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Is New Flooring Part of Your Remodeling Plan in Carrollton?



Whether you are remodeling or building an addition to your home, you will probably be making some decisions about new Carrollton flooring. In fact, your entire home improvement project might be installing new flooring in some part of your house. Though it is much easier to just replace worn floor coverings with new versions of the same thing (like carpeting), it might be worth the time and trouble to think about doing something new. Who knows! You might come up with an idea that will change the appearance of the room. Your choice might also be more durable.


If you are considering new Carrollton floor covering, think about the available options:


Carpeting is an obvious choice, and it can work it most rooms of your house. It might not be the best idea in your kitchen, laundry room or bathrooms because of the risk of a plumbing leak. In most rooms, there is a carpeting option that will probably fit the bill. You’ll be able to choose a design and texture you like in any of a number of price ranges. Carpet is also quick and easy to install.


Linoleum and sheet vinyl are very popular floor covering choices wherever there might be water. These materials are water resistant, very easy to clean and maintain and you can choose from a huge array of colors, textures and designs. Both linoleum and sheet vinyl are also made in designs that look a lot like more expensive natural materials, (wood, stone). Both of these materials are economical and easy to install.


Hardwood and Engineered Wood flooring are also very traditional and popular materials. Hardwood is made of planks of wood. These are much easier to maintain today than they were when you were a child because they are coated with a protective material that keeps them looking good for years. Engineered wood flooring is made by gluing together three to five pieces of hardwood and laminating them together. These options will cost more than linoleum and sheet vinyl, and they are often not a good choice around water, but they look great.


Laminate flooring is a very good choice around children and pets. Laminate starts with a fiber core. A printed layer that looks like wood or stone is attached and then a melamine coating is applied. Laminate is very popular because it is made to look like natural materials of all kinds. The melamine coating makes it water-resistant and scratch-resistant.


Ceramic tile has been around for a long time. It can be used for floors, walls, kitchen backsplashes, and more. It is a good choice in high-traffic areas because it is very easy to clean and maintain.


Natural stone or stone tile is very popular today. It is more expensive than ceramic tile. Whether you are considering natural stone floor covering to match or compliment your kitchen countertops or you want the rustic look of limestone, granite or slate to match your décor. Because of its cost, natural stone can be a budget-buster.


Engineered stone tile can be a good option to get the look you want at a lower cost. It is made by chemically binding stone chips and powder. Quartz is the most common type.


But if you are environmentally conscious or you want something unique, you might consider cork, bamboo or reclaimed antique hardwood. You’ll be surprised by the durability and appearance of these materials.


With all of these options, you can choose an affordable option to finish any remodeling project or just to give a fresh look to any room of your home.



Fireplace Remodeling Tips



Remodeling your fireplace can completely change the look and feel of a room, whether it is a living room, den, great room, family room, bedroom or kitchen. A good remodel can make the new fireplace the center of focus in the room if you use the right styling and materials. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a professional, these tips will help you plan the perfect fireplace for your home.


1. Check the firebox for damage or cracks. If you find any, they must be fixed before you do anything else. Make sure the damper works properly.


2. Check the chimney, the flue, the chimney cap and the spark arrester for any signs of cracks or other damage.


3. Clean the chimney to remove any creosote buildup, which can cause a fire.


4. Decide what you can do with the existing firebox surround. What materials were used? Can the surround be removed without disturbing the firebox? You might find, especially in an older home, the surround and the firebox are a single unit. You might need to replace both if you want to remodel the fireplace.


5. Decide what kind of materials will best result in the appearance you want for your new fireplace? Are you remodeling the whole room? Will the materials you have chosen blend with your decorating style?


6. Decide whether you want a working wood-burning fireplace or you plan to use a factory-built unit. You might find it less expensive and less work to just install a factory-built fireplace.


7. Design your surround. How big should it be? Remember that even a fireplace that is the focus of a room needs to be proportionately sized for the room.


8. Will there be a mantel? Will you add wood moldings of any kind? What kind of mantel will you use? Will you have it built on site? Will you buy an antique? Will you buy a ready-to-install mantel?


9. Check the efficiency of your fireplace. One way to improve the efficiency of a fireplace is to add a “fireback.” This is a heavy iron panel that goes in the back of the firebox to absorb heat and reflect it into the room.


10. Decide if you want to run a gas line to the fireplace to either supply a gas starter for a wood fire or supply gas logs in your new fireplace.


Following these ten tips will put you well on your way to designing and building the perfect fireplace for your home.



What You Should Know about Instant Water Heaters



Whether you are thinking about remodeling or making some changes to improve energy efficiency in your home there are some things you should know about instant (or tank-less) water heaters. Whether you are interested in conserving water, saving energy, or you just want to save some money, these water heating devices might fit the bill.


Depending on your needs and the amount of hot water you use in a day, you might want to think about either a whole-house tank-less water heater or about instant water heating units in strategic places in your house. These units are compact, efficient and affordable.


Here are the main things you should know about these water heating devices:


1. Tank-less water heaters produce hot water by heating an element that then heats the water as it passes across the element on its way to the tap.


2. The name “tank-less” comes from the fact that there is no water storage tank that is part of these systems.


3. The systems save energy because they don’t keep the water in a storage tank at a constant temperature. You only heat what you actually use when you use it.


4. With these systems, you don’t have to worry about leaks because the storage tank or a pipe cracks. Your home and furnishings will be safer.


5. There are two kinds of instant water heaters – those powered by electricity and those powered by natural gas. Gas-powered units can produce more water flow than electric units.


6. The cost of a whole-house tank-less unit will range between $199 and $4000.


7. Tank-less systems usually last 20 years or more. Traditional water heaters with storage units generally last only 10 to 15 years.


8. If you use a lot of hot water in a day, a tank-less system will use 8% less energy. If you use very little hot water in a day, they can save as much as 50% in energy use.


9. The cost of supplying hot water to your home can be reduced by up to 60% by switching to a tank-less system.


10. Instant water heating units heat between two and five gallons of water a minute.


11. Because of the limited amount (2 – 5 gallons a minute) heated by these units, you will not be able to run two demands for hot water at a time (such as running the dishwasher and taking a shower). This drawback can be overcome by installing a booster unit or by just installing units in each place you use hot water.


12. Instant units are small and self-contained. They take little space and don’t need two water supply pipes running to the unit.


13. Instant water heating units are ideal in places where hot water is needed only occasionally, such as a garage sink, a hot tub, an outdoor cooking area or a pet bathing area.


14. Instant units are also perfect in places where you need hot water only when the areas of the home are in use, such as a pool house or a guest bathroom.


15. Instant units are also perfect in guest houses, vacation homes and exterior showers for beach homes. Because there is no risk of leaking or flooding the property in case of a leak, you can close up the property when it is not in use and not have to worry. Then when the property is reopened, you don’t have to wait for hot water while the whole storage tank heats.


Before you make remodeling decisions about plumbing, think about whether an instant water heater might meet your needs more efficiently. If you are looking to make your hot water supply more efficient and conserve water, you might want to consider an instant water heater – you won’t even waste water waiting for the hot water to reach the tap!




Is it a Good Idea to Use Engineered Lumber?



Using engineered lumber in a remodel or a house addition can be a very good idea. Engineered lumber is stronger and gives you more flexibility in placing studs and beams. Here’s why.


Engineered lumber is made from recycled lumber. It uses all parts of the trees it is cut from. It is also usually made from fast-growing trees like poplar, fir, aspen and pine. The pieces of recycled lumber are compressed and laminated or bound with other types of adhesives. This process of laminating or binding the fragments together actually makes it stronger than ordinary sawn lumber. Even if it uses a “softer” wood, like poplar, the laminating process makes it even stronger. It is also more durable and less likely to warp from moisture.


Using engineered lumber is very friendly to the environment because the process uses recycled and fast-growing (fast-replenishing) wood. You will find that engineered lumber is actually preferred by some builders because of its added strength. It is used for roof beams, floor joists, trusses, sub-flooring and even for framing walls. You can substitute it for traditional 2×4 and 2×6 boards for framing walls.


Because engineered lumber is so much stronger, it allows you to span greater distances and place wall studs farther apart. This means you use less lumber. This does not mean, though, that it will cost less. Board-for-board engineered lumber costs more than standard lumber. But because of its extra strength, you use less of it and end up paying about the same amount for a whole project.


A perfect example of a use for engineered lumber is when you remove a load-bearing wall and need to span a greater distance. Combining engineered lumber beams and studs might allow you to span the entire area you want to open up without a need for a post in the middle to support the structure. This can be very helpful to homeowners who are trying to remodel older homes into the open spaces created in new construction. Placing studs farther apart also makes it easier to frame walls with windows and doors where you want them.


The fact that engineered lumber is stronger and less likely to warp and sag makes it the perfect choice in areas subject to strong winds, or high moisture and humidity. In fact, the laminating process also makes engineered lumber less likely to mold or mildew. Finally, engineered lumber, with its added strength, is also ideal in earthquake-prone areas.


Whether you are doing your own construction or working with a contractor, you might find that engineered lumber is also a good idea because you can drill holes in it for pipes and wires without weakening or splitting the boards. This can be a definite advantage over standard sawn lumber.


When you are ready to choose materials for your remodel or home addition, it will probably be well worth your time to consider the advantages of engineered lumber.



Reap the Rewards of Replacement Windows



Replacing your windows could bring huge benefits that far outweigh the cost of the windows and installation. Windows are one of the biggest factors in heat exchange between the inside of your home and the air outside. New windows that reduce the exchange of heat from the exterior to the interior are both a very smart remodeling decision and, for that reason, the most popular home improvement project in the U.S. today. Old, inefficient windows mean that you are wasting natural resources and spending money for heating and cooling inside your home that is actually going right out the windows.


A study by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that the heating cost with a single pane window is $356. Using double pane windows reduces the cost to $178. Adding a low-e coating and exterior storm windows reduces that cost even more, down to just $100. Other studies by various window manufacturers show that replacement windows can save one-fourth to one-half of the energy needed to heat and cool a home.


When you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home, you save money and you reduce your demand for electricity, natural gas, heating oil, or whatever means you use. Another important fact about window replacement is that installing new windows will also increase the value of your home by as much as 90% of the cost for the windows.


The best windows to prevent transfer of heat through windows are wood, vinyl, fiberglass and foam. Metal frames, such as aluminum, are the worst because they don’t have insulating properties. Glass, itself, also conducts a lot of heat. But there are ways to make windows more efficient. Double-pane windows have a space between the panes of glass. This provides insulation when the air between the panes absorbs some of the heat and some of the cooler air and stays at a temperature between the two extremes. This will make your windows more efficient. If you buy windows that have a gas in the space between the panes, such as argon, the window will be twice as efficient as a plain double-pane window. If the gas used is Krypton, instead of Argon, the window becomes another 50% more efficient.


The next step up would be to install triple-pane windows. This offers two neutralizing air chambers between the three panes of glass. A triple-pane window filled with Argon gas will be 50% more efficient than a double-pane window with Argon. If you upgrade to a triple-pane window filled with Krypton gas, the windows become 2.5 times more efficient in insulating your home than a double-pane window filled with Argon. Finally, if you add a low-e (low emissivity) coating to that window, you will allow light to pass through but you will block heat loss due to the heat of the sunlight (UV) by 40% to 70%.


If you want to make your home more energy efficient and save on your heating and cooling bills, new replacement windows will certainly accomplish your goal. You will also increase the value of your home. If you live in a region that experiences some extremes of heat and cold, you will probably find that the reduction in your heating and cooling bills will pay off very quickly. The investment will certainly pay for itself in a matter of years. And with your new windows, you can enjoy the view even more because you will know you are saving cost and valuable natural resources.



Outdoor Kitchens Are Trendy


If you do a lot of entertaining at home, you might be thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen. If your home is located so that you have a terrific view or if you have a backyard pool or a fabulous patio or deck, you might want to add an outdoor kitchen. These additions to your ability to entertain outdoors are both trendy and highly valued by home buyers.


While an average kitchen remodel can be expected to earn back about 81% of the cost when you sell your home, an upscale remodel can only be expected to earn back about 70% in added value of the home at resale. But because outdoor kitchens are the trend, depending on where you live, they can increase the value of your home by somewhere between 130% of their cost and 200%! This could be a great investment if you plan to sell your home reasonably soon. In the meantime, you’ll be able to entertain in style and comfort.


What you are able to do with your outdoor kitchen will depend on the setting and on your budget.

In terms of design, the essentials will be to have a focal point. The focus might be the view from your patio or deck, or it might be a swimming pool or an elaborate deck or patio. Your outdoor kitchen will then need to have a food preparation area, a serving area and a dining area. Trendy outdoor kitchens might also include a relaxing and comfortable seating and conversation area, a bar, and all of the comforts of an indoor living room and dining room. The other design consideration is putting your outdoor kitchen close enough to the indoor kitchen to make it easy to carry things back and forth.


In terms of equipment, you will want, at the very least, a grill and cook top, a refrigerator, a food preparation area, and a place to serve food. The size and capability of your grill and cook top will probably depend largely on your needs and your budget. If your outdoor kitchen is large enough, you will probably want to have a refrigerator for drinks, possibly a wind refrigerator, and possibly also a refrigerator for food. If you want to be able to prepare food outdoors, you will certainly want a sink (at least a prep sink). You can also add an ice maker, a standard sink and a dishwasher. You will probably also want to add a bar sink. You will also want to think about storage. You might want to keep glasses at the bar and dishes near the serving area.


As your kitchen becomes more complex, you will need to think about electricity for your refrigerators and other appliances, a gas line for your grill and cook top (unless you prefer electric), and plumbing to provide water and to remove waste. You will want to talk with a contractor about placement of gas, electric and plumbing early in the design process. Accessibility could influence your design.


Your outdoor kitchen and entertaining area can be almost anything you want it to be. Investing in the kitchen should be a wise investment that will pay off when you sell your home. You will certainly enjoy the convenience of an outdoor kitchen in your preferred place to entertain friends and family.





If you need to add living space to your home and want to find an economical way to build the addition, you might want to consider a sun room. Sun room additions can serve almost any purpose and they can be installed both quickly and cost-effectively. These additions are also a perfect way to enlarge a kitchen to add both space and sunlight.


The most affordable sun room additions will be those that are factory built in standard sizes. But a surprising amount of variation can be customized when they are installed. You will also be able to choose the type of roof you want, ranging from a standard shingled roof that seamlessly joins the existing roof to glass panels that are completely open to the sun and stars.


Sun room additions can serve a wide variety of uses:

 Sunny atrium

 Greenhouse

 Art studio

 Hobby or craft workshop

 Conservatory

 Bedroom

 Family room

 Dining or breakfast room,

 Exercise room

 Transition area between pool and house

 Spa

 Patio enclosure

 Pool enclosure

 Play room or game room

 Master bedroom extension


You will be able to choose from a wide variety of shapes and sizes or customize the exact space you want to create. Whether you make the addition a three-season room or you add supplemental heat/air for comfort year round, the choice will be yours. You will also have a choice in the framing materials and the interior frames of the glass panels. Your options will usually be aluminum, vinyl-clad aluminum or wood. You will also have choices about foundation style and material, lighting, “ceiling” fans and door styles.


You will definitely want to shop around to understand the options in room size and shape, cost of installation, and types of glass used by various manufacturers. You will want to analyze the glass to know how it will stand up to wind and how the installation will hold up in bad weather. There are many kinds of glass, and it is important to understand in the beginning that the sun room will not be built of the same kind of glass that is in most windows.


Sun rooms are built of varying qualities of tempered glass. (If you have a frameless glass shower enclosure in your home, you can see the kind of glass used). What will be different about the glass used by different manufacturers will be the strength of the tempered safety glass. Ask each manufacturer about the wind velocity their glass can withstand. Then think about weather conditions in your region and choose what you will need.


It is also important to think about the insulating properties of the glass. Remember that glass is an excellent conductor of heat and cold and that it will transfer ultraviolet light from the sun. The R-Value of the glass used will be very important in controlling the temperature inside the finished room and in protecting your furnishings. Depending on the kind of roof you choose, you might also need to ask about glass tinting in ceiling panels.


Just ask the right questions and choose the manufacturer carefully. You can have a quick and affordable sun room addition that will meet you needs.





What to Do when Storage Space Isn’t Enough



If asked, most homeowners will tell you they don’t have enough storage in their house. While this is certainly true in many homes, it is also true in many other homes that there is enough storage space, but the space isn’t being used efficiently. So what can you do when the storage space you have isn’t enough?


First, evaluate your use of the storage space you have. Take the time to look at every storage space you have in your home. How much space is wasted? What would make the space more efficient? In many homes, there is more than enough storage space if it is just organized more effectively. It is very frustrating, for example, to have to pull everything out of a deep closet to find the single item you are looking for. But a little bit of organization can reduce the frustration.


Second, evaluate what you are storing. We all accumulate things over time. And, some of us are hopeless pack rats. Are you wasting valuable storage space on things you haven’t used in years and probably won’t ever use again? Maybe it’s time for a good yard sale!


Third, figure out how to make the available space more efficient and more accessible. If organization is just not your thing, see if a friend or family member can help with the task. Otherwise, hire an organization specialist. These folks can quickly help you find ways to maximize your storage space and make everything more accessible.


Fourth, decide whether to build your organizational structure or have the organization specialist bring in ready-made closet inserts and the like. Think about adding trays or dividers in drawers. Adding shelves or compartments in closets can quickly bring order to chaos. Consider slide-out shelves or lazy Susans in larger spaces where it is difficult to reach things in the back.


Finally, look for small unused spaces that can be converted to storage. For example, if you need a place to store canned goods in the kitchen, consider using that 4” space beside the oven. Do you need a place for baking trays and cookie sheets? Look for a narrow space that isn’t being used and convert it to a storage area. And don’t forget about brackets that will allow you to use the wasted space near the ceiling of the garage.


If you are willing to organize your storage space for maximum usefulness and invest in a few organizing items or a little bit of lumber to build shelves, you might find that you actually have sufficient space for the things you need without trying to add storage space.


If you decide you need to build some storage areas, you might start by looking up and down. Basements are a great place for spacious storage closets. Attics offer amazing possibilities, especially in the areas under the eaves that cannot be used for living space.


Think creatively and learn to organize. You will probably be able to create the additional storage space you need with minimal cost.




Top Safety Tips When Remodeling



Before you start a remodeling project or a home addition it is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your family, your property, and your belongings. You will need to think about safety when construction materials and tools are in the area being remodeled. You will also need to think about protecting your family when there are strangers in your home to do the work. Don’t forget that your property is more vulnerable to intruders when it is under construction.


By taking these safety steps when you remodel or build a home addition, you should be well protected.


1. Talk to your insurance agent and be sure you have enough insurance to protect you and your home during a construction project and to protect your investment when the project is complete. You might find that an umbrella policy is the best choice. But be sure you are protected against loss, theft, fire, and personal injury claims. If you have reason to question the ability of your contractor to complete the job, be sure someone is carrying insurance or a bond on the cost of finishing the job.


2. Make sure the rest of your house is securely closed off from the construction area. This protects your family and your possessions and makes it more difficult for someone to accidentally wander into the construction area where they could be hurt.


3. Take steps to keep children and pets out of the construction area at all times. Whether this means teaching or training, creating barriers, or having someone with children and pets at all times, it is vital that they be protected from accidents, injury or danger. Talk with your contractor about steps that can be taken to keep the construction area as safe as possible at all times and about talking to workers about checking for the presence of children when dangerous work is being done. It is also a good idea to either walk your pet during construction or to create a fenced area for your pet during this time.


4. Create a plan to have an adult check around the property and the work area at the end of each work day to be certain all tools, equipment and debris has been properly secured for the night. This will help you protect curious neighborhood children from harm on your property.


5. Never leave your children at home alone (without an adult) when strangers are on the property. Know as much as you can about the people who will work on your project.


6. Remove valuables from your home during construction. Put these items in a safe deposit box or leave them with a friend or family member during construction.


7. If you and your family must leave the home during construction (all day, for example), don’t leave your pet unattended. Your pet might be frightened by the strange and loud noises.


8. Cover or fence off valuable plants and create a walkway from the place materials are stored to the work area. This will limit damage to your landscaping.


9. If doing any work on your remodel or addition, always wear appropriate protective goggles and clothing.


Taking these steps to protect yourself, your family, and your property will ensure that your home remodeling or addition project will be safe and happy.



You Can Remodel a Bathroom Affordably



If you ask around, people will probably tell you that the average cost for a bathroom remodel is about $15,000. Remodeling Magazine says the average cost of a master bathroom remodel is $25,000. These cost estimates assume that you will use good quality materials and hire a contractor. If you have a older home with plumbing that is out of date, you can probably add another $5,000 to the estimated cost.


So before you give up or conclude that you can’t possibly afford to remodel a bathroom, please read on. There are many ways to reduce those cost estimates and remodel your bathroom affordably. Here are some of the most popular ways to remodel your bathroom and eliminate a huge amount of the cost for the project.


1. Plan every step of the project (including planning) very carefully. Pay attention to every detail and everything that contributes to the cost.


2. Think very honestly and very carefully about parts of the job that you can do. Everything you do will reduce the labor costs for the project. Just remember that you will end up increasing the cost if you try to tackle something you really don’t know how to do.


3. Shop around for every item and every construction material you need. Compare the prices for each item in every store. You will probably find some big differences in prices. Be sure to check liquidators and the Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores.


4. If you can find what you want in a store that carries the item as a stock item, you will pay less for it.


5. Look for discontinued models of fixtures, fittings and major materials. These will be on sale at a huge price reduction.


6. Schedule your remodel during a slow period for your contractor. This is often the time from Thanksgiving until January. This can save 5% or even 10% of your cost.


7. Make no changes once the work has begun. These changes are costly. Sometimes they are extremely costly.


8. Don’t move plumbing or electrical fixtures. This will save a bundle.


9. Look for less expensive ways to accomplish the same goals. For example, if you are remodeling a small bathroom and you want to make it look bigger, one way to accomplish that is to use vertical stripes on the walls. Instead of buying striped wallpaper, paint the stripes.


10. Look for ways to incorporate salvage items in your design and décor. This will save money and help you create a room that is unique.


Don’t give up on remodeling your bathroom because of what people tell you about average costs. Just use your imagination, these tips and some smart shopping to save a bundle and make the project affordable.



How to Get Natural Light to a Windowless Room



Many homes have windowless rooms. In some cases and with some people it doesn’t matter a lot. With others it is a frustration. Builders make decisions about windows that are usually based on cost and design considerations. But it is often possible to bring natural light to rooms that do not have windows. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal.


1. If there is an exterior wall in the room that does not have a window, there is a good chance you can add one. This is the most obvious solution to the problem. There are, however, some practical things to consider first: Will you end up with a window over a tub/shower combination? How will you keep the window dry? How will you cover the window for privacy when showering?


2. The second option that comes to mind for most people is to install a skylight or a roof window. In some cases, this is a simple matter of cutting a hole in the room and the ceiling and installing the new window. Flashing and sealing will be critical. Sometimes it will be necessary to change the ceiling from a standard flat ceiling to a pitched ceiling that follows the line of the roof. This will certainly add cost to the project, but it might be worth it to bring in natural sunlight.


3. A third option will be to add a “tube light” or “solar tunnel” to the room. By cutting a smaller hole in the ceiling and running a tube or tunnel down into the windowless room, you can bring in natural sunlight. This is a very affordable option in many cases. Even a relatively small opening can bring in a surprising amount of sunlight to brighten a room.


4. The fourth option is to open up the windowless room to another room that has windows and brings in a lot of sunlight. Doing this depends on the purpose of the room you are trying to light up. If it is a bathroom, this might not be possible. You also might not want a bedroom opened up to another room. But if the room is not used often, or if you don’t mind the room being open, you can open a large area that is fitted with doors that can be closed when necessary (such as double doors). You could make this very attractive by using French doors or pocket doors.


There are at least these four ways to bring natural light into a windowless room. You will just need to think about how the room is used, how much you can afford to spend on the project, and what you think will work best in light of the way your family uses the room.




A Remodel Could Lead to Savings for Years to Come



It is not surprising to find homeowners making decisions and shopping around when they remodel in an effort to save money on the project. This is certainly important if you want to get the most for your money when you remodel or add to your home. But there are some decisions you can make that will save money for many years to come. A few of these decisions and purchases might mean paying a little bit more at first, but recovering that extra cost in long-term savings in other areas.


The money you will save by shopping around, knowing the prices of things, comparison shopping and helping with the work for your project can be used to help you cover the up-front extra cost of items that will save you money over the long run. You can also use some of that money for premium items that will make your remodel unique or of higher quality than you might be able to afford otherwise.


Here are some things to consider that will result in big savings for the foreseeable future:


1. Choose materials and construction methods that will make your home energy efficient. Choose framing methods, insulation and construction materials, and fixtures that are environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. For example, use engineered lumber products to reduce the demand for conventional lumber. Choose rapidly-replenishing products to save the environment. Use new framing methods to save lumber by spacing vertical studs farther apart. Choose double- or triple-glazed energy efficient windows and insulated metal doors. These decisions will reduce your heating and cooling costs for the future.


2. Buy bathroom and kitchen faucets, shower heads and plumbing fixtures and appliances that conserve water. This will protect the environment and save you money on future water and sewer costs.


3. Choose energy efficient appliances and lighting fixtures throughout your home. Some of these items might qualify you for a rebate from your water or power supplier. They will definitely reduce your utility bills in the future, sometimes by surprisingly large amounts. Look for the greatest energy and water efficiency in utilities and lighting fixtures, and use compact fluorescent bulbs in all lighting fixtures.


4. Choose low- or no-maintenance exterior materials for your remodel. These materials will save some at the time of purchase, but they will either eliminate or reduce long-term maintenance time and costs. Using manufactured materials will save on maintenance costs for at least the next ten years. It will also make your life easier by eliminating the demand for regular maintenance.


5. Design a low-impact remodel. Look for unused and under-used space in your home and design it for a different purpose instead of adding space to your home. Look for ways to reduce cost by reducing work also. Look seriously at ways to get your remodel to do what you hope to do at lower cost. For example, instead of adding on with a full foundation, try adding the space with a bow or bay window or with a bump-out. Don’t move plumbing and appliances. Install new windows that are the same size as the old ones.


6. Choose interior materials that don’t need a lot of maintenance or that won’t wear out as quickly. Consider the durability of laminate flooring, for example, over high-maintenance hardwood floors. Think about how materials will wear under the kind of activities that are normal for your family.


7. Make careful decisions about how you will finance your remodel. Shop around for the best terms and interest rates for your loan. Use credit cards that pay rebates or use retailer financing that allows you to make payments at 0% interest for a while. These decisions can help you save a bundle on a remodel.



Keep the long-term costs of maintaining your home in mind. Choose energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly materials and appliances that will reduce your utility bills for many years. The pay-back will be well worth your time.




What’s the Best Ceiling for your Remodeled Room?



When remodeling any room you should remember that the ceiling is the finishing touch that crowns your work. Choosing the right ceiling style for the room is as important as every other element of the room design. The ceiling style you choose, and the way you finish it with moldings or color, can make your room look larger or smaller, rustic or elegant, and everything between.


The factors that help you define the type of ceiling that is the best fit for your remodeled room are: the way you will use the room, the architectural style of your home, your decorating style, and the effect you want to create with the ceiling.


A steeply pitched ceiling follows the pitch of the roof. This will result in a sloped ceiling that is lower on the side and very high on the other side or in the middle. A pitched ceiling will make the room look and feel bigger. You can either finish it with drywall or you can leave the beams exposed. The beams can then be either stained or painted in the color of your choice. There are a few things to consider with this type of ceiling. First, you might find that you use all of the space between the rafters and beams for insulation. Exposed beam designs might mean that you have to add to the beams before the insulation is installed. Covering a pitched ceiling with drywall might require a professional. Because of the number of seams and corners and the need for them to be exact, this can be a very slow and painstaking process.


A flat ceiling is the easiest to install in most cases. You should find that you have plenty of room for good insulation above the ceiling. The pitch of your roof will probably dictate the height of your ceiling. Ordinarily, the higher the ceiling, the larger the room will look. A flat ceiling can be built with drywall, metal (such as punched tin), wood or acoustical panels (such as are used in a drop ceiling). If you want easy access to the space above the ceiling through the room you are remodeling, a drop ceiling might be the best choice. Panels that drop into the frame are available in a number of colors and designs. Copper and tin panels are popular again for some ceilings. This will probably cost more than a simple drywall ceiling.


Another very popular ceiling option is a tray ceiling. Although the ceiling will basically be flat, the levels of the tray use the extra space above the ceiling to create one or two (sometimes even three) more levels of height in the center. This will make the room seem larger and it can add a touch of elegance. There is a challenge in drywall installation and cutting to make sure all of the seams, corners and lines are straight. A number of effects can be created with different ways of painting the various tray levels.


Finally, finish off your ceiling with crown moldings. This trim placed where the ceiling meets the wall will make the room look more finished and elegant. Natural or stained wood crown molding can enhance an exposed beam ceiling, too.


Think about the way you will use the room, the style of your home, and your personal decorating taste when you choose your ceiling style. Don’t forget to finish it off with some striking crown molding. You’ll love the result.



Affordable Room Makeovers Need only Paint and Imagination



In tough economic times, many homeowners are looking for affordable ways to bring new life to tired rooms in their homes. There are many affordable ways to remodel, especially if you are willing to do all or some of the work. Probably the most affordable makeover for any room of the house is a fresh coat of paint. But with some creative thinking and a little knowledge of faux painting techniques, you can make a room look totally different. Even more, most people will think you spent far more on your remodel than you will actually need to spend.


Start with a simple fact: there are many ways to apply paint to a surface. Then let your creativity run wild and you can create a whole new room with just paint and a few basic tools. Faux painting is the use of a special technique of painting a wall or other surface that looks like wood, marble, stucco or stone when you finish. Just imagine the possibilities this opens before you!


Whether you decide to use stencils to paint a border or a pattern across an entire wall or you use other common items as tools to create special paint effects, you can use paint and imagination to create a mottled effect that looks like aged plaster or stucco, geometric designs, borders, patterns, and much more.


Stencils, geometric designs or patterns and a few simple tools can be used to paint a wall in ways that look like wallpaper or other expensive fabric wall treatments. Using the right paint and a comb can create stripes or striped blocks. You can paint walls with almost any geometric shape and metallic paints to look like punched tin or copper.


You can create special effects that will look like wood grain or marble, granite or even tissue paper. You can make a wall look new and modern or aged and crackled. And you can do it all with such everyday items as a rag or a sponge or a dry brush, a paper bag, or a feather duster.


You can also apply such materials as drywall mud to the wall before you paint or mix sand or other materials into the paint. Something as simple as drywall mud and a sponge can create amazing effects on walls and ceilings.


Getting the knowledge of how to do these special faux painting techniques is easy in most locations. Check with your local adult education center or a home improvement store for classes, or pick up a book on faux painting techniques. Time, patience and the right paint can turn an ordinary room into a showplace for a minimal investment.


Just match the paint application technique to the effect you want to create to transform any room of the house. The result will be very attractive, and you are certain to have fun doing the project.




Don’t Forget Safety When You Remodel



At every stage of planning, design and construction, it is important to think about safety in your remodel or home addition. There are, in fact, two aspects of safety to consider when you add on to your home or remodel: safety during the project and safety in your remodeled home. Your contractor or designer/architect will probably help you think about the safety of your family and others who are on your property or in your house, but there are some important considerations it is easy to overlook when remodeling.


Begin by thinking about who is living in your home and about who is likely to be living in the home in the next five to ten years. Are there young children in the home? What is your age? Will anyone with a disability be in the home? Will your parents/grandparents be moving in with you? Planning the safety features of your home starts with the special needs and unique challenges faced by individuals in your family and by the design of the home itself.


One of the most obvious potential dangers in any home is a staircase. How steep are the risers? Are the stairs covered with a material that makes it likely or unlikely that someone could slip and fall? Are their railings or banisters on both sides? Have you installed adequate lighting at the top and bottom, as well as over any landings? Are the rails or banisters at the correct height? Could someone fall between the vertical supports?


If there are young children in the home, you will need to plan for locks on some cabinets or drawers in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and the garage. Make sure you plan for enough locked storage to secure all medicines, cleaning chemicals, and gardening chemicals and supplies. If you store insecticides or lawn care items in your basement, you should also plan for a secure storage space for these items as well. If you are selecting new appliances for the kitchen, you might want to choose items that have the controls on the surface instead of the front. You might also want to place your furnace and water heater in an enclosed area. Don’t plan for use of space heaters.


Install good smoke alarms and replace all smoke alarms that are more than ten years old. Install a smoke alarm in each child’s bedroom or each bedroom used by an elderly or disabled person. If your home has a divided bedroom plan (with the master bedroom on the other end of the house or on a different level of the house) or if you have converted attic or basement space to bedrooms, you might want to opt for a interconnected smoke alarm system. This way, if an alarm goes off, the others in the house will also go off to alert everyone.


Be sure you plan for adequate space for people to get around in each room and turn a wheelchair (if necessary) or use a walker. This is especially important in bathrooms. Choose faucets and shower heads with anti-scald devices to prevent burns. Plan to use devices like doorknob covers to keep children out of bathrooms when not accompanied by adults. Plan to install non-slip surfaces in and around tubs and showers. Install grab bars in bath tubs and showers.


Choose sturdy or built-in bookcases that cannot be pulled over by children. Ensure that all office equipment in the home is out of the reach of children, especially paper cutters, shredders and sharp objects.


These basic home safety steps will help you protect your family. Your contractor will help you with other things you need to consider in light of the particular needs of your family.



How to Find a Contractor



If you are planning to remodel your home or add one or more rooms, one of the most important decisions you will make will be the choice of the contractor you hire to do the work. There are several important considerations in choosing a contractor. But the first step is finding good contractors to interview for your project.


Keeping in mind some important considerations about choosing the best contractor for the job will help you narrow the field when you start trying to find the contractors you will interview. Here are some of the key considerations:

• Does the contractor have experience with the specific kind of work you want done?

• Does the contractor have a good reputation in the community?

• What kind of reputation does the contractor have for pricing his/her work?

• Who recommended the contractor?

• Have there been complaints or lawsuits against the contractor?

• Is the contractor properly certified and/or licensed?

• Do you have reason to believe you can trust the contractor to be in your home and around your family?

• Do you have reason to believe the contractor will provide the promised quality of work?


When choosing the contractors you will interview and from whom you will request estimates on your project, you will certainly want to do your homework and check out each contractor you are considering. You will also want to be certain they will abide by local zoning laws and building codes. No matter how carefully you check out a contractor you are considering, a strong recommendation from someone you know and trust will be one of the most important factors in your decision and evaluation.


Because of the importance of trusted recommendations, this is the best place to start when you are looking for the right contractor for your project. Here are some of the best ways to find reliable contractors:

1. Ask family members who have had work done in their homes.

2. Ask friends who have had similar work done.

3. Ask neighbors who have remodeled.

4. Ask co-workers about their remodeling experiences.

5. Ask local builders for recommendations.

6. Ask for recommendations from providers of building supplies.

7. Check with the better business bureau and the chamber of commerce in your area.

8. Ask the state licensing board.


These people should be able to give you a list of reliable contractors. You should then ask around about their reputation and check out their background and the quality of their work carefully. Remember that it is okay to ask to see previous work by contractors, especially work that is similar to the project you are planning.



Six Construction Costs Easily Overlooked



Most remodeling cost calculators do a good job of helping you identify and estimate the main remodeling or home additions costs. These include preparation, planning and design costs, materials costs, labor costs and project management costs. Most homeowners are also able to look around the room to be remodeled and come up with a complete list of the materials and tasks that will be part of the construction cost of their projects. But there are some other costs related to construction that can be overlooked.


The costs in the list that follows are part of almost all remodeling projects. Taken separately, they might not seem like major project costs in the overall scheme of remodeling or additions costs. But they can add up quickly, and they will definitely be part of your total project cost.


1. Insurance. You will probably need either an umbrella policy or some increase in your liability insurance during construction. Although your general contractor should carry workman’s compensation insurance for people injured while working on the project, you also need to protect yourself from injury claims by workers and by others who might wander into the construction area uninvited. You might also want to be sure that someone (you or the contractor) is carrying insurance on the completion of the project.

2. Losses. Your home might be more vulnerable to break-in during construction. It is also possible that there could be damage to lawn and landscaping, to other parts of the house or the driveway. Tools and other items can be lost or stolen from your home. Some of these items might be too small to bother with an insurance claim, but they are construction-related losses all the same.

3. Cleanup. There will be a large amount of cleanup after demolition of walls, etc. There will also be a need to clean up scraps, sawdust, packaging materials and the like at the end of each work day. Someone will also need to secure all tools and equipment and make sure the work area is neat and clean to prevent accidents.

4. Trash Disposal Fees. Depending on where you live, all debris, scrap material, old materials removed for the remodel, and other trash must be removed from the construction site and from your property. Whether someone is taking all of this trash to the local dump, or you have a dumpster placed on the property and emptied regularly, or you arrange extra trash pick-up by the municipal government, there will probably be some fees associated with disposing of the trash from the job.

5. Sealing off the work area from the rest of the house. You will want to have the rest of the house sealed off completely from the work area. This will be necessary to keep workers out of your house, to keep children and pets out of the work area, and to prevent dust, dirt and fumes from entering the rest of the house. There are several ways to seal off the house. You will want to consult with your contractor on the most effective and affordable methods.

6. Repairs. Whether planned or accidental, most remodeling jobs and additions involve some repairs. These might be plumbing or electrical repairs of old systems, or they might be repairs to drywall and framing when a new door or window is added. It is also possible that there will be unexpected problems or accidents that will have to be repaired as part of the total cost of your remodel.


Careful planning and doing some of these chores yourself can reduce the total cost of your remodeling project. Whether you are able to reduce these costs or not, you should not be surprised to discover that these tasks will contribute to the total cost of your remodel.



Some Hidden Costs of Remodeling



There are hidden costs associated with most remodeling projects. Home additions also have hidden costs. Many homeowners are surprised by these costs, however. Some of these hidden costs of home improvement can be expected. With some careful planning, you can avoid or reduce some of these costs completely.


Two of the hidden costs of home improvements can be completely eliminated by planning carefully and sticking with the plan throughout the project. These are the cost of making late changes and the cost of upgrades. There is a simple rule of thumb to keep in mind: every time you change your mind after materials have been purchased and work has begun, it will cost you money. Every change in the design, layout, materials, or work of your project will cost more than your original estimate. Every time you change your mind about a fixture, fitting, appliance, etc. it will also cost more money. Everything that happens in the course of the remodeling project that slows work or makes the contractor or the work crew wait for something, will add cost to your project. And this cost will be in addition to any additional cost of the new fixture or material. Making changes that involve undoing work that has already been completed will be very costly because you will pay for the original work, for tearing it out, and for re-doing it in the new way.


By the same token, anything that requires an unplanned update or upgrade or repair, will also cost more money. And unexpected delays or problems will also involve extra cost. For example, late delivery of key materials will result in the cost of paying the work crew to wait until it arrives. If the delay makes the crew late starting another job, you could also be forced to pay a penalty.


The costs of financing the money used to pay for the remodel or addition is also a hidden cost. Most homeowners recognize this as a cost of the remodel at the time when they sign the papers, but few actually add this cost into the total cost of the home improvement project. If your project is large, the finance charges and interest paid on money borrowed for home improvements can be significant. If you are making home improvements prior to putting your house on the market, you will want to include these costs in calculating the return on your investment and the selling price of your home.


The next hidden costs of remodeling are a result of the increased value of your home as a result of the addition or improvements you make. There are three possible impacts of your remodel: increased (or decreased) utility bills, additional insurance costs and increase in taxes. Your home improvements will either increase the size of your home or make your home more energy-efficient, or both. This will affect your utility bills in some way – either increase or decrease. Any increase is a hidden cost of the addition to your house. Your remodeling project will also increase the value of your home. Increased home value will translate into higher insurance premiums and higher real estate taxes.


If you are doing the work yourself, you will probably need to be sure to include the cost of tools, equipment and safety equipment, whether you buy or rent. If you can borrow tools and equipment, you will save on this cost. If you find that you need specialized equipment that you will not need again in the future, you will probably save money by renting. Another idea is to purchase what you need and then sell it when the project is finished. This will recover at least part of the cost.


Finally, sometimes it is necessary to leave your home for some period of time during a large remodel. Another hidden cost of your remodel will be the cost of lodging and meals for your family and, possibly, for your pets.


Keep in mind that with careful planning you can reduce or eliminate many of these hidden costs of home improvement.


What Are the Benefits of Adding A Second Story?



If you live in a ranch style home or other single-story structure, you might consider adding living space by building a second story on your home. There are several benefits of adding a second story to a home, but there are also some possible barriers you will need to overcome.


If you are prepared to consider building upward instead of building outward (by adding a room or two), there are several things you will need to check out before your planning goes too far:

• Will local zoning ordinances and building code requirements allow you to add a second story?

• Will your neighborhood homeowners association allow you to add a second story? (Some neighborhood associations do, and others do not).

• Can the footings, exterior walls and interior supports handle the extra weight?

• Is the foundation adequate?

• What are the restrictions on the design of the addition and the materials you will be able to use?

• Can you find an architect or a designer who can make the second story look like it was originally part of the house and like it fits the neighborhood?

• How and where can you build stairs to access the new second floor in a way that looks natural on the first floor?

• What permits and inspections will be necessary?

• Will you need new water and sewer lines or electrical circuits to handle the extra load?


While considering a second story addition to your house, you should calculate the cost of the decision. It will probably be more expensive to add a second story than it would be to add a room or two. Set-back requirements in your locality might make it necessary to add a second floor because you might not have a big enough lot to add to the ground floor. In designing your second story addition, you might also want to consider only adding a second story over part of your existing house. In many cases, this will result in an attractive home at a lower cost than a full second story.


There are four main benefits of adding a second story:

1. You don’t have to move to get more living space. If you like living where you are, for any of a number of reasons, this can be a compelling argument. A second story addition might mean keeping your children in the same school or staying close to shopping or your workplace.

2. A second story addition is a chance to modernize your home or to add windows that will lighten and brighten interior spaces. The addition might give you the tall entry foyer you want or allow you to change the exterior of your house to make it stand out.

3. You will have the chance to design the new space any way you want. You can match the floor plan to the specific needs of your family. You can use the space in any way that will make your home more comfortable for your family or give them special space for special activities.

4. You will have a chance to make some changes to the first floor, and those changes will cost less than if you made them as a separate project. Do you want a higher ceiling in your kitchen? Have you always wanted spiral stairways?


If you need extra living space, it will be worth your while to think about adding a second story to your house. The benefits are clear, and many of the possible obstacles can be overcome with planning.


Is There a Good Reason to Hire A Bathroom Remodeling Specialist?



If you are planning to remodel one or more bathrooms, you might be wondering if it really matters whether you hire a general contractor or a bathroom remodeling contractor/specialist. In the end, this is a comparison you will need to make for yourself based on what you know about various contractors in your area.


Among remodeling professionals, bathroom remodeling specialists have a unique place in the industry. They generally do bathroom remodels and only bathroom remodeling. They also usually do bathrooms very well. Because they specialize, they often have subcontractors and sources of materials already in place. They are also usually able to start and finish a bathroom remodel faster. Because they only do bathrooms, some bath specialists have special terms set up with some materials suppliers, which can save money.


Bathroom remodeling is often more complicated than any other remodeling project with the possible exception of a kitchen. Remodeling a bathroom requires knowledge of framing, electrical, plumbing, drywall (and specialty drywall for bathrooms), ventilation systems, floor covering, radiant heating systems, and specialized knowledge of bathroom materials, equipment and fixtures. In many cases, bathroom remodeling also involves extending exterior walls and moving interior walls.


Bathroom remodeling specialists can assure high quality work because they use the same work crew and subcontractors regularly. In fact, bathroom specialists often have a regular team of licensed sub-contractors and workers who are either their employees or are the team they use whenever possible. This saves training time, and it saves work time because the team is accustomed to working together. They know how to do their specific job without interfering with other tasks or causing delays.


Because they are specialized, bathroom remodelers know where to look for problems, which reduces the number of surprises encountered when work begins. Because their work is focused on bathrooms, they are good advisors – they know certain ideas will not work. They will also be more knowledgeable of new fixtures, materials and design trends. Because of their experience, bathroom remodelers are often able to do the design work and save you the time and trouble of hiring an architect or another design professional.


Bathroom remodelers will have the construction down to a proven system. They will know what to do in what order to save time; and when they save time, you save money.


Bathroom remodelers can also advise you about products, materials and product features. They might be able to direct you to more reliable products or to products that offer more options for the money. For example, they might know that the last few customers who installed a particular spa tub had problems with the jets or the motor within three months. Or they might be able to get a better price on a particular tub that has more features at a lower price.


Working with a bathroom remodeling specialist can increase your level of comfort with your product choices and with new trends in bathroom remodeling. They might be able to save you money because they work faster and more systematically and because they have purchasing relationships with key manufacturers. All things considered, the decision to work with a Certified Bathroom Remodeler will generally result in a good home improvement experience.



Where Can I Find Remodeling Ideas?



Once you catch the remodeling bug, you will be looking for ideas and thinking about what you want to accomplish with your remodel. Whether you know you need more space for a particular reason or you just want some changes in your décor, you will probably want to start exploring ideas for your remodel. But where can you find remodeling ideas?


There are many great sources of remodeling ideas. In fact there are so many sources of ideas that you could experience idea overload. The first step in gathering ideas, then, is to plan how you will organize all of the ideas you find. Your exploration might give you ideas for other projects you want to undertake later. Organizing the ideas you find will save time when you are ready to start choosing materials for your remodel and designing your new room.


Here are some of the best places to find ideas for your remodeling project:


1. Home Improvement Stores are the best place to start. You can look at displays of various fixtures and design ideas. Many of these stores will also have manufacturer’s brochures available for you to take home. You will also be able to compare a number of models of various appliances, fixtures, fittings, cabinetry, and more. Takes notes on items you like, and be sure to write down model numbers and prices. This will save time when you make final decisions about items for your remodel and set your budget.


2. The Internet is another good place to do some browsing in search of ideas for your project. Visit remodeling, design and decorating sites, as well as manufacturer sites. You will be able to look up particular models you like and compare them. You can also download pictures of designs and materials you like.


3. Books and Magazines are also good sources of ideas. Visit your local library and a good bookstore. Browse widely before you make purchases to be sure you are spending wisely on books. You will be able to find home plans, room plans, information on materials and how to approach the technical parts of the remodel. You’ll also find the latest trends and ideas in current and recent issues of magazines. You can also read up on how to do some of the tasks involved in your project. There will also be information available on how to make your home more energy-efficient and how to choose environmentally-friendly materials. If you plan to do the remodeling work yourself, you will probably want to buy a do-it-yourselfer’s guide for the room you plan to remodel.


4. Home Shows and Builder’s Expos are also a great source of ideas. You will be able to see the latest models of materials, the newest construction ideas and materials, and new designs in fixtures, appliances, and more. One of the real benefits of going to a home show or expo is that you can talk with manufacturer’s or retailer’s sales representatives. They can explain the benefits of their products and answer your questions.


5. Finally, spend some time visiting new construction and showcase homes in your area. These new homes will let you get a feel for how different floor plans work (or don’t work for your family), you’ll see decorated rooms, and you’ll get ideas for design, decorating, and finishing your project.


Whether you are remodeling, adding on, or just updating, these five sources of ideas will help you gather information and make smart decisions. You will have clear ideas when you talk with designers or contractors, and you will be confident in your choices.



Den Additions



Adding a den to your home can add value to your home and provide very versatile living space for your family. A den can offer a cozy family space or a quiet retreat. No matter how your family chooses to use the space, it will be a welcome addition to your house.


The first decision you will need to make is how and where you will add the den. Will you convert existing space, finish unused space, or build an addition? You can convert an unused room to a den fairly easily and quickly. You can also finish attic space or space in the basement. Finishing these spaces offers both challenges and opportunities you will want to consider carefully.


• Converting attic space, either over the house or over a garage, offers many opportunities in design. The space under the eaves that is too low for conventional use makes wonderful storage, as well. The biggest challenge in designing a den in the attic is figuring out how to access the new space. You will need to plan for stairs somewhere; and this will involve changes to the space below it.

• Converting basement space also offers many possibilities. But before you convert space in your basement you will need to check for dampness and address any problems. You will also need to comply with local building codes regarding access and egress, as well as windows in the new space.


Building an addition to your home, you will also need to consider building and zoning laws and codes. You will need to check on required setback from the property line. The most important consideration is how and where the new addition will join the existing structure and what kind of changes in the existing floor plan will be needed.


One very popular way to add a den is to extend the end of the kitchen. If you plan to use the den as a family gathering place, this can be a great choice because it makes the kitchen the point of access to the den. Whether you make the den completely open to the kitchen or you only use a standard door to connect the rooms, you will also need to think about how you will build the den in this particular location.


Wherever you add to your home, there are some important considerations:

• What is the grade of the land?

• What kind of foundation will you build?

• Can you match the exterior material with the rest of the house?

• How will the roof of the addition connect with the rest of the roof?

• How will you connect to the heating and cooling system?

• Will you include a fireplace?


From these basic questions and considerations you will have great latitude in planning the design aspects of your new room. You will be able to create a room that sets a mood for any type of use.



Family Room Additions



Adding a family room is a perfect way to create a space where your family can actually live without worrying about clutter or toys in the floor when guests drop in. So the first consideration in adding a family room is to place it and build it so that it is not immediately visible from the front door. Beyond this first consideration, the flexibility of designing your family room gives you the opportunity to design a room that will meet the needs of your family both now and in the future. Assuming that you do not plan to convert attic space or basement space to a family room, this article is intended to help you with the first steps in planning an addition to your house.


Building a family room addition to your home will increase the value of your house. To get the greatest return on your investment there are several things home buyers look for in a family room:

• It should be centrally heated and cooled.

• It should be on the first floor.

• It should be easy to access and monitor.

• It should be functional, yet flexible.

With these considerations in mind, according to Remodeling Magazine, you can expect (based on national averages) to increase the value of your home by about 83% of what you spend to build the addition.


Here are the first steps you will need to take to plan and design your family room addition:

1. Check on local zoning requirements and building codes. You will need to comply with setback requirements, foundation, size and emergency egress requirements, and the like.

2. Find out if there are local building requirements that any part of the work be performed by a licensed professional. Many localities require that professionals do electrical, plumbing, gas line and framing work.

3. Evaluate the property for grade, easements, setbacks, obstructions, etc.

4. Decide where you will put the addition.

5. Determine how you will connect an addition in this location to the existing house.

6. Understand what changes will need to be made to the existing house to provide access to the new family room.

7. Decide how to work with the property – will you need to build up to make the addition level with the rest of the house?

8. Decide what kind of foundation is best for the addition.

9. Decide on the size of the addition. Be sure the room will be in correct proportion to the rest of the house.

10. Figure out how the roof will need to be installed.

11. Make decisions about windows and exterior doors.


Next, you will need to decide who will do the work on your addition. Will you hire a general contractor to manage the project and make the decisions? Will you do the entire project yourself? Will you manage the project and hire workers and sub-contractors for specific tasks?


Finally, think about the design of the room. Will anything be built in, such as shelving or cabinets? What kind of ceiling do you want? Where will the fireplace go?


If you will be working with a contractor, you will have help with these decisions and planning the project. If you will be doing the project yourself, you might find it helpful to get something to guide you through the important processes and help you organize the project and the paperwork.


Garage Additions



Whatever your reasons for doing so, adding a garage to your home will protect your vehicles, provide safe access to your home, increase the resale value of your home, and possibly provide a little bit of extra space for storage, a workshop, a laundry room, or any other use you can imagine.


Before you go too far imagining how you can use all of that new space, you will need to do some checking to make sure you can add a garage, what restrictions apply, and what requirements might be imposed by your homeowners association or the local government. Start by checking with the city or county and understanding all applicable building code specifications. You will also need to check on zoning requirements. These will specify how far from property lines you can build, if you can add a garage, what materials must be used, whether a garage door is required, and whether the garage can be attached, detached or either. There will possibly be requirements for minimum and maximum size and there might be stipulations about how the space above the garage can be used.


Before you start choosing materials for your garage addition, you should also check with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is important for the resale value of your home that you use HUD-approved construction materials.


The next step is planning the project. This step includes planning who will do the work, making decisions about the design, placement on the lot and layout of the addition. Decide on the size and use of the space, where there will be doors and windows, the roof style and the building materials. Discuss with your contractor how much preparation and leveling will be necessary to pour the concrete slab for the floor. Think carefully about where you want electrical outlets, whether you want to include a bathroom for cleanup when coming in from the yard or working in the garage, and what kind of electrical circuits you will need. And think carefully about whether you will insulate the walls of the garage.


Keep in mind when planning who will do the work that garage additions are not easy projects for most do-it-yourselfers. There will need to be some excavation work, someone to build the form for the concrete, a carpenter, a roofer, an electrician and, perhaps, a plumber. You will need someone with the necessary knowledge to build the exterior and interior walls and to install windows and doors. Other tasks necessary for garage additions include: installing vapor barrier, installing electric garage doors and openers, installing appropriate ventilation, priming drywall, painting, and designing and building access to a finished space above the garage.


Most garages built today are attached to the house and have windows on at least one side of the structure. Automatic garage door openers are also fairly standard. If you want to provide access to the attic, but don’t want to finish it, a drop-down stairway will probably be the best option. If there is space, adding some shelving or strips for hanging tools can make the garage very functional and help to keep it neat and organized.


These steps and tips should help you plan and build a functional garage addition. Properly built and organized, the new garage will be a valuable home improvement.



Adding a Living Room



Lifestyles have changed significantly during the last 100 years. At the turn of the last century, most homes were built with drawing rooms and parlors. These functioned as places to receive visitors, places to entertain close friends and family, places of instruction, and places for families to gather.


Homes built between the 1940s and the 1960s were designed with huge living rooms. These were formal to semi-formal rooms that were intended to be the center of all family activity from quiet family gatherings to spaces for formal entertainment. Families that needed smaller areas for cozy family time built dens, and those who needed places to play built recreation rooms. The withdrawing room (drawing room) where people got away in cozy spaces and the parlor (where guests were greeted and entertained) disappeared from most new homes.


In more recent years, homeowners wanted larger and more casual multi-functional living space and smaller formal living rooms. In some home designs the living room disappeared, and a great room became the standard multi-functional family living space.


The first step, therefore, in planning and designing a new living room is deciding how the room will be used. This will enable you to make decisions about where to place the addition and about the size of the new room. Where you add the room will also be determined by several other factors:

• The architectural style of your home

• Keeping the addition in proportion to the rest of the house

• The contours of your lot

• Local zoning and land use regulations

• Building code specifications

• Effect on the view from other rooms

• How it will affect the view of the front (or back/side) of your home

• How the new roof will connect with the existing roof

• Where you are willing to give up some of your yard


The next thing to consider is who will do the work and when it will be done. A living room addition is not a weekend project for a do-it-yourselfer. You will need to schedule tasks in the correct order and arrange for contractors, sub-contractors and workers to be available on a schedule that will save you money and not disrupt your family’s life.


Local building codes will help you with specific requirements for exterior materials, height and other design elements, and with requirements about which work must be done by licensed professionals (electrical, plumbing). You will need to create, or hire a professional to create, a clear and detailed plan for your addition that includes air flow for heating and cooling, framing and structural support, excavation for footings and foundation, proper insulation, windows and doors, and even where you will put electrical outlets and connections for home technology and entertainment services.


With careful planning and professional guidance you can create a new living room that will provide space for your family’s lifestyle and increase the value of your home (if done correctly). Your new room will provide years of living comfort.



Nine Things You Should Not Do When You Remodel



Building and remodeling choices are largely a matter of personal taste. Whether you are building a new home or remodeling an existing home the goal is primarily one of making the home more comfortable and practical for your family. But at least somewhere in the back of our minds is at least some consideration of how our decisions affect the resale value of the house.


To help you avoid some common pitfalls that can negatively affect the value of your home, here are ten tips to keep in mind when you start thinking about remodeling.


1. Never improve a home beyond everything else in the neighborhood. This might be wonderful for someone who is deeply entrenched in the community and wants to stay put at all costs. But prospective buyers do not have this commitment to the community and generally will not be willing to pay an excessive amount for a house that has been over-improved. You might have the biggest and the best house, but why would someone pay more to live an a neighborhood that can’t compare?


2. Be very careful about trendy paint colors. Ordinarily, you will be better off with neutral colors when you put your house on the market. Some buyers will like bright colors, others will like pastels, and others will like darker colors. These trends change very quickly, and you cannot discount the importance of personal taste.


3. Don’t install windows without moldings. This might have been popular a few years ago, but when selling a home, it is important that it look finished. Moldings add character to rooms and frame the view through windows.


4. Don’t use concrete block for exterior walls. This has been unpopular for many years. It is interpreted as economy building and offers an undesirable exterior appearance. If you have concrete block walls, a good home improvement project would be covering them with something more attractive (inside and outside).


5. Upscale bathrooms with spa features are very desirable, so don’t settle for a basic master bathroom. You don’t have to let this get completely out of hand and try to create a bathroom that offers everything. But you should have a spa tub or shower and some of the luxury amenities, at least in the master bathroom.


6. Don’t choose a bowl-type bathroom sink that sits on top of a counter. These are being regarded as passé and impractical. The fad is over, so don’t leave your bathroom outdated.


7. Don’t install spiral staircases. Experience has shown that these are dangerous and difficult for children and older people. As the majority of the population ages, these space-saving designs will become increasingly unpopular.


8. Replace the hardwood laminate and bamboo floor covering. Bamboo tends to warp and scratch and hardwood laminate stains easily, changes color, and doesn’t stand up to repeated sanding. If you are looking for something environmentally friendly, it might be worth a look at cork floor covering.


9. Concrete Countertops have had their day. Concrete was briefly popular for kitchen and bathroom countertops. It could be shaped and colored; it looked clean and modern; but it doesn’t hold up as well as promised, and the fad is done.



Although you will want to watch the latest trends and listen to your realtor’s advice about what is and is not selling well in your locality, these tips can help you avoid some costly remodeling mistakes.



What to Look for In a Contractor



Finding the right contractor for home improvements is probably the single most important part of home remodeling or additions. Not only do you need to find a reliable professional who stands behind his or her work, but you need to find the right contractor for your home improvement project. You need to be able to talk with this contractor about important decisions. You need to be able to ask questions and understand the answers you are given. When asked for decisions you need to be confident that you understand the question and all of the options before you make a decision.


It is unfortunate that there are scam artists posing as contractors who try to take advantage of people. This can give the whole profession a bad reputation. Fortunately, most contractors are honest people who want to do good work on every job and finish a project with a happy customer. Part of hiring a contractor is finding someone competent and qualified. But another part of choosing the right contractor is just being comfortable and confident talking with him or her.


Here are the five most important things to look for in the contractor you decide to hire.


1. Look for a contractor will a good reputation and a strong history in your community. These contractors are fairly easy to identify. They will be well known in the community and they will have well established businesses. Other people will recommend them or know about them.


2. Look for a contractor who is properly licensed and insured in your state. Be sure the contractor is licensed to do the kind of work you need done. Be certain that both the license and the insurance are current. This will take two phone calls: one to the insurance company and the other to the Department of Commerce in your state or the state licensing board. The licensing board should also be able to tell you if the contractor carries liability and workers compensation insurance.


3. Check for membership in the National Association for the Remodeling Industry. This can be an indicator of reliability as well as knowledge of current trends, construction techniques and business practices.


4. Check with the State Attorney General’s office to be sure any contractors you are considering are not registered in their directory of fictitious business names. Then check with the Better Business Bureau and the local courts for complaints or lawsuits against the contractor.


5. Finally, look for experience, capability, quality and price. You will need to spend some time researching this. You should ask as many questions of the contractor as you think you need to ask to make a decision. You should also ask other people what they think and how they felt about working with the contractor. Also inspect work done by the contractor and talk with homeowners about their experience.


Reputable contractors will expect your questions and they will be happy to answer them. These questions, and the way the contractor handles them, might be the first indication of what it would be like to work with the contractor.



Don’t Become a Remodeling Victim



We have all heard horror stories about people who have been scammed and cheated by people who claim to be contractors. A large number of these stories come from the aftermath of natural disasters or devastating storms. Tragedy seems to bring these people out of the sewers. Unfortunately the most vulnerable are often targeted and cheated. But there are ways to protect yourself and your friends. Here are some tips about protecting yourself when you are remodeling or making repairs to your home.


1. Never consider hiring someone who shows up on your doorstep, especially immediately after a storm or natural disaster.


2. Never consider hiring someone who offers you an exceptionally long guarantee.


3. Never consider hiring someone who insists on full payment in advance.


4. Never hire someone who tries to pressure you into making an immediate decision.


5. Never hire someone who happens to have the materials on hand.


6. Never hire someone who offers you a discount for finding other customers.


7. Never hire someone who offers to repair or remodel your home as a demonstration or a local sample of his or her work.


8. Never hire someone you have not taken the time to check out.


9. Never hire someone who suggests that you borrow money from a specific lender he or she knows.


10. Never sign any document that has blank spaces that can be filled in after you sign.


11. Never let anyone pressure you into signing anything.


12. Never sign a document you don’t fully understand.


13. Never sign a document in which you agree to deed your property to anyone until you have carefully reviewed it with a trusted attorney.


14. Never agree to contractor financing without shopping around for better terms.


15. Never let a contractor begin work without giving you a written contract that specifies all materials and the expected quality of work and a final total cost for the project.


16. Insist upon handling all changes from the contract with a written change order that specifies any difference in the cost.


Although this list is not intended to be comprehensive, it will help you protect yourself when hiring a contractor and arranging financing for a home remodel.

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