Some Tips In Building A Green Home

If you are thinking of joining the advocacy of going green, what better way to do it than to start building a green home. You will need to follow certain environmental practices in building a green home – such as those that help lessen (negative) effects on the environment.

First thing you need to consider is building materials. Building a environment friendly home would require materials that are eco-friendly and compliant with the current standards in constructing green homes. You may browse the internet for details regarding the compliances and product info to help you where to get and how to use them. If you have a contractor in mind, make sure that the company offers services specifically for building a green home.

It is imperative to prioritize sustainable materials such as those that can be recycled or natural materials that can be replenished due to their growth rate. Hardwood from large old trees should not be cut down and used, since they take years to grow and the earth beneath will also be affected when they are taken out. Using alternative wood such as bamboo is better since this specie can grow rapidly.

Lightweight concrete is a type of concrete that has been used in building a healthy home for years. However, this type of concrete is not as strong, but it can perform as well as traditional concrete and can hold up to any weather condition. It is often used as home insulation and it’s also capable of retarding fire.

Prefabricated panels for homes are also available and they can be ordered and purchased at reasonable amounts. Generally, they are similarly priced to regular building materials that are used for a typical home. And they must also get approval from organizations that monitor environmental compliances.

In order to have less impact on the environment, building green homes employ appropriate architectural design. Typical green homes are smaller than regular homes like those that are found in rural areas and large counties. Styles may vary from contemporary, bungalow, Victorian, ranch style and many others.

The important thing about building a green home is that it will help lessen the negative effects on the environment in general. There are many factors that you need to consider such as energy and water consumptions, recycling and using eco-friendly materials. Generally, once you have these factors implemented on your green home, you’ll be able to help reduce harmful impacts on the environment and on the earth.

Build Your Own Affordable, Eco-Friendly House

What is the best way to build a low-cost home that doesn’t harm the planet? Most materials such as concrete and steel are highly processed and transported long distances, making them unaffordable to millions who are in need of housing. These high-tech materials also cause a great deal of harm to the environment. The answer is to utilize locally available, low-impact natural building materials such as earth, stone, straw and small diameter wood. This article explores several methods of using earth and sustainably harvested wood to cut housing costs to rock-bottom prices. And because the techniques are user-friendly, they are ideal for do-it-yourselfers.

Earthbag building: Like other earth building methods, earthbag building is simple to learn and extremely low cost. It has evolved from the military’s use of building durable, blast and bullet resistant structures with sandbags for 100 years. Modern-day builders are using the same basic process of filling and stacking bags to build beautiful houses, offices, shops, schools and orphanages. Earthbag buildings are resistant to mold, fire, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, insects and rodents.

Since the main building material is earth, which is often free or very low cost if delivered, structures can be built literally dirt-cheap. No expensive equipment is needed. Most people already have the basic tools around their home – shovels, buckets, garden hose and ladder. The building process is so simple that unskilled workers can learn each step of construction just by watching for a minute. Earthbag building is extremely adaptable and can be used to build almost any shape imaginable, including domes, vaults, roundhouses, or more typical square or rectangular designs.

Small diameter wood: U.S. forests are currently overcrowded and prone to forest fires. Millions of acres are destroyed each year to fires and disease. Gleaning small trees from the forest in a sustainable manner actually improves the health of the forest and reduces forest fires. With an inexpensive firewood permit (about $20), anyone can obtain wood for building their home. Most of this wood usually goes up the chimney to heat homes, but it is much more valuable when turned into useful products with a long life. All the wood for a house can be obtained this way at much lower cost than buying dimension lumber from a building supply center.

One option is peeling the bark off and using them in the round for pole frames. Wood in the round is much stronger than sawn lumber and requires less processing. With a portable mill or chainsaw attachment, do-it-yourselfers can also mill their own wood for beams, joists, studs, trusses, purlins, window and door frames, trim, cabinets and furniture. Where I live, builders are culling standing dead trees (sound wood) from the forest so as to avoid the time and effort of seasoning the wood. In addition, using sustainably harvested wood as described here is more aesthetically pleasing than conventional stud walls covered with sheetrock. The beauty of the wood is left exposed, honoring the tree from which it came.

Tamped earth floors: Traditional poured earth floors can last for many centuries, thereby saving a small fortune on wood floor framing and replacement of carpet and linoleum every 15 years. Earth floors look like leather once finished and are extremely beautiful. (They’re being used in trendy, custom homes.) However, poured earth floors take a long time to dry, making them impractical in all but hot, dry climates.

Tamped earth floors use less water and dry much faster. These floors can typically be walked on one or two days after installing. The building process involves screening road base or other appropriate soil through 3/8″ mesh. This mix is spread out in 2″ layers and tamped level. The process is repeated until the desired height is reached. Material for the top coat is screened again through 1/8″ mesh. The top coat mixture is hand-troweled and burnished, using just enough water to bond well. After the floor has thoroughly dried, seal with several coats of linseed oil thinned with turpentine.

Earthen plaster: The most beautiful wall finish I’ve ever seen is earth plaster. If you’ve never seen earth plaster before, you may think of dreary brown walls. Do an Internet search for “earth plaster” and you’ll see the amazing results. Because there are many kinds of clay, there’s no limit to the range of colors, textures and special effects. One popular method uses mica in the plaster to create sparkling, brilliant walls.

Earthen plaster is the probably the most user-friendly wall finish. In many cultures women, children and the elderly have done the plaster work for centuries using just hands and basic tools. The key to durable earthen plaster is wide roof overhangs of about 36 inches. Keep rain and snow off the walls and it will last a long time, requiring only minor touchup.

These are just a few ideas to get you started thinking about using natural building materials. Thanks to the Internet, now it’s very easy to learn about these and other low-cost building methods. Additional articles on the above topics are available for free on the author’s websites.

Mortgage To Build Your Own House

A lot of people reach a point where they decide that building and decorating their own home is the next step in an adventure called life. After all, having a home in which you have engraved a part of yourself can bring a lot of joy personal sense of accomplishment. Putting together a plan to build that work out the room you’ve always wanted or maybe that special little home office can be fulfilling and motivational. It’s no secret that building your own home is expensive. Fortunately, there is a way to help you advance with your plans. Although it can be difficult to convince a lender to loan you money for something that hasn’t been built yet, it is possible to get a construction loan.

What is a construction loan? A construction loan is a short-term loan that’s supposed to cover the expenses of your project. Getting it requires thorough planning and high points which you must present to the loaner. You’ll need a detailed construction plan along with a realistic budget while assuring the loaner that the project is a small risk. Usually, the more experienced builders keep a sort of “blue book” in which all of the details mentioned above are included.

Now, let’s discuss the down payment. It’s no secret that down payment plays a major factor in any loan, but in the case of construction loans, it can put quite a big strain on your budget. You can expect a huge percentage (up to 25%) to be added as down payment. The main reason why it is so, it’s that unlike traditional loans, construction loans are viewed as high-risk investments in which the loaners want to make sure you see your project through.

First, you must choose a location. Owning the lot where you plan to build your home can be potentially helpful for you to get the loan, otherwise, the down payment percentage will increase exponentially. Getting a well-established building contractor with a good reputation for this sort of projects should be a priority. The reason for this is that going at it alone and planning to be in charge of everything can be viewed as a problem by the loaners because you have no experience in handling projects like this. If you can somehow present a detailed and convincing construction plan which demonstrates your skills and knowledge in the home-building business, then you might just get the loan.

Let’s sum up. While building your home can be an extremely gratifying experience, it’s no secret that you will have to jump through a lot of hoops to see your dream become a reality. So, before even thinking of going through with a project like this, be ready to put together a well-built project plan and get a well known, qualified home builder. In the end, it all comes down to your available resources. Your budget will decide the fate of your project, so start saving up so you can cover the down payment.

Top 3 Reasons to Build a SW VA Modular Home

In today’s economy people are downsizing to smaller more affordable homes and the possibility of building a dream home is not taken into consideration. There are many opportunities available today to accommodate a downsizing home owner. Here are the top 3 reasons that SW VA modular home builders should be considered before buying a used home.

1. Less expensive

Building a custom house sounds expensive but modular homes are competitive in pricing due to the way the homes are made. This type of builder has the ability to save on time and labor as well as control the environment that the homes are built in.

2. Faster to build

A modular home is made in a factory and does not have to deal with weather changes, dropped labor or natural disasters. The dream of building modular to fit personal taste takes on average 6-12 weeks, when a stick built house can take 6 months to a year or longer.

3. Better quality control

A modular home is built in a factory by sections. An assembly line has high quality control due to the legal inspections that have to take place. There is also zero environmental damage due to nature and/or weather.

So, if looking to downsize and move into a more affordable situation make sure that modular home building is taken into consideration. Being pushed to move out of a dream home in order to live a more affordable lifestyle should no longer seem dreary. Look into building and most quality Roanoke VA home builders will be upfront and willing to work with a specified budget. Modular home building is less expensive than building a new home and competitive with today’s upside down real estate market. Building this way is quick and has better quality control then a stick built house.

How to Estimate the Cost of Building a New Home

This will serve as a help guide by providing some tips and techniques for estimating the cost of building a new home. As an expert residential estimator there are many things to consider before you begin estimating.

Construction estimating can be difficult and it does require a high level of accuracy and detail. It also requires good math skills and a little geometry knowledge. It requires the ability to read and understand construction drawings and details and how they are applied. Basic construction knowledge helps and being familiar with the local building codes.

You may want to enroll in a construction estimating course at the local college or technical school. Another option is to purchase an estimating manual from your local bookstore or go to estimating.org which offers online courses and has a bookstore.

One of the rules that I have learned along the way is the old saying, “measure twice cut once.” Whenever I do a takeoff or an estimate I always follow this rule in order to help minimize mistakes.

What will you need to put an estimate together?

You will need a notepad, a calculator, an architectural scale, and an engineering scale. These are the basic tools you need to put an estimate together.

Architectural & Structural Drawings

Now you are ready to open the plans and begin to review them. The easiest thing to do is look them over and get a feel for the basic building concept. You should get familiar with the information that is contained on each sheet.

Most construction projects have a set of architectural drawings and a set of structural drawings. I will explain the difference between the two.

It is important that the plans are to scale and have all the required details and wall sections needed to properly estimate from.

What is typically included in a complete set of architectural plans? The drawings at a minimum need to contain the following sheets: a title/cover sheet, a site plan, a floor plan, a foundation plan, four elevations, a roof plan, an electrical plan, a sheet with a typical wall section, a sheet with the window and door schedules, and a sheet with the necessary building and architectural details.

The structural drawings are drawn by a structural engineer, not the architect, unless the architectural firm has an in-house engineer. Any interior shear wall or bearing wall is detailed on these drawings.

The engineer calculates all the uplift and bearing loads of the roof trusses on all the interior and exterior. After doing the calculations they determine which walls are shear or bearing or both and what is required to properly support those uplift and or bearing loads. The engineer will put a structural note on any wall that is bearing or shear. The note will indicate the sheet number and detail number illustrating how that wall needs to be built.

A load bearing wall for example could have a thickened concrete footer with two pieces of steel and the wall above it may need to be framed out of southern yellow pine versus spruce with special metal hardware. These should be highlighted on the plan so they will not be overlooked. Sometimes the hardware called out by the engineer is a special order and can take several weeks to get. So if you wait until the framing package needs to ordered and there are a two or three shear walls with special order hardware it could delay the construction.

You need to make enough copies of the architectural and structural plans for multiple subcontractors and suppliers bidding the job. To save you money, ask your architect and engineer to convert the drawing files to a PDF file. This will save you time as well and make it convenient because you can email them to as many subcontractors and vendors as you like.

Specifications

A list of product specifications must be provided so all the subcontractor and vendors are bidding apples to apples. This is a list detailing all the products and finishes you want in your new home. It does not make sense to send the plans out to bid without a set of specifications. Without this, the bids you receive will not be apples to apples. Then you will need to have them all rebid the project. It wastes a lot of time and creates a lot of unnecessary work for the subcontractors. Remember these guys do not need practice bidding and some of them may not submit a bid without a set of specifications included. Therefore, everything from paint colors to the floor finishes need to be selected. They need to be listed on the plan or on a separate document.

Doing the Takeoffs

It is too technical to put in a written guide how to quantify the concrete, masonry, lumber, and shingles just to name a few. For example let’s assume you need to quantify the masonry block on a single story block home. You have to know how the wall is assembled which includes the ability to visualize and understand construction methods. If the exterior walls have multiple heights, a regular block (8x8x16) needs to be added and a lintel block needs to be deducted in each location where the plate heights change. If some of the walls are on a 45 degree angle you need to be able to know whether to estimate an angle block or butterfly block. The door and window openings need a certain quantity of regular blocks deducted plus a half block every other course on each side of each opening. You could have too much of one size block and either not enough or some units not accounted for at all. These inaccuracies will throw off your budget and cost you time and money. This ability and knowledge can not come from a book but through hands on experience combined with years of estimating experience.

If you decide to quantify the materials yourself I suggest you refer to Walker’s Building Estimator’s Reference Book, frankrwalker.com which has instructions on how to estimate the quantities of concrete, masonry, lumber, drywall, etc. It is considered the bible for construction estimators and it is one of required books included in the study guide for most state contractor’s exam. Just keep in mind that these reference books do not have tips and tricks as well as real world experience as explained above.

You can employ the help of your subcontractors bidding the work or your suppliers. You may pay more for their product or service or you can hire us. Either way you are paying for someone to review the plans and quantify what is needed to build the project.

If you have your lumber yard quantify the material remember he is trying to win the job so he may provide a takeoff that is too tight. This does not benefit you if you have to keep reordering more lumber. The obvious answer to this is to have your framer put together the lumber list for you. Well that does not work either because he will over order so he does not run out of material and have to make additional trips to finish. They want to finish as fast as possible so it can get inspected and they can get paid. The bottom line is neither are working in your best interest.

I recommend you do not attempt to quantify the materials yourself. I have outlined valid reasons why. It is very technical and requires someone with years of estimating experience combined with hands on field experience.

Soliciting Bids

This part of preparing an estimate can be done by most anyone. I suggest you contact your local builder’s association to get subcontractor referrals or use Angie’s List, angieslist.com which prescreens contractors as well

You may have heard the term RFQ – Request for Quote. You want to solicit at least contractors. Most people will say three bids, so why do I recommend five bids? Let’s say you contact five contractors and all five contractors bid the project. You got to figure one will be the high bid and one will be the low bid. So those should be set to the side because chances are the low bid is probably missing something and the high bid is priced too high. The remaining three bids should be reviewed thoroughly to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

When you contact all the subcontractors that you want to bid your project be sure to give them a bid due date. That way you do not have to chase them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to review the plans and specifications, typically a week or two.

Analyzing the Bids

First organize all your bids by trade, such as putting all your electrical bids together. A three ring binder with dividers and tabbed with each category is a good way to organize all the bids.

Once you receive the bids you need to read them carefully and review them against the plans and specifications. They should have the project information and the date. They need to be detailed and itemized. The cabinet bid should not say “cabinets”. Instead it should list and quantify all the cabinets by finish, style, size, and location, example 15 lnft of 42″ oak raised panel kitchen cabinets, 1/ea 60″ melamine master bath cabinet, 1/ea 36″ melamine hall bath cabinet, etc. If it does not include the countertops it should state that so there is no misrepresentation.

When a proposal needs to be revised, make sure it states the revision date or states “revised”. That way when you compile the bids and you need to refer back to them you will be looking at the latest one.

The proposals should also indicate workmanship and warranty. All this is important, especially if the contractor does not perform and mediation or worse litigation is required.

How to Negotiate the Best Price

Once you determine the three competitive bids the hard part is negotiating with the contractors. You have to assume that all the quotes will be inflated with the understanding you will negotiate less. Therefore, you need to get them down as low as you can to the real number. I always ask my subcontractors and vendors if the bid is negotiable. Remember it never hurts to ask, the worse they can say is no. And if they say yes, then I ask them what is the maximum they can cut their bid. They normally respond with, “how much do I need to cut it to get the job” and again I put it back on them by saying, “the maximum you can cut your price”. Never name a price first! You should already have a budget of what you can afford to spend on each item. You never know whether or not they would be willing to do it for less than that.

Once they lower their bids and you determine the low bidder you need to compare warranty, workmanship, and references. Price is important, but if they can not finish the job the price does not mean anything. You definitely need to check both project references and credit references. The bottom line is you want the best contractor for the least amount of money.

Preparing an Estimate

Once you have awarded the job to each subcontractor you will want to prepare an estimate. I recommend using Microsoft Excel to organize your estimate. It is the easiest and mostly widely used spreadsheet application, especially in construction.

It helps organize your estimate. You can use a separate worksheet for each trade within the Excel workbook. You can enter all the material lists and bid amounts you receive. You can track the job to make sure you are on budget. You can email your local suppliers your material lists so they can enter their unit prices and they can email it back to you.

One of the sheets needs to be the estimate summary which has the total cost for each phase or trade. It should include your preconstruction costs and direct construction costs.

It should have the estimate total at the bottom.

There are endless possibilities you can do with Excel and the level of detail is up to you.

We have for sale blank estimates that are in Excel. These are templates that we use which can help you calculate some of the material quantities and can also be used to prepare your estimate. They contain prebuilt formulas for calculating concrete, steel, masonry, and lumber. All you need to do is enter counts and lengths where indicated and the quantities are calculated for you. Contact us to send you a sample template.

Conclusion

I hope this has provided you will some good information on how to prepare an estimate if you are building a new home. We are available to answer any questions you may have. We can help you put together an estimate for any type of construction project, big or small, residential or commercial.