Must-Haves When Building a New Home: Key Features for Your Johnstown Residence

For many families, integrating mudrooms with organizational systems is no longer just a luxury but a functional necessity, especially when you have kids, pets, or a penchant for outdoor activities.

Building a new home is a significant milestone that presents an opportunity to tailor your living space to your specific needs and desires. From the foundational blueprints to the final touches, the features you choose to include in your new home can enhance your quality of life and even offer long-term savings. It's essential to prioritize items such as ample storage solutions and energy-efficient appliances. For many families, integrating mudrooms with organizational systems is no longer just a luxury but a functional necessity, especially when you have kids, pets, or a penchant for outdoor activities.

Incorporating technology catered to a modern lifestyle, such as programmable thermostats and smart locks, can offer both convenience and increased security. Features like non-toxic building materials also ensure a healthier living environment. As you aim for sustainability, considering the installation of solar panels might be a wise investment, potentially offering significant savings on energy costs over the years.

When planning for areas like roofing and decking, or if you're considering significant remodeling down the line, remember that certain phases of construction require skilled professionals to ensure safety and adherence to building codes. By carefully selecting features and knowing when to employ expert tradespeople, you create a space that's not just a house, but a personalized home that stands the test of time.

Learn about how Keystone can help with home construction.

Design and Architecture

When planning your new home, the design and architecture are critical elements that shape the living experience. From the layout of spaces to the external appeal and interior aesthetics, these considerations reflect your lifestyle and preferences.

Floor Plans

Your home's floor plan should suit your daily activities and facilitate the flow of movement. Consider features such as:

  • Open vs. Closed Concepts: Open floor plans offer spacious, multifunctional areas, whereas closed plans define separate, private rooms.
  • Zoning Areas: Designate areas for sleeping, living, and services to maintain efficiency and organization.

Exterior Style

The exterior style of your home makes a statement and influences its curb appeal. Key considerations include:

  • Roofing: Choose durable materials, and engage professionals for installation to ensure longevity and protection.
  • Materials and Colors: Select materials that fit your climate and natural setting. Stick to a color palette that complements the architecture.

Interior Design

Interior design is crucial in creating a cohesive look and feel inside your home. Focus on:

  • Lighting: Combine natural and artificial light sources to enhance the ambiance and functionality of each space.
  • Texture and Color: Utilize various textures and colors to define areas and elicit emotions; professionals can help achieve a balanced and harmonious interior.

Structural Integrity

When building your new home, focusing on structural integrity ensures longevity and safety. The foundation, building materials, and insulation are pivotal.

Foundation Quality

Your home's stability starts with a robust foundation. Prioritize a thorough ground assessment to ensure proper support. Here are key points to consider:

  • Soil Quality: Soil should be stable, with no history of significant shifting or water retention.
  • Foundation Design: Adhere to local codes and have designs evaluated by a structural engineer.
  • Remember, if you notice warning signs like cracks or uneven floors, consult a professional for assessment.

Building Materials

Selecting the right building materials is critical for your home's resilience.

  • Durability: Opt for materials known for longevity such as brick, concrete, or steel.
  • Resistance: Consider weather and pest-resistance, especially if you live in an area prone to extreme weather or infestations.
  • In scenarios involving the roof or deck, professional installation is often recommended to ensure safety and compliance with warranty expectations.

Insulation and Energy Efficiency

Proper insulation contributes significantly to energy efficiency and structural protection.

  • R-Value: Choose insulation with an appropriate R-value for your climate to maintain temperature control.
  • Installation: Proper installation of insulation is crucial, as gaps can compromise efficiency. For areas that directly affect your home’s energy consumption, like roofing, professional installation can also prevent future costly repairs.

System Installations

When building your new home, installing essential systems requires attention to detail and foresight. Not only do these installations impact the comfort and functionality of your home, but they also contribute to long-term savings and efficiency.

Plumbing System

Your plumbing system is a complex network of pipes, fixtures, and drains. It is vital to plan this system meticulously for both water delivery and waste removal. Installation should be carried out by professional plumbers to ensure:

  • Quality: The use of high-grade pipes and fixtures to prevent future leaks.
  • Compliance: Adherence to local building codes and standards.
  • Efficiency: Proper pipe sizing and routing to optimize water pressure and heating.

Electrical System

The electrical system handles all the wiring needed for lighting, appliances, and technology in your home. Strategic planning minimizes risks and ensures convenience with features like:

  • Safety: Installation of circuit breakers and grounded connections.
  • Capacity: Adequate outlets and service panel size for current and future needs.

Never attempt DIY electrical system installations due to the high risk of injury and electrical fires. Always rely on a certified electrician for this critical system.

HVAC System

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) are crucial for maintaining a comfortable climate. When installing your HVAC system, consider:

  • Size: Proper unit sizing for efficient heating/cooling.
  • Ductwork: Sealed and insulated ducts for optimal air flow.

An incorrectly installed HVAC system can result in inefficiencies and increased costs, so installation should always be done by a certified HVAC technician.

Safety and Security

When building your new home, prioritizing safety and security features is critical. This section covers essential aspects such as emergency exits, surveillance systems, and fire safety measures to ensure your peace of mind in your new residence.

Emergency Exits

Location and Accessibility: Ensure that your home is designed with clearly marked emergency exits. These exits must be easily accessible from all living areas and free of obstructions.

Quick-Release Mechanisms: If your windows have bars, install quick-release mechanisms to create a secure yet accessible escape route in the event of an emergency.

Surveillance and Alarms

Door and Window Sensors: Installing sensors on doors and windows can alert you to any unauthorized entry. Place them in seldom-used areas for extra security.

Surveillance Cameras: Consider setting up surveillance cameras around the perimeter of your home. These act as both a deterrent and a means of recording any suspicious activity.

Fire Safety

  • Smoke Detectors: Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and inside each bedroom.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Place carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas to alert you to this invisible danger.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Keep a fire extinguisher on each floor, especially in the kitchen and garage.

Regular Maintenance: For all safety equipment, conduct regular tests and maintenance to ensure they are in working order.

Technology Integration

When building your new home, it's essential to integrate technology not only for convenience but also for future-proofing your space. This entails considering both current smart home features and wiring that will support upcoming tech advancements.

Smart Home Features

One of the immediate benefits of technology integration is the installation of smart home features. These include:

  • Smart Lighting: Control the ambiance and energy usage with automated lighting systems that adjust based on time of day or occupancy.
  • Home Security Systems: Systems like SimpliSafe allow remote monitoring and management of your home's security.
  • Climate Control: Smart thermostats learn your habits to optimize heating and cooling for comfort and efficiency.

To decide which smart home features to include, evaluate their compatibility with your lifestyle and potential for energy savings.

Wiring for Future Tech

While wireless technology is prevalent, hardwiring your home during construction is crucial for robust and reliable connectivity. Here are specific preparations you can make:

  • Structured Wiring: Install CAT6 or CAT7 cables for high-speed internet access in every room.
  • Home Network: Setup a centralized location for your modem, router, and network storage that's easily accessible yet out of sight.
  • Entertainment Systems: Pre-wire areas for surround sound and multimedia equipment to avoid visible wires and ensure optimal placement.

Planning for future technology during the construction phase saves time and money, preventing the need for disruptive retrofitting.

Natural Light and Ventilation

Incorporating natural light and effective ventilation in your new home not only enhances living spaces but can also reduce energy costs. Strategic window placement and ventilation strategies are key to achieving this.

Window Placement

Proper Window Sizing: Ensure that window size corresponds to room size. As a rule of thumb, a window should be at least 10% of the floor area for optimal natural light.


  • Bedroom (120 sq. ft): Minimum window area = 12 sq. ft.
  • Living Room (176 sq. ft): Minimum window area = 17.6 sq. ft.

Orientation: Place windows primarily on the south side of your home to capture consistent light throughout the day. Windows on the east and west can invite morning and afternoon sun but may need shading solutions to control heat gain.

Ventilation Strategies

Operable Windows: Include operable windows for cross-ventilation. They provide fresh air and cooling without mechanical means:

  • Living Room: Require at least 7.0 sq. ft. of operable opening.
  • Dining Room: Require at least 6.4 sq. ft. of operable opening.

Ventilation Systems: When natural ventilation isn’t sufficient, consider heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) or energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) for effective air exchange without losing heating or cooling energy.

For aspects like roofing and decking, which can impact your home's natural light and ventilation, it's wise to consult professionals to ensure proper installation and efficiency.

Storage Solutions

When planning your new home, efficient storage solutions are essential for a clutter-free and organized living space.

Built-In Storage

Optimize your living areas by incorporating built-in shelves and cabinetry. This not only maximizes the use of available space but also contributes to a more organized and aesthetically pleasing home. Consider the following:

  • Living Room: Install built-in bookcases or entertainment units.
  • Kitchen: Utilize custom-built pantry shelves for food and appliances.
  • Bedroom: Include built-in wardrobes or under-bed storage.

Customization is key. Tailor your built-ins to fit specific items and ensure that every inch is used effectively.

Garage and Attic Space

Leverage garage and attic spaces for storage to keep less frequently used items out of your main living areas.

Garage Storage:

  • Install sturdy shelves along the walls.
  • Use overhead ceiling racks for items like seasonal decorations or sports equipment.
  • Consider a workbench with storage for tools.

Attic Storage:

  • Ensure your attic has safe access, potentially adding a pull-down ladder.
  • Flooring your attic can provide a stable surface for storage boxes.
  • Organize with clear labels to easily locate items when needed.

Remember, proper insulation and ventilation in your attic extend the lifespan of stored items due to temperature regulation.

Outdoor Living Space

An outdoor living space extends your home's functionality and aesthetic appeal, providing a personal retreat and area for entertainment.


Your home's visual harmony with its surroundings is largely determined by your landscaping. Thoughtful plant selections and placement can create a cohesive look and enhance your property's curb appeal. Consider incorporating a mix of perennials and annuals for year-round color, and if privacy is important, add evergreen shrubs or trees. Use native plants to reduce maintenance and water consumption. Professional landscapers can help you create a design that complements your local climate and soil conditions.

Outdoor Entertainment Areas

When it comes to outdoor entertainment, prioritize comfort and functionality. Your space should include areas for both dining and relaxation. A deck or patio can serve as the foundation for these activities. Add a grill station or outdoor kitchen for hosting barbecues, and consider a fire pit for cooler evenings. For those components involving complex structural work, such as roofed areas or built-in seating, hiring a professional can ensure safety and quality craftsmanship.

Legal Compliance

When building your new home, navigating legal requirements is crucial. Ensuring compliance with building codes and acquiring the right permits will safeguard your project's legality and quality.

Building Codes

Building codes are sets of regulations that detail the standards for construction and design that your new home must meet. These codes are in place to ensure safety, health, and general welfare. They cover a wide range of concerns, including structural integrity, fire protection, and energy efficiency. It's essential to:

  • Consult: Reach out to local building officials early in the design process to understand specific code requirements in your area.
  • Professional Assessment: Consider hiring a professional, like an architect or engineer, who can help ensure that your plans are code-compliant before submission.

Permits and Zoning

Permits and zoning laws are the legal frameworks that govern land use and building activities in a municipality. Before you break ground:

  • Permits: You need to obtain a building permit. The process involves submitting your building plans for approval to ensure they align with local laws and regulations.
  • Zoning: Understand the zoning restrictions of your property. These dictate the type of structures permitted, density, building heights, setbacks, and lot coverage.

To secure the needed approvals, it's crucial to:

  1. Submit Detailed Plans: These should include site plans, floor plans, elevation views, and materials.
  2. Schedule Inspections: Required inspections typically occur at several stages throughout construction to verify compliance.

In some instances, you must recognize when to engage professionals. For roofing, decking, and significant remodeling work, licensed contractors can ensure work meets building codes, which is not only a safety measure but can also affect your home's insurance and resale value.

Budget and Financing

When embarking on building a new home, your budget dictates the scale and features of your project. Planning your finances is a critical step - it determines not only what you can afford but also ensures that your building process proceeds smoothly.

Breaking Down Your Costs

  • Land Acquisition: Secure the plot for your future home.
  • Construction Costs: Calculate expenses for materials, labor, and building permits.
  • Contingency Fund: Set aside an extra 10-15% for unexpected costs.

Financing Options To fund your build, consider these avenues:

  1. Construction-to-Permanent Loan:

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    • During construction, you pay interest-only payments.
    • Converts into a permanent mortgage once construction is complete.
  2. Stand-Alone Construction Loan:

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    • Requires refinancing into a mortgage after construction.
    • Offers flexibility but possibly at a higher cost.

Down Payment: Typically, aim for 20% of the construction costs. A $200,000 project would imply a $40,000 down payment, helping you avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

Building Equity: If the home's value is higher than construction costs, you gain instant equity. For example, a home valued at $250,000 with a $160,000 loan gives you $90,000 in home equity.

When considering professional services for specific parts of the construction, such as roofing and decking, factor in these costs early in your financial planning. This precision ensures no unexpected expenses arise and can save you money over the life of your home.

Project Timeline and Phases

When you embark on building your new home, understanding the project timeline and phases is crucial. This ensures you know when to engage professionals for specialized tasks such as roofing, decking, and remodeling. Here’s a concise overview of the typical stages you’ll encounter:

1. Pre-Construction

  • Site preparation: Clearing the land and laying the groundwork for your foundation.
  • Permit acquisition: Obtaining the necessary building permits to comply with local regulations.

2. Foundation

  • Pouring the foundation is a critical first step that sets the stage for your home's structure and must be inspected by local authorities.

3. Framing

  • Structure building: Erecting the skeletal framework of your home.
  • Roofing: It's time to bring in professional roofers to ensure a sturdy and weatherproof top for your house.

4. Exterior Work

  • Window and door installation: Securing the external envelope of your home.
  • Decking: Engage decking experts to construct a safe and durable outdoor living space.

5. Interior Systems

  • HVAC, plumbing, electrical: Installation of fundamental home systems that requires licensed professionals.

6. Insulation and Drywall

  • Adding insulation: Professionals should handle this to maximize energy efficiency.
  • Closing up walls: Drywall experts will take over to form the interior walls.

7. Interior Finishing

  • Flooring and painting: The aesthetic aspects begin to take shape.
  • Cabinetry and fixtures: Final touches on functionality and design are applied.

8. Final Stages

  • Trim and finish work: Delicate details are best left to expert craftsmen.
  • Remodeling: Before or after moving in, remodeling areas to your preference should be done by skilled renovators.

9. Closing

  • Final inspection and walkthrough: Confirm that every detail of your new home meets your satisfaction and local building standards.

In each of these phases, it's imperative to involve the right professionals to ensure quality workmanship and adherence to timelines.

Contact us to book your home construction service.

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