Water Purification System

September 9th, 2019

Water Purification System is about how this Architect protects his clients and his own family with a quality system that cleans the raw water that enters their houses.

                      1                     2                       3                     4 
There are many providers of various water cleaning systems, however, this firm likes Aquasana due to pricepoint, availability, and ease of maintenance. 
















That’s a 4-item water purification system there, installed in late 2018 for the Architect’s own residence.
1.  The blue vertical canister on the left is the Pre-Filter.
2.  The next blue large blue vertical double tank to the right of that is the Main Filter.
3.  To the right of that, the small blue vertical canister is the Post filter.
4.  Right of that is the silver vertical canister: the Ultra-Violet water polishing filter.


Each of these filters cleans the water in different ways.

The first: the Pre-Filter, catches most of the sediment impurities.  Check out this photo below of a new Pre-Filter and the old one, being replaced after 7 months:







As you can see, the old one, after 7 months, is very dirty, with brown sediment.  The new filter is white and clean.  This filter should be replaced the most frequently, perhaps every 3 months or so.  We waited to change it too long.

The main filter is more complex and has either sand or charcoal filtration typically, although each manufacturer may be different.

The Post Filter is a pleated synthetic material, meant to add another stage of cleanliness to the previous two, removing all but very tiny particulates.  That is changed about once every 6 to 12 months.  Because the Pre-Filter is doing most of the dirty work.

The final  UV filter kills viruses.  So we’re talking about a very sophisticated level of cleanliness here.  The UV lamp should be changed once a year.


Now then: are you taking chances with your health and that of your family if you DON’T have a water purification system.  Yes.  It is this firm’s belief that any untreated or unfiltered water can be a source of dangerous bacteria, chemicals, particles and viruses that can harm you.  In a nutshell, if your water is visibly dirty (brown, yellow or other color), you are taking a huge risk drinking it.


Surprisingly affordable:
The 4-stage system above cost only around $1,200 (we believe through Amazon).
The Plumber’s charge to install it (around another $500.)

Not bad to protect your family’s health. 

Free Tour of Latest Mountain House

September 3rd, 2019

You can now schedule a tour of the Mountain View Meadow in Sapphire, NC.  You must be interested in doing business with the Architect (HOME ARCHITECTS ®) to design your new house (or a renovation or addition) in order to participate in this tour.  Come and see the latest features in a brand new custom mountain house in Sapphire, NC.  You need to schedule at least a week before your desired visit.  Email the address you see on this website. 

Industrial style kitchen and open plan area. (C) Copyright 2019 Home Architect, PLLC.

This home recently won an international global architectural design award.













Daily tours available to select interested parties of 4 or less. Time of tours: only from 2PM through 4PM daily.


You must be wearing clean, rubber-soled shoes and be prepared to remove them at the front door.  Do not bring food or drink, trash, or pets.  No children under 12 years old.  No smoking of any kind.  You must supervise your children and others needing supervision.  This is not a public restroom stop, it is a brand new private residence that is occupied.  We will show you the entire house and discuss various aspects such as costs.  We will discuss your project with you and how some of the features of the Mountain View Meadow might be applicable to your project, if that interests you.  This is the new residence of the Architect and his family. 


If you do not yet have land for your new house, the Architect’s wife is a Real Estate Broker.  She can help you find appropriate land in the Sapphire, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Glenville, NC area.

Rose Deadhead

August 29th, 2019

Rose Deadhead is about how to trim roses properly.  This architectural firm has had roses for the last decade and discovered the following:


You should deadhead your roses.  That means: after each beautiful bloom is done looking fresh and starts to wilt, you should cut it off with scissors or garden shears.  But you don’t cut just anywhere.  You cut the stem down 1/4″ above the first 5 leaf cluster and you cut at an angle.

Continued below:













Don’t cut at the 3 leaf clusters or any other number of leaf clusters, just above the 5 leaf cluster.  Why: because that cut point is where a new rose flower will bloom.  Cuts in other location may result in barren stem growth.  And that’s not the purpose of roses, usually.  If what you’re after is flowers, cut as indicated.


Here’s another photo of another cut in progress:


Just above the 5 leaf cluster.


Now then, here’s some more information.  After a flower wilts, you will probably notice necrotic tissue (dead) on the stem, leading back down.  You should make sure you remove the necrotic tissue, because that is dead.  And dead tissue doesn’t help grow anything on a plant.  Even it means going further down the stem to another lower 5 leaf cluster. 

Continued below:












The experience of this firm has been that Bayer All-in-One Rose & Flower Care does a great job.  It has Fertilizer to help the rose plant grow, Insecticide to help combat beetles, aphids, caterpillars and other pests, and Disease Control to help reduce black spot, powdery mildew, rust and southern blight.  The container indicates it works for up to 6 weeks.

Our firm also puts a little into the ground, when we excavate a hole for the root ball.  Don’t overdo; you don’t want to burn them.


And when we plant, we make a larger hole and pour in some Black Kow composted manure.  And we water about every 5 days or so, if your environment doesn’t rain.  But overdo that; as you could nurture disease.


Following the above methods has routinely worked in western North Carolina, in the USA.  Other locations may require variations.  All the best with your garden.

Popping the Bubble

August 18th, 2019

Popping the Bubble is about this architectural firm informing clients of the realities of their project early.  There are other Architects who say emphatically that they do not want to “pop the bubble” of their clients’ dream: about what they can accomplish, usually for the budget they’d like to spend.

Photo by Gonz DDL from Unsplash.











However, this Architectural firm that is writing this online article believes that is dishonest and worse than a disservice to the client.  It is misleading through lack of action. Approval of bad information tacitly.  And that doesn’t set right with them.  It takes more guts to be honest sometimes than to allow the client to continue to believe the impossible.  And matters of importance like this should be discussed early in the project, not allow the client to delude themselves.

Why: because the longer you wait, the bigger the bubble becomes.  The delusion of building that amazing custom mountain house for a mere $100/square foot starts having crazy things added like 4 car garages and giant porches and firepits and more.  You simply can’t stretch a budget that far.













And when someone (perhaps the Builder) finally tells them months later that their dream bubble is nowhere near realistic, the clients are going to react badly and scream: “Why didn’t you tell me?”


So: it is really one of the Architect’s first responsibilities to inform the clients about the reality of their goals and yes, if necessary, pop that bubble.

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg from Unsplash.

That is not being cruel.  That is being realistic and correcting the misdirection of the project early, to avoid wasted effort. 


















And once the bubble is popped, the true possibilities become visible.

(C) Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC.


And designing and building a new custom house for people is all about seeing the truth as early as possible.  From the truth comes reality.  Realistic goals that are attainable.

















And from realistic goals, great design comes.

Industrial style kitchen and open plan area. (C) Copyright 2019 Home Architect, PLLC.


Design that satisfies the needs of real people.


So if you are clients that believe your goals may be pushing the limits of reality, you really owe it to yourselves to review your goals with your Architect before you go any further.  Ask them questions, like:

1.  Is our budget realistic?
2.  Is the size of house we want affordable with our budget?
3.  If not, what size of house would be?
4.  What would a proper budget be for the size of house we want with the features we want?
5.  Can you guarantee that the house will cost what we want to spend (the only honest answer to this is: NO).
6.  Is our land size and usable area adequate for where we want to locate our house and will it work for vehicular circulation and other features we want?
7.  Are we asking for systems and features that might be unrealistic for want we’d like to spend? (Many people treat stone like it’s paint.  It is not).
8.  Please tell us your thoughts about our project and be honest about your opinions.


It is incredible that almost NO clients ever ask any of these questions.  They really think they know better.  And that because they want certain things, they will actually happen through their force of personality or strength of desire to have them for unheard of discounts.  Kind of like telling a neurosurgeon how to perform your upcoming brain surgery for 49 cents. 

That’s not the way thing work in construction.  No Contractors give away anything for free.  Quality materials cost money.  Lots of it.  And bigger = more expensive.   And more complex = more costly and more time.


Contact this Architect at the email shown above and have a discussion about your goals and if they are are realistic.  That just might save you months, if not years of wasted effort and investment in things that you might not really need. 




UPDATE 8-21-2019
Just when we thought this train of thinking could not get any more absurd, we had 2 contacts during the last week.
One of them insisted that they were…

wait for it…

going to build their new dream house for about $90/SF and their basement would be free!  Because: they have no construction experience, but they “have run their numbers”. 


Hey: what does our Architect know?  He just finished building the 8th house for himself and has more than $3 BILLION worth of projects under his belt and has been doing this for 52 years and has been licensed as as Architect since 1982 and does this everyday for a living.


And: another couple called our firm and get this:  Insisted that they were going to build their high-end log house for $50/SF.  Because they have: “Talked to some people.”  Hmmm.  And their basement will be free as well.  Really?  And they are office workers who are going to run the wiring and plumbing, even though they know nothing about that.  Hey: that can only take a couple of weekends, right?  Think again.  And they have a steep lot.


We told them: the log package will cost them probably around an extra $45/GSF added to the cost of conventional construction, and that is for a big truck dumping all those logs onto their land.  That does not include putting them together, or the HVAC, or electrical, or plumbing, or the roof, foundation, insulation, appliances, doors, windows, site work. driveway and everything else.
And their steep site (bought without our input) will add about another $100,000 to the cost of their foundations. 


But once again: what does the Architect know?  These people have been planning this for 12 weeks.  Lots of time to fill in the missing information in their project, right? 


So: the dream craziness bubble is getting larger and larger.  But this firm is standing by the truth.  Telling potential clients how things really are. 
Because both of the couples above are about to make the biggest financial mistake of their lives.  We had to be honest with them, whether they decided to listen to reason or not.  Our conscience is clear.  We hope they stop before they go bankrupt, once everything we have told them begins to unfold.


And the worst thing we could have done?  Why: to have done what they demanded of us: design a house that they cannot afford and which would get them in huge trouble, telling them their imagined budget was fine.  We feel that would have been unethical.

And so it goes…





Hammer is Replaced by New Tools

August 16th, 2019

The good old-fashioned hammer is still around.  But used MUCH less often than 10 or 20 years ago.  Today, quality houses are being put together mainly with more screws and far fewer nails.

That’s a Hillman Power Pro Premium Exterior Wood Screw above, with a T25 star-drive.  The screw is about 1/8″ in diameter to the outer edge of the threads. 












Hillman says it is a coated screw that is guaranteed for the life of the project not to corrode (in treated lumber, cedar, redwood) in an exterior application.   There are different sizes, such as the T20 star drive.  Mainly the T25 and T20 screws have replaced perhaps about 50% of the nails that used to be used to build a house.

Why:  Because ordinary nails back out, pop-out and rust.  Even galvanized nails can rust, when the coating is damaged by a hammer hitting the head. 

Having said this, power-drive gun nails fed from compressor driven nail guns are very much in use.  And yes, those account for about the other 50% of what a hand hammer used to do.

But all construction personnel know that the best quality construction is accomplished through the use of screws.  Why:  because they CANNOT back-out (as long as they went into solid backing to begin with).  And the type of screws above are self-tapping (no pilot holes need to be drilled in wood).  And the screw heads are flared for countersinking.


Hand hammering may only account for perhaps 5% to 10% of installation these days in building a house.  And we’ve seen people using hand hammers to excavate dirt under ladder feet to level the ground there.  Hardly what most people would associate with normal hammer usage.

Nail guns weigh around 7-1/2 pounds (Paslode 9 series) and the nails add another pound, then there’s the inconvenience of the pneumatic hose coming from the noisy compressor, getting tangled everywhere and adding another pound or so, meaning a nail gun might be nearly 10 pounds, while being tethered to a hose.  That’s a lot of weight to throw around on one arm all day long.















This is one of the reasons many house builders prefer using  a screw gun.  It only weighs about a pound and most are cordless, freeing the carpenters to go up ladders, walk roofs and go other places without having to worry about getting tangled up with a cord or hose of any kind.  Nail guns became popular on house construction sites in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  They have been the tool of choice ever since. 


However, drill guns used to install superior screws came about since the last 10 years or so (2010+/-).  Since screws are finding favor with builders for higher quality construction, screw guns (drills with star drive bits) are gradually taking the place of nail guns for many applications, such as: roof sheathing, floor sheathing and structural connections, and decking.  And once screws are used for so many things, the fact they are there on the jobsite, they become used for more applications, due to their convenience and more solid connections. 


In about 2017, Lowe’s had a sale: 2 cordless drills for $99 including a charger and (2) 20v batteries and a red zipping canvas carry bag.  The drills are Porter-Cable.  I bought these and nearly daily, I see other tradespeople that did also.  They take a licking and keep on ticking.  We would not have thought they were the equal of Makita or Milwaukee, but they refuse to die.  One of the drills is a normal rotary drill, the other is an impact drill.  That Lowe’s sale appears to have had an impact on the use of cordless drills, perhaps across the USA. 















Here’s the 2 drills that also function as screw guns when the star drive bits are inserted into the chucks:

The  normal rotary drill is the one in the rear.  The impact drill is the one in the foreground.  The normal drill has a T20 bit, the impact a T25, but either drill chuck can accommodate up to 3/8″.  The impact chuck requires a drill/screw bit with a groove to allow for the up and down motion of that drill.


















And above is the battery charger and one of the removable batteries.  Having the 2 easily removable batteries is excellent, because they run out of power after an hour or two of use.  So workers always have the charger on the work site so one of the batteries can be charging when the other is in use.  That means no down time.  And that’s very important.  So much so that some workers bring more spare batteries. 


Impact drills have a special means of screw insertion.  The mechanism is slammed into the bore stroke many times a second, like a hammer drill or miniature jack hammer, making it much more effective at installing screws into more difficult situations, for instance with larger screws.  These drills can install long screws up to 3/8″ diameter into wood timbers for timber frame assembly.


The main benefit to the owner of the house built with more screws is that it stays together tighter and stronger.  And its faster using screws that can bore their own way through the wood.  The best quality houses use both glue and screws to fasten floors and roof sheathing into place over the floor joists, roof rafters and trusses.


There will probably always be gun nails and old school hammers on a construction job site, but screws are taking over, especially on quality houses.  Ringshank nails work well with gun nailers, especially for wall siding sheathing.  However, screws there would probably be better as well.





Industrial Style Mountain Residential Architecture

August 7th, 2019

Industrial Style Mountain Residential Architecture is a hot subject right now.  HOME ARCHITECTS ® invented Industrial Style Mountain Residential Architecture in 2015 and built the most recent example in 2018.

Industrial Style Mountain house (c) Copyright 2019 HOME ARCHITECTS.

This house has become the poster child for the latest movement in residential “hip” architecture: Industrial Style. 













But this house, designed by Senior Staff Architect Rand Soellner of HOME ARCHITECTS, is the vanguard of Mountain residential architecture: blending the best of muscular Craftsman Style features with industrial materials in mountainous regions, like Cashiers, NC.  The above house is actually next door, in Sapphire, NC.  As soon as this house was built, suddenly there is a boom in shed roof, simplified houses in this area, obviously influenced by this first of the kind project in the region.


Why: the logic of Soellner’s design becomes obvious, once people visit the house.  For instance, the large, simple main shed roof allows the glass wall of the main spaces to be a large, simple rectangle.  And this means a glass wall larger than a billboard, taking in the gorgeous mountain view.  No other house in the region has this much glass width or height for the main view.  This provides more light and view than a gable roof, which cuts off the view on the top left and right corners substantially.  And the large shed roof costs less than a gable roof, which is more difficult and time-consuming to frame, clad and waterproof.  The simplest gravity flow roof in the world is a shed roof.  And when you clad it with standing seam metal, such as in the house above, you can reduce the slope down.  Soellner’s design has a 5* slope.  Just enough to get the rain, ice and snow off, but not too much (more and you would be wasting more investment on side and end wall materials and subjecting them to higher wind forces).


Other logical features of Soellner’s design include the mainly open plan arrangement.  “I designed our roof trusses to clear span the entire house, so the walls below inside the house didn’t have to support the roof.  That gave us more freedom to locate the interior partitions to complement our lifestyle rather than have structural needs dictate their placement,” said Soellner. (See below):













Industrial style kitchen and open plan area. (C) Copyright 2019 Home Architect, PLLC.


The Kitchen has double industrial appliances, which Soellner said only cost about $8,500 including those in the Laundry.  “Stainless steel remains hip, even after a century,” said Soellner, “And it can be easily cleaned and doesn’t damage with household cleaners, or chip when you drop a pan or utensil on it.”


The kitchen also features a super-cool industrial-looking old timber that Soellner picked up from a local junkyard.  Soellner first sprayed 3 coats of boric acid on it (to kill possible insects), then had it skip-sanded to knock off the roughest edges, then had it sealed with clear polyurethane and had iron bands installed, drilled holes and then hung it on long iron rods from ceiling trusses and had LED industrial light fixtures installed.  Everyone coming into the house gaze up at this industrial interior masterpiece in wonder and most say: “Wow!  That’s cool!”.   (see below):













(C) Copyright 2019 Home Architect, PLLC.













This industrial timber “chandelier” provides much of the light for the open plan space of the interior. 


Soellner located other LED light fixtures built-in throughout the house.  He said that LED lights only use about 20% of the energy of incandescent, so he only used LEDs in his own house.  He said the electrical usage of his company’s house designs sip energy.  He said his typical monthly power bill is usually only around $138, which is less than a smaller house his family used to occupy.  And LEDs are supposed to last 7 to 10 years before having to replace the lamp (bulb).  So that’s less maintenance.


He also super-insulated the house, with R49 batts in the attic and R30 in the floor, with a special low-cost liquid foam insulation in the exterior walls, that only cost an additional $1,500 more than batts there.  The walls have an R28, which is what his company calls their “SupR-wall“, because that level of insulation is so much more than required by Code.  Also, the wall system is super-tight, meaning that water and water vapor can’t get into it from the outside, so mold an mildew through walls doesn’t happen.  Most houses have chronic mold and water issues because their walls are not properly designed or constructed.  Not so with this one.


Soellner used a corrugated galvanized steel siding with a 40-year paint guarantee for about 70% of the exterior siding on the house.  “I didn’t want to have to spend $14,000 every 6 or 7 years to repaint my house,” said Soellner.  “So I used a material for most of the outside that won’t need to be painted for a very long time.”  Duh.  Makes sense.  It’s a wonder no one else seems to think this way. 


And in terms of aesthetics, the house won a global architectural design award (ArCHdes2018) from the international architectural society ArCH (Architects Creating Homes).  So the use of industrial materials doesn’t necessarily mean that the project can’t be handsome in appearance.


“I think in terms of entire life-cycle costs for the houses I design,” said Soellner.  “If you have to repaint a normal house 8.3 times over a 50 year ownership period, and if the cost remains what it is today (around $14,000), then that’s $116,666 I just saved by using the siding I did on this house.  I’d rather use that money to take trips, pay for my health care, get new cars, and other things rather than dumping all that cash back into the house.  It’s all about making wise, durable choices that look good.” 


And we all know that today’s costs are likely to double during the next several decades, so the $116,000 Soellner is talking about could very well become $232,000 over half a century.  That’s a crazy amount of money that most people are not realizing that their less durable “normal” houses are costing them in routine maintenance, because those costs are spread out over decades.  And then those people wonder why they can’t afford to take a trip to Europe, or get a new car, or help their children financially:


It’s because you didn’t have a good house design that could have saved you hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs over your lifetime! 


A healthy house is important.  Did you know that most houses in this region (and many others throughout the USA and the world) have radon gas seeping into them?  And that radon gas is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the world (after smoking)?  Well, this industrial style house has a radon removal system.  The EPA and CDC regards radon levels below 4.0 picocuries (4 pCi/L) as inconsequential.  Before the system installation, it was only 3.0 in the crawlspace, but the owners wanted it mitigated.  This house’s radon level is now nearly zero (0.7), one of the healthiest ratings in the entire region.  Probably about what walking across an open meadow would have.  Cost of the system: only $1,094.  Not many people think about this when building a new house: how the house can help you remain healthy.  This Architect does his best to draw their attention to it in his specifications.


And HOME ARCHITECTS is clever about the few other materials: they put those in your face as you approach the house, so you don’t even realize the house is mainly clad in industrial metal siding. 

What other materials? 

Well, for instance: native stone around the tall, bold column supporting the heavy timber frame wood truss at the front entrance.


And the bold 2×12 rusticated timber horizontal trim with timber pegs in it, girdling the house at eye-level.

And the horizontal lap siding below that, going down to near-ground level (actually that is made mainly of cement, so it’s not likely to rot or burn).

And the rich, genuine mahogany 8′ tall double entry doors.


industrial style

(C) Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC.

And the special planter near the entrance with lush greenery.


industrial style

(C)Copyright 2019 Home Architect, PLLC.


And all the trim (wood, but PT (Pressure Treated) so it cannot rot and insects will not eat it).


So Soellner’s strategy is to mainly use materials (like the metal siding with the long high-end paint guarantee) ABOVE eye level (which would have been harder to paint), and then uses stone, horizontal siding and a rustic bold trim all at or below eye level so they are more of what you notice as you approach the house.

industrial style

(C)Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC


And by the way: the metal siding actually looks a lot like board and batten siding, which is what most people think it is, until the Architect informs them otherwise.

industrial style

(C)Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC.


The industrial roof is a wonder of technology:
1. clear coat on top of
2. silver fluoropolymer paint called Kynar (usually guaranteed in terms of multiple decades), over
3. galvalume (aluminum-zinc alloy through hot-dip process 55% aluminum & 45% zinc) over
4. carbon sheet steel.

industrial style

(C)Copyright 2019, Home Architect, PLLC.


That’s a LOT of protection where you need it most: on your roof. Probably at least a 50+-year roof.  More like 60 to 100 years in reality.  And the hold-down fasteners are not through the metal pans (which are one-piece 57′ long sections with no overlaps).  These panels are secured with side-mount concealed clips and screws more often than code requires for this wind zone.  And the bottom end of the roof panels were bent in a sheet metal brake to fold over the bottom edge drip flashing, so water from the top of the panels cannot get back under the roofing.


And UNDER that miracle roof is WR Grace HT (High Temperature) Gold uncured butylene peel and stick sheets over the ENTIRE roof sheathing. All seams overlapped downhill and rubbed with a hard roller to insure proper seating and bonding. Now then, this Architect knows that the HT type of underlayment was required, due to the high temperatures transferred by the metal roof.  If this wasn’t specified, the underlayment might fail.  Just one more quality control piece of information having the right experience Architect brings to bear on an industrial residential project.  And on this simple shed roof, it can just about be guaranteed to have no leaks for the next century.  But under that amazing metal roof, forever comes to mind.


And under that, there is 5/8″ thick tongue and groove severe weather OSB, which uses a superior formula to resist wet conditions (even though with the above high-end roofing materials, the chances of water getting to this sheathing is very unlikely).  And this high-end roof sheathing was both glued and screwed to the roof structure below.  No nails used here.  Only screws.  Impossible to pull out.


And under that, there are the roof trusses, which the Architect had reinforced in the middle, with structural wood members and high-end screws, to make them stronger at their weakest point.


In other words: this house has one of the best roofs in the world.  And while the cost of the roof wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t significantly more than most roofs in this region, meaning: it’s all a question of having a Licensed Architect that makes well-informed choices for clients.


And here’s a look at the Loft Level home office, featuring about 60′ of counter, to help accommodate Merry Soellner, Real Estate Broker’s deals, which she can spread out in multiple packages.

industrial style

And the counters and support blade slabs only cost $193.  Material: MDF, painted with left over paint to match the cabinetry throughout the house, and 2 coats of polyurethane. 

industrial style

Because: one of the objectives of INDUSTRIAL STYLE is just not to “look cool”, it’s to save money. 



So you see: designing an Industrial Style home is much more than mere appearance.  It involves a superior understanding of the components so they will last longer and with less maintenance.


Contact the Architect at the email address you see on this page to design yours.