How Season Changes Affect Your New Home

Image: Wayfair

There is a big learning curve if you’re a first-time homebuyer. We’re here to help you learn the basics of home maintenance so that you can spend less time stressing about how to care for your home and more time doing the things you love in your new space.  One of the first things we tell our North Carolina homebuyers is that seasons have a significant impact on your house. Here we explain how and why that happens.

Expansion and Contraction

Every home deals with the unfortunate phenomenon of expansion and contraction. Changes in temperature cause the materials used to build homes to expand in warmer weather and contract in colder weather. This is true of concrete, siding, wood, etc.

Humidity  

Humidity also causes home maintenance issues. For example, fluctuations in humid air causes wood to swell when humidity is high and shrink when humidity is low. This can affect your doors, baseboards, wood floors, handrails, mantles, and cabinets.

Seasonal Décor

This may be surprising, but seasonal home décor can actually do some damage to your house. For example, large, heavy wreaths can cause your doors to come out of alignment. Hanging up your holiday lights can also damage gutters or shingles (and eventually lead to roof leaks).

Common Problems

These are some common problems homeowners face due to season changes:

  • Slight cracks around windows
  • Drywall nail pops
    • A nail pop is slight bump in a wall where the nail has worked itself to the surface
  • Driveway cracks
  • Slight gaps in corners where drywall comes together
  • Sticking doors

What You Can do

It’s important to keep in mind that minor shrinkage and swelling is unavoidable. A normal amount of wear and tear on a home should be expected throughout the year and especially as seasons change. Even so, there are a few preventative measures you can take.

  • Try to keep the house at an even temperature all year
  • Manage humidity by using your exhaust fans and monitoring indoor relative humidity with a hygrometer
  • Clean and seal your driveway every few years
  • In the winter months use sand on driveway for traction rather than salt or chemicals
  • Avoid placing heavy wreaths and overhead door hangers on your doors – use smaller wreaths to get a similar effect and command hooks rather than door hangers
  • Try using light clips to avoid puncturing or lifting roof shingles while placing holiday lights

We suggest consulting with a licensed and experienced contractor for any issues as they arise. If you’d like more home maintenance tips, check out our blog.

Laminate vs. Luxury Vinyl Floor Comparison

 

If you’re looking for the right flooring for your home, you may be wondering what the difference between laminate and luxury vinyl is. Laminate and luxury vinyl can both look like hardwood, ceramic tile, or even stone at a more affordable price point. So, what’s the difference? We’ll lay it out for you here:

Laminate

Laminate comes in planks and uses the floating method of installation. Laminate can be installed over wood subfloors or concrete floors. This means it can be installed on any level of the home, including the basement. Laminate can be cleaned with a broom, dry mop, or steam mop. Wet mops are not recommended because laminate is susceptible to water damage. For this reason, it is not suitable for areas with high levels of moisture, which could warp or permanently damage the flooring. Laminate is fade-resistant and comes in a variety of styles, textures, and colors.

Luxury Vinyl

Because luxury vinyl is made of vinyl, it has a firm and elastic construction. Luxury vinyl comes in tiles and planks, so it’s sometimes called LVT or LVP. Either one can be installed using floating or glue methods. Like Laminate, luxury vinyl can be installed over wood subfloors or concrete floors. This means it can be installed on any level of the home, including the basement. Unlike laminate, wet mops are okay to use on vinyl because it is water-resistant.

Luxury vinyl is quieter and softer underfoot. To help these floors last, close blinds and curtains during peak sunlight hours. Luxury vinyl is susceptible to heat from the sun’s rays so keeping the blinds closed protects the structural integrity of the vinyl. Luxury vinyl is resistant to stains, water, mold, and mildew, making it a great option for bathrooms and basements. Some Luxury vinyl options are even completely waterproof. It also comes in a wide variety of styles, textures, and colors.

At Horizons East, we recommend luxury vinyl plank for your home because it’s more durable, more family and pet friendly, and comes in a wider variety of styles.

20 Terms Homebuilders Use

Jargon in any industry can be confusing. This is true for the construction industry as well. If you’re interested in building a home, here are 20 terms homebuilders use to help you have a seamless home building experience.

  1. Spec Home – a “speculative” home that a building company constructs without a purchase contract with the hopes of selling once they’ve started. Some spec homes are complete; others can still be personalized with the buyers’ choices for finishes and fixtures.
  2. Lot – a measured amount of property (land) with fixed boundaries.
  3. Survey – a land survey determines the boundaries of a person’s land.
  4. Framing – the process of putting up a house’s frame which is the supporting structure that acts as the skeleton of a house.
  5. Plumbing Rough-In – the stage of construction where plumbing systems are installed before walls and ceilings are closed.
  6. Footings – these are concrete and rebar reinforcements to support a home’s foundation
  7. Punch List – a to-do list created by the general contractor, project manager, or homebuyers of things that need to be fixed by the contractor. A punch list would include things like missing trim or paint touch-ups
  8. Split Level – a house in which various sections of the floor plan have different floor and ceilings heights.
  9. Balusters – The vertical posts in stair railings
  10. Amore edge – a decorative edge of a countertop
  11. Fireplace surround – the structure or decorative finish around a fireplace
  12. Slab Foundation – a concrete “slab” foundation is a flat, level base of a home
  13. Drywall– also called plasterboard, gypsum board, and sheetrock, drywall is a large building material used in the construction of interior walls and ceilings
  14. Tray Ceiling – also called an inverted or recessed ceiling, a tray ceiling is a decorative ceiling design with a raised section that resembles an upside-down tray.
  15. Wainscoting – paneled wooden lining of an interior wall, usually the lower three or four feet, which differs from the top portion of the wall.
  16. Board and Batten – a type of wainscoting with vertical wood boards spaced evenly around a room.
  17. Builder Warranty – many builders offer a one-year warranty on materials and a ten-year warranty on structural issues. New homebuyers will also have warranties provided by manufacturers and other service providers such as roof warranties, pest control warranties, or appliance warranties.
  18. Certificate of Occupancy – a certificate issued after all inspections have been made by the local jurisdiction establishing that a home can be occupied. Until the CO is issued, no one can move into a new home.
  19. Change Order – a written document that modifies the original plans for the home’s features, floor plan, or finishes. Change orders may add to the price of the home and the length of time it takes to build it.
  20. Closing – also called the “settlement”, closing is the final step in the home financing process. Closing day is when all papers are signed and the ownership of the property transfers from one owner to the next.

We hope this helps you with your home building journey. If you’d like to learn more about the home building process, you can contact us here.

 

Hand of a carpenter pointing at a wood plank destroyed by termites isolated on white

Termites and Your New Home

 

There are two words no homeowner wants to hear: termite damage. Discover why having termites can be so costly; make sure your new home is protected and that you’re doing everything you can to prevent an infestation in the future.

Termite Damage

For many people, purchasing a home is their largest investment. Termites can literally eat their way through that investment, causing thousands of dollars in damage per home. There are several different types of termites and they can attack your home from different entry points. They feed on wood, but they can also consume plant-based materials like fabric and wallpaper.

What makes termites especially unnerving is that they can go undetected for years. By the time they’re found, the damage may already be done.

According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause more than $5 billion in documented damage each year. Some damage may go unreported however, because homeowner’s insurance doesn’t typically cover termite damage. Those without a warranty through an exterminating company will be paying out of pocket and not through a documented claims process.

Pre-construction Termite Treatment

To protect your new home, a preconstruction termite treatment is applied by an exterminating company. This pretreatment establishes a warranty with that exterminating company. After closing, the homeowner keeps up the warranty with the exterminating company and they work together to keep termites out of their new home.

A termite warranty is an agreement between an exterminating company and a homeowner. Typically, the homeowner pays for a yearly inspection and the exterminating company provides treatment and control if termites are discovered. The warranty may also provide protection if termites are found. This would include either repair of damages or a retreatment covered by the warranty. For a termite warranty to remain valid, the homeowner must keep up with yearly inspections.

In addition to a termite warranty, there are steps you can take to prevent an infestation in your home:

  • Reduce food sources
    • Store firewood away from the house
    • Keep landscaping mulch at least six inches away from your foundation OR replace mulch with a cellulose-free option
  • Remove access
    • Seal off all entry points including cracks, crevices, and gaps around pipes with caulk, foam, or weather stripping
    • Keep hedges and trees trimmed at least 18 inches away from the home
  • Reduce Excess Moisture
    • Reduce moisture in and around your home
    • Repair leaky faucets, pipes, and AC units
    • Ensure downspouts and gutters are working properly
  • Know the Signs
    • Inspect lumber before your DIY project
    • Routinely inspect the foundation of your home for signs of mud tubes
    • Keep your eye out for swarmers – these termites have wings and they look like flying ants

With a good termite warranty in place and a little preventative care, your investment in your new home will be protected and enjoyed for years to come.

3D rendering of a house cross section showing bathroom and sewage system

Getting to Know Your Septic System

 

When we build a Horizons East Home, we take care to ensure you have great details in your home and underground.  For homeowners with septic systems, that includes the use of a quality EZflow® Septic System.  Let’s take a look at what your septic system does and how you can ensure a long life.

How Septic Systems Work

Septic systems essentially work as a self-contained waste-water treatment plant in your own back yard.  They contain two main parts: a tank and a drain field.  The tanks is water-tight with an inlet from the sewer pipe and an outlet to the drain field.  The septic tank treats wastewater naturally by holding it in the tank long enough for solids and liquids to separate.

Wastewater in the tank forms three layers. Solids like greases and oils that are lighter than water float to the top forming a layer of scum. Solids heavier than water settle at the bottom of the tank forming a layer of sludge. This leaves a middle layer of partially clarified wastewater.  Scum and sludge layers stay in the tank to be broken down by bacteria.  The partially clarified wastewater is distributed throughout the drain field through environmentally friendly EZflow® engineered lines.

Benefits of EZflow® Septic Systems

EZflow system showing pipes surrounded by packing material wrapped in netting

Your EZflow® system is and engineered geosynthetic aggregate system designed to replace traditional stone and pipe drain fields.  Because it’s a self-contained perforated pipe surrounded by aggregate that’s held in place with durable, high-strength netting, the system is always clean and free of fines.  It’s made from recycled materials and is cost effective to install.  The system is engineered for optimal storage and absorption efficiency.  It can also be easily contoured around existing trees or other obstacles.   Download the spec sheet to learn more about product specifications.

4 Ways to Maintain your Septic System

The EPA recommends 4 ways to care for your septic system.  The main items for septic system health are:

  1. Inspect and Pump Frequently This depends on the size of your home and system, but most septic systems should be professionally inspected every three years.
  2. Use Water Efficiently Since everything that goes down the drain ends up in the septic system, conserving water helps reduce the load on the system. High-efficiency toilet, washing machines and showerheads all help control the volume of wastewater produced daily.
  3. Properly Dispose of Waste
    Don’t flush any solid waste except for human waste and toilet paper. Make sure grease, oil, wipes, feminine products, dental floss, coffee grounds, and other items are put in the trash not poured down the drain or flushed.
  4. Maintain Your Drain FieldDon’t park, drive or pour concrete over the drain field. Compression will reduce its efficiency.  Ensure other water sources like gutters or sump pumps do not empty into the drain field.

You can learn more about how the EPA recommends you care for your septic system here.  With a little care and maintenance, your EZflow® system will provide safe and efficient disposal of wastewater for your home and family.

12 Ways to Save Energy on Laundry Day

Saving energy on laundry day not only helps the planet, it can reduce your utility bill. Often for new home-buyers, the most energy efficient thing you can do is purchase a washer and dryer that is engineered to reduce energy consumption.

What to Look for in an Energy Saving Laundry Appliance

The best way to find an energy-efficient washer and dryer is to look for laundry appliances that have the Energy Star symbol. Energy Star is a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to promote energy efficiency. Clothes washers and dryers boasting the Energy Star symbol cut energy consumption by 25% and water consumption by 33%. This reduction of energy use is beneficial because it has the potential to help the environment as well as save you time and money.

Energy Saving Tips

If you’re not in the market for new laundry appliances, don’t worry. There are still plenty of things you can do to reduce your energy use while getting your laundry done. No matter which type of laundry appliance you have, here are some laundry best practices to help you save energy on laundry day:

  1. Dry bulkier cottons like towels and blankets in a separate load
    This helps items dry faster, using less energy.
  2. Use the cool-down cycle
    This allows your clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.
  3. If you have a front-loading washing machine, always use HE (High Efficiency) detergent
    Front-loading machines require HE detergent because other detergents create more suds. More suds will affect your machine’s performance and could eventually cause damage
  4. Wash and dry full loads
    Run full loads when you can because whether you’re running a light load or a full one, you’re using the same amount of energy.
  5. Wash in cold water
    Save the energy it takes to heat the water for your cycle by washing in cold water as often as possible.
  6. Use a drying rack or hang clothes outside to dry
    Skip the dryer altogether and air dry as often as you can. This will also help your clothing last longer.
  7. Choose high spin or extended spin
    High or extended spin features reduce the amount of remaining moisture in your clothes after washing. The less moisture there is in your clothes after washing, the less time and energy they will need in the dryer.
  8. Leave washing machine door open
    Saving energy includes properly cleaning and maintaining your appliances so they perform at their best. Leaving your washing machine door open prevents mold and mildew from building up in the drum.
  9. Clean your washing machine
    Saving energy includes properly cleaning and maintaining your appliances so they perform at their best. Follow your owner’s manual to keep your machines working for years to come.
  10. Use the low heat setting
    Use less energy with longer drying cycles on a lower heat setting.
  11. Clean the lint screen after Every. Single. Load. (This is a safety issue as well)
    Clogged lint screens can lead to fires. Cleaning the filter after each load improves air circulation and increases the efficiency of your dryer.
  12. If you use dryer sheets scrub the lint filter regularly to prevent buildup
    Dryer sheets can cause a film to form on your dryer filter which will reduce air-flow. Scrub with a toothbrush to remove this film.

That seems like a long list, but making these little tips consistent habits in your laundry routine will save you money for years to come.

Friant Family – Habitat Build

Recently, Horizons was so honored to be a part of a Habitat for Humanity build in Jacksonville, NC. With the help of volunteer groups from DR Horton, Starbucks, and Camp Lejeune, we were able to complete this home for a very deserving family. A lot of subcontractors in the community also donated or heavily discounted their items to get the family the home at an affordable price point. Continue reading