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    What type of house does everyone live in? I am presently in a bungalow, but I have no access to the basement. My hubby and I are talking about buying/building another one, and I have no idea where to start. All I know is that I want access to every part of the house and I want the house to work well for me. I do know that I need a lot of space (2 kids and a nanny), a huge garage (we get a lot of snow in winter), and the list goes on. What say you on this matter?

    Katem, my guess is the best thing to do is plan to build. You'll be unlikely to find a house to suit that's already built. Few houses are built to be accessible. Try to locate an architect who is at least somewhat knowledgeable about universal design and have them design your house. Some builders will try to take an existing plan and just widen doors and call it good. That's not all there is to it. Many of the existing plans for accessible houses look like a glorified trailer house, which is fine if you like that sort of thing.

    Think about what you want in your house. Is Nanny's room separate from the rest of the bedrooms? If so that probably means a full-bath on that end of the house. Do you entertain enough to justify a formal dining room? If not, leave it out. Maybe an eat in kitchen is more appropriate for your lifestyle. Keep in mind that having all the bedrooms on a single level greatly increases the footprint of the house. I'm not suggesting you should go with a multi-story house. Just keep that in mind when you are looking for a lot.

    What sort of things do you want or need in the way of accomodation? Lowered, roll-under sink in the kitchen? Who does the work? If it's an AB, that lowered sink would be just as bad for them as a normal height sink is for you? Maybe two sinks are in order.

    Ovens: perhaps you want a separate oven and cooktop. There are standard ovens available with doors that open sideways like a microwave. Makes it a lot easier for anyone to get that 70 lb turkey in an out. No leaning over the door.

    Dishwasher: Maybe raising the dishwasher a foot or so off the floor makes it easier to load and unload for you. My inlaws did that about 20 years ago after looking at one on a pedastal display at an appliance store. Seems to make a lot of sense and it is easier to fill but it couldn't be placed next to a sink very well because the top is too high.

    Maybe you want just a refrigerator in the kitchen and a separate freezer in the pantry.

    Basement? Do you want one? Does it make sense? Maybe your lot lends itself to a walk out basement design. Your house will need footing down below the frost line anyway. A basement won't add that much $$ over a slab and it's cheap space. Do you have tornados in your neck of the woods? A basement might be a very neccessary thing. How do you get down there? Probably depends on what you do with the space. If you finish it, maybe a platform lift or an elevator is in order. If it is only storage maybe a stair glide sort of thing would be fine with an older chair left at the bottom for you. If you opt for a platform lift that goes up the stairs, have the basement floor poured so the lift recesses into the floor at the bottom. Less chance for someone to trip while bringing an arm load of canned tomatoes up for that spaghetti dinner.

    Heating and cooling. Radiant heat in the floors is a nice thing. For the bipeds in the house it's nice to step out of the shower onto a heated floor and you might even skip bath mats (the floor will dry quickly if heated). There are no drafts from radiant, in floor heat and dust tends to be less of a problem. The basement (if you have one) will be much nicer place to be if the floor is heated, too. Radiant heat also allows you to keep the thermostat turned down a little and saves in monthly heating costs.

    The problem with radiant, in floor heat is that it doesn't work for cooling in the summer. Well, if you did pump cold water through the lines it would make the floors cold but it would also make them wet with condenstaion. So you still need a forced air system for cooling. There are units available that use small insulated ducts in the ceiling. These units are more efficient at cooling than the typical central air. Although up front cost would be a bit more, they will also provide lower monthly costs. Or maybe, if you live on the tundra where the frost never leaves the ground, you won't even need it. [img]/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

    Think a lot about the style of house you'd like. In my part of the country, a bungalow indicates a smaller house typically built in the teens, 20s or earlier 30's. The Craftsman style is very popular these days although we see quite a few new houses claiming to be that style but aren't. Whatever style you like, find pictures of existing houses and look for details to incorporate. Make copies of the pictures to take with you when you meet the architect.

    I have babbled long enough and could go on for an additional week on this subject. Hopefully, though, this will get you started.

    Take a look at the book, The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Give it a read. She is an architect in Minneapolis who has done some very interesting designs. She has some great thoughts on how a house should be built that reflects the owners' personalities and needs. There's also a related website at


      Weekender makes many very good points, ideas, recommendations.

      For me the first question to you is, what is your budget?

      Secondly, for me the answer was to sell my two story home, buy a ranch style home, finish the basement and install an elevator.

      If you need more detail please post and I'll let you know.

      Onward and Upward!


        Two more things to think about if you have not already

        1) How long do you expect to live in the home? Remember those kids will be growing up and moving away. Will you need all that room then?

        2) How and to whom will you sell the house in the future? I am sure you are aware of the three things that concern all realtors. Location, Location, Location. [img]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/img] Where will the house be situated 10 or 15 years from now? In the middle of a development? Far from the bustling crowd?

        You will want your initial investment to grow and these should also be taken into consideration in planning.

        "And so it begins."
        "And so it begins."


          katem, i draw/design houses for a livng and the other responses have made most of the points i would make....i suggest that you get an idea about the lot you wish to build on because the terrain dictates much of what you will do,,,if you live in an area with lots of hills & valleys having a basement becomes a no brainer...a lift might be a bit of an investment but better to spend the $ at the start than deciding to retro-fit later...if you live in a place where footings dont have to go halfway to china by frost line requirements then skip the basement and put your money elsewhere...when i designed my former home i decided which areas i wouldnt need to access and did those areas marginally accessible while i did the common areas with features that would meet the needs of all of the residents...then i designed a "suite" with my particular needs in mind...some things you might consider,,,many architects won't touch residential design because they can't make as much per hour/sq. ft. as they typically do in commercial might consider having an architect recommend an architecural technician( which is what i am) and, since the design has to meet the same code requirements whether its drawn by a tech or a licensed architect, you may be able to save as much as $1k to $1500 up front...remmeber, this will be YOUR home and you are paying the bills,,,design it and build it for you...dont let anyone bully you into something less,,,,jeffh55


            new house

            we have just started to build, there is a link that was a big help go to
   gives a lot of good info.
            also instead of a regular dishwasher chek into a fisher & paykil disdrawer.
            good luck.



              Harper, I'm certainly not in the market for this but just wondering:

              if you had to build a massive home (ie: 10,000 to 15,000 square feet). How does pricing usually work for these kind of things? What kind of ballpark # are we talking about here?
              "Oh yeah life goes on
              Long after the thrill of livin is gone"

              John Cougar Mellencamp


                construction costs are widely veriable dependent upon location...cost of the lot figures in quite a bit as does type of construction and type of amenties...dollar figures seem to range from as low as $60 per square foot to over $120 per square foot and more in the southwest US were i live...i understand that would be considered bargain prices in most major metropolitan areas...a house of 10,000 square feet would probably run somewhere between $1 and $2 million dollars...that price could be low, dependent upon what/where...jeff...


                  My house

                  We bought a new house last year and should be moving in within another month.

                  It's a 2 story 4 bedroom house with a 4 stop (3 level) elevator.

                  As stupid as this sounds, it was significantly cheaper to buy a new "stock" house and then make major modifications AFTER closing day than to actually have the builder build it "right" from the beginning. Builders are no better than Insurance Companies or Lawyers. Evil people.

                  It'll be great to be able to do dishes & laundry again. I can't believe I miss doing laundry & dishes!

                  Harper, thanks for your response.
                  "Oh yeah life goes on
                  Long after the thrill of livin is gone"

                  John Cougar Mellencamp


                    i wish i could argue your characterization of builders,,,lol,,,but i know some i wouldnt contract with to build a birdhouse,,,on the flipside i know a couple that i would trust to hand over a check to build with and come back in 4 months with my furniture knowing it would be done and finished as per the contract...but, as i said,,,,only a couple...i self-contracted my previous house and found the same holds true for sub-contractors,,,some were excellent,,,some nearly had their licenses revoked,,,,they learned the little bald guy in the w/c wasnt in the mood to be bullied, bullshitted, or buried....lolol...jeff