Custom Home Building | Serving Hampton Roads for 30 Years

Why Remodel or Renovate?

Why do homeowners turn to remodeling or renovating their existing homes these days, rather than deciding to build a home supposedly more suited to their specific needs? Obviously the 1st choice could be today's economic climate that may preclude the more expensive approach of taking on the project of a new home. Another reason could be the owner's affection for their present location and/or basic layout of the existing house, and only need to update, add on to, refine and enhance their family home.

Just as choosing the location of a new home is important, as well as marrying the design to the natural parameters of the site, similarly, connecting a new addition as well as creating a seamless visual and practical relationship with the existing house is paramount. Some design approaches involve setting the new addition off as a singular statement, with different yet architecturally pleasing materials to create a separate feeling, while others favor creating the perception that the 2 structures were built at the same time with matching or identical materials, finishes and general layout.

In planning for and building the addition(s),there are several key items to keep in mind. If the owners seeks to create a new structure to accommodate their needs, be it an expanding family, being desirous of more space for high profile rooms such as kitchens, bathrooms, office or family room, yet hoping to blend the design of these areas to the existing dwelling as to seem to be part of the original plan, then one needs to pay attention to some design and construction aids.First,in seeking to replicate exterior and interior finishes, one can cut expenses of paying extra for new millwork by having experienced craftsmen find stock items that may be difficult to find. As mentioned before, exterior Azek trim is now being offered in a variety of profiles that could probably match up with older existing woodwork and in the long run, prove to be more durable. As to construction practices, one of the most prevalent mistakes/problems with attaching a new structure to an existing home is not taking into account the condition of the existing foundation while also not providing a suitable and structurally sound foundation for the connecting walls and especially floors. All too often, when this is improperly done, what is left to come are uneven floors, sagging walls and accompanying roof, not to mention caulk and paint failure.

These are just a few tips to remember when approaching a remodeling or renovation project, and it is wise to seek the advice of experienced design and construction personnel when moving forward with your home building plans in order to make it a more satisfying and successful venture.


Green Building Practices

One of the fastest growing and popular modes of construction today, both in Residences and Commercial projects, is the use of "Green" Building Practices. A green building is one that has been first designed with either the site to be fully integrated with existing landscaping and natural features or in more urban environments, to be in close proximity to mass transit. Green buildings, either designed and built as a single family residence or remodeled, renovated or repaired, are inherently focused on using water, electricity and other resources more carefully and efficiently, all the while minimizing the environmental effects.

Typical benefits of this approach are: improved occupant health and comfort, reduced contribution to pollution and landfill waste, more efficient use of materials, better insulation packages and HVAC systems that contribute to lower utility costs, more longevity and comfort of the structure and therefore reducing maintenance over the life of the building.

Successful Green Building practices begin with an integrated design approach that includes combining efficiency, comfort and reducing environmental impact with an eye to cost and realistic expectations in the project. Using dimensionally engineered lumber in framing, which are structurally more stable and reliable than solid sawn wood, are also environmentally friendly in that they are made from wood species that are not endangered. These design practices continue with sizing rooms close to multiples of four feet which reduce waste by aligning with standard building materials, especially interior and exterior wall surfaces.

Designing heating and cooling systems (HVAC) to be more properly sized and with return and supply ducts efficiently insulated and installed, is crucial to overall comfort and longevity of the machinery themselves. Choosing HVAC systems such as geothermal closed loop with proper acknowledgement of window size and placement, direction of natural light sources and nature of insulation are also key to creating a safe, comfortable home that is over the long run, less costly and not constantly in need of annoying repairs. Using soybased spray foam insulation in wall and roof framing cavities is a considerable improvement over conventional fiberglass based batt insulation in that it provides a much better shield to air penetration, provides structural stability, integrity and far better R values while also ensuring better sound dampening.

Recent information has come to light that buildings that have been built with these practices and more, have less incidences of respiratory problems, allergies and microbial growth which have increasingly become more prevalent in contemporary residential living environments. Here in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, with especially hot, wet and prolonged humid summers, one must pay attention to these issues.

These are just a few important highlights of what is happening today in Green Building and even though the upfront cost can be more,the benefits of providing a safer, more comfortable, efficient and more environmentally friendly home should be factored in to the complete package when approaching a construction project or family residence.

Contact RB Builders for more information on how to implement "Green Building Practices" into your project. 


Safe and Secure Construction Practices

Avoid Structural Building Flaws

Unfortunately, what passes for safe and sound construction these days, actually includes hidden structural building flaws that ultimately require expensive, occasionally complicated and annoying repairs. Some examples:

One of the most pervasive problems with houses built today are the ever increasing instances of water damage. One of the most egregious and common problems is the improper installation of roof, chimney and siding flashing. The problem begins with cheap short-lived materials, usually bare aluminum, and continue with poor and faulty installation. Copper, and in some applications, lead coated copper are far superior to bare aluminum, followed by a baked on painted finish aluminum flashing.

Also, just as important as the choice of flashing material are the nails and sealant used to attach. Proper nails should usually be of the same material as the flashing, and frequently, if not compatible, this application leads to premature rusting and compromise of the waterproofing resulting in hidden water damage that only becomes noticeable after structural damage has occurred. Similarly, cheap, non flexible sealant with poor adhesive qualities usually fails rather quickly and provides other openings for water and moisture to enter. Moisture penetration, and the accompanying mold growth, is probably the #1 problem with contemporary building practices here in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, with dramatic changes in weather, high humidity and frequent high winds and rainfall, water prevention is essential. When adding additions and renovations to an existing house, proper flashing and sealing the connections is paramount.

One of the by products of the mass building boom over the last few decades is sadly, the loss of experience and craftsmanship that are absolutely essential in creating a safe, healthy and structurally sound house. Use of less expensive, and in some cases, defective materials coupled with poor workmanship all have increasingly been contributing to costly repairs as well as unwelcome health issues. In further entries we will speak about the gradual yet increasingly popular entrance to the construction trade of Green materials and technology.

Contact R&B Builders for fine craftsmanship to avoid these unnecessary issues in the future.


Importance of Construction Materials

One of the most important, yet frequently overlooked aspects of custom building, remodeling or renovation is the quality of building materials used in the construction project. From structural, framing and masonry materials to interior trim and cosmetic finish items, their durabilty and stability contribute mightily to their longevity, low maintenance and in the end, a pleasing esthetic that does not require constant attention and repair. In some cases, superior products such as AZEK exterior trim, a material that is quickly supplanting wood exterior trim and deck applications, are much more preferable to traditional painted wood moldings. They are nearly maintenance free, indistinguishable from wood, and while more expensive at the outset, clearly offer a significant savings in the long run as they do not suffer the water damage and expansion and contraction problems of wood. In the Tidewater area, with its extremes of cold weather and high humidity, stability of exterior materials is key.

Similarly, choosing a more stable wood for interior trim applications such as poplar instead of the more commonly used yellow pine, offers a finer product of woodwork while again reducing wood movement that results in paint chipping, caulk separation that ultimately leads to constant paint and occasional carpenty repairs. Fine Craftmanship, while also essential, can only temporarily mask material defects

One of the biggest mistakes in homebuilding these days, is unknowingly trying to save money with lesser quality materials, while in the end, through frequent and annoying repair, one ends up spending far more. Be sure to contact a professional for those tasks beyond your scope of work- it will save you money and the headache of future repairs that could have been avoided.

Contact R&B Builders to learn more about the importance of high quality construction materials.