"I think that many of your readers dream of building their own home, but for various reasons think that it would be out of reach (fear of architects, contractors, going over the budget, and the like). I would love the opportunity to show that with a modest budget a sense of adventure, and a responsive, creative design-build team, it can be a fun and fulfilling reality!"
Energy Upgrades May Be Cheaper Than You Think!
The older drafty home is now comfortable and uses less energy than before the remodel.
When we are engaged to design and/or build a remodel of an existing home, we are often asked about energy upgrades. We usually find that while homeowners would like to have an energy efficient 'green' house, there is a perception that to upgrade would be overwhelming and that they can't afford the
components in an entire system.
While the cost of fixing wet basements and adding bathrooms can add up quickly, energy upgrades don’t have to put things out of reach. In fact, they don’t really cost that much more because they’re integral to the decisions and choices made in the renovation process. If you consider a renovation as a whole system, you might find that you can add modern conveniences (such as an extra bathroom, bedroom, or office space) and comfort without building an addition, and reduce your energy costs in the process. The basement and attic are already built; you just need to use them. By adding rooms in the basement and attic, you often can reconfigure the floor plan to accommodate an extra bathroom, a larger kitchen, or a master suite. Replacing the furnace, the boiler, or the HVAC system might cost $10,000 before you are done. But the upgrade could easily save $1000 a year in heating and cooling costs. Even in simple payback terms, this new system would pay for itself after ten years. Amortized into a 30-year
mortgage, it costs $27 per month; the savings works out to $83 per month for a net gain of $56 per month. Because we know energy costs are rising, these numbers will only get better.
(partially excerpted from “Remodeling for Energy Efficiency” by Betsy Pettit)
What Lurks Beneath Your Home?
Have you ever noticed a damp or musty smell in your home?
Did you know that a vented, crawlspace costs you between 15% - 20% in higher energy costs? That’s right, higher in the winter and higher in the summer.
Have you ever seen some of the things living in your crawlspace? A damp, dark environment is perfect for all types of critters.
These signs are all a direct result of having a vented crawlspace under your home.
As Skagit Contractors, we have inspected many structures in our geographical area which consists of much glacial til. This type of material creates an environment that allows water to run close to the surface, infiltrating crawl spaces. We noticed that moisture in crawl spaces caused many problems in existing homes and that the thin plastic sheeting used to prevent water from getting under the house just didn’t work.
* improperly installed footing drains,gutters and downspouts
* damp foundations,
* rot in the home’s structure,
* a variety of animals and insects in the crawl space, with rodents nesting in insulation
* unpleasant odors, mold and mildew.
We researched various ways to defeat these home destroying problems, finding that encapsulation of crawl spaces has been extensively tested and consistently recommended by building scientists throughout the country. In the course of our investigation of various systems, we discovered the Cleanspace Crawlspace Encapsulation System, which is part of the company Basement Systems, Inc. This company matches our own commitment to quality and integrity; Their standards, products and practices are exemplary. We received their professional training and are now proud to be certified installers of the Cleanspace Crawlspace Encapsulation System, helping homeowners protect their homes and health.
Don’t wait for another Rainy Day ! Visit sotomcnettcleanspace.com or call Soto-McNett Cleanspace (360-755-0301) for a free no-pressure consultation, evaluation and estimate. Our trained, professional, courteous staff will be pleased to clean, repair and enclose your crawlspace.
Building Smaller and Smarter
There is a movement toward a simpler and more meaningful way of life. Small home design makes sense as we become more conscious of our environment and more conscious of reducing waste and energy requirements. Even the housing industries are moving toward using pre-cut panels, modules and recycled materials in order to prevent waste.
Architect Sarah Susanka has written a series of books about “not so big” houses that favor quality of space rather than quantity, a trend that has evolved over the last 15 years to meet the needs of these new types of families. Small home design isn't about giving up anything; it's about building in a way that efficiently uses space to give you everything you need.
Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an existing one, you want to think about what it takes to make you feel at home. In every house that you have lived in there are features that you have particularly liked or disliked.
Look at your present house. Really look at how you live in your house and see how much of the space goes unused. What about the formal dining room that you only use twice a year, the extra bedroom that is being used for storage (a.k.a. junk), or the empty recreation room downstairs? You know which ones! We all have them. Where do you spend your time? My guess is that you and your family spend most of your waking hours in the kitchen and/or family room. I know that I like to be where it is light, airy, and near the refrigerator rather than in a “sewing room”, office or studio. Which brings us to a point to consider: how much room do you really need? If you were to consider a condo or house based on small home design, what could you give up without really missing it?
We aren’t even touching on the concept of how much it costs to heat, cool, clean, and maintain a large home. The trend now is to spend your money on making your home an expression of your personality instead of square footage. Big is not necessarily better. The “not so big” house isn’t just a small house or condo. It is a smaller home filled with the special details that accommodate your lifestyle.
Design for today but recognize that your house needs to be able to adapt and change throughout the stages in your life. Putting all everyday living functions on one level is called “common sense.” Making the bedroom, bath and living areas handicap accessible by doing things like widening doors, and being conscious of how a wheelchair or walker could navigate the space is just good planning if you want to stay in your own home for the rest of your life. These sort of "Universal Design" options are becoming very popular and can be incorporated into any house designs that you are planning to use.
There are three variables that you will need to consider when designing your step-down or “not so big” house and they are cost, quality and quantity. The Real Estate Industry is still pushing the idea that multiple rooms and square footage is the key to a successful home. Maybe it is time for a change. People are less formal. Families have changed but most houses have not. Think small home design as you consider where you want to live for the rest of your life. I highly recommend reading the “not so big” books by Sarah Susanka before beginning building or remodeling projects.
Source: The Not So Big House series by Sarah Susanka (The Taunton Press).
What is Universal Design?
Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
What makes a home "universal"? It's simple. Everyone can use universal design! It doesn't matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability. Or you may be a prize-winning athlete. Because of universal design, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.
Here are some of the more common universal design features:
* No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home's main rooms.
* One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
* Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
* Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
* Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.
Some universal design features just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you'll wonder how you ever lived without them. For example:
* Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They're not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
* Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
* Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
* Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You'll never go back to knobs or standard switches.