New home or Remodel existing home?

Remodeling makes sense if you cannot find a new home that meets your current requirements. Of course, remodeling is not only about aesthetics and living comfort; it could be about energy efficiency as well.

In this remodeling project we helped our customer identify an old home which could be remodeled to their taste and comfort. They had very specific requirements and we helped redesign all the areas that they wanted to get redone. This made more sense to them instead of getting into the market for a new home, thus saving substantially on their budget.

The design phase is now complete and the remodeling work started on June 9, 2017. Here a few pictures on the design enhancements to the property. 

EXISTING

PROPOSED - note the entrance roof trim with copper roof

  EXISTING KITCHEN

 PROPOSED - moved the rear wall out by 5 ft giving them a bigger kitchen

 EXISTING MASTER BATH

 PROPOSED MASTER BATH

 EXISTING REAR DECK

 PROPOSED PATIO

 We will be posting more as the work progresses. Stay tuned.

Update: Sep 3, 2017 - the job is now finished. Please see finished pictures by going to our project page - Treyburn Remodel

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Our first custom build home got a HERS index score of 59, making this home 41% more energy efficient than a standard code built home. To know more about HERS, please see my blog on HERS (link).

McDorman Residence

We are very excited to get this low score and are encouraged in our mission to provide better homes for home owners.

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You may have seen a new line item in home listings nowadays that says HERS with a number next to it. The number is an index, meaning a relative score of how energy efficient the home is when compared to a standard home of same size built to local and national codes that has a score of 100. So, if the home you are looking at has an index of 70, it means this home is 30% more efficient than a comparable new home built to standard. A higher score, i.e. a number greater than 100, indicates that the home is less efficient than a standard new home.

How does it affect you? Well, it affects your bottom line at the end of the day. A higher score means your utility bill, especially for heating and cooling, will be much higher compared to a standard home. A lower score saves you money every month through the life of your stay in that home.

HERS IndexThe Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, in vogue since 1995, has become the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance. A certified Home Energy Rater assesses the energy efficiency of a home, assigning it a relative performance score.

You have to be careful though, since not all homes are tested for the HERS rating. So, you may not see the score in many of the existing or even new homes. Many sellers and builders do not spend the money to get the home tested, especially when they know the home may not rate well, leaving you, the buyer, in the dark to bear the cost of higher utility bills.

Some builders call their new homes ‘green’ or ‘energy-efficient’ simply because they use slightly thicker insulation in the walls and ceilings. However, there's more to a home's health than insulation. A true energy efficient green home should be certified by agencies like EarthCraft or LEED. I will discuss why HERS is not the only thing you should be aware of in a home and why certification is important in my next article.

So, when you are looking at potential homes to buy or build, ask for the HERS index. If one is not available, ask if the seller/builder will test the home. When buyers start asking for the score, the sellers/builders will be forced to have their homes tested. This will encourage all builders to build their homes to higher standards than merely what building codes recommend. Remember, a code only indicates the minimum standard a home should be built to. There is no upper limit.

Resources:
https://www.resnet.us/hers-index
http://www.hersindex.com/
EarthCraft - http://www.viridiant.org/
LEED - http://www.usgbc.org/leed

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It is common to place a 4" perforated drain around the foundation to direct water away from a house. We have always shown it to be on the exterior of the foundation on all home designs that our architectural design firm creates. However, the foundation contractor of the home I am building now said he normally placed them on the inside of the foundation on homes he did for other builders.

Foundation Drain

Since he mentioned it, I checked with some of the local contractors I know, and to my surprise, some of them said they install it on the inside and it was cheaper to do so. It seems logical to place the drain on the outside (see picture above) as you want to catch the water on the outside so it does not go on the inside.

The International Residential Code (IRC 2012) does not specify where to place the drainage. So that leaves it to the interpretation of local building official or builder. I would like to know where you think a foundation drain should be placed and why.

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Recent changes in Codes, both Federal and County, requires going over a creek a little more challenging than before. The access road in this project goes over an existing perennial creek. We had to get the help of a Civil Engineer to show the top of the road will be over 100 year flood level. This required three 30" pipes to be installed on a 24" wide creek. Sounds like an over reach, but the idea is to have access to the house in the rare event of a flood rising above the 100 year level. Previously a single 24" pipe would have worked. Needless to say, this increased our site cost by over four times compared to before.

 If you have a creek in your lot, make sure you talk to the County first before even beginning to think about building. If your lot falls under Resource Protection Area (RPA), it will create more restrictions. An RMA (Resource Management Area) is less restrictive but both will severely restrict the area where you can build.

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