Masonry Construction

Building with masonry is a timeless art form that goes back many centuries. Nowadays, masonry construction is a choice for many homeowners due to the aesthetic appeal it adds to a home. 

 

Masonry consists of assembling structures from single units that are laid and bound together with mortar. This construction technique is popular for various projects due to its many advantages. Here are a few of the great benefits of masonry construction: 

 

  • Masonry is non-combustible and offers high resistance against rotting, termites, mold, and fungus.
  • Masonry structures have long lifespans and require less maintenance than many other building materials.
  • Being both durable and resistant, masonry withstands large amounts of weight and heavy storms, heat, and cold.
  • Finally, this construction technique can add insulation, ultimately lowering your utility bills.

 

Brick, stone, and concrete blocks are the most common materials used in masonry construction. We’ll dive into the advantages and disadvantages of each material.

 

Brick Masonry

brick masonry

Bricks are easier to handle and transport, not to mention cheaper than stones and concrete. Depending on the structural requirements, they adhere to different types of mortar. On the downside, bricks are less durable than stone and concrete. There are also fewer options in regard to size and color. 

 

Stone Masonry

stone masonry

This construction technique is used for building foundations, floors, retaining walls, arches, walls, and columns. Stones used for masonry construction are natural rocks and are the most durable building materials. Compared to bricks, one of the main benefits of stones is the variety of colors, sizes, and textures. However, stone masonry does require skilled workers due to ensure the structure is safe. 

 

Concrete Block Masonry 

concrete masonry

Also known as concrete masonry unit (CMU), concrete block masonry consists of solid or hollow blocks found in many sizes and colors. Concrete blocks can be manufactured to meet any size requirements for specific projects. The material is the most resistant to weather, mold, and pests. On the other hand, concrete masonry requires more manpower. Concrete blocks also increase the amount of steel to reinforce cement concrete structures. 

 

7 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

We often think of air pollution as something that could affect us outside. However, as Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors, keeping indoor air as clean as possible is essential. 

You can make simple changes to reduce the number and exposure of air pollutants in your home. Here are seven things you can do right away to improve the air quality in your home:

Get Rid of Mold

In bathrooms and kitchens, mold and mildew can easily grow where moisture levels are higher than the rest of your house. Plus, the hot summer months can bring about incredibly humid conditions. Exposure to mold can lead to respiratory issues like allergies and asthma. Invest in a dehumidifier in an HVAC system to reduce humidity levels and create comfortable living conditions in your home. 

Purchase an Air Purifier

Using air purifiers is another effective way to limit air pollutants. There’s a variety of indoor air quality products on the market to combat common indoor pollutants. Place purifiers in the house’s most commonly used areas, including the kitchen, bedroom, and living room. 

Invest in Indoor Plants

Houseplants can detoxify indoor air naturally. Spider plants, Chinese evergreens, snake plants, and aloe vera are all plants that NASA recommends for the best air purification.

Increase Ventilation

Proper airflow and ventilation are crucial for good indoor air quality. Over time, dust and mold can accumulate in your ducts. Opening your windows and cleaning your ducts allows harmful air pollutants and allergens to circulate outside, thereby limiting your exposure to it. 

Clean and Vacuum 

Rugs and carpets can easily trap dust particles in their many fibers. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, strong suction, and rotating brushes to suck up all the dust and dirt. Try to vacuum once or twice a week, and don’t forget about furniture, shades, and sheets. 

Keep it Outside

People can track all sorts of chemicals from the dirt on their shoes. Put a large floor mat at every entrance. By simply wiping your shoes off, you can reduce the amount of dirt and pollutants fin your home. 

With summer nearing an end, many of us will be spending more time indoors. Determine what you need in place to keep your indoor air quality high all winter long. 

 

Builder Confidence Increased in July 2020

News about low inventory and historic low mortgage rates has been garnering a lot of attention in the housing market. While real estate agents have been noticing a recovery in the market for the past couple of months, the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) is also showing an increase in builder confidence. 

 

July 2020 Builder Confidence

 

In July, builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes jumped to 72 points, up from 58 points in June. This is a significant increase from April, when builder confidence plummeted to a low of 30 points, the lowest level since 2012.

 

The HMI is a monthly survey that has been conducted for 30 years. It gathers information about builder perceptions and buyer traffic for single-family homes. Anything above 50 points indicates a positive outlook for the market, and below 50 indicates a negative outlook. 

 

The Appeal of New Construction

 

Buyers are actively searching for homes. With low inventory and the desire for a floorplan to meet needs created by the pandemic (like home offices and outdoor living spaces), builders are seeing more interest from prospective buyers. 

 

“Builders are seeing strong traffic and lots of interest in new construction as existing home inventory remains lean,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke.  “Moreover, builders in the Northeast and the Midwest are benefiting from demand that was sidelined during lockdowns in the spring. Low interest rates are also fueling demand, and we expect housing to lead an overall economic recovery.”

 

Low mortgage rates aren’t just for existing homes, they extend to new construction. If you are a prospective buyer who isn’t haven’t luck with current inventory, consider building new or looking at new developments.

New Construction Loans

Buying a home may require a mortgage, but building your dream home requires a different type of mortgage – a construction loan. New construction loans can help pay for home building or renovations and work differently from traditional loans. We’ll delve into what you need to know about a construction loan and how it works. 

 

What is a new construction loan?

A construction loan is a short-term loan that covers the costs of work and materials for new-build homes. Some of the items you can finance with a construction loan include permits, contractor labor, roof framing costs, and many other expenses that come with building a house. 

 

Types of New Construction Loans

Construction lenders provide different types of loans for a variety of homebuilding scenarios. Here are some financing options when building a new house:

 

Construction-to-Permanent

Also known as “single-close” construction loans, this type of loan converts to a permanent mortgage after construction is completed. The benefit with construction-to-permanent is that there is only one set of closing costs to pay, reducing your overall fees.

 

Construction-only

Construction-only loans are also referred to as “two-close” construction loans that require closing on two different loans. The first loan is taken out for the construction. Once work is completed, the loan is paid off with a new loan, called an end loan. The end loan is based on terms locked-in as the home nears completion. 

 

Renovation Construction Loan 

If you want to upgrade your existing home instead of building one, you can look for a renovation loan. This type of loan comes in various forms depending on the amount of money you’re planning on spending. 

 

How Construction Loans Work

As mentioned previously, new home construction loans work much differently from the typical mortgage loans. The lender pays the loan to the contractor, not the borrower, in installments. Once the project has been completed, construction loans can be either converted to permanent mortgage or paid in full. 

 

How to get a Home Construction Loan

Before applying for a loan, the borrower should meet with the designated contractor to understand the total cost to build so a  loan amount can be established. The lender will then review a borrowers’ employment history, savings, income stability, and ability to pay back the loan. A property appraisal will also be obtained to support the value of the project. To qualify you will need an excellent credit score, stable income, low debt-to-income ratio, and a down payment of 20 percent. 

 

How to Find a Lender

It is important to find a lender who specializes in construction lending and isn’t new to the process. Research several lenders to obtain detailed information about their background and specific programs. We recommend that you compare construction loan rates, terms, and down payment requirements to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. 

 

Questions to Ask Your Contractor

Finding the right general contractor for your project isn’t easy. Knowing there are plenty of important questions you need to ask potential contractors isn’t surprising, but exactly which questions to ask are crucial to the searching and hiring process. 

With that in mind, at Horton Group, we appreciate any questions our clients have. We gathered some crucial topics to discuss with a general contractor before you start working on the project together.   

Can you tell me more about your business?

Find several contractors near you and do your research ahead of time. Investigate how long the contractor has been in business and the structure of their business. Asking for business history is highly recommended as you can have a better understanding of its journey and systems set in place. 

Do you have a contracting license and certificate of insurance? 

Cities and states have different regulations on whether contractors must obtain a license. Ensure your contractor has gone through all of the necessary procedures to obtain required certifications. Furthermore, not only should you ask your contractor if they are insured, but how they are insured. All contractors should have both workers compensation and liability insurance for the specific work they perform. 

contractor and permits

Will you assist in obtaining the permits and set up the inspections required for this project? 

Not all projects require permits or inspections, but most remodeling projects can affect the structure of the home. Your potential contractor should know what kind of permits you need and how to get them. Many will also help obtain those permits for you. 

What is your timeline? 

Before you hire a contractor, ask if they can provide a start and completion date. These dates should be included in the formal writing agreement. We also recommend factoring in clean up duties and delivery delays. Additional scheduling questions you may want to ask include: 

  • Are there any other projects you’re working on now that could affect our schedule?
  • Do you have any current bids that haven’t been finalized that could impact this job?

What is your payment schedule like? 

Request price estimates from each candidate. Learn about the payment schedule and determine how surprise expenses will be factored into the budget. The Better Business Bureau advises never paying for the full price of contracting work upfront. A down payment, followed by scheduled payments, is typical protocol.

questions to ask your contractor

What are your working days like? 

Having an understanding and expectations of the contractor’s routine is vital to the hiring process. It’s important for both homeowners and contractors to know what to expect on construction days even before work begins. You can explain to your contractor what the parking situation is like, which restrooms if any are available, and if anyone will be home during construction. 

How can I get in touch with you?

Communication is always key. You need to have a clear understanding of who your point of contact is so you can ask any questions during the construction process. It is also important to get a physical business address along with business or cell phone numbers of the contractor you are working with. 

 

Although finding the right contractor for your project can require a lot of research, having a specific strategy in your mind before you start looking can make the process a whole a lot easier. If you have any questions, contact us!

 

How to Plan Your Next Renovation

What is your plan for tackling your next renovation project? A home renovation project can be overwhelming, but with a little prep work and organization, you’ll be able to plan a home improvement like a seasoned pro. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on the work that goes into planning a remodel. 

Develop a Plan

plan for your renovation

First things first, you can’t start your project until you know what the final product will be. Begin with a clear understanding of your renovation goal. This is truly a process where you have to work backward, but once you have your endpoint in mind, you can create a step-by-step plan on how to get there. Your project plan should include blueprints or sketches of the finished project, a list of needs and wants, and a detailed list of project steps. 

Determine Your Budget

determine a budget for your renovation

Next, determine your budget. We recommend speaking to a professional contractor to help you set an estimated budget. Consider factors such as permits, materials, and expected labor costs. In addition,  plan for some unexpected costs. If your budget estimates are not what you expected, go back to your plan and eliminate project elements that are lower priority. 

Build a Timeline

timeline

At this point, you should have a solid idea of all the required project steps. Choose your desired start date and work with your contractor to schedule a projected completion date. Be sure your timeline includes time to clean out the work area and allows for shipping and delivery of materials. 

Look for Professionals

The Horton Group

The quality of your home renovation project and completion depends on the expertise of the workmanship. Discuss with your contractor what you expect of them, the terms and conditions, and notify them in advance of your expected timeline. Even if this isn’t your first time planning a remodel, don’t be afraid to rely on professional advice. At The Horton Group, we are always willing to answer any questions you have about your future remodeling project.  

Taking the time to create a solid plan before you start construction will put you on the right path for home improvements. If you have any questions, contact us!

 

How to Choose a Supplier

Building and restoring top-quality residences begins with the materials we work with. From concrete to siding to lumber, the right building material is essential in our business. 

Over the years, The Horton Group has built trusted relationships with product manufacturers to ensure we are getting quality materials on a timeline that works for our clients. As we continue to work through these challenging times, we are more grateful than ever for trusted suppliers who are willing to go the extra mile for their customers. 

When selecting a supplier or product manufacturer, look for these qualities to ensure you are getting quality resources from a reliable company:

Experience & Knowledge

What experience does the company have in the field? Learn who has used their materials, look at finished projects, and read client testimonials. Years in the business can indicate a business that has built trust, but it is not the only evidence of knowledge in the field. 

Quality

You need to be on the same page as the manufacturer when it comes to quality. Do you have the same expectations? You can also visit the production floor to see how they treat the goods they handle on a daily basis. 

Product Diversity

It’s good to have options. How many different selections does the supplier have on hand? If they don’t have something you are looking for, inquire about how they can source your desired materials.

Accountability

Timelines are often tight in our industry. Make sure you find a manufacturer you can trust, not only for the quality of the materials, but also the timeliness and delivery of those materials. 

Communication

Excellent communication is a must between the supplier and the buyer. Determine how reliable they are with answering questions and responding in a timely manner. 

Training and Education

As the world advances, so should our materials. Ask your supplier how they stay on top of new technology, green materials, and best practices. 

Warranty

Does a warranty back the materials? Learn about the standards of the material and the supplier. This way, if something goes wrong, you know what your options are.

It’s always exciting to work on a new project, pick out materials you love, and watch your vision come to life. Remember there are many working parts to any home construction work, and working with the right people will make the process go as smoothly as possible.

How Builders are Responding to Changing Times

Connecticut, like many states, has deemed construction as an essential business. Builders and developers have quickly adapted to make worksites and client interactions safe for all. 

According to a recent survey of NAHB members, several measures are being implemented that allow the construction industry to continue to build and sell homes. 

The majority of those who responded stated that non-construction employees are working from home during these times. Also, instead of open hours for tours, 59% of those surveyed are scheduling private showings. 

Though not mentioned in the survey, many builders are also implementing virtual options. At the Residences at 66 High Street, interested parties can either schedule a private showing (two people per showing), or a virtual showing. We are able to utilize technology to best fit the needs of every individual. 

Even with an essential business status, not all construction jobs have continued. Of those surveyed, 48% have halted construction projects, or will do so in the near future. Fortunately, however, only 25% have needed to lay off or furlough workers. 

At The Horton Group, we continue to make adaptations and follow CDC guidelines so we can continue to move forward safely. 

 

Community Spaces in Development: More Important than Ever

We’re all seeing it: the Zoom calls, car parades, and balcony gatherings. People are supporting local businesses, showing thanks to those on the front lines, and donating to those in need. 

Even though we are physically separated, our communities are growing stronger than ever. It’s made us think about the growing trend we have seen in new developments – one that will likely continue long after this has passed. 

Master Planned Communities

From developments with single-family homes to mixed-use construction, developers have been focusing on incorporating more community spaces over the past few years.

At 66 High Street, the pool, once installed, will be a gathering place in summer. Before the current health crisis, residents often walked downtown together, and met up in each other’s units for a glass of wine and some conversation.  

At Overland Lofts in Springfield, community spaces will be available for residents only. Since the building is mixed-use, there will also be stores, cafes, and restaurants that people from all over downtown can enjoy together. 

Developments all over the country have already started adding in more community spaces. Why? Because it brings people together. Now, more than ever, we see how important connection is. 

What to Watch For

One thing we’ve all learned recently is that connection can still happen when we are separated. While we know developers will continue incorporating spaces for gathering in person, we anticipate that builders will also start thinking about how to integrate technology. Here are some things to watch for in development, according to Best in American Living:

  1. Personalized concierge sales experiences, including a mix of technology and human interaction.
  2. New ways to access amenities so people can gather utilizing technology. 
  3. Tech-enabled events and participation, such as online book clubs, art classes, or movie nights.
  4. Greater integration between homebuilders and community developers throughout real estate transactions, including virtual tours for potential buyers. 
  5. Doubling down on outdoor spaces for walking, biking, and gathering. 

 

What would you like to see in a residential development? Let us know!

What is a HERS Index?

There are plenty of ways to make your home more energy-efficient. As homeowners, you know that with every scheduled maintenance and every home purchase, there are ways to save energy, money, and have a more sustainable household. 

With all of the options available, it can be overwhelming to sort through what will help your home run more efficiently, and what isn’t necessary. That is where the HERS Index can help.

What is the HERS Index?

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the nationally recognized system to assess a home’s energy performance. 

HERS scores are designed to calculate the energy efficiency of new or remodeled homes. If you are in the market to buy a brand new home, the HERS score will give you an idea of the energy costs for the house.

How do you find out the HERS Index Score?

A certified HERS Rater can determine the HERS Index Score of your home. They will complete an onsite energy rating of the home, and then compare the data to a reference home. The reference home is an analysis tool designed to resemble the actual house in size, shape, style, environment, and climate. 

What does the score mean?

The HERS Index ranges from 0 to 150, with 0 being a home that produces or conserves as much energy as it uses. While a score of 0 is unlikely, the lower the score, the more energy-efficient the home.

The standard new home typically has a rating of 100, while the typical resale home has a score of 130. Using these scores as reference points, you can get an idea of how efficient your home is. 

How can I improve my home’s HERS Index Score?

The greatest energy expenses in a house are for heating and cooling. Whether you are remodeling your entire home or just looking for a way to save on energy costs, you can get a programmable thermostat, upgrade your HVAC system, or simply get an annual tune-up to make sure it is working properly. 

Other energy-saving tips include: sealing all air leaks, add insulation, upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances, and consider installing solar panels

A HERS index rating can help you determine what type of fixes will be most beneficial for your home. 

 

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