5 Innovative and Trending Building Materials for Custom Homes

5 Innovative and Trending Building Materials for Custom Homes

Building a custom home is among the most exciting ventures in real estate, with the chance to make a home exactly how you want it an opportunity few people get to experience. However, in order to ensure that your custom home comes out as planned, the quality of the constituent parts must be able to withstand your lofty vision. Therefore, if you are planning a custom home in 2021, choose any of the innovative and trending building materials to help you fulfill your designs. 

Insulated Concrete Framing

Since the 1970s, most homes have been framed with some sort of oriented strand board. This composite mixture of wood shards and epoxy offers an affordable price tag and some basic insulative benefits, but after decades of observation, the flaws with oriented strand board have come to light.

In addition to being susceptible to fire and insect damage, oriented strand board tends to absorb water, leading to mold and rot concerns. As a result, it becomes difficult to perform some home renovations after oriented strand board framing reaches a certain age.

A better alternative that is increasingly being used to rebuild communities struck by natural disasters is insulated concrete forms (ICF). ICF is poured in a solid, single-piece design that makes it airtight and impervious. In addition to being completely fire and insect-resistant, ICF has an extremely high thermal mass. This allows the framing to absorb and slowly radiate heat, which, when paired with a quality polyiso insulation, can go a long way toward regulating interior temperatures with little assistance needed from the HVAC system.

Insulated Concrete Framing

Composite Roofing Tiles

Most custom homes have traditionally been roofed with asphalt shingles or wood shakes. While these products provide solid protection and curb appeal for the home in the early years, they tend to lose their efficacy around 20 years of age. 

Therefore, to avoid having to perform a shake roof replacement before you are ready, consider the advantages of composite roofing shakes. Despite giving the appearance of natural wood, modern synthetic roofing shakes are fabricated from recycled materials that have up to 50 years of useful life. Synthetic shakes provide elite hail and fire protection and can be manufactured in a variety of shades to match the color scheme of your custom home.  

Composite Roofing Tiles

Smart Glass Windows

Large windows are a prominent aspect of contemporary custom homes, as homeowners value the flow of natural sunlight as a means of controlling electricity consumption. While some may be concerned about large windows presenting challenges in terms of insulation, innovative smart glass or smart glass film can help put your troubles to rest. Smart glass can change its light-transmitting properties based on temperature, allowing light, but no heat, into the home’s interior during the summer and both light and heat inside during the year’s colder months. 

Smart Glass Windows

Industrial Bathroom Fixtures

The industrial bathroom is a favorite of homeowners in 2021, with the sparse, unfinished aspect providing a rugged elegance that speaks to a wide array of people. To attain this look in your custom home, ditch the vanity and expose the sink’s drainage pipes, using wire baskets and metal shelving to help meet your storage needs. Oversized stainless steel sink fixtures and black handrails help provide the finishing touches to this bold look. 

Industrial Bathroom Fixtures

Door and Window Trim

Door and window trim is increasingly being used in custom homes to provide a contrast that helps the home’s siding stand out. To further accentuate the trim’s decorative value, be sure to match it with the trim on your custom garage doors. In addition to these aesthetic benefits, quality trim can also improve the insulative value of the door and window casing.

Door and Window Trim

Choose Innovative Building Materials for Custom Homes

Building a custom home gives you a unique opportunity to create a home in your own vision. To ensure that the end result doesn’t leave you disappointed, choose any of the aforementioned innovative building materials for your custom home in 2021.

Innovative Building Materials

Roger Marx is a contributor to the Innovative Building Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and home renovation. Roger is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value and improve sustainability.

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Most Popular House Plans of 2021 – 1600 sq. ft. ranch house plan

Most Popular House Plans of 2021 – 1600 sq. ft. ranch house plan

The Shelton Farm is a 3-bedroom, one-story home meeting numerous home buyer “must-haves” en route to becoming 2021’s top-selling ranch home plan (so far).

Open entertaining.  So many of our fondest memories of “home” occur when we’re together.  Family times… holidays with extended family… having friends and neighbors over… open floor plan layouts foster the feeling that everyone is a part of what’s going on. This design’s 7-foot island can double as a buffet servery, while the dining area, unconstrained by interior walls, can temporarily expand into the Family Room when you extend your table for Thanksgiving dinner.

Accommodating bedrooms.  Is your bedroom suite your refuge? Then little things such as the short alcove entry which provides visual privacy even when your bedroom door is open will be important to you.  The 10-foot high boxed ceiling adds interest and allows for a fun touch of an additional color. Pocket doors into the bathroom eliminate the conflict a hinged door could presents someone standing at the first sink, and everyday you’ll be thankful for the nice size 3-foot by 5-foot shower. 

All three bedrooms provide generous walk-in closet storage, helping everyone be organized.  Plus, you won’t be hearing “Where am I going to put it?” when you ask your kids to clean their rooms.  And the hall bathroom is just a couple steps from bedrooms 2 and 3.

42392 Shelton Farm

Affordability.  Measuring 42-feet-wide, the Shelton Farm fits on most of today’s modest-size, more reasonably priced building lots.  The home’s foundation is straightforward, eliminating expensive jogs that add to construction costs.  Its roof design is similarly uncomplicated and designed with a 6:12 slope, to save on roofing labor costs.  And when built on a basement foundation, value-engineering streamlines the structural components while allowing for a dimensional lumber floor system, saving money as compared with an I-joist floor system.

Enhanced livability.  Coming in from the garage doesn’t mean stepping directly into the Family room in the Shelton Farm.  Rather, there’s a desirable transition space with a wide bench, handy for untying shoes (and sliding them underneath) plus coat hooks above.  Just as important, that transition space is not the laundry room so you need not be reminded of that chore when returning home from a long day.

A sliding barn door reveals an unexpected amenity, this home’s modest pocket office, private space for finishing work brought home, schoolwork, or your planning center.  But in true flex space fashion, some buyers choose to repurpose this space as a powder bathroom, pet center, wine room, or an additional walk-in closet.

Finally, all of this home’s interior passage doors are 32-inches-wide.  Not only are these wider doors more comfortable and appreciated when moving furniture, they are accessible for individuals using a walker or small wheelchair, ensuring your home is welcoming to everyone.

42385 Shelton Farm - Instead of Stairs

Originally designed with a basement foundation, if building on a slab or crawl space, our suggestions for repurposing the staircase area include a storage closet and pet center!

42385 Shelton Farm

The Shelton Farm’s Modern Farmhouse exterior

Curb appeal.  Metal shed roofs over the front window and garage door, in concert with the vertical board and batten siding atop stone accents, contribute to this home’s alluring exterior.  Home plan buyers have voted with their dollars in favor of such Modern Farmhouse influences even though they do add some expense.  By way of comparison, the Shelton Farm is outselling its sister plan 42391 Shelton by more than 2:1, even though the Shelton, with its identical floor plan, could be built for less.  And, some buyers prefer the hip-roofline version of this home, plan 42393 Shelton Place.

42391 Shelton

The Shelton’s Traditional exterior

42393 Shelton Place

The Shelton Place, topped with hip rooflines

Our “most popular” home plan, by definition, likely aligns with what lots of today’s home buyers are looking for.  But the perfect home for you may be different – in terms of size, layout, and how you and your household want the home to live.  We would be happy to identify our most popular plans based upon your criteria. Simply email us a description of what you are looking for in your new home!

Or, you can view the top-100 plans here.

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Most Popular House Plans of 2021 – House Plan With Two Owner’s Suites!

Most Popular House Plans of 2021 – House Plan With Two Owner’s Suites!

This was a test. Plans 42385 and 42385W (Cedar Farm) are identical except for the elevation rendering color scheme. And this test revealed something very interesting among both home building professionals and home buyers – the white elevation of this super-popular design sells three times better than the gray elevation!

42385 Gray Elevation

Yes, exterior design and color selections can have a significant impact on house plan popularity. But an attractive exterior needs an equally impressive floor plan layout to become a top-selling plan. Homes like the Cedar Farm with two master suites are hard to find among resales, another reason for their popularity among new construction. For the increasing number of multigenerational households, with two different adult generations plus children at home, floor plans with two owner’s suites can be ideal. While some dual-suite home plans provide additional accommodations such as private entries, private garages and an additional private entertaining space for grandma and grandpa’s get-togethers, the Cedar Farm focuses on livability and affordability, with its 42-foot width and simple, cost-effective footprint. Upstairs, the kids bedrooms have large closets and big windows.  Additionally, there’s a large bonus room opportunity over the garage helping ensure never outgrowing this home. 

42385 White Elevation

Plan 42385W Cedar Farm.  Changing the exterior colors resulted in three times as many sales!

42385 Downstairs Floor Plan
42385 Upstairs Floor Plan

One of our most popular house plans in 2021, the Cedar Farm was itself a test, wherein we were looking at whether a front-entry or side-entry garage would be more popular.  Usually garage alterations are provided through our plan customization service, but we wanted to learn what we might expect if we offered the plan both ways.  The original design, #42229 Cedar Glen II, has the same floor plan except for having its garage enter from the front.  Not surprisingly, the front-entry garage 42229 has outsold its side-load garage sibling, because oftentimes homes which are just 42-feet wide are being built on narrower home sites which can’t accommodate side-entry garages.  Still, the front entry garage Cedar Glen II held only a marginal sales lead over the Cedar Farm.

42385 White Elevation
42229 Front-Entry Garage

Plan 42229 Cedar Glen II.  The front-entry garage version is more popular than the side-entry garage, but it’s close.

Yet another test when we chose to create a 3-car garage version, plan #42369, known as the Cedar Glen II 3-car. Garage modifications are our most common plan customization, and three-car garages are very popular when building lots and buyers’ budgets allow. Again, the floor plan is identical to the original plan 42229 except for the third garage stall, so what we were testing is the overall appeal of that 3-car garage. Somewhat surprising to us, over the last two years the 2-car and 3-car front entry garage versions have nearly identical sales!

42369 3-Car Garage

Plan 42369 Cedar Glen II – 3-car.  The 3-car garage version is ordered just as often as the 2-car front-entry garage version.

So, what did we learn from our tests?

  • Whether knowingly or not, people pay lots of attention to the front elevation renderings for home plans – right down to the color selections!
  • When offered both ways, 2-car front-entry garages and 3-car front entry garages for homes this size are equally popular.
  • Similarly, 2-car front entry garage versions and 2-car side-entry garage versions are both in-demand.

But it all starts with an excellent floor plan that excites buyers with innovative design and amenities, excellent livability, and an attractive exterior!

Our “most popular” home plan, by definition, likely aligns with what lots of today’s home buyers are looking for.  But the perfect home for you may be different – in terms of size, layout, and how you and your household want the home to live.  Simply email us a description of what you are looking for in your new home, and we would be happy to reply with an email with links to our most popular plans aligning with your criteria!

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Top 5 Online Home Plan Problems and Solutions – Problem #5: Online home plans are non-returnable. What if I order plans and then find out they won’t work for me?

Top 5 Online Home Plan Problems and Solutions – Problem #5: Online home plans are non-returnable. What if I order plans and then find out they won’t work for me?

It’s unfortunate, but this happens occasionally. It may be you discover that building a home from the plans ordered exceeds your budget. Or the home is too wide for the building lot you’ve fallen in love with. Or perhaps that the home doesn’t meet the restrictive covenants for the neighborhood…

Care should be exercised when ordering online home plans. Most people establish a budget that works for their new home investment and can use a general “rule of thumb” cost-per-square-foot calculation to know if the plan they are interested in likely would fit their budget. A quick online examination of new construction homes offered in your area should provide a ballpark number. Simply divide the home’s cost by its square footage. Assuming you find new homes in your area are averaging roughly $200 per finished square foot and you have a $400,000 budget, you should probably look at home designs 2,000 square feet and less. Understand, garages and outdoor living spaces generally aren’t included in square footage, but a 4-car garage and huge rear patio or deck certainly would affect your home’s cost, another reason to be wary of the cost-per-square-foot.

If you already own your building lot or have identified the lot you want, you need to know the required front, rear, and side yard “setbacks” to ensure your home would fit on that lot. That’s fairly straightforward with rectangular home sites, but more difficult with irregular- and pie-shaped lots. You may want to have a plot plan done before ordering your home plan to ensure that plan fits on that lot. And if you’re building in a subdivision, there may be square footage minimums and architectural guidelines which must be met for your home to be approved for construction in that neighborhood.

Plans from Design Basics can initially be ordered as “Study Sets” at a discounted price. While essentially the full set of construction drawings, Study sets are stamped “For Estimating Only” and illegal to build from. With Study Sets, you can get all of your bids for labor and materials and have confidence that a home built from that plan works with your budget. You can also easily verify the home meets the architectural requirements for your neighborhood. And the amount you pay for your Study Set is applied to ordering that home plan for construction. We can also prepare a plot plan if you can provide the digital files for your lot.

You may find Design Basics BudgetWiseSM Bundle (or Builder-CentricSM program for building pros) a great option for minimizing your risk. With these programs, up to five different Study Sets can be ordered within 12 months for just $100 each. So, if the initial plan you are interested in doesn’t work, your loss is minimal. While both of the programs have a $249 fee, the 10% discount on the plan you order to build and free plan upgrade plus other benefits usually more than offsets the program fee while having significantly reduced your risk. 


    Design Basics BudgetWise Bundle or Builder-Centric program offers Study Sets for just $100 each, minimizing your risk.

      Finally, Design Basics offers a one-time exchange of a home plan you order directly from Design Basics for another plan, within 6 months of ordering that plan. If the plan you subsequently select is higher-priced, you will be asked to pay the difference. Note: the exchange policy applies to Design Basics, Carmichael & Dame Designs, Plan Pros, and Scholz Design home plans only.

      The bottom line: Taking the time to investigate upfront any lot-specific issues which could affect your home’s design minimizes the risk of ordering a home plan that won’t work. And using cost-per-square- foot is albeit a crude ballpark price estimate, it can help you narrow down your home design considerations to plans which reasonably would work with your budget. Similarly, ordering a Study Set minimizes your plan investment risk.

      Again, good design, immediate delivery, and low price are the bases for the popularity of online home plans. Knowing what to look for and what your building department requires means you’re making an informed decision because when you find a home plan and design firm design that works for you, ordering readily available home plans can be an excellent choice!

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      Top 5 Online Home Plan Problems and Solutions – Problem #4: How do I know I’m dealing with a reputable firm?

      Top 5 Online Home Plan Problems and Solutions – Problem #4: How do I know I’m dealing with a reputable firm?

      Help! The internet has made it relatively easy for almost anyone – from novice drafters to top designers and architects – to offer their home plans online. Things that should matter to you include the designer/design firm’s experience (years in business, number of homes designed, number of houses built from their designs,) professional associations, knowledgeable and efficient customer support, technical plan support, and the level of services offered.

      Your new home will be such a large investment, you want to know its designer and drafter(s) understand home construction – not just home design. Some home designs look beautiful, but unfortunately, they’re just not buildable as designed. Architects who are members of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) and designers who are members of the AIBD (American Institute of Building Designers) show their commitment to their craft and professionalism. Those who specialize in designing new homes may also belong to the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders.)

      We all appreciate getting our questions answered accurately and quickly. Reputable design firms can provide the information you need to make wise decisions on a timely basis. Finally, some design firms have specialized knowledge that may benefit you, such as value engineering of homes to reduce construction costs, designing with advanced building systems, and designing for aging-in-place.

      Design Basics was founded in 1983 and since that time has designed several thousand home plans, with hundreds of thousands of homes built from those plans. A member of the AIBD, as well as NAHB, Design Basics is the only major home designer to be recognized for 25+ years of support of the NAHB International Builders Show. With an exhaustive database, most plan-specific customer questions are answered at the time of inquiry. Technical support for plans from Design Basics is available throughout construction, so if anything on the home plans is unclear, customers can contact us to ensure their complete understanding. Experienced with Log Home, Panelized, Structural Insulated Panel (SIP), Insulated Concrete Form (ICF), and Modular construction, Design Basics can create or modify our home plans to be built using these advanced building systems. Finally, Design Basics publishes a wealth of practical information to help home builders and home buyers make informed decisions regarding their new home’s design and construction.

      Insulated Concrete Forms

      Homes designed for Insulated Concrete Form (left) and Structural Insulated Panel (right) construction can be stronger/safer, healthier, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.

        Structural Insulated Panel

        The bottom line: You have questions and your home’s designer should have the answers. You want to work with a design company with a proven track record that will be there for you if questions arise, and one which stands behind its work.

        In our next post, we examine problem #5 - Online home plans are non-returnable. What if I order plans and then find out they won’t work for me?

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