There are many different ways to build an eco-house, just as there are many different structures for most modern conventional houses. Determining which is the best (and greenest) option is a matter for debate, but architectural and personal preference, geographic location, current trends and, of course, cost all play an important part. Some of the most traditional materials and methods are outlined here, along with more recent developments.
Mixing Green and Conventional MaterialsBuilding an entirely green house or renovating an existing structure to completely green specifications is rarely a practical option. Instead, it is more likely that a green solution is reached by combining green and conventional methods. When considering a green new-build, such as a straw-bale house for example, using a solid concrete foundation could be the best option because the risk of subsidence and egress of moisture is greatly reduced. Equally, with a renovation project, using thermally efficient blocks for an extension will improve the green credentials of a house, even though much of the existing structure may be made from less green alternatives.
An Ungreen Means to a Green EndThere is often a conflict of interest when it comes to determining what is and what isn't "green." While the structural elements of an eco-house may ultimately perform in an energy efficient way, their initial production may involve the use of materials or techniques that are far from ecologically sound. A house constructed entirely from poured concrete, for example, with thick, well-insulated walls, is a green option in the long term. However, the initial outlay of energy to produce the concrete in the first place is high—and consequently very ungreen.
Types of FoundationMany green homes are built on conventional foundations, predominantly because they offer a sound defense against subsidence and damp. However, it is still possible to use less conventional foundations for a green home. The two examples shown here have been used successfully in straw-bale constructions. The use of rammed earth held in place by old car tires, and compacted rubble reinforced with steel rods, clearly demonstrate that concrete is by no means the only material capable of providing a solid foundation for a house structure.
Rammed-earth foundations consist of compacted subsoil. For the rammed earth to form a solid base for the structure's walls, it needs to be contained within an effective mold. A modern example of a type of mold is shown here — the compacted earth is being contained within old car tires.
In this example, a trench is filled with compacted rubble or stone. Some blockwork or natural stone is required above ground level to provide a solid base for the structure. Rubble foundations form an ideal base for a straw-bale home, as reinforced steel bars can be buried into the rubble for extra strength and support.
Types of RoofingIn a structural sense, most green roofs follow the same design as conventional roofs, with the main difference being that any materials must be obtained from sustainable sources. Wood is the most common component and should be sourced from responsibly managed forests. Equally, roof coverings must be green—wooden shingles are a clear green alternative to concrete tiles, and thatch is a roofing material with excellent green credentials.
Green Living Roof
A green living roof is a truly "green" option as the covered surface consists of plant matter. A living roof offers good insulation, retains a high percentage of rainwater (reducing stormwater run-off), and provides a habitat for wildlife. However, the main roof structure must be strong enough to support its weight — a key concern, especially if considering a retrospective fit.
Extensive Green Living Roof
A green living roof may be described as "extensive" (shown here) or "intensive." An extensive roof is typically planted with sedum, which requires a low-level of maintenance for use on often inaccessible roofs. An intensive roof is similar in nature to a roof garden: it has good access and a greater variety of plants. Higher maintenance, however, is usually required.
Types of WallsA green structure must score highly in terms of sustainability and performance — the materials should come from a sustainable source and the building should be well-insulated. Some conventional structures, such as modern timber-framed houses, can be considered green as long as they conform to these principles. The alternative methods described here, however, arguably come closest to the ideal of a truly green construction.
Wood Post and Beam
Large wooden timbers are used to create the loadbearing structure of the house. Wooden post and beam differs from a conventional timber-framed house in that the size of the timbers often means they form an integral part of the aesthetic finish of the house, and may be visible from the inside, outside, or both. Straw bales may be used as infill.
After wood, earth- or soil-based structures make up the next biggest category of green structures. Compressed soil, usually in the form of blocks, is used to build the structural walls of the home. Although modern building standards question the integrity of such structures, history has shown that they can easily withstand a variety of climates.
Bales can be used as either loadbearing blocks or infill for a timber-framed house. Although straw-bale constructions have been built around the globe, climate is an important consideration as it is vital that water is kept out of the structure. Straw bales are a perfect example of what is essentially a waste product being used in major construction.
Structural Insulated Panel
This type of eco-house construction is an example of green building at its most developed. Highly efficient insulation is integrated into building boards to form large panels. These panels can then be clipped together in a custom-made design. Structural insulated panels may be used to form the roof structure as well as the walls of a house.
*"The Basics of Eco-House Construction". (n.d.). DIY Network. Retrieved from, http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/maintenance-and-repair/sustainability/the-basics-of-eco-house-construction
Think sustainable home design is just a fad? Think again. Green is growing and growing and growing. In 2017, more than one-third of homebuilders said green building was a significant share of their overall activity. By 2022, this number is expected to increase to one-half, proving that green home building is here to stay (and hopefully bound to become the status quo!).
Every year new products and technologies emerge – raising the bar on the possibilities. And after watching trends in sustainability for nearly two decades, I’m excited to report that the coming year looks better than ever! Hop on board with these 18 trends for sustainable homes in 2018!
SUSTAINABLE HOME DESIGN TRENDS FOR 2018#1 – RESILIENCYAfter a record-breaking year of catastrophic destruction due to weather and climate change, and with similar natural disasters expected to increase in intensity and frequency in the coming years, “resiliency” is becoming the new “sustainability.”
Not only are durable materials and designs becoming a part of the conversation, non-toxic materials are becoming more important as well as the mass destruction of buildings made from toxic materials essentially creates Superfund sites out of communities – leaving extremely high levels of pollution in the water, soil, and air.
Thankfully, many of the materials and technologies already exist, like prefab homes that can withstand hurricane-force winds, cladding materials that are naturally fire resistant, and battery systems that reserve electricity for unanticipated power outages.
#2 – EXTREME ENERGY EFFICIENCYFar beyond buying Energy Star appliances (which is still great!), an increasing amount of people are building or renovating their homes using a more holistic energy efficiency approach. Buildings account for 70% of energy use and nearly 40% of CO2 emissions in the U.S., so it’s no wonder builders and homeowners are increasing efficiency in as many ways as possible such as using super-insulating materials and passive solar design. At the farthest end of the spectrum are net zero energy homes that generate as much electricity as they use – and California’s accelerating the adoption by mandating that all new home be net zero energy by 2020 (that’s right around the corner!) Interested in having a net zero energy home? We want you to have one! Check out our net zero hub to learn steps to take, find rebates and pros, and much more!
#3 – RENEWABLES EVERYWHEREInstalling renewable energy systems in your home isn’t an anomaly anymore, as more people opt for solar and wind driven systems over fossil fuels. Falling prices have given people greater access to these types of alternative energies, plus numerous PR campaigns have educated us on all of the benefits. “The cost of renewable energy keeps going down, comparing favorably with coal,” writes Erica Gies for Insideclimate News. “Battery technology also continues to improve and get cheaper. And digital technology is making electric markets cleaner and more efficient, as well.” It’s the perfect trifecta for progress across the board – not only is it easier for an individual homeowner to use a renewable energy system on their home or land, it’s also empowering utility companies and local governments to start transitioning to 100% renewables. According to the Sierra Club, across the U.S. over 50 cities, more than five counties and one state, have already adopted ambitious 100% clean energy goals.
#4 – ALL ELECTRIC HOMESTransitioning to renewables means phasing out gas as an energy source; thus, the rise of the all-electric home. One out of every four homes in the U.S. is all-electric already, according to the most recent survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Taking the place of the gas stove is the induction range. Standing in for the gas water heater is the heat pump water heater. And, kicking the gas furnace to the curb are heat pumps and radiant heating AND cooling. “Right now people understand the benefit of having an electric vehicle, and soon I think they will also understand the benefits of having all-electric homes,” said Rachel Golden, a senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club.
#5 HOME AUTOMATIONHave you heard of the Internet of Things? It’s the internetworking of physical devices that allows them to send and receive data. The applications range from health care and transportation to environmental monitoring and, yes – homes. “Smart homes” are quickly becoming the norm in sustainable building. The pros at Pearl Remodeling write, “It seems like these days people expect to be able to turn on their coffee and pre-heat their ovens on the way home. With today’s technology, there is almost nothing you CAN’T control remotely. We don’t see any reason for a decline in that home design trend, in fact, quite the opposite.” Expect to see even more smart devices on the market in 2018, in all price ranges, that will do things like control and automate heating, lighting, and HVAC systems, and even appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, washers, and dryers that can use Wi-Fi for remote control and monitoring.
#6 – WATER EFFICIENCYA staggering 40 out of 50 states anticipate water shortages in the coming years, according to a Government Accountability Office survey of state water managers. As such, using water wisely is becoming more important than ever. “Water efficiency efforts have long seen ebbs and flows based on drought conditions,” says Ryan Meres, programs director for RESNET Washington, D.C. “However, with water prices increasing as much as eight percent each year since 2010 consumer demand for more water efficient homes may reach a tipping point in 2018. Builders already getting their homes HERS Rated will soon be able to add a water rating with the launch of the new HERSH2O Index in 2018. With more than 200,000 homes getting a HERS Rating each year, HERSH2O has the potential to transform the water efficiency market.” The Federal Energy Management Program is even encouraging net zero water buildings!
#7 HEALTHY HOMESConsidering how much time we spend in our homes, a home that supports good health should be our first priority. As it turns out, going green has plenty of benefits for more than just the planet. Research shows that green buildings have a hugely positive impact on the health (mental and physical) of the lucky people who live and work there. Going green means improving indoor air quality, making use of natural lighting, and using eco-friendly materials — all of which contribute to your happiness, health, and productivity.
The main reason why green homes are healthier: They have excellent indoor air quality. Going green means using low- or zero-VOC paints and materials, eliminating respiratory and immune system distress commonly associated with traditional buildings. Plus, green homes typically sport excellent ventilation systems — a steady flow of fresh air into the home means no build-up of stale and polluted air. Tightened building envelopes are another feature that makes green buildings healthier. A tighter seal means less airborne irritants, like allergens and dust.
#8 WATER FILTRATIONAdding a water filtration system to your home is a 2017 trend that will carry over into 2018. Rising health concerns and water crises in the news have sparked people’s desire to check out how their water quality measures up and to take precautions to protect and improve it. Healthy living is gaining in prominence, too, and clean water is a key ingredient.
Also, despite costing up to 2,000 times as much as tap water (and not necessarily being any purer than tap water), last year bottled water became the most popular beverage sold in the U.S. And the amount of waste it’s generating is staggering. Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation group Surfers Against Sewage, told EU media network EURACTIV that the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.”
#9 – MATERIAL TRANSPARENCYWith increasing concern over toxic chemicals in products, consumers are pushing for ingredient labels on everything. Without government regulation, others are filling the gap with databases like the 10 trustworthy green product databases we featured here. As transparency becomes a competitive advantage, more and more manufacturers are jumping on board. “2018 will be the year when transparency finally becomes practical,” writes Ken Edelstein, green building expert. “Understanding the ingredients of a building the way a chef understands what goes into a recipe is becoming less of novelty and more of a standard way of doing business.”
#10 – BIOPHILIC DESIGNHumans evolved in nature, so it should come as no surprise that nature is biologically and psychologically beneficial to us. Still, over the last century buildings have been designed to separate us from nature – biophilic design aims to reverse that by incorporating nature and natural elements into homes. “When buildings capture the movement of the sun through the sky using windows, patterns, and architectural details, these dynamic shadows and pools of light connect us to the time of day, the season, and our inner biorhythms,” writes Amanda Sturgeon, FAIA, and CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “There is a lasting and healing power in these spaces. I started working in architecture over 20 years ago, on a mission to dissolve the walls that existed between the inside and outside. Needless to say, biophilic design has always made inherent sense to me, and I’m so excited to see it begin to emerge as a design trend.”
#11 – INNOVATIVE MATERIALSYear after year, innovations in green building materials continue to expand and 2018 will be no different. Recycled and reclaimed products have become widely accessible and mainstream, but manufacturers are expanding into new realms with things like smart-tinting glass, materials made from food waste, and much more.
#12 EFFICIENT SPACESAs homeowners increasingly realize that less can be more with a smaller home, the need for multifunctional design is becoming more appealing than ever. Get the most out of your space by turning little nooks and crannies into a mini hideaway or use convertible furniture to transform a room’s purpose completely. And, if you’re considering putting an addition on your home, instead of adding to the footprint, remodel with space-efficiency in mind to be more sustainable.
#13 PREFABS AND PREFAB TECHNIQUES“Prefabs” or prefabricated homes were originally popular in the early 1900s when modern building was first becoming mainstream (Sears sold them in their catalog!), and now they’re back with a bang. “Factory-made prefabricated homes have come a long way from flimsy trailer park dwellings,” writes Jackie Craven for ThoughtCo. “Trend-setting architects and builders are using modular building materials to create bold new designs with lots of glass, steel, and real wood. Prefabricated, manufactured and modular housing comes in all shapes and styles, from streamlined Bauhaus to undulating organic forms. (Here are 18 options almost anyone can afford!)
#14 – LIVING IN PLACEHomeowners and their families are increasingly staying put, opting for renovations like design elements intended to aid aging-in-place (which continue to top the American Institute of Architects’ quarterly reports). “Not surprisingly, demand for greater accessibility features continues to be strong,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker. “Whether it’s a result of generally lower mobility or the aging baby-boomer population, homeowners are preparing for the future.” And families are sticking together. “It looks like multigenerational living is here to stay,” writes Mary Cook, founder of interior design firm Mary Cook Associates Chicago for Builder Online. “Not since the 1950s have so many families chosen to live with multiple adult generations under one roof, according to Pew Research, challenging designers and builders to maximize efficiency without compromising style. Home builders are learning quickly that privacy and accessibility are two must-haves for multigenerational living.”
#15 SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPINGExtend sustainability outside your home this year by making your yard environmentally friendly. While a perfectly manicured grass lawn was once the ideal, 2018 is bringing native, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants to replace some of that turf. By creating a less rigid landscape with these types of trees, shrubs, and plants, you can help conserve water, fertilizer, and pesticides – plus help support local wildlife. Another popular option is growing your own food. Utah-based landscape designer Laurie van Zandt tells Builder Online that 75% of her clients now request vegetable and herb gardens.
#16 – AFFORDABLE SUSTAINABILITYAs prices drop across the board – from renewable energy options to prefab building techniques to eco-friendly building materials – having a sustainable home is more affordable than ever before. Plus, homeowners are increasingly getting wise to the long-term savings associated with going green: lower energy bills, lower water bills, and fewer upkeep costs. Learn tips and tricks to make your home more sustainable on a budget in this article about the Top 10 Myths About Green Home Remodeling.
#17 – STANDARDS, CODES & RATING SYSTEMSDon’t get lost in the acronyms, but at the November 2017 Greenbuild conference in Boston we saw representation from a flurry of certifying organizations including LEED, WELL, SITES, Fitwel, ILFI, GRI, JUST, ISSP, IWBI, BREAAM US, GBCI, and more. “2018 will be a watershed year in the course of green building standards, codes and rating systems,” writes Stuart Kaplow for Green Building Law Update. “There has been no other single calendar year that has seen the breadth of substantive change that is before us…it is clear that the real estate industry is developing out of its green building adolescence. Earlier versions of these green building standards, codes and rating systems were largely written in silos by partisans. What appears to be on the horizon in 2018 is the democratization of green building, in the U.S. and abroad.”
#18 – GREEN GOES MAINSTREAMIn the best news of all, green seems to finally have gone mainstream. Yay! “The accelerating adoption of green building practices may transform sustainable construction from movement to norm,” writes Jeff Gavin, LEED Green Associate. “Globally, the green building market is doubling every three years, as revealed in ‘The World Green Building Trends 2016 Smart Market Report’ by Dodge Data and Analytics, New York. While mandates make sustainable building a bigger force abroad, its rapid adoption in the United States is even more remarkable given its voluntary and value-driven approach. Green is now mainstream, which is reflected in ever more stringent codes, communities and states that institutionalize green practices, and owners and the real estate market are endorsing its value.”
As you can see there’s a lot to look forward to in regards to sustainable home design as we move into 2018. We can’t wait to reveal even more good news from the green building scene as the year progresses.
Happily, green building is moving much more into the mainstream and once things reach a positive tipping point, the wasteful ways of the past will seem as primitive as a steam locomotive.
*Sorenson, Janelle. (n.d.) 18 Trends for Sustainable Homes In 2018. Retrieved from, https://elemental.green/17-trends-for-sustainable-homes-in-2017/.
Being environmentally-friendly in my home is too expensive. Going green is just a fad. Eco-friendly style is just plain ugly.
Chances are you've thought about decorating green, but one of these stereotypes stopped you. It turns out that believing these myths can be harmful to your health. "There's so much in our homes that's not good for us," says green architect/designer Michelle Kaufmann, founder and chairman of Michelle Kaufmann Designs. New home smells are actually toxic; mold inside walls can cause migraines and other health issues; and carpet can off-gas formaldehyde which is known to cause respiratory irritation and even cancer.
"But the good news is that we're becoming aware of these things," says Kaufmann, "As we become aware — and as there are options out there — it's just a matter of making choices." Choose to decorate with real sustainability in mind — using less energy, less water and less non-renewable resources while still beautifying your home. Here's why green design is affordable, beautiful and here to stay.
Not all green design is pricey."I'm so tired of the green stuff that is so expensive," says Kaufmann. "It sends the message, 'green is for the wealthy'. That's so not right. Green is for everyone!" Consider places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. For a modern take on old accessories, Kaufmann picks up shapely items at these stores and spray paints them white.
For any style, Kaufmann has a simple way to make your home more energy efficient. Create a water wall with colorful Mason jars on a window that gets a lot of sunlight (preferably west-facing). The water absorbs the heat during the day, keeping the house cooler, and releases it at night. Clear glass jars filled with food-coloring dyed water is another way to make the water wall playfully decorative.
By going green, you'll know what your home is made of.Nutrition labels let us know exactly what's in our food. Wouldn't you like to know exactly what's in the materials we use in our homes? "We don't even think about it," Kaufmann says, "when in fact it impacts us to a great extent as much as food does, because we're breathing in whatever these materials are off-gassing," like formaldehyde from carpet.
For those with wall-to-wall carpeting, if it's wool and you like it, keep it. Otherwise, Greg Snowden, owner of the Green Fusion Design Center, advises it's best to use modular carpet tiles. Several eco-friendly companies, like FLOR and Shaw Carpet, offer stylish carpet squares that use non-toxic dyes and are made from recycled materials. "Carpet squares are a huge eco-improvement, because they're modular," Snowden says. "When you're done with it, you can ship it back to the manufacturer to recycle." Plus, these squares involve little labor; they are easy to lay down by yourself and don't need support from toxic padding.
Eco-friendly decorating has incentives — like tax breaks.If you make eco-friendly improvements to your home, reporting these on your yearly taxes can earn you a tax break. But after remodeling, what should you do with all those materials you ripped out? Rather than taking them to the landfill, contact The ReUse People (www.thereusepeople.org). They check over your refuse for reusable parts, which will be shipped to their warehouse for distribution to organizations like Habitat for Humanity — while you get another tax write-off.
(Contributions to this article from Jenny Jedeikin)
*Baginski, Caren. (n.d.). Eco-Friendly Decorating Ideas. Retrieved from, http://www.hgtv.com/design/decorating/design-101/eco-friendly-decorating-ideas
We love building custom homes—it’s a unique and exciting construction project; probably the most rewarding that a homeowner will ever undertake. Many of our past clients have told us how amazing they find it to be able to wake up in a home they had built just for them, with everything they wanted it. We truly enjoy the entire process from start to finish, and when it’s all done, our clients do too.
Having said that, sometimes during the process, some people struggle with getting overwhelmed as they have to make the choices and decisions that are needed. We call these decisions “selections” and they’re basically just choices a client makes in regard to the way the home will look when it’s finished. This includes deciding what kind of flooring the home will have, the color of the paint, the style of the windows, etc. Since all the homes we build are completely custom, our clients decide exactly what will go on (and in) the home. We don’t have stock floor plans that we tell clients to pick from, and we don’t have “standard” finishes or fixtures either. Instead, we work with an architect to design the home’s layout and specifications, and let the client decide the actual level of finish for the home as we build it.
When we build a new home, our project manager will create a “construction schedule”—a Gantt chart that shows our best guess for how long it’s going to take to build your home, and it lists all the steps involved. What I do is take the data from that construction schedule and create a new document—the “decision schedule”—which helps me (and the client) know which selections need to be made, and at what point in the process. This is a very important tool that helps us keep the project on schedule.
The process of making selections during a home build can be either exciting and fun, or they can be daunting and intimidating, depending on your personality and whether your builder communicates well and sets proper expectations for you throughout the process. So here’s a list of ten things that I think you might find interesting if you’re building (or thinking about building) a new home anytime soon. I hope they’re helpful!
Hint #1: You (The Home Owner) Don’t Have To Know Everything Before We Start Building
A mistaken assumption we see sometimes is that people think they need to know everything about what they want for their home before they even contact us or think about building. The good news is that you don’t! When we start a new build, we ask a lot of questions to help draw that out and we’ll be able to figure out what you want over time.
A big part of what I do when working with clients is I’ll contact the vendor or supplier that we’ll be working with, and set up an appointment for all of us to meet and discuss the selection at hand (whether that’s flooring, windows, lighting, or other selections). Most of our suppliers have a showroom where we can look at different brands, colors, and finishes, and you can see a lot of options before having to make a decision.
Hint #2: You Have A TON Of Selections To Make, But You Have Plenty Of TimeLet’s imagine a hypothetical two-story home with approximately 3,000 square feet. During the building process, the home owners are going to have to make a lot of selections. A LOT. Even with a simple 3,000 sq ft home, there might be 30 different categories of selections that need to be made, such as plumbing fixtures, lighting, cabinets, tile, door hardware, etc. 30 categories might not sound like so much, but each one of these various categories can have 20 to 50 choices within them, such as color, size, style, finish, layout, wattage, etc. So, in all, you’re looking at potentially up to 1,000 or more total selections that need to be made by the home owners.
“1,000 decisions?!” you may say… “That’s overwhelming!” I understand. Making this many selections can be overwhelming. But the good news is, with our decision schedule, we make it so that you have sufficient time (and knowledge) to make all these selections, and you don’t need to make all the selections in the beginning.
Early on, there are a few decisions you’ll have to make right away, such as: exterior doors, roof color, garage door styles, and things of that nature. These first decisions are all about us being able to “dry in” the house so it becomes weatherproof. That way, we can get the structure built very quickly, then put a roof on it, which allows us to then bring in the wiring, plumbing, furnace, etc. So once you’ve made this first round of selections, we’ll get started building, and you have some time to get to the next round, which includes things like: plumbing fixtures, cabinets, appliances, lighting, shower doors, mirrors, and similar items for the home’s interior.
Hint #3: Keep A Paper Trail Of All Decisions And Selections You’ve Made
When you’re making the several hundred selections for your home, it can be very easy to lose track of the decisions you’ve made, the decisions you still need to make, and it can be hard to not confuse them with each other. The simple solution to this is to document everything.
One of the many sayings we have at Stauffer & Sons is: “‘Oh, but I thought’ are the four worst words in construction.” We want to avoid hearing that dreaded statement as much as we can. If we start building your home with a kind of material you didn’t ask for, or if our painter paints one of your walls the wrong color, that’s obviously a really bad thing. Fortunately, over time, we’ve found a system that works very well in documenting all the selections a client makes. We have an online client login section of our website where home owners can view a list of all the selections they need to make (and when they’re due), as well as all the selections they’ve made (and when they were made). With this documentation in hand, we are able to work with confidence, knowing that our team and the home owners are all on the same page, and we’ll never have to guess or try to remember which decisions were made, and when.
Hint #4: Your Selections Aren’t Set It Stone—You Can Change Your Mind (Within Reason)
We always try to build our decisions schedules with enough time to accommodate changes that a home owner might make. Sometimes we have clients who spend a few hours visiting a showroom, looking at the options, and then making a selection on what they want, then thinking about it for a day or two and changing their mind. This is fine with us!
The decision schedule is flexible enough to allow these changes (within reason), and that’s the way we like it, because we never want our clients to feel rushed into making a decision, especially if they end up picking something they don’t like! Most of our clients are building a home to live in for several decades, and we want them to be able to look around 15 years from now and still be comfortable with the selections they made.
While it’s too late to change your mind on the tile color after the tile’s been laid, you generally do have a window of at least a few days to make changes after making a selection. So relax! We don’t want you losing any sleep over this, and if it takes you two tries, that’s OK.
Hint #5: Most Of The Selections You Need To Make Can Be Researched Online
Since we’re a custom home builder, we don’t have a “show room.” We don’t have standard finishes, and we don’t keep samples in our office for you to choose from. Rather than show you, say, three choices for carpet, and telling you “pick one of these,” we instead work with vendors and suppliers who, (for the most part), have their own show rooms where they display samples of the hundreds or even thousands of products they carry.
Sometimes, home owners will find a picture of something they like online, and we can generally work with them to find a comparable item through one of our suppliers. So one of the best ways for you to start making selections is by browsing the Internet and saving photos of your ideas, then bringing them in for us to discuss. We’ll see if we can find what you’re looking for through our vendor relationships. Also, many of our vendors offer online catalogs for your to look at, and if they don’t, often times the manufacturers of products will, so you can browse their selections online and make a note of the ones you like… all from the comfort of your own home.
Hint #6: Your Builder Can Help You Narrow Down Your Selection Choices If You Want
Some people want lots of options: when looking at paint for their kitchen, some families want to see every hue, sheen and patina under the sun. Other families find this intimidating and don’t want to see every option but still want to make the right choice without feeling limited.
That’s where a good builder comes in handy. Andy (Stauffer & Sons company president) likes to tell clients “We’ve never built two homes alike; but at the same time, there’s nothing new under the sun.” What he means by that is: you might be able to find a tint of grout we’ve never seen before, or you may ask for a brand of flooring we haven’t installed in the past, but generally speaking, we’ve seen a lot of homes in the past 15 years, and there’s a good chance that we can help you narrow down your choices based on what we know about you and your taste. If you’d like us to make the process easier for you, we can narrow down your options for paint colors from 350 to the top 10 that we think you might like.
Some clients find this to be extremely helpful, because when there are so many options available, people can get a sort of “analysis paralysis” and it’s hard to pick something out of fear of picking the wrong one. So while we’ll never tell you what your selections should be, we can certainly help you make a selection by limiting the options available, based on what we know about your sense of style, the style of home we’re building you, our previous experiences with other families, and more. Let your builder be a resource to you!
Hint #7: Tell Your Builder How You Like To Work And Communicate, And How Much Time You Have
When we get a new client, I always immediately schedule what I call our “What To Expect” meeting. This is where I meet with the family and ask what their preference is for communication, their desired level of involvement, the time commitment they can make, their work schedule (if applicable), and more. I can work with just about anybody: I can work with a family that wants to be there for every single decision we make along the way, and they can be on the job site every day to see what’s happening; and I can also work with a family that wants to just come in every once in a while and discuss a few things, make a few selections, and leave. Either one is fine with me—I just want to know ahead of time what they prefer.
Every client we’ve worked with is slightly different, and they all make decisions in a slightly different way as well. Some clients want to meet with me at a showroom and touch and feel everything, and make decisions in person. Some clients are comfortable picking things out of a book of samples. Some make selections from an online catalog. Again, all of these are fine; I just like to know ahead of time so I can accommodate them.
If you want to be very hands-on throughout the process, know that it might require up to 10 hours per week. So if your schedule is a little tighter than that and you can’t devote that much time to the project, that’s fine too—we are the builder after all, and we’ve done this before, so we can just check in with you from time to time without needing daily or weekly meetings. We can build your home with a minimal time investment on your end: maybe requiring 2-3 hours every once in a while.
Your communication preference is also important: with some clients, I’ll meet with them once per week here at our office. With some clients, I talk with them over the phone. With some, we send text messages. All of these are great! …just remember that everything we do is going to be tracked, time stamped, and recorded in our online customer portal so that we can always go back in time and see who made which decision, and when.
Hint #8: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!
It’s amazing to me sometimes the way people go about making their selections: some people will spend $15,000 on appliances in less than five minutes by just looking at a kitchen set and saying “These are nice. I like stainless steel and LG is a good brand… I’ll take these,” and then they’ll spend three months agonizing over the shade of one $8 can of paint. It makes me chuckle because the huge, important decisions seem so easy, while the tiniest little details seem overwhelming. I tell people not to worry about the little things!
The best way to judge whether you’re over-thinking something is just to ask: “will I even notice this a month after I move in?” My guess is that if you’ve narrowed down your selection of stone to two options, and one has a slight orange hue and the other has a slight gray hue, I really don’t think you’ll notice this minor variation after you’ve moved into the house. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that these don’t matter… but I am saying that it’s really not worth getting caught up in the minutiae of very tiny details at the expense of the bigger context of the entire home.
Please, don’t lose sleep over it. We have 21 different options for “white” paint in our color deck, and they’re all great choices. You aren’t going to regret any of them, so just pick one. This is where the unnecessary stress in building a home can start to creep in… don’t over-think things that don’t matter that much in the big picture.
Hint #9: Learn Your Sense Of Style And Taste — It Will Help You A Lot
The best thing you can do when thinking about building a custom home, or preparing to have one built, is to start thinking and planning, now, about what you want your home to look like. Start thinking about how you live your life now, and the needs you’ll have because of it. Do you have dogs or cats? Do you have grandchildren who stay with you from time to time? What kinds of things do you want to see in your home? Do you grill in the back yard often?
The clearer the picture in your mind of what you want your home to look and feel like, the faster we can help you get there. If you have a pretty good idea of the basic colors you like, and other choices that involve personal taste and style (such as: tile vs hardwood, one story vs two stories, brick vs stucco, contemporary vs craftsman, oil rubbed bronze vs brushed nickel, shiny vs matte, warm vs dark, etc), then it should be relatively easy for you to make your selections based on that. However, if you wait until you’re in the throes of building a home to look at wall coverings for the first time ever, you might find it’s more difficult—and time consuming—than it needs to be.
Hint #10: If You’re Prepared, Building A Home Can Be Fun!
When you look at a set of plans at the very beginning of your home building project, you might not feel an overwhelming sense of excitement. Mainly this is because plans are two-dimensional and it’s hard for most people to envision what the end product will look like. However, if you’re prepared, the process of making selections and then seeing those selections become a part of your home can be very fun!
Most people find it exciting when the walls start going up, and the roof is put on, and it’s even more exciting when the house is dried in and you can start to see something like the wood flooring being installed or the fireplace stone being set. There’s a great sense of ownership as the house nears completion, because the selections that were made for that home are your selections. That’s the whole beauty of building a custom home in the first place: it’s your home, so everyone that’s on it and in it was chosen by you!
If you’d like to have your own custom home built in Georgia, feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to talk more. We have a great system that tracks all your selections, and our goal at the end of the day is to build your home as quickly and painlessly as possible.
*Stauffer, Andy. (April 25, 2014). Making Selections When Building A Home (Without Getting Overwhelmed). Retrieved from, https://www.staufferandsons.com/blog/making-selections-home-without-getting-overwhelmed/