With a return of family togetherness, smaller living spaces have U.S. families adjusting to new household realities.

Things are getting tight in the American household, and it’s not just the recession squeeze.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2007, the number of parents living in an adult child’s household increased by 67 percent. At the same time, a recent Pew Research Center report (Nov. 2009), shows that one in 10 young adults ages 18 to 35 say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with their parents. Add to that the fact that for the first time in nearly 15 years, the size of new homes in the U.S. is shrinking, (down 7 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau), and it’s clear that the American household may be getting a little too cozy for comfort.

Whatever the cause of these new phenomena—whether it can be blamed on job loss or the more positive signs of Americans’ desires to build closer family bonds during increasingly insecure times—forward-thinking designers, architects and builders are being called upon to consider “proximity with privacy” solutions that will take some of the pressure off crowded households.

The need to relieve tension and stress and promote independence and interaction, yet also provide the much-needed personal space within multigenerational homes, has become a necessity for sandwiched families.

Many experts agree that separate living quarters, which may include a second master suite and even a second kitchen or cottage, are the best solutions for third- and fourth-generations living together. However, with major conversions being out of reach for many financially strapped homeowners, experts such as JELD-WEN, a leading manufacturer of windows and doors, are offering simple solutions designed to work with the many different needs that an extended family may have.

Peace and quiet
There’s no doubt about it: the more people crowded into close quarters, the more noise increases exponentially.

“Most people don’t pay attention to interior sound control,” said John Downs, JELD-WEN
product marketing manager. “However, they may subconsciously experience general discomfort or uneasiness in an area of their home and not realize the impact doors can have to improve this issue. Unfortunately, that means many people are still living with thin, hollow core interior doors that do next to nothing when it comes to blocking sound. Yet switching out interior doors is one of the most cost-effective changes you can make to increase living comfort.”

For a few hundred dollars, replacing interior doors with the latest sound-reducing technology can drastically help control noise.

JELD-WEN’s ProCore® The Quiet Door® is up to 50 percent quieter compared to a hollow core door, effectively blocking out many common household sounds. It also delivers the heft of an all-wood door and is available in a wide variety of stylish designs.

Other lower-cost tips for instilling peace and quiet in the home include testing the sound emission of appliances and household items such as vacuums before purchasing them. Many sound-reducing models cost no more than other new versions, yet won’t significantly contribute to household noise.

Experts also say that at least 25 percent of noisy rooms should have sound-absorbing materials like carpet or wall coverings to prevent loud footsteps from carrying throughout the home. Finally, consider designating a “quiet zone,” such as a spa-like bathroom retreat or a reading nook in the farthest corner of the home, that is free from noisy electronics and the hustle and bustle of family activity.

An increase in household energy
A household full of family members undoubtedly raises the energy level. More people typically means a bigger energy load, as the home is working 24/7 to try to keep up with different schedules and individual demands. That means more household electronics, laundry loads, and heating and cooling needs. This can be an unexpected financial drain on families who may be working hard to conserve limited resources.

One of the best ways to offset the increase in energy demands is to incorporate more energy-saving features that will also increase the home’s comfort level. Highly energy efficient, affordable JELD-WEN® Vinyl windows that are ENERGY STAR® qualified can help reduce utility bills over the long run, saving money month after month. Under the government’s new economic stimulus plan, families can also take advantage of federal tax credits of up to $1,500 for qualified energy efficiency improvements related to items including windows and doors. JELD-WEN has made it easy to determine the specific requirements and which products qualify for the tax credits by visiting http://www.jeld-wen.com/taxcredit.

The federal requirements stipulate that qualified products must be installed between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.
Different needs, universal solutions
As children boomerang back home after college and elderly parents move in with their children, home designs and operations need to function well for both the young and the old.

Safety, including easy-to-operate and secure window and door locks, as well as wider doorways to accommodate increased traffic flow and potential mobility issues, are important considerations. Making sure family members check to ensure fire alarms and fire extinguishers are operable, develop an emergency evacuation plan and create a centralized place for updated emergency numbers are key priorities.

Above all, most experts agree that multigenerational living can be a joyful, rich experience—it simply requires some planning and a shift in what has been the “typical” American lifestyle.

“Americans have gotten so accustomed to bigger houses and bigger spaces, this may be a bit of an adjustment,” said Danny Lipford, home improvement expert and host of Today’s Homeowner television show. “The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do within an existing home to make it more comfortable and accommodating, no matter who ends up coming back home.”

If you have window and doors needs for a multi-generational household, visit The Design Center, a completely new retail concept in the Ballantyne Area outside of Charlotte offering JELD-WEN windows, doors, garage doors as well as professional installation services all in one showroom.
The Design Center is located at 9484 Old Bailes Road, Fort Mill, SC, 29707. The phone number is 800-276-0411.  For further information please visit our website at www.jeld-wen.com.