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Community and Q&A

What Do You Love (or hate) About Your Home?

AdamT | Posted in General Questions on

We’re thinking through some design options for a self-build. Trying to imagine what I will like (or not) about a future home is difficult, especially after the newness wears off.

So what do you like about your home? If you built a green energy efficient home, years later do you still get butterflies when you see tiny energy bills? Do you wish you had added more windows or *bling*? What did you choose to include (not include) that was a good (or bad) decision?

In our case, we have some nice views and are considering how much we should take advantage of them through large windows and a separate great room that opens up to them – or to build more of an energy efficient boxy, but modern two story home. 


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  1. plumb_bob | | #1

    Things I love about houses I have built- I enjoy an open kitchen that opens onto a large dining area for gatherings of friends and family. I value an entrance that can fit all of our stuff. I really enjoy having locally sourced and milled wood used as trim, accents, furniture. Nice gardens and outdoor living space for the summer are huge for us.
    I do not enjoy vaulted ceilings, huge bedrooms, or building on a flood plain.

    There is no reason you cannot have an efficient 2 storey house that takes advantage of the views. If the other option is a 2 storey wall of glass, I would recommend against that for a variety of reasons.

  2. mr_reference_Hugh | | #2

    I love
    - large open kitchen with island
    - pantry to store lots food
    - hardwood floors
    - large enough entrance to keep stuff organized
    - an HVAC system designed by an engineer and installed my people who followed the plans
    - European windows
    - no natural gas (too many health risk in my view)
    - Good amount of natural light
    - cheerful colours for the siding
    - life time metal roof
    - located High and dry to avoid over land flooding

    What I would change
    - avoid a slab on grade ( I would still do a slab with stem walls)
    - cathedral ceiling too high in bedrooms
    - more effort and a bit more money to make my house more structurally resistant to earthquakes (we are on a fault line), high winds.
    /- floor drains in every room that has water
    - design a mechanical room
    - plan the plumbing before building, just like every other component.

    I would buy high R-value windows and take advantage of the views. Some windows are now reaching over r10 from what I read. You only live once and the view is going to be a big part of your “quality of life” if you can squeak in some windows with a view. Just put the right size windows in the right place. Fixed windows are more air tight that those that open. You can reduce the size of windows in the spaces where the view is less important (bedrooms?) and maximize in the living areas.

  3. AdamT | | #3

    Thanks both of you (Plumb Bob and Reference Hugh):

    You each mention not liking vaulted ceilings in one capacity or another. Can you elaborate more on this? How high are the bedroom ceilings? Do you not like the imitation grandeur of vaulted great rooms or were the dimensions somehow off?

  4. DavidDrake | | #4

    House is in a small college town, built 1890, 1600 SF 2 story balloon frame, on 50 x 200 lot.

    _My neighborhood. Mixed single family and owner-occupied/rental. Mature trees. Great neighbors, from young families to retired folks. A few blocks walk to a vibrant (for the size) downtown area.
    _My front yard. My wife ripped up the lawn close to 20 years ago, and replaced it with low water and native plants, including flax, California poppies, balsam root, lavender, lilac, river birch, mountain ash, syringa, white pine, etc. Trees have grown up nicely.
    _The facade that faces the street. When we bought the place in 2001, it had been a up-and-down duplex for 30 years, with terrible little single pane replacement windows and cement asbestos siding. Over the years I've replaced siding (Hardie smooth clapboard) and windows (paired single hungs) and now it looks proportional again, inside and out.
    _Morning light. House faces east. Light in the kitchen and eating area is fantastic.
    _The size. 1600 SF (4 small beds + 2 small baths) has always worked for us, even when my two oldest kids lived at home. Now with me, my wife, and my youngest, it's almost spacious. When my son moves out, my wife would like us to move to the 580 SF ADU I'm finishing in the back yard, and rent the main house.
    _The kitchen. Small, but very functional. I designed it and there's very little I would do differently. Finely hired someone else to do the work, so it's not only done, but I don't have drywall-themed nightmares (at least not about that space).
    _The DADU I'm finishing in the back. Performance-wise, it should be everything the main house is not.

    Don't like:
    _Nothing is (quite) done. After more than twenty years of chipping away, there's still a long punchlist. Just about every project is like 80% finished.
    _Performance. It's an old house that leaks like a sieve. Way better than it was, but still.
    _Things I should have done better, but didn't, due to budget, time, or a combination. I especially hate the hollow core doors in the upstairs bedrooms and general cheapest of the finishes on the second floor, because we had no real money when I was doing that work.
    _Some aspects of the layout. Small old houses tend to be pretty broken up. Short of major structural remodeling, (which I no longer have the stomach for) not much I can do about it. But it's still pretty workable.

    Good thread. Nice to take account like this from time to time.

    1. AdamT | | #20

      Thanks for the thoughts David,

      Are things "never done" because it's an old house that will probably always have something yet to do or b/c it is too hard to 100% complete some projects if you're DIY'ing it along with everything else in life?

      1. DavidDrake | | #30

        Mostly the latter. This was especially the case when my day job was renovation, carpentry, and/or cabinet making. Tough to come home from work and keep doing what you've already been doing all day. Or at least I've always found it so.

  5. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #5

    I wouldn't want to be without my basement. I like that the mechanical stuff is all hidden away down there, and I have a workshop down there. The basement is also good for storing lesser used things. Leave attic space as just an empty place with insulation on the floor -- no storage or mechanicals should be up there. A full height ceiling in the basement is really nice too.

    I wish my place was a bit higher than grade, by another block or two on the foundation walls. While I haven't had any issues, I do worry sometimes about water, and the lower edge of the siding gets too close to the ground.

    Wire all your receptacles with 12 gauge wire. Keep all your lighting on seperate circuits from the receptacles. Use GFCI breakers in the panel, not GFCI receptacles in bathrooms/kitchens/etc, since the breakers are more reliable long term. I really, really like my Lutron Caseta "smart light" system, especially the timer functions. We use this system multiple times every day. It's not the only way to go, but the functionality these systems offer is very nice. I would try to centrally locate the breaker panel so that you only run one large run of heavy gauge wire in from the meter instead of lots of long runs from a panel mounted in a garage or corner of the house. Keep the panel indoors too, so that it lasts longer. I like to run the wire from the meter to the panel in conduit too for a little extra protection. Put light switches in logical places and be consistent with their orientation when ganged with other switches. I always put switches in order, so that the switch (in a box with multiple switches) closest to you is the closest light, and the switches control progressively further away lights as you move down the row of switches.

    Plan your hot water pipe layout to keep "waiting for hot water" times short. I have a recirculation loop, but that is a tradeoff in terms of more energy usage. If you can centrally locate your hot water heater, you can "star out" the pipes and keep the runs shorter. Make sure they all get insulated too.

    Insulate under your slab, even if it's not required in your area. I really wish I had that, and it's very difficult to add later.

    I also like vaulted ceilings, but not everywhere. I like vaulted ceilings in great rooms, entryways, and sometimes master bedrooms, which give a very open feeling, even if the room itself isn't particularly big. The tradeoff is those same ceilings take away from "cozy" feelings, which is sometimes a negative for using them in bedrooms. It's personal preference there. I also like indirect lighting in these rooms with cove lights, which provide a very nice, even, diffuse light without glaring fixtures. While they're not really big in green building, I like some skylights in great rooms too, especially if the room is deep in the house and away from exterior windows.

    I don't like vinyl flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. Use ceramic tile or slate. Marble looks nice, but doesn't always hold up all that well, so porcelain tiles that look like marble are often a better option if you want that look.

    Plan, plan, and plan some more before you build. A lot of the time things you think are a good idea at first aren't so good in practice. Asking here is a good idea, but I would also try to look at some homes in your area and look at things others have built that might be similar to what you're considering doing. See what you think of those things in an actual home, which is better than imaging things from drawings on a piece of paper when you have the option.


    1. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #7

      Every house should have some unfinished space. Otherwise you just end up using finished space for the things you listed -- mechanicals, storage, workshop.

    2. AdamT | | #21

      Thanks Bill - great advice, especially on the electrical side. I've read/heard about the water being centrally located but your advice about the electrical I've not read anywhere else.

      One thought we've had is to airbnb a few homes to see what like/don't like. Too bad it's so hard to test drive homes. Hence, my opening up this thread so I can learn from others.


      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #24

        Copper costs are crazy high right now, so it makes sense to try to economize on wire through smart planning. I'm an electrical engineer, so I suppose I think about this sort of thing more than most :-)

        I should add that you should consider multimedia cabling too. Run network cabling (usually cat6 these days) from a central point to anywhere you might want "smart" things (computers, TV, etc.). Make sure at least one run goes to the ceiling somewhere near the middle of the uppermost floor -- use that for a ceiling mounted wireless access point so that you get reliable whole-home wifi coverage. You may want to run some RG6 coaxial cable from that central point to wherever you might have a TV too. I recommend always running one more cable than you think you'll need, so if you think you need two cat6 network drops, run three to be safe.

        Don't waste money with the all-in-one cable that includes fiber optic cables "for the future". Those intregrated cables almost always include multimode fiber optic cable, and usually the old OM1 stuff that is already obsolete. Any future stuff you might need fiber optic cable for is going to run over singlemode fiber, which is very different from multimode. I would just have your service provided bring fiber into that central point where you ran all the network cables and not run the fiber to any other places in the house. If you have a big media center somewhere, run a 1" or 1.25" conduit there if you want to be able to pull in additional cables in the future. Note that you can fit an HDMI cable through 1.25" conduit, so that's a good size to go from an AV cabinet to behind a wall-mounted TV too.

        I can't emphasize enough how important it is to plan everything in the beginning as much as possible. Don't just think about today, either, try to think about what you might want in the future too. Just be careful not to fall in the trap of never-ending "one more thing" stuff :-D


        1. Robert Opaluch | | #82

          Agree about the importance of iterative planning and design to a detailed level. Also get feedback (like on GBA and from friends and family), and remember, think about, and browse online/magazines/house plans to get ideas.

          I put all plumbing for both baths, washer/dryer, hot water heater, kitchen sink & dishwasher all on a single interior plumbing wall within 10' long with baths stacked above and below each other. Almost zero wait for hot water.

      2. DavidDrake | | #33

        For years now, I've made it a habit to sketch a little plan and section of every AirBNB we stay in. Usually pace off dimensions (conveniently, my feet measure just about 1' wearing shoes). I think a person learns a lot more that way than just taking a few pictures.

    3. aunsafe2015 | | #103

      "I don't like vinyl flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. "

      Is that just personal preference? Or are you concerned about water getting between the seams of the planks despite manufacturer claims of being 100% water proof?

      1. johngfc | | #109

        We have cork flooring (solid cork, not the thin engineered flooring) in our bath and kitchen and love it. It's quiet, warm to walk on, dishes don't break when they hit the floor, dirt doesn't show, etc. These were sealed with a thick polyurethane finish that's durable to most normal wear and tear (but not to sharp knives ...). I've had tile and hated it.

  6. plumb_bob | | #6

    My reasons for not liking vaulted ceilings are the inefficient use of space, the fact that heat rises and these spaces take a long time to heat up, cleaning those high surfaces is difficult so does not happen very often.
    Also, I do not like the aesthetic of the cavernous space. My next living room will be sunken with low ceilings for a tighter, comfy feel.
    My experience, and that of other folk who have built several times, is you will not get it right on the first project. Maybe the third or forth project will start getting you pretty close to your ideal house.
    Dont forget to have fun!

    1. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #9

      Vaulted ceilings tend to have acoustical problems. If you visit places like churches or auditoriums that have expansive ceilings, you'll see they often have acoustical baffles hanging that were added after it was built, when they realized nobody could hear anything. This seems to be particularly true with modern designs. I have a house with a vaulted great room and when you have more than about three people in it doing things it starts becoming hard to hear anything.

      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #23

        The big problem is usually reflections, which is where that echo-y sound comes from, especially if you have hard floors too. Those baffles you see in auditoriums aren't always to reflect sound, they are often to *absorb* sound, to cut down on the echo-y sound of the space. You can get acoustical panels to hang on walls that look a little like frameless canvas paintings that can help if you have excessive reflections making your room echo-y. The larger the room, the more likely you are to get that echo effect too.


    2. AdamT | | #22

      Build your first house for your enemy, a second house for a friend and the third for yourself

      Ancient Builder Proverb :)

  7. brendanalbano | | #8

    We recently rearranged all our furniture in our 750 sq ft 2 br home so that instead of the larger bedroom having the bed and closet and dressers, and the smaller bedroom being an underutilized office, now the small bedroom is a single-purpose sleeping room, with just the bed in it, while the larger bedroom (still small by modern standards) is a sort of dressing room/boudoir, with a couch, a comfy chair, full length mirror, closet and dresser. It's where we get dressed, read books, drink coffee, etc. The initial motivation was to move the couch out of the front room so that we could make room for a really big table for dinner parties and board games, but having a boudoir type room has turned out to be really nice. In addition to it being a fun and luxurious space, there's a big practical benefit that if one of us gets up earlier than the other, we can go get dressed without waking the other one up. And having the sleeping room be really minimal helps me to relax.

    This is not to say that every house needs a boudoir/dressing room/drawing room type space, but for us it has been really exciting. I think the lesson here is to think about your dream routines in your house, what you want to do in public and what you want to do in private, and sometimes that might lead you to a slightly non-standard program that's perfect for you. Since we were just rearranging furniture, our desire to have a big table for hosting dinners and game nights + a boudoir in our small 750 sf house required some compromises. In a new build, you may be able to get exactly what you want!

    Another one to think about is bathing. Consider building a sauna! My parents have one and it is a highlight every time I visit them. We're planning on building one in our back yard eventually. Or are you more of a long soak type person? Consider a soaking tub! Do you like to shower with a partner? Make your shower a little bigger and add a second showerhead! For me, these bathing luxuries offer a type of meditation that is really special, and valuable to my mental health. Again, if it doesn't appeal to you, skip it, but there are opportunities to do some things that can feel really lavish and luxurious in a new build, that aren't necessarily going to break the budget.

    Again, I think the lesson is to imagine ideal routines. What does the perfect morning look like? Your ideal dinner party? An impromptu brunch? Hosting a book club? An entire weekend devoted to self care? Practicing your musical instrument? A romantic evening with your partner? Kids bringing their friends over? Whatever it is you do in your house, think about what the best version of that is, and how the spaces in your house can enhance those experiences!

    1. DavidDrake | | #15

      Bathing—absolutely. When I remodeled the ground floor bath in our house, I put in a deep, slipper-style soaking tub, and high windows in the north wall. The bathroom is only 6 x 8, but the tub and the indirect light make it a great place to relax.

      The ground floor bathroom adjacent to the office space in my ADU is designed w/ curbless shower, and tiny 2-person sauna behind the shower. Based on an arrangement in a place we stayed in Finland. For months, I was designing a sauna into the bath of the ADU's upstairs rental apartment. Finally, it occurred to me that *I* was the one who wanted the sauna, and it should be in the space I'll be using, rather than in the tenants' space.

      1. AdamPNW | | #128

        Would love to see a photo of your sauna arrangement. We’re thinking of something similar.

    2. AdamT | | #25

      Imagining an ideal morning/after workout routine/evening in a living space is really spot on. It forces me to think through an ideal day even and to avoid mimetic desire every time I see something flashy on ArchDaily or Houzz.

  8. mr_reference_Hugh | | #10

    Cathedral ceilings
    For me they take away the cozy feeling.
    We have 9’5” flat ceiling on the main level and I like that.
    Cathedral ceiling in the bedroom make it feel “cold”.

    That might be an interior decor issue and maybe there is a way to make it cozy. I plan actually to look at that this winter.

    I agree 100% that lighting is important. It is rarely planned. There are some good resources online to educate yourself. You can do lots of planning yourself. Even if it is not perfect, a little planning is better than none. There are professional light planners but there is a pretty big cost (confirm on your own maybe).

    Future additions
    I have this idea that houses should be designed to allow for a future addition. It can just be a hallway that end against an exterior wall.

    1. AdamT | | #26

      The BS and Beer show has a "Pretty Good Lighting" episode with insights that I would never have thought of... now I have to think lighting through along with everything else!

      1. mr_reference_Hugh | | #60

        That episode was invaluable for us!

        Thank you BS & Beer!

  9. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #11

    I really liked the architect I worked with on my latest house, and one of the pieces of advice he gave was to be very aware of the tactile feel of every part of the house you touch, particularly with your hands. So we spent a little extra and got cast bronze handles on all of the interior doors. The handrails on the stairs are solid cherry and we sanded them down with 400 grit paper and finished with tung oil, every time I go up or down the stairs I get pleasure from the way it feels in my hand. We spent a little extra on nice wallplates for the light switches. When we were shopping for windows I immediately rejected any where the operating mechanism felt flimsy. Same with plumbing fixtures.

    These are little things that don't cost a lot in the scheme of things but make the house feel different.

  10. DavidDrake | | #12

    On the design side:
    I'm a fan of A Pattern Language (Christopher Alexander et al.).

    Patterns related to single family residences start at about 104. I'd start there, and read the patterns—really thinking about what's being said, and whether one agrees or disagrees, testing Alexander's ideas against actual spaces one is familiar with.

  11. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #13

    Just this weekend I had the chance to go on a "house tour" organized by a local non-profit. It's a fundraiser for them but also a chance for designers and realtors to advertise. The houses were all high-end, and huge. What struck me was how much of the space was wasted, how the houses were carved up into rooms with no purpose and hallways that went nowhere.

    There's a certain intellectual laziness in building a super-big house. I feel it's easier to get a design that works really well with a modest size.

    1. AdamT | | #27

      Yes, it might take only an hour to write a page or two, but many many hours of work to refine it down to one paragraph.

      The same for Architecture and the tradeoffs involved. Can a house communicate the message in 1,600 SF? Does it really need 3,000 SF?

      1. DavidDrake | | #36

        I think anything much less than 1000 SF takes a lot of skill to do well—it would be way too challenging for my beginning architecture students, for example.

        1400-1600 SF is pretty approachable.

        Much over 2500 SF, I think really thoughtful design starts to become challenging again. The default seems to be an exercise in filling up space with marketable rooms.

        It's like the owner of a wine shop once said to me: 'Anybody ought be able to make a decent bottle of wine for $50. The trick is making a really good bottle for $10.' (This was quite few years ago:)

  12. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #14

    The best advice I got when I started on my house-building odyssey was from a friend: No one will ever care as much about your house as you do.

    1. jeasto | | #66

      This is the truth. I intellectually knew this when I started, but I didn't REALLY know it until a couple months in. I thought I had a assembled a team who were genuinely excited by our project and its goals, but at the end of the day, they don't have to live there. Your team simply doesn't have the same stakes that you do. Approaching a project from the mindset of "I plan on living here a long time and I am going to pay for it for a long time" and "this project has an end point" is very different. And in my cause, it caused difficulties.

  13. plumb_bob | | #16

    A smart man told me that all houses are just an arrangement of boxes, it is the finishing that creates appeal. I believe this to be generally true.
    I am a fan of small houses, I do not need to hide from my family.
    Some people will absolutely agonize over the smallest details, marriages have been ruined over the choice of backsplash material. Learn how to compromise.

    1. brendanalbano | | #17

      As an avid box arranger, I'd like to stand up for the arrangement of boxes mattering a little bit ;)

      Compare for example:

      3 boxes separated by walls and doors containing a dining room, a living room, and a kitchen


      1 big open plan box containing a dining room, a living room, and a kitchen

      These box arrangements are going to feel different regardless of the finishing!

      That said, I think there's a lot of truth to plumb_bob's comment as well. There's a lot more to architecture than just how the boxes are arranged!

      1. plumb_bob | | #19

        Point taken.
        What I was (poorly) trying to communicate is you can have 3 identical arrangement of boxes, with completely different outcomes because of finishing choices.

        1. brendanalbano | | #42

          Very true!

  14. andyfrog | | #18

    I feel that siting is one of the most important aspects of a home. It's very difficult to recover from a poorly sited home, but relatively easier to address unsatisfactory aspects of a well-sited home.

    1. AdamT | | #31

      Yes - if you have the privilege to site and orient a house, make sure you get it right!

      I suppose the same could be said of windows and additions for deep renovations of existing homes.

      1. DavidDrake | | #40

        There's also a lot of misunderstanding of what makes the best site, especially if we're talking about a good-sized piece of land without a lot of existing buildings to provide context.

        To your second point: I see students struggle a lot with 'where do I put the windows'-type questions. I often suggest that the problem is, they're thinking of walls as being a thing, and windows as being another kind of thing, and that the trick (from a design point of view) is figure out how to put window-things in wall-things until it looks good.

        Instead, I ask them to think of walls (along with floors, ceilings, etc) as creating certain spatial experiences. Those experiences can be shaped by varying the condition of the wall or potions of the wall, from opacity, to translucency, to transparency. Again, that's mostly from a design point of view. But it doesn't (or shouldn't) ignore building science.

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #49

          Arthur Erickson used to say that one of the most common problems with siting is that people fall in love with a certain part of their lot, and then ruin it by putting the house on top of it.

          1. DavidDrake | | #54

            Yep. Same thing in A Pattern Language (Pattern 104: Site Repair):

            'On no account place buildings in the places which are the most beautiful. In fact, do the opposite. Consider the site and its buildings as a single living ecosystem. Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are, and build new structures in those parts of the site which are the least pleasant now.'

            The relationship between windows and views is also often misunderstood, I think.

      2. andyfrog | | #46

        I would also go further to say that site selection itself is even more important than siting the house. This is wandering away from building science, but it's the little things like how is the visibility leaving the driveway, how close are you to the nearest intersection or T-junction, are there busy roads close by (or worse, on two or more sides), are you at the end of a dead end road or T-junction (so you get car headlights in your windows all night), how is the drainage in the area in general (not just your site, but as a proxy measure for environmental moisture), prevailing winds, foliage, daylighting, etc

  15. kbentley57 | | #28

    One flaw (or hatred) of my house that I've discovered is the placement and spacing of the island/dishwasher/refrigerator. The island is spaced at a distance that two adults and a toddler can't walk past or around each other easily. It's compounded when someone is opening the fridge, or unloading/loading the dishwasher. When all you want to grab is your cup of coffee, walking around the long side of the island frustrates me more than it ought to!

    The dishwasher and refrigerator are aligned facing towards eachother, and then one or the other is opened, there's only enough room to maybe slip past, if nothing else is in the way.

  16. AdamT | | #29

    It's interesting that no one has mentioned energy efficiency or low utility bills yet - and we're posting on "Green" building advisor!

    1. mr_reference_Hugh | | #34

      I thought that question was based on the assumption that the house was green and energy efficient.

      If I was wrong, then put that at the top of the list. This includes using low embodied carbon materials and materials that don’t negatively impact health.

  17. mr_reference_Hugh | | #32

    One thing that is totally European is to have the toilet separate from the tub/shower. Combining both in one room makes little sense once you see them designed and installed separately in a house. I think housing them together saves space???

    1. AdamT | | #35

      This architect got it right... open concept bathroom/shower/hallway

      1. kbentley57 | | #37

        I'm trying to understand that picture, and failing.

        1. AdamT | | #38

          That they left the toilet seat up for the photo shoot also says something.

      2. mr_reference_Hugh | | #45

        That is why I am not an architect, I could never conceive of something like this?!?

    2. DavidDrake | | #41

      Toilet + lav + shower in the same space makes some sense. If the tub is more about relaxing than washing, it really is nice for it to have it's own space. But *adjacent* to the shower, so a person can wash first, before soaking in the tub. (Maybe the tub is in an alcove, or separated from the shower + toilet by a small space for the lav.)

      1. StephenSheehy | | #67

        We put a hot tub in a separate room, outside the conditioned space, but next to the master suite. The hot tub room has decent windows and is fairly well insulated, but not heated or cooled.

    3. robgood | | #98

      I’m reading this and my great desire is to have the the toilets separate with a wash basin and space for cleaning tools. I want to be able to evacuate the toilet airs as completely as possible in an IAQ setting. Ideally, there would be a room for a bidet; again this is about evolving standards of personal hygiene. Other rooms should be for shower/toilet since the first may prompt the second. I am going to redesign a lower level sauna and adjacent shower/toilet room into a spa space. But I only need one in the house. if I ever built from scratch I Would attach a separate 3/4 bath in every bedroom, proьably with electric instant on hot water. I also want a separate room, removed from toilet activities, where all medical supplies are kept and there is a sickbed that can be elevated.

  18. aaron_p | | #39

    Like Bill - I would focus on things that are much more difficult to do later. Radon ready construction, air-sealing attic before blown-in insulation, fan-rated electrical boxes, outlet placement (closet for battery vacuum or stair night light), glue and screw subfloor with up-sized floor framing (to eliminate squeaks and bounce), moisture resistant gyp (not just green board) anywhere higher humidity and water is expected.

    1. robgood | | #99

      Excellent ideas

  19. Danan_S | | #43

    > If you built a green energy efficient home, years later do you still get butterflies when you see tiny energy bills?

    I remodeled my home to be high-performance / energy efficient, but the lower energy bills don't give me butterflies since my mortgage also went up by 60%. To be fair, that higher mortgage comprises the cost of a ton of other non-energy related features, but even in isolation, the energy efficiency features don't pay for themselves in reduced operating costs. AFAIK the only energy efficiency upgrade that can pay for itself through $ savings is solar.

    The real butterflies come from the enjoying the temperature comfort and the high air quality in the home, and in comparing the operational[1] CO2 emissions of the house before and after.

    Many people point to the valuation that high performance, comfort, and energy efficiency adds to a house, and there is reason to believe that is true in areas like mine where people at least claim to value those things.

    But that is a bit remote to me since if I can help it, I don't want to sell or move out of my house, since it will be damn hard to find another one like it for sale that I can afford unless I build it.

    1. I think the embodied CO2 was also pretty low (though I haven't calculated it) since I used a lot of "carbon negative" materials like wood, cork, and cellulose and up-cycled a lot of materials that often get thrown away in remodels like flooring, decking, pavers, etc.

    1. AdamT | | #50

      "The real butterflies come from the enjoying the temperature comfort and the high air quality in the home"

      I think this is it for me right here. I grew up in a New England home that was built before the Civil War. Original/near original windows would rattle during a windy winter storm and snow dust would blow into the room. My bed was next to a window and I'd wake up in the morning sometimes with a 4" drift of snow on the covers.

      Airtight homes solve this.

    2. DavidDrake | | #72

      "AFAIK the only energy efficiency upgrade that can pay for itself through $ savings is solar."

      Not sure that's the case, necessarily. For example, the heat pump hot water heater I purchased should pay off the difference in cost vs. a conventional hot water heater in about three years (nameplate yearly operating costs of $100/yr vs. $400/yr). The ERV I'm installing will provide ventilation for the entire project, and save about $120/yr versus an exhaust-only option using bathroom fans. ERV costs about $500 than two bathroom fans, so payback is less that four years. And I believe for most projects, the payback on a mini-split HP for heating and cooling is also pretty short.

      True, the annual savings after payback with these examples is only a few hundred dollars. And in my case, I'm doing install myself, so am only looking at equipment costs—obviously, the ERV is more labor to install than the bath fans, and I suppose contractors in some areas might upcharge on labor for installing a HP HW heater.

      I expect the labor and relatively small cost of materials for taking care of big air leaks in an older house also has a short payback time. Deep energy retrofit on the other hand? Everything I've read here suggests that never pays for itself in $ savings, and maybe not carbon savings either.

      But I think you're obviously right that comfort and improved air quality are important values outside of cost savings. After all, living in an unheated tent is certainly cheaper than renting or owning a house (and has a very small carbon footprint). But most of us, if we have a choice, prefer a house or apartment.

      1. Danan_S | | #76

        > Not sure that's the case, necessarily. For example, the heat pump hot water heater I purchased should pay off the difference in cost vs. a conventional hot water heater in about three years (nameplate yearly operating costs of $100/yr vs. $400/yr).

        This is highly dependent on local electricity rates. In most parts of the US, electricity costs 3x the price of natural gas per unit of energy. This is the case in places with energy prices as different as Michigan and California. In such places, the operational savings a heat pump water heater vs natural gas is negligible (I have data with my own HPWH that confirms this).

        The very notable exceptions to this are places with extensive hydro-electric resources (Pacific Northwest, Ontario), where electricity is equivalent to natural gas in cost per unit energy.

        > And in my case, I'm doing install myself, so am only looking at equipment costs—obviously, the ERV is more labor to install than the bath fans, and I suppose contractors in some areas might upcharge on labor for installing a HPWH heater.

        Labor costs quite often are equal to if not more than the equipment costs. And most homeowners do not have the ability or desire to install or replace a water heater or ERV themselves, so the exceptional DIY self installer example isn't a basis from which we can extrapolate a broader economic rationale.

        > I expect the labor and relatively small cost of materials for taking care of big air leaks in an older house also has a short payback time.

        I think the cost of taking care of big air leaks in an older house can be pretty high (depending on the definition of "old").

        Most of the time the big leaks aren't obvious holes in the walls that daylight is coming through, but rather pathways for air hidden behind layers of structural and finishing materials added over years. Finding and mitigating those leaks requires skill and knowledge in addition to labor, which is expensive. The obvious leaks are often from old warped windows that need to be replaced at high expense.

        If you don't find and address *all* the big leaks, you could just increase the rate of leakage through the leaks you didn't find, and end up simply changing the path of the air leakage, making the whole effort pointless from an energy saving perspective.

        If the house is already modestly and consistently well sealed (built to code the last 20ish years?), then perhaps a caulk-mist air sealing approach like Aerobarrier could pay for itself in energy savings, but it's still a crapshoot.

        1. DavidDrake | | #78

          Fair points. I should have written '*electric* conventional hot water heater.' As it happens, I live in an area with inexpensive electricity due to hydro. Having said that, the PNW isn't a small market. And there are homeowners without access to natural gas.

          Of course you're right that in most cases, homeowners have to include labor costs as well.

          Regarding air sealing, I was thinking mostly of poor-quality housing stock significantly older than 20 years. There's plenty of it, especially in rural, underserved, and marginalized communities. Given the current crisis in affordable housing, I don't think it's going away any time soon. Obviously, there's a lot of complexity around those issues beyond the cost of improved air-sealing, including the potential increase in the value of the property, as you mention.

          1. Danan_S | | #83

            > Regarding air sealing, I was thinking mostly of poor-quality housing stock significantly older than 20 years. There's plenty of it, especially in rural, underserved, and marginalized communities.

            A cost effective solution for air sealing for these communities would be great, as they are also the communities with the highest energy burden. But I know of no such solution as yet.

            In Germany some multifamily low income housing buildings have been over-clad in prefabricated airtight insulated cladding panels, but that doesn't scale down well to rural single family homes.

  20. Expert Member
    Akos | | #44

    I think the more important aspect of an efficient home is that it is very comfortable. Utility bills are my lowest expense, savings on that don't change the overall carrying cost by a great deal.

    The things you end up noticing in the long run is the small details, for example deep window sills, I really like the look and a great spot for plants. All the trim is stained and clear coated along with some exposed wood details it makes the place feel much warmer. Heated floor in the bathroom are great, walking into there and getting that warm toes feel is worth the cost.

    I designed the main bedroom much smaller than typical (8.5"x12") with sloped ceiling from 9' to 6.5'. More than enough to fit everything and feels very cozy. There is a walk through closet to a semi en-suite that has the washer and drier in it which makes doing laundry a breeze. The closet with weather stripped door provides some separation and more than enough sound isolation from the bath. I'm glad that I installed a hot water recirc that gives you instant hot water, never have to wait for hot water at any of the taps. In a single story structure, with careful design, recirc can be eliminated but anything multistory should have one.

    In the kitchen I went with a small fridge (24" tall one), smaller volume forces us to keep on top of what is in there which means items tend to be fresh. I raised my dishwasher about 10" off the ground, much more ergonomic. Even my wife who is much shorter than me prefers this height.

    Went with engineered floor over 1/4" cork everywhere including the kitchen. Besides the nice feel on bare feet from the extra bit of compliance, chances are that if I drop a glass or plate, it won't break.

    Went with mostly traditional interior finishes with a bit of modern detail here and there. Ten years on, it hasn't dated, still looks great and if I had to choose, I would pick the same again. Too modern doesn't age well.

    I couldn't make up my mind to go with either induction or gas so goth both. If I had to do it again, I would go induction only. Just make sure to get ones with knobs, touch controls are the worst.

    Mostly indirect lighting with LED strips, much better light quality and fewer shadows. The only pot lights are in the bathroom and those practically never get used, the vanity light is more than enough.

    A row of south facing clerestory windows is great for natural light and cuts my heating down a fair bit.

    Tilt and turn triple pane windows are worth the money. You can sit right next to it in the middle of winter and not feel cold. Plus they are built WAY sturdier than anything domestic. When you close a window that solid positive locking, it is almost worth it just for the tactile feel like Dc Contrarian mentioned earlier.

    The outdoor space is part covered in a roof. This provides shade plus it lets you use the space even in the rain.

    Section of the interior staircase has white risers. Not a big deal but always end up cleaning it, should have just stained it like the rest.

    Full floor heat in the rest of the space was waste of money and effort. The bathroom floor heat is almost enough to heat the space until the cold weather sets in, the rest is floor never gets warm enough to be felt. A ducted heat pump would have cost way less and would have been just as comfortable.

    Since I had a boiler, went with an indirect for hot water. Expensive equipment, extra plumbing and in the end less efficient than a power vented tank.

    Made the mistake of installing a multi split with heads in bedrooms. Uncomfortable, inefficient and obtrusive. It will eventually be replaced with a ducted mini split if it ever fails.

    I went with stained T&G for the soffits. Looks great but it is endless battle with carpenter bees, not sure if it was worth it in the long run.

    Made the mistake of using PVC window trim and to make it worse, painted it black. Lot of it is coming apart from thermal expansion especially on the west side.

    I have some largish west facing windows without proper shading. The good thing is that these add a lot of sensible cooling load in the summer time which helps with keeping humidity low but they also add a lot of cooling load. Also there is a fair bit of glare in the living space at certain sun angles.

    I undersized the overhangs of the clerestory windows, this is what happens when you spend too much time modeling energy use and chasing those one percent gains. The smaller overhangs are good for wintertime solar gain but they extend my cooling season by about a month, the cost of running an inefficient multi split for an extra month is way more than any heating energy saved.

    I used some programmable timers for outdoor lighting. Eventually the battery goes on these or they go out of sync and you have to fuss with them. A simple motion sensor with the option to run for a couple of hours on low after sundown would have been the same cost and no fuss.

    P.S. Interior walls with 5/8 drywall and insulation is the way to go. Same for ceilings between floors. Small extra cost, much quieter and feels more substantial.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #47

      Raising the dishwasher is genius! Less bending over is a Good Thing!

      I like 5/8" drywall too, and always use that when putting in new drywall when doing any renovation work. I'll add that building a staggered stud wall in key places can make a big difference in quieting things down too, and don't really eat up much extra space (about 1.5" or so). Three good places to consider staggered stud walls:
      1- Between bedrooms, especially kids' rooms, to cut down on "bang bang bang, keep it down in there!"
      2- Around any media rooms, so that you can watch a movie at night without disturbing others in the house. Be careful here though, depending on layout, it can be wasted effort. I have one wall between our TV/living room and the master bedroom, and that wall makes sense to build a staggered studwall since the opening into the TV/living room is on the opposite end from that shared wall. If you have an opening facing another opening, the staggered stud wall doesn't accomplish much.
      3- Around mechanical rooms if you'll have that equipment on the first floor.

      Noise control is a really good thing that makes the house much more peaceful. If you're in a noisy area, staggered studwalls and/or double 5/8" drywall on the exterior perimeter walls can also quiet things down inside the home.


    2. AdamT | | #48

      Thanks Akos! Lots of learning and sage advice here. I

      I assume with your small master bedroom that you don't spend much time there other than for sleeping, correct?


      1. Expert Member
        Akos | | #55

        I've had this question asked before, I always feel like I'm missing out on something since I mostly sleep in the bedroom.

        We had a crib and changing station in there for a bit and the space was a bit tight but otherwise never found that we need more space.

        Maybe it also comes from living in the city where compact is the norm. I've designed apartments with 8x8 and 8x10 bedrooms. Compared to that 8.5x12 feels huge.

        1. kbentley57 | | #57

          I've often had a thought that there's a distribution of room sizes that range from too small, to too large to be useful, with a somewhat narrow sweet spot for each room type.

          A bedroom can be way too big, but still hold the same items as one say, 50 sq ft smaller. What do you consider to be the sweet spot for bedrooms / living rooms?

          I'm not in the city, so my initial reaction to a 8x10 bedroom is :|.

          1. Expert Member
            Akos | | #59

            A friend of mine grew up in England where they have something called a box room, about 6x7 just enough for a child's bed.

            Does a bedroom need to have a sofa in it? Does a bath? Does a walk in closet?

            I think all sqft discussion is very much relative, there is never a perfect size. We as humans tend to take over whatever space we have, for example I recently added a 8' wide floor to ceiling closet, within weeks we managed to fill it up. I sometimes question why I gave up the space from the living room for it.

            I've designed 650sqft 2 bed apartments so about 350sqft living/kitchen space. Add in a taller ceilings and good layout and it doesn't feel small at all.

            Some of the older stock 2 story 4 bed houses here were only 1100sqft. It was pretty common for these houses to have two kitchens and two families living in them.

            Big and small is all relative. There is never a perfect answer.

            The one that feels like a giant waste is the recent bathroom inflation. It is not uncommon nowadays to have 6 to 7 bath in a 4 bed home. Half of them never get used, all those need cleaning, need maintaince and sooner or later they will need to be renovated. Giant waste of money.

            A while back I did a quick realtor search to see what is the most I could find. Found a McMansion up north that was 10 bath 4 bed.

    3. kbentley57 | | #51

      The dishwasher idea is gold. It's things like that, which never occur to me, that I file away for later. Why is such a often used device put in the least ergonomic position in the kitchen?

    4. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #52

      I also have the raised dishwasher and 5/8" drywall throughout.

      To raise the dishwasher, we had to raise the counter. This actually worked out well, we have three different counter heights in the kitchen, one standard, one higher and one lower. That gives the right height somewhere for every person and every task.

      1. kbentley57 | | #56

        Which brings up another height issue, and something I forgot to mention.

        The master bathroom needs a his and her sink, and his needs to be at a taller height than hers. I'm tired of shaving all hunched over!

        1. Expert Member
          DCcontrarian | | #58

          We did that as well.

    5. DavidDrake | | #73

      "I raised my dishwasher about 10" off the ground, much more ergonomic."

      Really intriguing idea. Do you have a raised counter above the DW? Or is the DW built into floor-ceiling cabinetry? If a raised counter (about 46" high, I'd assume), what do you find it most useful for?

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #74

        The counter over the dishwasher is 39". The dishwasher is 33.5", the counter is 1.25" so the dishwasher is raised 4.5" with a quarter inch for leveling and adjustment. Next to it is a shallow cleanup sink, also at the same height. The cooktop is at 33" and the main counter is at 36".

      2. Expert Member
        Akos | | #81

        Mine is built in the cabinets with the oven on top. This puts the oven pretty high, I don't mind it but not for everyone.

        Drain is routed using 3/4 pex to the island sink. Pretty long run but no issues so far. I had the diverter spring a slow leak on the dishwasher which damaged the cabinet a bit, I would recommend one of those tray underneath that channel leaks out to the front so it can be caught early.

    6. StephenSheehy | | #77

      We raised the bottom of the oven 28" above the floor. It makes a huge difference in loading or unloading hot/ heavy pots.

    7. Robert Opaluch | | #80

      Totally agree that 5/8" drywall and insulating interior partitions works wonders for sound reduction. I used two layers of drywall, longer standard drywall horizontally on the outside layer, mostly glued to drywall behind it, and cheap fiberglass batts. I also caulked the bottom plate below drywall, and cut up the middle of the partition studs except the top and bottom 1.5' where stud's structural stresses are highest. Similar to staggered studs with fewer studs and thinner wall. Also avoid putting electrical boxes in any stud bay that face both rooms (boxes face one room only, put the other one in a different bay). Pounding on the partition or blasting loud music at the partition is barely audible in the other room. Exactly the opposite of noisy LA apartments I rented (and was guilty of blasting loud music).

  21. Expert Member
    DCcontrarian | | #53

    My new house is all-electric. We went with the induction cooktop. While I was initially skeptical, I am in love with it, it's great.

    1. jeasto | | #68

      We decided to go all electric and get the induction, too. I have lived in homes with both regular electric ranges and gas. So far, we love the induction (though it has only been a couple months).

      I love that the cooktop is easy to clean, and it seems to take a lot less time to get things boiling, simmering, etc. (But maybe that is simply because I've had cheap or old ranges in the past?)

      1. Expert Member
        DCcontrarian | | #70

        I had trouble at first getting used to how much faster the induction cooks, I'd burn things. In my old house I had one of the monster restaurant-style gas stoves and the induction kicks its butt.

        1. jeasto | | #87

          Interesting re: restaurant-style gas range! I have heard that more and more chefs have started using induction ranges, too, because of how consistently they heat.

          Luckily, too, my husband and I had already been slowly investing in higher-quality pots and pans, as well as cast-iron. Most of our stuff was already induction ready.

          I could see it being annoying to have to purchase all new cookware, but that wasn't an issue for us.

          I have to say, I'm ~not~ used to all of our appliances singing at us with their beeps and boops, though.

          1. Expert Member
            DCcontrarian | | #90

            Probably the hardest thing to get used to with the induction cooktop is the digital controls. If my hands are wet it can be very frustrating to get it to work.

  22. joenorm | | #61

    Just finished a 1450sqft self build.

    I think I read it here that you can never build the perfect house. It's so true, there will always be things you learn and wish different.

    I was dead set on open living and kitchen. I have mixed feelings now, some separation would be nice so you don't have to always have your maybe not so clean kitchen on display.

    Same mixed feelings for vaulted ceilings. While they feel nice to walk into, they do create a lot of unnecessary space. But I'd probably wish they were back if they got taken away.

    I oriented my kitchen toward the view instead of my living room. I am still happy with this choice as that is where so much time is spent.
    I put master bedroom upstairs with the best view, I would change this. Who spends time in their bedroom besides to sleep? Also I would move the main master bed downstairs.

    Our western windows are killer in the summer months. I would think hard about orientation.

    I love all the local woods I used and all the close attention to detail everywhere.

    Lighting is VERY important, but hard. Maybe it's worth hiring someone experienced here?

    I would have a big mudroom with integrated laundry if I did it over. I ended up with a central laundry closet and I do not like it at all.

    I put in a wood stove and while it may not use it a ton it is crucial for power outages as the home is otherwise all electric.

    I could go on......another thing I'd do is build bigger. 1750 would be the perfect 3bed2bath size.

    1. AdamT | | #92

      Hi Joe,

      How many beds/baths does your home have now and what would you add to get to 1750 SF?

      Also, here's an article/discussion on lighting that caught my attention:


  23. jimkas | | #62

    Having all my electric in conduit. It is code here for residential and so much nicer than Romex when it comes time to change or add anything

    As a contractor we have even fully rewired houses without opening a wall.

    1. AdamT | | #93

      Can you elaborate? I've not heard of this.

    2. robgood | | #100

      This caught my attention. I have never been a fan of running Romex through studs. Since I would double drywall with the outer layer horizontal, I thought it might be possible to run conduit right along the 4’ line. I don’t mind how conduit looks and having outlets at 4 ‘ doesn’t seem that bad.

  24. plumb_bob | | #63

    The elevation of the house is critical, and should be thought through VERY carefully. The relationship between main floor height and exterior grade, services, and neighbouring properties is important, but sometimes at odds with each other. Some municipalities set the floor height elevation for each lot.

  25. andyfrog | | #64

    Even though this is more of a generalist thread, it would be interesting to revisit this topic from time to time. One can find plenty of discussions like this on houzz etc, but they are usually not from the perspective of people concerned with building science and performance.

    1. AdamT | | #94

      Agree. There have been some great responses/insights so far. I wonder if there will be more building science and energy efficiency shares.

  26. StephenSheehy | | #65

    I love pretty much everything about our Pretty Good House. It's quiet. Double stud walls, really good tilt/turn windows mean it can be blowing a gale outside, but unless you look out the window, you'd never know it.
    One interior aspect that I especially enjoy is a lot of built in storage. I just counted over 50 drawers just in the master bedroom. The photo shows part of the headboard I built, with three rows of eight drawers. The second photo shows more drawers and space for hanging clothes. There are two sets of the latter, on either side of the door to the bathroom.

    We installed solar panels which have saved us a lot of money as power prices have increased. The solar produces around 80% of our annual electricity, which alleviates any guilt from the energy guzzling hot tub which we'd never live without. After a ten hour drive yesterday, soaking in hot water up to our chins was pretty nice. The hot tub is used a lot. We didn't put in a bathtub.

    1. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #69

      I think there's an optimal amount of built-in storage. After 19 years in a house with an enormous amount of storage, I just moved into a new house with much less. I could not believe how much junk I had accumulated! My final thought was, "I'm never going to allow myself to have this much junk again."

      1. StephenSheehy | | #71

        We went from a 4300 square foot 200 year old house with big barn and basement, to a 1700 square foot house on a slab. So we got rid of all the junk before we moved in. It's great to have a place for everything.

    2. Andrew_C | | #79

      RE "energy guzzling" hot tub - we always put in a small 120V two-person hot tub indoors, usually in the basement. We only use it during heating season, and I just consider the energy used to be electric heat. Sure is nice, we use it daily when its running.

  27. 1910duplex | | #75

    I do not have a particularly green home, except that it's small and its location allows me to use the car sparingly.
    What I love:
    the location!
    our neighbors
    three big east-facing windows in the dining room (72 inches high)
    the heart pine floors (though they scratch so easily from the dog's claws, sigh)
    that there is an archway between the dining room and living room (I hate the bowling alley look) and there is a door that closes between the kitchen and living room
    the fact that the kitchen is about 12*12 -- so many city kitchens are tiny, some so much so you have to put the fridge on the back porch
    the color my wife painted the trim in the kitchen (a cheery emerald green)
    transom windows (we got them opened upstairs for better operation of the minisplits)
    the antique door we had cut to size to replace the ugly 70s era front door
    having an unfinished basement to keep lawnmower, bikes, washer/dryer, workbench
    the ducted minisplit system we installed upstairs, soooo much better than window units and we found it made the downstairs tolerable too when the a/c runs
    the walkup attic, which allows us to move little used stuff out of the less than 1400 sq ft living area
    first floor half bath. When shopping, I thought I could live with one bath. I am so glad I didn't buy a place with only one.

    What I don' t like:
    our north-facing bedroom is the coldest place in the house in the winter
    I tried to customize the split on our new storm windows, but the manufacturer made the bottom pane shorter, not taller, so they are even more out of alignment with the rail in the window
    our living room is too small -- about 12 by 12. I really wish it was 15 * 15
    the other half of our duplex has been vacant for more than three years after a failed attempt at a gut rehab, so that makes decisions about re-roofing tricky
    no driveway, so I'm not sure how we will manage charging a future EV
    the past owner enclosed the front porch and it is so ugly! he did it after other side enclosed theirs, but theirs is somewhat more attractive.
    that past owners painted the trim white. But it wasn't chestnut, it was pine, so even at the beginning it had a brown varnish, wasn't natural.

  28. Robert Opaluch | | #84

    Things I liked include:
    --Landscaping: Took a landscaping architecture course. Read three books on Rocky Mountain horticulture to understand what plants work well in this different dry, sunny, cold winter climate. Had a backhoe dig a trench, then lined with black poly and covered with river rock to create a meandering dry stream bed. Created a low maintenance, minimal water usage landscape (once plants were established). Planted lots of trees and shrubs and minimal lawn areas to create a woodland setting (in a typical subdivision of lawns and flat lots). Neighbors complemented me on the landscaping job (and earlier complained about me building the house solo and slower than nearby multi-person crews).
    --Bright, sunny interior. Winter sucks IMHO. Short dark days are no fun. South-facing windows not only make the home cheery, they also can provide interior heating in winter. I did pretty extensive solar gain and heat loss modeling so the downstairs required no supplementary winter heating, typically with temp ranges of 68F-78F regardless of season (if you are willing to close blinds at night and open during sunny days). Downstairs tile covered slab floor kept temperature variations minimized, absorbing heat during the afternoons and radiating heat overnight. Upstairs had mostly carpeted flooring and despite lots of double layer drywall partitions, not enough thermal dampening so required minimal supplementary heating on about a third of winter nights, and airing out the rooms briefly to cool them off some winter nights. I was impressed at how well this system worked. If you want to design true passive solar, you have to have a sunny cold winter climate, good solar access building lot, and a superinsulated home with the appropriate amount of south-facing glazing and a concrete slab floor or similar large thermal mass. Takes a lot of quantitative design work.
    --Foothills views to the west. There was a smaller awning window higher on the west wall, which framed the foothills view very well.
    --Nearby park with trails for hiking
    --Nearby bus line on major route through town, to take my young son on trips exploring parts of the city. Some interesting interactions with people on the bus.

    Things I didn't like:
    --Summertime overheating from a large casement window facing the foothills view to the west. Summertime, the sun beats on the east and west sides, and solar gains can be tremendous. I could have planted a tree or other shading WNW of that one bigger window but never got around to it. Just lowered the blinds which helped some but not enough.
    --One neighbor with a long petty criminal record who broke into the house, stole anything you left outside unattended, and even slept in the house while his was under construction, and I was away weekdays. Eventually a lawsuit ensued, and the cops took his son away from him and sent him to his late wife's parents in S Dakota, so he relocated away, to the delight of the neighborhood.
    --Mountain lion, raccoons, mice and woodpeckers thought this was their home too. Mountain lion killed a deer 200' from my property, which creeped me out since previously my young son had played in the yard alone at times. I was away often, and raccoons busted into the attic through an attic fan. They also damaged a Velux roof window, trying to break in. They are very strong and did major damage to an unoccupied home nearby. Woodpecker took out a knot in cedar siding, then punched through polyiso sheathing and started pulling out fiberglass batt material before I returned to find pink tufts of insulation on the back lawn!

    1. jeasto | | #88

      Oh my re: neighbor and mountain lion!

      We have lots of wildlife around, and we have enjoyed it so far. There is a deer family that comes by almost every day, and I love watching the little ones chasing each other through the woods. They are like dogs playing! They come right up to the deck (though not on it), and stare down our cats through the French doors (who stand their ground and then feel very proud of themselves when the deer bound away).

      I know they are probably going to be annoying when it comes time to plant stuff . . . I am hoping since we are leaving about half the property wild, they will leave the stuff we have landscaped alone (but I highly doubt it).

      We only have coyotes around here. Shortly after moving in, I was woken from a dead sleep by one howling and barking directly outside out window (or at least it sounded like it). I have only ever heard them howling their eerie howl in the distance.

    2. andyfrog | | #91

      I feel like the wildlife part is not really an issue on the wildlife's part. It was their moved in.

      1. DavidDrake | | #97

        True. Where I'm at, the mountain lions and bears tend to stay a ways out of town, but deer and the occasional young moose wander into the neighborhood several times a year. This is a fairly dense residential area, a few blocks from downtown. The deer and moose are pretty easy to live with, and so are the prairie falcons, ravens, red tails, and great horned owls. Even the skunks are fine.

        The raccoons, though... We've lost about half a dozen chickens over the years to those little monsters. Last time I saw one in the yard heading for the coop, it was broad daylight. I threw a can of spray foam at him (maybe her) which did far more damage to the can and the window trim it hit than the raccoon (missed completely).

        Mostly our coyotes hang on the edge of town and eat people's cats. I say, if they develop a taste for raccoons, they're more than welcome to den up in my back yard.

  29. jeasto | | #85

    I'll jump in, since I feel like I've been sucking info from this forum and not contributing. I've only been living in out 1400-foot energy efficient home for a couple months, so we are still getting used to the energy side of things.

    Things I like

    - The size. One of our goals was to use space efficiently and build a home that had just enough space for us (me and my husband). That turned out to be 1400. Our realtor thought we were nuts, and I had my doubts during the build. But so far so good.

    - Our closets. At first we had a walk-in closet in our room, but we crunched numbers and realized it was a waste of space. We opted for his and hers reach-in closets and a bit more space in the room. We outfitted the closets with the Elfa system and BOY talk about space efficiency. We have more than enough room. I can't recommend that system highly enough (wait until the annual sale to get them, if you can)

    - All electric. Some people have already mentioned their induction range, which we also opted for and agree: it's great so far. I have lived with both gas and electric ranges. The induction seems to work more efficiently (boiling / simmering happens quickly), and it is a BREEZE to clean the stove top.

    - Dimmer switches everywhere. I hate bright light, especially at night, so we put dimmers almost everywhere, including the bathroom. So much better if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I later learned this is a hygge technique.

    - Not having a basement. Several people on here loved their basements, so I wanted to throw my hat in the ring for "no basement." I think it really depends on where you live. We built in the Indiana Dunes, and though we are not in a flood plain, water gets into basements around here. I grew up not too far away, and our family's basement flooded enough in freak storms for me to say, "I never want to have to worry about this." People forget that there was a lot of marshland between Lake Michigan and the Kankakee before Man got to it. But Mother Nature certainly has ways of reminding us.

    - Salvaging finishes. Almost everything in our kitchen is second-hand / salvaged, including our cabinets. We bought solid wood Kraftmaid cabinets from a tear out and had them professionally repainted. We upcycled an old piece of furniture into our island. And we got an antique cabinet for above the fridge. The sink is enameled cast-iron from 1938, and our countertops are made from reclaimed lumber. We also used Facebook Marketplace to get new items that people didn't want: we got expensive handmade tile for $1/sq ft for the bathrooms and I got a brand new console sink for $25. The key, I think, was that we had almost all of this stuff before the design was finalized, so the architect worked around our cabinets. I also gathered all the spec sheets for the "new" stuff for the contractor and made sure I was on top of having things on site when they needed it.

    People (friends, family, builder) really thought we were nuts for doing this, especially the cabinets. But then it turned out better than anyone expected. It also saved us a lot of money (that we promptly spent on all the increases in prices for other stuff. . . hehe).

    I'm going to keep things positive for now. :)

  30. jberks | | #86

    Funny how this conversation morphed.

    Basically: AdamST, build a tight home and invest in more insulation than bigger mechanicals.

    Now, let me talk about my weird home design concepts...

    I'm tired of worrying about leaks or otherwise dealing with water damage in ceilings. My next build plan includes having the floor assemblies waterproof and drainable. For example, If a washer hose bursts... No problem. Let it drain. To be specific, I plan to do microcement over plywood subfloor, and flush PVC base that's sealed to the floor. Area rugs for the "comfy spots" like the bed or couch to still keep it homey, yet have high function everywhere else. Keep in mind this is a very modern look. Not your 'standard' home feel.

    The Mudroom.. Don't underestimate the power of the mudroom. Make it a feature like a walk through closet, not a hidden thing off a garage entrance with a washer and dryer (more on that below). I live in snowy cold Canada, where people track in snow onto your wood floors and we have no place to store all our jackets or no where to sit to don/doff all your stuff... then your wiping dried up mud of the floor, or trying to wash your dog off as it's getting mud all over stuff (this is hypothetical, I've haven't owned a dog yet, but I've observed the madness). Not sure where you're building this, but if any of this sounds familiar, consider a sunken mud room/front entrance with a floor drain.

    I really like the concept of a segregated bathroom. As mentioned earlier, Europe often still has the seperate WC room. It's a fantastic concept especially after I read an article at the start of Covid studying the particle distributions of feces particles from flushing. I actually want to take the concept one step further and also have a seperate shower room. Both showering and toileting are intensive on producing things that we want to blow out of our home. So keeping them isolated, and managed with a dedicated HRV with like a 200cfm boost, I believe helps keeping functions separated, efficient in usage and more quickly replenished to a ready state. This is especially good for the use-case of multiple people. For instance, Currently we put the toilet, shower and lav all together in the same room. When my partner wants to do her makeup, or I want to wax my moustache, at the same time as the other is using the bathroom, well it gets a little stupid. And then I can wait until they're done, and then wait for the ventilation to exchange the entire volume of the whole bathroom, before going in, which is also stupid. With some thoughtful design, you can seperate them all within one bathroom and make the bathroom extremely more functional. It's weird I know, but these are the things I think about in my spare time.

    Ok, and my last thought, which is probably the weirdest. If you're doing a walk-in closet in the bedroom, consider designing in a washer/dryer. It's 2022, there's no reason to hide washers 3 floors away in the basement anymore. The closet is where the clothes live and where you don/doff your clothes on a daily basis. It's just efficient.

    Thanks for the rant,


    1. jeasto | | #89


      I forgot mudroom! You are so right. We call ours a "sand room" (we live in duneland) instead of a mudroom. A couple things I like that we did: we put a pocket door with a window between the mudroom and the main living area. The original idea was that when it was super hot or super cold, we could have that door closed and contain the extreme temp. But we put a guest suite off the mudroom, too. So guests can close the door and have a bit more privacy, and they sort of have their own entrance, too.

      The window was a great idea, because it lets light in from that side of the house (from the mudroom door and from the guest bedroom window, which is in line with the door), even when the door is closed. We have limited windows, so we were trying to be as clever as we could to get light into the middle of the space.

      Washer/dryer: I agree with you there, too! We only had room for a stacked washer/dryer closet, and I know people were questioning our decision not to have a laundry room. But the closet is near our bedroom, and the hamper has its own nook right outside the door. I got one on wheels, so all I have to so it wheel it down the hall, then wheel it back to the closets. If you have room for a walk-in closet, it would make total sense there.

      In other countries, it's common to have the washer/dryer in the bathroom, too, and I think that makes sense.

      1. andyfrog | | #95

        A washer/dryer in the bathroom makes sense if the bath is split up into WCs/wet rooms like people were talking about above, but I could see it being less than desirable if it's all one room.

        In the words of Joe Nagan: "but the code and good building practice won't allow us to put a return air in the bathroom because we don't want to be dragging that stuff out of there and spreading it around for everybody to enjoy after somebody took a good dump" except in this case the 'everybody' is your clothes that are drying.

      2. DavidDrake | | #96

        In the UK at least, it's common to have W/D under the counter in the kitchen. That's what I've done, using an all-in-one ventless W/D unit. I considered the bathroom, but kitchen seemed to work better with a small space.

        The building is 2 stories, 1200 SF total (including garage/shop), with stacked plumbing serving upstairs kitchen and bath, as well as downstairs bath and garage/shop utility sink. Supply lines, supply manifold, and DWV all contained in a single wet wall.

    2. mr_reference_Hugh | | #102

      My next build plan includes having the floor assemblies waterproof and drainable.

      I wanted this in each room/area that had water. We have this under the HWT and under the laundry washer because I did it myself. For the rest of it, it was impossible to achieve because so few trades appreciate that water damage is the most common insurance claims. This should be part of the discussion when we talk about "Green home". Check out this webpage.

  31. robgood | | #101

    Let me add another; go 400 amp 3 phase at the outset. Yes, the electrical will be higher but an all-electric home will be more feasible and have fewer design constraints with ample pre wiring. Electrical trades are some of the most expensive so you don’t want to run lines through walls and ceilings; Swiss cheese floor joists and lowered sound barriers are the result along with big bills. 3 phase allows much more versatility in big appliances, shop tools, EV chargers.

  32. mordors_eye | | #104

    Wet, muggy Maryland

    42” front entry door
    Unfinished mechanical room
    Island with cooktop range
    Prewired w/CAT6
    Surround sound system
    More and larger windows than normal
    More outlets than required
    Larger lot than average
    10’x15’x10’ high shed with ccspf and power/internet to work from home

    I did a deep renovation in lieu of raze and rebuild
    Didn’t write my own scope of work for trades
    Had to babysit/cleanup after trades
    I ran gas and electric to water heater, dryer, furnace, and just gas to cooktop. I wish I eliminated all gas except for cooktop.
    The house is small (1250 sf/ft w/staircase)
    Basement (water, water, water & humidity) control and mitigation techniques
    I put HVAC and ducts in unconditioned attic (to avoid floor vents)
    I did this all during a pandemic

    1. mr_reference_Hugh | | #106

      “I did a deep renovation in lieu of raze and rebuild“

      I wonder if this warrants a separate thread. We considered renovating and expanding by a reasonable amount. Before pandemic - we were told $200 CAD per square foot for new space and $300 per square foot to renovate. The existing space was not even something that had architectural appeal, but continues to perform in it original state. We built all new sq footage for what was truly needed because we had the space. No regrets on that front.

      1. mordors_eye | | #127

        I think its a good discussion.

        I remodeled from a 1958 build, which left me with exterior walls that were not precisely true, plumb or square. The interior walls (built during remodel) should have been so (but weren't quite so).

        I decided after my high costs(hindsight) that it would have been more cost effective to raze and rebuild. Issue is, the cost of permits would have been much higher, due to watershed and such. So I left the basement and ext. walls as they were, which caused issues with the build.

  33. crookneck | | #105

    GBA was our Bible for a northern minnesota rebuild on a budget 8 years ago, so some suggestions will sound like Martin. We took roof off to plate line so had a chance to get that right.
    You only need 2 gables. Eave and ridge vent will work correct. Put attic access in one gable instead of a closet. 16" heel trusses. At least that much cellulose. Hand built baffles and vent chutes with xps and can foam. Flat ceilings, minimal penetrations. We were able to drywall ceiling before interior studwall build. Had a cooperative electrician. Could have oriented and pitched roof for PV but later built separate shop that got 9.6 kw. Steel roof on OSB sheathing. Plywood would hold screws better.
    Walls: Double stud w dense cellulose. OSB sheathing (plywood better), house wrap, 3/8 ripped plywood rain screen. Triple pane vinyl casements.
    Indoor air quality: NO attached garage. HRV draws from 2 bathrooms and kitchen. Returns through fan only furnace filter. No other exhaust fans.
    Still working on: Make up air for clothes dryer and small wood stove. Open basement window so far. Next range will be induction.

  34. Robert Opaluch | | #107

    Sooner or hopefully much later, many people become wheelchair bound and have limited options for housing, and usually are forced out of their lifelong home. Others get injured temporarily or disabled permanently in some way, and benefit from universal design principles used in the design of their residence. Many of these universal design items are hardly noticeable but useful, not very expensive, and not difficult on able-bodied adults. 3' (or 2'10") interior doors. Door and drawer handles not knobs. 5' turning circle near doors. Stair free outdoor path to one entry door or provision to add a ramp. Too many details to list all the specs here, but most are relatively cheap to add originally, and often more expensive or practically impossible to renovate later. At least have a plan to make changes later that will have less financial impact, when designing a residence.

    I'd suggest that any new build include a main floor wheelchair accessible bathroom with 3'x5' low curb (roll-in) shower, toilet in a corner with grab bars or future provision to install them. Also need to be able to have wheelchair clearance to one side of the toilet (temporarily can have furniture, storage etc in that location. It doesn't add that much extra floor space. Good to have a nearby room that could be used as a bedroom.

    Interior stairways can be less steep to protect children and the elderly from tumbling down stairs.

    1. andyfrog | | #108

      Have you ever gone through the mental exercise of designing varying levels of wheelchair accessibility compromises? I have found that unless I make pretty big compromises, it's very difficult to design a floorplan that is less than 1700 square feet (which is already a bit large). In my mind, the ideal floorplan would provide no compromise wheelchair access after some modifications (e.g. knocking down some nonbearing partition walls like next to the toilet), but also be compact enough that adding a second story straight on top doesn't result in a massive overall conditioned floor area.

      While it is possible to achieve a compact first floor plan with only universal design recommendations, it seems a bit counterintuitive to design something that is "workable" vs. "generous" for a wheelchair user. It seems like if one were to end up relying on a wheelchair, that's precisely the time where you want your house to feel the most generous for living independently, versus having the bare minimum clearances to accomplish daily life.

      Here are the permutations I have tried (36" doors in all of them):

      1) no compromise wheelchair access: 60-67" clearances in the hallways, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom with full/queen sized bed and access to all sides of the bed, dedicated laundry/mudroom, and mechanicals.

      2) no compromise: 60-67" clearances in hallways, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, laundry. compromised access: mechanicals

      3) no compromise: 60-67" clearances in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, laundry. compromised access: 48" hallways, mechanicals

      4) no compromise: 60-67" clearances in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom but only with twin bed, laundry. compromised access: 48" hallways, mechanicals

      5) no compromise: 60-67" clearances in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom but only with twin bed. compromised access: 48" hallways, laundry moved to hallway, mechanicals

      6) some compromise: 60" clearances in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom but only with twin bed. compromised access: 48" hallways, laundry moved to hallway, mechanicals

      7) some compromise especially in design: 60" clearances in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom but only with twin bed, but bedroom and bathroom doors open directly into dining/living areas. compromised access: 48" hallways, laundry moved to hallway, mechanicals

      Other things that can be altered are swapping in pocket doors instead, but those come with their own issues of lacking noise abatement.

      1. Robert Opaluch | | #112

        Wheelchair accessibility requires a turning circle of 5' (60") at various convenient places, such as at a door. Also there's a minimum of 16" to the side of the 3' wide entry door (on the lock/lever/knob side of the door). Most layouts would meet those minimum clearances without thought about wheelchair accessibility, or with minor modifications.

        You don't need to go "no compromise" 60"+ clearance everywhere for residential single family, although if someone wanted that for a new build designed for wheelchair bound occupants, fine. I have never seen that requirement for wheelchairs in single family residences. Maybe in commercial or larger facilities?

        You didn't mention this, but some believe that to be wheelchair accessible, the home must have everything wheelchair accessible, every single room, appliance, closet etc. My opinion is that if you provide one entrance with no stairs and no steep grades, one main floor 3/4 bath, and a nearby room that could be used as a bedroom, that's a huge improvement at very little cost or compromise for a new build (but typically a major cost for a renovation when required). The main cost would be upgrading the typical main floor half bath to a three-quarter bath with 3'x5' shower, adding space to one side of the toilet, a wider door, levers not knobs, and space for a 5' turning circle. Not free by any means, but useful to have, and would avoid very expensive (or virtually impossible) renovation if needed but unplanned initially.

        Here's an example: My late mother in her 90's became wheelchair bound, but wanted to remain in her lifelong home after living there 65 years. Going into a nursing home is not the choice of most elderly people. And generally, the very old do better in their familiar environment than when placed in a facility (unless some medical care is needed requiring institutional placement). She had fallen three times in the bathroom, and slipped to the floor twice elsewhere, and was unable to get up without help. I put a curtain over the bathroom doorway so she could get in and out in a wheelchair (she couldn't open and close the door, or turn the wheelchair around in the bathroom). I rigged a rope through some eyelets, so if the door got partially closed by mistake, she could pull the rope to open the door (which she couldn't open otherwise, and be trapped or at risk of falling while trying). I added a grab bar next to the toilet, which was next to the sink/vanity. She could manage without help to transfer to the toilet by standing, turning, then sitting, although many people may not be able to stand and turn. She could reach the typical small vanity sink, and I had swapped out the faucet set with knobs to one with levers. She required someone to help her take a shower in the existing tub/shower. This all allowed her to live at home with some daily assistance, until her last few days of life. My sister and I would bring pre-cooked meals to her, and she could use the refrigerator but not reach the upper freezer. I built a (noncompliant) portable ramp with wheels to bring outside, so I could move her in the wheelchair out the front door and steep few stairs. She had insisted no (socially/emotionally) embarrassing ramp was acceptable to remain outdoors.

        Making a kitchen wheelchair accessible is more complicated, and would require an entire article or book chapter to cover. This would require a lot of compromises, including some that would make things more difficult for those not using a wheelchair. So except for some minor modifications, I didn't recommend people consider doing kitchen modifications in a new home design for able bodied adults. Although planning for possible modifications would be helpful.

        Kitchens are the place that are most impacted for accessibility for those using a wheelchair. One entry path with no stairs, a minimal threshold door, and a modified bathroom on the first floor (add a roll-in shower, 3' door, clearance on one side of a toilet located in a corner), and levers not knobs (which are common in Europe) aren't particularly expensive modifications. But they would make a world of difference for someone who ages into a wheelchair, or is injured temporarily or permanently. And there aren't many single family homes for sale appropriate for those with disabilities.

        1. andyfrog | | #117

          "I have never seen that requirement for wheelchairs in single family residences."

          It is indeed more of a commercial/public requirement:

          I believe, but I am uncertain, that it is based on the greater presence of power chairs and generally larger mobility equipment as average weight and obesity rates have increased in the USA.

          However, when I talk about "no compromise" -- I am also basing this off of what I have seen in youtube videos and also experimenting myself with a chair. The minimum requirements from the universal design manual do make a place acceptably accessible, but I wouldn't call it 'ideal'--it still feels like you have to play a bit of Tetris to get along with daily life, and it still feels like you are encumbered more than necessary. And if I were dealing with health challenges, that's the last thing I would want to add to my plate.

          Architects talk all the time about spending attention on the things people touch, feel, and interact with the most. So for a bedroom, while you can technically get away with as little as 30" (more likely 36") on each side of the bed, 60-67" clearance means that someone in a chair doesn't have to reverse out each time they change their sheets. Or if it's a hallway, it means if they forget something, they don't have to navigate to the next turning circle while remembering what they've forgotten--they can just turn around. And that's a very small change, but I'd argue that if you were doing this motion often, e.g. not just for changing sheets but for navigating other areas, it would be a bit more stressful than necessary. Or for the bathroom, even though you could get away with UD standards for a single 60" turning circle and 30x48" clearances that overlap, imagine if you are dealing with urinary urgency challenges and now trying to Tetris your way to the toilet--when fully mobile it's already annoying. And if you don't make it to the toilet in time and then have to Tetris your way to the shower...

          I agree that the amount of accessibility depends on the context, especially if someone without mobility challenges is caregiving. In that case, there are easy ways to save space--5' clearance is not needed in areas where the caregiver can be expected to assist.

          For the bedroom, the compromise is easy--design a bedroom with 60-67" clearances for a twin bed only. If they have a caregiver, then they can have a bigger bed. For the bathroom, I'm not so sure, but something like a partition wall/closet for the toilet that could be easily demolished might be one example--there is extra luxury when it's there, but if accessibility needed, the compromise is to remove it. And of course things like framing blocking in for future handrails etc.

          I also agree that for things like kitchens, it's more realistic to design for alterations, e.g. extending the finished floor underneath the sink pre-emptively, considering an eat-in kitchen with no island so the dining table could serve as a lower prep surface, etc. If you have the space, a no compromise kitchen for both wheelchair and ambulatory users alike is possible, but not without some duplication of work stations.

      2. DavidDrake | | #118

        "I have found that unless I make pretty big compromises, it's very difficult to design a floorplan that is less than 1700 square feet (which is already a bit large)."

        Assuming you meant 1 BR 1 BA, see attached.

        1200 SF gross (1063 SF int.), not including mech/laundry or garage. For scale, the north arrow diagram is 5'-0" in diameter. Obviously there's room for tweaks and improvements (not crazy about the mech room/laundry being quite that far from other plumbing, for example, and entry from garage should be moved to mech/laundry).

        1. andyfrog | | #119

          Nice design! It's the mechanicals and laundry that eat up a lot of space. Laundry can be reduced by putting it in a wide hallway, but again, that's less than ideal.

          Also I think in practice, you'd need a bit more room for a wheelchair ramp into the car.

          1. DavidDrake | | #124

            "Laundry can be reduced by putting it in a wide hallway, but again, that's less than ideal."

            Probably. (See updated sketch.) Although having laundry adjacent to the BR isn't bad. And HWH adjacent to kitchen also some advantages.

            It would be nice to cut the conditioned space to about 1000 SF gross, while preserving the compact, rectangular footprint.

            Just took a look at wheelchair ramps for accessing cars (a bit embarrassed I didn't really know much these). I expect the simplest solution would be a two car garage.

            It's an interesting exercise, and helpful. Obviously a couple hours sketching a rough plan still leaves a *lot* of unknowns (elevations and sections, for starters). Plenty of room for further iteration.

            My beginning architecture students are currently working on affordable residential design for a multi generational family. Universal design is clearly a part of that, although the sites and the program requirements I've set pretty much dictate multi-floor solutions as well.

            I'm not sure 'no compromise' design actually exists :).

    2. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #110

      Louis Meyer, the founder of Metro Goldwyn Meyer, once said, "There's nothing harder to predict than the future."

      While I'm supportive of universal design, we have no way of knowing what will fell us. Plenty of people have their mobility to the end.

      1. StephenSheehy | | #115

        But realistically, you only get one chance to employ universal design principles. It's easy to make all doors 36" wide in new construction or major renovation. You can build a house on a single level or at least locate a bedroom and full bath on the first floor. You can site the house to avoid entry stairs. You can put in a curblesss shower. It's cheap to put in blocking for grab bars.
        Our new house is seven years old. We were in our late 60s then. We're still mobile and can negotiate stairs. But when we were in the design stage, we included as many universal design principles as possible. We'd like to be able to stay in this house even if we aren't as healthy as we are now.

    3. Robert Opaluch | | #114

      An elderly neighbor of ours (nice lady) visited relatives recently, staying in their upstair guest room. At night she went to the bathroom then turned into what she thought was the guest room, but was the stairway. Being the typical fairly steep stairway she tumbled down the stairs and was seriously injured, requiring months of recovery. Maybe will suffer to some extent from some injuries for the remainder of her life. "In a 2017 study written in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, it was found that every year, there is an average of over one million injuries that come as a result of falling down the stairs. As the second leading cause of accidental injury in the country..."

      My youngest brother tumbled down a flight of basement stairs at home. My son fell down almost the entire flight of stairs when he was a toddler (thanks ex). He and I both fell down the basement stairs here, although I managed to fall farther than him, and not all the way down. Has anyone here never tripped or fallen on stairs??

      In all these cases, had the stairs been under 7" rise and over 11" run instead of the minimum rise and run required at the time of the builds, you would not tumble, or not tumble as far (unless you want to take a running start to prove me wrong. ;-)

      One of my sister's Golden Retrievers (big) dogs refused to go up or down their basement stairs. (Smart dog. ;-) They would have to carry her up and down. ;-)

      I believe code for outdoor stairs is 6" rise max and 12" run minimum. Interior stairs with 7" rise and 11" run is current 2018 IBC building code. Not much extra space for a slightly longer run and total stair length.

      1. jberks | | #116


        You might be interested in my favourite stair woman Dr. Allison Novak.

        Check out this video for a quick synopsis on stair rise/run and falls.

        I find the design of stairs interesting. There's a balance of rise/run & considering body types to find what's comfortable.

        Also, don't forget about the ol' residential elevator. I suspect that's going to be the age-in-place strategy in the future for metro or heavy urban homes with smaller lots.

        There's efficiency of space in having smaller footprint with multiple floors.

        1. andyfrog | | #121

          I believe this is the paper that the presentation is based on

          1. Robert Opaluch | | #122

            jberks, Andy,
            Yes great research work being done to improve stairway requirements in Canada.
            Wow 95% of hip fractures of those over age 65 due to falls!

      2. andyfrog | | #120

        At what rise and run do you feel like the shallowness of the steps becomes more awkward?

        In the video above, most of the research figures were bounded by 7" rise and 11" tread depth as the far end of the range in terms of what they investigated for falls. There didn't seem to be any data presented in the video for shorter rises or longer treads. I am attempting to find the paper from which the figures were pulled to see if they left off details for the presentation.

        1. Robert Opaluch | | #123

          Usually when designing stairs, a formula is used to make sure that typical adult stride is comfortable on stairs.
          2 x rise + run = 25 or
          rise X run = 75
          approximately (rounded to the nearest convenient fraction).
          So 7" rise yields a run of 11, or a run of 10.714, for those two formulas, respectively.
          And a run of 11" yields a rise of 7, or a rise of 6.818, for those two formulas.

          Or for safer outdoor stairs with moisture/ice/dirt possible,
          a 6" rise yields a run of 13" or 12.5".
          A run of 12" yields a rise of 6.5" or 6.25"

          Pretty close to the whole number (no fractions) suggested requirements.

          1. andyfrog | | #125

            It's interesting you mention these formulas. I'm not sure of the origin but

            "Kinesiologic studies have also evaluated the effects of environmental factors on stair negotiation in healthy young adults by experimentally manipulating stair architecture, handrail design, as well as visual cues and lighting. Changes in stair architecture, such as increasing stair height, have been found to further increase the demand of stair negotiation for young adults through enhanced knee and ankle displacements, moments, and powers, as well as increased muscle activations [42], [47]. Increasing stair height or decreasing tread length also decreases center-of-mass stability and time in double support as well as increases ground reaction forces during descent [47], [48]. Young and middle-aged adults self-report a subjective preference for stairs with riser heights of 18.3–21.6 cm and tread lengths of 27.9–30.5 cm [49], [50], but stability of the center of mass relative to the base of support as well as trunk tilt appear optimized for stair heights of no more than 17.8 cm and tread lengths of 33–35.6 cm [48]. Thus, preferred stair dimensions may not be the same as safe stair dimensions that optimize stability."

        2. Robert Opaluch | | #126

          Those Kinesiologic studies have interesting results, thx for posting. I've never seen research like this. Participants preferred steeper rise than code, but the run recommended by code. However, their carefully measured performance was better with recommended rise, but a bit longer run. Maybe those formulas need updating, although this is only a single study with a younger (healthier) subject group. Also might be that each new taller generation needs slightly longer run lengths given their typical 2" adult height gain over the previous generation's average height.

  35. alarmingacoustic | | #111

    My kitchen is amazing and so comfortable

    1. Robert Opaluch | | #113

      What are some features of your kitchen that you like, that we might want to consider?

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