Make Your House Work for You: 5 Smart Home Additions for 2017

HGTV is currently having its Smart Home Giveaway for 2017 and though we’d all love to win this gorgeous house, we can’t. Sadly. But! We have come up with some simple smart home features that you can add to your home. Below are five of our favorite smart home features that you can add during a custom remodel or a custom home build. What kinds of features would you want in your home for the future?

1. Light-Up Staircases:

These add such an ease to your everyday lifestyle, easy to see at night and beautiful. Adding lights underneath your stairs can automatically update the feel of your home and gives you an excuse to redo your staircase!

 

2. Remote Controlled Shades:

Do you have a home with hard to reach windows with blinds? Problem solved with remote controlled shades. There are a few companies out there that make them and can be worth the investment.

3. Electric Glass Windows:

If remote controlled shades just aren’t for you, then a relatively new product is electric glass. This is a great option for bathrooms, large picture windows, and even offices. Watch the video below to find out more about electric glass and what it can do for your home!

4. Wireless Dimming Lights:

Dimmable lights are nice…but dimmable lights that are wireless? It’s kind of amazing. Phillips has some amazing new lights out that connect wirelessly around your house so you can control them remotely.

5. All-In-One Home Systems:

From doorbell cameras to security systems that tie into your heating and cooling units, 2017 has some really amazing technologies coming out to make you feel comfortable. Whether your custom home is your primary residence or your vacation home, have ease of mind with some of these amazing companies:

 

6. Smart Appliances:

Smart appliances are all the rage right now, and for good reason. Not only do appliances (that sync up to the Bluetooth in your devices) make your life easier, but they can also give you peace of mind. Are your hands dirty but you need to preheat the oven? Jenn-air and GE have great smart appliances that connect directly to your devices so you can voice command and Bluetooth command what’s in your kitchen. Check out some of these awesome appliances here and here.

5 Timeless BathroomTrends to Look Out for in 2017

custom home construction, new bathroom

Bathroom trends come and go (remember floor tile for countertops?) but there are ways to update your bathroom during a custom remodel that will help it remain timeless. By adding in details, updating fixtures, and increasing your storage, your bathroom appeal will change overnight. Take a look below through our top five picks for bathroom trends in 2017.

 1: Concrete Countertops

Concrete counters and sinks add a monochromatic, modern feel to any bathroom and usually look best when paired with similarly modern bathroom features, think all glass showers, bathtubs that are angular, and tons of light.

Concrete countertops in custom home construction
Concrete counters mixed with rustic features.

2: Open Shelves

 This rustic-inspired trend doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon and the beauty of having shelves like these is that they can easily transform depending on what you put on them. In the images below, you’ll see that there are two different styles: a modern take with clean lines and simple storage versus a rustic spin with woven baskets to add some texture.

Custom bathroom remodel, open shelving
Open shelving in a modern custom bathroom remodel keeps the space light and airy
Custom rustic bathroom remodel with open shelving
Open shelving in a bathroom remodel is kept rustic with woven baskets.

3: Natural Light

Natural light is a must for any bathroom – it makes small spaces seem bigger and makes bathrooms feel more like spa retreats. When you’re doing a remodel, ask your contractor or builder if they could add more windows to your space. If you’re limited in wall space, try adding in a skylight or bright vanity lights to help.

Custom bathroom remodel with skylights and natural light.
Natural light keeps this custom bathroom bright and inviting.
custom home construction, new bathroom
High windows above the dual sinks keep this bathroom light and airy in Durango, Colorado

4: Monochromatic Tones

Monochromatic bathrooms are back – and they look stunning. Sticking with one color palette (black, white, gray) keeps your bathroom looking classic through ages. In the photo below, you’ll notice that they added color and variation with accessories. Keeping your tiles and fixtures in line with your color palette help bring unity to the room.

Custom bathroom remodel with classic subway tiles in monochrome
Monochromatic colors keep bathrooms looking timeless, all you have to do is switch out the accessories!

5: Showpiece Tiles

To add to a monochromatic bathroom, making sure you have some focal points that are unique can really make your bathroom feel instantly updated. When working in a monochromatic color scheme, you can easily add unique tiles to your bathroom without making it seem too busy. In the pictures below, patterned tiles add to the uniqueness of the bathroom while still keeping it feeling timeless.

Custom bathroom remodel in Durango, Colorado
Unique tiles make this stand-alone shower seem trendy and classic.
Custom bathroom floor tiles, Durango, Colorado
Featured floor tiles keep this monochromatic bathroom on-trend but classic.

 

With the many options on the market these days, your bathroom can look updated but still remain timeless with a few tweaks. Let us know what you’d like to see in your custom bathroom remodels or in your custom home and we’d be more than happy to make your dreams come true!

Off-Grid Essentials: What You Need to Unplug for your Custom Home

Durango is a charming town made up of a colorful and caring group people. Though there are a lot of things that make living within Durango a wonderful choice, many people may prefer the idea of moving beyond the buzz of our town and unplugging from the infrastructure of today. Building an off-grid home, or remodeling your current home to begin an off-grid life, is a rewarding process that will bring you the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes with knowing that your home is self-sufficient.

It can seem intimidating at first to begin planning all that is necessary to go off-grid. In truth, building a more conventional home requires the same considerations of building an off- grid home; the real difference lies in the solution to these considerations. Power, water, sewage, these are all things that must be addressed no matter what type of home you’re building. Where the approach to these questions in a conventional build is often to hook up to existing infrastructure, an off-grid home must find solutions in other ways. These options may even save you a bit of stress in the planning process if your location were to require an easement for access to power, water, or waste disposal.

Water

Water is a huge consideration when building or upgrading a home to be off-grid. Running out of water is not a situation that anyone wants to deal with, so securing a dependable source is imperative for any home. Most houses do not have access to a natural body of water on their property, and, in some cases, even those that do may not have the right to use that water. You will likely end up either drilling a well or installing a cistern to be the main water source of your home, both of which are standard systems for conventional houses as well as off-grid homes.

In 2016, a bill was passed into law that allowed for the legal collection of rainwater. This was wonderful news for off-grid homeowners as any additional source of water, especially one was easy to set up as rainwater collection, is wholly welcome. Rainwater should only be relied upon as an auxiliary source. One of the many reasons we love the Durango area is the abundance of sunny days every year. While this is surely not something anyone would wish away, it does mean that rainwater cannot be relied upon as a main supply of water.

Waste Disposal

Much like the options for off-grid water systems, the sewage systems that you will likely consider for your off-grid home are similar to or the same as those used in most conventional rural homes. Installing a septic system with a leach field will likely be the best option to choose for your home. In reality, there is only one other option available for sewage in an off-grid situation due to practicalities and established regulations. Installing a gray water tank to handle the waste water from showers and sinks (which can be reused as flush water) and a composting toilet that drains into a black water tank is a viable option that is a bit more hands on for the homeowner as the tanks need more frequent upkeep.

Energy

One of the first and main things you’ll need to consider, whether you’re building a new home or remodeling your current one, is where you’ll be getting your power from once you’re off-grid. Of course, there is always the option to forgo power altogether and embrace an older lifestyle, but most individuals and families are going to want power in their homes. Energy isn’t just for lights, it can be the source heating (air and water), refrigeration and cooking capabilities. Add in more modern amenities like computers, televisions, microwaves, washers and dryers and you’ll be needing a reliable source of energy to keep you going.

These days, solar panels have become so efficient and affordable that they have become the go-to option for those pursuing an off-grid lifestyle as well as those who are just looking to cut down on their electricity bill. Luckily, Durango is a sunny place to live so, as long as you have unobstructed southern exposure, solar power is a readily accessible resource that you can typically rely on.

While solar power is available to most, hydropower is an energy source that is only available to a lucky few. Not only must one have a natural source of running water accessible from their land, but they must be sure that whichever water source they rely upon will produce year-round energy that won’t run out in the depths of a dry summer or a particularly frigid winter. That being said, if you have that perfect combination don’t hesitate to utilize that resource.

Maybe your new location doesn’t have reliable year-round water or consistent sun exposure but instead, has on oft-overlooked energy source gusting by. Wind energy typically brings to mind images of gigantic industrial wind turbines churning away hundreds of feet in the air, but domestic wind turbines can be a great source of home energy in a much more compact size.

Many homes benefit from using a combination of natural energy sources. In the midst of a string of overcast days in which solar energy is lacking, wind power may be abundant and ease the worries of running out of energy; being set up to use complimentary systems can be advantageous. If you do choose to stick to one source of day-to-day energy, it may be best to prepare for the worst and have a backup generator to rely upon in emergency situations.

All energy systems that rely on collecting power from a natural resource will depend on a bank of batteries to store that energy. These home batteries have developed to high levels of efficiency and storage capacity, and the technology just keeps advancing. Whichever energy system you choose to rely upon, you’ll have a wide array of battery options to choose from to best fit your needs.

It’s worth looking into alternative methods for running systems that will reduce your dependence on electric power. Natural gas can be your source of refrigeration, cooking, and heat. Additionally, a wood burning stove can help keep you super cozy during those cold stretches.

Despite the great leaps in efficiency and capacity there still exist practical limits to what any off-grid system can handle. When relying on such systems it’s prudent to embrace a lifestyle of reduced demand. Being conscientious about the amount of water or energy you use day to day is nearly as important as the physical systems that provide you with those resources. This is not to suggest that you’d be living uncomfortably in an off-grid home. Little changes can add up quickly, such things as installing efficient appliances, designing your home to take advantage of passive solar energy, and any number of smaller thoughtful actions such as turning off all the lights as you leave a room will contribute to a comfortable, care-free and happy life in your off-grid home.

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Building in Winter

With the chill of winter having now settled on Durango the usual buzz of activity of warmer months will soon dwindle. It can seem, in these cold stretches, that everything has stopped. Typically, you wouldn’t think that this would be the time of year to start a building project. The cold, the weather, the shortened days, they just don’t seem to be an optimal environment for new builds and remodels. Though winter does pose some challenges, we have techniques and the assistance of technology that not only allows work to continue in winter months but can actually provide some advantages.

This prevailing idea that home construction is out of the question in the winter can actually expedite many of the processes necessary for building a house. The group of people who assume that building and remodels are out of the question during winter leave a large window open that benefits you. Due to the reduction in projects taking place during this time it’s a no-brainer to take advantage of the lowered demand for resources. Building materials and machinery become more readily available and may even come at reduced prices. With sparse competition, permits can be acquired in a timelier manner, concrete trucks have more open schedules, and you have more overall flexibility in scheduling a construction window that works to your best interest.

Key in a successful winter build is getting the ground dug and crucial concrete structures poured before the ground freezes. This is not to say it would otherwise be impossible, but the potential for issues to arise multiplies beyond this point. The good news is that, in Durango, the ground typically won’t freeze to a depth of true hindrance until weeks beyond our first frozen nights. With the assistance of tents, heaters and concrete additives that assist proper curing in cold weather, the window for starting new construction is larger than you might initially think.

Once the concrete has cured things become all clear to proceed with framing and the rest of construction. Some people think that snow is the worst possible condition to attempt to build in, but consider this, snow is fairly dry. One of the true worst enemies of a building project is rain; all of that moisture has the potential wreak havoc on a building project in its early stages and cause delays.

Working in winter means we have the added confidence of knowing that, if the weather does roll in, we can be fairly confident we don’t have to worry about rain complicating everything. Additionally, the cold that keeps the rain at bay also provides the convenience of pulling a majority of the humidity out of the air which may otherwise slow the drying process. Add to this the heaters that are typically used during winter builds and you have lumber that can dry out much more quickly and reliably than that plagued by rainy or humid days.

In a sense, the snow and cold are much more manageable than weather that can be expected in other seasons. Of course, more extreme winter weather can cause delays. For the most part, though, snow can be shoveled and plowed and cold can be battled with simple strategies. By no means does winter put a dead stop on building for the season.

As the world slows down and hides from the cold it can be tempting to put our plans on hold. But, winter can be just as advantageous of a season to build in as all the others, even having its own unique circumstances that can make it a more desirable time to get started on your custom home or remodel. So, if you’re ready to get started on a project but have been hesitant due to the season, there’s no need to wait. We can jump start your plans today.

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5 Ways to Incorporate Nature In Your Custom Home

Durango’s charm comes from a mixture of many unique elements and, undeniably, nature plays a large part in that charm. We know that having a serene and inviting outdoor living space is a wonderful way to take advantage of our beautiful surroundings, but there’s no reason to leave nature behind you when you close your door. There are a ton of creative ways to incorporate that wild charm inside your custom home or remodel. Read on to find out our five favorite ways to incorporate nature into your home.

Attached Greenhouses

Houseplants are a great way to keep touches of green in your home year round, but for a more robust selection and the added benefit of possibly growing your own food, a greenhouse attached to your house is a great option for any gardener or green thumb.

Any greenhouse will give you a longer growing season and the ability to expand the variety of plants you can grow and with the right mixture of plants and proper planning you could keep your plants growing year-round. An attached greenhouse means that all of those advantages will be accessible without having to trudge through snowdrifts in winter or even having to put on shoes any other time of year. Were you to create a sitting nook within your attached greenhouse you could have a lush and warm escape when the winter blues pop up mid-season.

Atriums and Courtyards

Having an open air space in the center of your house such as an atrium or a courtyard can really make it feel as if you’ve brought the outdoors in. You can get as creative as you’d like with this space: create a peaceful Zen garden, grow a stunning array of flowers, or even keep a live tree growing through the middle of your home.

Atriums and courtyards come with the additional advantage of being much more private than your typical backyard, so you get a more intimate and secure outdoor space that is usable at all times of the day. Being sheltered by the rest of your house, your atrium or courtyard will be accessible more often, even during windy days or other weather that might otherwise keep you inside. Additionally, such a space in the middle of your house allows you to throw open the windows for increased ventilation. Imagine fresh air circulating from both inside and out rather than trying to push through the whole of your house from one end to the other.

Exterior Pocket Doors

If an atrium just won’t work inside your home, but you love the idea of all of that fresh air, consider the ability to open your house more fully to the nature around you. A wall of windows can be a gorgeous accent in any home and provide unobstructed views to the outside of your home, but to fully embrace what lies beyond, imagine removing all such barriers altogether. All the windows you can plan for can’t measure up to the freedom and openness of exterior pocket doors. Better than your standard sliding glass doors, pocket doors slide away into your wall and completely out of sight leaving your entertainment space open to the outdoors and all of that fresh air.

Green Walls

Living walls can help bring nature into your home subtly.
Living walls can help bring nature into your home subtly.

To truly bring a bold splash of nature into your home there are few options as unique as a green wall (also called vertical gardens and living walls), a wall in your home that is bountiful with a blanket of live plants covering its whole. The inherent beauty that a living wall brings to a room comes with the valuable benefit of increased air quality. All plants help to filter toxins out of the air, so your collection of house plants does help, but a green wall can contain thousands of individual plants that all work nonstop in cleaning up the air you breathe. Some plants are better at filtering than others, so to truly maximize this benefit from your living wall pick an assortment of plants that brings a balance of unique beauty and high filtering ability.

Indoor Water Features

 

If air quality is a concern for you, having an indoor water feature offers the dual benefits of maintaining the balance of indoor air while bringing with it the feel of nature. A water feature can act as a large and aesthetically pleasing humidifier as water evaporates from the fountain into the air; in the typically arid environment of Durango, such a feature can be invaluable. Water features also create and release negative ions that assist in drawing dust and other impurities out of the air. Living in a house with naturally purified air and balanced humidity brings many health rewards from healthier skin to better respiration and overall wellness.

When you live in Durango you’re surely familiar with all that there is to gain from spending time in nature. Continuing that experience in your home, in whichever ways you choose, garners you those benefits day-to-day and at times when getting out into the wild isn’t an option. Adding any of these elements to your home plans would be an excellent way to embrace all that nature has to offer.

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Everything You Need To Know About: Trusses

Marrying beauty and safety is no easy task. Rarely in our world are things that are intended for safety also appealing to look at. Luckily, trusses are both extremely safe in structure while also being able to bring a bold aesthetic to your custom home. Premanufactured trusses are often able to be installed in one day, which is a significant time gain over other traditional methods. This additional speed and convenience that comes with utilizing premanufactured trusses give you a winning combination for your custom build.

Recently having become very popular, trusses are steadily overcoming traditional framing, rafters, and joist in new home builds. Typically, trusses are wooden structures that are formed to create a series of triangles that will distribute the weight of your roof outwards to the walls, though they can incorporate steel and other structural shapes. Take advantage of the strong lines that trusses offer by leaving them exposed to create a powerful design element. The use of roof trusses will also allow for a more open design within your home as they are able to span greater distances than traditional framing, therefore, requiring fewer load bearing walls inside.

Many variations of roof truss designs exist, from straight-forward, simple designs to those that are more complex and ornate; all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few styles to give you an idea of the wide array of truss designs available.

Custom trusses adorn this Durango mountain home by Buena Vista Builders
This combination of steel and wood bring a balance of traditional and modern to this custom Durango mountain home.

Simple Trusses

The simplest design, the King Post Truss, consists of one vertical center post with a triangle off each side. Great for smaller homes, as its reach is more limited than other trusses, the clean design of this truss provides an open, elegant feel. Adding two additional beams gives you the Queen Post Truss with slightly more form while maintaining that simple elegance. The Modified Queen Post Truss, Howe Truss, and Double Howe Truss are all based off the original center post design of the King Post Truss with their own unique arrangements of beams of triangles. The Howe Truss is particularly strong and able to span a great distance, anywhere from 6 – 30 meters.

The Fink Truss the Double Fink Truss and Fan Truss maintain the clean lines that the King Post Truss and its variants offer while abandoning the center post design which then lends an open, airy feel to the design.

Arched Trusses

The Bowstring Truss and Gambrel Truss allow the possibility of an arched roof while still benefiting from the aesthetic and strength of trusses. A vertical center beam provides the apex height in both of the designs with additional support beams to either side as they descend.

Single Slope

Truss designs for single sloped or flat roofs can be achieved in a few different ways. You could choose a structure of parallel beams joined and supported by a series of triangles, such as in the Flat Truss and Sloping Flat Truss designs. Other triangle based options include a right triangle that utilizes the descending side as the roof, as in the Monopitch Truss or an obtuse triangle like the Inverted Truss.

Extended Length Trusses

For those projects in which you need an extra-large open space, there are truss designs that can handle huge spans starting around 20 meters to those necessary for auditoriums and other huge buildings. North Light Roof Trusses will get you all the strength you need for those 20 – 30-meter projects, while those behemoth spaces can be accommodated by Quadrangle Roof Trusses.

There are many additional options in truss designs that you may find suitable to the space you envision in your custom home. Hopefully, this list has given you an idea of just how versatile trusses can be in a home and further inspire you to find just the right look and feel for you.

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6 Custom Kitchen Ideas

We know that you can plan an extraordinary master bedroom, an elegant living room, and a welcoming outdoor space, but for most people the soul of their home is in their kitchen. Of course, choosing beautiful appliances that fit your needs will be a big part of your finished custom kitchen, but there are plenty of other ways you can make a unique statement in your kitchen that fits your style. Below, we’ve outlined some of the latest, trending custom kitchen ideas and designs so that you can start picking out the

  • Open It Up

If you love to entertain you likely hate when you have to leave the fun of the moment to work on something in the kitchen. With an open kitchen design, you can put the last touches on your signature dish or pour a fresh round of drinks without missing out on any conversation. A bar or an island is a great way to maintain the definition of kitchen space from dining and entertaining spaces while allowing for an easy flow of conversation and adding bonus counter/storage space. Also, if you have young children you know how valuable it is to be able to work on dinner without having to leave the kitchen every time you hear a suspicious noise.

The gorgeous beams and pendant lights add more space to this custom kitchen.
  • Shelving

Everyone knows that cabinets can make or break the style and feel of a kitchen, but to really set your kitchen apart consider ditching the cabinets. Wrap-around shelving can bring a fun bohemian feel to your kitchen and allows you to show off all of the styles of your glassware and dish sets. Couple the open shelves with below counter cabinets to store appliances and other unsightly objects.

  • Counters, Backsplash, Flooring

There are nearly endless options to choose from when deciding on what types of counters, flooring, and backsplashes to put in your kitchen. Your personal style will be the biggest deciding factor in which color and textures will work best. Although nowhere else is it more important that style does not take priority over function than in the kitchen; it’s important to choose durable surfaces that are easy to clean and won’t easily stain. Luckily, there are so many options out there that you should have no issue in finding materials that are both reliable and great looking.

  • Lighting, Fixtures, and Hardware

Whether your style is elegant, bold, abstract or anything in between it’s the little touches that will bring the look of your kitchen together. Introduce a touch of fun to a kitchen in which you chose an overall subdued design, or, in a kitchen of sleek design, round things out with your choices of lighting, fixtures, and hardware.

When it comes to lighting, you truly can’t have too much. Natural light is a must, but having plenty of options for artificial light is going to be so important as you cook into the night. Consider hidden under cabinet lights to not only assist in prep but to bring a clean, dramatic accent to your kitchen.

  • Walk-in Pantry

Keeping things organized is important in a kitchen. What better way to have the room you need to keep your pantry organized than to create a dedicated walk-in space? No more digging through cabinets or dancing on tip-toes to find the one item you know you have, but isn’t in immediate view.

Optimize your space by having your walk-in pantry act as just another place to get more prepwork done.
If you’re limited in space or have a smaller kitchen you’re remodeling, make your walk-in pantry a little shallower.
Barn doors can add that rustic charm and make your pantry more of a feature, than just storage.
  • Built-in Wine Storage

If you love wine and always keep a few bottles on hand why not graduate from your standard wine stand to built-in wine storage as you plan your home? Whether a custom built-in wine rack fits your needs or the control of a climate cabinet is in your plans, you can keep your favorite wine easily and stylishly within reach. Some really clever ideas:

Custom built wine storage that can also double as pantry storage.
Creating a separate space above your bar just for wine and wine glasses – that’s something we can get behind!
Working with a small space? Get creative with unique wine storage solutions!

Outside of the usual ample storage and counter space that is a must in any custom kitchen design, there are countless ways in which you can bring your own style and flair to your kitchen. These suggestions are just a few options available to you for making the center of your home as unique as you are. Make sure that when you are thinking about designing your own custom kitchen – whether during a remodel or a custom home build – you enlist the help of professionals to help you make the most of your layout.

 

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Eco-Friendly Materials for Your Custom Home

sustainable, passive solar, energy efficient, custom home, custom home design

Building a custom home that is eco-friendly is becoming more and more commonplace now since more materials are being made available. Though many people are likely familiar with the benefits of traditional eco-friendly building materials and techniques such as adobe, solar panels or recycled tires, there are numerous emerging technologies that have either just been developed or have been known for decades but are just now finding footing in a wider market. While some of these materials can be more expensive than traditional building materials, many end up redeeming these price differences in what they eventually save you in cooling/heating, repairs, etc.

Elements such as these are so exciting because, whether they are creating new standards for efficiency or finding lower impact means to build, they are helping to continually improve the effect we have on the environment. (Even better, many of these materials do both for twice the benefit!) Let’s take a look at these two main ways in which we are striving to meet this goal.

Eco-Friendly from the Source

Many traditional building materials, while still highly reliable, may not come from the most environmentally friendly sources. Thankfully, much progress has been made in the area of building and construction materials that either come from more sustainable sources or are made from other recycled materials. Looking into these and other similar sources for materials while planning a custom home is one of the first steps you can take in building an eco-friendly home.

Wood – While wood is a staple in most building and construction projects, there are ways in which we can lessen impacts of deforestation and similar issues. When purchasing wood to be used in a project you want to consider the source. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an entity that monitors and certifies raw building material manufacturers to ensure that they adhere to sustainable forestry practices. Standards that they enforce include such practices as preserving the natural habitats from which the wood is harvested and prohibiting the use of hazardous pesticides in those areas. Sourcing materials from such certified and managed forests lessens the impact of unsustainable forestry tactics such as clear cutting an area or using harmful chemicals as pest management.

Other options when it comes to considering wood materials is to choose a type that is lower impact by nature. Many homes are utilizing bamboo more often these days, and not just because it is a beautiful option for any room. Bamboo grows much more quickly than other types of wood. It only takes bamboo three years to reach a mature state that is suitable for harvesting as opposed to the 50-100 years that other woods such as maple and oak need to mature. Bamboo’s natural durability makes it a wonderful option for flooring and has formed a large niche in that very market.

Cork is another great option for flooring. Being harvested from the bark of trees, cork eliminates the need to cut down the tree itself. And, since the cork bark regrows in just three years’ time, this source of materials is very much sustainable. As an added plus, cork is naturally hypoallergenic and anti-microbial.

Consider also sources of wood that doesn’t come directly from live trees. Reclaimed wood, such as wood salvaged from riverbeds or from old buildings, can be an aesthetically interesting choice as well as being environmentally friendly.

Sustainable, recycled, reclaimed wood floors
Reclaimed wood can provide endless options for unique floors and home accents.

We also have options that, while still incorporating wood for its natural useful properties, introduce elements that greatly reduce the amount of wood needed in an area. Wood-Plastic Composite is becoming a very popular decking material for numerous reasons. To begin, using a 50-50 mix of wood fibers and plastic not only reduces that amount of wood that would be required in building a deck, but both the wood and plastic often come from recycled sources. The next time you see those plastic bags you tossed into the recycle bin may just be when you walk out onto your new Wood-Plastic Composite deck.

In combining wood and plastic you get the best of both worlds, the durability of plastic and the pliable strength of wood. And, whereas wood decking may need to be replaced if not given the necessary attention throughout the years, Wood-Plastic Composite is rot and mold resistant and won’t need painting or staining to maintain its integrity.

So far we’ve looked at some options that collect wood from sustainable sources and others that combine wood with other materials to reduce the amount necessary. Still, there are further areas in which we can completely remove wood. Of course, wood has been the standard for framing in home building for centuries, but recycled steel is emerging as a highly reliable and eco-friendly option for home framing. In fact, recycled steel can also simplify the framing process in that the steel beams can be custom designed to fit each project. Aside from the convenience, recycled steel also boasts both the durability of steel that is desirable in high wind and earthquake prone areas and a great reduction in environmental impact.

One company reports that while it may take 40-50 trees to build a 2,000 square-foot home the material required to frame that same home out of recycled steel could be collected from no more than 6 scrapped cars. Using scrapped material not only reduces the energy required to make steel by 75% but also keeps that scrap from ending up in a landfill. With the dual impact of reducing both the number of trees being cut down and the amount of trash to be left in landfills recycled steel has a promising future as a sustainable building material.

Insulation from Sustainable Sources ­– Yet another area is which recycled materials are making an impact is in insulation. Fiberglass has been go-to in home insulation for many years, but it has some well-known drawbacks that can be circumvented with alternate materials. Cotton insulation is made from recycled cotton materials, such as denim, and, unlike traditional fiberglass insulation, it does not contain formaldehyde. Similarly, recycled newsprint is versatile as an insulation as it can be used in different forms. One simple form is as a blown insulation where the recycled, processed newsprint is professionally blown into the insulation space.

Sustainable insulation.
Newsprint insulation comes in many forms but is most commonly blown in.

There are other materials that, while not coming from a recycled source, are still eco-friendly. Hemp based insulation is made from fibers of easily grown hemp plants and has the added benefit of being naturally resistant to pests such as moths and beetles. This means that the insulation will not have to be imbued with pesticides, unlike some other insulation materials.

Beginning with materials that lessen your environmental impact is a great start to creating your eco-friendly home. To really reduce the effect your home has on the environment you will also want to consider materials that provide and maintain energy efficiency once you’ve settled in.

Energy Efficient Materials

Of course, many technologies exist these days that make a home energy efficient. Absolutely, these are wonderful options to reduce your environmental impact in your day-to-day life, but to get the most out of your home you want to begin by choosing building materials that will be efficient on their own and serve to amplify the effects of any technology you choose to introduce once the building is done.

Insulation – It will come as no surprise that choosing a highly efficient insulation is one of the easiest and best things you can do to make your home eco-friendly, heating and cooling account for about 50% of a home’s energy consumption. Above, we explored possible insulation materials that are environmentally friendly at their source, here we will look at a material in which the insulating property is its biggest asset (though it does contain materials that are from an eco-friendly source).

Plant-based Polyurethane Rigid Foam is an insulating foam that is manufactured from plants such as bamboo, hemp, and kelp. This rigid foam offers near endless advantages including high moisture and heat resistance, protection against mold and pests and an R-value (a metric used in rating insulating properties) that is higher than fiberglass.

Insulation can also be made very efficient by using different techniques of layering materials that maximize their insulating properties. Creating walls by pouring concrete between two pieces of insulating materials, a technique known as Insulating Concrete Forms, has been shown to reduce as much as 20% energy consumption in houses using this technique versus a traditional wood framed house. Conversely, in a technique called Structural Insulated Panels (SIP), a similar layering effect is used, but this time, concrete panels are on the outside and sandwiches foam insulation inside. Plywood or strand board can also be used as the outer material. In some estimates, this technique can yield as much as 50% in energy savings when compared to traditional building materials.

Windows – It’s well known that windows account for a great amount of heat gained and lost in a house. Of course, double paned windows have been a standard to combat this, but single paned windows have gained an ally in low-emissivity (low-E) windows. Low-E windows have a clear coating of metallic oxide that can reduce heat flow by up to half. This will help to keep the heat of summer out when it’s unwanted, but also keeps it cozy in winter while reducing your heating costs by 10 – 20 percent.

When it comes to building a home to match your eco-friendly lifestyle there are a lot of things to consider and a lot of options to explore. Thankfully, new techniques and materials are being developed all the time that allow for you to make the best choices for your home and location, those discussed here are just some of the most promising materials being worked with today. But, with a little forethought and planning, you can rest easy in knowing that the walls around you were built with the greatest of intentions and the smallest impact on the environment.

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Creating a Dynamic Outdoor Living Space

When you live in as beautiful a place as Durango and its surrounding areas you want to take full advantage of what nature has to offer. So, you’ve planned and built a gorgeous custom home that embraces the views of your property, but you’re still experiencing only half of what your space has to offer. To truly embrace your surroundings you’ll want to create an outdoor living space that will pull you and your family into the sunshine and open air. Spending more time outside is easy once you’ve created a welcoming outdoor area that speaks to your lifestyle.

Decks & Patios

Building an outdoor area that you won’t want to leave begins with designating a space. Some of the best ways to define and create a sense of purpose in an outdoor living space is to build a deck or patio that will serve the dual purpose of establishing an area dedicated to relaxing or entertaining outside and creating a space that will invite people out.

Think about what you want to get from your outdoor space. While decks can provide gorgeous open views and are a wonderful solution to building on uneven or steep terrain, a patio really nestles you into your surroundings and can produce a comfy environment. Depending on the feel you’re envisioning for this space, you may be drawn to one of these options over the other as the base for your outdoor living space. For the best of both worlds, and if you have the space, consider building a deck that leads down to an intimate patio area.

Dynamic outdoor space helps you enjoy the most of your beautiful views!

Pergolas, Verandas & Arbors

Once you have your outdoor area designated with a deck or patio it’s time to think about whether you’d like to add a shade element to this space. We know that the Durango sun can become pretty intense during the height of summer, but don’t exclude those blazing days from your outdoor time. An umbrella or awning, while effective, can be very limited in the amount of shaded space that they actually provide. Depending on what balance of shade to openness you want, building independent or attached structures, like pergolas, verandas, and arbors, will provide stylish shade that can be built to whatever size you wish. Planting climbing flowers or other vegetation near these structures will not only add a beautiful element to that area but also provide additional natural shade.

Original materials can really enhance any home addition.

Outdoor Kitchen

Maximize your outdoor time by creating the opportunity to perform traditionally indoor tasks outside. No need to be stuck in your kitchen while the party hums along on the patio. By building an outdoor kitchen you give yourself the option of staying where the action is as you prepare the meal. Even if it’s just you and your partner making a simple lunch being able to cook outside is a luxury you won’t regret.

Covered outdoor kitchens can help bring the party outdoors even when it’s snowing!

An outdoor kitchen space can be as simple or as advanced as you desire. A grill and some counter space could be the extent of your setup, or you could go as far as building an area with its own oven/stove top, refrigerator, sink, and bar. Love pizza? Add a wood burning pizza oven. The limit is truly your own imagination when it comes to designing the outdoor kitchen of your dreams.

Take your outdoor kitchen area to the next level by building raised garden beds around the perimeter of your entertaining space. Pick your own vegetables and herbs and add them straight to your dishes without ever having to enter the house. Raised beds will also help to define and stylize the edges of your space to create a cohesive feel.

Picking fresh herbs straight from your garden in your outdoor kitchen makes every meal special.

Lighting

Half the fun of an outdoor space lies in taking full advantage of those warm summer evenings. While it is awe inspiring to spend those nights star gazing and watching excitedly for falling stars from your backyard, you’ll still want the option of having that area well-lit for entertaining. Electric lights are an easy and reliable option that can add a dazzling design element of their own but consider also using lanterns or torches to accentuate a cozy atmosphere.

Outdoor lights serve a both practical and decorative purpose. Such things as incorporating LED lighting into vegetation to add an edge of magic or placing lights in such a way that they also provide accent lighting to show off the architecture of your house can add an element of modern design and utility in your outdoor space.

Outdoor Fireplaces or Fire Pits

Add an element of fun to your outdoor area by bringing fire into the mix. An outdoor fireplace or fire pit can add an exciting focal point to a design and create an area towards which people will naturally gravitate. After a jovial dinner, as people begin to rise from the table and stretch their legs, they’ll be ready to move to a new area in which to congregate and socialize. A welcoming fire offers a setting that can be both casual and intimate where friends can gather and keep moods bright as the sky darkens. Additionally, adding fire to your outdoor area opens up the option of spending more time relaxing and entertaining outside during winter months.

Watch gorgeous mountain sunsets in the summer from an outdoor fireplace.

Water Features

Whether you live by the river or are tucked away from any natural water source, adding a water feature to your outdoor space is a wonderful idea. A trickling rock waterfall or a koi pond can lend an additional dimension of relaxation and tranquility to any area. You might even consider the combination of a water feature and a fire area to either contrast or complement each other in an outdoor space.

Privacy

Once you’ve planned and built your optimum outdoor living area you’re all set to kick back and enjoy the beautiful Durango weather. Something that can put a quick damper on your joyful situation is the thought of surrounding neighbors or passers-by peeking into your space. You’ll want to plan some form of privacy barrier to keep those curious eyes from wandering too far in your direction.

Of course, a fence is always an option but may detract from the open, natural environment you’re trying to create. Look towards vegetation as a solution. Strategically planted trees, or those climbing flowers that may be growing on your pergola, will block unwanted attention while maintaining the atmosphere of natural beauty that you’ve worked so hard to create. Use your imagination in regards to elements you were already planning in order to create privacy. Those raised garden beds that you may have been considering, the waterfall feature you’ve been planning for, any number of things could easily be planned to stand between your intimate space and that beyond.

In the end, the most important aspect to any outdoor area is that it must reflect you and how you like to interact with the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for more stimulation or relaxation in your outdoor living space, how you wish to realize that is up to you. Combine elements that speak most to your sensibilities to create a dynamic atmosphere and a versatile space that will make you never want to go inside again!

 

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Embracing Natural Light in Custom Homes

We live in such a bright and beautiful place. Durango typically has around 300 sunny days per year, so taking advantage of all that natural light is a must when planning your custom built home. There are numerous things to consider when planning to fully embrace all of that natural light. Luckily, when you’re building your home from the ground up you can take every step available to you in order to bring in the rays.

Naturally, when living in this sun-filled environment solar panels are a wonderful option for converting the power of light into energy in our homes. But, you can go beyond solar panels in the planning of your home to take full advantage of what the sun has to offer. You can utilize direct sunlight in a plethora of ways in your custom home to create a bright, warm and energy efficient environment.

When you begin to consider how to best incorporate sunlight into your custom home your mind will likely jump first to windows. Indeed, windows will be the primary means by which you’ll be bringing all of that sun into your home, but in order to maximize the effectiveness of those windows, there are things one should take into consideration in the early planning stages.

When deciding on room placement while planning your home be sure to consider what type of light you’d like each room to receive and how to achieve this. One of the easiest and earliest ways to plan for this is to visualize which direction they’ll be facing once the house is built.

Most people are familiar with the versatility and effectiveness of south-facing windows. Allowing the most winter light, when we rely more heavily on passive solar heat, but limiting direct sun in summer when less heating is desirable, south-facing windows are a great choice for rooms that make up the majority of your living area. These larger rooms, such as your living room and kitchen, will allow the winter heat to disperse throughout the house and are likely to be the areas in which you will spend the greatest amount of your waking time.

On the other end of the spectrum, north-facing windows will receive even, filtered, natural light year round without getting much direct sunlight. Rooms that might work best with north-facing windows are rooms in which you don’t spend a predominate amount of time. Laundry rooms, craft rooms, and bathrooms are not as high of a priority when it comes to heating, but will still benefit from the gentle light that your northern windows will provide.

When it comes to deciding which wall to put bedrooms on you must first consider the habits of the people who will be sleeping in those rooms. For an early riser, east-facing windows will likely be a desirable feature. East-facing windows will bring in the most morning sun to greet the early risers in your family. For this same reason, an east-facing window would be a challenge for someone who likes to sleep in.

Dining rooms and breakfast nooks are natural choices for east-facing windows; start your day with coffee and breakfast as you soak in that soft morning sun. On the opposite side of the house, you can count on strong evening light through your west-facing windows. If you’re fond of watching television at the end of your day keeping your entertainment room on the opposite side of the house is advisable as this direct sunlight will keep any west-facing room full of robust light until the sun dips away.

Creating an open concept design is another great way to welcome as much light as possible into your custom home. The smooth transition from room to room will assist the flow of light into areas of your house that don’t have windows of their own. Try to position interior rooms, those that will not have their own access to windows, in such a way that they will benefit from the free flow of sunlight. You can keep your future home aglow with a little forethought in the planning process.

You may think that once the sun slips behind the mountains you can no longer rely on the heating power of the sun. But, a thermal mass is yet another great way to fully utilize the sun’s heat. A thermal mass can take many forms with the defining characteristic being that it can absorb a great amount of heat throughout the day and slowly release this warmth back into its surrounding environment once the source of heat is gone. Think of leaning against a brick wall once the sun has gone down and feeling all the warmth that is still trapped in the bricks. In summer, a thermal mass should be shaded from the sun so that the heat it absorbs throughout the day will be drawn from the inside of your house and actually assist in keeping your interior cooler. If exposed brick walls don’t fit into your vision for your custom home consider other options that will serve as a thermal mass. Adobe or concrete walls, a large stone fireplace, or dark tiles or a concrete slab for flooring can all effectively collect and hold warmth throughout the day and generously release it back into the air at night.

With all this work done to bring the light and warmth inside you won’t want to neglect planning for the depths of summer when all of that light and heat becomes less desirable. That same passive solar effect that helps to keep you comfortably warm in winter can also turn your house into a sauna in the summer months. Something as simple as an overhang from your roof can make a great deal of difference in modulating the temperature inside your house. An overhang of the right length should drop low enough to provide shade for your windows in summer, but still allow the low-hanging winter sun to reach into your home. This little bit of strategic shade can make all the difference in keeping a cool house in summer and a cozy one in the winter months.

Planting vegetation around your custom home can add not only a desirable verdant touch of nature but provide additional shading when it’s needed. Deciduous trees, those that grow leaves in spring and lose them in fall, provide natural shade that automatically adjusts to the amount of coverage you need. Those summer leaves provide ample shade, but still allow a soft glow of filtered brightness. In the winter, when those leaves are shed, the bare branches allow light to pass through unimpeded. Large deciduous trees can also shade parts of your roof, thereby helping to keep your attic from getting overly warm and allowing heat to spread into your house from those areas.

Once the planning is done and your beautiful custom home is built there are still further ways to maximize the effect of natural light in your home. Consider the materials that you are using to decorate and accent your design. Large white or light surfaces will reflect light and will make a room appear larger. You can contrast these bright colors with darker, dense materials intended to absorb solar heat (once again tapping into that thermal mass effect). Plan to use these warmer colors on surfaces such as floors or cabinets that will naturally be in more direct contact with the sunlight.

Energy efficient shades or blinds can both serve a practical effect in helping to modulate the temperature in your home throughout the year, but also be an appealing aspect of your interior design. In winter, closing your shades after the sun goes down helps to hold the heat in while the icy winds blow outside. And, of course, in summer months when shades are drawn, they will assist in keeping the sun and heat from permeating into your cool interior. Choosing energy efficient versions of the shades you love will increase these effects to maximize your control over the temperature in your home. Honeycomb or cellular shades can be effective insulators and are often the “go-to” for many homeowners looking for energy efficient window covers. While these are a great option, don’t feel as if these are your only route for efficiency. Many other types of blinds and shades, from plantation-style to drapes, can be duly efficient. Looks for materials that will be able to trap air or have an additional lining that will lend an insulating aspect to the window coverage. For further efficiency and versatility consider combining or layering different styles of window coverings.

All of this sun that we are so lucky to live in is one of the best free resources that we have access to in Durango. It only makes sense to take full advantage of this when you are planning and building your custom home. With some careful consideration towards where and how you will be building and what materials you choose to use you stand to keep yourself in happy balance with the sun for years to come!

 

 

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