View Full Version : Building a home...

Mar. 31, 2013, 12:15 PM
So, I built a barn once, most of which I decided what was what. I learned what was good and what was not so good.

Now considering building a house that I get to choose what is what. SMALL...(what I can afford)- thinking 1500 sq feet... and one that I can use later as well as now. (I am not getting younger!)

I know master on the main, with a nice shower, and a mud area for horse stuff. Oh, and for what it's worth, its in a cold, and windy climate:eek:. :winkgrin:

So, knowing that selecting a builder is paramount, what are the things you saved money on, things you did that you're really happy about. things you wish you did??


Mar. 31, 2013, 12:23 PM
Once you finalize the design, you'll save big by NOT doing changes. Change orders cause all kinds of problems, and cost a fortune. Buy your own appliances, flooring, and other finishes on sale, or in the case of appliances at the appliance warehouse type places. The places who buy in bulk, and have minimal sales and decorating at the store are the best prices. A friend went to one and bought the entire kitchen suite cheaper than buying a cooktop from a big box store. You save on kitchen countertops and sink tops by buying from the dealer and installer, not the big box people. Cabinets from IKEA, or kitchen stores are cheaper than big box stores, and sometimes you can get end of season entire kitchens from the kitchen stores when they change out styles, then you just get others to fill in, and you're good to go.

Mar. 31, 2013, 12:26 PM
Cold and snowy, or wet means South facing driveway with a good slope is best. Garage doors facing east or west is best for minimizing wind damage. Make the garage big enough, and deep enough to park whatever you drive in it, even if it's bigger than you think you'll need.

Mar. 31, 2013, 12:47 PM
South facing driveway that slopes AWAY from the house! It's nice to take advantage of solar gain with a south facing wall with windows and heat sinks - tile floors that warm up in the sun and give it back later, lots of books on that. If it's really windy a small porch at the outside doors is very nice, like an airlock, and try to create some windbreaks. The wind up here blows parallel to the house and the screen door, despite great big springs and screws on the door, has been ripped right out of my hand more than once.

Mar. 31, 2013, 12:50 PM
A house today should be handicapped accessible, ALL doors be at least 36" wide, hallways a bit wider, all one floor without sunken or raised areas.
With no basement, we made the back of the master walk in closed a tornado safe room.

Try incorporating a sun room/enclosed porch into your living room.
I call mine airlocks, as they are part of where I go in and out of the house.

Hardscape for the front of the house, maybe a tree or two with a drip system, but the rest gravel beds and rocks and such, no grass to mow.
Just some grass where you will actually be using the yard.

Very basic open house design today is a kitchen open to a dining area and living room, maybe along the front of the house.
Then on the other half of the house, the back half, one/two bedrooms with their bath and master bedroom and bath.

Remember to not have any bedroom opening directly to the open concept living areas, make a blind corner or hallway to get to them, that helps give them privacy.

In today's resell market, you want to make room for biggish walk-in closets.

I fought with the builder, that wanted an attached garage and he won and I am glad, that is so very handy in so many ways.

I fought and won to put the furnace in the garage, not the attic and that is wonderful for maintenance and repairs and just checking it when something makes funny noises.

Try to get a builder that will give you an Energy Star rated house.
For that, you need to have a design that has no more than 17% of the house envelope open, that means all exterior doors, windows, etc. are less than 17% of the area of the walls.
We added the right depth porches on three sides for sun heating in the winter and minimal sun heating the walls in the summer, the garage is on the North side, but enters from the East side, which tends to stay mostly clean of snow when it blows.
The also consider that fire places can be a big loss center when it comes to heating and cooling.

I made a million designs, then kept learning more and changing them.
Start right now and when you have something you are happy with, go to a design firm and have them put it on their computer and see what the computer comes up with once it tweaks it to ideal material use, so there is no waste.
Then work with that design some more.

Ask around for a real estate attorney, the one that makes most of the builder's contracts and visit with him.
He will probably not be able to tell you who to use, but from the names you bring that you have checked out and seen what they build, he can tell you who to stay away from.;)

Once you have all lined up, get bids from some builders that you like what they are building in your area.

Remember that the better builders may be building several houses at the same time, so you will get the better tradesmen in your area, but will have to be patient as they go to all houses as the work is ready for them.
The builder could have put any trim carpenter here, but he waited for the best ones and they did neat details another group may not have thought about

I had to wait two months for the painter, but he was the best painter and worth waiting for, he did a great job on my stained wood, way above what all but high end houses have, great for a plain farm house.

Building is really something that you need to put up a big bushel basket of patience up front and handy, as you will have to use some of that all along, can't be hurried.

I can write a book about that, but better quit before your eyes start crossing.:lol:

Mar. 31, 2013, 01:25 PM
Things I love about my house:

2"x6" construction and maxed out insulation: It is very energy efficient. We're about the same square footage as you're thinking, and in 10 years I've never used an entire tank of heating oil (250 gallons) in a year.

Bathroom accessible from the utility/mud room: I don't have to traipse through the house with muddy shoes to make a potty stop.

Loads of counter/cabinet space: just makes it easy to work in the kitchen.

Open layout: Really makes a smaller house feel bigger than it is.

Things I'm not crazy about in my house:

Open layout--haha! While it does make the house seem larger, I wish I had added a little more separation of the kitchen from the dining and living area. Because you can see everything, if the kitchen's a mess, everything looks messy. You cant just straighten up the living room and feel better...it all has to be cleaned up, or it doesnt work because you can see it all.

Combined utility/mud room: I wish I had separated the utility room with the laundry, pantry, freezer from the back entry. It's usually a mess.

Our back entry door is on the north side of the house, which gets the worst weather (NE and NW rain). So during northeasters, which are common here, the back door gets yanked out of our hands while the wind blows the rain in. As others have said, pay attention to your local weather patterns and keep them in mind when planning doors and windows.


Tom King
Mar. 31, 2013, 01:30 PM
When I added about a 1500 ft. addition onto our house, I super, super, super insulated it. When the building inspector looked at it, he said, "code only calls for R30 in the attic". I told him I didn't care what the code said, I was going to insulate the hell out of it.

I decided we would live with it a while before we put any heat in it because I didn't think the calculations were right for the amount of btu losses on it. We've lived in it for 7 years now, and still no heat. We haven't needed any heat added. Enough heat filters back from the main part of the house that I thought I overinsulated when I built that part in 1980. The old 2,000 sq. ft. is passive solar with one Vermont Casting propane "stove".

Since I did this one, I've seen articles in Fine Homebuilding about how to do pretty much what I did when I built this one. Double walls, insulation in both and between. 10 foot ceilings with 2x6 joists. 6" in between the joists, another layer of R38, unfaced across that with all batts butting up against each other, and another layer across that one. Between the rafters, I put baffles against the sheathing, and sealed the ends under the baffles with an inch of blue styrofoam, sealed with spray foam.

I'd do it again, just like I did the new part

I've been building houses for a living since 1973. In 2006, I decided that all the new builders had gotten smarter than me, so I got out of building new houses, and have been restoring old ones since.

Back when I first started, it took so long for subcontractors to get here, that I just learned how to do everything myself. There are two kinds of builders. One kind builds a house with a telephone. The other kind builds with hammer and saw. My phone stays in the truck.

Mar. 31, 2013, 01:40 PM
Mud room, yes. The best one I recall was really big. It occupied the part of the house next to the built on garage. At one end was the washer drier, the door to the kitchen was near those, and the door to the garage was halfway between the washer drier and a full bath. So if you were all greasy and muddy you could walk in and go to the bathroom, strip off and clean up and drop your dirty clothes at the washer on the way to the kitchen. It also had a wall of cabinets for storage and hooks for jackets and hats. It had to be about 8x18 not counting the bath.

Mar. 31, 2013, 01:57 PM
Susan Susanka has some good ideas on small home design in her various books on the Not So Big House.

Mar. 31, 2013, 02:24 PM
I'll say it again...CoTHers are the absolute best!

other things - grey water reclamation system- WY is dry where I'll be- anyone done that? I want a garden....;)

Really hoping for uber energy efficient. Love all the tips you have shared! Love the Not So Small House book. Use it a lot for dreaming.

Great kitchen point...is the kitchen ever really totally clean? Also, going to do mostly drawers- these shoulders and neck don't appreciate tall things as much now. Pantry is a must, too.

Thanks everyone!!

Mar. 31, 2013, 08:28 PM
A door to let your dogs out from your MUDROOM....so you don't always have to open and close your garage doors every time you let your dogs out!! :)

Apr. 1, 2013, 12:47 PM
We built our house last year. Ours is Energy Star rated. Nice low electric bills. We looked at lots of different homes for re sale and different builders as well before we finally chose the right one for us. The builder had a good variety of floor plans to choose from for our neighborhood we chose and we were able to get a floor plan that met all items on our check list. We got to customize something’s like siding, shutters, they had different elevations of the same model and got to chose the cosmetics in the house but not things like wall placements, which I didn’t care because I love the way the house was laid out already.

Our project manager was great about doing weekly walk throughs with us, answering all our questions and keeping the schedule on track. Somethings we did run into was that builder’s grade paint stinks. Our house comes with warranties for a few different things and once our 10 month inspection is complete and all nail pops are fixed we will repaint once I finally decide on colors.

I will say to watch the quality of the work. A few times we had to have the work be re-done because it was sloppy, mostly when the painting came time. They got paint on my kitchen cabinets and didn’t clean it up and paint on my bathroom sink. Silly stuff that should have been taken care of but the painters were lazy. Our PM was great about getting them back in to take care of it.

All in all we are very very happy in our new home and had a wonderful experience. It was really cool watching our dreams come to live. If we ever moved I will build again that that builder.