“The devil is in the details”. Probably you listen this phrase before, don’t you? In in home construction it is not different: some details during the building can cost homeowners a lot of money in the future.
Insulation is one of the most important topics when you are planing your house building. We have clear rules dictated by the codes in place, but you also have to decide among a lot of options that contractors present you: fiberglass batts and blankets, cotton batts, rockwool batts and blankets, blown-in cellulose, open and closed cell spray foam, among others (you can find a list of different types of insulation clicking here).
Despite the importance of the R-values to pass the inspection, also you have to remember that air leaks are very important for your to have an energy efficient house. Air leaking into your attic, for example, could be costing you money—from 15 – 20% of a home’s heating and cooling energy is lost due to air leaks normally. A single 2″ hole can draft expensive heated air into your attic and suck cold air in around your windows and doors. And you don’t want to waste lots of money just because of that, do you?
Thinking of your ceiling as a solid surfaces is a big mistake: the truth is that ceiling leaks air into unfinished attic spaces through a lot of gaps and openings:
heating and air conditioning ducts
Air leaks have a chimney-like effect on the insulation of houses. When leaks exist in the attic, warm air from the living areas is funneled upward and out through the roof. As this upward suction occurs, cold air that enters the house – through leaks in the basement, for example – is funneled through the ground floor into the living quarters.
To avoid this air leak you need a caulk, tape or a spray foam (a lot of brands are there in the market). You have to seal all possible spaces that can leak air from your main living area to your attic. It is a time consuming process but not an impossible work for you. If you prefer, hire a specialized contractor to help you on that (at least to test if your house is leaking air to your attic).
The EnergyStar.gov website has a lot of good information that can help you decide if you need to improve your insulation to save money in electrical bills. It will also help our environment.
With the decreasing availability of large structural lumber work with trusses for your roof construction can save you money and also comply with all structural needs for your project. The length of lumber subject to bending stress are broken into smaller sections, and that’s the main reason you can work with cheaper lumber products. But take care of some extra costs when doing trusses for your roof.
You have a lot of types of truss designs, and during the design of your project you have to adapt all your load needs. The maximum allowable span depends on the type of wood you are using in your construction (Southern Pine, Douglas-Fir and Spruce Pine-Fir – also known as SPF – are the most common) and also on the pitch of the top cord.
You have some places in the internet to help you on calculating the allowable span for trusses in your project. Click HERE to redirect you to one of these websites.
A final message: remember that in the majority of the houses you will be building with roof trusses you’ll need a crane to help one the truss installation. The costs will vary from region to region, and for a house around 2,500 sf, ranch style, you will need at least 8 hours of crane work if you have a trained team to installed them. Don’t forget to include this cost in your project.
Sometimes we see dwellings with old designs that looks really strange. Kitchens that are very difficult to use, boots that do not fit in the closet, and windows that are to high or too low. Here are some important numbers to remember:
Windows – 38 / 42
Window heights are important on both inside in outside. From an outside view the ideal is to align the top heights of the windows and exterior door, mainly in the main entrance (ideally for the entire building). Sill heights of windows adjacent to furniture or counters should be at least 42″. View windows sill should not exceed 38″
Closets – 24 / 36
Plan to allow at least 36″ of closet pole per occupant, with a hanger depth of at least 24″. Remember that an ambient is only consider a bedroom if you have a closet there – so, provide at least one closet for each room. You can add closets near front and rear entrances (for coats and shoes also, in case you have ancillary entrances for a mud room), a linen closet an at least one generous walk-in closet in the main bedroom.
Passageways: 36 / 40
Width are dictate by the needs to move large furniture. For stairs, landings, main and minor hall, interior and exterior doors the minimum is 36″ but we recommend at least 40″ to have good room for movement. Basement doors need a minimum of 36″ but ideally use 48″
Kitchen work aisle: 42 / 48
The width of a work aisle should be at least 42″ for one cook and at least 48″ for multiple cooks. You need to measure it between the counter frontage, tall cabinet and the appliances. Also have in mind that the passageway close to the working aisle should be at least 36″
Shower size: 30 / 36
The recommended size is 36″ x 36″ with a minimum of 30″ x 30″. If a person with disabilities will live in the house you need to revise the ADA of 1990 (Americans with Disabilities Act) – Appendix A of page 36 – that specifies all the needs for this population. We will do a post on this specific topic soon.
Automated blinds: this is not only luxury – installing smart blinds represents one of the most economical options to save energy. You can also set a timer remotely, and also synchronize them with your HVAC system to have the best energy efficient system (and decrease your monthly bill).
Front door smart locks: many people are impressed by advertisements of having your child opening the front door using his mobile phone, miles away from your house, when you forget them in any other place and can’t find it. You have some cheap options to choose, and of course other complex and more expensive systems that are also integrated with life cameras.
Sprinkler system for lawn irrigation: it is a difficult decision to make when you are working with your landscape, I have to admit. Normally the landscape is the last phase of a building process (in new homes), and during that time you already spend more than you expected. So…you will think that a sprinkler will be a waste of money. Until you have the first or second dry summer, and your grass was gone. Plan to have a good system installed in your house – it will also help you a lot to increase your home price when you sell it.
Home security system: one of the fastest-growing section in this area. The majority of the systems we have in the market now are connected with mobile phones, and you can find affordable prices even for more sophisticated and advanced systems. In big cities – specifically in some neighborhoods – they are considered a must-have (even if it’s only to see if your Amazon delivery arrived safely)
Smart home hub: this is a must-have if you are planing to increase the value of your house to attract millennial and gen-Z buyers. A hub works like the brain of your house: it connects all different devices (thermostats, alarms, appliances, sound systems, windows, among others). A tech-savvy buyer will be specially impressed if you have your house in the market and can provide this system as a plus in your listing.
Flagstone is a type of is a generic flat stone, usually used for paving slabs or walkways, patios, fences and roofing. Flagstone is usually a form of a sandstone composed of feldspar and quartz and is arenaceous in grain size (0.16 mm – 2 mm in diameter). The material that binds flagstone is usually composed of silica, calcite, or iron oxide. The rock color usually comes from these cementing materials. Typical flagstone colors are red, blue, and buff, though exotic colors exist.
These type of slim stones stacked into a low wall make an attractive way to delineate space and add a sense of structure to a landscape. you can use it in the front or backyard (most frequently they are designed for the backyard areas).
Remember the differences in stone thicknesses make it almost impossible to build a flagstone wall with an exact horizontal top and a perfect edge. It’s much easier to fit the flagstones without regard to thickness, and then choose flat pieces to create a level top. Low walls also can provide additional seating or a platform on which to display potted plants.
How to build a simple flagstone wall:
Dig a trench a couple of inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the flagstones.
Fill with pea gravel and/or sand and tamp to make level. A depth of 2″- 4″ is more than enough to have a good drainage
Lay out the flagstones to see their shapes and sizes, and try to imagine how they will be pile up in the final wall.
Stack the smaller stones first.
Save the largest, prettiest flagstones for the top layer.
Backfill with gravel (3/4 to 5/8 inch size)
If you are planning to have a great finish choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs.
The cost? Be ready to spend between $300 – $500 for stones and sand for a wall 10-12 feet long and 1 foot tall. Of course the price here depends on the region you are buying the materials. Big stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s have plenty of options with good prices.