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An easy going discussion on finishing items such as cabinets, doors, windows, siding and more. Mechanical system design. Insulation for an efficient home is discussed along with some structural details and roof loading. Details on kit home site planning.
Interviewer: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 25 of the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. With me in the studio as usual is the president and founder of Landmark Home and Land Company, a company which has been helping people build their new homes where they want exactly as they want across the nation and worldwide since 1993, Steve Tuma.
Steve, how are things over at Landmark?
Steve Landmark: Very well. We’re working hard taking care of a lot of customers, developing their personalized and customized home plans so that they can build a home that they want and make sure it fits on the land, make sure it’s easy for them to get building permits and make sure it goes through inspections properly.
Interviewer: So business as usual over at Landmark.
Steve Landmark: Working away.
Interviewer: So we’ve talked a lot in the past about the panelized home building process from the ground up and one thing we haven’t gone over all that much are the finishing items for a home building project. You know, things such as cabinets, doors, windows, siding, other details like that. When a Landmark customer comes to you and they’re looking at designs and they want to customize one of the Landmark designs, how do those fixtures and items come into the process?
Steve Landmark: Well, it’s very interesting because we are able to let the customer choose the finishing items. What we mean by finishing items are the siding, the windows, the cabinets, the fixtures, the floors, the trim. You know, the kind of details that you see. We supply the plans and then the wood structure, which you generally don’t see after the home is built. But our customers like to personalize it and that’s the advantage. Sometimes they might – you know, people would go to build and there’s a choice of – you know, like Henry Ford. There’s a choice of everything as long as you pick from this one item, which really isn’t a selection. In our situation, with Landmark, people can choose their own flooring, their own siding, their own faucets, the plumbing fixtures, counter tops, cabinets. So there’s almost an endless variety that they can choose from.
The nice thing is we can go draw all those details on the plans so that when they’re working with their plumber or electrician, carpeting people, flooring people, cabinet people, they know what’s required. They know how much space they have for cabinets. They know what areas are going to be wood floors, what areas are going to be carpet, what areas are going to be tile and whatever it is. That’s really the bottom line so that dollar for dollar, the people get the house that they want and that’s a key element. So we can put the details on the plans. Sometimes homeowner’s associations need to review the exterior look. Other times it’s just so that customers understand what they want to put on the home. They make final decisions and then it’s clear and the plan is set for the contractor. So it’s very clear. The plans are actually like a communication device when you’re getting estimates that would show, hey, you want a cement board siding or you want a metal roof or whatever the details are, so that it’s very clear. So that – I call it personalizing your home and customizing is also a good word for it. But you can have the colors you want, the materials you want, the look you want, the finishes that you want in the interior and exterior of the home as you choose. That’s pretty cool.
Interviewer: You know, that all makes sense. But now the tough part. After we had all the fun of figuring out which windows and doors we want, what about the nuts and bolts like plumbing, the electric, the heating and air conditioning systems? So how do those get designed into the home and installed?
Steve Landmark: Well, we’re capable – that’s kind of three items there and they’re similar but also separate. We can do the plumbing layouts and within that, it is kind of nuts and bolts. You know, no one is really too concerned about the actual piping or sewer line in the home. But the faucets, the toilets, the tubs, the showers, are there any special use, any wheelchair-accessible or mobility-restricted types or are they just – some people want something a little more styling. Other people want something a little simple, more affordable. So that we could put the details on the plans. But they could work with their actual plumbing supplier, whether it’s the contractor or if they’re installing the plumbing themselves. They can go to the plumbing supply house and pick out the faucets and details that they need.
Now also within plumbing, there are some selections in the nuts and bolts. Some people want a water tank heating system. Other people are going for the more on-demand heating systems, which are actually more energy-efficient. So electric systems. Again, people generally just install what’s required for code for the actual wiring, but they might have different selections of switches, dimmers. A lot of these are getting into smart home situations.
Interviewer: Oh, right, yeah.
Steve Landmark: So if someone wanted to, they could design their smart home situation and we can supply the set of plans and work with them to make sure that everything is clear. So on electric, it’s kind of more simple. But people can decide where they want yard lights, if they want computer cabling, ceiling fans.
We’ve got a lot of customers with different types of hobbies. Some people work on cars. Some people have wood shops. Some people are – audio files or they’ve got an editing base or different situations. So they may need – have different electrical requirements.
Interviewer: Right, right.
Steve Landmark: So we could design that into the home and not just supply what’s their code, but also design what they will need to make the house more enjoyable for themselves.
Interviewer: Would that include like if I put a Jacuzzi in the back? Would that be like all of that stuff kind of goes in at the same time?
Steve Landmark: Well, that’s exactly right because that’s – if it’s heated with gas, there’s probably some gas piping. If it’s heated electric, there would be an electric circuit brought out there and also in some places where there are green codes, they’re requiring plugins for electric vehicles.
Interviewer: Ah-ha! There you go.
Steve Landmark: Yeah. So that’s something maybe not as many people are concerned with now but I – you know, if you look at the wave, it seems that there’s more and more of them on the road. So there are – and that’s where we’re able to work with people because the idea is to make the house yours.
Steve Landmark: I think the last one you asked about was HVAC, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Again a lot of people look at that as a – oh, that’s just keeping me warm. It’s not exciting. It’s not a fireplace. It’s not a window overlooking a great view. But the reality is there’s a lot of filtration systems, humidifiers, higher efficiency heating systems and cooling systems and then a lot of people are getting into the mini split systems as well. So there are a couple of selections there on what would work. The key to it is we can help design. You don’t have to know how to do the manuals S, D and J for your house. You don’t have to know the electric code. You can just say, “Hey, we’re going to have an electric car. We need this here. I happen to have my home arc welder. I need this.” You know, we cook a lot on the island. We want a couple of sockets or hey, we need sockets with USB connections, whatever it may be. We can go through and …
Interviewer: Pretty detailed stuff.
Steve Landmark: Well, homes are a little different now. The dining rooms are disappearing and being replaced by game rooms and home theaters. Extra bedrooms or areas and lofts are becoming home offices. Well, if you look at the power requirements, people working at home offices with computers, printers, multiple screens, radio, phone systems, whatever it may be, you need a lot of sockets and the proper power in one particular location. So it’s easier to install it when you’re building it than it is to add it afterwards. So it’s very easy to take care of upfront.
Interviewer: There’s something you hit on just a little bit. I want to backtrack just a little bit because we all know what smart phones are. But you had mentioned smart homes and I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are wondering, “Well, what the hell is that?” What is a smart home?
Steve Landmark: Well, basically it’s automated systems. A lot of people have heard of the big brand names, the Googles, the Alexas and stuff like that. So theoretically you could walk in your house and they could sense you and say, “Oh, this is Steve walking in. He likes the house 72 degrees. He likes classic rock playing and he likes lighting like this.”
So other people just have simple things as far as being able to make a voice command and the light would come on or come off and we’re working with some people that have mobility restrictions. So imagine if you were someone that lived by yourself and you worked hard to get out of your wheelchair or get into the bed and then you sit there and scratch your head and double guess yourself and say, “Did I lock my front door?”
Steve Landmark: How much fun is it to get out, roll over to the door and to find out that it is locked? You know, compared to just being able to say …
Interviewer: That alone is worth it.
Steve Landmark: Right. And then other people would like it just for security systems, yard lighting. You know, that’s an evolving business. So we can work with people if they choose to design a system like that.
Interviewer: There’s another thing we haven’t really hit on as much and it’s kind of a nuts and bolts thing. We talk a lot about the overall design and how much fun designing a home is. But what about insulation? Let’s say I’m building a home and I don’t know. Is Landmark able to let me know the best insulation for me, for my home, for my area?
Steve Landmark: Yeah. We can help you with that and the key element in that is the theoretical calculations with prescriptive guidelines, risk check or actual calculations to show the energy efficiency of your home. In some states, it’s very simple. They just say, hey, put R-21 in the wall, R-48 in the ceiling and that’s good insulation and maybe that is good. But there are always ways if someone wanted to get a little more involved say to the situation of – like the State of California does where they actually get into the type of roofing materials, the color of the roofing materials, the type of siding, the orientation of your home.
Steve Landmark: And that can greatly affect it because the simple way to put the concept across is all of us have stood by a big glass window facing south on a sunny day. It seems that the heat is magnified and – or the sun power gets magnified through the glass and creates heat. Well, in summer, that’s kind of our – sorry, in winter, that’s kind of a help. But in summer, it might be heating up and it’s fighting against your air conditioning system. So the sun is creating heat. Your air conditioning system is trying to cool. It’s creating a higher utility bill.
Steve Landmark: Well, there are certain things that can be done in the design of that to prevent or minimize that occurrence to keep to it. So I’m kind of dancing around saying, hey, the insulation is important but understanding where the insulation needs to go is the important part. Sometimes a lot of people are surprised when they find out – if their basement insulation or slab across base insulation can be the difference of passing or failing. A lot of people think hey, insulation in walls and roofs and having the right windows. So these calculations can get into the efficiencies of furnaces and air conditioning systems and they can also get into the details, the performance ratings for windows as well as the actual insulation.
So we go a little bit further to make sure that the home as a unit performs well.
Steve Landmark: Because there kind of really isn’t any sense to putting great insulation in your walls and then having a window that performs very badly.
Steve Landmark: And defeating the purpose.
Interviewer: A quarterback is only as good as his receivers and vice versa.
Steve Landmark: Exactly.
Steve Landmark: Yeah. It’s a team. It’s like a chain. You know, the weakest link determines the strength of the chain. So we want to keep all the links solid.
Interviewer: Now we’ve talked in the past a little bit about floor systems and flooring in general. But how would I know what type of floor system should be in my new home? You know, two-by-tens, I-joist, floor trusses, all of those. It gets a little bit confusing at times and I’m sure Landmark has a lot of answers for that.
Steve Landmark: Right, and there’s a variety of different reasons. Like you mentioned, dimensional wood, two-by-tens and two-by-twelves. There are reasons for those. Engineered I-joist, there are other reasons and open web floor trusses, there are other reasons. So let’s just start with the benefits of each one. The dimensional wood, two-by-tens and two-by-twelves are generally the most affordable, but they only can span such a distance. So for example under certain conditions, the two-by-tens, they would span 13 feet. But if you wanted to have a room that was say 26 feet wide, like a basement say, say your basement was 26 feet wide, you have to have a beam down there so that one group would span 13 feet to the beam and then the other one would span 13 feet to the opposite side of the foundation. It’s affordable. It’s conventional. It has been used forever. It works. But if you’re in a crawlspace, that makes sense. If you’re in a basement, it can make sense as well, but people have to realize you can’t cut a big hole through a two-by-ten and run a duct through it.
Steve Landmark: So you’re going to have to hang your ducts below it. So if you have a basement, it’s going to – you’re going to have a soffit or a lowered ceiling. So in the case of an eight-foot wall – and I’m simplifying the math here. If you have an eight-foot wall, you might have a duct come down a foot. That gives you a seven-foot ceiling in certain places.
Interviewer: Oh, right. I see that.
Steve Landmark: Now if your basement is a storage space or something that is just kind of a – used here and there, it’s OK. But if you were to have a family room down there with a big screen TV and a pool table and recreation areas, people might find that the eight-foot ceiling is more conventional. So with using two-by-tens, they could raise the height of the basement floor or wall I mean, going from an eight-foot wall to a nine-foot wall and then the clearances would work. So that’s the bottom line on those. I-joist can span. They’re an engineered material. They can span farther. Sometimes 20, 30 feet is very reasonable for those items. So you could then take this 26-foot basement not of beams and minimize the post in the basement.
Interviewer: Ah, OK.
Steve Landmark: OK. So suddenly – Steve, you’ve been in people’s game room downstairs. They’re having a big Super Bowl party. The pool table is going and that post is always in the wrong place.
Steve Landmark: No matter where you put it, there’s that shot. You’re at the pool table. You’re about to win and uh-oh, the post is in the way. So with I-joist, you can have bigger spans creating bigger areas. But they also have limitations on the size of hole you can cut through them. So in the case of duct work or larger drainage pipes, you would have to put them – hang them below the I-joist.
Interviewer: Oh, it makes sense.
Steve Landmark: Now floor trusses work similar to I-joist. They could span farther but a floor truss has open webs in it. So you can pass duct work and plumbing and electric through them. So it gives you that finished ceiling height. So – or it’s a higher ceiling height and that’s the nice thing about it is it gives the flexibility. So there’s good and bad to each one. Cost-wise, the dimensional wood is generally the least expensive. I-joist will go up a little bit and floor trusses will go up a little bit beyond that. It’s hard to give an exact dollar amount because it depends on the design point loads above it and a variety of other details. But for a typical home to go from two-by-tens to floor trusses, you might add a couple or a few thousand dollars. Someone might say, “Oh, that’s a lot of money.” I would say, “Hey, if you’ve got a basement and a walkout basement and you can make it wide open, for relatively a little amount of money, you’ve got a lot of open space”
Steve Landmark: And that’s something to consider. So suddenly your walkout basement becomes more usable instead of a basement with a forest of poles. You got open areas and in some cases, people will put drive-under garages, workshops, brought their boats in there or kayaks. You know, their picnic – that they put it inside and some families, that’s where they have big tables for family get-togethers. You know, the holidays or birthdays, you have 20 or 30 people over. It’s one big dining hall. So it’s – we can help with those ideas, asking how they want to use the home, talk to our structural engineers to make sure that the design is right and then go forward to help. But that’s one of those things. People don’t think about it until you’re in your basement wanting to use it.
Interviewer: Yeah. If you move those posts, then your pool game goes up.
Steve Landmark: Right.
Interviewer: So we’ve talked about flooring. Let’s go as they say from the ground up. What type of roof should I put on my new home? What can I put? I mean there are so many choices it seems. Asphalt shingles, metal, on and on.
Steve Landmark: Tile.
Steve Landmark: No. It’s – sometimes the roof is a budget situation where people go with a simpler three-tab asphalt shingle. That’s probably considered the least expensive. People will have asphalt shingles that are architectural shingles. They have more of a texture to them. A lot more people are going with metal roofs and then in certain parts of the country, tile is very important. It’s part of the architectural design. So we can design in any type of roof system that someone likes. On flat roofs, there’s a lot of rubber roof systems. But what basically – I think most people have an idea of what they want. If someone was going to do a Mediterranean design or a Southwest design, they would probably go with the tile roof. The metal roofs can go on a lot of different homes as well as the asphalt. Now in some places, there are reasons to have different roofs like fire resistance. It’s the ratings of fire resistance. So all of us have heard about the fires in the West and so there might be reasons to make sure – or there definitely are reasons to make sure that you’ve got a …
Interviewer: Yeah, of course, of course.
Steve Landmark: But as far as the different types, we just need to know to make sure that the roof structure is right because some of the tiles weigh more than an asphalt shingle. So we’ve got to put a – you know, increase the strength of the roof system to hold the shingles properly.
Interviewer: Well, while we’re up walking around on the roof, let’s talk about snow loads. I mean that’s something that comes up in customer questions all the time. You know, the people living in Minnesota or Colorado, is that more of a concern for them than say someone living in Florida?
Steve Landmark: It’s actually a concern everywhere because you want your roof to be designed properly. All of us have been in an older neighborhood and you see a house and there’s a swayback roof or something or a wave in the roof. That’s where something wasn’t designed properly.
Interviewer: Got it.
Steve Landmark: So what’s interesting is they call it a snow load. But obviously in some places, there really isn’t snow. So it’s more of just a generic term for loading and what they want to do is just make sure that the loads are proper for the roof system. So if – if you were building a house in on Key West, Florida, you would have a lower snow load because it really doesn’t get any snow load there than if you were to build that same home in Leadville, Colorado 11,000 feet up or in Lake Tahoe where they can get 150, 170 pounds of snow. So we need to know that just to make sure that the trusses are properly designed and then the truss weight is supported by the walls and then the foundation. So a lot of people will find that sometimes their building department doesn’t know or they won’t tell them.
Interviewer: The building department actually might not know that.
Steve Landmark: Yeah. It’s kind of interesting. Some of them just don’t know the simpler ones. But we can find out and then in other places, like Steve in mountain areas, you brought up Colorado, the Rockies. You could have areas where in the same zip code, the elevation of the ground can go up a thousand or two thousand feet.
Steve Landmark: And that can change the snow load. So there are special areas where you have to actually look at the elevation that the home is being built at to find out, hey, is the snow load 50 pounds, 70 pounds, 100, 110 pounds. So it’s not always uniform. But if you were in a – like a flatter terrain like Phoenix, they will generally have one snow load. But if you went into the Rocky Mountains or towns or even the mountains along the Sierras, even in Upstate New York, you can end up in situations where the snow load can vary by the location.
You go from one side of town. It’s one rating. Go to the other side of town. It’s another rating. Now if someone can’t find that out, we can sort it out for them when we’re doing the design elements of the home and then make sure that the home is designed properly for the snow loads.
Interviewer: It’s interesting though. Now we’ve learned something like we do every day hopefully.
Steve Landmark: That’s the idea.
Interviewer: Snow load is a generic term. Just – so we make sure that we build a roof that’s damn strong enough.
Steve Landmark: That’s the idea. But we’re simplifying in snow loads. There’s a lot of issues with roofs. You know, there’s wind coming across, hurricane situations. There’s the weight of the dry wall on the inside. There’s live loads and dead loads for top and bottom cords. There’s also energy heel trusses that allow for insulation to be brought to the edge. There’s a whole variety of scenarios that come into roof design and lately, we’ve had more and more building departments rightly asking to make sure that the water flows off the roof properly. You know, in drainage plans, hey, make sure there are gutters so that the water can flow and where does it go so that your gutter doesn’t go on your neighbor’s house or something like that.
Interviewer: Right. Well, I know you’re a busy guy. But you got time for one more question. I would like to –
Steve Landmark: Yeah, let’s do it.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about site plans for my building site. Let’s say my building department wants me to have a site plan drawn up. But I wouldn’t even know how to start.
Steve Landmark: We can do that. We’ve got all the drafting and capabilities to make sure a site plan is put together. We can also find out what your building department wants. This is really a varied situation because some building departments that are less sophisticated, they just want to know what’s the size of your lot and where is your house.
So let’s just say you’ve got a lot in the city and it’s 100 by 100. They want to know that you’re within the building setbacks, the front, side and rear setbacks. They want to know where your driveway is, where your house is and maybe the size of your house just to make sure it fits in zoning. Then there are other building departments that go to the nth degree. They want to know where the electric comes in, where the gas line is, where the water line is, where the sewer line is, where your neighbor’s water or sewer is, where your driveway is, all these different setbacks. Are there easements? Are there power lines? Are there other buildings? We’ve been asked to locate the dog house on some of these because they don’t want people – there are guidelines on that. You can’t stick your dog house right underneath your neighbor’s bedroom window if you’re in a higher density area.
Steve Landmark: So we’ve run into situations like that where we’ve also got to work together with our clients. Civil engineer for grading and drainage plans. So there’s a lot of details that can come into it. Now that in a sense, what I’ve described to you, is like a bird’s eye view looking down on the land. But a lot of building departments are rightfully concerned about the terrain. They want to know the topography. Does your land slope down? If so, is there enough space for the walkout basement you intend on doing? How is the drainage? Is there an excessive slope of your driveway? So these are all situations that we can work with. Each building department is a little different. Some of them will ask questions that have never been asked by anyone else. Others will ask a very common question. But that’s a key element and generally they need to be drawn to scale, a specific scale and they will actually see it has got to be a specific scale and a specific size paper.
So we’re able to get that all formatted properly. The formatting of that is pretty important to make sure everything is to scale, drawn right and accurate.
Interviewer: Fantastic. Well, we are about out of time here on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show. I want to thank all of you for listening in once again. Before we go, I want to give Steve a chance to let people know how to contact Landmark Home and Land Company.
Steve Landmark: The easiest way is to take a look at our webpage, which is www.lhlc.com. Kind of the initials of Landmark Home Land Company. It’s actually Landmark Home and Land Company, but www.lhlc.com will work. There are videos on there. There are these podcasts. There are plan ideas. There are discussions on what we supply, how we can help you, some pictures and other details like that.
You can also call 800-830-9788. Mike will take care of you initially and talk to you about your project. We do answer our phone. If for some reason we can’t answer your phone right away, leave a message and we will return your call promptly. We are very proactive in talking to people and making sure that they’re taken care of properly or they could email firstname.lastname@example.org or they can reach me anytime at email@example.com.
The key to it is we are very interested in our individual customer’s projects. We will take the time to find out what you’re looking for and we will also take the time and explain how we can help and how these different concepts work for your individual project.
Interviewer: And I would encourage all of our listeners to go to the website. Again that’s www.lhlc.com. There’s some great information on there. There are some amazing videos showcasing the process of panelized home building from A to Z.
So anyway, again for Steve Tuma and myself, thank you for joining us on the Panelized Prefab Kit Home Building Show and we will see you all next time.
Steve Landmark: Thank you.