If you are having a home built, or buying a brand spankin new house, a lot of convenient design elements, building and code requirements should be in place, but knowing some things to look for, or to make sure your new home has, can save you future headaches. I especially like the “doors opening the right way” (see below). This isn’t about aesthetics but functionality. You are building a pretty house i’m sure, and you want to enjoy it for a number of years without worry– at least until you have to start updating.
Are you always too hot or cold? Ensure your walls are properly insulated.
“Have someone do a good, thorough insulation inspection before you cover everything up,” says Tim Carter, co-owner of Idaho Mountain Builders in Ketchum, Idaho. “Then you can find and repair mistakes of missing insulation really easily.” Proper insulation installation is expected from the insulation contractor’s bid. But some spots, such as rim joists between the first and second floor, are easily missed.
Cost of a retrofit: Thousands of dollars to rip apart walls and add insulation, Carter says.
Outlets and covert conduits
As flat-screen televisions become ubiquitous, homes are changing to accommodate sleek, high-tech models. Often, that means hanging TVs on the wall. But who wants to see electrical and cable cords running down the wall to the entertainment system?
If you want to avoid another costly wall project, plan for where cords and outlets will sit. A conduit is a pipe in the wall that lets homeowners keep cords out of sight. If you want to add solar panels down the road, similar cable conduits running up the roof are a wise investment, Carter says.
Cost of a retrofit: “That’s a couple-hundred-dollar expense during construction when you have the walls open,” he says, “and it can be thousands of dollars after the fact.”
Convenient washer and dryer
Laundry is a chore, but people are beginning to wake up to ways to make the chore less painful. One solution is placing the laundry room near bedrooms, where most laundry piles up.
“We wedge (laundry rooms) into all kinds of nooks and crannies, whatever the floor plan will allow, to get them close to the bedrooms,” says Rob Pankow, owner of Pankow Construction in Phoenix. Laundry rooms often are located near water pipes and ducts, which is why so many of them are in basements or garages. Locating one near a second-floor bedroom requires access to that plumbing infrastructure. If you don’t build that in the first time, you may be in for a large project.
Cost of a retrofit: A few hundred dollars when the walls are open, Carter says. But if the retrofit requires tearing up the floor, it can run into the thousands, Pankow says.
Doors opening the right way
Which way is a door supposed to swing? If it’s opening the wrong way, it may mean more than a headache to the owners. Incorrectly hung doors can block essential components such as other doors, cabinets or refrigerators. Badly installed doors can also hit your pocketbook – they may leak air or water and increase your energy bills. “When it comes to doors, you’ll get incredible cost savings if you do (them) right upfront,” said Rick Bertolani, an owner of JB Sash & Door of Chelsea, Mass. “If you put in a quality product from the beginning, you’ll save in energy efficiency and maintenance.” A door can cost $200 to $300 in labor to install correctly the first time, Bertolani says.
Cost of a retrofit: Simply reversing the hinges and changing the latch location on an interior door can be a headache. A standard exterior door can be even more difficult and costly, Bertolani says. “We’re looking at $800 (to) $1,100 simply for labor,” he says. “If you have to pull out the trim, casing (and) shingles or repaint, installation is dramatically more expensive.”
Heating and cooling
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning are essential to comfort in your home. If built right the first time, with an eye toward energy-efficiency, it can be a boon to your wallet, as well. Badly or incorrectly installed HVAC may mean, at least, a chilly house in the winter and an inconsistently cooled house in the summer. At worst, it may mean high energy bills, carbon dioxide being pulled into your home or worse. It’s tough to adjust it after the fact, says Chris Robl of Robl Design Build Inc. in Bellevue, Wash. “Depending on how your house was built, retrofitting a central heating system could become cost-prohibitive very quickly,” he says. “Aesthetic compromises also almost always have to be made in the form of dropped-down chases and lowered hall ceilings, things like that.” For a standard 2,500-foot house, initial installation might cost about $15,000 to $20,000, he says.
Cost of a retrofit: This could exceed $20,000 if your house doesn’t have a large-enough gas meter, the correct electrical panel or an easy way to route utilities and ducts. “It could get pricey,” Robl says.
Wide-enough hallways and rooms
Many new homes are open and airy, with roomy hallways and stairwells. But not all are, at least not throughout the entire house. Most local building codes require hallways to be 3 feet wide. Many modern designers prefer a width of 4 feet, however, especially for homes larger than 2,000 square feet. This helps more than one person pass through the hall at once and in moving large furniture through the home, in addition to adding bookcases or other design elements to the side. Unsatisfied with your halls? The punch to the pocketbook “depends entirely on how the house was built,” Carter says.
Cost of a retrofit: If the load of the roof is spread to the exterior walls, then it’s as simple as knocking down the interior ones, which costs a few hundred dollars. But if there’s a post in the center of the home that provides load support, the project can cost tens of thousands of dollars to add support beams and posts to carry the load, without the wall.
Drains that actually drain
Drains that don’t work can make a wreck of a house. From slow-draining tubs and showers to stopped-up sinks, incorrect drainage can hit the owner in the wallet. “It’s important to make sure (plumbers are) licensed and insured when they put in their work,” says Paul Abrams, public-relations manager of Roto-Rooter Group Inc. “If you have a handyman who just happens to do plumbing, be wary.” Roto-Rooter often uses a tool to checks that drains are working correctly before the owner moves in. “Right after plumbing is installed, we’ll go in with cameras on tubes and inspect the lines to make sure there is no construction debris inside blocking the lines. You’d be surprised at what we find,” says Abrams, noting that the company has found drywall mud, lumber and trash blocking lines in the past. Owners can spot problems by themselves, as well. Make sure the drain lines flow with gravity and that outdoor drains are more than shallow holes with drain covers on them.
Cost of a retrofit: It may be as little as $100, Abrams says. “If it’s accessible, it may be easy for the plumber to fix, like in a wall.” But watch out if the plumbing issue is in the foundation or floors, he says: “It could be very costly — in the many thousands (of dollars).”
Stuff: Some people lack space in which to put it all. When planning your home, look for framing pockets that are wasted space and put in a door to create a storage nook or utility closet, Carter says. These spaces can be under stairways, between bedrooms and in closets with vaulted ceilings. In the kitchen, it’s important to have space for large kitchen appliances such as food processors, stand mixers and bread machines, so they don’t have to live on the counter.
Cost of a retrofit: It can cost a few hundred dollars to relocate the systems and reroute plumbing and ducts to open more space. Be careful, though, Carter says: Moving a duct can restrict air flow in the house. “The expense isn’t necessarily the money,” he says. “It is the performance of your (HVAC) system.”
Outside outlets and faucets
Electricity can be important for a backyard, for entertaining in the summer and for holiday lights in the winter. Exterior outlets also come in handy for corded tools to keep your backyard looking great. Access to water is essential, as well. You must place hose spigots away from the main walking path, so no one trips over loose hoses. One option is a water hydrant that sits flush against the wall, Pankow says. “Once you are flush, you can stick a spigot right on your patio where you need it,” he says, adding that this makes it easier to turn on the hose and sprinklers.
Cost of a retrofit: Adding outdoor outlets can cost as much as $500, Pankow says. Installing a wall hydrant will range from about $300 to $500, depending on the model and wall work.
Bathroom near the door
You’re outside gardening and all sweaty and dirty. Nature calls, and you need to pop in to use the loo. How far will you have to track mud through your house? A half-bathroom near the exterior door can remedy this issue, in addition to being convenient for guests. It’s extra handy for families with kids who are always running in and out of the house. All a half-bath needs is a toilet, sink and mirror. “If it’s part of the original thought process, then it could be as little as $5,000 to $6,000,” Robl says. “If it’s near the supply and waste lines, the cost could be minimal.”
Cost of a retrofit: Adding a half-bath to a completed project can cost $10,000 or more, especially if it requires moving plumbing or waste lines, Robl says.
( reprinted from MSN Real Estate)