How should you coordinate/pair your backsplash and countertop? Should they be matchy-matchy or contrasting? Which should you choose first? And how much influence should your flooring and cabinet choices have on your choice of backsplash and countertop? This week I’ll give you a few quick tips to help you with making your choices for these two major surfaces of the kitchen (and bathroom).
It’s one thing to see small samples of countertops, tile, paint and flooring in a showroom or retail space, but to see those design features displayed in new houses is so much more helpful. Not even full sized samples such as doors, plumbing fixtures and lighting fixtures have the same impact in a showroom or a photo as they do up close and personal in real life applications. That’s why I take as many opportunities as I can to go to new homes around the country. I want to stay on the pulse of what's new and trending, and what design features seem to be here to stay for the foreseeable future— the ones that emerged several years ago, but don’t seem to be going anywhere (like linear fireplaces).
I recently went to 2 parades of homes—one in Kansas City and one in the Memphis, TN area.
I visited about 30 different brand new homes, about 6 in Memphis and the rest in Kansas City. Many of the features that I saw we’ve talked about on other design trend episodes, but I think it’s important to keep revisiting the topic of home design so we don’t build and decorate a brand new house in a way that looks dated soon after we move in. Here are some of the top design elements I saw in those parades of homes…
The Energy Information Administration says that home appliances produce the third largest energy expenditure in the home, representing about 9% of the typical energy bill. Only heating and cooling, and water heating use more energy. Specifically, refrigerators and clothes dryers have the highest operating costs per year.
Because most of us want not only a beautiful, well-designed house, but also one that is energy efficient and/or sustainable, over the coming months I’ll be doing several episodes/posts where we’ll talk about noted high performance houses that have been covered in the media. I’m a big believer in learning from others since we may be able to incorporate into our own projects some of design elements and materials used in other recognized green, energy efficient homes.
Let’s get right into it.
Because of the popularity of white interior walls, and white backgrounds in general on blogs and social media posts, we have grown accustomed to thinking of white as a go-to backdrop for many of our interior spaces. White is familiar, bright and offers a clean background for highlighting home furnishings and features. The fresh, clean background is why most museums and galleries use white walls to showcase artwork. White can be a great choice for traditional and contemporary spaces. But to some people, white can come off as cold, boring and sterile and overdone.
Choosing a white is not as "black and white" as you might think. There are hundreds of shades of white. You’ve got to put some thought into selecting the right white for your spaces. Although your eye may be drawn to the the purest, whitest white, be careful, because the whitest white can look, well, kinda like primer. Many times a cool white or a warm white is a better choice. A cool white is one with blue, gray or green undertones and a warm white has brown, red, orange, yellow or pink undertones.
Did you know that the average home build produces about 8,000 pounds of waste? And with increasing landfill and building material costs, reducing job site waste could both help the environment and save you a significant amount of money. The less you have to throw away, the less money you have to spend getting rid of your construction waste.
When renting a dumpster for a construction site, you’re charged based on the size dumpster. The more waste you accumulate, the larger, and more expensive the dumpster you’ll need. In addition, the weight of your debris will also have some baring on the waste management fees.
When a dumpster is picked up from a construction site for emptying, the dumpster and debris are weighed at the disposal station. After it has been emptied, the dumpster will be weighed again to determine the amount of waste disposed of. If you exceed the weight of the dumpster’s capacity, you’re usually be charged an overage fee. This is an unexpected line item that ideally we want to avoid. In this week’s episode, I’ll give you some quick tips on how to reduce job site waste so those overage fees are less likely to occur. Plus, we’ll hear from Angela Phillips from ZTERS, the waste management solutions company that I’ve been working with. Angela will give us a little more insight how we can manage our waste more efficiently.
This week's episode is based on an article that I read in Houzz called "10 Home Design Trends on the Rise." They made this list based of trends that they see in photos that designers and homeowners have submitted, and based on their conversations with design professionals. This list includes things that I too have been seeing in past few years that I think we'll continue to see in new homes as we go into 2020.
Don’t call it a comeback, marble’s been here for years. But in the last decade, marble has become more popular than ever, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. But… how good of an idea is that? In this week’s mini lesson, we’ll look at the pros and cons of using marble in our new homes, and the difference between 2 of the most widely requested types of marble:
Calacutta and Cararra marble.
Before we get into that, let’s go over a couple of Pro Terms: Topical sealers and Impregnators.
For decades, the standard ceiling height was 8 feet tall—a dimension that resulted from two 4-foot-wide drywall sheets laid together horizontally. But homes are now being built with standard 9 or 10 foot ceilings on the first floor, and ceilings at 8 or 9 feet tall on the second floor.
When 8 foot ceilings were standard in most homes, cabinets were often designed to accommodate that height. Standard cabinets could go all the way to the ceiling by adding crown molding and trim in the gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. Alternatively, cabinets would extend to a dropdown, drywall soffit within the kitchen. An interior soffit is the drop-down box that runs along the ceiling that often hides plumbing, ducts and electrical wiring.
With today’s taller ceiling heights, the potential space above standard upper cabinets has become larger and we have to decide how far up we want our cabinetry to go. Should we leave an open space between the upper cabinets and the ceiling, or should we fill that space with a soffit or with additional cabinetry?
Last week, we began a mini lesson on the pros and cons of different exterior door styles. We went over 2 of the most common styles: single, standard doors and French doors. Plus, we talked about a new kid on the block, bifold doors. In this second part of our list, we’ll discuss more old school and new school door styles, including sliding doors, pivot doors and dutch doors. And we’re answering the burning question “Are storm doors still a thing?“
Let's get right into it.
Whether you’re deciding on what style of door you want for your main front entry, or to your patio, or to any other area that leads to the outdoors, there are several door styles to consider. It’s not just a matter of choosing a traditional single, or double, French doors for your main entrance. You could also install a pivot door, or a dutch door. For your patio doors, there are French doors, sliding doors, and bifold doors to consider. This week and next, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of each style of exterior door.
Last week, I introduced you to roof overhangs. Remember, a roof overhang is simply an extension of the eave or “edge” of the roof. The overhang can extend beyond the exterior walls of the house many inches, or a few feet.
In part 1 of the mini lesson, we talked about how many homeowners and house designers pay too little attention to roof overhangs because they think of them as purely aesthetic. But overhangs have several important functions: they can protect exterior doors, windows, and exterior walls from rain and snow; they can shade windows from hot summertime sun rays; and they can help keep basements and crawl spaces dry by directing rainwater away from the main structure of the house.
We learned that all sides of the house will benefit from 16-18 inch overhangs because those overhangs will protect the house from the elements. And that the south side of the house will see the most impact from deeper overhangs for shading. Remember, the roof overhangs for shading are usually 24 inches minimally, but more often 36 inches or more.
I’ve been using the word wide to describe the overhang sizes because that’s what the articles I read used, but I think the correct dimension is deep. Deep is measured from front to back. Wide is technically a side to side measurement. The depth of overhangs is mainly what determines how much shading they will give (although width matters too). But I digress…
This week, we’ll go over whether you need deep roof overhangs for shading on the north, east and west sides of your house. Plus I’ll tell you what you can do to protect your house from the sun’s heat and rain if you either don’t want overhangs, or can’t have them because of building code. Yep, building codes in some areas don’t allow overhangs.
Although you may have thought about the color and material you want for your roof, the typical homeowner puts little thought into the actual design of their roof. And roof overhangs specifically, forget about it. Roof overhangs haven’t even crossed most people’s minds.
A roof overhang is simply an extension of the eave or “edge” of the roof (I mistakenly said "house" on the podcast). The overhang can extend beyond the exterior walls of the house many inches or a few feet.
In this week’s mini lesson, I’ll tell you why overhangs shouldn’t just be an afterthought. And why almost every new home should include them, where possible.
Before we get into the meat of the mini lesson, let’s go over a Pro term.
Pro term: Scupper
Where you place your dishwasher can increase or decrease your kitchen’s functionality and flow. And although there is no one exact right place that dishwashers should universally go, this week I have a list of quick tips that you should think about before deciding where to put your dishwasher. If you haven’t heard our Dishwasher Buying Guide Quick Tips, you might want to go to episode 80 and take a listen.
In recent years, homeowners have been opting for fewer upper cabinets to give their kitchens a more open, airy feeling. Some people want completely empty walls (maybe with a window) where traditional upper cabinets would have gone. But many homeowners are requesting open shelves, sometimes called floating shelves, in place of some, or all, of their upper cabinets.
People are typically either adamantly for, or adamantly against open shelving in the kitchen. You’d be surprised how much emotion is stirred up by the subject of open shelves. Some people claim they are one of the most beautiful and most functional features you can put in a kitchen, and others say that open shelves are not only unsightly, but unsanitary.
I have a couple of pocket of doors planned for my new house and when I was talking to a contractor about them, he said “I hate pocket doors.” That's not an uncommon statement. Some people love pocket doors because they’re sometimes the only small space door solution available, but pocket doors also have some problems. So let’s talk about the pros and cons of pocket doors and let’s briefly discuss some pocket door quick tips.
One of the first things you’ll have to decide when building a house is whether you want to be an owner-builder, or use a general contractor for your project. If you are considering building the home yourself, episodes 2 and 7, called "You Can Save Money, Lots of Money, But Should You Build Your Own House?" and "Build Your House Yourself, But Not All By Yourself" will give you some insight on acting as your own general contractor.
If, however, you want to use a builder to construct your new home, you’ll have to choose between a custom home builder and a production builder. Much of your decision will rest in how many choices you wish to make and how much input you’d like to have during the construction process. In this week’s episode, we’ll talk about the differences in production builders and custom home builders and I’ll give you the pros and cons of each. A shout out goes to listener Architects guide for this week’s show idea.
Let’s get right into it….
Really quick episode this week about something I recently learned about that can make our lives easier and help us to save on our electricity bills: Smart outlets or smart plugs.
First let me tell you the difference between an outlet and a plug. An outlet is a built-in rectangular receptacle with usually 2 electrical sockets that is an electrician installs in the wall, floor and sometimes drawers. A plug is a small square or rectangular box with sockets that plugs into an existing electrical outlet. Plugs are often used when you need more than 2 sockets. An electrical strip is a variation of a plug.
If, like me, you’re a fan of HGTV’s Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines, I bet you remember the Barndominium episode. They restored an old barn into a beautiful family home. Although barndominiums have been around for decades, that episode of Fixer Upper, and the popularity of modern farmhouse and rustic chic decor have made many homeowners decide to build a barndominium for themselves.
So what exactly are barndominiums? Well, barndominiums are a type of barn, usually, but not always, made of metal. These metal barn structures are then upgraded, finished, and furnished to serve as a comfortable home, at least in part.
They are an alternative to traditional stick-built new homes for homeowners who love a barn aesthetic and who want to live in an unconventional house. And although this style house is not for everyone, there are a few homebuilding practices and features of barndominiums that most of us can incorporate into our homes and homebuilding experience, no matter what home style we choose.
Last week we talked extensively about water softeners and water conditioners. Water softeners and conditioners help to alleviate many hard water problems, including limescale build-up in your plumbing. But water softeners and conditioners are ineffective in removing chemicals and contaminants that can cause less-healthy, bad-tasting and foul-smelling water. For those issues, you’ll need a water filtration system.
Although city and county water systems typically do a good job of removing harmful quantities of contaminants from tap water, they leave behind small amounts of substances that most of use would rather not drink. Some tap water contains the residue of treated sewage, industrial waste, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals, toxic metals like arsenic and mercury, plus fluoride, disinfectants, and storm runoff.
Other contaminants that might be found in tap water, or especially in well water, include Illness-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites, and pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, as well as Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs).
In this week’s mini lesson, we’ll get into the different types of water filtration systems and what sort of certifications you should be looking for before you buy one.
How Do You Know If You Have Hard Water in Your Area and What Can You Do About it? Water Softeners vs Water Conditioners— BYHYU 165
If your area has hard water, you’ll usually notice. There will probably be whitish, yellowish, or grayish deposits on shower heads and faucets, and around drains, and sometimes even in toilet bowls. These deposits are called limescale, scale or scaling and are usually deposits of calcium and/or magnesium. This scaling is a tell tale sign of hard water.
It’s said that about 85% of all households in the US have some degree of hard water. Some of the hardest water in the country is found in the midwest. Take look at the map below showing the level of water hardness in different areas of the country.
To commemorate our 100th episode, I want to give you some of my favorite homebuilding and design tips that I’ve learned over the past 2 years of this podcast. I’ve learned so much, but these are some of the most relevant things.
We’ll go over 50 tips in this week’s mini lesson, but since this is the 100th episode, it only makes sense that I give you a list of 100 of the most important pieces of homebuilding knowledge that I've gained. So we’ll go over 50 tips now and I’ll send you 50 more tips and tricks if you email me at info@BYHYU.com or you can get in touch with me through the "Contact Us" tab above.
All you have to do is type the number "100" in the subject line and as a thank you for helping me get to episode 100, I’ll send you a PDF of a list of 50 bonus tips, plus the 50 tips that we’ll cover in today, so you won’t have to take notes. You’ll end up with a list of 100 of my favorite bits of homebuilding information. Now don’t worry about me spamming you. I wouldn’t do that.
Before we get to the first 50 tips, I want to sincerely thank you for your loyalty and support and for encouraging me to keep the podcast going with your awesome reviews and kind emails. I especially want to thank you for sharing the show with friends, family and coworkers by text, email and on social media. You are the reason the show is doing so well. Since I’m not great with social media, I’ve been counting on you to spread the word about the podcast/blog and you’ve done that, so thank you.
As we move forward with the podcast/blog, I’ll continue to give you quick tips, mini lessons and interviews that will help you make informed decisions about your homebuilding options, but when I actually break ground on my own project, I’ll be doing more regular project updates and I’ll tell you what materials, appliances, fixtures, and methods I’ve decided on and why. Thank you again for all that you’ve done to help me over the past 2 years.
Okay, let’s get into the first 50 most relelvant homebuilding tips.
BEST OF BYHYU: Hot Water Heaters 101— Learn about the Pros and Cons of Conventional and Tankless Water Heaters— BYHYU 163
Did you know that most water heaters use more energy than all other household appliances combined? According to the US Dept of Energy, water heaters account for almost 17% of a home’s energy use. Other sources say it’s up to 30% of the a home’s energy. This week’s mini lesson will help you decide if a conventional, storage tank water heater or a tankless water heater is the better choice for your new home. And the choice is probably not as cut and dried as you think.
Conventional, storage tank water heaters are still the most common type of water heaters found in new homes in the US. But tankless water heaters are steadily gaining popularity. We’ll go over the basic information about how conventional water heaters and tankless water heater work, plus the pros and cons of each system.
Let's start with this week’s pro term.
BEST OF BYHYU: Size Matters… BUT SO DOES DESIGN. 20 Design and Construction Features That Can Save You Money When Building a New House—BYHYU 162
Most people know that the square footage of a house will affect the cost of construction, but many people don’t realize that how a house is DESIGNED and LAID OUT will also affect the bottom line. And since many of us are unaware of what design choices we can make to reduce our construction costs, I’ve compiled a list 20 money saving design and layout ideas.
The easiest way to save money DURING construction is to figure out how to reduce costs BEFORE construction even begins—during the design and planning phases. The cost to build two houses with the same square footage can vary greatly depending on how the houses are designed and constructed. Great savings can be hidden in small details, and a few dollars saved here and there can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of construction. We’ll find out how we can design our homes to reduce construction costs in a moment, but first let’s define our pro term: Cantilever
BEST OF BYHYU: What Homeowners Would Do Differently If They Built Again—Advice From Those Who Have Already Built A Custom Home —BYHYU 161
As we plan to build our homes, I thought it would be a good idea to scour several blogs and forums to get advice from those who have built before. I specifically wanted to find out what mistakes people had made in planning and building their homes—what they would do differently if they were to build again. So I’ve compiled an extensive list which details the things that homeowners would do, and did do differently when building their second, third and even fourth houses.
Let’s learn from the experiences of others, so we won’t make similar mistakes. Now, some of what others consider “misses” won’t matter to you in the least. Some features should not be included in your house plans because they won’t enhance the way you live. And many of the suggestions are pretty luxurious in nature, so they may not fit everyone’s budget or style. Take suggestions that resonate most with you and the vision you have for your home. But listen with your current and future lifestyle in mind. Think about how you currently live in your home and how you might live in 5, 10 or even 20 years.
Before we get into the main topic, let’s talk about our pro terms for this week. There are 3 of them because they’re closely related and people often get them confused. They’re roofing terms. The first is:
Eave: An eave is the edge of a roof. It is the overhanging lowest part of a roof. Eaves usually project beyond the side of the house for both decorative and practical reasons. The eaves project beyond the house to direct rain water or snow away from sides of the house and larger eaves provide shade.
Two of the main parts that make up the eave are the fascia and the soffit.
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