This is my list of things to consider when building a house. I have noticed many people miss doing some very basic things when building. Basically, think of how you will actually use your house; a few simple things might make daily living much easier, more efficient and cheaper. I have added some stuff that my seem excessive, but the real cost to value they bring might be worth it. Running wire and pipe before sheet rock is easier than after.
Electrical and other wiring – wiring is cheap at the framing stage so do the extra.
1. Prepare electricity for a future detached garage. Run an RV plug & septic clean out.
2. Have at least 1 20 amp (not 15) outlet on each exterior side of house. And extra 20 amps in the garage. Consider plugs in far out areas of yard.
3. Run speaker wires to most rooms for surround sound. Also, run 2 (not just one) cable runs in wall to the central accessible media area.
4. Wire for solar, wind & back up generator.
5. Wire for an alarm system.
6. All closets should have plug and light (may not be code, but very handy). Plan for an ironing board in the laundry & master closet
7. Wire for a hot tub
8. Put in lights and electricity for the attic and basement crawl space.
1. Install 4" conduit under the driveway and sidewalk before pouring concrete.
2. Install an anti-siphon valve and box near meter. Make sure the main pipe to the surface can be drained.
3. Install 1" conduit into the house for sprinkler wires to control box, usually to garage.
4. When installing a sprinkler system, put hose bibs away from the house (avoiding long hoses).
5. Use septic for some sprinkling (a Texas water saving technique).
1. No trees yet? Plant fast growers like willows with slower growers adjacent (pines and oaks) so you can fill in the yard more quickly then eventually cut out the willows.
2. Get all extended yard areas smooth enough to be mowable. A lawn mower is the easiest way to maintain weeds and brush.
3. Avoid buying plants at nurseries. Wait for a better deal that can be found or you can do your own potted plants. Fruit trees are cheap and grow fast. You can dig your own trees.
Sealing – (slow down those bugs)
1. Caulk (using polyurethane, not silicone) in addition to sill seal the exterior base plate when standing walls (closes bug entry points). Caulk bottom couple feet of exterior OSB.
2. Use flanged gaskets on all pipe penetrations through the slab (bug screen).
Build it Right
1. Ask for extra thick sheeting upstairs in rooms and in attic space for better flooring.
2. Use trusses that utilize the attic space for storage. It's not much more expensive.
3. Paint – A few dollars for better paint saves time and future repaints.
4. Insulation – Time and care here is your best money spent. Leave no gaps, and use a lot of insulation. All vents, penetrations, electric chases and fixures need extra care so not to leak air.
a. Use foiled OSB in roof (a Texas energy saving technique)
b. Consider foiled OSB on siding and/or ½ - 1" Styrofoam over the walls for extra R value. Use 2x6's for frames and use blow-in insulation.
c. Sound proof interior walls and between floors. At least the master bedroom and pipe chases.
d. Add extra deep insulation in the attic to account for settling (will need to put extra screws in ceiling sheet rock).
5. Quiet the pipes - Use cast iron pipes where there is a possibility of hearing draining water. Cast iron doesn’t transmit nearly the sound as ABS drain pipe. Mostly use cast iron on the 2nd or 3rd floor bathrooms.
6. Layout –
a. Kitchen –
i. consider a 4’ wide island that can have full drawers on both sides.
ii. Wine storage – A quality and convenient wine storage area can more than pay for itself by saving and buying good deals.
iii. Think efficient cooking and cleaning.
b. Garage – 4 car garage (lessen need and cost for a detached shop and less junk outside)
i. Two walking doors to garage one if front and back. So you don’t always have to open the full big doors.
ii. A crew cab pickup needs at least 25’, an RV needs more
iii. 8’ doors with 10’ ceilings – more storage space air room
iv. Dog kennel with doors to inside and outside – dogs are family too.
v. Clothing storage area coming in from garage (or house entrance) little mini lockers or stalls, consider a boot dryer
vi. Finish the garage. Tape and texture and paint when building, this saves lots of time.
vii. Lift system – to suspend things from ceiling
c. Covered porch (at least 12’x20’). On both sides. How will you use the porch, BBQ?
d. Eaves – They need to be correct for maximum winter/summer sun usage. Make at least 2’ overhangs
e. Snow – Plan for effects of snow and ice. Such things as: on exceptional snow years, where will the plowed piles go? What if roof needs shoveling? Where will puddles and ice form?
f. General – Don’t waste space with useless hallways. Keep quiet and noisy areas separate.
1. Consider building to suit people with disabilities (accessible toilets and showers, wide doors, stronger walls for future hand rail, etc). Your house may be more sellable.
a. Doors – Use extra studs and blocking to make door shut more solid and not shake entire house. Especially main entrance doors. Also entrance should be 36" for wheel chairs
b. Floor – Use extra thick joists; do one better than basic code. And block a little better.
1. No Steps on main level (sunken living rooms). Figure for a wheel chair.
2. Hallways short and wide (consider handicap accessible for one bathroom).
3. Flatwork extra wide and smooth curving transition lines. No square step over grass type corners.
1. Vent house through bathrooms (so smell and humidity always goes out side). Secure vent flaps as to not have wasted heat or cooling.
2. Consider an attic air circulation system to warm the house (even in winter an attic gets warm).
3. Tall ceilings need to be circulated down to basement to cool. Put ducting in vaulted areas to bring hot air down low.
4. Possibly catch air from recessed lights and circulate it. This is a big heat escape on homes (each can needs some sort of collection system).
5. Vents – All through the roof in a manifold system causing less protrusion through roof.
Lighting – Can make the atmosphere.
1. Center lights and windows in rooms (check before sheetrock). Also, don’t use fluorescent lighting in the living area.
2. Soffet lighting, under cabinet lighting, hidden lights.
3. Wire for Christmas lights inside and out.
4. Switches – Use dimmer switches inside and outside.
5. Have all exterior lights switch controlled in an inside central area (also a control from the master bedroom would be good, for security. Make it so you can turn on all exterior lights).
6. Exterior lighting – Use economical low voltage lighting facing down; soffet lighting. Have recessed lights on porches. Place lights at corners so one light can light two sides.
Solar and wind – Advances are being made so that these might be more common in the future.
1. Some roof has to face south for panels. Make sure there is enough. Winter needs 43.5 degrees(a 5.4/12 slope), but consider a flatter roof and movable panels. Make sure to prewire if you think these are possibilities or even consider the framing and mounts.
2. Wind turbine on top of house? This would need special framing.
3. Battery room. Get sizing. Inverter goes where? Generator room and vent. Make it is quiet.
Fire Place (if real wood burner) – Make it an efficient heat source rather than negative (modern code will require this in cities).
1. Of course have a quality heat exchanger blower that is connected to the main ducting (or at least an individual run that spreads the heat away from the fire). Also, possibly have a water heating system.
2. Outside air connect to fire box (rather than pulling warm inside air and shooting it up the chimney).
3. Have a sealed firewood box loadable from the outside, then unloadable from the inside. A tilting V shaped box that tilts open to the inside or open to the outside.
4. Have a double damper system to securely close the chimney (no leaks).
5. 4 way fireplace in interior of house to maximize heat usage.
1. Boot Dryer – Have a closet with a heated boot drying rack. You can hang your boots on a blow dryer set on a timer. It can be connected to main ducting of house.
2. Clothes line – Some think it is unsightly, but build a summertime close line that starts from inside the laundry room and runs outside. The cable needs to go back and forth.
3. Possible elevator – At least frame a closet as a shaft to some elevator specs. It can be used as a closet until somebody needs an elevator (this is for a tall house, could help resale to handicap).
4. Plumb and wire basement or separate wing for a bath and full kitchen.
5. Recycling tubes for cans, glass, plastic that go from kitchen to bins in garage with air pressure.
Things to consider
1. T.V. - Glare and noise
2. Don’t block views unnecessarily
General – Always think of realistic life. How will traffic flow impact dirtiness and sound? Where will people actually hang out? (not in formal living rooms) and how will that affect others? Does the kitchen have more than one effective work area? Does the garage have space to conveniently store gear, yard tools, and still comfortably open the car door? Is there a good mix of shade and sun areas for different times of year? Your home needs to be comfortable for two people or 12 for dinner at any time of the year.