Designing Your Log Home: Tips To Keep You Out of Trouble

Nearly every log home is a custom design, whether you are altering a stock plan or starting from scratch. By their very nature, custom floor plans open up a large number of untested challenges – especially if you are trying to design the house yourself. With almost all log home manufacturers, an in-house architect will take your design and turn it into a set of drawings that conform to their building system. Your home will be structurally sound. However, don’t necessary expect them to point out every inconvenience or snafu in your design. This is a hands-on business, and in the end, your house design is on you… and you’ll have to live with it. Here are a few pointers I can suggest to make your design more efficient.

MECHANICALS: Open floor plans are the essence of the modern log home. They make a home feel larger, and keep the cook from feeling isolated. However, if you have a second floor you need to consider how you are going to get the plumbing, the electric and the ductwork (both supply and return) to the upstairs rooms. You won’t be using the exterior walls for that, so you need to create enough interior walls downstairs to fit all the mechanicals. Each object in all likelihood will take its own space between the 2x4s. Even if you use radiant-floor heating, you’ll need ductwork for the air conditioning. There are some systems that use high-pressure ductwork much smaller in diameter than conventional ducts, so there are other possibilities if you are pressed for space. But the best solution is to think ahead. If you’re tempted to use an interior full-log wall (or none at all), you may be sacrificing an opportunity to get more ductwork upstairs.

PLUMBING: The wisest floor plans are the ones that try to keep the bathrooms together (either back-to-back or one directly above the other) and the shortest runs on the plumbing. This can’t always be done, but when placing the upstairs bathroom, try to line it up with an interior downstairs wall. This way the plumbing doesn’t have to snake all over the place.

CLOSETS: I would venture to guess that log homes are usually notoriously short on closet space. I know my home is. First of all, it would be a terrible waste to put a closet against an exterior log wall. Why hide your beautiful logs? And because we try to keep the square footage down to a minimum, it almost seems a crime to waste precious space on closets. However, there’s more than one reason to include them. Not only do we seem to collect more stuff as we get older, but by law in several states the closet determines whether a room is a bedroom or an office. This could affect the resale (or refinancing) of your house. Here is a suggestion: put two closets side-by-side on the wall separating two rooms; the closets may not be huge, but it doesn’t change the shape of the rooms. Try to include a coat closet near your front door.

WINDOWS: As I’m sure you’ve already read many times, you can’t have too many windows in a log home. The wood sucks up the light like a sponge. If you have a large empty wall, the insertion of a window near the peak not only lets in more light, it adds character. Some people add windows along either side of a shed dormer. In my case, I had to move the roof line to increase the size of my bedroom window, because by code it needed to be 6′ square for egress. In any upstairs bedroom you’ll need your windows to be large enough to climb out in case of fire. Also remember that too many direct-set windows will decrease the amount of air flow to your upstairs. In my house I added an awning (a small hinged window) to the bottom of stationery windows in my dormers. This helped let air in, but even so the rooms can be stuffy. A ceiling fan helps, but ultimately I may need to add a skylight to create a draft.

KITCHEN VENT: One of the more difficult decisions we made concerned how to vent the range hood. If you don’t want your stove to be on an exterior wall, you are going to have an interesting puzzle. Will you run the exhaust duct between the floor joists to the exterior? Will the run be so long you’ll have to add another fan? I gave in and moved my stove to the exterior wall, but then we had to cut a hole in the logs for the vent. Horrors! How do you hide that? My builder built a little cedar box around the hole and we were lucky enough to have a porch roof underneath, so you can’t see it from every direction. Still, this ugly vent is on the front of the house, and had I thought of it, I may have moved the kitchen to the back of the house.

CRAWL SPACE vs. BASEMENT: There are many reasons to opt for a crawl space rather than a basement – none of them particularly comfortable. Aside from the obvious disadvantages of a crawl space, there are a few things we didn’t think of. I, in my blissful ignorance, didn’t give any thought to the ugly electrical panel. Of course, I knew we’d have meters and a panel, but I didn’t think of where they were going. What I didn’t know was that by code, we couldn’t put the panel in the crawl space. Since we don’t have a garage, the electrical panel was installed in one of our rooms on the log wall. Isn’t that lovely? Another disadvantage of the crawl space: you’ll need a short water heater if that’s where it is going, and you may need to purchase a horizontal-mount furnace. Because our water quality was poor, we had to install a purification system. This 54″ unit must be mounted upright, and our crawl space is 48″ tall. We had to punch a hole through the concrete floor to make room for the unit.

GUTTERS: Yes, you want to get the water away from your log home at all costs. There can be challenges; we have an alpine-style home with a vaulted ceiling. However, the roof comes to a deep V on the corners that create a magnificent rain chute. This is not necessarily wonderful when it dumps onto your deck! Because of the generous overhang that comes with a log home, the end of that V projects far from the walls and doesn’t make a logical angle from which to hang a downspout. On one corner I satisfied myself with an old-fashioned rain barrel, and on the deck side we had to divert the water to the pergola we built against the house, and ran a gutter along the edge of the pergola.

OVERHANGS: You should have at least a 1′ foot and preferably a 2′ overhang to protect your logs. This overhang needs to be taken into consideration when designing your roof line. If you have overlapping angles, make sure you are not creating a water trap or a snow trap. There are times your overhang might bump into another angle of the roof. You may actually have to raise part of the roof a little to make clearance.

DOOR SWINGS: This can be one of the most annoying errors you can make and not catch until too late. Think of what your door is covering when opened all the way. Is it covering another doorway? Will two doors bang together? If you are in a tight space, will it open all the way at all? When we installed our bathroom vanity, we didn’t think about the door swing until the plumbing was already hooked up. The door cleared the vanity by one whole inch; it could have been worse. You can compensate by swinging the other way (before it’s already hung, or your hinges will be on the wrong side). Or, in the design phase you can use a narrower door. Or get a smaller vanity.

ELECTRICAL: The electrical and plumbing layout will not come from your log home architectural drawings. The manufacturer is not concerned about where you put your outlets. Once the plans are firmed up, the time will come for you to sit down with the electrician and mark exactly where you want your outlets, switches and light fixtures. Local code will determine the minimum distance between outlets, but anyone will tell you to put in more than you need; eventually you will probably use them anyway. Even if you don’t need it, put your cable and telephone into every room; it’s so much easier and cheaper to do it up front. Also remember, you can’t ever have too many lights in a log home. Plan ahead for those fixtures – especially the ones in the ceiling. They will not be pretty to add later on.

DEAD SPACE: If you are building a huge log home, you’ve got so much space it doesn’t really matter. But for most of the rest of us, every inch counts. There are some approaches that might maximize your floor space. First of all, do you really need hallways? Some space-saving designs arrange the rooms so they all open into a small hallway. I prefer none at all. Also, consider that every closet door creates dead space. If you can arrange your floor plan so that closet door swings into a place which is already dead (for instance, another closet door or a foyer), you might open up the room a bit. Does your loft serve a purpose or is it merely an open hallway from room to room? Can you put a piece of furniture on it? If not, perhaps it would serve to give it an angle and make your “open to below” space a little smaller.

Hopefully I’ve helped a little bit. I learned many of these tips the hard way, and I’m sure there are plenty more I haven’t bumped into yet. After all, a custom home is one giant learning curve.

Green Homes – Green Home Building For Eco Friendly Living

Green homes are houses that are kinder to the planet. They use lesser energy, produce less waste, and are a healthier environment for the people inside. Green homes come out of a philosophy of being more eco-friendly to the environment. They save on electricity, find ways to cut down on carbon-waste and general energy consumption. Green homes can put money in your pocket, and give you the peace of mind you are doing your bit to help sustain our planet.

Energy

Most of us would to make the world a little “greener” by reducing our home energy consumption. There has been improvement in building techniques and materials over the last couple of decades, which means that homes are becoming more energy efficient. Do you dream of a house with no carbon emissions and zero-net-energy use? This can be achieved with a strategy that includes alternative energy sources, and conscientious fabrication methods and standards. We can channel in green energy into our homes without breaking the bank. There are DIY home energy programs that cost thousands of dollars but there are also DIY Solar and wind turbine schemes that will only cost a few hundred dollars, and that can be implemented without great technical skills. You can reach your goal of a Zero Energy Home, and it maybe just a couple of steps away…

Design: Living Green Designer Homes

When we think of eco friendly homes, or sustainable homes, we probably have an image of an odd-looking place? Too many panels and windmills all over it, maybe half buried on a hill, or too high tech for our budget? That may have been the case once but it’s now possible to design a home that is beautiful, and will give you a degree of independence from both present and future water and energy cost increases and shortages There is evidence of a growing concern about environmental and design issues. There is information available from government from which you can learn about design of green buildings for energy conservation. Good modern design standards readily integrate sustainable features such as rainwater collection, alternative power sources, grey water recycling, solar hot water and water efficient landscaping.

Sustainability

In December 2006, The Code for Sustainable Homes was introduced as a voluntary code in the UK and by May 2008 has become a national standard. It rates the key elements of design and construction which impact upon sustainability and efficiency. It is used by architects, builders and consumers alike in helping them plan and design new homes. The code awards new homes a star rating from 1 to 6, based on their performance against 9 sustainability criteria which assess the overall environmental impact. These are model green home building guidelines!

Building regulations require at least One Star. Six Stars reflects exemplary sustainability.The sustainability criteria by which new homes are measured are:

Energy and CO2 Emissions

Water H20 & Surface Water Run-off

Materials

Waste

Pollution

Health and Well-Being

Management of the environmental impacts of the construction and operation

Ecology

The key is to achieve sustainability without compromising either design or quality. The Code introduces minimum standards for energy and environmental factors affecting the sustainability of a home, and the rating takes into account different elements of sustainability. These include energy, transport, pollution, materials, land use and ecology and health and well-being. The UK Government has set the industry a target of delivering zero-carbon homes by 2016.

The aim of sustainable homes is to deliver real improvements in key areas such as carbon dioxide emissions and water use.

Carbon

Carbon reduction is high on the political agenda of all nations, yet there is a clear struggle for governments to come to terms with the measures that must be taken to achieve the reduction goals that our best science tells us is needed. Much can be achieved by action at the household level that can drastically reduce the enormity of the tasks that faces governments looking at the problems on a macro scale. Motivation for the changes that are needed is key, as it is in anything great but difficult that we strive for. One ‘carrot’ in the budget for households is the direct benefit of reduced energy bills achieved by making an effort to reduce their own carbon pollution. In the UK, London Green Homes service uniquely offers a free telephone advice service, a website and a paid-for green service to provide a free tailor-made package of carbon saving lifestyle improvements. The service has great flexibility, offering Londoners advice on a broad range of actions to reduce carbon emissions from lifestyle changes; and explains how best to save money on energy bills. It is the UK’s first one-stop-shop for information on how to make homes more carbon efficient.

Environmental

A US survey has shown that 87% of home buyers want to know how their homes rate in terms of environmental performance in order to make an informed decision when moving house. Further, 84% would pay an average 2% more for an eco-friendly home. Environmentally friendly homes are no longer a luxury reserved only for the richest Americans. Environmental concerns, dependence on foreign oil, water shortages, vanishing species, are all factors in an increasing the awareness of the call for us to be better stewards of the earth and its resources.

In this environmentally aware world, we are hearing more about green homes, eco friendly living and sustainable homes. Green homes that are designed to be energy efficient, use environmentally friendly and healthy materials and conserver water are becoming the standard. In addition to new building standards, there are simple environmentally friendly, DIY projects that will help curb energy costs, and improve your homes value.

Space is still the most important consideration for home buyers, but environmental considerations and use of eco-friendly materials are very high on the list of priorities. Architectural firms today are often committed to developing creative yet environmentally sustainable components of space for the betterment of lifestyle and family in a way that supports responsible stewardship of the environment and natural resources. Green living and building, with an emphasis on health, energy efficiency and environmental conservation, has never been more relevant than it is today. As time goes on, there will be more attention given to advocating for socially just and environmentally-minded rebuilding solutions. Home-building imposes very significant environmental and social costs at all levels. Impacts of new home construction include:

quarrying to provide basic raw construction materials like aggregates,

water consumption, and the widespread use of toxic

chemicals in building materials.

Conclusion

Green homes can put money in your pocket, they don’t need to be thought of as an expensive way to do what’s demanded of us for the environment. Sustainable homes give you peace of mind from knowing that you are doing everything you can to help sustain the planet. Sustainable homes don’t have to be unattractive anymore, and unsuitable for residential architecture. Green homes are better for the environment because they use less energy, less water, and have a lower impact on the environment

Green Home Building Trends For 2010

Although the building industry had a dark year in 2009, Green building seemed to somehow stick out and shine. According to the Multiple Listing Service date, certified sustainable green new homes actually rose the past year in the northern west coast areas like Portland and Seattle. This trend is believed to spread over the U.S. and green building is expected to grow within new home sales. Already new home sales are on a rise from a year ago with March of 2010 seeing the biggest jump in new home sales in 47 years. So what trends can we expect to see in 2010 in green new homes?

1. Energy Monitoring Home Dashboards. The increasing demand for energy efficient homes, the development of a custom web-based display panel within the home, will show real-time home energy use. This sophisticated produced can break down the real time energy use of homeowners appliances, which will help a homeowner change the way they use their electricity. For example the way an electric car miles per gallon indicator encourages the owner to adapt their driving habits, new homes that offer these Dashboards may encourage homeowners to reach lower energy use. Dashboards will also increase the probability that homeowners of green homes will reach the Energy Performance Score.

2. Energy Efficient Green Home Labeling. Like the miles per gallon label you would find when searching for a new car, energy rating systems for new homes has become popular among legislators. This energy rating system will make it easier for home buyers to see the energy efficiency of one green home compared to another. Each homes score will be available on the MLS.

3. Lenders and Green Homes Make for a Better Bottom Line. Lenders have come to the conclusion that green new homes are better for their bottom line. By seeing a trend of green home owners being more responsible and less probable to default on a loan, due to the fact that most green home owners are more accountable and likely to place higher value on home maintenance. Home owners are also less likely to default due to the decrease in energy coast within their green home. Lenders are now working to get reduced-rate loans and insurance packages for green new home owners.

4. Less Is More. Back when the housing market was booming, a larger homes lead to greater equity. However since that “bubble burst” this is no longer the case. With energy prices expected to rise over time, and the Federal Reserve likely to raise interest rates during 2010, home buyers are likely to feel more at ease with smaller new homes.

5. Water Conservation. Did you know that residential water usage accumulates for more than half of the public water supplied? The EPA decided in December 2009 to implement WaterSense. WaterSense specifies that new homes will need to reduce water use by 20 percent than conventional new home. Mandatory energy labeling in Europe already documents the water efficiency.

6. Net Zero Homes. A net zero home is a green home that generates more energy than it uses over a year. This is done by building a fairly small new home that is extremely energy efficient and uses on site renewable energy like wind, solar or geo-exchange systems.

Learn The Top Tips For Your Home Business

Perhaps you are starting a home business offering professional services. Whether you are an electrician or a proofreader, your biggest question is: “How do I make my business known?” Here are some tips from others who have faced this question. They can help you build a thriving business–right from your home.

When approaching a home business, it is important to know where the biggest opportunity lies. Internet-based businesses are the biggest thing in today’s world, but they also come with some of the biggest risks. Therefore, one of the most important parts of starting a home business is making sure that your product or service is going to fit a profitable niche.

Figure out the money involved. If necessary save as much money as you can before starting your home business. There are always unseen charges that you will have to deal with, and it is best to pay these with available money rather than a credit card. Don’t think that you can walk into a bank and loan money. Most banks will need to see a proven track record.

Your office needs some sort of door or “barrier”. Your office needs to be separate from the living areas in the home. This will be a mental and physical signal that your work space is separate from your rest space. The separation will help you to leave your work behind when you are busy with the rest of your life.

Make sure that any business you choose can be profitable. Research the demands and trends. Is there a market? Who are the competitors? If the market is crowded, can you fill a niche? Startup costs? Economies of scale? How much income fluctuation? What’s the revenue required to cover expenses? It may not easy but doing your homework now may reduce heartbreak later.

If you are considering selling a product or a service, determine the going rate for that product or service in today’s marketplace. Looking through other websites in your industry will serve as a great barometer for pricing, and often enables you to choose a competitive price. Never talk negatively about your competition, focus on marketing your good qualities.

Ask your customers to provide you with statements about your product or home business. They can talk about their experience with you or what they think about their purchases. Place this information on your website; it is a great (and free!) way to advertise to others. Happy customers will be pleased to provide you with a review, so don’t hesitate to ask.

You should be honest and realistic about your expectations with your home business. Are you offering fantastic products or services that will continually attract new clients? Can you say that your business would be run honestly?

These tips have given you a lot of sound advice. You are probably planning your Linked-In entry and your Facebook page right now. The internet is a big help. But as these tips have shown, there are also other ways to make your business known. Diligent effort can bring you a thriving business and an important place in your community.