Tips To Add Extra Storage

Storage is often one of the most overlooked and under-thought-about aspects of a new, custom home build. Oftentimes, closets, attics, crawlspaces, and garages, offer more than enough storage to suit a person’s needs; however, what if storage could be both useful/functional, and, also beautiful? What if storage could simultaneously be a work of art, a place to display other works of art, and, at the same time, function as a storage place to tuck things out of the way—out of sight. The answer is built-ins. Built-in cabinets and shelves are unique, beautiful, and functional. Here’s how.

Built-in shelves and cabinets have a function in almost every room of the home. Let’s start with the most obvious and likely location: the living room/family room. Built-in shelving works for almost any home in this location, and, it’s a way to showcase both function and personality. Picture this: a wall of bookshelves, displaying books, art, pictures, deco, etc., all of it a customized representation of the person who lives there; then, below these bookshelves are cabinets, opening with either a hinge (top opening) or as a set of drawers, and in these cabinets the home owner can store absolutely anything—this could be a place for blankets, a place for children’s toys, DVD’s, etc. Sound functional? Now, picture these cabinets as beautiful wood structures, an art piece on their own—or, for those of you with more modern tastes, picture them painted, with industrial-metal finishes.

Built-ins work in any room, however. Built-ins can transform closets into highly functional, and structured, storage areas. Built-ins in a bathroom can create a space to store items secretively, while, at the same time, providing a space to decorate, a place to keep towels, special soaps. One last place, most often overlooked, but in most need of structured places for storage, is the entryway/mudroom. Built-ins work wonders for coats and boots, especially in homes with children.  A built-in near the front door allows a place to store dirty boots out of the way, a place to store umbrellas and other accessories that aren’t in constant need, but, when needed, can be grabbed at a moment’s notice.

If you think you’re new custom-built home needs built-ins, call the home building experts at Dan Lowe Construction.



Induction Cooktops For Your New Kitchen

The stove and cooktop are the heart of most any home cook’s kitchen. When we think of cooktops, we often consider the choices to be between gas and electric. Both have their obvious pros and cons. But did you know that in today’s modern kitchen there has been added a third choice—although it’s not an ultra-new option, but it is gaining popularity and therefore seeing an economy in price and a surge in new models—the induction cooktop.

Induction cooktops function by using an electromagnetic field beneath the cooktop to heat the pan—this is the major difference between an induction cooktop and a radiant-heat cooktops, which uses a hot surface to heat the cooking vessel. This means much faster boil times and finer control on cook temperatures. Induction cooktops work quickly; to compare the boiling times on an induction cooktop to some electric cooktops is to notice a boiling time half of that required by the electric. Also the surface of an induction cooktop will stay cooler than the surface of a radiant-heat-style cooktop.

But there are drawbacks to the induction cooktop. One such drawback is that most induction cooktops have either no indicators or poor indicators to show you when the cooktop is turned on. Also, induction cooktops require a specialized pot or pan, which has a magnetic field, to make the induction on the stovetop work. One way to test your own pots and pans at home is to stick a magnet to the bottom: if the magnet sticks heavily, it will probably work; if it doesn’t stick at all, or just lightly sticks, it would be more useful on your desk as a paperweight than as a vessel to be used on an induction cooktop. Also, because the induction cooktop uses a magnetic surface, digital food thermometers will no longer work; funny then to have an ultra-modern stove that requires the use of an analog food thermometer.

Induction cooktops are being manufactured by a number of companies, and if the popularity of these cooktops continues to increase you will see bigger drops in price, and the cooktops will become an even more prevalent tool in the modern cook’s kitchen. Maybe an induction cooktop is the right tool for your new modern kitchen in your new custom home.

Custom Built Home for The Holidays

It’s the Holiday Season! Does anyone out there have a new, custom home on their list to Santa? With home construction slowing with the winter weather, ‘tis the season for planning. And that’s what makes building a custom home so wonderful: the plan: the plan suited just for you, for your needs. But the plan for the home needs to also reflect your own plan for your future. A home built too small for your needs is difficult to make bigger, and a home built too big can also pose some difficulties; so, let’s plan.

For those of you intending to build a custom home who are planning to add-on to your family soon, maybe there’s a baby or even babies in your future, or maybe you’re just planning to one day have one, you’ll want that extra square footage. Think about how many rooms you will need: you’ll need bedrooms for children, maybe for guests—do you need an in-home office? Do you need a living room as well as a play room for the kids? Extra rooms now might be filled later, but now could be used for storage, etc.

On the flip side you might find you’ve also gone too big (although there are not too many people in this world complaining about living in too much house). For some, too much square footage might mean too many rooms to keep clean, too much space to have to heat in the winter, and cool in the summer, too much space to have to decorate or adorn with furniture, even though the space isn’t going to be consistently used. Maybe your children are older, leaving the house soon, and you won’t constantly need the extra space for them and their lives.

That’s where hiring a quality homebuilder becomes important. An experienced, dedicated homebuilder who has seen almost any floorplan—or at least a variation of it—can help you in making these decisions. A quality homebuilder is with you at every step of the building process, including that all-important first step: helping you to plan your perfect custom-home.

Why A Custom Built Home

For the person interested in a custom home, often it’s the small, simple details that separate the run-of-the-mill from the outstanding. It’s the smallest details that bring out a person’s creativity, or their personality. It’s being surrounded by a reflection of one’s self. It’s the feeling of truly being at home. While many of these details are inherently individualistic, and will be derived from the place of someone else’s personality, there are small changes to a home, simple, construction-type changes, which can be added by your custom home builder to enhance your appreciation to the smaller details of your new home. One such change, which may seem small, but the benefits of which might be considered great for the just-right person, is in-floor heat, especially beneath tile floors in a bathroom.

It seems like a luxury, and to a certain extent it is, but to have in-floor heating can brighten up any room. It’s taking full advantage of modern convenience. It’s like waking up in the morning to find the tile in the bathroom greeting you rather than sending you scurrying away in bare feet. It’s easy to install, it’s just a mat with coils, running on electric power. The installer’s will put down the mat previous to putting down the tile (or whatever flooring material you’ve chosen for the room), and then install the tile. It’s that simple. This is best done in a custom home, because in-floor heating cannot be retrofitted later: if you decided later you wanted in-floor heating, the tile will have to be pulled back up, the in-floor electrical heating mats put into place, and then new tile will be installed over the top of the mats.

One benefit to a luxury like in floor heating is it’s not an overly expensive luxury; it’s not as cheap, as, say, adding a rug to the tile floors of the bathroom, but as far as such modern conveniences go, it’s a simple product with a simple installation. Most every element in your home’s design is up to you, make sure you take full advantage of its initial blank canvas.

Reclaimed Wood For Your Next Home Or DIY Project

There are so many trends in home building materials these days, and, for every building material, there are so many choices as to what the material is made from, how it’s made, how it’s colored, etc. Not so, however, in the conversation about lumber, which has seen a resurgence as to the use of reclaimed lumber. Reclaimed lumber is being for used on both the small projects—furniture, etc.—to the big projects like flooring, room trim, and even siding.  It’s not nearly as convenient to buy, and, in most cases, if you have to purchase it, it’s going to be much more expensive than conventional lumber, but, for some, it’s worth it. Here’s why.

What is Reclaimed Lumber?

Reclaimed lumber is lumber that predates the modern practices of growing trees quickly on tree farms and harvesting them early for boards; the tree it comes from are distinguished by the term “old growth wood”. Old growth wood is strong: it has simply spent more time, growing. Old growth wood also has beautiful grain characteristics, and often has that one-of-a-kind type of look to it.  Reclaimed lumber is unique, but it’s also considered to be eco-friendly, because it’s recycled, and, as we mentioned earlier, it’s not from one of those tree farms that are not supportive of an eco-system.

Where do you find Reclaimed Lumber?

You won’t find it in a rack at the big box store. It’s usually in supply from specialty lumber yards, who will have a limited supply of the boards, the type of wood, etc. Buying reclaimed lumber can be tricky, and there’s plenty of craigslist scams out there, people trying to sell used wood as expensive, old growth, reclaimed lumber, but it could just be some used boards that have a value nowhere near the asking price (We’re not saying it’s not important to reuse these types of boards, it’s just not important that your pay obscene prices for lumber that doesn’t have that value). Obviously, if you hear of someone who wants an old barn removed, etc. these would be likely sources.

If you want something truly one of a kind in your new custom-built home, maybe considering some feature in the home to be a display of incredible, beautiful reclaimed wood will show your style and taste.

Contact Dan Lowe Construction for all of your new custom built home today!

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl Siding is the most ubiquitous siding material covering today’s modern home.  It’s popular because it’s made in a variety of colors, and it’s easily reproduced.  Also, when vinyl is damaged it can be easily replaced.

Repairing damaged vinyl siding is an easy job that most any homeowner, with an hour or two of free time in a day, can do.  To start, go outside and look at how the panels of vinyl lock together: the siding’s strength is in it’s simple click-together design, connecting with the panel both above and below it.  The panel itself is anchored to the wall with nails.  When you determine the area that encompasses the entire damaged panel, you will need to remove that panel from the panel below it.  To do this, you will need a toll called a zip tool, which is a thin piece of metal with a hook at the end.  This hook grabs the connection point on the siding, separating the panels.  Pulling the zip tool along underneath the panel of siding, the panel will separate from the one below it.  When the bottom of the panel is free, use the zip tool to separate the damaged panel from the panel above it.  Then remove the nails holding up the panel.

Once the panel’s free, it’s time to make a decision: will you use a brand new panel fresh from the store to fill the gap, or will you use a panel from an inconspicuous location on another wall of the home?  Most likely that will be determined by the age of the siding and just how weathered the colors are.  A new panel will still be vibrant with color from the factory, so it might stand out against an older set of weathered panels.  Removing a panel from somewhere else on the home—think a side yard that no one sees directly—will increase the chance that the colors will match.  Then, use the new panel as a replacement to the replacement, and most likely no one will ever know.

Putting in a new vinyl panel is as simple as removing the old one.  To start, connect the bottom of the old panel to the panel below it.  You should only have to pull up on the panel for it to lock into place.  Then lift the panel into position and anchor it to the wall with nails.  With the panel anchored, use the zip tool to pull down the lip of the panel above it, and lock the two in place.

Electrical In A Custom Built Homes Billings MT

When you build a custom home, it’s important that you decide on things like numbers of outlets, location of outlets, location of cable/internet outlets, etc.  There’s no better time than pre-sheetrock to do these jobs, and it will be cheaper and less invasive on the house in the long run.

Electrical In A Custom Built Homes Billings MT

First, let’s talk about electrical outlets.  A simple addition in any home.  But, where will those outlets go?  In the busier rooms, like, for instance, the living room, should there be numerous outlets on every wall to accommodate electrical appliances?

Or would numerous outlets deter from the aesthetic of the room?  Also, in rooms like the kitchen, you may not have considered the most convenient locations for outlets.

One idea is to place the outlets under the kitchen cabinets.  The purpose of this being, that the backsplash over the counter tops shows through beautifully, and the outlet is still fully functional and within easy reach.  A likely design is a bank of outlets—a strip similar to a power strip under a computer desk, mounted at an angle at the back of the cabinet.

Also, cable/Internet cords should be added to the rooms now.  While a cable installer can add the cables later, it could come at a cost to the home.  In rooms like the living room, add a few different cable/Internet outlets, so if you want to move the furniture around later, it’s easy to just hook the television or router to the jack.

This is also important in the bedrooms, and while it may come at an initial cost in these areas to have outlets added, it’s less of a cost than adding outlets after the walls are in place.

Electrical In A Custom Built Homes Billings MT

Another option to be added before the walls are in place are cord locations for speakers.  If you are someone who loves music, or who plans a home theater setup, it’s easy for the electrician to add the cords in the spaces in the wall cavity now.  Adding cords later, involves holes in the sheetrock, and snaking cords in the wall cavity.

If you are looking to build a new home, please contact Dan Lowe Construction today!

Kitchen Countertops

Kitchen countertops are an important consideration for a custom-built home.  Today’s homeowner has a plethora of products to choose from.  However, not all of these products will be beneficial in both application and appearance for every homeowner—again this is a customized item in the home—so here are both the benefits and potential drawbacks to a few common choices.

Kitchen Countertops

Laminate countertops are incredibly common, and are added to both builders basic as well as high-end custom homes.  Not all laminate countertops are built alike, however, and the prices can vary from somewhere around five hundred dollars for an entire installation to several thousand.  The advantages to laminates are its ability to withstand heat and stains.  The downfalls, however, is that it is just a material with a decorative edge, and if knives are cut into the surface it would gauge and scratch the countertop.

Granite countertops, another popular, higher end, and pricier choice, is individualized, and no two pieces look directly alike.  Heat and scratches wont harm granite.  However, with the toughness of granite and its natural beauty, it does have to be sealed to prevent the countertop from staining.  Once it is sealed, however, it fends off stains quite well.

Soapstone, Limestone, and Marble are all common choices—items like Carerra Marble make a definite statement in any home.  These materials are all terrific choices to resist heat damage, although all are very susceptible to nicks and scratches.  Scratches can be repaired in some materials by using sandpaper and mineral oil, although to use these products as a cutting board would be a major no-no.

Butcher Block countertops are the most durable cutting countertops on the market—it is just a giant cutting board after all.  And, butcher block is a terrific choice for the Chef’s kitchen, and is often found as the surface on a kitchen island, or section of the countertop to which most of the prep work will be done.  Butcher Block can be sanded down later, to minimize the look of scratches and dings.

There are other choices for countertops, including materials such as recycled glass and concrete, however these too will have benefits and potential drawbacks, depending on whose kitchen the materials are installed in.  Whatever material you choose in your next custom kitchen, choose the material that fits both your style and your everyday needs, because while the kitchen can be incredibly beautiful area of the home, it is also one of the most heavily trafficked and used rooms in the entire home.

If you are looking to build a new home, please contact Dan Lowe Construction today!

Natural Light

Here in Montana we are lucky to have the extra long hours of light in the Spring through early fall months. With the rising cost of energy, and an ever-present movement to go green, it’s a good thing to consider how much natural light is built into your new custom home. Various lighting options such as track lighting vs recessed or sconces vs lamps, are important considerations as well, and there’s a host of bulb options to power those fixtures that are considered both efficient and comfortable. But, during the daylight hours, there’s no light source that beats natural light. So, getting more natural light throughout the home takes a little more planning than just assuming where window locations will be.

Natural Lighting

There’s a few places in the home that would greatly benefit from a wall of windows. Staircases are perfect places for natural light. These normally darker spaces in the home—often staircases are long walled-in type locations—can brighten right up with a large window or a series of windows. Also, landings are great places to add more windows.

Skylights are also obvious choices for natural light in the home. Skylights can be added to any room of the home. Often, however, skylights are added to kitchens and living rooms, but a skylight can brighten any room. There’s also a tubular lighting device, which is like a mini skylight—think recessed lighting powered by the sun. These mini skylights would work great, spaced evenly apart in a long, dark hallway. Also, these tubular skylights brighten up any bathroom. Bathrooms, for obvious reasons, are often built without much natural light for privacy reasons. A skylight or a tubular skylight can bring a ton of natural light into the room, while, at the same time, protecting privacy.

Other more obvious choices are exterior glass doors near living rooms or outside space accesses. These doors not only bring in light, but they also provide a large framing of the outside spaces of your home. On the interior of the home, glass paned doors could be used throughout the rooms—for privacy add curtains—and this would allow a continuous flow of natural light throughout the home, even when doors are closed.

For all of your construction needs, please contact Dan Lowe Construction today!

Building a Garage

When you’re planning a new home, how much consideration will you give to the garage? Because you’re planning your own home, the garage can be anything. Will you need three stalls, or just two? What if you own two cars and a boat? Or two cars and another that’s being rebuilt piece by piece at the corner of the garage—three stalls might be a good choice. The point being that customizing a home doesn’t begin and end with just the kitchen and bathrooms, it accounts for the entire home. So, if garage size isn’t something you’ve considered in your new home’s build, let’s consider a few ways in which a space like the garage can be entirely customized.

Custom Build Homes Billings MT, Building a Garage

Firstly, garages are storage areas. It’s were we put things like cars, cleaners, and paints. It’s where tools go. You’re going to need the space that matches your storage needs. With storage space comes options. Have you ever considered a workshop built right into the garage? It’s possible in any garage, but what if you’ve never built one, because of space limitations with two other cars? A third stall can change that instantly, opening up considerable space for a wood working workshop, or even a workshop for pedal-bikes, motorcycles, and old cars.

If you plan to spend considerable time in the garage you might need windows. Windows built into the walls, or even into the garage door. While the warmer months are nice to spend time out in the garage with the door open, the colder months, leave the garage cold. The sunlight from the windows could raise spirits, and provide comfort even in the coldest months. Remember, you’re customizing a home, make sure that every space in it is conducive to your needs, and very comfortable.

If you are not all that concerned about areas of the home like the garage, then it probably wont matter: stalls big enough to store items and park cars. But, it’s something to consider when you are beginning the custom-home process. Like the bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen, it’s an area of the home that needs to meet your needs.