PROPER GRADING AND DRAINAGE
I know that this first statement will sound redundant, but, make sure your new home sits high enough on the lot so that water will drain away from it on all sides. Even in a situation where a home sits downhill from the road, the foundation can be set so the grading around it will direct the water away from it. I mention this only because of the amount of homes I have seen over the years that have very poor drainage.
When buying a lot on a cul-de-sac you don’t always have the option of which direction your house will face, but if you do have the option of what direction you will face, you may be able to make it work to your advantage.
For example, if the front of your house faces south, you will have a relatively clean driveway in the winter as the sun will heat the driveway and help melt the snow that is left after plowing. Facing south will also give you a back yard that will probably be mostly sun free in the afternoon. This may or may not be an advantage, depending on how much you plan to use the back yard, and whether you would prefer it to be warm or cool there.
The south side should, if possible, have the most glass and the north side should have the least glass. (Just common sense)
The garage should be on the north side of the house if possible, to help shield the house from the cold north winds in the wintertime.
INEXPENSIVE CURB APPEAL
Almost all house styles have the potential to have curb appeal, yet if you look around very few homes really have that “look at me” factor. Too many people put all the money and thought into their new home, and yet put no thought or effort into the grounds around it.
Almost everyone puts a lawn in, but not enough people take the time to plan for trees, shrubs, and plantings. These items are really not that expensive, and this is something you can probably do yourself in 3 or 4 weekends. So when you plan the budget for your new home, allow at least a thousand dollars or so for some “outside charm”. The few dollars invested in flowers and shrubs will come back to you a hundred fold in beauty and curb appeal.
I always recommend three foot wide exterior doors because it makes moving furniture in and out so much easier. I have yet to figure out why companies even make entry doors that are smaller. The difference in price between a 3’ wide door and a smaller door is not a lot of money. In my opinion even basic starter homes should have three-foot wide entry doors.
EXTERIOR DOORS (PRODUCTS)
I would highly recommend using either insulated metal or fiberglass exterior doors instead of wooden doors. They are much more stable and will not expand, contract, warp or twist like a wooden door will. The new fiberglass doors look just as nice as wood if they are stained properly, and the insulated metal doors available today insulate very well. If storm doors are installed over metal or fiberglass doors, two or three ¼” holes should be drilled in the top of the storm door, to allow hot air to escape in the summer.
Whatever you buy for windows, spend as much as you can justify for high-end energy saving windows. Windows are not rated in “R” value, but rather by air infiltration. Some are filled with various types of gases to help the thermal factor, (glass itself has no thermal value).
I personally recommend high quality windows. I also recommend vinyl windows over wood windows. Try to educate yourself to what’s available, and don’t buy a product just because they have been around for awhile. Some of the older companies live on their name, rather than a quality product.
There are many more types and styles of siding products today than ever before. You now have a variety of vinyl, wood, cement board and other man made products to choose from. Your own choice should be based on a combination of factors, including the value of your new home, the standards in your particular development, your personal choice, and your finances. So look around and educate yourself to what’s available.
DRIP EDGE UNDER FIRST COURSE OF CLAPBOARDS
If you are building a home with a daylight basement, or with very little foundation showing, have the builder put a piece of 8” roof drip edge under the starter course of siding. This will help stop water from damaging the sheathing underneath. In fact it wouldn’t hurt to do this everywhere.
There are a lot of roofing choices today, from shingles, to metal, to composites that look like slate, to tile. If you are considering a “standing seam” metal roof, you should be forewarned that if you live in an area in the northern part of the country heavy snows can be a problem. When snow falls from a metal roof it buries everything below in a very heavy and very dense pile of snow. That snow load will crush your shrubs and plantings, and is very heavy to shovel and remove.
If you plan to be in the house for a long time, I personally recommend either 30 or 40 year shingles instead metal.
Regardless of what you use for roof covering, be sure to use a minimum of 6 feet of ice and water shield. Some roof designs should have full coverage of ice and water shield.
ROOF DRIP EDGE
New roof shingles will stain the fascias of a new house. To eliminate this, have your builder use what is called “double bend” drip edge instead of the standard type. The double bend causes the water to drip off away from the fascia instead of running over it. This type should definitely be used if you are wrapping the trim with aluminum. The cost difference over regular drip edge is minimal.
Driveways can sometimes be an expensive proposition. Common sense rules here. The longer the driveway is, the more expensive it will be. Not just in hot top price but in the cost of groundwork, grading and fill. So to keep your driveway expense to a minimum, keep it as short as possible. Garage doors on the side of the house may give you a more attractive curb appeal, but will add expense to the driveway. If you do want side doors, make sure you have plenty of side clearance to swing your vehicles without encroaching on your legal setbacks. Usually a driveway can be in the setbacks. Check with your code official.
No matter whether your garage doors are on the front or on the side, you will also want to make sure that you have enough room for an area for backing out of the garage and room for a parking area for your company.
If you are building in the summertime, it is easy to forget how much snow there will be next winter. Make sure that you have cleared around the driveway enough to push snow back.