Second Floor Laundry Room

House floor plans have changed significantly over the years.  Everyone has an opinion on where things are best suited.  So one of the questions we get asked is “why is the laundry room on the second floor?”

McKee Homes developed all of its floor plans with living in mind.  We thought about how people use their homes and what makes the most sense for ease of use.  While we offer several ranch floor plans that have the laundry room on the first floor, we also have many two- and three-story floor plans that have the laundry room on the second floor.

Most people have experienced lugging laundry baskets, bundles of bedding and hangers up and down stairs time and time again.  With a laundry room on the second floor your days of lugging up and down the stairs are over.  Since the majority of laundry and bedrooms are on second floor, why not have the laundry room up there as well.  In all of the laundry rooms, folding stations have been added.  A folding station is an open front cabinet with cubbies and a flat top to make folding and sorting laundry easier.Many of our floor plans also offer sinks in the laundry room to assist with those messes that need a little extra attention.

second floor laundry room with folding station and sink

Now some people might worry about the hassle of getting the washer and dryer to the second floor.  While it might be slightly difficult initially, you likely won’t be moving the appliances.  In a McKee home, the stairwells are wider making moving furniture and washers and dryers easier.  Another concern that homebuyers may fear is the washer overflowing.  McKee Homes has created a solution to this problem.  In all second floor laundry rooms, McKee Homes has installed trays that the washer sits in with a drain that connects to the main plumbing drain line.  This way if your washer overflows you won’t have a big mess to clean up.

So here at McKee Homes we like the second floor laundry rooms (in two- and three-story homes) because it helps make our homes a little more livable.  Come by one of our neighborhoods and check out the laundry room for yourself.

What is the Difference Between a Septic System and a Sewer System?

If you are in the market for a new home, you may have noticed that some neighborhoods are on public utility sewer systems and some neighborhoods use septic systems. Generally speaking, cities and towns, and their immediate surrounding areas, will be on sewer systems that are maintained by the local public works department. If a neighborhood is outside the area serviced by the local sewer system, the homes will generally use a septic system to handle waste water.

Large public sewer systems charge a monthly fee for their use, but offer the convenience to the homeowner of not having to maintain anything related to waste water outside of their home. Septic systems are the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain, but have no monthly fee, so are usually less expensive in the long run. However, some septic systems can be more expensive to maintain such as Low-Pressure Dose Systems that uses a pump to move effluent to a drain field or conventional systems that don’t percolate well and have to be pumped frequently.

If you are looking at homes in multiple neighborhoods, you will need to make quite a few decisions and choices in order to make the best decision of where to buy. Having some basic knowledge of the pros and cons of each type of waste water system will help in choosing between neighborhoods that are on public utility sewer systems compared to those on septic systems.

septic system

Where does the waste go?
Septic System: The waste goes into a holding tank.
Sewer System: Sewers lines carry waste to a treatment facility.

How does it work?
Septic System: Bacteria break down the solid waste and the liquid effluent is then released into the drainfield.
Sewer System: The facility removes contaminants and then discharges water back into local water supplies.

What is the cost?
Septic System: If buying a new home from a reputable new home builder, then the cost of the septic system is included in the price of the house.
Sewer System: The cost to use a public sewer system varies depending on location.  Some areas separate the cost of water and sewage, while others combine the two.

What type of maintenance is needed?
Septic System: Depending on the usage, septic tanks need to be pumped out yearly or every few years.
Sewer System: None

Who is responsible for the maintenance?
Septic System: It is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain the septic system.
Sewer System: Your local municipality is responsible for maintaining the public sewer system.

What do you do if it fails to work?
Septic System: Call a professional septic repair company.
Sewer System: Call your local municipality public works department

What are the benefits?
Septic System: If maintained properly a septic system generally has fewer ongoing costs.
Sewer System: Sewer systems are very convenient and the homeowner has no responsibility for repairs.

How To Easily Clean A Smelly Garbage Disposal

Have you ever walked into the kitchen and asked yourself, “What’s that smell?” Your first instinct probably tells you to take the garbage out, but what if you do that and your kitchen still stinks. The culprit may be the garbage disposal. There are several different ways to clean a stinky sink. Keeping your garbage disposal clean will also keep it from rusting and freezing up thus avoiding costly service calls from your local plumber. The following method is eco-friendly, cost effective and efficient.

  1. Fill the bottom half of an ice cube tray with vinegar.
  2. Slice a couple fresh lemons into small pieces.
  3. Add one piece of lemon to each ice cube compartment.
  4. Top off each ice cube compartment with water as needed.
  5. Freeze the mixture.
  6. Turn the water on and then the disposal.
  7. Drop several ice cubes down the sink while the disposal is running.
  8. Repeat as needed.

garbage disposal maintenance

Garbage disposals bring a high level of convenience to a homeowner, by simplifying the cooking and cleaning process, but there are several obvious and not so obvious things that you should not throw down the garbage disposal.

  1. Grease or oil
  2. Egg shells
  3. Stringy vegetables
  4. Bones
  5. Pits and Seeds
  6. Rice and pasta

If you happen to live in an area that uses septic systems instead of city sewer, you may not have a garbage disposal as the local building codes probably don’t allow it. If you do have one, or have had one installed, and are on a septic system, it is very important to minimize its usage. Only use it to grind up small amounts of food left on a plate or pan after cleaning them off into the trash can. Do not to use your garbage disposal as a trash can or your septic system could get overloaded with solid waste and cause smelly problems in more areas of the home than just the kitchen.

Proper usage, and this simple cleaning technique, will keep your garbage disposal running well and odor-free for years to come.

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10 New Home Selections Tips for Homebuyers

Buying a new home is an exciting, sometimes overwhelming event in anyone’s life, especially if you buy the home before it is built and get to choose options and make selections. One of the most personal aspects of buying a new home from a builder is getting to choose the selections for the home such as paint colors, cabinets, countertops, floor coverings, fixtures and finishes.

Doing your homework and understanding the choices you will be making at the selections appointment will save time and stress. The following new home design center checklist and selection tips can help you come to your appointment prepared so you don’t feel overwhelmed and can make the best selection choices for your new home.

Before:

  1. Walk some of the builder’s houses to see the types of materials used for cabinets, flooring, tile, etc. This will give you a better idea of what to expect at the selections appointment.
  2. Find out what brand appliances the builder uses so you have a chance to review their appliances by going to the stores or Online. Most builders only show one set of appliances in their design center and not the entire line. Most builders are able to give you a better price than you could get yourself, even if you find a sale. However, don’t expect the builder to match a bargain basement or closeout price that you find Online.
  3. Find out what siding company the builder uses so you can look at choices before your meeting. Many siding companies allow you to upload a picture of a house and add siding, trim, shakes, shutters, roof color and door color so you can get an idea of what your house will look like when finished. It’s also a great idea to drive through neighborhoods to see the exteriors of other houses that the builder has built. McKee Homes offers an Interactive Design App that allows you to choose a floor plan and play with the exterior colors for siding, doors/windows, roofing and stone.
  4. Most builders offer at least five interior paint and accent colors. Find out what the builder offers before the appointment so you can pull color swatches and put them against your furniture. This will help you decide on the best color beforehand as you will have a lot on your mind with many decisions to make during the selections meeting.

During:

  1. Remember that carpet padding is more important than the actual carpet. Upgrading your carpet padding is an inexpensive way to have your carpet last longer and feel softer.
  2. Upgrading a kitchen backsplash with tile is often an inexpensive way to dress up your kitchen.
  3. Remember that it’s less expensive to upgrade during the building process than to remodel later. Plus it’s less hassle as remodeling can be disruptive, noisy and messy once you are living in the house. Think about adding hardwoods or laminates to living areas and tile in wet areas.
  4. Don’t forget the little things like cabinet hardware. Adding your own hardware takes a lot of time and precision.; Going through the builder is normally less expensive than buying the hardware at a retail shop and paying someone to install it. Another good reason to have the builder install the hardware is liability. If you install your own cabinet hardware, or hire a handyman to do it, and the cabinets are damaged, it is up to you to have them repaired.
  5. Many times buyers like to upgrade their light fixtures and plumbing fixtures to Oil Rubbed Bronze, but forget to think about the doorknobs and hinges. Make sure to upgrade your cabinet hardware to match any other finish upgrades.

Before Leaving:

  1. Make sure you feel 100% satisfied with your home selections before you leave your selections appointment because many items for your house such as windows and doors are ordered before construction even begins to make sure the home is completed on time. Changing selections while your home is being built can cause delays in construction and result in additional costs.

Coming to the selections meeting prepared and taking the time to make sure you are satisfied with all of your decisions will help make the new home building process more enjoyable, go smoother and be less stressful for everyone involved.

McKee Homes has an expert Design Consultant who works closely with our buyers to make sure they have the most positive experience possible while making selections for their new home. The design center has a variety of selections available to touch, see and experience, including carpet samples, kitchen and bath tile, exterior finishes, lighting and plumbing fixtures, and kitchen cabinet options.

If you are interested in finding out more about the McKee Homes new home selections process please read our Selections Process and Additional Options articles or call us at 910-672-7296.

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Top 5 reasons to buy an energy efficient new home

While older homes sometimes have a quaint nostalgic feeling about them, they just can’t compare to the low maintenance, money-saving features and technology conveniences of an energy efficient new home.

1. Save money every month on utility and water bills
New homes are built to the latest building codes, which means they have more insulation, better insulated windows and doors, more efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures well as new energy efficient appliances. That equates to lower utility and water bills every month.

On average, newly built homes save 3,449 KWH per year* over older homes. That’s a big savings on your electric bill each month. An energy efficient new washer can save as much as 7,000 gallons of water each year.* Combined with low-flow toilets, this can significantly lower your water bill.

In addition to saving money, using less energy is better for the environment by saving precious natural resources and reducing pollution.

2. Safer and more comfortable environment for your family
New homes help keep the outside out and the inside protected. There’s a big difference between new energy efficient windows and doors over older ones in temperature, light and noise transfer between the inside and outside of a home. This applies to everything from air temperature, toxins and particulate matter, which is especially important to sufferers of asthma and bronchial disorders, to outside noise from traffic, lawn mowers or barking dogs.

A new home’s kitchen appliances and bathroom tub, toilet and sinks have never been used by anyone else and are clean and ready for your family to enjoy. New electrical systems are built to modern codes making them safer. Overall your family will have a much more comfortable and safer environment in which to live with a new energy efficient home.

3. New appliances are under warranty, last longer and save money
With a new home, all your appliances are new and under warranty. You won’t risk having to replace your hot water heater or anything else soon after you move in, which is often a hidden cost of buying an older house. Because they are new, the kitchen stove, refrigerator, microwave and dishwasher have never been used so they start out clean and are easier to keep that way. With proper maintenance, they should last a very long time while saving you money every month on utility bills.

4. Take advantage of new technologies
Newer technologies now make it possible to connect HVAC, security, lighting systems and entertainment systems together so they can be centrally controlled or even controlled remotely from a mobile phone or tablet. Wireless automation allows many of a home’s systems to be controlled remotely, from thermostats and window blinds to entry doors and HVAC systems. You can adjust the temperature, lighting, security system or even let someone in the house by unlocking the front door using an app on your cell phone or tablet.

5. Better resale value and easier to sell
Sometimes life throws you a curve and you find yourself changing jobs or being transferred to another city, having to move your family in a short period of time. With all of that going on, it’s nice to know that in the event you need to sell your home; a newer energy efficient home will have a higher resale value and be easier to sell.

Everyone is different and while some people enjoy fixing up an older home and don’t mind the additional utility costs; the advancements in technology in the last five years alone makes owning a new home less expensive, better on our environment and generally safer and more comfortable. For those of us that don’t want to spend their weekends maintaining their home and embrace the conveniences and safety factors of newer technologies, a new energy efficient home is the best choice.

*NewHomeSource.com – www.newhomesource.com/startfresh/energy-efficiency/

How To Maintain Your Home

When buying a new home it’s easy to get caught up in the financial obligations, but it’s important to remember the time and energy required to maintain your home. Just like changing the oil in your car or going to the dentist for cleanings, your home needs to be taken care of to avoid costly repairs down the road.

home maintenance

Many maintenance items can easily be performed yourself. There are hundreds of videos and how-to guides only a mouse click away. Home improvement stores, like Lowes® and Home Depot®, often offer in-store educational workshops that you can take advantage of. However, if a maintenance items is too in-depth to complete yourself calling a licensed professional may be a good course of action.

Home upkeep can seem like a daunting undertaking, but creating a way to track what needs to be done may help lighten the load. There are many different calendars and spreadsheets for home maintenance available online that can help you stay organized. There is no golden rule on what tasks should be done when, so coming up with a schedule that works for your lifestyle is best.

McKee Homes has developed a Home Maintenance Guide that can help you with determining when and what items should be checked in your home.  McKee Homes offers 2-10 Home Buyers Warranties on all new home sales; they also offer a 2-10 Maintenance Manual as another resource for maintaining your home.

When you take the time and energy to sustain your home it can give you a sense of pride and accomplishment in the work you’ve done. That’s how the house you just bought becomes your home. Maintaining your home now will help keep your home happy and healthy for years to come.

Types of Home Warranties

Warranties provide peace of mind to buyers of many types. Whether it’s a warranty to cover your phone, computer, furniture or car, having that confidence that your stuff is protected puts you at ease.

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase many of us will ever make, so why not include a warranty to protect your largest purchase? Home warranties are available for both new construction and resale homes. New homes can come with a builder’s warranty or a third-party warranty. The Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires builders to provide third-party warranties for newly built homes with FHA and VA loans.*

210 Home Buyer's Warranty Program

As with any warranty, it is important to understand what is and is not covered for your new home. This knowledge allows for better communication and less frustration if a warranty situation arises.

Builder and third-party warranties typically cover the same items for your home. Generally, warranties cover material and workmanship of the home. The duration of warranties can vary from one to two years and all the way up to 10 years. The best bet to find out what is covered by the warranty is to ask for a copy of the warranty. Most builders have defined guidelines on what is and isn’t covered.

One way to think of your home is as a living object that expands and contracts as the seasons change and settles over time. So it’s important to keep in mind that your home will not stay pristine for the whole time you live there. You will have to maintain the home. Caulking and grout may separate, hairline cracks may appear in your drywall and paint and soil may erode as the weather changes. These are all normal events and are considered homeowner maintenance.

Homeowner maintenance is a whole other animal that we’ll cover later.

While homeowner maintenance items are not included in most home warranties, builder and third-party warranties will cover defects in materials and workmanship for new homes for one year. Most builder warranties stop there, but some third-party warranties such as the 2-10 Home Buyer’s Warranty Program offered by McKee Homes will additionally cover your home’s systems for a full two years and the structure for a full 10 years.

Systems coverage includes wiring, piping, and ductwork in electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, ventilating, and mechanical systems. Structural overage includes all load-bearing components. View an interactive information page showing what is covered under the 2-10 Home Buyer’s Warranty Program. You can also download a copy of the 2-10 Warranty to get more detailed information.

*http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0186-warranties-newly-built-homes

What goes underneath?

Slab, Mono Slab, Crawl Space….It’s all Greek to Me

The new homebuyer experiences several different emotions while moving through the home buying process.  One of the emotions they may experience is confusion.  Many people in the industry use language that is very common to the business. However, the typical homebuyer does not have that same content knowledge.  The expression, “it’s all Greek to me” comes to mind when thinking about the communication exchange between a project manager and those who are not experts in the industry.  This blog article (and more to come) is an attempt to assist the homebuyer with the “translation” process between the industry lingo and what it means to them and the purchase of their new home.

In this first article, we will discuss the different types of foundations that are available for a new home and why they are used.

New homes are built on a concrete structure called a foundation. There are several different foundation types and the type used for a particular home depends on many factors.

A concrete slab (sometimes referred to as a mono slab) is used when the developed land is relatively flat.  A concrete slab is a layer of concrete that is poured at minimum of 3.5” but 4” is most common thickness for residential applications.

A stem wall foundation is used if the developed land is moderately sloped.  The height of a stem wall foundation is dependent upon the degree at which the developed land is sloped.  The use of a stem wall foundation may also result in steps leading from the finished grade of the lot to the house and into the house from the garage slab.

When the developed land has a slope that is considered significant then a crawl space foundation is used. This type of foundation consists of a concrete block support structure and a wood floor system made up of floor joists and underlayment. This allows for access to an open area between the floor and the grade. Having this space lets the builder install mechanical systems under the floor. The height of the space under the floor varies due to finished grade.

A basement is used if the developed land has an extreme slope.  Basements are more prevalent in some parts of the country than others and allow for more storage space and perhaps additional living space.  Basements can be problematic in very humid climates and require a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the summer months to keep the area and any furnishings from becoming moldy.

It’s important for the consumer to recognize the characteristics of concrete.

  1. Very durable
  2. Weather resistant
  3. Lasts a long time
  4. Low maintenance
  5. Prone to cracking

What? Did you say cracking?!!!

According to the Concrete Foundations Association of North America, some cracking is normal.  http://www.cfawalls.org/foundations/cracking.htm

“Cracks can be unsightly but many consumers feel that if a crack develops in their wall or floor that the product has failed. In the case of a wall, if a crack is not structural, is not too wide (the acceptable width of a crack depends on who you ask and ranges from 1/16” to 1/4”) and if it is not leaking water it should be considered acceptable.”

Concrete often cracks because the components: cement, sand and gravel are mixed with water in order to pour the foundation causing it to shrink slightly as it dries. Over time it is often exposed to stress from extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations, which can cause movement leading to additional cracking. Generally expansion joints, sometimes called control joints, are created in concrete foundations when they are poured to control the movement and minimize cracking. Small cracks are normal for any concrete slab or wall and are not a cause for alarm. Cracks over ¼” in width should be inspected by a professional contractor to determine if there is a structural issue or if it is just a surface crack.

While it’s not practical to put a slab foundation on a severely sloped lot, a crawl space foundation can be built on a flat lot if desired, however it is more expensive and will add to the cost of the home. Talk to your contractor if you have questions about what type of foundation is best for your lot and floor plan.

Buying a Home – New vs. Preowned

Is it better to buy a pre-owned (resale) home or a new home? There are pros and cons to think about with both purchases. Buying a newly built home is like buying a cupcake with frosting on it. With a new home, you know exactly what you are getting under the frosting. On the other hand, a resale home could be that same cupcake with frosting or it could possibly be something much less desirable dressed up to look like a cupcake. It’s up to each homebuyer to decide which to choose, but personally, I want the cupcake with frosting.

If a homebuyer chooses to purchase a new home, they have more options to choose from and a question to ask themselves: “am I ready to embrace my creative side?” If the answer is yes, they can start from the ground up and pick a lot, floorplan, features and options in the neighborhood where they would most like their new home built. Builders have lined up all the contractors, picked out great locations and have the design coordinator on standby. Also, many creative types have already developed a ‘baby book’ to chart the process of building their new home and nobody judges them. Everyone loves a baby, just sayin’.

If a homebuyer is not channeling their ‘creative animal’ at the point of purchase, or needs to move sooner than a new home can be built for them, they can buy a new home that is already built, sometimes referred to as “move-in ready.” There are some move-in ready homes that can still be personalized depending on the builder and buyer’s prerogative.

With a resale home, someone has already made the creative decisions for the buyer. Before a mortgage can be secured for the home, the buyer will need to get a termite inspection and the entire home will need to be inspected by a qualified home inspector. Any problems found by the home inspector will need to be repaired before the buyer closes. If the home has a septic system, the septic system will need to be inspected and tested by a qualified professional and the tank may need to be pumped.

Most buyers want to personalize a home once they buy it and fix or upgrade anything they don’t like about the home. Resale homes often need much more maintenance than a new home, so the homebuyers need to be prepared to spend several fun-filled weekends engaged in DIY projects or spend additional money to hire a contractor, have strangers in their home and be a temporary construction manager in order to get the home the way they want it. Resale home buyers should get cost estimates on any work they want done before purchasing the home to make sure their budget will allow for the improvements and maintenance of the home.

What about the money? Most people assume they will pay less for a resale home over a new home, however in the long run, that is often not the case.

With new construction the homebuyer controls the costs by choosing the plan, the features, the upgrades and the location or subdivision they have their home built in.   The new homebuyer will also have all the latest and greatest energy efficient building materials such as windows, appliances, insulation and heat and cooling systems. In the long run, the new homebuyer will save money every month because of the home’s efficiency. Another money-saving benefit of purchasing a new home is the new home warranty. Some builders even include an additional warranty in the purchase cost of the home that goes beyond a traditional new home warranty. 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty is an example of such a warranty. McKee Homes includes a full 2-10 warranty with all new homes, which covers the home’s systems for two years and the structure for a full 10 years.

In the end, it is up to each homebuyer to decide what is best for them. With new homes they get more input into having the home built the way they want it, they don’t have to spend every weekend doing projects and maintenance, they can rest easy knowing the home is covered by a new home warranty and they save money on energy costs every month. With a resale home, the initial cost may be lower, but until they purchase the home, they really don’t know for sure what’s under that frosting.

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Can I Choose Options That Are Not Part of the Standard New Home Package?

Once a homebuyer chooses their floor plan, and finalizes the paperwork involved in securing the home of their dreams, our expert Design Consultant will schedule an appointment with them at our design studio located at 109 Hay Street, Suite 101 in Fayetteville, NC to go over all their selection options. See our New Home Selections Process article.

Some of the selections or personalization can be done at the same time as the initial paperwork.  Also, at this point, some homebuyers may want to choose their interior colors, exterior colors and features, bathroom and kitchen tiles, and plumbing and lighting fixtures.

McKee Homes come with beautiful standard features, which are listed on the “Standard Feature Sheet”, available on our website neighborhood pages, and can be found at the model home in the homebuyer’s desired neighborhood.  A McKee Homes’ Sales Representative and/or Design Consultant will also be able to share these standard features with you.

If a homebuyer would like to choose an option that is not included in the standard feature package, then the Design Consultant will create a “Change Order,” which will be added as an addendum to the homebuyer’s contract.  If the change increases the price of the home, the homebuyer is required to pay 50% of the additional cost in order to have the change order accepted.

To ensure that McKee Homes adheres to the time allotted to build a home, change orders should be completed within 21 days of signing the initial contract.  If a change order is requested outside of the allotted change order time, an additional $250 will be charged per change order, if McKee Homes can accommodate the change at that time.

It is important for the buyer to understand that any changes made after drywall completion will extend the closing date by the number of days that it takes to complete the work specified in the change order.

It is normal for a homebuyer to feel excited and a little bit anxious during the home-buying process.  McKee Homes’ employees are committed to making this experience a positive one.  They are available to answer questions and help the homebuyer in anyway they can.  The homebuyer can also visit the McKee Homes website at www.mckeehomesnc.com.

By Amy Kahler and John Rives