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 Email sarel@ssmithbuilders.co.za


S Smith Builders is here to take care of all your building needs.

S Smith Builders is a building contractor, and construction company operating within the Cape Town area. If you are building a new home or upgrading your existing home has been a dream of yours.. then allow S Smith Builders to make those dreams come true. With S Smith builders you can build that home that will exceed all your expectations.No matter what your personal plans are, building the perfect home is possible with the help of the experienced home builders and building contractors of S Smith Builders.

S Smith builders is a home builder in Cape Town, Western Cape area with more than 30 years experience in construction.

We are the contractor for your construction and home building needs.

We do: Building of new houses, garages, vibecrete, painting, garage conversions, building repairs and renovating. All new styles and old styles.. We also specialize in: Building extensions and internal/external walls The fences and drive ways Windows and doors fitting Painting and decorating Full Kitchen and bathroom fittings Plumbing, Carpeting, Flooring, Plastering, Tiling , Decking, Roofing.

Consider S Smith Builders in your next building project.

Even in these tough financial times it's always a good investment to extent your home.

S Smith Builders is NHBRC Registered. Home enrollment can also be done.

 Contact Sarel for a quote you can afford.

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Tips on Adding a Family room addition to your house

Build New or Stay and Remodel

by: Charles Gueli

There are three possible scenarios involved in that question:

1. Stay where you are and renovate

2. Move to an existing house and renovate

3. Build a new house for you to move into There are numerous considerations, not the least of which is how you feel about your existing location. That word – LOCATION – should be your primary focus. Do you prefer to remain where you are, or not? Is staying where you are an option, or are you forced to relocate due to a job change, or other issues?

If you wish to stay where you are, there’s no reason to read this article. Remodeling and/or expanding the place where you now live is the least expensive alternative – by far.

Your aggravation levels will increase during the construction, but they will do that with either of the other choices as well. If it gets to be too much, you can move to a motel for 2 months, eat dinner out every night, and still come out cheaper than either option 2 or option 3. If you want to be in your present home, case closed.

So let’s assume you have to move, and we’ll concentrate on option 2 vs. option 3. There are two important aspects of this topic which apply to both.

• In both cases you have to research the property with the building department to make sure you will be able to do what you wish. Verify zoning, lot size restrictions, and access to utilities.

• You will have unknown costs (moving, insurance, taxes, financing costs, etc.) in either case. Advantages of remodeling an existing house:

• Fewer hidden (or unknown) costs. New homes often have impact fees, ground preparation fees, and higher permit fees than those imposed for remodeling.

• Hard construction costs will be less (usually, but not always).

• You can move into the house much sooner. If you have to leave your existing home quickly, you may not have the ability to wait for a new home to be built.

Advantages of building new:

 • Unrestricted design potential, allowing you to end up with a more modern, better insulated home, with better traffic flow than you would have in an older building. Also, older homes have less closet/storage space than new ones.

• Your long term energy costs will be lower because all of your equipment will be running more efficiently.

• Less disruption to family routine. While construction is happening, you’re still living in your present house. Then you move into a finished product (possibly with some decorative items to complete).

I’m sure you noticed that I haven’t listed costs in either list. The determining factor is going to be the extent of the renovation to the existing building. Depending upon the condition of the house, age, building codes and other factors, it can actually be more costly to remodel than to build new.

In either case, allow an extra 20% in your budget over and above any quoted costs you’ve obtained. 10% is for upgrades that you decide upon after initial pricing. The other 10% is for the rising costs of material and labor. If the price of oil goes through the roof again, 10% might not be enough.

If the older home was built between 1950 and 1978, there might be issues having to do with asbestos and lead paint. Make sure you get a professional inspection performed. You may also be required to bring the plumbing and electrical systems up to date.

In conclusion, renovating a home might be very rewarding, as well as the cheaper alternative. However, you have to do your homework before making the commitment, in order to insure that you’re not stepping into a money pit. Every situation is different. Your decision will probably come down to what your sixth sense tells you. Regardless of how you choose, anticipate that moving into a new home will take more time and more money than expected.

Tips on Adding a Family Room Addition to your House

 by Nazim Nice

 As families expand, so do their spatial needs. Suddenly a house that seemed adequately sized for two or three may feel tight when the family increases in size. If a home already has enough bedrooms, a family room addition is often a useful addition to increase the amount of space in a home and increase the functionality.   Where an addition is placed on a house will vary depending on the layout of the home and actual site conditions. If there is space on the site that allows for a family room addition on the main level, I often look for a location near the kitchen. If there is no space on the site, we'll either look at a location such as in an unfinished basement, or consider adding onto a second story. One recent trend is locating a family space adjacent to bedrooms, especially if the space is located adjacent to kid's bedrooms. This family room space often becomes the kid's 'hang out space'.   Often a family room plays many roles, so it's important to design the room to allow for the functions you need. Here are some things to consider:  

1. While it's a luxury to have a separate media room, often the space or funds are not available. Consider designing the family room to accommodate movie night by incorporating room darkening black-out shades and the necessary electronic equipment and speakers.  

 2. If you often need a place for extra guests to sleep, a family room can be converted easily to a sleeping area if you incorporate the right furniture pieces. A sleeper sofa can comfortably sleep two. If additional sleeping space, or individual beds are desired for activities like kid's sleepovers, then look for furniture such as ottomans and chairs that fold out to single beds. If you have the space, you may also be able to incorporate a day bed. For additional sleeping, look for a day bed with a trundle below.  

3. One of the complaints we frequently hear about homes is that the dining room is too small for big family dinners. But when asked how often people entertain large groups, it is usually once or twice a year. A family room addition can help solve this problem if space is designed in for a large table.  

4. A oversized table is also useful in a family room because inevitably kids will end up doing their homework where the family gathers. A large table is a perfect multipurpose addition to the family room. To save space, it can even be placed with an end against a wall, and pulled out when additional seating is needed.  

Once you've identified all the necessary functions that the new family room needs to accommodate, you'll want to start thinking about details such as fireplaces, the TV location, and furniture layouts. The primary issue with incorporating a fireplace in a family room is that it competes for the same space as the TV. There are many ways to solve this problem, with the obvious one being placing the television above the fireplace. Be careful with this solution, though, as it can lead to an uncomfortably high viewing angle. Often incorporating a television that is adjacent to the fireplace, or arranging a seating group that is at right angles where one side faces a television and the other side faces a fireplace can solve this issue.   When possible we like to expand the family room addition to the outside by adding French doors or sliding doors. A deck or patio outside a family room can help make a smaller space feel larger, and in warmer weather the space can open up to the outside. A well designed family room can serve many purposes if well thought through in the planning stages. This often means thinking ahead and planning the type of furniture, the size and location of the television, and the location of the fireplace. But once you determine all the pieces of the puzzle, they can be assembled into an artful solution that integrates into the existing house and provides a new space that will serve your family well for many years in the future.

Second Storey Additions - When Building Up is the Only Option

by Nazim Nice

Sometimes the only space available when adding an addition is up! Second storey additions can dramatically change the appearance and function of a house, so it's important to get it right. Here are some issues to consider when designing a second story addition:

Structural Upgrades

Since a second storey addition adds additional mass on top of an existing structure, it is often necessary to structurally upgrade the existing house below. This usually means assessing the existing foundation and footing sizes to see if the foundation is capable of carrying the additional load. The existing house will often need to be securely attached to the foundation. The ability of the existing house to resist lateral movement due to earthquakes or wind should also be assessed.

The New Floor Assembly

To be less disruptive to the existing house, the existing ceiling and ceiling joists are often left in place, and a new floor structure is added on top of this. This allows for electrical lines, recessed can lights, and other elements to remain in the ceiling below the new addition. However, it also results in a very thick floor assembly. This can mean additional stairs may be necessary to reach the top floor (which take up more room) and on the exterior, special attention needs to be paid to the resulting proportions, so the house doesn't look too top heavy.

Consider Vaulted Ceilings

Many times the second story addition can use scissor trusses, which create a vaulted ceiling within the new space. If the roof is being stick-framed (rather than trusses), consider adding vaulted ceilings in master bedrooms or other spaces.

Heating and Cooling the New Space

It's not always feasible to extend existing heating and/or cooling to the upstairs, so it's often easier and better to add separate equipment for the upper level. Usually the upper level of a home is hotter than the rest of the house, so having a separate system on it's own zone will help provide for more comfort and temperature control in the new addition.

Assess where Plumbing Drains Will Go

It's important to assess how new upstairs bathrooms will connect to existing plumbing below. If there is an existing bathroom below, it may be possible to tie into existing plumbing. Otherwise, drains may need to head down through the main level to a crawl space or basement. The route of the drains, whether it be horizontal or vertical should be planned during the design phase. Many times the floor structure will need to be designed to accommodate drains (or even ductwork). This really is only feasible when done in the design stage, unless a lot of changes are made on site (which will hold up the project and add to the project cost).

Make the Stair a Focal Point

The stair is the one element that connects two levels together and it becomes an opportunity to create a dramatic space. Consider adding skylights at the top of the stairs so light floods down through to lower levels. Consider adding good lighting to make the center hall a space where art can be displayed.

Don't Necessarily Make all the Upstairs Rooms Bedrooms

A den or family hang-out space is useful to have upstairs and the space can double as a guest room if a sofa bed is used. If space is not available for an entire room, consider making a nook for a computer for kids to do homework, or parents to pay the bills.

While a second story addition has its challenges (what project doesn't!), it's often the only way to add space. It will dramatically change the exterior appearance of a home, and make the interior much more spacious and functional. If careful attention is paid to the design, the new space can also add character and drama to the house.


Remodeling your Entire House

by Nazim Nice

Many times it's possible to rearrange spaces within an existing house and make it work so much better than before. By opening up floor plans, moving stairs, even moving bedrooms and living spaces, it's possible to create a plan that is appropriate for today's living. Here are some things to consider:

Let go of Preconceived Ideas

By letting go of preconceived ideas of how rooms should be arranged, you may be able to arrive at a solution that you couldn't imagine before. That may mean that the master bedroom needs to go where the living room is. Or moving the kitchen may solve many layout problems. While the project is still early in the design phase it's easy to test bold ideas, so do this early on to arrive at the best solution for your project. 

Move the Stairs and Get Rid of the Fireplaces

It seems more often than not that stairs and fireplaces are just in the wrong spot. Stairs are often too tight and dangerous to navigate. By moving the stair, it can often be designed to better connect different floor levels and also be a more comfortable dimension to make the stair safer to use.

Old masonry fireplaces are often located where it would be much nicer to have large windows or french doors to the outside. Or they are just much more massive than they need to be, taking up valuable floor space. With the advent of modern prefabricated metal fireplaces, it's possible to remove an old masonry fireplace, and replace it (possibly in a new location) with a smaller and more efficient unit.

Get Rid of Hallways

Look at turning hallways into part of the space of the adjacent rooms. This is not always possible, but hallways don't generally make a house feel larger or more expansive. They generally are perceived as being wasted space. By connecting rooms to each other without hallways, you'll end up with a space that feels larger and flows better.

Consider Green Materials

A large portion of a whole house remodel is new finishes. Consider green materials such as low VOC paints, sustainably harvested wood floors, natural carpets, and other materials that do not off-gas. Use the remodel as an opportunity to incorporate as many green materials as possible. This will result in a better interior living environment with less chemicals off-gassing, and it is better overall for the environment.

Don't Forget the Outside

While the interior of many homes needs a major overhaul, often the exterior does as well. Consider new paint colors, new windows, doors, roof, and siding. When adding new doors and windows, don't be constrained by existing openings. It can be easy to lower sill heights or even add french doors where a window was once located. Also consider adding architectural features such as dormers or an interesting entry canopy.

A whole house remodel is an exciting project to undertake because the result is often a new, fresh design that doesn't have any resemblance to the old design. By making bold design moves, rearranging spaces, and upgrading and renewing materials, an old house can be given new purpose and extend its useful life many years.



Your Building Your Dream Home, But Where Do You Start?

By Martin Smith

You have finally found the perfect lot, in the neighborhood of your choice, and at a price you can afford. Now you have to decide what type of house you want built. In fact you may even know the house you want, be it a big rambling farmhouse, with a wrap-a-round porch reminiscent of your grandmother's home, a rustic log cabin or a more modern luxurious home. Whatever you choose, the first thing you will need is a set of house plans.

An architect can draw up plans to your exact specifications, but this can be very expensive. A building contractor may show a selection of home plans to choose from, but perhaps a better less costly idea would be to purchase a set of pre-drawn house plans. There are magazines and web sites where you can purchase plans for just about any style house you could imagine.

Most House plans web sites allow you to search, by house style, such as country, cottage, log cabin, Tudor or luxury home. You can also search by price, designer, number of bedrooms, number of stories, garage etc. not all sites offer all search options.

Informational articles, or FAQs (frequently asked Questions) are available on most sites. These provide information about the different types of plan sets available and what is included in each, making changes to the house plan you choose, return policy, finding a builder, return policy, and a number of other questions. For Questions not covered in the information section, there is usually a toll free number you can call to get the answers to your questions.

The types of house plan sets are: Construction sets. Which consists of 5 to 8 complete sets of plans. This set is what you will need, to get a building permit, arrange financing, and actually get your house built. The plans in this set include, exterior views (elevations), floor and roof plans, basement or foundation plans, Building sections, electrical schematic, and usually information about such things as structural specifications, excavation and grading, flooring material, carpentry, and tiling. A building license, not to be confused with a building permit, is included. The license allows you to use the plans to create your dream home.

A reproducible set is available for making minor changes to your plans. The plan is drawn on erasable vellum or Mylar. This set comes with a Copyright Release, allowing you to make as many copies as needed to accommodate the changes you make to the original plan. It also comes with a building, license, but you may not construct more than one house without first getting a multi-use license from the company.

The CAD set is intended for use when you will have a local architect make major changes to the original house plans. It also includes a copyright release so that your designer can make copies as needed. Again you need to get a multi-use license if you intend to build more than one house.

A study set, is used primarily for estimating costs, it usually doesn't include foundation plans and may not be copied. No license is included and comes marked with a "Not for Construction" label. Lastly there is the Single set it is for obtaining bids, it also bears the "Not for Construction" label, and no license is provided.

The designers of pre-drawn house plans do their drawings to meet national building codes. It is possible that you will need to hire a local architect to bring your plans up to code for your area. It may be wise to contact your local building agency and to find out what is required to get a building permit.

At last you have chosen the plans for your new home, obtained financing, and your plans meet code. What comes next? You need to hire a building contractor, and sub contractors, for electricity and plumbing. Where do you begin? Most areas license contractors, so make sure that the people you interview, have the right qualifications, and licenses. If you had a local designer to alter your plans she may be able to refer you to some qualified, reputable contractors in your area. If you have had electrical or plumbing work done in your present home, that person may have the name of a good builder. Always ask for and check references, Also, make sure your contract provides for redress if the work is not completed, done properly and to code standards Once you hire a qualified builder, he should have the names of plumbers, air conditioning specialists and electricians that he has worked with in the past. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if the person you are considering has any complaints lodged against them.

The companies that sell house plans will usually make minor changes to your plan, for an additional charge and it may not be necessary to hire a local designer. However, the changes must be requested at the time of purchase.

It is possible to have your plans reversed in most cases. If your breakfast nook faces north for instance and the best view from your lot is to the south, you can ask to have the plans reversed. Most house plan web sites allow you to view the reversed image on line. Occasionally the view can't be seen on line, but most companies will email you a reversed view in that case.

One thing the plans do not include is the actual layout of the electrical, plumbing and air conditioning work, since the designers have no way to know where on your lot these lines would enter the house. Your contractor s will have no problem working that out. There are dozens of home styles to choose from .A- frame to Victorian. One search option is size. A small house is anything up to 1500sq. ft. of living space, a medium size is from 1500 to 2500 sq. ft. A home over 2500sq.ft is considered large.

A luxury home is also 2500 sq. ft. or more and has extras, such as large main floor master bedroom suite, walk in closets, media room, and home office. Premium homes are also large, often 5000sq.ft. In addition to the Master bedroom suite and extra special use rooms, they generally have a bathroom for each bedroom. Music room's media centers, and offices are common. The garages with these houses are often larger than 600sq.ft

Your dream house is out there, you just need to do your homework. When you find the right plan to suit your family and your lot. Make sure your contractor is licensed, reputable and qualified to do the work and adheres to your local building code. Be sure that your contract protects you if the work isn't done to code. Stay in touch with the contractor, visit the site often, be there when the last detail is completed. Now relax and enjoy your new home.

Building or Decorating Your Home Requires House Plans

There are some things to consider when creating plans for your home. There are two situations that call for plans or blue prints, either you are building a new home or decorating your present home. The types of plans required for either situation will vary depending on the extent of your project.

When building a new home, there are several things you will want to consider carefully. The most obvious is where you are going to build your house. The climate will affect where you build. You wouldnt build an icehouse in the middle of the desert. You will want to determine what material you will want to use. Brick, wood, and cement are popular. In the southern states clay adobe houses are the norm. In the north and other areas brick, wood, and stone are options. The climate will influence this choice as well. In areas where there is cold weather brick and cement are used because they absorb and retain heat. In the south wood frame houses are built. The size of your lot will determine the size and type of house you want. You couldnt build a mansion on say a quarter of an acre. On the other hand a one bedroom, single floor home would look strange on a lot that is two acres or bigger. Whether your home has a basement could be important and that would depend on where you live.

If you are lucky to have a basement, it can house the laundry room and your gym equipment or be a playroom/guest room.

Now that you know where and what type of climate you will be building in it is time to think about the plans. Blueprints are or have been used to draw a linear picture of the house as you see it. Now however there are computer programs that will allow you to build your house in 3-D. There are also web sites online that will also allow you to build your house and see it in 3-D. Not only that but some sites will allow you to place your furniture. There are several kinds of technical drawings that are used to create plans for a new home. There are site plans that address coding issues, landscaping, location specifics, drainage (land contours), trees, set backs, and property lines. A floor plan is a design plan of the house, the layout of the rooms, and where the windows and doors. Another type of plan is building sections, which is a cross section of the house. It helps determine any issues, visualize your finished house and floor plans using section marks. Wall sections show the construction of one exterior wall where sections are indicated with section marks. Exterior Elevations include such features as porches and decks. They also show furniture, window and door locations, eave heights and roofing. Interior elevations show the lighting layout and ceiling conditions. Porches are another very interesting option; they can be enclosed, go all the way around the house. They can also be half-enclosed and half-open. They can be reminders of times past. A huge porch reminds me of my aunts farm years ago. Porches are great for extending family time and conversation while still being protected from the weather.

Decisions to be made are the size of each room, the number of rooms and the number of floors to be built. Will there be a basement or a fireplace, and where is the house going to sit on the lot. You could have a front yard or the house could be in the front of the lot with a yard in the back. You could also put it right in the center and have land all around. The next consideration is whether you will have a contractor draw up the plans which will be an expense, or you can do them yourself. To do them yourself you will need a pencil or pen, scissors, a measuring tape, and graph paper with 1/4-inch boxes.

You will draw rooms to scale; one box per foot is good. Measure your rooms, doors, windows, heat and air cooling appliances. Draw the outlines of the rooms according to scale. Measure your furniture (you only need to worry about length and width here) next and take another piece of graph paper. Draw out lines of your furniture, label them and cut them out. Use these pieces to set up the rooms. When you find an arrangement you like, you can make a more permanent drawing. On another sheet of graph paper draw a box for each wall. Scale your windows, doors, built-ins and other features.

Picking a floor plan is a process of answering some very important questions. Will this place be big enough or too big in a few years? Does your design fit in with the houses in the neighborhood? Does the design of the house fit in with the lot size and shape? Will the windows provide the best view and what windows will catch the sunlight in the morning and afternoon? Will changes need to be made or can changes even be considered? Are the rooms that will be used most of the time of adequate size? Expanding your house size could mean you need to sacrifice amenities or storage space. Do you have specialty rooms such as a craft room, an office, or a gym? An office can double as a guestroom. The trend now is toward creating a family area where there is room for each to do his/her own hobby or to be together watching movies or playing games. When all the decisions are made and the plans are all drawn you will be ready to build.

 Suppose now, that you are purchasing an already built home or renting an apartment. Plans can be done in these situations as well. Most places will offer a floor plan for you to look at with the measurements of the space in the rooms. If this is not available you can draw your own plan. You would need the same materials and the plan is fixed, you are limited to what is already there. Draw the outlines of each room according to scale. Take another sheet of graph paper and draw the outlines of your furniture. Label them and cut them out. You can move these pieces around till you find an arrangement you like. You might be limited with your television set because the outside antenna is in a certain spot.

Take another piece of graph paper and draw the wall sections of each room noting the windows, doors, and any heating or cooling appliance might be situated. You will have already placed your furniture so you will have a good idea of what your new home will look like. You can now decorate according to your tastes. In a rental home however, you might not be able to change wall colors or in rare cases hang pictures.

Planning for your home can be very exciting. You could be buying new furniture but you might want to consider the color of the carpets or the floors when you are choosing your pieces. A blue couch on a brown carpet does not exactly match. When planning for your home whether you buy or rent should be done carefully. Keep in mind your preferences, your limitations and if you are building, local zoning ordinances.

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