If you’re considering building a home in Colorado, you’re likely eager to get the project going. Whether you’re designing your primary residence or the vacation home of your dreams – you don’t want to waste any time. Yet, there are a handful of things you should keep in mind when building a new home which can save you time, money, and energy.
While this advice is good for folks who are building a new home in any state, those building in Colorado will find some unexpected tips.
Here are 6 mistakes to avoid if you’re building a home in Colorado.
General Advice That’s Often Given When Building a New Home
If this is the first article you’re reading on mistakes you can make when building a house, we’d be doing you a disservice to not mention some common pitfalls. While these aren’t specific to Colorado, they are things you’ll want to keep in mind before you start building and once the project gets started.
Don’t be your own general contractor. Great general contractors have the experience and network to build your home on time and within budget. Many subcontractors only do business with General contractors and will avoid working directly with consumers.
Don’t make changes after building plans are finalized. These could lead to very expensive delays, so make any changes before you finalize.
Don’t rush when it comes to buying land. It’s worthwhile to take your time and end up in the neighborhood or area you want. You can change a lot about a house after it’s built, but you can’t change its location.
Don’t be your own interior designer. Building a house means making hundreds of decisions to create a cohesive space. These decisions will impact the look and feel of your home, and if you aren’t a pro, you could negatively impact the function.
Don’t cut corners. While it’s a good idea to budget wisely, if someone can save you $50,000 on your project there’s a good chance it’s too good to be true. Work with builders and designers with great reputations rather than the lowest bidder.
#1: Avoid Exotic Woods When Building in Colorado
We know it’s tempting to make a beautiful piece of wood, like a Brazilian Cherry or a Zebra Wood, a focal piece in your home. While stunning, exotic woods are often from humid environments and once they get to Colorado they will crack and warp.
In fact when clients insist on using hardwood from humid clients, some of vendors make us sign a waiver saying we won’t request a replacement when the product inevitably cracks.
It’s not just the expensive exotic woods that crack. Despite all the wonderful sustainability claims around bamboo, it’s an unsustainable product for Colorado homes. Like the expensive hardwoods, it will also crack and has a massive carbon footprint to get to us.
Instead, look for products that are locally sourced and don’t have to travel by boat. Products sitting on a boat in the humidity when shipped from overseas are even more likely to crack once they make it to our dry state.
#2: Say No to Natural Marble
While natural marble is stunning, it may not be a good fit for the functionality of your home, and it is not the most sustainable choice. Natural marble is something we wouldn’t recommend in Colorado, or in any other state.
To protect the marble you have to finish it, which requires regular maintenance. Quartz is just as beautiful and doesn’t require this upkeep.
If you’re set on marble, make sure it’s not in your bathroom or any wet application areas. Marble is incredibly porous, so water seeps inside the pores and can cause mold.
Speaking of kitchens, marble is especially susceptible to acid. If you spill a pitcher of lemonade on the counter, you’ll need to wipe it up as fast as possible so it doesn’t eat through your finish and your marble. You also can’t use vinegar for cleaning – one of our favorite sustainable cleaning products!
When picking out countertops or tile, consider going for a porcelain look-a-like, quartz, or soapstone if you want a natural (non-porous) stone.
#3: Avoid Flammable Materials Outside Your Home
As you reach the end of designing the interior of your home, you may start planning the exterior. We love lilacs, aspen tree groves, or box elder bushes as much as the next. Yet, if you’re in an area that’s susceptible to fires you may want to consider planting your favorite species of plants away from your home.
“Studies have found that homes with plants at least 10 feet from the house are significantly less likely to catch on fire,” says Megan Thompson, our principal designer.
Now, if you surround your home with a beautiful rock garden and cover your home in cedar shakes, you’ll still be living in a box of matches. Consider using concrete composite on the outside, or any material that’s fire resistant inherently.
Nothing would be worse than spending your time and money building your dream home only to see it go up in flames. Wildfires are a common occurrence in Colorado. Make sure you’re prepared.
#4: Get the Right Wood Burning Stove When Building a Home in Colorado
The fireplace of your dreams is likely a big, wood burning fireplace. It probably has a grate so you can see and hear the fire. You can picture yourself reading a book in front of it after a couple of runs on the ski hill.
While a big, open fireplace may give the aesthetic you’re hoping for, they can be very impractical for Colorado winters, especially if you’re building in the mountains and hope to use it for heat. Open fireplaces actually suck heat out of the room and send it up the chimney. While close to the fire may feel warm and cozy, you’ll likely be cold anywhere else in the house.
To protect the air, many mountain towns like Aspen and Breckenridge have laws around how many fireplaces you can have and what kind.
If you want a fireplace that heats your home, you’ll want to look into high-end wood burning stoves or gas stoves that recirculate heat. Almost all stoves need to be Phase II EPA certified if they’re wood stoves. Each city has their own unique regulations.
Another reason why it’s a great idea to work with a designer. Not only will a designer be able to help you pick out a stove with the right aesthetics, but they’ll also ensure the stove you picked is up to code for the community you’re building in.
#5: Your Water Heater Needs a Tank
If you’re building a home in Colorado, you need a water heater with a tank to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting. Especially if you’re building a vacation home. It’s a disaster when living in a home full time, but if you’re gone water damage could ruin your house.
Yet, waiting on water to heat up at altitude can take a while. If you’re someone who likes hot water instantly, consider an “instant hot” at each shower. This can help reduce the need to take all the hot water out of the tank and wastes less water.
#6: Avoid Appliances that Aren’t Water Wise when Building a Home in Colorado
Given Colorado’s dry climates and our regular droughts, it’s smart to protect the place you want to live, and invest in water wise appliances. This doesn’t mean they can’t be luxurious! Often, the most luxurious products are the ones that take into account the best way to use resources.
Look for low-flow and water wise appliances in your bathroom, kitchen and laundry room.
You can also take your conservation efforts one step further and consider adding a gray water tank. Currently, gray water tanks are only available for washers. Dishwashers, toilets, showers, and faucets have yet to be approved.
Gray tanks allow you to divert the water from your laundry to perennial plants in your yard. You’ll have to use specific detergent, and it will only be available when the weather is warm, but given that even energy star certified washers use 14 gallons of water on one load, that’s a lot of water that can support your new aspen grove!
Are you ready to build your new home in Colorado?
In our (biased) opinion, Colorado is one of the best states in the country to live in. We have year round activities, 300 days of sunshine, friendly people and beautiful views from almost anywhere in the state. All this is to say, don’t let the potential mistakes deter you from building a home in Colorado.
Instead, prepare yourself for the build with a competent team who can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes. At Spark Interiors, we have experience designing remodeled and new build homes. We’d love to talk with you about your project.