The Jetsons Would Be Proud – Home Automation Today

These days, home automation can be almost anything you want it to be. For the right budget, your home can become an extension of you. The basic function of home automation is to consolidate the points of control for multiple devices to one platform which is accessible from any number of user friendly locations. Typical applications would include keypads/iPads conveniently positioned throughout the home and full smartphone compatibility. With preset scene lighting, integral curtain/shade control, whole house audio/visual and smart climate control, you can chose your desired environment at the touch of a button from your smartphone or wall mounted iPad mini. Other options include access control, intercom, security, surveillance and remote control of all household functions from virtually anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Blog Pic (2) post

Let’s begin by looking at two of today’s most common applications, lighting and home audio. Here’s a basic breakdown of the types of features you can expect to find:


Depending on whether your project involves new construction (or at least opening up walls and ceilings) or is a retrofit in a finished space, your lighting controllability options will vary in cost and in terms of what’s possible. When doing new construction or any time you have the capability of rewiring all of your light circuits, the preferred method would be to install all the light switches/dimmers for the home in one centralized location (like a tech closet, etc.) and control them with programmable keypads throughout the home. The advantage of this application is that you can designate the multiple buttons (usually 5) on each keypad to activate individual pre-programmed light settings. Some common settings include: scene lighting (using different light zones to create a desired atmosphere), entry, all on, all off, away, low, etc. There are also retrofit options for situations where centralized light switching is not in the scope of work. Various light switches can be removed and replaced with programmable keypads that communicate with one another via RF (radio frequency), creating a very similar functionality throughout the home.

Home Audio-

When it comes to home audio systems, retrofit and wireless speakers and component are readily available for those looking at minimal impact to finished living spaces. With wireless speakers throughout the house you can achieve a fairly balanced sounding system. Functionality and sound quality will depend on how strong your Wi-Fi is and how spread out the system is. Although wireless speakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, you will compromise on a certain degree of overall sound quality. If the highest sound quality is what you’re looking for, nothing compares to wired speakers properly installed and specifically chosen for the space. With multiple apps to choose from when setting up your home audio, you should talk to your General Contractor and/or Home Automation/Audio professional about your specific intended usage of the system.

Check back in a couple of weeks when we dive into climate control, remote entry control and surveillance.

Material Selection 101 – Determining Factors

Carrera or quartz? Engineered or solid plank? Programmable keypads or local light switching? Spray foam, rigid, or fiberglass insulation? These are a small sampling of the various options available in today’s construction industry. As you get ready to plan your next (or first) construction project, identifying priorities such as form vs function, maintenance considerations, resale value and budget will help you narrow the search field considerably.

Form vs function:
There are those who’s aesthetic preferences are design driven and others who prefer to focus on comfort and ease of use. A space saving bifold closet door can be a great option in a smaller bedroom, unless you hate bifold doors. A custom fabricated trough sink may look fantastic, unless your kids don’t rinse the toothpaste out of its flat bottom basin every morning. You get the point. Nailing down your specific values in this regard is the first crucial step in ensuring that the project you’re planning will yield a finished product that truly reflects your vision and lifestyle.

Maintenance considerations:
What is the key function and purpose of the space you are creating? Is it a primary residence, a vacation home, a business, etc.? Do you have pets? Are children in the picture or might they be in the future? An equally important question is how much energy/money are you willing to spend on routine and spot maintenance? Certain materials can be highly durable as long as they are properly protected and maintained but will become susceptible to damage if the maintenance is not kept up. For instance, many types of stone are quite porous and will stain easily without being properly sealed (depending on the level of wear and the specific type of stone, sealing is something that will need to be done periodically). When choosing stone, be sure to ask your stone yard or contractor for professional feedback in this regard. By the same token, wood floors tend to be quite vulnerable without a sufficient clear coat. In high traffic areas, this clear coat will wear thin quicker exposing the wood grain to potential stains and scratches. Typically, prefinished flooring will have a more durable (factory applied) clear coat but is only available with micro-beveled edges, producing a look which is slightly different from that of a floor which has been sanded and finished in place. You should confer with your industry professional as to whether engineered or solid plank material is best for your specific application. If engineered flooring is the right decision, be sure to choose a product with a thick ware layer. The thickness of this top layer will determine how many times the floor can be sanded and refinished (a necessary part of routine wood floor maintenance over the years). Exterior finishes (wood, vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.) are another prime example of the degree to which maintenance requirements vary from one finish to another. Whatever finish materials you choose to go with, staying on top of routine maintenance will ensure the continued value of the investment you’re making.

material selection

Resale value:
As you enter the process of designing your project, you might hold more or less importance in the impact your choices will have on resale value. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid highly individualized/stylized design features if resale appeal is a priority. Consulting a design professional and/or your trusted real estate agent will help you to be more cognizant of the most popular building options as well as what kinds of choices to avoid in your specific area. A balance should be found incorporating a neutral style pallet while incorporating features which maximize the potential and individuality of the space.

When identifying what your budget will be, first establish what’s driving the project as well as what’s controlling the budget number. Is this project in preparation for sale or refinancing? Is this a renovation based on necessity? Is the budget based on what you think you should spend to increase the property value or is it simply based on the amount of available funds? Either way, knowing what you want to spend on your finish materials early in the game is a big part of moving through the overall job estimation process with the least amount of distraction along with the least number of rewrites.

Without establishing these four basic parameters beforehand, selecting the materials for your renovation or new build can be a complex and overwhelming process. Taking the time to clearly define what your priorities are at the beginning is a good way to avoid being swept off course during the design phase.