Category Archives: New Home

Get Your NC Home Ready for Winter

While winter doesn’t hit coastal North Carolina as hard as northern states, it’s still important to winterize your home and perform seasonal maintenance. Preparing your home for winter before temperatures reach a freezing point prevents damage and helps keep your family comfortably warm. 

Clean Gutters 

Regularly cleaning out gutters is always a good idea.  Clogged gutters can cause water damage to your house. But in winter, a clogged gutter can freeze.  If it does, it becomes very heavy and can break or fall. Make sure to clean your gutters before it freezes! 

 

Check for and Fill Cracks and Gaps 

Ensure that there are no cracks in your molding, foundation, or around windows/doors. Fill the holes in molding or foundation with caulk, and install weatherstripping for any gaps around doors and windows. Most doors have adjustable thresholds that can easily be adjusted with a screwdriver, this is a good practice to ensure proper seal of the sweep to the threshold. Doing so will prevent pests from entering your home and save on heating costs by keeping warm air inside your home. Also, check all windows to make sure they are fully closed and properly latched to prevent energy loss from cold air slowly getting in. 

 

Trim Tree Limbs 

Like gutters, freezing rain and temperatures can make tree limbs heavier, causing weakened branches to fall or break. Trim limbs that are close to windows or over your gutters or roof to prevent costly damages to your home.  Trimming shrubs and trees away from the house is also a great pest prevention tactic. 

 

Drain Hose Pipes 

When freezing weather is approaching, draining your pipes is a simple but effective prevention technique. Shut off the valve – labeled hose bib valve – inside your home, and then turn the hose on to let all the water run out of the pipes. This step is not needed frequently but is very helpful to know when we get a hard freeze in eastern North Carolina. 

 

Clean Vents 

Wiping down your vents before turning them on for the first time will prevent an unpleasant “burnt dust” smell.  

 

Replace Air Filters 

Make sure that the money you’re spending for hot air inside is being used efficiently! Dirty air filters prevent proper airflow. Replace air filters regularly as recommended by your heating/cooling unit manufacturer. Be sure to use the correct size to properly filter the air and not leave gaps for dust and debris to be pumped into the air return. 

 

These helpful tips will help keep your home cozy this winter and prevent damage to your property, and will also help save a few dollars on energy. 

5 Reasons to Build a Home in Eastern North Carolina

There are lots of reasons to call Eastern North Carolina home. Commonly rated one of the best places to live, North Carolinians experience higher quality of life. For starters, neighborhoods are safer, people are friendlier, the pace is more relaxed, and commutes are shorter.  If you’re coming from an urban area, you’ll see benefits in the cost of living, too. Let’s look at 5 key reasons to build in coastal North Carolina and make this beautiful place your home!

1. Moderate Climate

The climate in eastern North Carolina is mild and you can enjoy time outdoors in all four seasons. Summer months are warm, but when living on the coast, you can visit one of the beaches or spend your days by the pool. You won’t have to worry about ice storms or much snow in the winter, and you can enjoy outdoor living spaces most of the year.

2. Waterways & Beaches

With rivers flowing throughout most of the region and intercoastal waterways and beaches nearby, anyone who loves spending time on the water will love to be in ENC. Boating, kayaking, swimming, and walking on the beach are favorite pastimes.  Freshwater and saltwater fishing are readily available, and fresh seafood will have you feeling right at home in coastal North Carolina.

3. History to Explore

New Bern is the original capital of North Carolina and is home to several historical attractions like Tryon Palace and the original Pepsi store. The first English settlement was on Roanoke Island, and North Carolina’s oldest continuous settlement is in Bath. Tour the USS North Carolina in Wilmington and the Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville.  Take a Quilt-Square tour and visit local art spots.  Eastern North Carolina has artisans and quaint history in many of its towns that are sure to charm.

4. Nature & Wildlife

In addition to the waterways and beaches, there’s plenty in ENC for those who love hiking, exploring parks, and enjoying nature. You can experience wildlife up close at aquariums, go horseback riding or visit wild horses on Shackleford Banks.

5. Cost of living

North Carolina is below average in cost of living, with higher ratings of quality of life! In coastal North Carolina, you will enjoy less urban congestion, lower crime rates, cleaner water, safer neighborhoods, and a more relaxed pace. You’ll see the people are friendlier and life is good in the coastal communities of Eastern North Carolina.

 

If you’re looking for a great place to raise a family, relax, or retire, welcome.  We’re sure you’ll see why we love calling this “down east” coastal area our home.

Details to Include on Your Deck or Patio

Moderate weather in Eastern North Carolina, makes it easy to spend time outside in spring, summer and fall. Designing the perfect patio will keep you enjoying the extended living space of your home. There are many ways to make your deck or patio a favorite spot for your family.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

 

Add a Fireplace or Fire Pit

Adding a fireplace or fire pit to your outdoor living space will keep you spending time on your patio or deck in the evenings or during cooler weather in spring and fall. Kids will love the opportunity to make s’mores whenever you have a fire going! Be sure to check your fire pit or fireplaces manufacturer requirements, and your city’s code before adding any flame producing items to your deck.

Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen can be as simple as a grill and an outdoor sink… or a completely built-in gourmet set up! In either case, it reduces trips in and out of the house while cooking outdoors.  If you’re entertaining, you can converse with your guests and they’ll feel more included in the process. Be sure to speak with your builder about your options!

Lighting. Lighting. Lighting.

Lights can define your space and set an atmosphere.  You’ll need some lighting to make the space functional, but lighting can do more than make it safe to move about.  String lights can frame your outdoor living space in soft light.  Fairy lights can create a starry night effect overhead.  There are many creative ways to use lighting to set the mood for your space.

Overhead Cover

Roof extensions, awnings or sun shades provide cover for your deck or patio and in some cases can easily be installed after your build in complete.  This will protect you, your outdoor furniture and your deck from sunlight, heat or even a light rain. An overhead covering can also be helpful in blocking falling leaves or bird droppings. If you plan to use your outdoor living space frequently, an overhead covering will make it more enjoyable.

Multilevel Decks

Create a dynamic deck with distinct seating areas, space for games or levels that step down to a pool or other feature.  Think about movement to and from different high-interest areas.  If a multi-level deck isn’t right for you, add a stone path to a fire pit area from your main deck to achieve a similar effect.

Built-in Seating

Instead of buying patio furniture, build in a bench or booth for permanent seating. You won’t have to worry about it blowing away in a storm, and as your style changes with the seasons, you can change out cushions to keep your deck or patio inviting and unique.

 

 

Items in this segment that would fall under our Classic or Classic + packages would be:

  • Lighting Upgrades
  • Roof Extensions

 

Items in this segment that would fall under our Signature or Signature+ packages would be:

  • Awning or Sun Shades
  • Multilevel Decking
  • Built-In Seating
  • Outdoor Kitchen Areas
  • Outdoor Fireplaces

Going Green in Your New Home

In the past few years, we’ve all put more focus on sustainability and going green. We replace plastic straws with reusable or biodegradable ones, carry reusable water bottles, bring our own bags to the store, and put as much in our recycling bins as possible. There are also ways to go green when you’re building your home. Here are some simple ways that you can make a difference in the environment while building your home.

 

Appliances and lighting

Switching to energy efficient light bulbs and choosing Energy Star appliances will reduce energy and water use. They also use less energy and water, reducing your utility costs.

 

Insulation

Another money-saving and earth-friendly choice is investing in quality insulation. You will use less energy to heat and cool your home, which will cut costs on your electric bill. Talk to your builder about available options.

 

Solar Energy

You can choose solar panels to power your entire home or use solar energy to power just some parts of your home. There are vendors available to add these once your home build is complete.

 

Windows and Doors

The entry points to your home are also entry points for summer heat and winter cold. Choose high quality doors and double paned windows to keep your house at the temperatures you want it. Also consider low-emittance, or low-e, windows to reduce heat from the sun from entering your home, without reducing natural light. Horizons East’s uses low-e windows as a standard. One of which, is the Ply Gem 1500 series, and was recognized as the “Most Efficient” of Energy Star in 2021. Look for sustainable produced and low-e rated products when making selections for your new home.

Budgeting for Building Your Home

When it comes to building your dream home, you want to get all the “must have” features and beauty.  You also want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment.  Sometimes, that’s as simple as knowing which features to splurge on and which to keep economical.  Let’s take a look at a few key areas worth investing in as you build your new home.

 

Where should I make premium investments?

 

1. Insulation

Insulation will not only impact how comfortable your home is, but how much you spend on utilities every month of every year.  Remember, summer heat and humidity in Eastern North Carolina is no joke.

It is difficult to add insulation in the future if you need to, but it’s recommended and most cost effective to do so when building.  Investing in high-quality insulation during your build will save you money for years. Ask us about the different types of insulation available for your build.

 

2. Foundation

Anything that is considered permanent, or essentially permanent, merits a good investment. An experienced foundation contractor who uses quality materials is essential. Choose a slab foundation instead of a crawlspace or basement, but don’t skimp on quality materials or workmanship. Any of these can be good options if you use quality materials and contractors. A monolithic slab tends to be more cost effective than a raised foundation, or crawl. However, since you cannot raise your house after pouring the foundation really consider the investment at the beginning of your home build because it cannot be changed later.

 

3. Framing

A highly qualified framing contractor will save you in time, frustration, waste materials and repairs down the road.  If you can, consider 2×6 exterior walls instead of 2×4. This makes walls thicker, allowing more space for more insulation against weather and noise.

 

Where should I skip the splurge?

 

1. Appliances

Don’t panic!  Of course, you want great quality appliances.  But unless you’re a gourmet chef, you probably don’t need to invest in professional grade ovens and a blast chiller.

 

2. Countertops and backsplash

These are important to the aesthetic of your new kitchen. But keep in mind, they are cosmetic.  You can always change out a countertop or backsplash if styles change or you want a makeover in the future.

 

3. Paint Variations

Painters often charge based on the number of colors used throughout your house. Stick with one color for the majority of the home, using accent walls or varying colors sparingly at first.  Keep in mind, walls will be painted again over the years.  You can always add more color later to save a little expense now.

Normal Wear and Tear in a New Home

Every structure reveals signs of aging over time. If you see slight imperfections in your home over the years, don’t stress. They are a natural and unavoidable part of the home’s aging process. We’ll explain why these imperfections happen, give examples of normal wear and tear, and list some regular maintenance tasks that will help keep your home in great shape.

What Happens to a Home as Time Passes?

Exposure to the Elements

Daily exposure to the sun and other factors like wind and rain can cause minor damage to your home’s exterior. This will eventually lead to blemishes and may require paint touch-ups or minor repairs. This is expected over time.

Settling

Settling is a naturally occurring process that happens when the ground under a home shifts or compacts under the weight of the structure.  Every home settles over time.

Expansion and Contraction

The building materials in your new home are subject to seasonal changes in temperature. These changes in temperature can cause materials like wood and concrete to expand in the heat and contract once cooled.

The whole home undergoes these physical changes. The combination of expansion, contraction and settling will cause normal wear and tear on your home as time passes.

Here Are Some Examples of Normal Wear and Tear:

  • Faded paint
  • Slight cracks where the wall and ceiling meet
  • A slight lifting of baseboards
  • Nail pops (a nail starting to push through the drywall)
  • Drywall seam lines may become visible
  • Cracks or separations in grouting
  • Shrunken or cracked caulk
  • Sticking doors
  • Sidewalk cracks

Normal Use of Your Home May Lead to:

  • Cabinet and vanity scratches
  • Worn carpet or other flooring
  • Loose door hinges
  • Lightly scuffed floors
  • Other signs of use

Not all homes will experience the same types or levels of wear and tear, but all homes will experience some wear and tear.  Time, weather conditions, regular maintenance, and care are variables that contribute to the maturing of your home.

Regular Maintenance Tasks for Your Home

To keep your home looking its best and prevent small problems from turning into large ones, regular maintenance is required. Here are some steps you can take to extend the longevity of your home.

Indoor Home Maintenance

  • Check appliance and fixture care instructions to be sure you’re cleaning and maintaining them correctly and often enough. Check your home’s water heater, HVAC, refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc.
  • Clean dryer exhaust vent regularly.
  • Ensure you’re using the right cleaning method for your type of counters and flooring.
  • Wipe down counters daily.
  • Clean floors weekly or immediately after a spill.
  • Deep clean carpets yearly.
  • Check caulked areas around tubs, sinks, thresholds, countertops, etc. annually and repair as needed.
  • Change HVAC filters each month, they don’t need to be expensive filters. TIP: Set Amazon to auto-ship.
  • Replace smoke/carbon dioxide batteries yearly.  TIP: Pick an easy day to remember like New Year’s Day.

Outdoor Home Maintenance

  • Inspect caulk, weather stripping, and sealants around doors, windows, exterior vents, piping, etc. each year and repair or replace as needed.
  • Keep shrubs trimmed away from the home to prevent scratches in your home’s siding.
  • Power wash your siding if you notice pollen, mildew, or algae build-up.  This is especially important in North Carolina.
  • Prepare your home for season changes by cleaning gutters, getting furnace and fireplace inspections, and checking for drafts/installing weather stripping as needed.
  • Wash windows every season or at least twice a year.
  • If your driveway ices in the winter, use sand instead of salt.  Salt can damage concrete.
  • Keep downspouts pointed away from your foundation.

A home provides your family with shelter, security, and peace of mind.  Maintaining and caring for your home’s interior and exterior will help it age gracefully and stay beautiful for years to come.

If you’re looking to become a new homeowner in Eastern North Carolina, let us know.  We’ll walk you through every step of the process.

Choosing Insulation for Your New Home

Building a new home is an exciting process, but the many decisions that come with it can feel overwhelming. When you’re comparing options, it may not always be easy to determine which option is the best for your family. That’s where we come in. We help you get through the process with as little stress as possible.

There are several options for home insulation. In this article, we’re going to break down the types we recommend for our North Carolina homeowners and why it matters.

Why Insulation is Important

Building insulation is material added to exterior walls, attics, basements, and crawl spaces to create a thermal barrier for the house. It’s important because it provides protection from outside conditions. It blocks outside heat when it’s warm, and traps inside warmth when it’s cold. This makes your home more comfortable and it’s cost-efficient because it conserves energy.

R-Value

The effectiveness of insulation is measured with an R-value. R-values indicate how well a specific type of insulation protects from heat transfer. Things like an insulation material’s density and thickness will affect its R-value. A higher R-value will provide more protection than a lower one.

Types of Insulation

We recommend one of these four types of insulation for our new homeowners.  They are listed below from highest rating to lowest rating.

Spray Foam Insulation

Spray foam insulation is the most protective of the insulation types recommended for Horizons East Homes.  It is more costly than other options, but delivers these key benefits in return:

  • Highest R-value per inch on the market (R-6).
  • 40% more airtight than other insulations and provides an excellent moisture barrier.
  • Designated flood-resistant material by FEMA
Blown-in Insulation

This cellulose (wood or paper-based) product is often made from up to 85% recycled materials and can be considered eco-friendly.  It’s less expensive than spray foam and provides these benefits:

  • Also called loose fill, it conforms to spaces and provides good airflow sealing
  • Treated with Borates, a Class-1 fire retardant
  • Typically rated around 3.5, comparable to fiberglass
  • Quick and easy to install, but if it becomes wet, it’s slow to dry.
Spider Insulation

Spider insulation is a fiberglass system that is sprayed into spaces in a damp form, using a mold-resistant glue.  More economical than the two previous types, it provides these benefits:

  • Fills spaces and gaps well
  • No dry times or settling times
  • Resists mold growth
Batting Insulation

One of the most common and inexpensive options for insulating a home, this is a good option if you’re looking to keep costs within budget and have a durable solution in place.

  • Fiberglass insulation batts are cut to size and installed between studs or joists
  • Durable, moisture and fire resistant
  • Lower R-value

If you’re looking to build in North Carolina, our team is happy to help. For more homeowner tips, visit our blog.

How to Care for Your Countertops

How to Protect Your Countertops

There are some general rules of thumb you can follow to protect your countertops, no matter which type you have.

  • Wipe away spills as soon as possible, especially if spilled food is acidic or has coloring or dyes
  • Avoid standing or sitting on stone countertops
  • Always use a cutting board when preparing food
  • Use trivets to protect your counters from hot dishes while cooking

How to Clean Your Countertops

Granite

Granite is one of the most popular choices for kitchen counters. It is resistant to bacteria, comes in a wide variety of styles and colors, and is a beautiful addition to any new home.

  • Clean daily with warm soap, water, and a microfiber cloth or sponge
  • If stained, make a paste out of baking soda and water and use a microfiber cloth to remove the stain – don’t scrub
  • Don’t use vinegar, windex, or bleach on granite (this will dull the granite and weaken the sealant)
  • Plan on having a professional reseal your granite countertops every 2-4 years

Quartz

This increasingly popular option is engineered to be durable and doesn’t require a sealant because it is nonporous.

  • As one of the easiest countertops to care for, quartz resists stains and scratches, and is not negatively affected by acidic foods.
  • Clean daily with warm soap, water, and a microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Gently scrape any excess buildup of dirt or food with a putty knife
  • Don’t use bleach or harsh chemicals because it may damage the surface

Cultured Marble

Cultured marble is a more affordable counter option than natural stone and it beautifully imitates natural marble. Like quartz, cultured marble is manufactured to be durable and doesn’t require a sealant.

  • Clean daily with warm soap, water, and a microfiber cloth or sponge
  • For gloss finishes, completely avoid abrasives
  • For matte finishes, abrasives are ok when you’re trying to get rid of a stain
    • If stained, make a paste out of baking soda and water and use a microfiber cloth to remove the stain – don’t scrub
  • To maintain the surface’s shine, apply a protective coat of wax every few months

Formica (Laminate)

 The most common brand of laminate countertops is Formica. With laminate countertops, you have more freedom in choosing cleaning products and they are typically easier to maintain than natural stone countertops.

  • Clean daily with warm soap, water, or household cleaner and a microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Avoid acidic cleansers or bleach
  • If stained, make a paste out of baking soda and water and use a microfiber cloth to remove the stain – don’t scrub

If you’re not sure which type of countertop you have, regular dish soap and water will work on almost any surface. The most important thing you can do is clean spills right away to avoid long-term staining or damage to the surface’s finish. Also always avoid scouring pads if you’re unsure of your counter’s surface.

If your countertops are shiny, they are likely sealed so you should avoid using harsh abrasives. You can use baking soda and water for tough spots rather than a scouring pad, but we recommend taking it slow and being careful not to scrub.

For more home maintenance tips, visit our blog.

Homeowner’s Guide to Concrete

Concrete is composed of water, aggregate (rocks and sand), and cement which acts as a binder.

Expansion, Contraction and Cracking Concrete

All building materials expand and contract when exposed to changes in temperature. Concrete expands when temperatures rise and contracts when temperatures fall. Whether it’s a front porch or a highway, concrete expands and contracts along with weather changes and that can lead to cracks. Concrete is extremely strong, which is great for construction, but because it is so strong and the concrete cannot flex during temperature changes, it must crack. It is normal to expect some amount of cracking in any concrete project.

Homebuilders and concrete masons do everything they can to prevent the cracks from forming by placing concrete joints in each project. These joints (like the spaces you see in sidewalks) are meant to help control cracking by encouraging the concrete to crack along specific lines.

Types of Concrete Finishes

If you’re looking to use concrete for your driveway, porch, or slab foundation, there are several options for you to choose from.

Slick Finished Concrete

Usually used for garage floors, slick finished concrete has a smooth surface and like its name suggests, is slick. This option is popular for big box stores and other retail spaces because it is easy to clean.

Broom Finished Concrete

Broom finished concrete is quite literally textured by dragging a special broom across the concrete’s surface while it dries. This effect is visually appealing and provides great traction.

Exposed Aggregate

This finish exposes the little rocks used in the formation of the concrete. A solution is used to remove the top layer of cement and smaller sand particles, revealing the rocks beneath. It provides a decorative look and adds traction.

Stamped Concrete

Stamped concrete is a beautiful finish that is created using large rubber mat stamps in a variety of shapes and patterns. It is a nice option for patios and around pools.

How to Prevent Cracks

Like all driveway paving material, there is some maintenance that should be done if you’re looking to extend the life of your concrete driveways and porches. The best things you can do for your driveway are to seal, clean, and reapply sealer as needed. Sealer helps keep water from seeping into your driveway and then freezing and expanding. We recommend sealing your concrete driveway every two years or so.

In the winter months, it is helpful to use sand for traction rather than deicing chemicals or salt. Harsh chemicals and salt can both cause damage of your porch or driveway’s surface.

If you’d like to learn more about home construction and maintenance, our blog has some great guides.

Vinyl vs. Fiber Cement Siding

Exterior siding (also called cladding) is the outermost surface of your home. The type of siding on your house impacts both your curb appeal and maintenance requirements. The two types of siding material we recommend to our North Carolina homeowners are vinyl and fiber cement. We’ll explain the pros and cons of each material and help you choose the best option for your new home and family’s needs.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl is a tough, plastic material that is more affordable and easier to maintain than fiber cement. It is one of the most commonly used siding materials and is weather resistant. If you prioritize ease of maintenance, vinyl would be a wise option.

Pros

  • Easier to replace/repair
  • More weather resistant
  • More affordable
  • Easy to maintain – just requires occasional washing
  • Fire-resistant
  • Comes in various profiles for more design options

Cons

  • Not as many color options
  • Cannot be painted so if sections fade, they will need to be replaced
  • Not as high-end of a look

Fiber Cement Siding

Fiber cement is a mixture of sand, cement, and cellulose. It provides more design options and is a higher-end product than vinyl. If you’re looking to improve your curb appeal, fiber cement is the better option for you.

Pros

  • More color customization options
  • A variety of texture options are available (including wood grain)
  • Higher-end look
  • Fire-resistant

Cons

  • More expensive
  • Can absorb moisture, so it’s more weather intolerant
  • Higher maintenance – requires painting every few years

Whether you’re interested in low maintenance or a luxury look, both vinyl and fiber cement are great exterior siding options for your new home. Whichever you decide is right for you and your family, we look forward to working with you to build a house you can truly call home.

Check our blog for access to more homeowner resources.

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