Blog : A Day with 2g

Reminder: Air filter changing time

Reminder: Air filter changing time

Reminder: Air filter changing time

You need to change your air filters at least twice a year, but we highly recommend every 3 months. A clean air filter allows your HVAC system to run more efficiently and also provides a healthier living environment.

Creating and Sticking to a Budget

Creating and Sticking to a Budget

Every home construction project is unique, as are the homeowners; however, no matter the project or people involved, there is one universal question we are always asked: “What will this project cost?”  Your budget is one of the things that keep us up at night.  We would love nothing more than to give you a number that comes in below your “budget” and move forward, but unfortunately, this is almost never the case for a variety of reasons.

When starting this process, we know you have a budget.  We know you have a finite amount of cash allocated towards your home and going above this amount will put you in a less than desirable place financially.  You will communicate this number to us repeatedly and express that we stay within this number.  We truly don’t want or mean to go above this number, however, there are several factors that serve to increase the “budget”.  Below are 6 tips to think about that will help you stay within budget.

1.  You are in charge.  From the start, you are in control of your money and your budget. You know what you can spend and the lifestyle you want to live in your home.  You choose with whom you hire and work with, and you approve any and all change orders along the way.  Remembering this will help you stay in the driver’s seat instead of being a victim where others are making decisions for you.

2.  Know your costs prior to construction. Sure, everyone will give you a cost per square foot for your new build or remodel, however there are many costs and fees incurred prior to even breaking ground.These costs can include architectural drawings, variances, permits, engineering, soil surveys, legal fees, etc.  For new builds, the land you choose can incur additional costs if the builder has to make way for extensive drainage needs to clear trees or blast through rocks. For home remodels, the builder is unable to predict whether additional work will be needed once they tear down walls and begin construction.

3.  Collect bids from all disciplines.  Once you finalize architectural plans, you are ready to collect bids from all disciplines.  Put these big numbers into a spreadsheet so you can keep track of them. Identify all of your potential costs and assign each a value for the spreadsheet. Add additional items like furniture and landscaping to the spreadsheet.   Remember, each and every time you change something – a wall, a sink, a window, it will add money to your project.  Get all change orders in writing and add it to your spreadsheet.

4. Communication.  As mentioned above, every time you make a change, it will cost you money.  Communication is key.  Communicate with your spouse or partner to decide what you want before you each communicate something different to the builder! If you are thinking of a generic range and your spouse is thinking of a top end range, this needs to be communicated ahead of time!  Each time you incur an additional cost, discuss where the money will come from.  Can you increase your budget or should you choose a less expensive backsplash to counter out the additional spend?  A good builder will schedule meetings often to try to alleviate communication issues before they arise.

5. Decide where to splurge and consider tradeoffs.   Do you want that kitchen backsplash to be truly remarkable or do you want an outdoor kitchen?  Deciding on your priorities will help keep things in perspective and allow you to hold off or proceed. Get what you want and stay on track by moving budgeted amounts from one pocket to another.

6. Might as wells. This is the mentality of “while we’re at it we might as well … ” Each “might as well” may only be a few hundred dollars, but the more you have the more it adds up and then you find yourself in the trade-off position.    Refer back to the plan you made and stick with it.

Remember you chose your builder because we are the best partners for your project!  We truly are here to make sure you get what you want and live the life you want to live.  I promise, we aren’t trying to be the bad guys – making you spend more money.  Have a plan, communicate often and sticking with it is the best advice we can give when building a new home or entering into a remodeling project.

Choosing a Foundation

FOUNDATIONS

One of the most common questions we are asked here in North Texas is, “What type of foundation do you use?” Foundation repairs are quite common in this region on older homes and everyone wants to make sure they are taking the proper preventative measures up front to ensure they do not have to deal with a foundation repair down the road.

I feel it is important to take a moment and discuss the foundation options available and a few strengths and weaknesses of each.   Foundation is the single most important part of the build.  The success of everything else hinges upon the structural integrity of this single aspect of the home. If you are building a custom home it is in your best interest to have your homes foundation specifically engineered based on your lots soil sample results and your architectural plans.

Soil and Foundations

In North Texas the soils are very rich with clay resulting in a very high level of plasticity, meaning their ability to shrink and swell. Because of this, much more engineering is required to build a proper foundation than in a city like Phoenix, AZ where there is very little movement in ground.  When it rains, the soils in North Texas absorb water and expand pushing outward and upward.  When there is a drought or dry periods of time the clay contracts, shrinking and leaving cracks in the ground.

As the clay goes through this cycle of expansion and contraction the foundation will rise and fall and eventually the foundation will settle more deeply into the ground.  Most of the time, this settling does not occur evenly and one part of the foundation will sink further into the soil than the other.  This can result in a slab failure.

Another problem with the clay content in Texas soils is the fact that they tend to hold water.  When a heavy rain comes the clay in the soil does not drain as well as other types of soil.  When the soil becomes super saturated with water it can cause the foundation to heave due to swelling or it can sink as saturated soil cannot support the heavy structure that is bearing down on it.  This too can result in slab failure.

So how do we put our best foot forward and work to prevent this?  The first step is to obtain a soil sample from your lot.  Generally two cores will be taken from your lot.  One core will be from the back of the lot and one in the front.  These core samples will then be tested to create a soil report that will give your engineer the information they need to ensure a proper foundation is designed for the soil that is on your lot.

Once your engineer has your soil sample and the plan for your new home they can begin designing the foundation.  These two parts of the puzzle are critical to the design of your home’s foundation.  By analyzing your lots soil conditions and the architecture of your home the engineer is able to integrate solutions such as grade beams and piers to give your new custom home the strength it needs to last for generations to come.

So what are the most common types of foundations in North Texas?

There are 3 common foundations that are seen throughout North Texas.  They are 1) Slab on grade; 2) Pier and Beam; and 3) Piered slab foundations.

Slab on Grade

These foundations are solid concrete that is reinforced with either solid steel (rebar) or post tension cables directly on top of the soil.  The slab on grade foundation is very common amongst production homes – especially those with post-tension cables.  Over the years most builders have moved away from rebar reinforced concrete on foundations and elect to use post tension cables instead.

The post tension cables are draped in the concrete.  Once the concrete has hardened for 7 to 10 days, the cables are stressed creating tension in the concrete.  Concrete is naturally very strong when it comes to compaction, but not so when it comes to tension.  The stressed cables put tension on the concrete when they are tightened making the concrete stronger and less prone to cracking.  The cables are generally pulled to a tension of 25,000 lbs per square inch.

Using the post tension cables allows for thinner foundations to be poured making them more economical.  Even with post tension cables, your slab on grade foundation must be engineered with the proper grade beams to carry the load of your home.  The grade beams will generally run between 24” to 36” deep and be about 10” wide.  (This is just a general average.  Your engineer plans will state exactly what the grade beams should be set at.) These beams create a grid underneath your slab and help distribute the weight of the building over areas with unstable soil.

The advantage of a slab on grade foundation is that if done properly it will last forever and will always be solid – there is no chance of the floor getting “spongy” or squeaky like there is with the next type of foundation.  If done properly there is little to no chance of water pooling under the foundation causing problems down the road.  One disadvantage that is commonly stated with slab foundations is that since you are constantly walking on a hard concrete floor they can cause stress on your joints. Another disadvantage with a slab on grade foundation is that future remodels can be more costly due to the fact that any plumbing changes you wish to make will result in the foundation needing to be jackhammered.  While this can safely be done to the foundation it can add to the cost due to added labor.

Pier and Beam

The second type of foundation that is seen in North Texas – particularly in older homes, is a pier and beam foundation. Pier and Beam foundations use “anchors” or “piers” to carry the weight of the structure deep into the solid bedrock beneath the expansive soil that is closer to the surface.  A pier is a hole that is drilled down into the earth.  The hole is then filled with concrete and reinforced steel to give the column the strength it needs to help carry the load of the home.

The piers for your new home will be designed and located specifically by your engineer based on your soil sample report and the architectural design of your new home. The engineer will specify how deep the piers need to be drilled so that they are resting on bedrock to help prevent your home from rising and falling with the expansion and contraction of the soils closer to the surface.

Around the perimeter of your home there will be piers with a grade beam poured on top of them.  This grade beam will provide a solid perimeter to your home working to keep moisture and unwanted water from getting under your new custom home. The subfloor for your new home is then framed on top of this grade beam and the piers are strategically located throughout the foundation.

The framing of the subfloor on top of the piers results in a crawlspace between the earth and the floor.  One advantage of this is that your plumbing lines (mostly drain) can be placed above the soil.  The big advantage here is that both the floor of your home and the plumbing is less susceptible to movement in the soil thanks to the crawlspace. The piers and grade beams could still be affected, but there are steps that can be taken to limit this by using void boxes under the grade beams.

Void boxes are cardboard forms that sit at the bottom of the concrete beam.  The concrete is poured over these.  Eventually the concrete will rot and decay, leaving a gap between the soil and the concrete grade beam.  The piers under the grade beam will carry the full weight of the home and the gap between the soil and the actual concrete beam make the home less susceptible to soil movement.

Pier and beam foundations are tried and true in unstable soil conditions.  They perform very well and are a great choice for unstable soils, however, they are generally more expensive than the other alternatives and need to be built by experienced contractors to ensure they are done properly.

Pier and beam foundations also require more maintenance than slab on grade foundations, as they need to be vented during the winter to allow moisture to evaporate and prevent mold and mildew from accumulating in the crawl space.   Pier and beam foundations can also become spongy and sometimes squeaky over the years as the wood subfloor can begin to breakdown from moisture in the crawlspace.

Piered Slab

The third type of foundation is a piered slab.  This type of foundation combines the strengths of the slab on grade with the strengths of a pier and beam foundation. A piered slab will be designed in such a way that the grade beams bear down on the piers transferring the weight of the structure down to solid bedrock. While concrete piers have been used for years and they resist settling they can be susceptible to heaving.  Due to this, many piered slabs will use helical piers.  Helical piers are specifically designed to lock into the earth resisting sinking and heaving.  Helical piers look like giant screws.  The fins (or helices) on them are designed based on the soil conditions and they are hydraulically screwed into the earth until they reach a specific torque locking them firmly in place. Once they are torqued in place they are resistant to moving up or down.

Due to the fact that helical piers are anchored so securely most foundations that bear down on them will be poured entirely on top of void boxes.  Over time, when the void boxes break down, the slab and grade beams will effectively be suspended above the soil. This makes the foundation almost entirely resistant to soil movement since it is firmly locked in place deeply by the piers and is floating on top of the problematic soil at the surface.

Helical piers are a great alternative to both standard concrete piers in a pier and beam foundation as well.  It should be noted that helical piers are more expensive than standard piers.

Now that you are aware of some of the more common types of foundations that are available, the most important thing to remember is that the right type of foundation is the one that specifically designed for your home and your lot’s soil conditions.  Soil conditions can vary greatly from one lot to the next, and just because your neighbor or family member has one type of foundation, does not mean that is what is best for you.

When building a custom home, always get a soil report and have your foundation designed specifically for your home by a licensed engineer.  And remember; always ask questions if you are unsure of anything.   Taking these precautionary measures will ensure your home will be built on a foundation that will last for years to come.

Pool Deck Inspiration – Eaton

Pool Deck Inspiration – Eaton

The modern pool deck is really what got us excited about this project. At 2g Habitats we have been been wanting to get more serious in the modern pool side/outdoor living side of the business. Most of our work has always focused around new construction of the residence and the pools have been handled by a 3rd party. However, more and more of our customers and their friends and family have been asking if we do pools.

Eaton - Existing Pool Eaton Pool Formal Living Wall

The existing pool was a pretty typical pool from the 80’s. It was a plaster pool with an exposed aggregate concrete deck with brick coping around the pool.  The spa was also wrapped in brick with a small waterfall. There were several things the customer wanted to change:

1) To have a beefier, more modern look we wanted to have a solid 4″ concrete pour that would catilever 2″ over the pool for a clean monolithic look. This was the customers inspiration:

Pool Inspiration

 

2) No aggregate on the pool deck. This look is particularly popular amongst production builders in Texas looking for a way to affordably “upscale” there patios, but it certainly does not have the clean modern look the homeowner wanted.

3) Remove the brick from the spa. For a cleaner more minimalist look we wanted the spa to maintain the existing shape but wrap it in concrete to keep the look consistent with the pool deck. Our original design concept:

Spa Concept V1

4) Firepit and seating. Over on the east side of the yard was a perfect space to add a modern concrete firepit and seating area. This would be a perfect place to hang out with friends and family. This was the customers Inspiration:

Fire pit inspiration

5) Remove the walkway to the master seating area and put in modern linear concrete pavers. Here was the isnpiration for the walkway:

Walkway Inspiration

6) Remove the plaster and replace with a dark “Pebble-tec” type finish.

Once we conceptually knew what the customer was looking for we went to work getting everything thrown into CAD and Sketchup so we could visually put on paper what we saw as the final product to ensure everyone was on the same page.

Once everyone was in agreement with the conceptuals we could move forward. As with any project there were modifications along the way. No matter how much you plan, once you see the project come together in real-life where you can touch and feel it, you will begin to really understand how you will interact with the space on a daily basis and many choose to make changes at this point.

At 2g Habitats we encourage our clients to really think about how they are going to interact with the space and spend time in it during construction. If at anytime you think there should be a change please raise your hand so we can discuss. This is a home that you will spend every day in and it is much more cost effective to make tweaks during the process than it is afterwards. Never be afraid to speak up if you have any concerns.

We strongly encourage our clients to find pictures of what they like and also images of that which they do not like. This really helps us in our planning and design phase to really dial in the design to the customers tastes.  That being said, in almost every luxury project we have been a part of, there have been tweaks here and there along the way.

Meet and Greet – Eaton

Meet and Greet – Eaton

While most of the projects 2[g] Habitats pursues are new construction, we do look at a few select remodel projects each year.  The remodel projects that we do take on are usually ones that we feel will be a great addition to our portfolio and help us push the envelop with new skills and techniques. It also helps if there is great chemistry with the clients.

Eaton Pool Formal Living Wall

 

One such project that came up is the Eaton House. The owner wanted to update a few select areas of his home to make it more modern/industrial. These areas were:

1) Pool deck
2) Formal Living windows and Door
3) Living Area Door
4) Kitchen

We will look at each of these areas in the next BLOG posts in the “A Day with 2g” section.