Posts

Allowances items are an important part of your Building Contract and Home Specifications. But how can you make sure your allowance items for appliances, cabinets, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and flooring are reasonable since the cost of these items are estimated?

Some homeowners have trouble making decisions before work begins. In those cases, the builder can allocate a dollar amount to each category and let the homeowners choose specific products later.

That doesn’t mean homeowners can postpone thinking about these products altogether. For an allowance to serve the homeowners’ interest, it must be based on accurate numbers. The homeowners should at least decide what grade of products they want. That decision can require legwork as well as self-awareness.

If you go online to compare products and prices, the results can be misleading. Although internet pricing may show the relative costs of different grade levels, the quality and warranty coverage may not match that of products sold by a professional supply house.

The best way to create an allowance budget is to visit the builder’s recommended suppliers or showrooms. The builder can then work with the showroom after the initial visit to generate a realistic number for the grade of products the homeowners want. The time invested in this work will yield allowances based on real-world numbers, not on guesswork or wishful thinking.

The builder can also provide average dollar numbers based on past experience with similar projects, but this is only the first step. The homeowners need to ask follow-up questions of the builder. For instance – Light fixtures. How many of what kind of fixtures in the home are included in that Allowance. Does the Allowance include bulbs? Recessed cans, sconces and chandeliers come in a range of prices, so it’s also important to do preliminary shopping, pricing and estimate the number of light fixtures needed to determine a reasonable allowance for light fixtures.

Another example is tile. Your $5,000 shower tile allowance would cover the cost of a large-format ceramic or porcelain, but now you fell in love with travertine at the show room. It’s best to decide up front and budget for it, including finding out whether the price includes additional labor.

If you are talking to a few builders about your new home building project – make sure that quality levels for the allowance items are the same. If one builder bases its cabinet allowance on lower quality boxes while another assumes plywood, it’s not a meaningful comparison. (Comparing bids is notoriously difficult, which is why it’s better to find a trustworthy builder and then work with them to create a reasonable budget.)

The homeowners should also consider if allowances the builder gives are realistic.  That is a good question to ask of the builder’s homeowner references. Professional builders make sure customers understand what their budget will and won’t cover because they know the clients will be happier in the end.

There is a deadline for every allowance choice. Meeting this deadline is crucial to getting products delivered in time for installation. If the homeowners miss the deadline, the allowance money will still be there, but the delay will throw off the job schedule and could potentially raise the final cost.

In summary, it’s best to make as many product choices as possible before work begins, keeping the job running smoothly by doing your homework thoroughly

Rugged and comfortable place to settle in and watch the game.

Rugged and comfortable place to settle in and watch the game.

A man cave is a space in the home where the men can totally express themselves – both in deciding on the style and the main purpose of the space. Man caves are emerging as an enduring trend in today’s custom home design. That being said, do you really need to consider having “man cave” space in a home?

Sam Gosling, a University of Texas at Austin psychology professor, and author of Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You; said, “It’s incredibly important to be in one’s own space and have it resonate with who you are.” So yes – your man really does need a man cave!

Women traditionally influence how a home is designed and decorated, and the main living areas may be a reflection of her tastes and use for the spaces. That means men can feel isolated in their own homes, even if it’s on a subconscious level. Even in situations where couples both have input in designing and decorating the space – the space is perceived as a compromise, and it may not be meeting the emotional needs for the individuals. Personal space is incredibly important.

Man caves serve a basic psychological function.  It’s especially vital if the guy’s emotional needs aren’t being met in other spaces in the home. When it comes to designing and outfitting a man cave, Gosling says it’s extremely important that there is no compromise. That’s because a space that properly satisfies and regulates a man’s emotional and psychological needs is much less likely to evolve if someone else influences the outcome.

There is a dramatic uptick in the amount of requests for extra man space in a custom home. Men are carving out a space with home theater technology, surround sound, wet bar (including a kegerator), and game table areas. There is going to be space for the prized collection of sports memorabilia. Space for the guitars, amps and concert memorabilia. No compromise!

Man cave spaces we’ve done included a model train room, an oversized garage for restoring old cars, (including lifts to store vehicles) and a state-of-the-art workshop for wood working and tinkering.  These spaces often include a full bathroom; sometimes with a urinal.

When designing a new home, the lower level or the sub-garage area offers possibilities for a man cave space. Another ideal area is the bonus room over the garage. Sometimes it’s making the garage the ultimate man cave garage if your guy loves hanging out there.

So man cave space in your home is a good thing to have.  You work hard and all you want just a little personalized space to hang with the guys, a space that is all yours. It’s not the equivalent of the boy’s tree house with the sign “No Girls Allowed” – because if guys get their man cave space, I think the ladies will still be invited for a beer now and then!

In another blog, I’ll devote some space to what is a mini-trend I’ve noticed on Houzz: “She-Sheds” or “Chick Shacks”, for that private space women crave away from the main house!

 

New Home Construction by Thelen Total Construction

Are you a little apprehensive about building or remodeling your home because of hearing negative home building experiences from friends and family? Relax! By taking care to choose your builder wisely, being part of the team, having a realistic sense of budget and time completion , your home construction can go smoothly and dare we say it – even be enjoyable!

 

1. Choose an Experienced Design / Build Builder

 The most critical of the four steps is choosing wisely who will build your home. Most of us do not have the time or the expertise to research every type of technology, material or plan design that can be used in a new home or home renovation. By using an experienced company you can rely upon their years of experience to guide you in the right direction. Are they going to be the least expensive? Probably not. (They may not be the most expensive either.) A good builder will often save you money value-engineering the home design and giving you the pros and cons of various material selections.

An experienced builder will depend on the client’s input throughout the design and planning process as much as the client depends on the builder. By listening carefully to what you need and desire during the home design process, you work out the design issues most important to you and stay on budget.

Robert Thelen, job superintendent, and Randy Thelen, owner reviewing a layout on a job.

Robert Thelen, job superintendent, and Randy Thelen, owner reviewing a layout on a job.

 

2. Be Part of the Team and Communicate Frequently.

Being part of the team means a time commitment from you of participating in the process from design phase to throughout the construction phase. Communication is so vital! During the design phase, being able to describe and show your builder what space and materials you like gives a reference point to understanding where you are coming from. The website Houzz is great resource for creating visual idea books and we also use our own Design Outline in this process. If staying on budget is a top priority, create a prioritized list of “must haves”, “would be nice to have” and “future improvements.”

Ask your builder to assist you in understanding what is being done at each phase of the construction project. If you don’t understand something, ask. If something does not “look right” to you – bring it up.  Sometimes you catch a potential mistake; sometimes you need to modify something about the design. The earlier you do so saves everyone’s time and money.  You should plan on frequent status reports and meetings on site to go over important issues.

 

3. Establish Your Budget and Add 10 – 15% to it.

Be sure to set aside a construction contingency fund for the unforeseen issues that will come up. An example would be the well drilling estimate for 100 feet and your well requires 300 feet, at an additional cost. You can be determined to stay within your budget on allowance items such as flooring, appliances and cabinetry, but what if you fall in love with a certain expensive countertop and it becomes a “must have”?  Having an extra cushion you budgeted for makes for a more enjoyable experience.

 

4. Don’t Get Attached to an Optimistic Timeline

Ideally, your builder will take the time to carefully plan and build your dream home most efficiently. It takes time to work out the details both in the design planning phase and sometimes issues can only be resolved on-site. During the beginning phase of construction, extreme weather can cause delays. Later on, your time making decisions on material selections can also impact the schedule. Just like a construction cost contingency, you’ll be wise to build in a time contingency as well. You may be envisioning enjoying your new home in time for Thanksgiving, and most builders try their best – but realistically there could be a chance the building project will go late. Do yourself a favor: Have a back-up plan in case you can’t be in your home on your exact date.

Few things in life are more exciting than designing and building a new home! By doing your “homework”, knowing what to expect during the design and building phase you’ll have a rewarding experience and a home that will be a joy to live in and share.

Connecting screen porch, deck and patio spaces draw you outdoors.

Connecting screen porch, deck and patio spaces draw you outdoors.

Homeowners are increasingly drawn to including outdoor rooms for entertaining and recreation when improving or building a new home. Landscape architects who specialize in residential design rated the popularity of outside design elements. Outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces received a 94.5% as very popular. 97% of respondents rated fire pits and fireplaces as very in-demand.

We believe you should plan your home and the surrounding landscape as an integrated whole, rather than two separate environments. This will create constant interplay between the inside and the outside.

What are the most important things to consider when designing your outdoor space?

  • Views to be enjoyed or obscured
  • Entertaining: Seating areas, grilling space and outdoor kitchen
  • Play space for children
  • Outdoor games space
  • Garden space: Vegetables and flowers
  • Sheltered and screened-in space from wind, rain, cold and insects
  • Orientation of the sun at different times of the day
  • Lighting requirements for night time
  • Place for spa, swimming pool, fireplace and/or fire pit
  • Low maintenance outdoor products: stone, composite decks, pavers and concrete
  • Low maintenance native plants and/or irrigation system
  • Designed water features: Pond, waterfall, and/or stream

In Wisconsin, we want to extend the months of outdoor enjoyment. We’re creating screen porches that really can be used for three seasons! Going way beyond just space for wicker furniture, the screen porch gets larger to accommodate an outdoor kitchen, dining, and entertaining spaces – maximizing function and enjoyment. During the early spring and autumn months, a fireplace in the screen porch makes it a cozy gathering place. 92% radiant efficient ceiling mounted quartz heaters direct the warmth to you, not the surroundings, and they are less expensive to operate. Roll-down clear-view shades block wind, rain and cold during unpredictable spring and autumns.

The fireplace in the screen porch is a focal point and adds cozy warmth.

The fireplace in the screen porch is a focal point and adds cozy warmth.

Only your imagination and budget limit the extent of your outdoors retreat. When you extend your family’s living space outdoors, you are allowing a greater opportunity to connect with nature. What could be better?

 

The Perfect Lot

You are ready to build a new home. What do you do first? Do you select the style and a plan – or do you select the building lot? Both approaches have merit. Having an idea of the architectural style you prefer will determine the size and characteristics of your ideal building site. You’ll run into problems if you select a specific floor plan too soon though. You can always design a home to suit the landscape, but you may not be able to alter a landscape to accommodate a predetermined house plan. Great custom home design always starts with the site. A truly special home is never designed first, and then placed on the property. Every person has a different idea of what is the ideal location for their dream home. It’s important to do your homework and learn all that you can about the property before jumping in. Take the time to truly evaluate the amenities you’d like in the area. The following are some of the key issues to consider.

Location  The most important is location. What to evaluate when selecting the location?

  • Your preference for a town, subdivision, lakeside or rural setting
  • How far do you want to travel for work
  • Proximity to shopping, entertainment, schools, emergency services and health care
  • Property tax rate
  • Zoning or permitted uses of land near any locations being considered
  • Building codes. Regulations will specify how close you can build to property line, streams and lakes.

Improvements and Features The next step is to determine what the lot offers in terms of improvements or features. Most rural locations, outside of towns are well and septic. The cost of improvements to keep in mind is:

  • Sewer and/or municipal water hook-up or septic system and well: What is the approximate cost of each?
  • The two types of private sanitation systems are the traditional septic tank and leach field, or the “mound” system. They vary cost and the choice is determinate on the soil type, slope of the lot and available area for the system.
  • Natural gas, electricity, telephone and cable TV availability and associated hook-up costs.
  • Water drainage. Are there any hills or low spots that make your home subject to water runoff and require fill?
  • Tear-down costs of the existing home on the property

Features and challenges to evaluate:

  • Is the site flat? Are there slopes or streams? Wooded? Are there any other geological conditions that may affect the design or placement of your home?
  • Where are the most pleasing views? Which views would you lie to see from the living areas? From the kitchen? From the bedrooms?
  • Opportunity for an exposed lower level basement with a sloped lot
  • Direction the house will face. A properly orientated home can save you in fuel bills, and give you a lot more enjoyment, if you orientate the primary family living spaces south.
  • Suitable soil or subsoil. This can vary from one building site to another. Soils drain and retain water differently, and have vastly different capabilities to bear structural loads.
  • Can other structures and homes be clearly seen from the building lot? What is the prevailing architectural style?
  • Will the size of the proposed home be proportionate to the size of the lot? 

Subdivision Controls If you are considering a subdivision location, you will need to have a sense of the type of house you’d like to build. Then check each development’s protective covenants to make sure your house fits within those guidelines. Some subdivisions may have:

  • Protective covenants, deed restrictions and architectural controls such as square footage, setbacks, roof pitch and required building materials
  • Home Owners’ Association structure and fees
  • Setback/building envelope rules 

Take your time evaluating each proposed home site.  You may also be tempted to skimp on the cost of the land so you can spend more money on building your dream home. Don’t. The cost of altering an unsuitable lot is likely to be more expensive that purchasing land that meets your needs and your dreams. How much should you spend? There are exceptions, but in most areas your land will represent 15% to 25% of your total building costs.

For such as important decision, we’d be happy to offer our input on the home site you are interested before buying.  Because while many details about your new home can be modified in later years as your lifestyle evolves, changing the location is not one of them!