Buying Home Design Plans Online: What You Need To Know

Building a new home can be an exciting experience whether you already own a home or you’re just getting started as a homeowner – you get the opportunity to choose the home you want at the budget you want and use the materials you want, allowing you to truly personalize your new home rather than buying an existing home and modifying it to suit. However, building a new home can be fraught with pitfalls for even an experienced homeowner, not the least of which includes drawing up house plans. Unless you’re an experienced architect who has the necessary background, you’re more than likely going to need to consult one. This can easily add thousands of dollars to your budget, owing to the need to meet with an architect to discuss the project, have them draft plans and revise them – not to mention if you have a particularly large or complex design in mind for your new home, this can also drive your budget up as well.

Buying blueprints for your new home online can be an alternative to consulting an architect, but again there are various factors you need to consider:

Designs Available: Naturally, buying pre-drafted floor plans does save you money over a custom design but you may be limited to a set number of designs that might not be exactly what you’re looking for. However – the advantage here is that you’re dealing with a proven design that can be executed as intended rather than a custom design that may have specific issues that an engineer may need to be consulted on.

Local Building Codes: This can be a particularly thorny issue for some homeowners, especially in areas such as California or Florida where any new construction may require additional modifications to bring them up to code in the event of earthquakes, hurricanes or other natural disasters. When buying blueprints online, be sure to find out if you can modify them as needed to suit your local area’s building codes.

Utilities: Due to the immense variations across building codes from area to area when it comes to utilities, building plans purchased online will not include plans for the utilities aside from a rough electrical diagram that gives suggestions as to placements for outlets and switches. You will need to consult contractors for the plumbing and electrical plans in order to determine the best way to install them in your new home.

Choosing A Builder: Once you have the plans in hand, you’ll need to choose the right home builder. Will they be able to build the home based on the plans you have in mind, whether it’s a one-story 2-bedroom bungalow or a two-story Victorian with 3 bedrooms? Will they be able to build it within your budget? Can they advise you of any potential issues with the design that may arise due to local codes? These are just some of the factors you’ll need to keep in mind.

Land: Is the plot you have in mind to build your home on suitable? Setbacks from the property line, easements for utilities, soil conditions and even the local homeowner’s association can all affect whether you will be able to use your design of choice.

John Kramer is a home improvement enthusiast who writes on a variety of home improvement topics. Follow him on Twitter!

Water Quality Solutions For Homeowners

Water quality problems range across a broad spectrum including sediment, formation of scale, heavy metal contamination, harmful microorganisms, pH imbalances, foul odors and even discolorations. Left unchecked, these can lead to health problems, increased energy usage and damage to pipes or appliances. Fortunately, there are a wide range of solutions to whatever problems you might be experiencing with the water in your home including basic pitcher filters for drinking water to in-line water softening for your water heater.

Before selecting a solution to the particular problem you’re experiencing, it’s particularly important that you have your water tested to determine the root cause. Some solutions may be more effective than others for specific problems.

Odors: A common problem experienced by homeowners who get their water from a well is foul odors produced by bacteria or commonly-occurring elements such as sulfur and iron in the bedrock the water originated from. Depending on the specific cause of the odor, this can be corrected through a variety of options including water softening to remove minerals, reverse osmosis that filters out contaminants or oxidation and disinfection to inhibit bacterial activity.

Microorganisms: While bacteria and other microorganisms in your water aren’t necessarily a cause for concern – there are strains of bacteria and viral pathogens present in water supplies due to contamination of groundwater that can pose a health risk. Solutions for microorganism removal include chlorination of the water or utilizing a UV system that takes advantage of the natural anti-microbial properties of ultraviolet radiation to provide safe, clean water.

pH Imbalance: Water that is overly acidic or alkaline can cause a variety of problems for homeowners – the most notable of which is corrosion of copper pipes and the associated blue-green staining that can occur on pipes or fixtures, but long-term health effects resulting from ingestion of copper can also be a concern. Ways to treat the problem include calcite filtering to neutralize the pH of the water or phosphate injection systems which help protect against copper corrosion and staining.

Hard Water: A large portion of homes in the United States have hard water to one degree or another, which can cause problems ranging from unsightly build-up of minerals on fixtures to clogged pipes. Hard water can typically be treated via water softener systems, which are intended to reduce the amount of calcium and magnesium responsible for causing “lime scale” build-up, utilizing various methods including physical filtration.

Radiation: Radiation in your water supply doesn’t necessarily have any association with living near a nuclear facility – it can be caused if the water passes through naturally radioactive bedrock or comes into contact with radon gas in the ground. While there is no one sure-fire way to remove radioactivity from your water – various solutions include reverse osmosis or ion-exchange water softening to remove particles and aeration of the water to remove gas.

Heavy Metals: A variety of heavy metals in your water supply such as mercury and arsenic can lead to health problems over the long-term if not addressed. Options for removing heavy metals include reverse osmosis filtration of the water and filtration that removes fine particles or bonding with other elements present in the water such as iron, followed by filtration.

Home improvement and healthy living are just two of the topics John Kramer writes about for US Water Systems.

Bathroom Remodeling On A Budget

Budget constraints don’t necessarily mean you can’t remodel your bathroom. If you take the time to consider the options available to you, you can still give your bathroom a makeover without spending a small fortune in the process. Materials costs alone can be easily reduced by doing the shopping yourself. In the end, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish with even a limited amount of resources and a tight budget to work with.

Paint: This should be first on your list. Even a new coat of paint can be a surprisingly effective touch that brings new life into a dull bathroom or make even a cramped space seem bigger. Best of all – you can use this as a jumping-off point to design a new color scheme for bathroom accessories such as towels and mats.

Beadboard: This is a common-enough touch in many homes and can be readily applied in your bathroom. It’s inexpensive, easy to install and can offer an extra bit of protection for the lower half of the bathroom walls to help minimize damage from water splashes. It also serves as a great way to jazz up an otherwise-empty wall and naturally – you can paint it to contrast with the upper half of the walls if you like.

Accessories: To go with your new color scheme for the bathroom, choose accessories that will set it off to its best advantage. Other options include adding an attractive shelving unit that fits over the toilet, allowing for more storage space for towels and toiletries or decorative items.

Hardware: Tired of those dull and worn-looking cabinet and drawer pulls? Changing these out is a simple matter and can be done very inexpensively. In addition, you can often match them up to other items such as towel bars and robe hooks to give an attractive “suite” look to your bathroom.

Closeouts: Every smart shopper’s best friends – closeouts and discontinued items are often available for much cheaper so you can get a great deal on them especially if you shop online for smaller items like hardware and accessories for the bathroom.

Refinishing: A new tub can be very expensive to purchase much less install, but you don’t necessarily need to go that far. Oftentimes, refinishing is a great way to salvage a grungy, chipped tub without going for full replacement. Bear in mind that this may necessitate calling in a professional, which could possibly raise your budget a bit. You may also be able to refinish or reface your existing cabinets for considerably less than it would cost to replace them altogether – professional installation alone is particularly pricey.

Alternatives: Natural stone and other materials can be very expensive for materials and installation. However, you can look into other options such as engineered stone or laminate, which can often offer a similar look but with a lower price tag attached.

Christine Cooney blogs about a variety of home improvement topics including online house plans for The House Designers