LED Lighting: what you should know

May 31st, 2018

LED Lighting: what you should know is about this Architect’s approach to LED lighting.  This Architect believes it only makes sense to use fixtures that allow Clients to replace the lamps (“bulbs”).

Photo taken of new LED light fixture WITH replaceable LED lamps, as selected by HA Senior Staff Architect for his own new house, now under construction.


While the above statement probably sounds obvious to most people, there’s a huge war going on right now in the lighting industry.  A war being waged against the consumer.












And most likely 99.9% of consumers don’t even know it, especially when they’re standing in the lighting aisle of a Lowes or Home Depot, selecting light fixtures for their house.


What are we talking about?



Whether you know it or not, there are many LED light fixtures these days that are using “Integral” LED lamps (bulbs).  And they are often accompanied by hype comments online and on the box that says/reads: ” NEVER HAVE TO REPLACE BULBS”.  That’s bound to confuse people, and it should.  What this scam means: “YOU CANNOT CHANGE THE BULBS, BECAUSE THEY ARE BUILT-INTO AND ARE A FIXED PART OF THE LIGHT FIXTURE, WHICH MEANS: WHEN ANY LAMP (bulb) BURNS OUT (and it will, eventually), YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO PAY YOUR ELECTRICIAN OVER $200 TO REPLACE THE ENTIRE FIXTURE.”


Do you understand that?  It means that many, if not most newer LED light fixtures don’t allow you to change out the bulbs (lamps).  Rather, the LED lamp part that generates the light CANNOT ever be removed (as in unscrewed).  The entire light fixture will have to be trashed.  And unless you enjoy taking your life in your hands to remove an entire light fixture., including detaching the wiring, then replacing it with a brand new light fixture, you’re likely going to want to pay a licensed Electrician to do that for you.  And they probably are going to charge you a minimum of $75 just to appear on your doorstep.


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Then another $100 to $125 to replace the light fixture, however it could be more, if you don’t have a replacement light fixture and your Electrician has to first diagnose what has happened, then have to go somewhere to buy a new light fixture, then return for a 2nd trip to your house, then replace the fixture.  Okay, so that’s 2 trips at perhaps $75 each, the time and mileage to buy a new fixture, then replace it.  Probably at least $200 and it could be double that, by the time they’re done.


Are you starting to understand how silly the entire idea of “integrating” LED lamps into a light fixture, essentially, making it impossible to change the bulbs when they one day burn out?  Some folks will probably call that “stupid engineering.”  Purposely designing light fixtures so that you have to replace the entire fixture rather than just replacing a burned out lamp (bulb).


If we didn’t know better, this concept sounds like collusion between some Electricians and some light fixture manufacturers: guaranteeing that both businesses will reap huge incomes due to fixtures burning out in the future, because consumers can’t simply unscrew the old bulb and screw in a new one, for much less than the cost of the new entire light fixture (especially when you include the cost of the Electrician).


And we’re going to bet that No One reading this online article was aware of this new practice in the engineering and sale of LED light fixtures until you read this article. It was news to us as well.  And it both shocked and angered us.  What a silly way to design a light fixture! 
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Our firm actually had a conversation with a manufacturer of these so-called “integrated LED fixtures.”  Their main reason for making them is because they “look cool.”  Now don’t get us wrong: we’re all about attractive design.  We’ve won 10 architectural design awards in the last 3 years.  However, when attractive design gets in the way of functional replacement, we’re going to always go with FUNCTION.  It is a downright STUPID idea to make light fixtures that CAN’T have their lamps (bulbs) change when they burn out, forcing you to change then entire fixture.


And while we love LEDs, because they consume less energy and do last longer that any other mass-market lamp on the market today, THEY DO NOT LAST FOREVER.  And in our personal experience, they don’t last anywhere near the claimed 22,000 hours of operation.  During the last 7 years, we have replaced at least 3 or 4 LED A19 lamps in one house and we installed them ourselves.  Those fixtures probably burn for let’s say 3 hours a day x 365 days x 7 years = 7,665 hours.  In other words, that is a good long time, but nowhere near the manufacturer claims, and I’ll bet that 100% of people not being able to simply change out a bulb, even after 7 years would be very angry to discover that they had so-called “integrated” LEDs and could not change the burned out lamps and had to not only buy a new entire fixture, but also pay an Electrician to replace it!  We certainly would be.   But we didn’t make that mistake.  Nor are we with our latest projects, including the house for our Senior Staff Architect. 

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But this took some long and hard searching on the Internet to find NON-integrated LED light fixtures, including for track lights.  In the case of track lights, it was pretty near impossible.  We succeeded.  But it felt like we were searching for a needle in a haystack.  There’s a key to this:



In our case, we decided on the GU10 M16 lamps for our track lights.  The GU10 refers to the 10 mm spacing between the electrical pins at the power end of the lamp.  The MR16 refers to the general shape and size, which is compact.  It is NOT low voltage and we recommend you stick with “line voltage” type lamps, so you don’t need any special transformers on your job to convert line voltage (120v) down to 12v or other lesser power.  Here’s the GU10 MR16 lamps that came with the Global 3-lamp track lights we purchased for our new house project (120v):

This illustrates something not many people understand: LED lamps (bulbs) come in many of the same sizes as ordinary bulbs (lamps).  There’s the medium Edison screw-in base (A19 ), which is what the old incandescent bulbs have been and there is an LED that looks about the same and is the same size, but is an LED.  The GU10 LED pictured above is based on the old Halogen MR16 with 10mm distance between its screw-in legs.  Below, you can see the screw-in posts:

This LED will typically fit into any light fixture that the old MR16 GU10 halogen will (unless there’s something unusual about the halogen fixture, like an odd depth).  The best GU10 fixture has a variable depth arrangement that lets you adjust the depth of the space for the lamp.

This is the lamp used in the new gimbal-ring track lights, selected for their industrial style.  However, the most important thing here is this: LED LAMPS (bulbs) COME IN MANY SIZES AND SHAPES, MATCHING PREVIOUS LAMPS, like Par20, Par30, A19, GU10 and others.


This information should lead you to search for  fixtures with the lamp size and type, so you can be assured that you can change-out the lamps after they burn out.  If you simply look for LED fixtures, most of what you find may be Integral LEDs, which to us, has become a dirty word.  You want to be able to replace burned out lamps with new ones.  And LEDs are the logical choice, because they use only a fraction of the wattage of incandescent and even CFLs.

In the photo above, most people might even think that’s an MR16 Halogen lamp.  No, it’s not.  It’s an LED.  And while it generates 50w equivalent of light (520 Lumens), it only consumes 6.5 watts of power. And with 3 lamps on each track light, that’s over 1,500 Lumens (over 150w equivalent incandescent of light).  It is also EnergyStar rated.  The manufacturer (Global) claims 22.8 years of life, based on 3 hours of use per day.  We hope that happens.  But if the approximately 6 to 7 years we’ve experienced in the past with LEDs happens, we’re okay with removing the burned out lamps and replacing them with new ones.


Why all the fuss about LEDs and why not just use the A19 Edison screw-in base type that will fit into any incandescent fixture.  You can!  Go right ahead, if you’d like to do so.  However, the new compact light fixtures that use lamps like the GU10 do have a more striking appearance and tend to be a bit less obtrusive.


Now then, some people can be intimidated by how to changeout a GU10 lamp (LED or halogen).  We were able to figure this out in about 5 minutes with the new Global gimbal ring fixtures:

Here’s the empty gimbal ring:


Now you take a Phillips Head screwdriver and loosen the screws holding the lampholder part of the fixture to the yoke:

It unfortunately is not as easy as simply screwing in the lamp like with an Edison A19 lamp.  But it’s not the end of the world, either.  You loosen those 2 screws and slide the lampholder down and off the 2 legs, then you can hold the free lampholder in your hand:

See the 2 holes made for the 2 posts from the MR16 lamp?

You insert the G10-MR16 LED lamp into those, then rotate it until it stops, which is only about a 1/4 turn:

Now you slide the lampholder back onto the 2 legs.  You are installing the lamp into the fixture from rear of the fixture.  That’s how this fixture is intended to work:

You slide the lampholder up until it hits the detent ring inside the gimbal ring:

Then you tighten the screws you loosened in the first place to secure it into place.  Then you can loosen the screws on the yoke a little to allow you to swivel the light in various directions, and rotate the base to move the light around. 




To summarize: yes, the new LED compact fixtures look great.  Just be sure you’re getting a replacement type of fixture, not the “integral” LED type. 

Here’s a type of “integral” LED fixture type:

Not all are as tell-tale as this one, which is recognizable by its rectangular with rounded-corners image:

Each of the above integral LED lamps is totally customized by the fixture manufacturer.  Most like this are fixed and permanent and cannot be replaced.  The entire fixture must be replaced, if you want to replace any of the burned-out lamps.  There are other integral LED track lights and other fixture types not so recognizable as this one. Read the specifications carefully.  If you’re in a store, ask a salesperson to show you how to change out the lamps.  If they can’t figure it out, chances are you can’t and it is integral.  Recommend not buying that type. 











tag: LED lighting, post and beam, timber frame, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Glenville, Sevierville, Tahoe, Aspen, Hendersonville, Asheville








Architects Save You Construction Costs

May 24th, 2018

When a wannabe new house owner decides to not use an Architect or to cheapen his Architect’s fees, he is cheating himself or herself.  That person might be congratulating themselves thinking they saved several thousand dollars.  However, this is being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

clicking on the image above will call up a related article on Fixed price versus Cost Plus contracts with Contractors.












What does this mean?  Well, here’s the real world deal: If you do not have your Architect create very detailed CDs (Construction Documents), you’re never going to get a General Contractor (GC) to build your new house on a Fixed Price basis.  They will only go Cost Plus. 


Cost Plus is where the Contractor charges whatever it costs him to pay all his material suppliers and subcontractors, with no guarantees as to total cost, Plus a typically large profit piled onto that.  With you picking up the tab.


Now you might be saying: “Yeah, so what?”




How could this possibly be true?


Here’s how:  If you would pay your Architect to create a great design, with thoroughly detailed documents, there might be a Contractor willing to do the project on a Fixed Price basis.  Why is that?  Because Cost Plus Contractors’ classic statement is: “There’s not enough detail, with too many unknowns, so I have to go Cost Plus and it will cost whatever it ends up costing.”  But an honest Fixed Price Contractor should not mind giving a fixed quote to build your house, because a well-detailed set of Architectural Documents takes most of the unknowns out of the equation.














Are you starting to understand this?  Some Contractors DON’T want detailed Architect documents so they can go Cost Plus.  In Cost Plus arrangements, they have no skin in the game.  Whatever they let their subs and suppliers charge them, plus often another 20% on top of that.  As a matter of fact, the more their subs charge them, the more the Contactor makes.  Understand the math there?  If the amount the GC bases their profit on is higher, they make more.  For instance: if your house costs $1,000,000 instead of $500,000 the Contractor’s profit on the million dollar house is 20% x $1M= $200,000.  In other words: $200,000 of pure profit.


Now then if your project had cost $500,000 then 20% x $500k = $100,000.  In other words, half of the larger number.  Starting to get it?


Anything you can do to induce a Contractor to go Fixed Price is going to work out better for you, from any honest Contractor.  What is meant by that?  Because here’s what Cost Plus GCs will say and probably do if compelled to give a fixed price: they will calculate the cost of the job, with their 20% profit, then throw another 20% profit on top of that.  We have heard Cost Plus GCs tell us that’s what they would do.


What you want: honest Contractors who will do the work involved to obtain honest quotes from multiple sub contractors and material suppliers, BASED ON ACTUAL, DETAILED PROPER ARCHITECTURAL DOCUMENTS, with a reasonable profit margin.  If they have no unknowns, they should be able to figure the real price.














If you’re a shrewd Cost Plus GC reading this, you’re going to say: “What about possible increases in material prices during the course of a project?”  Okay, how about adding a clause in the contract that fixes the material costs for 3 months, then allows an escalation OR a reduction if costs change by more than 10%?  There could be a baseline of costs agreed to for typical things, from a public source, like Home Depot or Lowes, for the price of a 2x4x8 and several other things, monitored month by month.


So: as in the beginning: don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.  What is meant by this: if you try to coerce your Architect to only do skimpy work, you’re thinking you saved several thousand dollars.  Whoopee.  What you’re not understanding is that you just forced the SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of the construction cost of your house to become probably up to 33% MORE, due to a Contractor saying they have to go Cost-Plus with you “due to all the unknowns.”  Which gives the Contractor the opportunity to pretty much do whatever they want and charge you whatever they want.  All because you thought you were being shrewd, hammering your Architect to only do skimpy drawings.


If you had only compensated your Architect fairly to produce a detailed set of documents, perhaps your Architect could have helped you find an honest Fixed Price Contractor to provide you with a price perhaps about 67% of what you may end up paying your Cost Plus GC.  These numbers will of course vary based on your specific location, available contractors and other factors. 

Note: the above is not fiction.  It is based on real world experiences involving a Senior Staff member of this Architect, during the course of bidding, pricing, negotiating and building his own custom house project.









But what do we know?  We’ve only been designing custom homes for the last 52 years and helping Clients save big money on the construction end, when we are allowed to do so.  The information for the article above came from real-world experiences of the Senior Staff Architect at this Architect firm during the bidding, pricing, negotiation and construction of his family’s own new house, now under construction.  The above is Not fiction; it is real. He was quoted numbers of upwards of $200 to $250/SF for his house from Cost Plus Contractors and he ended up signing a contract with a Fixed Price contractor for $166/HSF (when you include the owner’s own separate costs, added to the tasks of the GC).  So: the savings from having detailed architectural documents combined with an honest Fixed Price GC makes for substantial savings. 


And you know something else?  There’s a huge bonus: you get a nice Architect- designed house custom tailored to your family’s Lifestyle and Land. Which is something most non-Architects aren’t well-equipped to provide.  And with an Architect design, you often receive details and specifications that provide better details and material usage to result in more water-tight construction, greater durability, better energy efficiency (for lower power bills) and larger glass areas facing your beloved views.  Non-licensed people are not as capable at doing this as a licensed Architect who specializes in the design of custom houses. Especially an award-winning firm like HOME ARCHITECTS ®.








cashiers, lake toxaway, glenville, Sapphire, highlands, tahoe, Sevierville, Hendersonville, Asheville, post and beam, timber frame

Deck Flashing

May 9th, 2018

Deck Flashing is about how this Architect flashes the decks of their projects to result in better protection.

This is one of those online technical articles sure to make most people yawn.  Unless you recently had a party on your deck and had it collapse, injuring your family and friends.  To see the reality of this issue, just go on YouTube and Google the term: deck collapse.  There you will see many examples of improperly built decks that have fallen.  Some with people on them.  People can die.  And the root cause can often be the deck edge flashing (or lack thereof), where the deck attaches to the main structure of a house (or other building).

All photos © Copyright 2018, Home Architect, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.






Protection from what? 
2 things:
1. rain water. 
2. corrosion.

These are both critical issues and each is handled in a different manner.

To successfully keep out rain water from the house or building is critical.  To ignore this or handle it unprofessionally will likely end up in disaster, either physically, in terms of a structural collapse, or in terms or rotting and mold damage to the deck and main building structure.

So what’s the best way to do this?  Building code doesn’t show you how.   And whatever information is less than adequately detailed.  It takes an experienced Architect who has learned how to solve this problem over decades of real world experience.

There are 2 water penetration situations that must be solved for a successful deck flashing detail.  One of them, is: you need to have a tall vertical flashing between the rough framing structure of the house (or building) and the deck nailer board.  The deck nailer board is the PT (Pressure Treated) wood 2×10 or 2×12 (or whatever size) continuous board up against the main house to which the deck joists are connected.  This nailer board has to be fastened in a permanent and waterproof manner.  While code and certain manufacturers claim that there are now long screws that can be used (that are probably well-tested and approved), this particular Architect prefers using thick bolts that penetrate through the nailer board and a double PT rim board that sits on the sill plate of the foundation wall.  Thinner connectors could possibly corrode over time and this architectural firm wonders if the structural integrity of thinner fasteners over decades could be compromised.  During a discussion about PT chemicals (below) you will soon discover why.














So: you need a tall flashing between the nailer board and the rim board of the house.  Code is specific about one thing: you may NOT have any sheathing or siding between the nailer board and the rough framing of the house.  However, in certain circumstances they may allow structural sheathing, but this firm typically doesn’t detail in this manner, because they have witnessed crumbling of OSB sheathing over the course of decades, at the bottom, which is exactly where it would be in a deck detail.  So here we are connecting the nailer board to the structural frame of the house.










Having said that, this firm first has a peel and stick waterproof synthetic membrane installed over the face of the rim boards, down to the break in the termite flashing and up over the top edge of the subfloor sheathing.  Any water trying to penetrate the joint between the deck nailer board and the main house framing will have to get through the peel and stick membrane.  Such membranes are often 40 mils and extremely sticky and great at keeping out water.  This is the last and best line of water penetration defense and it’s relatively economical in terms of cost, and easy to install.  Anyone Not doing this is missing a real bargain in terms of cheap and easy water protection.  And yet: most Builders don’t do this!  Which is why this Architect insists on it in their specifications and details: to help their Clients obtain more durable custom homes. 

If you look at the top of the photo above, you can  see the black peel and stick membrane, to the right, securely adhered to the subfloor.




Over the face of the peel and stick membrane, you really should have a layer of more rigid protection like metal or durable plastic.  You don’t want any UV (Ultra-Violet) sun rays beating down on synthetic membranes.  UV will crack them over just a few months, making them fairly useless.  They must be covered.      (continued below)













The vertical deck nailer board will cover them, however, you also need a bottom edge flashing drip edge (usually formed at a 45* angle sloped down and out) and perhaps a couple of inches long, to cover the top of the various layers of wall sheathing, possible thermal sheathing, siding water barrier membrane and finally the exposed wall cladding. 


The peel and stick really isn’t suitable to handle the bridging between these various elements and would crack over just a few weeks, look very ugly in terms of edge detail and also could fail wherever UV manages to hit it.


Therefore, for this and other practical reasons, some type of metal is typically used as the vertical tall metal flashing between the deck nailer board and the peel and stick membrane over the house frame structure.  The metal serves as a permanent and rigid barrier between the outside world (rain) and the interior house structure.  It should have a very tall vertical leg (that goes behind the deck nailer board and above it, to the top of the main house subfloor).  At the point below the deck floor framing, perhaps an inch or so under the nailer board, a bend should be made, as discussed above, about 2″ long and at a 45* angle down and out to cover the top of the various wall siding materials.  The outer edge of this metal should be hemmed. 


Hemming metal flashing is very important: 1.) it makes the metal twice as strong and creates a crisp, straight edge that look better, 2.) the hem edge provide a consistent drip edge for rain coming down, and 3.) helps prevent workers from seriously cutting themselves on an otherwise razor sharp metal edge.   Also, this firm specifies that the rear of the deck nailer be covered with an exterior grade sealant just before attaching to the wall (over the vertical flashing), as this will inhibit the ability of rain water to be able to run behind the board, seeking avenues of penetration through nail and bolt holes.


But wait a minute: there’s an open gap at the top of this metal flashing piece, up there level with the subfloor sheathing.  What happens there?  Good question. Which brings us to the next crucial flashing type:




The top of the vertical deck nailer flashing and the conditions under doors at  decks must be contained and flashed to successfully keep water from penetrating the structure.  Water is unforgiving and will try to get into a house and building wherever it can. Sort of like a sneaky vandal, intent on damaging your house.


Therefore, at the deck offset where the deck nailer board and deck joists are a little lower in height down from your main subfloor level, you’re going to want to install a very special “Z” flashing, so named, because it kind of resembles that letter of the alphabet in its profile shape.  You can see this firm’s trademarked “Z” flashing clearly in the photo above.  However, this architectural firm goes one better: they also indicate a vertical rain drip hemmed edge that turns down into a sawcut right into the top of the deck floor joists themselves for about 3/8″ high.  Otherwise, the surface tension of rain water would simply turn under the horizontal outer leg of the “Z” flashing and run horizontally under the flashing, depositing the rain water at the worst possible location: the joint where the vertical flashing meets the deck nailer board, testing that joist with every rainfall.  How much better, to make sure the water safely drips down at the “Z” flashing’s outer edge.  That’s a great idea!  As the late, great Architect Mies van der Rohe said: “God is in the details.”


Now, you want to have a vertical bend in the “Z” flashing, taking the metal up to just above the top of the main house subflooring (actually just above the horizontal portion of the peel and stick membrane), and inward for a few inches.



And so: you now have a double flashing solution:
1.   Vertical flashing.
2.  “Z” counter top flashing.

Together, they form a great barrier, in terms of physical geometry, to keeping water out.


Now the next issue:
Nothing is simple, it seems, especially in terms of construction details.  There’s always something remaining that can cause problems, if not dealt with before the actual construction begins.  Hence: Architects of custom houses.


Okay then: the building code (IRC and it’s various amended versions in all of the 50 states and also in some other countries) simply says: “Corrosion resistant flashing” must be used.  They also outlaw aluminum.
Really?  But various roofing and other material supply stores only sell aluminum and “galvalume” for use as flashings in conditions exactly like this.
Okay, so what’s the problem?


Here’s the problem: during the last several years, according to the US EPA, one of the most popular PT (Pressure Treated) wood preservatives is ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternay) and Copper Azole and other copper particle treatments.  You can’t really see the copper, but there are microscopic copper particles pushed into the wood, to render it less susceptible to mold and rot and less tasty to bugs.


So what?  Well, copper is aggressively electrolytic with aluminum, galvanized steel and several other metals.  In other words, the copper particles in the PT wood (deck nailer board and deck joists) can and will chemically react with aluminum flashing, galvanized coatings on steel and other materials, which makes the use of aluminum flashing not only not wise, but forbidden by the Building Code.  And so what do you use?  You could consider using galvanized steel, but electrolytic tables clearly spell out that bare galvanized metal will suffer (corrode) when even rain water draining down from copper containing materials (like today’s PT wood) slide over them.


So what to do?  You could consider using painted galvanized steel.  Good luck finding coil stock of galvanized steel factory painted.  So you can buy coil stock galvanized steel, then bend it into shapes with a field sheet metal brake, then spray paint it with Rust-O-Leum gloss enamel paint.  That should work for a while, with the paint coating helping to protect the galvanized steel.  But for how long?


So what now?  How about this: consider using a 16 gauge copper roll stock for the metal flashing material, bent in a field sheet metal brake, THEN ALSO PAINTED (both sides) with a gloss rust-inhibitive enamel paint? What would that do?  Well, one may assume that the copper in the PT wood, would probably be unlikely to attack the copper flashing.  And the paint over both sides of the copper should help protect it and also perhaps reduce the ions draining off and damaging other materials below it.


What other materials below it? Well, how about the Simpson galvanized steel connectors everyone uses to fasten the floor joists to the deck nailer boards?  And while we’re on that subject, you’d think that this billion dollar company would do something to improve it’s coating technology to help its fastener metal from becoming corroded from the copper in the PT wood, wouldn’t you?  This architectural firm has not heard anything about such precautions.  So the entire world is using metal connectors that will likely become corroded over the years, because of the electrolytic incompatibility.  Good grief?  What to do?


How about this: why not call for every single galvanized steel connector used outside to be painted, completely (all surfaces of each connector type) with a spray paint coating (2 coats at least) of rust-inhibitive enamel.  Surely, that would help resist corrosion.  So if the copper flashing is painted and the galvanized steel support connectors are painted, the only other culprit emitting copper ions would be the floor joists, nailer boards and decking.  So how about we call for those to be painted also?  And if not with actual “paint” (which requires grueling sanding and repainting periodically), how about solid stain?  Anything to help contain the copper particles coming from it. One wishes that Simpson and other large companies making the galvanized steel connectors would start offering special UV resistant plastic coated connectors to protect them from the copper particles of the wood they fasten together. Hopefully they will read this online article and invent a new product.



And so, as Paul Harvey used to say: Now you know the rest of the story.


This architectural firm is now implementing all of the above procedures into its details and specifications in an effort to resist both rain water penetration and to resist corrosion.











mountain, timber frame, post and beam, deck flashing, cashiers, highlands, glenville, sapphire, sevierville, tennessee, hendersonville, asheville


Construction Fixed Price vrs Cost Plus

April 17th, 2018

Construction Fixed Price vrs Cost Plus is about this Architectural firm’s perceptions of Contractor Construction contracts and how one is probably much better for you than the other.

why Architect should design your house

One of HOME ARCHITECTS successfully designed & managed projects, (C)Copyright 2017 Home Architect, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.













If you are a millionaire, retired school teacher, law enforcement officer, or a billionaire, the words this Architect has never heard with legitimate clients are: “Money’s no object.” In other words: everyone wants a good deal.  A good value.  Not cheap.  Value.  Good and durable materials installed properly. 


Well, when you pay a Contractor with his preferred method of contract, he’s always going to want you to pay him with a COST PLUS contract.  Do  you know what that is?  That’s where he pays his subcontractors and material providers whatever they ask for (no matter how much they want), then your GC (General Contractor) piles on another 10%, 20% or more (that could be his secret), then socks it to you with whopping invoices.  This is one of the best kept and dirtiest secrets of the custom home construction business.  Essentially, you pay your Contractor whatever he says you owe him.  Does he/she really care how much his/her subcontractors charge?  Not really, or actually, the more the better for them, because they will tack on a hefty percentage of whatever they get charged, then pass the entire amount on to you.  You get stuck with the big bill.


Now, you’re thinking: “Hey, that’s not fair!”  But you know what, there may be collusion going on in some areas.  Collusion is where there is a spoken conspiracy or even unspoken knowledge about certain practices in a given geographic region, wherein many of the providers collude (or discuss and agree) on certain practices that inhibit fair trade.  This is typically hard, if not impossible to prove, as discovering evidence of such agreements and discussions is nearly impossible.  But the actions of many of the providers become painfully obvious, when you may be searching for a Contractor to treat you fairly when you want to build a project, like a new house or renovation.












For instance, the Senior Staff Architect at this architectural firm just spent 7 months trying to find a fair deal with General Contractors all over an area in western North Carolina.  He interviewed over a dozen GCs within 20 miles of his new family house project, where he and his wife are to spend the rest of their lives.  But without fail, every one of those GCs demanded a Cost Plus form of contract.  Once again: that means what: you don’t know how much it’s going to cost you, in terms of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, until you’re done building it.  This particular wannabe homeowner simply couldn’t afford to take such a risk.  He wanted a fixed price. 


What were the reasons for the dozen GCs demanding a Cost Plus contract?  Mainly, they would say: “there’s never enough detail in the Architect’s drawings and no specs, so we have so many unknowns, that we can’t get stuck with and can’t price up front.”


And that may very well be the case with some/many “residential designers” or some other Architects of houses (skimpy sets of drawings and zero specifications), but this particular custom house Architect had 38 sheets of drawings and specifications (24″x36″) for his project.  There are lots of details, specs, structural plans, electrical layouts, even 3D imagery including a YouTube 3D video 360* around the project.  Very little unknowns, if anything.  So: the GC typical excuse for demanding Cost Plus didn’t exist.  So then what did these dozen GCs say: “Well, that’s what we’re used to doing and that’s how it’s going to be.”

continued below:













However, our Architect refused.  He said: “No sir, that’s Not how it’s going to be.”  But he was concerned.  There seemed to be a conspiracy of high-priced collusion, whether spoken or not, going on in his area of the world.  What to do?  He thought, finally, that he would use a “spiral” principal, wherein he would continue searching and interviewing GCs from farther and farther away from the den of iniquity in which he appeared to find himself (whether real, imagined or whatever, he had no proof other than his experience that 100% of the GCs around him would only go Cost Plus).  So, the Architect reached out on the Internet, farther and farther away: 15 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles…Finally at around 25 miles, he found a GC with whom he was not familiar and who had never done a project in his area. 


Yes!  That was the one.  That GC had significant commercial and custom residential experience.  They loved the detailed drawings and specifications.   And they were okay slightly expanding their service zone to undertake a project at that distance from their location.  As a matter of fact, they were so gung-ho, that the Architect began introducing them to his other clients, helping them also obtain better deals.  How: because they agreed to go FIXED PRICE with the construction contract.


This Contractor, honest and open-minded, was eager to undertake the Architect’s project.  It is now under construction, for an amazingly low cost of $166/HSF (Heated Square Foot).  For the record, most of the other custom house projects being built in this corner of WNC are going for around $250 to $350/HSF, which is about double what the Architect’s custom designed house is actually being constructed for.       Continued below:










How about that?  It took the Architect over 7 months to find the right Builder (a Licensed General Contractor of good character and who didn’t mind providing a fixed price for a detailed set of documents for a mid-level house in the mountains).  And the new Contractor had about 20 references from happy clients for whom they had built projects.


Now then: this Architect did things that not everyone might want to do.  His floor plan was virtually identical to the multi-million $ houses he designs for clients.  So there’s not much missing there.  However, he did make some value-oriented choices for materials: much of the outside has prefinished dark brown industrial metal siding (which means about $14,000 of exterior painting won’t be necessary (ever) as there is on most mountain homes every 5 to 7 years forever).  The windows are vinyl framed (but are in a handsome tan color).  The interior walls and ceilings are drywall (and so are many other mountain houses).  The walls are 2×6 (guess what: many other million $+ houses are 2×4).  The roof framing is prefabricated roof trusses (so are many other mountain houses, or they may be stick-framed, which wastes both material and especially labor).  The roof is high-quality Kynar painted standing seam metal roofing (which would be an upgrade for most other mountain houses).   Hey: this isn’t sounding bad; it’s sounding pretty good!


There is a 2-1/2 car garage (most other mountain houses may not even have a garage or a 2 car only).  There are large timbers at the front and rear porches (which many other mountain houses have).  The design style is referred to as Mountain Modern (most other mountain houses have either no particular style, or cutesy cottagey).  There is a giant 78′ diameter motor court with center landscaped island in front of the house (no other mountain houses under $5M have such a feature).  The kitchen has double stainless steel Whirlpool appliances (some higher end mountain houses spend large amount of money on “name” designer brands like Wolf and SubZero, which along with many other high end brands, may tend to have more questionable reliability ratings than the more common brand, according to Consumer Reports). Wait: did you catch what was said: DOUBLE appliances: 2 gas ranges, 2 ovens, 2 microwave/exhaust vent hoods, 2 sinks, 2 dishwashers, for LESS than the cost of the appliances in most mountain houses.

Appearance is nearly identical to the higher priced appliances. Glass areas: the glass in the windows is Identical to the glass in Marvin and other expensive doors and windows.  And the Architect’s house has about twice as much glass in width and height as most other mountain houses.  The Architect’s house is up for a design award. 


In other words: the Architect’s house will deliver probably a more enjoyable, more durable and lower maintenance house for half the money. There’s another benefit: NO CONSTRUCTION LOAN WAS REQUIRED. 

Now then: did the expensive other Contractors Cost Plus contracts for million+ houses do better?  No.  Actually worse. 


Moral of the story: find an experienced Architect that will provide thorough and detailed documentation for your house, so you can obtain a Fixed Price Contract Contractor, so you can pay less than the Cost Plus Contractors.  Pay your Architect to help find the Fixed Price Contractors in your area (or just outside of it).  It should be worth the wait and extra effort.


Material note: if you would like to have other materials that require more maintenance, like wood (inside and outside), our firm does this on most client projects.  Our Staff Architect simply could not afford the initial cost or the ongoing maintenance costs.  And if you prefer more traditional styles, our firm normally designs client projects in that manner.  Once again: our Staff Architect could not afford that and needed to simplify.  Why: because one of the definitions of insanity is: keep doing the same thing and expect different results.  In other words, because our Staff Architect knew that normal costs for traditional materials and styles were significantly more expensive, he opted for a simple design with less costly prefinished materials.  The result: half the cost.  No loan.  Low maintenance.  Same floor plan.  Larger garage.  Larger site features.  More enjoyment for much less cost.  However: this firm can design more traditional houses for clients that have more robust budgets. 




UPDATE: people reading our website posts may not believe this new information, but it is 100% true.  After we last posted this online article, we had some naysayers voice their objections.  Without naming names, because we believe this person was telling the truth and we really don’t want to get him (or her) into trouble, we had a phone conversation with them.  We asked them about what, if anything they objected to in the article (above).  They started by saying that they certainly didn’t engage in any shady practices and we believe them.  They have a good reputation.  And after some discussion, they said they actually do more Fixed Price contracts with their clients than they do Cost Plus.  We thought that spoke volumes about their integrity.  Now then, here’s the kicker.  Rather meekly, we said that without any evidence other than our own personal experiences in this market trying to bid our own project as a Fixed Price and being refused by EVERY GC we contacted (they all insisted on Cost Plus with no good reasons, as we had very detailed documents signed and sealed by ourself, a licensed Architect), we intimated that what we experienced FELT like collusion. We shivered, making this comparison, waiting for this local Contractor to get angry and start yelling at us. 


But… that didn’t happen.  No siree.  Quite the opposite.  He sighed, then said that he actually had overheard other local well known Contractors talking after local NAHB meetings about that they wanted to start charging their rich clients $400/SF for their construction projects in certain high-communities locally, but they didn’t want to be perceived as the “bad guy Contractor”, so could everyone else start charging that price also?  To which others agreed.


I couldn’t believe my ears.  THAT IS COLLUSION: a given group setting a price based on actual conversation among Contractors to artificially set the price in a given area just because they could get away with it.  Incredible!  We were dumbfounded.  We had, before this revelation, SUSPECTED such a thing, but didn’t really think this had been formally agreed to during a Contractor situation, like a local GC meeting.  And here was one of their own, revealing this information.  He said he couldn’t remember exactly who said what, only the gist of what he overheard others saying during a break in a meeting, so pursuing this will result in nothing. And we do not intend to pursue that. Instead, we intend to correct it, by offering honest services of ours and those of Contractors with integrity. 


Before this, we were like a blind person figuring out what an elephant must look like, by feeling their way around it.  And so, with our experience of being told “No” to Fixed Price contracts by every GC with whom we asked to bid our modest project (and with outstanding documentation), that led us to conclude that perhaps there may have been some sort of discussion or agreement between them to only offer that type of arrangement (Cost Plus) and furthermore, to agree on certain prices ranges as being the minimums and larger amounts as the norm for certain neighborhoods.  But we were merely guessing.


And so: now we have discovered the reality: it appears to be true!  Like Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate.  And we can tell you what we’re going to do with this bombshell: nothing.

That is, other than this humble website post, revealing what one Contractor confided in us as the reality of what’s going on around here.


And: we suppose we’re going to keep bringing in our Ace in the Hole: the honest GC from out of town that’s building our own house project for about 1/3 less than the local GCs.  We’re also turning our Clients on to them: the only nearby (but not defined as “local”) Contractor that will offer a Fixed Price contract to our Clients.  If other Clients demand to use the other local GCs that charge an arm and a leg, we guess that is their unfortunate decision.  They’re grown-up adults and if they want to squander their money, that’s their choice, foolish as that may be.  But for those that would appreciate a better value, we will keep introducing our “good guy Contractors” to our Clients that want more bang for their buck, based on our detailed documents.  That’s they key to obtaining a good Fixed Price contract from a GC: having excellent and well-detailed architectural documents (and structural engineering).


But it’s interesting.  This will probably go slowly.  Few people will read this and even fewer contact us and ask us to design their projects and have our ace Contractor build their job.  Most people think they know the score and are able to make wise choices because they are such good judges of character and their neighbors used thus and so, so they will too.  Unfortunately for them: not when nearly all of an entire geographic region has the situation agreed to as being in the Contractor’s best interests rather than the Owner’s.  And right now, it appears like HOME ARCHITECTS is about the only way out of this dilemma.  It took us going through it for ourselves to discover what’s going on behind the scenes.  The result: our obtaining pricing about 1/3 less than the going rate in these parts, for an award-winning project.  If any of you reading this want to experience a breath of fresh air in terms of Contractor pricing based our great designs, give us call and let us help you.


Others of you used to business as usual, using those whom have been doing it forever, enjoy being charged too much for the construction of your project based on skimpy documents.  We are not going to participate in that.  There seems to be no end of both licensed and unlicensed people in this area producing skimpy documents for a custom house: 3 sheets?  7 sheets?  12 sheets?  How can that possibly be enough to PROPERLY define a quality project.  And NO specifications?  So where does the GC get the quality of the materials?  How about: himself?  And how much does the Owner know about these choices?  So what does it take to properly prepare a set of documents for even a modest custom house project?  Do you really want to know?  You do?  Okay, here’s what we did (and we consider this to be not as detailed as we would have preferred):

G1: Title Sheet, Permitting Authority information, overall main 3D image of project.
G2: Index of drawing sheets, Project Notes regarding organization.
G3: Project Location Map, Abbreviation notes used definitions, Drafting conventions used.
G.4b: Multiple 3D images of project, from various angles, making it obvious to builders what the project is too look like and how the main geometry goes together.

A2.1:  Overall Survey (showing what’s at the project site Before construction begins)
A2.2: Intermediate Survey (blow up of the survey showing the immediate project area).
A2.5:  Intermediate Site Plan (showing site work overall)
A2.6: Detail Site Plan (showing detailed site work at and around the proposed house).

A3.1  1st Floor Plan (1/4″)
A3.2  2nd Floor Plan (1/4″)

DETAIL PLANS (because 1/4″ scale doesn’t show enough detail)
A3.1d  1st Floor Plan (1/2″)
A3.2d  2nd Floor Plan (1/2″

A6.1: Front Elevation
A6.2  Rear Elevation
A6.3  Left Elevation
A6.4  Rear Elevation

A7.1  Middle House Building Section (Front to Rear)
We wish we had done a few more sections, but we felt we had to cut some corners.  We wished we could have had more time to do a Transverse Section and a section through the Pantry & Garage.

Many Architects have very complex and detailed scheduled for Finishes and Doors, with 1 or more sheets for each of these.  We used to do that also.  However, we have refined new ways of doing things that allows us to handle this more efficiently on many projects, but instead other more compact systems we insert into our specifications.  We can’t do this on all projects, but this job was only around 2,200 HSF.  So here we are cutting some corners, trying to make the set as compact as possible.

A11.1 : Kitchen Cabinetry
A11.2: Cabinetry in various spaces
Once again: we wanted to show ALL the cabinetry, but we cut some corners, because this was for ourselves and we know the Contractor. Can’t/shouldn’t do this on most jobs.  And so here we are trying to compact the set of document, for those thinking the set is too large.  No it is not.

A12.3d:  Garage Entry Sill
A12.6rail-1-b: Guardrail Details (not to be confused with Hand Rails: they are NOT the same)
A12.6post: Wall base, wind posts, post bases, shear wall, bracing, bracketry.
A12.6brace: Deck Bracing
A12.6cab: Cabinetry Typical Details
A12.7c: Flashing Edge, Soffit, Wall details.
A12.7x: Rear Door Flashing- Window Wall Section Details
A12.8a2: Window Section & Wall Details-Rain Screen
A12.8b2: Window Details: Flashing Tape & Flashing Sequence (which other local GCs have asked us to give them so their crews properly install theses systems and we did so).
A12.8d-4:  Door Detail Thresholds

A15.1: Specifications section 0-7
A15-2: Specifications 8-17
Note: this is extremely compact for a custom house design: houses are much more detailed than most commercial projects and deserve better documentation.

EG.1: Electrical Systems Legend
E3.1: Electrical 1st Floor Plan
E3.2: Electrical 2nd Floor Plan

Unless of course, you’d prefer an Electrician making these choices for you than your Architect.

S3.1F: Foundation Plan
S3.1:  1st Floor Framing Plan
S3.2:  2nd Floor Framing Plan
S3.3:  Roof Framing Plan

Total: 38 Sheets 24″ x 36″.


Anyone doing it in less sheets for Clients cannot possibly be including the same information.


And, as Paul Harvey used to say: “Now you know the rest of the story.” 


We will leave you with one final saying: don’t be “Penny wise and pound foolish”. 
This means: don’t cheat yourself by only paying your Architect to produce skimpy documents. 
The little you think you saved there will come back to haunt you in the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, IF NOT MILLIONS, when your Contractor insists that he has to compel you to sign a Cost Plus contract instead of a Fixed price, “BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY UNKNOWNS.” 
There won’t be many unknowns, if you compensate your Architect to produce detailed documents. 
And well worth it. That will help you obtain a Fixed Price contract, so you’ll know what you’re going to spend on your new house project Before the construction begins. 

You have just been shown one of dirtiest secrets in the construction industry.  And knowing how pervasive things are with respect to doing business as usual, we suspect that this information will likely have very little impact on how things are done around here.

Except with our Clients. They get to enjoy much better construction value from our detailed documents.







tags: cashiers, lake toxaway, highlands, glenville, sapphire, sevierville, timber frame, post and beam

Mountain View Meadow House

April 3rd, 2018

Mountain View Meadow House is the house of the Senior Staff Architect for Home Architects and his Real Estate Broker wife.  These photos show in chronological order, the construction.

1 Clearing










2 Gravel Drive Sub base and Silt Fence    3-7-2018




3 Gravel Road & Circle


4 Electric Service Entrance   3-12-2018












5 Survey of Foundation Footings    3-13-2018

Hearthstone Construction, General Contractor, Subcontractors begin.


6 Footing Excavation   3-28-2018


7 Footing Rebar Steel


8 Pour Concrete Footings    4-2-2018



9 Concrete Block Foundation Walls   4-4-2018

digital GPS laser transit precision nailing of foundation wall corners into top of footings.


10 Grout CMU walls   4-12-2018

Note that the Architect had the concrete block crew cut the top blocks (header blocks) to be 5-1/2″ wide at the top, so that the 2×6 stud walls would have foundation wall exactly their thickness on which to sit.  This simplifies the framing work.


11a Garage Gravel Fill       5-12-30-2018

Bob the Builder doing a swell job with a skidsteer, filling in the garage foundation walls with #57 gravel, as specified by the Architect.

The Architect also required external bracing around the foundation walls (until the concrete garage slab cures and holds the foundation walls together).

This insures that the 170 tons of gravel doesn’t push over the foundation walls.

This is the garage area finally filled with gravel.  Look above in section 10 and you’ll see the rebar hooks specified by the Architect, protruding from the top of the foundation walls, to engage the to-be-poured concrete slab.  28 days after pouring, the concrete will have reached most of its strength and will successfully bond the foundation walls together.  After that, the exterior angled bracing can be safely removed.


11b Garage Slab Pour

Note: while this was planned earlier, it happened later.  See farther below…


12 Framing Materials Delivery   4-13-2018

Builders First Source carefully unloaded and placed each bundle of lumber, using Moffet loaders, not dumped like most deliveries from other companies.


13 Framing: Floor Girders    4-18-2018


14 Waterproofing    4-20-2018



15    1st Floor Joists      4-28-2018


16  1st Floor SubFloor     4-30-2018 through 5-2-2018

Glued and screwed (star drive coated screws( for squeak-proof subfloor) with Advantech T&G subflooring.  That’s one smooth, flat and strong subfloor.



17  1st Floor Rear Deck Framing   5-2-2018

Galv flashing (with paint), peel & stick subflashing over, then PT nailer board for a leak-proof installation in compliance with Code and beyond.  This is where the “rubber meets the road” for all decks, and HOME ARCHITECTS does it right.


Outer band of PT 2×12, sloping 1″ down and away from house, ready for exterior timber posts.

Notice how our firm takes the PT 8×8 posts down to a galvanized steel column base connector at a filled concrete block, projecting up from the surrounding grade (and down to a continuous concrete footing below the ground).  We don’t like any wood touching the ground (pressure treated or not), and we don’t want those steel connectors being installed under the ground. 

It might amaze you to discover that most Contractors, without details like ours, do in fact run wood posts into the ground and also may or may not use steel connectors at the footings.  Now just what condition do you imagine the end of those posts and steel connectors will be in after 10 years?  Or even 2 or 3?  Our firm doesn’t leave such things to chance.  We detail them properly so the huge investment in your house is durable and more trouble free.  A little more effort for a lot less trouble over the years.

And, this particular project has the excellent General Contractor: Hearthstone Construction.  They go out of their way to apply our details effectively.


18 1st Floor Deck Flashing  5-3/4-2018

See above and below:

First, our details guided the Contractor’s framer to install a peel and stick waterproof subflashing against the PT rimboard at the floor edge of rear of the house, where the rear porch will attach to the main house. This also continues, in one piece, up and over the top outer edge of the rear subflooring, as you can see below.

Next, very tall rust-inhibitive enamel painted and galvanized vertical deck band flashing is attached directly against the peel and stick membrane, with a drip edge at the bottom.

Then, the PT wood deck band is bolted to the wall.



Next, our details have a horizontal “Z” counter flashing fastened over the edge of the subfloor, down, then over the first 5″ or so of the floor joists, with a short but important vertical drip edge (which is carefully tucked into a slot sawcut into the top of the deck floor joists).  Note: any horizontal deck flashing without this vertical drip edge is doomed to transfer rain water back into the structure through surface tension.  If you don’t believe us, take a full glass of water and hold it over your kitchen sink.  Then gradually start tipping it until it starts to pour out the water, then keep turning it until you have the glass horizontal.  You will notice that surface tension indeed allows the water to hold unto the underside of surfaces until it flows backward along the underside of the glass.  The exact same thing will happen with flashings that do not have the HOME ARCHITECTS drip edge, one of our trademarks that results in your house being drier, more watertight and being more durable for decades longer than other houses without benefit of our details.


We will be having insect screening placed over the top of the deck joists, then the deck boards over those.  That is the most economical way to screen a deck. 



19  1st Floor Walls      5-4-10-2018

2×6 exterior walls and mix of 2×4 and 2×6 interior partitions.

This is an exciting stage of the construction.  And somehow, things look bigger now, and the logic and functionality of well thought out floor plan become obvious.


19c 1st Floor Wall Sheathing   5-12-2018


20 Roof Truss Delivery    5-9-2018


21 Rear 1st Floor Decking  5-11-2018


22 2nd Floor Framing   5-14-2018


23 Garage Driveway Ramp Gravel   5-10-2018

24  2nd Floor Walls    5-17-20-2018

And then we had torrential rain for about 2 weeks straight.  Must have been a record.


25 Roof Truss Install    6-1-2018

This is the most exciting aspect of the project to date.  And due to the simple yet functional architectural & structural design, all of the main house roof trusses were erected in half a day.


Notice how Hearthstone Construction and their crane operator intelligently field-built a “strongback” of 14′ long 2x6s with vertical stubs (to secure the sling straps) so at least 2 large hooks could be extended to pick up the trusses at multiple points (rather than in the middle) to help avoid damaging the trusses while being lifted.  Gangnailer prefab trusses like this are inherently weak in the X-plane, even though they are extremely strong in the Y-plane, after installed and braced.  Smart Contractors like Hearthstone understand this and take precautions.  And even with these precautions, one of the main long roof trusses broke while being lifted and had to be replaced by the truss fabrication plant.


Below: note special galvanized steel bracing provided by the truss fabricator, with teeth that allows framing carpenters to easily hammer into place, which also are sized to space the trusses at the specified 24″ o.c.  This helps speed erection and bracing. 


Huge crane lifts the 400 pound 56′ long roof trusses effortlessly.

Large stabilizer arms and feet keep crane rig firmly planted.

The crane truck with stabilizer filled the space of our 2 car garage.


Below, there is a HOME ARCHITECTS first: prefabrication of the overhang outriggers:

The advantage and reduced cost is in terms of labor:

instead of each and every outrigger having to be hand-measured and hand-cut and hand-installed, each entire side of the house side rakes are crane-lifted in a large piece then fastened into place.

This saved about a week’s work of man-hour time over the entire house.

This above photo starts to make it apparent that there’s going to be a billboard’s worth of tall and wide glass facing the great mountain view.  That just doesn’t happen without careful architectural planning and design.  HOME ARCHITECTS ® has developed special wind wall posts and beam arrangements to allow there to be very little actual wall between you and your views.  Mainly posts and large panes of glass.  Not many companies: Architects, Designers or Contractors understand that you want large views (more glass) and fewer still understand how to accomplish this and keep your house strong, like this Architect. They’ve been at it for 52 years. It takes time and lots of real-world experience to know how to do things like this properly.


26a & b Garage Walls/Termiticide   6-6-2018

Orkin did the honors, applying the termiticide over the garage gravel.

Note how the Carpenters were able to place the 2×6 frame walls on top of the concrete header block top course, because the Architect had the foundation crew custom cut the top course to be exactly 5-1/2″ wide at the top (the exact width of a 2×6 plate).  This is very unusual.  Normally the slab would have been installed by now.  However, there has been a long delay because this particular concrete subcontractor has had difficulty in finding a concrete finishing crew capable of dealing with the warping side slopes of the slab, so the GC has had to find another concrete finishing crew.  And we don’t want to delay the framing, the roof trusses, the roofing or the dry-in. And so, we are framing around the incomplete garage floor area.  Nice to have such competent Carpenters.


26c Garage Vapor Barrier & Rebar Steel for slab   6-7-2018

The concrete forming crew did an excellent job forming the garage door entrance sills, using stakes and cantilevered formwork to allow the concrete to slide beneath it and be formed to the proper sill profile as detailed by the Architect.  Also note Architect’s diagonal corner rebar reinforcing (learned from an old-time NC Contractor 16 years ago) and installed correctly by the rebar crew.  The diagonals at the corners  serve to guard against shrinkage cracks at the corners, which is where nearly all garage slabs crack.  Except in HOME ARCHITECTS projects due to this economical precaution.  Also note how this Architect slopes the garage slab from rear to front, to allows water on vehicles to drain toward and under the large garage doors, and how the Architect detailed a “rain riser” at the door, and slope its surface down and out. And how the heights of these step downs will permit wheelchairs to operate over them, so owners can live here for the rest of their lives, should they become incapacitated.


26d Garage Roof Trusses  6-11-2018


26e Garage Slab Pour  6-12-2018

Installing grade pins of slab top prior to pour:

Concrete truck and pump mixer ready to go:

Pumping and forming the concrete (4,000 psi mix):




3 Big Steps to Your New Architect Designed House with No Loan

March 21st, 2018

3 Big Steps to Your New Architect Designed House with No Loan is how this Architectural firm is doing this very process right now: getting a new Architect-designed house and with no loan required.

why Architect should design your house

One of HOME ARCHITECTS successfully designed & managed projects, (C)Copyright 2017 Home Architect, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.


(continued below)












Does that mean that no money or capital value is required?  Quite the opposite.  You have to already have a substantial amount of pre-paid investment in order to pull off what appears to be this magic act.  But this method works and makes sense, once you understand how to accomplish it.


First: THIS IS REAL.  This Architectural firm is doing it right now.  This is not fiction.  And it is legal.  Nothing improper at all.  In a nutshell: it is like the 3D mind game: Rubik’s Cube.  That’s the hand-sized cube with primary colors on each side, divided into multiple sections. The object of the game is to get the scrambled colors on each side of the cube to each be one of the primary colors.  And that’s sort of what is required in this Architect’s 3 BIG STEPS method to obtaining your new Architect designed house with no loan involved.  Sound impossible?  You’ll see: it is very possible.  It just takes logical, sound planning.  At the end of this article, you’ll probably sit back and say: “Of course!  There’s nothing magic about this.  You’re just taking money from one pocket and putting in into another.”  Yes: that’s exactly what is going on here. 


A.  You need to already own the land on which you intend to build your future Architect-designed dream house.
B.  You need to already own your existing house (no outstanding debt, or very little).
C. You need to have a realistic construction budget in mind and work with your Architect and allow them to help you make certain critical decisions so that the economics of this 3 BIG STEPS process works.  The sides of the mathematical equation have to balance.


continued below:













D.  You will need a separate fund with a chunk of cash in it for items/ features that exceed the income generated by the sale of your existing house.
E.  You should also have another General Savings account(s) to protect you in the event that unexpected things happen, which often occurs in construction projects.
F.  Once again: once this is explained in writing, in this article, you’re going to say: “Sure.  That makes sense.  No magic there.”  However, there may be some divine guidance at certain points in the process, as it takes large things to come together in just the right way for things to evolve properly and in a timely manner.  So a healthy amount of prayer may help you.  Certainly can’t hurt.


1.   CLOSING AMOUNT 1: Closing Cash Amount from Existing House Sale that you walk away with free and clear at the sale (your Real Estate Attorney’s HUD form defines this amount). This is cash (usually in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) that you receive when you complete the sale of your existing house that you own outright.
2.  INCREASED FEATURE SAVINGS AMOUNT 2: the amount of cash you have in a separate savings account that is there to help you pay for increased size, features and quality in your new house, in addition to the funds provided from the Closing Amount 1.  This in cash you already have.
3.  RENTAL HOUSE SAVINGS 3A: amount of cash you need to have saved to use to pay rent on a leased house/condo/apartment while your new house is under construction.  This in cash you already have.
RENTAL HOUSE COST 3B: this is what you will have to pay for your rental lodging. 


continued below:












4.  OWNER CONSTRUCTION ITEMS YOU PAY FOR 4: this is a separate fund that you use to directly pay for certain items for which you don’t want your GC paying.   This in cash you already have.
5.  CHANGE ORDERS 5: these are typically improvements you pay additionally to your Contractor to add better features to your project, after you have already signed the main contract with them.  These typically increase the cost of construction.
6.  MAIN GC CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT PRICE 6: this is the main agreement you and your Contractor sign, wherein they agree to build your house (hopefully for a fixed price amount of cash).


STEP 1A & 1B

A.  Have your future house designed by a Licensed, competent Architect that specializes in custom residences, and in the type of environment where you want to live. 
For instance: HOME ARCHITECTS ® is a leading Mountain residential Architect, across the USA and the planet.

B.  Pay your Architect to help you find the right General Contractor (GC). 
This is a crucial step most people miss.  And it can take time.  For instance, it took this firm 7 months to find a GC in one part of a specialized mountain region to find the right GC for the construction of their Senior Staff Architect. 


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They went through a dozen other GCs closest to the project site and every one of them would only price the project as a “Cost Plus” method.  That’s where the GC charges you whatever it might cost them, using whomever they want as their subcontractors, then they typically tack on another 15% to 20% or so, no matter how much it costs.  Usually, only very wealthy people can afford such a method of GC operation.  The Staff Architect at the firm certainly couldn’t take that risk.  And there was no reason for any GC to demand Cost Plus, because the firm prepared 38 sheets of drawings and specifications, carefully detailing what the project design and specifics would require.  No guesswork.  However, skimpy drawings, no specs and many unknowns are the only reason for Cost Plus GC contracts.  See this related online article to better understand this: Cost Plus versus Fixed Price Construction Contracts.  So, when you hire the appropriate Architect to design your dream house and pay them to prepare a properly detailed set of documents, the hope is that there will exist a GC willing to build your house based on those detailed documents for a Fixed Price.  That’s the goal, if at all possible and if a Fixed Price GC can be found willing to take on the project for a reasonable price.  THIS IS A CRITICAL STEP.  Your circumstances may or may not allow for this painstaking and time consuming search.  But if they do, the pay off can be hundreds of thousands of saved dollars.


What you want to establish is a construction contract price from the GC that is no more than the combined amounts you can obtain from the 


Why: because this is the main equation:


However, let’s modify the equation a little: You should really bump the amount of cash in the Savings 2 fund to be perhaps 20% to 40% MORE than the Contract Price 6.  Some Architects think it should even be 100% more.

Why: because S**t happens during construction.  Be Prepared (Boy Scout’s motto).  Rarely does any construction project conclude costing exactly what the amount planned for indicated at the onset of construction.  Like what?  Well, how about the old classic: “Concealed Existing Conditions?”  What concealed conditions in a new house project?  How about the soil on which the house is built?  This firm has seen where tens of thousands of dollars had to be approved in construction Change Orders due to unconsolidated  earth under the surface, which had to be removed, and foundations taken to a lower depth than engineered.  That’s not free.  Or the reverse: bedrock nearer to the surface (even soil borings can miss this), which may require blasting, or other more involved precautions for foundation securement than originally planned.  And there are more.  If you live long enough, you see more and more. 


But that’s really not the only reason why you should put more into the INCREASED FEATURE SAVINGS AMOUNT 2.  Why: YOU.  Huh?  Me?  Yes, YOU.  Because owners of new houses are their own worst enemy when it comes to construction cost.  Like what? 
How about: you decide you want the SubZero and Wolf appliances instead of the Frigidaire?  That can be a $60,000 decision.  Don’t believe us?  Price them out.  You’ll see.  Or you decide you want the high-end heart pine recycled distressed historic wide plank flooring with dowels, instead of the low end white pine closet boards, with exposed face nails.  Once again: change in cost?  from around $2.50/sf to perhaps $11 to $14/sf.  Overall change for a 3,000 HSF house? Around $34,500.  Such things are not like changing the color of paint on a wall.  And how about those wood ceilings you’d prefer, rather than drywall? Or Brazilian Quartz vein counters instead of lower end beige granite?  Tens of thousands of dollars.  And there’s much more that you want.  And you will find a way to get it.  Usually that will end in you signing and paying for Change Orders, paying the GC more for those items that were not included in your original documents upon which your Main GC Contract 6 is based.  So: word to the wise: have a substantial additional savings fund from which you can take funds to not only pay for more house than your Closing Amount 1 gives you, but to also cover probable change orders.



SECRET INFORMATION: the construction cost of your new house is going to always be MORE than you want to pay a Contractor to build it.  Therefore, from the beginning, tell your Architect to make the house as compact as you can reasonably live with, and as plain in materials, features and other aspects as you can accept.  Because ultimately, no matter what you say, how much you can afford to pay will start dictating nearly everything.  For instance, nice mountain houses typically go for from between $200 to well over $350/HSF.  And as another example: this firm’s Staff Architect could not afford that. The math of the equations in the Excel spreadsheet went “Tilt.” 


The magic number turned out to be around $166/HSF.  Now then, this is a significant reduction in the cost of most mountain houses.  And here’s the part that most Owners don’t understand: no GC is going to simply reduce the construction cost just because you want them to do so.  No way.  They won’t give you a $250/SF house for $166/SF.  Uh-uh.  So what needed to happen to get the cost down?  The Architect (his own client) made it smaller.  The main house is only 1,987 HSF.  And there was a Phase 2 with a 200 HSF pantry, and a 2.5 car garage.  He made the exterior walls 70% prefinished industrial metal warehouse siding.  No painting necessary by local painters.  The interior: all ceilings and walls: drywall.  Floors: the lowest end possible wood planks: white pine closet shelving boards, lightly distressed (to conceal future bruising).  Windows: colored vinyl (however the insulated glass is identical to high end Loewen or Marvin).  Cabinets: partical board core, with real wood then veneer on vertical surface, with hardwood, prefinished doors.  Lower end granite counters.  Appliances: Frigidaire Pro series stainless steel.  On and on.  Nothing bad.  Just carefully selected value-oriented items and would decrease the cost of the Contractor, which allowed the house to be built for less than most other conventional houses in the area.  The result: a more contemporary mountain modern house, built for around $90/hsf less than most other houses in the region, but with MORE glass facing an incredible mountain view. And and much more generous circular entrance driveway, with some very nice future features designed, but not yet built.




Necessary for what: to satisfy the equation. 
However, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SELL YOUR EXISTING HOUSE FOR MORE THAN A REASONABLE AMOUNT.  And a reasonable amount may very well be slightly under the going market rate, to help secure a swift sale. And you WILL want a swift sale.  So much depends on it.  Like what: like the GC Contract Amount 6.  They’re not going to hold your price indefinitely.  30-60-90 days max.  After that, you’re going to be looking a Change Order simply to cover increased market costs in return for nothing.  So don’t get greedy on the sales amount for your house.  And don’t think, using this method that you “don’t have to sell”. 

If you’re using this 3 BIG STEPS method, you do need to sell your existing house.  Listen carefully to your Real Estate Broker.  She/he doesn’t make a penny unless your house sells, so they do want it to sell.  And they make more if your house sells for more.  So they don’t want you or them to lose money on the sale.  Ask your Broker to prepare a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) for similar houses in your area to understand comparable house values.  Don’t think that because you over personalized with polka-dot wallpaper that makes your house worth more to buyer.  It may detract.  Same goes for other improvements.  Talk to an experience Real Estate Broker before making random improvements in your house, so that the improvements you make help increase the value of your house.  They may not, or they may hurt you.  Consult a professional. 


All the above being said, NEVER FORCE YOUR BROKER TO LIST YOUR HOUSE AT A HIGHER PRICE THAN THEY HONESTLY RECOMMEND.  You won’t get the amount you want.  And it will take far longer to sell.  And in the end, you may actually get even less than comparative market value, due to an overly-aggressive initial price.  Other Real Estate Professionals smell blood in the water and advise their clients accordingly.  If a property has been on the market for hundreds of days or years, they know you are getting desperate to sell.  That doesn’t help your market price.  It hurts it.  So don’t make this mistake that so many triple A personality sellers do.  Back off and listen to your Broker. You’ll be glad you did and your life will move forward int a bright new direction: to your dream house.


Now then, the planning for this sale STARTS BEFORE YOU BUY IT. In other words, years ago, hopefully you bought your existing house in an economic downturn (a “bust” rather than a “boom”).  Because what wealthy investors have always said is true: “Buy low, sell high.”  But in terms of real estate, it may be more: “Buy low, sell at future improved amounts.”  And you can do certain things, after you bought low, over the years, to improve your sale value.  For instance: if you bought a 3BR/2.5Ba ordinary plain house in a typical neighborhood and it was perhaps 1,728 HSF when you bought it, and it has an unfinished basement, you can always finish that basement.  Perhaps your house is then improved to become a 2,300 HSF (Heated Square Feet) house. And there was an empty Zone 3 to the AHU (Air Handler Unit) control panel allowing you to simply plug that into another zone damper to give your basement HVAC for less than $1,000.  And you didn’t go crazy with the walls, floors and ceilings and lighting.  Just give them about another 600 HSF for not much cost to you.  So: perhaps a house you paid $200k for in a bust you end up selling 7 years later for $290k. And after closing costs, maybe you walk with around $280k.  So look there: you got $80k more than you paid for it.  And chances are, your CPA will tell you there’s no taxes on that capital gain, because you are immediately turning that around and reinvesting that into a new house.  That’s critical to this 3 BIG STEPS method.  You have to invest wisely.  Plan years ahead of time.  And do simple things: big bang for little bucks.  For instance: maybe you splurge $3,000 to have a stone mason clad a couple of front porch posts with native rock.  Looks great. Helps resale speed.  Kitchen improvements are usually #1, but those are also expensive, so hopefully you already have granite counters, an island, nice lighting and cabinetry there.  




You should have a RENTAL HOUSE SAVINGS 3 that you use to pay for a place to live while the new house is under construction.  This fund could be part of the equation you establish as coming from the CLOSING AMOUNT 1.  Or from other savings you had.  But you definitely need this amount (unless you are independently wealthy).  The amount of time to build a new house may vary from 6 to 8 months for a smaller project, to over 30 months for a larger, more detailed construction effort.  And rental homes/ condos/ apartments vary greatly in size, cost and features, not to mention location.  If you’re trying to obtain a rental close to the project site, that makes it even more difficult to find a place for what you may wish to pay.  Somewhere between $1,000 to $2,000 a month would not be unusual for a 2 to 3 BR (BedRoom) place with 2Ba (Baths), although this can and will vary considerably.  But let’s say it was $1,500/month.  If your house takes a year to build (it always takes longer than you think it will), that’s at least $15,000 for temporary lodging.  And of course, normal costs of utilities are over and above that, normally.  So that accrued value you made on the sale of your house is starting to get some bites taken out of it. 


Now some math equation variables to make for a happy ending:
The amount of
must not be less than the total costs you are going to incur for ALL of your expenses, which are typically:



However, there may be something in your project that makes it even more expensive.  Never cheat on the numbers.  Always imagine that unknowns are higher that you think, never less.


The ideal: having Steps 1, 2, & 3 all happen in perfect sequence, with no delays between each of them.  That is the perfect order you want.  If there is too much time between any step, there will be economic pain.  You do not want that.  You want each step flowing smoothly from one to the next.  This takes planning and patience, on the part of all parties, and as said before, most likely prayer.  And having a Licensed Architect manage the entire process for you can certainly help take the edge off.  Why: because they are going to know people in construction and have other resources that will speed things along faster than you could ever accomplish on your own.  And it will still take long than you imagine.



STEP 1A & 1B




And don’t forget: hire an Architect to manage the process for you.






tags: 3 big steps to architect designed house with no loan, cashiers, lake toxaway, highlands, glenville, aspen, telluride, sevierville, post and beam, timber frame