Sealing windows

Cost-Saving Construction Practices for Your Home Remodel

Sealing windows

When you’re remodeling your home, you look for the most effective way to spend your money. What you may not think about though, is how your home’s construction can affect your wallet and your comfort later on. During the planning and design stages is when you should make some important decisions about energy efficiency, weatherproofing and other factors that can save money year after year. That’s why we’re offering these cost-saving construction practices to consider for your home remodel.

Take a Whole-House Systems Approach

bathroom with skylight

When designing your remodel, take into account how the remodeled section will impact or interface with the entire house. This ensures that all systems and variables will work smoothly together and that you will save money on energy bills.

Energy efficiency is one of the highest priorities in the whole-house approach. For example, you’ll want to look at how daylight plays into lighting and climate control systems, along with placement of windows, doors and skylights. You’ll also need to know if and how your heating and cooling systems will work with the new space. Do you need to add capacity or even a separate system? Is passive solar design a priority?

In addition, how you use energy should be taken into consideration for:

  • Appliances and home electronics
  • Lighting
  • Heating and cooling
  • Water heating
  • Insulation and air sealing

Consider Solar Tempering Techniques

kitchen window with cellular shade and awning

You can design your remodel to take advantage of incidental solar gain. This can mean orienting rooms and windows to take advantage of a southern exposure to provide light and warmth in the winter, and avoid direct sun in the summer. Through solar tempering techniques, you may be able to reduce your heating costs between 10% and 20%!

Other ways to include solar tempering include:

  • Cellular shades with an R-value close to 4 that can be closed to reserve heat in winter and prevent heat in summer
  • Moveable exterior shading, like awnings
  • Installing Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) windows on the south side of the home to block heat from the sun. A low SHGC means the window transmits less solar heat.

Focus on Air Sealing

Up to 40% of the energy you use to heat and cool your home can be lost to air leaks, reports ENERGY STAR. That could lead to 10% of your total yearly energy bills! Your remodeler should discuss with you ways to reduce drafts and heat loss with air sealing around doors and windows, the chimney, plumbing and recessed lighting, using weather stripping, caulk, spray foam and more.

Air sealing can:

  • Improve indoor comfort by regulating temperature, drafts, noise and moisture
  • Improve indoor air quality by eliminating pollutants and dust
  • Lower energy bills
  • Exceed minimum construction standards for a higher-quality product

Choose Highly-Insulated Windows and Doors

porch addition

Windows and doors are available with energy performance ratings called U-Factor ratings. The lower the U-value, the greater a window can resist heat flow and reduce heat loss, and the better its insulating value. Good U-Factor ratings fall between 0.20 and 1.20; and ratings are marked on a window’s label.

U-values involve low-emissivity (low-E) coatings of microscopically-thin metal layers applied on clear film suspended between the glass panes to reduce heat transfer. Inert gasses between panes, like argon or krypton, also reduce heat transfer.

The U-value differs from a window’s R-value, which rates thermal resistance, or the ability of heat to transfer from hot to cold through a material. A typical double-paned window has an R-value of around 2, but the most energy-efficient windows have an R-value of 5 or higher. For a less expensive alternative, consider adding storm windows to your home.

Save money on door by replacing them with better-fitting and insulated doors, and by caulking and weather stripping around them.

Other tips for energy savings include:

  • Installing tight-fitting window shades, or insulated “honeycombed” shades
  • Closing curtains at night to prevent heat loss in winter, or during the day to prevent heat gain in summer
  • Application of low-e film inside the windows
  • Use of sun-controlling or reflective film on south-facing windows

Super-Insulate All Sides of a Space

When insulating your space, insulating not only the walls, but the ceiling and floor as well, is a great cost-saving construction practice. Every side of a space requires insulating material, with each requiring materials that fulfill its specific need. Techniques can include:

For Walls:

  • Advanced framing techniques to save wood and provide extra room for insulation
  • High-performance walls that offer a higher R-value, especially on exterior walls
  • Double-plated walls that offer a thicker cavity for colder climates. In moderate climates, like Northern Virginia, a cavity of 8” or 9” should be enough.
  • Basement walls should be insulated on the exterior, perhaps by insulating concrete forms

For Ceilings:

  • Blown-in insulation within a flat ceiling, or building a sloped ceiling to allow for ample insulation
  • Closed-cell spray foam insulation, also called high-density foam, to improve airtightness and reduce water vapor. This is best suited for crawl spaces or unvented attics.

For Floors:

  • Blown-in dense pack insulation under wood-frame floors, and sealing of the floor sheet perimeters with construction adhesive
  • Foundation vents placed where they won’t interfere with insulation
  • Slab floors have fewer air leaks, and may not require much, if any, additional insulation

Maximize Air Quality

After your home is sealed from air leaks, create a healthy indoor air quality with the use of automatic, controlled ventilation and good air filtration. This cost-saving construction practice saves on energy as well as healthcare costs.

Builders and remodelers can improve air quality in homes by following the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor airPLUS Program that requires construction practices and product specifications that minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants.

To qualify, the home must be designed to earn the ENERGY STAR Certified Home label—the government-back symbol for energy efficiency. This will incorporate both the ENERGY STAR and the Indoor airPLUS practices and specifications.

Heath benefits of better air quality include reduction or elimination of:

  • Mold, pollen, pet dander and other allergens
  • Pests
  • Chemical agents like formaldehyde, radon gas, VOCs and combustion products

Select an Efficient Heating and Cooling System

Heating and cooling a home accounts for up to 48% of your energy costs, so it makes sense to select a system offering the most efficiency. Heat can be transferred in three ways: through radiation (top down), conduction (bottom up), and convection (circulating air). You will feel the warmest and coolest through convection, as air circulates around you.

Ways to save costs during construction include:

  • Selecting energy-efficient products like those with ENERGY STAR ratings
  • Installing a programmable thermostat and using a low setting in winter, and a high setting in summer
  • Designing heating systems where they won’t be blocked by draperies, furniture or carpeting

Be Smart About Water Heating

In a zero energy home, the builders and designers look at the type and location of the water heater, and how hot water will be used by the residents.

Types of water heating equipment designed for cost savings include:

  • ENERGY STAR rated appliances for optimal performance and energy savings
  • Solar water heating through a solar thermal system
  • An efficient heat pump water heater that draws heat from its surroundings
  • An electric resistance water heater that uses in-tank heating elements
  • Circulating water systems that use a pump to rapidly push hot water to the farthest area of the home from the water heater
  • Demand hot water systems

Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances and Electronics

The ENERGY STAR Product Finder will help you research and select the most cost-efficient models of appliances and electronics. For cost savings, look for those offering the lowest yearly electrical consumption. Also, consider the smallest size that will suit your needs. Larger appliances require more energy.

Contemplate these choices:

  • An induction stove top is 12% to 30% more efficient than an electric or gas range, respectively
  • Microwave oven over gas or electric
  • Front-loading washer, or one with energy-saving cycles
  • Heat pump dryer
  • Low water-consumption dishwasher
  • Manual on-off switches or power strips for electronics like TV sets, gaming consoles and computers

Opt for Power-Saving Lighting

LED Bulbs

Switch from incandescent bulbs to LED lighting and you can save about 15% on your home’s electricity use. When designing your home, look for ways to incorporate natural light, and choose lighting products with the greatest energy savings. Save money after construction with the use of timers, dimmers and automatic exterior lighting.

Northern Virginia Remodeling at its Best by Schroeder Design/Build

At Schroeder Design/Build, our designers want you to have the best experience living in your home, and that includes efficiencies like energy savings. We’ll look for cost-saving construction practices that enhance your quality of life while saving you money.

We’re a family owned and operated business, so we understand what it’s like to live in a home we’ve built. After all, we’ve remodeled our own homes, as well as homes for more than 1000 clients throughout Northern Virginia in our 35-year history.

When you’re looking to remodel, come talk to us. Contact Schroeder Design/Build at 703-449-1700

In the meanwhile, sign up for our newsletter to receive tips, promotions and invitations to informative seminars, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

A Sunroom vs. a Screened-in Porch – which is right for you?

When thinking about remodeling with a room addition, many families want to create a room that helps bring the outdoors indoors—like a sunroom vs. a screened-in porch. They love the expansive views offered by a wall of windows, or the warm fresh air on a summer evening and are looking for additional living space in their home. Here’s how to choose the right room for your family’s needs.

Screened-in Porches

A screened-in porch built under a roof with mesh screen walls added to the home’s structure allows fresh air to circulate while preventing insects and debris from entering the room. Normally, it is built as an addition to an existing home to act as a transitional room between the indoors and outdoors, although it can be created as a free-standing structure. The structure is not insulated, therefore, it is most comfortable in the warmer months. Most families choose to add their screened-in porch to the back or side of their home. We have also added them to the front of the house as well.

Screen Types

The screening for a screened-in porch can come in a variety of materials:

  • Fiberglass

Fiberglass mesh screens are the most popular choice. The cost is relatively low and it offers good visibility. The material comes in rolls for easy installation, doesn’t crease or dent like metal screening, and is available in a variety of colors like black, silver, gray and charcoal to match your home’s exterior. It is one of the most easily repaired types of screening material. Its downside is that it can be susceptible to stretching and tears more easily than metal.

  • Aluminum

Aluminum screens are the budget-conscious choice for your screened-in porch. They are lightweight, rigid and strong, and easily cut to size. Aluminum screening may be slightly more difficult to install than fiberglass screens and is susceptible to rust if not coated. It is available in colors like gray, silver, charcoal and black.

  • Copper

Copper screens are a higher-end option, but require maintenance to maintain their color and sheen.

Advantages of a Screened-in Porch

Your screened-in porch enables your family to enjoy the outdoors without being exposed to direct sunlight or flying insects, and offers a low-maintenance alternate to a porch. Decorate your screened-in porch with plants, a ceiling fan and outdoor furniture. Add electrical outlets, plumbing for a wet bar or gardening sink, or built-in seating for even more practical uses. In the “old days,” people would even sleep overnight in their screened-in porch when the weather was hot—before the days of air conditioning. It’s a nice alternative if the power goes out! In Northern Virginia, you should be able to enjoy your screened-in porch from March to October. An outdoor fireplace or heater can extend your use.

COST: Least expensive


Here in Northern Virginia, cold winters are the norm so year-round use of a screened-in porch vs. a sunroom would be limited. That’s why sunrooms are popular as a versatile room for relaxing or entertaining. Two options for a sunroom include a three-season or a four-season version.

Three-Season Sunrooms

A three-season sunroom is built with four structural walls of brick or siding, windows and doors, and an HVAC system. As the room is not intended for winter use, it is usually not insulated, and the glass in the windows and doors offers low energy efficiency. Even though the sunroom may have an HVAC system, it is not effective on colder days due to the lack of insulation. Because of all the windows, the room may trap heat and it may not be practical on the hottest of summer days to cool the three-season sunroom.

COST: Moderate

Four-Season Sunrooms

If you want to use your sunroom year round, it must be built as any other room in your home, with four structural walls, insulation, an HVAC system and energy-efficient doors and windows with tempered, UV-protected glass. This enables you to use the room in comfort no matter what the outside temperature may be. This option also adds the most value to your home.

COST: Moderate to expensive

Advantages of a Sunroom

A sunroom vs. a screened-in porch gives a homeowner all the advantages of a screened-in porch by opening the windows or doors on warmer days to allow fresh air into the room while keeping insects out, yet can also keep the family warm and cozy in cooler months with energy-efficient windows and insulation.

Screens can be built into the windows, added onto windows, or interchangeable with windows. Sliding glass doors can also be added that can open one door’s width or across the entire wall of your sunroom, like a glass wall system.

Your sunroom will be built to blend in with the existing architecture of your home to create a seamless look and flow from both inside and outside the home.

Personalized Sunroom Ideas

Nowadays, homeowners are designing their sunrooms for special uses as well. How about creating a:

  • Spa Room, with a jetted tub or indoor pool and heated flooring
  • Library, with built-in bookcases and sunny reading nooks
  • Solarium or Greenhouse, with plants and a gardening theme
  • Indoor Porch, with a swing, hammock and dining area
  • Cozy Living Room, with overstuffed chairs and a fireplace
  • Spectacular Dining Room, with architectural features and a statement chandelier
  • Home Office, with a relaxing view
  • Playroom, a place just for the kids

Related: 21 Gorgeous Sunrooms for Your Entire Family to Enjoy

A Sunroom vs. a Screened-In Porch

When deciding whether a sunroom vs. a screened-in porch is right for your family, take into consideration the layout of your home and property and how you will want to use your additional room, and then talk to remodeling professional like Schroeder Design/Build. We’ll be glad to go over the numerous options available for adding space to your home and walk you through the entire process, from design through construction.

Contact Schroeder Design/Build

Since 1986, Schroeder Design/Build has been serving homeowners throughout Northern Virginia with additions, kitchen and bathroom remodeling and whole-house renovations. Look through our Portfolio for ideas on how to add a sunroom or a screened-in porch to your home.

To discuss adding a sunroom vs. a screened-in porch, or any addition to your home, contact Schroeder Design/Build at 703-449-1700.


7 Ways to Increase your Home’s Value

Homeowners are always concerned with ‘what’s their house worth.’ Other than normal appreciation, there are ways you can increase your home’s value. Here are seven options to consider.


Add Square Footage

There are a number of ways to increase your home’s value by adding living space. You can build an addition onto the side or back of your home, or add a second or even third level to your existing home. Consider unfinished spaces that can be converted into extra living areas, like the attic, basement or garage.

Remodel High-Value Rooms

Kitchens and bathrooms are always high-priority items on any homebuyer’s list and remodeling them can increase your home’s value by approximately 27%, according to Jeremy Sicklick, CEO and co-founder of HouseCanary. Invest in upgrading, expanding or renovating these rooms for the biggest bang for the buck.

Related: Home remodeling projects that will bring you the most return on investment

Choose Quality Finishes

When you choose high-quality items for your home, like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, you not only get to enjoy them for yourself, you’ll increase your home’s value for when you’re ready to sell. In addition, higher-quality products last longer and look more beautiful.

Even smaller items can increase your home’s value. Switch out doorknobs from brass to brushed nickel, or upgrade lighting to LED. This bright lighting will make your house feel lighter and more inviting. Choose items that are popular and you’ll see a return on your investment.

Go Green

Today’s home buyers are more concerned about the environment and looking for homes with eco-friendly features. When remodeling, invest in energy efficient appliances and equipment, from your kitchen appliances to your heating and cooling systems. Switch out windows for more energy efficient ones. As an added benefit, you’ll enjoy lower utility bills.

Add Technology

Smart home products are popular options in today’s marketplace and can help increase your home’s value. You might consider installing a smart thermostat, camera system, lighting system, locks, and a fire/carbon monoxide system.

Improve Landscaping

The outside of your home is just as important as the inside, so don’t overlook the value of great landscaping. There’s something to be said for curb appeal. Think of the landscaping as the first impression. You hopefully won’t show up at job interview wearing torn blue jeans. Invite visitors into your home from the moment they arrive with plants, flowers, walkways and interesting hardscape features.


Nothing refreshes a home more than a coat of paint—both on the inside and the outside. If you’re looking to sell soon, stick to neutral colors. Other than that, let the paint color set the tone for your design style. Paint can add drama or create a soothing surrounding. Paint can also help restore worn or dirty areas of your home. Work with your designer to select the right paint colors for your home remodel.

Increase Your Home’s Value with a Remodel by Schroeder Design/Build

At Schroeder Design/Build, we have professional architects and designers on staff to help you design, build and outfit your home remodel. Or we can build you a custom home from the ground up! Talk to us about how to increase your home’s value in Northern Virginia.

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You may have been planning to start a home project or remodel this spring and are wondering what to do now that people are being urged or told to stay at home. The coronavirus crisis makes it hard to imagine hiring a designer, shopping for your home or meeting with home pros to talk about a project. But one silver lining of this crisis cloud is that it may be one of most optimal times to do so.

You can stay safely isolated at home and still get started on a project and support the design and construction pros who are such an integral part of our community. If you were already planning a project, or if spending so much time at home has you thinking of improvements you’d like to make, here are some suggestions that will help you improve your home while you support these small businesses.

1. Set Up a Virtual Consult

“Keeping people employed helps the overall economy,” architect Jonathan Kuhn says. And during this crisis, an advantage for homeowners is that many pros have more time on their hands than they normally would — no commutes, site visits, show houses or markets are keeping them from working on your project. Fill that time with a virtual consultation.

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See Schroeder Design/Build’s plan for Virtual Consultations.

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