Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Understanding Home Automation (Part–1)

A generation ago, home automation meant a remote control device used to open your garage door. Today, home automation is very high-tech and the essential foundation of a ‘smart home.’ There are three components to the smart home:
  1. Home automation, the first, is where electrical devices are hooked up to a central system that automates actions based on user input – for example, the window shades can come down at a predetermined time every day;
  2. The second is a system of connected devices that uses the internet and sensors to anticipate the user's needs – for example, the GPS in your car can tell your home when you will arrive, so that the lights and air conditioner will be on when you open the door;
  3. The final component is the ’Internet of Things’ (IoT) which uses internet, systems, sensors and processors to allow devices to interact and work in complete automation, with almost no user input.
When you do need to control the systems, you can do it all with a smart phone.

What things home automation can do for you

  • It can help you control your home in every conceivable way, at any second – day or night, from wherever you are. You can switch on your oven, lock the back door, check on your dog and crank up your fridge for more ice when visitors come, and much, much more. You can do this from the office or from the other side of the world.
  • Your life is a lot more convenient and easy. Sensors can tell you when there is no bread in your fridge. You can program locks to allow specific people to enter your home at specific times. You can check on who is ringing your doorbell when you are out. Your home can be lit, cooled and have music set to play for you when you get home from a long and tiring trip.
  • Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, smoke detectors and motion sensors will inform you of any intrusions or threats to your home, wherever you are as and when a danger arises. Sensors can detect water and gas leaks, carbon monoxide in the air and all kinds of other dangers and thus help you take prompt action to prevent a problem from turning into a disaster.
  • For seniors, life can be made much simpler and safer with automatic lights, audio reminders of medications and times, voice-activated alerts and other crucial things. With these facilities, the elderly will be able to live independently and confidently for many more years.

Every family has its own home automation needs. What you opt for in your home will depend on your requirements and budget.  The best time to install it is when you think of a home remodel. This will enable all the components of the system to be put in place in the most efficient manner as part of a plan close to your heart.

A home remodeling company which specializes in home automation and design-build projects is the best agency to do the job. The contractor will be able to work with you to choose the systems and technology that suit you. He will then integrate the systems into the project to make available to you a remodeled home that not only looks great, but also works the way you want it to. Being smart about your contractor will give you a home that is truly ’smart’.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

How You can Benefit from Design/Build Remodeling

Home remodeling can mean many things. It could simply be repainting a wall or replacing broken tiles. These are things you could do yourself. Or it could mean making major changes in a room, building an additional room, or upgrading your home with automation features. For big jobs, a remodeling contractor is a safe bet. Obviously, when looking for a contractor you want the best – someone who has got a good reputation, is experienced enough and has the right certifications. But there is another important factor to consider – is the contractor equipped to do design/build projects?

What Is design/build?

In the past, major home remodeling meant many things: seeking the service of an architect or a designer to plan the remodel, finding a contractor (and often subcontractors) for the actual construction, coordinating between them on budgets, timeframes, and workflow and so on. Then there were issues of misunderstanding, miscommunications, disagreements etc., which could affect the cost, time and the look of the finished project. And of course, the major headache for the homeowner was in terms of having to deal with so many different people.

A design/build remodeler is one who has the experience, skills and abilities to do everything from conceptualization to design, from budgeting to complete project execution. At one go, the homeowner is relieved of the hassles mentioned above and has only one company to deal with and a single point of responsibility for everything connected with the remodel. Not only does this make life easier for you, but also offers a host of other advantages.

The design/build advantages

Cost: The cost is lower, because there are fewer steps involved and parties to work with. This means that a home remodeling budget can stretch further. Needless and unplanned expenses due to change orders are reduced, since there will be no communication issues between parties. Hidden costs and surprises are eliminated, as the homeowner and contractor are the only parties involved in budget monitoring. Additionally, decisions can be taken quickly so that cost effective solutions can be applied.

Speed: Just one party – the design/build remodeler – is responsible for the entire project; there is no possibility of different priorities, leading to confusion and delays. Cash flow is easier to control: the design/build remodeler is the only person that receives payments; so the chances of delays due to sudden and conflicting demands for funds are ruled out. There is a single project manager who will be responsible for steady progress of work as per schedule.

You get exactly what you want: Since the homeowner has only one party to work with, the possibility of differing interpretations of ideas and objectives is significantly reduced. You know from the get-go what the end result will be.

You know what is happening: With one project manager to answer all your questions, you have information easily available on a daily basis: you always know exactly what is going on, and how the project is progressing.

The growing demand for design/build remodeling means there is an increasing demand for the right contractors too. There is a huge difference between words said and deeds done. When choosing a design/build home remodeling contractor, look for one who has the experience, skills, track record and testimonials to back up his claims. Home remodeling is never going to be fun, but with the right design/build, and the right contractor, it is as easy as it can be.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

How You can Plan the Addition of a Room

More space is always welcome in any home. The best way for you to get it is by the addition of a room. The planning process is important to ensure that you get the extent of space you want without any damage done to the look of your home, and that the new structure is sound in all respects. Your planning can be in five basic stages and if you work through each of them, you will be able to get the new room the way you want it.

1. Identify your objectives
 
Adding a room will give you more space. But what kind of space do you want? Is it a family room, an entertainment area or one that will just ease congestion? The type of room you add, and its location will depend on what the room is to be used for. The room you need for additional storage space and the one to accommodate a new family member are two completely different things. Trying to convert an addition to another use a few years down the road could involve a major expenditure.

2. Do your research

Spend time going through home design magazines and websites. Look for ideas and concepts that you like and make a file of them. Remember that even concepts you dislike may have an aspect that will work for you. Once you have a lot of ideas, start making a short list. Then sit with your contractor and go over the pros and cons of each one as related to your specific needs. This makes it possible for you to plan not only for what you want, but also for what will work for you.

3. Do your budgeting

You do not surely want just four walls and a ceiling. The room is going to be constructed for a specific

purpose, and so there should be matching design features you would love to add. Each of these will cost you money. Have a realistic budget so that the happiness of a new room is not followed by the unhappiness of an empty bank account. At the same time, remember that making major changes of features later on will be more expensive than doing them when the addition is being done.

4. Be sure of the location

The addition of a room will take up previously open space in your yard. Are you sure you want to cut down trees to accommodate the new room? Will you, in such a case, get the breeze, shade and sunlight you want?  What will the view from the windows be? A beautiful new addition will be less beautiful, if it is not in harmony with the exterior of the home.

5. Get the clearances you need

Building codes, setback restrictions and other regulations may cause you to change your plans. It is better to be sure of what you can and cannot do before you start planning. It will save you time, and prevent the disappointment of finding out later that the plan you have finalized is not permissible.

The best way to plan the right addition, carry it out the right way and peg it at the right cost, is to have the job done by a remodeling contractor who specializes in design-build remodeling projects. He will surely have the expertise and abilities to work with you to create the extra space you want and then seamlessly execute the project. With no middlemen, subcontractors and other parties involved, you can rest assured that the work will be done smoothly, on time and completed to your satisfaction.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Remodeling Your Home for Sale


If you are thinking of remodeling your home, there is one very important question you have to ask yourself before you begin. Are you remodeling to make the home more comfortable for your family? Or are you remodeling to enhance its value for sale in the future?  The answer is important because it will guide you how to go about it. If it is for future sale, there are five remodels that will give you a good return on your investment when you sell.

The kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and one of the main things that buyers look at. If you are doing it for yourself, go ahead and tear out walls, change the size and shape, move the plumbing and appliances to suit your needs. But if you are doing them all with the sale of the house in mind, spending this amount of money will not get you the returns you want. Instead, have the painting done, and the cabinets replaced or refurbished, put in new lights and veneers and think about linoleum flooring. These will give the kitchen a fresh new look at a considerably lower cost, and make it attractive to buyers.

Bathrooms

Everyone loves a nice bathroom. But not all bathrooms are of equal significance. A buyer will look primarily at the one that he will be using. The guest bathroom is typically next in importance, followed by that for the kids and then the others. So keep you focus on the master bath when budgeting a remodel. Of course, you can’t afford to ignore the others – one great bath with the rest looking odd will affect the whole ambience of the home.

The master suite

The same principle applies to the master suite. This is where the buyers will imagine themselves sleeping; so it will be a focus of attention, and money spent on its careful remodeling is normally well spent. But, as in the case of the bathrooms, do not ignore the other bedrooms, or the glaring contrast could hurt the selling price.

Curb appeal

First impressions are always important: what a buyer sees first when he pulls up in front of your home affects the price he will pay for it. Changing old windows, replacing an old entry door and perhaps doing up the front porch will ensure that the first impression is a good one.

Additions

Adding another room to your home increases its square footage and thereby its value. But having a home theater room just because you fancied it does not ensure that this is what buyers will be looking for. Add the room in such a way that the new owner sees flexibility in its use. Space that can be configured to suit a new owner’s needs is always a big plus point that adds value to your home.

Consult an expert

The best way to plan and execute a remodel with future sale in mind is to consult a professional home remodeling contractor. One with years of experience, certifications and a reputation for quality workmanship and a client focus would be a good bet. Ideally, it should be a contractor with rich design-build experience. He will be able to give you valuable advice on what you should and shouldn’t do in terms of controlling your investment and optimizing your projected returns.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Pet Friendly Home Remodeling

According to the American Humane Society, there are over 160 million cats and dogs living in homes across the country. They are there because they are loved as much a part of the family as everyone else is. So why don’t you spend a little time thinking about making your pet more comfortable when you plan your home remodel? You don’t have to do much, of course! 


You know your pet well and what makes him (and you) happy very well. Talk to your remodeling contractor about what you would like to do. He may have some ideas of his own to complement yours and the two of you together can create a home that is friendly to both humans and pets. That being said, here are few common ideas you could consider.
  • An indoor pet retreat: This is a small room, usually located outside the back of the home with an access door that allows your pet to go in and out directly from the house. It has a lockable exterior door for safety. It can be designed to have an automatic feed and water fountain, along with a mattress and whatever else you think the pet would enjoy.
  • Cat trees and ramps: Cat trees are floor to ceiling pillars covered with rope or carpeting that a cat can climb up. Cat ramps are ramps that go diagonally up walls to long shelves that run below the ceiling, which cats can walk around.
  • An Overlook: This is an opening on the second floor. It is big enough to your dog to put his head through so that he can keep an eye on the humans in the yard.
  • Floors: Your pet enjoys warmth in cold weather as much as you do. That’s why he curls up near the radiator. Heated floors are things that both humans and pets love. Nonslip flooring in the family room or whereveryou play with him will prevent him from slipping and maybe hurting himself.
  • Disguised Litter boxes: These are as much for you as for your cat. They can be designed to look like a piece of furniture. One could be placed in the garage with a hidden door that gives the cat access whenever he wants, but will not spoil the look of the interior.
  • Folding platform beds: If your pet shares your bedroom, a folding platform bed attached to the wall will give him his own place to sleep. It can be folded up against the wall during the day. It won’t take up space and you won’t keep tripping over it the way you do on a pet mattress or rug.
  • A storage room: This is for you if you buy pet supplies in bulk.
The best way to remodel your home, including making it pet friendly, is to talk to a design-build remodeling contractor. His design skills will enable him to work with you to create the look and feel that you want. Since he will also be doing the construction, you can be sure that there will be no communication gaps, and you will get your home remodeled exactly the way you expected.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Home Remodeling: Current Trends You Need to Know

Trends can be useful. They tell you what other people are thinking and doing. They give you ideas which you can use in your own life. They are also dangerous – if you blindly follow what others say and do, you are in the soup.  Nowhere is this truer than in the matter of home remodeling. This is something that you do once or maybe twice in your lifetime. You want your home to be the best it can ever be, so you look for the best and brightest concepts and samples toadopt. But remember, the most popular ideas and features may not work for your home or family. With that in mind, here are a few fresh popular concepts that can be adapted to suit most homes.


The Healthy Home

It is so obvious that it may sound ridiculous even to mention these small things. But a healthy home is more than just one that does use zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. Consider these other often overlooked issues:

  • Are all the rooms well ventilated?
  • If you live in an area with high levels of air and water pollution, do you need air and water filtration systems?
  • Have you maximized natural light? It’s not just a matter of saving on electricity. You know that sunlight is the major source of vitamin D, right?
  • What about artificial lighting? Are the work and study areas well lit? Strained eyes would  warrant spectacles.

Small things, yes. But they are essential too. If you spend a little time thinking about them and make provisions for them, your home will surely be a healthyhome.

The Creature Comforts Your Family Deserves

Think beyond the HVAC system and heated bathroom floors. What about heated towel racks? There’s nothing like a warm towel after a shower. Or a touchless toilet that works by waving a hand over it? How about a room that is designed around a home entertainment system? A home automation system that will turn on the lights and air conditioning and have your food hot and ready when you return home could be worth its weight in gold.

Recycle and Reuse

Recycling does not mean protection of the environment by compromising on the quality of your home life. Here’s an example of how. Go to landfill and collect some wood from old crates and shipping containers. Sand it and interesting grains and patterns often appear which you will not find in wood purchased from a lumber yard. Experiment with different stains and polishes. The end result is often something that adds life and character to your home. Keep your eyes open and you will see a lot of things that you can use.

Metal Is Not Cold and Lifeless

The use of metal in home d├ęcor is increasing, and with good reason. Not only is it long lasting and strong, it can give your home an aura of depth and richness that nothing else can. How would a room look with copper pendant lighting? Would a bronze sink transform the look of your kitchen? There are few things more contemporary than stainless steel cabinets.

Study trends but think outside the box to find ways to adapt them to your taste and needs.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Remodeling For Your Retirement: 4 Essential Preparations You Need to Know

Are you an average American homeowner? If so, you are in your mid-30s and retirement is a long way off. It’s not something you think about when you plan to remodel your home. But remodeling is not something you can afford to do every few years. The sooner you start thinking about it the better. If you are approaching your 60s, the urgency is much greater.

Observing Homes of Seniors to Get Ideas

This doesn’t mean visiting a retirement home. Drop in and spend some time with the seniors you know. Talk to them about the challenges they face in their homes due to structural features which if available would make life much easier for them. Not everything may appeal to you nor may be right for you, but the more ideas you get the better prepared you will be. You don’t have to incorporate everything immediately. Making provision for it is enough. For example, remodeling a staircase with the option of installing a stair lift at a later date will make installation easier when it needs to be done. 

 
Understanding “Universal Design”

The term Universal Design refers to the concept of a home that is safe for, attractive  and comfortable to people of all ages. This includes: maximizing the number of bedrooms on the ground floor so that climbing is reduced;making wide doorways that make wheelchair access easier; fixing easy-to-reach switches and outlets; providing multi-level kitchen counters and so on. These are features that everyone will becomfortable with, not just the elderly.

Building Safer Bathrooms

Bathrooms are a major danger area for the elderly. Many homes usually have smaller bathrooms and these can be difficult for the elderly to use. Making bathrooms bigger may not be possible. But the layout can be designed to provide the following safety features: maximum possible open floor space for easier access to wheel chair or walker users; location of the tub and toilet convenient for fixing grab bars later. Floors with the highest non-slip factor will be safe for everyone, especially seniors.

Living Downstairs

If you have a 2 story home, you are not going to abandon the upper floor. But you could think of moving the master bedroom downstairs. Remove thresholds to reduce the chances of tripping and make wheelchair access easier. There’s no need to install a ramp to your front porch now, but keeping provision for putting one in later makes sense. Make the steps at the front entrance smaller, easier to use. It is something everyone will appreciate right now.

These are just a few things that can make your home more comfortable and safer for you in your senior years. There is much more you can think about and many more options available. It would be a good idea to have your home remodeling done by a contractor specializing in design-build remodeling.

Monday, 25 May 2015

10 Remodeling Don’ts

When planning a home remodel most people spend a lot of time researching all the things they have to do before, during and after the project. Not being prepared or leaving out something important can ruin the remodel and destroy the plan for a dream home. However, it’s equally important to know what not to do – there are a lot of common mistakes that homeowners make. It’s your home and because you want the best for it, your intentions are good. But you know what they say about good intentions and where they lead.


Here are a few things you should not do when remodeling your home. 
  • Do not postpone making major decisions till after the work starts. A good contractor will walk you through all the possible scenarios so that when an issue arises, the plan for dealing with it is in place. Delays caused by the time taken to make decisions add to the time and cost of the project and can have unintended consequences.
  • Finding out halfway through the remodel that some aspects of the home may not be exactly as you pictured them is common. Talk to you contractor about what can be done to correct the situation. But do not make too many mid-course corrections. Every small change will affect something else and you don’t want to set off a chain reaction you can’t control.
  • Do not plan to buy the materials yourself. Sure, the contractor will have his mark up and that will be passed on to you. But he will also be able to get a better price than you so the difference will even out. And he will have the knowledge and experience to get materials of the right quality, which you may not be able to do.
  • Do not expect miracles. Remodeling is limited by the nature, type and condition of the basic structure. A good contractor can do things that may seem impossible. But if you are told that something is impossible or not advisable, pay attention and try to understand why. Pressurizing a contractor to do something that he does not think is viable rarely ends well.
  • Do not set unrealistic budgets. If you find some aspects of the remodel will cost more than you expected, do not push the contractor into taking shortcuts to keep the costs down. Instead, work with him to find viable cost effective solutions that will not compromise the quality of the remodel.
  • Do not start the project without a contingency fund. It is a very rare home remodel that does not run into unexpected problems and costs. Delaying the work while you arrange for the extra funds will just increase the costs even more. A ballpark figure for the fund would be 5%.
  • Do not get in the way. Of course you want to know what is going on and how the remodeling is progressing. But constantly distracting the contractor or his staff by asking what is going on, why it is being done this way and how long it will take etc. will distract them from their work and cause delays.
  • Do not ignore what the house wants. There are no hard and fast rules in regard to home design. But will an ultramodern kitchen really work in a colonial style home? It’s too late to do anything about it if you realize it doesn’t during the final stages of the remodel.
The key to a successful home remodel is to have a contractor you can depend on and who is ready to spend time working with you to iron out all the details of the project in advance. This will ensure that the end result is what you want, that the project is completed on time and that cost overruns, if any, are kept to a minimum.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Think Of Solar Energy When You Remodel

This steady increase in energy costs is making the use of solar energy in homes increasingly attractive. With everything in the home, from washing to cleaning, cooking, climate control, entertainment etc. all dependent on electricity, and new appliances becoming available every day, the demand for electricity will only increase. And while the demand increases, so do the costs. The price of electricity has been steadily increasing over the years and this trend will continue. Solar power for the home is the wave of the future to reduce utility costs, provide some degrees of insulation from grid power outages and to reduce a home's carbon footprint. The best time to add solar power to a home is during a remodel because the installation of the solar panels, wiring and other aspects of the conversion can be integrated into the remodel, saving of money and time.

The Advantages Of A Solar Powered Home
  • Solar energy is an excellent long term investment offering a 200% Return on Investment (ROI) over a period of 25 years. A CD will get you an annual return of 2.5% and even blue chip stocks will offer an average return of only 11%.
  • The value of your home increases significantly. On an average, the increase in the home's value will be around 20 times the annual electricity savings. In most states, the increase in property value due to the installation of solar power systems is fully exempt from property tax. In addition, should you ever plan to sell the home, studies show that the demand for homes with solar power is growing rapidly and they sell 15% faster than homes without it.
  • The life of a solar power system is 30 years and once the system is installed, there are no running costs and virtually no maintenance or upkeep required.
  • You can control your energy costs. Electricity rates, nationwide, increased by about 21% over the last 5 years. With fossil fuel supplies dwindling, the costs will continue to increase. With solar power you can insulate yourself from these increases.
  • It can happen that there will be times when your home produces more solar electricity than it needs. For example, during the day when the home is empty and power is being produced. At such times, it is possible to sell the excess back to the power company and have them pay you.
  • With blackouts due to grid failures increasing in frequency, either due to breakdowns or natural causes, having a solar powered home means that you will remain if not completely, at least largely unaffected by such occurrences.
  • By reducing your home's utilization of grid electricity, you are reducing its carbon footprint and are being a good eco-citizen.
Solar Power Is Not A Magic Bullet

The facts enumerated above and all the other positive information on solar power in homes makes it obvious that including a solar power system in a remodel makes a lot of sense. But many homeowners have unrealistic expectations of the results, leaving them feeling that the investment has not been worthwhile.
  • In many cases, a home will not be able to produce enough solar power to meet all its energy needs and some dependence on grid supply will remain.
  • In cloudy weather the electricity production will drop, resulting in an increased use of commercially produced electricity.
  • Unless batteries are installed with the system to store excess power during the day, solar electricity will not be available once the sun sets.
Even with these few drawbacks, the advantages of solar power are clear and incorporating solar energy into home remodeling plans is something that will begin to pay for itself from day one.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Creating a Family Friendly Kitchen

Having a kitchen that dishes out gourmet meals easily or facilitates entertaining is always a welcome feature in any home. But in most cases the kitchen is more of a family room than anything else. Remodeling your kitchen to give yourself the space and features you want does not mean that it cannot also be a room that everyone in the home can enjoy. Here are a few ideas that can help you create a truly family friendly kitchen.

What is the Kitchen Used For?

It’s not just for cooking. Make a list of who uses the kitchen and what they use it for. Do the kids do their homework there? Is this where you have a cup of coffee with friends? Does Dad create one of his “gourmet” meals on Sundays? Do the pets eat here? List out everything that is done in the kitchen and you will find that room is used by more people for more things than anywhere else in the home. The next step is to list out the special requirements of each activity. Do the kids need a large table for their homework?  Does Dad need a special place to store “his” utensils? If anyone else uses them, his cooking could be ruined! Where are the pet food and the bowls going to be stored? By the time you finish this exercise, it may appear that 2 kitchens will be required to accommodate everything. This is where you have to get creative. Consider every possible space saving idea. What activities can be moved out of the kitchen without making those involved in them unhappy? If your remodeling contractor specializes in design-build projects, he will be able to help you design and create a kitchen that can give you as much of what you need as possible.


Keeping It Clean

The more people use the kitchen, the more cleaning it needs. Use easy to clean surfaces wherever possible. Granite and marble are great, but man-made quartz surfaces are the least porous and so the easiest to clean. If you are on a tight budget, laminates offer a good compromise. If you need surfaces that will not break glasses that are carelessly banged down on them, avoid rigid materials like glass tiles. 

Maximize Storage

It is a rare kitchen that has excess storage. Maximize the storage and incorporate features like fully extendable drawers to make reaching things in the back easier. Having low level cabinets and drawers where the kids can access parent approved foods is important.

What about an Island?

An island is not just more work area. It can serve as a snack bar, a dining area and a place for children to do their homework. With enough stools around it, it’s a great place for family meetings.

Install Space-saving Appliances

Without compromising on quality or functionality, look for and install appliances that occupy the least floor area or those that can be wall mounted. This will free up room to move around and make the kitchen seem less cramped.

Use these concepts to form an outline of what your family friendly kitchen should be. Add your own ideas and those of other family members to create a design that incorporates everyone’s needs.

One of the biggest kitchen remodeling mistakes is to fall in love with a kitchen design seen in a magazine and blindly adopt it. The concept may be exactly what you have been dreaming of, but will it work for your family? The right thing to do is to find a few designs that appeal to you. Use the list of family specific requirements to prioritize the features you must have. Go through all of this with a design-build remodeling contractor. Use his/her design abilities and technical knowledge to develop a design that will give you a kitchen that works for your family. The end result may be different from what you saw in the magazines, but it will give you a kitchen that will make everyone in the family happy.