Save money by preparing a house for frost heave

Winter brings freezing weather, and with it, the potential for frost heave – a phenomenon in which frozen ground shifts and expands. Houses that are not properly designed to handle the effects of frost heave could require costly repairs and even replacements of damaged structural elements. Here is everything you need to know about frost heave and ways that builders can combat it.

Defining frost heave
When the ground freezes, ice crystals in the soil expand, forcing the dirt somewhere else. Usually, the only direction for that soil to go is up, resulting in a massive displacement of earth that can wreak havoc on a landscape. Structures without the proper footing to anchor it can be shifted and even structurally compromised. Frost heave can affect porches, decks, overhangs and even the foundations of a home.

Such soil displacement is a serious concern: Frost heave and expansive soils are among the most damaging natural hazards to manmade structures in the U.S., according to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. While human health is not normally at risk, frost heave can result in costly repairs, as well as a poorly functioning house. Shifts in the earth can cause doors to jam, warped flooring and even broken foundations.

Areas most affected by frost heave
The phenomenon is most common during extended bouts of cold when temperatures dip below freezing. Soil quality can also affect the magnitude of frost heave. Expansive soils are determined by the presence of clay minerals, and their effects can be magnified by drought followed by precipitation.

Different parts of a home are more susceptible to frost heave. Areas with lighter loads, such as porches and patios, are more sensitive to frost heave, while heavier locations, such as the ground beneath a fireplace, are more resistant.

Many craftsman house plans offer walk-out basements, porches, side-steps and decks. HHF -7779 is a good example of a home with many elements susceptible to frost heave. In addition to two extended porches on either side of the house, the ground slopes away to reveal a walk-out basement. The foundation there, as well as the one-story posts that hold up the back porch would require special attention to protect against frost heave. Fortunately, it is easy to plan ahead and minimize any risks of structural damage.

Protecting against frost heave
Builders can combat the effects of frost heave by making sure that T-footings are sunk sufficiently below the frost line. That line can change depending on soil type, region, climate and ground moisture. Builders should research local regulations and make sure that they take into account the specific soil type and climate of the site.

T-footings are much better designed to resist the effects of frost heave than a slab-on-grade foundation. However, you can still pour slab-on-grade if you use insulation along the perimeter of the house, set up both vertically and horizontally to protect against frost heave, according to For walk-out basements, insulation can be more cost effective than excavating and pouring slabs.

Three Dining Rooms To Die For

We’re over halfway through November and in just a week we’ll all be sitting at our dining room tables with a turkey and mashed potatoes.  If you tend to be the one who hosts the holidays in your family, you want to make sure you have a dining room to host your family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Open floor plans are great for casual get-togethers but when it comes to dinner parties, you’re going to want a place to fit a table that seats (at least) eight.  Here are some fabulous house plans that feature a dedicated dining room for your entertaining needs.

This dining room is washed with soft colors, offering a relaxing feel that makes you feel like you’re in Florida.

The dining room in this house plan is perfect for your gatherings. The dining room combines with the foyer and living room creating a spacious floor plan for casual entertaining. Not only is the dining room inviting but the rest of the house has several amenities that are sure to keep you happy for years to come. With everything from a well-integrated three-car garage to lots of outdoor living space, this house will be perfect for your family gatherings year-round.

Combining the best of a dining area and an open floor plan, this house plan can do it all.
Combining the best of a dining area and an open floor plan, this house plan can do it all.

Just because this cottage is small doesn’t mean it can’t have a functional dining room. With this house plan you won’t just save on heating and cooling costs, but you will also benefit from efficient and compact design.  The kitchen is designed with a buffet server and eating bar that are perfect for staging your Thanksgiving dinner.

dining room
A dining room doesn’t have to be formal. This house plan gives you the perfect space for a family meal while keeping an open and airy feeling.

A dining room might be a luxury, but if you have a sloped or view lot, a dining room is a big bonus for this home. This house plan is one of the most sought-after models by owners of view lots. The ample windows insure that your main living space, including your dining room have gorgeous views. A large central island in the kitchen doesn’t hurt either as you’re setting up your feast.

Whether you will be hosting your first Thanksgiving in your new home or you’re a seasoned pro at your family’s annual turkey dinner, you will want to take a look at a house plan with a dining room. Not only will it give you a space for lots of family memories, but you will be thankful for it down the line as your family gets bigger. Take a look through Direct from the Designers top-selling house plans and see if you can find a home that meets your needs.

Benefits of Fiberglass Entry Doors

If you are looking to save more money on your energy bill then you should be sure to select a fiberglass entry door. According to the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, fiberglass entry doors are known for their reliability, durability, customization, and energy efficiency.

“If it becomes apparent that you are in the market for a new door, consider one made of fiberglass,” says Fielding in a Therma-Tru® press release. “A solid fiberglass door is up to four times more energy efficient than a solid wood door, plus you get the benefits that fiberglass has to offer, including resistance to rot, rust, dings and weather.”

Tree Top House Plan entry
An entry door like this one is the perfect way to create an inviting entryway for your home. This fiberglass entry door complements this contemporary house plan.

Fiberglass entry doors, like Therma-Tru’s® are designed and engineered to work together as a complete system of components.  Together these components provide lasting performance, security, and energy-efficiency. The multi-point locking system included on Therma-Tru® fiberglass entry doors engage a series of locks at different places on the frame and the adjustable security strike plate can withstand up to three times the force of a standard strike place.

Therma Tru Fiber-Classic Mahagony
Therma-Tru’s® Fiber-Classic® Mahogany Collection™ blends timeless styles with a rich mahogany grain to complement darker wood accents on the interiors.

If you want your dollar to go far, then you can rely on Therma-Tru’s® Tru-Defense® Door System. The Tru-Defense® system maximizes the seal between the door and frame to keep out the damaging effects of wind and rain, while helping increase your home’s energy efficiency. You can purchase an optional upgrade system that includes weather stripping, a corner seal pad, bottom door sweep, and profiled sill. These components work together resulting in a fiberglass entry door system that can withstand severe weather conditional along with day-to-day wear-and-tear.

When it comes to entry doors you can’t go wrong with a fiberglass entry door. Not only are they reliable, durable, and completely customizable but they are designed to keep you safe. So take a look through Direct from the Designer’s extensive collection of house plans and then select the perfect fiberglass entry door for your new home from Therma-Tru®.

Understanding What Makes a Green House Plan

You may recall years ago, that green homes stood out for all the long reasons. Focusing more on practical application of green technology than design they often looked utilitarian. Today there are lots of elegant green homes that combine style with comfort and efficiency. What do green house plans have to offer you though and what makes house plans “green.”  While you can save money by adding insulation and using green products, some home construction makes a green house plan’s general design energy efficient. Here are some design considerations that factor into building green house plans.

This updated version of one of our most popular house plans, this house plan is green with plenty of amenities. This house plan includes such luxuries as an open kitchen and family room floor plan and an eating bar as part of a large island. Walk-in closets can be found in all of secondary bedroom as well as private dressing areas. A bonus area includes triple dormers for lots of natural light.

Windows and Orientation

If you want to save money on your energy bill then make sure you design your home so that the maximum amount of daylight comes through your windows. Lots of green house plans are designed with lots of windows and your builder can help you position the home on your lot to make sure you get the most out of them.

Most green homes are oriented towards the south where they get more light during the summer and heat from the sun during winter.  This is also true when you consider addng solar technology. South facing roofs make for the best receptors of solar energy.

Durable Materials                                                                                

Durable is synonymous with eco-friendly when it comes to home construction. Using durable materials in the construction of a green house plan means that since they won’t need to be replaced less waste is produced, that that alone decreases your footprint. Almost all conventional building materials have a more sustainable eco-friendly alternative, so you can be sure to find something eco-friendly for every situation that will arise. Some popular eco-friendly materials include bamboo flooring, cotton insulation, and recycled glass counter tops.

Part of our green house plan collection this craftsman house plan merges time-tested design and unadorned elegance. The main level of this house plan is where you find all of the living space while upstairs is plenty of storage space. At nearly 3,000 square feet this main level has a vaulted great room, formal dining room, master suite, and eating nook. This house plan also features unique built-ins that give this home character.

Downsized House Plans

Smaller homes have been a rising trend in home construction and smaller house plans do tend to be more energy efficient. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort to be green though. Plenty of homes with a footprint of less than 2,500 feet are not only energy efficient but use space wisely so that you don’t have to worry about feeling like you live in a shoe box.

These elements of green design help to make house plans energy efficient but there are plenty of things you can do to make your home greener during the construction process. Adding ENERGY STAR® and energy-efficient products will help you lower your bills. Just remember that you don’t have to fear green design. Check out the green house plan collections from Direct from the Designers to find your perfect green home.

Three Bestselling Small House Plans

If you are just starting your house plan search, you should start with a small house plan.  The trend in American construction has been to make smaller homes lately and house plans reflect that. Designers and architects have been designing lots of stylish small house plans under 2,500 square feet. Small house plans make the perfect home for those who want to live a more energy-efficient lifestyle or those that are just starting out or simply want to downsize.

An inviting Craftsman house plan, this small house plan has plenty of upscale features and a 1,800 square foot area.

If you like craftsman details and outdoor living space, this beautiful small house plan is perfect for you. With front and rear covered porches, this small house plan has plenty of outdoor living spaces. The great room has vaulted ceilings and built-in cabinetry with a gas fireplace. This small house plan also includes a spacious kitchen has an island with an eating bar and a master bedroom has raised ceilings. The master suite also opens into a well-equipped bathroom with dual lavatories. This small house plan also includes a garage also includes a shop area for projects and storage and the upstairs allows for expansion. A generous flex space could be used as a home office, dining room, or a playroom making this small house plan a real catch.

This country house plan is not only small but has plenty of great design to stand apart from the crowd.

This small house plan may look like a simple country home but with popular amenities and a modest footprint. This small house plan is one you will be happy to call your home. One of the highlights of this small house plan is a secluded master suite with a circular spa tub. A bayed breakfast area is another spot, perfect for casual breakfasts with coffee, tea, and waffles with your morning paper.  The cozy fireplace anchors the great room at the center of this floor plan and a large bonus space on the upper floor complete this small house plan.

This small house plan doesn’t lack charm. With an exquisite exterior and an open interior you will find this home is a great place to live.

This small house plan has beautiful cottage charm. With only 1,698 square feet of living space you will get all the benefits of living in a small house plan without feeling like you live in a shoebox. You are sure to fall in love with this small house plan inside and out with great exterior details such as dormers, shutters, and Craftsman details outside and a perfect space for entertaining inside this small house plan will meet all of your needs. Not to mention, this small house plan also gives you space for future expansion with the use of a bonus area.

Living in a small house plan doesn’t mean you have to live in a shoebox. If you don’t believe that you can have style, function, and space in a small house plan take a look at Direct from the Designers’ small house plan collection and find your perfect small house plan.

Tips on Choosing the Right Paint (And Using it Properly)

Painting your home’s exterior is just as intimidating as going into the paint store and picking out a new color for your bedroom wall.  No lying, it is a big project, and while you might be overwhelmed with color selection, here are a few tips to help you choose the colors your new home will be.

More than one color doesn’t have to be expensive.  When it comes to getting that paint job you see in the paint catalogue, know that the use of more than one color does not have to cost a fortune. Unless you plan to paint with numerous hues the price tag won’t break the bank.  So if you happen to like the way that the red painted shutters will look with a new shade of navy, go for it.

This home uses Benjamin Moore’s® line of exterior paints to create a classic look. This home uses dark and light accents to achieve a cohesive look, but the coordinating flowerbeds add a final touch to this home’s curb appeal. You can find exactly the kind of paint you are looking for with their product finder.

Use your accent colors wisely. One of the big mistakes that homeowners make when painting the exterior of their house is highlighting the unattractive elements such as the gutters, downspouts, and a protruding garage door.  Remember, your home’s paint job will be one of the first things people see, and the last thing you want them looking at is your air conditioning unit or an unevenly placed window.

Don’t ignore your neighbors.  The color scheme of your house should not clash with the neighbor’s house.  To make sure that all the neighbors are happy choose a color scheme that blends with the neighborhood or stands out in a subtle way.

Don’t forget your lawn.  What really ups the ante when it comes to curb appeal is a nicely manicured lawn. Take a moment to consider different flowering shrubs or flower gardens in compatible colors.

This country house plan’s green paint looks great with the dark shingles and white trim and columns. Using elements with colors that won’t change is a great way to create a cohesive pallet, so be sure to consider pavers, bricks, or shingles when selecting your color.

Look at paint chips outside.  Colors look their best out in natural light, and since you are painting the exterior of your home, viewing chips in the sunlight is the best way to gauge how the color will look once it is on your house.

It might take a while for you to decide on the color, but once you decide on a color you will find that a fresh coat of paint does wonders for your new home.  If you have no idea where to start, take a look at some of Direct from the Designers collections for inspiration.

“Upside Down” House Plans: Modern Homes With Views

Sometimes you just have to defy conventions. These modern house plans do just that. Not only do their exteriors look different, but there is a science to it. Homes built this way often have the living space on the top floor and the bedrooms on the bottom floor.  The added elevation allows homeowners to enjoy views from up high. Many of these homes are perfect for a lakefront, beachfront, mountain, or coastal area.  Take a look at these three unique and inviting house plans to get an idea their appeal.

This house plan’s modern exterior is sure to catch the eyes of passersby. Just wait till they walk in, they won’t want to leave.

This angled and contemporary house plan is a popular design. Because of its layout this house plan is classified as an inverted two-story. With the bedrooms on the ground floor and the living space on the top floor this house plan is ideal for lots with lots of scenic views. This house plan also includes a quiet study that will tempt you to work from home and a roof terrace perfect for stylish parties.  This house plan also has a very low footprint at on 2,562 square feet.

This modern house plan is sure to give you a great view.

If you have some great views to capture then take a look at this modern house plan.  An exclusive design, this house plan is often referred to as an “upside down” plan. No this plan doesn””””t defy gravity, but it does have a second floor living area where you can take advantage of picturesque views.  The upper level also features a large deck for you to enjoy some outdoor living.   The lower level contains four bedrooms, including a spacious master suite with two full baths.

Given that it is perfect for a lot with a view, it should be no surprise that this house plan is designed on a pier foundation in order to accommodate beachfront or lakefront locations, but if your lot allows this house plan can also be built with a basement.

Another house plan with a view. This modern house plan is perfect for a lakeside, coastal, or mountain view lot.

Homes like this one mix exterior materials while accommodating a view and providing open space inside.  The house also sports a narrow footprint to fit many mountainside, lakefront, beachfront, or coastal lots. The wrap-around balcony also captures the views as well as the breezes.  The master bedroom is situated on the main level with its own private balcony.  A master bathroom also has a walk-in shower.  The third floor remains open to serve as flexible space.  It can be a game room or a sleepover headquarters.  The lower floor also contains flexible space for family functions and a suite of its own.

Homes like these here are not just unique and fun to look at, but they capture beautiful views. Their layout might be a little bit counterintuitive but “upside down” plans mean that there will be plenty of picturesque views to see from windows and decks. If a modern house plan is catching your interest, see more plans like these in Direct from the Designers”””” modern house plan collection.

Why Picking The Right Floor Plan Is Important


Choosing the right floor plan is very important when looked at from angles such as the type of lifestyle that you lead and your budget. More than any other factor, it”s very important to choose a floor plan that suits your lifestyle. Naturally you need to consider your tastes and preferences for materials, finishes and flooring etc. but the most important factors will be the number and layout of the rooms, considering the size of your family/how many children. You obviously need to provide enough rooms to suit the requirements of all family members.



floor plan

If you plan to have guests at your home often and entertain them, then you need to design the floor plan accordingly. For example, you can opt for a wide foyer that opens to the dining room and then meanders towards the lawn or the swimming pool area. You can also opt for a living room near the main door so that you can invite arriving guests to come in and sit and immediately feel comfortable.

Choosing the right floor plan is equally important whether you are thinking of a single story or a multi-story house. In single story homes, the public rooms are normally in the center and the bathrooms are near the corners. Multi-story homes help in giving each family members his own space and also give great views from the top floor.

Floor plans are also important from the additional space point of view. For example, a guest needs an additional bedroom while a young child needs a playing area. All these factors need to be taken into consideration when designing a floor plan. Do not unnecessarily hurry in designing the floor plan. Take all the above factors into consideration because even if one thing is amiss in the beginning, the whole plan may needs to be redesigned. It is even worse if the construction has begun and then you find out that you forgot to factor in a thing or two.

House Plan of the Week: HHF-6001

house plan
This stucco, brick and stone home has a lot to offer a large family. With five bedrooms, two guest rooms, and plenty of living space, it is the perfect house plan for a large or growing family.

Driving toward this beautiful award-winning house plan’s creative façade you will admire the lovely stucco, columns, and copper standing seam roof with stone and brick highlights. If the outside has you interested, the inside will have you amazed.

Inside this house are three floors. The interior starts with a winding staircase and carved hand rail. The honey colored hardwood floor imbues this house with a warm and inviting feeling as you continue into a two-story formal dining room with front-property views.

house plan
The front-facing formal dining room in this house plan is the perfect place to entertain your guests for the holidays or host dinner parties.
The adjoining butler’s pantry is announced by an archway and leads into the kitchen. The kitchen features a center food-prep island counter that overlooks a breakfast nook.  This cozy corner offers wide views through large windows and affords access to the rear porch.

Past the foyer are tall windows that brighten the two-story family room, bringing in a sense of the outdoors and plenty of natural light.  A featured fire place makes it a cozy space to cuddle on cold winter nights, or just to relax and read a good book.

house plan
The foyer of this house plan is warm and inviting with a majestic winding staircase that give you access to all three levels.
On the other side of the staircase are the library and the spacious master suite, which has access to the rear terrace with a large master bedroom and bathroom giving you plenty of space to relax and unwind from a long day.

The winding staircase leads to ideal living spaces for a family. Upstairs are three other bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each bedroom has a walk-in closet ensuring that this home is not short on storage space.  If you take the staircase downstairs, it leads you to a dedicated rec room, media room, and a theater in addition to a dedicated storage space, another bedroom, and two guest rooms.  With such ample living space, this home is perfect for a large or growing family.

It”s so easy to feel at home in this lovely, spacious colonial house plan. With every inch of space used this house makes good use of its ample size to offer you storage and functionality, as well as comfortable living. Read more about this house plan at Direct from the Designers.

Top Three Log Cabin House Plans

When I think of Colonial America, I think of a log cabin. I am not sure if it comes from reading Little House on the Prairie as a kid or when I used to play with my brother’s Lincoln Logs, but the image always stuck.  Unfortunately I don’t seem to see a lot of log cabins driving through New England but this historically significant architectural style really shouldn’t be ignored.

The first examples of log cabin house plan came to the Americas from the Swedish settlers who built them in Delaware in 1638.  After the Revolutionary War other colonists followed suit as they began to move westward. The log cabin became the typical home of the backwoodsman when the colonists began to encounter thick forests in areas like Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Northwest Territories. Log cabins continued to gain fame in the 1840s when small cabins were used in parades to demonstrate President Harrison’s support of the frontier people. The most famous log cabin house plan in the United States is probably the one where Abraham Lincoln was born, but many other Americans who rose to greatness spent their early years in log cabins.

Historically, log cabin house plans were essentially one room huts with one door and perhaps one or two small windows. The spaces between the logs were packed with mud and grass to keep out the wind and cold, and because there were no nails the logs were fastened with notched ends or wooden pegs. A log cabin’s roof was made from overlapping rows of short boards and the floor was constructed from hard packed clay. With glass unavailable, the window openings were covered with oiled paper to let in a little light and the room was heated by an open fireplace that served as the stove.

Among the many ways that today’s log cabin house plans differ from those of yore is that they are much more eco-friendly and energy efficient. With today’s technology log cabin house plans come in every form from seasonal cabins to luxurious castle-like estates. Today’s technology also allows for some other options as well. Logs can form the actual framing and structure of the home or simply be added to the exterior for a natural look. Additionally, logs can be either handcrafted with peeled lumber for an authentic appearance or milled for a more consistent look with natural imperfections removed.

Details like a stone chimney, metal roof, multiple gables, charming dormers, and a welcoming porch obviously lend more style to the exterior of modern log cabin house plans than the one-room pioneer huts. Additionally the interior may offer open floor plans, a stone fireplace, dramatic vaulted ceilings, and tall windows.  Whatever you are looking for, if a log cabin house plan is your dream, you can find it in the Direct from the Designers log house plan collection.