PROTECTING YOUR HOME WHILE AWAY ON VACATION

Thinking of a warm coastal breeze with waves crashing in as you enjoy a sunset view, or planning your winter trip to the Appalachian or Rocky Mountains brings about an automatic sense of relaxation as you begin planning your vacation. While heading out for a lengthy stay somewhere else can be fun, you want to make sure as you leave your home it is safe and well protected.

Here is a checklist you can follow to give yourself peace of mind while away:

  • All windows and doors are locked
  • If you have a monitored security system, make sure your contact numbers are up to date and notify them of being away
  • If leaving during cold weather, make sure pipes are well insulated and exterior hose bibs are properly covered.
  • Make sure garages are closed completely and locked
  • Notify the post office to halt your mail delivery until you return
  • Notify your newspaper delivery or arrange for someone to pick up your papers
  • Set your thermostat to a reasonable temperature to avoid expensive utility bills while away
  • Leave a key with a friend or family member in case of an emergency
  • Notify your neighbors so they can watch for suspicious activity
  • If you are leaving pets behind, ensure they have proper food and water, or in some cases proper caretakers to check in on them
  • Make sure water faucets are off and toilets are not running
  • Turn off lights you will not need while away.

With all of the high tech options available today you may also choose to install cameras, which can be easily accessed from your cell phone.

Vacation is a time to relax and enjoy family and friends.  Whether you are out of the country on mission trips, racing down roller coasters at amusement parks or being adventurous in the great outdoors knowing your home is safe while you are away offers some comfort.

Another area you want to remember is making sure you have proper insurance, whether you are a homeowner or a renter, so in the event of an unwanted occurrence you and your home are protected.  Adding a few extra steps to protect your home prior to heading out on your adventures is a great way to start off any vacation.

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com

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FUNCTIONAL ENTRIES

As you drive around looking for the perfect home design you will notice some homes give a grand presence from the street, while other homes have a modest classic feel. Upon entering these homes the foyer will usually compliment the exterior design of the home.  A foyer is designed to be a greeting place for friends and family upon their arrival. It can set the overall tone for the house and making this space functional may prove to be a benefit for your family.

Some features to consider when designing your foyer include:

  • Custom tile, marble or wood floors
  • Decorative columns or fluted accents on adjacent doorways
  • Wainscot or wall accents
  • Ceiling medallions or Timbers
  • Decorative chandeliers
  • Built-in niches or hall trees

You first want to decide the type of feeling you want visitors to have upon entering your new home.  Are you looking for a “wow” effect with dramatic lighting, wall accents and custom flooring or would you prefer a functional designed foyer to include a built in hall tree, designed to store jackets, backpacks or hats as people enter.  Your entry layout can prove to be a beneficial space within your home if some thought goes into how you will use this space.

For larger families with children, the customized entry with space to drop backpacks, coats and other grab and go items may make heading out in the mornings easier.  Some families use a garage or side entrance as their main entrance and if this is the case with your family, you may want to incorporate these ideas into a mudroom style area instead of the foyer.

If your home will be utilized for entertaining, dinner parties or in a more formal way you may choose to show off some of the home’s features by incorporating selected design accents in the foyer itself.  This may look like large doorways with high ceilings, adorned with rustic timbers or decorative wood accents bringing focus to a unique chandelier and as the eyes are brought up and around within the entry surroundings, the selected trim and wall accents will give the grand appeal you are looking for.  You may choose to incorporate a coat closet instead of open built-ins and enough space to add accent furniture and decorative lamps.

As you envision your everyday life within the home, you will be able to consider what type of foyer will work best for you and your family.  Discuss these ideas with your building consultant to unleash the perfect design for the entry of your new home.

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact, us at AmericasHomePlace.com

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FITNESS ROOMS

Each New Year brings a myriad of people away from their normal routines flooding to gyms and personal trainers across the nation.  If you are in the market for a new home, a fitness room may be a feature you want to consider.

Here are a few things you may want to think about when designing your fitness room:

  • Equipment type
  • Ceiling fans & vent placement
  • Mirrors
  • Customized Built-ins
  • Water Station

Many people building a new home fail to think about all of the ways in which they actually live each day.  This is how fitness areas end up in garage spaces and exercise equipment lands in bedrooms and living rooms instead of a perfectly designed fitness room.

Planning your fitness room will ensure you have the amount of space you need for equipment like rowing machines, treadmills and other free standing exercise machines. While you do not have to have a huge area to create a nice fitness environment within your home, planning for machines you actually use or desire to incorporate will be the start to any planned fitness space.

Once you have narrowed down the equipment you want to include, you want to consider keeping the area comfortable.  Proper ceiling fans and vent placement will help with cooling the room during workouts.  You may want to consider adding a separate air zone for this room if it will be heavily used. Another design idea you want to incorporate is window placement, so you have the advantage of utilizing natural light and cool breezes during certain times of the year.

Some fitness rooms may be the size of a standard bedroom, while others may be closer to a large master suite, or even larger.  If you want to create the appearance of a larger space, add a mirror. Mirrors can be placed to help the room feel more open and help with making sure your form is accurate, as you exercise.

Customized shelving or built-ins can nicely store items like medicine balls, yoga mats, towels and other fitness accessories. A section of the fitness room can be stationed with a small refrigerator to hold water bottles or possibly use an independent water dispersing system.

Fitness rooms are a great addition to any custom home.  Creating a comfortable and functional environment to promote healthy living within your family is a great reason to consider this option. For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home, contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com

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SCORED & STAINED CONCRETE

A common question with scored and stained concrete floors is whether or not there will be cracks in the concrete. While no one can determine prior to installation if the concrete is going to develop cracking, cracks within concrete are likely. This is typically caused by shrinkage. The moisture content in the concrete, when it is first installed, has a lot to do with whether or not cracks may appear once the concrete has entirely cured. Proper installation and qualified professionals may reduce the errors that can create this flaw within concrete installation.

Stained concrete floors are available in many color schemes and by adding a scored design you can choose to layout a border with an accent color. Scoring concrete takes a true artistic talent and not all scored and stained floors are the same. Many installers hand draw their patterns and make sure the layout is pleasing prior to scoring. These patterns can include a hardwood look, brick pavers, large or small tiles or more intricate custom designs.

Working with your installer is important. If you have seen their work, on other job sites, or you trust their artistic ability you may choose to relay color choices and patterns you like, and then allow them the freedom to design and plan the layout for you, making recommendations they feel will bring about focused attention to your new home. For others, you may choose to go with stained concrete flooring all of the same color throughout the home, which at a later time you could have scored if you choose to do so.

If you choose to only have the stained floors, this process can take place once the foundation is set, prior to framing. It is recommended if you are using a scored pattern to wait until the walls are framed so the patterns will be laid out the right way for each location.

It is important to inform your framer prior to installation, so as they frame the walls unnecessary holes are not placed within the foundation and the right color chalk can be used so it doesn’t interfere with your future floor patterns. In some cases the stained floors will be installed prior to the paint within the home and if this occurs, you want to make sure the painters are aware there will be stained or scored concrete floors. You may also request once the floors are complete they are covered with protective paper as to not hinder the final appearance. Once the home is complete the concrete finisher will typically return to clean and buff the floors, leaving a nice addition to your new home.

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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ORGANIC GARDENING

In anticipation of spring imagine flowers, popping with color, soon to be in bloom; the cold weather will subside and the desire to get outside and prepare your Spring Garden will be on your mind!  Even if you are new to gardening, you will find it to be an experience of which there is always something to learn.  Organic Gardening is a popular choice, and while it can be a healthy choice to avoid pesticides, there may also be a few things you want to brush up on prior to diving all in.

Before you run out to your local nursery and purchase plants to house within your garden, there are a few things to consider. Each part of the country is divided into zones, which help to determine what plants will best thrive in these particular areas.  Knowing your zone can help speed up the success of your garden.  In addition to understanding the temperate zone you live in, educating yourself on the types of vegetables and fruits you may want to grow is important.  It’s a good idea to start your garden plan on paper.  It’s recommended to layout the design for your garden, determining plant placement and include proper spacing.  You will need to know if you are starting your plants from seeds or starter plants, the full maturity time for each of the plants, and determine the types of nutrients necessary within the soil and proper watering techniques.  All of these steps with increase the chances of a full producing garden.

Once you have designed and planted your organic garden, you might want to learn about the types of pests to watch out for and find proven tactics to ward off these pests when they arrive.  Snails can be one problematic creature in the garden, and while there are several remedies to ridding these pests, the ultimate goal is to protect your plants allowing them to grow.  As you plant seeds and starter plants, use a toilet paper roll at the base of the plant, protecting the stem.  The snails do not like the rough feeling of the cardboard and this will help keep them away.  Another item you can use at the base of your plants is broken up eggshells, again most of the smaller pests trying to make it up your plant, will be deterred as they approach these natural fences.

Keep in mind some insects and bugs are good for the garden, while others are not.  Educating yourself as you see new life within your garden can be a huge asset.  Ants are another pest hard to remove from the garden.  A few tips you may want to try, keeping your area pesticide free, include mixing coffee grounds within or around your soil, or in extreme cases you may wish to spread cornmeal which will help with the removal of the ants.  Another organic option to consider is ordering praying mantis eggs and ladybug larvae, both once acclimated to your garden will eat some of the unwanted insects like aphids.

Allowing your garden to grow organically, free of harsh chemicals and pesticides can take time and patience.  Creating an environment for friendly insects and bugs to cohabitate with your fruits and vegetables is a learning process.  When you reach out to buy those fast acting chemicals to rid your garden of unwanted pests, recall the reason you wanted to start an organic garden in the first place.  Nature is a lovely, complicated mix of life and upon taking the necessary steps to produce the fruits of your labor, you are sure to be pleased with the patience and education you gained in the process, while enjoying a healthy, home grown, home cooked meal!

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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OFF THE GRID/ON THE GRID

There is a lot of talk about living off the grid, becoming more self-sustainable.  The reasons vary from escaping the everyday rat race of life to simply understanding better what we are exposed to and expose our children to, desiring to reduce your living expenses and enjoying your lives more. Whether you choose to live off the grid, or on the grid there are a few things you want to consider to make sure your home living expenses and daily management of time proves to be fruitful and allows you the lifestyle you choose to live.

Things to consider when building a home off the grid:

  • Decide how extreme, or off the grid you want to live.  You may want to research and inquire with people who have made this transition.
  • Will you use solar or wind power, or possibly a generator to generate electricity?
  • If you are installing a well, how far you have to drill will determine the cost.  You may ask yourself what all is involved with testing drinking water to protect you and your family from water borne illness.
  • Will you have a septic system or use a grey water system to process your waste?
  • What about cooking and comfort heat?  Will you use a propane or natural gas system or will you depend on wood burning stoves?

If you are living in a southern region, where there may be more moisture, do you have a plan to avoid or reduce the potential growth of mold and mildew?

If you are making the choice to be more self-sustainable through food as well, you want to also make sure you understand how to create the proper garden space.  If you garden, how will you water your garden– maybe consider rain barrels and grey water systems for irrigation.  Other garden considerations are compost piles and determining if you will use pesticides or attempt organic gardening.

A few questions to consider when building a home on the grid:

  • Does the size and style of your home fit your budget?
  • Are your windows, doors and appliances energy efficient?
  • Does your lot provide the space you need to garden?
  • Will you have a septic system or connect to city water and sewer?
  • Are you working with a reputable builder?

There are pros and cons to both types of living and ultimately your lifestyle will help determine which way you choose to live.  Understanding the budgets of both types of living as well as maintenance can help your environment be as comfortable as you desire.

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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RAINY DAY PROJECTS

As the rainy season moves in and you become more eager to get outdoors, finding things to do around the house can sometimes seem daunting. While it’s always good to catch up on naps, enjoy some sports on tv, or keep up with the daily home chores it’s also a great time to do some of those tasks you might not want to do when the sun is welcoming you outside.

Here are a few productive rainy day projects:

  • Garden Planning

Planning a garden takes time, and during your rainy days this is a great project to tackle.  You can use this time to research new types of vegetables or plants; Get your children involved by grabbing some markers, crayons and large paper or paper bags and map out your garden together.

  • Garage/Craft Room Organization

Rainy days are a great time for organization.  Pick a room that needs some attention and focus on organizing items you use and prepare to haul away items you may no longer need.  Having a few plastic crates, baskets and recycled jars can make this a fun event for your kids too.  You can utilize recycled jars and cans to organize paint brushes, markers or tools in the garage.  A great place to look for rainy day project ideas is Pinterest, where you can find a ton of ideas for any room project.

  • Regular Home Maintenance (checking batteries in smoke detectors, changing air filters, etc.)

Regular home maintenance should probably be on your calendar anyway, however getting around to these things sometimes fall to the not so important list.  Take the time to catch up on these maintenance tasks on rainy days and have peace of mind when it comes to keeping your home safe and running efficient.  You can also take this time to create a fire escape plan for you and your family.

  • Checking for Leaks

While no one enjoys a leak, during the rainy days this is a great time to look around the house to make sure your home is sealed up and water isn’t making its way inside.  Common places to look for leaks will be around windows and doors, garage doors, sky lights, vents and chimneys. You may also want to check to make sure your gutters aren’t clogged up and that there is proper drainage within flower beds leading water away from the home.  If you discover you have a leak, you want to remedy the situation so that long term water exposure doesn’t create larger problems.


There is plenty to do on rainy days, from enjoying a marathon movie day, baking goodies for the week or making those rainy days as productive as you choose.  Feel free to share some fun ideas for the family to do together or projects that can be done at home while listening to the rain!

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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FARMHOUSE FINESSE

Old world charm and a farmhouse feel can be a nice feature you decide to incorporate within your new custom home.

There are always new trends when it comes to room designs within your home, but some farmhouse favorites always seem to be on the top of the list.

If you like the farmhouse feel, here are a few items to consider adding to the design of your home:

  • Apron front / Farm sinks

Farm house sinks, originally made of porcelain and heat baked clay were designed for function and ease as kitchen responsibilities were a long daily routine.  Today, we see the comeback of the farmhouse sink design and many families are choosing this option, which incorporates function and design.  These sinks are available in many materials including concrete, stainless steel, fireclay and copper.  The fronts of these sinks also have many options available if you are looking to add artistic design within your kitchen.

  • Interior brick accents

Adding brick within your home always adds a warm feeling within any room.  A custom brick entry,  or brick flooring within a hall, bathroom or kitchen area create the perfect ambiance for your farmhouse plan.

  • Rugged hardwood floors, Rustic beams & Solid timber mantels

Hardwood floors have been around for centuries and including a distressed hardwood floor within your new custom home can bring about a sense of the old charm with a modern twist.  The same goes for rustic beams and Solid timber mantels.  Whether you are using a newly timbered beam or rare, rustic, reclaimed barn wood you are sure to find the perfect fit within your living space.

  • Tongue and groove wood plank ceilings

Using this application on your ceiling will give a nice gathered feeling as you engage in everyday living.  With all of the paint and stain colors available, you may choose to use a classic white paint or choose a stain to truly compliment the type of wood used in your installation.  A few of the wood selections you may want to consider include white oak, red oak, walnut, cherry or maple.


 

As you explore all of the possibilities and creative design ideas you may consider for your new custom home, be sure to discuss these with your builder so you are able to enjoy the home you want with all of the unique features you love.  Budgeting for customized additions within your home is a great way to plan and be prepared for building the custom farmhouse of your dreams!

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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BATHROOM DESIGNS

If you are living in a home that needs to be updated, or in the process of planning your dream home, an area you may want to ponder on is the bathrooms within your home. Depending on the year your home was built you may decide to remove and replace tiles, add a tile shower, take out a garden tub and replace with a large walk in shower, or a dual vanity, increase wall storage, or simply gut the entire bathroom and completely remodel the design from scratch.

If you are looking through house plans for the home you want to build, remember to discuss bathroom changes to your builder prior to construction.

Some things you may want to consider include:

  • Understanding how you utilize a bathroom – Do you prefer baths, or showers? For smaller bathroom spaces if you rarely use the garden tub, you may choose to replace this feature with a large walk in shower or combination shower/sauna unit. Once you know the space you have to work with, you can choose the number of shower heads, body spraying systems, shower seats, doorless entry, or select the type of glass you prefer with your shower doors. You may also want to incorporate built in niches within your shower space to avoid having to use wire racks to hold shampoos and bathing accessories.

  • Towel hanging systems – Towel hanging systems can include general hooks and rods to hang towels, to more advanced systems like heated towel systems. Making sure your design allows for function, you will want to consider placement of these features.

  • Linen Closet – Some bathroom designs include linen closets, while others do not. You may choose to store your towels within vanity cabinets or design a customized built-in to compliment your overall bathroom design. If you choose to customize a built in, there are multiple options, so review pictures online and discuss this with your builder so you optimize the space and add these customized areas within your home.

  • Water Closet – This is another area that can be overlooked when designing your new bathroom. More private style bathroom designs will have a water closet, or a walled area where the toilet is placed. Other designs may include a divider half wall, allowing for semi-private space or no wall at all. The preference you choose will help with the overall feel in the bathroom design.

  • Bathroom Vanity – When designing your bathroom, do you have space for a single vanity, dual vanity, vanity cabinets or pedestal sink? You also want to consider if your vanity will need a knee space or you may choose to add additional drawers or cabinets. Placement for clothes hampers, jewelry and make up storage will be important items to consider when laying out your bathroom design.

In addition to the actual design layout of your bathroom, there are plenty of other items you will need to consider when it comes to selecting the materials you will use within your new custom bathroom. Make sure to discuss these options with your builder or building consultant to maximize the customization process.

For more information about this topic and how it applies to your new custom home contact us at AmericasHomePlace.com.

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CALCULATING SQUARE FOOTAGE

The question arises from time to time regarding why there are different square footages listed on different versions of the same plans. These plans are created for specific purposes and in some cases the square footage measurements include items not included on other versions. With some customers assuming their own construction lending, this may be noticed when dealing with financial institutions, vendors and suppliers. In many cases the builder will be the one to assure the footages being quoted are accurate which is important with making sure your project stays within budget.

Many financial institutions, including banks, mortgage companies and finance brokers use the overall exterior wall footage when measuring and calculating square footage for appraisals, comps, etc. The reason for this is simple, they are typically lending money for the entire structure, so the building envelope is relevant to the loan involved. This square footage is calculated by using measurements that extend to the outside of the finished wall (brick, siding, stone, etc.). The appraiser will typically use this method to determine the heated footage, the unheated footage, the porch footage, and any other type of footage that could affect the loan amount, like future areas.

Sub-Contractors typically use a different measurement when estimating the labor that is required to construct certain components of the home, like framing, electrical, trim labor and paint. In these cases they will typically consider the interior wall footages (not including the exterior wall veneer). The reason for this has to do with the actual application of the product to be installed. For example the framer does not have to install a product to the outside of the brick veneer, but only to the outside of the wall sheathing. The vendor is not interested in the measurements to the outside of the walls.  Another example would include the trim carpenter. These subs will likely measure from the interior walls as well, for the same reasoning as the framer.

As you pass around the plans to the different people involved within the construction process, do not be dismayed when you see these possible footage differences. Dealing with reputable builders, vendors and financial institutions is an important factor with making sure you are dealing with people you can trust. The construction process can be a stressful time, but in the end you aren’t just building a home, you are building relationships and knowing the people you are working with may help ease your mind when it comes to assuring your investment will be within your budget and built the way you have envisioned. If you are unsure of any stage of construction ask your building consultant to assist you.  This is your home, and a good quality builder will take the time to educate you, as little or often as you prefer, throughout the process.

For more information about calculating square footage or other topics regarding your new custom home, please visit us at AmericasHomePlace.com

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