After living in countless houses thanks to my frequent postings within the country and abroad, supervising the construction of my own house and advising a number of people in the construction of their houses I have realised that not much planning and effort is put in by the people when building a house, one of the biggest projects of one’s life. Based on my experience and knowledge about house construction and interior decoration I have jotted down some points which will help you in constructing a comfortable house where you are going to live for the rest of your life
Excepting few posh areas where all the civic amenities are available at reasonable costs, all other areas have their plus and negative points .Do consider them in your calculus while finally deciding the location of the house. While the availability of utilities, security, open spaces etc are the most essential points to be considered, nearness to good schools if you have school going children and office where you or your husband work are also very important parameters for such a decision. If possible, reside in that area in a rented house for a year to have the first hand experience of the problems being faced by its residents. Similarly if you are constructing the house in your old age or there are old people living with you, then nearness to good hospital will be a very crucial determinant of location decision. On the other hand If you are constructing the house for letting it out then the parameters of its location (and of course the quality of construction too) will be quite different
Before approaching the architect, see maximum number of houses, particularly those which attract you the most and discuss with the respective owners/residents about their experiences. Take photographs of the houses you like and note down in a diary any important information about the things to do and pitfalls to be avoided. Needless to say, reading about the house construction and interior decoration is a must for a person intending to build a house for residence.
Do engage a good architect but remember he is just an architect and should not force his ideas on you with which you are not comfortable. Change him if he is too conservative or too avante garde. After all you are going to live in the house not he. . Remember to actively and regularly associate your wife at every stage of constructing the house as she, being the home maker, has to face the inconvenience caused due to a poorly designed and badly constructed house. Leaking pipes, unsatisfactory sizes of the rooms, less than required storage space, inappropriately fixed electric sockets etc are some of the common complaints made by the women.
Should we go for a basement ?Costly but cost effective in terms of space utilization as it will give you enough space for office, gym or children’s play area. But do not construct a toilet if the level of sewerage system is above the intended outlets of basement toilets. However do have a lot of windows for light and cross ventilation and install powerful exhaust fans
Insulting the outer walls and the roofs is a must to reduce your energy costs. For the outer walls, hollow blocks are the best option. They are financially expensive but will save time and protect you from the vagaries of the weather. Of course internal walls can be of bricks. For roofs special insulation material is available in the market.
One good idea to keep the house cool during summer and save on energy costs is to install a big exhaust fan on the roof which should be connected to all rooms with ducts like air-conditioning ducts. You can keep your house reasonably cool till the onset of monsoon by simply running this fan
Think twice about having a carpenter in the house .They turn out to be expensive, take long time to finish their work and you can do nothing except curse yourself for the rest of your life if they do a shoddy work. In these days of modern technology and ready availability of best doors and windows in the market it is not a good idea to rely on carpenters. Machine made doors and windows are cost effective, convenient, time saving and you know what you will get in the end.
Build two kitchens; one at the ground floor outside the main kitchen with roof on it to do eastern cooking as preparing desi cuisine is a very smelly and smoky affair! Build and use the internal one for breakfast and cooking western food or just making tea /coffee or warming the already cooked food. Do not forget to install a small exhaust fan in the wall just behind the fridge facing its capacitor as it will cool the fridge and improve its efficiency during summer
Tubs are becoming out of fashion and useless in the east as they occupy a lot of useful space which can be used for having a spacious shower area. Installing urinals is an idea whose time has come as it will save water and do not use much space .Similarly one of the bathrooms should have an eastern flush toilet to cater for the needs of those who are not accustomed to western commode system. And do not forget to fix an exhaust fan if you think installing a fan is a luxury!
Lastly doors of the bathrooms should be wide enough to take a person on wheel chair if needed .You never know when there is a need for this emergency which anyway is a must for a house in which senior citizens are also living with you.(In that case ,do not forget to construct ramps for the wheel chairs where there are stairs)
- Electric Wiring
Never, never cut corners on this item as it will make a difference between life and death of someone if wiring material turned out to be substandard or poorly installed. You must prepare a layout plan for your furniture equipment and other moveable/immovable fixtures like cupboards even before the architect prepares the final drawings so that he can indicate the places where electricity sockets are to be installed. If not properly located, you will have to use extensions for even your bedside table lamps!
Use three pins plugs and socket system (British) in which the plugs fit in the sockets snugly, leaving no chance for plug to move and cause electric short circuiting. Do keep a few multiple plugs to use if someone needs it. Lighting? Go for maximum of natural light by having big windows. However use concealed lights wherever possible and always buy LED bulbs to save on electricity charges
- Drwaing Room
Do you really need a drawing room in the first place when it is not used 95 % of your life? Why not have a bigger lounge instead? If really need it, why not have it on the first floor instead of it on the ground one? It will give you space for an extra bed room at the ground floor which you need all the time as well as apace for increasing the size of the other rooms. Remember it is used for formal guests only who come occasionally while most of your guests are informal ones who are to be seated in the lounge
Like tubs, machine made carpets are also becoming out of fashion because of health and environment reasons. However if you have a liking for them, then do not spend too much on floors by having them tiled .Just good cement flooring with proper water treatment to stop water seepage will be enough as they will be covered with wall to wall carpets. In that case do buy a powerful vacuum cleaner and vacuum them every week if not twice a week as they are excellent abode for dust, dirt, germs and insects
However my advice will be to go for marble flooring or wooden flooring-they look classy and environment friendly as well as and are cost effective in the long run as you will have to change the carpets after every 8/10 years.
Well decorated home is as essential as well built house. Do not save money by decorating it yourself if you do not have proper qualification/experience. Being female does qualify you to be a good home maker but not an accomplished interior decorator. Choose the one whom you know or the one recommended by others .But do see her work before engaging her.