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.

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.

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.

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.

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.