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.