Gutter Home Truths

By administrator On May 18th, 2009

As with any aspect of home remodeling and home improvement; there’s a lot of information available on gutters. There are different types of gutters made of different materials costing different amounts suitable for roofing of different types. Gutters may not appear very appealing but their functionality and usefulness is undisputed.

Gutters divert rainwater away from a house and its components. Gutters protect the walls, foundations, siding, and electrical wiring of a house. A roof without gutters can cause serious structural damage to a house in the rainy season. Most superstores sell easy-to-install vinyl and plastic gutters. However these gutters require to be installed with the correct pitch. Also they are not the best equipped to manage heavy rains that call for speedy drainage.

It’s a good idea to confer with neighbors with houses like your own so that you can find out if they are satisfied with the gutters they are using. Installing gutters is an investment and you want to get the best out of your investment.

Wood gutters – These gutters are almost gone from the market – used only in restoration work. They are also on the expensive side of the price spectrum, costing as much as $20/linear foot.

Aluminum gutters are cheap and can hold a greater volume of water. If considering these gutters ensure that you choose thick aluminum. Recycled aluminum may cost less but the gauge is thin and this may make it lose shape when a ladder presses against it or when it battered by rains. It can dent easily.

Vinyl and plastic gutters are ideal for Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts. They are easy to install but can crack when winters are harsh. They also require regular maintenance or they start leaking at the seams. You don’t require any great skills or special tools to install plastic gutters. With a ladder, hacksaw, drill, screws, and tape measure you will be able to install plastic gutters on a roof. See if you can direct the water from the gutters at a point which has a natural slope; this will prevent soil erosion. The edge of the roof should fall over the middle of the gutter so that it is easy to catch water from the gutter. Vinyl gutters are available in 10-foot sections so you need to first be aware of the total roof area that needs a gutter.

Home Remodeling Primer – Part Three

By administrator On March 25th, 2009

The amount that you’re willing to spend on home remodeling is a function of the actual value of your house. It has a direct influence on your decision to either remodel and stay or sell and move out. Ideally your remodel costs should not exceed 25% – 30% of the cost of your house. This is a general rule of thumb but may vary with neighborhood.

The value of your home can be calculated by taking into consideration the type of your house, construction, age of home, locality, market situation, and growth prospects for the locality. You can also check what homes similar to yours are selling for. This will give you an idea on what you can expect from a sale for a given amount of remodeling done.

If you decide to get your home renovated and apply for remodeling finance then you may have to first take the services of a professional appraiser before you can qualify for the loan. You are best placed to remodel and sell your home if you have 100% equity in it. If there are any mortgage costs that you are paying off then it may become a little difficult to avail loans as this directly impacts your borrowing potential.

The amount that you will have to spend on a remodel will vary with the area you live in, time of the year, and of course extent of remodel. Consider factors such as cost of labor as it can send your remodeling budget soaring.

The type of remodel is of course key. Adding a new wing or a garage is far more expensive than doing a kitchen remodel or an attic remodel. A home expansion is like building from scratch and you have to erect walls, add a roof, siding, insulation, electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. Break up the costs into cost of materials, labor, permit fees, enhancements, repairs made necessary by the remodeling, and cost of cleanup post remodeling.

Once you know that these are the factors to consider then you can evaluate contractors in a more objective manner. A contractor’s bid should include information on the cost of permit fees, labor costs and total hours of work required, any insurance costs, cost of material and equipment, unplanned and incidental costs, cleaning up costs, and if the contractor plans to subcontract then subcontractor fees.

Home Remodel Primer – Part Two

By administrator On March 24th, 2009

The first thing is to get the figures right. Prepare a budget. You also need to ensure that the money is being poured into a smart financial investment that will reap dividends. Factors to consider include the costs, any tax benefits that you can avail, funds with you, liquidity, etc.

A home improvement project that will give you a positive ROI has to more than just a paint job, changing the rugs, and adding window trims. You need to see where the returns are coming from. Do some market analysis, if it’s kitchen remodeling that you’re considering then see if it’s adding countertops or kitchen cabinets or new flooring that will get you good returns. The ROI that you get out of your remodeling expenses will depend upon your area, value of nearby real estate, and your choice of remodel. Also the timing of revaluation will make a big difference; the rule of thumb is that a home remodel works only if the economy is looking up and the real estate market is booming.

There’s no way you can predict which way the market will swing but you can study certain market indicators that will tell you if this is the right time to put valuable finances into home remodeling. If a residential neighborhood is going to have an industrial set up in the near future, it will impact home prices. Road constructions and zoning changes will impact traffic conditions. Your housing society or neighborhood should be properly secured; open areas invite development. The neighborhood should be close to the market and schools. The schools should be quality institutions. Other means of transportation should be available. A simple walk through the neighborhood should tell you if the mood is upbeat. If you see homes put up for sale, it means that the area is a viable place to deal in property.

Find out the kind of taxation that the area has to live with, what are the municipal amenities available, something like wireless internet hubs could be a big draw for certain individuals.
Loud noise, heavy traffic, pollution, and high crime stats are negatives you should consider in checking if your locality is good enough for you to embark on a home remodel.

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.

A Very Detailed Home Inspection Checklist – Part 1

By administrator On March 9th, 2009

Here are a couple of thoughts, aphorisms, sayings worth remembering in life; the kind that well-meaning dads tell their kids. The neat thing about these words of wisdom is that they are very applicable to home improvement. So remember that prevention is better than cure and preventive maintenance is better than breakdown maintenance. Second you can only repair what you know needs repairing and there’s a lot to find out about what needs to be repaired in a house. And last but not the least; remember that a stitch in time saves nine. Catch the problem early and treat it before it burgeons into something unmanageable.

Electrical Checklist –

• Loose and sparking wires are dangerous. Check for scorch marks around outlets and also around breakers and fuses.
• Make sure all outlets work; some people really enjoy poking power points with testers to check for power and also earthing; if you get a mild shock it means the earthing’s faulty.
• Clear the trees and branches around wires.

Exterior Checklist –

• Any cracks on the asphalt will simply grow bigger with time, may trip you and twist more than just your slippers and in time water will seep into these cracks widening them.
• Check if the weep holes built into the walls are clear.
• Do the checking before winter or storm season when repair work becomes difficult. Check porches for loose posts and loose rails. Same for fences and stone walls. These should not be loose.
• Any stains on the siding are a sign of leakage somewhere; probably on the ceiling.
• Check the attic for dampness and the soffits and eaves for bird nests.
• Check the siding for peeling paint.
• Gutters should be clear of debris.
• The foundation and walls of the basement should be free from moisture and cracks.

Plumbing Checklist –

• Leaks in the pipes can cause damage to the walls quickly and by the time symptoms appear, it can be too late to save the wet portions.
• Check exposed pipes for corrosion. The corrosion can be caused by the water or by the metal or be exposure to the elements. Corrosion can lead to leaks and contamination of the water.
• If the water pressure is low it could be because of sediment buildup in the faucet. Similarly the drains should not clog; the water should swirl and not bubble down the path.
• Tiles in the bathroom should not be loose or chipped. Water can seep through and rot the backerboard underneath.
• Check poorly ventilated and poorly lit areas for mildew.
• Check your toilet seat to see if it rocks.

Superb Built-In Construction Ideas to Save Space

By administrator On March 5th, 2009

Let’s face it. Space is at a premium, land has a lot of value. A great way to make maximum use of your available space is to have cleverly designed built-ins that save space and look cool. Some built-ins will use available dead spaces and some may require forethought so they can be added to the architecture at the time of construction.

A shelf or rack under the staircase is an all-time favorite. It’s a great place to store all kinds of knick-knacks such as books, games, shoes, odd stuff of all kind. A floor and supporting wall is already present. All you need to do is to add shelves and if you like then you can add drawers. Another great use for the space under the stairs is to use it as a wine cellar.

A recessed alcove can function as a great study for both adults and kids. It will save space. A good example of an alcove would be the space between a closet and the bathroom. House construction leads to the development of natural alcoves and these can be used for a simple desk and chair arrangement.

Behind-the-door cabinets are ideal for storing food and beverages. They are discreet and practically hidden from sight.

A big advantage of built-ins is that they can be customized to your requirements of space and design. This is one neat advantage of built-ins over store-brought furniture. Floor-to-ceiling shelving built-in behind a door or into the wall is another example of what you can do to eliminate cabinets that cover expensive retail area on the floor.

You need to take a look around your house to find out areas which you feel are best suited for built-ins. For instance, the area under a balcony or windows is just lying there waiting to be used to hold a lot of stuff. An under-window cabinet is something that can be added to all homes. You may have to remove your baseboards and crown molding so that the built-in fits nicely with the wall.

Built-ins also serve the function of segregating spaces and creating intimate zones in otherwise big rooms. Built-ins offer coziness and an opportunity to conceal structural members.

A fireplace is perhaps the most natural use of a built-in space.

Tackle Bathroom Mold and Mildew Before Starting a Remodel

By administrator On March 2nd, 2009

Mold and mildew is a common problem with bathrooms because bathrooms provide just the right conditions for such growth. Mold and mildew is instantly identifiable because of its colors such as pink, brown, and black. It has a typical musty smell that is mainly because of their excrement and is also noxious. Inhaling too much of it can be harmful. Mold and mildew represent a resilient threat to the structure of your bathroom. It can easily spread from fabric to wood onto sheetrock, paper, in fact on any surface.

Conditions that encourage the growth of mold and mildew include poor circulation of air, low lighting, warm bathrooms, high humidity, and dampness. As you can read, these conditions are related to one another and one gives rise to the other.

To tackle mold and mildew it is important to first contain the humidity. Mold thrives in humid conditions. So check if you can reduce the use of hot water geysers that generate steam and increase humidity. Ensure good air circulation. Install an exhaust fan to drive out stale and humid air. Keep windows open when the bathroom is not in use. You could also consider installing a dehumidifier.

Ensure that the bathroom is well-lit. Mold and mildew find dark corners to get a foothold. Keep the shower and bathtub clean. Body grime and washed soap feed mildew. If you notice mildew use chlorine bleach solution to wash and wipe the area. This should remove the mildew immediately.
Vinegar is a good home remedy as it not only kills mold but also deodorizes the place.

If mold persists then you have a source of moisture that needs to be found. Could it be that you are living in a wet climate and the moisture is oozing in through the walls. In this case, the building construction is the problem. Check if the moisture barriers were properly installed in the walls and the slabs. If the moisture barriers have not been installed then you should remove the siding and install a moisture barrier such as aluminum foil, sheet vinyl or even felt paper.

If the spread of mold is limited to a certain area then you have a leak of some kind, like maybe a water tank on the other side of the wall, a cracked pipe, or cracks in that portion of the wall. You should look for plumbing leaks or if there is a leak that can be traced to your attic.

Different Types of Stone Flooring Options

By administrator On February 27th, 2009

Stone is an all-time favorite option along with wood. It has been used as a flooring option ever since man moved out from the caves and into man-made dwellings. There are many stone-flooring options available to us. Stone flooring can basically be divided into natural and faux flooring. Stone is available in a number of textures, these include –

Honed – This is not a very glossy finish and is used for places with high traffic. Honed tiles are usually used for porous stones. They have a dull appearance.

Polished – A polished texture is used more for low-traffic areas as the glossy finish is hard to maintain in places where there are too many footfalls. Also the polished surface can become slippery when it gets wet.

Flamed – A flamed surface is created when tiles are subjected to extreme heat. It is a unique surface that is porous and slip resistant.

Tumbled – A tumbled texture has a weathered look and feel to it. The stones are actually tumbled around to achieve a rough texture. This texture is common with marble and granite.

Sand blasted – Sand blasted stone tiles have a textured surface. Sandblasted tiles sometimes carry images and designs.

Here’s a look at popular stone flooring options –

Sandstone – Sandstone is available in a range of colors and finish options. It is a durable stone that is good for places with medium traffic. Sandstone can be used for flooring in large slabs or small tiles. Sandstone tiles should be resealed every four to five years.

Limestone – Limestone is a traditional stone flooring option and gives a real rustic feel to the house. However, it is not as durable as granite or sandstone. It can scratch easily. Limestone is cheaper than sandstone and granite.

Slate – Slate tiles offer a firm and a durable flooring option. It is a smooth stone and impervious to liquids. It is available in a wide range of natural colors.

Granite – This is the hardest stone available and can offer several textured finishes including matte and polished.

Marble – Marble is a hard, smooth, and cold stone. It is elegant and scratch resistant. It does not hold well in areas with heavy traffic and is also an expensive flooring option.

Kitchen Cabinets 101

By administrator On February 26th, 2009

If you are planning an extensive kitchen remodel and wish to replace the old cabinets; you must know that the cabinets can cost up to 40% of the total cost of renovation. The size, quality, and styling of the cabinets influence the final cost.

Having a budget in mind for the kitchen cabinets is the first step of the decision making process. The budget of course depends upon size and style considerations. This information will help you acquire estimates that are fair indicators of the actual price.

You have a choice between stock, semi-stock, and custom cabinets. Stock cabinets are the least expensive of the lot but do not offer a lot of choice in terms of style and wood type. Custom cabinets are an expensive option in which you have freedom of style and material type. Custom cabinets can be constructed on-site in front of your eyes.

You should consider semi-custom and custom cabinets if you are looking for options for storage. With these you get pullout shelves, wine rack, drawers, pull-out bins, and much more. The cabinets should be solidly built and the frames should be strong with reinforced corners and closed backs. Since the drawers will be opened and closed many times in a day, the hinges and ball bearing should be of good quality.

You may wish to go for a totally radical look and opt for metal kitchen cabinets. Stainless steel cabinets are elegant and classy, not to mention extremely durable. Metal cabinets give a feel of smoothness and luxury. Metal cabinets are extremely low maintenance as compared to wooden cabinets. Metal does not rot or warp with wetness. It also minimizes fire-hazard risks. These cabinets are resistant for scratches, burns, and stains. Metal cabinets do not require extensive chemical treatment and hence are safe for people who are allergic to varnishes, primers, and finishes used with wood cabinets.

Metal cabinets are available in two popular colors – black and chrome. These cabinets are cheaper than wooden cabinets. Metal cabinets are available as free-standing as well as mountable units. You can choose from a wide range of models and designs. In fact you can purchase modular kitchen counter-top and cabinet combinations that are easy to install and use.

Considerations for Bathroom Tile Installation

By administrator On February 24th, 2009

Installing bathroom tiles is not at all a difficult job. In fact tiling a bathroom is probably the one activity that a novice DIY guy can do without any previous experience. However, there are certain things that you must be aware of.

If you overlook buying waterproof adhesive, you are asking for trouble. Without waterproof adhesives sooner or later water in some form or the other will seep in and loosen the tiles. Buy at least 15% more tiles than you think you may need. It’s an additional cost, no doubt but you need to factor in breakages, chipped tiles, cracked tiles, tiles that are difficult to cut to size, etc. You can always keep the extra tiles as spare and use them as and when necessary or strike a deal with the retailer that you will be returning the unused tiles.

The tiles can be laid either on the existing tiles or on the ground. In either case, a clean, dry and flat surface is key to ensure that the tiles stay flat and horizontal. If the floor has any cracks or holes then fill these up with cement otherwise these will lead to uneven distribution of the adhesive. Use plumb gauges, spirit levels, and battens to see that the tiles are laid in a straight line or whatever pattern decided by you. The adhesive shrinks as it dries and hence any unevenness in the spreading of the adhesive will crack the tiles later on. You may want to try self-adhesive tiles but if you find that you have not aligned them properly you will have to remove the tile and rearrange it before the adhesive dries.

Spread the adhesive only on the area you can cover in a limited time; spreading it over one square meter is a good idea. If you spread it over a larger area, the adhesive will dry before you can tile the floor. Start the tiling process from the center and move outwards; this will give you a better perspective of what you are doing so you can use the full and half tiles in a judicious manner.

Grout the tiles only after the adhesive has set and use inorganic grout that will not invite a bacterial attack. Grouting is an important step in laying tiles. The grout should neatly fill the gap between tiles and should be spread evenly. Also the grout should be of the color of the tiles so that you get a harmonious effect.