Design And Decor
For some people, building a custom home can be a better option than purchasing an existing one and going through the renovation process. But while choosing between building and buying, you should know what you may be getting into.
The home building process can be a daunting one, with many steps along the way. But if done correctly, the home building process can also be a highly rewarding one. If you are considering building a new home from scratch, use this guide to get an idea of the whole procedure, all the way from choosing a floor plan to conducting the final walkthrough.
As you make plans to build your new home, you will spend countless hours planning every little detail. From the color of the walls to the position of the counters in your kitchen, each aspect is painstakingly chosen to ensure that the finished product — your home — is exactly what you want. Yet many people who are building a new home will focus so much on the living space that they forget about one important feature: the garage. Here are some considerations to make when you are planning the garage for your new home design.
1. Choose the Right Size
Today’s new home plans offer a variety of garage sizes. The larger the garage, the more costly the home will be to build, but you need to carefully weigh your options here. Building a garage that is too small will limit your use and enjoyment in the future.
Before deciding on the size, determine the use of your garage. Many homeowners use their garages primarily for storage, while others use it as an extension of the home, providing a place to hang out and enjoy some recreational time. The use will help dictate the overall size.
If the space will serve as a conventional garage — where you park your vehicles at night — plan for how many vehicles you will need to store in the garage, and be sure to think about any lawn mowers or snow blowers in this count. Make sure the garage is wide enough to park the vehicles and gives you space to walk all the way around them. Then, provide yourself room for storage. Shelves, for example, require 2 feet of depth and another 2 feet of room in front for access. These details will help you plan a garage that is large enough.
Sometimes, a three-car garage is ideal for a two-car family, because it provides the added space for storage without the need to cram too tightly. Weigh your options, vehicles and storage needs, and ensure that the space is large enough to meet them.
2. Choose the Right Door
The garage door is an important part of your overall garage design. Not only should it match the style of your home, but it should also provide excellent function for your garage. Many homeowners will choose a door with windows to allow natural light in, but be careful: Windows can also show potential thieves what you are housing inside your garage, tempting them to try to get inside. If you choose windows, opt for opaque windows that will allow light in without making the contents of your garage visible.
As you shop for a door, account for insulation as well. Since your garage will be part of your home, heating your garage will not be difficult, but a poorly insulated door will cause much of that energy to be wasted. Think about investing in a door with factory-foamed insulation to ensure you are not losing much of your heating and cooling energy out of the garage door. These thicker doors are filled with foamed-in-place urethane to provide a high insulation level, helping your garage stay comfortable when you are working on projects.
3. Add Built-In Organization
Instead of adding organization and storage to your garage after your home is finished, contemplate adding it to the design from the beginning of your home. Create spaces inside your garage to store items you only need seasonally, like your holiday decor. Hang hooks and baskets from pegboards on the wall to store gardening supplies, fertilizers and outdoor chemicals. Consider leaving a space and wiring properly so you can add an extra refrigerator or freezer in the garage. Does your new home plan have a fireplace? Craft a space in your garage to store wood. Does your family have bikes and other outdoor toys? Build overhead hanging racks or wall hooks to store these on. Built-in cabinets and shelves add function and aesthetics to the space, and these are easier to add during the initial building process than after the garage is finished.
Today’s garage is multifunctional. It serves as storage, a place to park the car, and even a place for additional living space. As you plan your home’s design, make sure you plan for the design of the garage as well — so it will become a functional space and an asset to your newly built home.
With more than 20 years of experience in the residential stock house plan industry, Chuck Tripp is currently the Sales & Marketing Director of Donald A. Gardner Architects, Inc., a residential house plans company that has been developing floor plans since 1978.
Keeping your landscape healthy, green and attractive throughout the hottest part of summer is easy, provided you know all the right tricks. Want to know the best ways to keep your gardens growing and flowers blooming despite the summer heat? The following tips will show you how to help your landscape thrive all summer:
1. Know When to Prune
With some trees and shrubs, you can wait until fall or winter to prune. In fact, the University of Minnesota recommends that you prune many trees during the last stages of winter while the trees are still dormant. The exceptions are sap-heavy trees like maples, butternuts and birch trees.
In the summer, however, you’ll need to focus your attention on the ornamentals that bloom early in the spring. Azaleas, lilacs, forsythia and anything else that blooms early needs plenty of time to recuperate before winter so that you have a good flush of blooms during the following spring. For these plants, start pruning after the blooms fade but don’t prune any later than the end of July. As a bonus, because early blooming plants devote more energy to producing new branches once they’ve been pruned, you’ll be rewarded with a flush of fresh greenery to enjoy over the summer.
2. Mow to the Right Height
In the spring, grass can take a little more abuse, simply because the extra moisture in the ground helps it recover after a harsh mowing. As the weather heats and the soil dries, you’ll need to be a little more particular about mowing. Make sure that you never remove more than one-third of your lawn’s height, even if that means you need to raise the mower deck. This will prevent stress to your lawn, which in turn keeps your lawn green and healthy rather than brown and parched.
3. Deadhead Your Flowers
Deadheading seems like a no-brainer — it gets rid of all the ugly, lifeless blooms. However, there’s an even more important reason to keep up with the deadheading. Flowers, whether annual or perennial, put a lot of energy into seed production. Let some flowers go to seed, and you’ll have far fewer blooms for the rest of the summer, whereas if you pluck the spent flowers, the plant will release chemical signals to increase bloom production.
4. Top Your Mulch
If you’re like most people, you do your mulching in the spring. Between rains, wind, transplanting and weeding, however, some of that mulch can disappear in a matter of weeks. Keep in mind that mulch is doubly important in the summer — not only does it give your gardens a neat, weed-free look, but according to Cornell University, mulched soils can retain twice as much water as bare soil. In addition, the soil will stay eight to 13 degrees cooler, which is good for your plants’ root systems. With that thought in mind, buy a few bags of mulch and top your beds wherever necessary.
5. Tend to Your Cool-Season Vegetables
Come July, certain crops in your vegetable garden — cool weather crops like peas, cabbage and broccoli — should be finished for the season. With those plants out of your vegetable garden, you can do three things with the extra space:
- Mulch the empty beds to keep the weeds down and help prepare the soil for the next year.
- Replant cool season vegetables for a fall crop.
- Plant cover crops to help enrich and soften the soil.
If you try cover crops, look for late season crops like radishes, wheat and rye. Plant them thickly, and these crops will choke weeds even as they improve your vegetable beds.
6. Pick the Right Time to Water
Should you water daily, weekly or not at all? The answer to that question depends on the amount of rain your region has received and the water requirements of the plants within your landscape.
However, if you do need to water, then always water as early as you can in the morning. The logic behind this is two-fold: Watering early gives the moisture more time to soak into the soil before the heat of the day evaporates it, but at the same time, leaves will have enough time to dry, which makes it harder for diseases and fungal infections to take hold.
With these tips, you can easily keep your summertime landscape healthy and lush without a lot of fuss. As the weather gets hotter, relax and enjoy all the hard work that led to your gorgeous landscape.
Rick Ryan is the owner and president of All Valley Landscaping. With more than 21 years of experience in landscape renovations Rick is a certified expert in the construction industry, including: landscape renovations, yard renovations and exterior home, tree trimming and removal services and sprinkler repair and installations.
An opulent home theater room isn’t just the ultimate way to enjoy your favorite films; it is also a trophy item that adds thousands of dollars to the value of the home. Although you undoubtedly want to build the best home theater possible, quality is costly and your expenses can quickly spiral out of control. When planning your home theater budget, consider these five essential elements without which no home theater would be complete.
Although it goes without saying that every home theater requires a screen, it might not be obvious to you that the type of screen you select will impact the viewing experience significantly. For example, many large LCD screens exhibit poor color saturation for viewers seated too far to one side. On the other hand, projection screens — while relatively inexpensive — work poorly in rooms with too much ambient light.
You’ll also need to consider the size of the screen. Although a 42-inch screen might seem large in your living room, it wouldn’t suffice for most home theaters. If your home theater room is already built, you can experiment with various screen sizes before making a purchase. Have two volunteers hold a tape measure diagonally where you plan to position the screen and imagine yourself viewing films on a display of that size. If you are still unsure, buy the largest screen you can afford. Few people have ever complained about a screen that was too large.
Sound System and Acoustics
Positional audio is one of the most magical elements of the theater viewing experience. Whether it is the left-to-right “whoosh” of a starship at warp speed or floorboards creaking beneath the feet of a zombie that seems to be perched just behind you, nothing puts you in the middle of the action like a great sound system. The 7.1 audio standard — three front speakers, four rear speakers and a subwoofer — is arguably the most popular among home theater owners. Remember that you’ll also need a receiver capable of processing surround-encoded audio and sending it to the correct speakers; you won’t hear positional audio if you connect your speakers to a stereo receiver.
Likewise, pay careful attention to the acoustics of your home theater; this may be even more important than speaker selection. Carpeted floors and walls are common in home theaters because they deaden the sound and prevent echoes. If your home theater is comprised primarily of smooth wood or tile, you can minimize errant echoes by hanging sound baffles from the wall and ceiling. Without proper acoustics, you won’t be able to hear the fine audio details in your films and may even have trouble discerning dialogue; don’t skip this step. If your home theater setup includes a computer or projector with a fan, make sure that it is completely isolated from the viewing area.
Comfort is the primary factor to consider when selecting the seating for your home theater. A chair or couch that fails to provide proper back support and cushioning for the buttocks and legs will cause discomfort and disrupt blood circulation to the lower extremities, forcing viewers to fidget or stand frequently. The material used to upholster the seating is also critical; you wouldn’t expect your guests to sit perfectly still while watching films. Select a material that doesn’t make loud noises when a viewer changes positions and make sure that errant spills and popcorn kernels are easy to wipe away.
When shopping for seating, you’ve likely noticed a large price discrepancy between “affordable” and “premium” furniture. Generally, chairs at the low end of the price spectrum have particle board frames and plastic fasteners while more expensive seating uses solid wood and metal. In short order, a chair of poor quality will begin to sag and squeak as the frame loosens and the cushioning loses resiliency.
Modern data storage technology makes it possible for even budget computer hard drives to store hundreds of high-definition films. More than ever, people are adding computers to their home theaters to avoid disc swapping and to enjoy games and streaming media. This presents a problem, though; if you isolate a noisy computer and storage array from the viewing area in your home theater, you’ll need to control the computer wirelessly. Bluetooth keyboards only function properly within a few feet and an infrared keyboard only works with a clear line of sight to a receiver. As an alternative, use software that utilizes a smartphone or tablet to control your computer over a wireless network.
Bear in mind that it is possible to go too far with wireless home theater systems. Thanks to modern technologies such as 802.11n and Bluetooth, it is possible to transmit audio and video streams over the air, eliminating costly and messy cables. However, this convenience comes at a cost as these streams are compressed before transmission. If you choose to go completely wireless with your home theater, audio and video fidelity will suffer slightly.
You probably have fond memories of your favorite box of candy or the unmistakable smell of movie theater popcorn. Before you add refreshments to your home theater, though, consider the type of environment you want to create. If you want an intimate home theater focused solely on film viewing, a simple refrigerator and cabinet filled with snacks and bottled beverages will suffice. On the other hand, some people prefer home theaters that function as all-around entertainment areas including such elements as a bar and pool table. In this case, you may want to add popcorn and soda machines.
When selecting refreshment options for your home theater, remember that popcorn has a persistent smell easily absorbed by carpets and cushions and nearly impossible to remove. If you don’t want your home theater to smell like popcorn, don’t purchase a popcorn machine. In addition, make sure that alcoholic beverages can be securely locked away if children are allowed unsupervised access.
Your backyard is an extension of your home, so why not treat is as such? Renovating your backyard will not only increase your home value, it will expand your living space and your enjoyment of your home. Here are three stellar upgrades that can transform your backyard from boring to breathtaking.
- Install a rain garden. Do you have problems with rainwater runoff, or want to camouflage an unattractive downspout area on your house? Are you concerned about the quality of lakes and streams in your area? Or, are you simply looking for a low-maintenance way to beautify your yard? A rain garden is an excellent solution to all three.
A rain garden is an area of your yard where rainwater is directed and allowed to sink naturally into the ground. It is a perfect alternative to a retention pond because it doesn’t breed mosquitos. Rain gardens also help the environment by reducing flooding, erosion, and surface water pollution, and by helping maintain the water table. Because of this, some cities now offer rebates to help cover the cost of installing a rain garden.
Most rain gardens use native plants that require little or no care. With careful plant selection they can be a beautiful addition to the landscape. This makes them an ideal backyard upgrade for busy people. As a bonus, rain gardens are a haven for butterflies and birds. Consider adding a garden bench to your rain garden so you can enjoy their antics!
- Add an outdoor entertainment area. Do you wish you had more space for entertaining? Expanding your living space into your backyard can be quite cost-effective compared to building an addition to your home. Outdoor spaces also lend themselves to parties and gatherings, especially if you include a fire ring or grill.
Your outdoor entertainment area can be as simple as an open patio with some attractive patio furniture and a nice grill. It can also be as elaborate as your budget and imagination allow. How about a pool, outdoor kitchen and bar, an outdoor fireplace, lighting to illuminate pathways and steps, a sandbox or child-sized table for the kids, or even a built-in flat-screen TV? The possibilities abound, and a good landscape professional can help you bring your ideas to life.
- Grow a potager garden. Leave it to the French to find a way to enjoy great food while still looking fabulous. “Potager” is French for edible, and a potager garden is an ornamental kitchen garden that provides a feast for the eyes as well as fresh, succulent produce for the table. Originating during the French Renaissance, these gardens combine vegetables and small fruits with flowers and herbs, and are carefully designed for beauty and aesthetics.
When designing your potager garden, think of it as a place to relax and enjoy life as well as grow food. Including arbors, winding paths, and outdoor furniture such as benches or a patio table and chairs will add to its inviting quality. How about a bird bath, sundial or gazing ball? Add a small fruit tree or two and train vining plants up trellises to add levels to your garden design. Don’t forget to plant lots of flowers and fragrant herbs in between your veggies!
Next time you look out at your boring backyard, don’t just sigh and turn away. Whether you are looking for a low-maintenance facelift for your yard, a place to entertain family and guests, or a beautiful source of fresh food for your table, imagine how your home life would change with an improved backyard — and then start planning how you will transform yours!
About the author:
Jessica Kyriakos is Brand Manager for Webcoat, Inc. in McAlester, OK. She has 15 years of experience in the site furnishing industry, which brought her to her current role at the company. Webcoat provides durable, economical and comfortable amenity designs to furnish your outdoor space.