Lighting With Style

January 27th, 2011

The right light – the right touch

Wilmington builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share an article courtesy of GEAppliances.com about lighting for your kitchen.

Good light helps make any kitchen safe and comfortable. Natural light is important, but think about the places that natural light won’t reach or light well. Consider cloudy days, and remember that much of the work will be done in the evenings.

That means artificial light is key. Multiple light sources and different modes of lighting will reduce shadows, glare or blind spots, and put enough light right where it is needed for kitchen activities.

As a rule, you should provide a mix of three lighting modes.

  • Ambient light – For overall room illumination, typically provided by ceiling, track or recessed lighting fixtures. The number and placement of fixtures should provide even illumination without dark spots or “hot” spots.
  • Task lighting – For shadow-free, concentrated lighting of food preparation and other kitchen work activities. Typically comes from under-cabinet fixtures or strips, or hanging fixtures such as pendent lights.
  • Accent lighting – Contributes a decorative element and helps create focal points such as a dish display, a favorite painting, or an eating area. May come from high-intensity recessed or track lights, or hanging fixtures.

Each of these modes should be separately controlled, so the proper mix of lighting can be selected for each activity in the kitchen. Dimmers for ambient and accent lighting will enable you to alter the mood or look of the kitchen, as well as the overall lighting level.

And of course there is a choice of light type. Often a combination of these types is the best plan, utilizing the advantages of each.

  • Incandescent – The traditional choice for its warm effect. Produces quite a bit of heat.
  • Halogen – A brighter, “whiter” light for the same or lower wattage. Longer life than standard incandescent.
  • Fluorescent lamps – Now includes a variety of colors and warmth, to create the same effects as incandescent. Lamps are available for use in all types of fixtures, as well as the traditional tubes. These use less energy; produce less heat, longer lasting.

Programmable Thermostats

January 17th, 2011

Wilmington Custom Home Builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers a helpful article about how the proper use of programmable thermostats during cold winter months can help save energy and money.

Did you know that the average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills – nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling? Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.

Did you know that properly using a programmable thermostat in your home is one of the easiest ways you can save energy, money, and help fight global warming? A programmable thermostat helps make it easy for you to save by offering four pre-programmed settings to regulate your home’s temperature in both summer and winter – when you are asleep or away.

  • The pre-programmed settings that come with programmable thermostats are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. Depending on your family’s schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family.
  • The key is to establish a program that automatically reduces heating and cooling in your home when you don’t need as much. Use the programmable thermostat calculator to see what you can save with set-back temperatures that work for your family. The pre-programmed settings for a programmable thermostat are:
Programmable Thermostat Setpoint Times & Temperatures
Setting Time Setpoint Temperature (Heat) Setpoint Temperature (Cool)
Wake 6:00 a.m. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Day 8:00 a.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 7° F
Evening 6:00 p.m. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Sleep 10:00 p.m. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 4° F
  1. Keep the temperature set at its energy savings set-points for long periods of time (at least eight hours), for example, during the day, when no one is at home, and through the night, after bedtime.
  2. All thermostats let you temporarily make an area warmer or cooler, without erasing the pre-set programming. This override is cancelled automatically at the next program period. You use more energy (and end up paying more on energy bills) if you consistently “hold” or over-ride the pre-programmed settings.
  3. Units typically have two types of hold features: (a) hold/permanent/vacation; (b) temporary. Avoid using the hold/permanent/vacation feature to manage day to day temperature settings. “Hold” or “vacation” features are best when you’re planning to be away for an extended period. Set this feature at a constant, efficient temperature (i.e. several degrees warmer temperature in summer, several degrees cooler during winter), when going away for the weekend or on vacation. You’ll waste energy and money if you leave the “hold” feature at the comfort setting while you’re away.
  4. Cranking your unit up to 90 degrees or down to 40 degrees, for example, will not heat or cool your house any faster. Most thermostats, including ENERGY STAR qualified units, begin to heat or cool at a set time, to reach setpoint temperatures sometime thereafter. Units with adaptive (smart/intelligent) recovery features are an exception to this rule — Adaptive recovery units are constantly calculating the amount of time required to heat or cool the house, so that it reaches that temperature when the homeowner programmed it. By “examining” the performance of the past few days the thermostat can keep track of the seasons. In this way, your house is always at the comfort levels when occupied, but saving the most energy when unoccupied.
  5. Many homes use just one thermostat to control the whole house. If your home has multiple heating or cooling zones, you’ll need a programmed setback thermostat for each zone to maximize comfort, convenience and energy savings throughout the house.
  6. If your programmable thermostat runs on batteries, don’t forget to change the batteries each year. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.

Article Courtesy of: www.EnergyStar.gov

Wilmington, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers an article courtesy of RealtyTimes.com regarding cost-effective projects for your home.

Buyers are hit hard by first impressions, and sellers take advantage of this fact, aiming to amp up their curb appeal.

This is, after all, where they get the most bang for their buck. According to the latest Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that “nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects.” These exterior projects are outperforming their remodeling counterparts.

Interior projects should not be forgotten, however. These spaces earn returns on costs, as well. Many times interior updates can make you stand out from the competition in your area. It is simply that in today’s economy, “remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.” (NAR)

With curb appeal projects, however, a little money can go a long way. Topping the list? Steel entry doors are returning 102.1 percent of their cost upon resale.

What other projects are sellers tackling? While most projects don’t bring the profit returns of steel entry doors, sellers have some other great options for attracting buyers.

  • Siding and window replacements – 70 or more percent of costs recouped
  • Midrange garage door replacement – 83.9 percent of costs recouped
  • Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement – 80 percent of cost recouped
  • Wood deck additions – 72.8 percent of costs recouped

“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” says National Association of Realtors® President Ron Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value.”

Yet, says Phipps, “Curb appeal remains king – it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership.”

Article Written By: Carla Hill, RealtyTimes.com

South Atlantic — Midrange

2009-10 National Averages

Job Cost

Resale Value

Cost Recouped

Project

Job Cost

Resale Value

Cost Recouped

$43,540

$39,171

90.0%

Attic Bedroom

$49,346

$40,992

83.1%

$13,215

$7,909

59.9%

Backup Power Generator

$14,304

$8,428

58.9%

$55,337

$46,707

84.4%

Basement Remodel

$62,067

$46,825

75.4%

$34,876

$21,692

62.2%

Bathroom Addition

$39,046

$23,233

59.5%

$14,784

$10,630

71.9%

Bathroom Remodel

$16,142

$11,454

71.0%

$14,598

$10,389

71.2%

Deck Addition (composite)

$15,373

$10,904

70.9%

$9,505

$7,589

79.8%

Deck Addition (wood)

$10,634

$8,573

80.6%

$3,286

$2,217

67.5%

Entry Door Replacement (fiberglass)

$3,490

$2,275

65.2%

$1,065

$1,562

146.8%

Entry Door Replacement (steel)

$1,172

$1,470

128.9%

$73,736

$50,632

68.7%

Family Room Addition

$82,756

$54,051

65.3%

$53,307

$35,132

65.9%

Garage Addition

$58,432

$36,361

62.2%

$26,794

$12,754

47.6%

Home Office Remodel

$28,375

$13,648

48.1%

$53,900

$40,199

74.6%

Major Kitchen Remodel

$57,215

$41,260

72.1%

$92,606

$63,341

68.4%

Master Suite Addition

$103,696

$67,578

65.2%

$20,504

$15,923

77.7%

Minor Kitchen Remodel

$21,411

$16,773

78.3%

$16,775

$12,042

71.8%

Roofing Replacement

$19,731

$13,133

66.6%

$9,562

$7,698

80.5%

Siding Replacement (vinyl)

$10,607

$8,476

79.9%

$68,362

$37,805

55.3%

Sunroom Addition

$73,167

$37,118

50.7%

$140,210

$102,908

73.4%

Two-Story Addition

$156,309

$107,286

68.6%

$9,705

$7,417

76.4%

Window Replacement (vinyl)

$10,728

$8,217

76.6%

$10,627

$8,332

78.4%

Window Replacement (wood)

$11,700

$9,044

77.3%

Information Courtesy of: Remodeling.hw.net

Waterproofing Your Deck

November 1st, 2010

With all the rain we have had in the past month, Wilmington, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers our method of waterproofing a second story floating deck that has a finished ceiling beneath it. 

 After framing the upper deck subfloor with a slope, we install a rubber membrane on the subfloor that wraps up and over any doorways leading to the second story floating deck.

Waterproofing 2

The rubber membrane is then installed to completely cover the subfloor.

Waterproofing 4

Any penetrations coming through the deck floor (such as handrail posts) need to be wrapped with the membrane.

Waterproofing 3

Next, we install the floating deck system. This involves placing (but not fastening) treated 2×6 boards flat on the membrane. The reason it is called a floating deck is because it isn’t fastened to the framing beneath. We then cut treated 2×4 boards down to basically form a wedge. The purpose of this is to keep the finished decking where you stand flat and level. Remember that the subfloor decking still slopes under the membrane so the water that drips through the deck boards will still run down the membrane and away from the house.

Waterproofing 5

The picture below is the finished floating deck before paint and handrails are installed.

Waterproofing 6

This view (before paint and handrails) shows the finished ceiling beneath the second story floating deck.

Waterproofing

Wilmington, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share an article courtesy of Yahoo! News that gives 9 things to consider when deciding whether to build a new home or purchase a resale.

As the mortgage crisis continues to inundate the market with distressed properties, today’s house hunter has no shortage of cheap, foreclosed homes to pick through. But despite all those deals in the previously-owned home market, consumers shouldn’t overlook the potential benefits of building a new home.

1. Customization: Many home builders allow buyers to participate in the process of designing their property, which helps create a living space specifically tailored to the consumer’s tastes.

2. Building Envelope: Newly constructed homes use energy more efficiently. They tend to have a tighter-sealed building envelope that helps prevent conditioned air–cool air in the summer, warm air in the winter–from escaping.

3. Green Appliances: More energy-efficient mechanics of the house help reduce utility bills.

4. Fewer Repairs: The features of newly constructed homes will hold up better than those of existing homes, which may have experienced years of wear and tear.

5. Less Maintenance: Today’s new homes are engineered specifically to minimize maintenance requirements and many products on the market promote less maintenance requirements.

6. Warranty: Builders agree to take care of the repair work that becomes necessary in newly constructed homes for at least the first year.

7. Fire Safety: Newly constructed homes often include fire safety features that may not be present in properties built years ago.

8. Concessions: Especially in today’s sluggish housing market, buyers may be able to squeeze more concessions out of a home building company than an individual seller.

9. Financing: New home buyers may be able to take advantage of mortgage financing perks.

The Primrose at Landfall built in Wilmington, NC by custom home builder and remodeler Mark Johnson Custom Homes was recently recognized as one of the Most Innovative Small Residential projects in the country. The honor was presented as part of the ICF Builder Awards, an international competition designed to showcase the advantages of building with Insulated Concrete Forms, commonly called ICFs. ICFs are hollow foam blocks which are stacked and then filled with steel-reinforced concrete. The finished structure combines the strength of concrete with the insulating properties of foam, which stays in place to insulate and protect the walls. This construction method can reduce energy bills by up to 70 percent, block exterior noise, and is extremely disaster resistant. As an additional benefit, it is one of the most popular ways to “build green” costing between 5 to 10 percent more than regular frame construction.

The Primrose at Landfall was named First Runner-Up in the Small Residential division. The presentation, witnessed by hundreds of construction professionals associated with the industry, took place last month at the World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The ICF Builder Awards are given annually to projects that demonstrate outstanding innovation, quality, and craftsmanship in ICF construction. “The variety and scale of projects being built with ICFs is truly astounding,” said Clark Ricks, editor of ICF Builder magazine and organizer of the competition. “It’s time these outstanding projects received industry-wide recognition, and we feel privileged to take a leading role in that.”

For more information about the ICF Builder Awards, go to www.icfmag.com.

 New Hanover County, NC home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes realizes that many of our clients have homes to sell before they can build a new home or move to our area. Consider these tips when selling your home. 

Home buyers and home sellers have the same goal: an exchange of property. Buyers want to pay as little as possible for the nicest house they can afford; sellers want to earn as much as possible on their property. They may seem like conflicting interests, but they aren’t. Buyers and sellers goals, at bottom, are both about making a fair trade.

For sellers, there are some intangible factors they simply can’t control, like fluctuations in the market in their city or neighborhood, interest rates on mortgages, and the price at which nearby homes are selling for. Sellers can, however, control how their home is presented when their Realtor shows their property to prospective buyers. One of the best ways for home sellers to ensure the sale of their property is to make it attractive to buyers.
 
Having a pleasant interior design can put buyers at ease and reassure them that your home is well cared for. Buyers don’t easily get excited about purchasing a home that is sloppy, dirty and poorly decorated.

Interior design professional Emily Spreng, who holds degrees in interior design and historic preservation, says working with just two elements of your interior design can reap huge benefits in the overall feel of your home.

Lighting

“Lighting is one of the most important elements in interior design,” Spreng says. “By changing lighting you can instantly change the mood of a room.”

Whether you’re showing your home day or night, pay close attention to the mood being created by your lighting. In the bedroom, Spreng recommends creating a relaxing, ambient feel by turning off your overhead light and adding lamps with opaque shades to your bedside tables.

For cramped or dim spaces, Spreng says mirrors can make a room feel larger and warmer. “Put a mirror on the opposite wall of yours window to bounce the light around,” she says. By reflecting the sunlight, mirrors create the illusion of a second window.

You should also pay attention to your choice of window dressing to use the daylight you have, Spreng adds. “Use blinds that open and close and go up all the way, so you can let in a little bit of light or a lot—it’s just another way to control your lighting.”

Accessories

“Your accessories are the cheapest thing to change if you’re working on a budget,” Spreng says.

Accessories are the stuff you put in the room to make it more interesting, things like vases, candlesticks, pottery, flowers and wall hangings. For Spreng, the thing to remember about accessories is: less is more.

“I think the most important thing to remember when accessorizing your home is that one very interesting accessory is better than six or seven knickknacks,” she says. “If you want to emphasize the design of your home, it’s important to remove as much clutter as you can.”

Spreng advises home sellers to focus especially on area rugs, paintings or photos and throw pillows to spruce up a room. “An area rug is probably the best way to warm up a room,” she says, adding that it will bring a room together and make it feel cozy. Paintings and photos are a good way to add color and character to your room, and you can liven up drab furniture with cheap, colorful throw pillows.

An extra tip: if you have a big room with an empty corner, folding screens are a great way to round out the space and bring the focus back into center of the room.

Courtesy of: Drew Johnson, RealtyTimes.com

Landfall, NC custom home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share with our readers an article written by Stephani L. Miller of Custom Home Magazine regarding mandatory green building code for residential, commercial, and public projects in the state of California. 

Why does this matter to our readers on the East Coast? It’s because a lot of our building codes related to energy efficiency follow that of Western states that have experienced the Energy Crises in the past. Items like occupancy sensors which are mandatory in California will likely be mandatory for us someday soon.

The California Building Standards Commission has unanimously voted to adopt the nation’s first mandatory green building code for residential, commercial, and public projects.

The California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen), which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2011, provides guidance on the implementation of energy efficient and environmentally responsible building methods and aims to reduce the water consumption of all new buildings in the state by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills, and improve the overall indoor environmental quality of all buildings. According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the mandatory codes will reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons in 2020. It also will help the state achieve its goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 as well as help mitigate global climate change. More stringent voluntary provisions also are part of CALGreen, which the state’s government hopes communities will pursue.

Mandatory residential construction measures under CALGreen address nearly every aspect of the process, from site selection and development, reuse of pre-existing structures, energy efficiency, and indoor and outdoor water use to materials conservation, resource efficiency, and indoor environmental quality and comfort.

Courtesy of: CustomHomeOnline.com

Wilmington, NC remodeler Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share an article written by Gareth McGrath of StarNewsOnline.com regarding protecting sea turtles in our area.

A traditional way of fishing in North Carolina’s extensive inland and near-shore waters is under threat because of its impacts on an already endangered species.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has proposed a temporary closure of large-mesh gill net fishing from May 15 through Dec. 15 for most areas south of Orgeon Inlet – including the Cape Fear River south of Snow’s Cut – as it struggles to balance the popular and economically important fishing practice with federal rules protecting sea turtles.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has called the growing number of interactions between sea turtles and fishermen in the state’s inshore waters “excessive and unacceptable,” and the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach could soon move the matter into federal court.

“We haven’t seen or heard anything that meets or addresses our needs and concerns,” said Executive Director Jean Beasley, adding that the filing of a suit could be imminent.

Gill nets, used up and down the coast in a number of fisheries, are stretched from the water bottom to the surface. They are effective fishing tools in the state’s extensive estuaries and sounds.

But the nets, which are often left out overnight, catch everything that swims into them – and that includes sea turtles. The animal’s head or flippers can get caught in the net, and the air-breathing turtles eventually drown.

That has incensed environmentalists, who consider the nets among the biggest controllable threats to sea turtles. They also note that North Carolina and Mississippi are the last states still allowing the fishing practice. To read the complete article, click here!

Courtesy of: StarNewsOnline.com

Selecting Green Paint

February 2nd, 2010

Wilmington, NC custom home builder Mark Johnson Custom Homes would like to share an informative article from GreenHomeGuide.com that explains things to look for when selecting Green paint. A new coat of paint can make a room feel fresh again, but it often has the opposite effect on the air quality in your home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paints, stains, and other architectural coatings produce about 9 percent of the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from consumer and commercial products, making them the second-largest source of VOC emissions after after automobiles. For the complete article, click here

Courtesy of: GreenHomeGuide.com