Dream Builders OBX

OBX Remodeling and Additions

Best Flooring for a Beach House

One frequent question that we’re asked is, “What flooring works best in a beach home?” The most definitive answer is that carpet, while fine for bedrooms, is not recommended for high traffic common areas in a coastal home. The good news is that there are a variety of quality products on the market that work very well in our seaside environment.

Certainly every Outer Banks contractor has an opinion on what works the best. Given my experience, the products that top our recommended list include prefinished hardwoods, ceramic and porcelain tiles and luxury vinyl flooring. The majority of our clients request hardwood flooring for their great room and hallways, and we’ve found prefinished wood is a great product that comes in a variety of appealing wood species.

This is solid wood flooring that has multiple coats of factory applied finish to protect against discoloration and water penetration. The quality has improved greatly in the last decade, and a part of this improvement is attributed to the newest finish called Aluminum Oxide. This finish is applied by a commercial process that includes a UV-cured urethane coat that’s great for color preservation and durability against stains and scratches.

Because the wood is factory finished the installation process is more efficient. There is no job site dust from sanding and no lingering odors from onsite staining. An added bonus is you can walk on the floors immediately whereas unfinished wood takes several days for the applied stain to cure. If you factor in the material price for unfinished wood and add the labor cost to sand and stain floors, prefinished floors price out as a better value.

Our preference is prefinished hardwood flooring that is ¾” thick. When and if the time comes, this thickness can be professionally refinished up to 3-4 times. Wider hardwood planks can be more susceptible to moisture-related issues. To minimize this potential, the widest plank we typically use measures between 4 and 4-1/2 inches. We also encourage homeowners to have ceramic tile placed in the entrance foyer and in front of sliding glass doors to lessen the potential of moisture permeating hardwood.

Whereas hardwood can be extended into bedrooms, a more budget friendly option is to install carpet in these rooms. We recommend a low piling in a neutral color that won’t easily show sand that can be tracked indoors. Ceramic tile is another functional and low maintenance flooring option for a beach home. This durable product is often earmarked for kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms.

The majority of Outer Banks’s recreation rooms are located on the ground level slab with doors that lead to the outdoors. For this reason, ceramic tile is a dependable solution for the traffic that flows in and out from the pool area. Another flooring option for rec rooms is high quality luxury vinyl which is durable, tolerant of moisture and can be more economical than ceramic tile.

Outer Banks Pools

Fiberglass pools are increasing in popularity due to their low maintenance features, longevity and visual aesthetics.  As an Outer Banks builder, the vast majority of pools I’ve installed over the years have been concrete/gunite.  Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to install several fiberglass pools for clients, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.

Don’t get me wrong, those in our company are big fans of concrete pools.  With no limitations to the size or depth and the flexibility in custom designs, these pools can result in a work of art.  Yet, there remains a high cost of ownership over time which includes the expense to acid wash (every 3 to 5 years), resurface and retile (every 15 to 25 years) and the cost of chemicals and filtration for algae prevention. These expenses can result in the addition of a pool area not meeting many client’s budgets.

Concrete on the Outer Banks is a relatively expensive product so the decision to install a fiberglass pool in our area is often a more cost effective option.  These shells can last decades and many come with a limited lifetime structure and surface warranty – just be sure to read the small print to understand the conditions.

Because concrete is porous it creates the ideal environment for algae growth.  To prevent the growth and spread of these organisms requires regular scrubbings and the added cost of sanitizing chemicals.  In comparison, fiberglass shells are covered with a nonporous gel coating that resists algae so fewer chemicals are required and (as a bonus) this coating is less likely to stain.  In addition, the gel surface is smooth and nonabrasive which protects against hand and foot abrasions.

Fiberglass pools are prebuilt in a controlled factory environment.  Homeowners cannot design a custom shape, instead they choose from a variety of sizes and shapes with steps and built-in seating already manufactured into the shell.  Once selected, the pool shell is then trucked to the homesite for installation.

Whereas concrete pools can take weeks or months of onsite work to design and complete, a fiberglass pool can conveniently be installed in a matter of days.  A hole is excavated, plumbing is installed, a base of sand is prepared and then the pool is lowered into place and leveled.  To avoid bowing, the sand is then backfilled around the shell while the pool is simultaneously filled with water.

With many parents working full time jobs and shuttling children to extracurricular activities, time for home maintenance has become a more precious commodity.  In addition, the construction of second homes being built for future retirement is increasing on the Outer Banks.  Given both of these lifestyles, we’re seeing an increase in homeowners requesting easy care features like vinyl siding and railing, composite decking materials and low maintenance pools areas.

We purchase our fiberglass pools from a leading nationwide supplier that offers great design options in distinctive colors and patterns with corresponding mosaics and tiles.  To personalize your pool design, clients can also add water features such as water cascades, tanning ledges, vanishing edges and more. The results are quite impressive, so when deciding which type of pool best suits your needs, be sure to ask us about fiberglass options too.

Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation

Due to our weather and proximity to the ocean, Outer Banks contractors are held to some of the strictest building codes in the nation. Coastal winds, moisture content, humidity and our hot summer months are consistent elements that must be considered when developing standards and practices that result in premium construction.
When you build on (or near) the Outer Banks, achieving energy efficiency in cooling and heating your home is a crucial factor to take into consideration. Dream Builders Construction and Development recommends using Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) to insulate homes because it is the single most effective insulation barrier to minimize air leakage.
There are two types of SPF:
1. Closed Cell – This 2 pound foam is suitable for interior and exterior applications and features an R-value of 6+, and
2. Open Cell – This half pound foam is designed for interior application only and has an R-value of approximately 3.5.

Both closed and open cell are sound dampening and cannot sustain mold. R-value essentially means the resistance a product has to air flow, so a higher R-value means a greater insulation rating. With that said, both types of SPFs significantly reduce the amount of energy required to heat or a cool a structure resulting in long standing cost saving to homeowners.

How SPF Works: The foam consists of two chemical components that are combined onsite and then transferred to a mixing gun through a heated hose system. The reaction of these components creates foam which expands on contact and then quickly hardens to effectively fill wall and ceiling cavities.

Closed cell insulation resists water while open cell in not recommended for areas that come into direct contact with water. Our company predominantly uses the more environmentally friendly open cell to insulate the Outer Banks homes we build. Although we always use closed cell to insulate portions of any structure located below the base flood zone. This is an important step because closed cell insulation is impervious to moisture therefore rejecting bulk water that may occur through flooding.

Federal regulations determine insulation standards for R-values, thickness and the coverage area. We always use a licensed professional who provides an insulation certificate documenting this information on a Record of Installation. When your Outer Banks new construction home is completed, this is one of the many documents and warranties that are included in the personalized Homeowner’s Manual that we produce for our homeowners.

Ductless HVAC Systems

Last year Dream Builders Construction completed an oceanfront remodeling project in the Outer Banks town of Nags Head. Among other updates, this project included adding ground level living space (two master suites with private baths, laundry facilities, a recreation room and half bath) and expanding the top level to include a home theater room and arcade area.

Specific challenges with the HVAC system arose because the home was located within CAMA setbacks which meant that we could not “tie” a new HVAC system into the existing one. In addition, the ceiling height of the ground floor was 8 foot and a new system would have required drop ceilings to house the ductwork. The latter was not an ideal scenario for the owner, so it was necessary to research another option.

Our HVAC contractor said the best alternative was to install ductless (mini-split) systems. This was our first experience with this product, and fortunately there were many appealing factors. With research showing that up to 25% of energy can be lost through ductwork, these systems are much more efficient and provide future savings for the homeowner.

To ensure both comfort and efficiency, it is essential to use a licensed contractor with knowledge on how to size the system in conjunction with the room space. Also, these systems won’t work properly if the wall penetration is improperly sealed or the electronics are mishandled. Installation is a critical factor not only for efficiency but also because improper installation can void the product warranty.

We selected Energy Star Mitsubishi units with a 22 Seer rating. You pay a bit more up front (when compared to traditional window or baseboard heating units) but the ultimate reward is lower energy bills. Since these systems were being installed in an Outer Banks vacation rental home, the owner saw the long-term savings as a definite plus. We found the sleek design style fit very well with the coastal aesthetics throughout the home. Overall, the decision to install ductless HVAC systems was a Win-Win for everyone … the homeowner … the contractor … and vacationers renting this home.