We are always looking for ways that we can add to our home. It might be in adding a specific type of siding or roofing, through updating the landscaping or perhaps by making our driveway smoother and easier to use, but the reality is that we are always on the lookout for something that can help us stand out from the rest.

When it comes to adding a feature that is practical and yet versatile one such option is to incorporate concrete construction elements. Be it a masonry patio, an outdoor fireplace, building a lanai or having an outdoor kitchen, the use for masonry are as numerous and varied as your imagination or budget. And, speaking of budget, because of its durability and ease of maintenance, opting for concrete construction is one of the most budget friendly choices available.

But what is that can be built using masonry? Why, nearly anything you might want! From indoor elements such as gorgeous stained or stamped concrete floors, stairs, or columns to outdoor features like pool side patios, driveways, walkways, garden paths, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces concrete is the perfect medium for all things house related.

5 Ways to Incorporate Concrete Construction:

If you have always considered concrete to be suitable for just the obvious things like driveways or by the pool, you might be surprised to think of it as other home elements. Consider these fun uses of concrete:

  1. Create a custom kitchen counter by using concrete. You can customize everything from the color, the thickness, or even opt to embed personal items in the concrete before it set up for a truly customized look.
  2. Add concrete stepping stones to a garden path Sure you can buy them at your local garden store, but why not create your own shapes, sizes, colors and designs! So much more fun.
  3. Have an outdoor kitchen built, and incorporate concrete elements such as seating, planters, or table tops,
  4. Need help with erosion? Add a masonry retaining wall and keep the dirt and lawn where you want it.
  5. Use concrete to design a raised bed area for your yard

Concrete construction is nothing new, as it has been used in architecture for years. However, we sometimes forget just how perfect it is for so many decorative elements. If you are trying to determine what to do with the appearance of your home or landscape, be sure to consider employing masonry features. You just might be surprised at their versatility. Talk to a local concrete professional today.

Rather than moving to a new house, every budget conscious homeowner desires to extend or upgrade their existing home to save both time as well as money. Home additions are a perfect choice for increasing your living space and adding property value. A home extension substantially increases the functional space inside your home and undoubtedly increases the property’s resale value to a great extend. However, before you jump into a final decision, here are some important points to consider regarding a home extension procedure.

Is it a wise choice?

Are you looking forward to an extra bedroom, a new living area for the whole family to enjoy or for a home office? The first and foremost step is to verify the viability of a house extension procedure in your property, no matter whether it is a single storey extension or a two (double) storey extension. Always keep in mind that only a well-planned sensible design can be cost-effective and provide you the likely benefits. Before you proceed, it is also necessary to recognize the need of a planning permission and verify whether your property is located in a conservation area. If so, it is highly recommended to seek advice from your nearby building control authority and do a research about the legal procedures related to the extension work.

Next, take time to find an answer for “how much does an extension cost?” For this, your exact requirement has to be analyzed in detail. Based on your need, you can either choose a rear extension or a side extension procedure. A single storey extension, either done on the side or rear portion, is comparatively cheaper and it requires only minimal disruption. However, if you need more ventilation, then a double storey extension is considered as more beneficial. An extra investment is often required when you adopt additional painting or interior design services. Also, make sure to implement adequate safety measures, before your home remodeling job, to avoid unexpected costs.

As there are multiple possibilities in a home or kitchen extension project, it is extremely essential to find a reputable professional who utilize highly sophisticated construction methods for a hassle free home improvement job. Such professionals inspect your site and suggest the most suitable design pattern, based on your specific requirements, budget and the building’s pre-existing conditions. Moreover, they adhere to essential quality standards and offer adequate work warranty for the job undertaken to ensure utmost customer satisfaction.

You can easily find your way to a better yard with the right landscape pathway materials. If you are looking for new solutions for your outdoor area, then you will also want to consider the qualities for the hardscape you are working with. This will make a difference in how you approach your next landscape project while ensuring that you have the right options for your pathway. Following are the top five qualities to look for with the materials.

1. Water Resistant. A common mistake that many make with landscape pathway materials is the water erosion that occurs. Often, jointing sand, stabilizer for aggregate pathways and other materials don’t have resistance to water. You want to make sure that you have the materials that allow you to maintain the pathway for a longer time frame.

2. Durability. Nothing is better than a durable pathway. You not only want to find stronger paving stones or aggregate. It is also important to make sure that your jointing sand or stabilizer is durable with the pathway. This will assist with a long – lasting solution for your pathway.

3. Low Maintenance. Even though all landscape pathway materials claim to have the best options for maintenance, they often erode quickly or don’t provide you with the correct solutions to upgrade your path. You want to find materials that allow you to replace sections of your pathway or to find solutions that are based on long lasting formulas.

4. Easy to Apply. Some of the landscape pathway materials are mixed with chemicals and other materials that are not compatible with aggregate or paving stones. You want to find options that are natural and are able to easily mix and work with the applications for your pathway.

5. No Chemical Residue. For paving stones and other unique materials, there is often a white haze left behind from poly haze. If you are applying specific pathways, then you want to make sure it won’t leave behind chemicals and white residue. Environmentally friendly solutions with the landscape pathway materials you are looking for will provide you with different levels of compatibility for your hardscape.

Upgrade your outdoor area without problems. If you are looking for different options, then landscape pathway materials can assist you with the desired options. There are a variety of alternatives that you can look into, all which will provide you with high quality, long lasting materials for your next hardscape project.

If spending got in the way of acquiring the super marble and granite looks and feel, read on about Venetian marble. Since recycling is everywhere in our fight to preserve the environment, salvaging natural marble brings us this solution to many dreams. Instead of the rather expensive cultured marble and granite, why not opt for the man-made Venetian marble?

How is Venetian marble made?

The reprocessed marble undergoes a procedure of pressing and heating with polymers and pigments. The result is a very strong, non-porous surface. Made of slabs in the factory, fabricators cut and polish it, ready for installation. You get VM in several attractive colors and enchanting edges for a fairyland feeling. Designs come to life in dreamy settings!

Among the Venetian marble, advantages are easy installations with little maintenance headaches, resisting bacteria and staining. Immense durability makes it appropriate for floors and shower enclosures, backsplashes and countertops.

Installations without seams

Without 48″ restrictions, Venetian marble is the first 60″ wide manufactured marble. With few seams, install it quickly and easily with little waste. Don’t you desire the most environmentally sustainable product?

Attractive color options too

Natural rock comes with many surface pits and marks from the wild underground through sustained earthly processes. Engineered stone is quite regular in coloration and surface consistency through the slab. Seams are minimal as a result and they suit applications where color regularity is preferred. Tibetan Beige and Coco Emperador are popular choices unless you opt for the more traditional colors like the Vanilla Sky and Melange.

How to maintain Venetian marble?

Compared to the conventional tile and natural stone surfaces, These marble premium surfaces present no maintenance issues. Simply wipe with wet cloth and even sponge and paper towels would suffice. If heavy stains occur, you need to use a mild soap. A neutral pH cleaner could also be used. A nonabrasive scrub pad will preserve the surface and result in many years of service with no hassles. A marble sealer is advised for additional protection. This marble being very durable, use it for backsplashes and countertops to provide the smart marble and granite look with a long life.

Venetian marble would introduce a great natural stone fantasy into the home or business at reasonable expense. Since many options exist, some are bound to meet your expectations, fancy, lifestyle, and budget. Survey our vast range of premium surfaces to make the best decisions.

Frank Lloyd Wright was not only considered one of the world’s greatest contemporary architects, but was also one of the most prolific and controversial public figures of his time. He was a writer, art collector, philosopher and visionary, all of which combined to inspire his craft. An outdoorsy child, Wright fell deeply in love with the Wisconsin landscape he explored as a boy. “The modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer that bursts into the glorious blaze of autumn,” he later reminisced.

Widely known for four distinct architectural styles, his work stemmed from his belief that buildings should be made from the land, and benefit the land.

  • Prairie: born out of his belief that we needed fewer, larger rooms that flowed more easily and incorporated low pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, a central chimney, and open floor plans which, he believed, was the antidote to the confined, closed-in look of the Victorian era.
  • Textile: these took on a more linear approach, combined with influences from Mayan architecture.
  • Organic: this drew from natural resources, combined with the influence of Japanese architecture.
  • Usonian: smaller than his sprawling Prairie style residences, these contained little ornamentation and lacked basements or attics. These houses were set up into zones, typically with three areas: living space, small bedrooms, and a kitchen-dining area. Built-in components and furniture allowed homeowners to appreciate the simpler, integrated space Wright intended.

Frank Lloyd Wright was clearly a man ahead of his time. The design of many of his homes once seemed light-years ahead of their time, and people often had trouble understanding his vision, yet almost all of our modern home design and custom home building construction puts to use the ideals he thought so important.

The works of Frank Lloyd Wright are unique. No two homes or buildings look alike. He built according to his vision of what the future would be. He saw the need for homes to be more fluid, more open, more live-able, and less restrained. His architecture both documented a time in history and yet managed to push the envelope with his modern philosophical approach to the future of building.

Wright stood for clean lines and simplicity. He believed that a well-built building complemented its environment and surrounding. He disliked the intricate detail and fussiness of the architectural styles that preceded him. His ideals, words and foresight continue to be used as inspiration for modern home design and custom home builders. The echoes of his style are evident in many of the contemporary homes we see designed today.

Wood structures are pretty much the hottest fad in the real estate world right now. Log cabins are growing in popularity, backyard sheds made of lumber are hot ticket items and gazebos are an obsession. Even wooden garages are a big hit and you may be considering getting your own to take advantage of the many benefits it can provide.

Here are ten things you should know about wooden garages before you buy.

You Have To Regularly Keep It Clean – This is a big deal and one too many people ignore. Dirt may just slide off of metal siding but it can cause damage to wood. When you get a wooden garage you are committing to keeping it clean and maintained. That will keep pests out of the corners, or from burrowing into the lumber.

Staining Is Necessary – Another element to maintaining your wooden garage is staining it. This has to be done every three to five year to maintain the integrity and health of the lumber. If you don’t do it the logs will crack, blanch and possible let in pests like termites. The wood may also become warped or even rot from the inside. Luckily it isn’t an expensive investment, is simple to do yourself and there are many environmentally friendly chemicals to choose from for the tasks.

It Is Prone To Pests – As mentioned above, wood is attractive to pests. Termites, spiders, ants, rats, mice, even racoon..they like the wood. For the most part this won’t be an issue as long as you stain your wood, keep the garage clean and look out for cracks. But if you find a hole you should fill it as quickly as possible to avoid an infestation.

Materials Can Be Expensive – Looking at the cost of building a wooden garage you may be shocked by the discrepancy in cost when compared to metal structures. The other side to that argument would be how sturdy lumber tends to be, as well as how attractive it is. People who buy wooden structures are essentially investing in the property. When you look at it that way you will see why the cost can be worth it.

Pre-fabs Are More Cost Effective – If the price tag on a custom built wooden garage is a deal breaker it may be time to consider an alternative. Pre-fabs are much more inexpensive, fitting into most budgets. They come in multiple sizes with various features, such as automatic doors, or even manual double doors for a more rustic look. These will average between $1500 and $5000 for most models, though more complex garages can be more.

You Can Fix Them Yourself – This is a big plus for a lot of folks who don’t want to have to turn to a contractor to fix future problems. Wood is easier to work with than metal and you can replace whole logs if you have to. Any lumber seller, from hardware stores to wood based recycling centers, can help you find the right size, color, shape and weight to make a repair. But in many cases you can just to small patch jobs to take care of problems. If you maintain your garage properly it might never even come up. On the other hand, if you do need someone to come and fix it for you it isn’t hard to find contractors who can deal with wood. Metal repairs can cost more.

Damp Can Ruin The Wood – It can’t be said enough, you have to stain your wooden garage regularly! Staining seals the wood and keeps moisture out of the lumber. When the stain begins to breakdown it will no longer repel water. The damp will push its way into the logs and start to rot it from the inside. Warping will form, pushing the logs out and causing gaps where the wood has shrunk. Heat will make it expand again, exacerbating the problem. Cracks will form in the surface, letting in more damp and in some cases various pests. All it takes is a bit of rain when the garage isn’t properly fitted and you will have to replace full logs. Make sure you prevent it!

They Can Be Used as More Than Garages – Some people are choosing these structures, but not for their cars. Wooden garages make great sheds, extra rooms and even guest houses. Depending on the size you select (and that of your car) you might be able to share the space for multiple purposes. All it takes is a bit of imagination and you can turn it into anything you like. Because of the low price it might also act as an alternative to more expensive structures you were considering putting on your property.

They Improve The Look Of Your Property – Let’s face it, metal garages are ugly. They take up too much space, make weird noises in storms and are just an eyesore. Wooden garages look great, have a classic feel and are popular for a reason. If you want to make your property look as good as possible, especially if you are considering a sale in the future, this is a great step to take. Throw that metal garage in the trash heap where it belongs.

They Can Increase The Value Of Your Home – This is one of the biggest reasons people choose to go with wooden garages. There are many different upgrades you can do to increase the value of your home. Some people put in swimming pools, others go with guest houses in the backyard. Others put in a rock garden or install solar panels. Wooden garages are a practical upgrade the looks good while being fully functional. That gives it an edge to many of the other improvements, especially given the lower cost.

Architects and engineers are essential members of nearly every construction project. There are very few projects where you won’t need the skill sets from both. The division of labor between architects and engineers is a well-known and accepted concept, but have you ever considered, who leads the project?

For anyone in construction, this may seem obvious, but it occurred to me that it may not be as obvious to everyone else. So Today I wanted to take a moment to discuss the differences between an architect and an engineer and explain why one is exceptionally qualified to lead the other.

Before I jump into the meat of this discussion, I want to share an experience I had several years ago. A higher education client was modernizing their university’s central power plant. Given the substantial engineering this project required, the Owner selected an engineer who was exceptionally skilled with the various building systems impacted by the project. The firm was hired directly by the owner and setup to lead the project. The engineer, realized that while the project was primarily an engineering project, there were several architectural elements that would also be impacted. Not having any in-house architects, the firm turned to an outside architect and hired them as a sub-consultant with the principal engineer in the lead.

The firm I was with at the time received the award to provide the architectural services. I was assigned the project and worked with the engineer to complete this project. This was the one and only project I ever worked on where the architect did not have the lead role.

It was the single worst project experience I have ever had.

I’ve got a lot of friends who are engineers. My wife is one. Many of my closest friends are engineers. This means that I have endured decades of jabs about architects and typically being the only architect in the room, I have no recourse but to laugh along. The truth is that architects do push the boundaries of engineering. Often to the point of mockery. We tend to do so out of ignorance. After all, we certainly don’t understand each system the way our engineer colleagues do.

Despite this, there is one thing my fellow engineers don’t fully appreciate. Without proper coordination and alignment between all of the engineered parts, the entire project would fail to come together.

Coordination between the various building systems is a critical part of every project. If left undone, a deficiency in coordination stands to wreak havoc throughout construction and subject the owner to change orders, additional costs, and delays.

It may surprise some to hear that architects are responsible for coordination of engineering systems.

In order to better understand this, it’s important to review the education, training, and examinations required of architects and compare that to the education, training, and examinations required of engineers.

Engineers begin their academic careers in general engineering classes but soon concentrate their education in one of several major disciplines. An engineering student may choose a major in Mechanical, Electrical, or Civil engineering (just to name a few). Each of these concentrations focuses education on a specific set of physical properties in which students specialize. After graduation, those who choose to go into construction, learn to apply those concepts to specific building systems aligned with their engineering major. When it comes time to become a licensed Professional Engineer, the examinations required by licensing boards are tailored to the engineering discipline. In short throughout an engineer’s career, the concentration they choose stays with them throughout their lives. I won’t make a blanket statement stating that engineer’s don’t know more than one discipline, but I will say that I have encountered very few who either practice or even dabble in another.

On the other hand in addition to core design and architecture theory classes, architecture students are required to attend several years of classes in structures, building systems, and construction practice. When a student graduates, one of the first duties (pun intended) assigned is detailing bathrooms (where all building systems come together). When it comes time for license, an architect must pass a series of examinations (seven at last count) that include building systems and structural systems.

In short, the only licensed professional in the design team that is educated in all of the major systems of a building is the architect.

On my disastrous old university project, the engineer did such a poor job of coordination, that his own people would come to meetings often uninformed of the impacts that changes in another in-house engineering discipline had on their work. Often these guys sat just across the aisle from one another.

I certainly did not know it at the time, but the Owner’s mistake of hiring the engineer as the project lead doomed that project to failure.

It seems like a reasonable assumption that on a project that is primarily about replacing building systems, the engineer would take the lead, so I don’t fault the owner for making that assumption.

I now know what a folly that decision can be and hope I’ve helped some of you avoid this mistake.

Now, every time I am forced to hear another architect joke from one of my brazen engineer friends, I take solace in the fact that without me, the various systems they are such experts in would fail to suit their intended purpose.

I hope you now have a better understanding of the interplay between engineers and architects. Next week we will discuss whether it’s better to hire each one directly or have one subcontract the other.

What about you? Have you ever worked on a project with an engineer in the lead role? Was the project successful? Did construction go smoothly? Tell me your stories.

As you can probably guess, a commercial contractor specializes commercial construction. A general contractor is involved in all steps of commercial construction, and they typically handle both private and public projects, from construction of schools to buildings, commercial spaces and more. They are responsible for overseeing a number of tasks, such as obtaining permits, design, purchases, adherence to codes of the building industry and compliance to state laws and norms.

When it comes to selecting a premier commercial general contractor, you have to be more careful because a lot of money is at stake. In this post, we will talk of the things that need your attention for finding a reliable commercial general contractor.

Start With the Basics:

You cannot work any random contractor you find online. Start by looking for licensed companies that have a good name in the local market. If a company claims to be the best in business or has worked in many projects, they will have enough clients. They should be able to offer references on request, which large tells about their portfolio. You need to understand the nature and range of projects they have completed so far, and whether they can handle your project, keeping the scope and other aspects in mind.

Ask for a Bid:

It is important to contact at least three to four commercial general contractors for the same job. You need to check if their pricing and bid is fair and transparent. Bids are meant to be detailed in all aspects, and you might need to check what’s included in the proposal sent to you and the things that have been excluded. Make sure that all bids are made around the same scope of work, otherwise it would mean comparing applies to bananas, which isn’t the ideal way to move ahead.

Communication Matters:

No matter how small or big your project may be, communication with your commercial contractor is more than important. If you are happy with the bid, ask them about the development process and find reasons why you should hire the company in the first place. The concerned company must explain their approach to the job, so that you can understand their areas of expertise. It is wise to use some of their projects as point of reference in your conversations, so that the overall process of discussion remains on the same line.

Know Their Team:

A contracting company usually has a team of professionals who help in deciding a lot of management considerations. You need to know the team that will be working on your project and whether they are good at maintaining client relationships. Don’t shy away from asking questions, no matter how stupid they may sound, as long as your queries are relevant to the project. You can also ask them about their work ethics and practices and what sets them apart from other companies in the same industry.

Check these things, and finding a commercial contractor shouldn’t take a lot of time.

Timber framing construction uses tenon and lap joints along with wooden dowels or pegs to create the frame structure of a home. This is a historic method of constructing the frame structure and can be expensive. One reason is that this type of construction is more advanced that stick frame construction. People like to use timber framing because it will continue to hole up the weight of the home long after the nails of stick frame construction has rusted and created the need for some major repairs. If you are building a new home and want to use this type of construction there are ways in which you can work this into your budget.

Use the local species of timbers

When using timber framing make sure that you use whatever tree is a native species of that area. It is expensive to ship timbers across the country. For example, if you love on the East coast two of their native species trees are oak and white pine but on the West coast it would be the Douglas fir. You also have to look at the cutting and material handling of the joinery. One of the harder ones to work with is oak because it is heavier so it would take more time to make the joints.

Choose a simple frame design

If you have a complex design in mind it will simply cost you more because of the board footage of food and number of joints you would need for the frame. Some companies that do timber framing will count how many joints will be used for the frame and will give you an estimate based on that information,

Find the best pricing

This includes not only the building material but also the contractors who are going to build your timber framing for your home. Make sure that you get at least three estimates because if you only get a couple you have just one to compare against another one. Make sure that you get a written estimate that lists the costs of materials, labor costs, and anything else that will figure into the cost of the home. Do not choose the lowest price because they may be using inferior timber. If possible ask to see the timber they will be using before you make your decision. You should also ask to see the results of their construction to make sure that they have the actual experience to construct your dream home. Ask for references and check them out. You and your family are going to be living in this home for a long while and you want to make sure that it well constructed.

Following these tips will allow you to have your dream home and stay within budget.

This article is penned by Lora Davis for Arrow Timber Framing. Arrow Timber Framing has worked hard to gain the experience necessary to streamline production. Timber framed homes are built with mortise and tenon joints connected with wooden pegs.

When it comes to siding, homeowners have so many different options. Not only with the materials being used, but also with the areas of the house where the siding is located. For instance, we have lap siding, along with board and batten siding, and each type of siding has its own functionality. We are going to focus on lap siding, and we are going to assess the different siding grades that are available to consumers.

A type of lap siding, channel siding is great for homeowners who want their house to have a rustic appearance on the outside, while still maintaining a modern structure and proper protection for the home. The great thing about channel siding is that you can get it installed in many ways. It can be placed horizontally, vertically or even diagonally, depending on how you want the home to look. And if the process is done in the right way, you can end up with some terrific looking shadow lines on the outside of the house. And this will ensure that you are maintaining that rustic appearance for many years. And if you are getting high quality siding, you will never need a replacement for decades.

Lap/Channel Siding Grades

The highest grade of lap/channel siding that you can get is the clear heart grade. These are pieces of heartwood, with many of them being 100 percent clear. Some may have a slight imperfection, but they are still going to look stunning. It will be completely clear, and is probably good for homeowners who want this type of siding, but still want a very modern look.

Then we have “a clear,” which is almost as good as the clear heart siding grade. However, you are going to end up with quite a few more imperfections with a clear, which is why it is a lower grade. The next option is select knotty, which is available in both kiln dried or unseasoned. You are going to see quite a few darker spots on the wood, but it will still look very pristine and impressive.

Homeowners who want to go with such siding, but want to save money on the process, will be interested in the last two options: proprietary grades and standard and better. These are both fine options for exterior siding, but they are not going to look as impressive. The upside is that you will get a much better price on the materials.

If you are confused about what type of siding grade to use on your home, we would suggest that you speak with a cedar siding specialist. These companies, who offer both the materials and the installation services of those materials, can assist you in making an informed decision. Talk with them about your budget, what you are expecting from the siding you want installed, and how long you want it to last. They will give you expert recommendations on the siding options that you have for your home. And you can be sure that you will get a very good end result.