Thursday, 18 December 2014

Tips on getting your home ready for winter

Winter is here. Is your home ready to take the cold? There are quite a few things you need to do, to ensure that your home does not get damaged during the cold weather. You need to take steps to make sure that all your equipment is maintained and protected throughout the winter months.

Here is a checklist of things to take care off for the cold season:

  1. Keep the cold out Make sure that your home is sealed well. A small crack or an unevenly fixed window could make a difference. If there is a crack or chip, you would already feel the draft and your home wouldn’t be getting as warm as it should. Get someone who has experience in the construction business to fix it. They will know what to look for. If you find multiple cracks and your windows and doors are very old, you may need to consider doing a minor remodel to get your home in shape.
  2. Insulating your home Sometimes, just sealing all the cracks may not be enough. Especially in large, big mansions, it can get quite draughty. Insulating your home will make sure that your home retains warmth. You should also consider weather-stripping your home. The spaces around the windows and doors can be weather-stripped to keep in the heat. It may take a bit of remodeling to get your home insulated, but it will be well worth the effort and money, when your home is warm and cozy during the holiday season.
  3. Check your furnaces One of the most important things you have to do before it gets cold is to make sure that your furnace is working properly. Though it doesn’t get severely cold in the Bay Area, you may still need the heating system. Get a good technician to check out your duct system and get your furnace serviced.
  4. Clear the drains One of the worst things that can happen during winter is getting your drains clogged. During autumn, with the trees shedding their leaves, there is a high possibility that a lot of the debris could have gathered in your drains. You don’t want to be dealing with a clogged drain in the middle of winter. Get your drains checked and cleaned thoroughly.

  5. Chimney cleaning Many people in the Bay Area have fireplaces. If you have a regular old-fashioned fireplace, you have to make sure that the chimney is cleaned out well. But, here’s a thought. You should consider getting an artificial fireplace put in. It takes a little bit of remodeling, but will save you hours of work, which includes chopping logs, carrying them inside, cleaning the fireplace and chimney and all the other unnecessary work old-fashioned fireplaces need.
  6. Make sure your roof is ready for the winter Many people take care of the inside of the house to ensure that the interior is warm enough but totally overlook the roof. If your roof is shingled, you need to check the shingles. Even otherwise, a roof inspection is necessary as cracks or breaks in the roof will let in the cold. If the roof is in a very bad shape, you could get the roof renovated. It is cheaper to fix the roof when the damage is not too bad, than to wait for it to get really battered before renovation.
Living in the Bay Area means that winter is a lovely season, but you can ensure that you don’t have to deal with any of the hindrances that winter can throw your way, by being careful in the first place.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Remodeling the home for a growing family

When you built your house, you would not have had any idea on how large your family would turn out to be. A couple of kids later, you would have to seriously start thinking on how and where to add those extra bedrooms and provide them with their own privacy. With remodeling design options available these days, you can be sure that you can find a number of ways of making your home bigger to accommodate your growing family.

Apart from extra bedrooms, you may need a den, a bigger kitchen, more bathrooms and additional storage space. For some families, just moving to a bigger house is an option, but many can’t afford that and will have to remodel their current home in as aesthetically pleasing a manner as possible, and on a budget.

Some remodeling ideas for extra space

  1. You could take an existing large bedroom and split it in two so that your kids can have their own space.
  2. If you have an attic, you are in luck. The attic can be used in different ways. They could be turned into a children’s or teenager’s bedroom. It will make a great den or could be remodeled into a great play area for your kids. Shelves can be built in the attic, which can then be used as added storage space. It can be converted into a study, and be the peaceful haven you can hide in, when you need to get away from the rest of the family.
  3. If you have a small kitchen and a tiny dining room, you can break down some walls and make it an open planned kitchen and dining area. This opens up space and gives the feel of spaciousness and airiness. Many kinds of seating arrangements are possible with this kind of remodel. You can have a little dining table with chairs on one side of the kitchen/dining area. Or you can put in an island which can be used as a counter while cooking and doubles as a dining area, when it’s time to eat. If the space is still rather small, you could get inventive and have a fold up or fold down table that can be pushed back against the wall and fixed when not in use. This way, you have more space to move about in the kitchen while cooking. If the living room is adjacent, you could even consider having an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen area, maybe divided by a half wall. The possibilities are endless.
  4. If your house has a basement, you have a whole lot of area that you can use in so many different ways. It could be a game room, a recreation area, a child’s bedroom, a study or a space to store things. As long as you pick your colors well and have good lighting, the basement can be turned into a lovely place for the family to hang out in.

Get a good construction company

When thinking of remodeling, it is important to make sure that you find a construction company that has had a lot of professional experience and are efficient in their work. Make sure that their portfolio is exceptional. Ask them for references and call people that the company has worked with before to find out if they were happy with the remodeling. Remember, these people will have the run of your house and you should make sure that they are the best. They should be experts at what they do, be efficient and affordable as well.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Remodeling the Family Bathroom

Every home has a family bathroom. It may be called the hallway bathroom, the main bathroom or something else. But it is the one place that is put to the most use and so it is the one that sees the most wear and tear. That means that it ages faster than the other bathrooms. Bathrooms are places we take for granted and since we use them so often, the signs of wear and aging are often not noticed until one day the depressing nature of the room becomes inescapable. That’s when you realize that it’s time to remodel the bathroom.

Bathroom remodeling is not cheap and because of the plumbing and electrical connections, any mistakes in the remodeling process will be hard and expensive to fix. To be sure of getting the best results from the remodel, you should plan it down to the last detail, keeping in mind the needs of all those who will be using it.

Questions to Ask Yourself

How many people will be using the bathroom? Are there any elderly folks with special needs? What about kids – can they reach everything they need to? These are the kinds of things that can derail a bathroom remodeling project. It’s good to look at home décor magazines and note down the features you like. And then to work with your contractor to create a stunning design. But the bathroom is, first and foremost, a functional room. Once those requirements have been met, all the other features can be layered on top. Do it the other way around and you will end up with a beautiful bathroom that no one wants to use because it’s way too uncomfortable.

Do you need to change the flooring? This one item can change the way a bathroom looks. Keep in mind the needs of the users when deciding on what type of flooring to put in – porcelain is the least slippery. The lack of adequate storage space is a common issue with most bathrooms. Plan to maximize the storage as far as possible. With a little careful planning, you will be surprised at the amount of extra cabinets, drawers and shelves that can be put in. It’s easy to underestimate how much storage you will really need so whatever you think of, increase it by 50%. If possible, double it.

If young children will be using the bathroom, check to see if the fittings are the right height for them. Make sure the sliding shower doors do not catch and badly pinch small fingers. You can also do something to minimize water splashing out of the tub.

One important feature is to check the condition of your plumbing system. There is no point in spending money on remodeling a bathroom only to have all the old pipes leak in a year or two. If there is any doubt about the condition of the plumbing, especially if the house is an old one, it makes sense to do the changes at the time of the remodel. Otherwise you may find yourself breaking up the bathroom after a year or spending a fortune on repairs.

Ask yourself questions like: Is more than one person going to be using the bathroom at a time? If so, do you need a double sink? What about a privacy wall for the toilet area? And is frosted glass for the shower stall a good idea?

The more you think about the family bathroom and the people who will be using it, the more questions there are to ask yourself. Keep noting everything down and talk to all those who will be using the room to get their answers and inputs. It may take time and involve a lot of discussions and even arguments. But in the end, you will have a bathroom that the whole family can use.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Remodeling Precautions or Mistakes?

With all the remodeling horror stories going around, it’s natural that when you plan your remodel, taking precautions to protect yourself and your family from contractors who let you down and work that is substandard is probably the uppermost thing floating in your mind. Being careful and taking steps to protect your family, your home and your money makes a lot of sense. But there are times when the precautions you take could backfire on you and turn a smoothly progressing home remodel into a maze where you, the contractor and your money can get lost.

What You Should Not Do

What follows are the kind of things that magazines and online articles tell you are the things you “should” do to stay in control of the project. As the client, what you want should be what you get and ensuring that you are getting what you are paying for is the right thing to do. But often the unintended consequences of these actions can face far reaching negative implications. Here are some things, relating to the contractor, you should think twice about before diving straight in:
  • Limiting cash flow - Keeping a tight rein on the money may seem like a good idea. You know where every cent is going. But do you need to know? Unless you are a remodeling professional, there are materials to be bought and actions to be taken that you will not fully understand. Asking questions at every step of the way will get on everyone’s nerves and slow down the progress. As long as you know if your money is being used as it should be, you’re okay and you will not be getting in everyone’s way. Also, it may seem like a good idea to withhold the contractor’s funds. That way you can be sure that the job will be finished as it should be and the contractor will rectify any mistakes he has made. This is okay, but the amount needs to be reasonable. If you have a professional remodeling contractor, any errors will be fixed because he cares for his reputation. And if you hold back too much, he will not be able to meet his overheads so the quality of the work and the progress may suffer.
  • Buying materials yourself - Maybe you think you can shop around and get the best prices for all the materials needed. And you can also be sure that you are not getting ripped off. Fine. But what happens down the road when the materials you bought doesn’t meet the specs or are just plain not usable? The loss is yours. Also, the contractor will probably be able to get trade discounts on the purchases he makes for your project. This is something that will not be available for you.
  • Nailing down the contractor - It is people who let you down or scam you. So you must go to extra lengths to detail everything that the contractor has to do, when it must be done and at what cost. You ask about his staff, subcontractors and everything else. Sure, you need to know these things. But do not let nailing down the contractor take your attention away from nailing down the project. What is important is the kind of home you get at the end of it all. That is what you have to nail down.
  • Thinking your project is like your friend’s - You have seen friends and neighbors go through home remodeling. You know what they went through and are prepared for the same. But no two projects are identical. Finding that things are not being done the same way next door and demanding that the contractor does exactly what was done for your neighbor will cause chaos. As long as the work is being done on schedule, on budget and is producing the results you want, let the contractor do things his way. He’s the expert.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Reclaim Space by Remodeling

Sooner or later most families find their homes are running out of space. The obvious solutions are to either add to the home or move to a bigger one. Both are expensive and moving can disrupt the lives of all those who live in the home. Before contemplating such extreme steps, why not look at making better use of the space that is already available? The three areas of a home where space is most often wasted are the basement, attic and garage. Remodeling them can be a convenient and cost effective way of getting the space you need.

The Basement

A typical basement is a dark gloomy place where things that are unwanted or rarely used are stored. Cleaning out all the junk that has accumulated there can be expected to reveal a significant amount of free space that can be used productively. A basement as some inherent limitations such as a lack of natural light. But creative thinking can often turn these limitations into advantages. For example, a dark space is ideal for a home theater. Here are a few things that a basement can be used for:

  • The cool dark environment of a basement makes it the best place for a wine cellar.
  • Because it is partially cut off from the rest of the home, a basement is ideal for any application that involves a lot of noise.  A music studio, play area or a hangout for kids and teenagers are among the many uses that can be considered.
  • A basement usually offers a large open space. This makes if suitable for a home gym or a recreation room where pool tables and other large gaming equipment can be placed without making the space feel cramped.
Before doing a basement remodeling, look for and repair any signs of dampness.

The Attic

Like the basement, the attic is often nothing more than a storage room. Here too, cleaning it out will often reveal a surprising amount of usable space. Among the things an attic can be converted into are:
  • A home office
  • A guest suite
  • A children play area
Before converting an attic into a usable space, ensure that the insulation and heating are adequate. Without this, the space can become to hot or cold for year round use. Additionally, the floor may not be designed to bear the load of heavy furniture or children jumping around and playing. A professional home remodeler will be able to evaluate the structure and advise on any strengthening or other modifications that may be required.

The Garage

The garage is a part of the home that often loses it original function of being a place to park cars and becomes a storage area. If you are willing to park in the driveway, a garage can be used for a multitude of things. Besides all the things that a basement or attic can be converted into, a garage can also be used for:
  • A laundry room.
  • A clean up room where people can leave there muddy shoes and other gear before entering the home.
  • A workshop – being at ground level means installing even heavy equipment is not a major issue.
  • A ‘man cave.’
If you are willing to take the remodeling a step further, you could think of raising the roof of the garage and installing a room above the parking area.

Every home need storage space and converting a basement, attic or garage to another use can mean that some of it is lost. But careful planning, the use of the maximum built in (and organized) storage space and getting rid of useless junk can provide for both adequate storage area and new usable space.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Questions to Ask a Remodeling Contractor

When interviewing potential home remodeling contractors, the first questions that spring to a homeowner’s mind are usually “When will you start? When will you finish the job? How much will it cost?” These are all important issues but they are far from being enough. As a homeowner you want to be sure that you are getting the best people for remodeling your home. Starting when you want, finishing on schedule and sticking to a budget are great, but they do not mean that the remodeling will be done properly or the way you want.

As the client you have the right to know all that is relevant to your home remodel. That means that you are entitled to ask any questions and get all the information that you need to enable you to choose the contractor who you think is right for the job. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (the industry association of the remodeling industry) has a list of questions that a homeowner should ask a contractor before giving him the project.

The Important Questions
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be the project supervisor, what is his experience and how long has he / she been working for you?
  • Will the people working on the project be employees or sub-contractors?
  • Are you bonded and insured. Specifically, do you have liability and worker’s compensation insurance? Verify the answers you receive by contacting the insurance company. An insurance certificate may appear to be valid, but how do you know if either party has cancelled the policy?
  • Check if your state requires the contractor to be licensed. If so, ask to see the license and also call up and confirm that the license has not be revoked for any reason.
  • How will you approach this kind of project? Ask for details of how the contractor plans to organize resources and carry out work.
  • What are the milestones on which adherence to schedules will be evaluated?
  • How many similar projects have you done in the last year?  Ask details to verify that they are similar to yours.
  • Ask for a list of references. Reference that you will not be able to contact, whatever the reason, is a warning sign.
  • Will it be possible for me to have a look at a couple of the nearby projects you have done? This may be difficult – a homeowner may not like to have strangers walking around his home.
  • How much of your business is repeat and how much comes by way of referrals? The higher the percentage the better. It shows that clients are happy with the work done for them.
  • Are you a member of a trade association and if so, which one?
  • Have you and your employees received any special training in home remodeling?
  • Do you, your employees and sub-contractors have special certification such as Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS) or Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR)?

Beyond the Questions

Getting the right answers is important, but so too is the attitude of the contractor. If he shows any resentment about the questions asked or tries to avoid giving direct answers, there could be something wrong. As in all interviews, often what is not said is as important as what is.


Your home remodeling contractor is going to be a part of your life every day for a long time. He will have free run of your home. It is important that you are comfortable with the person whom you choose to remodel you home.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bathroom Remodeling Basics

Yes, it is the smallest room in the house. Yes, people may spend less time in it than in other rooms. But this small room can be one of the most difficult ones to remodel. It is also the room where so many DIY home remodelers come to grief. You may be able to fix a leaking faucet or unclog a blocked drain. Those are repairs, not remodeling. Bathroom remodels can range from the simple renovations and freshening up to a complete makeover that give the home a completely new bathroom. It’s important to know what you want to do and to have your budget in place before you begin. Most importantly, you need to be sure of your abilities – if you have not done this type of job, on a similar scale before, it’s advisable to seriously think of calling in a professional. You may think that doing the job yourself will save money. But if it is too much for you, the end result will be a bathroom that no one will want to use. Alternatively, getting in a remodeling contractor to do the repairs and finish the job will end up costing you more than if you had given the job to a professional in the first place. And, do not think that a small bathroom is easier to remodel than a bigger one. It is not. Space constraints often add another dimension of difficulty to the job.

Whether you are planning on doing the remodel yourself or have a remodeling contractor to do the job, there are a few basics that you need to know. These will help you to avoid mistakes or understand the difficulties the contractor faces.

Bathroom Remodeling Facts you Need to Know
  • Changing the locations of windows and outlets are tough complicated jobs that are typically done only as part of a major remodel.
  • Plumbing cannot be moved in a slab home
  • Plumbing should never be placed on an outside wall
  • Plumbing should be as easily accessible as possible
  • Know how old the plumbing in the home is.  If it is going to need replacement in a couple of years, it will be a big mistake not to do it as part of the remodel. You don’t want to duplicate your expenses a few years down the road.
  • If the bathroom remodel involves relocating fixtures, you may need to obtain a building permit. This is even more likely if the work is being done in a rental property.
  • Spa type bathrooms can appear to be an inviting proposition, if the budget permits. But do not get carried away. Putting in a sauna can be great. But only if it is going to be used regularly. Otherwise, space is being wasted and even things that are not used deteriorate over time.
  • A big bathtub is nice, but it should not fill up the entire room.
  • Unusual bathtub designs can add style to a bathroom. But that is not their primary purpose. Sit in a tub before buying it to see how comfortable it is.
  • You will need more storage space than you think. Make the maximum use of under the counter spaces and consider using the space between wall studs for recessing a tall cabinet.
  • A clear shower screen will make the room feel more open.
  • One person’s bathroom can be another dungeon. No matter how sure you are about what the remodeled bathroom should be, factor in the opinions of others who will be using it.
  • Mold buildup is a major bathroom problem. Ensure that there is enough ventilation to allow the room to dry out within a reasonable time. Consider installing an exhaust fan.
These are just a few of the factors you need to keep in mind when planning a bathroom remodel. Do it yourself only if you are sure you can handle the job.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Remodeling an Old Home

Older homes often have a lot more character than newer ones which is why so many people prefer them. But the years do take a toll, and even the best maintained of old homes usually need remodeling sooner or later. There are 2 aspects to remodeling old homes – renovation which add new spaces, features or functionality to the home and restoration which repairs and restores those parts of the home that are not going to be changed. Striking the right balance between renovation and restoration can be a huge challenge. For example, there may be a beautiful sitting room that needs to be restored. But a gym has to be created and the only place is next to the sitting room. It’s not going to work. And restoring the old room involves a lot of specialist work like getting molds or blades made to exactly replace damaged ones.

The best thing the owner of an old home can do is to have the remodeling done by a contractor with design-build capabilities. This will ensure that space utilization is optimized and the remodel home looks great. Additionally, the contractor’s expertise will allow for the restoration do be done as faithfully as possible. In addition, a professional remodeling contractor will be able to tackle the special problems that arise when remodeling old homes.

Renovation Challenges in Old Homes
  • Water. Over the years, even a small amount of dampness can become a serious problem. In time, mold, mildew, bacteria and termites can develop into a major but unseen problem. A small thing like a little bit of old dampness behind wallboard can require the replacement of rotten studs so that the remodeling can go ahead.
  • Foundation Cracks. Old homes are thought to be solidly built and while this is generally true, the solidity often does not extend to the foundation. In houses built before the mid-1960s, cement of cinder block was commonly used. Because cinder is not a structurally strong as cement, cracks develop over time and water gets in. And foundation sealer was not in common use at that time. This is a matter that needs to be dealt with urgently, as cracked foundations may lead to the residents being exposed to radon, a radioactive gas that is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the country.
  • Electricity. In an older structure, there is likelihood that grounded electrical outlets were not used. Modern code demands that they be grounded. Even if the outlets are three pronged, there is no guarantee that they are grounded. In addition, code compliant ground-fault-interrupters (GFIs) will need to be installed and often a complete rewiring may be required. The electrical box may have to be upgraded from the original 100 or 125 amp capacity to the current 200 amp standard.
  • Poisons. The plumbing and paint in an old home can be a source of lead. Even though the use of lead pipes stopped in the 1950s, the galvanized one that replaced them still contained lead for many years. Lead was used to solder copper pipes till the 1980s. The 2 options for dealing with this problem are to put in a water filtration system to remove led from the water or to replace the pipes. Replacing the old pipes in the home could increase the remodeling costs significantly. In the case of paint, the danger is that old peeling paint that contains lead can be ingested by accident, leading to major health risks. Another poison is asbestos that was commonly used for insulation, floor coverings and sidings in older homes. Asbestos can crumble into toxic dust and be inhaled. The removal of asbestos requires special permits and procedures to be followed and these can make a major dent in your remodeling budget.
The bottom line is that remodeling an old home can be a labor of love. But that does not mean that it does not have its share of special problems and difficulties that will need to be dealt with.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

When not to Remodel Part 2

  1. Who are you keeping up with? Does your home really need a remodel? Or are you planning on one because people you know are doing it? Look at your home objectively – not in comparison with those of other people. You are going to live in the home, not others. It has to be the way you want it. If changes are to be made to it, these should be because they are what you want, not because it is what others are doing.
  2. Increasing your equity is an important part of home remodeling. Are the changes you plan purely cosmetic? Or will they add to your home’s value? Even if you have no plans at present to sell your home, things may change in the future. Moving and buying a new home is a huge expense. If you will not be able to recoup the money you have invested in the remodeling when you sell, how will you be placed financially? If you are sure that the cost of home remodeling will not have a negative impact on your financial future, that’s fine. But if not, you need to think about the necessity of the project and if it is really needed, how much you can afford to spend and what the expected returns on the investment will be. Of course, a home is not purely an asset that needs to be built on. It is a part of your life and must offer you comfort and security. You have to spend on these to live well. And that means spending on making the home attractive. But, it is important to know and appreciate the implications of the money you will be spending.
  3. Remodeling is as much about the future as it is the present. You are changing your home so that it will continue to be the place you are happy to live in. But, what about your income in the future? We live in a world of uncertainties and it is not possible to be sure about your income down the road. Are there any clouds over your employment? Are any of your investments likely to suffer setbacks in the future? There are no guarantees in life, but you should be reasonably sure that the cost of the remodeling is something that you will be able to absorb without the possibility of undue financial hardship in the years to come. The issue of building equity by increasing the home’s value has already been mentioned. But that does not mean that selling your home should be part of a financial survival package. You should sell it because you want to or because of other non-financial reasons. Selling a home because the cost of remodeling it has placed you in a situation where you have no choice is not something to look forward to.
For every reason not to remodel a home there are many more in favor of it. As long as you have understood what you are getting into, there is no reason not to do it. Planning a home remodel can be a huge amount of fun. And, living in a dream home will be a joy for years. So, if home remodeling is what you have your heart set on, go ahead and get started. Just be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

When not to Remodel Part 1

The temptation to remodel your home is great. TV, internet, magazines and “lifestyles of the rich and famous” all conspire to encourage us to continually look at ways to improve our homes. There is nothing wrong with this – a home is the biggest investment and improving, upgrading and enhancing its value are always good things to do.  But it is important to be sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Remodeling just because it is “the” thing to do is a mistake. You could end up with a home that is better than when you started. But it will probably not be the best you could have done. At worst, the end result could be a home that you are not happy with.

So what are the reasons for not remodeling? Ask yourself these questions and answer them as honestly as you can. The answers you give will allow you to see if your remodeling is being done for the right reasons.
  • Remodeling or a trip to Paris? You may have put the money aside but what do you really want to use it for? What will bring you more pleasure – not just immediately but in the future? The new home will be a source of happiness for years. But so will be the fun of a trip to a long dreamed destination and the memories that will last for a lifetime. Or a swimming pool. Which is really important for you? Which is the one that you need to do now and which one can be done later on? Do you need to remodel now or is it just that you have been saving up for it for year and it has become a focus of your life? Does the home really need remodeling? Spending on remodeling may be the more practical way of spending your money. But is being practical more important than living a dream? Think carefully about this one.
  • Have you thought the problems through? Magazines and TV shows start with the ‘before’ and jump to the ‘after.’ The hassles and discomfort that are part of the middle are often overlooked or hidden. Even with the best of contractors and a large budget, a home remodeling project can disrupt lives. Is this the right time to go in for it? Do the kids have exams coming up? Are there big family events that will be happening at the same time? Is it possible that work pressure will be high during the period when the remodeling will be on? Are there elderly family members or children who will need special care during the remodeling process? Check with everyone who will be involved in the remodeling and be sure that the disruption to lives will be within control. If not, consider postponing the project for a more suitable time
  • Can you really afford this? Most ‘remodeling on a budget’ TV shows, websites and magazine articles focus on theoretical remodeling projects where the real world issues do not intrude. Even those that depict real remodeling jobs tend to gloss over the compromises that budgetary constraints can lead to. Are you going to be dipping too much into you savings? How much will you have to cut back on your current lifestyle and for how long? What will be the consequences? Will you be happier with a more expensive remodel even if it means living in the present conditions for a few more years? Impatience is a natural emotion and can be a good thing. Just do not let it rob you of the home you really want.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ways to Estimate your Room Addition Cost

There comes a time when most families find their home is too small for them. An addition to the existing home is better than moving to a bigger house. But it’s important for you to know how much the room addition is going to cost you, so that you can plan your budget and arrange for the finances accordingly. Keep in mind that additions, on a square foot basis, are usually about 30% more expensive in comparison to new construction. This is because the existing building needs to be modified to accommodate the additions both in terms of structural safety as well as aesthetics.

While the size of the room is a major issue in determining the cost of additions, there are three other factors that you need to know about. The figures given below are approximations and the actual cost will vary depending on the region you live in, the complexity of the job and the amount of designing required.

The Type of Room

The cost of the addition will depend to a large extent on the type of room being added. A basic family room will typically cost between $80 to $130 per square foot. This means that the cost for a 400 square foot family room will be in the range of $32.000 to $52,000. However, if the addition includes a kitchen, bathroom or anything that involves extensive plumbing and fittings, the cost will be much more. If the 400 square foot addition is for a guest suite with a bathroom, the cost could climb to $100,000.

The Design

A room addition is not created on the basis of a sketch on the back of a napkin. It must fit within the existing structure and also must not affect the structural integrity of the house. This means that design plays an important role. Architect’s charges will be based on the complexity of the project.

The Materials

The type of materials that are used for the additions, including the electrical and other fittings will impact the cost of the project. The type of flooring, windows, paint, amount of electrical work and wiring etc will add to the cost. In addition, market demand can affect the cost of the materials. Prices can be low when demand drops and high when there is a remodeling /construction boom. It is a good idea to spend time online and at local hardware stores and to find out what the market rates are for the materials you plan to use. Keep in mind that the prices you have found in your research and those quoted by the contractor will not be the same. The contractor is running a business and he will need to keep a margin on the materials he orders for the project as well as cover transport costs and other incidentals.

Controlling Costs

A detailed set of addition plans and specs will allow you to price every single thing that goes into the additions so you will know what the final cost will be. In addition, ensure that the contractor gives you a comprehensive construction quote that includes all the work to be done, details of materials to be used and a detailed job wise timeframe.

No matter how much you plan, there will always be some unexpected hike in the costs. Add a contingency amount to your budget to cover this. 10% may seem high but it is a safe figure. If the money is not used on the project, it can be spent on some other home improvement work.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Advantages of Design-Build Remodeling

One of the biggest problems during a remodel is coordinating and mediating between the designer and contractor. The designer will have specific ideas on what should be done and these are usually conceived in association with the homeowner. Similarly, the contractor will have his own ideas on how the work should be executed and what the end result should be. These are normally based on his experience on what will work and what won’t, Engineering/Construction issues, cost and time considerations. Unethical designers and incompetent contractors do exist and if you should fall into the clutches of one or both you will have major problems. But even if you have an honest, experienced and skilled designer and contractor, they will not be in agreement on many issues.

The Homeowner’s Headache

Both the designer and contractor are specialists in their fields. You probably have only a layman’s understanding of both. But you are the one who has to mediate between the two and find a solution. The wrong decision could ruin your home. Getting second opinions is not viable and for something this important you can’t rely on a coin toss. You could try to get both sides to accept a compromise that will stop the arguments, but will the result give you the home you want? And who is responsible if things go wrong?

The Solution

The solutions lie in design-build remodeling. Design-build means that one agency has the skills and experience to do both the design and the construction. This offers huge advantages to the homeowner:
  • There is only one party to deal with for all aspects of the project
  • There will be no questions of disagreements between the designer and contractor because they are the same.
  • When working with the homeowner during the design stage, the contractor will be able to advise the client about any construction issues that may be caused by the client’s wishes. Workable alternatives can be found.
  • If some of the homeowner’s plans exceed the budget for the project, economic alternatives can be developed.
  • A final remodeling plan is automatically approved in terms of both design and construction
  • There can be no lack of coordination or communications gaps between designer and contractor
  • Any problems that may arise during project execution are quickly resolved without having to refer the matter to different agencies.
  • There can be no excuses or buck passing between designer and contractor
  • The homeowner has a single project manager to deal with for all aspects of the project
  • With one agency in control of all aspects of the remodel, the chances of delays and cost escalations are minimized.

Not Everyone is a Design-Build Contractor

The growing popularity of design-build remodeling has caused a spurt in the number of remodeling contractors who claim to be able to do design-build projects. Before accepting a design-build bid:
  • Check on the contractor’s experience in both areas
  • Ask for references and details of nearby projects you can visit
  • Check on affiliations to associations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and other relevant bodies
  • Check out insurance and bonding issues and
  • Spend time talking to the contractor to see if he understands what your vision is for the remodeled home and his level of confidence in giving it to you.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

How to Avoid Home Remodeling Disasters

The horror stories of home remodeling disasters are a legion. It’s enough to put people off even thinking about renovating their homes. Sure, folks will tell you that for every disaster there are 9 plus successful remodels. That’s nice to know, but how do you make sure that you are among the successful ones? Keep the following points in mind and you will have a remodeled home that will be the envy of your friends and neighbors.
  • The Contractor: This is the first and most important aspect of the remodel to consider. You could have a large remodeling budget, the best of designs and materials and be ready to spend months on the project. That’s all great, but the wrong contractor can ruin everything. It’s important to understand what is meant by the ‘wrong’ contractor. It need not be someone who is out to cheat you or one whose work is substandard. The wrong contractor is one who is not on the same page as you in regard to the kind of remodeling you want done and the type of home you are aiming for. Yes, you need to check the credentials, experience, references and have to look at the work done on other projects. Those who satisfy you in these aspects can be placed on your short list. Now comes the tough part – talking to them to find the one who is most in sync with how you want the remodeling to be done. Without this, misunderstandings, disagreements, arguments and bad blood arise and these can ruin the best planned of home remodels.
  • Homeowner’s Responsibility: Having the right contractor does not mean that you can put your feet up and do nothing till the project is completed. You need to stay involved and be available to provide any support to the contractor. This does not mean getting underfoot and hampering the work or the pace at which it is being done. It means having a clear understanding about your responsibilities and being available to fulfill them as and when required. Also, have a person designated as the decision maker.
  • The Design-Build Option: Disagreements between designers and contractors are a major pain in many home remodeling projects. The ideal solution is to use a contractor with design-build capability which means that he can do both the design and the project execution. This will eliminate the possibilities of misunderstanding and disagreements between the two. If that is not possible, you need to ensure that the designer and contractor are both on the same page. Meet regularly to review progress and resolve any issues that may arise.
  • Budgeting: Most homeowners stretch their remodeling budgets to the maximum and try to fit in everything they can, down to the last dollar. Yes, it’s your home and you want it to be the best it can be and every dollar counts. But what happens when the unexpected happens (and it will!) and you need to take out your wallet? You have to make up for this unplanned expenditure somewhere and that will mean rushing to find ways to cut costs on things you are committed to. Not only is that tough, doing it in a hurry can lead to making bad decisions. Instead, keep a contingency amount to cover unplanned expenses. It may mean cutting back somewhere, but it can save you a lot of heartbreak in the future. And if the money is not used, you can spend it on the home once the remodeling is completed.
  • Insurance: Check that the contractor is fully insured. Otherwise you could be liable in the event a worker is injured on the job or for any damages to your home or surrounding property.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Future Proof Home Remodeling

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of the American home is 36 years. In other words, the average American home is rapidly approaching middle age. That is a time when major remodeling is often required. Remodeling is a good investment and it can add quality to the lives of the people living in the home. An important aspect of home remodeling is planning for the future. Today, no one wants a house with sagging fiberglass insulation, power guzzling appliances and leaky doors and windows. 10 years ago these were not major issues and ‘green’ building and ‘energy efficiency’ were terms used only by ardent environmentalists. Today it’s an integral part of any new construction and remodeling. No one can predict what the next 10 years will bring, but if the possibilities are not considered, your remodeled home could be out of date sooner than you ever expected. And if you should have to sell it, its market value will not be all that great. So what can you do to future proof your home? Here are a few ideas that can help you out:
  • VOC Free Paints and Finishes:  The health risks of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC) found in paints is well known and it poses a serious danger to those living in the home. California, along with a few other states has already limited the amount of VOC emissions of paints sold in the state. Stricter control can be expected in the future. Using VOC free paints and finishes will protect your family and improve the value of your home.
  • The Media Room of Tomorrow: The future will bring in complex systems like single point media distribution that feeds TV, movies, music and the interment to all parts of the house. You may not have access to this today, or may not be interested in it. But who knows what tomorrow will bring or what potential buyer of your home may be looking for? Keeping provision today for the electronics, media and home automation systems that will become available in the next few years will save you a lot of grief in the future.
  • Going Solar: Utility costs are only going to increase in the future. That’s why things like solar water heaters are becoming so popular today. In fact, some states like Hawaii are mandating them in new homes. Installing a solar water heating system can get you a 30% federal tax credit and fitting a tankless water heater can earn you a $1,500 federal credit. And these are the kinds of energy efficient homes that buyer will increasingly look for in the future. Residential solar power generation may still be in its infancy and uneconomical at today’s costs, but it will become a reality in the future. Making provision for it today can save you a lot of money tomorrow, besides increasing the value of your home.
  • A Formaldehyde Free Kitchen: Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen and the National Cancer Institute recommends that people should stay away from products like kitchen cabinets that use it. Keeping your home formaldehyde free is protects your family and increases the value of your home too. Its use may be banned in the future and then homes that contain it will lose a lot of their market value.
  • Insulate: Batt or blanket insulation and fiberglass are popular today. The future of insulation is expected to be with spray in foam insulation which has a high R value (indicating its efficiency). While many foams are urethane based, some are now being made using environment and heath friendly soybean material. Incorporating this into you remodel will save you money in terms of air conditioning costs from day one. And once again, it adds to your home’s value.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Home Improvements that Pay Off – Part 2

It is important to keep in mind that the same home improvement project can affect the value of a home differently depending on not just the region but the neighborhood. For example, in some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, installing a swimming pool can increase a home’s value more than in others. In places with a cooler climate, a pool may be installed by a person with special exercise or health needs. But it may not add in any significant manner to the value of the house as the utilization of the pool by the average homeowners may be little to nothing because of the low temperatures.

Conversion Vs. Addition

It is often assumed that additions to a home will result in a significant increase in value. This is not necessarily so. How the addition fits into the existing structure, the way it affects aesthetics and other factors work to determine the market value of the additional space that has be gained. Keep in mind that a buyer looking for a 3 bedroom house will not care about how much has invested in creating the third bedroom – he is looking at the total cost. That is why conversions are often a far better investment in terms of return. First of all it is usually a cheaper project so the change to the market value will not be so much as to scare away a buyer. As an example, the Cost Vs. Value report put converting an attic into a bedroom as the 3rd  best improvement in terms of payoff. On an average, it will pay back over 84% of the amount spent on it.

The thing about additions is that if done with architecture, beauty and utility in mind, they can pay off big time. A homeowner added a 500 square foot family room to a 1,200 square foot home, opening it up to the year. This had such a dramatic effect on the overall ambience of the home that what was valued at $750,000 before the additions sold of $850,000 after it. But such cases are few and far between.

The Numbers

According to the Cost Vs. value report, the following renovations offer the best returns on investment:
  • Entry door replacement: 96.6%
  • Deck addition (wood): 87.4%
  • Attic bedroom: 84.3%
  • Garage door replacement: 83.7%
  • Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7%

And these offer the worst pay offs:
  • Home office remodel: 48.9%
  • Sunroom addition: 51.7%
  • Bathroom addition: 60.1%
  • Backup power generation: 67.5%
  • Master suite addition: 67.5%

Different Kinds of Pay Offs

It is a mistake to look at a home remodel only in terms of how much it adds to the monetary value of the home. There are other values to be taken into account – the comfort, safety and happiness of the people who live there. In fact these should, in most cases, be the guiding factors in a defining home remodeling project. But keeping the financial pay off in mind will never hurt.

In conclusion, it needs to be said that the amount that home improvements add to the home’s value depend a great deal on the cost vs. value factor. We started by saying that a new front door can recover 96.6% of its value. But the door must suit the house. And often the same kind of return, in percentage terms, can be achieved by simply painting the door. Before making home remodeling decisions, talk to your designer and contractor about what kind of return you can expect on your investment. When it comes to home improvements that pay off, what looks like a sure shot can be a hole that will suck up all the money you put into it.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Home Improvements that Pay Off – Part 1

Bringing in a new front door will increase the value of a home by 96.6% of the cost of the door. So why is this important? A homeowner or family starts to think about home remodeling when the home begins to look stale and dated, when it no longer meets the occupants’ needs or when more space is needed to meet new demands. These are all valid reasons for remodeling a home but there is one aspect of this major project that is often overlooked. How much will the renovation add to the value of the home?  This may seem like a redundant question to those who are not considering selling their homes. But the house forms a huge part of their equity and anything that adds to its value works to their benefit. And suppose for some unforeseen reason there is a need to sell the house. Will the tens of thousands of dollars spent of remodeling it be translated into a higher market value?

Increasing the market value of a home is not the sole reason for home remodeling – a home is more than just wood, bricks and cement. It is a part of the family and their comfort and safety are the primary reasons for remodeling. But knowing what kind of remodeling projects and value to a home and which do not can help homeowners optimize the return to be had from the investment in remodeling

Remodeling – The Return on Investment

Among the best home remodeling investments, projects that increase energy efficiency are very important. With a growing concern about the environment and the continually rising energy costs, going Green is a great way to boost a home’s market value. The cost of upkeep, which includes heating and cooling costs, is a major consideration among buyers and a home that is a proven energy and money saver will attract a greater amount of attention than one that requires a major project to be done to make it Green. An invest in updating and improving the ‘envelope’ of the house – new sidings, windows and insulation – will always pay off. So will money spent on more energy efficient heating and cooling systems and appliances.

Next comes the heart of the home – the kitchen. This is a multipurpose room that is used by all of the family. From cooking to homework to eating to family meetings to odd jobs to entertaining neighbors, it is all done here. Real estate agents say that remodeling a kitchen offers the best return on investment as compared to any other part of the house. Even a minor remodel can add up to almost 83% of the money spent on it to the home’s value. One of the reasons for this is the way that prospective buyers look at kitchen that they find dull and dated in a house they otherwise like. The general assumption is that to remodel a normal size kitchen will require an expenditure of around $40,000.

But, according to Remodeling Magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report new cabinet doors, appliances, counter tops, a sink, faucets and hardware will typically cost around $19,000. This is a perfect example of how perception affects home values and how remodeling can really pay off. However, this does not mean that an investment of $19,000 will fetch a return of $40,000. It doesn’t work that way. But getting back 80% of the investment is possible.

Keep in mind that the kitchen must blend seamlessly with the rest of the home of it the remodeling to really pay off. Putting an ultra-modern kitchen into a 100 year old home will not. It will just look out of place.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Home Remodeling Trends in 2014

In home remodeling as with everything else in life, blindly following trends and fads is not a good idea. As a person and as a family, you are unique from everyone else and your tastes and needs are your own. No good will ever come from doing anything just because others are doing it. Having said that, there is no harm in being aware of what the current trends are. There may be something that does appeal to you and which you can adopt. Here are a few home remodeling trends that are big this year.
  • 21st Century Kitchens. Surveys among home remodeling contractors show that over 60% of them expect to do complete kitchen remodels this year, more than any other room in the house. And the majority of these remodels are expected to be of creating modern kitchens. Till recently, kitchen design was based on a traditional look and feel. Warm colors and lights, wrought iron hardware and a ‘cozy’ atmosphere were the major considerations. Today people are looking at minimalist designs with the maximum of built in appliances, simple countertops, cool colors like grays and white and contemporary hardware designs. The idea is to give the kitchen a sleek, clean and uncluttered look.
  • Brass Accents. Brass fittings have been around for a long time and have gone through various stages of popularity over the years. So what’s new in the trends of growing popularity this year? Brass has gotten a facelift and it is no longer the staid material. The highly polished brass lighting and hardware of the past is gone and the dull hammered look is in. This offers an interesting counter point to the modernist trend in home design reducing the amount of polishing and maintenance that is required.
  • Spa Bathrooms.Next to kitchens bathrooms are the big remodeling space for 2014. The traditional bathroom with the vintage look of claw foot bath tubs and wainscoting is no longer as popular as it used to be. Resort style bathrooms are now in. Jacuzzis, walk in showers fitted with multiple shower heads, heated floors and towel racks and other such features are what many people are looking for. Lighting is cool with colors like light blue, off-white and ash gray dominating. Glass tiles which add openness and light to the room is another very popular design feature.
  • Bright colors. Although the kitchen of 2014 is modern, minimalistic and uses simple cool colors, the colors of the rest of the home need not follow suit. In the last few years, colors such as yellow, orange and turquoise were popular for the other rooms of the home. Now vibrant shades like Rouge Red, Nectarine, Green Flash and Lemon Zest are the trends. Beyond these bright colors, homeowners are also looking at using vibrant wall accents to add a touch of flair and drama to places like dining and sitting rooms.
  • Eco Sensitivity. Green remodeling has been around for many years and this is one trend that is getting stronger with the passage of time. Contractors are constantly looking at greener remodeling options. Manufacturers are also looking increasing the energy efficiency of the equipment they produce for the home and energy efficient home appliances are now no longer an add-on to remodeling; it is a taken for granted as being a part of the whole concept.

These trends may not be for you and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your home and you have every right to go your own way. But there is no harm in looking at these and other trends to see if there are things that do appeal to you and which you want to add to your home remodeling plans.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Home Remodeling Fads that Failed

Home remodeling is no exception to fads, styles and crazes. There is nothing wrong with picking up good remodeling ideas from wherever they can be found. But to incorporate something into your home remodeling plans just because everyone else is doing it is often a huge mistake. Often a fad has no foundation of quality, style or utility. It just seems to create itself and continue to generate followers who do not realize the mistake they are making until it’s too late. A look at some of the popular home remodeling fads of the past will show that what seemed like good ideas at the time turned out, in retrospect, to be big mistakes
  • The Open Plan Home of the 80s. The open plan (or Great Room) was based on the idea that there was no need for the kitchen to be cut off from living spaces. And what was the need to separate the den from the dining or living room? All rooms are equal and a home without these divisions is a more spacious and open one. Not so. What happens when cooking, TV watching, video gaming and online activities all go on in the same open space at the same time? Too much noise for everyone. And how do you efficiently heat or cool such large spaces – especially if large parts of it are unoccupied?
  • The Super Kitchen. The cramped kitchens common in mid-20th century houses and the popularity of celebrity chefs in the 1990s led to the huge kitchen craze. Sure, bigger is better, but does the average family need a kitchen large enough to feed a restaurant? And huge kitchen need huge expensive appliances to avoid making things seem out of proportion. Is it better to have to walk across a huge room to get from the stove to the fridge, instead of being able to quickly pivot from one to the other? Let’s not even look at how much space is lost to the rest of the house to accommodate the Super Kitchen.
  • The Massive Garage. The post war boom of the 1950s caused the creation of the multi-car family and 3 car garages where thought to be essential. Yes, the valuable vehicles were protected from the elements, but the huge garages were often an architectural eyesore and looked to be the center point of the house relegating the living areas to the background. No matter what you do, a big garage door is not going to look attractive. So what about 3 of them? Once again, what about the sacrifice of space for the living area? Won’t a one or two car garage and a parking bay (if required) be enough?
  • Built-in Lighting. Homes built in the first part of the last century never had enough fixed lighting. After World War II, it was thought that recessed lighting was the best way to illuminate the interior. But do all the rooms need to be brightly lit? Who wants a bedroom so bright you have to wear shades? And does a pockmarked ceiling add to the ambience? Track lighting was also a fad, but they gave a home a department store like look and the lights were often a danger to anyone over 6 feet in height.

These style concepts were the rage in their time, but soon became passé and home owners had to live in uncomfortable and unappealing homes until they had saved enough money to get another remodel done, this time without following fads. If you are planning to remodel you home, consider styles and trends, but then think about comfort, utility and maintenance before making any decisions.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Post Remodeling Stress Disorder

Everyone knows what PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is - in the simplest terms it is the mental, physical and emotional after effects of a traumatic incident or experience. What is not so well known is PRSD (Post Remodeling Stress Disorder). This may sound like a joke, but it is not. What it refers to is the period just after a home remodel has been complete. No matter how much planning and thought has gone into the project, at the end there will always be things that were left out, things that are not as they were supposed to be and things that have just plain gone wrong. And fretting over these minor irritants to the extent of not being able to enjoy the newly remodeled home is PRSD.

20-20 Hindsight

A home is a family's most valuable possession and its equity. Obviously a home remodel, whether a whole house remodel or a smaller kitchen or bathroom renovation is given a lot of thought. Everyone wants the end result to be perfect as the budget permits. Days, weeks and often even months are spent considering options and planning everything down to the smallest detail. Words of caution from the contractor are often ignored or forgotten. Expectations are high and everyone looks forward to a perfect conclusion to the project. Then reality hits. The remodeling may be fantastic, but what about the switch - should it have been move a couple of inches to the right? And why do we have to bend so much to access the dishwasher? Is this shade of paint really what we had seen online? And so on.

Then comes the Monday Morning Quarterback. Someone says I knew it would not come out as we planned. And then everyone develops a case of 20-20 hindsight.  Regret and recrimination spreads. Arguments ensue as to whose idea it was to have the refrigerator in that awkward corner. In the end all these issues are forgotten and the family lives happily in a remodeled home that is far nicer and more comfortable to live in than it was before. But during that period of PRSD, some of the sheen of the new home has been lost.

Get Real

Hoping for and dreaming of the prefect home remodel is natural. But it is important to accept the fact that the search for perfection would defeat even Indiana Jones. Small errors and miscalculations will seep into the planning process. Different people in the home may agree on the same concept and plans, but the picture that each has in his or her mind of the end result could be very different. A window of a certain size may seem perfect for a room when seen on a computer screen but reality maybe a little different.

It is easy to blame the contractor when things go bad, but in many cases that could be unfair. He will do what the family tells him to - he does not know what kind of picture of the end result they have in their minds. What the contractor thinks is right may not seem so to the family and the other way around.
This does not mean the detailed thinking; conceptualizing and planning should not go into a home remodel. It must or the project will end in complete failure. Plan and hope for perfection - that is the only way to get as close to it as humanly possible. But at the end, if there are small irritants, don't sweat it.  If the home was really prefect, you would have wings on your shoulders and a halo over your head.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

What's Your Remodeling Style?

Once you decide to remodel your home, the next thing to do is to decide on what your remodeling style is going to be. This can be a problem if the family is a large one made up of strong minded individuals - even kids can have strong feelings on the subject. What needs to be done then is to have everyone sit down together and talk about what they want and why and evolve a compromise that, even if it will not make everyone happy, will prevent some people from blowing their tops and sulking.

A word of caution here; compromise, in the context of home remodeling styles, does not mean that a room or a house should have a little bit of everything. A contemporary designed living room with old fashioned furniture in it may keep the members of the family happy, but the look is going to be really odd. How the right solution is found depends on the family dynamic, but whatever it is, the end result is a home that must reflect a certain theme or style in a smooth and integrated manner.

Finding the Right Style

One of the problems in deciding on a remodeling style is the huge amount of options available in terms of design and materials. You could spend days or weeks going through magazines and websites trying to decide on what will be right for your home. Contractors and professional designers can give you inputs, but the final decision must be yours. This can be incredibly tough, but there are a few tips that can make to process a little bit easier.

Begin by asking yourself (and the family if they are involved) the following questions:
  • What colors will be right?
  • How important is maximizing natural light?
  • What is the real function of a room or space going to be?
  • What kind of furniture will be right?
  • What kind of furnishings and decorations will work?

As said before, getting everyone to agree on common answers can be tough, but decisions must be taken. Going ahead with a mish mash of conflicting and non-compatible styles will lead to chaos. Once the answers to these questions are in place, the next step is to consider how the elements will complement each other. For example, do you want to have a clean, uncluttered geometric design? If so, will old style Shaker furniture (which everyone in the family wants) fit in? One or the other - the modern look or the Shaker furniture - will have to go. Will the existing elements of the house that you want to retain work with the new design? If not, either the old elements must go or the new design modified to accommodate the older elements.

An easy way out of the style problem is to go with an Eclectic style that will allow you to mix things up a bit and create a style that is uniquely your own. But be careful here. If the mixing is overdone or not carefully planned, it could look like you are living in the middle of a huge garage sale.

Decision Time

When all the options have been weighed and all the discussions are done, it's time to start making decisions. Not everyone in the family will be agreeable to every decision, and the larger the family the more argument there will be. But if you (or the majority) are sure of what is wanted, then stick to it. You have your home remodeling style in place and now It's time to start doing your budgeting (compromises may be called for here) and talking to the contractor about project execution and completion dates.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Remodeling and Health, Part - 2

Walls

Take care when plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard and insulation are being used. These can contain chemicals that could be harmful the health over a period of time. Avoid the use of glass-mesh cement backer boards as they often contain urea, phenyls and other volatile chemicals. In addition they tend to leave a lot of dust and particles floating in the air. Many of these dangerous chemicals are of the type known as volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the material that commonly contain them include:
  • Organic or rubber solvents
  • Putty, sealants and caulks
  • Wallpaper
  • Vinyl floor coverings
  • Synthetic carpeting, padding and adhesives
  • Plaster and drywall
  • Manufactured wood products (particle board, plywood, composite board, etc.)
  • Paint, resin and varnish
  • Drapery
  • And some cleaning compounds

The most common of VOCs found in materials used in home remodeling are:
  • Toluene
  • Trichloroethane
  • Chlorobenzenes
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Aldehyde
  • Benzene and related compounds
  • Xylene

These chemicals are also to be found in electrical components and plastic products used in remodeling. Besides irritating the eyes and nose, they can cause severe respiratory problems and some are thought to be carcinogenic.

Lead and Asbestos

Although the use of lead and asbestos is now no longer permitted, many older homes still contain them. Asbestos was commonly used as an insulation material and in floor and ceiling tiles till as late as 1970. If the contractor advises that there is asbestos present in the home and that it is being removed, ensure that everyone stays away from the area where the removal is being done. If possible stay completely out of the home. Once the removal has been completed, the area must be fully aired out.

The same applies to situations where lead paint or dust is present. While inhaling of asbestos can lead to serious respiratory problems, the absorption of lead into the body is known to cause brain damage.

Air Ducts

Cleaning out the air duct is a part of any home remodeling project. The jury is still out on whether cleaning the ducts will significantly improve air quality in the home. However, if done properly, it can do no harm. One of the most common methods of cleaning air ducts is to use a powerful vacuum to suck the dirt and debris from the ducts. The use of chemicals to clean the ducts is also widespread but if this is the method adopted it must be ensured that no chemical residue remains after the cleaning is completed. Any such residue can break down in the ducts over time and release dangerous chemicals into the air of the home.

Post Remodel Cleaning

A newly remodeled room or home can seem to be completely clean and spotless. And a good remodeling contractor will make every effort to clean up as much as possible once the work is completed. But no matter how much cleaning is done, all the dirt and minute debris of the work will not go away immediately. It will take some weeks of regular cleaning to bring the home back to the normal standard of cleanliness. Till then, it is best not to take the cleanliness of the home for granted. The basic principle to follow is for the first couple of weeks after the remodeling has been completed, clean twice as much as is normally done. And when in doubt, clean again.