The Difference Is In The Details - E-Planning Guide

Tracy DeCarlo, author, offers the tips, reminders, and learning tools that are missing from the normal residential construction process. Armed with this information, homeowners can potentially save thousands by pre-planning and understanding the building process, while at the same time creating a home that fits their family’s unique needs.

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Tracy DeCarlo

Tracy DeCarlo Author

Tracy DeCarlo, owner of Detailed Solutions, Inc. and One Stop Green Home Certification, has more than 15 years' experience in the residential construction industry. As a Home Building Function Analyst, Certified Green Professional, Green Certifying Agent, and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, Tracy addresses the functional aspects of home construction, design, and usage, including energy efficiency, disaster mitigation, air quality, aging in place, green building, plumbing, electrical, lighting, and storage.

By working with homeowners to focus on their daily habits and preferences, she helps them create living spaces that support and complement their lifestyles, while at the same time teaching techniques to manage the bottom line.

What they’re Saying About
"The Difference is in the Details"

“With dozens of “how to build your new home” books available, what could be left out? Plenty, as author DeCarlo shows in her practical approach to topics often left out, forgotten, or given scant attention. Readers will thank her for raising subjects to consider in the earliest stages of planning a new home.”

-- Carol Smith,
Author of "Building Your Home:
An Insiders Guide"

“Your new book is great and I found myself reading on and on like I had nothing else to do. I found a number of points to send to my builder. Tracy, here are a few things we would not have thought about:

Adding a pullout spray head to the master tub for ease of cleaning.

Locating the faucet and spout to the side will make entry into the tub much easier.

The reminder for adding holiday light circuits will be appreciated each December!

At contract, we spent a lot of time making sure the allowances were adequate to include the level of quality we expected. Overall it appears we will come close to the budget.”

-- Bill and Judy Brown
Orlando, Florida

“This is the most comprehensive guide to overall construction quality I have read. It should be utilized by all designers, homebuilders, and homeowners to ensure a well planned, healthy, durable, and resource-efficient structure.”

-- Greg Hardwick,
Hardwick General Contracting, Inc.

What's Inside

Do you know what type of roofing lowers your energy cost? Find out in Chapter 9.

Does anyone in your family suffer with allergies or asthma? Find out what filtration options improve air quality in Chapter 12.

Find out what type of light switches help cut $ from your energy bill in Chapter 14.

Stop costly duct system air leakage before it’s too late! Find out how in Chapter 12.

Which washing machines use the least water and deliver the most efficiency? Find out in Chapter 23.

Discover in Chapter 20 what you can do to ensure the insulation in your home is installed thoroughly and correctly.

Find out how to create storage space without increasing square footage in Chapter 9.

Would you like an energy-efficient cooktop that cooks as fast as gas but gets hot? Take a look at this great product in Chapter 23.

Discover the most overlooked but easiest ways to significantly reduce energy costs in Chapter 5.

Oops! Mistakes to avoid in the kitchen design are pictured and explained in Chapter 24.

Have you considered protecting the thousands of dollars of electronic and electrical equipment going into your new home from lightning strikes and power surges? Learn about your options in Chapter 17.

Don’t become the victim of a high maintenance, poorly designed landscape. Explore environmentally friendly, low-maintenance landscape options in Chapter 30.

Make the most of your closet space before you break ground. Learn what sizing and awkward design concerns to look for and correct on your plans in Chapter 28.

Learn about the components of energy-efficient windows and how to compare products in Chapter 10.

Why do sealed attics and crawlspaces save energy? Find out in Chapters 7 and 20.

Incorporate the product shown in Chapter 11 into your new house design and you’ll never have to replace a rotted exterior door jamb again.

Sick of leaning over the bathroom countertop to put on your makeup? Bring the mirror to you as shown in Chapter 24.

Want to build a green home? Healthy, energy-efficient, and/or durable options are provided throughout the book.

Not sure about where to place electrical outlets? Look no further than Chapter 13 for a “how to” on outlet placement, plus many ideas for inventive locations.

What energy-saving, reasonably priced ceiling fan will move 7% more air than it's closest competition while requiring only 22% of the electric energy. Find out in Chapter 15.

Function is the missing piece of the building pie.

When building a custom home, production home, or remodeling, it’s normal to assume that people you hire will address your every need or concern. Sadly, this is not usually the case.

Talented architects, builders, and designers focus on their specific area of expertise: home design, construction, and interior design. However, there is inherent void in this standard building team; no one's sole purpose is minding the “practical” store (hence the missing piece of the pie).

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The myriad of functional details of a home—those things that make daily life easier—are frequently, although unintentionally, neglected. When the project is finished and the architect, builder, and designer move on, you’re often left with a list of continuing irritations and a corresponding list of “I wish we would haves” such as:

  • I wish we'd had lights installed above the kitchen sink, in the shower, and above the garage workbench.
  • I wish we'd recognized that both cars won’t fit comfortably in the garage.
  • I wish we'd known the mechanical room next to the bedrooms was going to be so noisy. If we had, we could have included wall insulation to reduce the sound level.
  • I wish we'd thought about our holiday decorating needs when we were planning the location of our electrical outlets.

This gap in the home building process, called “function,” encompasses the small (and not so small) choices you make during construction. Although features and products that offer convenience may be the first things that come to mind, the umbrella of function covers much more. Indoor air quality, energy efficiency, disaster mitigation, the elements of green building, and accommodations for aging in place are all part of this piece of the construction pie.

The Difference is in the Details fills this function gap from the ground up with a photograph-filled roadmap of tips, reminders, and learning tools. As an aid to navigation, pertinent tips even have their own designations: Green, Healthy Home, Energy Efficiency, Disaster Mitigation, Storage and Organization, Universal Design, and Ease of Cleaning, making it easy to conduct searches and/or isolate individual categories. Even more information is available in this easy-to-use e-Planning Guide through the hundreds of live links to supplier sites.

For example, if you're interested in information about energy-saving construction features:

  • The components of warm and dry foundations are found in Chapter 7– Foundations: Building a Better Bottom.
  • Good insulation properties, including pictures of good and bad installation, are outlined in Chapter 20–It’s Not Your Grandfather’s Insulation Anymore.
  • The elements of an efficient HVAC system are provided in Chapter 12–Mechanical Systems for Energy Efficiency, Convenience, and Comfort.
  • Alternative construction methods, like ICFs (insulating concrete forms) and SIPs (structural insulated panels), are explained in Chapter 9–Framing for Function (and Roofing, Too).

For an even better idea of subjects covered in this Planning Guide, see the Table of Contents

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Why Settle For a Beautiful,
Impractical Home?

The best way to explain the convenience portion of function is through one family’s building and the resulting laundry list of things they wished they’d thought of before it was too late.

This couple—let’s call them Jim and Alice—built a million dollar plus home with the help of an experienced architect, a very good builder, and a talented interior designer. The result was beautiful, but as they walked me through their new home, Jim and Alice began to enumerate the missing functional features. No one had asked them questions like these:

  • Where do you intend to iron?
  • Do you want a built-in board?
  • Would you like hanging space in the laundry room?
  • Where do you intend to store your mops and brooms?
  • Would you like a mudroom area for the kids?
  • Will you both be using the den for household and business work, or do you need separate areas for these activities?

This family spent a very large sum of money and two years of their lives in their building endeavor.

At the end, Alice had a beautiful home to write home about, but she was missing a desk at which to do the writing. The house had no mudroom for storing the kids’ backpacks, shoes, coats, etc. There was no built-in ironing board or hanging space in the laundry room, and the family had to store their mops and brooms in a corner of the garage. Unfortunately, Jim and Alice’s story is not unique. If you’ve ever built before, you know what I mean.

The Difference is in the Details fills the function gap by asking these questions (and hundreds more). Not only will this comprehensive Guide walk you through the questions to ask of yourself, it will also identify questions to ask of your building team.

Give Your Pocketbook a Break

When building or remodeling a home, one major way to take control of the bottom line is to avoid as many change order charges as possible. This Guide helps you understand the impact of change orders on your project’s final cost, and helps you to keep these orders at a minimum through careful planning during the design process.

If this Guide saves you the cost of just one change order, you’ll recoup your investment several times over.

I know first hand that planning the details before construction begins makes a big difference in the bottom line. My husband and I used the tips and techniques contained in this Planning Guide to build our custom home. The result was just one change order and the project was completed two weeks ahead of schedule at less than 1 percent over budget!

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Take advantage of this teaching tool. It will guide you through creating a home that works for your family—inside and out, from the foundation to the rooftop. When you’ve finished reading, I think you’ll be surprised—as will your builder—at how much you know.

In this Planning Guide, you’ll discover:

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  • How changing the timing of the selection process can provide a more accurate bottom line and save thousands in change order charges.
  • How to choose the most energy-efficient can lights (and I’m not talking about the bulbs).
  • What are some of the easiest and most overlooked ways to design significant energy savings into your home.
  • What component of your home can be responsible for 20 percent of your energy bill and what product can take a chunk out of that figure.
  • What product will allow you to safely connect a generator to your home without having to wire for it.
  • Why bathroom exhaust fans are so important and which extremely quiet models possess the power to do their job well.
  • How your interior and exterior door selections can solve common space, noise, maintenance problems.
  • What precautions you need to take if your home will include a TV located over the fireplace.
  • How to select a fluorescent bulb that provides the type of light you’re looking for.
  • What test will expose costly air leaks in your home.
  • What countertop selections are the healthiest and require the least maintenance.
  • What size does your master bedroom closet need to be to contain a small, two-foot wide island. The answer may surprise you.
  • How to determine the proper height for closets rods to avoid clothing dragging on the floor.
  • What insulation does the best job.
  • What are the energy-saving benefits and components of sealed attics and crawlspaces.
  • What functional features should you consider for the most overlooked rooms of the house: the laundry room and the garage. Make these areas work for you.
  • What color should you paint your porch ceilings to prevent a type of wasp from nesting there.
  • What pantry features offer organization and maximize storage space.
  • Ways to increase storage space without increasing square footage.
  • How to get the most bang for your buck when selecting wood, laminate, or bamboo flooring.
  • How to avoid having to get wet when you turn on the shower.
  • How to add inexpensive interior architectural details that are both beautiful and functional.
  • What garage door opener will operate when the power is out.

Try it Risk-Free for 90 Days

I’m so sure this thorough Planning Guide will provide the tips, reminders, and education you’ll need to help you plan a comfortable and function new home that I’m making this offer:

Try The Difference is in the Details risk-free for 90 days.

If you’re dissatisfied, just let me know within the 90-day period and we’ll cheerfully refund your money. Plus, you can keep the Guide for free, with my compliments.

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P.S. BONUS OFFER: Order The Difference is in the Details and get a free copy (a $19.99 value) of my Final Walk–Through Checklist.

The final walk-through is your last examination of the house prior to moving in. It’s your best opportunity to point out anything that needs to be changed or repaired.

With this must-have tool, you can approach your final walk-through with confidence. The checklist:

  • Keeps you focused on each area of your home, inside and out, listing all the specifics to review within the space.
  • Provides a method for supplying your builder with a detailed list of repairs and/or changes while he or she is most motivated to complete your “punch-out” list.
  • Offers instructions on what to bring with you, how to check the operation of certain products, and what to do first.

For more information about this tool, Click Here