This week I have part 2 of the list of the best things homeowners did when building. The information comes from a couple of posts at Houzz.com. Homeowners who had built previously listed the favorite features they included in their builds—features that made life in the house easier and/or more enjoyable. I listed the first 25 features in part one a couple of weeks ago, so let’s start with number 26.
26. Choosing a slab foundation and a single story house. A couple of people said a slab with no steps from garage to house and no steps from patio or yard to house made entering the house easier and would make aging in place easier. That homeowner said their front porch still has steps but that they don't use that entrance from day to day, so those steps didn’t effect them significantly.
If a slab will work well for your climate, usually a warmer climate, slabs are typically more economical and have fewer problems with moisture and creaky floors as compared to a basement or crawlspace foundation.
One homeowner, though, commented on one of the downsides of a slab. Because slabs are made of concrete, they tend to be harder on the legs and body when standing for longer periods of time as compared to a crawlspace or basement foundation. When you have a crawlspace or basement, the main floor of the house, which is essentially the ceiling of the crawlspace or basement, is made of wood. Wood is more flexible and bouncier than concrete, so it’s easier on the body. To learn more about the pros and cons of different types of foundations, take a listen to episode 69.
27. Windows in the bathrooms for natural light, which is the most flattering light.
28. Adding a sliding patio door to backyard in the master bedroom. The homeowner says it’s convenient and provides a lot of natural light. The downside is that a patio door takes up a lot of wall space, so make sure you have enough room on your walls for your bed and other furniture you want in your bedroom. And you’ll not only want to think about large patio doors in bedrooms, but also windows in general. Think about where you will place furniture before finalizing the window layout. You don’t want so many windows that it makes it difficult to place your bed and other furniture in the room.
29. Taking pictures of every wall in the house, before insulation and drywall were installed. This is a tip I gave a while back. Those pictures will serve as proof of materials and workmanship used and they will be a map of where pipes, gas lines and wiring are in case problems arise and/or you need work done in the future.
30. Adding a mud room or mud space where there is storage for coats, shoes, boots and backpacks.
31. An oversized garage and oversized laundry room so there is ample space for storage and activities like woodworking or crafting.
32. Extra outdoor living areas. Covered and screened-in porches and expanded decks and balconies have become increasingly popular over the last several years. They not only extend your living area, but also increase the perceived value of your home if you ever decide to sell.
33. Framed out the wall area for a standard depth refrigerator. That way, in the event the fridge needs to be replaced, there will be more options than there would be for a counter depth fridge.
The standard depth of cabinets, meaning the measurement of cabinets from front to back, is 25 inches. Standard depth refrigerators generally measure 30 to 35 inches in depth. That means standard refrigerators stick out 5-10 inches beyond the front of cabinetry. To give standard fridges a built-in look, many people add cabinetry above and a wall or cabinets on the sides of standard depth refrigerators. Standard refrigerators come in a variety of styles, from traditional freezer on top models to side by side and French door models.
Standard depth refrigerators typically cost about 15 to 20% less than counter depth refrigerators that have comparable features, and standard refrigerators commonly have a larger capacity compared to counter depth refrigerators of the same width.
Counter depth refrigerators are more shallow, but wider and slightly taller than standard depth refrigerators, with a depth of 25 inches. Occasionally so called counter depth refrigerators will be up to 30 inches deep, so be sure to look at the measurements before ordering. Counter depth refrigerators are usually chosen for aesthetic reasons because they look sleeker, sitting flush (or nearly flush) with surrounding cabinetry and counters. And although counter depth fridges have less capacity than standard refrigerators of the same width, accessing and viewing food is easier because there is less risk of food getting lost in the back of these more shallow units.
34. Separate shower heads in the master shower with thermostatic valves so each spouse has their shower set to their preferred temperature, with no adjusting needed when they get in the shower. This homeowner also had her husband’s shower head height raised since he’s pretty tall.
35. Door swing clearances designed so every door would have clearance to rest flat against an adjacent wall, avoiding door swinging open to hit or block outlets, thermostats ,countertops, furniture or other items. Ideally doors should rest at a 90 degree position when open. In other words, the door and the door opening should create an L shape when the door is open.
36. Working with a lighting store design team. That homeowner said saving several hundred dollars by buying your own lighting online instead of a lighting store sounds great but is risky. She also said to Always err on the side of adding too much light that you can decrease with dimmers.
37. Running PVC pipe or a flexible conduit from the basement or ground floor to the attic, and along your driveway or yard. This empty pipe will allow you to easily add cables or electrical wiring for any additions you might want in the future.
38. Working closely with the electrician to lay out exactly where switches and electrical outlets will be located. One homeowner suggests putting an electrical outlet somewhere along the stairwell, maybe near the landing. Think through where you will place nightstands, desks, tvs, computers and other items that will need electrical outlets. And make sure doors don’t block light switches.
39. Sound proofing walls between living areas and bedrooms. Sound proofing can be done with fiberglass or mineral wool insulation and/or 5/8 inch or sound proofing drywall.
40. Locate the powder room or public bathrooms so users will have some privacy and consider soundproofing the walls.
41. Using a high quality exhaust fan to pull out heat, steam and odors. In my house, we’ll be using exhaust fans from Broan/Nu Tone. They have Energy Star, super quiet exhaust fans and some models have a new LED light technology called Surface Shield that kills bacteria and mold.
The Surface Shield exhaust fans have an energy-saving soft, white LED light mode for everyday task lighting. And When you aren’t using the bathroom, you can turn on the SurfaceShield™ continuous antimicrobial mode. The violet purple light kills bathroom microorganisms, but costs less than $4 a year to use. I’ll put a link in the show notes where you can learn more about this technology.
42. Going to the job site nearly every day. That homeowner said it was remarkable how many mistakes they easily corrected by visiting the job site regularly.
43. Adding 36 inch comfort height bathroom vanities. Comfort height vanities are more ergonomic causing less back strain when bending over as compared to standard height vanities which are 32 inches tall. I’m 5' 6" and my husband is 6’ 3" so we’re using these comfort height vanities in our master bathroom. But comfort height vanities may not be the best idea for bathrooms used by shorter adults or small children.
44. Installing tile in the entrance foyer instead of hardwood. Tile will obviously stand up to rain water and snow much better than hardwood.
45. Thinking about the functionality of the kitchen, and not just the looks/aesthetics. Think through how you cook, clean, do dishes and entertain in the kitchen and place appliances, cabinetry, and trash bins, in areas that will allow for the most efficient flow. Consider both your weekday and weekend routines and make sure the layout for the kitchen, and the whole house for that matter, allows for efficiency, comfort and enjoyment of your spaces.
46. The last things on the list are all about paying a bit more for quality materials. Several homeowners said they are glad they invested more money in things such as a Solid, good quality staircase because it is sturdier and quieter than a less expensive staircase would be.
Other more expensive but greater quality materials listed were solid interior doors instead of hollow core doors, Good quality windows, a multi stage HVAC system, 2x6 framing, spray foam insulation, thicker drywall, nailed down wood flooring and high quality carpet and padding. Good padding, the homeowner wrote, can make mid range carpet feel more high quality and cheap/thin padding can make good quality carpeting feel less expensive.
Good quality roofing materials was also listed. We’ll be using a 24 gauge standing seam metal roof from McElroy Metal for my house. I love the clean, contemporary look of their matte black Medallion Lok metal roof. But what’s just as important to me as how the roof looks is the fact that the Medallion Lok roof is energy efficient, resistant to high winds, fire and hail and long lasting. I’ll most likely never have to replace the roof on my home since quality metal roofs last 50 years or more.
All the high quality features listed, the homeowners said, increase the Comfort and overall quality of the house and give homes a sense of solidness. The homeowners suggest Building to standards above and beyond code because building Code standards offer minimal quality, efficiency and safety. And I agree.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Well that’s all I have this week. If you haven’t listened to part one of this this episode, go back so you can hear the first 25 things on the list of the best things homeowners did when building. Thank you for joining me.