No. of Recommendations: 9
Shortly I hope to begin discussing the design plans for my new house. I'm at the point where I can start thinking about 'add-ons' for the house. The only ones I have settled on so far are to upgrade the insulation and windows, as well as add an extra row of brick to the basement to make it more usable. OK, I guess it's a little open ended, but here's a general question for everyone:

If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add? Upgraded appliances? Hardwoods? A/C? I'm trying to consider things 'behind the drywall'. Right now it's a clean slate, throw me some ideas!

rk
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add?

Dual Zone, or possibly Tri-Zone Heating system.

v/r

Michael
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Have to agree with emtwo. That was my exact thought also after discarding network and video wiring which I think is more flexibly implemented wirelessly these days (anything you put in the walls will be superseded by the time you are done mudding).
BF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add?

Is this "the last house you'll ever live in"? Or, is this a short termer? That answer would have some bearing on what I would put on my "must have" list. Not knowing your answer, I would suggest: A full basement, as large a garage as possible and pre-wire the heck out of it.

BG
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Shortly I hope to begin discussing the design plans for my new house. I'm at the point where I can start thinking about 'add-ons' for the house. The only ones I have settled on so far are to upgrade the insulation and windows, as well as add an extra row of brick to the basement to make it more usable. OK, I guess it's a little open ended, but here's a general question for everyone:

If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add? Upgraded appliances? Hardwoods? A/C? I'm trying to consider things 'behind the drywall'. Right now it's a clean slate, throw me some ideas!


Extra extra insulation, argon-filled windows, passive solar, 'air-lock' entry, generator, radiant heat.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Have to agree with emtwo. That was my exact thought also after discarding network and video wiring which I think is more flexibly implemented wirelessly these days (anything you put in the walls will be superseded by the time you are done mudding).

I would still have upgraded low-voltage wiring as #1 or #2 on my list. While it's POSSIBLE to do phone and networking wirelessly these days, it's not necessarily better. And there are no currently available (or even on the drawing boards) to do video wirelessly in a reasonably efficient manner.

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
This is my first house actually. Short-term, long-term, I don't know yet. I hope to be in it for 5-10 years before I even start thinking about that. I'm building the house as if me and the Mrs. (who ever she is) and the kids (whereever they are) are settling there. I figured it would make it easier to sell eventually, if I decide to.

I am going to wire it. I plan on tackling some of that myself. I can handle running some Cat-5e and Coax to all the rooms, but that's just cause I'm a super nerd.

Keep it going. More suggestions!!! :)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
"And there are no currently available (or even on the drawing boards) to do video wirelessly in a reasonably efficient manner."

joe, I don't know if this is 'reasonably efficient', or at all elegant for that matter, but it is one solution for wireless video - I have used it with some success, depending on location and interference from other sources - given the price, pretty good, really:

http://www.x10.com/products/transmitters.htm
http://www.x10.com/products/receivers.htm

802.11G should also be able to stream video at decent quality. Price goes up of course.
BF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
If there's going to be an unfinished basement, make the ceiling tall enough so that if you finish the space someday, the ceiling won't be too low.

Make the closets bigger than you think you need.

I'd want a walk in pantry.

Instead of a huge master bath, consider two separate, smaller bathrooms. One of my favorite things about our present home is that DH and I each have our own bathroom. What a luxury!

An outdoor shower. Wonderful.

If possible, plan ahead for privacy. For instance, situate the garage so you don't look right into your neighbors' windows (or allow them to look right into yours.) Choosing the right trees and shrubs, in the right locations, might mean you don't have to hear your neighbors in their yard when you're trying to sleep. I'd spend extra for any privacy I could acheive.

One of those Toto toilets. A bigger bathtub - one I could lie down in. A bigger medicine chest. Better faucets.

Trini
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
A few ideas. Not really upgrades but little details that are best taken care of when building the house:

1) A hot water circulation pump and return line. This will save you from having to wait for hot water at a faucet or shower. You can put it on a timer o it only runs at certain times. At the same time, make sure that all water lines are insulated.

2) A laundry room that is large enough to do the sorting, ironing, folding, etc.. Both gas and electricity at the dryer location, and a dryer vent pipe that is easy to connect and clean out. Maybe floor drain in the laundry room too. Put a big utility sink in there too, or out in the garage.

3) Both gas and electricity at the kitchen range location.

4) A water mainfold inside the house (probably near the water heater, cause you want to manifold both hot and cold water) that has both a main shut off valve for the entire house, and individual shut off valves for each area. If you have to shut of water to make a repair in a restroom, you can shut off the water to just that restroom and leave water available to the rest of the house. Use ball valves.

5) A water line and wire conduit in both the front and back yard, so you can install a sprinkler system and have the timers in the garage. Put hose bibs where you need them.

6) If you have pets, locate the utility entrances (or at least the meters) outside of the areas the pets will be. This way meter readers won't have to hassle with your dogs, and they won't leave a gate open.

7) Two switched leads to ceiling fan locations, so the light and the fan can be operated independently.

8) If you are going to use a satellite dish and/or an antennea, figure out where they will be located and how you will run the leads into the house.

9) Drain line clean outs. Make sure you have them where you need them.


Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
That was my exact thought also after discarding network and video wiring which I think is more flexibly implemented wirelessly these days (anything you put in the walls will be superseded by the time you are done mudding).

I disagree with this one. CAT5 cable has been around for over a decade and they keep adding things you can run over it. RG/6 coax hasn't changed in ages (unless you could that people used to use RG/59 a lot).

And if you can run "smurf tube" (flexible plastic conduit) or some other conduit, then you can run whatever wiring you want whenever you like. That's not going to be superseded by the time you are done mudding!

Phil
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
"And there are no currently available (or even on the drawing boards) to do video wirelessly in a reasonably efficient manner."

joe, I don't know if this is 'reasonably efficient', or at all elegant for that matter, but it is one solution for wireless video - I have used it with some success, depending on location and interference from other sources - given the price, pretty good, really:

http://www.x10.com/products/transmitters.htm
http://www.x10.com/products/receivers.htm

802.11G should also be able to stream video at decent quality. Price goes up of course.


I don't consider the X-10 products to be a reasonable replacement for a properly installed coax-based distribution system. They're touchy, at best, and very prone to interference from other products in the 2.4Ghz range (such as Microwaves, phones, and WiFI networking).

They might be an acceptable solution, IF YOU HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE. But I sure wouldn't plan on using that if I had any opportunity to install real cables.

For instance, we're about to move into a new (old) house. I expect to set up a distribution system so that, from any TV location in the house, you can watch the output of any of three satellite receivers (Tivo units), a DVD player, and possibly a VCR (just because I have one, not because we ever use it). Plus monitor a couple of cameras (front door and pool area). All that takes are the signal sources (which you need anyway), proper cabling, modulators, and distribution amp/splitter. Yes, the modulators are slightly more expensive than the X-10 gadgets. But I think the signal is also better.

I did this in our last house, but with just two sources (sat receivers). I'm going to throw a few more gadgets into the mix this time just because I can. ;-)

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
For instance, we're about to move into a new (old) house. I expect to set up a distribution system so that, from any TV location in the house, you can watch the output of any of three satellite receivers (Tivo units), a DVD player, and possibly a VCR (just because I have one, not because we ever use it). Plus monitor a couple of cameras (front door and pool area). All that takes are the signal sources (which you need anyway), proper cabling, modulators, and distribution amp/splitter. Yes, the modulators are slightly more expensive than the X-10 gadgets. But I think the signal is also better.

Mind telling me what modulators you use and the approximate price?

I have a TiVo and 2 VCR's in the basement with the big screen. I also have a satellite receiver which comes in there, plus we have cable which goes everywhere. I bring some sources upstairs as a video output on dedicated cables, and I use a "rabbit" to fly some of them to other TV's on the first floor. All TV's also have coax for regular "cable." But it's clearly a hodge-podge and I would like to improve it. (We use an RCA remote-control jumper to run the clicker functions back down to the media center. That seems to work reasonably well for us.)

Thanks.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
They're touchy, at best, and very prone to interference from other products in the 2.4Ghz range (such as Microwaves, phones, and WiFI networking).

I agree with Joe (FlyingDiver) that wired is superior to wireless. He leaves out a major source of interference for some of us: neighbors. If you live in a high-density residential neighborhood, chances are good a number of your neighbors are transmitting on the same frequencies — possibly even with the same product you're using.

My experience is that this can be very frustrating. Often, a small number of things transmitting on the same frequency band will work just fine (many products automatically switch to the clearest sub-frequency or use other anti-interference techniques like spread-spectrum). So as your neighbors use or don't use various devices, your gear may change from working fine, to working poorly, to not working at all. You reposition an antenna and things improve — for a while (did moving the antenna fix it, or did your neighbor just get off his cordless phone?).

Wired, though, works reliably and consistently day in and day out. If it's properly installed, problems of any kind are very rare.

Phil
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Mind telling me what modulators you use and the approximate price?

I'm using a Netmedia MM70 Single Channel (http://www.worthdist.com/netmedia/nmmm7x.htm) and a Radio Shack that they don't list anymore (frequency set-able, aka "agile"). I will probably add either a NetMedia MM73, or possibly a ChannelVision unit.

I have a TiVo and 2 VCR's in the basement with the big screen. I also have a satellite receiver which comes in there, plus we have cable which goes everywhere. I bring some sources upstairs as a video output on dedicated cables, and I use a "rabbit" to fly some of them to other TV's on the first floor. All TV's also have coax for regular "cable." But it's clearly a hodge-podge and I would like to improve it. (We use an RCA remote-control jumper to run the clicker functions back down to the media center. That seems to work reasonably well for us.)

See the tutorial at http://www.hometech.com/learn/video.html. I get a fair amount of stuff there, because it's local to where I live now, if I'm buying a bunch of stuff I usually order it from Worthington.

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
*An easily accessible furnace that is also in a clean space. My furnace is underneath my house in the dirt crawlspace (that runs about 2-3 feet high). Hedious to work on and awful to get into. I always have to apologize to my repair people.

*about a gazillion, trillion whatevers of insulation. (I don't know what it's called, but I do know that I have needed and wanted more insulation in all my houses.

*A handicap accessibile bathroom/shower. I want it because I have big dogs and can't lift them in and out of the tub easily. Having the whole area tiled, with no tub rim, would make washing (and their subsequent shaking off) very very easy.

*radiant floors. A fantasy of mine -- warm floors.

What FUN!
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Radiant heated floors.

Back access (like a small room) behind where your TV and components will go. My dad has this - nothing like walking in the room behind the TV to hook up and run all those wires!

Walk-in linen closet - great for storing games, videos, blankets, pillows, toilet paper, buy one get one free toiletries, etc.

Outlets under your eaves if you like stringing up Christmas lights.

Wired boxes to center of all rooms for future addition of lighting and ceiling fans.

Can lights in all recesses (niches), in the kitchen and hallways.

Extra, extra and then extra deep garage (and make it wider, too).

Bigger closets in all rooms, especially the master - actually two in the master. Room for a set of drawers in the master closet.

Separate sinks (not side by side, but separate - like each on their own vanity across from each other) in the master.

Big shower with massaging, multiple heads.

I second the big laundry room with counter space and in the wall iron, but put it by the bedrooms.

Big mud room off of the garage with a closet.

Separate entry way closet for guest's coats - we use ours for our dressy coats and ski wear.

I could go on and on, but walk through show homes - especially the expensive ones that often feature new ideas - bring a camera and take pictures, take notes.

Have fun!

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Outlet in the floor under where the couch will go. We just installed one there. It eliminates tripping over the lamp wires that were running from wall outlets to the end tables, not to mention having to look at them snaking across the floor.

--fleg
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
2) A laundry room that is large enough to do the sorting, ironing, folding, etc.. Both gas and electricity at the dryer location, and a dryer vent pipe that is easy to connect and clean out. Maybe floor drain in the laundry room too. Put a big utility sink in there too, or out in the garage.

I would also suggest a floor drain in kitchen and bathroom(s).
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Outlets under your eaves if you like stringing up Christmas lights.

Inside switches for all outside outlets.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Right now it's a clean slate, throw me some ideas!

Love.

And a good cook.
 
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
There've been a lot of good and interesting ideas.

Here's a few of the things we added when we did design and build our last house.

The main reason behind some of these; DH is 6'5" tall, I am nearly 5'11", if you're short, you can ignore this.

Master bath shower, 2 shower heads, one his height, one for my height, separate controls, but operable at the same time. ;-)

16" high toilets. Standard is 14ish. Handicapped is 18", a nice compromise.

Kitchen counters at 38 inches high, at last no more back pain at the sink. (And neither did it harm resale, the shorter buyers never even noticed). We also put 36' high base cabinets in the master bath as opposed to the standard 30". One of those went in a second bath for short people. ;-)

Other things:

R-15 insulation in the 4" frame walls. not that much more expensive

Insulation in any interior plumbing walls to deaden flushing sounds, etc in the next room.

If you love music and have a great sound system or wish to, or have surround sound; good speaker wire in the walls. We put in our own after the builders went home and the electricians were done.

Enough phone jacks. The builders in the area put in 3 total. We put one in every bedroom, living room, family room and garage. My neighbors wished they had. They got tired running to the next room to get the portable.

We should have put one in the basement.

Someone mentioned Christmas lights. It was a 2 story house, I was not going to get a ladder out and decorate the eaves. I had an outlet under every front window for candles. The outlets, of course, came in handy for other things the rest of the year.

We wired for cable, wireless was not an option back then, I would still wire now, however.

Do you want a security system? It's cheaper and neater to have it done before drywall goes up.

5 burner drop in stove, I never had enough burners.

A wood burning fireplace downstairs. A gas burning one upstairs in the master BR. No mess. It also vented out the back of the house, no verticle chimney.

Hardwood floor in the dining room. I hate food falling onto carpet.

We had 2 zone heat. A/C and a built in humidifier.

Staircase wider than standard, made furniture moving easier.

We put in a 3 car garage. Had only 2 cars but the third bay came in handy for things like the riding mower and ATV.

RM - dang, I miss that house! ;-)






Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
"I expect to set up a distribution system so that, from any TV location in the house, you can watch the output of any of three satellite receivers (Tivo units), a DVD player, and possibly a VCR......"

OK I should have clarified my typical application..... I have a 17" TV (color, thank you very much) with rabbit ears antenna. It does pick up PBS (for the kids and Nova) and when I am lucky noone has moved the antenna and I get to record West Wing.

:-)

BF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
We also put 36' high base cabinets in the master bath..

Man, you guys are TALL. I would be concerned about slipping off the ladder though, especially in a bath.

:-)

BF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Love.

And a good cook.


:) I don't think that's on the current pricelist.

So far lots of good ideas. I asked a few people I know, and here were a few suggestions they made:

- Gas hookup outside for a grill. (not sure on that one)

- Wider than standard front door.

- Wire extra electrical outlet boxes in behind the walls and center of ceilings, and cover over them.

- Hookups into the heating system from A/C and humidifier. (I think I'll wait a couple of years before I invest in those).

Keep going, please. This thread is invaluable to someone still in the design phase.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Took me a while to figure out what the heck you were referring to.

lol

I've got itchy shift fingers. it's why a lot of my words end up looking like THis at the start of a sentence, then there is teh finger dyslexia syndrome.

And we would never use a ladder in the bathroom. I prefer pogo sticks.

;-p

RM

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
And there are no currently available (or even on the drawing boards) to do video wirelessly in a reasonably efficient manner.

While I would not build a house without coax for video to every room...eventually wireless will be capable of high quality video. And it is past the drawing board stage. See www.dhwg.org for a group that is putting together guidelines for using existing standards to do this.

(It won't handle HDTV until the WiFi bandwidth is greater, but the DHWG standard is layered on top of other networking standards and you can use WiFi or wired ethernet, your choice).

Mike
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
- Gas hookup outside for a grill. (not sure on that one)

I have a natural gas hookup outside. It's great to never have to get gas bottles filled. You do have to buy a grill designed for natural gas unless your house utilizes propane.

IF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
One thing not mentioned so far, but that is definitely worth it. Get the best pad you can for any carpeting. A good pad will make an average carpet feel much more "plush".

cbull
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Do you want a security system? It's cheaper and neater to have it done before drywall goes up.

FYI-
We have ADT and they say it's cheaper & easier to go wireless. They put sensors on the doors, then a glass break alarm in the center of the main floor. No more having to wire all the windows. The basement has a motion detector in case someone breaks in the window there and doesn't set off the main floor glass break. We keep the basement door closed all the time - so the dogs don't set off the motion detector.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
We have ADT and they say it's cheaper & easier to go wireless. They put sensors on the doors, then a glass break alarm in the center of the main floor. No more having to wire all the windows. The basement has a motion detector in case someone breaks in the window there and doesn't set off the main floor glass break. We keep the basement door closed all the time - so the dogs don't set off the motion detector.

Well, since that's the easiest for them to install, would you expect them to say anything else?

OK - so the glass break goes off. How do you know what window, in what room, broke? Or how about if someone leaves a window unlatched? No breakage at all to set off the alarm.

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Extra electrical outlets in the bathroom, and not back in the corner where the blow dryer and curling iron cords are draped across the sink.

Room in the bathroom for a vanity bench or something else to sit on.

Bathroom sinks large enough to actually get a pair of male hands into, with faucets high enough to get those hands under.

2 X 4 supports behind the drywall to install towel bars, toilet paper holders and drapery rods.

Central vacuum (our current house had it already when we bought it--its wonderful!!!)

Wire for outdoor speakers.

2nd the suggestion for an outside connection for gas grill--BIL has this, it works great!

Plenty of electrical outlets and lighting in the garage.

A window in the garage. (I work out in the garage a lot, and natural lighting would be nice when it's too cold to have the door open.)

A window located where you can see who is standing on your front porch.

Lay out the bedrooms, especially the smaller ones, where the bed can be arranged in at least 2 different places without overlapping the window sills or the closet doors.

Room in the dining room to get around the table when all the leaves are in, and everyone and their mother is there for dinner.

A storage closet specifically for seasonal stuff--Christmas Decorations, ski equipment, luggage, golf stuff...

Enough space between the toilet and the wall to run the vacuum or broom (instead of having to do it by hand).

Don't install the thermostat (eyesore) in the most prominent eyelevel spot available.

Easy access around the mechanicals (heater, waterheater etc.)

thats all I can think of for now...

sharon

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Easy access around the mechanicals (heater, waterheater etc.)

I would also have the mechanical room floor be an inch lower than the rest of the floor and have a floor drain so that when the water heater goes you don't get a flood. I am surprised this isn't part of the building code requirements.
- Frank
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
If there'll be an attic, have a nice set of stairs going up there, so you or future owners can finish it some day.

Or at least have a strong, wide set of pull-down stairs. Not just a hole in a ceiling that requires a ladder to get up there.

Trini
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Don't have a kitchen island unless it's a point in the kitchen triangle.

Don't have that shelf between the ceiling and the top of the kitchen cabinets.

Don't have an open kitchen.

If you have a sump pump, have a battery backup.

Wide window sills.

Greenhouse windows.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
We have ADT and they say it's cheaper & easier to go wireless.

Certainly easier for them ;-)

Do you seem to have more problems with false alarms, 'missed' trips, etc. than you would expect with a wired alarm? Heard about a lot of problems with wireless alarms a few years back, wondered if they got the problems fixed.

A few years ago, no one would have thought a jammer for a wireless alarm was feasible. Of course, that was before the days of crooks installing cameras and touchpads on ATMs. Sadly, it doesn't take an electrical engineer to aquire a jammer for a wireless alarm anymore. Not sure how common that would be, though, and how great a threat.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I would also have the mechanical room floor be an inch lower than the rest of the floor and have a floor drain so that when the water heater goes you don't get a flood. I am surprised this isn't part of the building code requirements.


Great idea. Also, in some areas code now requires the hot water heater to be elevated. SP posted some info a while back about hot water heaters designed to resist fume ignition. Another good idea is to strap the hot water heater to the wall, so it doesn't fall over and cause a gas leak and explosion in an earthquake. While earthquakes are not common in most of the US, pretty much everywhere in the US gets them. (Last two I experienced were in Ohio and Pennsylvania - really more tremors than California style earthquakes, though).
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
If there'll be an attic, have a nice set of stairs going up there, so you or future owners can finish it some day.


And a structural floor in the attic so you can use it for storage - or finish it to use it as a room. And windows in the gable ends, so you can use the finished attic space as a bedroom.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
2 X 4 supports behind the drywall to install towel bars, toilet paper holders and drapery rods.

I knew a contractor who got so frustrated with the ADA requirements that he ended up sheeting all his bathrooms in 3/4" plywood.

Scott
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
- Gas hookup outside for a grill. (not sure on that one)


If you do this, put a shutoff valve on both sides of the wall for convenience/safety.

nw
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
A three car garage. This way you'll have a place to park your Ferrari 360 Modena Spider.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
A three car garage. This way you'll have a place to park your Ferrari 360 Modena Spider


Or that AMC Pacer you've been dying to restore and place in your collection right next to the vaunted Yugo.



Stockemup
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I am going to wire it. I plan on tackling some of that myself. I can handle running some Cat-5e and Coax to all the rooms, but that's just cause I'm a super nerd.

I might go Cat-6...just a consideration. Regardless you have a cool project on hand and I think you'll enjoy it.

I just spent all morning in a design conference for one of the many new HQ buildings we're drafting and everything will be Cat-6. Don't think you'll see a huge cost increase and you will see potential orders of magnitude in increased bandwidth over 5e or wireless.

I like wireless only for existing construction. I won't use it at work for security reasons.

Mark
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I might go Cat-6...

Agree with Mark here; I found the difference in cost to be minimal, (quick current check on prices at one vendor shows Cat6 at 16 cents per foot, and 5e at about 7 cents per foot.)

Additonal cost up front far less now, than if you have to retrofit later.

v/r

Michael
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Agree with Mark here; I found the difference in cost to be minimal, (quick current check on prices at one vendor shows Cat6 at 16 cents per foot, and 5e at about 7 cents per foot.)

$.09 per foot adds up. When I wired my house, I used 4000' of cable, so that's $360.

I really, really doubt that any application in a home environment is actually going to be able to use the full capability of Cat-6 cable. Use of that cable in a high bandwidth, commercial installation requires strict compliance to installation standards, including termination methods, minimum bend radiuses, clearance from other low voltage and AC wiring, etc, etc.

BTW - One of my regular sources shows about $71 for Cat-6 and $47 for Cat-5e (per 1000')

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
"If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add? Upgraded appliances? Hardwoods? A/C? I'm trying to consider things 'behind the drywall'. Right now it's a clean slate, throw me some ideas!"

Wall mounted toilets. Makes cleaning around them easier and you can mount them to a more comfortable level around 16" to 18".

Also, if you could find someway to do it, a house where you just close the door, turn on the self-cleaning button and have the house clean itself.


Stockbuyer2

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
$.09 per foot adds up. When I wired my house, I used 4000' of cable, so that's $360.

4000 feet? Holy Schmokes...

I have 13 drops in my 3,900 square Foot home; Two drops to Home office, one each in 4 bedrooms, 2 spare baths, Master Bath, kitchen, living room, dining room, garage.

All are homeruns to my demarc in the basement; longest run is MasterBath to Demarc, at about 90 feet, and my total cable use was probably less than 1500 feet.

I really, really doubt that any application in a home environment is actually going to be able to use the full capability of Cat-6 cable. Use of that cable in a high bandwidth, commercial installation requires strict compliance to installation standards, including termination methods, minimum bend radiuses, clearance from other low voltage and AC wiring, etc, etc.

Maybe today, but how about tomorrow? And running out of capability of the Cat-6 is not the issue; it's running out of the capability of the Cat-5e.

Will this happen today, tomorrow, in 5 years?

I don't know, but when it does, I won't be replacing my cable...

BTW - One of my regular sources shows about $71 for Cat-6 and $47 for Cat-5e (per 1000')

Which means that the difference in your home would have been $96.00. Pretty cheap "Obsolesence Insurance" in my opinion.

Of course,

YMMV,

JMHO,

WTFDIK...

And as always...

v/r

michael

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Michael,

I've have been reading with great interest this discussion on Cat 5e vs. Cat 6 which I honestly didn't know was out there now. In general terms, what is the performance difference between the two?



STockemup
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Heya Stockemup,

Here's a good primer on the differences...

http://www.broadbandutopia.com/caandcaco.html

v/r

Michael
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
4000 feet? Holy Schmokes...

I have 13 drops in my 3,900 square Foot home; Two drops to Home office, one each in 4 bedrooms, 2 spare baths, Master Bath, kitchen, living room, dining room, garage.

All are homeruns to my demarc in the basement; longest run is MasterBath to Demarc, at about 90 feet, and my total cable use was probably less than 1500 feet.


Ah, but I REALLY went overboard. That was 4000' of Cat-5, plus 2500' of RG-6, plus 750' of speaker wire, plus alarm pre-wire, etc. Almost 8000' total.

Each bedroom has TWO drops, on opposite sides of the room. Don't you hate it when the cable outlet isn't where you want if for the furniture layout? Standard drop is 2xCat-5 plus 2xRG-6. Family room (entertainment room) has three drops, one of which is actually a double (4xRG-6, 4xCat-5, speaker, etc). Most rooms also had a extended drop, which was 4xCat-5 + 2xRG-6 + speaker + microphone.


Maybe today, but how about tomorrow? And running out of capability of the Cat-6 is not the issue; it's running out of the capability of the Cat-5e.

Will this happen today, tomorrow, in 5 years?

I don't know, but when it does, I won't be replacing my cable...


What I'm concerned about is the possible incompatibility of Cat-6 cable with existing equipment designed for Cat-5. I really don't know the physical characteristics of Cat-6, so I don't know how likely that is. But the notes in the catalog for my provider say that there are incompatibilities. So I wonder.

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Here's a good primer on the differences...

http://www.broadbandutopia.com/caandcaco.html


Interesting reference.

The cable is about the same price. Termination components are, I expect, significantly more expensive for Cat-6. So I doubt any homeowner today is going to use them, unless they have a demonstrated need for Cat-6 operation.

You're right - If I was doing new wiring now, the price difference is nominal. But I'd do a little more research on using Cat-5 termination components on Cat-6 cable before I commit.

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Thank you Michael. Bookmarked and primed for reading.



Stockemup
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0


Will this happen today, tomorrow, in 5 years?

True, but after just upgrading to 100baseT, I don't see a need to go to Gigabit yet, and that's Cat5e. In addition Cat6 is fussy enough that it's not as easy to cap the ends easily yourself. Heck, I'd be happy with Cat5, 5e IS an upgrade. I like the idea of using the 'smurf tube' (I think that's what it was called). If I need fiber later, sobeit. Also, I already found a good supply of Cat5e. Check out http://www.compgeeks.com, and you can get 1000' of Cat5e, caps, crimper, and tester for $40! $80 will do the house, and leave lots of leftover patch cables.

Another nerd upgrade with this is that I am also planning of leaving a pipe, or some kind of a void that runs all the way from the attic (capped and insulated) all the way to the basement, so I can run cables from floor to floor. I'll put an access panel in the backs of some closets, in the middle of the house.

I'm also planning on having a couple of drops in places around the house where I may be able to set up a webcam, for a poor-man's security system. One point out a window at the front and back doors, maybe one in the garage. All running just a cheap PC with a cheap webcam, dumping images to a central server.

Wow, this thread is getting huge! Please, more suggestions. This is great!
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
We have ADT and they say it's cheaper & easier to go wireless.

LOL well we had ADT and back in 96 it wasn't wireless. Things do change.

We had to turn off the motion detectors, even the one in the basement, the least draft makign anything move would set those things off. I should have gone with a glass breaking sensor instead.

RM
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Or how about if someone leaves a window unlatched? No breakage at all to set off the alarm.


I didn't realize the wireless version previously mentioned meant only breakage and motion sensors. I would definitely prefer a sensor on each lower floor window and door, minimum.

RM - still would dump that blasted motion sensor though
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Don't have that shelf between the ceiling and the top of the kitchen cabinets.

Unless you like displaying large objects and dusting them.

Don't have an open kitchen.


Unless you don't like being cut off from the rest of the family.

If you opt for an open kitchen then a kitchen island or a half wall, etc can often be constructed to create a visual block for things like dirty dishes.

RM - a social creature who loves the properly constructed open kitchen
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
And a structural floor in the attic so you can use it for storage - or finish it to use it as a room. And windows in the gable ends, so you can use the finished attic space as a bedroom.


This reminded me. We had a large attic area over the garage that we had rough plumbed for a future bathroom and wired with outlets and over head lights and the wiring was also installed for it's own heat pump. Both gable ends had windows, there were 2 skylights on one side of the roof. Access was through a regular size door from the 2nd floor family room. (Same floor level, to do this the garage had a 14 foot high ceiling.)

One other thing my DH said I should mention. Our house could have been a traditional center hall colonial. However, we opted out of the formal LR opposite the dining room and instead put the third bedroom on the first floor. It was large enough to be a master BR and had a connecting door to the downstairs bath.

It would therefore be available should one of us no longer be able to climb stairs. (Saw how that feature would have helped my parents tremendously.) In fact it's one of the reasons the buyers liked about the house. The wife's parents were going to live with them so they each got a master suite.

RM
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Does this mean I have to stand in the corner?

~cold


Or a purple AMC Gremlin! Now there was a car!!!

RM
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I had a green one as my first car... the green gremlin. You know, it wasn't much to look at but it could sure burn rubber... ask my mom! Something about a biggish 6 cylinder engine in a tiny chassis.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
- Wider than standard front door.

Wider than standard doors in general-- not only is this nice, but it's also something to consider for re-sale if you live in an area with lots of seniors citizens. Wheelchairs can get through wider doors.

ALong that line of thought, ergonomically designed door handles/drawer fronts, etc etc.

I think that house build with the elderly/handicapped in mind will be a valuable commodity in the coming years.

b
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Don't have a kitchen island unless it's a point in the kitchen triangle.

Why? Depending on layout it is more useful than open floor.

Don't have that shelf between the ceiling and the top of the kitchen cabinets.

Agreed. It's a greasy nightmare.

Don't have an open kitchen

Don't agree. Our experience has been that when we entertain our guests follow us around. They don't stay in the living room or dining room, they go where we are. By opening up the kitchen a bit they will be able to stay in adjacent rooms and still be with us.

Greenhouse windows.

Not in Phoenix, unless you like the blast-furnace effect near the window.

1poorguy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Ah, but I REALLY went overboard. That was 4000' of Cat-5, plus 2500' of RG-6, plus 750' of speaker wire, plus alarm pre-wire, etc. Almost 8000' total.

Each bedroom has TWO drops, on opposite sides of the room. Don't you hate it when the cable outlet isn't where you want if for the furniture layout? Standard drop is 2xCat-5 plus 2xRG-6. Family room (entertainment room) has three drops, one of which is actually a double (4xRG-6, 4xCat-5, speaker, etc). Most rooms also had a extended drop, which was 4xCat-5 + 2xRG-6 + speaker + microphone.


Woo Hoo...Now that is a wired house...

The Builder included phone and cable hookups to all rooms; I added phone drops to a couple other points, plus the aforementioned Cat-6

We decided on drop location prior to building, after mocking up the furniture placement on the computer; in the event we need to rearrange, and a drop happens to be on the other side of the room, it can be added, either from the attic for the upper rooms, or from the basement for the ground floor.

What I'm concerned about is the possible incompatibility of Cat-6 cable with existing equipment designed for Cat-5. I really don't know the physical characteristics of Cat-6, so I don't know how likely that is. But the notes in the catalog for my provider say that there are incompatibilities. So I wonder.

If this was an unratified standard, I'd be worried too; but since ratification in 2002, CAT-6 it assures backwards compatability with "MOST" modern equipment.

All IMHO, of course.

v/r

Michael




Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Woo Hoo...Now that is a wired house...

I spent maybe $400 on the cable, and probably more on all the terminating hardware. Not only was it incredibly useful while I was living in the house, it probably added $5K or more to the selling price. Of course, the buyer was a geek programmer that AOL was transferring into town. He wanted the wiring. His wife wanted the kitchen (with new Silestone counters we had installed a year before). Full price offer about $20K more than most of the realtors we interviewed said we should list at....

Joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
I like the idea of using the 'smurf tube' (I think that's what it was called).

Just a note; if we are talking about the same tubing, the blue corrugated stuff, my builder installed one from my attic, to my basement.

My BIL, an electrician, took one look and ripped it out; and replaced it with a 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. He stated, and I understood his point, that the corrugation made it sometimes difficult to run multiple wires through...I've subsequently added two lines using the tube, and the cable slid in like a dream.

v/r

Michael


Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Wow! What a treasure of information. Now I have to learn how to print a whole thread at once.

Two more things to add.

1. Absolutely no exposed wood. That means Vinyl (or other non wood) windows and vinyl soffit etc. Try to make the outside maintenance free.

2. Ask them to hand hammer the sub floor. Over 90% of floor squeeks are because the guy with a power nailer thinks he can swing the nailer in a continuous moving motion and hit the supporting boards while trying to beat his best time.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Michael,

Just a note; if we are talking about the same tubing, the blue corrugated stuff, my builder installed one from my attic, to my basement.

My BIL, an electrician, took one look and ripped it out; and replaced it with a 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe. He stated, and I understood his point, that the corrugation made it sometimes difficult to run multiple wires through.


That was my first thought when I saw the corrugations (or ribs) in smurf tube, that it'd make it hard to pull wires through. However, Carlon (who makes the blue stuff) says it makes it easier.

"The corrugated design facilitates easy wire pulling and pushing and its flexibility eliminates the need for bending equipment."

They claim the difficulty of pulling wire is proportional to the surface area of conduit that the wire comes in contact with. The corrugated design reduces the surface area by about 50%.

Haven't tried it, myself.

Phil
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
They claim the difficulty of pulling wire is proportional to the surface area of conduit that the wire comes in contact with. The corrugated design reduces the surface area by about 50%.

Hmmm...makes sense about the surface area, but what about the wire catching on the corrugations?

When I ran the cable to connect my Point-to-Point Wireless Modem in the attic to my Firewall in the basement, I had to feed about 8 to 10 feet into the tube before the weight of the cable began to do the feeding on it's own.

Anyway; it's all moot now...

v/r

Michael



Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Hmmm...makes sense about the surface area, but what about the wire catching on the corrugations?

Well, normal procedure is to run a string through the pipe to use to pull the wire through.

How do you pull the string? Tie one end around a plastic bag or wad of strong paper. Shove it in one end of the pipe. Suck paper through from other end with a vacuum. ;-)

joe
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
OK - so the glass break goes off. How do you know what window, in what room, broke? Or how about if someone leaves a window unlatched? No breakage at all to set off the alarm.

Well DUH, if you leave the window unlatched, then someone gets in. So what is your point??? I was pointing out the fact that alarms do not have to be prewired. GEEZ!

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Do you seem to have more problems with false alarms, 'missed' trips, etc. than you would expect with a wired alarm?

We have had it for over a year and no false alarms. We test it every few months, and it seems to work like it's suppose to. Nothing is perfect, but this seems to work well with the least amount of hassle.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Michael,

Hmmm...makes sense about the surface area, but what about the wire catching on the corrugations?

That's what I wondered too. The next time I was at Home Depot, I stuck my finger inside a piece of smurf tubing and it actually feels pretty smooth. They're probably assuming you're using a fish tape, and those are usually bent so as not to catch on things going in, and pulling back you can tape it smoothly.

I guess if it was impossible to pull wires through smurf tube, no one would buy it, and they'd stop making it. But that doesn't say anything about whether it's easier or harder than plain conduit.

One thing I've discovered is the building code here in southern California is a bit weird on conduit. Normally, low-voltage wiring isn't covered by the code. But they claim that sometime in the future, someone could pull a high-voltage wire through smurf tube or conduit, and so both are covered by the code. (Smurf tube is often placed inside poured concrete where high-voltage wires will later be pulled.) So if you run CAT5 or RG/6 naked it doesn't have to be inspected, but if you run smurf tube or regular conduit, it does.

Phil
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 2
Wow! What a treasure of information. Now I have to learn how to print a whole thread at once.

Click on the "whole thread" link.

"Select All" from your computer menu.

"Copy"

Open a word processing program. "Paste".

Now do a "Search and Replace" on the junk between posts. Stuff like "Post New Post Reply Reply Later Create Poll Report this Post Recommend This Post".

Replace it all - and replace it with "nothing. All the garbage will disappear. It will take a couple of strings to get it all, but it will all go away.

Replace all triple line feeds with double line feeds, and all triple spaces with double spaces if you want to really tidy up.

Then print it out. Takes a couple minutes, easier than pulling each post separately, cheaper than printing everything from the webpage.

Maybe there's an easier way; this is a kludge of the way I do it to find old posts that the Fool won't archive sensibly anymore.
 
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Don't have that shelf between the ceiling and the top of the kitchen cabinets.

Unless you like displaying large objects and dusting them.

I'm short.
----------------------------------------------------
Don't have an open kitchen.


Unless you don't like being cut off from the rest of the family.

If you opt for an open kitchen then a kitchen island or a half wall, etc can often be constructed to create a visual block for things like dirty dishes.

RM - a social creature who loves the properly constructed open kitchen


I was thinking of the cleaning aspect.

Cooking creates a mist of oil and water that combines with dust and settles everywhere. It's hard enough keeping up with it in the kitchen, but when that layer settles on rugs/upholstery/electronics/... there can be problems.

YMMV
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Don't have a kitchen island unless it's a point in the kitchen triangle.

Why? Depending on layout it is more useful than open floor.

I have seen kitchens where every trip from the fridge to the sink or stove involved maneuvering around the island. I could see that getting old.
----------------------------------------
Don't have that shelf between the ceiling and the top of the kitchen cabinets.

Agreed. It's a greasy nightmare.
---------------------------------------------
Don't have an open kitchen

Don't agree. Our experience has been that when we entertain our guests follow us around. They don't stay in the living room or dining room, they go where we are. By opening up the kitchen a bit they will be able to stay in adjacent rooms and still be with us.

See greasy nightmare drifting into living/dining room.
---------------------------------------------
Greenhouse windows.

Not in Phoenix, unless you like the blast-furnace effect near the window.

Not even for winter use (properly shaded in summer)?

1poorguy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0

Don't have a kitchen island unless it's a point in the kitchen triangle.
...
I have seen kitchens where every trip from the fridge to the sink or stove involved maneuvering around the island. I could see that getting old.


Well, that just means that the island shouldn't be WITHIN the triangle. If you had an island off the side to sit things on, etc, that's not such a big deal. (Waste of space, maybe, but not a hassle.)



Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Well, that just means that the island shouldn't be WITHIN the triangle. If you had an island off the side to sit things on, etc, that's not such a big deal. (Waste of space, maybe, but not a hassle.)

1poorlady wants one in our new kitchen for the added storage underneath, and because she wants a "vegetable" sink in addition to the main sink. Our kitchen is basically going to be square (with openings to get in and out, of course), and the small island will be dead-center in the work triangle (all three legs of the triangle pass right next to it). In theory it should also provide a place to put stuff that one is pulling out of the fridge or the oven (easily accessible from both).

1poorguy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I was thinking of the cleaning aspect.

Cooking creates a mist of oil and water that combines with dust and settles everywhere. It's hard enough keeping up with it in the kitchen, but when that layer settles on rugs/upholstery/electronics/... there can be problems.


I've never had this problem in my current house, but there are cabinets over the stove so it's mostly contained.

Now in my last house, with stove top was in the island and nothing stood between it and the 9 foot ceiling other than 2 hanging lamps. The lamps needed an occasional washing but I don't remember ever having to wash the ceiling.

I have found splatter screens really help with the spattering

RM

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
See greasy nightmare drifting into living/dining room.


lol, I still can't see how this happens unless you're running several frying baskets daily.

And an island should not interfere with the triangle, nor should a table, if they aren't part of it then they should be outside it.

RM
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I'd also put base cabinets with roll-out drawers in my dream kitchen. I hate having all that wasted, inaccesible storage space in the back of my cabinet. (And having to get down on my knees to get anything stored back there!)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
I had a custom home built about five years ago. Most of the ideas listed in this thread are things we either did, or wished we had done.

One big item that we missed, and now really wish we had, is outside access to the basement. In the last few years builders in our area have started offering casement style windows that open into a large graded or stepped window well. These provide light and air for a basement room, as well as emergency access.

Also, we did provide for a straight in entry to the basement from the garage via a second door. I got tired of having to wrestle 8' lengths of wood around bends t the basement in my former house. You enter from the garage into a short alcove, and then straight down overwidth stairs to the basement. From inside the house, you enter the basement from a door on the side of the same alcove.

After our house was built, we had the window in the kitchen ripped out and a larger one installed. The opening looked ok when it was just a cut in the framed wall, but once the actual window got in it just didn't provide enough light and view of the outside when in the kitchen.

When prioritizing upgrades for a new home, I would concentrate on the things that either could not be done a year after you were in the house, or would be very expensive to do afterwards. This means basic room layout, HVAC, concrete floors / walls, etc. Much of this thread deals with wiring, which while interesting, can generally be added without a lot of extra cost, versus the cost of adding a split bathroom, increasing the height of the basement, or having the garage doors face west instead of north.

The one other thing I would suggest is DON'T make changes in the design during the construction process. Even if your contractor does the changes at cost (and that is very rare), or you are building it yourself, there is still a tremendous cost in added time to get the plans modified, communicate it to all the involved trades, obtain any added / different materials, and change the construction schedule.

Also, if you are having this build, check progress daily. Remember, builders think your detailed plans are only suggestions.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Underfloor radiant heat. Extremely comfortable and quiet.
Underdriveway and walkway heat. Same underfloor tubing embedded
in the driveway and walkway. Only turned on during a snowfall and
then only for a couple of hours. Never shovel again.

Downstairs entirely handicap visitable:
At least one BR and full bath on main floor.
34" clear swing doors.
34"x48" clear space around sinks and toilets
(Lots more simple things can be done to make
the home livable for someone with a walker or in a chair)

Central vacuum.

Home-Run wiring so individual rooms can be turned off
Home-run plumbing so individual fixtures can be turned off.

A pass-through from the outside for firewood if
you have a wood burning fireplace.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Solid surface countertops in the kitchen.
Solid surface walls in the bath/shower.
Several separate circuits for the kitchen.
Lights under all the kitchen cabinets.
Linoleum on the kitchen floor. (no tile and grout!)
Lots of electrical outlets in every room.
Heavy duty electrical outlets near the outside doors (regardless of how many exterior connections you put in).
Pella sliding glass doors with the mini blinds sandwiched between the glass. [a $$ purchase but perfect in the kitchen]
Ceiling fans in every room/area.

If you're a messy cook (or just lazy like I am), convert to electric cooking and get a solid surface cooktop where you can bubble and spill and burn, and not be lifting and cleaning all the time.

Got Kids? Look at the frig with the little access door on the frig side so they can open that and look at the milk or whatever and not warm the whole frig while they do it. We got one from Sears a few years ago. Maybe it was made by Frigidare. [another $$ but worthwhile purchase]
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
* Over-sized electrical service
* Electrical room for telephone, electrical panel, security, audio/video, etc.
* 4-plex outlets instead of duplex
* 2 double ovens
* 2 dishwashers
* Foot pedal-operated faucet for vegetable sink
* "Y" shaped connector below garbage disposal (vs. 90 degree bend - fewer clogs)
* Over-sized disposal line (fewer clogs)
* Slide out shelves in kitchen cabinets
* 42" high kitchen counter-tops (saves the back)
* Cushioned hard surface kitchen floors w/floordrain (less fatigue)
* Whole kitchen vent/fan (less heat while cooking)
* Fixed counter-top windows below overhead cabinets in back-splash (free counter-top lighting and room lighting - great effect)
* Flex conduit from electrical room to everywhere
* Waterproofed bath products/linen cabinet in shower (no more getting out of the shower for soap/towel/shampoo, etc.)
* Built-in doggie door
* 10 x 10 Roll-up door at rear garage wall (backyard access)
* Reversible 2nd floor windows (easy exterior cleaning)
* Slightly (2") raised toilets (easier dismount for seniors)
* "Waterboy" whole-house water system filter
* Basement A/V room with false walls to hide/recess equip and speakers.

Just a few on my future list...;0)

JD
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Just a couple of things I'd make sure to have in the next place:
1. Central vacuum system.
2. Laundry room on same floor where all the laundry is generated. If not, then make sure a laundry chute is available.
3. Dumbwaiter if two or more levels. I get so tired of constantly carrying stuff up and down stairs. As you age, it becomes dangerous as well.
4. Plenty of closets & storage.
5. Bookcases in all bedrooms. They go a long way to deadening noise throughout the house.
6. Hardwood/laminate floors. Just so much easier to keep clean and don't stir up allergies. Especially recommended if you have pets.
7. Dedicated exercise room with entertainment (video, TV, stereo). That way there's no excuse to blow off exercising.
8. Air filtration system to keep dust levels down.

As you can tell, many of these items make housekeeping easier. I hate housework and am adding all of these to current home to lighten/shorten the chores. Would much rather spend weekends in the yard, garden, bike trail, hiking, etc.

Enjoy your new home. Good luck.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
The number one value feature of a house is its overall design ... and
the way that that design fits its site. All the fancy hot-button add-on's won't enhance the overall experience / value of a structure like the structure and site design. After that ... desireability of "upgrades" might logically proceed from those that are more built into the structure
(as you say: insulation and windows/exterior doors) to the somewhat more
permanent (e.g.: cabinetry, hard surface flooring ...) to the readily replaceable (e.g.: appliances, soft floor coverings, decorative surfaces).

Numerous 'value-added' comparision studies exist for what items enhance
marketable value of the house ... these features may not follow your personal interests / desires though. An interesting recent read is Kenneth
Harney's Feb. 08, 2002 article in Detroit Free Press: "Those
little extras can bring a big payoff" ... if you can find it: <www.freep.com/cgi-bin/forms ...>.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I've been kicking around design ideas for my future home for years. Something I want, both for self-sufficiency and for doing as much as I can to help with environmental issues is a self-powered house. With the combination of solar or wind power and a residential fuel cell to supplement, you could actually sell electricity back to the power company. Current estimates are that a fuel cell will pay for itself in 4 years.

http://www.fuelcells.org/fcfaqs.htm#home
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I've been kicking around design ideas for my future home for years. Something I want, both for self-sufficiency and for doing as much as I can to help with environmental issues is a self-powered house. With the combination of solar or wind power and a residential fuel cell to supplement, you could actually sell electricity back to the power company. Current estimates are that a fuel cell will pay for itself in 4 years.

http://www.fuelcells.org/fcfaqs.htm#home


http://earthship.org
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Are you planning to fence in your back yard or building on a shallow lot?

If you are a full size garage door on the back wall of your garage makes it so you have easy access for a vehicle to get into your back yard.

This is very helpful when access is needed for repairs (septic/well/oil/roof/siding) or for any future improvements (pool/shed/landscaping)you might make.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
If you are a full size garage door on the back wall of your garage makes it so you have easy access for a vehicle to get into your back yard.

This is very helpful when access is needed for repairs (septic/well/oil/roof/siding) or for any future improvements (pool/shed/landscaping)you might make.


Or when your kid hits the gas rather than the brake.

Scott

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Earthquake reinforcement (yes even in area's not known for earthquakes).
Basically extra screws drilled from house supports into foundation, extra rebar in foundation and these twisted metal join thingies at all major corners. Costs a couple hundered max when you are building but thousands afterword. Allows your house to give without breaking in earthquakes, high winds, etc and significantly adds to the stability of your home.

Energy saving green stuff. Windows and insulation are a big part of it but there's others (3 foot overhangs, extra breathing in the roof, solar heated hot water, maybe solar electricity, see websites for more info.).

Now the personal preference, non-money stuff:

Beuautiful windows that absolutely maximize any view, with tinting to keep out the sun and add to privacy.

Wood burning stove.

Excercise room.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
<<Also, if you could find someway to do it, a house where you just close the door, turn on the self-cleaning button and have the house clean itself.>>

Line everything, walls, floors, ceiling, etc. with linoleum and spray jets.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I'm kind of late to the game, but here's a few suggestions that I'm surprised weren't already mentioned:

* A layer of Styrofoam insulation under the cement foundation (standard with radiant heat, but useful if you finish the basement).

* Ok, radiant heat was mentioned, but I wish we had it.

* Someone mentioned a humidifier. Actually, you will probably find you need to dehumidify the house simply from showers, cooking, breathing, etc. A central dehumidifier is especially important in the basement where the AC isn't required.

* Related to the previous, a heat exchanger to bring in fresh air since modern houses are well sealed. This will help control the humidity in the winter when a dehumidifier doesn't work as well.

* Green, energy saving stuff was mentioned, but there are many green, energy saving techniques that shouldn't cost much extra like properly sealing the vapor barrier, caulking outlets, etc. Quiz your builder and Google the web.

* If you get a fireplace, make sure it is properly sealed and insulated. Our fireplace leaks cold air like an open window and has been covered up for the last 3 years.

* COLOR. Paint the walls to add color and character. Pay someone to help select colors if you need it; a few hundred dollars in paint and advice goes a long ways to making the house look better. You can also save a lot of money by painting the walls your self. Paint goes on really quickly when you don't have to worry about trim or spills.

* Nine foot ceilings in the basement so you have enough room to put in a drop ceiling. This keeps your options open for all of the wiring stuff mentioned.

* Don't finish the basement until you've lived there a couple years so you better understand your requirements (ours changed significantly as did our available funds). OTOH, it's probably cheaper to do it at the same time as the rest of the house.

* DO NOT put recessed lights in the top floor (into attic). These are a major source for air leaks.

* Go to some parade of homes or similar house shows. Take along a digital camera to record ideas.

* A good architect should cost less than the realtor...which one do you think adds more value?

And my personal favorite, a home theater prewired for 7.1 surround sound. It sounds expensive, but it can be done for the cost of a nice fireplace installation (see my comments above for my opinion of fireplaces).

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Someone mentioned a humidifier. Actually, you will probably find you need to dehumidify the house simply from showers, cooking, breathing, etc.

I've never had a house with a dehumidifier, and haven't found one to be necessary. The humidifier is a definite plus, though.

What humidity problems have you had?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Wow, almost 100 replies to my original post. Thanks everybody for suggestions. Here's the short list of things I am working off of now.

Already 'included' in the house:
- Energy star rated, so windows, insulation, everything is about as good as I can get it.
- Extra row of brick in the basement to make it 9 feet.
- 'Egress' window out of basement. Basically this is a bigger window. I've found out that if I ever intend to have someone live down there (too Silence of the Lambs), I need it. Plus with a wrap around porch, and a deck on the back, I'll need the extra light.

Some of my main add-ons:
- A gas fireplace in the middle of the main room on the first floor. Rather than along a wall, which would have been difficult with the porch, it's in the middle, and vented. Double sided too.
- Taller countertops. Thanks for the tip on that one!
- Wire conduits in the walls. I'm actually going to leave the installation of this conduit to the electrician now, but I will wire telecom later.
- Water manifold. Very good suggestion there.
- A rear entrance to my garage. The garage is offset to the front of the house, with about 10 feet extending past the edge of the house. I'm having a door put there so I can get to the back yard directly.
- Also, I'm having the builder take any room dividers out on the first floor (that aren't needed). I know there was a but of a discussion about separating the kitchen from everything else, but I like an very open floorplan. And with the fireplace in the middle of the first floor (also hiding the load bearing support) it will hopefully make the room very large and inviting.

Please keep up the discussion, I still have months before it's finished. The first part of the foundation just got put down!

If people are really interested, I'd love to post updates so that people could give me feedback. Maybe even have people respond to polls to help me choose things!
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I've never had a house with a dehumidifier, and haven't found one to be necessary. The humidifier is a definite plus, though.

What humidity problems have you had?


Condensation and ice on the windows resulting in mold on the main level, mold on items stored in the basement. Our windows aren't the greatest, but a 10 below night, humidity levels between 40-50% and any leaks into the walls (outlets, wall switches, recessed lights) could cost you big time!

In the summer, we don't need to run the AC most of the time, but the basement humidity levels are high enough to cause damage. Running a dehumidifier in a finished basement is a definite requirement since warm, humid air will be cooled by the walls/floor without removing any water.

Just out of curiosity, where do you live and what humidity levels are you seeing that you need a humidifier? We had a central fresh air system/dehumidifier installed when we finished our basement last year. http://www.thermastor.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=245 I try to keep the relative humidity between 35-40% in the winter and under 50% in the summer here in Wisconsin.

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Condensation and ice on the windows resulting in mold on the main level, mold on items stored in the basement.

At first glance, that sounds more like a basement moisture problem than humidity from showers, etc.

Just out of curiosity, where do you live and what humidity levels are you seeing that you need a humidifier? We had a central fresh air system/dehumidifier installed when we finished our basement last year. http://www.thermastor.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=245 I try to keep the relative humidity between 35-40% in the winter and under 50% in the summer here in Wisconsin.


Maybe it's a climate/geography issue - I'm not really familiar with Wisconsin's climate, but here in the midwest (PA, OH, KY, etc.) one generally needs a humifier to get the humidity to the recommended 40% to 60% range in the winter. Keeping the humidity toward the 60% range increases comfort and decreases heating costs in the winter (because cooler temperatures are more comfortable with higher humidity). I've not had any condensation issues at 60% humidity.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
<<<Condensation and ice on the windows resulting in mold on the main level, mold on items stored in the basement.>>>

At first glance, that sounds more like a basement moisture problem than humidity from showers, etc.


Not at all. The window condensation is upstairs and the relative humidity in a basement will always be higher in the summer since it's naturally cooler without removing moisture. We've never had a drop of water in our basement.

I've not had any condensation issues at 60% humidity.

Not any issues that you can see, anyway. At 68 deg F and 60% RH, the dew point in your house is 53 deg F meaning that water will condense on surfaces below 53 degrees. That means any air that might leak into your walls from the inside and comes in contact with cold surfaces will get wet and potentially grow mold or other nasties. Obviously, you have better windows than we do or your outside temps don't dip much below freezing.

At 68 deg F and 40% RH, the dew point drops to 41 deg F. We've had ice on our windows during some of the colder nights, so obviously, the surface temperature is well below 41 deg F.

Keeping the humidity toward the 60% range increases comfort and decreases heating costs in the winter

I agree that higher humidity will make you more comfortable, but you may be destroying your walls from the inside. I found this on an EPA website:

Do not humidify to indoor relative humidity levels exceeding 50 percent. Higher humidity levels may encourage the growth of biological organisms in the home. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/humidif.html

and this:

Operate a dehumidifier in the basement if needed to keep relative humidity levels between 30 - 50 percent http://www.epa.gov/iaq/biologic.html

You can google “recommended humidity levels” and I doubt you will find any sites recommending 60% RH.

Again, with modern tighter houses, mold is a much greater problem than it used to be. Putting in a central dehumidifier for your basement is cheap insurance against tearing out your walls and carpeting.

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Just out of curiosity, where do you live and what humidity levels are you seeing that you need a humidifier? We had a central fresh air system/dehumidifier installed when we finished our basement last year. http://www.thermastor.com/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=245 I try to keep the relative humidity between 35-40% in the winter and under 50% in the summer here in Wisconsin.

Interesting discussion. Maybe some of the differences is not only in location of the home but the type of construction. You keep mentioning needing a central dehumidifier in the basement. In my area (central NC), very few homes have a basement. In the wintertime, RH can get down to 10%. Maybe you're getting a lot of moisture introduced into the house through the basement.

IF

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Interesting discussion. Maybe some of the differences is not only in location of the home but the type of construction. You keep mentioning needing a central dehumidifier in the basement. In my area (central NC), very few homes have a basement.

I should clarify – in the summer, a dehumidifier in a basement is essential, either central or stand alone. In the winter, ventilation is a good idea on newer homes that don't have leaky windows and doors. The unit we bought does both, but doesn't use a heat exchanger for ventilation so it's less efficient than it could be.

In the wintertime, RH can get down to 10%.

According to what I've read, 30% RH and below is uncomfortable and can cause respiratory problems. Have you actually measured levels this low?

Maybe you're getting a lot of moisture introduced into the house through the basement.

I really don't think so. The walls never appeared damp and, as I mentioned, we've never had any leaks. I think it's a misconception that moisture comes through cement walls other than cracks. I believe the moisture that people see in basements is condensation from the surface temperature dropping below the dew point during the summer (not unlike the dew on your car in the morning).

We did a fair amount of research to understand the condensation issue on our windows before we finished our basement. It's a simple matter of surface temperature and dew point (relative humidity). We're not about to replace all of our windows to increase the surface temperature so we needed to take control of the humidity.

Even if you have good windows, keeping your house properly ventilated is recommended to remove the pollutants created (breathing, cooking, aerosols, etc.).

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
According to what I've read, 30% RH and below is uncomfortable and can cause respiratory problems. Have you actually measured levels this low?

I've never measured a number this low but I thought I've heard it mentioned around here. I could be wrong.

But we do have to humidify our home in the winter. Without humidifying the air, we do have respiratory problems. We also have skin problems. In regards to the house, without the humifier the wood trim and wood floors shrink quite a bit and leave large cracks in the joints.

IF
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
IF,

According to what I've read, 30% RH and below is uncomfortable and can cause respiratory problems. Have you actually measured levels this low?

I've never measured a number this low but I thought I've heard it mentioned around here. I could be wrong.


My previous house, in Colorado (at 8000 ft. elevation), almost never got above 25% relative humidity unless it was raining. And that was with two large-capacity furnace-mounted humdifiers going.

Phil
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Obviously, you have better windows than we do or your outside temps don't dip much below freezing.


Coldest temp this winter has been around 0 F. My windows are lousy ;-) Seriously, it's a 1940's era colonial with original windows. Hope to get the last of them refurbished this summer.

Maybe that's part of the issue, though - I presumably have a lot more air infiltration than a newer home. That might be why my humidity levels are lower, and harder to raise - more outside air coming in. I have owned new homes in the past, though, and didn't have any humidity related issues with them either, after the first year of "drying out" that is common to new construction. However, none of those houses had humidifiers (or dehumidifiers) either.

You can google “recommended humidity levels” and I doubt you will find any sites recommending 60% RH.

The 40% to 60% relative humidity is the CISSP recommended range for computer equipment - that's one of the test questions/answers. That suggested to me that it would be a reasonable range for home use, too, but I did not research it beyond that point.

It's still interesting, though, that my basement isn't more humid than the rest of the house, and is not 'wet' even at 60% RH.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I've never measured a number this low but I thought I've heard it mentioned around here. I could be wrong

Certainly different areas of the country will have different humidity issues, but if your house is well sealed, just breathing will make a lot of humidity. Remember those steamed car windows in high school ;-)

But we do have to humidify our home in the winter

How old is your house? Your house may have enough natural ventilation (leaks) to remove the humidity you generate. From the EPA sites I posted earlier, it's wise to make sure you don't over humidify your house. You might consider buying a nice humidistat to know where you stand.

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
How old is your house? Your house may have enough natural ventilation (leaks) to remove the humidity you generate. From the EPA sites I posted earlier, it's wise to make sure you don't over humidify your house. You might consider buying a nice humidistat to know where you stand.

The house is 4 years old. The humidifier on the furnace has a humidistat. I've been wanting to stop by Home Despot to pick one up so I can check to see if the humidifier is doing its job.

IF

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Coldest temp this winter has been around 0 F. My windows are lousy ;-) Seriously, it's a 1940's era colonial with original windows. Hope to get the last of them refurbished this summer.

How are you measuring the humidity? I can't believe your RH is 60% and you don't get condensation on “lousy” windows. Again, the dew point at 60% is 53 deg F. Something just isn't adding up.

OTOH, my parent's house (1959) didn't have condensation on their double hung windows. Do you have storm windows? That will help raise the surface temperature on the inside surface.

Maybe that's part of the issue, though - I presumably have a lot more air infiltration than a newer home. That might be why my humidity levels are lower, and harder to raise - more outside air coming in

That's exactly right. People make humidity and it has to go somewhere. You just want to make sure you have control.

The 40% to 60% relative humidity is the CISSP recommended range for computer equipment

I bet that has to do with static electrical shocks. Did you ever notice you never get a shock from the door knob in the summer? It's because the humidity is higher.

Anyway, back to the original poster, I would recommend making the house as tight as possible and talk to the heating/cooling contractor about ventilation and humidity control for the area you live.

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Make sure you have enough electrical wall outlets. I also like overhead lighting in my bedrooms. A light in the closets that's wired into the door jam so it will go on and off when you open and close the door. Buried drain tile to take water away from the house. Gutter covers. Irrigation system. Higher ceilings in the basement for when you want to finish off the basement.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
How are you measuring the humidity? I can't believe your RH is 60% and you don't get condensation on “lousy” windows. Again, the dew point at 60% is 53 deg F.

I have a "stand alone" electronic humidistat, and one on the furnace duct (to control the humidifier).

Some of the windows do have storm windows, several do not.

FWIW, I typically set the temp to 55F at night and 60 F to 62 F during the day. No symptoms of moisture - odor, or mold, or condensation, etc.

Interesting link about humidity:
http://www.agsci.kvl.dk/~bek/relhum.htm
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I typically set the temp to 55F at night and 60 F to 62 F during the day

Wow, you're pretty "cool" :-)

From http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/sacramento/fire/rh0-500.pdf a temperature of 62 F and 59% RH yields a dew point of 48 F which means dropping your temperature to 55 F puts you 7 degrees above raining (that would be inside, not outside)!

It sounds like you're measuring your RH accurately so I'm at a loss why you're not getting any condensation at 60% RH and I get condensation at 40%. Perhaps your RH drops with the outside temperature so it stays in check while mine stays more steady.

We should be able to open our windows soon and put all of this behind us until next winter!

-murray
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
If you were building a house, what one upgrade would you add?

Wide doorways. That is, an easy way to get new tubs, shower surrounds, pool table, or a piano into the room where it needs to be.

TheBreeze
Had to take out a window and frame to put in a replacement shower surround.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
My husband put in an intricate intercom system that worked out to be a godsend, with three kids in a two story house. I could talk to whomever was ringing my doorbell, from upstairs, and if it was one of the kids I could unlock the front door from upstairs, in addition to monitoring the bedroom of a sick kid on occasion.

Also double pane type windows throughout would be nice, a "sanitary" (wash) tub in the garage next to the washer. A bathroom (toilet/sink) with backyard access. House water lines that would make it possible to bypass the yard watering system if/when you install soft water conditioning for the house.

Outside security floodlights controllable from inside the house.

A driveway that could be extended behind a double wide gate to hide the cars your (future) sons will be working on.

A water retrieval system to catch rain water and re-route it to water your outdoor plants/trees.

A separate pantry, linen closet, guest coat closet, cleaning tools closet.

Lucy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
A faucet above the stove is wonderful for when making lots of pasta or potatoes so you don't have to carry a full pot of water from the sink, and depending on the layout of your kitchen, can be easy to have installed.

and my 2 ultimate dream-house features:

-A small room off the master bedroom with the wall to the outdoors open to the outdoors (preferably screened). this clearly only works in remote locations, when there are no neighbors or traffic.

-A temperature and humidity controlled room to store wine (it can be very very small, like under a basement staircase).

Happy Building!
MWarren
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
This is a great discussion! I've been catching up on it every couple days. One thing I'm surprised nobody's mentioned, that is troublesome to upgrade later, is the septic system. If you're putting an on-site septic system in, I would consider buying the largest tank possible. If there's any possility of additions to the house, or finishing a basement or attic, I would recommend putting in an appropriately sized drainfield now also. Check with your local Dept. of Health first though, and make sure you're not in an area that's likely to get sewer before any such additions.

Reasons are:

The larger your tank, the less often it needs to be pumped.*

In our area, applying for a building permit for any work on a property with an existing septic system requires approval from the Dept. of Health. They want to verify that your outbuilding or addition is not going to be sitting too close to any part of your septic system, or if you're adding a bathroom or bedrooms, they want to be sure your septic system is adequately sized.

On the other hand, if a sewer line has been put in your street since your septic system was built, you're generally required (in this area at least) to connect to the sewer if you do any remodeling that might alter your septic requirements, whether your existing system is adequately sized or not (the city has to recoup its investment somehow).
I have also heard that in some areas (not ours) new work will always require a septic system upgrade, whether it was oversized already or not. So, if your DOH requirements are more strict, or if your neighborhood is certain to be annexed by the city and have sewer lines put in before you get around to that remodel, any larger drainfield will just be wasted money. If that is not the case, however, making both drainfield and tank larger than necessary now would be an excellent investment.


*Footnote: Somebody will probably say you shouldn't need to pump your septic tank unless something's wrong with it. The DOH position is that even a properly working system will accumulate sludge in the tank, which will reduce its capacity, eventually causing solids to flow into the drainfield rather than settle in the tank. Solids clog the drainfield, it stops percolating liquid effluent into the ground, your drains start rebelling, and suddenly you have no choice but to spend at least a couple thousand dollars replacing the drainfield. So they want you to pump the sludge out on a regular basis.
However, I know many people who use some kind of additive to keep their septic system working properly, even though the DOH in this area strongly discourages it. We've started adding a jug of warm water with a 1/4-cup of yeast once a month, to try to keep our 50 year old 500 gallon tank and 2 drywells working a little longer. My father-in-law uses Septic Helper once a week, and every few months checks the depth of sludge in his tank by poking a PVC pipe down into it and feeling the difference. After about 8 years of that regimen, he has a few inches of sludge on the bottom of a 1000-gallon tank, in a household with three kids still living at home during most of that timeframe. A coworker brews his own beer (a lot of it), so is always flushing highly active yeast cultures down the drain, and hasn't had his septic tank pumped for over 10 years.
Most people probably would rather just go with the DOH recommendation. Yeast or enzyme-based additives really do seem to work fine, but you can't be sure unless you're checking your tank periodically. There are other products (acids, bases, organic solvents) that will keep your system free of sludge, but at the cost of groundwater contamination or eventual failure due to corrosion of your pipes, or both, and these products are usually prohibited by law.

Well, my footnote has become a whole leg, but I hope it helps.
David
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I've been kicking around design ideas for my future home for years. Something I want, both for self-sufficiency and for doing as much as I can to help with environmental issues is a self-powered house. With the combination of solar or wind power and a residential fuel cell to supplement, you could actually sell electricity back to the power company. Current estimates are that a fuel cell will pay for itself in 4 years.

http://www.fuelcells.org/fcfaqs.htm#home

http://earthship.org


http://www.homepower.com
All things Renewable Energy

Also, check out http://www.otherpower.com, if you're into tinkering and want a wind generator.

Ogrecat, I suspect you might like these sites.
David
Print the post Back To Top
Advertisement