Residential Architects Should be Designing

Residential Architects Should be Designing Spaces for Families to Enjoy Each Other, Meaningful Design Matters

Residential Architects Should be Designing

photography by Lisa Russman

If you’ve considered a home addition or building the home of your dreams then you’ve definitely thought about hiring residential architects to help. But who do you choose? What matters when it comes to designing or redesigning a home? We’ve got the answers you need before you make up your mind. 

The Cost of Your Satisfaction

We recommend considering factors other than just budget when you select your perfect team of residential architects for your project. Everyone wants to save money, right? But what’s the cost of choosing a team that doesn’t communicate the same way you do? Imagine the undue stress of working with a team that doesn’t reply to your email and now you’re left worried about a surprise issue that was just uncovered. We advise you to ask about communication, timelines, and set expectations before you even sign a contract. Dollar signs matter as much as your mental and emotional well-being matter. That’s what we believe! In fact, we stick to email communication because one, we know you’re busy and can’t always get on a call. Two, so much of your design process is visual and requires clear imagery that you can take your time in reviewing. Communication is key. 

The Details that Matter

When you’re interviewing residential architects find out what they’re known for. Peruse reviews, ask for real references, and check out photos of their work. If you love a light and bright home make sure the portfolio they provide matches that kind of detail. As a busy professional with a growing family, shouldn’t you have a team that understands the flow of how your family moves? We think so! It’s not enough just to talk about high ceilings and those dreamy hardwood oak floors but who will walk on them? And at what time of night might you hear the creak of a “midnight snack”? Having a team who asks thoughtful questions you never even considered in your new build will ensure you’re designing a new beginning but with those familiar scents and sounds. 

Beyond the talk of marble and chrome fixtures, homes should be designed to be lived in. Let’s build a mudroom that doesn’t get rid of the chaos of those muddy shoes but that makes it easy for the kiddos to organize their belongings and wipe up the tiles easily. Relishing in those treasured moments looks like stepping outside into an August’s heatwave knowing you have a beautiful shaded deck carefully designed for you to watch the kids play for hours. 

Understanding the Scope

As you hire your architecture partner, there are certain questions you can ask that will clarify the scope of work you want and the kinds of skills required to get the job done. Will you need custom millwork AKA are you going with custom kitchen cabinets and shelving or sticking to a builder-grade option? Is the majority of your project facade work or will you need a team with an eye for interior design? If you’re building a new home, will you need recommendations and experience with finishes like faucets and door handles? Ask questions like these to get a feel for what the scope of your project actually entails and who is experienced and capable to get that kind of job done. We know it’s hard to think of everything so with this list of questions, it will help you be thorough and think through your project from start to finish. 

Whether you’re demoing a home and rebuilding or you just purchased land, even if you’re doing a home addition, it’s so important to have the right residential architects on your side. Thinking through how your family enjoys spending time and the physical manifestations of how to make that happen is the journey you’re going on. Work with people who care about you and are a match for how you like to work.

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Learn When to Splurge and How to Save When You’re Planning Your Home Addition


photography by Lisa Russman

As you begin planning your beautiful new home addition we want to make you aware of the common pitfalls that result in clients overspending. After planning hundreds of home additions, we know what you should look out for when it comes to ways to save and where it’s worth splurging. 

Project Management

Installing hardware, painting, and some demolition are all hands-on parts of your home addition project you could probably manage yourselves. But we have a truth bomb for you! It’s honestly not worth jumping into a highly-skilled role such as managing your entire project from start to finish when you’re not fully trained. This is the first mistake we’ve seen people make where the number of hours, know-how, and surprise twists actually cost the homeowner more money than if they had the right team in place to manage their home addition. Just think about where your time is best spent like with your partner, your kids, at work vs. on a dangerous construction site where you feel completely out of your element. The good news is there are many construction companies that will “bid” to win your business. You can discuss budget, timeline, and expectations before hand-selecting the team you feel best fits your project and your personality.

Choosing the Right Aesthetic

You might appreciate a very defined look for your home, but when you’re planning your home addition this could drive up the cost. Here’s a great example, you might love the look of hardwoods, most of us do right? But, rather than select the exact maple hardwoods to match your home, you could opt for engineered flooring with a similar tone but lay it in a herringbone pattern; it achieves your aesthetic in an interesting way without breaking the bank. It’s not always worth splurging on high-end materials when you can use elements like hardware, decor, lighting, paint color, and more to make your space appear high end in cost. Think long term; you want a space you’ll be happy within another 5 – 10 years that you don’t have to cough up a few thousand dollars to redo – again.

Know Your Flow

You may find yourself facing an important question: Do I knock down the wall completely, or would I be happy with a support beam somewhere in my design? Depending on the flow of your family, it could be very well worth your money to knock down that wall and have the most open, flexible space possible, especially for a growing brood. On the other hand, if you can incorporate that post into a bedroom closet or HVAC room then you’re both saving money and you’re satisfied with a design that fits for the longterm.

Smart Sourcing 

Facebook and Craiglist can potentially save you some money! When you review details of your construction contract, check on the quotes they’ve supplied for things like water heaters, tile, appliances, etc. You can find “last-chance” tiles on Facebook from a local company trying to move their last few boxes of product. There are moments where it’s worth comparing the cost and quality of what you can source yourself compared to what’s been quoted by your team. Another line item you should double-check is the insulation budget. If your team budgeted for basic “batting” insulation material, for example, it may not provide the best protection against rodents and energy leaks. It’s probably worth exploring foam or mineral wool insulation despite incurring a higher monetary cost now, the longterm value is exponentially higher.

I’m sure you’re starting to see there are so many ways to save money and times when it makes sense to splurge. You can’t possibly know everything – that job is reserved for your teens, right? So take our advice and start saving by having a team that can protect you from surprises and helps you plan for the best way to stretch your budget from day one.

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The Architect’s Guide To Building A House From Scratch In New Jersey

The Architect’s Guide To Building A House From Scratch In New Jersey

The Architect’s Guide To Building A House From Scratch In New Jersey

photography by Lisa Russman

Nothing is quite as satisfying as building a house from scratch. We hope that this guide helps you to navigate through this wonderful and exciting house building process from start to finish.

Putting Dreams Onto Paper

The first step before any construction actually starts is a free, on-site consult with us. We listen to your ideas, needs, wishes, and dreams so we can make suggestions around your life patterns and flow. We believe your home should bring the people you love most together allowing for space to gather and enjoy the way they spend their time! Are you a gaming family? Flex space to bring in fun new toys is a must-have, right? What if you’re expecting the in-laws to move in within the next 5 years, let’s plan for that now. As we listen, we’ll literally sculpt your home just for you and your family. 

Then, we’ll provide you with a free proposal detailing architectural services including all of your wish list items and the potential construction budget.  Once we’re hired we’ll come get the specs of your property whether just land or with structure and draw them up for formal use during the project. 

Now, the detailed design phase begins where we establish and evolve your floor plan until it reflects all of your wants and needs.  Once the inside drawings are complete, if we’re also designing the facade of your home, that’s up next. And we know that you’re busy with the kiddos, work and more so we’ll stick to email to save you time. 

Next, we help you select a contractor who will provide you with a pricing audit designed to keep your project on track and on budget as well as make adjustments to the design if needed. Construction drawings are generated with instructions and notes for the contractor regarding the scope of the project. There may be several construction companies interested in executing your build, so we’ll help you navigate through the competitive “bidding” process to make the best hire for your home.

After a contractor has been chosen, the next steps would be for the contractor to file for permits with your respective town. Work won’t commence until all permits have been filed, are approved by the city, and are physically in your hands.

Building the Structure

With all the ‘paperwork’ procured, you can finally begin building your house from scratch! Step one is installing the foundation. The type of foundation used depends on if your design calls for a basement, crawlspace or slab-on-grade. Most foundations are built in concrete block, installed by a mason. The beginning of the construction process is the time to implement those meditation classes as you’ll need some patience throughout the duration. You’ll need extra patience for every milestone of construction as the city inspector comes to ensure it meets the state’s codes and matches the approved drawings.

Once “footing” and “rebar” inspections have been passed by the construction inspector, approved, construction crews can begin the installation of framing for your new home. Framing includes the wall, floor, and roof structures for both interior and exterior applications. This phase of construction establishes the “skeleton” or shell of your house.

For the next phase of construction, rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) are installed. The roofing and siding are also installed during this time. Once the installation of the above components is completed, the city inspector will visit the site once again (deep breath) to verify all components have been installed to code and are in accordance with the drawings.

After these inspections have passed, insulation can be installed inside the walls and any spaces within the basement or roof followed by drywall.

Now the fun part! Everything that follows afterward starts to really color and flesh-out what your project will look like in the end.  This layer of work includes, but is not limited to, painting, doors, cabinets, countertops, and flooring. And, you get to achieve that curb appeal as grading, landscaping, planting, and grass conclude the details of your exterior zhooshing. 

The city inspector performs a final inspection, and, if passed, they will issue a certificate of occupancy.

The Final Walkthrough

The final walkthrough for your home is one of the most critical aspects of the project. This will allow you to examine every inch of your new home with the contractor to make sure everything is finished to your standards. Final tip, make sure to take your time and hone the honesty filter of a toddler; say exactly what you want fixed or changed. This is your last chance to point out any deficiencies you may observe to the contractor and have them corrected, whatever it may be. Once the contractor has completed their contract, it is difficult to prove that they were at fault for any damages found.

We saved the best news for last! Our fee covers involvement during bidding, permitting, and construction phases; questions answered, certified clarification letters and/or sketches as necessary, and as-needed construction site visits are performed. We’ve got your back the entire way, never leaving you to wonder or figure it out on your own. You can design and own the home of your dreams with the right team by your side!

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Home Addition Planning Can Mean Extra Space

Home Addition Planning Can Mean Extra Space For The Teenagers Now Or, Yes, The In-Laws Later

Home Addition Planning Can Mean Extra Space

photography by Lisa Russman

Home addition planning can be exciting when you’re fully aware of the potential hidden costs, allowing you to keep your eyes on the prize. We’ll help you understand what to expect as you plan out your home addition!

Hidden Costs You May Incur

You’re probably so excited to have your teens or even in-laws enjoying their own very separate space from you and your spouse, right? We don’t blame you! But with your focus on the end goal, we want to keep you aware of what costs you should expect before, during, and after your reno.

Insurance. Once your amazing new space is all done your home insurance premium will likely go up; more space means more to insure. It’s totally normal and rather than be surprised later on, give your home insurance rep a call once you have plans approved by your city to talk through what changes you should expect. 

Taxes. You may also see an increase in your property value which means property taxes will be assessed accordingly. Talk to your town officials and your architect team to get a full understanding of what your specific costs should be. 

Permits. Before starting your home addition, planning for the cost of permits for construction, electrical, and plumbing, if you’re adding a bathroom for example, and can vary widely from town to town. To find out the exact costs, work with your project manager and your city to get those final numbers.

Damage. One surprise cost we’ve seen many homeowners disappointed to find are some of the most buried and hard to detect – the cost of preexisting damage. Your home could have wood rot, an old leak wreaking havoc on both pipes and the interior of your walls, there could be mold or mildew, etc. It’s not terribly uncommon to unearth something during construction. So, if you want to be careful, your team can do a thorough inspection of your home before breaking down walls to help you plan your budget accordingly. 

Flex Space That Works for Everyone

Like most homeowners, you’re hoping to add on space that can serve several purposes. You can accomplish this through a number of ways.

  1. Bump outs. If you already have a great space and you just need a little extra flexible square footage, plan a bump-out addition. For those who appreciate unique rooflines and the feeling of luxurious space for a fraction of the price, this is a great option for you. 
  2. Dormers. More headspace means more opportunities to add-on bedrooms or simply wide-open rooms that can accommodate “hang out” areas. What teen doesn’t love to hang out?? Design a family room, workspace, or extended-stay experience for out of town family members. 
  3. Patio turned Parlor. Take your existing patio and enclose it; turning this space into an open living area allows your teens to get use out of it now and the in-laws to make use of it later. 
  4. Basements. If you have an unfinished basement the good news is you have a renovation project just waiting for you to get started! Even better, you don’t need to frame out a ton of walls. This space begs to stay wide open, letting in as much light as possible. Get creative with a satellite kitchen and use wall color or movable walls to designate spaces like dining, living, laundry, etc. Be sure to have a dedicated area for sleep and of course a bathroom, but the rest is about open flow and creative design.

Now you’re ready to start planning for your home addition with creative solutions for your particular home. You’re aware of the possible hidden costs and can avoid the heartache that we’ve seen so many times. Lastly, though, we highly recommend you don’t undertake this project alone. Work with professionals who always have an eye on budget and timeline with years of experience knowing what to look for under their belt.

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Does The Cost To Tear Down A House Increase Property Value_ We’ve Got The Figures For You

Does The Cost To Tear Down A House Increase Property Value? We’ve Got The Figures For You!

Does The Cost To Tear Down A House Increase Property Value_ We’ve Got The Figures For You

photography by Lisa Russman

Let’s answer the burning question you’re wondering right now: could the cost to tear down your house make your property more valuable? In a well-established neighborhood, a teardown may be your best bet.

How to Determine if the Cost to Tear Down a House is Feasible for You

Your property could be zoned for a three-story, 6 thousand square foot home. But right now, you’re looking at a ranch that couldn’t possibly fit your partner, the kiddos, and the pups. This ranch sits in the middle of the perfect school district with a price tag so low you have lots of wiggle room to make the home of your dreams. So what do you do? Ask yourself a few questions about the home you want to tear down for your new build:

  • Is this home too small for my family and this neighborhood?
  • Are the most important rooms and features out of date?
  • Is the home an energy-guzzler because of inefficient appliances or a damaged roof?
  • Do I have the budget and prefer entirely custom construction?

Have you answered mostly yeses? Then consider that your tear town has some built-in benefits like existing zoning. You already know your land is zoned for a single-family home, saving you time dealing with town permits, and we all know – time is money. Once you determine the specs on how much size you can build both out and up, you’ll also understand precisely how much value your property has. If that ranch is only costing you $350,000, but you could build a home that appraises over $1.5M, then that’s a couple of figures to consider. But we have more; it’s time to think about how to make the most of your new property’s value! 

What Factors Increase Property Value

If you’ve already picked a neighborhood based on the schools, the proximity to work, and a great downtown, then the next step is to check the comps. It’s a fancy-sounding term for finding out what other homes around the neighborhood have sold for recently. If you’re building something comparable to what’s on the market, then understanding what it goes for will help you establish if those figures are profitable for you in the long run. Since homes are generally estimated by the square foot, if you noticed a comparable property has 4k square feet, and it sold for $1.3M, you can divide that price by the total square footage of the home, making it $325/square foot. Keep in mind, if your dream home doesn’t compare, then bringing in an expert to help you assess those features that make your home stand out is your best bet. 

Plus, a considerable benefit your new build brings that mitigates the cost to tear down that house is simply that more modern homes appraise higher, to begin with. Usually, when you buy a home, you’re paying top dollar for the finishes and upgrades like a new roof or marble countertops. Rather than spend all of your money buying someone else’s finishes, you can guarantee fewer problems, less wear and tear, and no expiring appliance warranties by tearing down that older home in place of your new one. 

Demolition and How to Save

The last figure we want to bring your attention to is the cost of your demolition, which can be around $15,000 based on location, size of the home, etc. But one fantastic way to save and even recoup money is by selling valuable items in the house, cabinets, light fixtures, flooring, crown molding, windows, wood doors, heating, and cooling units, and even metal – especially copper – can rake in quite a chunk of cash. Another great way to save money is by making tax-deductible donations to local organizations that can help people use furniture and items you don’t need. 

This article will help you make the big decision to follow through with your tear down, but when you’re ready, have experts on your team who can help you navigate this detailed process.

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Architecture Is Important! Here’s How To Communicate Exactly What You Want


photography by Lisa Russman

So you’ve decided to pursue a home remodel? Great! We know that this can be a stressful, exciting, confusing time, so we’re here to help you get through this as seamlessly as possible. Many of the breakdowns during this process come from simply not knowing what can come up, making communication impossible. Providing you with clarity on typical issues gives you access to clearly communicate with your architecture team. It is important to understand exactly how to do that, so we’ve broken it down for you.

Inspiration Board

Many times during the design phase, we encounter clients who know what they want but simply don’t know the terminology or how to describe it. One recommendation would be to take photos or save pictures of any ideas you come across, even when a home remodel is just a passing thought. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The more photos you have to show what you like and convey what your style aesthetic is, the more tailored your design will be for you and your family. Use Pinterest, for example, to create an inspiration board to capture what excites you. What kitchen design makes you want to stay home and cook for the family? Whatever it is, put it on the board!

Town Permits

As a homeowner, you should not be expected to know what your town allows, and if elements of the project scope require permits. This is where your architects come in. During the design process, recommended upgrades for your home should only be suggested if they are allowed by your town and it’s ordinances. As you move along in your home’s development, you should feel free to add to or inquire about your designs and how they fit within your town’s allowances.

Do You Have a Contingency?

Demolition can uncover a myriad of things that no one could have possibly detected. In such cases, it is important for you to have a contingency that is built into your budget. At the time same, you want to feel comfortable enough with your team that they will do everything possible to avoid such situations. During the initial walkthrough, analyze your house and get to know it as much as you can. Some things to look out for and ask your team about right away are any: ceiling stains, creaks in hardwood flooring, cracks in the walls, or cold spots near windows. 

Have a change of heart? Communicate Sooner than Later.

People change their minds and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Changes to your project’s scope are part of the industry and we welcome change. You want a team that you feel comfortable coming to with a change order. The only time this would become an issue is if the desire to make changes to the scope is if it is communicated too late. Remember, communication in architecture is important and go hand in hand, so speak up about any changes you would like to make as soon as possible.

You are a Decision-Maker!

This is a journey that we are taking together so we invite you to stay involved throughout the entire process. One way to stay in control of your design is to make decisions on the materials for your project. As you are provided with sample materials, feel free to ask questions about durability, cost per square foot, and long-term maintenance of the product. At the same time, don’t be afraid to choose a color, pattern, or texture that perfectly suits your unique aesthetic and style. Never feel like you have to choose something because it’s trendy or popular.

We hope that this article has answered some questions that were in the back of your mind as well as bring up some things that you didn’t know about this renovation process. It brings us joy to watch you freely and seamlessly participate in designing the home of your dreams.


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nobody wants a home thats too noisy especially not nj architects

Nobody Wants a Home That’s Too Noisy – Especially Not NJ Architects

nobody wants a home thats too noisy especially not nj architects

photography by Lisa Russman

When you imagine your dream home, it’s not always exciting to dream about sound-proofing or the element of noise, right? Unless you have toddlers, then you’re probably pretty excited about this. But for most, the concept isn’t something many examine when it comes to building a new home. That’s why it is so crucial to work with a team of NJ architects who understand the science behind the noise and how to save you from it in the long term. We feel it’s critical to arm you with important details now so you can have a voice in every element of your home’s design. 


Noise Pollution 

First, let’s quickly break down one of the two main sources of noise so you can position your home to avoid external sources of the racket.

Outside noise otherwise known as noise pollution is a long term source of noise and is basically defined as the sound of anything unpleasant to your ears. Here’s a list of some of the sources:

  • Trains
  • Traffic
  • Cars, car horns
  • Airports
  • Buses
  • Stadiums
  • Firehouses
  • Police stations
  • Schools
  • College
  • Church or any large gathering place
  • Fast food restaurants

It’s important to know about these outside noise sources so when you build your home you can position it in such a way to avoid hearing as much of it as possible. Here are a few things you can talk to NJ architects about.

Positioning. Knowing where these sources of noise are in relation to your property can help your architecture team know where to place your windows to mitigate that problem right away. They can also place outdoor appliances like your HVAC unit or pool pump away from bedrooms and quiet spaces with a well thought out plan. Keeping the garage and the driveway on the opposite side of where the bedrooms are located whenever possible is also a good best-practice for minimizing the impact of sound. 

Materials. There are various substances that can sound-deaden, refract, or reflect sound, and even absorb sound. Having a conversation with your team of professionals about this at the beginning of your journey will save you time and frustration later and allow them to navigate this potential challenge from day one. 

Airborne Noise

Now you have a fancy term for all of the sounds that take place inside your home – and your neighbors’ homes for that matter, airborne noises. Here are just some examples:


  • Appliance sounds
  • TV playing
  • Music
  • Floors creaking
  • HVAC 
  • Pools

And there are coinciding impact noises like doors banging, furniture scraping, etc. You may not have considered the overall volume in your neighborhood, so we suggest visiting at different times of the day. Maybe you’ll catch the sounds of a party, the hum of various dryers running, or the notes of laughter from neighboring children at play. Just notice what you hear so you can report back to your home design team. Here’s where the good news starts! There are practically unlimited ways to mitigate the noise.

Fences. Sound deadening can start in your landscape design. Solid wood fencing or cement or brick masonry walls tend to be some of the best materials for blocking out noise. Plus, they can still honor the overall look you want your home to embody. If you’re going green wherever possible, you can opt for a privacy wall made of shrubs or trees like hollies, junipers, or evergreen shrubs. 

Arrangement. If you have a teenager then insulation is important. From foam to wood-fiber panels to decorative acoustic panels, your options are vast. Plan on keeping their room away from younger children, even though it’s a somewhat short-term need, it’s one we don’t recommend taking lightly.  

From airflow noise to blaring bass notes, where there’s a chance that noise could interfere with the peace of your home – there is a solution! The best NJ architects know how to build you a home that keeps in the joy and keeps out the noise.

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Why Newly Built, Custom Homes Can Change Your Mind on What a House Can Be

When Your Family Expands, So Can Your Home – Second Story Additions Are More Cost-Effective Than You Think

Why Newly Built, Custom Homes Can Change Your Mind on What a House Can Be

photography by Lisa Russman

Every day you’re reminded you need more space in your home, as you bump elbows with hubby in the kitchen, crack goes another egg. Don’t forget the maddening daily hunt for your kid’s favorite toys because there’s not enough storage! And the list goes on. Needless to say, you’re thinking about expanding and we’re here to show you how second-story additions are more cost-effective than you think!

Customization & Increased Value

Just think, moving your entire herd – kids, pets, holiday totes from the garage – to a bigger home where you’ll probably need to make some changes. The thought is tiring enough, right? You don’t need a bigger home, you need a custom second story addition where you can design it based on your current family structure and future needs! 

The customizations are limitless. You can really dig into your aesthetic as well as your family’s spatial needs by custom-crafting your addition. As your family grows you might be craving natural sunlight to brighten your space. Consider implementing dormers into your second story addition so your kid’s playroom can be light and bright! It also means your second story isn’t a plain rectangle box. Your curb appeal goes way up as your home’s height is doubled with interesting pitched angles. Other fun ways to boost your curb appeal include overhangs, balconies, and refined trim details. 

In the end, having a brand new, fully waterproofed roof also means bonus savings for you in the way of energy efficiency. You can additionally install new HVAC units in your second story addition which is far more efficient than splitting your current unit to now have to cover double the square footage. Plus, the value you’ll be adding to your home increases as you add lots more square footage of livable space.

When you get down to it, you’re creating a custom home without the costs and the timeline of starting from scratch.

As Compared to Moving

If you were to compare to the cost of moving you have to start with the finances and end with the most important factor, your well being. There’s the cost of materials to box and bag up everything you and your family own. Then hire a moving company or rental moving truck. Then add up the time you spend packing. Don’t forget you have to plan to keep certain items out, clothes for the kids, toys, dog food, snacks, etc. 

Before you arrive at your new home you need to coordinate and hire a team to make any changes to the new space that your family needs. When all is said and done, you’re spending a lot of time, money, and energy on a new home but not on a custom home that you have personally designed. Don’t step into someone else’s dream when you can have upstairs be a spitting image of what you’ve had in mind for – let’s face it – quite some time. 

Save on Other Renovation Projects

We saved the best for last! You can also plan on tackling first floor renovations like taking walls down from old bedrooms to make a large den. Or blow out the dining room to create that chef’s kitchen of your dreams. Once you already have a team of architects, engineers, and contractors on-site, it actually costs less to undertake your list of projects. The labor and materials costs are already being accounted for, so adding to the budget versus having to start from scratch is a great cost-saving. 

Think about it, your second story is likely being built to house extra bedrooms including an exquisite master bedroom. So now, the first story can be opened up with endless possibilities for how you want to re-work the flow of your home. Consider renewing the paint or siding on your home to ensure the outside is updated, free of leaks/cracks, and that your second story addition matches your first. 

We hope to have pleasantly surprised you with the real cost-savings that a second story addition can bring to you and your growing family!

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Home Building on a Budget? The Best House Materials for the Least Cost Per Square Foot

Home Building on a Budget? The Best House Materials for the Least Cost Per Square Foot

Home Building on a Budget? The Best House Materials for the Least Cost Per Square Foot

photography by Lisa Russman

When building a home on a budget, be sure to discuss house material cost per square foot with your architect from the very beginning. While lumber, stone, and brick are classic, reliable options, many alternative building materials can help to lower the cost of your home during construction and into the future.  

It is also important to remember that house material cost per square foot is just one part of the total equation. There are many variables to consider when deciding which materials you’ll use to build your home. For example, how long are the chosen materials expected to last? What maintenance will the materials require and when? What climates and amounts of natural light can they withstand? How earth-friendly and sustainable are the materials used? Is energy-efficiency and lower utility bills important to you? And, how will the chosen materials affect the labor and construction time needed?

While there are many questions to consider, don’t fret! There are plenty of options that will work for you and your home budget.

House Material Cost Per Square Foot (and Even Lower Cost Alternatives)

In New Jersey, the most common and least expensive house material is lumber. Due to its ease of use, homes with lumber framing are more quickly constructed with lower labor costs.

Also, when considering home finishes such as flooring, reclaimed timber can be even more cost-effective, as old timber is less likely to warp or split. This option is also environmentally friendly!

New Jersey homes are also popular for brick homes, brick siding and interior brick finishes. While slightly more expensive to use than lumber, brick is much more durable and creates both rustic and modern aesthetics when featured properly.

Concrete is not often an option New Jersey home builders consider, but its house material cost per square foot for foundations, framing and even siding can be quite low in the long run. In fact, the cost to construct a home using insulating concrete forms is only slightly higher than if a home builder were to use wooden framing. Durable, customizable, and low maintenance, concrete won’t sprout mold or mildew, saves on heating and cooling bills, and can even lower home insurance costs because it can withstand several natural disasters.

To achieve the concrete look for even less, some home builders have also been warming to the idea of concrete sheets, which are quick to install, sound suppressing, insulating, and weatherproof.

Another incredibly popular option for siding in New Jersey is natural stone due to its rustic yet modern aesthetic and durability. However, because it is more expensive than other options, stone veneer can be used instead to reduce the cost of labor and materials.

Vinyl siding is another great option. It is tricky because traditionally it has looked cheap, though these days, there is much better-looking vinyl siding coming out and you still can’t beat the price. 

Fiber cement is composed of wood fibers that are glued together with cement and very good at simulating traditional wood clapboard and shingle siding. It’s not much less expensive compared to natural wood, but fiber cement lasts ‘forever’ and often carries long manufacturer warranties on color. It’s worth looking into.

Lastly, any home using prefabricated panels as opposed to building on-site will reduce costs by 10 to 20 percent. Quick, cost-effective, customizable, and flexible, prefabricated panels can often eliminate material cost overruns, delayed construction due to weather, and on-site waste removal costs.  

Consider Long-Term Costs When Building a Home

House material cost per square foot is, of course, greatly affected by the quality of both construction and materials sourced. However, on average, New Jersey homes can cost up to $160 per square foot when all is said and done, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

That is why it is important to speak with your architect not only about commodity pricing when it comes to using materials such as concrete and lumber, but also what is appropriate to use for your lifestyle, the climate in which you live, and your local building codes.

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Opt for an Interior Design that Creates Flexible Home Work Space

Purchased a Ranch-Style Starter Home? No, You Don’t Need to Move – You Need a Second Story Addition!

Opt for an Interior Design that Creates Flexible Home Work Space

Photography by Lisa Russman

Maybe you’ve got another baby on the way; maybe your parents are moving in after retiring; or, maybe you adopted a puppy that grew way bigger than you ever anticipated!

Whatever the reason, space in your home has become a limited commodity, and you need more of it. Still, you love your location – but so does everyone else! Relocating to a larger home within the same neighborhood might prove difficult, but you don’t necessarily need to move. Instead, you should consider building a second story addition!

Why a Second-Story Addition May Be Right for You

There are many reasons why a second story addition may be the more practical and economical choice when it comes to deciding whether to stay or move from your current home.

First, a second story addition can increase the value of your home by more than half while also increasing available space, especially if you plan to stay in the home for several years. Many homeowners also take advantage of the ongoing construction to heighten first floor ceilings as well to further increase home value.

Then, if your home sits on a smaller lot, expanding your home vertically will not only add property value but also potential bedrooms and bathrooms without taking up any more space outside. That means your outdoor garden or your children’s swing set will remain untouched!

All in all, a second story addition will typically cost between $250 and $500 per square foot, depending on the materials used and how complicated it will be to build upon your current home.

Before You Build A Second Story Addition

Know, however, that there are several factors that may make the decision to stay or move from your current home for you.

For example, your home’s foundation and bone structure must be able to support a second story addition, and you must also be permitted to add a second story by your local government zoning office.

Additionally, some homes are simply not designed well for additional stories. That is why it is important to work with an architect when considering adding more space. For example, ranch homes typically handle second story additions quite well, but bungalows can be more challenging to navigate.

Next, you must consider the “extra” costs to your long-term investment. Your heating and cooling bills and property taxes are likely to increase. Are you able to budget for these additional costs, too?

If the answer is yes, your final consideration will be regarding your own limits. The design and engineering process can take up to six months alone, with construction potentially keeping you out of your home for a year longer. Do you have up to two years to devote to this project? Are you able to stay with friends or relatives while your second story addition is being built? Or, if you are permitted to live inside your home during construction, how will the dust, construction noise, and frequent disruptions to plumbing and electricity affect your day-to-day life and mental wellbeing?

Many homeowners are happy with their decision to build a second story addition, so don’t be deterred – just be prepared!

Consider Your Options

A second story addition, while as stressful as finding and purchasing a new home, is an option available to you when working with the right architect and contractors. In the end, the closing costs involved with selling your home and buying a new one with the space you need may end up equaling what it would take to stay in a home and a neighborhood you love with a second story addition.

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