Cost to Build Mountain Houses 2019

January 26th, 2019

Cost to Build Mountain Houses 2019 is about how an Architect of custom mountain houses just completed a new house in the mountains for his own family and the costs involved with that.











Almost new every Client this Architect has believes (for no good reason) that they are going to be able to get their new house constructed for around $100 per square foot.  And even worse: Per HSF (Heated Square Foot) which they think includes a large garage for multiple vehicles, generous rear and front porches, timber framing and plenty of goodies.

Reality check: That ain’t gonna happen. 

Why: because the Architect knows, through personal experience, that even managing the construction directly and personally for his own house for 9 months, and value engineering every aspect to save on the cash invested, it is just about impossible to build a custom mountain house for less than around $225/HSF (within himself running the entire operation) and more realistically, closer to $275 to $300/HSF with a General Contractor.

Why: that’s what it costs in mountainous regions to build.  Kind of like asking why the sky is blue and if  you can change that.  It really doesn’t matter what the reasons are, it just is.

And do you really think that because you are a graphic designer, or housewife, school teacher, or a high-powered executive, that you’re going to be able to change that reality? Or be able to make some genius drawings (that your Architect with over a half-century of experience can’t)? Don’t count on it.  Many have tried, none have succeeded.  There’s a lot more to architectural documents than just floor plans.  And costs are costs.  You don’t get stuff for free.  Especially from busy builders in the mountains. 


But you may want to learn something about these costs.  This particular Architect knows every penny of the costs involved with his own house and many of those for his Clients.

See below for more information:













For instance: can’t you really get the cost for a mountain house down to under $275/HSF? 
Yes you can.  But, the question is: do you really want such a house? 
Why?  Because when you get under about $225/HSF (if you really are capable of managing your own construction with you being there every day for about a year or more) you start getting into:
— 30″ wide white plastic appliances
— No garage
— No porches
— 8′ tall ceilings
— No rock
— No wood finishes inside
— All drywall & paint
— Carpet floors
— Vinyl tile in bathrooms
— Little to no trimwork
— Electrical minimums: no outlets where you want them.  Minimal power box amps.
— Cheap asphalt roof shingles with tar paper underlayment
— Not many, if any built in light fixtures.  Mainly switched outlets for your lamps.
— Cheap windows that leak energy and not many windows and those that are provided are small.
— Cheap doors that warp and leak energy
— Minimum insulation levels that leak energy to code minimums.
— Cheap plumbing with no water purification filtering (code shorten your life).
— Little to no sitework: you may have a hard time moving your vehicles around and/or parking.
— The above item also means that your land better be almost dead level, because you’re not going to be able to afford the complicated foundations that go along with steep land.
— Plastic wall siding outside that screams “cheap”.













The point being: do you really want a cheap house like that for the mountains?  Kind of ruins the whole idea, doesn’t it?


And oh: a really big item: when you get under the $275/HSF barrier, that means you probably will no longer have a Licensed General Contractor (or anyone else) there at your jobsite managing anything at all, which means: that becomes YOUR job.  Every day for over a year.  Can you really take the time to do that?  Do you know how to build a house, including all of its systems?  Do you have strong muscles and are you capable of lifting 100 pounds or more (a situation you will face), or will that kill you?  Do  you like to sweat and face grueling work every day?  If you’re over 35 years old, you probably don’t want to even begin to think about doing this.  And if you have a real job, where a company pays you big bucks to make money for them, you’re not going to have the time to devote to running your own project, so the approximately $50/HSF of a normal budget allocated to this becomes very important, and not something you can just cut out of your project.  You need someone on your jobsite daily, pushing to get things done swiftly and properly or you’re going to have huge problems.  And if you don’t have someone out at your job site every day, here’s what’s going to happen:

If you think you’re going to call up subcontractor and order them around from your office desk in Orlando, or Houston, or Miami, or New York, guess again.  It is almost impossible to get local subcontractors to even appear at your job when you are there, demanding that they work.  If you don’t believe this, do a little experiment: (see below):












Call 3 different Plumbers phone numbers in the Cashiers, NC area and leave messages for them to call you (because they’re not going to answer your phone call), and then wait for them to return your call.  That’s probably not going to happen. 
Why?  Because they have too much work to do for rich people who pay them a lot of money and they really don’t care who you are or what you need.  Sad, but true.  Not enough skilled Plumbers, HVAC, Electricians, Carpenters, Concrete pros to go around in the mountains.  That’s the reality.  They don’t care who you are or how angry you get.  They just ignore you.  So if you think you’re going to get people like this working on your job while you’re somewhere else, forget it.  Unless you’ve got a professional here managing your job every day, who know these local tradesmen.  This ain’t Jacksonville or Cleveland.  The subcontractors here don’t really want your work; they have too much to handle already.  So threatening them to not give them your business makes them laugh.


Having said all this and popped your low-budget balloon, you really need to be planning on $300/HSF and up.  Let’s be clear on what “HSF” means: as in per “Heated Square Foot.”  HSF cost generally includes whatever GSF items there are (Gross Square Feet), like porches, garages, decks and the like.  This means, for instance, if the interior, heated space = 2,000 HSF, the cost per HSF generally is understood to include the cost of the 3,000 GSF project.  So when there are a lot of additional goodies in the GSF, like garage, porches, exterior stairs, etc., the cost/HSF skyrockets.  So instead of paying $175/HSF for a bare bones house with no garage and no porches, when those items are added to the project, the cost could easily become over $300/HSF. 

However, you must understand that when you get below the ranges of cost indicated in this article, there likely will not be any such additional items.  Those aren’t free.  And before you think it or say it: no: basements are NOT free and they’re not cheap.  Forget that.  And neither are bonus rooms over garages: those can easily add another $100,000 or more to the cost of just the garage. 
You have to pay for those, and no, you won’t be able to finish them yourself, because that’s demanding, hard, heavy work that you probably can’t handle by yourself, and you’re going to need a licensed Plumber, Electrician and HVAC subcontractor. 

And once again: garages aren’t free, and neither are porches or exterior steps and stairs, or paved areas or decks.  They all add to the cost of your house.  And no, there’s nothing you can do or say to get a builder to give you those things for nothing or next to nothing.  Won’t happen.  Because: they have too much work right now anyway.   You might think you’re a savvy, clever person who can talk anyone into anything.  Just try that with some mountain subcontractors or general contractors.  They will sigh and say something like: “Yeah, we’ll be in touch.”  In other words: “Goodbye Mr. or Mrs. Cheapskate, go away and don’t darken my door again, because I have well-to-do people paying me big bucks up the whazoo, and I don’t need your kind of trouble.”


This has been Tough Love 101 Mountain House Construction Costs.
Contact the Home Architects if you want to understand what to do.  They can help.

Yeah, so with all this gloom and doom about costs, what do the Home Architects do?  Well, for one, they program and design your house.  And that’s huge.  They are a licensed Architect firm.  Wouldn’t you like to have your mountain house designed to comfortably accommodate your desired Lifestyle and your Land?  For instance: taking advantage of those spectacular views?

And they can solicit Contractors they know and many of whom know and trust them, so perhaps you might have a better chance of getting people to work on  your job, and they can help you during construction by administering the construction.  They can go to the jobsite, if you pay them to do so, to check on the work in progress, and provide written PDF reports with digital photos, updating you on the progress of your new house construction.  Something you are probably not qualified to do, or won’t be in a position to do, if you’re from out of town.  They can also help you make a decision of what property to buy, before  you pay for it, to help you save on  your sitework costs.  And they can help you value engineer your project to help control costs (which are already very high).  And they can perform other services to help you get your mountain house project to become a reality.  That’s a lot.  Give them a call.

Thermal Wall Sheathing

August 11th, 2018

Thermal Wall Sheathing is insulation typically installed outboard of the Structural Wall Sheathing on some newer projects. This Architect firm is using it on its latest custom houses. 


thermal sheathing















Structural sheathing is normally OSB (Oriented Strand Board) or plywood.  Structural Wall Sheathing is good practice and highly desirable: it braces wall stud framing together and unites walls with floor rim boards and roof side framing.  It also is a nail base for fasteners that mount cladding (siding of many types).  Also, the Structural Wall Sheathing is a nail base for the fasteners holding Thermal Wall Sheathing to the wall, and/ or any other systems requiring attachment to the wall.  Because: nails through cladding don’t always end up centered in studs.  Better to have wood sheathing there.  And the sheathing is just one more barrier to help keep out air (infiltration) and water.















HOME ARCHITECTS ® prefers ringshank nails rather than smooth shank nails to secure the Structural Wall Sheathing to the exterior face of wall studs.  Why: ringshank nails cannot back out.  If you try to pull one out with a nail remover (like a small crowbar), you pull the head off the nail and the nail shaft will remain. This means ringshank nails can’t pop.  Nail pop is where smooth shank nails lose their grip in the material in which they where embedded and begin to back out.  You don’t want that.


So, what is Thernal Wall Insulation?  We’re using a GAF Polyiso with foil backing.  This means polyisocyanurate.  It has an R value of around 6.1.  There are other types, such as Styrofoam (Dow), which is blue, and nearly identical XPS (Owens Corning), which is pink.  These have an R5.  All Thermal Wall Sheathing in this article are rigid foam panels 1″ x 48″ x 96″.


This Architect likes T&G (Tongue and Groove), but as of today’s date, only the Dow and Owens Corning appear to offer that option.  And only the Polyiso panels offer a foil backing (GAF, Johns Manville), as far as this firm is aware.  


Shrinkage and Contraction: Building Science Corp. States what should be obvious: all building materials contract and expand based on the temperature around them.  That’s normal.  The panels may expand 1% to 2%.   If we accept 1%, then that means these panels could shrink and expand 1/2″ (horizontally) to 1″ (vertically), if the panels were initially installed at the midpoint of the temperature cycle.  This means that the T&G feature may turn out to be useless (unless all of the panels shrink and expand with each other (for which one could make a good logical case). 













And it becomes crucial to have installers use a chemically compatible flashing tape at the horizontal joints as Z flashing, starting over the face at the top of the panels (at the top of each course), over the top of the panels, then up the Structural Wall Sheathing.  If everything stays in place, the idea is that this Z flashing prevents water that comes into the wall from penetrating further past the Thermal Wall Sheathing (at the top and bottom).  If the panels shrink or expand, the idea and hope is that the flexible and sticky Z flashing remains in place, doing its job.


At vertical joints, on one particular project, the Architect is using foil tape vertically over the face of the panels.  Once again, the idea and hope is that if the panels shrink or expand, the tape will remain in place, keeping water out of the joints.

Now then, there may be some thought about whether or not the applied tapes will stay adhered to the foil backed polyiso panels.  Good question.  But it isn’t as if the tape is staying warm when the polyiso is cold, and vice versa.  In other words, the tape should be subject to the same shrinkage and contraction that the polyiso panels are experiencing.  So, it makes sense that the tape, whether the adhesive remains bonded to the panels or not, will likely remain in a position of water resistivity.  For instance, some builders might just use a few inch ribbon of polyethylene as the Z flashing, with no adhesive backing whatsoever.  And it will still shed water.  So, the added feature of high quality flashing tapes like ZipTape and foil tape should simply be added insurance over that homespun solution. 













The above is a logical evolution of the old-fashioned WRB (Water Resistive Barrier) nailed over the wood sheathing.  And the oldest is 15# asphaltic felt over the wood sheathing.  There’s really nothing wrong with that.  Asphalt impregnated felt works well.  And after that, came TyVek, which this Architect is not fond of: it can trap water behind it and doesn’t really seal much where nails and screws penetrate it.  But neither one of those incorporates CI (Continuous Insulation), which the exterior Thermal Wall Insulation does.  And this offers a distinct advantage over previous systems: better wall insulation, along with the water resistive barrier, which is also an air barrier (when taped).  The house becomes much tighter than ever before.

But then again, this latest combination of thermal insulation rigid foam panels with foil backing is water resistive (<1% water absorption), but doesn’t allow the wall to breathe /dry to the outside (because the perm rate is <0.3.  And that may not necessarily be an issue: as long as the interior of the wall system lets construction moisture to dry inward, there should be no problem.  Just never use polyethylene as the interior vapor barrier over the interior side of the studs.


BOTTOM LINE: this new system of continuous rigid foam polyiso with foil backing and taped joints (including Z flashing at head joints) is probably one of the most effective wall sheathing systems at the present, when overlaying standard OSB wall sheathing.   The foam panels should be installed vertically (so there are fewer Z flashing head joints) and all of the thermal wall panel joints should be offset from the wall sheathing joints (never on top of each other).  This will aide both in air blocking and water penetration resistance.   If this is all done properly, utility bills should be lower and comfort higher.


If you’ve been paying attention  you’re probably understanding this is all very technical and very important.  Contact an Architect that knows what’s he’s talking about.  Shaving hundreds or thousands of dollars a year off your utility bills might come in handy, along with keeping water out of your walls.






We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Architects

August 5th, 2018

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Architects is about how some people THINK they don’t need an Architect designing their house, UNTIL later, they pay a much greater price for problems down the road.

dirty secrets about custom house construction

(C)Copyright 2004, Home Architect, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.







Don’t kid yourself: construction of a house or any other building type, is a very complicated undertaking.  Construction is very heavy and consists of thousands of components connecting together.  And without the guidance of an Architect and the Architect’s documents, these components can be very different than what the owner of the house imagined, including how they are assembled.


Do you really think, that without architectural documents (specifications and working drawings), you’re going to get everything in your new house to somehow magically fit together perfectly and be of the best quality?  Think again.  Builders are Not in business to give away things for free.  Like higher quality components for which they did not price, when you were after their lower quote?  Or larger windows?  Or better insulation?  Or better design that orients on the best views?  They will Not give those to you later because they are “nice guys”.  Nice has nothing to do with it.  They have families to support, along with those of their subcontractors. 




Builders don’t research anything for you, normally.  They build and install the things your documents indicate.  Period.

Architects, on the other hand, Do research and try to get the best items to meet your goals, for a reasonable value, and work hard to design a floor plan, building section and elevations that incorporate and respond to your site views, your desired lifestyle and appearance. 















“I don’t know what Architects do.  I just thought Builders started construction something and things just sort of worked out to look the way they do.”
                   —————-  Some People


That is not reality.  Contractors do not just “start building and seen what happens.”  They have to build from approved documents submitted to the local Building Department.  And not just any documents will work well for your desired Lifestyle and your Land, and budget.  What HOME ARCHITECTS calls the “2 Ls”.  This takes a great deal of thought, effort and design skill.  And yes, you have to pay your Architect to create these documents for you.


People routinely pay their Real Estate Broker 10% for land buy/sell, 6% for home buy/sell.  So what’s the big deal paying an Architect 8% to 10% for their much more involved work to design the house?  Seems like a bargain.  And this website: is a public information website that provides good information about this subject.  Check it out.


When you have an Architect design your project, you get a much better design: one that works well for your land (slope, geology, views, privacy, vehicular maneuvering) and your Lifestyle is considered in the creation of the floor plans and other features to insure that the house is going to fit you and your family like a glove. 











Monster Timber Truss

July 31st, 2018

Monster Timber Truss is about this Architect’s large timber truss supporting the front half of the the house he has under construction. 

monster truss














This very large timber truss was custom designed by the Architectural firm: HOME ARCHITECTS ®.  It was fairly economical, creating this award-winning design feature, using smaller pressure treated timber members, and combining them together to form the large bottom chord, top chord and vertical and diagonal struts.  Also, creative use was made of economical special steel long screws to hold the majority of the assembly together, along with some galvanized threaded rod and conventional bolts.  It spans approximately 24′ and has some members almost 30′ long in its assembled components.   The above image will be updated with some others as the fabrication continues and is complete soon.

Monster Timber Truss


The Architecture firm enjoys designing features like this, to call attention to something unique and eye-catching on an otherwise laid-back and simple design.  This is the “logo element”, according to the Senior Staff Architect on the project.  This is intended to draw the eye and wow visitors with its Rambo-like muscularity in an otherwise peaceful composition. 














This is part of the skill of this firm and one of the reasons this project won an international residential design award recently: knowing where to economize and simplify and where to have a little bit of interest to spice up the composition.  This project is being construction for a construction cost about 67% of most projects in this part of the WNC mountains, a budgetary & design feat that required rigorous Value Engineering.


The CGI image above illustrates what the completed assembly will look like.

Below: the 2018 ArCHdes Residential Architectural Award for excellence from the global organization ArCH (Architects Creating Homes), received for the design of this project.





Architect Designs Value into Houses

July 15th, 2018

Architect Designs Value into Houses is about how this custom mountain house Architect designs in features and organization to meet & exceed their Clients’ needs, wants and dreams.

architect designs value into house










(continued below)
















Recently, several people toured an under construction house designed by HOME ARCHITECTS® Senior Staff Architect.  All visitors were delighted and amazed by the giant glass/ window areas (the size of a billboard), the spaciousness, the logical planning and placement of everything, the features and openness of the kitchen, pantry, master suite, loft level home office/bedroom and bunkroom, laundry room, outdoor porches, and 2-1/2 car garage. 


Along with this amazement of the magnificent design features and incredible mountain view, came some sadness.  Sad about what?  The visitors’ realization that the ready-built builders houses they bought and paid MORE for than this Architect’s house, had much smaller window areas, lower ceilings, cramped kitchens, smaller closets, no laundry rooms, smaller garages (if any), no pantry and overly compartmentalized lack of organization that is unresponsive to views.


So when people question the VALUE OF AN ARCHITECT in residential design, THIS is what that is all about.  YOU GET A BETTER DESIGN that allows you to live life more fully and enjoyably.  Not to mention with greater ease, more functionality and logic, along with lower maintenance.

But there’s more: the visitors to this wonderful house unfortunately have problems with their older, builder’s houses:

Rot (due to improper construction and no detailing)
Infiltration (due to bad construction practices).
Infestation of bugs, mice, squirrels (due to bad construction and no details or specs).
Lousy views, hindered by small windows and cluttered wall areas (due to bad design).

(continued below)













Water leaking into crawlspaces and basements (due to bad site design, bad waterproofing (or none) and inferior materials).
High maintenance (due to lack of specifications from no Architect during construction).
Leaking, high maintenance roofs (mold, rot, wind damage due to inferior products used by builder with no Architect).
Bad vehicular circulation, bad vehicular maneuvering (due to no Architect involvement).


So: Architect Designs Value into Houses is more than just about cool design concepts and appearance.
Good design has to do with designing the house structurally to allow for much larger glass areas to allow the owner to see their terrific mountain views.  This requires a Licensed Architect.
Good design also has carefully planned spacial organization for functional pedestrian traffic flow through the house.
Good design also incorporates materials, practices and systems that result in a more durable house with lower maintenance.
Good design requires Value Engineering, to remove things that are costly and unnecessary and replace them with smarter, more effective features that last longer.


In a nutshell, good design in your house buys you better organization, a feeling of more spaciousness, lower maintenance and huge mountain views.  You don’t get that from buying pre-existing builder houses, or even with new builder houses.  They don’t have that capability.  That’s why God made Architects and Builders.  Architects design, Builders build.  Use the strength in each profession to obtain the best possible house for you and your family.







tags: Architect Designs Value into Houses, Cashiers, Highlands, Sapphire, Hendersonville, Aspen, Sevierville, Glenville, Lake Toxaway, Asheville, timber frame, post and beam






Toilet Selection by Architects

July 4th, 2018

Toilet Selection by Architects is about how this architectural firm went about selecting the best toilet for their own new house, under construction.

KOHLER Santa Rosa White WaterSense Labeled  Elongated Chair Height 1-piece Toilet 12-in Rough-In Size

Image courtesy of Kohler

Trying to select the best toilet for your new house or renovation?  Either way, you’re about to discover a enormous amount of choices.  Probably as many as there are vehicles to choose from globally.  Hundreds, if not thousands of optional models and brands and features. 












Who would have thought that?  If you think there might be 10 or 20 main brands and models to choose from think again: hundreds and hundreds.



And the rationale behind choosing your toilet? 
Some the same as for a vehicle:
–  Style/Appearance (for you sports car enthusiasts out there)
–  Flushing capability
–  Cleanliness
–  Durability (least maintenance)
–  Retro Rockets ( just kidding: although some people are installing night lights into toilets these days)
–  Easy and quick to install for Plumbers (= saved consumer cash)
–  Easy and simple to maintain (changing economical parts when required/DIY)
–  Chair Height (17″ to 19″ = ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)= more comfortable height, unless you are under 5′ tall)
–  Slow close seat (so it doesn’t slam: this is fast becoming a standard mainstream feature)
–  1 piece or 2 piece (as in: integrated water tank or separate).
–  Special coatings for enhanced cleanliness
–  Old school ball and flapper or New Aqua-Piston, compressed air, or other methods of internal components
–  Water volume consumption (G/flush).  the old 3.5g probably isn’t available anymore.  These days, more common are: 1.28 to 1.6 g/flush
–  Elongated bowl/seat vrs round (can’t imagine why anyone would not want elongated)
–  Skirted sides vrs open sides
–  Complete toilet kit in a box vrs no seat and you buy the other items
–  Seat hold-tight vrs old fashion slip-around seat













–  Easily removable seat for cleaning vrs old school nuts & bolts for removal
–  The above are most of the mainstream features and does Not include the super high-end features of $1,000 to $6,000 toilets with electronic bum-washing/drying, lighting (no kidding), heated seat, automatic seat cover open upon approach and other features nearly equaling a new Corvette. 



At some point, you make an agreement with yourself to not consider toilets over say $400 or $300 or $1,000 or $125 and that sets the stage for your choices.  It comes down to your budget.  So before you get misty-eyed about wanting your toilet lid to spring up and salute you upon your midnight arrival, and turn on a night light inside the toilet and heat the seat, think again about what you want to do with your available funds regarding your house and ask yourself if this is where you want to apply your resources.  If you really want to, you can end up spending more than what a new car used to sell for.  Not kidding.  This Architect, buying for his own new house that he designed, set a budget for the toilets of up to $350 (while preferring under $300).  Also, he wanted all of them to be exactly the same, so that any replacement parts could fit in all of them and so that his learning curve on any DIY parts would be limited.


Sales: watch the big box stores for your chosen toilet(s).  You can often find some really good deals on Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and other holidays that Lowes, Home Depot and other vendors recognize as marketing tools to encourage more sales volume.













Weight: be careful to have your purchased toilets delivered exactly to the place where they are going to be installed.  For instance, if you’re having a new house built and want to buy various items on sale and store them somewhere else until needed at the new house under construction, just remember that a toilet in a box can weigh between 76 pounds to over 109 pounds.  That’s heavy.  And you could hurt yourself trying to move that around by yourself.  Better to have heavy items delivered to the address where they need to be installed and have 2 or 3 big laborers around (on your tab) to pick up the items and take them into the house and place them where the Plumber is going to need to install it/them.  


Schedule: But don’t have ceramic items like toilets delivered to a house that is exposed to the weather and is still having operations that could damage the toilets.  It would be best to wait until the house is just about ready for the Plumber to install the toilets.




The choices can be dizzying.  And confusing.  And to complicate matters, there are dozens of reviews for many of the toilets you are considering.  So: if the experiences of other people whom have bought, installed and are using the toilet matter to you, there’s more to investigate, evaluate and place some sort of choice “weight” factor.
Something to consider: probably 95% of all toilet purchases (and really, just about anything people buy) are going to have a few negative reviews. 












Does that mean that the product as it is being manufactured today should not be trusted?  Not sure.  But if you adopt that stance, you will probably never find any toilet that has all 5* reviews from all buyers.  Probably doesn’t exist.  Because sometimes products are lemons with defects, and/or there are some people that are cranky old poops whom will never be 100% pleased with anything, including a toilet. 

So here’s a thought: if there are dozens or hundreds of good reviews and just a few negative reviews (and those negative reviews tend to be from several years ago), you may want to consider the product as generally being liked by the majority of buyers.  While this doesn’t mean that you won’t find something about your purchase that you won’t like, it does tend to favor the odds that you may enjoy your item most of the time.

If one reviewer from 4 years ago says his toilet flushing mechanism exploded and nearly killed him, you might want to consider if that has a realistic chance of happening today.  Or you might not want to buy that kind of toilet.  Very few such toilets exist, anyway.  But at some point you need to make your own decision as to whether or not the chances of such things happening to you are realistic.



A toilet gets a lot of use, on a daily basis, forever.  The chances of something going wrong at some point, are rather high.  And ordering and having heavy ceramic devices like toilets, which can result in breakage is certainly a possibility.  With these things in mind, our Architect decided to Not buy any toilets online/mail order.  Instead, he opted to buy his toilets, with a physical bricks and mortar big box store (but with an online ordering option), through a local store outlet, having their Internet sales specialist help him, and have the items delivered to his under construction house.

The idea of this method: if, after being delivered, any defects were discovered, the Architect reasoned that it would be far easier to return these heavy toilets to his local big box store rather than trying to package them back to a strictly online source (not to mention the postage/shipping charge). And he had no desire to spend dozens of hours on the phone trying to get some online source to agree to accept a return for a refund or replacement.  The Architect has a record of having spent tens of thousands of dollars at the local big box store and personally knows the store manager, Internet Sale Rep and others in that store.  He requested the ability to return damaged delivered goods running through their brand directly to their store and they agreed.  Therefore, buying fragile and heavy items like toilets through them seemed wise (same thing with his appliance purchases). 



The actual toilets considered came down to about half a dozen or so.
The Architect only wanted major toilet manufacturers with a long, continuous positive track record.  He believed these included: Kohler, American Standard, Toto, for his purposes.

With that narrowed field of manufacturers, the desired main options were:
–  Chair height (17″-19″ seat height.
–  Elongated seat/bowl.
–  White (none of the other fixtures in the bathrooms had any ceramic colors, and a color adds a lot of cost).
–  Outstanding flushing performance.
–  Attractive design (one-piece units often fall under this category).
–  Slow-Close seat.
–  Cleanliness.
–  Technology in the tank for flushing that was dependable, simple, and more effective.
–  Complete toilet kit in a box (nothing extra to buy like a seat).
–  1.28 to 1.6 g/flush for lower water consumption.
–  Possibly easy to click-on and click-off toilet seat (for ease of cleaning).
–  Seat non-movement features.
–  Preferably under $350 or so (note prices were as of date of publishing this post and will not doubt change over time, so verify).


The contenders were:


Jacuzzi Primo
from Lowes
one-piece and met many of the above requirements, except not one of the main 3 manufacturers indicated and likely old-school flapper technology (couldn’t confirm), and some reviews mentioned needing to flush multiple times to remove solid waste stains.  But its an attractive toilet.  Looks a lot like the Kohler Santa Rosa (but with less advanced technology).
91% recommendation from reviews.


American Standard Clean
from Lowes or Home Depot (with skirts)
A very handsome toilet, with solid side skirts.  Dual flush option at top middle of tank.  Some of the lower reviews complained about flush performance. 
71% recommendation from reviewers.


American Standard ActiClean
from Lowes
More a typical looking toilet, but had auto-feed features of prepackaged cleaning chemicals from tank.  Interesting concept.  However, cost of modular cleaning supplies over decades became a consideration.  Some reviewers questioned the cost and whether the cleaning solution coming from the tank was any better than occasionally taking a scrub brush to the bowl.  Does have interesting VorMax cleaning technology for improved water direction and velocity. 
74% recommendation from reviewers.


Kohler Persuade
from Lowes
Very attractive contemporary designed toilet.  Like this a lot.  Some reviewers said unit didn’t mount level (not sure this is fault of maker or installer or floor).
64%  recommendation from reviewers.  This lower level of reviewer score concerned our Architect. Appeared to be equal or more lower review scores than upper.


American Standard Champion 4
Lowes/Home Depot
Architect felt this was a fairly ordinary looking toilet. Some lower reviews talk about leaking (assume from inside tank).  Some reviews are top notch. Others question flushing ability.  Appeared to have a specialized flush valve. 
70% recommendation from reviewers.


Designer toilets from far away Internet
For about a week, the Architect considered $500 fabulous looking designer toilets from a place in Florida, but didn’t recognize any major manufacturers and specification information was lacking.  While the styles where amazing, many of the reviews of this provider where rock-bottom, saying the toilets were poorly made, leaked and had all sorts of problems.  While flirting with these for a while because of their high-end appearance, the Architect finally let them go from consideration due to reviewers negative comments.  Don’t buy style just to end up replacing them with more conventional dependable units.


Kohler Santa Rosa
Also: an additional $25 rebate is in effect (as of date of publishing this post), and Lowes offers 5% off when buying with a Lowes credit card.  So: likely $276 and perhaps another 5% less. 
At present, a lower price than Home Depot (but this can vary).  Also, the model# 98993-0 was indicated by a Kohler rep to include everything, which the HD model 3810 did not (and the price was higher).  So as of this date, the Lowes all-in-one box provides the better deal (but check for the latest pricing).
Attractive one-piece modern design. 
This is a mid-range Kohler, with upper end Kohler flushing technology, the AquaPiston, an exclusive Kohler engineered feature . This is on sale and the Architect believes he has seen pricing for this toilet significantly higher.
This technology has been out there in action for several years.  It is still being used.  There are YouTube videos indicating how to change out the $7 flexible seal at the bottom of the moving cartridge piston.  Appears to work well for a good cleaning flush, and with only 1.28 g/flush.  Has many of the other desired features, but does not appear to have a special super-clean coating other than the normal ceramic.  Has space saving design that provides an elongated bowl in the same space as a round bowl, which means more room in the bathrooms.  Everything included in the box.
Consumer Reports from 2017 indicates this toilet in the Top 5 of 48 toilets reviewed and The #1 Top one-piece toilet of all of them. This counts for a lot.
85% recommendation from reviewers.



The Architect decided on the:
Kohler Santa Rosa (unit depicted at top of this page)

Deciding factors:
–  Available via Internet, through local big box store, where returns are possible locally.
–  Price reasonable and on sale for mid-range Kohler unit.
–  Meets most of the desired features.
–  Advanced flushing technology, with ability to DIY change seal once in a while.
–  Confidence in high-end main stream toilet manufacturer.
–  High recommendation rate % from reviewers.
–  Lower water usage for better flush performance.
–  Attractive one-piece unit for better aesthetics and cleanliness.
–  Top Consumer Reports #1 one-piece toilet.  In the top 5 out of 48 toilets reviewed.

Now it’s your turn to select yours! 

Or, you can ask your Architect to pick it.  It’s a big decision that you will live with for decades. 








tags: toilet selection by Architects, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Glenville, Hendersonville, post and beam, timber frame