Did you know a commonly used wood siding product is available in a vinyl option?  Vinyl siding has been around for many years, and occasionally a particular style will make its way to the front line.  Among these include the traditional vinyl siding, vinyl shake siding, including staggered and cedar appearance styles and board-and-batten vinyl siding.

Board and batten vinyl siding gives the traditional look of vertical wood siding with the benefit of vinyl.  This type of siding comes in wide and narrow patterns and is designed to be practically maintenance free, meaning there is no need to ever have to paint as is necessary with traditional wood siding.  The colors available for this product are vast and this type of siding can be applied to the entire home, or used as an accent within certain parts of the exterior of the home.  The size of the board varies and the batten extrudes enough to give an architectural and dimensional look, while covering the gaps.

Choosing vinyl siding is really left to preference, and a few things to consider when making this choice come down to cost, maintenance and overall lifetime of product.    While the cost of vinyl siding is typically less expensive than wood siding, the benefits of low maintenance also plays a role in your decision.  In climates where there is more moisture it may be necessary to pressure wash the siding to keep a clean look throughout the years.  Many vinyl siding options include strong wind ratings, lifetime warranties and other eco-friendly qualities that you may consider to be valuable in your decision.

Board-and-batten siding is a great addition for mountain homes and adds flair to a coastal cottage elevation.  Discuss your home elevation with your building consultant and learn more about the available vinyl siding options for your new custom home.  Take a tour around several neighborhoods and see the board-and-batten style vinyl siding to visually see how this type of siding looks on different homes.  Using a reputable builder may assist with making sure you are using reliable siding vendors and installers.  As with any building product, the longevity and overall lifetime of the product is partially dependent on proper installation.

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Trim Accents can be a great way to add some custom flair to your new home! There are many different types of trim accents available and your building consultant will gladly assist you in making the best selections for your new home.

Here are some trim accents you may want to consider:

Wainscot (Beadboard) – Wainscot is the application of wood paneling on a lower portion of a wall. This is a typical application within custom homes. One type of paneling is Beadboard. This is an inexpensive addition adding a custom look within any home. This application can be applied to the back side of cabinets, breakfast bar and kitchen island locations as well as the standard areas. Other locations for beadboard may be in dining rooms, bathrooms or mudroom areas. You can choose to have the beadboard installed below a chair rail for an elegant look, or for more of a coastal cottage look you could choose to have the beadboard raised to a different height and trimmed out at the top with a simple 1” trim piece.

Cabinets – Cabinets have really adapted over the years from a simple staple to a center piece within our kitchens and baths. Cabinets can be transformed from the most basic of cabinets to an exceptional centerpiece offering raised patterns, several size trims, and multiple trim patterns including dentil or rope trim. Fluted accents are another great way to jazz up your cabinets. Let your building consultant help you design a beautiful kitchen or bath with some of these great trim accents.

Chair rail – Chair rail is typically installed within the dining room and is located at approximately 30” from the floor. The purpose of the chair rail is to offer a decorative trim while benefiting from the function of protecting the walls. As chairs are pushed and pulled they may scuff up the walls and by adding chair rail in these areas you can avoid the walls from being scuffed as much. You may choose to place a different color paint below or above the chair rail, or you may choose to install beadboard or other decorative trim accents in this area of your home.

Columns – Columns are another way to add separation within areas of your home, offering an upgraded custom look. Columns are available in different styles and sizes making any room beautiful. Common areas where these accents are found within the home may be at a doorway entrance into a dining room or library. Shorter columns can be added to half-walls, or full-sized columns can be added to wall accents to create the perfect place for your favorite piece of art. Columns can also be trimmed out with accents to offer a completely custom look. Other areas where columns add some flair is in the bathroom, around your garden tub or shower entrance. Including columns within your interior design adds a grand feel to any room, make sure to ask your building consultant to review your plan and make suggestions as you design your final floor plan.

Rosettes – Rosettes or other smaller trim accents, available with many patterns and sizes can also add a trim accent to many locations within your home. These are sometimes found at door locations, trimming out a cased opening, or at a fireplace surround, trimming out a fireplace.

Picture Frame or Judges Paneling – This is another way to trim out a portion, or all of a wall within any room in your home. Again, with the different types of trim available you will want to look at some options to see what design and style you might like best. This type of trim can be raised or inverted; it can also be applied in numerous options of width offering a truly customized option for any room. In dining rooms it may be incorporated with or without chair rail and it is a great accent to foyers, formal dining rooms and library/study areas. This has also become a popular addition to many ceilings, using a larger trim application to really add focus to this area.

Regardless of which trim accents you incorporate within your new home, there are certainly plenty of options and patterns to offer you a customized look within any room. Your building consultant will be happy to show you some options and discuss your plans in more detail.

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When it comes to choosing the right type of fireplace within your new custom home, understanding the available options may assist you with determining the best fit for you and your family. There are several types of fireplaces available, the most popular include electric, wood burning or gas supplied.

A wood burning fireplace can be designed as a full masonry fireplace. This traditional, classic way to create a fire burning area is designed with brick, stone or concrete. Wood burning fireplaces are designed with an 8” flue used to vent the heat out of the home. If the fireplace is designed to help heat the home, adding a blower motor is recommended. In this case, some of the heat would be pushed back into the home, while still allowing some of the heat to vent out.

If you have chosen a masonry fireplace, it will be possible to convert this fireplace to a gas fireplace at anytime in the future.  This may be a selling feature for those people who prefer gas over wood burning units.

Another type of wood burning unit is the pre-fab self-contained fireplace unit. These units come in many styles and sizes and are designed to allow for wood burning units to be installed while keeping costs low compared to a full traditionally built masonry fireplace. The prefab units can still have brick, stone or other surrounds and in most homes built today with wood burning fireplaces, the pre-fab unit is the common choice.

If you prefer a gas unit, there are still a few options to choose from. The vented gas log fireplace is a gas fireplace that is designed to vent out of the home.  This unit looks similar to the wood burning prefab unit, however has a 6” flue, therefore if you ever wanted to convert this gas fireplace back to a wood burning fireplace it would not be allowed, as wood burning fireplaces require an 8” flue.

Another type of gas fireplace unit is the ventless gas unit.  The ventless unit has no flue and while it burns more efficiently, these units are known to increase humidity in the room where the unit is being used.  It is recommended in these areas to crack a window or make sure other interior doors within the home are opened to assist with circulation of the by-product released into the air.  It is also recommended that these units are not installed in small areas, as it could promote mold growth due to moisture content in the air.

A direct vent gas unit is a commonly installed unit within many homes today.  The direct vent gas unit is a prefab unit which is sealed and designed to vent out of the house.  The vents are typically straight and either vent out of the roof, when the unit is on an interior wall and vent out of the wall to the exterior of the home when the unit is installed on an exterior wall.  If the unit is installed in an area within the home which would require the venting pipe to be anything other than straight, then a B vent fireplace is recommended.  This type of unit is designed with angles and can be useful with properly venting this type of unit.

Regardless of which type of unit you decide to install within your home, you will have plenty of options to design your fireplace surround.  Feel free to discuss your options with  your building consultant to select the best fireplace unit for your new custom home.

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For many years the most popular flooring was laminate flooring.  Once the tile rage made it to the stage of home improvements laminate flooring took a back seat, however with new technology laminate flooring is making a comeback for some modern-day homes.

When considering upgrade options for a new custom home, flooring is one area where tile is generally a standard for most hard-surfaced areas.  If this is the case you may choose to go with the standard tile available for your new build, or you may choose to exchange the standard tile for an upgraded laminate option.  The upgraded laminates today include many textured styles and multiple patterns that give the look, and in some cases an even better appearance of tile flooring or hardwood.

Technology has made laminate flooring more attractive.  Laminate flooring provides an option for those who are staying within a reasonable budget, without sacrificing style.  Keeping a tight budget can be an important part of any new home construction and with all of the available options within each area of the home make sure to consider laminate flooring as a budgetary option.

Vinyl flooring comes in sheets, and square tiles.  The tiles are available in several different sizes varying from 12-inch – 16 inch square and hardwood patterns as 36-inch sections more designed to look like planks of wood.

Laminate wood flooring is also a popular option to natural hardwood flooring, which can be quite a bit more expensive.  Laminate flooring is a synthetic multi-layered product that contains a moisture barrier, layers of fiber board and topped with a clear coat to provide the overall look of hardwood.  The lifetime of your flooring product depends some on the ongoing maintenance, so make sure to understand your product and use suggested cleaning methods to keep your floors looking beautiful for many years.

Once you have made the decision to use laminate or vinyl flooring in your new custom home, make sure to use reputable installers.  A trustworthy builder has vetted vendors and suppliers and is more likely to have worked through some issues that you, as a consumer, may not be aware of. Proper installation of flooring products may prevent undesired warranty claims or resolutions.

As you make the important decisions involved with building a new custom home, make sure to take time to educate yourself with products that are available and depend on reputable manufacturers, suppliers and vendors to deliver a finished room you are sure to enjoy.  Inquire with your building consultant to discuss available options for laminate and vinyl flooring within your home.

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Regardless of where you live, making sure you have the proper size water heater to provide the amount of hot water to last normal routines within your family is very important. There are several options when it comes to water heaters. You will first need to consider whether you prefer a gas or electric water heater; then you will need to decide if you prefer a standard tank filled water heater and if so which size or a tankless water heater.

Understanding your needs and the realities of what these types of units offer will help you make your decision. Electric and Gas units both offer energy-efficient units, and while gas is typically thought of as being more efficient, gas units that have pilot lights do have more energy that is being wasted. Overall tankless water heaters are known to use 30 – 50 % less energy than standard tank heaters.

Tank style water heaters are designed to keep a reservoir of water within the tank and keep a portion of the water heated to a certain temperature allowing the hot water to be distributed as you use it. A tankless water heater actually heats the water as it travels through the unit, therefore not having a reservoir of water but rather generating hot water on demand, as it is needed. One benefit to this has to do with an endless supply of hot water, within capacity of the unit.

As with most gas water heaters, tank style water heaters need to be properly ventilated. These are typically vented using a direct vent or a conventional exhaust flue. While reviewing the available units it is clear the tankless units take up much less space than standard tank style water heaters. Tankless style heaters are also available as a smaller unit, designed to be installed at a singular location to generate hot water within a specific area upon demand. These type of insta-hot units are commonly used in bathroom or laundry room/workspace sinks. This may help reduce the actual amount of water needed to typically heat up the water of a standard style water heater.

Water heaters generally have a 10 – 15 year warranty where most tankless heaters offer a 20 year warranty. One thing to consider during this usage period is to be aware of a regular maintenance schedule to assure longevity of your unit. Tankless heaters may have a calcium buildup, which if left untreated, could cause more service updates. Make sure you understand your product and consider the recommended maintenance to make the most of your investment.

Working with a reputable builder may offer some security with understanding the availability of products you may choose to place within the construction of your new custom home. A good builder will ensure the electric service is built to contain the amount of power needed to support whichever type of unit you choose, or making certain the gas unit you choose is properly ventilated. Overall, there are several options to choose from, and depending on what part of the country you live in, or the amount of hot water you and your family require in a normal day will help you to make the best decision for your new home.

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One of the first steps to building your custom home is finding a floor plan you want to build. There is an endless amount of design options and house plans. Finding the perfect one for you and your family can be a tedious process.

While reviewing plans, inquire with your building consultant with questions you may have concerning possible plan changes. Some people are unaware they have the ability to change their chosen plan. You may have found a nice floor plan, but desire to make changes to open up the layout of the floor plan. This is possible and can make your living space more family friendly. By removing walls you create open spaces.

Common places where walls are removed are between kitchens and dining rooms, or kitchens and living rooms. By choosing to remove these walls you open up spaces allowing family and friends to entertain and engage in activities among the rooms.

Once you have decided to open up the living space by removing walls, you now have the option to consider decorative accents you may want to incorporate to add a more custom look throughout your home. Columns are a typical addition to line formal dining rooms.  There are multiple styles of columns, round and square with decorative trim. Another option you may consider is a cased opening, utilizing multiple trim styles,  or you may choose to incorporate other building components and create your own style. One suggestion may include installing a 42” wall cabinet with glass doors and bookcase end pieces with a trimmed out square ½ column on top to provide some storage while also offering a unique design function within your newly opened up space. A building consultant can assist with recommendations that will fit your family.

If you enjoy open spaces, another option to consider is incorporating a plant ledge header, connecting two rooms, allowing for plants, or other art-type accents or collectibles to be displayed while keeping the open space layout within the overall flow of your home.

Inquire with your building consultant to discuss which walls could be removed or reduced in size. Some walls are crucial to the stability of the structure of your home, however many are not load bearing walls and can be removed altogether.

There are so many options when it comes to designing a new custom home.  Finding a floor plan is simply the starting point and from there one can truly add custom flair in every corner of the new home. Removing walls and creating open spaces is just one of the many ways in which custom ideas can become a part of the interior of the home. As you decide upon a plan, envision walking through the plan as it has been designed and again with the design elements you can imagine within the layout – you are sure to find the perfect match of function and custom to meet the needs of you and your family.

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If you are in the market to build a new custom home, as you review different builders you will learn how each builder has defined their own standard list of features that are included within their proposed plans.  Some of these features may include granite or marble countertops in the bathrooms. Vinyl, tile or hardwood in the dining room and kitchen. And in the bathroom, possibly a fiberglass tub and shower unit or a steel tub with tile surrounds and fiberglass shower inserts. Among all of the options and upgraded items homeowners can choose for their homes, kitchens and bathrooms are typically the areas where most thought goes into the details of designing and planning the perfect retreat.

It is common for master bathrooms to house a separate walk in shower unit and tub.  Most master showers are planned standard with a fiberglass unit or a minimally designed tile surround, typically built with a fiberglass shower pan and a standard 12” tile surround. This is a good place to start because there are so many options to consider when it comes to designing the perfect custom tile shower.

Things you want to consider:

  • Size of Shower – A standard shower within most house plans is 3ft x 5ft.  The area you have to work with when planning a custom shower is going to depend on your actual floor plan.  Most builders will allow you to move walls, increase square footage and make all of the changes you may want within your home, so discuss these options to increase your shower size with your building consultant to assure there is ample space for your desired size of shower.
  • Door Styles – Once you have selected the size of your shower, the next step would be to consider door styles.  Most fiberglass units have a framed and hinged door with clear or obscure glass.  There are other options available and these include a frameless style door, which offers a contemporary and clean look.  Another popular option within custom homes is the walk-thru shower which has no door at all but instead has a framed and tiled or glass wall entrance into the shower.  This option has its own set of expanded options to include arched entryway, niches at entrances into the shower to place towels or robes and multiple styles of glass.  If you go with a door option the glass type is another selection you will have to make.  Clear and obscure glass are the most common styles selected, however there are many more options which include etched glass, rigid glass or glass with scenes imprinted, such as bamboo, etc.  In addition to a glass selection, if you have selected a door with a frame you will need to also select the color of the frame.  Typical colors include silver, bronze, brass and black.  For more information on selections you may be interested in, discuss this with your building consultant.
  • Faucets – Faucets are another area where the options can seem overwhelming.  Among many styles from a classic to contemporary look you also will have to select the finish, which typically matches the color you have selected for the frame of your door, or the light fixtures within the bathroom.  When it comes to shower heads, do you prefer a standard shower head, a ceiling mounted rain shower head or a pullout shower head with multiple settings?  In addition to this, do you have the desire to include body sprayers within your shower or multiple shower heads?  These are a few things you want to consider and when it comes to shower head and body spraying systems, they are not all the same – so do your research and find the one you are sure to enjoy.  There are other options available regarding faucets, which include automatic temperature settings – if you enjoy your shower at an exact temperature this may be an option you wish to consider.
  • Flooring – Before you decide which type of flooring you will choose for your shower first determine if you are using a fiberglass shower pan, if so – your option may only involve a color selection.  If you have chosen a full tile shower, then you will first need to decide on the type of flooring you will use.  Ceramic tile and porcelain tile are popular choices and a more trendy option may include a river rock or gravel installation.  Once you have decided on the style of tile, the pattern will be the next decision you must consider.  Staggering the tile, installing it on a 45 degree angle or using multiple size tiles to create your design are a few suggestions.  Another product you may consider using is an epoxy type grout. Check with your builder, but in many cases when a customer requests to install a custom tile shower it is common to have the shower floor recessed, where the planned shower will go.  This typically happens when the slab is poured and will allow the tile, when installed in the shower floor, to be flush with the remaining bathroom floor, which is a desired and practical application.
  • Seating & Niches – Have you thought about adding a seat to your shower?  If so, do you prefer a straight or corner seat?  Do you need a particular height or size seat? What about multiple seats if you have a larger shower.  Niches are another feature to consider.  If you have a custom tile shower planned, make sure to include recess niches within the shower to house your shampoo, body wash and other shower items.
  • Lighting – Lighting within a house plan is typically based on a standard for what is needed within a particular area.  When it comes to the lighting within your shower area you may want to add recess lighting, a dimmer switch or consider a heat lamp, which is designed to heat up a given area and sometimes has an auto-shut off when it reaches a certain temperature.
  • Tile – The tile itself can be a huge decision. There is a plethora of colors and styles when it comes to tiles, and depending on your preferences you may incorporate a mosaic glass design, listello borders or a simple bull nose trim.  There are different sizes of tiles and many patterns, including staggered, stacked, or installing the tile on a 45 degree angle.  In addition to the tile layout, grout colors can change the overall look of the project.  I recommend visiting a design showroom or review different patterns and styles online and then sharing your likes and dislikes with your building consultant to design the perfect custom tile shower for your home.

Other things to consider with custom tile showers may include grab bars or ADA compliant features, sealing the grout, or installation of towel hooks or other accessories.  Discussing your custom tile shower with your building consultant may keep your options within your budget and assure you are creating a unique custom feature within your new home.

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When planning your kitchen layout, it is important to consider the cabinet layout in addition to the lighting, flooring, paint colors and other interior home selections.  Another important decision is regarding the oven and stove – and with the many available options today it may take more than a brief moment to consider which appliances will work best for you and your family.

When it comes to cooking and having the right appliances within your new custom kitchen you want to consider the number of people and events you will be cooking for throughout the year.

The planning and designing stage of your new custom home, is the perfect time to ask questions, think of different scenarios and really design a custom kitchen that will meet the needs of you and your family.  Ranges and cooktops come in standard sizes, typically 30” and 36”, however there are other options should you decide to go with a custom size or professional size appliance.  Some professional series appliances offer options including warming drawers, convection ovens and other features.

If you choose to go with a cooktop, which is an independent surface cooking unit, and a wall mounted double oven you will have double the oven space.  If you like the wall mounted oven idea, however do not need the additional oven other options include a microwave oven combo unit; or maybe you would prefer a convection oven combination unit. Overall, there are many ways for you to customize your kitchen appliances.

Many people choose cooktops and double oven combos for the added cooking space.  The cooktop location can also help increase available space for drawer stack cabinets where you can store pots, pans or other cooking utensils.  Some cooktops are placed within kitchen islands and others are placed in the position where a traditional range would have been placed – depending on your kitchen layout and cabinet design you may have several options so be sure to speak with your building consultant as you review these selections. Another feature you may want to consider if placing your cooktop in the island is a downdraft ventilation system.

If you choose to go with a traditional freestanding range or a slide in range understanding the difference in look may help with your selection.  Freestanding ranges are among the most widely used ranges in the housing market.  A freestanding range is an independent unit that is easily installed and slides into a premeasured open space within your cabinet layout.  The majority of these units offer controls on the top section and are available in electric smooth-top versions as well as gas units.  A freestanding range typically has small gaps between the installed unit and cabinets. A slide in or drop in range offers a more unified and seamless look across your cabinets as it sits on a countertop ledge as designed for proper installation.  With the slide in/drop in range the controls are typically located on the front of the unit and there is not a raised back which makes a nice selection if you have a decorative backsplash or low profile window with a nice view.  It really comes to esthetic preference as both of these units will offer similar cooking functions.

Once you have decided the type of appliance, you should consider whether you will choose gas or electric.  People have different reasons for selecting one or the other based on previous use or preference.  Gas, over time has been identified to offer more even temperate cooking.  A gas option also gives the opportunity to continue cooking during a storm where a power outage occurs.  Living in a coastal area where hurricanes are more prevalent this may be the best choice for you.  Some have fears of using gas within their homes.  Over the years gas appliances have become much safer; however with any product it is important to understand how to properly use your appliance.  Gas also puts off less long term heat as compared to electric appliances; therefore using an electric range may affect the temperature, while in use, within your home.

Regardless of whether you choose gas or electric there are many other options to consider including color, size, and brand.  You want to consider the warranty of any appliances you choose and your building consultant may offer suggestions to help you choose the perfect fit for your new custom kitchen.

As you dream of the many days you will spend cooking in your new custom created kitchen make sure to consider all of the possible options when it comes to cook-tops, ranges and ovens so you are able to entertain the way you and your family are accustomed to.

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Whether your home features a coastal view, a mountain view or anywhere in between selecting a decking material to stand the test of time requires more thought than just a guessing game.  Your building consultant can offer many answers to your questions about the types of decking materials available.  The area you build your home may play a role in the type of decking material you choose so let’s consider a few of the popular options.

Traditional Wood Decking

Wood Decking has been a popular option for many years.  A few things to consider when installing a wood deck is understanding the maintenance that comes along with it.  The lifetime of the deck is going to depend heavily on how well the deck is maintained.  With most wood decks it is recommended that a stain and sealer is applied every so often to protect the wood and give a finished look.  Wood decks are also more susceptible to termites, splintering and general wear depending on the use of the decked area.  Wood can be used in recycled projects so if the deck is ever removed it could be repurposed.  Reclaimed wood has become a popular trend within the home building industry, so another option for decking could include using reclaimed wood within your deck project.  While reclaimed wood is generally more expensive, it offers a nice addition to any home.

Composite Decking

Composite Decking materials have become a popular choice within the building industry over the past decade.  The cost for composite decking has come down and as a result has become more of an affordable option for decking materials.  There are several types of composite decking, and while there is polymer, fiberglass or pvc type composites available, understanding your options, lifetime of the product and appearance are important factors to consider.  Discussing your decking options with your building consultant will provide many answers to your questions and allow you the opportunity to explore color possibilities, warranties available and styles that will best suit the needs for your home construction.

Composite decking offers the look of wood without the effects that weather and time can have on the wood itself.  Composite decking is typically coated to keep water from penetrating the material, and of course keeps insects like termites or carpenter bees from invading the product.

A common question is whether or not the deck will be slippery – and the best answer to this is most decks can become slippery, regardless of being wood or composite.  Water, algae and other additions to any outdoor product can create a slippery environment.  While there are different materials that are used in the manufacturing of decking materials, some may be more slippery than others – so do your research.

Whether you choose a traditional wood deck or a composite material deck, proper installation and maintenance are the keys to the overall lifetime of the product.  Following a few simple steps can keep your deck looking beautiful for years.

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If you are building a new home of brick or partial brick you are most likely fully aware of the endless color selections when it comes to brick options. You may also be aware of the available mortar colors and how the finished product can look much different if choosing the same color brick and a different color mortar. This can be an enjoyable time, making the selections for your new custom home.

Did you know there are even more options for your mortar? The design of the mortar can also play a huge part in the way the overall home looks when it is completely built.

Believe it or not there are actually mortar patterns you can choose, and this is yet another way you can give your home an upgraded look without a huge difference in cost. Some custom builders may not even offer these options to their homeowners, but the way I see it is you are building your dream home, and although you might not know every option that is available to you, if you are interested you can certainly find many of them.

If you are building within a neighborhood or subdivision, with covenants, to first inquire or have your selections approved.  Some architectural control committees may or may not allow different mortar styles within your custom home – so better safe than sorry on this note.

Here are some mortar options you may be interested in:

  • Protruding mortar – I prefer to call it rustic or olde world style – but some may just see it as sloppy brick.  Don’t let the name discourage you from one of my favorite styles.  In this flair, the mortar is more heavily applied and as the brick is installed the mortar in a way oozes out between the bricks.  This style adds more depth and can be visually stimulating from the street, leaving one to wonder why this type of brick attracts your eye, more than the one next door.
  • Grapevine mortar – the grapevine mortar is a style that when the mortar is applied there is a thin groove placed in the mortar between the bricks.  This design is more noticed as you approach the home and not as easily seen from the street.  It does provide an overall different look to the home, but many if not detail oriented would never know the difference.

These are just two of the options available for mortar styles.  For more options or to learn about other options you may consider adding to your new custom home contact your building consultant or visit us at

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