Think before you build, part one

If you’ve got plans to build a new home next spring, or are thinking about major renovations involving your existing home, let’s go over a few of the do’s and the don’ts regarding your building strategy.

Home building strategy No. 1: Avoid bumps, stair splits, or varying levels of any kind. Essentially, once you, your family members, or your guests, have climbed the three or four steps leading up to the front door, the challenge of further obstacles and light cardio activity should be minimal.

Known as the split level, some home designers have seen it useful to have the homeowners, once comfortably in the home’s entrance and after having placed their shoes and jacket in the closet, climb another four or five steps in order to get themselves into the parlour or lounging area of the home.

Then, after this short climb, designers have often further challenged the home’s occupants with a third, lower tier, in the form of a sunken living room.

If this were an industrial or commercial type of setting, such rises and drops would require a line of yellow caution tape forewarning occupants about the change in floor-scape. Cautioning people to the varying floor heights of a home would be a good idea, but incorporating these yellow caution lines into the colour scheme might be a challenge for your decorator.

On the other hand, there’s no quicker way to sending grandma hurtling to the floor than with the installation of a few strategically placed speed bumps, referred to as ‘thresholds’ in the home biz.

Thresholds can be strips of wood, composite material, or metal, and are used to transition one type of flooring into another when two floorings either differ in thickness, or when floors continue from one room into another.

Regardless of their convenience in joining two floors of varying heights, the inconspicuous quarter-inch bump is often just high enough to catch a passing sole, which is hilarious for everybody except the victim.

Generally, thresholds can be avoided by either adding a layer of subfloor to the thinner flooring, or in the case of ceramic tile, which often finishes to a thicker-than-average height, choosing a cement board or dimpled plastic type of substrate, which is a thinner alternative to the often used spruce plywood sheeting.

Home building strategy No. 2: Avoid stairs. There are a few things in this world that are best left to the young, such as playing contact sports, letting your hair grow long, and climbing stairs.

So, if you’re 30- or 40-something in age and are looking to build a home, incorporate all the various levels and build all the stairs you want. Don’t stop at two stories, but perhaps even go for three, real old-school stuff, with your workout room and stair-master machine located at the top of these two flights of stairs, allowing the homeowner endless opportunities to climb.

However, know that by doing so you’ll be limiting the re-sale potential of your home to a very small demographic.

So, do we avoid stairs and stick to one-storey homes? If possible, and if your lot size will allow it, then absolutely.

There are a number of challenges, like general home maintenance and upkeep, that aging homeowners are going to have to face, so avoid adding climbing stairs to the list.

Home elevators? They exist and they’re costly, but if you’re determined to own a two-storey home well into your 70s and 80s, definitely explore this option. If your budget will allow for an in-home Otis, but you feel you’re a little too young for the elevator option at this point in your life, don’t worry, you’ll eventually get there.

In the interim, if your plans involve staying in your new build for as long as you can stay healthy, then have your architect design the stairway in a manner that will allow for an easy transition to such an option.

Next week, more building options to ponder.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

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