Home Reviews

“Must Have” Items for any Dream Home

Whether you are building a new dream home or just renovating your existing digs, here are eighteen home features you absolutely must include in your plans:

      1. Motion activated video doorbell

        Motion doorbells are not new by any stretch, but today they are so affordable, useful and easy to install that every home should have one. There are many choices and options available so check to see what fits best for your budget. I personally have a Ring at the front door of my home and several at doors around my office. What’s great about these is they monitor and record anything that happens at your front door, plus you can interact with visitors to your home remotely using your phone.

        Find video doorbells on Amazon
      2. Video monitoring system

        Internet connected video cameras can easily be set up to monitor your entire home.

        Find video monitors on Amazon
      3. Power outlets at every toilet

        Toilets can now be equipped with electronic controls and attachments that require an outlet for power. The outlets are inexpensive and easy to install during construction but expensive and difficult after. For this reason, contractors and remodelers should install one as standard equipment at every toilet area.

      4. Consider Washlette toilet seats

        These are the famous “butt-washer” mechanisms pioneered by Toto over the years. At one time they were only available on the expensive top-of-the-line Toto toilets. Now they are sold as replacement seats and can be adapted to almost any existing toilet. Prices and availability are much improved over the last two years, and these adapter units can even be had at your local Costco. Washlettes are amazing pieces of engineering for your dream home that provide seat warming and air drying. They are said to improve cleanliness, hygiene and can even reduce TP and we all know how valuable that is now.

        RELATED: Baby Wipes are NOT a Replacement for Toilet Paper!.

        Find Washlette toilet seats on Amazon

      5. Touchless kitchen faucets

        Now this is an item that you might not consider until you use one a while.  We have two in our kitchen now and find we really love being able to wash messy hands without touching the handles. Washing dishes is easier too as most have a front sensor that automatically turns on the water when dishes are waived in front. The temperature can be preset. These are affordable and offered in stylish models. I believe ours is made by Delta.

        Find touchless kitchen faucets on Amazon
      6. Whole house water filters

        Water everywhere is becoming questionable. A whole house filtration system not only can prevent a long list of pathogens it can help remove sediments from your plumbing system that can shorten the life of your fixtures.

        Find whole house water filters on Amazon
      7. Demand water heaters

        This is another product that has been around for ages but has recently evolved to become a total must-have. Demand water heaters save water, energy and last longer than the old tank-type units. If properly plumbed, the newest versions can circulate water to be instantly available at every fixture in the dream home. Maintenance is required once a year and involves a flushing of the system to remove calcium and sediment.

        RELATED: Get Payback for your Energy Conservation.

        Find demand water heaters on Amazon
      8. Counter-depth refrigerators

        Refers in this configuration are less imposing and take up a smaller footprint. Since they don’t protrude from the cabinets, they can be made to blend into the design instead of becoming the focus point. I like them because the shelves are not so deep, you can see the contents clearly and the beers are easier to reach.

        Find counter depth refrigerators on Amazon

      9. Pantries in lieu of upper cabinets

        Upper cabinets tend to block views and close in on the space around you at head height. High shelves are also hard to use. Design some space for a pantry instead.

      10. Outlets with USB charging ports

        There is no way around it, we are a population of portable electronics users. Installing outlets with built-in USB ports saves having to hunt around when a charge is needed. Just grab your cord and plug in anywhere.Put these handy outlets at every countertop and work area.

        RELATED: No More Hunting Down Device Chargers.

        Find USB wall outlets on Amazon
      11. Patio fire pit and/or patio heater

        This sounds like a luxury item although a fire pit can be used to practically expand your living space into the outdoors. Fire pits are sexy, warm, inviting and fun. You can get free standing models that are gas, propane and even wood burning. Follow instructions and be safe.

        RELATED: Fire Pit Safety Tips.

        Find fire pits on Amazon
        Find patio heaters on Amazon
      12. Standby generator

        We have become more and more electricity dependent over the years, while our main power sources have become prone to unexpected outages. These outages are not only inconvenient, but they can also cause serious damage if they persist. Back-up power systems are becoming mandatory. Even a small system consisting of a portable gas generator can help avoid disaster when the problem arises.

        RELATED: 10 Reasons Every Home Needs a Back Up Generator.

        Find standby generators on Amazon
      13. Garage storage and organization

        There never seems to be enough storage room. Using the space in your garage smartly can provide loads of storage capacity. Many designers and vendors specialize in making cabinet/closet/bench systems for your garage that work efficiently when it comes to storing and organizing your stuff.

        Find garage storage solutions at Amazon
        Find garage organization solutions at Amazon
      14. Work-from-home office areas

        As we all learned during the Covid-19 epic, working from home is something we need to be prepared for. Good designs will ensure you have plenty of light, desk space, outlets and places for computers, printers, files and most importantly big monitors.

        Find home office solutions on Amazon

      15. Outdoor living space

        Creating a place for outdoor entertaining can instantly make your dream home look and feel bigger and more luxurious. Unused patios or empty yard areas can be converted into little oasis of enjoyment with just a little creative effort.

        Find outdoor living solution on Amazon
      16. Excellent WIFI

        To function in today’s living environment requires high-speed internet coverage everywhere in and around the home. People working from home may need to stay connected as they roam around the house and yard with their tablets and laptops. Appliances, video doorbells, outdoor lighting, irrigation controllers and even garage door operators can all require fast connections to the internet. A good router system is mandatory.

        Find mesh routers at Amazon
      17. Moisture and leak detection system

        Water leaks around areas of the home where water lines are located have caused enormous and costly property damage over the years. Now there are systems that will detect leaks and moisture as it occurs and automatically shut off the water and alert the homeowner to take further action. Remote moisture sensors are located at each potentially critical location (under sinks, behind washing machines, below refers with ice makers, etc.) When these sensors are triggered, a valve turns off the water supply. Long overdue, these systems have improved and become very sophisticated over time. The good news is many homeowner insurance policies will provide discounts if you install these systems.

        RELATED: New products that can prevent major water leak damage.

        Find leak detection systems on Amazon
      18. Warm floors

        These are one of the nicest and most luxurious additions to your dream home. If you are contemplating any major renovation or remodel to kitchen, bathroom or bedroom, you absolutely must consider adding warm floor heating to the budget. I have them in my home which is super insulated and just the warm floors alone are enough to keep the home toasty warm all winter. In the three years we have lived in the home, we have yet to use the forced air furnaces.

How fast does a new home deteriorate?

The answer is much faster than you think!

Your new home needs maintenance
Welcome to your new home! Now get to work…

A brand, new home is truly a wonderful thing. It’s all yours! No other human has ever lived there. Everything from the kitchen to the garage is fresh and clean and shiny. Doors and windows work smoothly, and the paint is still clean and free of marks. Even the cabinets are empty and waiting for your things to arrive.

False security: New homes need maintenance too!

Along with a fresh smell, the new house also brings to the new owners a fresh feeling of confidence and security. Like a new car. You are certain nothing can go wrong now. After all, everything around you is new. And it has a warranty. Right?

Actually no!  This line of thinking is a big mistake.

Deterioration starts early

Your new home is largely an organic entity, so even before it was completed things were starting to go south.  Wood was beginning to lose moisture and shrink. Some timbers were beginning to twist or crack. More than a few bugs, including termites and other organisms were already finding a home in your new structure.

How do I know that? I know these things because this is my business. I witness these goings-on all the time. But rather than lecture you with anecdotal truths, I’ve decided instead to document and report the deterioration of my own “new home”. A kind of case study in attrition and chaos theory.

A case study 

To document how even a new home needs maintenance, I’ll perform regular inspections and record all the things that I find going wrong. I’ll then report them to you by posting them on this website. I’ll include images and even tell you the things that went right. In addition, I’ll also report on why it happened, describe the various repairs needed and report the cost in both time and money.

We finished our new custom home in October 2017.  Me, my wife, and our dog Bella moved in just in time to have our first Thanksgiving dinner in the home. We were ecstatic to say the least… especially after two years of planning and construction.

At this point, I think some context about the construction of my home is important.  First, I built my house with durability in mind. I hired the best contractor and designer in the area. They in turn hired and supervised the best support team and subcontractors. We also used top quality materials. Not exotic materials, just top quality. Then we carefully selected where to use them to maximize durability and ease of maintenance.

Quality and durability

 Everyone on our build team did their best to produce a home that would last for ages. And the completed home is a jewel. It has won a number of awards for excellence including the Peoples Choice and Best Home awards from its entry into the home builders show in 2018. It also won an award for the best driveway paving in the state of Oregon for 2018.

I think you will be as surprised as I have been at how many things have needed attention despite all the planning and effort. Some fails were quite major and expensive. Also notable is that the first twenty six items all occurred in the first 22 months that we lived in the home. I think it will be an interesting study.

Follow along

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…and DON’T ignore your home every. Even a brand new home needs maintenance!

Chronology of issues:

Move In

October 15, 2017

Move In

Inspection discovers a stucco crack

January 15, 2018

Inspection discovers a stucco crack

The first thing to fail was a large 6’ long horizontal crack in the stucco on the front of the home. We reviewed construction photos and found no reason for the crack. The contractor removed the entire area of stucco and redid the work. It has been fine since. N/C

Roof protection tape

January 25, 2018

Roof protection tape

New metal roofing comes with a blue protective plastic coat to keep it from scratching during installation. By the time the material for the barn was installed it had been sitting for nearly a year. When the clean-up crew tried to remove the protection, it would not come off.  Half of the barn roof was replaced N/C

Inspection discovers a failed IGU

March 14, 2018

Inspection discovers a failed IGU

During the first winter we discovered that the insulated glazing unit (IGU) of the center kitchen window had failed. Pella replaced the unit at no charge.

Inspection discovers the main line from septic tank to leach field has failed

April 24, 2018

Line appears to have had a weak glue joint in the line. This would not have been found without an inspection that noted the excessive moisture on the ground. Original contractor makes repair at no charge.

Change air filters

April 24, 2018

Scheduled change of filters 2x/year for two furnace air-handlers. Cost: ½ man hour plus $75 for four filters.

Housekeeper reports problem with vacuum hose:

June 15, 2018

Housekeeper reports problem with vacuum hose:

Hose will not retract into the wall as designed. Turns out this was caused by housekeeper not understanding how to work the system properly. Subcontractor trains housekeeper and makes repair at no charge.

Install power shades to prevent sun damage

June 19, 2018

Install power shades to prevent sun damage

Large west facing windows collect too much heat in the afternoons. Installing electrically operated shades cut the heat by 80%. Cost $3600

Window cleaning difficulty

June 20, 2018

Window cleaners report that high windows require scaffold to clean safely. We strike a deal with the window washing firm to clean/dust/inspect the entire upper ceiling area (exposed beams, large fan, window-sills, etc.) at same time that windows are cleaned in order to get full use from the scaffold cost. Upper reaches of the home would not otherwise get needed attention. The first inspection reveals peeling paint, spider nests and webs and heavy accumulations of dust. The peeling paint was touched up by original contractor at no charge. Cost added for scaffold and other cleaning: $350

Change water and air filters

October 24, 2018

Scheduled change of air filters 2x/year, and water filters 1x/year. Cost: 1.5 man hours and $251 for filters (one of our water filters is expensive)

Inspection finds batteries missing in the fireplaces

February 26, 2019

Inspection finds batteries missing in the fireplaces

An extended power outage left the house without heat. Attempts to start the fireplaces failed and it was discovered that the back-up batteries had not been installed. Cost: ½ hour labor plus eight AA batteries $6.

Snow Damage

February 27, 2019

Snow Damage

Inspection finds snow collapsed a tree onto the wood fence shattering a post and breaking four redwood fence boards. New boards were installed by homeowner. Cost: 3 man hours and $100 fence rail material

Snow bends the gutters

March 3, 2019

Unusually heavy snowfall had accumulated on the roof for a week. As it melted and slid off, parts of the perimeter roof gutters were damaged. This has not yet been repaired.

Inspection reveals that snow/cold has killed three cacti in the landscape

April 15, 2019

These will not be replaced as we will have cold weather again and feel this particular  plant would not hold up well.

Inspection finds that the main barn sliding door is stuck

April 15, 2019

Inspection finds that the main barn sliding door is stuck

Homeowner adjusted the door hardware and to prevent dragging and door works fine. Cost: 2 hours labor

inspection finds that one of the window frames in the kitchen is delamination on the exterior

April 17, 2019

We reported this to our contractor who determined it to be a factory defect.  The window manufacturer has agreed to repair. Unfortunately the window is a small cost as the window will need to be ordered (six weeks), the old window must be carefully removed and the new window installed with patching to blend into existing finishes. This is no easy job as the existing window abuts to marble in the interior and is surrounded by stucco on the exterior. Heavily inconvenient, we have no cost data yet.

Change air filters

April 24, 2019

Scheduled change of filters 2x/year for two furnace air-handlers. Cost: ½ man hour plus $75 for four filters.

Window cleaning firm finds spiders up high in beams on both interior and exterior

June 15, 2019

Window cleaning firm finds spiders up high in beams on both interior and exterior

These are difficult to see or clean from below. Contractor agrees to clean and dispense a spider insecticide. Cost: $150

Inspection finds that hall closet shelves have collapsed

June 30, 2019

The pins holding an upper shelf came out of their pockets and allowed the top shelf to fall onto the shelf below starting a chain reaction. There was nothing stored in the closet yet and no damage was done. Contractor has agreed to repair at no cost.

Inspection discovers that the stain has failed at entry exterior wood beams structure

June 30, 2019

Inspection discovers that the stain has failed at entry exterior wood beams structure

This area takes full sun most of the day. The beams are equipped with metal top shields to prevent rot and damage from above. Failed stain means the expensive wood material is susceptible to deteriorating sun and rain damage. The entry beams were recoated with several coats of matching stain. Cost: $3500

Inspection discovers that the dead cactus reported earlier has come back to life and is sporting new growth!

June 30, 2019

Inspection discovers that the dead cactus reported earlier has come back to life and is sporting new growth!

Inspection reveals that an LED downlight had quit working in the entry beam system

June 30, 2019

This has yet to be replaced. We estimate an hour of electrician time and a new fixture approx. $250

Dog has accident on carpet

July 13, 2019

Dog has accident on carpet

Thankfully it was a throw rug and we were able to take it outside and wash it down!

Inspection revealed that the runs for the three horse stalls are not draining properly

July 15, 2019

Inspection revealed that the runs for the three horse stalls are not draining properly

An analysis of the material shows us that the wrong type sand was used. We had specified a large grain, washed, river sand. The material delivered was a crushed, softer material that breaks down quickly under horse pressure and clogs up the drain system.  We do not know who caused the mistake. The sand was removed

Inspection finds that mites have killed a small tree planted a year earlier as part of the landscape project

August 16, 2019

Inspection finds that mites have killed a small tree planted a year earlier as part of the landscape project

The tree was removed immediately to prevent spread of the mites. A new tree will be found for the spot. Cost: Labor 1.5 hours plus tree budget of $250.

Inspection finds that the finish has failed on half dozen exterior sconce lights

August 16, 2019

Inspection finds that the finish has failed on half dozen exterior sconce lights

These are out of warranty and will need to be replaced. Cost: $1200

Inspection reveals that the horses have chewed on some posts in their stall runs

August 16, 2019

Note: All posts and wood surfaces have been protected by aluminum angle iron. In these areas the clever horse has found a way to get to the back side of two unprotected areas.  A long reach. The repair is minor and will leave as is in honor of the great effort expended to get to this exposed wood.

Inspection notes that caulking has failed along trim areas at the barn siding above and below the large side windows

August 16, 2019

Inspection notes that caulking has failed along trim areas at the barn siding above and below the large side windows

If not found early this is an area that could develop rot. Any failed caulking must be replaced immediately while the weather is hot and dry. Cost: 2 hrs labor and $45 material.

Inspection shows that the paint/stain on the big rear patio beams has failed just as it did earlier on the front beams

August 16, 2019

These are under a roof protection so they have lasted longer than the front entry stain, but will still need to be done soon.

Refinish covered patio beams

September 16, 2019

Refinish covered patio beams

These beams are large and require scaffold to work on safely, The cost to refinish all four was about $2500. they now look like new again and the wood was much less porous this time.

Siding joints look bad

October 18, 2019

Siding joints look bad

After a couple years we started to notice the caulking joints between the siding members starting to look bad.  Turns out the contractor did not do a good job cleaning the joints when they were installed.  Cost to repair $700

Ring Doorbell Dies

April 13, 2020

Ring Doorbell Dies

Ring doorbells are designed to work wirelessly using a rechargeable battery for power. That’s great except when the battery dies you have to remove the doorbell and recharge it. To get around that problem, you can run the normal bell wires from the door button location to a transformer in order to keep the battery charged all the time. We have now learned that a normal doorbell transformer will not work because they only put out 12-18 volts. Use only a 24vAC transformer. Ring

First cracks appear in concrete walks

May 15, 2020

First cracks appear in concrete walks

It took two years, but the first cracks finally arrived. It’s a very small “hairline” crack and considering there is over 10,000 square feet of slab, I consider this miraculous. Bravo to our concrete contractor!

Door gaskets deteriorated

June 25, 2020

Door gaskets deteriorated

Our exterior doors have a rubberish gasket at the bottom that helps seal out the weather. The gaskets are failing now after just two and a half years. Cost to replace $600


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