Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Expert tips for choosing the right window for your kitchen remodel



What are the hottest updates for homes in 2015? The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in the home to remodel, and for good reason. According to HGTV and Trulia, a kitchen update is one of the secrets to selling your home.
When it comes to remodeling your kitchen you must consider many aspects - cabinets, counters, floors and appliances - but you may not have thought about windows. According to Remodeling.com’s 2015 Cost Vs. Value Report, window replacement - whether wood, vinyl or fiberglass - provides a good return on investment compared to other replacement projects, increasing the value of your home financially and aesthetically. So whether you’re making small updates or completely gutting your old kitchen, including window replacement in your project is a smart addition.

Here are three key elements to keep in mind when choosing a window for your kitchen:

Style
Kitchen windows are often placed above counters or sinks, making them hard to reach and prone to moisture. Choosing a window style that is easy to open and close, such as an awning, sliding or casement, is a smart move.

Awning windows - which can be pulled in or pushed out - are perfect for ventilation, which can be especially helpful in a hot kitchen. Since hot air from the oven or stove typically rises, awning style windows perform the best when placed close to the ceiling or above eye-level.

Sliding or casement windows - which use a crank out method for opening and closing - are two good options for hard to reach areas, like above the counters or behind the kitchen sink. Pella motorized blinds and shades are also ideal for hard to reach window locations and can be controlled with the touch of a button.

Material type
With window placement above counters or sinks, moisture and staining can occur, so choosing an easy-to-clean material like vinyl or fiberglass, is equally important. Fiberglass windows can withstand extreme heat and cold, are energy efficient and can have the same quality look of painted wood. Vinyl windows are easy to care for, don’t require painting or staining, and stay looking great for years.

However, if wood makes more sense for you and the style of your home, then make sure to select a finish that will hold up against stains and moisture, and be prepared to do a little more cleaning and up-keep.

Features and options
Whether your new kitchen is traditional, modern or rustic, your new windows should complement the space. Window designs offer a variety of features including colors, hardware and grilles. Pella’s Designer Series windows even offer a between-the-glass solution that keeps blinds and shades located behind sinks from getting splashed. With so many options to choose from it’s easy to design a window that’s unique to you and the style of your kitchen.

Visit Pella Windows and Doors on Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration or visit Pella.com to begin designing your new windows.

To order your copy of Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
For more information about Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A professional home inspection is a must-do

What you don’t know could hurt you – at least in the case of a real estate transaction. That’s why every homebuyer should ensure a contract is contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection.

Especially for older construction, building standards and construction materials have drastically changed. Plus, many properties on the market now have been vacant or in disrepair due to the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn.

With those uncertain variables in play, it’s critical to hire a professional home inspector.

“A home inspector in the early 1970s didn’t have to concern themselves with lead-based paint or asbestos – those materials had yet to be deemed unsafe,” says Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections in Springfield, Virginia. “In the early 1980s, no one was concerned with radon gas or anti-tip brackets on stoves. In the early 1990s, mold was not on everyone’s high priority list, and composite building materials were just starting to be installed.”
Those are just a handful of the problems that today’s home inspectors can detect. It’s also essential to check staples like the HVAC system, wiring, roof and foundation.

In addition, home inspectors are uniquely qualified to catch hard-to-see problems like code violations.

Hidden hazards can include improperly spaced balusters on railings, defective garage-door safety features and inoperable windows that reduce the number of fire exits in a residence, says Kurt Salomon, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Once, he says, an inspector found residual chemicals in a house that had been used as a secret meth lab.

And, the rash of repossessed homes has only made their jobs harder. Since many foreclosed properties have sat vacant for months – even years – damage from water, mold, deterioration and vandalism are prime concerns.

According to a 2012 poll conducted by ASHI, nearly 90 percent of all American homeowners surveyed said home inspections boost their confidence in a home purchase. Eighty-four percent said they would be more likely to purchase a foreclosed or short-sale property if it passed a home inspection.

“The purpose of a home inspection is not to assemble a list of normal wear-and-tear or cosmetic items but to identify the home’s most pressing problems to be addressed in an effort to save the buyer money in the long run,” Salomon says.

After the inspection, the buyer and seller negotiate to see if any of the problems will be fixed or if there will be price allowances for necessary repairs. Even if the contract doesn’t change, Salomon says, “The buyer will still benefit from having the knowledge of defective or unsafe components and systems.”

Some sellers will have a home inspection completed prior to listing a home, says Susan Aviles, broker with Aviles Real Estate Brokerage in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

In other cases, a real estate agent may insist that a home inspector of the buyer’s choice conducts the inspection. Either way, Aviles says, she would never recommend that a client forgo a home inspection.

Regardless of the age of the structure or appearance, an inspection is necessary. Even brand-new homes could have issues with builders cutting corners or recent DIY home improvement projects gone awry.

When shopping for a home inspector, choose one who meets state licensing/certification regulations (visit www.ashi.org for more details). He or she should have several years of experience and come highly referred by someone you know.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why You Should Start Your Year With These 5 Housing Projects


New Deck

Every January, eager homeowners try to determine what home remodeling projects they should consider the upcoming year. While remodeling the bathroom or adding that new kitchen island you always wanted may be the most desirable, they may not bring the highest return on your investment.
Home improvement projects never bring a return on investment over 100%. In fact, the average ROI the past few years is down to just under 60%. This means that most homeowners are only recouping 60% of the money they put into a remodeling project after the home is sold. Nonetheless, this does not mean you should be afraid of remodeling. Besides the ROI, you will of course reap the benefits while living in the home. On the other hand, if you’re looking for projects that have proven to bring a strong ROI, you may want to start your year with these five home remodeling projects.

Front Door

1. Replace the Front Door

Surprisingly enough, new front doors bring the highest ROI among any home remodeling project and when you break it down, it makes perfect sense. Safety is one of the most important factors when someone is planning to buy a new home. A new front door is not only going to give the house a better curb appeal, but it will also make any potential buyer feel safe. This combination ultimately allows a new door to bring a 73% return on investment.

According to ImproveNet, it costs between $400 and $850 to replace a front door.

2. Build A New Wood Deck

In a day where everything is online and out in the open, many of us enjoy the silence and privacy that wood decks bring to our backyards. Fortunately, not only are they DIY-friendly, but they also bring back a strong ROI.

The average cost of building a deck is $6,148, but a new deck will roughly bring a 70%ROI.
Once you decide, make sure you come up with a design, choose the right type of wood for your area, know all future costs (sealing) and determine the required maintenance time throughout its lifespan.
New Windows

3. Replace the Windows

More and more homeowners are going green and a terrific way to make your home more energy efficient is by replacing your old windows. Not only will your home be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, but you will also save on HVAC costs down the road.

Window installation can get expensive, jumping all the way up to $5,000, but just know, on top of the HVAC savings, know they tend to bring a ROI of 70%.

To lower costs, many homeowners prefer single pane windows as opposed to double hung or storm windows. However, while the upfront cost may be substantially less, more expensive windows are usually much stronger and can hold its ground even in the worst of storms.

4. Replace the Garage Door

Just like the front door, homeowners associate safety with their garage doors. Since the garage door is typically the most common entry point, it’s just as, if not more, important to your home’s safety than your front door.

Both high-end and mid-level garage doors have been found to bring an estimated 71% ROI, but the high-end garage door is going to cost about twice as much to purchase and install.

According to ImproveNet’s numbers, the average price to install a garage door is $964.
Updated Kitchen

5. Update the Kitchen

Finally, while the kitchen may not bring the strongest ROI, it does attract new buyers.
The kitchen is where life happens and has been known to make or break a sale. Rather than spend upwards of $20,000 on a kitchen remodel, invest wisely in a few DIY projects you can do over the weekend, such as:
  • Replace the knobs on the cabinets
  • Paint the cabinets
  • Add a backsplash
  • Change the wall paint
  • Install lights under the cabinets
People like new and these projects give any kitchen the new look and feel they desire.


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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter Fire Safety Tips

With temperatures dipping close to zero degrees this week, remodeling contractor Somerville Aluminum would like to remind homeowners to be diligent about home heating and smoke alarm safety.

Home fires are the most common disaster the American Red Cross responds to, sending volunteers to the scene of fires at all hours of the day and night to help those affected. In 2013, one home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds, with home fires occurring most often in the winter season when people may use unsafe heat sources. With this in mind, Somerville Aluminum would like to provide the following safety tips:

Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
Teach your children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.
Once a month check whether each alarm in the home is working properly by pushing the test button.
Replace batteries in smoke alarms at least once a year. Immediately install a new battery if an alarm chirps, warning the battery is low.
Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. Never disable smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.
Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

6 Home Projects That Are Easier Than You Think


It never fails that the weekend DIY projects you expect to be a breeze end up costing you hours of frustration and disillusion and broken nails. (Remember that time you set aside some time to hang those IKEA shelves only to find out that your walls were actually made of brick?) Meanwhile, the jobs you decide to hire out almost always end up being the ones you could have totally tackled on your own.

What's done is done, but we'd like to help manage your expectations down the road. To do so, we asked "This Old House" host, Kevin O’Connor, just how difficult some common home improvement projects really are, and when it's time to forgo the heroics and make a call instead. Here's what he had to say:
IT'S A SNAP (EASY)
Installing A New Faucet
kitchen faucet
Photo: Getty
This is an easy fix because an old faucet and a new faucet both probably attached to your sink in the same way. The physical attachment happens under the sink with a nut onto a threaded end. This hasn’t changed much in 70 years. Next, there are usually one to three holes in the sink top to receive the faucet and the hot and cold handles. When you buy a new faucet try to get one that uses the same number of holes with the same distance between them. Your sink has three holes but the shiny new faucet only uses one? No problem, most replacement faucets come with a flange that will cover all three.

WATCH: How to Replace an Old Faucet

Re-Caulking A Bathroom
First, let’s get our materials straight because caulking is often confused with grout and they are two different things with two different fixes. Caulking is flexible and it goes around the perimeter of the tiled surface and makes the connection between the tile and the tub, or the wall, or a counter top. Grout is hard, and it goes between individual pieces of tile.

Because it’s designed to stay flexible, caulking is easier to remove. Often times it can be pulled out in long stringy strips like old gum from the sole of your shoe. If that doesn’t work you can dig it out with a small pointed object, (plastic is preferred over metal) and they sell plenty of $5 devices for just this purpose.

They also sell plenty of chemicals that will help with the job. Once the old caulk is removed, clean the surface, let it dry, and reapply. It takes a steady hand to get the new bead of caulk smooth so practice first and have a damp cloth standing by to wipe away any mistakes.

Replacing Light Fixtures
changing light bulb
Photo: Getty
Scared of electricity? Good, you should be. But if you turn off the power, then you’re in control and there is nothing to fear. The key to replacing a light fixture is reverse engineering. Ceiling fixtures, for example, aren’t attached to the ceiling but rather are attached to the ceiling electrical box, and that stays behind, ready to receive your new fixture. Once the old fixture is unscrewed, take a picture of how it’s wired (black to black, white to white wire, that sort of thing) and then disconnect those and remove it completely. The new fixture gets re-wired the same way as the old fixture (don’t forget the ground wire). Most fixtures have standard openings and threaded rods so fitting a new one into the old ceiling box should be a snap. Put it all back together and turn the power back on and you’ll know instantly if you did it right.

Two tips: buy a pencil-type electrical meter, it will always tell you if a wire is live or not. And second, ceiling electrical boxes are rated for weight so if you’re replacing an old fixture that doesn’t weigh much with something heavier, like a ceiling fan, make sure it’s secured to an electrical box rated for the additional weight.
YOU CAN DO IT, BUT BEAR DOWN (MEDIUM)

Molding And Trim: Adding Or Replacing
This is pretty easy, but it requires some tools. A decent miter saw is a huge help, if you don’t have one borrow or rent one. If you can’t do that, you might be able to limp along with hand tools.

Baseboards go along the bottom of your wall around the perimeter of your room. In most cases all you have to do is make a straight cut and get the length perfect. You’ve heard the saying measure twice, cut once? Well, I say measure twice, cut twice –- cut once a little long, dry fit it and then nibble it down a hair more until the length is perfect.

Crown molding is a bit more challenging, so if you throw in the towel here, no shame. If you keep going, then remember the trick to crown molding is to cut it “upside-down and backwards.” Crown molding has a detailed profile and when one profile meets another those details have to go together. So it’s important that you cut the 45-degree miter of two adjoining pieces the same way they lay on your wall and meet your ceiling. The trick is to lay the modeling on your miter saw “upside down and backwards” as if the base of your saw is the ceiling and the fence of your saw is the wall.
In either case, get yourself some extra trim, you’re going to need it.

Installing Hardwood Floors
install wood flooring
Photo: Getty

Those beautiful, gleaming hardwood floors must be a job for the pros, right? Not so fast. The thing that makes a wood floor so nice is the finish, and you can lay down a wood floor yourself and leave the finish to the pros. Here’s how: There are generally two types of wood floors. Either the unfinished, nail down type or the pre-finished engineered type. If you chose the first, the unfinished variety, buy the wood from a supplier and rent a compressor and pneumatic floor nailer from the same place or the home center. Get the special nails from them too. Start with a clean surface, make sure the first row is perfectly straight and square, and you’re off. One row gets nailed into the prior row. Stagger the joints, mix long and short pieces and take your time around the edges and you’ll be fine. When it’s all down, call in the pro to sand it smooth, apply the stain and the poly coat. That professional finish will make your hard work look awesome.

If you chose the second option, the engineered version, you can either nail it down like above, or you can use the floating floor variety. A floating floor means the individual strips of wood click or are glued to one another and are not nailed down. Since it's not secured directly to the sub-floor below it this floor “floats.” This is an easier and more forgiving installation than the nail down variety, in some cases it’s as easy as snapping it together. And here’s the kicker, that professional finish is already part of the floor; it’s pre-finished. So once you’re done clicking the floor is done.

Adding A Kitchen Backsplash
The key to a good backsplash is the backer. Tile likes to be set on something durable, like a cement board instead of dry wall. And good backer boards come in all types and names -- Hardiboard, Durarock, Wonderboard, etc. –- but the thing they have in common is their cement base.

Once you find the one you want you have to decide if you want to lay it on top of the existing drywall or cut away the old drywall and replace it with the backer board. I’d cut away and replace if it was my house. Once the backer board is in place trowel on a layer of thin-set (look it up) and set your tile in place. The key here is not to spread too large of an area at any one time. Slow goes it. Spread thin-set, insert tile, check your lines, straighten tiles, move on, and repeat. Once the tile is in place, go over the entire surface with grout. Use a rubber float, overspread, and wipe off the excess with a damp sponge.

The key to this project is to take you time. Mix only the amount of thin-set and grout that you need, get the layout right, check and re-check to make sure everything is level and straight.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Expert Tips for Choosing the Right Window for Your Kitchen Remodel


(BPT) - What are the hottest updates for homes in 2015? The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in the home to remodel, and for good reason. According to HGTV and Trulia, a kitchen update is one of the secrets to selling your home.

When it comes to remodeling your kitchen you must consider many aspects - cabinets, counters, floors and appliances - but you may not have thought about windows. According to Remodeling.com’s 2015 Cost Vs. Value Report, window replacement - whether wood, vinyl or fiberglass - provides a good return on investment compared to other replacement projects, increasing the value of your home financially and aesthetically. So whether you’re making small updates or completely gutting your old kitchen, including window replacement in your project is a smart addition.

Here are three key elements to keep in mind when choosing a window for your kitchen:

Style
Kitchen windows are often placed above counters or sinks, making them hard to reach and prone to moisture. Choosing a window style that is easy to open and close, such as an awning, sliding or casement, is a smart move.

Awning windows - which can be pulled in or pushed out - are perfect for ventilation, which can be especially helpful in a hot kitchen. Since hot air from the oven or stove typically rises, awning style windows perform the best when placed close to the ceiling or above eye-level.

Sliding or casement windows - which use a crank out method for opening and closing - are two good options for hard to reach areas, like above the counters or behind the kitchen sink. Pella motorized blinds and shades are also ideal for hard to reach window locations and can be controlled with the touch of a button.

Material type
With window placement above counters or sinks, moisture and staining can occur, so choosing an easy-to-clean material like vinyl or fiberglass, is equally important. Fiberglass windows can withstand extreme heat and cold, are energy efficient and can have the same quality look of painted wood. Vinyl windows are easy to care for, don’t require painting or staining, and stay looking great for years.

However, if wood makes more sense for you and the style of your home, then make sure to select a finish that will hold up against stains and moisture, and be prepared to do a little more cleaning and up-keep.

Features and options
Whether your new kitchen is traditional, modern or rustic, your new windows should complement the space. Window designs offer a variety of features including colors, hardware and grilles. Pella’s Designer Series windows even offer a between-the-glass solution that keeps blinds and shades located behind sinks from getting splashed. With so many options to choose from it’s easy to design a window that’s unique to you and the style of your kitchen.

Visit Pella Windows and Doors on Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration or visit Pella.com to begin designing your new windows.

To order your copy of Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
For more information about Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Remodeling Pleasure and Pain: Five Survival Tips

by Huffington Post


I'm a remodeling maven.

I've remodeled three separate kitchens, three bathrooms, two living rooms and a added two half bathrooms all in one home.

What kind of mansion do I live in? Well, it's about 2500 SQ, two story big old box built sometime in the 1940's.

It used to be a single family and sat in the middle of 2 acres in the suburban community of Palo Alto. Now it is on a corner 10,000 sf lot with driveways on both sides.

Things change over time. The original owners sold off several parcels as the area began to suburbanize from the little ranchitas with fruit trees gave way to multi-housing zoning and apartment buildings.

However, the house stayed intact with enough land around it for plenty of fruit trees and lots of area for kids to play football on the expansive lawn.

After the kids grew up and moved away, Mom and Dad decided to get some income out of the "big old box" and began to add on and carve up a couple of apartments in the home, keep the top 1250 sf for themselves and rent out the bottom.

With large rooms and tall ceilings, the upstairs still felt like a full house while downstairs managed one two bedroom apartment of 800 SF and a large 450 sf studio. The laundry room was accessible of from outside so everyone had access to the laundry room.

The inside stairwell that connected the floors was walled up so each apartment has it's own entrance from the outside. Each feels like a separate home on the small piece of land.

When I took over, 60 years later, it was time to upgrade. Hence remodel all the kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and add a couple of half baths. It was a vertical learning curve. In the beginning I was overwhelmed with too many decisions and a lot of insecurity.

What would other people think of my choices? What is everyone else doing? What's new? What's right? Should I use porcelain or natural stone tile? Go contemporary or traditional?

Here is what I learned: It doesn't matter. What matters is what I think is right and the way to go about a multi-room remodeling is to break it down.

1. Focus on one room at the time. Get the full concept and materials picked out for one room. Number the rooms after that, such as Bath #1, bath #2 etc.

2. Consider a theme for the project. Is your home contemporary or transitional? Think of theme in terms of a fully spare architectural feel or more traditional in a Victorian sense or is your home somewhere in between.

3. When considering materials, keep one thing in mind: Will you get tired of looking at something. Does "it" look cute now, but after a month you will wonder what you were thinking?
4. Don't go with trends. Something may be big now, but is the design going stand the test of time. A trendy backsplash will scream what year it was installed.

5. There are no rules, no good, bad, right or wrong. What is "right" is what you want. It's your house and your money. Don't let anyone else tell you what you should pick or spend.

As I progressed in my multi-room remodeling experience I became much more adept at project management as well. I learned a very important lesson after the first bathroom: Always, always have all your materials waiting for the contractor, not the other way around. Have every towel rod, door handle, trim piece picked out and waiting to be installed. If the contractor doesn't give you at least one month to pick your materials or can't tell you how many square feet of tile you need for a room, get another contractor. Those are basic to a successful job and a professional contractor.

Finally, never remodel with what you think other people will want when you sell your home. No one buys your home because of the color of paint you used or the tile you chose for the bathroom. No matter how beautiful you think your choices are, no one else cares or they are going to wonder, "What was she thinking?" People buy homes for the location and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Everyone is going to put their own finger print on the house, so do what you want.

Trust your decisions. It's your house and your money.

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