Category Archives: Home Building

What Home Floorplan is Right for You?

Every family is unique and their home should be, too. One size fits all just isn’t ideal. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a floor plan for your family.

 

Children

If you have small children, stairs may present a safety concern for a while but once your children are older that changes.  Separate spaces for the kids and adults can be a valuable benefit in your home. For example, kids’ rooms may be upstairs with a game room, while the main floor is reserved for the master suite, living areas and kitchen. Kids value their own space as they enter their teens.

 

Elderly Family Members

As with younger children, stairs can be a challenge for older family members who may visit often, or live with you. If your heart is set on a multi-level home, splitting the bedrooms between levels or installing a small elevator may be ideal for your floorplan. If you have aging parents and anticipate you’ll need a living space for them now or in the future, a guest suite on the first floor can easily become an accessible space for them. Consider including enough space for accessibility options and a walk-in shower to make life easier in the future.

 

Active Lifestyle

Those with active lifestyles are frequently on the go and may prefer a home that is simple, open, and functional. A single level home with an open floor plan is perfect for those who want easy living and upkeep, but still want a beautiful space to enjoy. Remember to plan extra space for storing sports gear and outdoor toys like boats, boards, or bikes.

 

Busy, Big Family

Larger families with active kids have specific needs for sleeping spaces, play space and storage space. When selecting a floorplan for big families, small changes in the floorplans can make a big impact in the function of your home. The location of your laundry room, a mudroom, space for homework, and more storage for toys, games, sporting equipment can all be important things to consider when choosing your floorplan.

 

You know your family best.  Think about your needs today and what you think your family will need in the years to come.  Then talk to your home builder about those special needs that will make your home a dream home for your family.  You’ll have a better idea of which floorplans to start with as you customize your dream home.

Value of a Mudroom

A mudroom is the perfect place to keep extra dirt and clutter from finding its way into the rest of your home. It provides a specific location for dirty shoes to be removed before dirt or mud is tracked onto your living room floor. Backpacks, coats, and sports gear can be stored, instead of tossed on the couch or in the dining room. It can make your life so much easier! Here are 5 valuable benefits of having a mudroom in your home.

 

1. More Useful Storage

Winter gloves? Coats? Rain boots? Extra shoes you don’t want in your closet? Having a mudroom is like having an extra-large coat closet. It’s the perfect place to stash seasonal items, keeping them out of your bedroom or coat closet. They’re available when you need them, but not in your way everyday.  With built-in storage options, your mudroom will stay tidy, too.

 

2. Everything in One Place when it’s Time to Go

Many families can have a hard time getting out the door. Everyone’s shoes are in different places, someone left their backpack in their room, you can’t find your coat, etc. A mudroom makes it easier to get everyone ready to leave in one place and at the same time. All the shoes, bags, car keys, everything you need to leave the house can be safely stored in one place! A little bit of planning can make your morning routine “grab and go.”

 

3. Everything has a Place, too

Giving kids a dedicated place to hang school bags, or sports equipment, means there is less chance that it will end up in the middle of the floor. Everything should have a home, and a mudroom is a great home for a lot of things. And when they are stashed on the way in, life’s a little easier for everyone.

 

4. Functional Space

Many mudrooms have a bench to make putting on shoes a breeze. It’s also right by the door, so the perfect place to take things on and off as soon as you leave or enter the home. No more stomping around the house in your boots! Use this space to create functional storage that fits your family’s lifestyle and needs.

 

5. Keep it Clean!

Rain and mud are part of daily life in eastern North Carolina. Mudrooms help ensure muddy shoes and dripping raincoats don’t make the whole house messy. Consider adding a sink to your mudroom.  It’s a great place to clean muddy shoes, dry umbrellas or soak a stained uniform. Some families even plan for laundry rooms to be near a mud room for easy access. Talk to your builder about your options.

 

A mudroom helps preserve your home’s interior, flooring and well… maybe Mom’s sanity.  We think that’s a great investment.

Clever Storage Options for Your Home

You want to be able to enjoy every single space in your home. Here are a few clever storage solutions, some big and some small, to help you make the most of your home.

 

Clever Kitchen Spaces

Adding a pull out spice cabinet will save space by utilizing small vertical spaces between cabinets and appliances.  Wall spice units leverage space over counters and spice drawers keep spices handy and save cabinet spaces for other uses.  In any case, they add and create a practical way to store all the tiny bottles used for spices.

Add a Lazy Susan in a corner cabinet or shelves that pull out like drawers to utilize every inch of useful cabinetry space.  Use stacking shelves, wall shelves or other creative storage ideas in pantries and kitchen spaces to increase storage capacity and ease of access.

Photo https://www.homecrestcabinetry.com/products/cabinet-interiors/wall-spice-pull-out-cabinet

 

A Christmas Tree Closet

Does your Christmas tree take up a lot of space?  Do you dread assembly before the holidays and disassembly in January? Plan a large closet for your tree in or near your living room. Then just roll your Christmas tree out in December and back into the closet in January.  Done.

 

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

You’ve heard of barn doors? Well how about a barn door mirror?  Extra storage can be tucked behind a sliding vanity mirror or full length mirror in bathrooms, closets, bedrooms or virtually anywhere you want to hide shelving for small storage.

 

Virtues of Going Vertical

Don’t forget to utilize vertical space! You may need to invest in a ladder or a good step stool, but using vertical space can help with space and efficiency in living spaces, storage spaces and garages. Items stored vertically are take up less space overall and are easier to access.

Photo: homedit.com/cool-firewood-storage-designs/    Photo:https://hips.hearstapps.com/

While you’re thinking vertical, also look for high points in closets, nooks or walls that can be leveraged with wall shelves or other forms of storage to keep items you don’t use everyday up and out of the way.

 

Clear as Mud (Rooms)

Finally, a great place for families to add storage is in a well-equipped mud room. Having a place for coats, hats, gloves, shoes, backpacks and purses to live when not in use will keep this clutter out of your own closets. It’s also easier to grab everything that everyone needs in one place, rather than stopping in several bedrooms and closets looking for each item. This can be as simple as a bench that doubles as storage with hooks hanging above it, or as elaborate as a small room with shelving, a shoe rack, coat closet, etc.

photo: https://www.thisoldhouse.com/entryways-mudrooms/21372103/mudroom-storage-ideas

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.

Winterizing Your Roof

Winterizing your roof can prevent damage from icy conditions and make your life easier in the long run. Prevention costs less than repair and replacement! Here are some ways to keep your roof intact all winter long.

 

Clean Gutters, Downspouts and Roof Areas

When rain and snow hit your roof, they leave through your gutters if applicable, as we don’t typically install gutters. Keeping gutters and downspouts debris-free prevents poor drainage.  Proper drainage prevents damage to your roof, landscaping and siding.  To protect your foundation, ensure downspouts are pointed away from the house. Good practice is to drain into a splash block.

Additionally, debris has a habit of getting trapped in valleys on the roof and can prevent water, snow and ice from draining, which causes damage.

 

Insulate & Vent Your Attic

Insulating and ventilating your attic will prevent heat loss and money loss in energy bills.  They can also help prevent ice dams and icicles from forming. Check with a local roofing expert for their recommendations on your roof’s insulation.

 

Check for Damage

Before winter starts, inspect your roof.  Pay special attention to any areas where you have had repairs before and make sure all shingles are intact. This can prevent leaks and further damage.

 

Trim Your Trees

When snow falls, it can weigh down tree branches.  Heavy branches can break and fall onto the roof of your home. Remove and trim the branches that extend over your roof to prevent limbs from landing on your home.

These tips will help you get through winter and protect the roof over your head.  However, if you detect a leak, do not walk on the roof while it is wet. Shingles are very slippery when wet and walking on the roof is potentially harmful to the roof itself.  If you are able to go into the attic space, it is recommended to install a bucket or container to prevent excessive damages. If this is done, be sure that the container is placed on a SOLID surface and is empties periodically depending on how bad the leak is, and how fast it will fill the container. Take note of where the leak is located and call a professional or inspect it yourself once the shingles are dry.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Central Cooling

The most common central cooling system is a split system, which includes an outdoor cabinet containing a condenser coil and compressor, and an indoor evaporator coil, usually installed in conjunction with your furnace or air handler. The compressor pumps a chemical called refrigerant through the system.  Heat is transferred from air in your home to the refrigerant in the evaporator coil, thus “cooling” the air. Your cooling system is usually combined with your central heating system because they share the same ductwork for distributing conditioned air throughout your home.

Central Heating

Central heating systems have a primary heating appliance, such as a furnace, typically located in your basement or garage. All furnaces consist of four main components:

  1. Burners that deliver and burn fuel
  2. Heat exchangers
  3. A blower
  4. A flue that acts as an exhaust for gaseous by-products.

Depending on your situation, region, and needs, you can choose from heating systems running on either gas or oil as fuel, or a hybrid packaged system that can use both fuel types. Air from your home blows across the heat exchanger to be warmed. It is then blown through a system of ducts to distribute around your home. During warm seasons, your heating system works with your central air conditioning. Air is cooled as it is blown over your air conditioning unit’s cooling coil and then sent through the same air ducts through your home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are designed to move heat energy from one location to another.  They typically pull heat out of the air or ground to heat a home or building, but they can be reversed to cool a building.  They transfer heat very much like air conditioning units transfer heat with refrigerant. One of the biggest advantages of a heat pump is there’s no need to install separate systems to heat and cool your home.  In moderate climates, heat pumps work very efficiently because they simply transfer heat, rather than burn fuel to create it.

System Efficiency

Heating and cooling systems are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels — qualified central units are about 15% more efficient than standard models.

Air Conditioning Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check to make sure your thermostat is set in the “cool” position.
  • Ensure that your outdoor air conditioning (condensing unit) is running:
  • Check the circuit breakers in the circuit breaker box (or electrical panel), most likely mounted to an outside wall in the back of the house. Are they in the “ON” position?
  • Check the outdoor unit “disconnect switch” to make sure it is in the “ON” position. The disconnect switch is located near the outdoor unit. (Typically, a grey 8″ wide x 6″ high x 4″ deep box mounted to the wall).
  • Ensure that the blower motor in your air conditioner is running. (If the thermostat is in the “cool” position, the air conditioner blower should be running.) If it’s not, check to make sure the on/off switch on the air conditioner is in the “ON” position. Sometimes a switch is located at the top of basement steps.
  • Be sure that you have changed your filter in the air conditioner recently. Your filter should be changed every month.
  • Check all return air grilles to make sure they are not blocked by furniture.
  • Check all supply air registers to make sure they are open and blowing air. (The return air grilles are normally located on your walls and are wide and flat).

Gas Furnace Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check to make sure that your thermostat is set in the “heat” position.
  • Make sure that the temperature setting on the thermostat is set above (or higher than) the indoor temperature showing on the thermostat.
  • Ensure that there is power to the furnace: Try turning the fan to “ON” using the fan switch on the thermostat to test for power to furnace.
  • Check the circuit breakers at the electrical panel to make sure they are in the “ON” position.
  • Check the SSU switch (it looks like a light switch on a gray box located at the furnace) to be sure it is in the “ON” position.
  • Replace the furnace filter if needed. All 1-inch thick furnace filters should be replaced monthly.  Purolator 2-inch-thick and other high-capacity pleated filters can most likely be changed every other month; 6 times per year.
  • If the system is running but you have not changed your filter, the filter may need to be replaced.
  • Check all return air grilles to make sure they are not blocked by furniture.
  • Check all supply air registers to make sure they are open and blowing air. (The return air grilles are normally located on your walls and are wide and flat).

Heat Pump Troubleshooting Tips

  • Check thermostat settings. Is the heat pump set on the desired mode and temperature?
  • Ensure the unit has power and breakers have not been flipped.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in the indoor air handler.
  • Ensure the outdoor unit is not blocked and has free airflow on all sides.
  • Your heat pump may need a tune-up. Having your heat pump serviced regularly by a professional, qualified HVAC technician can provide higher efficiency operation and more reliable comfort. One service typically offered during routine maintenance is cleaning your outdoor coil. If the coil is extremely dirty, your system may have trouble keeping up with demand.

Call an HVAC Technician

If you’re not comfortable troubleshooting, or attempts to find the issue don’t resolve the problem, it’s time to call a trained HVAC technician. Some HVAC issues are best left to the experts.  Frozen coils, water leaks in an indoor unit, an outdoor unit that will not shut off, and strange and/or loud noises are a few examples that call for a pro. Calling an HVAC technician will ensure that your repair is done safely and correctly the first time, reducing the risk of needing more costly repairs down the road.

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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