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Construction wisdom for building or remodeling your home

Lately there has been a trend in Flagstaff to add air conditioning to homes.  This trend is indicative of how most houses are poorly designed and poorly built. A properly designed home in Flagstaff will stay cool inside even on 90 degree days, without the use of an air conditioner.  Flagstaff summer nights are often in the 40s and are rarely above the 50's. A quality home is designed to take advantage of this fact.

Proverbs 24:3-4: "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches."

The Well Built Home:

General Home Design Considerations:

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of everyone that is hasty - only to want.” (Proverbs 21:5)

A two story house has less surface area exposed to the air than a one story house of the same square footage (8-9% less) and also has significantly less roof area, thus reducing storm water runoff and heat gain from the attic.  Build high, not wide!

A large covered front porch helps make your neighborhood more friendly.

Consider the installation of a High-Efficiency Furnace and a tankless hot water heater - both cost more to buy, but save energy and money in the long run.

Don't landscape with gravel. Gravel stores heat, whereas plants will make the air cooler, while removing pollution.

Good windows not only save energy, but make a house feel less drafty and more comfortable.

**spend money now for things that will be hard/expensive to change later**

Foundations:

"The wise man builds his house upon the Rock" - Jesus Christ

The foundation is the most important part of the house and the most ignored by the consumer.

Modern building codes specify good foundations.  Unfortunately these codes do not require rebar for interior slabs or for driveways.  However by adding rebar in these areas, strength and durability is greatly increased.

Radon gas can increase the chances of lung cancer.  Radon gas results from the natural decay of Uranium.  Northern Arizona is one of the nations richest areas for Uranium and as such also is rich in Radon gas.  Radon gas tends to collect inside of homes, especially in winter when windows are closed.  Ask for a Radon gas barrier and passive vent system to be installed under the slab of your new home before it is poured. Learn more about techniques to reduce Radon gas penetration into your new home from the EPA

Electrical:

220v and gas in laundry room for electric or gas dryer option.
Dark Sky Lighting (NO light pollution - its nice to see the stars). Lighting tips by Flagstaff Dark Sky Coalition
220v outlet in garage upon request.
Pre-wiring for an exterior hot tub upon request.
Switched under eve outlets for heat tape and Christmas lights.
Ceiling fans with wall mounted speed controls.
Dedicated outlet for deep freezer in garage to take advantage of cool air.

Footings:

We don't try to build it to code minimums, rather we beef up the footings and slabs far beyond code minimums. The hardest thing to change on a house is the foundation! Do it the best the first time. It's a shame that new home buyers will pay more attention to the kitchen faucet, which is easy to change, than they will to how well the foundation is laid. (The wise man built his house upon the Rock!)

Insulation:

Insulate interior walls and ceilings - for sound dampening and increased thermal mass.

Insulate bath and laundry room walls and between floors for noise control.

Install insulated outlet covers on exterior walls - this is a common area of heat loss.

Insulated garage walls and ceiling even if they are not adjacent to livable areas - it's nice to be able to warm the garage if desired.

Glue down sub floors and fasten with ring shank nails or screws (I hate a squeaky floor!)  Ask about our 1-1/8" 'silent floor' option.
Vent the clothes dryer directly outside through wall (not through ceiling), thus preventing clogs and fire danger.
Specify fiberglass insulation in the attic instead of cellulose (Fiberglass resists mold better).

Roofing:

Roof designs that need little or no flashing.
Architectural grade shingles.
#60 - 'peel and stick' ice shied at all eves and valleys to prevent leaks by ice damming. #30 felt on remainder of roof instead of #15.  We recommend a roof pitch of at least 6/12.  For remodel jobs, we recommend using 'peel and stick' underlayment on the entire roof if the pitch is less than 5/12.
Continuous ridge and soffit ventilation will help prevent destructive moisture build up.

Siding:

Bricks or stone are the best - they insulate better, don’t need paint, look better, and last longer.
If you do choose siding, we use only top quality products, finished off with Premium paint or stain.  (Beware of other contractors who use 'builder grade' paint).

Windows:

Wood widows with a permanent cladding on the outside are both beautiful and energy efficient.  Vinyl windows are more cost effective to install and are lower maintenance.  But not all vinyl windows are the same, so be sure to ask about the differneces in quality an insulation.  Aluminum windows no longer meet code requirements for energy efficiency.

Design window placements that provide abundant natural light and cross-ventilation.

Windows placements that are shaded by eves on sunny sides in summer but not in winter. (Passive solar designs!)

Doors:

Fiberglass or Wood front and back doors. No steel doors (they dent).

Drywall:

I prefer a smooth finish such as is found in the custom homes of the NorthEast.   My next choice is “Santa Fe” smooth.
To prepare for drywall installation, we plane down any headers etc… that are sticking out before hanging drywall. It’s worth taking the 15 minutes now with the electric planer instead of fighting the casing later for hours!
We use 5/8" drywall on all ceilings (it's tougher and quieter, especially important on ceilings).  We can also install soundboard underneath the drywall to reduce noise between rooms.

Painting:

We use only top quality Dunn-Edwards or Sherwin-Williams paints. There is a difference. Most builders use the cheapest, we use the best. You may not appreciate the difference now, but you will down the road!

Floor Covering:

Tile/hardwoods in all heavy use areas (front door to kitchen). 
Seal all grout - twice - with the best sealer money can buy.

We prefer Nylon carpet which wears better than Polyester.  Use only upgraded carpet pad - min. 1/2" 8lb - this is probably the cheapest item a builder can upgrade that will bring you daily pleasure, yet most builders still use the cheapest pad in an effort to see a little more profit.

Plumbing:

Consider a Gas outlet for the BBQ grill.
We use only ¼ turn stainless steel water shut offs at all toilets and sinks (You probably haven't seen these before unless you've seen one of our homes).
Use only elongated low-flow toilets.
We make the master shower large enough for two.

We will plumb your home in copper instead of poly upon request. Why?...
"According to the EPA registration, certain copper alloys deliver continuous and ongoing antibacterial action, remaining effective in killing greater than 99.9% of bacteria within two hours, even after repeated wear and re-contamination;

(source: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6616/is_6_98/ai_n29446012/)

"If a low price is your primary concern, you'll pay more in the end. The is no substitute for quality."

Budgeting to construct a new home:

Proverbs 24:27: "Prepare your work outside, and make it ready for yourself in the field; Afterwards, then, build your house."

It is much more enjoyable to build a small home with a generous budget than a large home on a tight budget. 

Build within your means and spend for items that are hard to change later, such as upgraded windows, roofing, foundation and insulation.  5 years down the road it is much easier to change your countertops than to change the footings or to add insulation to the garage walls.

Highwood Construction and Remodeling - Licensed General Contractor

Serving Flagstaff and Northern Arizona

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