As you go through life, you will probably find that the biggest investment you ever make is in your home. When you reach the point in your life when you are ready to own the home of your dreams, you’ll probably find to get everything you want, you will need to have the perfect home built for you. Since the investment in a brand new home is a large one, you need to put planning, thought and consideration into what makes the perfect home for your family and who you should work with to make that dream come true.
Choosing the Right Builder
Kent Wirges of Dave Janke Plumbing probably says it best when he comments, “I’m a firm believer that when you’re building your dream home, it is most likely your final home, and you should use a contractor with a history of building success. If you pick the builder correctly, he will pick subcontractors and companies that he can depend on. Building a home is the most expensive investment that 99 percent of people will ever make, and sticking to the bottom dollar is not always a good idea. It is important to pick reputable companies. You can ask for a list of subcontractors the builder plans on using. Hold him accountable so he is using a company with a history who will be there for you later down the road.”
When choosing the builder for your new home, keep in mind what is important to you and which builder can best provide the type of home you want. Charles Thomas Homes, for example, specializes in building High Performance New Homes. “This means that every home is built to Energy Star, Indoor airPLUS and NAHB Green standards,” says Deb Lowndes. With a High Performance New Home, you can expect to save $600 to $1,000 a year on the sum of all energy costs, which amounts to about $50 to $80 per month. In addition, a High Performance Home’s adherence to the EPA’s rigorous Indoor airPLUS standards eliminates the vast majority of allergy and asthma triggers that poor indoor air quality can cause. Charles Thomas Homes also relies on state-of-the-art ventilation systems to reduce asthma-causing toxins and pollutants, ridding homes of bad air while pulling fresh-filtered air into the house.”
“All of our homes are third party rated, durable, sustainable and green. Every Charles Thomas Home is built with renewable materials, meaning wood from trees that are rapidly renewable and the use of recycled content in carpets, tiles and concrete formulations. Every home also uses high performance plumbing features, such as dual flush toilets, to help reduce the amount of water a home consumes. Building at such a high standard allows us to offer a two year builder warranty, double the industry standard, and a ten year structural warranty,” adds Deb. “The right location, certain number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and layout are all important, of course. But at Charles Thomas Homes we go beyond the basics of the right design and beautiful finishes. We realize you spend most of your life in your home, so we ensure that the home you buy from us exceeds state-of-the-art standards in energy and resource efficiency, indoor-air quality and reduced impact on our environment.”
The number of homes a contractor builds in a given year, as well as the type of builder they are, may also be a consideration. ADC Homes, for example, averages between ten and fifteen new home starts each year. They feel that keeping the number of home starts at a comfortable number allows greater quality control and better service for their customers. ADC is also a “design-build company” and nearly all of the homes built by ADC are also designed by them. Although ADC can build a house from plans provided by an outside source, they specialize in custom design and, in many cases, can provide a photo-realistic view of your home before construction even begins.
Although you may be focused on the structure of your home during the building process, you should not neglect your landscaping as it is a huge part of the finished product. According to Anne Thompson of TEAM GREEN, a Wheatley Grounds Management Company, “It’s important to involve your landscaper in the building process early on to save a lot of problems and cost. Many issues arise late in the building process that can hinder your dream landscape. Landscape and holiday lighting need to be considered before the wiring is installed on the house. It’s surprising how many homes do not have enough power or properly located outlets for their holiday lights. Irrigation can also be installed more easily and run more efficiently if planned for with both your plumber and electrician as well as your landscaper. Often times, the need for retaining walls are overlooked until after the house is near completion and the budget to complete this is already spent elsewhere. Drainage problems are very common and with a carefully planned out landscape, these issues can be averted rather than become another hassle that needs to be corrected after the homeowner moves in. Proper planning with your landscaper will mean your yard is finished correctly the first time, not redone to correct preventable problems.”
“It’s always a good idea to include your landscaper during the building stages,” adds Joe Sevening from Sevening’s Landscaping. “Having a landscaper on-site can save the homeowner and builder time and money. We can oversee compaction of soil around foundation, insure that correct top soil is installed in landscaped beds and make sure correct grading is performed to better flow the exit of water. In the final stages of landscaping we can ensure your investment is taken care of with initial deep root watering followed up with the correct irrigation times through-out landscape beds and turf.”
“Landscaping is important when building a new home to comply with covenants and add curb appeal,” explains Anne Thompson. “Most developments have covenants that require a certain number of trees or a foundation planting to ensure that their new neighborhood looks great. Many lots are not graded properly and landscapers are called out frequently to correct issues of standing water or leaking basements. And as for curb appeal, the first thing anyone sees when coming to see their friend or family member’s new home is the front of the house. If your house has no landscaping, it is very apparent and tends to look ‘naked’.”
Finding the right landscaper to work with is an important decision as they will have a big impact on the finished product of your home. “I would suggest you sit down and meet with a couple of different ones,” Jason Porto of Ground Builders says. “It is very important to find a landscaper who can understand what you are looking for and has ideas that you love. Have them take a quick look at your home (or the plans for your new home) and pick their brain for ideas. Landscaping is really one of the key items you can do to help the beauty of your home. With a well-designed, properly installed and neatly kept landscape, your home will be the envy of the block!”
Subcontracted work, such as electrical work, plumbing, flooring and drywall, are often neglected by the homeowner because they assume it is being taken care of by the general contractor. While typically a custom home builder has subcontractors he normally works with, a homeowner can always make suggestions if they have a preference of a certain individual or company they would like to work with.
Subcontracted work can have a huge impact on the finished product. Take drywall, for instance. “There are so many different things that can be done with drywall these days,” says Nancy Sempek with Christensen Drywall. “Looking at magazines and other projects will help give homeowners ideas of features they might like such as clouds, barrels, indirect light tray coffers, drywalled beams and more. Most people today want round corner bead, which creates a softer, more contemporary finish. The one thing people need to remember, though, is that all of these features add cost to their construction as they can be quite labor intensive.”
Plumbing is another example of subcontracted work that has a large impact on the finished home inside and out!. Kent at Janke Plumbing says, “In a new home, we provide all of the plumbing fixtures, which includes stools, faucets, showers, baths and water heaters. We also install the lines on the exterior of the house that run from the house to the street, providing the homeowner with water and taking waste water out of the house to the city water connection. When we’re working with custom homes, we often meet with the homeowner, especially if they want special fixtures or ideas for special projects. For example, a customer once wanted to add a fish tank to a cabinet and we helped them work through the different options for that. We’ve also helped with fountains in the front yard. We really try to help them with planning for the future of the house. We’ll plumb them accordingly so those future jobs aren’t so expensive and it makes it easier for the homeowner later on.”
“When you are planning your dream home, be sure to give some thought to the types of wood used for your floors, cabinets, doors and moldings,” says Gerry Phelan with Midwest Woodworks, Inc. “You may not be aware of the vast variety of wood species that are available. If you look around the room you are in right now the chances are good that you’ll see oak. It is a readily available domestic hardwood that has great texture, can be easily machined, is durable and readily accepts stains. That makes it a favorite for builders and furniture makers. Other common domestic hardwoods that you see every day include maple, walnut, cherry, ash, hickory and birch. But that is just the tip of the iceberg – there are literally hundreds of domestic species and then there are the exotics from all over the world. The exotic hardwoods will generally be more expensive, but they will ad amazing richness and beauty to any home.”
To really make your home unique, you might even consider doing some of the woodwork yourself. Phelan says, “Beyond the satisfaction of seeing something built with your own hands every day, you get the ultimate in custom woodwork—you get to make it exactly the way you want it. In addition, you may be able to save some money by investing in your own labor. Once you know how, building cabinets and installing moldings and casework are very doable. You may have to invest in tools, but when the project is done, you have a beautiful home, valuable skills and you have tools you can use for years.” If you are interested in custom woodworking but don’t know where to start, taking basic woodworking classes is always a great place to begin. Perhaps your skills won’t be honed in time to do work on the home you’re building now, but the skills are sure to come in handy down the road.
“Glass is a very important part of the new dream home,” explains Melissa Dirksen of Interior Glass. “We work with the builder and home owners to help define their home in their own style using glass. We help with such items as vanity mirrors, exercise mirrors, cabinet glass inserts, glass table tops and shower doors. We also do specialty items such as room dividers, glass sink tops, and glass deck railings.” She goes on to say that they can help the home owner with basic glass needs all the way to building a custom art piece out of sandblasted, leaded or stained glass that can be used in the entry door and sidelights to give a great first impression of your new home. These are beautiful from the inside as well as the outside and will give your new home that special touch as well as great curb appeal.
Your new home is a huge investment, and one you should make plans to protect even before it’s done being built. According to Cory Fuller of Premier Security, “Unfortunately there are quite a few burglaries in new construction neighborhoods because the neighborhoods aren’t as populated. Not only do our home security systems monitor the door and window openings, but a lot of families are using them to help keep track of their children making sure that they are where they are supposed to be, even when the parents are not home. Every child has their own code and notifications can be sent to the parents’ smart phones whenever one of the kids arms or disarms the system. We also have camera systems where the parents can log in from their smart phone or a computer at any location and look through the eyes of the camera as well as the history of the recordings.”
When is the right time to consider the security system for your new home? “New construction is one of my specialties,” says Fuller. “We usually sit down with the customer and review the blueprints of the home that they are building and schedule the install with the builder. If we can get in before the drywall stage, we can hardwire most or all of the doors and windows for a lower cost. Also, if the customer wants to do glass break sensors and motion detectors, the cost of the sensors are about half of what the wireless are, so this really cuts the cost of the overall system down for the homeowner.”
Work with an expert in home security as you are developing plans for your new home so you can choose the right system, cut costs by having them install during the building process and be rest assured that your new home will be a safe and secure place for you and your family.
Trends in New Home Construction
Keeping up on the new trends in home construction can help give you ideas on amenities or features you might want to include in your own home. Here are a few of them.
In bathrooms, custom showers in the master are more dominating now. They have all tile, maybe two shower heads, handheld shower heads or rain heads in the showers. Frameless shower doors are also very popular. Nothing shows your bathroom off better than clear glass and the frameless look gives a bathroom a much larger feel and shows off the tile work that has been installed. For fixture color, oil-rubbed bronze is the most common. Stainless steel in kitchens and drains in the garage are also very popular.
“For exterior trends, outdoor kitchens are still a popular trend, as well as ‘outdoor rooms’,” says Anne Thompson of Team Green. “A well-designed outdoor area can be used as an additional room for entertaining and relaxing. Another trend that homeowners are interested in are green projects such as raingardens, which not only look great but can also handle storm water runoff and eliminate ugly wet spots in the lawn.”
“Being more ‘green’ is very important and has been taking over many industries,” says Jason Porto of Ground Builders. “We have been seeing that on the landscaping side and have also been trying to push it as well. This is accomplished by designing and installing more sustainable landscapes. A sustainable landscape would include plants that are native to the area to reduce the amount of irrigation needed, along with setting up rain barrows and using practices to reduce waste and environmental impact of the landscape. This is also possible to do without losing the beauty of the landscaping around your dream home.”
In some cases, building a new home may not be right for you and you want to make your existing home into your dream home or perhaps you just built your home and want to add on that special outside living area. Exterior Touch specializes in exterior work from patios with colored and stamped concrete patios, custom decks, energy star windows and siding to roofing. John says “Ricky, Travis and I do much of the work ourselves and you will find at least one of us is on every project. We are there to make sure the homeowner gets a quality project and what they want instead of working with someone they don’t know and may not understand what you want for your home. We are the one call you have to make to get everything done from energy efficient new windows and siding, custom deck, stamped concrete patio, driveways and sidewalks to your roof and gutters.”
Building your dream home is an exciting process that should yield results you’ll be proud of for a lifetime. By doing the proper planning and working with the right professionals, you can be rest assured that the process will be a smooth one and that you and your family will be happy and safe in your new home for years to come.