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3 Pillar Blog

Friday FAQ!

Categories: Friday FAQ | Posted: October 14, 2016

Q: What is in-floor radiant heating?

A: An in-floor radiant heating system is often a supplemental heating option within a home’s overall HVAC system. Flexible water pipes are embedded throughout a subfloor or concrete slab, typically where a tile or other masonry-based floor is to be installed. Then the pipes are covered with the finished floor material. As hot water circulates through the pipes, the temperature of the floor is raised, heating the entire room.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Maintaining Your New Home

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: October 5, 2016

A smart maintenance schedule will help keep a new home healthy and good looking for years to come.

If low maintenance is a priority, then having a new home built is a great choice. In a 2014 study by the National Association of Homebuilders, 73 percent of new homeowners reported average monthly maintenance expenses just one-fourth (25 percent) of those reported by owners of older homes. But while it’s relatively affordable to keep a new home in good working condition, proper maintenance is critical.

A new custom home will have a tightly sealed building shell. This reduces heating and cooling bills and helps the furnace and air conditioner maintain more even temperatures all year. With fewer unwanted drafts, it’s also easier for the mechanical systems to maintain ideal relative humidity (RH) levels in the home—30 to 45 percent in winter and 45 to 50 percent in summer.

Of course, the mechanicals will do a much better job of delivering these benefits if they’re well-tuned. A good ventilation system will keep the home’s air healthy, but its filters need to be kept clean, as do those in the heating and air conditioning units. It’s also a good idea to periodically clean the ductwork. (The National Duct Cleaners Association recommends a cleaning every five years, but frequency depends on factors that include homeowners’ sensitivities, the number of pets, and the surrounding environment.)

But even people who obsessively change their car’s oil on schedule may neglect these tasks. For instance, it’s not uncommon for a furnace to develop problems if the air filter hasn’t been changed for a long time. The service company shows up only to find that the motor overheated because the filter is clogged and the system can’t breathe. Fortunately, such problems are entirely avoidable: keeping your new mechanicals in good condition is a simple matter of working with your builder to develop a cost-effective maintenance schedule, and then setting reminders in your schedule to get the needed tasks done.

An added benefit from properly functioning mechanicals is that they will keep the home looking good for many years. That strip flooring is beautiful when first installed, but it could eventually swell if the indoor air is damp, while other wood products shrink if the air stays too dry for too long. (According to a leading website for finish carpenters, relative humidity in older homes can range from 25 to 65 percent in some parts of the country, a swing that can make a 12-inch maple board expand and contract by up to 1/4 inch.)

In short, regular maintenance of your home’s mechanical systems will help ensure a healthier, more comfortable space and a lower long-term cost of upkeep. Many product warranties also require regular maintenance. This is true for any home, old or new, but it’s especially important for today’s high-performance custom homes.

The specifics of the maintenance program will vary with the type of mechanical equipment as well as with the climate where the home is located. Maintenance needs are usually covered in the final orientation, but homeowners who have additional questions about how to maintain a particular product or piece of equipment should ask their professional builder.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

The Air You Breathe

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: September 21, 2016

Just as the human body has a respiratory system, so a house has specialized equipment to bring fresh air inside, filter it, distribute and ‘exhale’ it. The respiratory equipment in a house is often referred to as “HVAC,” for “heating, ventilating and air conditioning.”

As homebuilding has become more sophisticated, so have HVAC systems. From the days of a single source of heat, such as a woodstove, this vital function has expanded to include a variety of components that deliver and improve indoor comfort, air quality, and energy efficiency. Which system is appropriate depends on factors such as climate, square footage, house design and construction methods, budget, fuel sources, and personal preferences. The wide range of options gives the professional builder an opportunity to create exactly the best HVAC system for each home.

To help builders and owners evaluate the choices, HVAC products and systems are rated by their energy efficiency so that energy use and cost can be reduced. For example, the better a particular furnace may be in recovering, filtering, and reusing the conditioned (heated) air that it produces, the less fuel it needs to condition new air coming into the system. Today’s top-of-the-line systems achieve 90 percent or more efficiency in this regard.

Using high-performance equipment, a builder can design an HVAC system to heat, cool, and ventilate specific zones of the house. Even in the best-built and insulated homes, some areas of a house will be warmer or cooler than others according to the time of year or time of day. This is especially true in homes with multiple levels and large open spaces. A “zoned” approach to HVAC design puts conditioned air only where it is needed. With a delivery system composed of a customized network of air ducts, programmable thermostats, and additional equipment as required, a home will have no hot spots or cold corners regardless of season.

Of course, like any system in a home (or the human body), the HVAC system does not work alone. To be truly effective, each system requires a well-designed and constructed structural shell, together with regular maintenance, to maintain the desired performance. Optimum performance of any HVAC system requires insulated windows, insulated framing cavities in the walls, floors, and ceilings. In addition, a properly installed air barrier membrane wrapping the outside of the structural shell helps complete the package. In some cases, a well-built home enables the use of smaller and less expensive HVAC components.

A good HVAC system is essential to the comfort of any new home, contributing in large part to the satisfaction of the owner. As professional homebuilders, we are conscious of our responsibility to design and install HVAC systems that deliver consistent indoor comfort while using as little energy as possible.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

It’s Always Sunny in TV Land

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: September 9, 2016

Home shows don’t reflect the reality of building a new home.

Who doesn’t love a good drama, especially one they can imagine themselves a part of? With that in mind, it’s no surprise that home and garden shows enjoy loyal viewership, and that HGTV has earned a spot as one of the top ten cable networks. It’s great fun to curl up on the couch and follow the excitement of a home being built or renovated, of obstacles being overcome, and of a happy couple swelling with pride at the project’s completion.

The only problem is that some people let their homebuilding expectations be influenced by what is, in reality, a scripted drama driven by product advertisers. And while no one would admit to falling under this spell, the influence can be both subtle and pervasive.

Take the example of schedules. In TV land, problems with building permits always get solved by airtime, and you rarely see major delays from bad weather or from special orders that were botched by the distributor. In fact, the timetable for a typical TV project can be as different from that of a real home build as the prep time for a microwave dinner is from that of a gourmet meal. (Outcomes will likely differ, too.) Intellectually this is a no-brainer, but if someone watches enough projects being finished in a weekend, they could be emotionally set up to think instant gratification is possible.

Even with guaranteed sunshine and 100 skilled tradespeople working 24/7 to rush the project to completion, what kind of quality do you think you are going to get? Contrast that to the professional builder, who creates a detailed construction timetable that gives all the trades sufficient time to do top-quality work without tripping over one another.

The difference in timetables is really a difference in priorities and mindset. The show producer has to meet a shoot schedule; the builder has to take the time needed to create a home that will satisfy the clients for many years to come.

Then there’s the budget. From what we have seen, the costs on a TV project seldom reflect the actual labor, overhead, and product costs builders have to grapple with. Given these shows’ large audience, some manufacturers pay to get their products on screen. Others may discount the price or loan a product during filming then take it back later. These deals are seldom disclosed.

Not only that, the experience of watching enough $5000 professional-style ranges being installed can make a homeowner feel cheated if they’re denied one—even if the budget will only support one half that price.

The bottom line is that the producers of these shows are under pressure to create dramatic tension and to keep advertisers and product sponsors happy. They’re not looking at your budget and they are not thinking about your ultimate satisfaction. A professional builder—someone who has real skin in your game—is focused on both.

None of this is meant to slam the producers of these shows, who no doubt try to serve viewers by showing what’s possible in an entertaining way. So watch and enjoy—you may even pick up some useful decorating tips. Just remember that it’s entertainment.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Friday FAQ!

Categories: Friday FAQ | Posted: August 26, 2016

Q: What’s the difference between working with a production builder versus a custom builder?

A: Buying a production home is like buying a car from a dealership. Customers sit down with a sales consultant who helps them choose from one of the builder’s stock plans, and then from a limited menu of design options. It’s a well-defined process that works great for some people.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Excellence vs. Perfection

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: August 17, 2016

Famous football coach Bill Walsh was known for demanding perfection from his players during practices, even though he knew they would never attain it. His philosophy was if you don’t strive for perfection, you don’t have a chance to achieve it.

As professional builders, we follow the same philosophy; plan for perfection to attain excellence. Like Coach Walsh, we don’t stand a chance of delivering an excellent new home that satisfies a client’s wants and needs if we don’t set and expect the highest standards possible.

In the pursuit of excellence, we coach our homebuyers about the building process so that their expectations are high but realistic. We want our homebuyers to push and challenge us to always do better, but it is also our job to define excellence … and point out the difference between it and perfection.

Our best and most effective method for doing that is listening. Really listening. Not just to find out which floor plan a client prefers, but why and how it will satisfy their lifestyle needs. Not just about which community they want to live in, but also their concerns and questions about the quality of nearby schools, proximity to shopping and public services, and commute routes to work.

In this discovery phase, we craft a strategy for a new home that truly addresses and justifies our client’s reasons for making such a significant investment and sets us on course to deliver it according to those expectations.

It is also critical to maintain a regular and open line of communication during the construction process. As during the planning stage, our first job is to listen to and then educate and inform our buyers about the subtleties of new-home construction that are specific to their concerns.

Responding to a buyer’s question with “that’s just the way it is” or “it’s complicated” is unacceptable. Instead, we strive to deliver details, demonstrate our methods, and ensure that questions are answered to a buyer’s satisfaction. That approach and level of respect for our buyers helps build a better understanding of our work process all the way through the final walk-through and close of escrow.

Finally, a key component of delivering excellence comes after the sale, once a buyer becomes a homeowner. We make sure to communicate our policies and procedures for warranty service — once again demonstrating the difference between perfection and excellence. Ideally, we’ve done an excellent job of building their new home to the point where service callbacks are kept to a minimum; for those small warranty items that crop up after move-in, we work to be responsive and responsible to address them in a timely fashion.

As a homebuyer and owner, it’s okay to want the “perfect” home. The best we can do, however, is to strive for perfection and achieve excellence that satisfies the lifestyle needs of our clients and protects their investment now and well into the future.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Friday FAQ!

Categories: Friday FAQ | Posted: August 12, 2016

Q: Am I liable for accidents that occur during the construction of my house?

A: In most cases, no. Builders and their subcontractors carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance against job site accidents. In addition, they are regulated by the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), as well as their insurers, to maintain a safe workplace, eliminate hazards, and train their workers in safe work habits and emergency response. Make sure that you follow your builder’s safety guidelines and procedures should you visit the job site.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Questions and Answers About Solar

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: August 3, 2016

A lot of homeowners want to know more about this popular technology.

Residential solar electric systems have seen phenomenal growth in recent years, with those distinctive panels now a common feature on American roofs. Much of that growth is thanks to hefty price reductions—an installed system costs less than half of what it did in 2006—as well as to generous government incentives. Not surprisingly, many of our clients want to know whether specifying solar for their new home is a good investment. Here are brief answers to some of the most common questions.

Q: What types of systems are available?
A: While solar panels have long been a feature on rural homesteads—mostly in areas where the cost to run power lines is prohibitive—nearly all of the systems being installed on new custom homes are grid-connected. In effect, each system is a miniature power plant feeding the utility’s network.

Q: How does grid connection work?
A: The home draws power from the panels in daytime when the sun is shining. At night, or during the day when the home needs more power than the panels can supply, it draws from the electric grid. If the panels are generating more than the home is using (during the day when the homeowners are at work, for instance), the excess flows back into the grid. Most states have net metering laws requiring the utility to reimburse the homeowner for any electricity generated above what they use during any billing period. The reimbursement amount varies by state.

Q: Will the panels power my home if the grid goes down?
A: Unfortunately, no. During a power outage, the system’s inverter (the device that converts the direct-current electricity generated by the panels to the alternating current used in the home) automatically shuts down. As an added precaution, the utility may also require an exterior breaker they can access if there’s an outage. These are safety features to protect utility workers from being electrocuted.

Q: How much will I save?
A: It depends on system size and local electric rates, but the typical system will reduce the monthly bill by more than $100.

Q: What is the payback period?
A: For systems bought under the current tax incentives (see below), the monthly savings can recoup the cost in as little as 5 to 7 years. After that, power from the solar panels is essentially free. You’re still dependent on the grid, but if electric rates rise you only pay the higher rate on any power you have to buy from the utility. With most systems offering a 25-year estimated lifespan, you are basically pre-paying for 25 years’ worth of the panels’ generating capacity.

Q: What if we move before the payback period ends?
A: A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL) found that a solar-equipped home will sell for an average of $15,000 more than a comparable non-solar home in the same market. The extra value is often enough to recoup the net system cost after the tax credits. LBL also found that solar homes sell 20% faster.

Q: What about the tax credit?
A: The federal government is currently giving a 30% Solar Investment Tax Credit (SITC). This is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your federal income taxes, reducing the system cost by nearly one-third. After January 1, 2020 the Federal Government will begin cutting the benefit each year until they evaporate in 2022. So if you are considering solar, the next few years will be your best opportunity.

Q: Do I need a southern roof orientation?
A: Ideally, yes. Panels will only generate their full capacity on a south-facing roof, which provides the maximum sun exposure. Although other orientations will work, the panels won’t generate their full capacity.

Q: Is there a calculated return on my investment?
A: Even if the home is oriented to achieve a perfect southern exposure, the return on investment (ROI) will depend in part on the home’s efficiency. Because a new home built by a professional builder will be designed and constructed to use less energy, it will lower net monthly bills and accelerate the payback period.

It’s not unusual to see a return on investment over the life of the system in excess of 250%. That’s more than 10% per year, which beats the stock market without the risks. And if electric rates rise, the percentage ROI will be even better.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Friday FAQ!

Categories: Friday FAQ | Posted: July 29, 2016

Q: What’s meant by a “front formal” floor plan?

A: “front formal” floor plan means that the formal spaces—traditionally the living room and the dining room—are located along the front of the house, usually on either side of a formal entry foyer. The less-formal areas of the house, mainly the kitchen, are located along the back of the house and out of the immediate sight of guests entering from the front door. The front formal design has slowly gone out of style as casual, open floor plans and home offices have become more popular.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.

Backyard as Destination Resort

Categories: Newsletter | Posted: July 20, 2016

Most of us have fond memories of family barbecues in the back yard or running through the sprinklers. Only the clairvoyant among us could have imagined today’s new ‘back yards’: the highly appointed outdoor spaces that are becoming increasingly popular in today’s new homes.

Long gone are the days of the patio slab, rectangular swimming pool, and rolling kettle grill. Current outdoor living features and materials are just as stylish and creative as the homes they serve, providing multifunctional destinations for owners and guests.

Professional designs ensure a smooth transition to and from the indoors, provide artful square footage, and the proper utility connections for all of the desired features. Careful planning can even accommodate year-round enjoyment through creative options for shade, sun, and other weather conditions.

One of the primary requests for outdoor space is a fully functional kitchen. A built-in, gas-powered barbecue grill, complete with warming drawers, heating elements and plenty of grilling surface, is essential equipment for today’s outdoor chef.

Because an outdoor kitchen is often designed within a covered patio or veranda, grills are usually supplemented with a ventilation system to exhaust smoke and odors. Other conveniences include a sink and faucet, an under-counter refrigerator/ice maker, and a row of base cabinets topped by a weather-tough countertop.

An outdoor kitchen logically demands an outdoor eating area. Weather-resistant furnishings and upholstery are available in an increasingly wide range of styles to suit any taste and need, from formal dining tables to casual, plushy seating options. Outdoor rooms might also include a bar island between the cooking and eating areas. Such islands double as serving areas for casual meals.

Another popular feature of outdoor rooms is a fireplace-television combination. Modern gas-powered fireplaces are designed to simulate authentic wood-burning units, but with better energy use, heat distribution, and ventilation. Such chimneys can accommodate a niche for a flat-screen television, easily supplemented by small, outdoor-rated speakers for surround-sound. What used to be a plain patio has now become an enviable destination for family and guests.

To make the space accessible to the indoors and to merge indoor and outdoor entertainment space, many designs feature all-glass folding or pocket doors that create wide-open passages. When designed with the home’s micro-climate in mind, these doors may also help to cool the house with natural breezes. Ceiling fans keep the air moving through the outdoor room, while outdoor-rated lights in the ceiling and on the walls allow its use after dark.

To keep less-desirable weather out of both the house and the covered outdoor space, motorized roll-down screens—ideally concealed in the structure—keep pests, winds, rain, and other debris out. Such screens come in a variety of weights and are easily controlled by a remote device or wall switch.

The living space extends beyond the covered area, of course. Patios can be equipped with interlocking pavers, flagstones, or stamped or colored concrete to add dimension and interest. The open-air space might be a deck, increasingly finished with weather-resistant engineered planks that require little maintenance, maintain their color and structural integrity, and are eco-friendly. To complete the look, consider adding comfortable built-in seating and a freestanding fire pit.

Finally, modern pools and spas, are becoming works of art, incorporating fountains and waterfalls, rock formations, frameless edges, and other landscaping features.

Combined, a covered outdoor room, open deck or patio, and pool/spa feature create a value-added feature for any new home. By extending the living space with year-round options to enjoy it, the modern back yard provides years of enjoyment and boosts property value for any homeowner.

The old backyard has become a destination resort.

3 Pillar Homes is a custom home builder in Columbus, Ohio. For more information about our new homes, please visit one of our model home locations in Jerome Village, located at 10602 Arrowwood Drive, Plain City, Oh 43064 or in Lewis Center, located at 2360 Koester Trace Drive, Lewis Center, Ohio 43035. You can always contact us by phone at 614-286-0659.