How to Handle Remodeling Contingencies – part two

By administrator On May 29th, 2009

As a homeowner it is your responsibility to be aware of how job responsibilities are delineated; you should know who you are communicating with. Breaking down responsibilities and establishing roles is key to ensuring a smooth remodel job. If clear roles are not established there will be communication gaps between the contractor, architect, and appliance supplier.

Whether it is connecting the dishwasher to the plumbing, or the ducting for the hood over the cooking range, moving the stove and the electrical outlet, repair and repainting work after cabinet removal, or any such issue… read and learn and apply the learning to your own situation.

Keep some money separate for contingencies; this is particularly relevant for old homes where tear-outs may reveal old wiring and worn-out plumbing. Unexpected costs are a reality of the remodeling experience and you need to factor it into your remodeling budget. Also factor in the time required for the unexpected repairs. You may have to bring the wiring and plumbing to match with local building code. If such work is done, the installation people will probably be required to schedule a visit from a building inspector to ensure that the work done is up to code.

A step-by-step kitchen remodel will proceed thus – first the water is turned off and the sink is removed; this is followed by counters and cabinets. Flooring comes out last. Install the base cabinets before you begin to fabricate the countertops. The sink gets installed after the countertops have been installed.

Let the installers work and do not interfere while they are at it. Keep children away from the work site. Maintain a record of work and tick what gets completed. You do not have to go about the entire remodeling at one go; it can be a strain on your lifestyle and budget. Instead do it in phases. Importantly when you remodel, focus on remodeling work that adds to the worth of your property so that if you wish to sell it, the property can command a good price.

How to Handle Remodeling Contingencies – part one

By administrator On May 28th, 2009

Remodeling can be successful only if you plan; your objective has to be to get as many remodeling activities right the first time round itself; doing anything again means additional cost. Read from as many good resources as you can, this article offers valuable guidance on what you need to do so that you can meet your remodeling challenges head on without much fuss and fluster.

The first thing is to have a floor plan ready wherein you detail the work to be done; the furniture to be moved, etc. And while you’re having time before work begins you can utilize it to get rid of unwanted stuff from the cabinets. Prepare cardboard boxes and containers for storing stuff that will be used again. Label the containers; do these things as it will help you with moving material around the house and also rearrange the tings once the remodeling is complete.

Plan what you want to do with stuff that you have discarded, you can hold a garage sale or donate it to charity; get it out of your house fast so that you have space for the new things and room to move about. For some of the old appliances you could check if there is any exchange scheme going on with the appliance dealer. Ask your remodeler if he will take care of the disposal.

You will need to cover doors, windows, and walls with plastic sheeting to protect them from dust, grime, and scratches during the remodeling work. Again, some remodelers may include this service in their job and some will expect you to do it. This is particularly important if people in your family are allergic to dust.

Another useful thought is to prepare cooking space away from the kitchen for the time it will be under remodeling work. You could also start gathering coupons and look up deals in your favorite restaurants so that you can save on the eating out expenditure. For cooking at home, keep paper plates handy, it’s a good idea to microwave stuff as it is fast and easy. Maybe you could do some grilling in the backyard – have a picnic when you can. Stock on canned ingredients and juices. Do not start dismantling your kitchen unless you are all ready to being remodeling. If you do so and work gets delayed you will needlessly be stuck with a non-functional kitchen for days on end. Even when you do decide to tear a kitchen or any other room down, do it in stages, do not strip all of it in one go.

Home Improvement Home Truths – part two

By administrator On May 5th, 2009

It’s important for your money’s worth and your peace of mind that you don’t get stuck with an unscrupulous contractor who takes you on a frustrating ride. Be wary of contractors that solicit customers aggressively and actually ring your bell asking you if you need their services. Contractors are not door-to-door salespeople. You can say that the contractor is a rip-off agent if he offers you discounts for getting other customers. It’s not normal for contractors to offer affiliate propositions when asking for business. Home remodeling contractors advertise in yellow pages, telephone directories, websites, cable TV, newspapers, etc. All these are legit channels of advertising. If he says he’s got materials left over from a previous job, be aware that something is not right. Back off if the guy says he works only with cash payments. Usually these guys know the rules about getting the building permits, if he asks you to get the permits it means he’s probably on the wrong side of the law.

If his business name and number are not listed in a telephone directory, it should raise your suspicions. Stop conversations with him immediately. You can check with the Better Business Bureau if these guys are registered there and if they are do they have a good record.

In any situation don’t let them pressure you into making an immediate decision and ask him what he means when he says that your project will be a “demonstration”. Does it mean that he doesn’t have the background and information to carry out a home improvement project as you want it? A rip-off guy will hunt for gullible customers by offering extra-long guarantees and try to squeeze the entire payment upfront. If you fall for a guy like this, you probably deserve it. All your danger signals and bells should start buzzing if the guy suggests that you could borrow at cheap rates from a lender he knows. You could actually sign your house away to a home improvement scamster.

Consumer protection officials can always tell you if a contractor has any cases pending against him. If a contractor has been in the business for a sufficient period of time then he would have been careful of his reputation. Keep in mind that a lack of record of previous complaints does not mean that there have been no previous complaints.

Home Improvement Home Truths – part one

By administrator On May 1st, 2009

It’s a known home improvement home truth that two important factors for the success of a home remodeling project are having the finances ready and finding the right contractor to do the job for you within your budget.

The success of your home improvement project depends upon the competency of your contractor. The reason why you need to be very careful in initiating a home improvement project is because your home is a very important financial asset for you. The first thing in screening contractors is to get references. Ask your references about the value the contractors will give you for the money spent. Will they subcontract the work? Will they help you get the necessary permits? Will they stay on the job till the end? Are they offering discounts? The more prepared you are with the questions, the better are your chances of getting a good job done.

Get estimates in writing, compare them; ask questions about the variations in price. A lowest bid may be attractive but does it give you the kind of service you want or will it leave you in the lurch. Does the contractor cover injury expenses to his workers while on job? Be open to work with more than one home improvement professional and contractor. This depends upon the scale and nature of your remodeling project. A general contractor is a guy who will work on all aspects of your remodeling. He will look after the hiring and supervising of subcontractors, get the inspections done and obtain building permits. General contractors have the necessary skill and experience to co-ordinate with architects and designers.

You may wish to work with specialty contractors to have your cabinets and bath fixtures. If the remodel involves major design and structural changes, you could consider an architect. Designers usually have specific areas of expertise such as kitchens, baths, lawns, etc. If you wish to work with just one firm you should check with design / build contractors that offer a one-stop service from start to finish. Some companies have architects on their staff while others use consultants.

So here you are…some ideas for you to consider when deciding to select a home improvement contractor. In the next piece we discuss how not to get ripped off when going for a home improvement job.

Simply Great Remodeling Tips – Two

By administrator On April 16th, 2009

If you are remodeling with the intention of selling the house in the near future, adding space can be a real temptation; but do a cost-benefit analysis because creating more space can be a real budget buster because you need to erect walls and a roof. You can see if your house construction lends itself to space reconfiguration in which you can borrow space from an adjacent room. An in-built wall closet can give space for the bathroom.

If you wish to expand outside the existing floorspace see that you stay within the roofline if possible, creating a new roofline can be expensive. Check if your present heating / cooling equipment will be able to accommodate the increase in space. If not you will incur additional costs in installing new air conditioners.

If you wish to change appliances in the kitchen or bathroom, choose energy-savers that will help lower your electricity bills. In the first place check if you actually need to change appliances at all, you can simply remodel around them and just let them be. Keep in mind that if you touch something like plumbing, gas lines, or electrical wiring, you could be in for major overhaul costs. Think multiple times before deciding upon working on these.

Here’s a neat tip – change faucets if you have to but if you wish to save then do not look beyond chrome; it is the least expensive one. Brass and porcelain faucets are terribly expensive. Also select faucets with replaceable parts so that you don’t have to replace the entire faucet if something goes wrong. Neutral colors for fixtures are less expensive, you are less liable to go wrong with them and should color trends change they won’t appear out of fashion.

Flooring is a vast area as far as remodeling is concerned; you can get lost in the choices offered. See that you ensure visual consistency in a room and moving from one room to the other. If you’re lucky your vinyl flooring may actually have a hardwood flooring underneath that is still serviceable and only needs some sanding and polishing. You can opt for floor leveler material to install new vinyl flooring, this way you will be saved the labor of tearing up the flooring.

Cabinets are another cost item; cabinet installation can often mean new flooring and new countertops. So give this one a thought, maybe you’re better off with some good cabinet refacing. Standard cabinetry without soffits costs less than custom cabinet designs.

Simply Great Remodeling Tips – One

By administrator On April 15th, 2009

You may an experienced hand at getting your home remodeled or this may be your first time; there’s always room for learning and picking up new ideas. So here are some super remodeling tips that are sure to save you dollars and give you a satisfying remodeling experience.

The key to saving money is to hire a contractor that knows his job. A contractor familiar with the building code of your area and your remodeling requirements is bound to save you time and money. You don’t want to end up reworking on remodels that do not meet building code.

After selecting the contractor get a proper contract written that spells out his responsibilities and the costs you incur. Also find out if the work is going to be subcontracted.

Plan the details ahead with the contractor as much as possible; this will prevent you from making hasty decisions later on. The choice of materials is perhaps the biggest contributor to costs, so shop accordingly. It is possible to achieve a given look with more than one material, so consider the inexpensive material.

Check if there’s any labor-intensive work that does not require much skill which you may wish to take on yourself as a DIY job. Laying of tiles is an example. You may wish to do the remodeling in stages to reduce costs. You can start small and keep adding to the remodel over intervals of time. But do some arithmetic first, you need to see if staging a remodel works out cheaper or getting it done in one go is less expensive. Getting everything done in one shot can get you discounts from the contractor as well as on materials.

Your contractor is a knowledgeable person who can help you make design and material choices so make use of his experience, involve him in the remodeling discussions.

A remodel does not have to be a major one to revitalize a room; a small paint job can make it more energetic. Think on these lines. If the walls are cosmetically damaged you can simply wallpaper them and save on repair costs. The same holds true with textured wall finishes, they can help mask minor damages. Try and avoid moving windows as this does not really help to save costs.

Home Remodel Primer – Part One

By administrator On March 23rd, 2009

A home remodel is essentially a 5-step process. Here in this series of articles we shall take you through the entire process so that at the end of it you will know exactly how to take your home remodeling project forward.

The first step is to know if you indeed wish to get into home remodeling or would you rather sell the house and move into a new one. You may wish to go in for a remodel even if you’re planning on selling the house. A remodeled house can often recoup the cost of remodeling and add to your net profit from the sale of a home.

If you decide to remodel then you need to know what to remodel and have an idea of the costs involved. The extent of your home remodeling is limited by the budget in hand therefore the ideas that you come up with will have to strike a balance between your remodeling requirements and cost.

Another factor that influences the cost element is the specifications of the remodel; only when you get down to the specifics will you get an idea of what the actual costs will be. Materials, processes, time required, scale of the remodel, etc all need to be considered. These factors are decided by the functionality and esthetics that you wish to achieve from the remodel. If you wish to sell the home then there may be a certain minimum standard that you may have to meet before you can put it up for sale.

Once you have an idea of the remodel to a certain level of detail you need to see if you have the finances for it or will you have to look outwards for a loan. If you decide to take a loan then you have to shop for the best possible rates and see to it that you qualify for them. You can compare rates online and research on the best options available to you.

The last step is to look for a contractor that will take you through the entire process of remodeling. You can decide upon the aspects of remodeling that you wish to tackle yourself as DIY projects. The contractor you select should be one that has good references, a solid reputation, is patient, has a clear understanding with you on the scope of the project, and delivers on time.

Green Remodeling Checklist – Part 1

By administrator On March 10th, 2009

So you want to go green? Practice green remodeling, okay. Here’s a handy checklist for you to follow.

• If you are planning on some landscape remodeling then your key concern should be to conserve topsoil and the existing plants. You should draw a line regarding the extent of construction and also things like heavy equipment and cars running over the topsoil. If for some reason the topsoil has to be moved then you can use it for any paving that you may be planning.

• Plan ahead, you need to plan and visualize a green remodeled home. If you take green remodeling decisions as the construction happens then you will not be able to consider in depth the various choices regarding design and material, cost considerations, better energy use and water efficiency. A design decision has direct cost implications and therefore you need to plan in advance.

• Look for green building materials and try to eliminate hazardous materials. A green product should improve the energy efficiency of a home, it should save water, it should not offgas harmful chemicals after installation, it’s durability should be good, is it made from recycled materials, check if it is manufactured in an environment-friendly manner.

• Consider deconstructing a house instead of demolishing it. Deconstruction may take a little more time but you can salvage valuable building materials that can be contributed to charities. This could get you valuable tax deductions.

• A good way to proceed with a green remodel is to look at things from the perspective of reducing, recycling, and reusing. Materials that can be salvaged include doors, door knobs, windows, countertops, cabinets, window grills, light bulbs, sinks, bricks and so much more. And when you design your new home, you should design for deconstruction. Consider screwing instead of gluing.

• A neat green remodeling trick is to use flyash instead of Portland cement. Portland cement can also be replaced with slag. Flyash is a byproduct of coal-burning in power plants whereas slag comes from the steel industry. Flyash and slag improve strength and improve corrosion resistance of steel. Cement production is highly energy intensive and accounts for around 6% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

• A green remodel should improve the ventilation and insulation of your house in a natural cost-effective manner. Sunlight should be allowed to enter during winter and blocked during summer. The house and the windows should be oriented such that you get maximum benefit from passive solar heating.

Add Space to Your Bathroom without Breaking down the Walls

By administrator On March 4th, 2009

A small bathroom can be made to look big without having to resort to any structural changes. All you need to do is to be creative. Think in terms of increasing the illusion of space and utilizing the existing space in a better manner. If the ceiling is low, consider placing moldings or tiles at the junction of the walls and the ceiling. Vertical stripes create the illusion of a taller wall. Similarly tiles or wallpaper with horizontal lines will give an impression of width space-wise.

Neutral shades and light tone create spaciousness. Consider colors such as white, off-white, yellow, etc. A neat trick is to blend cabinets and counters into the walls by painting them the same light shade as the wall color. When the cabinets and woodwork does not stand out, it appears to be less obstructive. In case you feel the need to add some color, use accessories and linen in bright shades.

Floor space is increased if you have wall-mounted cabinetry. The impression of floor-space is enhanced if it continues uninterrupted. Use cabinets and fixtures of the right size; do not use cabinets that take extra space. A pedestal sink takes less space. There are fixtures available for bathrooms of all sizes; look up the ones for a bathroom of your size.

Remove extra fittings; if you do not use a shower, remove it. If you use a shower primarily and not the bathtub so much then the bathtub is simply taking space.

When considering vanities, you may wish to purchase one that is tall and has a mirror and a good number of drawers. Use corners to build niches to carry various knick-knacks such as toothbrushes, perfumes, deodorants, etc. When natural light enters any space, it enhances the feeling of spaciousness. Place your windows such that sufficient natural light can stream in.

Use mirrors strategically so that light can bounce off their surface and create a feel of roominess. A neat trick is to have two mirrors at right angles. These mirrors will create the illusion of a never-ending room for you.

Remember, creativity is the key. You can have a spacious and well-lit bathroom without having to break down the walls or carry out any drastic remodeling.

Insulation Materials for Your Home

By administrator On March 3rd, 2009

Insulation for your home has a direct effect on your finances and home maintenance costs. If you are planning a remodel – any remodel… kitchen, attic, or basement; you need to take a look at your existing insulation and see if it is still doing the job.

Today there are many green insulation options available that use recycled materials. Moreover our choices are no longer restricted to foam and fiberglass. There are other materials that pose no risk to those with allergies. When selecting insulation material you need to consider its insulation performance or R-value. In the US, exterior walls are expected to have a value of at least R-13 and R-38 is the figure for ceilings. Ceilings need a higher value because heat rises.

Here is a look at some popular insulation materials that you can consider should you wish to work on your house’s insulation.

Fiber has several representatives in the field of insulation. Cellulose insulation material consists of good old recycled newsprint and a fire-retardant material. It offers better insulation as compared to fiberglass and costs around the same.

Cotton is a natural, low-chemical choice as an insulation material. Batts of cotton cloth are treated with fire-retardant material and used for insulation homes.

Today, you can get fiberglass that has up to 40% recycled content in it. The fiberglass is also available in bags which takes care of the problem of flying fibers.

Mineral wool provides excellent insulation against sound, water, and is naturally fire-resistant. It is also resistant to pests. It is one of the best insulation materials out there. Mineral wool fibers are made from basalt rock. The fibers may cause problems similar to fiberglass fibers but the material can also be used as rigid-board foundation insulation.

Sheep wool is an effective and comparatively inexpensive insulation material similar to cotton. It can be used as batts or fiber.

The other major insulation type is foam; here are some foam-based insulation materials.
Cementitious insulation material is made from magnesium oxide cement that is mixed with water, air is pumped into the mixture and the mixture is pumped into cavities. This mix is fireproof and resistant to molds.

Polyurethane foam is made from polyisocyanate. It is available in two types, closed-cell and open cell. Closed cell polyurethane gives a higher R-value. Some qualities of polyurethane foam are made from agricultural products such as soybean oil and sugar. These are environment friendly options.