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 ConcreteNetwork.com. For walk-out basements, insulation can be more cost effective than excavating and pouring slabs.
Decorating a stairwell can be tricky: it is a small space, not quite a room, and yet it gets a lot of use and exposure. While many luxury floor plans offer enough space for grand, curved staircases that seem to require little decoration, you may find yourself settling for something more simple. Here are some techniques for transforming your basic, straight stairwell into a room as special as any other in your house.
Even if you are working with a pre-fabricated staircase, you still have plenty of variables that determine the character of your stairwell. Choosing between hardwood and carpeted staircases will dramatically change the ambience of the space. Carpeted floors can feel cozy, but they can also get dirty easily. Hardwood floors are sleek, but they can also get scratched. In addition to ambience, you may want to base your decision on whether you have kids, dogs or both.
Banisters and hand-railings are another essential design element. While wood is a standard choice for either, you can also install metal banisters with steel cables that run along the length of the staircase parallel to the handrail for added safety. Metal designs are usually more minimalist and modern compared to classic wood.
Defining the wall
The wall is your biggest opportunity to decorate your staircase. The stairwell in HHF-6085, while simple, is the perfect place to exercise your creativity. Paint can greatly affect the perceived width and length of a staircase. Lighter colors can make a room feel more bright and open, while darker colors can make a space feel cramped and foreshortened. Apart from paint, you can also texture your walls with birch veneer or any other wood paneling of your choice to run the length of the passageway. The light wood will both brighten and elongate the space. Also, consider brick as a way of texturing. While the darker reds of the bricks may make the space feel more cramped, they will also provide a distinct sense of place.
Accenting the wall
Once you have your base material or paint on the wall, you can think up a variety of ways to add more character to it. Staircases are a common place to hang pictures. Play up this decorative element by organizing your photographs in a certain way to emphasize a theme or narrative. Use pictures from places that you have traveled, or else organize them according to chronological history of the family.
You can also create a different ambience by creating recesses in the wall and putting items in them. Flowers, small artifacts and even candles can create an interesting space. If you have a brick wall, this is as easy as removing a brick every few feet along the wall. Mimic the design with less effort via shelving units or even small boxes with a few inches of depth to house your collected items.
Another consideration is lighting. You can install wall sconces or use inset lights along the wall. You can also install small track lights that run underneath the hand rail. For more dramatic effect you can inset lights into the riser or tread. Lights on the sides of a tread will create patterns of light and shadow along the wall.
Many factors determine the cost of a building site, from the size of the plot to the value of other homes around it. One of the hidden expenses of construction, however, is changes to the land to accommodate your dream home. You can save substantial money by taking into consideration the contours of the building site and either construct a home that adapts to it or find a plot that better suits your ideal floor plan.
If you are building on a plot where a previous structure once stood, then chances are much of the necessary landscaping for laying a foundation has already been done. New ground, on the other hand, can pose numerous obstacles before home construction even begins. Clearing trees can be time consuming and will probably require sub-contractors. In-filling and grading are even more time consuming and potentially costly.
Should you have your heart set on one floor plan and have your choice of plots on which to build, it may be worth your time to consider the cost of landscaping at those different sites and choose the one that requires the least change. However, often the perfect neighborhood and open plot is harder to come by. You can work with a contractor to modify your house plans to fit a site, or choose a different floor plan altogether. Fortunately, there are plenty of craftsman house plans with various layouts from which to choose.
Homeowners should also work closely with their contractor to determine exactly what needs to be done in order to make a site build-ready. Should you need to in-fill, it's possible for your contractor to get free dirt from other building sites that required grading and need a place to dump the excess. Your best plan is to pick a site before you choose your dream home, so you can tailor the house to match.
For verandah lovers, winter usually means three months locked out of the favorite room of the house. However, these spaces can easily be redesigned for cold-weather use with proper insulation, heating and decoration.
Craftsman house plans, such as HHF-1895, can offer expansive lanais that cover hundreds of square feet. If done properly, a winter-converted verandah can put that space to good use, acting as a dining area or even a secondary living room. Convert three-season porches into a year-round room with these tips.
Screen it in
The right screening can easily turn covered porches and verandahs into indoor spaces. Many companies make vinyl screens that can be hung in panels over the mosquito netting of screened-in porches. This vinyl can even be clear plastic, which allows sunlight in to brighten up the room during the day. Black vinyl can also be used to absorb heat, which then radiates through the room on cold nights.
A porch with glass windows already has some of the necessary structure to combat heat loss. However, glass is a poor insulator, and these rooms can still get cold at night. Thermal shades and blinds help retain heat at night, while allowing light and warmth in during the day. They are also more visually pleasing than vinyl screen, and allow for a wide variety of style options.
Cold does not only come in through the walls. Homeowners should put down rugs to help retain heat. They help keep heat from escaping between cracks in the floorboard, and they also provide a more comfortable surface for bare feet than hard wood.
Warm it up
Once a porch is adequately insulated, homeowners can make it warm with electric or gas patio heaters. They come in a number of designs to be hung, placed on a table or propped in a corner. Homeowners should be aware of the safety concerns of these devices, however, as they can spark fires if not properly handled. A special, permanent place should be designated for powered heaters.
Fireplaces are another means for heating a porch, as seen in HHF-1895, which has a BBQ porch connected to a spacious lanai. As with powered heaters, precaution should be given for proper ventilation, especially in the instance of backdrafts, which sends smoke back into the room.
Homeowners can save money on heating a porch with smart passive heating provided by thermal blinds. The better the insulation, the less need for powered heating. None of the mentioned heaters should be used until a porch is screened in. Otherwise, heat will easily escape, wasting energy and money.
Just because the days are a little shorter doesn't mean that a porch has to be any less bright. The right decorations can make a verandah as cozy as the rest of the house. Overstuffed couches, bright pillows and rugs can all lend some cheer to a winter verandah.
Lighting is also key to the right porch ambience. Overhead lighting can feel harsh. Instead, homeowners can install lamps and fairy lights in order to create a cozy space. Built-in elements in the design of the porch, such as a fireplace, can help create the right vibe.
Accent walls – walls that are different in color design than others in a room – are an easy way to energize a room. Here are a few considerations when choosing which walls to accent and how to do it.
Splashing on color
Paint is the most common way to accent a wall. Color can provide sharp contrast or subtle complement to the rest of the room's color scheme. Vibrant, warm hues can add a strong visual pop to a room comprised mainly of neutral colors. This technique works best if there are objects of a similar color – lamp shades, carpets or upholstery – in the room to anchor the shade. For this kind of accent, it's best to keep the rest of the walls a neutral color, such as white or brown.
A subtler tactic is to employ different hues of the same color family – namely, warm colors with warm and cool colors with cool. A navy wall can add depth and shade to a room comprised of light blues. It's best to stick to neutral colors contrasting with a pop of one color. This technique can also be done with a solely neutral palette.
Accent walls don't have to be solid or even painted. Broad vertical stripes and other patterns are perfectly acceptable. Intricate wall paper is another easy way to accent. For a more impactful accent wall, you can use substantial materials. Stained planks of wood arranged horizontally create a highly textured wall. You can also use brick, bamboo or even artfully arranged mirrors of varying sizes.
Choosing the room
Living rooms, kitchens and other rooms with frequent foot traffic are obvious candidates for an accented wall. However, any room of the house can have an accent wall. The best rooms for an accent are those that otherwise feel flat or sparse. An accent wall can help a large room feel magnificent, but it can also help smaller, duller or more utilitarian spaces feel brighter and more inviting.
Choosing the wall
Accent walls should tie in with the rest of the room's layout and character. Usually, an accent wall is anchored by some specific design or architectural detail – either a bed, a bookshelf or a fireplace. However, accent walls can also provide balance to other, busier walls. For example, a good location for an accent wall is opposite a wall with many or large windows.
They can also be used for dramatic effect. An accent wall can make a stunning first impression if situated opposite the entrance to the room. It can also be used as a subconscious guide. Horizontal painted stripes or birch veneer planks can serve as runners on the wall adjacent to an off-center entrance, naturally drawing people into the room.
Light is another important factor to consider. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, warm hues will make an accent wall seem closer, while cooler hues make a wall seem farther away. This effect can be used to help rooms feel bigger or more intimate. Sunlight also intensifies warm colors. Warmer hues can be used to brighten rooms with less sunlight, while cooler colors soften light-drenched rooms.
Tying it together
Modern house plans with great rooms and similar open floor layouts provide interesting opportunities for accent walls. House plan HHF-8292 has a kitchen that opens onto a living room, inviting a creative approach to lead one into the other. An accent wall that extends into both rooms can provide visual continuity between the two. You can also implement thematic accent walls in multiple rooms throughout the house. For example, bedrooms could all have a birch veneer wall, while downstairs living spaces could be accented with oak or mahogany.
Cost is often the reason for a smaller home purchase, but it's no the only consideration. Homeowners may want to consider small house plans not as the result of limited finances, but as an opportunity to reimagine their entire lifestyle.
The real estate business has long operated on the concept of keeping up with the Joneses. As MSN Real Estate noted in the wake of the housing bust, average home sizes have ballooned over the latter half of the 20th century by more than double what they were in the 1950s. However, small homes have had a resurgence as of late, partly due to cost, but also due to homeowners' interest in reining in their houses' footprints.
Smaller homes grant owners the opportunity to start fresh and live more simply. Homeowners will not have to worry about filling out large rooms with unnecessary material goods. Rather, they will have to downsize. With fewer things, homeowners will also have less space and appliances that require cleaning and maintenance. If the smaller floor plan, such as HHF-2259, is designed well powering and maintaining the home will be more efficient overall.
Vaulted ceilings are a great way to make rooms feel more grand and spacious. The dramatically expanded space, however, means that decorating can seem challenging. Fortunately, there are a few techniques for ceiling decoration to create a room that's at once open and inviting.
The two best elements to liven up an otherwise massive ceiling space are textures and lights. The principle behind either option is breaking up the space so that the ceiling doesn't feel so vast and empty. Textures and lights can make a room more visually appealing, guide people's attention and even define the room's purpose.
Textures are a great way to add ambience to a vaulted ceiling. Wood is a classic texture to add to your ceiling, with long, interlocking pieces that run the length of the room. Think of your ceiling much like an accent wall – wood and other textures help to make the ceiling feel less bare. It will also draw people's attention upward to one of the most impressive features of the room.
Truly good textural design will tie in with the rest of the room. A good example of this is the pictured design in HHF-7908, which anchors its vaulted ceiling with light, wooden window frames that run the length of the wall. This attentive design visually orients people not only to the ceiling, but also toward the beautiful outer wall of windows and down to the wooden floors.
Your room textures don't always have to match. You can mix and match drastically different textures for greater visual impact. That same house plan also boasts a fireplace of rough-cut stone, which gives the space an unmistakable cabin atmosphere. Brick is another distinctive wall texture to complement your ceiling.
Brighten up the room
Lights are another great way to break up the space. A room with a vaulted ceiling allows you to experiment with various lighting options more so than smaller spaces, simply by virtue of the fact that you have more space to illuminate. In-set lights can create a minimalist pattern along the length of the room. Track lights and chandeliers add layers of depth to the open space. Hanging lights effectively makes the room feel more enclosed and cozy without eliminating the vastness of the ceiling.
Your choice of lighting can also be more grand. Ornate chandeliers may crowd smaller spaces, but in a vaulted room it serves as a centerpiece. You can even hang a series of chandeliers at various heights to create a more visually active and interesting space.
Defining the room
Chandeliers and other hanging lights provide yet another design opportunity – by strategically lowering your chandeliers in certain places around the room, you can implicitly determine people's use of the space. The room should already have certain focal point around which the furniture is organized, such as a fireplace or a dining table. Lights can emphasize those focal points. For example, a chandelier that hangs lower over a table or circle of couches and chairs emphasizes that a place is for sitting. Higher lights welcome more movement. Great rooms featured in craftsman house plans allow for more of this kind of experimentation.
Dining rooms can be a great place to gather family and friends for a meal, but many people neglect theirs in favor of more casual spaces around the home. People should rethink these spaces for other activities in order to maximize their space. Here are three houses that inspire new approaches to the dining room, so that homeowners can get the most out of their floor plans.
The sitting room and the library
Often, dining rooms are situated just off the entrance to a home, so that guests may arrive and immediately find their place at the table. This placement makes for a perfect sitting room. Comfy chairs, couches and side tables make for a great place to have tea and welcome guests. It can also serve as a cozy gathering area while waiting for others to get ready before going out for the evening.
To make it an even more charming space, you can convert the room into a library. HHF-5586 is already halfway there, with shelves of books lining the walls of its dining room. Not only do books serve as great decoration, but they also offer a quiet retreat in the home. Combining your library with your sitting room can even provide conversation starters and entertainment for guests.
Crafts and games
HHF-7139 has foregone the dining room in favor of what it calls a flex space. Homeowners should take that as a challenge and get creative. Dining rooms can make for a game room, outfitted with billiards, ping-pong or air hockey tables. You can also use the space as an arts and crafts room, complete with storage units for materials and a work table for crafting. HHF-7139's flex space conveniently overlooks the front yard, so parents can work on projects while keeping an eye on the kids. If you are tired of cleaning a sprawling great room, you can even designate it as a kids' space for their messier activities.
The dining space in HHF-2808 is less of a room and more of an extension of an open kitchen layout. Homeowners who don't want to completely eschew the dining room concept may look to this kind of house plan, where the kitchen and dining room are combined to create a more inviting space. The open layout also provides new design opportunities, as homeowners can experiment with a larger room.
Open kitchen layouts are great options for families and can also save on money and space. There are no limits to your kitchen design – here are some of the advantages of an open floor plan and a few excellent examples to get your creative juices flowing.
An open kitchen gets its name because there are no walls to divide it from other rooms. Movement and visibility between two rooms are thus made easier. This kind of design allows anyone working in the kitchen to interact with people in the living room, dining room or any others space to which it connects. The open layout is an excellent option for families who like to host with a casual atmosphere, who have kids parents to keep an eye on, or who generally have a lot of movement between rooms.
An open kitchen layout can also maximize space by combining rooms. Commonly, living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens are combined to create what is called a great room. The maximal use of space means less cost on square footage and fewer rooms to heat and cool, potentially saving the homeowners money. The open layout is a popular feature in many modern house plans.
Defining the space
While there is no dividing wall in an open kitchen layout, barriers can still be used to define the space. Usually, this is an island counter, which creates a physical, but not a visual, barrier. It also provides added counter space without the kitchen feeling claustrophobic. That countertop can be used as a work area, informal dining table or buffet table.
House plan HHF-5902 is an exemplary design layout for intimate yet friendly dinner parties. The kitchen's open wall looks onto the dining room. allowing the chef and diners to chat while meals are prepared. Furthermore, if the chef needs assistance serving, he or she need only turn and ask. Yet, the island counter that divides the rooms also helps distinguish between the spaces, so that diners feel that they are not sitting in the kitchen.
The island counter with stools also doubles as an informal table. Appetizers and drinks for that dinner party can also be served on the island. If the dinner is more of a tapas-influenced meal, where the chef will constantly be serving fresh dishes, the meal can even be hosted there. For other times of the day, families can sit at a row of stools a quick breakfast or lunch.
Also, just because the kitchen is combined with the dining room doesn't mean that any kitchen amenities are lost. The galley formation makes for a functional, efficient workspace.
Living and cooking
There are plenty of excellent open floor plans that go even wider and capitalize on the great room trend. The best-selling HHF-8292 home plan connects to the dining room and the living room, with all three interconnected. Anyone who has to do work at the kitchen table can still keep an eye on family in the living room or, if there is a game on, can keep watch as they cook. The kitchen even has a straight line of sight to the outdoor living space. Clear the dining room, and hosting an outdoor meal has never been easier.
The HHF-1897 boasts an even broader view of the family room, also making it one of the more conservative layouts in terms of space efficiency. It also has easy access to a number of other spaces, including the nook and the foyer. The dining room, while less directly accessible, is still a straight shot through the foyer. Unlike the other spaces, this island counter is a curved work table that allows anyone cooking to easily multitask.
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.
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.
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.
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.