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What do you wish your home had, and what do you love in your home?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 55
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
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Hi all,

I'm busily soaking up knowledge here. Thanks!! Right now we're in Washington State, but we're three years from moving to wooded land in middle Tennessee (200 acres). My parents bought it in the late 60s, at which time it was partially grazed, partially planted in tobacco, and the rest wooded. My siblings are selling it to my husband, son and I cheap (there will be a limited tree harvest before we buy it, to offset their $ loss).

Never in my life have I wanted to build a house. Too many choices, decisions, alternatives. However, our land just has a 300 sf open shelter, and an outhouse. That's what we've used for camping for fifty years! So now we're narrowing in on the best building site, and also scouring through house plans on the internet to get ideas of what we want. We're probably looking at something around 1500 sf, give or take. I'd lean more towards 1200, but my dear hubby is more of a 2000 sf guy, so ... compromise!

On my list of must haves are a rainwater collection system, a greywater system, decent mud room entrance, a screened porch, and a southern exposure. I'd love to have the plumbing clustered- wow does that complicate choosing a pre-made plan!

What are the things you wish you had in your house? Or what do you have that you love (or have found to be a mistake)?

Thanks - Erica
 
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Our house is just under 1500 square feet.  It has a huge living room and a large kitchen, but small bedrooms...and we like that.  We feel like extra space in the bedrooms would be wasted, as we only ever sleep there, whereas large common areas work well for us.  

We have a mudroom, and love it, but we wish there were a bathroom there - it would be fantastic to be able to wash the dogs and kids before they tracked mud (or worse) through the entire kitchen to get to the bathroom.  Our laundry hookups are in that mudroom, which is perfect, as we can strip wet/muddy children and throw stuff directly into the washing machine.  

What we wish we had more of is closet and pantry space.  We have a lot of seasonal outdoor clothing that needs storing, and also, we have two entire wardrobes - 'good' clothes and 'barn' clothes...including 'good' and 'barn' shoes and outerwear.  That takes up a fair bit of space.  We're pretty rural here - the nearest grocery store is about 25 miles - and I do a lot of food preservation, so we need places to put bulk purchases and my home-canned goods, plus all of the canning, dehydrating, and wine making equipment.  You might not find this such a big deal, but we struggle with it a lot.  

I wish our eaves were longer, or that we had a covered porch on the south side, as we get a lot of summer sun on the house, heating things up.  

I also wish our house was designed to 'work' without electricity.  As it is, the furnace, water, and sewer (septic) rely on electricity for the fans/pumps, which means a power outage is a real pain in the neck.  A gravity-fed septic system would be great, as well as some way to heat the house and move water around.  We've been having more and more power outages as the local storms have gotten more severe.  

Have fun planning and building your house!  I know it can be very stressful, but it is also an amazing opportunity.  
 
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Erica Colmenares wrote:What are the things you wish you had in your house? Or what do you have that you love (or have found to be a mistake)?



It seems Tennessee and where I live have a similar climate, albeit on the other side of the planet. Though, we don't get as cold, probably down to -5C in winter, very hot and humid during summer.

I intend to renovate the family farm house and made a priority list of things that need doing in order - along the lines of a Gantt Chart.

After all the needs and wants, secure dry weather storage for furniture, materials, tools, and workshop was a critical component ... besides the fact it'll be needed in the long term anyway - Man Cave/Dog House as required!

Hired storage is expensive, so the cost saved will go to constructing a huge shed before house work starts. (Ideally, the shed will provide intermittent accommodation when I'm there, saving more expense.)

Solar hot water system with mains electricity back up. Estimate a number of water tanks then double it - never too much potable water. As others have mentioned in other posts, suggest planting fruit/nut trees immediately to maximise cropping, together with irrigation systems.

I'm a bit skeptical on using grey water, but will provide for it, simple fix and low cost if it doesn't meet expectations.

Grouping and accessible pipelines (water, gas, electricity) is essential to minimise costs and makes life easier.

Passive solar design - an Architect is worth the cost.

That's my 2-cents worth 👍🏽
 
Erica Colmenares
Posts: 55
Location: Charlotte, Tennessee
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Jess Dee wrote:

Have fun planning and building your house!  I know it can be very stressful, but it is also an amazing opportunity.  



Thank you, Jess. I'm trying to have that positive attitude.

I completely agree with you about bedrooms not needing to be big. Many stock house plans waste (in my opinion) so much space on bedrooms. Thanks for pointing out the storage consideration. I would like to try my hand at canning - we hope to have a basement or at least a root cellar, but pantry space is good to think about. As for clothes closets, I haven't paid much attention to that. We have a walk-in closet in our current house, but that's mostly because the poor husband wears suits to work, and they take up a lot of space. I hadn't thought of a different kind of work clothes, for the outdoors!

I wish our eaves were longer, or that we had a covered porch on the south side, as we get a lot of summer sun on the house, heating things up.  



Good point! Our whole property is sloped, with a long lane down the middle (sloped to the east and west, away from the N/NW lane). The area we're thinking of building, near the old tobacco field, would allow for a south-facing long side of the house. If the plan is right.

I also wish our house was designed to 'work' without electricity.  As it is, the furnace, water, and sewer (septic) rely on electricity for the fans/pumps, which means a power outage is a real pain in the neck.  A gravity-fed septic system would be great, as well as some way to heat the house and move water around.  We've been having more and more power outages as the local storms have gotten more severe.  



Huh, I hadn't thought of that. We'll definitely have a wood stove, but also central heat (if I want my husband along for the ride).

It seems like there should be house plans out there at this point that have all of these systems already figured out. Some of the tiny homes are really good that way, but once you leave that world, they're harder to find.
 
Erica Colmenares
Posts: 55
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Felix Agricola wrote:

Passive solar design - an Architect is worth the cost.

That's my 2-cents worth 👍🏽



I think you are right. Thanks for that, Felix. I keep thinking that we would save so much money if we could only find a pre-made house plan, instead of hiring someone. But if we can find the right architect, it completely would be worth it.

Anyone know a good architect in the Nashville area?
 
Erica Colmenares
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Felix Agricola wrote:

Solar hot water system with mains electricity back up. Estimate a number of water tanks then double it - never too much potable water. As others have mentioned in other posts, suggest planting fruit/nut trees immediately to maximise cropping, together with irrigation systems.

I'm a bit skeptical on using grey water, but will provide for it, simple fix and low cost if it doesn't meet expectations.



Just re-read your post, Felix. We're really anxious to finalize the house site, as I think that will help determine where we put in trees. It might not happen this year. It's tough, since we're so far away. It's possible that I might end up moving to TN a year before my husband. I love your idea of sometimes finding shelter in your big shed. We're considering a pole barn (or a very  large garage).

What is it about grey water that has you skeptical?
 
pollinator
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or




Instead of just a screen porch have a whole screen outdoor 3rd wing.
The over roof can be solar panel, the walls screened in the summer and plastic greenhouse in the winter.

You could send all your greywater thru this 'greenhouse' and grow compost.
Drop in a few self supporting hammock, outdoor sofa, rocket stove, rocket oven, hay cooker, grill, solar dehydrator.

 
gardener
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Nice layouts S!  If Erica only needs three bedrooms, that lower plan could turn the SE bedroom into more common space.

Things I've liked from previous houses:
Driveway that doesn't face North so the snow/ice melts off it quicker on its own
Laundry/mud room by garage entry with a toilet
Pantry with countertop and power for stand mixer, grain mill, bread machine, etc
Good ambient light in summer.  Seems weird but in my current house the kitchen is protected from direct sunlight all day and is rather dark.
Full basement with a large amount of storage on shelves in one room
Walk out basement with big windows
Root cellar in basement (not ideal but it is convenient and easier to make ideal if you're building from scratch)
Easy access from external wood storage to wood stove
Shower in master bath, not tub
Two plus bathrooms, one for us and one for all those other people
Attached garage is much better than separate.  
Cathedral ceiling makes a small place feel much bigger
Carpet.  Everyone's into hard floors now (including the wife) but I miss having softness underfoot
 
pollinator
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My current house has one issue I wish I had addressed: I built it inline with the road, but had I turned it some 15 degrees, it would have been ideal with a southern exposure.

As for the things I like. We have our deep freeze inside our kitchen hidden under an island. It is perfect, no going out to the mudroom or basement to get frozen food, it is right there in the kitchen. And the top of it doubles as an island for more counter space.

That we call our small island. We have another bigger island 3 feet away from it. That gives us even more space, but when Katie's family comes up from out of state, to eat "Buffet style" we can flip up a bridge (countertop) that spans between them. This gives us an island that is 11.5 feet long and 32 inches wide. We flip it down most of the time so we do not have to walk way out around the islands, we can cut between them.

Our current home has radiant floor heat and I will NEVER have a house without it. There is so much good about them, from effeciency, to not having dust blowing riound, even heat in every room, to drying delicates on the floor, to not having to worry about splills since they dry up, to just having warm feet in teh winter!

(Note: I say current home because I have (3) houses and am in the midst of moving into a second one now where we are extensively rennovating. The third house is a rental.)
 
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Hi Erica-

I'm currently building a house in Tennessee, I have a thread about it here https://permies.com/t/89510/James-log-cabin-build#734317 and I'll share my thoughts on some things we've designed and chosen. I really like Travis' way he's used a chest freezer in the kitchen doubling as an island. Mike gave a great list above of some really functional things for a home, and a couple of his mentions are in my home, like a full walk out basement and a root cellar in the basement. My wife and I have never lived in a house with a mud room, and it really makes sense to us to have a space where we first walk into from the outdoors where muddy shoes and filthy clothes can be stripped off after a day of homesteading and animal husbandry and go right in the laundry, so we put one in the design with the washer, dryer and a utility sink in it. It's also where the stairs to the basement go.

While we can't predict the future, the home we're building is our forever home and we have us as old folks in mind with some of the design. All of our base cabinets in the kitchen will have roll-out shelves so neither of us have to get on the floor to reach something way in the back. I made the stairs going to the basement and I wanted to have a big step to put my 90 year old foot on, so I made huge 10-inch runs in the stair stringers and used 2x12's as stair treads, making each step 11-1/4 inches deep to put our feet on. All three exterior doors are 3'0" doors for accessibility, heaven forbid one of us is ever in a wheelchair. Not every interior door is that wide, but if needed, widening a door in an interior partition wall is much easier and cheaper in the future that having to widen an exterior door.

Being able to design a home from scratch, I made some changes to the structural design and materials. For instance, the engineer who drew the plans had 2x10 floor joists, I changed those to 2x12. The walkable attic trusses were on 24 inch centers, I changed that to 16". The subfloor, gable ends and roof deck were all OSB (oriented strand board) and I changed that to plywood, and the gable ends and roof deck were 3/8" and I changed those to 3/4". Having a 3/4" rood deck was a real blessing when it came time to installing the metal roof as it gave some meat for the screws to bite into.

We did a few other things not so much for function, but what we like. For instance, one of our kitchen windows, the one behind the sink, is 6 feet wide, consisting of two 3 foot windows. The floor in the master bath is heated.

I hope this helps give you some ideas!

 
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I'm also in the process of designing my next home. Some of the things that I'm thinking about are passive solar design. My interest is mostly cooling, but lots of it applies to both. I'm considering a vestibule, double doored entrance, to prevent to make heat/cool loss. Clear story windows for cooling. I want an attached garage for washer/dryer, freezer and pantry type storage. So many straw bale house designs don't include an attached garage and I think that's a mistake, because otherwise I would need to make space in the house for these things.

I like a large kitchen, so many small house designs have tiny kitchens. I don't find that suitable for homesteading. With cooking and preserving, a large kitchen is a must. I'm planning this house so that I can age in place, if you are doing the same, minimizing dangerous maintenance tasks is important. I haven't figured out the gutter system yet, but just having less trees immediately around the house reduces the need for constant gutter cleaning. I'm designing a loft to access the clear story windows, my father always had to get on the roof to open and close ours, and that's just not safe when you're very old.

I'm excited about planning a home, but I agree it can be overwhelming so many decisions. Good luck.
 
Erica Colmenares
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I went to sleep, and woke up to all this goodness! Can't wait to dig into your suggestions - but first church and errands. Back soon - thank you so much!!!
 
Erica Colmenares
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S Bengi wrote:

You could send all your greywater thru this 'greenhouse' and grow compost.



Thanks for sharing those house plans. I'm curious about one story versus two. I've primarily looked at two-story plans because of a sense of them being more energy efficient. Having a bigger roof area would double my rain harvest, though. Thanks for the thread link on greenhouses.
 
Erica Colmenares
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Mike Jay wrote:
Things I've liked from previous houses:
Driveway that doesn't face North so the snow/ice melts off it quicker on its own
Laundry/mud room by garage entry with a toilet
Pantry with countertop and power for stand mixer, grain mill, bread machine, etc
Good ambient light in summer.  Seems weird but in my current house the kitchen is protected from direct sunlight all day and is rather dark.
Full basement with a large amount of storage on shelves in one room
Walk out basement with big windows
Root cellar in basement (not ideal but it is convenient and easier to make ideal if you're building from scratch)
Easy access from external wood storage to wood stove
Shower in master bath, not tub
Two plus bathrooms, one for us and one for all those other people
Attached garage is much better than separate.  
Cathedral ceiling makes a small place feel much bigger
Carpet.  Everyone's into hard floors now (including the wife) but I miss having softness underfoot


Great list, Mike! Can you talk about why a basement isn't good for a root cellar? Is it too warm if it's under a heated house? And what about the attached garage? It's more convenient, but I'd heard that it's more likely to bring rodents into the house or some such thing.
 
Erica Colmenares
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Travis Johnson wrote:

As for the things I like. We have our deep freeze inside our kitchen hidden under an island. It is perfect, no going out to the mudroom or basement to get frozen food, it is right there in the kitchen. And the top of it doubles as an island for more counter space.[/quote/
I'm having a hard time visualizing this. It has front access? It sounds super-convenient!

Our current home has radiant floor heat and I will NEVER have a house without it. There is so much good about them, from effeciency, to not having dust blowing riound, even heat in every room, to drying delicates on the floor, to not having to worry about splills since they dry up, to just having warm feet in teh winter!


I wonder if that's as needed in Tennessee as in other areas. I love the idea of a warm floor in the winter, though.

Thanks, Travis.

 
Erica Colmenares
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James Freyr wrote:
I'm currently building a house in Tennessee


Wow, it was so fun to watch your project progress, although I have to admit that much of it read like Greek to me (and I do not have a classical education). I appreciate your wife's concern about basement wet, as that is something we've dealt with in our past two homes (our current home just has a crawl space.

While we can't predict the future, the home we're building is our forever home and we have us as old folks in mind with some of the design.


That's our plan as well. Super good tips about the stair treads and the width of exterior doors.


We did a few other things not so much for function, but what we like. For instance, one of our kitchen windows, the one behind the sink, is 6 feet wide, consisting of two 3 foot windows. The floor in the master bath is heated.


Love the idea of a heated bathroom floor, if we can't do the full radiant heat thing.

I hope to someday see your place in real life. Our land is between Ashland City and Charlotte, off of Hwy 49.
 
Erica Colmenares
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Stacy Witscher wrote:I haven't figured out the gutter system yet, but just having less trees immediately around the house reduces the need for constant gutter cleaning.

I'm excited about planning a home, but I agree it can be overwhelming so many decisions. Good luck.


Gutter cleaning is a pain in the butt. Our last house had a flat roof, which made it super easy (you just get on top and walk around the edges, so as long as you're steady, it's a breeze). I think you're right, that reducing the number of trees around the house helps. And for wildfire safety. The idea of few trees close to the house is a little depressing to me, though. We'll see once we pick a site how many trees we can preserve, and where.

Thanks, Stacy!
 
pollinator
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We live in a 3 room house so storage is at a premium.  It is two story to save on foundation costs. With the wood stove, the upstairs gets a bit too warm for me in the winter but makes the husband happy. Like you said, compromise!

To save space, my husband fit the hot water and pressure tank into the space under the stairs with a rolling bookcase that fits in front.  The small triangular space at the bottom of the stairs rolls out with a shoe rack.

One other storage feature he built is drawers that fit under the toe kick area in the kitchen cabinets.  That normally wasted space is great for trays, muffin tins, lids and such.  Sometimes the small features can make a big difference.

We don't have room for a kitchen table, but have a wider kitchen counter with bar stools.  The side that faces into our living room area has a couple extra wall cabinets that back up to the normal base cabinets. That acts as my pantry.  

As far as rain harvest, the small roof does better than I expected.  The downspout goes into a water barrel which has a buried hose connecting it to a couple more barrels in the garden.

It's great that you can plan ahead with so many great ideas. Have fun with it!
 
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Felix Agricola wrote:After all the needs and wants, secure dry weather storage for furniture, materials, tools, and workshop was a critical component ... besides the fact it'll be needed in the long term anyway - Man Cave/Dog House as required!


This is an excellent point.  I've never known a truly established homestead (i.e., one that people have lived on for more than a two or three years) that did not need some sort of shop — be that a fully enclosed, lockable all-season place, or just some kind of roof on posts to keep rain off of lumber, tools & equipment.  Sometimes the need is provided for in a basement, but often a basement shop (in rural situations) is deemed a problem because of a felt need to avoid tracking sawdust, grease, dirt etc into the main living areas, or because of the noises inherent in accomplishing workshop tasks.

Felix Agricola wrote:Hired storage is expensive, so the cost saved will go to constructing a huge shed before house work starts. (Ideally, the shed will provide intermittent accommodation when I'm there, saving more expense.)


I've known a number of people who have gone this route, just as you say: build what will eventually be solely a shop, but shelter yourselves in it for a couple of years before a house can be basically completed (brought along enough that cooking, sleeping, etc can be comfortable there).

It's good to conceptualize where you'll locate a shop.  It wouldn't have to be a completely separate buiding, it could be semi-detached — but detached and soundproofed enough that doing things in there won't disturb the other household members too much

By the way, I started a thread here on Permies concerning shops.  workshop thread
 
Erica Colmenares
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Tina Hillel wrote:As far as rain harvest, the small roof does better than I expected.  The downspout goes into a water barrel which has a buried hose connecting it to a couple more barrels in the garden.


I don't know why, but I never have thought of that, having runoff go to more water storage. Genius!

The brain-twister for me right now is having the garden downhill from the house. That's what we'd want, right, so that we can use the rainwater to irrigate the garden? I haven't quite understood the sequence, but I do have the oasisdesign site bookmarked, to read through soon!
 
Mike Jay
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Erica Colmenares wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Things I've liked from previous houses:
Root cellar in basement (not ideal but it is convenient and easier to make ideal if you're building from scratch)
Attached garage is much better than separate.  

Great list, Mike! Can you talk about why a basement isn't good for a root cellar? Is it too warm if it's under a heated house? And what about the attached garage? It's more convenient, but I'd heard that it's more likely to bring rodents into the house or some such thing.


A basement root cellar can be good as long as it's designed for it in the first place.  They work best when cold (33-40 degrees), humid (90%ish) and when they have some ventilation.  My basement is too warm (60) and too dry (50%) in the winter but the cellar is built against a north wall so it gets it's cold from that side.  And I live in a relatively cold climate.  I drilled holes in the rim joist to add ventilation ducts.  Humidity I can't really do too much about without more trouble than I'm currently willing to deal with.

So if you build it in, I'd probably go with a dirt/gravel floor, put it in the coldest corner of the basement (may be a buried part or an exposed foundation part depending on your climate).  Possibly look into not insulating the outside of the foundation in that spot if your climate is borderline for keeping things cold.  Run a vent in low and out high with a damper so it runs itself and you can close it off.

If you're building a new house, hopefully rodents can't get in all that easily anyway.  The door from the house to the garage should be just as weather tight as if it was just on the outside of your house.  We currently have a garage about 10' away with a covered roof bit between the structures.  Sounds good enough doesn't it?  Well, drizzly rain blows in under it anyway.  Snow definitely blows in under it.  We have two doors to open when we get home, one to exit the garage, one to enter the house.  Plus we need to use a key to get into the house.  If it was attached, the remote control would get us in and then also into the house.  Attached to the house helps the house avoid the exterior cold on that side in the winter.  And it indirectly heats the garage a bit so it doesn't freeze as hard in the winter.  Roofing a combined structure is probably cheaper (fewer feet of overhangs and gutters).  Foundation could be more expensive.

Those are my thoughts for now, I'm probably missing something so I can clarify as much as needed.  Enjoy the ride!
 
S Bengi
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https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1DaQgq7raA2srDWJirBhkymfejWRtEhYHVuzFGAjJSGo

EDIT: the link is for a embed-able google doc slideshow, and I was wondering/trying to see if it could be embedded like a google/youtube video  
greenhouse-1.png
[Thumbnail for greenhouse-1.png]
 
Tina Hillel
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Erica Colmenares wrote:

The brain-twister for me right now is having the garden downhill from the house. That's what we'd want, right, so that we can use the rainwater to irrigate the garden? I haven't quite understood the sequence, but I do have the oasisdesign site bookmarked, to read through soon!



The garden isn't downhill but on pretty much even ground from the house. We have a marine battery hooked up to a hose to pump the water from the water barrels.  Using the barrel tap to fill the watering can took forever. This doesn't have the best pressure but it was an older battery. Gets the job done though. If/when I replace the battery, I could hook the hose to a sprinkler to irrigate the garden as needed. That worked well in the past.
 
F Agricola
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Erica Colmenares wrote:

Felix Agricola wrote:What is it about grey water that has you skeptical?



Predominantly the bioaccumulation of chemicals in the soil, pollution of groundwater, and potential for runoff on small acreage farms.

I'm meaning long term viability and leaving no contamination for future generations to clean up.

It takes a sizeable reed bed to treat household water effectively, and a lot of self control to remove the cocktail of chemicals and medications used at home.

For example, a typical household of four produces a lot of grey water per day (at least one shower, sinks, laundry, etc).

Perhaps a more sustainable but expensive solution for onsite treatment is a tank system, there will always be a degree of sludge, but that is not usually an issue.

 
S Bengi
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While a regular septic tank will capture and hole most/all of the biosolid/poop.
All of the water/liquid/dissolved chemicals leave the septic tank, go to the drain field and back on the farm.

All that said, I think that you are mostly just having a problem with a surface-level greywater treatment system.
You can always send your grey water thru a very similar system like your black water system.
With a subsurface drain-field below the frost-line. etc  

 
Erica Colmenares
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Reporting back with some progress. I don't think I succeeded in incorporating everyone's great advice, but I did manage to find a one-story plan we liked with a walk-out basement. I then played around with grouping all of the plumbing (and placing the basement bathroom under the same area, with a utility room that allows access to piping. I'm concerned that some of my changes might not work, once an engineer has at it, but this is what I have. I'd love ideas about the root cellar - I think someone said it should be on the north side of the basement?

PS Don't know if there's a better way to include images; I tried using a photo uploader, but ended up with broken links!
AugHousePlan2.jpg
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S Bengi
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It looks wonderful.
I would also like to add that you should design your outdoor great room and kitchen. Use shade cloth to take off some of the sunlight



 
Erica Colmenares
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Wow, how do I install that ocean view?
 
Mike Jay
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Nice plan!  A couple thoughts:

Root cellar:  I'd put it on the North side and in either the E or W corner (whichever you think will be coldest).  For Tennessee I'm guessing you get kind of cold in the winter but you'll need every bit of cooling you can get to keep a root cellar (in the basement) cold.  If they allow you to skip exterior foundation insulation where the root cellar will be, that could help.  If your ground is warmer than your winter air you might want to pick a corner that has more cement exposed to the winter air (vs the warmer ground).

Including a pair of vents, ideally one low and one high, to allow for controlled air circulation would be great.  Normally they vent to the outside to draw in colder winter air.

Leaving the floor in the root cellar gravel and possibly without a vapor barrier would definitely help with humidity. But if you have radon it could be a problem.  Will you have a sump pump in the basement?  Putting that in the root cellar could add humidity.

Size wise it doesn't need to be nearly as big as shown on the layout.  I get by with a 6' by 6' one for the two of us.  I'm guessing 8x10 would handle a good sized family.

The root cellar should mainly be for root crops and some fruit/veggies.  Squash, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, grain, wine, canned goods, seeds and other things like less humidity than a root cellar and often warmer temps.  So having a cool (not cold), drier, dark room next to the root cellar would be great for that sort of stuff.  If I were building it, I'd make that room twice as big as the root cellar.  My root cellar never gets humid enough so I can store onions in it.  Since your results may vary, flexibility is good to design in.

Now for the wood stove.  They are awesome.  They also are messy.  Be sure to have a good plan for how you'll bring in wood since you'll be dribbling bits of bark as you travel.  

wood heat seems to rise very well but it doesn't want to sink.  So with the stove upstairs you will have great heat upstairs and a cooler bedroom (yay) but the basement will be quite cold.  If you put the stove in the basement, the basement will be very toasty, the upstairs will be less so and the master bedroom will be colder yet.  I'm fighting 0 degrees for a few months and our stove is in the basement.  It's routinely 75-78 degrees down there, 62-68 upstairs and 60-62 in the distant master bedroom.  Works great for us.  If our stove was upstairs, we wouldn't burn as hot and the upstairs temps would be similar or a bit higher and the basement would probably be 55.

If your kitchen and great room are vaulted together, hopefully there isn't a wall between the rooms (I see little wing walls on either side).  Big open rooms are great.  You may want a ceiling fan to push the wood heat down off the ceiling.

Freezer in the garage is great.  Note for cold areas, I believe if the garage temps get down to freezing a freezer may not turn on and the contents would warm up to nearly 32F vs the 0F it's set for.  I know that's a problem with fridge/freezer combinations, not sure about pure freezers...

Might you want the master closet door on the left side of the closet?  With a bed against that right wall it means a long walk around the bed to get into the closet.

One last silly thought.  What if you turned the staircase 90 degrees?  So when you walk in the front door you have 8' before you hit the railing.  It would create a bit of a hallway to the North of the kitchen but it would make the entry feel bigger and that spot is kind of wasted space given the shape of the great room.  This is my weirdest idea so feel free to flush it immediately
 
Erica Colmenares
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I really appreciate all the input, Mike. For whatever reason, I'm a little overwhelmed thinking about the root cellar (I think i t's having to explain our needs to an engineer/draftsperson who doesn't "get" it?). But I will re-read your information to make sure I understand it.

Mike Jay wrote:
Now for the wood stove.  They are awesome.  They also are messy.  Be sure to have a good plan for how you'll bring in wood since you'll be dribbling bits of bark as you travel.  



Good point! It's hard to think of all these details. So, we are going to have central heat - my husband really wants that, and I really like him. The wood stove will be supplemental and back-up. But even so, I'll think through the wood storage and traffic plan.

Might you want the master closet door on the left side of the closet?  With a bed against that right wall it means a long walk around the bed to get into the closet.


I was thinking that it would be nice to have the light from the window come into the room, that's what guided my placement. The window was where the second bathroom was (and the WIC was where the second bathroom is now). I'm already getting pushback from a friend who doesn't think it's important to try to group the plumbing (she doesn't like the little notch in the Master where the bathtub is -- but it's not her bedroom, right?)

One last silly thought.  What if you turned the staircase 90 degrees?  So when you walk in the front door you have 8' before you hit the railing.  It would create a bit of a hallway to the North of the kitchen but it would make the entry feel bigger and that spot is kind of wasted space given the shape of the great room.  This is my weirdest idea so feel free to flush it immediately


Like the attached? I'm not sure how far to the east the entrance to the stairs would have to be to have sufficient headroom at the bottom, but I don't think this is crazy; it makes for a nice foyer-like space.
AugHousePlan3.jpg
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A couple of thoughts in no particular order.

When planning the root cellar location, consider the route you will need to take to haul all you potatoes etc through the house.  There is a reason many old cellars had an out side door.

If it was my house, I would want a much larger kitchen and a pantry that was at least 8x8ft.  Depending how much food preservation, butchering etc you plan to do, you may want more  counter space.  Also, things like canner, large stock pots or a meat grinder take up a lot of storage space on a small kitchen.
 
Mike Jay
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Erica Colmenares wrote:I was thinking that it would be nice to have the light from the window come into the room, that's what guided my placement.


I think I didn't explain my suggestion well enough.  The master closet is great where it is, just slide the door for it to the east so that it's closer to the bedroom door.  That way, assuming your bed is against the west wall, you don't have to skootch around the bed all the way to get to the closet.  Plus you'd likely have a bed side table in the NW corner of the bedroom which would interfere with the current closet door location.

Erica Colmenares wrote:Like the attached?

Yup, just like that.  Headroom is worth checking, it might make the staircase too long E/W.  But I like the larger foyer.  As long as that doesn't shrink the great room too much for you.  I always have trouble figuring out how furniture will go in a great room.
 
Erica Colmenares
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Of course feel free to stop looking, but I did just refigure with a bit bigger pantry and a bit more kitchen/dining space (thanks, Tim). I also moved the stairs. Not sure if it makes the "great" room less great, or too small, but I love that it gives us the feel of an entryway and a closet by the door. Fun to play with it. Thanks, Mike!
AugHousePlan3.jpg
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Mike Jay
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Here's a crude sketch of that master closet.  The green door is what I'm talking about.  Mirror image the innards of the closet to match.  It's just a thought, based on where I think your bed will be...
closet.png
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Erica Colmenares
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I think you are right, Mike, that works better!
 
Mike Jay
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Yay, thanks!  Once you imagine furniture in there it sometimes changes where you wish stuff was
 
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Bah humbug, I just got done with a whole essay on the perfect house and then lost it. Will have to rewrite in notepad and repost.
 
Travis Johnson
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The house we are moving into requires extensive renovation; literally right down to the studs inside and out. That means I get a chance to completely rewire the house so I thought of this one for you...

GREEN SWITCH! (Not yelling at you though, just excited to share this with you)

It is a switch located by the front door that shuts down the power to the house for everything that does not require power while you are away. For me it means refrigerators, freezers, outside lights. Everything else gets shut down. The idea is, whenever no one is in the house, the last person out flips the green switch and all but the critical outlets are deenergized. With that, there is no phantom power loses to electronic devices, or even current loss going through the house wiring because it is shut down. There is also an element of safety to it because how can a clothes washer hose and flood your home when you are away if the power going to the water pump is shut off? How can an electrical fire happen if 90% of your power in your home is shut down? Mostly though it is about electricity conservation.

The return on investment is short because the cost is so low. There is just an extra electrical panel or two. The first coming off the main power meter that feeds all the circuits you want on all the time, then run a wire from that box to feed the second box which supplies the power for the rest of the house.

It is a pain to retrofit an old house like this, but a new home (or one like mine being rebuilt from the framing) is easy. About the only down side is, alarm clocks all have to be of the kind that automatically reset the time otherwise it would be a pain to reset clocks constantly, and you will have to endure a few appliances saying "power failure" all the time like the microwave. Of course you could place this on the always-powered electrical panel, but the more you put on the green switch sub-panel the more you will gain in electrical savings.
 
J Anders
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SOLAR
If you design and site the house well- you could possibly have no heating bills for the rest of your life. Eaves on a house at that latitude that are about 4 to 5 feet and enough windows for solar gain will make a great improvement on being able to heat the house. Many solar oriented houses are built on a SE axis, for maximum sun exposure when the house is the coldest in the morning, and minimum in the evening when the house is the hottest. If you design the SE side of the house for maximum solar gain, you can put an enclosed porch on the SW side of the house which will also protect the house from solar gain from that direction.

I notice that all the house designs on this page are all 2 sided living areas. In my opinion- you will get about 50% more sunshine if you have sun on 3 sides. I live in a house that's 24' by 24' and my favorite part of the house is the fact that I have sunshine on 3 sides. There is one bedroom on the north side along with a bathroom next to it, and my living room/kitchen area is 13x24 and it's really nice. I used to live in a house where I had sunshine on about one side, and it was really really dark. You can plan for less window space and have a house just as bright as one that only has two sides on the living area. A future plan for my house is converting it to a small two bedroom- both bedrooms about five feet wider than a twin and queen size bed, with a five foot wide bathroom in the center, along with walk-in closets that are bumped out onto the porches.

In my opinion, the best place to put bedrooms is on the north side of the house. A short hallway and four bedrooms in a square is the simplest way to do it. Many homes have a bathroom in between the far bedrooms at the end of the hallway.



CELLARS
In my opinion- a basement should be just that- a basement. In my work as a handyman- I have seen about a thousand finished basements. And they all have water, mold, or paint issues. The best basements I have ever seen are always those that have never been finished nor painted. Water issues need to be taken care of from the outside... not by painting the interior of the basement. Having a couple windows for cross ventilation all summer long really helps with moisture- I currently have a dehumidifier in my basement due to higher humidity than normal from water leaks coming in between cracked blocks. If you design your house well- you could put it on a slab and never worry about having a basement. However, having a hole under the plumbing also really helps if you ever have problems in the future- you don't want to have to dig up the concrete slab just to fix the plumbing. IMHO a minor thought in this age of PVC plumbing that never seems to rot though. My great-great-great grandfather built the house that my grandmother was raised in, about 1900 and the cellar walls were about 18" thick. I never saw those walls crack. The thicker the walls are the more durable your foundation will likely be. He was a mason back then.

A basement entrance should either be right inside the back door or right outside the back door near the kitchen, where the root cellar can be easily accessed. Do some looking into root cellars if you're building a new house- you'll want to build all four walls out of cement block and then build a wood door like an old barn door- any modern steel door will just rot out in that high-moisture environment. A walk-in cooler can easily be converted to a root cellar as well.  They also need custom ventilation to keep them at their coldest and to keep the humidity optional.

SIDING
Vinyl siding is a great material. Cheap, easy to install, and can last many years. However, you have to be intimately aware of it's shortcomings. It's a wonderful material for covering up some severe damage. I know someone who put vinyl siding on a double wide mobile home, but the installer paid no attention to the flashing around the windows, and they had to replace the bedroom floor a few years ago. I looked at the job the other day, and the original problem with the vinyl siding still had not been repaired- meaning- that almost certanily the siding and the flooring under that window was still rotting out. Vinyl is also prone to coming off in high winds.

I highly recommend using fiber cement siding- it adds to the mass of the house and is almost indestructible. It's easily painted, however, it doesn't require painting like wood siding does. It also needs to be caulked every few years- however, problems are easy to spot, unlike vinyl siding.

PLUMBING
If possible- it's a good idea to group all of your plumbing together. Many smaller homes have the bathroom and kitchen plumbing on opposite sides of the same wall. Of course, this layout doesn't work well for what I mentioned about having a bathroom in the middle of the bedrooms.

BOOK
One book I recommend is "The Well Built House" by James Locke.

WINDMILLS AND AIR CONDITIONING
Ever see those little yard windmills? You do know that they have a practical purpose? When the wind is blowing- open a window on the side that the wind is coming from- open a couple windows on the far side and the vacuum effect from the wind will pull the air right through the house. I would never live in a house with central air. It's an expensive bill every few years that has to be paid. I like my $200 window air conditioners, or I may consider a mini split at some point. Always look for the simplest way of doing something that you can live with. For myself, I have a 11,000 btu a/c that cools the entire house along with a couple fans to keep the air moving.

BUILDING
With all the experience that I have- I would NOT want to hire a general contractor- I would rather act as my own GC. Maybe you can find someone that you can trust to take care of all of these little details.
Just a few of the little details that make a difference in the final design include: When building the walls that the kitchen cabinets sit on- make sure that all of the crowns face the same direction so that the drywall lays flat- then when the kitchen counters are put up there won't be a gap behind the counters. Another one- before they put the sheathing on the outside- make sure that the blind corners on the framing get filled with insulation. Tour the house after they get the walls insulated and make sure that all the wall cavities are filled with insulation, and that the electrical wires are cut into the insualation. Compressed fiberglass insulation is worthless. Which brings me to another point- I think that spray foam insulation is really good. However, you also have to be careful of VOC's- if you buy too many cheap materials you'll end up with a house full of VOC's and sick kids.

I would rather live in a remodeled older house than a brand new house because of all the new plywood and chipboard that will off-gas- you don't know where all that stuff came from- could be from China as they had a big scandal with some of that stuff a few years ago.

5/8" drywall is a cheap way to upgrade the interior of a house and gives you more mass.

Design your house so that you can be comfortable without air conditioning and your house will pay you dividends for many years to come. In the South a Dog Trot style house was real popular for many years- keep the heat from the kitchen on one side of the house (or use a summer kitchen) and use the dog trot for a breezy spot to sit. A summer kitchen is always a viable option- build a small building in your yard where you do all your cooking in the summertime and keep the heat out of the house. Heat and humidity is tolerable- IF you have a cool breeze to sit in.

On a personal level- wearing linen clothing makes a HUGE difference in comfort in hot climates.

There are so many possibilities out there for someone who has the money to design a house from the ground up. However, if you go to a "standard architect" you will get no where. They are used to building boxes and the only consideration that they have is for the view. Or the road. Or the lot lines. And NONE of those are any good for your future wallet. Also- contractors prefer big houses. They're easy to do and there's miles of drywall to put up. On a personal level, if I had a choice to drywall a room that was 10x10 or doing one that was 20x20 it would take me about the same amount of time to do both rooms relatively speaking because I can power sand a 10' wall in about 10 minutes, a 20' wall in about 15 minutes but the corners will always take me about 20 minutes each. So... you'll see a big house that costs about the same as a smaller house- just because of these factors.

On views- if you have a view that isn't in a good direction for solar gain- consider setting up your home so that you have a good spot to put a couch where a smaller window might fit. Instead of shooting yourself in the foot with utility bills and all that, instead of a 6x6 window, consider putting in a 3x6 window and have a specific spot where your couch can sit to take advantage of the view. I have a 6x6 window in my house which is actually two smaller windows mulled together, and I am planning on taking them both out and put in a 3' x 6' window at some point. There is a bird feeder right where I can see it from my chair and that's all the window I want or need. It also faces west under a covered porch so that's also a factor.

One thing that you may not have considered- if you can build your house around a custom built masonry stove that will give you free wood heat for life. I don't know if TN is far north enough for that though.

ROOF: The simplest roof with a 4/12 pitch and a completely flat deck has always been the cheapest and easiest roof to repair. I won't personally roof as a rule and I will NOT touch roofs that have more than a 4/12 or 6/12 pitch. If you want to add character to your home, consider Victorian Gingerbread type trim rather than adding multiple roof angles. It's much easier and cheaper to have trim of various kinds under the roof line rather than having a roof with a dormer or a hip and valley style. Both types of gable roofs are easy to roof. Gambrel roofs aren't that bad either, however, the sides are rather steep, and consequently hard to roof. Having a gambrel roof with steel roofing would be ideal if you want a second story and some style. Just think about all the different angles- the fewer "faces" you have to do on your roof and the fewer hips and valleys the better off you are in the long run.

I just noticed Travis' post, and that got me thinking about some things that I haven't thought of for awhile. Right now, there is a new standard called PoE Power over Ethernet. Extremely low power devices and lighting. Travis' idea of a Green Switch is a good idea, and if you have an electric water heater you could potentially save a lot of money with a timer or a manual switch on the water heater. If you ever plan on putting solar power in, pre-wiring the house to make it easy to hook the panels up is another consideration. Don't skimp on 3 way switches- if the light can't be turned off from both sides of a walk-through room, it likely won't get turned off half the time. If you can do off-grid from the start- you will likely avoid a lot of bull from a lot of officials and bills. HOWEVER- you MUST decide for yourself what you need to have and plan for that. Standard American Houses don't do well off grid as they need too much power. I haven't had a microwave in many years either.

On another note- I really believe that there is something to the Amish believing so strongly in not having electricity in their houses that they will literally tear the walls apart to remove the wiring when they buy a new house. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but there's something to it. I don't think I'd personally want to live without wiring as it's convenient but to each their own.

IF you live in a region where the cost per kwh is reasonable- you might like having an all-electric house. My house is all-electric and my summer bills run about $120 and my winter bills run about $100. I heat the whole house with electric baseboard heaters- simple for me to install and simple for me to replace. No expensive furnace man to deal with. However, a gas/propane furnace is relatively simple to repair compared to an a/c unit that requires refrigeration equipment to deal with.

I have never had anyone come into my house for anything other than to hook up the cable internet in 25 years. I don't like paying for things I can do myself if I plan ahead- thus why I have never had a house with central heating or air conditioning.

Plan and live like you're poor and you'll never regret being rich.

This is longer than my OP... oh well. Hope you enjoy- will respond if you have more specific questions.
 
J Anders
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On Garages

I do NOT like attached garages. They are a major fire risk, and the added roof area can be the difference between being able to afford to get your roof repaired or not in the future. They also block off a lot of sunlight from the side of the house that they're built onto. If you have it on the north wall, it's not as big of a deal- however, I just don't trust cars and I don't want a car fire to claim my whole home. All the chemicals and things that you can store in the garage without worrying about the smell getting into your main living areas- there's so much more you can do with a detached garage that you can't realistically do with an attached garage. Welding for one.  
 
Anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly first. Just look at this tiny ad:
Self-Sufficiency in MO -- 10 acres of Eden, looking for a renter who can utilize and appreciate it.
https://permies.com/t/95939/Sufficiency-MO-acres-Eden-renter
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