As I go through my homebuilding process, I’ll be letting you know what I learn in my preconstruction and construction meetings, and what tips I pick up on the job site from contractors. Last week I met with my architect and construction manager to clear up a few last details before we send the plans off to more subcontractors for bids. Although my experience and my house will obviously be different from yours, I’m hoping what I learn through my process will help you with your project. This week, I have a short list of quick tips that I picked up during my meeting.
Well, we’ve made some progress. We finally got our foundation and structural plan from the engineer and our building permit has been approved. Hallelujah!
Putting in some time and effort to get organized before we break ground will help the construction process go more smoothly and be less stressful, for us and our contractors. It’s important to get information out of our heads, and out of our numerous piles of magazines and papers, and off of our scattered sticky notes, and instead, organize all of our design and construction information into an easy to use system. This week we’ll talk about how we can organize all the information we’ll gather before and during the construction process.
During Design and Construction Week, the International Builders Show (IBS) and the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) come together for one huge trade show that showcases the newest products and materials for residential design and construction. This year the show was in Vegas and despite the very cold weather (it snowed... twice... in Vegas!), I made my way to the convention center to check out most of the exhibitors.
If you go to the show every year, like I’ve done in the last several years, you’ll see the many of the same tried and true products on display each year. But there are a few things in this year’s show that caught my eye.
Here's a list of some of my favorites:
Radiant heated driveways, also called snow melting systems, are installed just beneath a driveway’s surface and used to remove snow and ice without having to shovel, plow, snow blow or salt the driveway. They keep the pavement warm enough to melt falling snow so it doesn’t accumulate. They also keep the driveway too warm to allow water to freeze into slippery, dangerous ice.
With snow removal, time is of the essence. If you don’t remove snow shortly after a snowfall, walking and driving on the fallen snow can compact the snow, making it more difficult to remove. Compacted snow sometimes becomes as slippery as ice, increasing the risk of people slipping and cars sliding.
Even if you don’t live in a region that gets lots of winter storms, you might consider a heated driveway if the limited amount of snow and ice you do get causes unsafe passage to and from your home— if you have a sloped driveway that would be difficult and dangerous, to drive on or clear, or if you have a sun-starved, north-facing driveway where snow and ice might not melt for many days, or even weeks.
For those who get any amount of snow and ice but don’t have the time or physical ability for adequate removal, you might at least consider a heated driveway. Keep in mind, in regions that get less snow, it’s harder to find someone to hire for snow and ice removal. In areas where you have to remove snow and ice yourself, a heated driveway could even be considered an aging-in-place feature.
Heated driveways save homeowners time, effort and money by keeping them from having to remove snow and ice themselves or having to hire someone to do so. If you live in an area where it snows often during the winter, you might think of a heated driveway of less of a luxury and more of a practical amenity. Some snow storms are so heavy that homeowners have to shovel several times a day. Installing a heated driveway could save them countless hours of shoveling.
This week we'll learn more about the different types of heated driveways, the cost to install and run a system, and the alternative to a heated driveway.
Last week, in episode 152, we went over 8 things you should never say to your contractors. I want to do a brief episode so we can complete our list. However, this is, by no means, a comprehensive list. If you can think of some other things we should never say to a contractor, let us know in the comment section below.
Although communicating with our contractors is an important part of successfully building our homes, there are certain things that we should never say to them. This week, and next week, we’ll discuss some of those taboo phrases or questions that should never be uttered to our contractors. Here's the first part of our list...
1. You’re the only one bidding on this job.
Last week we talked about whether a buying an extended home warranty is a smart idea. Those home warranties are offered by third party companies that will help pay for repairing, and, if necessary, replacing, covered appliances and home components, such as plumbing. Extended home warranties are usually somewhat comprehensive policies that cover more than just one appliance or house component. But this week, we’ll discuss the wisdom of getting extended appliance warranties on specific appliances, including HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) units.
Most retailers and dealers offer extended warranties, also called service plans, at the time of purchase. And some manufacturers will let you buy extended warranties within the first year of the purchase date, as long as the regular manufacturer’s warranty hasn’t expired. Let’s talk about if, and when, those extended appliance warranties are a good investment.
If you’re like me, you’ve been seeing commercials for extended home warranties and wondering if they’re a good investment. These home warranties are supposed to go beyond the coverage that you get with the usual homeowners insurance policy. They are warranties that are offered by third party companies that will pay for repairing, and, if necessary, replacing, covered appliances and home components, such as plumbing, should problems arise. So are home warranties a smart idea?
The information in this week’s episode comes from a article that was recently posted on Houzz called "32 Home Design Trends That Will Rule in 2019." Houzz chose those 32 design trends after analyzing data from photos and articles that have been saved from the site, plus interviewing professional designers. The trends are those they think you can expect to see a lot in 2019. Many of them are features we’ve seen over the last several years, but that will still be popular in new homes this year.
I was trying to wait until we actually started construction before I did another project update, but I know you guys have been wondering what’s been going on since my last update back in September. Well, as you know from the title of the episode, we still haven’t started construction.
As with most features in your home, the way you design your kitchen island should be a matter of functionality, personal taste, your budget, and your lifestyle. This week’s quick tips will help you design an island that is not only on trend style wise, but also functional and comfortable.
You may or may not have heard of central vacuum systems, also called “central vac.” People who know of them generally love 'em or hate 'em. This week we’ll talk about the pros and cons of putting a central vac in your new home. We’ll also go over the cost of the system and who would benefit from it most.
Let’s get right into it.
This week we’ll talk in more detail about a rainscreen, which is a moisture control measure that can be used in new construction. I briefly introduced you to rain screens in episode 134 called "Learn to Control One of Your Home’s Biggest Enemies: Moisture". But in this week mini lesson, we’ll have a more in depth discussion of rainscreens and talk about when they are recommended. But before we get to that, let’s go over a Pro Term.
Pro Term: Flashing:
Hardware refers to all the metal knobs, levers, latches, pulls, hinges, and handles in a house. When building a new house, we’ll need to decide what style and color hardware to choose for the cabinets, windows, drawers and doors. So, in this week’s brief episode/post, we’ll go over what’s trending in hardware and metal finishes.
Most of us will include tiles in several rooms in our homes. Tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms are most common, but new homes today might have tiles as the main flooring in the living rooms, on fireplace surrounds, as feature walls and as outdoor flooring.
As a material that will be used repeatedly in our homes, and as a material that can be potentially pretty expensive, the last thing we want to do is invest in tile that’s no longer in style. As with everything, going for classic favorites that have stood the test of time is always a safe bet, but choosing materials that are classic, interesting and current, all at the same time, makes the most sense for the longevity of your design and for the resale of your house.
So, let’s talk about 13 current tile trends
I recently got a request from Isabel who asked if I could do an episode on building a fire resistant house. For those of us who want to make our homes as safe possible, incorporating some fire resistant features is a smart idea. Interestingly, many ordinary, everyday homebuilding materials are either naturally fire resistant or they can become fire resistant with a few tweaks. Although most building materials are not 100% fire proof, many materials that we’ll talk about today will give your house a fighting chance if it’s ever threatened by fire. Homes built with the right materials, the right landscaping layout, and smart detailing have a far better chance of escaping a fire with less damage.
Since windows are one of the the most prominent design features and expensive line items for our new homes, it’s important that we know what's popular in windows, so we don’t make the expensive mistake of purchasing windows that will take away from our homes curb appeal and resale value. We want windows that will make our homes feel current and interesting, and not tired and dated. Here are 7 window trends that you might consider for your project.
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.
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