Cork Flooring 101 – Part Two

By administrator On April 9th, 2013

Let us now take a look at the considerations one must be aware of before opting for cork flooring.  This is important because this type of flooring is not exactly cheap.  And if you’re going to put in money on cork flooring, you should know what this entails over the long term.

This type of flooring demands regular maintenance.  The material is absorbent by nature, even when sealed properly.  There is always a chance of cork getting stained because of dirt and spillage.  For the very same reason, cork flooring is not particularly suited for moist environments.  The flooring should be sealed and resealed to ensure that the material remains protected and free from moisture.

Heavy furniture placed on cork flooring can lead to formation of divots and also cracks; therefore, such furniture should have some kind of cushioning under the legs.  Maintenance of cork flooring may be a chore, but with regular maintenance, this kind of flooring can last for years.  The most common sizes for cork planks are 12” X 12” or 12” X 24”.

Cork flooring is best installed by an experienced installer.  There is no harm; however, in home owners knowing a thing or two about how cork flooring should be installed.  The underlying surface should be smooth and dry.  Masonite and plywood are preferred surfaces.  If the installation has to be done on concrete, ensure that a vapor barrier is put in place so that cork remains protected from moisture.

Avoid installing cork flooring over underfloor heating systems.  Very often cork flooring comes with the adhesive already applied on the underside.  The flooring may alter its size with changes in temperature and humidity.  Therefore, keep an allowance of 1/8 inch so that there is room for expansion.

Cork flooring should not be installed over underfloor heating systems as they can cause the tiles to curl or the adhesive to become loose.  Give the glued flooring between twenty-four – forty-eight hours to get firmly stuck to the substrate.  Polyurethane is a popular sealant applied mainly at the seams and over the material body to form a protective layer.

Sweep and vacuum clean the flooring regularly to keep it free of dirt, dust, and grime.  In the absence of regular cleaning, particles of dirt and dust rub against the protective covering and wear it down.  This allows moisture to creep in and affect the flooring.  Take advice from the manufacturer regarding the application of polish and sealant, take note of the brands recommended and the frequency of application.

Kitchen cabinets – endless beautiful options

By administrator On April 4th, 2013

Kitchen cabinets, although utility items, add so much beauty and character to kitchens.  From the days before World War I to today, the kitchen cabinet has evolved and with it the look of the kitchen too has undergone changes.

The kitchen cabinets of today are ergonomically designed using technology and materials that were not available even 100 years ago.  Today, cabinets come with deep drawers, pull-out shelves and sponge trays.  Garbage containers can be skilfully hidden and yet easily removed.  You can store a lot in small spaces without crowding the area.

Kitchen cabinet refacing and refinishing have evolved tremendously.  Today, environmental friendly processes and materials continue to gain favor with families.  Cabinets are invariably constructed using wood.  Particleboard is another favorite, and seems to offer some advantages over hardwood and plywood.  The latter two are costlier.  Their repairs can only be done by a qualified person.

The is no end to the number of cabinets, you can have in your kitchen.  Cabinets can be placed both above and below the countertops.  If you wish for a modernist look, then consider metal cabinets.

When having cabinets installed, consider the workflow and the layout of your kitchen.  You are going to be using this cabinets for a long time and you want to be to be able to work comfortably everyday.

Cork Flooring 101 – Part One

By administrator On April 2nd, 2013

Cork flooring offers two cool advantages – aesthetics and comfort. It’s easy on the feet and shins and kids taking a tumble on cork flooring are not likely to suffer any injuries.

Yes, the humble cork used to cap wine bottles and inside balls makes an excellent flooring material; one that has been used for more than a hundred years.  It is a wonderful sound insulator and has found favor as a flooring material in libraries and churches. No reason why you can’t use it in your kitchen though.

Cork is considered an environment friendly and sustainable flooring option; over the past few years there has been a surge in the interest in this material as a flooring option. Given that these are slightly expensive flooring options, you may wish to install cork flooring in your den or kitchen – areas with smaller floors to cover.

Cork is harvested from the cork oak trees every nine years; it is the bark from the tree. Portugal is one of the world’s major producers of cork.  Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco are other known producers of cork.

The first priority or preference is cork stoppers  for wine bottles.  What remains is known as post industrial waste and can be used for a number of purposes, flooring being one of them.  Leftover cork is ground and pulverised, boiled and then with the help of adhesive resins,  it is rolled into sheets. You can get a number of design options with cork. You can choose from up to forty colors. Cork can cost between $ 4 – $ 8 per square foot depending upon the quality of the material and design pattern selected.

It is interesting to note that some cork planks carry fiberboard within them for added sturdiness.  The cushioning effect of cork comes from the structure of cork bark cells that have air or gas trapped within them.  It is possible to compress cork up to 40% and with its elastic behaviour, it quickly regains its original shape and size.  This makes it well-suited for flooring purposes.

Let’s take a quick look at what the benefits of cork flooring are –

  • Natural shock absorbance because of the trapped air between cells
  • Appears beautiful and is very different
  • Sound absorbance and noise reduction
  • Very durable and easy to maintain


Funding Your Home Renovation

By administrator On October 6th, 2009

Home owners that decide to go in for a renovation are often faced with a dilemma regarding the nature and source of funds for their remodeling. The extent of remodel, your present financial condition, and also the cause for remodel play a role in deciding what funding type will best serve your purpose. If it is a small remodeling job, probably the best thing to do is to pay out of your own pocket and not incur a loan with the risk of your credit score being affected if you fail to pay on time.

You can consider a HELOC or a bank loan if you are planning a remodel that will help you sell the house at a profit in the near future. You can pay off the loan amount easily with the money from your house sale.

The advantage of using your own money, whether cash or savings is that you have a ready interest-free reserve of money; the disadvantage of course is that you deplete your savings.

Small renovations can be carried out using your credit card provided you can pay off the amount at the end of the month; this way you avail an interest-free loan. You could also consider a zero-interest loan that has a period of six months to twelve months. The plus of using a credit card is that you can accumulate some major credit card points, you can avail a zero-interest loan for a long period and then it is also possible to move to another zero-interest loan. The downside is that you are faced with a big interest charge if you fail; also you may use more money than you are actually capable of repaying in time.

A home equity loan is an age-old way to finance a home improvement or a remodeling project. The advantage is that these loans have lower interest rates; the drawback is that you deplete your equity in your property. These loans are best availed for particular home remodeling jobs that will add to the value of the home.

A great way to cut costs and save on remodeling expenses is to get friends and family to pitch in and help with the project. Although you will pay for the materials used, you save on labor and the process to will be enjoyable. The only thing you’ve got to be careful about is that you need people who know their way around tools – try and get things done right the first time itself. Time is also a cost that you need to consider.

How Do You Save on Remodeling Costs?

By administrator On October 5th, 2009

The first thing to check is if you indeed do require a remodeling – you save a lot on prospective remodeling by simply not doing it. But what if you do need a remodel? In that case you have to do some research to find out the best cost saving means so that your remodel gives you the desired look with minimum expense.
• Be intelligent in choosing your source of funding. If it is an addition that you are going for, then it is a major expense and you may require a loan. A HELOC or a home equity loan is any day a better option than a personal loan. If you are already having a mortgage, then you are best advised not to go for a major renovation. Stay away from a second mortgage.

• If you can refurbish old structural elements such as walls and floors, it will always work out cheaper than giving the walls and floors a new finish.

• You will save on cost if you build upward instead of outward. If you go for an addition outward, it will work out expensive because of the foundation work involved.

• As far as possible avoid moving the plumbing because the moment you touch the plumbing, the remodeling costs shoot up. See if you can plan a bathroom and kitchen remodel without having to move the plumbing. The same is true for electrical wiring work.

• Consider all the jobs that can be done as DIY projects; but be careful here. Many jobs are specialized and require more than one person. Also the tools required for certain home remodeling projects are specialized and are mastered with some training.

• Consider staying at your house while the work is on. Renting an apartment is an option but do you really want to do it? It is a cost that can be avoided if you are willing to rough it out for a few days.

• Compare costs between remodeling contractors; ask them about discounts on their labor as well as material. Get references on the people you wish to work with. It will save you both time and money if you’re working with good remodelers that can get a job done right the first time itself.

Kitchen Design Issues To Avoid

By administrator On June 3rd, 2009

For some reason we tend to approach kitchen remodels with the greatest passion and anything going wrong after our ideas have been executed causes us major distraction. Often it is nothing serious, small stuff like some chipped paint or grease marks on stainless steel appliances. Here are some things that you can avoid to lessen heartburn later on.

The first thing is to be involved; do not give the carte blanche to decide on what to do. You are paying so you make the decisions, of course…informed decisions made in consultation with the contractor. Left to their own devices, contractors are liable to place the dishwasher away from the sink.

See that you consider the durability of the material. Soapstone is soft and if you use in around the sink, then don’t wash heavy cooking pots in the sink or the stone will chip. Countertop material durability is an important consideration.

Placing wooden cabinetry above the sink is a big no no. The steam from liquids that you pour into the sink while cooking will invariably affect the wood. Also water sloshing in the sink will hurt the wood.

When adding new appliances, consider present family size and any near future additions; having the right-sized fridge can save you a lot of hassles if you have four kids and two adults in the house. Check out energy efficient appliances.

Research; don’t go for a material or an appliance because your neighbor has installed it. If your neighbor has added a granite countertop, it does not mean you too should go for it; especially if you work regularly with glassware. If your feet are worn, then don’t go for tiled flooring. Consider wood. If you wish to use certain out-of-the way materials like bamboo then ensure that it is mature. Preferably do not use it in places where traffic is going to be high. Kitchen floor is a high traffic place in most homes.

Avoid using material susceptible to heat and moisture near the cooking area. For example thermofoil on cabinets close to the gas will melt over time. It is important to ensure that the cooking range is hooded so that smoke and steam finds an outlet.

With appliances it is worthwhile to go in for a quiet noise-free model; these may cost more. So a dishwasher that makes around 46 – 49 decibels of noise is worth the additional dollars.

With kitchen remodeling, if you wish to reduce the number of regrets that you will have later on then first of all have a clear idea of what you want; then budget accordingly for the material and labor. Get expert opinion and then finally go with your gut feel.

Kitchen Countertop Options – part one

By administrator On June 2nd, 2009

The kitchen countertop adds functionality and glamour to your kitchen; there’s a whole range of options available in terms of materials, design, and of course cost. Here’s a lowdown on what’s available in the market for you.

Engineered stone is durable and tough like granite and can take a lot of abuse. But it’s cold and hard like all stone. It gives the natural look of stone but does not ask for the maintenance associated with stone. This type of stone is resistant to heat and stains. It does not scratch and can take a lot of wear. Its cost can range from $60 to $120 for per foot installed.

Natural stone is one of the all-time favorites and has been used since ages. Marble, granite, and limestone are time-honored materials. Natural stone offers a wide variety of options in colors, grains, textures. This type can fit in with all design schemes and hence offers versatility to your remodeling plan. It can set you back by $60 to $120 per square foot installed.

People are going for concrete because it is different and lighter than stone. Also low-end concrete is not very expensive. $60 per square foot is standard rate. Concrete can be embellished with stones, tiles, various designs, and can be painted. Besides concrete does not show any seams; it can be applied smoothly.

Of all man-made alternatives, stainless steel is perhaps the most durable. It does not rust and nor does it discolor. It is very easy to maintain and can take a lot of abuse. Acids, vinegar, coffee, juices, etc will not stain it. Bacteria cannot grow on it. The flip side to stainless steel is that it has a cold and sterile feel; also smudges and surface abrasions will show on it.

Copper too is a metal option but exudes warmth unlike steel. It is non-porous and thus does not attract bacteria. Copper acquires a green patina over time because of oxidation. Like steel, copper will also scratch. Its cost like that of steel ranges between $130 and $200. Customization and your region may add to or reduce the cost.

Ceramic tile is another option that offers a lot of scope for customization because of the size, shape, and color varieties available. The tiles are easy to repair and individual tiles can easily be replaced if damaged. However maintenance can be a problem as the grouting needs regular cleaning or it could foster bacteria. You may also have to buy extra tiles and store them as they may be out of stock later on. Custom layouts and specialty tiles will cost more.

Home Remodeling – How to Manage the Operations

By administrator On June 1st, 2009

You need two things to get a home remodel done – money and good interpersonal skills. Why do you need good interpersonal skills? To get the work done! Yup, unless you’re doing a total DIY job, you need to have good man management skills because you will be interacting with a host of people including the contractor, sub-contractor, workers, building inspectors, etc.

If you and the building contractor have a clear understanding of the expectations of the remodeling job then you will begin the job on the right note. You really want to avoid surprises as these can lead to an escalation in the budget and time required for doing the job.

A proper remodeling specification plan should be the blueprint for reference. It should include the work to be done. Design specifications are key. You can download specification sheets from the net. Specifications will be for the areas of the house that you need to remodel.

First, the building specification plan should list the size of each room and also the type. Mention the layout, the plumbing, electrical wiring, flooring, door and window types and placement, and also the brand and make of appliances and materials used.

The spec sheet should mention the type and style of your house – it could be a Tudor-style house or a bungalow inspired by French architecture. Mention the number of floors. Are you planning to add a basement? What is the height of the ceiling on each floor?

Are you planning to assign new roles to the rooms? Will you shift the kitchen and master bedroom upstairs? If so, then what type of closets are you planning to add to the bedroom – walk-in or standard? Are there any special rooms that you wish to add? Like a breakfast room or a sun room? It is important that you identify rooms that are supposed to be adjacent to one another. This is an important aspect of planning a layout. So a master bedroom and master bathroom are together; the kitchen and dining room are close by, etc. At the same time you have to identify rooms that should not be next to one another – for example kitchen and library, bathroom and living room, etc.

Pay special attention to basement and attic remodeling, if you plan to carry out these. Note if any remodeling that you will do is capable of affecting the structural integrity of your home.

Remodel Planning for a Small House

By administrator On May 25th, 2009

A small well-planned kitchen is often preferable to a large one in which stuff is scattered and the workstations are far from one another. Kitchens need special attention because they need more money to develop. You can use creativity, for example use the soffits above the cabinets can be used for storage of items not used often. If space is a constraint, you need to adjust. You can add laundry equipment to the kitchen area and even a shower in one corner to save on bathroom space. Just a thought, it may work for some. It can actually help lower plumbing intricacy and costs.

A separate dining room may no longer be feasible for most families. You should try and incorporate dining space into the living area or the kitchen; maybe a folding table can do the job for a family of three. Or you can have a dining room double up as a guest room or childrens’ study.

Furniture arrangement is an important factor in allotting space in a room and also to regulate the traffic direction and flow. The living room should be such that adults and children can have their own space at the same time.

If you make good use of the walls for storage, you can save on space that would otherwise be used for dressers and storage units. This can give you space for slightly larger beds or more aisle way for movement. Keep in mind that if you think from a perspective of being tidy and uncluttered, it will help you in designing a home for small spaces.

When remodeling a small house, you should be aware of those remodels that can help raise resale costs. You can save money by doing some remodeling yourself. See what you can do to make the space appear roomier, lighting is one way – natural or artificial either will work. Have south-facing windows to get more heat during the winter months. Consider a sliding glass door instead of a wall to increase natural light into a room and also to extend activities outdoors. Whatever changes you make, check if they can cause any problems to the structure, consult an architect.

Bathroom windows can be high up to free wall-space; it adds to privacy and also helps increase the amount of light coming into the room. If you’re installing skylights make sure these are burglar proof. A great way to increase space is to knock down walls but before doing so check if the wall is an essential support wall necessary for structural integrity. You could also remove the flat ceiling to expose the rafters and maybe add an attic.

Living Considerations for Small Houses

By administrator On May 25th, 2009

The real estate situation in the US today is not like the old times; price pressures mean that home sizes are growing smaller by the day. High interest rates mean that you cannot really hope to invest in big homes that require maintenance, may also require a lot of time and effort for remodeling, if you ever decide on it. Now-a-days families are considering compact houses and even mobile homes that range from 500 sq feet to 1200 sq feet.

Those that live in small homes and those aspiring to move into compact housing know that the key to successful living in small houses is organization. Developing a small residential space should be such that there are designated areas for activities; all the stuff should not happen at the same place. You have to learn to store and keep only the stuff that you need; you cannot afford to live in an unorganized manner in a constrained living space. Closets and cabinets should be built such that they make best use of the wall-space. Not only the wall-space, you also need to manage the floor space such that the room does not get unnecessarily cluttered. Those living in confined spaces need to respect one another’s personal area. Another idea is to purchase multipurpose items so that they can save on space. House decoration should be kept simple so that you get a balance between esthetics and livability.

A little research on the Internet will show you how to make the best use of every inch of living space available to you. This will help you in distinguishing a poorly designed home from a well-designed one. Privacy and ease of use are key features. Even something like grills on the windows can be used for storage. Large windows give the impression of roominess.

When developing a house, avoid extra-wide doors, deep closets, and anything that could take away from the appearance of the house. Since privacy is often a consideration with small dwellings, you could consider using sound-absorbent material for the partitions. A cardinal rule for small spaces is that traffic should flow from the corners of the room and not the center. Place glass on south side to catch the winter sun and ensure energy efficiency.