Baby, Is it Cold Outside?

Energy efficiency can be a goal in any home you wish to build. How much it should determine your architectural design and budget is a consideration to discuss at the beginning of the custom home process. Whether you share my (high) maintenance preferences or Will’s penny-pinching proclivities, any tact you take will find a proponent at LCH.

While I fancy myself to be an outdoorswoman hardened by a youth in the Rocky Mountain West, I love a great climate-controlled room (turns out I grew up in the Denver suburbs). shutterstock_130221638I want my home to be 70 degrees year-round, dipping to 68 only when I sleep. If you understand what I’m talking about, you too have probably experienced the shame of tiptoeing to the thermostat, hoping you make it back to your seat before your frugal spouse catches you in the act.

There is an alternative for comfortable living. Building a custom home with a good builder offers the opportunity to design a home that will create a comfortable climate while minimizing the impact on your utility bill. Here are some of the choices you can make that will keep your hands warm in January and sheets cool in mid-August.

  1. Design an efficient house. Even if you dream of a large home, architectural details can help maintain it as a comfortable yet efficient home. Ask your architect to avoid tricky cantilevers, corners, and other complications that will make tight seams and thorough insulation difficult.
  2. Take orientation into consideration. Plan around the sun.
  3. Use only experienced and committed insulation and HVAC contractors. Poorly installed work by either trade will waste the “bought” air.  Don’t skimp on insulation. It is already pretty affordable and it will be one of the most cost-effective investments you can make.  Appropriately zoned HVAC units can rapidly respond to small area needs with measured outputs. No longer do you need to heat the entire floor if your office is chilly.
  4. Install efficient appliances. The market is encouraging rapid innovation and manufacturers are responding.
  5. Select quality windows customized to your home environment needs. If your house takes advantage of a great southerly view with huge floor to ceiling windows, consider purchasing optional window coatings that can block hot and damaging rays.
  6. Details matter. Work with a builder who cares about the small issues that can compromise an exterior envelope, HVAC system, or installation of any of the components that comprise an efficient home. Again, you bought the air. It’s our job to keep it in.

Energy efficiency can be a goal in any home you wish to build. How much it should determine your architectural design and budget is a consideration to discuss at the beginning of the custom home process. Whether you share my (high) maintenance preferences or Will’s penny-pinching proclivities, any tact you take will find a proponent at LCH.



Experience Matters

trussesI am trying to embrace the benefits of being middle-aged. One great one is being surrounded by people who have flourished in their chosen fields and are now proven experts. In the last few weeks, I’ve sat in awe as friends presented in depth information about their work in science and business. This morning, as I walked a project with my husband, my reflective mood allowed me to recognize I was watching my husband’s expertise in action.

We are currently working on a home that is long on both beauty and complicated roof lines. It is at a critical stage in construction; we need to make sure the building’s bones are built correctly and to last before drywall hides the guts. Ahead of bringing our framer in to address issues big and small, we want to make sure the roof trusses are in good shape, where they are intended to be, and installed with the proper placements outlined by the engineer.

When the trusses img_0919-editedare dropped on site, each comes marked with a code and is packed in bundles according to its size. The framers disassemble the packs, sorting trusses according to the provided layout. They then follow the layout like they are assembling a huge Lego project. Given its complexity and physical challenges, it is entirely understandable that excellent framers will still occasionally miss a piece of wind bracing or the manufacturer missed a gusset. Years of evaluating trusses enables an experienced eye to find a broken chord or forgotten brace. This is where Will’s experience matters.


R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I’ll tell ya what it means to me.


I am a sucker for a good craft fair. Show me an artisan who has spent hours blowing a glass vase or weeks stitching a quilt, I start digging for my credit card. A furniture maker who has built a beautiful rocker will require my bringing Will back to see. And let’s not forget about the amazing apple sauce or the addicting kettle corn.

But back to my point… We love craftsmanship. However, several forces have conspired over the last couple of decades to “throw shade” on the reputation of the construction trades.  We all know some of this has been earned by a segment of the build-fast industry. But knowing how hard the men and women on our jobs work, I hope to change some opinions.

Here are some examples of work reflecting the contractors’ investment of time, skill, and experience. 12512477_474219506111840_5076241198064488781_n-1The gentleman who installed this stone fireplace surround spent three days cutting, fitting, and laying the stones in the family room. He paid attention to the color and size of individual stones and created a beautifully balanced centerpiece.

The tile installers spend an impressive amount of time preparing the underlayment and determining placement before they ever start cutting.12469615_457606591106465_3148176234363639367_o Not only do they concern themselves with precision symmetry, they spend hours upon hours ensuring that the product won’t shift, move, or crack long after buyers take possession.

We love our plumber. He has been working in Northern Virginia for decades and brings a wealth of experience and advice to our sites. There was no functional reason for him to create such beautiful symmetry with these And weeks later, drywall forever sealed it from view. But he cares so he did it.

So, yes. There are contractors out there giving their contemporaries a bad name. But we are routinely blown away by the care and skill the craftsmen exhibit. And just as I envy the quilter’s careful stitching, I wish my two hands could perfectly plumb a house or build a beautiful fireplace around which families will gather. Fortunately, we know people whose hands do exactly that.



Understanding Costs

Planning Your Costs is a description of the elements involved in home construction and how they affect budgets. Most of these elements are impacted by decisions home owners make during the design and selection processes. However, unforeseen issues can also lead to additional spending requirements. We hope to help you understand what you can control so when you sit down to plan your home, you have information that will ensure your home is what you and your budget envision.

Discussing Priorities

Planning Your Home is a brief questionnaire designed to help buyers begin to prioritize options for their home design. As mentioned in last month’s post, if a home buyer approaches the architectural process without a clear understanding of their priorities, the design can quickly outgrow their intended size and budget. We have heard ourselves proclaim with enthusiasm, “Yes, of course we want to add that space. Why wouldn’t we?” (I designed a lovely “tranquility” room for myself because I met with our architect while parenting two teen boys). We want our home buyers to know that they are investing in spaces that will enhance their current and future lives. Tranquility can be achieved in many ways; smart planning is high on that list.

Finding a Custom Home Already Underway


Designs and Approvals (1)“Spec” homes are a terrific option for buyers who want a custom home without the commitment of starting from scratch. These are houses builders design, build, and sell as inventory homes. When you buy a spec (speculative) house, you will likely be purchasing a home already under construction. While this limits your input on the finished product, this kind of purchase allows you a speedier delivery and more traditional purchase process. Depending on when you sign your contract, Langhorne Custom Homes will work with you to complete the home with the finishes you desire.

Let’s discuss the stages of construction and our approach to choosing options and finishes. Please understand these processes reflect our standard approach but additional changes can often be made if the buyer is willing to delay delivery and/or finance alterations.

Stage One is all about architectural design, site engineering, and obtaining permits and other necessary approvals. Completion will likely be a year or more down the road but this is a critical time for making major changes to the layout or orientation of the home. You might consider committing at this stage if you know you love the location but do not need to move for at least a year. During this period, you will likely be able to make major structural changes. You like the house but want to add an elevator? The master bedroom is great but you want to change the layout of the bathroom? These are changes that might add weeks to your delivery but will be easy to design.

Stage Two is the time during which the “guts” of the house are built. The foundation is poured and the walls are framed. Once the concrete is poured, it is very difficult to change the the general layout of the home but the interior walls are still somewhat adaptable. Unless they are structural walls responsible for bearing weight as designed and engineered, we can move framing about to accommodate better flow, size, or feel of interior spaces. These changes will have negligible impact on delivery time. It is during this stage exterior finishes should be finalized and presented for HOA approval (if necessary). If you do not love the color of stone or roof we selected, we can work with you to redesign these finishes.

Stage Three is when the exterior surfaces are applied and the interior drywall is hung. This is an exciting time when the house really begins to take shape and we can see what it will look and feel like. This is also when we get serious about making interior selections. Floors, cabinets, and tile are selected and ordered. When we build spec homes, we work with extremely talented designers to choose finishes that work well with the home and will be broadly appealing. However, we know everyone’s tastes vary. Depending on our suppliers’ ability to make changes, we will try to accommodate your desires.

Stage Four is when the house style truly develops. Our fantastic subcontractors work their craft as they install flooring, bathroom tile, custom stairs, cabinets, and wood trim. It is at this stage when we finalize remaining selections (plumbing and lighting fixtures, countertops, door hardware, and staircase newels, balusters, and railings).  Until these elements have been customized by our suppliers (counter tops cut, railings manufactured, etc.) , you can make changes.

Stage Five is the polishing stage. We install remaining fixtures, shower doors, mirrors, wall color, floor stain, carpet (if any), and exterior landscaping. At this stage, if we haven’t installed it, we can probably change it. If we have applied the paint or laid the carpet and you would prefer different colors, we can make changes but they will likely result in short delays and additional costs. We can also work with you to create a landscaping package you desire. At this point, we will also begin our “punch-out.” This is when Will’s OCD and my scrutinizing eyes are unleashed. We scour the house for any flaws needing attention. You will walk the house and see tabs of painter’s tape pointing out any drywall, paint, or trim issues.

After the house is complete, buyers will be looking at this house in its final stage. However, buying at this stage still presents benefits you will not find when buying a resale or an inventory home from a larger builder. We will be readily available to answer questions or assist with changes you want to make. Want to add a wine room or in ground pool? We and our contractors will understand the inner workings of the house and will make any improvements fit seamlessly in your home. We want you to love every nook and cranny of your new home and will work to make sure any home we deliver fits your needs and vision to the best of our ability.