9 Pro Tips for Selecting a Custom Home Building Contractor

Planning to build your custom home that matches your personal taste in architecture? First, you have to find a contractor you can rely on. Selecting between different residential contractors can be tricky at times, because every other company claims to be the best in business. Here are the 9 pro tips that you need.

1. Ask around. When you are looking for custom home builders, references always count. Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors to know about the services that they have tried so far. Ask them about the experience and why they liked or disliked a service.

2. Check if the company is genuine. Don’t be surprised to find that many of the contractors don’t have any experience working with clients. They often offer the best discounts and sell the contracts to smaller subcontractors to make some easy money.

3. Make sure the company is licensed, insured and bonded. You need to check if the contractor has the required permissions to work in your city and area, and they must be insured, as well. These are basic aspects that people often ignore while comparing the options.

4. Are they open to your ideas? A good and reliable general contractor will take the time to understand the needs, expectations and requirements of their clients. They will also discuss the ideas that you may have in mind, and depending on the practical aspects, they may suggest the right things.

5. Will they offer an estimate? As a client, you should be extremely careful about your choice of contractor, especially with regards to the estimate that they provide. Check if their prices are genuine and in sync with the standards. Getting an estimate is also important because you can compare the options.

6. Specialization counts. Always work with a contractor who has worked on and managed projects similar to yours. Not all commercial contractors deal in residential projects, so ask them about their areas of expertise.

7. Check their previous projects. You can never rely on a service that doesn’t have enough clients. Check the work they have done so far, so that you know the kind of experience they have with residential projects.

8. Ask for references. It is not enough to see a few pictures of their previous projects. You need to know the experience of their clients with regards to their services, and for that, nothing is more important than references. A company that has been doing business for more than five years will have enough clients.

9. Ask why you should hire them. As a client, you need to know why a company believes that they are better than others. Know about their highlights and ask them questions about their work. They should be able to convince you about their highlights and the kind of things they do.

Finally, take the time to set up a personal meeting. You may need two to three meetings before you can give a nod for the project.

Building an Energy Efficient Home – Top 10 Tips

  1. Choose an architect who understands low energy efficient house design
  • Be sure that builders are aware of the low energy aim of your house
  • Choose tradespeople that have both knowledge and experience in energy efficiency
  • Remember many architects/builders don’t go beyond minimum building standards and regulations but minimum isn’t the most efficient.
  • Minimize Your Heat Loss:
    • Keep your house plan simple and compact – A house that is compact and without extensions will have less heat loss due to the reduction in the external walls and roof area. Remember that single storey houses such as bungalows lose more heat through the roof than two or three storey houses where the rising heat is used throughout the levels before reaching the roof.
    • External walls should have high level insulation
    • Ensure there is good controlled ventilation and draught-proofing
    • Your architect can provide energy calculations of expected annual fuel bills
  • Maximize Your Solar Heat Gain:
    • Build along the East West axis – An energy efficient house will capture the free energy from the sun to heat your home and water. Ideally where possible choose a site where your house can face the sun (external blinds can prevent overheating in the summer months) and be sheltered from prevailing winds.
    • Houses in the northern hemisphere should locate most windows on the south side with reduced window size on the north side, and vice versa for houses in the southern hemisphere – Most windows should face the sun side to benefit from solar gains. However, some windows will have to be on the non-sun side to enable good daylight in all the rooms in your home.
    • Kitchens and breakfast rooms are mostly used in the mornings, so for houses in the northern hemisphere a south-east orientation will take advantage of the morning sun. For houses in the southern hemisphere then a north-east orientation will take advantage of the morning sun.
    • Halls, stairs and bathrooms can be located on the side that doesn’t get much sun as there are less frequently used.
    • Locate living rooms and main bedrooms on the sun facing side
    • In two storey houses consider having your bedrooms on the lower level (cooler for sleeping) and your living rooms on the upper level further reducing your heating requirements as upstairs gets warmer
    • Use the sun’s energy
      • Wind Turbines can take full advantage of wind power generation
      • Heat Pumps use the sun’s energy – all renewable energy systems are complementary to an energy efficient house design
  • Install Energy Efficient Heating And Hot Water System:
    • Renewable energy systems
    • Solar heaters
    • Use a condensing boiler if using gas or oil
    • Install easy to use controls

    More information on these can be found at the Home Heating Systems and Solutions site.


  • Consider Thermal Mass
    • When thinking of an energy efficient house remember that the use of certain materials will also improve the ‘thermal mass’ of your house by their ability to slowly absorb solar heat during the daytime and then slowly release this free heat through the night – The common materials used for thermal mass are:
      • Adobe bricks (mud or earth bricks)
      • Rocks and stones
      • Concrete (preferably concrete with stone)

      This is because they have:

      • High specific heat – able to store a large amount of heat for a long period of time like the heat bricks in a sauna
      • High density – basically the weight (mass) of a material in relation to it’s volume (it’s size) – the greater the mass per unit volume the greater the density
      • Low thermal conductivity – slow absorption and slow release of heat
    • Thermal mass is not insulation, it is the amount of specific heat that can be stored in a material (water has high thermal mass by being able to store a lot of heat). Insulation materials have a lower thermal conductivity to restrict the flow and absorption of heat.
  • Insulation
    • The percentage of heat loss from a house is approximately:
      • 42% Roof
      • 12% windows
      • 12% Unblocked chimneys and draughts around doors
      • 24% walls
      • 10% Floor
    • So when thinking of building an energy efficient house understand that installing insulation at the build stage is the easiest and cheapest way of improving your homes energy efficiency.
      • You can upgrade standard timber framed walls by using 140mm studs instead of 90mm studs – this will allow you more insulation. Masonry cavity walls can be improved by being filled with polystyrene insulating foam and by using lightweight thermal blocks.
      • You should have at least 250mm of loft insulation, 100mm of insulation between the joists and 150mm of insulation laid across the top. Loft conversions require careful attention especially if dormer windows are installed but a high standard of insulation can still be achieved.
      • Heat loss from the floor varies with different floor types. However, ground floor insulation is pretty easy. Generally a 125mm layer/sheet of polystyrene is used this size will be increased if installing underfloor heating to minimize heat loss.
      • Ensure insulation overlap between elements, e.g, between the wall and loft/roof cavity
      • Ensure air gaps such as wall cavities are clear of debris that can bridge therefore compromising the insulating air gap
      • Make sure fibre insulating materials are not compressed (packed tightly) as this will undermine its ability to properly insulate
      • Make sure that all insulating materials are kept dry
      • Be sure to seal all holes where services such as water and gas pipes enter your home
  • Windows And Conservatories
    • You’re always going to lose more heat through windows than through walls especially single pane windows. To minimize heat lost through windows ‘Low-E’ coated double glazing should be installed in all new houses.
    • Double glazing does not only reduce heat loss, it also offers some sound insulation. With double glazing the two panes are generally vacuum sealed. However, you can get argon-filled units (gas filled), and triple glazing which are well worth considering if you can afford them.
    • Conservatories can save you a little energy by acting as a buffer between the adjoining wall by trapping the heat from the sun, thereby reducing the heat loss from the room separated by the adjoining wall. To be effective, conservatories should be located on the sun facing side of the house and preferably not overshadowed by trees or other buildings.
    • Conservatories correctly placed should not require any permanent heating, but the doors that separate the house from the conservatory should be double glazed and shut when not in use.
  • Efficient Home Heating
    • A well insulated house is a low energy consuming house meaning that energy efficient house heating requirements are lower than a similar sized house which is poorly insulated.
    • Your heating system should take into account:
      • Fuel source and availability
      • The time you will spend in your home – quick or slow response systems
      • Construction material – timber framed houses should have responsive heating, such as radiators or air heat pumps, as the timber retains less heat than concrete, for example
      • Underfloor heating systems are not suited for houses built from lightweight construction materials, like timber frame, because of their slower heating response
    • You can have hydronic underfloor heating (wet or water based) systems combined with radiators. These are usually designed with the underfloor heating downstairs and radiators located upstairs.
    • Tiled solid screed floors work the best with underfloor heating. If you prefer a softer floor finish rather than tiles you should consider rugs rather than fitted carpets for better heat transference/output within the room.
    • Renewable energy systems such as heat pumps and solar heating are perfectly suited for energy efficient house designs.
  • Ventilation
    • Ventilation is an important aspect not to be overlooked as it provides both fresh air and removes stale air and moisture. Removing moisture prevents bacterial growth thus maintaining a healthy living environment.
    • Kitchens must have extractor fans or passive stack ventilation (PSV). PSV works using the principle of ‘rising’ warm air carrying stale air up and out.
    • Mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery do offer filtered air and a reduction in noise intrusion as windows can be kept closed. However, unless you are using a renewable power system such as photovoltaic (PV) or wind turbines, then the power required to run the fans rules it out as a feature for an energy efficient house. Also, for a heat recovery system to work efficiently the house must be well sealed.
    • All rooms should have trickle ventilation – allowing air to come in at a trickle rate to provide required room air change rate per hour (ACH).
  • Lighting and appliances
    • These should be low energy rated (low-wattage) saving you money in running costs and helping the planet by reducing CO2 emissions.

    So now you can save the planet and save yourself running costs by building an energy efficient home.

  • 10 Tips For Building Your First Log Home

    For some, the idea of building a log home elicits romantic dreams of a return to nature and a simpler way of life but for others it conjures up nightmares of budget overages, poor quality work and absent customer service. While there is no way guarantee an absolutely trouble free build of your log home there are certain steps you can take to minimize the risk and in the process save you some money. Below are 10 tips to help you avoid the pitfall of log home construction;

    1. “You get what you pay for” there is no secret here the lower the price the less that is included in your “package” This is true for materials and service.

    2. Only buy quality materials- keep in mind that the log package which usually includes the walls, support beams, and roof beams is the only portion of the house that cannot be retro-fitted at a later date. Always buy the highest quality materials you can afford. The best materials for log home construction( in descending order) are Cedar, Fir, Spruce, Pine

    3. Deal with reputable a reputable company- make sure the company you are dealing with is legitimate- stay away from offers that are too good to be true. Visit the log home company’s construction site and look around- Is the machinery in good shape? Are the crew members respectable looking? Is the owner present? Are they insured? A reputable company will answer yes to all these.

    4. The contract. A good reputable log home company will have a good contract that clearly details exactly what is and what is not included in its package. Be wary of a company that has a vague contract which does not include details.

    5. Be prepared to pay- You won’t get something for nothing. If you grind the company too much on the price they will grind you on the quality or service. Keep in mind that “they have to eat too” and that building a log home requires large amounts of expensive materials and labour. Before you interview builders determine you budget for the log shell and the overall home. This may require price shopping on your behalf but remember if the price you get seems to good to be true then it probably is.

    6. Be flexible- building a log home requires a skilled labour force that is in short supply. If you can be flexible with your delivery date you can usually negotiate a better price.

    7. Financing- financing log homes is a little different than regular construction because you will be required to pay for the log shell prior to delivery. This can be 30% of the overall cost of your home and some “un-educated” mortgage companies will not release funds until certain milestones are reached. This can put you in a tight situation where the builder won’t ship the home until he is paid but the lender won’t release the money until the log shell is re-assembled. Your best course of action here to ensure smooth and timely delivery is to ether arrange bridge financing or deal with a mortgage company that specializes in log homes- they are out there and they understand the process. Failure to do so could result in penalties or even storage fees until you can arrange financing.

    8. Be ready for delivery- nothing could be worse than not having your foundation and or jobsite ready for the delivery of the log shell. This means that the foundation is finished, backfilled, and the site is accessible. Do not overlook the seriousness of this as most builders have it written into their contract that if the site is not accessible or ready then they are under no obligation to deliver the log shell and instead will off-load it at an accessible location and then leave. Be sure that if you are supplying the crane that it is suitable for the job and that the operator is competent and has the skill as a slow and incompetent crane operator can cost you a lot of money.

    9. A good contractor- finding a good contractor who will finish the home is where your budget is “make or break”. Do not automatically assume that your contractor shares your same vision and budget constraints. It is imperative that you stay close to the project and make you contractor stick to your budget. If you contractor seems to be spinning his wheels or is absent or keeps coming up with more hidden costs don’t be afraid to fire him- its your money and he works for you not the other way around.

    10. HAVE FUN. Enjoy the whole process. Along the way you will meet many great people if you let them in. Log homes, from the builder on up attract a certain type of warm and hospitable person and you will become life long friends with these people because after all you are all working on something more than just a home you are all working on a dream- your dream so enjoy it as much as you can.

    Tips For Building a Log Home

    Log homes have a long and valued tradition in the United States and other countries, and despite our modern age, they’ve never really gone out of style. In fact, they’re more popular today than ever. In our busy stressful lives, more and more people want a first home, vacation home, or retirement home that’s off on a piece of land of their own, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If this sounds appealing to you, and you’re seriously thinking of taking the plunge and building a log home, let’s talk about some tips that can save you time and money.

    First off, buy the land on which you’re going to build. Do this before you make a commitment to a log home manufacturer or decide on a particular design. Often the lay of the land will dictate the best way to go about building a home on it. (And going against the lay of the land will only cost you money and trouble.)

    Second, have a realistic idea of how much the total project will cost before you sign up for a log home package. What they quote you for the kit and what the actual costs will be are going to be a lot different. To get a feel for how much more you’ll end up paying once labor and non-kit necessities are included, talk to builders, contractors, and other homeowners who have built a log home. Don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturers how much actual costs tend to run in your area.

    Whether you’re browsing kits or planning to have an architect design your dream home, keep a scrapbook of pictures and clippings in the months leading up to your purchase. Trying to say everything you want in words can be difficult, but if you can point to a picture and say “do the kitchen like that and the bathroom like that…” you’ll be more likely to get the home of your dreams. Don’t be afraid to spend months in the planning process, considering everything, before actually committing to a design.

    Before you buy, check references. Look for a log home manufacturer that is a member in an organization such as the Log Homes Council. This means they have a comprehensive construction manual and have agreed to hold up to certain log-grading standards.

    Make sure you’ve taken care of financing before starting construction (and make sure that financing will cover the cost of the whole project–there are too many tales of partially finished log homes out there that have been abandoned because the erstwhile builders ran out of money). Some home buyers with disposable income will start the process paying out of pocket and then try to get a construction loan when they run out of cash. This is a bad idea, since lenders usually refuse to loan money on construction that is in progress.

    Make sure you understand the manufacturer’s terms of purchase and that your financing covers those terms. Especially pay attention to the time period of the agreement (and what happens if you exceed the time limit). Examine the refund and warranty policies.

    Keep these tips in mind as you think about your future log home. Plan copiously and don’t rush. This way you’ll be more likely to survive the building process and get the home of your dreams.

    Some Tips In Building A Green Home

    If you are thinking of joining the advocacy of going green, what better way to do it than to start building a green home. You will need to follow certain environmental practices in building a green home – such as those that help lessen (negative) effects on the environment.

    First thing you need to consider is building materials. Building a environment friendly home would require materials that are eco-friendly and compliant with the current standards in constructing green homes. You may browse the internet for details regarding the compliances and product info to help you where to get and how to use them. If you have a contractor in mind, make sure that the company offers services specifically for building a green home.

    It is imperative to prioritize sustainable materials such as those that can be recycled or natural materials that can be replenished due to their growth rate. Hardwood from large old trees should not be cut down and used, since they take years to grow and the earth beneath will also be affected when they are taken out. Using alternative wood such as bamboo is better since this specie can grow rapidly.

    Lightweight concrete is a type of concrete that has been used in building a healthy home for years. However, this type of concrete is not as strong, but it can perform as well as traditional concrete and can hold up to any weather condition. It is often used as home insulation and it’s also capable of retarding fire.

    Prefabricated panels for homes are also available and they can be ordered and purchased at reasonable amounts. Generally, they are similarly priced to regular building materials that are used for a typical home. And they must also get approval from organizations that monitor environmental compliances.

    In order to have less impact on the environment, building green homes employ appropriate architectural design. Typical green homes are smaller than regular homes like those that are found in rural areas and large counties. Styles may vary from contemporary, bungalow, Victorian, ranch style and many others.

    The important thing about building a green home is that it will help lessen the negative effects on the environment in general. There are many factors that you need to consider such as energy and water consumptions, recycling and using eco-friendly materials. Generally, once you have these factors implemented on your green home, you’ll be able to help reduce harmful impacts on the environment and on the earth.

    3 Simple Tips for Building Homes of Your Own Success

    Building Homes of Your Own is a computer game where you are challenged to get a loan, select and purchase property, design and build a house, and sell it for a profit. There are three levels to the game, Urban or Suburban, Rivers and Lakes, and Coastline. For each progressive level you will be given a larger loan for your budget. On the third level, Coastline, you will receive a loan for more than 1 million dollars.

    Construction Technology Engineering is the main focus of the software. It is meant to be as close as possible to real world situations in the building homes industry. Many students in Technology Education and Engineering class utilize this software to learn the steps to planning and building a house.

    Here are some of the main tips for being successful in the Building Homes of Your Own game. First, you need to remember that you are not designing the house for yourself. You will be given different situations depending on which property location that you choose. Most design something they would want to live in while ignoring the demographics of the surrounding area. The surrounding houses and neighborhoods are big clues to whom you may want to sell your house to. You must check the demographics for information surrounding your property. For example, average population age is very important. You don’t want to build a skate park in the backyard of a neighborhood where the average age is 65 and older.

    Second, when designing your floor plan and interior remember you are trying to make a profit on the property. Your profit is the amount of money above what you spend on building the house. For example, if you design a very large house with the most expensive interior choices, you will not be able to make as much profit on your property.

    Third, planning for your house designing decisions is the most critical step that most people overlook. There are three planning phases you need to consider. The “site phase,” where you find and purchase your property. The “building phase,” where you decide on your floor plan, exterior, and interior. The “sell phase,” where you advertise and sell your house to potential buyers.

    Your home will be judged by how much profit you make on your property. You must be able to find the right buyers by checking their credit information. They will be rejected by the bank for a home loan to buy your property if they have bad credit. A score of 70 percent or higher means you can go on to the next level. Remember these tips and tricks for reaching the next level when playing Building Homes of Your Own.

    Tips for Choosing a Good Custom Home Building Service

    There are many advantages to choosing to build a custom designed home rather than buying an existing property; these include the possibility to create a space that caters to all your unique needs and wants. This does not have to be an exceptionally expensive option either – another benefit is that you will have complete control over your budget.

    To make sure that you get the best experience out of your home building experience it is very important to find a good custom home builder to help bring your dreams to life. Here are a few important guidelines to follow to find the best professional to entrust with creating your new home.

    Firstly, do not underestimate the power of recommendations; the best way to choose between a selections of custom home builders in your local area is to find out which ones have the happiest clients.

    As with any service, people are always keen to share their positive and negative experiences, so seek out independent reviews websites which may provide useful information to help you make your decision on the best building service.

    It is also worth looking on the company websites of the custom home builders you are considering. These best ones will not be backwards in coming forwards with the testimonials they have received from satisfied clients who have created their dream home with the help of the company.

    It is also a good idea to ask the builders directly if they can put you in touch with their former clients. You may even in some cases be able to visit one of the properties that the custom home builder has created and speak to the owner. This will provide you with a valuable insight into the experience that you can expect if you work with them.

    After you have found a few highly rated and reputable services, the next thing to do is to have a look through the portfolio of properties that they have designed and built. This will give you an idea of the types of property that they are used to constructing and designing.

    You may be looking for a very modern, energy efficient and eco friendly home, and there are many custom home builders that deal often with this kind of building project, so you will benefit from all of their experience in this field if you choose to hire them.

    On the other hand, you may like a more traditional looking home, in which case it is a good idea to find a custom build service that is experienced in creating this particular type of home. Either way, look carefully through portfolios to find a service whose previous projects appeal to you and are similar to what you have in mind for your own home.

    Another thing that you absolutely must be aware of when you are looking for custom home builders to help you create your dream property is that there are many different aspects to such an enormous project. As you are taking care of every single large and tiny detail of the project you will need to find a service that can assist you with this.

    The best service for those who are likely to find themselves overwhelmed by the enormity of such a project is one that guides its clients from start to finish of the build. This includes finding a good architect, creating an accurate budget, installing home video and audio systems, installing security systems, choosing finishes for both the home interior and exterior and much, much more.

    The best way to make this kind of project a success is to find a professional that can help you every step of the way and one who is experienced enough to offer excellent advice on every single aspect of your project. Bear all of the above points in mind and you will be well on your way to finding the best custom home building service for you.

    5 Tips to Find Home Builders That Are Worth Investing

    When planning to build your dream home, one of the first consideration is working with a qualified and experienced contractor. Choosing a home builder may be one of the most important decisions of the building process. Basically, there are three most popular types – the high-end custom home builder, the production builder, and the small builder. The trick lies in identifying which one is the perfect match for your requirements.

    Here are a few tips designed to help you find best contractors to build your dream home:

    1. Plan in Advance: To get the results of your choice, planning beforehand and knowing what exactly you want may help a lot. It may also involve deciding on whether you need a specialist or just a general contractor. This will also help you communicate with your builder in the best possible way as you know your requirements as well as limitations. Also planning on what services you expect from your builder such as the warranty period, record of dealings, and post delivery services can help getting the best results.

    2. Research for Reputed Firms: Once you are aware of what exactly you want, you may consider going through the newspapers, journals, advertisements and online portals for more information. Searching for reliable home building companies through surfing online and registering for electronic messages can be of great help. You may also consider visiting seminars and home shows to get to know about some experienced as well as new home builders.

    3. Ask Questions: After finalizing on certain home builders, assessing them to make sure they meet your specific needs can prove very beneficial. In order to assess them, you may consider asking a few questions such as how many years have they been in business, are they licensed and insured, what unique features they offer, can they custom build or change current designs, what type of material they use, how long the entire process will take and prices etc.

    4. Do A Quality Check: Looking beyond the photographs and checking the quality of materials can help you make sure that it is worth investing. This may also require both research and site visits to have a clear idea whether or not the home builder holds a good previous record. You may also consider showing interest for any awards or recognition the company has got for providing outstanding quality to its clients.

    5. Be Specific: Having things finished on time and within budget sometimes requires you to be specific. Keeping everything clear with your builder and having the structural calculations done by an experienced engineer can prove beneficial. Keeping an eye on who is going to supply the things like hardware, faucets, tiles, and other accessories, is good for your project. Being specific regarding what you need and how you want things to be done helps in long run.

    Last but not the least, take the time to do your homework when it comes to choosing a home builder as every extra second spent will pay off in the long run.