Adding Curb Appeal to Your Custom Home

Your home’s exterior serves a practical purpose but adding curb appeal to your custom home can be achieved by carefully choosing a color scheme and characteristics that make you proud to pull into the driveway each day. In fact, exceptional curb appeal can increase your home’s resale value. Together, you and your builder can choose a design for your home’s exterior that reflects your personal style and stands out among the other houses in your neighborhood. Here are some curb appeal ideas to consider when building your custom home in the Pittsburgh area.

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Cost of Building a Home in Pittsburgh: 4 Factors

When it comes to the cost of building a home in Pittsburgh, there are a few key factors that come into play. Of course, the size and type of home (spec home vs. custom home) you’re looking to build will impact the overall price tag, as well as location. But other factors such as quality of materials used, and level of contractor expertise can also affect the cost.

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Aging in Place Design: Tips for Building Your Forever Home

As people are living longer, the demand for aging in place design in new construction is on the rise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of Pittsburgh’s residents were 65 years of age or older, and 19.3% of all Allegheny County residents (per July 1, 2021 estimates).

More and more people want to be able to live independently in their homes as they age, instead of paying to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you are building a new home, it is important to think about features in your house that will make it easy to live and move around comfortably as you age. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most important aspects of aging in place design and how you can incorporate these features into your new home build.

What is Aging in Place Design, and Why Should You Consider It?

Aging in place is based on the concept of Universal Design, which focuses on creating functional spaces for people of all ability levels. Specifically, aging in place is the idea that your home will remain accessible and safe for you and your family as you age and need more accommodations.

When building a new home or remodeling the one you’ve got, it’s smart to take a holistic approach to your needs. A certified aging in place specialist (CAPS), like us (Dan Meade is CAPS certified), can help you thoughtfully design your space to grow with you so you can remain at home longer or take care of aging loved ones.

How Can You Make Your Home More Accessible?

By thinking ahead, you can build flexibility into your existing home, so it can be transformed to accommodate your changing needs as you age. This can be done with style, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Here are a few things to consider when building or renovating your home:

  • Laundry room. Add rough plumbing in the downstairs walls to add a full bath and laundry hook-ups later. This can make first-floor living a possibility.
  • Wider doorways and hallways. They should be no less than 32 inches but a minimum of 36 inches is ideal. Hallways should also be a minimum of 36 inches (wider is preferred).

  • Open floorplan. They’re much more accommodating for wheelchairs and walkers.

  • Plenty of windows for natural light. As we age, our vision becomes impaired.

  • Stacking closets (in design). Closets that are designed on top of each other can be converted to an elevator shaft later, if needed.

See this Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist for a more comprehensive list of ideas that can also be applied to building a home.

What Are Some Common Features of Aging in Place Design?

As you design your home, think ahead and create a space that will be functional now and in the future. 

The Entryway

Create a space that’s open and accessible whether you’re on foot, using a walker, or sitting in a wheelchair. This means creating an entry that’s flush with the floor (no steps) and an entrance space that’s greater than 36 inches wide. Additionally, you can add non-slip rugs and hooks for outerwear and purses at varying heights.

The Kitchen

Choose the countertops and cabinets you love, but think about functionality down the road. For example, create workspaces at varying heights to accommodate a wheelchair and ensure the room has enough space to turn around. Consider a microwave drawer, instead of an overhead microwave, which is much easier (and safer) to lift hot items from. It’s also important to select appliances that are ADA compliant and ones with easy-to-read controls.


The Bathroom 

Bathrooms are one of the best places to consider mobility because there are so many lovely materials and products on the market with accessibility in mind. Grab bars, a shower bench or fold-down seat, an adjustable showerhead and slip-resistant floor tiles are all great additions to a bathroom that can help with safety as you age. You may want also to consider a sink that’s 34 inches high and a toilet seat that’s 17 to 19 inches tall, so you won’t need to bend too much to use them.

Our Aging-in-Place Remodel in Mt. Lebanon

The Main Floor

When designing your home, think about how your first floor can be transformed. With careful planning, a dining room can be converted into a bedroom and a small bathroom can easily be transformed into the main bath. Consider adding washer and dryer hookups on the main floor as well, so you won’t have to use the stairs as much. 

How Will Designing for Aging in Place Impact the Value of Your Home?

Thinking ahead will certainly provide a higher return on investment (ROI) when it’s time to sell your home. Many people are thinking about accessibility and their future needs when buying a home (or needs of a loved one), and aging in place and universal design is an excellent selling point. This will save buyers money in the long run, making it easy to transform the home as they age. 

Tips For Finding the Right Contractor to Help With Your Aging in Place Design

It’s important to find the right home builder in Pittsburgh who understands your vision to age in place. Find a builder who’s got experience with aging in place design and can provide ideas on how to incorporate this concept into your renovation or new home construction project.

If you’re ready to start planning, contact us. Our team at Prime 1 Builders are experts at designing homes that will grow with you so you can live comfortably at home.

Home Upgrades: What to Add Now and What Can Wait

Building a new home comes with lots of selections, and most of them will impact the final cost of your custom home project. However, when choosing which home upgrades add value, it’s important to think about the return on investment—a value that adds to the enjoyment of your home—not simply dollars and cents.

Let’s look at a few home upgrades that you should take care of during the building process, and a few that you can wait to tackle later.

Upgrade Now: Space

As you go through the design-build process with your builder, think about the square footage you need now and the square footage you may potentially need later.

Upgrading your square footage now—during the building phase—does not necessarily mean you need to “finish” the space entirely now. Some examples include:

  • Add a deeper basement (for more ceiling height) to finish it in a few years.
  • Add an unfinished bonus room that can be used for storage today and has the potential to be turned into a teenager hang-out down the road.
  • Design a bigger garage to accommodate your needs. Think about when your garage door goes down. Will it fit your large truck or SUV and all your storage items?

This Washington County homeowner asked us to build a secret kids room for him to finish later, and we happily accommodated his unique request.  And when designing this one-story house in Pittsburgh’s Robinson Township, we considered how we could eventually add an addition to the rear of the home—if and when the time comes.

Wait Until Later: Minor Aesthetics

Although you want your home to look exactly the way you want, some aesthetic home upgrades do not need to be added. One place where homeowners tend to overspend when building a house is fixtures—everything from light fixtures, drawer pulls and knobs to plumbing fixtures. These items can be easily upgraded later on.

Additionally, hardwood floors are beautiful, but laminate is just as appealing, and it’ll cost you far less (and it’s much easier to maintain.)

Upgrade Now: Tech Features, Energy Efficient Mechanical Systems, and Wall Outlets

If you want a “smart home” take care of this upgrade during the building process. It may require extra wiring before the walls are closed. Waiting until later can cost more and be a messy renovation.

While building, it’s also an excellent time to install energy-efficient mechanical systems and any plumbing or electrical you’ll want for your unfinished spaces (basements and bonus rooms). Again, your builder will walk you through this process.

Make sure you add plenty of wall outlets before the drywall goes up. Be thoughtful about placement, too. Think about each room’s interior layout: where the furniture will go and where to plug in lighting and other electronic devices. You really can’t ever have too many outlets in a home.

Wait Until Later: High-End Appliances

Appliances can be pricey. While you may want the latest-and-greatest kitchen appliances, consider how important it is to have high-end appliances right now. If they can wait, select a nice stainless steel package for now. Not only do they look nice, but they withstand the test of time. You can always upgrade your appliances later.


Upgrade Now: Cabinets, Countertops, and Kitchen Storage

If there is one place in the home where we find our clients becoming extra thoughtful with design, it’s the kitchen. Naturally, you’ll want to space to look great but also function. Here are some things to consider:

  • Extra-tall kitchen cabinets for aesthetics, and the height will give you one more shelf for storage.
  • Choosing the right cabinets can greatly improve kitchen storage. From cabinets that organize small kitchen appliances to sliding spice racks and lazy Susans, the days of having to crawl on hands and knees to find things are gone.
  • Varying the counter height for universal design considerations for family members (or your future needs).
  • A microwave drawer
  • Deep refrigerator cabinet to make the fridge look more “built-in.”

Wait Until Later: Lavish Landscaping and Outdoor Living Spaces

It’s fun to dream about sunny afternoons on your deck or a landscaped lawn with rose bushes and shrubs, but designing your perfect outdoor living space can wait. Your builder will probably provide a basic landscaping package (lawn seeded with a few shrubs on the front exterior of the home. Once you are moved in, you can work with those basic elements to add to the home’s curb appeal. For example, add a flower basket near the front door or expand a few of the flower beds.

For the backyard, we recommend you move into your home first, and get a feel for where the sun hits in the afternoons and evenings, before committing to an outdoor living space upgrade.

Home Upgrades to Add Now

To recap, some of our top home upgrades you should consider adding now include:

  • Square footage
  • Tech features
  • Energy efficient systems
  • Wall outlets
  • Kitchen cabinetry
  • Countertops
  • Kitchen storage

Building a new home doesn’t need to be financially stressful. Working with your builder to create a realistic budget and then sticking to it will create the home of your dreams without breaking the bank. It will be a nice return on investment – both financially and in enjoyment.

Contact us at Prime 1 Builders to get started on the design process for your new home.

Keep Costs Down When Building a House in Pittsburgh

When you’re looking to build a new house, the cost is always a factor to consider. Here in Pittsburgh, there are ways to cut costs without cutting corners on quality. In fact, there are some effective techniques for keeping your construction budget under control. But as a builder, we’ve seen where homeowners can overspend when building a house. Here are a few of our suggestions for how to keep costs down when building a house in Pittsburgh.

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One-Story vs. Two-Story House: Which Should You Choose?

Homes come in all shapes and sizes, and when you’re ready to design your dream house, you’ll need to decide which type you like best: one-story vs. two-story house. Depending on your unique needs, one style may be more appealing, and we’re here to help you make an informed decision. Let’s explore all the pros and cons of building one and two-story homes so you can build a home that’s perfect for you.

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Open Concept vs. Traditional Floor Plans: Which is Better?

The open concept floor plan is a popular choice in new construction since the modern design provides an airy space for entertaining, collaboration and creativity. However, some people prefer the privacy of a traditional floor plan instead. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each home layout so you can decide which one meets your needs best.

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7 Dismissed Details in Custom Home Design

If you’ve decided to custom build your home, you’ve probably spent lots of time on Pinterest or Houzz looking at cabinet choices and color schemes. However, some important details in custom home design can often be dismissed by homeowners—leaving them with regrets when their homes are complete.

Before you decide to build your home, take the time to thoughtfully discuss these seven details with the builders you are interviewing so your finished home is both functional and beautiful.

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