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Detailing perfection in your house

It is a long drawn-out list that you have to follow while buying a house. The exercise could be more organised by following a must-do list, says VINEETA BADAWE



HOW TO SCORE FULL MARKS: Getting into the nitty-gritty is the only way out for making your house utilitarian.

The saying `God is in the details' is very true as far as houses go. Let us say you have zeroed in on the property and now want to get into the finer details. What are the things that you have to check?

Orientation

Check out which side is North. I don't mean only from vastu point of view. Generally speaking, the well-being of the house and its occupants does depend on the orientation. If you happen to live in Chennai, then it's good if the bedrooms have south-facing windows so that you get good breeze. A kitchen facing east means a welcome morning and refreshing sun.

Bathrooms and kitchen

The most important areas to check carefully are the bathrooms and the kitchen/utility areas. Usually this is where you can assess whether the architect/builder have delivered a quality product. Check the tile joints. Count the number of joints on the kitchen counter the lesser the better. In the bathrooms if the vertical and horizontal joints are aligned (that is, respectively on wall and floor) it's the ultimate, as this exercise is a known teaser! See how the sink meets the counter. If it is protruding on the counter you will have to spend a lot of time cleaning the edges.

For bathroom doors, insist on having a security panel (a small wired opaque glass) so that in case of emergency it can be broken to unlatch the door from outside. This will be especially useful, if you have elderly people at home.

Talking about the bathrooms, make sure that wet and dry areas are clearly demarcated by a tile drop or a threshold. Bathroom flooring should be of an anti-skid variety. Don't get carried away by the glossy tiles they are no good when you slip and fall!

Windows and doors

See if the widow frames have provision for fixing mosquito shutters. You will need them sooner or later. In fact you can insist on the builder providing you with the mosquito shutters. Check the spacing between the window grills. Don't make it big enough to enable the intruder use his hands to open the latch. At the same time it should not be too small to make you feel caged.

Ensure that at least the master bedroom (if not all bedrooms) has cross-ventilation. Very often it can be easily done. Do not buy the builder/architect's argument about the `elevation'. Remember, your house is more for living than for looking at.

And usually a good plan and good elevation does go hand-in-hand. Or, in architect's lingo `form follows function'.

Ensure that window frames have been designed in such a way that you can fix the window air-conditioners. If not get it modified before you move in.

Utility

Plan your laundry area. Most architect/ builders forget this essential feature. Surely you wouldn't want your drying clothesline to hide your elevation, or worse, welcome your guests. If you like to live on the top-floor penthouse, visit the terrace first. Examine the quality of the tiles and water-proofing. See if the overhead tank is built in such a way that there is a clear space between the terrace floor and the bottom of the tank. If the waterproofing is not done properly, you will have wet patches in the first monsoon. If possible wait for the first rainy season till you give an `all clear' to the builder.

Visualise the interior layouts in bedrooms. Make sure that you have an earmarked cupboard space. Also make sure that the fan is provided over the bed and not necessarily in the centre of the room.

Insist on modular switches with two or three additional slots. We do tend to add more gadgets as we go along. In bedrooms and hallways insist on having two-way control for lights and fans.

Always make it a point to inspect the overhead tank, the underground sump, the electrical panel room, generator and the lift machine room. Even if you cannot assess the technical aspects, this visit will give you a fair idea of the quality of overall workmanship and the care the builder has taken. And these areas are as important as your own living room in fact they are the nerves of your home!

Details

To expand more on the theme of "God is in the details'- look at the skirting. Skirting is the vertical tile which is placed at the junction of the floor and wall. See how the skirting tile meets the wall above. If it's flushed with the plaster you will have an easy job of cleaning.

Make sure the builder has not provided you with any small cut tiles especially in the corners. It will make even an expensive floor look cheap.

Natural stone would be the best option. Natural material will age better as compared to artificial tiles.

Ensure that there is at least 1" level difference between the balcony floor and the interior floor to prevent water from entering your living space. Also insist on a sun-shade of minimum 2'6" for the balcony and terrace doors- for the same reason.

Services

If possible, other than the layout, ask for the services drawing which shows the electrical concealed lines and the plumbing lines. It will come in handy when you have to do repairs or remodelling work later.

Ask if the structure is designed as per the earthquake zone IV requirement if it's in Chennai. Ideally the lintel beams should be continuous on the external peripheral walls.

In any case, it's a good thing to have the structural drawings for your file. If you want to break the internal walls for remodelling, this drawing will be very useful.

Remember you can insist on many of these things and you will be well within your rights.

It is good to have South-facing windows in Chennai to get good breeze.

A kitchen facing East will be welcomed by the morning rays of the sun.

The lesser number of tile joints in the kitchen, the better for cleaning the grime and dust collected.

If you can align the vertical and horizontal joints in the bathroom, it is an achievement.

Insist on security panel on bathroom doors. It helps in unlatching during emergencies.

Demarcate the wet and dry areas in the bathroom and make the flooring anti-skid.

Window frames should have provision for mosquito shutters.

The frames also have to be designed to accommodate window air-conditioners.

Ensure that at least the master bedroom has cross ventilation.

Make sure your bedrooms have earmarked cupboard space.

Insist on modular switches, with tow or three additional alots.

Wait for the first rainy season before the final coat of paint is given to the building.

(The author is architect of the two Gold rated `Green buildings' in the country)