Open Floor Plan Trends

For the last thirty years, residential architecture has been dominated by open floor plan concepts. The trendy design is accepted due to its ability to join rooms and create more of a social experience within the home. 

 

History 

 

Open floor plans are a relatively new concept in residential home design. Pre-World War II homes were constructed in a basic, one-dimensional layout, often connecting enclosed rooms with a long hallway, positioning the kitchen at the back of the house to be used for service. These configurations were not meant to accommodate modern gatherings. Throughout the 1950s, gatherings were still formal, which means the kitchen was off-limits to guests. 

 

It wasn’t until the post-war years that American families began to change their ways and reform to a more casual form of living. This slowly sculpted the open floor plan in modern construction, allowing families to grow in a spacious environment. By the 1990s, open floor plans became almost the norm for new construction, especially in suburban settings, and that trend holds true today. 

 

Innovation In Construction 

 

An open floor plan in residential architecture refers to a dwelling in which two or more common spaces have been joined to form a larger space by eliminating partition walls. Instead of interior load-bearing walls, heavy-duty beams carry the weight to create a spacious and sound living area. 

 

Simultaneous to American residential reform was the innovation of residential construction. Stronger materials and modern methods allowed open floor plans to be more practical and easier to build. Steel structural beams, central heating systems, drywall, and cinder-block construction made it easier to build larger rooms efficiently. 

 

Floor Plan Configurations 

 

  • Kitchen and dining room: Often, a kitchen and dining area share one common space. Sometimes a kitchen island or peninsula acts as a visual dividing line between the two areas.
  • Dining room and living room: A dining area and living room occupy one shared area. A visual dividing line may be in the form of thoughtfully placed furniture, two different paint colors, stairs leading to a sunken area, or a handrail.
  • Kitchen, dining, and living room: All three areas may be open in a large great room, often with a vaulted ceiling.

 

Advantages of Open Floor Plans

 

  • Better traffic flow. Without doors to open and close and no walls to hinder traffic, people can move through space unhindered.
  • Improved sociability and communication. Without walls, it’s possible to talk to one another across rooms.
  • Shared light. Interior spaces that were once without windows now get natural light from windows in exterior walls.
  • Improved real estate value. In almost every instance, an open floor plan is highly desirable and increases your home’s value to prospective buyers.
  • Easier to watch kids. Parents cooking in the kitchen or setting the dining room table can easily supervise children in the living room.

 

Disadvantages of Open Floor Plans

 

  • Costly to heat and cool. Great rooms with high ceilings are often energy drains, especially when the outer walls are equipped with large windows, as they often are. While traditional floor plans allow you to heat or cool only certain rooms, the entire space must be heated or cooled with an open floor plan.
  • Higher construction cost. Without partition walls, open concepts depend on steel or laminated beams for support. These are costly to install.
  • Poor sound control. Without partition walls to block noise, open concept homes can be very noisy.
  • Lack of privacy. Open floor plans are great for social activity, but they make it hard to find quiet spaces for private reading or study.

How Homebuilding Can Aid Economic Recovery

2020 is a year like no other, where communities must join forces (socially distanced, of course) and make a collective effort to support local businesses in an attempt to keep small-town economies alive. 

A major proponent to flourishing local economies is steady home building. People attract business, and housing attracts people. This year more than ever, the market is experiencing low housing inventory in many suburban communities across the United States. Housing developments create new jobs for citizens and provide desired housing options that attract residents. 

The National Association of Home Builders has tested these economic effects and have divided the economic influx into three phases. 

Phase I

Phase I includes the effects that result directly from construction activity and local industries that contribute to it. This consists of all contracted services, such as electricians, plumbers, architects, and engineers. Phase I also includes related jobs, such as truck drivers, developers, and bankers.

Phase II

Phase II includes the effects that occur as a result from the wages and profits from Phase I being spent in local economies. 

Phase III

Phase III is an ongoing effect that includes property tax payments and local spending by the occupants of the new housing units. 

As shown in the NAHB three-phase economic process, multiple forms of local income can be generated through residential construction. From more basic flows of income, such as workers spending their hourly wages on local goods and services, to more steady streams of income like annual property taxes paid. Local governments prosper from new residencies and more activity within the community. 

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. 

 

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.

Working from Home? Design a Productive Home Office

With a sudden shift to working from home, many people created make-shift work environments. Some have the luxury of a complete home office, and others are utilizing their kitchen tables or living rooms.

 

While these temporary home offices have played their part in the short-term, they may not suffice for people who continue to work from home.  According to Global Workplace Analytics, many people will continue to work remotely, even after offices start to open back up.

 

“Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.”

– Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics. 

With this rise in remote employees, home offices are becoming increasingly important. It’s essential to have a place that signals it is ‘working time,’ where you can focus and stay on task. Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing a home office: 

 

Natural Light

Whenever possible, maximize natural light. Natural light boosts mood, increases productivity,  and creates a feeling of openness. When arranging your desk and office furniture, place it so you can see out the windows, but out of direct glare from the sun. Ideally, you should be able to work all day with blinds open. 

 

Add Lighting Options

Natural light isn’t always enough. Add a variety of lighting options in your home office so that you always have plenty of light for work tasks. Overhead lighting, combined with lamps at your working space, is often plenty of light. If you want to add in more, you can incorporate a floor lamp and recessed lighting in the ceiling. 

 

Storage

Storage is needed in any work environment. Whether you need a filing cabinet, a bookcase, or a closet with shelves, make sure you have a system in place to stay organized. 

 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics aims to design the workspace to improve performance and productivity. Often, seemingly small adjustments make a huge difference to how we feel physically and mentally after the workday. Set up your computer and keyboard so you eliminate the hunched over stance and find a chair that is both comfortable and supportive. If you have enough space, create a couple of working areas, including a place to stand, a place to sit, and even a small couch to change things up. 

 

Office Nook

Not everyone has an entire room that can be dedicated to a home office. You can create an office nook that contains most of the above elements. Select a corner of a room that is seldom used, and add in floating shelves, a desk, and lighting. Some people even transform a closet into an office space. 

 

If you are going to continue working from home, we recommend taking the time to design a space that fits your needs. Your home office should reflect your style, be a place that you enjoy, and an area where you can tune out distractions to accomplish your work goals. 

Kitchen Design: Forbes’ Top Trends in 2020

As the heart of the home and one of the most popular rooms to remodel, kitchens are always a main focus in residential construction. 

At the start of the new decade, Forbes gathered predictions from seven industry professionals to share the top kitchen trends for 2020. Here’s what they had to say:

Floor Plan and Layout

An open floor plan has been a desired layout for many years, and this is one trend that isn’t going away. However, experts are noticing a trend toward semi-open spaces. Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO at Sweeten, said semi-open spaces use “decorative architectural elements like archways to define ‘zones’ without closing off the room entirely.”

Kitchen Storage

With the number of cooking appliances, tools, and utensils, storage is essential in the kitchen. Here are a few trends in kitchen storage this year:

  • Drawers with customized storage options. 
  • Hidden storage is a key trend. Michele Alfano, principal at Michele Alfano Design, said, “Kitchen cabinetry is acting more like furniture with flat panels and integrated hardware. Our appliances are starting to be hidden and not visible in our kitchens.”
  • Floating shelves and glass-front cabinets open up the kitchen.
  • Soft close drawers and cabinets. 

Appliances

Convection and induction cooking are becoming more popular options with homeowners. In addition, most appliances are becoming “smart.” With advances in technology, appliances can do more than ever before. For those more interested in the finish of appliances, the experts agree that stainless steel will remain popular. 

Countertops

Quartz and porcelain are moving in, and granite is moving out.

“Porcelain slabs are proving to be more durable than granite and maintenance-free,” said Alfano.

In addition to countertops, these materials are being used for bar tops, island overhangs, and backsplashes. 

Flooring

Porcelain is also making its way to the floor in kitchens, in the form of large, sleek tiles. People are becoming more playful with the design and texture of the flooring. Alfano said,

“We will see more surprising textures, unique shapes, and richer veining.”

Sinks and Faucets

Smart faucet sensors will continue to appear in kitchens, allowing people to turn the water on and off with the wave of a hand. Black and brushed brass fixtures are trending with pro-style chef sinks in the kitchen. 

 

Kitchens are not only a place to prepare meals, but a room filled with social interaction, memories, and of course, good food. To make the most of a kitchen remodel, make sure the design reflects your style and way of life.

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