3 of the Best Upgrades for Your New Home

What are the best upgrades for your new home? If you’re building a new home, you may be wondering what are the best ways you can upgrade your home into a dream home. There are many upgrades that will cost you money but not have much of an impact on the quality of living your new home will provide, but there are other upgrades that can significantly impact your home in a great way! Here are three of the best upgrades for your new home.

Home Upgrade One: ICF Basement

3 of the best upgrades for your new home

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are a fantastic upgrade to improve the insulation and quality of foundation for your home. They almost look like giant Lego blocks made out of styrofoam. They take a bit longer to put together than the regular plywood forms, but you end up with a basement wall with an R-value of 28. An R-value is how the calculation of how well your insulation can maintain and resist temperatures, the higher the R-value, the better your efficiency and the better your foundation and insulation will keep the heat in. For reference, a conventional concrete basement wall with wood framing around the perimeter insulated with fiberglass batts yields an effective R-value of 19.

To install ICF forms, the additional cost ends up being $1,200 to $2,000 per house, which is money well spent when you take into consideration the energy efficiency of the forms. In a northern climate where people develop and spend time in their basements, it makes for a far more comfortable space. Add to that the fact that the earth below a depth of about 5’ stays the same temperature all year round. This means that even in the summer when it’s hot outside, your basement is leaking heat into the ground.  It can feel blessedly cool on a scorcher of a day, but if you’re sitting down there for a prolonged period, it can feel downright chilly, so ICF forms help you feel more consistently comfortable all year round. A final benefit of using ICFs is that they give you more developable space in the basement.  An 8” concrete wall with perimeter framing to accommodate a 5 ½” fiberglass batt with a 1” airspace between the wall and the batt, ends up at a total wall thickness of 14 ½”.  An ICF wall is only 11 ¼” thick.On a 25’ x 40’ basement (that’s 1,0000 square feet), you end up with an extra 35 square feet of usable space!

Home Upgrade Two: Laminated, Bound Drawings

I have found that all too often, trades people make mistakes because they have misread, or misinterpreted a drawing. A set of paper drawings on site gets trashed pretty quickly. If it gets rained on, has coffee spilled on it, or it gets left in a pile of melting snow, the critical measurements you need quickly become a blurry mess.  “Is that a 3 or an 8?”  Almost as bad, is seeing trades people squinting at their phones to figure out what to do.  You see them repeatedly pinching and spreading their fingers on their tiny screens to decide what they’re supposed to build. I once had a foundation contractor put a basement window in the wrong place because he read 3’-0” as 30”. This is kind of a stupid mistake, but it might not have happened if he had been able to clearly see the plans. Another time a framer put a floor joist directly under a toilet. Why didn’t they question this? We’ll never know.

In an effort to avoid these kinds of problems, I get the construction drawings printed out in colour, laminated with plastic, and coil bound.  They are virtually indestructible.  I give them to the foundation contractor and they last right to the end of the job, at which point I present them to the clients. The plans usually have some paint, caulking, or Red Bull on them, but they are still clearly legible.  The cost of doing this is usually less than $100. Comparatively, every error that I have seen trades make as a result of misreading semi-legible drawings has cost more than twice this much to fix.  The trades can’t charge me for these kinds of mistakes, but they always have negative implications.  First of all, fixing the mistakes almost always affects the schedule. Secondly, it’s human nature for a trade to try to recoup the repair cost by trying to cut a corner somewhere else on the job, or finding something to charge me extra for, or burying the cost in the quote for the next project. Avoiding these mistakes helps everyone, especially the client as it ensures they get a quality home every time.

Home Upgrade Three: Talking to the Neighbours

Most of my projects are in mature neighbourhoods. As a result, most of the time I am building on a street that hasn’t seen a major construction project in decades. Suddenly people are going to be confronted with a lot more traffic, noise, dirt and the general mayhem that building a house can create. A week or two before I break ground, I visit every house on the street, plus the two or three across the alley, and apologize in advance for the disruptions to their lives that I am bound to cause. I promise that I will minimize the chaos to the best of my ability and ask them to contact me if the site needs my immediate attention. I had a door hanger made up that I leave for the folks who aren’t home.

I see two benefits in doing this.  Firstly, I would much prefer that people phone me rather than the by-law enforcement team if something goes wrong, and putting a face to the construction crew of your new home creates more trust and respect. Secondly, I like to think that this small act of goodwill might prompt some of the neighbours to pay a little extra attention to the job site and call me if they see anything suspicious.

Singletree Builders is an Edmonton based home builder who specialized in infill developments. Singletree has over 20 years of experience in home building, and prioritizes quality and customer satisfaction with every project! If you’re interested in starting an infill project with Singletree, contact us today! We’d love to help you build your dream home.