“Home Building Guide”: Planning

Developing Land into Building Sites

How do you determine where and how the house will sit on its lot? A house’s positioning is significant, says Dan Fitzpatrick, owner of Fitzpatrick Real Estate and seller of acreage lots. Placement affects the building’s ambience indoors and out and impacts the resale value.

Visualize your house on the lot, Fitzpatrick advises. Picture the location and exposure, and if you have trouble visualizing, look for houses similar to yours on lots similar to yours.

And here’s another Fitzpatrick tip to punch up the picturing process: An acre is a football field big.

Choosing a Builder

Before you select a builder, talk to several, says Aspen Enterprises President and owner Candy Peters. “Interview them as you would for a job, because you’ll hire one them to do a job for you and you are the boss.” Rate your contractor candidates by how well they communicate with you, how much trust they inspire, and how comfortable you feel with them. Then narrow the field to three.

Why three? “You don’t want too few bids,” Peters says, “or so many you’re overwhelmed.” The bids (and later, the contract) should include the particulars. “Just ‘doors’ isn’t enough. Are they oak? Are they flat or six-panel? If you don’t have specific details, you don’t really know what you are getting.”


“What’s the interest rate?”, is her customers’ favorite question, says Barb Brown, mortgage loan officer at ABN AMRO Mortgage.

Her favorite answer is, “it depends.”

Interest rates hinge on mortgage types. Rates for fixed-rate loans, ARMs and balloons differ. And the best mortgage depends on each buyer’s circumstances – “whichever plan meets the need.”

For example, ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) work best for people who intend to move in a few years. An ARM starts with lower interest than a fixed-rate mortgage, but after the initial period (usually three or five years), the rate can adjust two percent either way every year for the term of the loan.

A good mortgage loan officer will explain your options and help you pick the plan that suits you. “Clients fill out a short application,” Brown says, “but we still need to talk with them to find out what works best for them.”

Designing Your New Home

When you plan your house, focus on what you want to do and how much room you’ll need to do it. “Don’t try to pack too much stuff into too small a space,” says Julie Praus, owner of Cornerstone Design. “A house of 2,000 square feet doesn’t have room for a gourmet kitchen and a guest bedroom with a full bath.” On the other hand, don’t make the house too big.

Instead, make full use of every room. If you eat most of your meals in the kitchen, forego the formal dining room and opt for a smaller dining area that can be expanded as needed. Or, design a dining room to double as an office, study area, reading spot or playroom. Other rooms can multi-task, too, to help you use space as efficiently as possible.

Obtaining Needed Permits

The Building Safety Department reviews construction plans and issues building permits which are necessary for safety and consumer protection, says Ron Boose, Director of Building Safety and state-designated building official.

In new home construction, the Building Safety Department usually deals with the middleman, the contractor, and rarely with the consumer because getting the permits is part of the builder’s job.

The builder submits detailed plans, which Building Safety does not approve in a jiffy. During the peak of the construction season, builders and their eager clients can expect to wait three to four weeks for permits.

If the plan contains mistakes, Building Safety notifies the contractor who must make corrections before the permit is issued.

Steps in Planning a Home Office

The mystery of how to plan a home office can be untangled in three steps, says Dave Higgins, owner of Higgins Custom Cabinetry. Here’s his solution:

Consider basic uses: Who will use the office? Just you? You and your spouse? The kids? Will you need more than one work station? Will the room be an extension of your office at work or strictly a home office?

Assess your needs. Basic requirements include a desk and storage space. How big do you want your desk to be? How much storage will you require and what kinds — open shelves, closed shelves or a combination? How many file cabinets do you need? How much countertop space?

What’s your style? Which look do you like: den, library, all-business or another? “You’re wide open in what you can do,” Higgins says.

“A lot of things enter in, but planning a home office is basic and simple.” Mystery solved.

Can I Prevent Mold?

How can I prevent mold from growing in my home?

While mold spores are all around us, mold growth can be prevented. Mold growing in your homes requires moisture, warmth, and food. Depriving mold of any of these three items will stop it from growing, but it will not kill the mold that is already there. Mold spores will remain dormant, and if the moisture, warmth and food all reappear, mold will begin to grow again.

The most important steps in controlling mold growth are to clean any existing mold and to eliminate excessive moisture. You can take numerous precautionary steps:

  • Vacuum and clean regularly to remove possible sources of mold growth. Pay special attention to bathrooms and other areas of your home that are likely to generate a lot of moisture.
  • In portions of your home that are susceptible to moisture, use area rugs or washable floor surfaces rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. If you use area rugs, launder them periodically.
  • Do not store materials such as paper, books, clothes, or other possible sources of food for mold in humid parts of your home.
  • Repair water leaks in your roof, windows, or any other part of the home as soon as possible.
  • Clean refrigerator drip pans regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your refrigerator and freezer doors do not seal properly, moisture can build up and mold can grow there. Remove any mold on the door gaskets and replace faulty gaskets.
  • In the kitchen and bathroom, open windows or use exhaust fans when engaging in activities that produce moisture. Exhaust fans should be vented to the outdoors and not to an attic or crawl space.
  • If you live in a house with a basement, consider using a dehumidifier there. The cold basement floor and walls can be a source of moisture build-up.
  • If your home has an attic, make sure it is properly insulated and ventilated.
  • If you have a crawl space under your house, cover the soil in the crawl space with waterproof polyethylene plastic. If your crawl space is ventilated, close the vents in the summer and keep them open in the winter.

You can find more information about household mold at the Household Mold Resource Center’s Web site at www.moldtips.com. This site is brought to you by the National Associations of Home Builders.

Copyright 2010 Rochester Area Builders, Inc. No part of the Builder’s Corner articles may be reproduced or printed without written permission from Rochester Area Builders. 108 Elton Hills Lane NW, Rochester, MN 55901. Phone 507-282-7698.