When the decision to build is made, the first thing is to secure the land. Land for building purposes is mainly of two classes : there are isolated plots, and there are plots on an estate under course of development. If you take one of the latter plots, you will have to build according to the restrictions laid down by the owners of the estate, and you will have to spend a fixed minimum on the house.
Isolated plots are, in the main, less desirable than those forming part of an estate.
The plot itself should be roomy and have a good frontage. It is false economy to save a few pounds on this score, since in the event of sale houses generously spaced are more likely to realize their full value. The question of future expenses incurred when the pavement is made up should not be forgotten. This item usually falls on the owner of an isolated plot, but on an estate, the estate itself often pays.
The subjects of water, lighting, and drainage are important, but so obvious that you will not be likely to pass them over. If, however, a doubt occurs to you, call in a good local surveyor.
When the land has been secured, you have two courses open to you. The first is (a) to seek the assistance of an architect, who will draw up suitable plans; or (b)to get into touch with a local builder who is interested in certain types of houses. While the latter will be the cheaper, the former is the ideal course. Although the architect or builder will advise you in technical matters, it must not be left to them to decide exactly what the house is to be like. You should be ready with ideas which will be the basis of their work.
The building should be so constructed that strength is the first consideration. Overhanging parts are a source of instability, while a squarely-planned house stands better than one that is long, narrow and with additional wings. Everything that adds to the cost of periodic renovation should be omitted.
Whether brick, stone, concrete, or other materials should be used for the main walls is largely a matter decided either by the cost or the locality. When bricks are used, the binding material should be sand, ballast and cement, rather than slag and cement. There should be a damp course running round the house, above the ground level but below the floor level of the downstairs rooms. The course should be carried out in slates rather than in preparations of tar, bitumen, etc. .
Inside the house, the cardinal consideration should be strength; but with a striving after labour-saving devices. The dining-room should not be far from the kitchen. A hatch in the wall between the two will save thousands of steps; but it must be shut tightly to keep out cooking smells. Floors, as far as possible, should be finished so that they need only a rub with a mop. The necessity for carpets should be eliminated. Parquet floors are advised; they cost but a trifle more than a good carpet.
White paint is elegant, but not labour-saving—every mark shows and constant washing is necessary. In a dull room, white paint is useful for adding brightness to the surroundings; but in other rooms the woodwork will look better stained a rich, flat brown.
New houses should never have papered walls. As the plaster-work dries, it will set up chemical action with the pigment in the paper and cause discolouration. Water paints and distempers are recommended for the first five years.
Ceilings offer a great problem. The usual plan of setting’ them in plaster seems to be wrong. The weight of the material is considerable, and, if parts of it fall, the danger is not negligible. Preferable to plaster, and far cheaper, is asbestos sheeting, or even the many forms of compressed pulp. They are cheap, easily fixed, not likely to come away from their moorings, and, if they do, little harm will be caused. The only drawback is, that where there is a room above, the planks and sheeting act as a soundbox and noises are magnified.
With a little ingenuity quite comfortable and serviceable bathroom equipment can be planned. All piping should be hidden. It is not a bad plan to fix a small radiator in the room, though experts tell us that if the radiator forms part of the bath-water circuit the latter is liable to be discoloured by rust. They maintain that the radiator should be fed by a separate lead.
Bathroom walls are most serviceable when tiled in white part of the way up, then painted with a glossy enamel above. It is always possible, then, to clean the room thoroughly in a few minutes. Here, papered walls are inadvisable.
The floor is usually covered with linoleum, but cork carpet is far kinder to bare feet. Sheet rubber is often suggested, but the heat and moisture make it wrinkle.
For many reasons, the bathroom and lavatory should never be combined.
In conclusion, the most minute details should be discussed with the architect, and included in the estimate of the total cost for building, otherwise the would-be builder will find himself faced with an account for extras far in excess of the actual cost of building.