By Dennis Ellman
The challenging San Diego real estate market is changing the way many people view their homes. In the last decade, as home prices escalated, many people looked at property as a short-term investment. Home remodeling increased value and quick salability. In 2009, attitudes have adjusted to meet the new economy. More and more people are looking at their homes as long-term residences, and looking at renovation as a means to maximize comfort, health and safety with a close eye on cost savings and the environment. "Green still looms large both in the world and at our doorsteps," said Pancho Dewhurst, owner of GDC Construction in La Jolla.
To make this happen, Dewhurst offered the following tips: think small, heat with the sun, use renewable energy, conserve water, use local materials, use natural materials, save our forests, recycle materials and build to last.
Making a house payment is tough enough without having to pay an escalating electric and gas bill every month. And the likelihood that San Diegans face water rationing in the near future has placed an exclamation point on energy efficiency. One of the most important things that make a home energy-efficient, without increasing initial cost, is having the right design for the lot orientation.
The design, Dewhurst said, should take advantage of the sun's path, prevailing breezes and tree shading to provide warmth in winter, avoid overheating in summer and enable good cross-ventilation. Other energy-efficient options include well-installed insulation; high-efficiency heating, cooling and water-heating equipment combined with a properly designed, air-tight duct system; a good lighting design and efficient light fixtures appropriate for their purpose; and light colored finishes inside and outside the home. "Water conservations are essential," Dewhurst said. New plumbing fixtures are water-conserving. However, about half of summer water use goes to lawn and garden care, so it's important to pick the best shrubs and turf for conditions on your lot.
"Advanced caulking," said Dewhurst, "is part of the airtight drywall approach for framed structures, which is an advanced sealing package that goes beyond basic practice. Specifically, caulk or gasket drywall is installed on exterior walls at the top and bottom plates, windows and doorframes. Caulk or gasket drywall is used on interior walls at intersections with exterior ceilings. Caulk or gasket drywall is used at electrical, plumbing or mechanical penetrations in the drywall."
When remodeling, consider durable, low-maintenance materials, he suggested. Replacing rotten siding or frequent repainting, for example, can add a lot to the cost of owning a home. Local brick and stone are always a good low-maintenance exterior. But for a more modest budget or a different look, consider fiber-cement siding. It won't deteriorate even if you never paint it. Inside, a good example of a durable, low-maintenance feature is a tile floor. It will usually add to the cost of a house, and may never have to be replaced. Buy a home that's made of healthier materials. Be aware of the chemicals in common building materials, especially in interior finishes.
Additional tips offered by Dewhurst include:
- Use advanced framing to help reduce construction costs and increase energy savings.
- Install a high efficiency water heater.
- Use efficient household appliances.
- Consider low-pile or less allergen-attracting carpet and pad. Installing carpeting by tacking rather than using glue also reduces air pollutants.
- Use low-VOC and low-toxic interior paints and finishes that reduce toxins ordinarily associated with other paints.
- Assure greater air tightness to avoid potential indoor air quality problems.
- Consider the use of recycled plastic lumber or plastic/wood composite lumber. These provide durable alternatives to solid wood for exterior applications such as fences, benches, decking, docks, retaining walls, picnic tables, and landscape borders.
- Recycle scrap building materials and post a jobsite recycling plan to decrease the amount of materials going to already overburdened landfills.
- Eliminate runoff due to impervious (watertight) surfaces.