How many people does it take to change a light bulb...

by Greg Dodge 19. July 2012 08:12


How many people does it take to change a light bulb...
Phillips Warm White 8w LED


When the bulb you are changing is at the top of a 17-foot-high ceiling in your great room?  While a few people have mastered the extension pole bulb replacement method, most of us have to get out an extension ladder so it takes at least 2 people to change a light bulb!




Therefore, it only makes sense to specify LED light bulbs that last 20 years or longer on average, for those hard-to-reach light fixtures.  Though more expensive to buy, they'll save money on electricity.  Plus, you won't have to get out the spackle and touch-up paint to repair the drywall nicks from carrying that extension ladder through the house!




The Advantages & Benefits of LED Lighting


Phillips LED Lighting




Lighting, Products for the Home | Products for the Home

10 Things to Consider Before Signing the Dotted Line!

by Greg Dodge 20. June 2012 10:30

Making the decision to build a new home is a thrilling prospect. For many, it is the realization of a dream. But many potential new home owners don’t realize that some of the decisions made after signing a contract would be less expensive and better negotiated if they researched their needs before inking the deal. We spoke to one woman who, in the process of considering her building project, took extra steps to research what she wanted. She ultimately saved thousands of dollars in “up charges” – changes or additions made by the builder once a contract is signed. Here are the ten items she considered before signing, and what she learned in the process:


Pre-qualify for a mortgage. Get credit information in order. Check out several lenders. Review needs for a construction loan or a bridge loan. Understand mortgage products. Review your present home and situation. Are room sizes adequate? What  special needs do you have, such as a blended family or the need for a workshop? What furniture will you keep?


Find a lot. Is it close to schools, church, shopping, health care, pizza delivery? What direction does the lot face? Do you want morning sun? A special view? Do you want a sloping lot for a walkout basement? Study covenant and community restrictions. What is the tax levy? Look around the neighborhood. What do you like? What bothers you?


Find a home plan by asking the following questions:


How do I want to entertain?


How much storage will I need? What kind?


Does the plan have flexibility for special rooms or situations (exercise room, craft area, etc.)?


How does the home help me de-stress? A quiet area for me? Built-in organization like drop zones? Whirpool bath? Sunroom? Porches?


Where do I want the master bedroom?


Is a healthy home important to me?


Select a builder.  Is there a builder attached to the lot you want? If so, interview him/her extensively. If not, interview several builders. Try to find someone with whom you’ll have good chemistry.  Check references of the builder’s former home buyers, subcontractors and vendors. 


Consult with an interior designer for a couple of hours.  Make sure everything flows; coordinate colors, flooring and countertops; and plan placement of outlets. 


Meet with an electrician and electronic specialists to pre-wire the house properly.  Consider Christmas lights, other outdoor lighting, accent lighting, security, stereo surround sound, telephones, ample outlets and their placements, Internet and media rooms.


Talk to people.  Talk to as many people as you can who have been through the building process. Be sure to ask what they would do differently.


Customize your home plan.  Make sure the working drawings are clear and exactly how you want them.


Pack Your Survival Kit. 


Bring a sense of humor


A 12-pack of patience


Drawers of chocolate


Bottles of aspirin


A jump rope for de-stressing




After considering these items you should be ready to sign on the bottom line and get started!


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Tandem Garages - the new flex space?

by Greg Dodge 7. June 2012 14:36

While the debate rages on over garage size and placement (see this month's White Paper for solutions), an emerging concept is to design a tandem 3rd stall and show an option for finishing off that space. That way, buyers can understand the trade-offs: more storage or additional living space!


We would love to hear your feedback on a new plan we're developing, the Windsor Cottage, which illustrates this very concept.

Please send your comments to or post them here!


Without moving exterior walls, what would you design differently (for example, add window(s) in the dining/living room)?








Design Trends | General

How many times a week do you use the bath tub in your master bath?

by Greg Dodge 24. May 2012 12:36

Whether building a new home or remodeling, we spend a lot of money in our master baths. Most of them include a shower and a tub and many other amenities. For how we use the space, is having a shower and tub a wise use of our money? Several years ago we asked the question -


"How many times a week do you use the bath tub in your master bath?".


We were surprised by the responses. As we are curious about the answer today, we are re-asking the question.


Take our poll and let us know how many times a week you use the bath tub in your master bath?



Please share the poll with your friends and family via facebook and twitter. We will share the responses from our previous poll and the results from this poll in about a month!


Tell your your friends and check back!


Master Bath Design | Poll

Save your back and knees!

by Greg Dodge 9. May 2012 07:40

As I've aged my knees and back seem to be complaining more and more.  You'll be thankful if you look again at your dishwasher placement and the size & height of your toilets in new construction and remodeling.

Van Singel Lake traditional kitchenRaising your dishwasher

Raising the dishwasher has numerous appeals, which all end with "...and your back will thank you!" It may be to add storage under the dishwasher for infrequently needed items. Or, it may be to make the dishwasher more convenient and easier to load and unload for individuals of all ages and abilities.

If a raised dishwasher is in your future plans, think also about what goes atop the dishwasher. Set within an island, the countertop over the dishwasher may be flush with a raised eating bar (unless the entire island work surface has been raised.) Situated the dishwasher against a wall, other options, including additional storage, come more clearly into view.  Raised dishwasher ideas.

Different size bowls

It’s surprising how many people overlook the issue of the toilet size for their home.  Okay, maybe it’s not as fun as selecting lighting fixtures, but comfort is too important of an issue to forget.  As compared with standard round toilets, elongated toilets are about two inches longer, which many adults feel is a more comfortable size.  Petite individuals and children sometimes feel elongated bowls are too big.


There’s also the issue of hygiene, and men strongly prefer the elongated toilets.  Finally, consider space.  Some baths are designed with a little “room” within the bathroom for the toilet, and the extra length of the elongated toilet may interrupt the door swing into that toilet space. 


See Kohler's Highline Classic Comfort Height Toilet

Keep these things in mind and your knees and back with thank you!



Design Trends | Kitchen Design | Master Bath Design

What's your cost per square foot...

by Greg Dodge 27. April 2012 08:51 common in resale homes, but can be a very misleading question in new construction!  Why?




Different builders calculate square footage differently.  An identical home with brick exterior walls will measure more square feet than the identical home with traditional siding.


What square footage was included in the sq. ft. figure?  Basements?  Attics?  Were staircases counted once or twice?  Porches/decks/patios?  The garage?




What's included in the square footage price you were told?  Builder's included features vary widely.  Wood floors and stone countertops make a home cost more per square foot than the same design with vinyl flooring and laminate tops.




Your choices have a huge impact on your cost per square foot.  You will probably make many selections for your home.  Iron staircase spindles and expensive appliances don't add to a home's square footage but do add to it's cost per square foot.




Land costs are a BIG component in a cost per square foot number.  Was the homesite included in the cost per sq. ft. price quoted?  A "premium" homesite will increase the cost per square foot (if land costs are included) compared with a "standard" lot.

When evaluating potential home builders, be sure you are comparing bids based on similar grounds.  Don't get fooled by a low cost per square foot up front.  And then pay for it later when you close on your new home.




Dual owner's suites

by Greg Dodge 9. April 2012 12:26

The popularity of homes with two master suites is growing rapidly.  Buyer profiles vary from households with aging parents or adult children sharing the home with you.  We recently spoke with an individual looking for a home with three master suites for three widows/widowers who wanted companionship and the advantages of home ownership!


Especially in homes designed for a basement foundation, or homes which can have additional bedrooms upstairs, expect to be seeing more dual-master suite homes coming to the market!

Example dual owner's suite home plans:

29354 the Welker
29353 the Sadie




Design Trends | Flexible Living Options | General

Design trends and things we get asked to inlude on our home plans

by Greg Dodge 28. March 2012 08:33

Every week we are asked about cool new design trends or about new features we are including on our home plans.  Today and in future posts I will explore some of the new design trends and features we see and are working into our new home plans.


One of the things we are often asked about is separate vanities in the owners / master suite bath.  Dual vanities or vanities separated by a stack of drawers or cubbies are very common.  The thing we hear is "I want my own space - separate and distinct.  An interesting design concept is to plan the two sink areas back to back. This provides a great sense of separation and can foster additional creativity in the bathroom's overall design.



Here's a couple of examples and a floor plans which incorporates the back-to-back vanities.


 contemporary bathroom design by phoenix interior designer Ownby Design 



Example Artwork Contemporary bathroom design by phoenix interior designer Ownby Design





    Example home plan -- 50031


Design Trends | Destressing | Flexible Living Options

Pick your lot and home plans very carefully!

by Greg Dodge 23. February 2012 14:03


Shortly after my wife and I decided to build a home, on a nice February day, I stood up on our lot and surveyed the view.  No homes had been built, the development was covered in ankle deep snow and the view of the woods and lakes was awesome.


While I knew the view would not last as homes were built and the development filled in, I didn't account for one small aspect of our lot's location.  The lot is a pie shaped lot with the point of the pie curbside along the outside curve of the street. 


So what you say.  What does it matter?  Here's what matters.


My 3-car garage requires a larger, wider driveway at the curb.  In and of itself, that's no big deal.  What I DID NOT account for in selecting the lot was how the snow plow would throw all that snow on my driveway.  Each time the plow comes around the curve, the snow literally flies of the edge of the blade and is piled high and deep on my driveway.


A couple of days before I left to travel to the 2012 International Builders Show in Orlando, Florida, it snowed in Omaha.  It wasn't a lot of snow - maybe 6 or seven inches, but it was a heavy, wet snow.  So wet in fact my super-charged 24", dual stage snow-blower couldn't deal with it.  My kids and I ended up shoveling the mountain of snow at the curb by hand.


I know. I know.  It's a sad, sob story.  But here's my point - Pick your lot and home plan very carefully!  There are things you might not account for.  Things you will wish you had known.  


Ask questions of your builder, your REALTOR, and your friends.  Don't end up cussing your choice every time is snows, rains or whatever.


When you built your home, what did you miss?  What's the one thing that bugs the crap out of you every single time you have to deal with it?

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Ups and Downs

by Greg Dodge 20. February 2012 16:48


Ups and Downs

If you're building a new home with either a basement, second floor or both, where do you want the stairs to be situated? Stairs located in the center of the home may minimize hallways upstairs but many times center stairs are an assumption at the design phase. When center stairs run along the entry, they may squeeze the traffic pattern and make the space appear and feel tight. Stairs right at the entry may interrupt movement through the home when the entry door is open.






Many of today's buyers prefer an open, inviting entry view which does not include the staircase, locating those stairs instead to one side of the home, often near the garage. Attending the public grand opening of a new model home in Minneapolis, the most common visitor comments complimented the rear staircase location!



Example Floor Plans


Moss Bluff - Design 43013

Flacco - Design 29352

Winston Court - 9206


Flexible Living Options | General | Livability at a Glance | Organization | Storage