Protect Your Home From Flooding

An unexpected flood can be devastating and damaging to your home. Hurricane Ida has shown us how under-prepared Connecticut truly is. To better protect yourself and your home, here’s our advice on how to keep safe in case of a flood emergency.

Flood Insurance

Repairing your home after a flood can cost up to $25,000 for just an inch of water. A few houses were reported to have water up to your knees after the last hurricane. It is essential to be prepared with flood insurance, especially in a high flood-risk area. Not that flood damage isn’t already included in a regular home insurance plan, but flood insurance should be purchased separately. Only some insurance companies, by name, can better protect you from the destruction caused by a flood.

Invest in a Sump Pump, Flood Sensors, and an Automatic Shut-Off Valve

Invest in protective measures to minimize the damage. A sump pump will pump water out of the basement. Flood sensors will alert you immediately to any water where it shouldn’t be or a cracked pipe, allowing you to respond quickly. An automatic shut-off valve will shut off the main water supply when activated.

Build a Barrier Around Your House

If permitted by your local building codes, consider a floodwall or levee around your home. A temporary solution that can be a tremendous last-minute line of defense is piling a wall of sandbags, 1-foot tall, around your home.

Keep Important Items Safe

If living in a flood-risk area, elevate expensive appliances like your water heater, washer/dryer, and electrical panel off the ground. This includes any electrical appliances that can short circuit in the basement, such as a laundry unit or a second kitchen. You should also keep all your private documents like your passport or birth certificate in a waterproof lockbox on a shelf higher up.

Be Prepared

Be better prepared the next time a hurricane comes flying in. Work out a flood plan beforehand, so you know what you need to do and what essential items are to be fully stocked in case of an emergency. Your emergency kit should include first-aid, medicine, flashlights, and batteries, and sometimes non-perishables.

Conclusion

Some people may not know that they live in flood-risk areas, so you should always make suitable investments to protect your home. Have more questions or need expert assistance building these safeguards into your home?

A Home Maintenance Guide For Homeowners

About to purchase your first home and not sure what kind of maintenance will come with it? Like many things in adulthood, owning a home comes with a lot of responsibilities. Aside from paying the light bill and Wi-Fi, the up-keep is just as essential as cleaning out your garbage disposal. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common maintenance needs as a homeowner.

Frequent Maintenance

When you first move in, change the locks! While it is uncommon for previous owners to break into your home, you always want to lower the possibility of anyone other than yourself having access. Every month or so, be sure to change the batteries to all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you hear any beeping sounds, don’t ignore them. That’s its way of alerting you to change the battery pack. 

Ever wondered why you always get a stuffy nose at night? Or why do you constantly have an urge to sneeze from time to time? Try changing your HVAC filters. When left untouched, all that dust and debris can build up and will likely be the cause of your restless nights. Try it out. You’ll see a change in your sleep pattern and HVAC appliances.

Check for leaks around the house, and if you need to recaulk the bathroom or windows, replace them. You don’t have to worry about it so soon if done professionally, but it can wear down after a while. 

Inspect your fire extinguisher. While it’s true fire extinguishers don’t come with an expiration date, forever isn’t promised. You’d be surprised how little previous owners checked theirs.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry in case of emergencies.

Finally, locate essential items like the water shut-off valve and circuit breaker. This is second-hand knowledge that could be helpful if inspectors plan a visit or any kind of renovation that needs to be done regarding sinks, showers, toilets, lighting, etc. 

Long-term Maintenance

Moving forward are some examples that need to be handled less often but should always be kept in mind for the future. The following repairs or replacements can get expensive, so it is crucial that you do your research. Think ahead of the uncertainties and set aside money to properly maintain your at-home paradise. 

Inspect your chimney, mainly if it’s not being used often or adequately. Cover your AC unit, empty your lawn mower fuel tank, and winterize any exposed pipes before the seasons change. Check for any winter damage like the roof and siding, and clean out those gutters every spring. During the summer, reseal your deck, open up your pool (if you have one), tend to your landscape paradise, and inspect for pests. 

After every six months, clean your refrigerator coil, vacuum your air vents, and clean your showerheads. After a year, drain your water heater, clean out the dryer vent, and get your septic cleaned out too. We know this may sound like a list of chores, but imagine all the money you’d be saving if you didn’t have to pay for heavy-duty replacements all at once. 

From 5 to 10 years, replace the dishwasher, microwave, and kitchen sink. In the meantime, set applicable appliances, like the dishwasher to self-clean. Get rid of that old water smell and mold that could be growing. After about 15 years, and if you still live in the same home, replace your water heater and refrigerator. Also, and this is something that usually gets overlooked, replace your garage door opener or motor. 

Conclusion

Many people think in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix” scenario which isn’t always the safest idea. Your home is your greatest investment, and it’s important that you maintain its beauty. Do your research and follow up on the signs like random puddles of water by the fridge, or clanking pipes by the boiler. Beeping usually means changing the battery, and a stuffy nose can lead to clogged AC filters. While we hope this list helps you prepare for your homeownership journey, contact us if you have any questions.

Aging-in-Place: Accessible Housing Tips

According to a 2018 AARP report, 76% of Americans ages 50 and older say they prefer to remain in their current residence and 77% would like to live in their community as long as possible. In order to make this wish a reality, homes must be designed with age-in-place features to help older homeowners stay comfortable and independent in their own homes for as long as possible. 

Here are some of the top features to include for aging in place:

Overall Design

Your home should be designed in a way that even as you get older, you’ll still be able to navigate the entirety of the house, or at least the areas you use most often. 

The simplest way to do this would be to choose a one-level house with an open concept. If you do have a house with more than one floor, try moving everything to the main floor. That way it is much more accommodating to get to your everyday needs as you grow in age. If you’re looking to move, keeping an eye out for a first-floor master bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom should be top priority.

If you regularly need to access the second floor of your home, we recommend a motorized stairlift. Some homeowners are even installing elevators in their homes.

Build wide doorways (36”) and halls to accommodate wheelchairs or other walking aids. The home should have a level walking surface. This means no areas that you have to step into and no tripping hazards like thick throw rugs.

Doorknobs should be replaced with easier-to-grasp levers, and lighting should be ample to accommodate failing vision.

Smart home features are also great for aging homeowners! Any process that can be automated or controlled by the push of a button will save a mobility-challenged homeowner from straining or possibly injuring themselves.

Bedroom

Your bed and bedroom furniture should be low and easy to access. Install handrails near the bed. In the closet,  install lighting and pull-down rods.

Bathroom

Bathrooms can be dangerous for elderly homeowners. Avoid step-in tubs and opt for a shower instead. Install a shower seat and handrails in the shower and near the toilet.

Kitchen

Make sure everything in the kitchen is within reach. Low storage options are preferred rather than storing items in high cabinets. Install chair-height countertops and appliances and touchless faucets. Choose appliances with buttons on the front so you will not have to struggle to reach towards the back.

Outdoor

As you get older, it may become difficult to maintain your outdoor space. Choose low-maintenance plants and install a sprinkler system. It also wouldn’t hurt to ask any younger kids in the neighborhood to help out. They’re great in company, and affordable. 

Financial Assistance

Aging-in-place modifications can be expensive, but there is financial assistance available. Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurances may cover some modifications. You can also check with your local state Aging or Housing agency for assistance.

Conclusion

Aging in place is certainly possible with careful planning and the proper home modifications. If you have more questions and would like to speak with a remodeling expert, please reach out.

The Multipurpose Garage

Many people are underutilizing their garage to just park their car and store their rarely-used or seasonal items. Garages have the potential to be a wonderful add-on to your living space when organized and used creatively. 

When done right, repurposing your garage can add a fantastic bonus room to your house! Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Why the Garage?

There are several reasons that garages are a great space for a multipurpose room. They are usually large, making them suitable for a variety of different uses. Opening the door can provide you with great ventilation for messy projects, or cases where you are dealing with dangerous fumes. Garages can also allow you to be noisy without disturbing the rest of your household. Best of all, if you already own a home with a garage, you don’t need to build a costly addition to expand your home. Your garage is a spacious bonus room just waiting to happen!

How to Prep Your Garage as a Multipurpose Space

If you’re going to use your garage for something other than just storing your vehicle, you’ll want to make sure to add these features:

  • Make sure it is well-insulated and install a heating and cooling system, so that it can remain a comfortable temperature year-around. 
  • Install good lighting, and have it equipped with plenty of electrical outlets. 
  • Consider more comfortable flooring for your feet, as most garages are made of concrete.
  • If you want the convenience of a sink while getting your hands dirty on a project or prepping some snacks, have appropriate plumbing installed.

You will also want to make sure to optimize storage space with creative storage solutions. It is important to find ways to minimize clutter to make the most use of your garage space for other purposes.

Multipurpose Garage Ideas

Now that your garage is prepped, here are some fun ways to use your new living space:

  • A Workshop or Art Studio – Your garage is a great place to get messy! Outfit your garage with workbenches to do your art, crafting, or construction projects. 
  • A Home Office – With work-from-home situations becoming more common nowadays, you might be struggling to find a suitable workspace in your home. Have you considered a home office in your garage?
  • A Home Gym – A garage is a great place to get sweaty, especially when the weather is nice and you can open up the door to get some refreshing air.
  • An Entertainment Room – You can create the ultimate entertainment space in your garage. Consider a game room, arcade, or even a home movie theater!
  • A Lounge or Guest Room – With the proper insulation, lighting, electrical, and flooring, you can even repurpose your garage to be basically another room in your house – perfect for lounging or hosting guests.
  • A Kid’s Playplace – Tired of seeing your kids’ toys strewn all over the house? Turn your garage into the ultimate playroom for your kids.

There are so many creative ways to make the most of your garage space. What does your dream garage look like?

Top Locations for a Laundry Room

The laundry room may not be the most glamorous space in a home, but it’s a room that most homeowners want. 

A laundry room appears at the top of the list of NAHB’s 2021 most essential home features. While most people are happy to have dedicated space to do laundry at home, being able to pick the perfect location for a laundry room is even better. 

If you are building or remodeling your home and have the option of where to place your laundry room, we recommend considering the following:

Basement

Often, laundry rooms are found in the basement. This can be a great option for those who prefer a laundry room that is out of the way. You may also find you have more space to dedicate to a laundry room on the lower level of your home, which may be preferred if you have children or pets, or want to create space for sorting, ironing, and folding within the laundry room.

However, some people dislike going up and down the basement stairs for every load of laundry. This is especially true if the basement is unfinished, and the only reason you go downstairs is for laundry. 

Main Level

A laundry room on the main level of the home is another great option. This location is more convenient for those who do not want to go up and downstairs. It also often offers easier access if you are coming inside from the backyard, and want to drop off dirtied clothing without dragging them through the rest of the home. 

There are some downsides to this type of placement as well. If located on the first level, the laundry room is located in close proximity to your main living areas: the kitchen, living room, and dining room. If not tucked away, the laundry room can be noisy or become an eyesore. 

Some people have a dedicated mudroom on the main level where they place their washer and dryer. This is an ideal location, as it is convenient to where you spend your time on the main level, yet far enough away that it is not a distraction. 

Top Level

If you have more than one floor, you can also opt to place a laundry room on the top level of the home, which is generally where the majority of the bedrooms are.  This location is extremely convenient for dropping off dirty items and putting away clean clothes, as you only have to walk a short distance to each room.

On the downside, a laundry room on the top level means you have to go upstairs every time you need to sort or switch out clothing. As most people spend the majority of their time on the main level, this can become cumbersome. In addition, you likely won’t want to start a load at night or early morning, as the noise may interfere with someone’s sleep. 

Any space can become functional for laundry with some planning and organization. Finding a location that is out of the way yet convenient to get to is ideal for a laundry room.

Patio vs. Deck: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself

Dreaming of an outdoor entertainment space where you can spend the lazy days of summer enjoying some solace in nature, or hanging out with family and friends amidst the smell of burgers being grilled to perfection? 

Not sure whether a patio or deck is the best option to achieve this dream? 

Here are nine questions that you should ask yourself when trying to decide whether a patio or deck is right for you.

Deck at Horton Group’s 66 High Street luxury condos.

1) What is the difference between a patio and a deck?

A patio is level with the ground, while a deck is on a raised platform. Typically patios are made of concrete, but can also be made of brick, pavers, stone, or tile. Decks are usually made of wood, composite wood, or vinyl. Decks are required to have railings while patios often do not have railings.

2) What is my budget?

If you’re on a tight budget, then a patio will typically be your cheaper option. Since patios are level with the ground, there is no added cost to build a platform. However, decks will typically have a higher return-on-investment (averaging 72% in 2020). If you are concerned with the resale value of your house, it is worth considering paying more for the deck.

3) Do I want to DIY it?

For safety and building code reasons, deck construction is better left to the professionals. If you want a DIY project, you’re better off going with the patio, but hiring a professional is still recommended.

4) Is my property sloping or hilly?

If your property is not on level ground, a deck will probably be a better option for you, especially if you want a deck that you can access through an interior living space. If your heart is set on a patio, you can always level out the land – but keep in mind this requires additional time and cost to complete the project.

5) Do I need to get a permit?

In many places, you need a permit in order to build a deck, as you are adding an additional structure to your home that must be safely built up-to-code. It depends on the location, but you often don’t need a permit to build a patio. Always check with your municipality to ensure you are following guidelines. 

Covered patio at Horton Group’s 21 Palms construction.

6) Do I want my outdoor entertainment space attached to my house?

Decks are almost always attached to the house. Patios can be attached or located anywhere on your property. It’s up to your personal preference whether you want a structure attached to your home or something a little farther away.

7) How much maintenance am I willing to do?

Typically there isn’t much maintenance to perform on a patio other than to keep it clean and repair any cracks. The amount of maintenance you will need to perform on a deck is dependent on the material. Vinyl and composite decking are long-lasting and should not need much beyond cleaning. Decks made out of wood will need to be sanded and resealed regularly.

8) What kind of view do I want?

Since decks are raised, they can provide an awesome view of the landscape, but if you do not want any rails blocking your view, a patio might be a better option for you. A patio is also the better option if you prefer your outdoor entertainment space to be immersed in your landscaping, such as surrounded by gardens, fountains, or simply nature.

9) What about a pool?

If you have or want a pool in your outdoor space this will be a huge factor in determining whether a patio or deck makes more sense for you. A patio can easily make a great entertainment space around an inground pool. If you have an above-ground pool, you can build a deck around it.

Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when choosing between a patio or a deck for your home. These include budget, ROI, local building codes, typography, personal preference, and other features that you want to include such as a pool. It’s important to ask yourself these nine questions to make the best decision for you.

Choosing Your Master Bedroom Location

The master bedroom is one of the most important rooms a prospective homeowner should consider when buying or building a house. The location of the room is important, and should accommodate your lifestyle needs and personal preferences.

Here are the top things to take into account when thinking about the location of your master bedroom!

Mobility Concerns

According to an AARP study, 87% of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age. This number is 71% among the 50-64 age group. When you consider that four of the top ten states with the highest aging population are New England states – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Connecticut – these statistics are vital to many of our clients.

How does this relate to the location of the master bedroom? Well, with more homeowners choosing to age-in-place, many seek to build or buy a home with a first-floor master bedroom. That way, they do not have to go up and down the stairs multiple times a day.  The bedroom will also be in close proximity to other rooms that they use daily, like the kitchen, living room, bathroom, or garage. 

Making age-in-place considerations when buying or building a home also increases the resale value, as more and more homeowners are looking for a first-floor master suite.

Horton Group construction at the Residences at 66 High Street.

Lifestyle and Preferences

A homeowner should also consider their lifestyle and personal preferences when choosing the location of the master suite. 

Someone with young children may prefer a second-floor bedroom to be closer to the kids. Or perhaps they prefer to have more quiet and privacy on the first floor away from the children’s bedrooms. Keep in mind, a  first floor bedroom can be noisy if placed too close to the kitchen, living room, or any place with heavy foot traffic.

Someone who values privacy or is a light sleeper will probably want a bedroom located towards the back of the house – away from street lights, noisy roads, and peering neighbors. On the other hand, this might be a bad location for someone who prefers to be closer to the other bedrooms in the house, or wants a view of the front yard.

A first-floor master bedroom can be a money saver if children have moved out of the house and the second floor is largely unused. In this case, homeowners can choose to spend minimal energy heating or cooling the second floor and focus on keeping the first floor comfortable. 

Another factor to consider is access to outdoor space. Do you dream of being able to get out of bed in the morning and stroll right into your garden or step outside for beachside views? Then perhaps you should consider a first-floor bedroom with direct access to your outdoor space. For others, having such easy access to the bedroom from outside could be a safety concern.

Horton Group construction at 77 Palms

Conclusion

The location of the master bedroom is a big decision, and several factors should be considered including mobility, resale value, lifestyle, family size, and personal preference. Depending on all these factors, a homeowner may choose a master bedroom on the first or second floor, towards the front of the home, or the back of the home. 

There is no definitive right or wrong when it comes to choosing a master suite location, but prospective homeowners should consider these pros and cons to make an informed decision they will be content with in the long run.

Ready to discuss your dream master suite with us? Get in touch today.

3 Ways to Lower Your Air Conditioning Costs

With summer almost here, air conditioners start to run all day and night. In most homes, this accounts for the biggest share of energy consumption in summer. 

While your AC may keep you comfortable in the hot and humid months, costs can add up if you don’t have an efficient system. 

Keep reading to learn three tips to reduce air conditioning costs this summer. 

Upgrade Your Air Conditioning Unit

Old air conditioning units are inefficient, which means they consume more energy and cost more to run. By replacing window units with an efficient mini-split system, you can gain up to 70% energy savings.

Upgrading your HVAC system does come with a cost, so make sure you budget the project, and speak with a professional about the options available for your home. 

Smart Controls

Leaving the air conditioning on full blast is a waste. Just like you program heat in the winter, you can program your air conditioning to ensure your home is comfortable while saving you money. Program the air conditioning to your comfort level for the times of the day when you are home. When working or away, increase the temperature by 7-10 degrees to reduce costs. 

Mini-split systems also enable you to cool down the rooms you use the most. You can set the temperature for the main living areas to one level, and another level for rooms more seldomly used. 

Reduce Air Leakage

A home with poor insulation or air leaks enables cool air to get out and hot outside air to get into the home. The opposite is true during cold winter months, so this tip can help you save all year long!

Some easy ways to improve insulation are by caulking and weatherproofing all windows and doors, replacing any worn-out or drafty window treatments with new ones made of insulating materials (such as cotton drapes), and closing off unused parts of an attic when possible. You can also go an additional step to improve your home’s insulation by adding spray foam insulation throughout your home.

Your air conditioning unit is a major factor in your energy bills, and these tips can help reduce those costs. Do you have other tips? Let us know!

Cost vs. Value of Home Improvement Projects

Homeowners who are ready to remodel usually have a budget in mind. Another factor to look at when making upgrades is what you can expect for the project’s ROI. During remodels, not all costs are recouped, but they can add value to your home. 

The Cost vs. Value Report compares the average costs for 22 remodeling projects with the value they retained at resale across 101 U.S. markets in 2020. 

Take a look at the average costs and resale value before you take on your next project!

ProjectJob CostResale ValueCost Recouped
Manufactured Stone Veneer$9,357$8,94395.6%
Garage Door Replacement$3,695$3,49194.5%
Minor Kitchen Remodel | Midrange$23,425$18,20677.6%
Siding Replacement | Fiber-Cement$17,008$13,19577.6%
Siding Replacement | Vinyl$14,359$10,73174.7%
Window Replacement | Vinyl$17,641$12,76172.3%
Deck Addition | Wood$14,360$10,35572.1%
Window Replacement | Wood$21,495$14,80468.9%
Entry Door Replacement | Steel$1,881$1,29468.8%
Deck Addition | Composite$19,856$13,25766.8%
Roofing Replacement | Asphalt Shingles$24,700$16,28765.9%
Bath Remodel | Midrange$21,377$13,68864%
Bath Remodel | Universal Design$34,643$21,46362%
Roofing Replacement | Metal$40,318$24,68261.2%
Major Kitchen Remodel | Midrange$68,490$40,12758.6%
Master Suite Addition | Midrange$136,739$80,02958.5%
Bath Remodel | Upscale$67,106$37,99556.6%
Bathroom Addition | Upscale$91,287$49,96154.7%
Bathroom Addition | Midrange$49,598$26,80754%
Major Kitchen Remodel | Upscale$135,547$72,99353.9%
Grand Entrance | Fiberglass$9,254$4,93053.3%
Master Suite Addition | Upscale$282,062$145,48651.6%

As you can see, manufactured stone veneer and new garage doors have the highest resale value, with over 94% of costs recouped for both projects. Other projects that recoup a high percentage of remodeling costs include a minor kitchen remodel, siding replacement, window replacement, and deck addition. 

This does not mean that remodeling projects are not worth your time or money. You should also factor in your specific wants and needs and how long you plan to stay in your residence after the remodeling is complete. Once you set your budget and your vision, talk with your contractor about any concerns you may have about the resale value. 

What remodeling project are you most likely to take on in the next year? Let us know in the comments!

When do you need a Building Permit?

We know many people are taking on home improvements this year, and with good reason! Updating your home to improve function and design makes it more comfortable and can increase the property value. 

Before you get started on your projects, it’s essential to follow protocol and safety regulations. Depending on the project, this may include obtaining a building permit. 

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit records any changes you make to your property with your town. When you apply for a building permit, it also ensures that the remodeling project will be reviewed by an inspector and deemed safe for current and future residents. 

In addition to keeping your home improvements up to current safety standards, building permits are also proof that you complied with all building codes. Should you decide to sell your home in the future, it’s essential to have this documentation. 

When is a Permit Needed?

Home improvement projects that include structural, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work generally require a building permit. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Structural Work: Changes to the structure of your property, including changes to load-bearing walls, foundation, roofing, decks, and balconies, require a permit. Your contractor will typically obtain the permit prior to construction.
  • Electrical Work: Simple jobs like installing a new light fixture does not require a permit, but changes to outlets, wiring, or overhead lighting does. 
  • Plumbing: Whether you install new plumbing or replace existing plumbing, a permit will most likely be required.
  • Heating and Mechanical: Any changes made to heating or ventilation requires a permit. This includes work on fireplaces and ducts. 
  • Window Installations: Any time you have to cut holes for window installations, whether installing a new window or replacing an old window with a larger version, you will need a permit. 
  • Additions and Remodels: Any new construction, including an addition or remodel, requires a permit. This includes detached garages and sheds. 

If you are unsure whether or not you need a permit, make sure you talk with a professional. Generally, your builder or contractor will obtain any permits required, so you don’t have to worry about completing the paperwork. 

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