House Design with Maintenance in Mind

Your home can be designed to facilitate whatever type of lifestyle you prefer. Within this website, we will discuss the various different scenarios that your house design can be focused on, and some interesting and creative ways to customize your home accordingly.

This webpage is devoted to designing your home with Maintenance as the primary focus.

Maintenance of your home should always be a concern for anyone designing and constructing a home. However, for some individuals or families the focus on maintenance is primary in the design concept and consideration. There are individuals that never want to have to repaint the exterior, replace faucets or light fixtures, or have to think about the maintenance of the exterior landscaping, drives, etc.

Although it is basically impossible to design a home that has zero maintenance, there certainly are accommodations that can be made during the design and construction that will minimize the maintenance on the home. There will always be light bulbs needing replacement or carpets that wear out. However listed below is a summary of ideas and concepts to reduce any maintenance required.

  • Foundation walls / Maximize the foundation wall exposure on the exterior of the home. Although this may appear to negatively affect the visual presentation of the home, we are looking to minimize maintenance and not concerned about presenting the most appealing visual appearance. Assuming your foundation is concrete or any type of concrete precast, the exposure of this concrete is basically a surface that will not deteriorate. Do not paint or treat the exterior in any way, simply allow the concrete surface to remain exposed to the environment. I would suggest that you instruct your builder to properly rub the walls and patch any imperfections resulting from the removal of the formwork. Other than these initial cosmetic details, the walls should remain as they appear once the forms are removed. The more foundation wall exposed, the less exterior siding or trim is required. Concrete is an easily sustainable material if simply left, exposed to the weather. The more concrete exposure, the less surface area for another material to deteriorate and need maintenance.


  • Exterior façade and trim / The exterior of the structure should be a product that will not require any type of maintenance. Products such as vinyl siding, synthetic hardwood, brick or stucco are excellent choices. It is recommended that a product that is presented in its natural state be used. Do not apply paint, stain or any other type of material on the siding. This application will require maintenance in the future. Natural brick, stone, stucco, without any type of other application, is highly recommended for a maintenance free façade. The use of a hardi plank, or vinyl siding, will eventually fade and require an application of finish to freshen up the look.   The trim for the structure should be kept to a minimum and only synthetic materials should be used. The application of a stone or masonry trim is the best to eliminate the need to maintain the trim. Again, like the siding, do not apply any type of finish on the exterior trim. Any application will need to be refreshed and maintained. The simpler the siding and trim details, the better. Again, like the exposed concrete, the visual aesthetics may not be the best, however, we are looking at maintenance and not beauty.
  • Roofing / If the budget will allow, the installation of a synthetic roof such barrel tile or a clay roof is the best for maintenance. Simply examine some of the old southern homes and abserve the roofing materials. They are basically natural tile roofs that have been in existence for hundreds of years. Although this installation will be initially costly, the lack of maintenance is basically one hundred percent. The installation of a metal roof is also maintenance free. Any other choice in roofs will require eventual replacement. The replacement period for most roofs is over 25 years; however, the maintenance of a fiberglass or asphalt roof is eventually inevitable. The detailing of the roof is also important. The simpler the roof the better. Maintenance is usually required on flashing details, more complicated dormer and gable assemblies as well as special roof configurations that require step flashings, valley flashings, etc. If the roof can be simply designed without the need for specialty detailing of flashings and other unique construction details, the maintenance will be much less and the potential for water issues is decreased considerably.
  • Home framing / The use of a light metal framing system, in lieu of wood, is recommended for maintenance purposes. I am a proponent of metal framing and feel that the use of light metal framing has not gained the proper popularity. Light metal framing will not support mold or be adversely affected by water infiltration. The roof framing should be done with roof trusses to accommodate a more stable roof framing system. The engineering of the proper trusses for roofs will provide a roof that will not sag or require any type of maintenance or corrective work. In addition, the more engineered products, such as glue-lam beams, truss joists, built up headers, etc., will result in less maintenance. Standard wood framing, although extremely maintenance free is probably not the most advanced method of home design. The new systems that are being introduced on the market have been designed to be more tolerant of any type of moisture issues and will generate less cracking of interior finishes as the home’s framing shrinks due to the drying out of the framing. The more wood that is used, the more the shrinkage of the wood as it dries out will cause cracking of plaster or sheetrock in the home. The consumer should be aware of the various methods of home construction such as panelized construction and modular construction. The ability to construct your home in an enclosed environment provides a much more stable environment for the construction of your home. All of these considerations will reduce the eventual maintenance required on your home, due to cracking of interior finishes.


  • Insulation / The use of spray foam insulation that has the proper depth and vapor barrier will provide a maintenance free system. Fiberglass insulation, or other types of insulation, can be adversely affected by moisture and can also sag within the wall cavities, causing cold spots in the walls. Spray foam, due to its inherent permanent placement and its ability to not be affected by moisture, will be maintenance free. Although the use of spray foam is in most instances more expensive than the use of standard fiberglass insulation, its performance verses value ratio should be carefully considered. If the home is sprayed with foam insulation, the maintenance due to either cold spots or wet insulation is substantially reduced.


  • Exterior sheathing / The use of a synthetic sheathing system, with a state of the art exterior application of house wrap, will ensure that the exterior of the structure is maintenance free. Recent technology has developed exterior wall systems that are highly resistant to moisture and will, if properly installed, need no maintenance. The proper use of vapor barriers is vitally important to the construction of a maintenance free home. The accumulation of moisture due to the incorrect placement of vapor barriers has caused homes to require maintenance and repair shortly after construction. The consumer must be aware that the selection of a knowledgeable home builder is essential to ensure that an understanding of the moisture barrier location is clearly understood. The entire exterior façade construction is one of the most important aspects of a properly constructed home that will provide a maintenance free future.


  • Interior sheathing / The use of sheetrock is universally accepted as the interior sheathing of choice. Of course, I could suggest the use of a lath and plaster system, which is maintenance free, however extremely costly. Interior sheathing utilizing a sheetrock application, if properly installed, with the proper spacing for the screws and not nails is relatively maintenance free. It is recommended that the spacing of the sheetrock screws be no more than 6 inches. In addition the application of a two part sheetrock system be used. This will entail the application of a base 5/8 inch layer of sheetrock with a ¼ or ½ inch finish layer of sheetrock over the top of the base layer. This type of 2 part application will reduce the cracks formed as the structure dries out and will provide the smoothest finish for the interior walls. Although most moderate priced homes do not use a two part sheetrock application, it is highly advised for maintenance purposes, as well as reducing sound transmission.


  • Flooring / The use of masonry for a flooring application will in most cases provide the best maintenance free finish for the floor. Brick, stone, tile or other masonry products, can be installed and basically left without any type of maintenance. I am sure there are those reading this that will indicate the application of a sealer and other products is recommended for masonry floors. Of course this is the case; however this webpage is devoted to NO maintenance. So the application of a sealer or any other type of additional material on the masonry floor maybe recommended, however, will require maintenance. The standard oak floor installation is the next best material to be used for a floor that does not require any maintenance. Oak will hold up to almost anything, and is basically indestructible. The worst application for maintenance is carpet. Carpet requires constant cleaning and will require replacement. However, if budget considerations are involved, the use of carpet over a plywood subfloor is the least expensive alternative. The sub-base that I always recommend is another two part system, like the recommended sheetrock installation. The sub-floor should have a tongue and grove layer of plywood or particle board screwed and glued onto the floor joists. This layer of sheathing should be installed perpendicular to the running of the floor joists. A second layer of glued and screwed plywood is recommended over the top of the sub layer. This layer of material should be ½ inch plugged and sanded material that is installed perpendicular to the sub-base layer. If this two ply system of subflooring is used, the movement of any type of finish material for the floor will be substantially reduced and the basic feel of the home will be more stable and substantial. As with the two ply sheetrock system, the sound transmission with in the home will be reduced also.
  • Interior painting / Interior painting in the home should be performed by professional painters. Although this is a common, do it yourself, application, it is highly recommended that a professional painter be hired to perform the initial painting of your new home. A professional painter will understand the type of environment and will be able to select the proper primer as well as finish coatings for minimum maintenance. Commercial structures rarely require additional painting as the structure matures. The reason for this is the proper primers and surface preparation was performed by the painter from the initiation of the application. In addition the painter will understand the need for various finishes on the trim, walls and ceilings. Paint is continuously being re-invented and the research and development of the various paints is constantly being improved to produce products that basically will last forever.   For the easiest maintenance of the trim, I always recommend that the trim be stained and several coats of polyurethane be applied. This application will not require maintenance and will provide years of service without concern.


  • Plumbing and electrical fixtures / The use of the most economical plumbing and electrical fixtures will not provide maintenance free living within your home. There is a reason that various plumbing fixtures which look almost identical have varying cost levels. The selection of a professional plumber and electrician will provide the insight and the experience necessary to select the most maintenance free products that these professional contractors can recommend. Various areas of the country have different types of water, some hard, some soft and with various elements in the water. The local plumber will understand how the water in our location reacts to different types of materials. These individual professionals should be used to offer suggestions for the most maintenance free plumbing and electrical fixtures and accessories. The use of LED lighting is highly recommended. Your electrician will instruct you regarding these type of lamps and their use, although initially more expensive, is very beneficial to reducing the maintenance within your home.

The maintenance of a home is no different than the maintenance of any type of purchase; the more complicated the product, in most cases the more it needs to be maintained. Simplicity is the key to a maintenance free home. Try to keep the selections as basic and simple as possible. Although the enticement of all the new products and construction applications is exciting and seductive, in many cases, the more sophisticated the product and the construction technique, the more it will require maintenance and upkeep. Basic design elements, with basic interior selections, will result in less maintenance and upkeep for your home.

If maintenance is the common goal, then make it simple!

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