Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things That Make Noise

It has taken a year, two, or maybe three to design and build your dream home. Finally, you have moved in and are spending your first week at home. This is a week of truths as you learn how your home functions and how well it allows for peaceful sleep.

What about noise? While designing and building your home, did you think about all of the things in a home that make noise? From where will the noise come, what kind of noise will it be and who will hear it? This is an important step to consider when working with your architect and looking at the architect's floor plans.

On page 264 of my book Designing Your Dream Home, is a checklist of things that make noise. Some of these include appliances which are a big contributor of noise, especially ice makers. It starts off with you hearing the ice drop followed by water released to refill the ice making tray. If you have an ice maker in a bar, how close is that bar located to a bedroom? Is the ice maker located near your favorite chair or sofa where you take naps? Believe me, it will disturb your sleep!

What about your laundry room walls? Are they opposite any bedroom walls or media room walls? Would the sound of the washer and dryer or that of a person working in the laundry room disturb you?

Don't forget about dishwashers and dishwasher drawers as well as the kitchen exhaust fan.

There is a great deal of noise that is generated from a bathroom. The toilet flushing, the shower water running, faucets running, the exhaust fan turned on, and hair dryers blowing are all culprits. Think about what rooms and areas of your home are next to, above, or below all bathrooms. Imagine someone being in one of the bathrooms shown on your floor plans using any of these items listed above. Who might be disturbed by the noise?

Exterior noise such as cars moving on your driveway, street traffic, and HVAC equipment are major causes of noise. How does the location of all bedrooms relate to the driveway or street. Make sure HVAC equipment is not located under a bedroom window or for that matter outside your dining room window.

Another common complaint heard regarding noise is hearing a person walking around on the floors above or hearing a person walk up and down the stairs. You certainly do not want a bedroom located next to the staircase.

Garage doors opening are often a welcoming sound as it let's you know your love ones have arrived. However, if your love ones are arriving late at night or departing very early in the morning, perhaps you don't want to know. If there is a bedroom obove the garage, it is almost impossible to silence the sound of the garage door opening and closing.

One of my pet peeves is hearing the chime of the security alarm being turned on late at night by the last person home or turned off early in the morning by the first person up. Pay close attention to the electrical plans which will show you where these will be mounted.

Lastly, don't forget about the sound coming from a TV, especially the media room which usually has a sound system that can produce substantial noise. Again, think of what rooms are above, below or next to the media room.

Fortunately, there are various soundproof options on the market that you can discuss with your architect and builder. Some of these include acoustical wall products, sound membrane on the floor, fabric in the ceiling, floor floaters, silent joists, soundboards, and fiberglass insulation. Night Night!

Monday, February 23, 2009

10 Areas of Discussion When Interviewing Architects to Design Your Dream Home

Now that you have made the decision to build your dream home it is time to hire an architect. In my opinion, it is best to hire an architect before you purchase the land on which you plan to build, however, in most cases the architect is hired afterwards. I have listed 10 areas of discussion for your interview with architects you are considering for your project. Comparing the answers to these questions for all architects you interview will be a tool in helping you decide which to hire.

1. Background and Experience What is your educational background? What associations are you a current member? Are you licensed/registered in this state? How long have you been designing homes? How many homes have you designed in this municipality? How many homes have you designed in this homeowner association (if applicable)? Do you personally know the HOA's design approval committee's architect? If so, what kind of a relationship do the two of you have? (I know of situation where the HOA's architect had worked for the homeowner's architect and left on bad terms. The HOA architect made unreasonable demands causing costly revisions and delays which appeared to be out of spite).

2. Compensation and Payment How are you compensated? There are many approaches to the way an architect is paid for his/her services. Examples include being paid a percentage of the overall construction fee (sometimes with a cap), a flat rate based on the square footage usually with a set number of revisions, a flat rate based on a mutually agreed upon number of projected hours with a per hour rate for hours exceeding that projected number, a flat fee for a complete set of architectural plans plus a per hour fee for site visits during construction, etc. What is your payment schedule?

3. Meeting Budgets How accurate are you in designing a home that when put to bid will meet or come in under our budget? What percentage of homes that you design meet the budget? If your design comes in over budget, will revisions to meet the budget be free?

4. What Role Will You Play Do you personally design the house or do you have a staff that does most of the work and you oversee it? If so, what is the experience of the person who will be assigned my project? May I have names and contact numbers of clients who worked with this person?

5. Timetable What is the timetable? How long does it take to see the first set of plans? How long does it generally take to complete all plans and put the project to bid? How many homes are you currently designing?

6. Experience With Similar Homes How many homes have you designed that were the same number of square feet as I want designed? How many homes have you designed in the same budget range as mine? If you have a challenging lot such as on a steep slope, on a cliff, in a dry dessert area, in an earthquake prone area, in a hurricane or tornado area, in a beach area with sandy soil, in a humid wet climate or a flood prone area, ask the architect what kind of experience he or she has in that particular area?

7. Designing Green Explain your approach and experience in designing a green home?

8. Awards Which design awards are you most proud of? How many times has your design been published in a magazine or book?

9. Contractor License, Insurance, Contract and References Please provide the following: contractor license number, certificate of insurance, copy of the contract you use and the names and contact information of the homeowners of the last 5 homes you have designed.

10. Miscellaneous How do you stay current on residential building materials? Does a model of the home come with the plans? If not, how much would a model cost? (I have seen HOA's that require a model and the model ending up costing $25,000) If you already have a builder in mind, ask the architect if he or she has ever worked with that builder. it is best if the builder and architect have worked together before, though not imperative.

Friday, February 20, 2009

12 Questions to Consider for an Outdoor Fireplace

Having an outdoor fireplace area is like adding another room to your home. There are several key questions to consider that will help you maximize your enjoyment. 1. Do you want your fireplace located in a patio area connected to your home or as part of an open patio area located away from your home? 2. What kind of materials do you see being used for your fireplace? 3. Do you want a hearth as part of the fireplace? If so, how high would you want the hearth and how long? (I have seen hearths that extend out and around the patio area and are used for seating and storage). 4. Do you want a mantle on your fireplace? If so, made out of what type of material? 5. Do you want the fireplace to open on both sides? (If there is a scenic view behind the fireplace and the opening is large enough, being able to see through will enhance the setting). 6. Will you use gas logs or will it be a wood burning fireplace? If wood burning, do you want a gas starter? Do you want an area built into the design to hold firewood? 7. Do you want a TV in the area? 8. With the fireplace being the focal point, how large of an area do you need for patio furniture? 9. Will you need any electric outlets in the area to use when entertaining? (For a margarita machine, a slow cooker filled with chili, etc. 10. What kind of lighting do you want in the area? (waterproof floor lamps, gas lanterns, a lamp post, etc). 11. Will you need a storage area built into the design of the fireplace to hold cushions, entertaining pieces, etc. 12. Will you have large potted plants or flower beds in the area that need a drip system for irrigation? ...Susan Lang

Mistakes to avoid:

*The height of the chimney should be adequate to provide the best air flow to maintain a wood burning fire.

*Consideration should be given whether or not the smoke that will flow from the chimney will bother your home or neighbors.

*Consideration should be given to the direction the sun sets and how it might affect those gathered around the fireplace.

*The depth of the mantle needs to be adequate enough to handle the items you want to place on your mantle.

*If you like to use a decorative string of lights or tiny lights around your umbrella or draped around the fireplace, make sure you have an outlet nearby.

*Be sure to specify that you want a faucet in the area for cleaning.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Read This Before You Drill Holes in Your Kitchen Counter...

Kelly Morisseau, a certified master kitchen and bath designer posted a blog on her site KITCHEN SYNC titled "A Quick Tip For Faucet Layout". The main point in her blog is to make absolutely sure you have the correct specifications for the faucet, soap dispenser, etc. or the actual products in hand before anyone drills a hole into your kitchen counter. Go to the manufacturer's website and look for current specifications if you do not have the actual product in hand. I posted a comment on her blog to also consider the location of the sink. You want to make sure there is adequate room between the faucet and the backsplash for your hand to fit when cleaning. You may need to move the sink template forward a little to create some space. ...susan

Monday, February 16, 2009

Utility Use Decisions You Need to Make Before Meeting With Your Architect

First, you need to identify which utility companies provide their particular utility to your property and at what cost. Hopefully during the due diligence process before purchasing your land this information was presented. Next, you need to determine how you will use each utitilty in the home you want to build.

Will you use natural gas for heating, hot water, stove top/range top, oven, dryer, fireplaces, fire pit, grill, swimming pool, lap pool, hot tub, exterior lanterns, exterior lamp posts, or other.

Will you use the cable for your internet connection and television? If so, which rooms or areas in and around your home will need access to the cable?

What telephone service will you use? Which rooms or areas in and around your home will need access to the phone line?

Will you want to bury the electrical wires on your property? What areas away from your home will need electrical power? Will you need more than one electric meter?

Will you need water lines to go to areas on your property other than your home? Will you need a second water meter for your lawn sprinkler system, your swimming pool, or other water feature that does not involve sewer so that you will not be charged the sewer portion of your water bill?

Does the size of the home you plan to build require special water features such as a sprinkler system or fire hose hook up required by the codes department?

Knowing the answers to the these utility questions before meeting with your architect is a plus!

You will find a checklist with some of this information on page 72 in my book, Designing Your Dream Home, plus other related information throughout the book. ...Susan Lang

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What is the most basic information a residential client should be ready to give their architect?

If you have a goal of building a functional and beautiful home that fits your lifestyle, you must be willing to do your part in identifying your needs. Before meeting with your architect, create a basic fact sheet to take with you. This should include the following information: your budget, the approximate number of square feet, break ground date, and move-in date. Do you want a single level home or a two or three story home? If a multi-story home, do you want the top floor to be a complete floor with an attic above or the top floor to be located within the roof with dormers? Do you want a basement or attic? Name the rooms you want in your home including the approximate size of each room if you know it. Note which level of your home do you want each room located. For bedrooms, list the occupant(s) by name, size and number of beds in each room, and if there will be a bathroom attached. Do you want windows on your headboard wall? List all closets you want in your home and what level those closets should be located. Identify by name, age, sex, height, weight, left or righ-handed, shoe size, and special needs all occupants of the home. Additionally, identify by name, type, age, weight, indoor or outdoor pet, weight, and special needs of any pet in the family home. Building your dream home is an exciting time and an incredible opportunity. Please make the most of it by doing your homework!

The above list of information is a start, however, there is much more information I will discuss in my next blog. For your convenience, there are eight pages of basic information checklists in my book Designing Your Dream Home.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

She moved because the order of light switches drove her crazy!

I ran into a friend this weekend who was with her friend. She introduced me to her friend and told her friend about my blogging. When I shared the recent blog I wrote about the guy who moved his family due to the location of a light switch, this woman immediately chimed in that she had moved because of the order of a gang of light switches. She said she had specifically told the electrian the order she wanted but for some reason the order she specified was not carried out. This particular group (gang) of light switches were some she used daily. She said she was never able to wrapped her mind around the order. As if she was playing charades, I saw her frustration first hand as she took her arms and fingers and acted out the way she would flip on and off several switches trying to find the one she was looking for! Daily she would find herserlf turning on the wrong switch. It became a daily source of irritation and eventually it was the catalyst that made her move!

These two blogs demonstrate why it is important to pay attention to the details of electrical plans. Chapter 7 of Designing Your Dream Home addresses electrical, HVAC, and plumbing details.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

He moved his family due to a light switch!

I love talking to people about the home in which they live. I cannot begin to estimate the number of times I have asked the question "What are the five things you like about your home and what are the five things you would want changed?" Or if someone has just built a home or remodeled, I would ask "What are the five things you are glad you did and what are the five things you wish you had done differently?" It is from these questions and the answers to these questions that I have learned a great deal about designing a functional home.

One day recently, I was on a cardio machine at the gym, chatting with a new friend on the machine next to me. He told me a story about one home where he and his family had lived . He came downstairs one night to check on a noise that had awakened him. As he got to the bottom step of the stairs, he could not find a light switch to turn on a light in the den which he entered from the stairs. He was tripping over toys as he walked in the dark trying to find a light switch to turn on. He finally found it across the room. After several more trips entering the den in the dark, the frustration and danger of not having a light switch in a convenient location caused him to put his home on the market and move!

Have you or any one you know ever moved from their home due to a functional design flaw that got on their last nerve? Please share the story! ...susan

Finally you have moved in, the moment of truth...

Welcome to my blog! I'm breaking out of my comfort zone and starting this blog to share some of my best information about designing a home. I'm a first-time author. My book, Designing Your Dream Home, is a resource for people who are designing a home or going through renovations. With this blog, I'll be sharing tips from the book and (hopefully) providing great dialogue to help you in case you're in that boat. I'll do my best not to shove the book down your throat, but know that my book is my baby and I'm passionate about the information within its pages. I'm a home design consultant specializing in assisting a homeowner in identifying their needs, wants, and desires so that their home will be functional yet beautiful. Please be forgiving as I muddle through and learn about blogging. I'd also appreciate feedback, so leave comments and let me know what areas that interest you!

So, you have spent a year, two years, or even longer planning and building your dream home. Finally you have moved in and you face the moment of truth, "Does my new home function like I envisioned or did I even think about the function?"

The moment of truth hits you in the face as you reach for a light switch in the dark and it is not there. You think, oh my goodness, why is the light switch not on this wall? All of a sudden you feel panicked wondering what other mistakes have been made? There is a group of light switches ganged together and the order of the switches makes no sense to you as you keep flipping switches trying to find the one you want to turn on. You walk into a dark room reaching for a light switch only to realize it was mounted on the wall behind the door. Is it possible that each time you want to turn on the light you will have to close the door and reach around to find the light switch? Maybe you want to plug in something and there is no outlet in the area. You have received a beautiful house warming floral arrangement that you place on your dining room table only to realize the chandelier is not centered on the table. Perhaps you go to the entertainment center and open a door to turn on your stereo system only to realize it is too dark to read the buttons on the receiver. You have three things (lamp, cordless phone base, alarm clock) you wish to plug into the duplex outlet by your bed. You ask yourself, why didn't I put a quad outlet there?

These are just a few residential electrical plan mistakes that could have been avoided. I will share more in other blogs! Share yours with me! Thanks for reading. ...susan