarms are three times more likely to get burglarized according to The National Council for Home Safety and Security. Some say that statistic is overstated since overall crime rates have dropped in the US over the last several years. But whether that number is inflated or not, I don’t think anyone can argue that home security systems, at the very least, give criminals pause when they are considering which homes to violate. And for many people, especially as they age, a home security system brings peace of mind.
This week, I’ll give you the basics of home security systems. You’ll be able to find lots more detail on the websites of specific home security system brands, but this mini lesson should help you decide whether you have enough interest in home security to even seek out more information.
After discussing outdoor cooling methods, including outdoor fans, in last week’s episode, I realized we haven’t really talked about indoor ceiling fans. So, this week, I’ll give you some quick. tips on how to select, use and maintain your ceiling fans.
The right sized ceiling fan will keep you cool and save you money. Ceiling fans cost very little to run as compared to air conditioners. Running a fan will allow you to set your thermostat at a higher temperature when it’s hot outside so you can save money on your monthly electric bill. According to Energy Star, you can save 3-5% on air-conditioning costs for each degree you raise the thermostat.
Unlike air conditioners, ceiling fans don’t lower a room’s temperature or remove humidity from the air. But what we learned last week is that fans make us feel more comfortable by blowing humid air away from us and allowing the moisture on our skin to evaporate more readily. That’s what cools us down, making us feel 4-8 degrees cooler.
Ok, let’s get into those quick tips.
In this week’s episode, I have some helpful strategies that we can use to keep the inside and outside of our homes cooler and more comfortable during the hot summer. I did some research on what we can add to our homes that will make high outdoor temperatures more bearable. I’m talking about things we can include in and around our homes beyond an energy efficient air conditioner for our houses that has been sized according to Manual J calculation. We’ll discuss things like awnings, including retractable awnings, outdoor solar shades, solar screens and other shading products, outdoor fans, misting systems, misting fans, swamp coolers and outdoor portable air conditioners.
And since not all cooling systems work well in all climates, I’ll tell you which ones are best for dry heat and which are better for hot, humid climates.
This week’s post is inspired by one of my favorite resources for homebuilding and design ideas and advice: Houzz, short for House buzz. That site not only gives you access to thousands of inspiration photos, but also short blog posts and a helpful forum called GardenWeb.
When I was looking through the “Building a Home” section of the forum, I saw a couple of valuable discussions that inspired this week quick tips — one discussion having to do with the inclusion of a job site visitation policy in the construction contract and one discussion regarding deleting items from the initial specifications list.
Let's get right into the quick tips.
After I finished last week’s episode, I thought of a few more design features you should consider for your home if entertaining friends and family is important to you. If you didn’t get a chance to listen last week, check out episode 126 called Designing your Home for Entertaining and Family Gatherings.
Here are a few more entertaining design features.
Most of us building custom homes are not just doing it for ourselves, but so our friends and family can enjoy the space too. Even if you don’t plan on being the central hub for regular cocktail parties, game nights and potlucks, your nice, new house will probably be the spot for holiday dinners and casual family barbecues at least once or twice a year. So, in this week’s episode, I’ll give you some quick tips on how to design a home for entertaining— with features that will make your parties run more smoothly, make your guests to feel comfortable and features that will help you enjoy more time with your friends and family during get-togethers.
In addition to the suggestions and tips that I gave you episode 125 called "Consider These 50 Things for Your Electrical and Lighting Plan," I’m giving you 21 bonus tips that I’ve curated from past BYHYU episodes/posts. So that you can easily access the lighting and electrical tips to help you develop your own lighting plan, I’ve put them all together in one and a half episodes. You’ve heard these 21 bonus tips before, but I think this will serve as a nice refresher for many of you. Plus it will save you the trouble of having to listen to or read through several podcast episodes and posts to find the tips that will help you. If you haven’t listened to or read episode 125, you’ll definitely want to do that since the lion’s share of the suggestions are in that episode/post.
Let’s get right into our 21 bonus tips.
After giving a general overview last week of what’s needed for the specifications for the plumbing, mechanical and electrical subs, I thought it would be helpful to go into more detail about the lighting and electrical plan that you will have to give to the electrician. There is so much to consider. I’ll give you a list of 50 suggestions that you can use as a checklist to help you develop a pretty complete electrical and lighting plan before you even meet your builder or electrician for the lighting walkthrough.
The lighting walkthrough typically happens in the rough-in stage, after framing is complete and before the drywall goes up. Usually the homeowner will walk through the framed house with the electrician and/or builder and discuss where fixtures, outlets and light switches will go.
But thinking through the electrical and lighting plan well before you do the electrical walkthrough will allow you more time to consider exactly what features and outlets we want, and where. This decreases the chances of you forgetting an outlet or light switch somewhere. It will also give you an opportunity to develop more detailed specifications so you can get more accurate electrical bids before construction even begins. You may want to do a walkthrough by yourself a time or two when developing your lighting plan, just so you can get your thoughts together and not feel rushed when you do the official walk through with the electrician and/or builder.
I’ll give you some suggestions in list form. 50 suggestions here and 21 more tips in a bonus episode.
This week I want to tell you what’s going on with the specifications for the major subcontractors for my house. But wait... Should we start right off with a pop quiz? Hmmm yeah, let’s do that Pop Quiz: Do you remember what specifications are? We’ve talked about specifications in several episodes, including episode 119 called Understanding the Bidding Process.
So do you remember what the specifications are? Well, specifications or specs, describe what materials will be used to build a house and how those materials should be installed. While house plans are a visual, diagrammatic representation of your house, specs are like the written description.
I’ve told you previously that you or your builder should be as detailed as possible with your specifications in order to make sure your house is built to the level of quality and beauty that’s acceptable to you. And it’s typically a builder or architect that can help owner builders with the specifications.
But when I asked my architect about helping me with my specs he seemed pretty uncomfortable. Remember I told you that he’s been designing mostly commercial buildings for the last several years, so maybe that had something to do with his discomfort. So I asked Jose, one of the builders I've been consulting, about helping me with specs. And he said “yeah, no problem.” He wasn’t hesitant at all.
I met him one Saturday morning at Starbucks with me house plans and notebook in hand, ready to take copious notes. But once we got into the conversation, what he told me surprised me and frankly, gave me a sense of relief.
I just came back from the Tulsa, Oklahoma Parade of Homes. The real estate market in the Tulsa area is pretty underrated. There are beautiful homes and neighborhoods there and I love their parade of homes. This was my third or fourth year going.
Like always, this parade of homes allowed me to see what features are popular in new construction, at least in that part of the country (I saw a lot of the features listed in Home Trends 2018 and Home Trends 2017). But I also saw some features in houses that gave me pause. Features that we should definitively think twice about before putting them in our new homes. That’s what I want to talk about this week.
Lots of builders build what they’ve always built in the past because it’s easier to do what you’ve done dozens or hundreds of times before and because many builders don’t go on Houzz or Pinterest to study design features that today’s homeowners want.
To each his own. You have the right to design your house any way you want. If you like it, I love it, but I want to give you a list of a few things that I saw that are questionable design elements—mainly because of lack of functionality and poor use of space, but a couple things made the list purely because of aesthetics. But again, it’s your money and your house and your taste should reign supreme, just realize some of these features may be hard to live with or they may discourage potential buyers in the future.
Here’s my list of things I saw in the Tulsa Parade of Homes that you might want to think twice about before including in your new home:
1. Bowl shaped vessel sinks
I recently got a suggestion for a podcast/post from Glen (Hey Glen!) and I thought was a great idea. His suggestion was for me to talk about how much storage we should build into our new homes. Unfortunately, after days of research and I couldn’t find very much specific information on the subject. What I read over and over again, though, was that you should include more storage than you think you need for your family’s current and future needs. That ample amount of storage will not only make living in your new house more pleasant, but it will also make your house more appealing when it’s time for you to sell it.
A couple of weeks ago we talked about the bidding process, mainly as it pertains to owner builders getting bids from subcontractors (Episode 119). This week I’ll give you a quick overview of the different types of contract agreements you might decide on if you’re going to hire a general contractor to build your house. We'll briefly discuss fixed price contracts and cost plus contracts. Choosing which type of builder's contract to use is almost as important as choosing which general contractor to hire.
An outdoor kitchen is a space that used to be thought of as a luxury, but is now regarded more as a must-have amenity in many areas. Even if you only have a small space and a not so big budget, you can plan for a small outdoor kitchette. An outdoor kitchen will increase your home’s value, so it’s a great investment. This week, we’ll discuss some outdoor kitchen design features— some are practical and for almost any budget and some are more luxurious.
Let's get right into it.
After last week’s listener question episode called "My Bids Are Coming In Well Above Expected, What Should I Do?" I thought that a more in-depth lesson on the bidding process would be helpful. So that’s what we’re talking about this week-- bidding.
Once we have a detailed plan of our project, in the form of accurate construction/architectural drawings and written specifications, the bid process can begin. Our goal in going through a competitive bid process is not just to get the lowest price for the job, but to get the best quality work for the lowest price.
Before we dive into the mini lesson, let’s define a few pro terms. We may have talked about these in previous episodes, but I think we need a review before we move on.
Our pro terms this week are construction drawings, specifications and construction bids.
Recently a listener emailed me with a question that I thought would be good to share on the podcast and website. It has to do with the bidding process.
Getting bids is the process of getting cost proposals from subcontractors. To get an accurate bid, at a minimum, we need to give each subcontractor a set of house plans and specifications. The specifications describe the specific materials needed for the job and the methods for construction. We’ll talk in more detail about the bid process next week in a mini lesson. But right now, let's go over the question and the answer I gave.
Here's the listener's question:
"I've enjoyed listening to your podcast as we are in the pre-construction phase of planning to build our own home. However, in the past couple of weeks our subcontractor bids have been coming in and we are starting to get concerned. I sent MULTIPLE bid requests to subcontractors for each trade, and even though all of them haven't come in, we are trending well above what it would cost to go through a builder. What am I doing wrong? Do general contractors have some underground network of cheap laborers that I'm missing out on because I'm not a GC? Any advice would be helpful!"
So when exactly is the best time to build a house? I always assumed it was the spring or summer because that’s when everyone seems to start construction. And depending on what your goals are, spring and summer are the best times. However, fall, and rarely winter, could be a better time to start. Again, depending on your goals.
If you live in an area that has a very mild winter season, you might consider starting your house in the winter. Otherwise, winter is not the optimal time. Although special preparations can be made to build in the very cold temperatures and, even in the snow, those special preparations will usually increase your construction costs and your construction time. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, starting construction in the winter is not what you want to do.
Let’s focus our brief discussion on whether to start construction in the spring or summer or in the fall.
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