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How to Design Your Home With Pets in Mind

Build a log or timber home that all family members are sure to love.

Written by Dan Mitchell
Adobe ©vubaz
Our pets are a huge part of our families; yet somehow as we prepare to build a new log or timber frame home, we forget to take our fur babies into account.
When I’m meeting with new custom home clients, I always ask if they have animals that are important parts of their lives, and about 80 percent of the time, they do. But almost none of them have thought about building their homes with their pets in mind.
Just like we’d factor in the humans who will live in the household, there are design and construction tactics we can take in the planning stage to make our pets’ lives (and ours) easier and more enjoyable. Let’s explore key concepts that will help everyone — no matter how many legs they have — feel right at home.

Social by Design

Dogs and cats are both social and protective. When we welcome them into our homes, they want to be where the family spends its time so they can keep a watchful eye on us and be part of the action.
To complicate matters, when you move, animals need to reestablish their territory. Just like a home’s human inhabitants, it takes time to get used to new surroundings, but there are things you can do to make this process easier.
Start by building a sanctuary for them into each room where you and your family will spend the majority of your time together. It can be as easy as integrating a nook or alcove near your home’s fireplace. They love the warmth from the hearth; they seek the snug, safe feeling they get from the den-like environment; and they appreciate that they’re spending time with you. 
Perfect for a great room, an office and even a bedroom, this simple, affordable strategy helps to keep pets off the furniture (if that’s important to you) by giving them a secure spot of their own, and it stops items like bedding and toys from getting in the way of your walking path. Ensure the alcove is appropriately scaled for the size of your pet and that it’s comfortable. If it’s not, they won’t use it and your efforts will be for naught.
Pets also like to eat in a consistent place, so determine early on where you plan to feed them. For many owners, that area is in the kitchen or the mudroom, but as we all know, pets can be messy eaters and their bowls can become tripping hazards if the spot where you put them is not thoughtfully planned.  A feeding station, with a pullout drawer for the dishes is a common solution (this can even be integrated into your kitchen cabinetry). Make mealtime more convenient by installing an inexpensive cold-water tap at ground level so that it hovers above the water bowl. There are even tongue-triggered spigot adaptors and motion-activated faucets that allow the pets to keep the fresh water flowing all by themselves. (I do recommend a drip tray beneath it, as a safeguard.)
Dogs and cats also like to keep an eye on what’s going on in the outside world, so make sure your home’s design has windows that are low enough for Fido or Fluffy to enjoy the view, just like you do.

CrownPoint Cabinetry 

Material Matters

When you have indoor pets, the floor covering you choose is one of the key decisions you’ll make.
In log and timber homes, hardwood floors are the most common; however, wood, particularly softer species like pine, may not hold up the best to scratches from nails and claws. Engineered hardwoods tend to be a little more durable, but for true scratch-resistance, porcelain tile with a wood look can give you the traditional log and timber style you want with the resilience you need. 
Another option is LVP (luxury vinyl plank), which is extremely durable, mimics the look of wood and provides a softer, more forgiving surface underfoot. Its slight texture and grip also helps pets, particularly older ones, keep their balance and prevent falls.
It’s no secret that pets and carpets are a tough combo. For starters, carpeting holds hair and dander. It also can allow fleas to fester. At its worst, if your pet has an accident, it will harbor that smell — even after you clean it — and potentially trigger a repeat offense. (This can happen with true hardwoods as well.)

Jubach Log Homes photo by Joe Hilliard

Cleanliness is Next to Dogliness

More people are working at home than ever before, which is fantastic for spending time with our pets, but also makes it tough to keep our houses clean.
Whether it’s a pet or a person, there are more chances to bring in dirt and debris from the outside.
To keep things tidy, pet-washing stations are a huge emerging trend in custom homes. Often in the mudroom, laundry area, garage or as a dedicated room unto itself, the space typically includes a basin raised to waist level (to take it easy on your back), a sprayer, water-resistant flooring and a cabinet or built-in shelving for supplies and towels. Often, people will keep feeding stations or litter boxes here, too. Owners get very creative in these spaces, with features like animal-print wallpaper or tile, personalized racks for leashes, etc.
No matter how often you bathe your pet, you’ll still have to deal with dander and flying fur, degrading your indoor air quality. There are two key ways to tackle that.
First, install a central vacuum system, which is literally installed into the infrastructure of the home, with strategically placed portals where you attach the hose. They’re high powered, efficient and convenient to use, and they blow the debris directly out of the house.
Second, a high-quality air-filtration system, like a HEPA filter, will greatly improve the air you and your pets breathe. Couple that with an ARV (an air-recovery ventilation) system, will continuously supply fresh, conditioned air into the house.
If your pet needs to go outside, either to relieve itself or simply for entertainment, this, too, can be easy to manage and maintain. Pet doors have come a long way in terms of energy efficiency and safety. They can be installed in an existing door or an exterior wall, which, in a log or timber home, is as easy as installing a window. Simple models stay sealed with a magnetic strip, while high-tech units are activated by a sensor on your pet’s collar. 
Once outside, many people are installing porous artificial turf  with a gravel underlayment in one area of the yard and enclosing that spot with either visible or invisible fencing designating that as the pet’s bathroom area. This turf is easily cleaned with a garden hose and you won’t accidentally step in waste scattered about the grass.

Photo: Getty ©vicnt

Pets that Soar, Swim and Slither

Some pets don’t roam the house at will the way dogs and cats do, but that doesn’t mean their unique needs shouldn’t be considered. In fact, in many ways, planning for them at the onset is even more vital than it is for our fur babies.
Several years ago, I built an aviary for a client who loved finches. The room was located near an all-season porch and positioned so that the birds could see outside but was able to be sealed off, since the birds could get noisy at times.
Another client raised large reptiles and snakes, so my team built her a dedicated vivarium — right in her living room — that had radiant floor heat and special lamps to create the right atmosphere for them.
Of course fish tanks are common, but you can really step it up by building a custom aquarium wall. These take quite a bit of upfront planning, as you need to factor in the weight of the water-filled tank on the subfloor, control the humidity and filtration systems and, of course, install a portal to feed them. But they create such a tranquil, soothing vibe in a home. 
Bottom line: Your pets are part of your family and your household. Consider their environment as you plan your log or timber home and you’ll all have a happier, healthier life.

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