What kind of insulation do you recommend?

That depends…. Today everyone is all about green building but not everyone has the budget to go that route.

If I were building my 3,300+ square foot custom built dream home I would be more interested in saving money over the long haul in energy costs and would spend the money up front.  For that scenario I  recommend 1.5 to 2 inches of sprayed rigid foam insulation followed by blown in rock wool.  There are two main reasons that I would go this route.  First, the benefit of rigid foam is that it provides a higher R- value per inch than fiberglass or cellulose and it has the added benefit of sealing all air leaks.  Of course all this comes with a higher price.  The 1.5 inches of the foam seals the openings and then you can fill with the lower cost rock wool blown insulation blanket for a comprehensive energy saving solution. …Continue Reading

Love What You Do

There are very successful general contractors who would say I am not making money by being out in the field….Money is made in the office. I agree with that philosophy; however, I really enjoy being in the field. I guess I will never be in the 1% when I retire! It was apparent to me at an early age that I would rather be outside than eat when I’m hungry. Wearing a suit, sitting in an office and carrying a briefcase was never in my future.

If you drove by one of my under construction custom homes on Wednesday this week, you would have seen me there after the end of the regular work day taking care of business. You would have had no clue that I was Matt Grace, the owner of Grace Construction, Inc. I am a hands on small business owner and like it that way. When I take on a contract for a custom home or start a spec home, I want to ensure that the work is happening on schedule, meeting regulatory standards and of the quality that I and my customers expect. I can’t do that from my office, or by sitting in my truck in the driveway of a current project – I have to see it up close myself.

Much of what I do is about relationships. My vendors and sub contractors know my expectations, but they also know that I will be checking on the quality of materials and work in process. The inspectors who evaluate our work know that I will take care of any issues noted without making a scene or wasting their time. Knowing the folks I do business with on a daily basis is important. You can learn a lot about a person from just talking about their weekend, favorite sport or family. You just don’t get the same connection from a text, phone mail or email. Don’t get me wrong – My phone rings and pings constantly but technology will never take the place of face to face interactions for me.

Why Didn’t I Think of That When Building My House? Part 2

Have you ever heard people who have just moved into a new home say…..I wish I had thought of that when I was building or I wish my contractor had suggested that to me? I’ve said before that planning is the most important part of the process and NOW is the time to do it. Whether you are ready to build, thinking about remodeling or just planning for your dream home you can’t spend enough time planning.

This is a continuation of my last post to share some of the things I have heard homeowners tell me that they want in their homes and some things they wish they had included. This post will cover the Closets, Bedroom and Outdoor/Garage areas:

 

Closets

You never have enough closets or closets that are big enough

Outlets in closets

Enough space in closet to hang long clothesBuilt in drawer ironing board

Built in ironing board in master closet (see photo)

Built in safe for valuables

Full size broom closet to hide cleaning supplies

Solar tubes for lighting in closets and dark spaces

Designated closet for modem, router, audio and video equipment with outlets and chest high shelves

 

 Bedroom

Four plug outlets in the bedroom

Master switch in bedroom to control outside lights and attic lightsBathroom with Pocket Door

Vanity with sink in each bedroom

Pocket door between bedroom to bathroom (see photo)

 

Outdoor/Garage Areas

Hose bibs everywhere….Can’t have enough hose bibs – locate on each side and end of house

Color and seal the garage floor before moving in

Walk in door to the garage

Give the landscaping bushes enough room to grow

Gutter downspouts connected to a pipe to move water away from foundation

Have extra irrigation zone for drip irrigation for deck and patio

Add cabinets and countertops to garage

Permanent staircase in garage to attic

Three car garage for storage or shop space

Dog or Cat door

Bury PVC and thread high quality hose to keep off lawn to area where need to water

Run wiring to the outside for audio systems

Outlets under eaves outside for Christmas lights (see photo)Eave Outlet

Run conduit under driveway for future wiring needs

Outlets on all four sides of your house

Pre-wire for future security cameras

Pre-wire for a generator

Exterior gas piping for deck grill and outdoor fire pit

Make your porches and portals deep – at least 12 foot minimum

TV and internet cable for garage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Didn’t I Think of That When Building My House?

 

Have you ever heard people who have just moved into a new home say…..I wish I had thought of that when I was building or I wish my contractor had suggested that to me? I’ve said before that planning is the most important part of the process and NOW is the time to do it. Whether you are ready to build, thinking about remodeling or just planning for your dream home you can’t spend enough time in the planning phase.

I thought I would share some of the things I have heard homeowners tell me that they want in their homes and some things they wish they had included. This post will cover the Kitchen, Baths and Laundry/Mud Room. Let’s take it area by area:

Kitchen

Recess the refrigerator
Add outlets in the pantry for charging
Built in paper towel holder
Small appliance “garage” with outlets – easy access locations to store small appliancesAppliance Garage
Set up for both gas and electric appliances in case you change later
Pantry light with motion sensor
Drawers for all lower cabinets
Two soap pumps on sink – one for hand soap and one for dish soap
More can lights and under cabinet lighting
Switches to turn off all lights in kitchen as you exit
Knife drawer

 

 

 

Baths

Outlet in master toilet closet for night light
Outlets inside vanity cabinets upper and lower
Make sure master bath tub is easy to access as you age – isn’t too deep 

High ceilings in bath and extra-large walk in showers are COLD
Design shower with aging in mind –  with no lip to step over, grab rails and deep shower seat
Pull out step stool under vanity

 

Laundry Room / Mud Room

You can’t make the laundry room big enough
Built in cubbies in mud room with outlet in each for all family members
Pull out laundry baskets and bins
Built in ironing board
Elevate washer and dryer and add storage underneath
Built in drying rack and folding table
Sink

In my next post I’ll share ideas for the Bedroom, Closets and Outdoor Areas.

 

 

 

 

 

Wait For IT…Just Wait For IT

One of the hardest things for a client building a new home is to see the unfinished product and not worry.  The construction process is a bit of Art and Science and it’s the Art part that is hard to visualize for most.

When a homeowner walks into their slab foundation home during the framing process and sees small stress cracks in the concrete slab they have trouble understanding that “it’s normal” and does not negatively impact the integrity of the foundation.  Once the trim is installed but before the painters have sanded and caulked, the homeowner walks in and all they see is the gap between the trim and the ceiling.  When the cabinets have just been set in place and anchored the homeowner sees the gap between the doors and is concerned but that gap is easily adjusted by the contractor after the finish process.  My point here is that you have to wait for the work to be finished.

As a contractor I am glad to answer questions as we go along and have become quite good at responding to home owners concerns.  The bottom line is that you need to choose a contractor with integrity who ensures that the underlying quality of the structure is top notch.  The true value of the home is in the structural integrity.  The cosmetics are important…but you have to wait for it!

What do Millennials Want ?

Why do millennials get a bad rap?  I’m an older millennial born in 1981 and I don’t understand it.  We are generally a generation of tech savvy, financially conservative guys and gals who think the home is for enjoying – not a status symbol. The home is for LIVING!  What is so hard to understand about that?  We don’t need expansive formal rooms with ornate trim or gigantic master bedrooms and master closets.  What we need is a smaller functional home that offers utility and flexibility and is simple and also stylish.  Our homes should be comfortable, easy to maintain, eco-friendly, energy efficient and a good value for our money.Millennial Starter Home

As a builder who now builds not only custom homes but starter homes – I get it.  Many millennial buyers are searching for a highly functional home within their budget.  They might ask –  What floor plan offers the most usable space for our money? Many articles I read are calling it the  ” Responsive Home” – one that responds to the owner and their needs.

What I have seen is that a builder needs to listen to their potential client, not talk to them about the cookie cutter plan that has been working for the last 20 years.  With some research and my personal impressions, I have listed below what the “typical” millennial home buyer may like.  Given there are about 90 million millennials in the United States I’m sure there is a lot of variation in what “typical” is and it will vary based on the region – but here goes for my area and personal preference:

  • The most square footage and usable space for the money
  • Open floor plan that offers options to expand later on if they like the area and the family is growing
  • Wireless Automation
  • Lots of windows to give natural light
  • Outdoor room – not necessarily a big one
  • Room to entertain inside and out
  • Low maintenance  exterior and yard
  • Flex space dedicated to organization and work ( home office becoming more popular with growth of work at home opportunities)
  • Home theatre wiring and sound
  • Location with good internet and wireless service and good schools
  • Scrap the built-in bookcases – they have tablets and e-readers – focus on good lighting and lots of outlets for charging
  • NOT BEIGE – Grays with bold accents
  • Unique affordable features – Functional separate laundry room with landing zone for STUFF or niches for charging stations

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Compare Quotes

Sometimes I just shake my head when I hear how some contractors do business and how naïve homeowners can be.  Recently I quoted a substantial home remodeling job.  I always offer to bring over the quote to review with the homeowner face-to-face so that we are on the same page as far as what I have quoted and the allowances that are taken into account.  Many times the homeowner just wants me to email the quote since they are anxious to see it.  In this case the homeowner had gotten four so called “quotes”.

When I called to ask if they reviewed the quote and had any questions they said they were going with someone else.  They said my quote was not the highest but they were going with the lowest quote which was substantially less than the other three.  The difference was so significant that I had to ask a few questions and when I asked them  whether they were sure that we had quoted the same work, quality and allowances they said they only had a total price from the contractor they were going with and did not have anything in writing or any of the details.22304

I spent probably 7 hours of my time let alone the time of my sub contractors and vendors making sure that I had everything they asked for included in the quote and provided a specific detailed estimate showing exactly what they would get for their money.  I had outlined the allowances for all of the fixtures, carpet, tile, etc.  The homeowner had a PDF of the plans but not a copy and I had even gone to have a print copy made so I had the exact information.

I know that I will do many quotes where I will not get the work for one reason or another.  Sometimes the reason is out of my control but I know that taking the time to do thorough quotes benefits the homeowner and myself.

The message I want you to take away is to proceed with caution when a  contractor tells you that he/she can do exactly what you want for the budget you have set without giving you anything in writing to show what you are paying for and what he/she is committing to.  In that situation someone is going to be VERY disappointed in the end and it’s probably going to be YOU.

Give Me A Sign

Rainbow Alton VillageI’m not what I would call a superstitious person but I do think there are signs that mean something.  The last home that I built was for a couple in their 60’s who wanted their forever home.  I worked with them to ensure that the home would accommodate their needs in their later years and even if confined to a wheelchair.  They are very happy in the new home and in the neighborhood they selected.  Recently, when visiting them, a storm came through and quickly was replaced by the photo that you see above.  Now is this a good sign or what?

 

 

What is the Most Affordable House Plan to Build

My clients experienced an “AH-HA” moment recently when I was estimating their new custom home. The clients are in their 60’s and thinking about aging as they picked out a house plan. Of course they wanted the living space to be all on one floor to allow for ease of access and to include handicap accessible options should that be needed in the future. They looked around the area before deciding to build and actually really liked the house I was just completing that was about the same square feet they were looking for.Vicksburg Once I had prepared the estimate for them they were confused by how the similarly sized home they wanted to build was more per square foot than the one they had looked at earlier. I naturally went back and checked all of my pricing and calculations and told them the numbers were correct and the estimate remained the same. I then explained to them the difference between the cost to build up versus the cost to build out:

[su_box title=”BUILD UP – Two Story Home” box_color=”#2d39bf” title_color=”#ffffff”] Pro’s: Ability to add considerable square footage without adding cost for roofing and foundation materials- -Can purchase Smaller Lot since the footprint is smaller[/su_box]

[su_box title=”BUILD OUT – One Story Home” box_color=”#2d39bf” title_color=”#ffffff”] Pro’s: Can Age in Place and live more independently since all on one floor, No stairs for Arthritic knees or baby gates for  toddlers, Parents and Children on Same Floor, Easier Egress in case of Emergency- Provides multiple choices for Ceiling height and Can accommodate Vaulted or Tray ceilings since no second story  [/su_box]

Each family needs to look at their personal preferences, financial situation and items they are not willing to give up or compromise.  With these things in mind discuss with your contractor what makes sense for your situation before you make any firm decisions.

Disconnect the Water Hose…..Now

Recently a customer called to report that the water pressure to his hose was very weak when he turned on the hose bib installed on his new addition.  The first thing I asked him was if he had left his water hose connected to the faucet over the winter.  He said that he had and I told him I suspected that had caused water to remain in the pipe and when that water froze and expanded over the winter it caused the pipe to rupture. I told him I would go by with the plumber to take a look.  Sure enough when we got there the water line had split and water was pouring out of the pipe under his house causing low pressure at the hose.frost_proof_faucet This diagram demonstrates how it is supposed to work. If a homeowner leaves a hose or timer attached to the hose bib over the winter it prevents the water from draining out of the pipe and when that water freezes it causes the pipe to split. Since the outside faucet is normally not used over the winter it isn’t until Spring when the bib is turned on that there will likely be a leak under the house. Fortunately this homeowner recognized an issue immediately before any damage was done. If the leak is not detected, the amount of water pouring out under the house, can cause moisture problems and high water bills.

Tips To Remember:

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  • Make it a habit to remove any hose, timer or attachment in the Fall
  • Always install a frost proof hose bib
  • Remember if you forgot to remove the hose that in Spring you need to check for leaks

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Image via InterNACHI