Archive for Home Building

Is New Construction on the Rebound?

Posted in Housing News, Local News, Manors of Deerwood with tags , , , , on January 10, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Robert R. Jones Homes is pleased to report that we have had two sales at the end of 2011.

In November 2011, we sold our Dover Model in the Manors of Deerwood, Phase VIII, Clarkston, MI.

At the end of December, 2011, we sold a design-build for clients who formerly built one of our homes. They purchased their own offsite lot and are anxiously awaiting the start of construction on their second Robert R. Jones home.

This is a great time to take advantage of current market values and buy a home in a prime Oakland County location as a “tear-down”. Many of the luxury homes under construction today, are on sites where existing homes have been demolished.

If you are considering purchasing your own lot in a location other than our current community, we are available to meet with you at your lot, to advise you what you need to consider before purchasing the lot. You may call us at (248) 895-1115 to schedule a consultation.

If you are considering building a new home, you will find the Manors of Deerwood, Phase VIII, the ideal location. Many of the residents tell us they chose the “Manors” for its picturesque terrain and quietude, as well as the convenience to I-75 and the Village of Clarkston.

There are 15 remaining home sites to choose from with both daylight and walkout sites available. Our homes start in the high $400,000’s.  We have numerous home plans to choose from, as well as the in-house capability to design a custom plan to suit your needs.

We are available for a personal consultation to help you plan your new home. You may call us at (248) 895-1115 to schedule a consultation.

All of us here at Robert R. Jones Homes want to wish our readers a prosperous and healthy New Year.

The Mini-Mud Room

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, The Drawing Board with tags , , , on December 27, 2011 by Kevin Fox

If you are like most people you could use a little organization in your life.  What is the most stressful time of your day?  For many people it is weekday mornings.  Getting kids off to school while getting yourself ready for work.  Sometimes a little organization can minimize that morning chaos.

If you can find a couple of square feet of unused space near the garage entrance to your home, you can create some targeted storage that may work better for you than the standard reach-in closet.  Here is a short list of the items you may need to store:

  • Coats and jackets
  • Hats, gloves and mittens
  • Shoes and boots
  • School bags and brief cases
  • Umbrellas
  • Storage for off-season items

The photos show a number of different approaches to the Mini-Mud Room storage unit.  What works for you depends upon how much space you can devote, size of your family and, of course, the size of your budget.  Here are some of the features and construction methods you can include:

  • Use of stock cabinets
  • Coat hooks
  • Baskets of various types or other storage containers
  • Drawer units (also stock cabinetry)
  • Storage compartments
  • Open shelves
  • Seating for removing shoes and boots
  • Racks for key storage

The beauty of this kind of storage is that it is individualized.  Everybody has their own space for their own personal items.  A combination of open and closed storage provides a way to keep the space from looking too cluttered.  Padded seats can add a measure of comfort.

The open access is the key for this idea to improve on the function of a simple closet.  It’s an idea that can easily be worked into a new home build or as part of a remodeling project.  It’s also a project that can be tackled by the do-it-your-selfer.

The Gingerbread House

Posted in Around Your Home, Dining with Pat with tags , , on December 14, 2011 by Pat Hansen

The tradition of baking the sweetly decorated houses began in Nuremburg,Germany, after the Brothers Grimm published their collection of German fairy tales in the early 1800’s.  Among the tales was the story of Hansel and Gretel, children left to starve in the forest who came upon a house made of bread and sugar decorations.  The hungry children feasted on its sweet shingles.  After the fairy tale was published, German bakers, inspired by the fairy tale, began baking houses of lebkuchen, a spicy dough often containing ginger. The houses were called “hexenhaeusle” (witches houses). The bakers employed artists and craftsmen to decorate them.

The popularity of gingerbread houses and cookies spread to colonial America. Recipes varied from region to region, according to the national origin of the immigrants who had settled there.  Most recipes had fewer spices than in European recipes, and often settlers included local ingredients.  Maple syrup molasses was included in many recipes in northern areas of the country, while sorghum molasses was used in the South.  Gingerbread houses were more popular in America than in England.  The American hard style gingerbread more closely resembled traditional German recipes than the softer English gingerbread.

Children, and adults alike, delight in the gingerbread house creation. There is an excellent Gingerbread House recipe by Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallse restaurant, on recipes. It not only includes a recipe, but also helpful tips for preparation, assembly and decoration. There are templates to make the project easier, especially for novices. They can be found online, at craft stores or traced from an architecture book. Nothing says holiday spirit like the aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven.

Fire Safety for the Holidays

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , on December 7, 2011 by Pat Hansen

More than 33 million American homes have a natural tree for the holidays. Nothing compares to the fragrant scent a natural tree provides. The scent and atmosphere provided by a natural Christmas trees brings back cherished memories of Christmases past.

Choosing a Christmas tree

If you are cutting down your own tree at a Christmas tree farm, you know how fresh the tree is. If you choose a tree at a local Christmas tree lot or a nursery lot, you need to choose a fresh tree by looking for the greenest tree with the fewest brown needles; however, many shipped-to-lot trees have been colored prior to shipping. This is a common practice and will not negatively affect a tree’s freshness.

  • Perform the “drop test”.  Raise the Christmas tree a few inches and drop on the stump end.  Fresh, green needles should not drop off. Take hold of a branch and lightly pull your hand toward you allowing the branch to slip through your fingers.  Most, if not all of the needles, need to stay in place. The trunk should be sticky to the touch.
  • Inspect the tree’s base. Make sure the “handle” or (first eight inches of the stump) is relatively straight. This part of the tree is extremely important when securing the tree in a stand.

Keeping your Christmas tree fresh:  Water, Water, Water

  • Refresh the tree by making a straight cut, taking one inch off the bottom of the stump and immediately place in water. This will improve water uptake.
  • Place the tree in a stand that can hold at least 1 gallon of water. Expect the tree to take up additional water.  Water tree until water uptake stops.
  • Always keep the base of the tree in water.  If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will dry out quickly. You don’t need to add anything to regular tap water. Research has shown that plain old water will keep a tree fresh; no additives are necessary.

Christmas tree fire hazards:

  • Do not place your tree close to a heat source, including a fireplace or heat vent.  The heat will dry out the tree, causing it to be more easily ignited by heat, flame or sparks. Be careful not to drop or flick cigarette ashes near a tree. Do not have lit candles near the tree. Keep the tree stand filled with water at all times.
  • Inspect Christmas tree lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots, gaps in insulation, broken or cracked sockets and excessive kinking or wear before putting them on the tree.  Only use lighting listed by an approved testing laboratory.
  • Do not link more than three light strands, unless the directions indicate it is safe. Connect lights to a power strip equipped with a circuit breaker and surge protection. If you are building a new home or remodeling, determine the most likely spot for your Christmas tree and install a switched outlet.  No more crawling behind the tree to turn on Christmas tree lights!
  • Do not leave holiday lights on unattended or overnight.
  • All tree decorations should be non flammable or flame-retardant and placed away from heat vents.

Dry, under-watered trees Christmas trees account for 200 fires annually, resulting in 6 deaths, 25 injuries and more than $6 million in property damage. (U.S. Fire Administration) The most common causes of tree fires are shorts in electrical lights or open flames from candles. Well-watered trees are not a problem, the drier the tree is, the more likely it is to catch on fire. Follow the precautions and have a safe and happy holiday

Small is the New Big – Part II

Posted in Around Your Home, The Drawing Board with tags , , , on November 1, 2011 by Kevin Fox

As homes become smaller, the focus for buyers will become: “How does the house live?” instead of the more traditional view of how many rooms/bedrooms does it have.  Some of the factors that will come into play are:

Combining separate rooms into single rooms

  • The overall size can be reduced as each function can borrow space from the other
  • The space appears larger, even if the overall square footage has been reduced
  • It can often eliminate the need for hallways which can save square footage

Eliminating rooms that have single purpose or get limited use

  • Formal Living and Dining Rooms >>> GONE.  Few people entertain “Formally” any more.  Those that do can still afford the space to do it.  Most people entertain “Informally” which means the family dining area should be able to accommodate larger groups as needed.

Improving the relationship between inside and outside spaces:

  • Outdoor spaces are becoming more popular and useable, but only if they are covered.  Patios and decks have always served this purpose, but the addition of a roof increases their usability to nearly year-round, even in cold climates.  That grille doesn’t have to be relegated to the garage anymore.
  • Inside spaces adjacent to covered, outdoor living areas look and function larger because they are larger
  • The floor elevation of covered outdoor spaces should be as close to the main level of the house as possible.  It looks and functions better (the roof makes this possible)

Right-sizing rooms based on function

  • As rooms get smaller, more attention must be focused on function.  Extra square footage can hide numerous design flaws.  Placement of doors and windows and how the circulation is planned can make a smaller room work perfectly or render it virtually useless.
  • As spaces get smaller, it is critical to get them sized correctly.  A six-inch difference in the size of a family room is hardly noticeable, but if you make a shower six inches too small you will end up with a problem

Shift in focus from size to quality

  • This kind of change does not necessarily mean home prices will be lower
  • Thinking will change to: “if I can eliminate 3 doors, I will be able to afford a better grade of door and hardware on the remaining doors.”  The same thinking can apply to furniture.  As you reduce home size and room counts, the need for furniture reduces as well.  This will allow home owners to buy higher quality, longer lasting pieces.

I Wish I Had Thought About That – Master Baths

Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That, Renovation with tags , , , on August 31, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Building a new home or remodeling is an opportunity to consider some new concepts or products for your new Master Bath.  Creating a wish-list will help you identify the must-have items and help eliminate those last minute, budget-busting extras.

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider:


  • Larger showers with frameless enclosures
  • Coated, clear glass enclosures for easy cleaning
  • Dual shower heads; wall-mounted, hand-held shower heads with sensor temperature controls
  • Shower fixtures in oil rubbed bronze, Tuscan bronze, black, brushed nickel and more
  • Pulsating water jets that provide spinal and foot massage
  • Warm, neutral tile tones with colorful glass tile accents  
  • Recessed shelves for shampoo, etc. tall enough for Costco-size containers
  • Built-in benches


  • Tubs separated from showers
  • Smaller soaking, jetted and non-jetted tubs
  • Sunken Roman tubs
  • Eco – friendly stone and wood bathtubs
  • Artificial stone bathtubs available in various shapes


  • Pump powered, pressure-assisted quiet, dual-flush system
  • Comfort height versus regular height toilets
  • Water efficient models
  • Heated seats


  • Vessel sinks in glass, porcelain or metal
  • Geometric and free shaped modern sinks
  • Hand painted sinks integrated into vintage furniture  vanities
  • Stainless steel sinks


  • “His” and “Hers” separate vanities; his with additional height.
  • Separate vanity locations
  • Storage garages for hair styling equipment
  • Coffee bar cabinets with refrigerator
  • Side storage cabinets above countertop
  • Armoire cabinet for linen storage


  • Antique framed mirrors above furniture vanity
  • Contemporary, stainless steel custom frames
  • Wall-to-wall, countertop to ceiling or crown molding
  • Steam-resistant glass


  • Glass tile in ocean colors
  • Metallic accent pieces for ceramic tile
  • Combination of glass and porcelain tiles creating borders or accents

Today’s homeowner is looking to make the master bath more comfortable, stylish and personal. For homeowners who aren’t confident in their design capabilities, it is best to consult a professional. It is better to get expert advice ahead of time, instead of after a project has gone wrong.

Part 2 – Where is Green Headed?

Posted in Lifestyle with tags , , , on August 11, 2011 by Kevin Fox

The goal of a low or zero energy home or business is far more attainable today than it was even 10 years ago.  Photo-voltaics are better.  The digital age has brought affordable products to the market for controlling and optimizing heating and cooling systems.  There are enough off-the-shelf products available that Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) home is viable in today’s market.

The following ideas summarize some of the issues that need to be considered to move toward zero-net energy consumption:

  • Reduce the impact of the environment on buildings by knowledgeable design – utilizing overhangs and shading to save energy.  Design smaller, leaner and more efficient buildings
  • Reduce power needs through the use of better and higher quantities of insulation and more judicious use of more energy-efficient windows
  • Reduce energy demand via more efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems – use of geothermal for heating, cooling and hot water needs is one such idea
  • Take advantage of the environment through the use of passive heat gain, natural ventilation and energy harvesting via solar photo-voltaics and wind turbines
  • The use of new electronic devices that provide continuous feedback on energy consumption of all parts of the home or building – systems that can be monitored and controlled remotely via computer, tablet device or smartphone

In the U.S. progress toward ZNE has been slow compared to other parts of the world.  Some countries in Europe may implement requirements for ZNE for home building as soon as 2016 (United Kingdom).  For America, however, a slower approach may make more sense, given the depressed condition of the Building Industry.  The last thing the Building Industry needs is more regulation and mandates.

For the ZNE movement to take hold it must make economic sense without the need for government subsidies.  It may take more time, but in the end competition will provide a better result.

What does it mean to you?  If you are planning to remodel or build new, you should first educate yourself about Green Building.  Incorporate as many of the principles of green building and energy efficiency as you can afford or that make sense to you. As more Green, ZNE homes are built, advancements in technology will make tomorrow’s systems less expensive.  This will pave the road for others to follow.  And don’t forget to hire a Green Professional to guide you.

Learn more about Green Building at and

Surge Protection for Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on July 27, 2011 by Pat Hansen

A nearby lightning strike, downed power lines and even the cycling on and off of appliances in your home can cause damaging power surges.  Lightning cannot be prevented and can cause harm to home electronics if they are not properly protected. Every piece of electrical equipment in your home needs protection.  Every avenue to the outside world must be protected – power, phone, cable data and control lines must all be protected or the equipment will be vulnerable to damage from surges or “spikes” in electrical current.

Begin power protection at the main power entrance, the where power, cable and phone lines enter the house. By installing a high-energy surge protection device at this location, you can knock down the first wave of high voltage spikes entering your home. Most contractors call these lightning arresters.  The lightning arrest is a device that helps divert damaging surges away from your electrical system and out through a ground rod.

The cable TV line usually enters your home near the main power entrance. It is best to have all of the utilities enter your home at one point because it allows you to tie all of their grounds together to form a single grounding system. This is required by some codes but is often overlooked by cable installers. Unless all of your equipment ties into a single ground, protection against surges won’t be as effective.

Your desktop computer, printer, wireless router, external hard drives, television, DVR, CD and DVD players and stereo system represent a considerable investment, and they can be easily damaged by spikes. Each of them should be plugged into a plug-in surge protector. By using a protector that has multiple outlets, it will allow one device to protect your entire entertainment center. The lead into the house for cable service should be surge-protected as well.  If you protect the stereo but leave the CD player unprotected, the connection between the two devices provides a path for surges.

Some appliances containing electronic controls (i.e. microwave ovens) may also require surge protection. There are surge protectors designed especially for microwaves.

Telephones and answering machines are some of the most commonly damaged devices in the home. A plug-in surge suppressor should be used to protect the power and phone line inputs. A common mistake is protecting only the power line. This does not provide adequate protection. Using a device that contains both protection elements in a single package is best and insures system compatibility. These devices will have inputs for the phone line and the electric plug. If either line goes directly to the equipment, the equipment is not completely protected.

A standard surge protector passes the electrical current along from the house outlet to a number of electrical and electronic devices plugged into a power strip. If the voltage from the outlet surges or spikes; rises above the accepted level, the surge protector diverts the extra electricity into the outlet’s grounding wire.

In the most common type of surge protector, a component called a metal oxide varistor, or MOV, diverts the extra voltage. An MOV forms a connection between the hot power line and the grounding line. When the voltage is correct, the MOV does nothing; when the voltage is too high, an MOV can conduct a lot of current to eliminate the extra voltage.

As soon as the extra current is diverted into the MOV, and to the ground, the voltage in the hot line returns to a normal level so the MOV’s resistance shoots up again. In this way, the MOV only diverts the surge current, while allowing the standard current to continue powering whatever electronics are connected to the surge protector.

In general, the more the surge protector costs, the faster it is going to react to the amount of electricity going through it, which will prevent damage to your items that much faster. The cost of a quality plug-in, strip-type surge protector is approximately $25 while the cost for a Whole House surge protector ranges between $200 and $1,000. The more expensive protector is usually better protection. It is wise to have a licensed electrician install a whole-house surge protector. While this may seem like a costly investment, it is cheap insurance when you consider what can happen to your expensive electronic equipment and appliances without surge protection.

I Wish I Had Thought About That – Electrical

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on July 22, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Building a new home can become a daunting task without a little guidance.  There are so many things to consider that it is easy to miss something.  In the case of electrical items, remembering too late either means doing without or expensive repairs, including special trip charges for the electrician and drywall contractor and perhaps re-inspection fees.

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider:

□    Outlet for irrigation system – this should be located in the Garage

□    Master bedroom bedside outlets and lighting

  • Each night-stand light should be on separate 3 way switch from door to bedroom
  • Outlet on each side of the bed for an alarm clock/radio/CD player
  • Provision for night reading – mini recess lights with spot bulbs, switched at bedside – allows reading without disturbing partner
  • Outlet for electric blanket
  • Outlet for heating pad
  • Outlet for plug-in type reading light in lieu of special recessed lights
  • Outlet for nursery monitor

□     TV and equipment – where will the main TV viewing take place?  Will you have additional TV’s throughout the house?

□     Computer – location for desktop computer and internet modem

□     Technology wiring – it’s best to consult a specialist contractor for the latest techniques.  Innovation in this area is happening rapidly

  • TV
  • Phone
  • Alarm

□     Satellite TV cabling – if you plan to install a dish it’s best to determine the location and provide cabling to that location during construction.  The last thing you want is to have a contractor drill holes in your brand-new home to install a satellite dish.

□      Basement outlet for refrigerator

□      Christmas lighting outlets and switches

  • Outside for lights
  • Inside for lighting on stair rails

□      Bedroom lights – whether you switch an outlet for a lamp or utilize a ceiling outlet, provide a 3 way switch to the side of the bed.

□      Closet lights – door activated switches are a nice luxury touch

□      Sconces – use them in hallways in place of ceiling lights.  Use them in Dining Rooms, Living Rooms and at fireplaces for accent and mood lighting

□      Dining room lights – measure your furniture and locate it on a plan of your new home.  This will help you center the ceiling fixture.  Will a single light be enough?  If you have a large dining table you may want to add recess lighting in addition to the main ceiling fixture.

□      Heights of light fixtures – work with your interior designer or your light fixture supplier to determine the proper height for each hanging light fixture.  That way your fixtures will be supplied with the correct length of chain.  This will also prevent charges for re-hanging.

□      Provision for future wiring – consider installing a pipe or chase from the 2nd floor attic to the basement to provide a path to run additional cables.  This inexpensive item can save hundreds of dollars in future drywall repairs and man-hours of expensive electrician time.

□      Decora – this style of outlets, switches and dimmers is very popular

□      Dimmers – very nice feature, although this is one item that can be done after closing

□      Chandelier lift units – somewhat expensive, but a great thing to have if you don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach a light fixture in a 2-story room.  Just turn the key and the chandelier lowers to waist height level for easy cleaning

□      Recessed lighting – add them sparingly or often depending on your taste and budget

□      Kitchen lighting

  • Undercabinet task lighting – LED fixtures with dimming capability are now available
  • Over cabinet accent lighting
  • Top of cabinet accent lighting for cabinets with glass doors and glass shelves

□      Whole house lighting controls – there are lighting systems available that can be programmed with various “Scenes”.  These can control all or just some of your lighting.  You can also control them via smart phones.  Consult an expert if you want to install one of these systems.

□      Landscape lighting, outdoor lighting and outlets

□      Prep for electric car charging in the Garage

□      Prep for generator – you will need to decide whether you will use a portable or permanent generator (your community may have restrictions an rules on generators – consult your building department)

□      Additional electrical circuits

□      Size of meter

□      Ceiling fans – use of ceiling fans can reduce the need to operate air-conditioning

□      Floor outlets – plan your furniture layouts to determine locations

□      Reinforced outlets for heavy light fixtures – usually Foyers and Dining Rooms

□      Special electrical outlet locations for appliances – some refrigerators require outlets in specific locations

□      Pilot switches – these switches enable you to know whether exterior lights (usually) are on if you switch them from multiple locations

□      Multi-point switching – very handy for providing a path of light when walking through the home at night

When the rough electrical is completed, take your digital camera and photograph each wall and ceiling, room by room.  When you have finished mark up plans with the photo numbers (use 8 ½” x 11” plans).  Don’t forget the Garage and Basement. Scan the marked up plans and burn to a disc with all the photos.  If you ever have to make any plumbing or electrical modifications your contractor will thank you for the information.

This list is by no means complete, but it should help you avoid expensive late changes and repairs. Comments and additions to this list are very welcome. Happy building.

Family Room Battle: Fireplace vs. Flat Screen TV

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, The Drawing Board with tags , , , on July 5, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Do you actually use that fireplace of yours that dominates your family room?  Really use it?  How often?  Is it like the dining room that you use 2 or 3 times a year (if at all)?  How does your big screen TV get along with that fireplace?  If your house is like most, the family room was probably designed for a furniture layout focusing on that fireplace.  Not too big of a problem when TV’s were small. TV’s, however, are no longer small.  If it didn’t look ridiculous, you probably would put that big screen TV right in front of your fireplace.  I’m guessing that you probably haven’t done that.

So where do you put that new, big flat-screen HD TV?  I can see two options.  You could mount it above the fireplace.  If your fireplace is brick or stone the TV just looks out of place.  If you have a painted wall surface above the fireplace you could put the TV there without it looking odd, but do you really want it there?  Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t:

  • First, all fireplaces get hot above the firebox.  I, personally, would not want to risk damage from heat to my expensive TV.
  • Second, I don’t think positioning a TV above a firebox creates ideal viewing conditions.  Having to look up at the TV is somewhat unnatural, and certainly irritating.

That leaves you

        the second option: placing the TV next to the fireplace.  For most homes this is the likely scenario.  It’s less than ideal, but acceptable.  Several examples are illustrated.  Positioning the TV on a shelf to the

      side of the fireplace looks
      like an afterthought and is lousy for TV watching. Building a TV into
      a cabinet does not seem like a good solution either – too many
    access and heat build-up issues.

All this discussion really begs the question: would I really be better

off without the fireplace?   Perhaps you would, but it’s not an option if you already have one.

If, however, you are building a new home, an alternative location may make sense for you.  I suggest the Library, Den, Home Office or Away Room.  These are quiet rooms.  They are smaller and more intimate, suited for reading or quiet work.  A fireplace better fits the mood of this type of room.  Considering the high cost of firewood or operating gas logs, the fireplace has been relegated to appointment viewing.  If you agree with this thought, then having a room optimized for fireplace viewing makes sense.  If you are thinking of building a new home, stop by our Manors of Deerwood Sales Office, in Clarkston Michigan and talk to Pat Hansen.  Check out Our Web Site for directions.

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