DESIGNING HOME PLANS FOR REAL PEOPLE

When designing a new home there’s sometimes a tendency to get a bit off track. Yes, it’s nice to peruse the magazines and posh websites for fantastic home design ideas. But do all those fancy features and amenities fit into a normal family’s lifestyle? Usually not. Too often we’re mesmerized by a home design that makes a great magazine photoshoot, and not what really makes sense for day to day living. Beyond beauty, your home needs to be functional for everyday life. This article will help outline real world design tips that can make your new home beautiful and most importantly, practical.

Embry Hills House Plan- Frank Betz Associates

Get organized

During the planning stage, it’s time to determine what you want and need out of your new home. Beyond ample living space for your family, what other features and amenities make sense? A new home can help a family keep their lives organized. The latest smart home technologies designed into a home can aid in organization. These products include smart thermostats that adjust temperature according to living habits, smart security, lighting and HVAC systems, and even smart locks that do away with keys. Carefully planned closets, kitchen cabinets and drawers have also evolved to increase storage and reduce clutter. Many home plan designs already dedicate spaces such as mudrooms, larger laundry rooms, working pantries and office nooks to encourage home efficiency.

Kirkwood House Plan- Frank Betz

 

Location matters

Take into account your location, climate and outdoor activities. Hot climates may dictate a swimming pool and proper protection from the sun, like covered porches, awnings and high-performance windows. Colder regions need a home with extra insulation and when possible, a southern facing lot position.  House plan designs that offer covered porches, screened porches and sunrooms can expand your living space while taking climate concerns into consideration. Whether hot or cold, energy efficiency should be factored in to the design. Features like energy efficient appliances and zoned HVAC units are popular and sensible methods.

Kensington Park House Plan- Frank Betz

All the comforts

Comfort should be a major factor when designing a home for practicality. Beyond shelter, your home is a place to feel safe and relaxed. With that, a home plan should have an adequate number of bedrooms and bathrooms for all members of your family. If the budget allows, enhanced amenities like spa tubs, walk-in closets and hardscaped outdoor living areas can help dramatically ramp up the home relaxation factor. Also, a large, open kitchen with an island can act as a central living area for the whole family to gather.

Springmill Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Accommodations that adapt

Another realistic consideration when designing a new home, takes into account the adaptability to lifestyle changes. If you’re building a family, a nursery is a must. As your family grows, you’ll need the right amount of bed and bathrooms. Will you have guests often? If so, a guest room is in order. The same goes for visiting or permanent older family members. Seniors in the home mean accommodations such as an in-law suite or second master bedroom.  And if these seniors have mobility issues, wider doorways and easily accessible bathroom amenities need to be incorporated into your home design.

Holston Farm Floor Plan- Frank Betz

There are many defining components that should be considered when designing a new home. Creating a place that fits the basic needs of your family is the best place to start. From there, you can expand the home plan design to include practical amenities that keep your family safe and comfortable with attention to efficiency and environmental concerns. The ability to support a changing family dynamic is an additional design aspect. Once all the functional elements are included, the creature comforts can be added to your home plan as the icing on your home cake.

DESIGN TIPS FOR THE BEST FINISHED BASEMENTS

For the home owner that needs more space and amenities, finishing out the basement is a great solution. The basement is already part of your home’s structure, so from a cost perspective it’s usually less expensive than adding to the footprint of the house. As you begin to plan the renovation, there a number of key design factors to consider. This article will highlight these ideas to help you get the most out of this exciting endeavor.

Ambrose Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Planning before all else

Even if you just want to build out a room or two, a comprehensive plan for the whole basement is advised. Not only will it give you a full view of what you have to work with, it will make the future renovations much easier. As with any home renovation work, be sure to get the proper permits before the first hammer is swung.

Falkirk Ridge Floor Plan- Frank Betz

A dry basement is a happy basement

First and foremost, when planning a basement renovation make sure there are no water issues. Because most basements are below grade, moisture is often a factor. Solve any moisture problems before the renovation, or there’s a high probability you’ll see continuous damage to the finishes of your new space. When finishing out the walls, using insulation with a vapor barrier will aid in moisture protection.

Gastonia Floor Plan- Frank Betz Associates

The purpose

Another part of the basement renovation planning process should be a careful assessment of how each room is going to be used. Will there be bedrooms, a kitchen, theatre or a wine-cellar? Each kind of room will need the appropriate amenities. Bedrooms will need an egress window or door, closets and bathrooms, while media rooms call for special lighting and other electrical nuances. Even a small kitchen will need the appropriate plumbing. As for the utility areas like the water heater and HVAC units, leave those unfinished. These spaces need ample access for inspection and/or repairs.

Kenthurst Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Let there be light

Since most basements are below ground, proper lighting is always an issue. Whenever possible, open areas up to natural light. This can be achieved by large windows or sliding glass doors. Recessed lighting in a drop ceiling, positioned near the outer perimeter of rooms, will provide ample light and make the rooms appear larger. Lighter color paint will also create the illusion of more light and space.

Custom Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Drop that ceiling

Often acquainted with commercial properties, there are many drop ceiling options that look very nice in a residential setting. This design method will enable you to hide HVAC ductwork, electrical and plumbing lines. And as stated above, it’s the go-to method for recessing lights.

Boulder Summit Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Finishing out the basement is an efficient and cost-effective way to add much needed space and features to your home. Be sure to plan the renovation as you would the rest of your home. The extra time and planning taken up front will make all the difference in the end result. Soon you’ll be enjoying your new basement and reflecting on a job well done.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR OUTDOOR LIVING SPACES

Your living space doesn’t have to end once you step out of your home. Taking advantage of your little slice of the great outdoors is part of what homeownership is all about. With the right approach you can dramatically extend your home’s living space. Outside living areas add so much to a home not only from a value standpoint, but as a unique gathering space for family and friends.

Falkirk Ridge House Plan- Frank Betz

A true extension of your home
The best outdoor living spaces can create a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. By utilizing colors and other tonal accents from your home’s interior, you’ll be able to subtly tie the two together. Whether it’s a stone patio, terraced deck or well kept grass area, these outdoor spaces can be great for dining, play and just to hang out. Dinner with the whole family is nice. Dinner with the whole family at a table under the stars can be extra nice.

 

Woodlawn Floor Plan- Frank Betz

The great outdoors
Spending time outdoors, whatever the season, is good for you both mentally and physically.
Fresh air and sunshine can positively affect mood and overall happiness. So why not create an outdoor living space that your family wants to be a part of? Getting out of the house and away from the TV and other screens promotes a healthy lifestyle. Not only is your family more apt to take part in beneficial outdoor activities, but they’ll be more engaged and present.

Summerlake House Plan- Frank Betz

Room with a view
If your home is lucky enough to be located in an area of natural beauty, creating a comfortable outdoor living space is a great way to immerse yourself in that surrounding. Taking in the view of a mountain, ocean, lake, golf course or even a stand of trees is an added bonus for your outdoor living space. And in the evening, sitting around a fire pit or stone fireplace with friends or family can be a great bonding experience.

Summerlyn Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Exterior design
Just like the interior of your home, there are many ways to design your outdoor living space for maximum comfort and usability. Weather proof seating, pillows and rugs can help bring a softness to these areas. While dining tables and umbrellas can help you enjoy these outdoor rooms with protection from the weather. Adding potted plants and a small water feature are further methods of enhancing the space.

Sweetwater Floor Plan- Frank Betz

With the arrival of air conditioning in the home, families tended to move their lives inside. While this provided a modern level of comfort, it led to a disconnect with the outdoor world and its associated benefits. Nothing inside a home can replace the nourishing experience of spending time in the fresh air, sunshine and beauty of the natural world. By creating an outdoor living space on your property, you can bring back that inherent connection with the nature while adding to the value and comfort of your home at the same time.

 

NEW INNOVATIONS IN PROTECTING YOUR HOUSE FROM A STORM

Your home is a place of refuge. A place where you and your family should be able to feel safe from the outside world. Part of feeling safe is the protection your home provides from inclement weather. It is shelter in its truest form. In the following post, we’ll discus home building methods and materials to help protect your home and family in the event of a strong storm.

Woodlwan Floor Plan- Frank Betz

When it comes to stories, less is best.

To begin with, a one story home is more storm resistant than two to three story homes. Being father from the ground puts these homes at greater risk to damage from high winds. Wind damage accounts for a large percentage of weather related incidents. Of course, your home’s exterior materials weigh heavily on their level of protection. A brick home will offer more protection than a wood or siding exterior home.

And if budget is not an issue, reinforced concrete structures are the most storm resistant.

Kensington Creek- Frank Betz

The roof over your head.

Another major factor in a home’s storm protection capability can be found in the roof. Like one storied homes, moderately pitched roofs have less exposure to wind. They reduce uplift and help reduce wind drag. When it comes to roof types, a hip roof is a better choice than a gable roof. Hip roofs have performed better in wind tunnel tests and can even garner an insurance discount. Regardless of the roof type, there are new and better methods of securing the roof to the structure of your home. These include, galvanized-steel hurricane clips, structural straps, ties, and joist hangers.

 

 

Impact resistant windows

In a storm with high winds, home damage can result from flying objects. Wind-borne objects can reach speeds of well over 100 mph. Windows are one of the most vulnerable to these projectiles. It’s recommended to install impact resistant windows that break and hold their fragments rather than sending glass through the house. Wood slatted shutters are also a preferred way to protect these areas of your home.

 

Gramercy Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Strong garage doors

Often overlooked, the garage door is a home feature frequently damaged by a storm. Typical two-car garage doors are subject to fail in storms with high winds due to their large size and relatively weak materials. Though they may cost a little extra, there are many storm resistant garage doors on the market.

 

Keep the water out

Powerful storms bring a large amount of rain with them. This wind driven rain can penetrate a home at points from the roof to the foundation. Properly sealing the roof, windows and doors, as well as ample ground drainage go a long way in protecting your home from water intrusion.

 

Swinging doors

Keeping doors closed during the high winds of a storm should also be a priority when building a storm resistant home. Doors that swing outwards were shown to drastically out perform the normal in-swing door set up. Doors that fail during storms can result in water damage and even create change in your home’s internal air pressure. This air pressure disruption contributes to the possibility of roof uplift and internal structural damage.

Mahogany Springs Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Extreme weather is always a cause for concern when it comes to safety in your home. Current building innovations can be used to strengthen potential weak points to protect your home and more importantly, the people inside it.

Stick-Built Homes vs. Prefab – What’s the Difference?

There are two main options when deciding to build a new home. These are stick-built and prefab construction. This article will help to clearly illustrate some pros and cons of both. By explaining the differences between stick-built homes and prefab, you will be able to make a better informed decision as you plan the next big step in building your new home.

Chestnut Springs Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Quality

Prefab stands for prefabricated. With these homes, machines are doing most of the initial work. Without the human factor, the structural components are often more precise. Everything is measured, cut, and assembled by computers and machines, so the occurrence of errors is drastically reduced. Like stick-built homes, the craftsmanship during the assembly of a prefab home directly affects the end result. Attention to high building standards should be the same for both methods. One point of difference with a stick-built home, is that it allows the new owner to view all steps and materials used.

Gramercy House Plan- Frank Betz

Your home will be up more quickly with prefab modules

With prefab modular homes, time is not an issue. Once the panels are delivered on site, the basic frame of the home can be put together in under a day. And weather is not a factor when building a prefab home. This enables other teams can get to work on the interior more quickly. However, the foundation measurements must be exact for the prefabricated panels to fit correctly. Unlike stick-built homes, it is very difficult to make in-field adjustments to the panels. Overall, a prefab home can be completed up to a month shorter than a stick-built home.

Wellstone Place- Frank Betz Associates

Costs are actually similar

Often associated with lower quality and cost, modern prefab homes are in line with stick-built homes in both aspects. Initial costs are lower for prefab homes as much of the construction happens in a factory, instead of using manual labor to build on site. One must account for shipping the panels and the costs of special materials.

Variety of design options

This is where the prefab option falls behind stick-built. While there are an ever growing number of prefab design options, a stick-built home design can be completely original. Prefab homes floor plans are often modular in scope, but many allow for highly customized interior and exterior appearances. That may work for most, but there is no comparison to the customizable possibilities when starting a home design from scratch.

Amelia House Plan- Frank Betz

The best decision on your new home direction will come from carefully weighing both options. Explore the prefab design options from different manufacturers. If you find one that truly hits the mark, make sure your builder is experienced with this building process. A builder accomplished in prefab building methods can help you feel confident the quality will be on par with a stick-built home. But for true originality, a stick-built home is the way to go. It may take a bit longer, but a one-of-a-kind dream home will be yours.

 

MATCHING OUTBUILDINGS TO YOUR NEW HOME

If you’re thinking about adding an outbuilding to your property, there’s a few guidelines to follow to make sure this new building fits in. Whether your outbuilding is a garage, pool house, garden shed or storage shed, the same forethought and planning should be applied to achieve a positive result. When incorporating a new outbuilding to your current property, you will want to create a visual harmony between the two. The two buildings will be in close proximity, so creating similarity is a must.  Not doing so will make your outbuilding design look like an afterthought.

Frank Betz- Custom House

Continuity

Continuity is not a word normally associated with building a free standing garage or other adjacent outbuilding, but it’s actually quite important. Start by identifying some of your home’s exterior details. The roof line and exterior style are of greatest importance. Matching these characteristics with your existing home structure will help create a cohesive look across your property. If you have a brick home, it is recommended to use the exact same brick for the exterior of your new outbuilding. Two different kinds of brick on the same property will stick out like a sore thumb. The same goes for paint colors, other exterior materials, window styles and roofing materials. Additionally, you will want to use the same landscape aesthetic to help establish even more of a visual flow.

Frank Betz- Custom House Plan

Neighborhood Standards

Beyond creating visual harmony, using like design elements for your outbuilding will fall in-line with any architectural review board or HOA requirements. Specifically, in newer neighborhoods there are strict guidelines put forth by homeowner associations in respect to outbuildings as an effort to uphold property value. This can be true of older communities, as well. Many have requirements to meet the historical standards of residential buildings. It is uncommon to drive through an older neighborhood with traditional architecture to see a modern outbuilding adjacent to one of the homes. Making changes to the existing structure in historical zones is carefully watched. So adding a new building in these neighborhoods is usually followed even more closely and will require design approval before any additions can be made.

Southern Trace- Frank Betz House Plan

Overall Visual Harmony

In addition to continuity and neighborhood standard compliance, coordinating your new outbuilding with your home will just look better. Mismatching these buildings has the possible effect of creating a visual dissonance between the two and will probably effect resale value. Any increase you may have seen by adding this feature to your property could be erased when you go to sell. So do your homework and plan your build accordingly. Designing similarities into your new outbuilding are guaranteed to complement your existing home.

Sweetwater House Plan- Frank Betz

So in review, you should consider a number of factors when planning to build an outbuilding on your property. Assess your home’s exterior design features like materials, shape and color. Make an effort to use the same elements in your new building. Be sure your design is in-line with any neighborhood standards. And finally, from a broad perspective, verify that the new building looks like it belongs. After the project is complete, someone new to your property shouldn’t notice any differences between the two.

WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER CHOOSING AN ARCHITECT/DESIGNER

You’ve made the decision to build a new home. That was the easy part. Now’s the time to find and choose an architectural firm. If you have a home design style in mind, and you should, you will want to look for a firm that has experience designing that same kind of home. You can compile a list of firm options by asking the owners of local homes you admire or searching architecture firm websites in your area. Once you have identified a number of candidates, you will want to set up in-person meetings. By meeting first hand with the perspective firms, you will be able to get more information and gauge the working chemistry. You’re about to begin an intensive working relationship that will last months, so feeling comfortable with your architect or architects is highly suggested.

Design Phase
Once you have chosen your architect, you are ready for the initial design meeting. It’s a good idea to bring a house design wish list of wants and needs including photos and/or material samples. This will help your architect or designer get a feeling for your style vision. After this first meeting, the architect will compile the information and use it to create a preliminary home design with floor plans and elevations. A follow up meeting or meetings is advised to allow for your feedback and enable the architect to make the needed design updates.

Embry Hills House Plan- Frank Betz Associates

Documentation Phase

With your custom home design nailed down, the architect can move on to develop the working drawings. These are the drawings needed to obtain a development permit. Once approved, a structural design is then created to include your selections for exterior materials and finishes. Solidifying the floor plan, materials and finishes will also help the architect calculate a more accurate, overall project budget.

Frank Betz Material Workbook

Permitting Phase

After completing the documentation phase, your architect can now get a development permit. That permit allows them to create site plans and drawings needed for a building permit. These new drawings include more detailed floor plans, exterior elevations, exterior and interior details, sections, roof and electrical plans. After acquiring a building permit, the builder now has a green light to proceed with the construction process.

Heritage Pointe House Plan- Frank Betz Associates

Construction Phase

During this final and increasingly active phase, your architect/designer should still be available to oversee various aspects of your home’s construction. Being there throughout the construction process to make sure the home design is built according to the plans, can be very advantageous. A competent architect should also serve as a consultant on interior details like lighting, plumbing, hardware, glass and finishes.

If you are new to the home building process, choosing the right architect can make everything go more smoothly. An experienced architect will help you through every phase of the home building process. From taking your ideas and creating a design concept, to properly documenting the house design for the needed permits and finally getting through construction to the finish line, an architect will be one of the most important members of your home building team. Take the time to vet the right person or firm. Your new home and your sanity will be better off.

 

Should I have a Design in Mind Before I Find a Builder?

To have, or not to have a home design in mind before finding a builder. That is the question. Regardless of the correct answer, as a person or persons about to take the bold step of building a house, you are probably going to have an idea of what type of house design you’d like. Given those preferences, it is very unlikely that you will approach a builder without at least some of those ideas in mind. That said, there are reasons for and against how defined your home design desires should be when looking for a builder. Here’s a few of them.

Gentry House Plan- Frank Betz

Pros

Having a definite design idea for your new home can be an asset when looking for a builder. It will allow you to focus your search only on builders who are accustomed to building that type of home. For example, you would not want to hire a builder who specializes in building modern homes, if you have your heart set on a farmhouse style. Builders typically have a select range of styles they are familiar with working on. You will want to make sure your style is in that range and preferably go and see examples first hand.

Additionally, with a house design in mind it’s easier to get competitive bids from builders. Having built that style before, they know what to expect from a time and materials perspective. This will provide more accurate bids for your new home to compare with other builders.

Summergrove Floor Plan- Frank Betz

Cons

There are a few downsides to having a predetermined house design, however. For one, your pre-selected house plan may not fit your lot. That may mean working with an architect to create another house plan design or adjusting the present one. This will require more time and expense in the long run.

Some builders tend to have better offers if you use one of their home designs. If your design is much different, you may not benefit from these discounts. Working outside their parameters tends to drive up the cost.

You might also encounter the fact that your desired plan does not fit your future neighborhood’s Home Owner’s Association requirements. Most of the time, an HOA will have its own pre-requisites for home designs. That’s especially true if you want to build in a neighborhood that has a set style. Your design just might not fit in.

Wellstone Place- Frank Betz Associates

Conclusion

Taking into account all the pros and cons, getting bids using your new home design and with builders’ options may be an optimal solution. Either way, being flexible with your design expectations is always suggested. Building a new home is a process. And if you stay fluid, your home’s design will evolve for the better.  Above all, take your time on the front end. Figuring out what you want design-wise, in the middle of a build can not only lead to longer build times, but could negatively effect the end result. In the end, it’s quality that matters the most. So whatever home design you and your builder pursue, attention to craftsmanship should be the ultimate priority.

 

What do I need to ask a Potential Home Builder?

 

So you’re ready to build a new home. One of the first steps should be to pick a builder. If you live in a decent sized town or city, there is a good chance you will have a lot of potential options. There are many things to consider when making the choice, but by asking the right questions of the candidates, you should end up with the best builder for you. Here are some question topics to keep in mind:

References

Besides being licensed, the best builders will always have a wide array of references. It’s a good idea to meet the builders past clients to not only view the builder’s craftsmanship but also get an insight into their customer service. Industry websites can also be a reference source for the local area. A builder who is not forthcoming with references is a major red flag.

Catawba Ridge House Plan- Frank Betz

Do they allow customization or do you have to agree with standard finishes?

A good home builder will always offer the ability to customize your design. You probably want your home to be a reflection of your taste and style. Standard finishes may work for a car, but you shouldn’t have to settle when building a home. A qualified builder will use standard finishes as a starting point, and be open to customization from there.

What warranty does the builder supply?

Builder home warranties are a must. When interviewing each builder, be sure to get the length and coverage of their warranties. Your new home’s products, systems and components should all come with extensive warranties. Make sure your builder will honor the warranties and provide ample service if needed.

Beaufort House Plan- Frank Betz

Pricing

Builders price building a new home a number of different ways. Do they calculate everything per square foot, do they have a flat fee? If you customize, will there be additional costs? Will they keep you up to date on the costs as you go through the building process? It is important to have a thorough understanding of a builder’s pricing before you commit to working with them.

Frank Betz Material Workbook

Estimated time length for the project

A building time frame is another piece of information you should have before choosing the builder. You don’t want a builder who will take too much time, but on the other hand, you don’t want someone who will rush through your job. A fast build often means reduced craftsmanship and lower quality. If your builder has his hands full with a bunch of other homes, that may mean less time and attention to your home build. Finding a good balance between the two is a solid choice.

Bucknell Place House Plan- Frank Betz

Overall, it is a good idea to interview as many builders as possible. The more questions you ask, the better. The answers will help you make a better informed decision. With the right questions you will find a builder that fits your style, temperament and budget. If possible, spending a bit more for the right builder will pay off in the long run. After all, this is your new home we’re talking about.

Getting reference for New home construction through online industry reports and home shows

As you approach the new home building process, there a number of ways to gain a base knowledge of construction that will help in the long run. A quick search online can lead you to applicable reference materials and various industry reports. Visiting local home shows are another beneficial method. Gathering as much information about the industry will help increase your building knowledge and thus be better prepared to start this quite big undertaking. You’ll get a broader, non-biased view of home building trends in your desired area, find information on credentialed builders and know what questions to ask going forward.

Frank Betz Farmhouse Plan- Hemlock Falls

Before you get the keys to your dream home, there’s a long road ahead. As a first step, it is advised to research the topic on various online construction reporting websites. These sites include www.contructionmonitor.com, www.rakenapp.com, www.nahb.org. While these sites are directed toward industry professionals, the content can be useful to someone looking to build a new home for the first time. By familiarizing yourself with industry terminology and processes, you’ll better understand what’s going on, as it’s going on. You’ll also get to see the major players, popular vendors and construction techniques in your area.

Frank Betz Farmhouse Plan- Tanglewood

Most of these sites focus on building permit data as the key resource to gauge market trends and activity.
Building professionals use this information to find new business opportunities, source general contractors, subcontractors and vendors, but you’ll be able to get a feel for who’s doing what and where, as well. Because these are sites for professionals, you’ll also be able to verify the credentials of your perspective builder and vendors. Additionally, they frequently have updates on the latest happenings in the building industry like vendor expos and home shows.

Frank Betz Farmhouse Plan- Hickory Flat

Home shows feature exhibits, product demonstrations and seminars on a variety of home building topics.
Anything and everything having to do with the home can be found at a decent sized home show. Here you’ll find info on house plans, building materials, landscaping and lawn care, kitchen appliances, fixtures, flooring, roofing, siding, concrete, windows, heating and air conditioning, patios, insulation, and more. If you’re interested in building a green home, there are many shows that travel the U.S., specifically geared to that topic. There you’ll learn about green building methods and products that include the latest insulation, radiant floor heating, energy efficient appliances, zero VOC paint and green roofs. And no green home show would be complete without clean energy alternatives like solar panels and wind power.

Frank Betz Farmhouse Plan- Gulfport

Doing your new home, homework ahead of time, will get you better prepared for your building adventure. Knowing the process, the players and building language, will be a major advantage as you move forward. Spend some time online and attending a home show or two. It’s a great way to get ideas, get inspired and most importantly, get educated.