Now is the best time to build your hurricane resistant house!

Even as our ability to design and build houses that withstand hurricanes has gone up, construction costs haven’t kept pace. If you are thinking of building a home in South Carolina at some time in the near future, this may just be the perfect storm.

There is a perception that everything is cheaper in South Carolina but we’ve seen that is not the case. This is especially true when it comes to building a quality home that can endure hurricanes and earthquakes, yet provide decades of enjoyment as well.

True, our gas taxes are cheaper and our property taxes are cheaper. Construction costs are higher than newcomers expect them to be.

BUILDING IN A HURRICANE ZONE POSES SPECIAL CHALLENGES

Many people relocating from other parts of the country do not consider the additional cost of building in both a hurricane zone and an earthquake zone and what this means in terms of design and construction materials.

The requirements to mitigate both of these hazards add additional strength and durability to the building … and additional costs. Some of the necessities:

  • Building the first floor above FEMA’s base flood elevation, which adds to the foundation cost.
  • Structural Engineering fees in order to design code-compliant structural systems.
  • Connecting the roof through the walls to the foundation and footing with threaded rods, go-bolts, hurricane clips or other code approved methods. This adds to both the material and labor costs.
  • The shear walls required for lateral stability are more expensive than sheathing options available in other parts of the country.
  • Window and door openings must be protected from windblown debris. Impact rated windows and doors can cost up to twice as much as non-impact openings.
  • Our designs usually have big window walls, which require steel frames to meet the wind loads (and the views are worth it!)

DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION ENSURE HOUSE & BUDGET WEATHER STORMS

We recommend and use several best practice options that will cost more initially but will save money on your home insurance or your utility bill.

  • A secondary roof under a metal roof ensures water tightness if the roof is compromised during high winds.
  • A U.L. certified lightning protection system will add $7,000 to $10,000 to a 2500 s.f. house but will protect your home and electronics from lightning strikes during our many lightning storms.
  • Spray foam insulation, more expensive than fiberglass insulation but a far superior product. It stops air and moisture infiltration, will not sag, keeps dust and pollen out and reduces capacity requirements, maintenance and wear of heating and air conditioning equipment.

A SECRET WE WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTRUCTION COSTS

There’s one more cost consideration that you will want to be aware of because it can save you money.

Our firm’s historical data of residential construction costs show that the current average new home construction cost is about the same as the few years before the great recession.

Now is a good time to build, before construction costs rise again.

Reintroducing The Magnolia

Way back in 2011, when we started Hot, Humid Solutions, The Magnolia was one of our very first plans released. 6 years later, we've re-vamped the Magnolia. The floor plan has been re-worked and Michael has drawn another version of the elevation, which is quite reminiscent of our popular dogtrot house that was featured in Southern Living, which you can see here.

The Magnolia is shown here with the Sweet Bay Garage.

First Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

Under Construction- Sweet Bay

We have a client building the Sweet Bay on a gorgeous lot on Battery Creek, here in Beaufort. They are building the garage with living quarters as "phase one" of their project and will build a larger house after they move to Beaufort full time. Here are some photos of construction. We will update when the project is completed. There is more information about the Sweet Bay here.

The large porch is the perfect spot to enjoy sunsets on Battery Creek.

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Hurricane Matthew at Edisto Beach

Jane, Michael and Tom are sworn into the South Carolina Guard

Jane, Michael and Tom are sworn into the South Carolina Guard

We are trained in the Safety Assessment Program (SAP). On Tuesday and Wednesday we were called to Edisto Beach to work with the South Carolina State Guard to assist the Edisto Beach Building Department in determining if houses were safe to access and occupy. The major issue on Edisto Beach was the large storm surge that dumped over 4 feet of sand on Palmetto Boulevard, which parallels the ocean. The front beach houses had at least 4 feet of sand under them.

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Edisto Beach is an eclectic mix of old beach houses and newer contemporary houses. The difference between the houses that were built to contemporary codes and those that were not was obvious. In one older house, the post supporting the first floor was swept away. We were surprised that the house had not already collapsed. If this house was built to current codes – it would have driven piles instead of posts on a shallow foundation. In newer houses built on piles, garage space can be enclosed under the house with break-away wall. The break-away walls did what they were designed to do – break away, even in a case where a HVAC platform was attached to the break-away wall.

Many of the older houses had grandfathered living spaces in the flood plain, which is not allowed now for a good reason. The water and sand filled the spaces creating a huge mess that currently is filled with sand and soon will be filled with mold and mildew.

The wave action that brought in the sand, scoured under the parking slabs in the old houses. This left many of the slabs suspended in the air and very dangerous, especially since it was not evident that they were suspended from the street side. The newer houses had break-away slabs which broke and were washed about, sometimes taking stairs with them. A better practice would to use gravel in the parking area under the house.

It was also interesting to see the species of trees that blew down. Almost every Cedar tree we saw had blown over. Water Oaks were next followed by Pines. The Live Oaks that were down were usually hit by another tree first.

We also saw some areas that were hit by isolated tornados which is almost impossible to design for damage prevention. After spending time on Edisto Beach, it is understandable why the first responders want to make sure the area is safe before the residents return.

Kitchen Design

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As any cook will tell you, the design of the kitchen makes a huge difference in how well the kitchen functions. The basic layout of the kitchen is a work triangle measured from the center of the sink, refrigerator and cook top or range. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends that each leg of the triangle should be between four and nine feet and the sum of the legs should not exceed twenty-six feet.  There should be no obstructions in the triangle or through traffic.  Counters should be a minimum of 42” apart for one cook and 48” for two cooks. Kitchens designed for multiple cooks should consider two sinks and therefore two work triangles.

There are three options in cabinet door construction with significant price differences. In Flush Overlay construction the doors and drawers completely cover the cabinet box. It has clean contemporary lines and hidden hinges. Flush overlay construction is always used for a contemporary look but can also work with a traditional door panel. It is the medium price option and creates a great look for the money spent.  Reveal Overlay doors and drawers partially cover the cabinet box. The reveal dimension can be varied by the designer. Hinges can either be exposed or concealed in reveal overlay construction. This is the least expensive cabinet construction type. Flush Inset with Face Frame construction is the most expensive due to the care necessary in fitting the doors into the frames. The doors and drawers are flush with the cabinet box and are crafted as well as a piece of fine furniture. Flush inset cabinets create a very traditional look with an exposed butt hinge.

The Architectural Woodwork Institute defines three quality levels of construction for cabinetry.  Premium Grade, the highest level generally reserved for special projects or features. Custom Grade is specified for most cabinetry and provides a well defined degree of control over the quality of craftsmanship, materials, and installation. Economy Grade defines a minimum expectation of work.

The next cabinet decision is whether to use stock cabinets or have them custom made by a local cabinet maker. Stock Cabinets generally have a multitude of door designs, woods and finishes, and hardware to choose between.  They come in 3” increments, so you might have to use a filler panel to fit a particular wall. Custom Cabinets can be designed as a major detail component of your house. You have an endless choice of door designs, woods and finishes, as well as hardware. They can also be made to fit the dimensions of the space perfectly. Often we find that custom cabinets are not more expensive than good quality stock cabinets.

The goal of any room design is for the first impression to be “Wow, what a nice room”. Only after the pleasing impact of the overall design should you then begin to notice the details. One important detail in the kitchen is the cabinet hardware. Traditional Hardware brands include Baldwin, the very popular Rocky Mountain Hardware and Sun Valley Bronze. Contemporary Hardware is typically stainless steel and favorite brands include Häfele, andValli & Valli. There are many Fanciful Hardware companies. The company Modern Objects gets its inspiration from nature; they have twigs, branches, shells and stones. Susan Goldstick creates little works of art of for each cabinet pull. Soko Studio has dogs, people and all sorts of fun pulls.