We've already covered general home design tips that will make spring cleaning easier. However, each room of your house poses its own challenges when it comes to freshening up – the kitchen, especially.
Of all the rooms in a home, the kitchen is probably the easiest to make dirty, and the one people spend the most time cleaning. Scrubbing it down is not just a matter of keeping up appearances, but also maintaining a proper level of hygiene. Fortunately, you don't have to cut down on the meals you prepare to keep a kitchen spic-and-span. If you're in the process of designing your kitchen, consider these ideas that will make cleaning up on a daily basis less of a chore.
A general strategy for keeping your home clean is to install floors that can be easily mopped and dusted. The same idea applies to kitchen surfaces, the most essential being countertops. The less nooks and crannies in your countertops the better. Instead of installing tiled counters, invest in a material that's easy to wipe down. Granite has long been the popular choice for people wanting a quality, low-maintenance countertop with plenty of personal character. However, granite does require occasional sealing. Houzz recommended stainless steel, quartz, Corian and laminates as options that neither have grout nor require sealing. Another option is to install large porcelain tiles which have less grout lines than smaller tiles, are cost-effective and easy to install.
You may also want to pay attention to your backsplash. Surfaces such as glass, stone or laminate only require a simple wipe to clean. Just like your countertops, the fewer grout lines, the better. Glass looks especially nice, though it may require a window-cleaning product to keep it from getting streaky. Stone, while expensive, also looks the cleanest. Laminate will be your cheapest option.
Messes can easily happen when the layout of your kitchen is not efficient. As Better Homes and Gardens noted, spills are more likely to occur the farther you have to carry things, such as a pot from the sink to the stove. To solve this problem, make sure your kitchen has a well-designed arrangement of your sink, oven, refrigerator and trash. The work triangle of this craftsman house plan is efficient in that the chef need not work far to reach the stove, the sink or the refrigerator. Additionally, there is plenty of counter space to prepare food on either side of both the sink and stove. You may also want to consider installing a lower-level drawer for recycling and garbage, so scraps and excess may easily be disposed.
Integrated drain boards
In your pursuit of easily cleanable countertops, consider an integrated drain board. The design is basically a short section of sloped countertop that drains directly into the sink – perfect for drying large pots and pans without the trouble of setting up a drying rack. All that's required for cleaning is soap and water.
Plenty of storage
Cooking tools can easily pile up in a kitchen. If you don't have the proper storage for it all, you may end up with cluttered counters and overstuff cabinets. Such messes can make it hard to find ingredients and cook comfortably. By designing with storage in mind, you can make sure that everything has its own place. Even if you're working with small house plans, many blueprints make maximal use of an efficient kitchen space. Frugal homeowners may also want to implement wall hooks, under-island storage space and other creative storage solutions. To keep a clean look, it's also possible to install appliance cabinets for items such as mixers, blenders and food processors.
Remodeling magazine recently released its annual "Cost vs. Value" report on popular remodeling projects and how well they retain their value over the years. People who are building their own homes obviously need not worry about remodeling just yet, but they should nevertheless take note of the report. By incorporating some of these home improvement strategies early in the building process, homeowners have the opportunity to increase the functionality and appeal of their home while saving more money by doing them during the construction phase.
Plenty of craftsman house plans already feature these kinds of additions or can easily be fitted to incorporate them. Here's a summary of some of the top findings, as well as some ways in which people building new homes can take advantage of them.
Cost-effective across the country
A total of 35 popular mid-range and upscale remodeling projects were featured in the report, spanning everything from sunroom additions to fiber-cement siding replacements. Of the 22 mid-range projects, the most-cost effective projects for 2014 by national average were steel entry door replacements, wood deck additions, attic bedrooms, garage door replacements and minor kitchen remodels. Homeowners who look at the list may note that the national average returns often fall below 100 percent, however, they should take into consideration the importance of region. A wood deck addition in Alaska may only garner 87.5 percent of the cost recouped in 2014, but in Hawaii the addition resulted in 150 percent of the cost being recouped, resulting in a positive return of investment.
Steel entry door replacements
While this project is maybe not the flashiest, it was the easiest way to contribute to the curb appeal of a home, thanks to low cost and the highest rate of return based on the national average. A steel door is sturdier than aluminum, more durable and gives the front of a home a sharp sheen. Most any house based on a craftsman house plan can be incorporated with this kind of door.
Wood deck addition
This was the second-most worthwhile home addition, and if you're planning to build a home, you've probably already debated incorporating one. Wooden decks in particular fared well on the market, and there are a number of floor plans that incorporate them into their design. This craftsman vacation home is a beautiful design that offers a rustic but grand wraparound deck that provides the opportunity for excellent views of the backyard.
When considering decks, however, homeowners should take into consideration the kinds of activities they want to do on them. A thinner platform is fine for sitting and relaxing, but families that want to host parties or live in colder climates may also want to consider lanais or screened porches. These offer year-round relaxation while still providing the option for an open, airy indoor-outdoor space.
That same design also boasts an attic bedroom. The appeal of an upper-level sleeping area for homeowners is mainly the added space for more guests or children. Often, the number of beds and baths are among the first things listed by real estate and floor planning companies, as it helps indicate the size and worth of a home. House blueprints that allow for attic bedrooms, then, have an advantage in terms of design flexibility. The upper level in the previously mentioned vacation home is designed specifically to be a bedroom, however, other house floor plans feature the attic as a functional, multi-purpose space. This Florida house plan, for example, features three attic bonus areas to be used at the homeowner's discretion.
The garage is a main entrance for many homeowners, but it also serves a number of other design functions. While plenty of homes feature garage entrances on their front facades, homeowners may want to consider the advantages of side-loading garages, an easily achievable addition to many craftsman house plans.
A cleaner front
Side-loading garages are often built for the purpose of aesthetics. Garages on the front of the house can be distracting and are even considered an eyesore to some. Homeowners who want a "cleaner" front to their home may want to situate the garage on the side, where it is out of sight. A perfect example of the aesthetic gain of a side-loading garage is this family-friendly home model, which offers a perfectly symmetrical facade that would be disrupted by the placement of a garage door. Side-loading garages may not only suit your tastes, they can make a huge difference years down the line if you ever consider selling.
Curb appeal is one of the main arguments for a side-loading garage. While you may not be interested in selling your house anytime soon, this design choice may be considered an investment, much like the decision to buy a home in the first place. The front of a house is the first impression that potential buyers get, and can often influence their decision about whether to even look at the rest of the house.
While a side-loading garage can look cleaner, it can sometimes be pricier and more inconvenient for homeowners than a simple front-loading garage. Every inch of driveway costs money, and you'll likely need to pave more to reach the side of the house than the front. Homeowners should talk with their architect or contractor about ways to minimize the cost of an extended driveway.
Another large problem with side garages is a matter of space. Your driveway will likely lead from the front yard to the side of the house, where it must then make a 90 degree turn to connect to the garage. Cars will need enough space to make that turn comfortably, meaning more pavement on the side of the house and a large enough lot to accommodate a sizable driveway.
This issue actually leads to a different kind of aesthetic concern. While you may have preserved the integrity of the front facade, driveways can eat up a considerable proportion of a side yard, thereby cutting down on grass, plants and potentially play space for children.
If you have a sizable lot, then a side-loading garage may be a good option. However, whichever way you lean, it's also important to consider the overall design of the house in relation to the garage. The layout in this Mediterranean style home, for example, is positioned so that the garage connects immediately to a utility room and kitchen, while at the same time creating an enclave at the entrance of the house. In this case, the garage makes aesthetic as well as utilitarian sense. While you may be disinclined to choose a side-loading garage, you also need to examine connections such as these and decide whether the position of the garage contributes to a natural flow through the house.
Working the front
In that same vein, it's important to recognize that not all side-loading garages are prettier than their front-loading counterparts. Often a front-loading garage is an opportunity for smart and elegant design. While the garage is conspicuous, the door is designed to match the wood cladding on the left side of the facade, creating a tasteful connection throughout the house.
People shopping for floor plans in 2014 may find themselves in good company. Despite a slight dip in housing starts in December compared to November, it seems as if the housing production market will continue to grow in the coming year, with some cities already showing historic highs in terms of home building.
Spikes and improvements
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released statistics concerning the number of new privately owned housing units authorized in permit-issuing places over the past year, as well as statistics on the different phases of construction for new privately owned units. Nationally speaking, the number of permits and housing starts saw a decrease from November to December last year, with a 3 percent and a 10 percent dip respectively. However, November marked an unusual spike in 2013's overall trend.
Compared to December 2012, this last month actually saw a 4 percent increase in terms of authorized permits. Looking at yearly averages, there was a 17.5 percent improvement between 2012 and 2013, with 974,700 housing units last year over the 829,700 issuances in the previous year.
These statistics saw a roughly similar pattern in terms of housing starts, as there was a 1.6 percent increase in December 2013 compared to December 2012, and, in terms of yearly change, an 18.3 percent increase.
Breaking down the numbers
These national totals included multi- as well as single-family homes, but the statistics also showed improvements across differently sized housing units. Single-family homes – the largest sector of housing construction – also saw a percentage increase in permits authorized from year to year, as well as the number of homes under construction. Between 2012 and 2013, there was actually a 19 percent increase in single-family permits, roughly 1.5 percent higher than the total average. Housing starts, however, saw a roughly 3 percent dip for single-family homes. These numbers were then further broken down by national regions, all of which saw a yearly increase in issued permits.
While the December dip may seem to be a sign that the housing market is slowing, Rick Judson – chairman of the National Association of Home Builders – noted that December's numbers were merely a return to trend after a particularly robust November, and that it was the third-highest monthly level of production in 2013, according to the NAHB. In general, that trend seems to be positive.
"Last year was a good year for home building, with overall production up 18 percent from 2012," said Chief Economist David Crowe of the National Association of Home Builders. "As pent-up demand is unlocked and the labor market improves, we anticipate that 2014 should be an even better year for home construction. That's good news for economic growth, as each new home that is built creates three full-time jobs and contributes to the tax base of local communities."
Cities of growth
While those statistics looked at general trends across regions, USA Today recently reported that some cities are seeing particularly robust improvements. Major cities in Texas in particular have reached 30-year average levels of single-family home building, specifically in Houston and Austin. Other cities that saw improvements include Nashville, San Antonio, Dallas and Jacksonville. When including multifamily construction, San Francisco, New York Seattle, Boston and Miami also reached or surpassed their own historic building levels.
Apparently some cities were able to reach those numbers because they hadn't already been overbuilt. Yet, according to the news source, economists are citing available land, pent-up demand, strong economies and good job growth as other reasons for the improved numbers.
No matter what kind of home you're planning to build, you will inevitably have to allocate some floor space to the washer and dryer. Whether working off of luxury or small house plans, consider the following pros and cons before deciding between a downstairs or upstairs location.
The common choice
Downstairs utility rooms, such as the one outlined in HHF-3601's floor plans, are often the preferred choice to house washers and dryers, and for good reason. These appliances can often be loud, and having them stored downstairs can be a great way of keeping noise to a minimum at times when people are still in bed. If, for example, you prefer to do laundry in the morning, children can still sleep soundly. People who prefer to do laundry later at night need not worry about keeping people up.
Keeping your washers and dryers downstairs can also be an efficient use of space. The utility room in which they're stored can double as a mudroom. As mapped in plan HHF-4093, the garage leads straight into the utility room, and even offers side nooks that can be used for storing boots or hanging coats.
Downstairs utility rooms may keep washers and dryers out of sight and better used, but upstairs washers and dryers offer their own advantages. First and foremost, it means homeowners won't have to trek up and down stairs and across their home to do the laundry. Traveling back and forth can get especially exhausting if you're already doing chores in the bedrooms. With an upstairs utility closet, the laundry process – from washing to folding – is streamlined. The layout drawn in house plan HHF-2514 demonstrates a well-situated upstairs utility room.
By locating your washer and dryer upstairs, you would also be cutting down on noise pollution downstairs. While it may mean you can't do laundry very early in the day, it also means that people can relax in the living room or entertain in the dining room with little distraction. Furthermore, you won't have to worry about guests stumbling into the utility room to find it in a state of chaos.
The only major downside to an upstairs utility room is if your appliances break or flood. Leaking water can wreak havoc on your upstairs floors, and removing the washer can be a huge hassle if you have to replace it. In this regard, at least, a downstairs washer can be better because the potential damage is relatively contained to a lower floor.
Homeowners may be perusing more floor plans in 2014, as the housing market in the new year looks to be a slowing but steady continuation of last year's recovery, according to USA Today. Home construction may be a key component in that process.
A slow improvement
According to MSN Real Estate, home prices are expected to rise in 2014 as the market continues its recovery. Clear Capital, which provides real estate data, found that 225 of 276 U.S. cities saw an increase in home prices. Nationwide, that came to about a 10.9 percent bump in housing costs, at a median increase of about $30,000, MSN reported.
While an increase in price may seem like a bad thing, it means homeowners with previously worthless mortgages may no longer be underwater, and can start selling old homes and buying or building new ones. In 2013, the housing recovery also pushed buyers into taking advantage of low prices and mortgage rates, resulting in limited housing selection and bidding wars. The upcoming year's slowed but steady growth could signal more stability and a less frantic market.
"You want boring in the housing market," Svenja Gudell, Zillow director of economic research, told USA Today.
What to expect
In addition to price increases, homeowners can also expect higher mortgage rates and more home sales, albeit at a slower pace, according to USA Today. That means that as the market moves more toward sellers' advantage, there is a shrinking window to take advantage of the current prices. Homeowners who do not want to buy may consider housing construction, another part of the industry that's expected to continue recovering. Goldman Sachs Asset Management told USA Today that, while construction won't return to normal levels, it will still be strong enough to be a main component to the housing recovery.
"The construction revival is primarily a matter of when, not if," Tom Teles, GSAM head of securitized and government investments, told the news source.
Tips for buyers
More homes being built means more jobs for construction workers and manufacturers. It also means a more stable time to build a home. Homeowners who are unsure where to start looking into construction may also want to consider the benefits of a newly constructed home compared to buying. According to U.S. News & World Report, newly constructed homes often require fewer repairs than existing homes, as well as less maintenance. Customization also means homeowners know what they are getting. Finally, mortgage-financing perks could be accessible through builders, according to the news source.
Craftsman house plans can be outfitted with a wide range of siding options. However, if you are looking for ways to better regulate the temperature of your home, you may want to choose brick, as offered by HHF-4696.
Some materials retain heat better than others. Wood is not very good at absorbing heat. Concrete is on the other end of the spectrum, able to absorb a lot of heat and release it slowly over time. Brick, while more expensive than wood, is closer to concrete in heat absorption. This ability is not the same as insulation, in that it doesn't help a building regulate a temperature independently from the outdoors. Rather, the ability of siding to absorb heat and release it can help moderate fluctuations in daily temperature.
So, a house with brick siding and a layer of insulation could have less of a fluctuation of interior temperature than a house with wood siding. This trait is especially effective in temperate climates where temperatures may drop off significantly in the evening and peak at midday. A brick wall with no insulation on the interior, however, would not be an effective insulator.
In addition to moderating temperatures, interior brick walls can be used to help passively heat a home. If you have an interior wall that gets direct sunlight, you can clad it with brick. It will absorb sunlight as long as it gets light exposure and then release that thermal energy back into the house. The best part about an interior brick wall is that it will release the heat slowly, meaning that you can still get passive heating from the wall well into the night, depending on how much energy was stored during the day.
Slush and snow are great arguments for the value of a mud room – a place where people can take off boots and coats before entering the main rooms of a house. While there are plenty of craftsman house plans that offer them, it's still important for you know how to best design for them. Here are five tips for designing a great, functioning mudroom.
Install large tile floors
Mudrooms are going to have a lot of dirt and mud on the ground, so you're going to want a floor that's easy to clean. Larger tiles are a great option because there is less grout – and therefore less cracks – where grime can collect. Whatever material you choose for flooring, however, make sure you can easily hose it down. Wood may be aesthetically pleasing, but difficult to clean.
Include a bench
Taking off wet and dirty layers can be an involved process. While a bench may take up a little more of your floor plan, you'll be thankful come the winter months when you have a place to sit. Make sure the bench is big enough to seat at least two people. The mudroom designed for HHF-8383 offers plenty of space.
Have plenty of storage
Coats and boots will need to have proper storage in your mud room. Store boots under the bench and install a coat rack on the opposite wall. That way, all dirty clothing stays in one space. You can have dividers for the boots, but resist the temptation for cubby holes. You want your shoes to be able to dry and drain on the tile.
Allow for easy drainage
Before anything else in the room, you'll want to have a drain installed. This will keep water from pooling and help avoid mold. A center drain is fine, but the more discreet you can make the drain, the better. The opposite corner of the bench, preferably hidden under a cabinet, is a good spot. Just make sure the floor is slightly angled so that the water pours toward it.
Choose a good color
Paint provides an opportunity to bring some life to your mud room. Lighter shades will make the space feel brighter and bigger, but will reveal more dirt if not cleaned regularly. Dark colors will make it feel cramped, but dirt won't show. Choose a color somewhere in the middle if you're looking to compromise.
As the housing market makes it slow return to normalcy, homeowners are becoming more interested in specialty rooms, according to the American Institute of Architects. While in-law suites, mudrooms and home offices have all drawn homeowners' attention, the most popular specialty room this year has been the outdoor living area.
During the economic crisis, specialty rooms fell by the wayside as the size of homes shrank. Instead of having special function rooms, spaces were combined to maximize efficiency. At its worst, economic and housing activity was at 78 percent of its normal state, according to the National Association of Home Builders. However, economic and housing activity has since reached 86 percent normalcy. With that increase has come a growing interest in most specialty rooms, save for the home office, which saw no change from last year, according to The American Institute of Architects' Design Trends Survey. The survey asks residential architects what trends are increasing or decreasing in popularity. Mudrooms and home offices tied as the second most popular special function room, the survey found, with both trailing behind outdoor living areas.
Home sizes have increased during the recovery along with the growing interest in special function rooms. Interestingly, however, lot sizes only continue to get smaller, according to the AIA. Approximately 25 percent of respondents cited a decrease in interest by consumers in lot size. Instead, homeowners are continuing to get creative with limited space, opting for multi-function rooms and choosing to blend indoor and outdoor spaces. Outdoor living areas are a common amenity for craftsman house plans. Such spaces include decks, patios, porches and verandas as well as outdoor rooms and lanais. Many of these rooms feature more sophisticated approaches to the outdoor living space.
A model home
HHF-1895 is a great example of a more complex outdoor space that easily interacts with other rooms. The floor plans feature a lanai as well as a BBQ porch, complete with fireplace for cooking food. These spaces are best used in the summer, however, they can easily be converted for use all year long. If the space is screened in, homeowners can install glass panels that help retain heat during the winter, along with a heater to keep the space warm. If there is already glass in the outdoor area, thermal blinds can further help to keep heat indoors. With that house plan in particular, the doors to the family room and nook may be opened to create a blended indoor-outdoor space.
Your dream house blueprints are already drawn up, and you are desperate to break ground and start building. While it may seem hard to believe, it is possible to build a house in winter, and sometimes it may even be cost effective. However, there are plenty of caveats to this project. If you really want to get started in making your floor plans a reality, consider these aspects of home building in winter.
How it's possible
As The Washington Post wrote last year, a home can be built in practically any kind of weather. One of homeowners' greatest concerns is that snow and rain will somehow rot out the wood as it is being framed, due to the fact that everything is open to the elements. While some wood may swell if it is not properly protected, it all will dry out over the course of the building process. Remember that there are rainy days in the summer and homes are still built then. Concrete may be harder to pour and the ground may be frozen solid, but the use of ground heaters can likely fix that problem.
How Stuff Works has made the claim that building in the winter could even save money. The thinking goes that contractors can get lower prices from subcontractors, and may even offer their own discounts when business is slow. If you live in a warmer climate, where snowfall is irregular and the weather is relatively temperate, then some of the hassles associated with winter construction – such as having to clear snow or hold off building because of a storm – can be avoided.
While there is some truth to the possibility of saving money, you shouldn't rely on that as a guarantee. Cold weather means slower workers, more dangerous working conditions, potential difficulties transporting materials to the building site and the obstacle of breaking frozen ground. Those heaters that make it possible to break frozen ground aren't cheap. Also, even the most experienced builders can have difficulty working in cold and possibly slippery conditions. If they aim to do their job right, it will probably take longer and end up costing more.
If a house is going to be built in the winter, then it's still best to break ground and lay the foundation in the fall. Best of all is to get the house under roof before winter storms, so that builders can work inside over the season. Otherwise, wait until later on in the winter, when storms are less frequent and the days get longer.