Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kitchen Remodeling Trends for 2014

Thanks for reading today's blog post!  Did you know that I'm the author of not just one, but thirteen books?  For more information, please visit www.charlesirion.com, www.irionbooks.com and/or www.summitmurdermystery.com

Get excited about remodeling possibilities!

Did you know that summer and fall tend to be peak periods for home renovation? In part, it's because of the fair weather, and it's also because that's when people are making changes to the home after kids leave for college...and before people start arriving for the winter holidays. Speaking of which, why, exactly, are we telling you this in the middle of December? Well, because if you're willing to remodel in the late winter and spring, you can actually get a deal on remodeling, because your contractor won't be as busy.

That means the job is more likely to be done quickly, and you may be offered a discount for remodeling during the off season, precisely the team when your contractor's looking for work. So now is a really good time to start thinking about any changes you want to make to the house in 2014, to prepare for contacting a contractor early next year to talk about your options.

If you're thinking about remodeling your kitchen, you may as well start focusing on some of the trends for 2014, but before we plunge in, some words of caution: trends come and go. They tend to move particularly quickly for bathrooms and kitchens, and they can get very, very spendy. If you commit to a perfectly on-trend space, it's quickly going to appear dated, and you may find yourself remodeling again in the near future. So remember: trends are great, but at the same time, try to think timeless and classic...and consider how current trends can be integrated into classic themes (and how your space can be made easily changeable to take advantage of trends as they shift without having to tear it apart every time).

One of the top predicted trends for 2014 is, unsurprisingly, going green -- not exactly a new fad! Going green is one of the few trends we can endorse whole-heartedly, because it's not just keeping you on-point with the latest style. It's also going to save you money in the long term, and it helps out the planet, so it's pretty much a win for everyone.

How do you know which green gadgets are right for you? Talk to your remodeling team about the options available, their costs, and their net savings. Be wary of new products that might not be fully tested, and remember that sometimes going green is about reducing usage in the first place, rather than buying a specialty item (do you really need a wine chiller?). Some things to think about: high efficiency dishwashers, which are better than handwashing by far; recycled countertops; certified sustainable wood flooring; and reclaimed tile for backsplashes.

In kitchens, chef's stoves are big right now, and have been for a few years. The "gourmet kitchen" is taking over magazine spreads and it sure looks appealing when you walk into a home with a lavish kitchen. But be realistic about how much you use your kitchen and your expectations. Is a large stove designed for a restaurant right for you? Probably not. Most of the firms that make such stoves also produce models specifically intended for home use, which are a marginally better choice, but they still take more time to learn, require special cleaning, and can be more stove than you really need.

Granite and quartz for counters are also targeted trends for 2014, and they deserve another note of caution: while they look great, are very durable, and can make your kitchen sparkle now...they may appear outdated in the future. Remember, this kitchen remodel should last for at least 12 years, and when the fad for shiny sparkly things passes, your counters might start to seem like a real weight on your back. If you want stone, consider more modest materials that might weather the test of time more easily -- or take a look at concrete countertops, which offer a lot of stain and finish options.

Fun with backsplashes using bright, bold tile patterns is also projected to be in next year (who knows, maybe some of those backsplashes will be done in Radiant Orchid!). Backsplashes can be a great way to liven up a kitchen space, and more than that, they actually represent a fantastic opportunity for design opportunity. With the right design, you can make a backsplash easy to change without tearing the whole kitchen apart. So go ahead and let your imagination run wild on this one: when trends in color and backsplash materials shift, it's not going to be a huge ordeal to change yours up.

Hardwood is big for flooring, and remember, you don't have to use solid hardwood thanks to a fleet of excellent engineered products at your fingertips. Consider easy-install products that can just as easily be changed, and branch out into bamboo and cork if you want to explore eco-friendly and intriguing flooring materials. Tile is always an option for kitchen floors although it's not projected to be very popular in 2014, and as for linoleum, forget about it. But what about pergo? This lively flooring material comes in a range of interesting colors and you might find that it's just what you needed.

Stainless steel is still a leading trend for kitchen appliances, for all that it seems to smudge if you so much as look at it! If you're considering colored appliances (an emerging trend), remember that nothing screams "dated" more than colored appliances, sadly. That bold orange or bright red might look fantastic now, but could feel very different in five years. As an alternative, you might want to consider using removable colored decals to add depth, color, and texture to your appliances in a way that's not quite so permanent.

Speaking of color, soft and neutral are dominating palettes for 2014, with white cabinets and soft accent colors. Interior paint is one of the most flexible and delightful aspects of interior design because it can be so easily changed, switched up, and explored, so don't be afraid about your paint job. That's one of the simplest things you can change about your new kitchen!

Islands are great kitchen tools, and they're getting super popular. Here's what's fantastic about an island: it adds a prep and casual dining space, creates more storage, and helps a kitchen feel more dimensional. Here's what's not so fantastic: if your kitchen is too small, an island will make it feel cramped and crowded. So definitely consider one, but if it won't fit, don't force the issue.

Creating space is another big trend, and no surprise. You don't necessarily have to do that by enlarging your kitchen, though. You can also open it up to other rooms or rearrange the layout to get the feeling of more space and atmosphere. With more and more people eating in their kitchens and turning them into entertaining spaces, that sense of openness, welcome, and space is even more critical.

While you're working on designs for your new kitchen, remember that you need a timeless, functional space, and don't be afraid to assert yourself with your remodeling professionals to make sure their tastes don't override your own. You're the one who has to live with the result, not them!

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Article source: networx.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tips to Avoid Homeowner Remodeling Horrors

Thanks for reading today's blog post!  Did you know that I'm the author of not just one, but thirteen books?  For more information, please visit www.charlesirion.com, www.irionbooks.com and/or www.summitmurdermystery.com

We're looking at homeowner remodeling horrors and how to avoid them. From exceeding your
budget to withholding contractor payments or being taken by phony contractors, here's how to avoid some financial horrors of home renovation.

Nearly half of those who have ever done a home remodeling project exceed their budget, and often aren't satisfied with the work. With dissatisfaction, of course, comes the question of whether to withhold contractors' payments. Nearly one-fifth of those dissatisfied with their most recent remodeling project withheld final payments from their builder-contractor, according to a survey last month from Bolster.com performed by Harris Interactive.
Among U.S. adults, home remodeling is an extremely stressful financial event.

Eighty-five percent of Americans consider doing a major remodeling project to their home to be at least somewhat stressful, even more so than taking out a mortgage (80 percent) and saving for college (66 percent).

Among those who have ever done a remodeling project to their home, most are likely to blame themselves or their partners for overpaying or work gone awry, as opposed to blaming a contractor, architect, real estate agent, home decorator, or interior designer.

Worse, phony contractors offer to do work on your home and then disappear with advance payments, says certified fraud examiner Leon LaRosa of LaRosa & Associates in Exton.

Here's how to avoid being disappointed, or, in the worst case, defrauded, LaRosa says:
Execute a contract describing specific details of the work to be performed, warranty details, price, and payment terms.

Require your contractor to be bonded and insured. Insurance protects against specific types of losses; however, bonds provide protection if the job is not completed to satisfaction.

Check for licensing. Most states have a licensing registry for contractors where you can locate the contractor's licensing status. Check the Contractors License Reference Site online ( www.contractors-license.org). This site allows you to determine state licensing requirements and where to go to validate a contractor's license.

Check for complaints through the Better Business Bureau or your local government agency building department.

Check references of past and current work. Talk to subcontractors. Ask if payments are timely and how they are treated.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Remodeling tips: Basement finishing ideas

Thanks for reading today's blog post!  Did you know that I'm the author of not just one, but thirteen books?  For more information, please visit www.charlesirion.com, www.irionbooks.com and/or www.summitmurdermystery.com

Make the most of your home’s basement by refinishing it as an extension of your living space and property value.

If your home has an unfinished basement, you have an undiscovered treasure worth thousands of dollars. Here are some ways to make the most of this potential investment rather than leaving it unused or solely as a storage area.

Remodeling tips: Basement finishing ideas

1. First, consider how you might want to use this additional area. Some basements are mere cellars with dirt floors and stone walls. These make great cooling areas for canned goods, certain smoked meats, sealed baked items, a freezer, and other food preservation needs. Some families turn cellars into a second kitchen for holidays. Go online to find home remodeling ideas for your cellar space.

2. Other homes have semi-finished basements, with concrete floors and stone or concrete walls. There may be electric and heat facilities, or these can be easily added. Get a couple of estimates from reliable contractors about how they can refinish this area, including utility issues like heat, air conditioning, air quality, and lighting. Ask them to check for radon, lead paint, and possible toxic fumes from stored chemicals. Have the appliances, like furnace and water heater, maintained to ensure safety. Suggest a dollar amount that you can afford to invest, and offer a few ideas of your own. When you have the estimates, you will have a better idea of the costs and timeline that will be required to transform your new living space.

3. Consider possible uses for your new living space as you consult with contractors and plan your budget. For example, a growing family may decide to turn part of the area into one or two bedrooms. Check with contractors about building codes and to be sure the proposed rooms are well vented and heated. A fire escape plan will be needed as well, possibly through a window or an added exit.
Some people use part of the basement as a recreation room, adding fun things like a television, VCR, game table, computers, sofa, daybed, or even a refrigerator with beverages and snacks. With supervision, the refinished basement can make an excellent playroom for kids. Check for mold, pests, or leaks before getting too comfortable.

Other folks turn the basement into home office space by painting walls or putting up wallboard, laying carpet or tile, and buying office equipment.

Another use is as a hobby room for sewing, reading, writing, studying, or other favorite pastimes.
4. Decide whose space the new area will belong to. Setting boundaries early on, if needed, can help defuse possible conflicts later. If the space is to be shared, you may want to propose a schedule of times when the new room will be used for play versus usage for at-home office work.

5. Make it personal. Add special touches like framed photos or wall hangings, area rugs, and accent pieces to present an inviting allure. Just because it’s downstairs doesn’t mean it should be off limits. Encourage family members to enjoy the reformed basement in the way it is now available to be used. After all, you want to get your money’s worth from the investment.

A basement makeover can be fun and affordable, so find out if yours is a good candidate for remodeling.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Remodeling Hell - The Perfect Christmas Gift!

10 Essential Tips for Designing the Bathroom by Sarah Lonsdale

Great article worth a share from Remodelista!

Among the many highlights of his Malcolm Davis of Malcolm Davis Architechtur projects? The bathrooms, which are light, airy, and full of well-considered details. So who better to turn to for advice?

Remodelista: What do your clients typically ask for in a bathroom?
Malcolm Davis: When someone comes to me, they usually know what bathrooms I design; there's always some sense of the outdoors and as much daylight as possible. When clients start looking at imagery, I ask them to think of their house as the best version of what they want it to be and what look will go with that in the bathroom, as opposed to their dream bathroom. I try and have a thread of the rest of the house incorporated in the bathroom so it feels connected.
Malcolm Davis Architecture indoor-outdoor shower: Remodelista
Above: A marble-clad shower with an obscure-glass (frosted) door that opens on to a wooden roof deck and a small window looking onto the trees outside.

RM: How do you manage to make your bathrooms so light and airy?
MD: If I have any way of getting daylight into the bathroom, I do it. I always try and get a bathroom on an outside wall. In a city, you don't always get that option, so then I go for a skylight. It's important to have a visual link to the outdoors; it's neat to have some clear glimpse of the outside, even if it is just one panel of a window where you can see a tree outside or a skylight where a bird flies overhead. The more light the better. Sunlight is the best killer of mold. If you can make the windows larger that's the biggest change you can make.
Malcolm Davis Architecture modern bathroom: Remodelista
Above: A Davis-designed bathroom at the Cook residence in SF.

RM: What's your approach to design?
MD: I like some bandwidth in the bathroom. It needs to be a place where if you are putting yourself together you can be the most spot on, but it's also a place where if you feel terrible you can unwind in warm water and find some solace. The bathroom has to provide a good backdrop, and not work against you. It should convey a sense of simplicity and clarity.

RM: How do you create a serene backdrop?
MD: I use simple, nice materials and work with a limited palette. I really like limestone, marble, and slate. I like to bring in some sense of nature, a piece of natural wood or a Heath tile that has a handmade quality. I use a wood shelf in a lot of bathrooms. If the surfaces feel too hard and shiny, it can feel too perfect. With materials that have a softer organic feel, that's when the person starts to feel they fit in.
Malcolm Davis Architecture Bathroom: Remodelista
Above: Baird Street project. Davis explains, "A tabletop is at 30 inches so the sink needs to be higher so you don't have to bend over so much. I usually have the sink height at 34 to 36 inches high, although I am currently doing a gentleman's sink that's higher."

RM: Storage?
MD: I like hidden storage (there's something about having a million little cupboards that looks overwhelming). I like to place a couple of tall shallow cabinets hidden in a stud bay. You don't need deep shelf storage, a shallow shelf can store a lot. I try and make as many things as dual function as possible. I like to put a recess in the shower and I try and integrate towel bars to feel built in. It's hard to pull off as it depends upon the space
Malcolm Davis Architecture running bond tiled bathrrom; Remodelista
Above: Davis favors plain ceramic tiles in a running bond pattern as opposed to stacked shown here in the Bole project. When using darker tiles he prefers the contrast of a lighter grout
RM: Choice of materials?
MD: A bathroom is going to last for a long time, so I like to keep it simple. It's not clothing. When it comes to materials, I always question whether it will last for a long time. I advise clients to set out a couple of materials they like and look at them every day before deciding. Often it's the one that you thought that was boring that works in the end.
Malcolm Davis Architecture slate wall bathrrom; Remodelista
Above: In this 21st Street project, Davis notes, "I use porches a lot in my mental vocabulary where people may think that this could have been an outdoor space that has been closed".

RM: Lighting?
MD: Industrial-looking Stonco lighting is my go-to. It's a vapor tight light with a guard and they are great for tucking in a skylight shaft.
Malcolm Davis Architecture Bathroom: Remodelista
Above: 28th Street project.

RM: Favorite fixtures?
MD: I like porcelain. Duravit sinks are a favorite, and the Dornbracht Tara line is super classic, although sometimes it can be a challenge to get the hot and cold taps to line up straight. I like Chicago Faucets, but it's too bad they don't have a bigger line.
Malcolm Davis Architecture green tiled bathrrom; Remodelista
Storage: A bathroom unit with a built in towel rail in the Bartlett project.

RM: Things to note?
MD: Bathrooms don't have to be huge. When I see a large standalone tub floating in space, that's a lot of space it's taking up. I always put my mind into the small places of New York or Europe and consider how you make a space compelling.

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 Article source: remodelista.com

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lowe's Teams Up With Top Designers To Inspire Holiday Projects

Home improvement experts share simple and affordable ideas to prep for your guests this season

To help kick off the holiday season, Lowe's teamed up with
today's top do-it-yourselfers and designers to create holiday-inspired rooms that are guaranteed to welcome any guest in style. From simple improvement projects to eye-catching decor that instantly spreads good cheer, these budget-friendly DIY ideas from leading designers will have your home prepped for the holidays in the nick of time.

Consider these designer tips your holiday home improvement wish list. Just make sure to check it twice!
  • Make a Lasting First Impression – Entryway tips from Design Mom To add a pop of color, paint your front door in a holiday red. We used the color Art District from Valspar Signature's paint and primer in one. Paint is a simple, economical update that really makes a statement about your entire house. Add bright white lights nestled in bright white garlands to create an instant snowy holiday feel inexpensively. Customizing holiday decor to fit your family's style can be easy. Start by taking a simple item, like a store-bought pine wreath and tuck metallic paper leaves into the branches for texture. If you don't have a fireplace, show off your holiday stockings by hanging them along stair railings, or attach them with ribbon to a pretty branch, and hang the branch on a wall over a sofa. View Design Mom's entryway here

  • Welcome Guests in Style – Foyer tips from Little Green Notebook Gold and silver hues are so pretty around the holidays. Buy a small tree and do something fun, such as creating an ombre pattern on your tree with glass ornaments painted in matte finish to create a gradient. Other people love looking at your Christmas cards, so decorate tables in your center hall with platters and antiques to display cards you've received. You can also string cards with clothespins. View Little Green Notebook's foyer here
  • Create a Buzzworthy Kitchen – Tips from Brit + Co. Infuse a dose of holiday into the kitchen, with pops of red accent pieces or stripe the legs of a red kitchen stool with white painter's tape for a candy cane theme. Install a new backsplash with glass mosaic, subway or even ceiling tiles or wallpaper to give the kitchen a personalized look. One of our favorite projects is creating a "DIY Light Marquee." Take cardboard letters, spray paint them gold and poke small holes in for the lights, then weave a strand of bulbs behind the sign to connect all the letters. Display on your countertop or above your cabinets. View Brit + Co.'s kitchen here
  • Design a Deliciously Decorated Dining Room – Tips from Curbly  Set the mood for your holiday feast with a neutral color pallet and invite the warmth of fall into the space by painting accent pieces with fall colors such as Valspar's Desert Travels and Bear Claw hues. A stylish rug, curtain panels, pillows and items from nature can make a room feel cozy and comfortable for holiday gatherings. Create fun, stackable DIY plywood boxes by building wood boxes in a variety of sizes and painting the exterior white and the interior in fall or winter tones for a pop of color.   View Curbly's dining room here
  • Embrace your Wild Side – Showstopping ideas from P.S. – I made this... Introduce a new warm and inviting paint color on your walls like Valspar's Perfect Storm to add lasting decor and style long into the New Year. For a fashionable look, add decorative accessories spray painted in metallic colors such as gold and silver. Use wallpaper in different ways to make a statement. Instead of wrapping an entire room, try creating frames made of wallpaper and molding. Don't be afraid to take risks and do things you don't normally do. Create a story with the items in your space and personalize for family and friends. View P.S. – I made this... living room here
  • Restore Relaxation during the Holidays – Guest suite ideas from Oh Happy Day In your guest bedroom, add touches of greenery and lighting fixtures to the wall for reading, simple DIY artwork to help ensure guests feel right at home. Show your creative side with chalkboard-painted walls to greet overnight guests with a personal "Happy Holidays!" message. For an extra dose of cheer, drape decorative red-beaded strands around a mirror or lighting fixtures for a touch of holiday. New light fixtures can give an ordinary bathroom an instant update. For graphic visual interest, install white tile with dark grout. View Oh Happy Day's guest suite here
For more tips on how to prep your home for the holidays, check out images of each designer's room by visiting the Deck The Halls and Walls and All photo gallery.

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Article source: www.sacbee.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 5 Easy Holiday Home Improvement Projects

With the holidays and New Year right around the corner, now is a great time to start sprucing up your home for the arrival of your family and guests. Whether it’s a remodeling project, landscaping upgrade, or an interior renovation, these 5 quick and easy tips will help get your home ready for the holiday festivities.

1) Keep Your Guests Warm and Your Energy Bill Low
Keeping your family and friends comfortable and warm is a priority when having guests over during the holidays. Adding some caulking or weather strips around drafty windows can help keep the heat inside your home. Also, upgrading your heating system to a new energy-efficient model can make a large difference in your energy bill this season.

2) Landscaping & Entry Way Touch-Ups
Although the holidays may bring your family and friends indoors for celebration, your front yard and entrance way will be the initial things your guests will notice. Make a lasting first impression by planting flowers that bloom in the winter such as camellias, holly, and snow drops. This is an easy landscaping solution that will add color and shape to your front yard. Investing in a new front door or touching up the exterior trim with a fresh coat of paint are quick and easy ways to enhance the entry way.

3) New Paint Job
A new coat of paint is a quick, easy, and cost effective way to brighten up a guest room or family room this season. Top winter paint shades are rich cedars and muted grays and whites.

4) Upgrade Your Kitchen
Since the holiday season is largely focused on food, you and your guests will be spending a lot of time in your kitchen. Updating old knobs and pulls on your kitchen cabinets is an inexpensive way to update the look of your kitchen. Adding in a new faucet is an easy DIY project and a great way to add some shine to your kitchen.

5) Get Organized
Organize all the items that may have accumulated throughout the year and start making space for all the new things you will be getting during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holidays by installing a cabinet or a simple shelving unit in your garage or storage room.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

8 Tips For Managing Your Own Decorating Project

Thanks for reading today's blog post!  Did you know that I'm the author of not just one, but thirteen books?  For more information, please visit www.charlesirion.com, www.irionbooks.com and/or www.summitmurdermystery.com

If you love interior design and want to tackle a decorating project on your own, goodness knows there are resources available to help you do everything under the sun. But somehow, despite our best intentions DIY home decorating projects often get waylaid — sometimes for months or even years at a time. Stay on track with these nine tips, covering everything from budgeting to shopping.

1. List specific, measurable goals for your project. One of the first things an interior decorator does is define the parameters of the project. When doing your own decorating, it’s easy to justify skipping this step — but nailing down your goals now is essential to a successful project.

Answer these questions before you begin:
  • Which room or rooms will I be decorating?
  • When do I want to have this project completed? What’s my timeline?
  • What is my budget?
  • How do I want this room to look, feel and function when the project is done?
  • Are there any specific issues I want to address in this space?
  • Who will be making the decorating decisions: just me, or will I be collaborating with a partner or housemate?
  • Might I actually need a pro to help?
Written goals will help keep you on track — no veering off from your living room project to accessorize your kitchen!

2. Draw up an item-by-item budget. Sticking to your budget is a science and an art, and it will not happen without some careful planning on your part. Start by making a master list of all of the items you plan to purchase for your room, including paint, jobs for a handyman and so on. Initially you will not have everything chosen yet, so you will need to estimate costs.
Think about the options for each item — for dining chairs, for instance, you could find a mismatched set at a yard sale and paint them yourself for a hundred bucks, you could go to Target or Ikea and spend a few hundred, or you could splurge on a designer set. Set your priorities and consider which items will be your splurge items and where you can pinch a few pennies.

3. Be realistic about your lifestyle. A good decorator would steer you away from ordering silk or velvet upholstery if you have kids or furry friends — do yourself a favor and do a reality check for each design decision before committing. There is nearly always an alternative that will work with your scheme just as well (if not better than) your original choice. And you will thank yourself later!


4. Order samples. During your initial shopping explorations, order samples of anything and everything you can that you are considering. Having fabrics, paint and wallpaper samples in hand will make those final decisions more likely to be a success. You cannot trust the colors on your computer screen!

5. Go shopping. Once you have done the groundwork — and only then — will it be time to begin laying your money down. Be sure to check the return policies on everything before buying. If you are not sure about something, snap a picture of it to look at in your space.

6. A little of this, a little of that … It’s important to take a breather midway through your decorating project to reassess. How are the things you have bought so far looking in your space? Is it coming together as you envisioned, or do you need to rethink some parts of your scheme? Are you sticking to your budget?
Every decorating project has its surprises — the important thing is to adjust to them, rather than steamrolling on no matter what. If, for example, you spent way more than you planned on the lighting, look for ways to cut costs elsewhere.

7. Stay busy while waiting for orders to arrive. The results of all of your hard work are on their way — use the downtime to complete some tedious but necessary tasks that will help your finished space look its best. Send out area rugs for cleaning, polish your wood floors, clean windows inside and out, clean window coverings and paint, and touch up trim. This point in the process is also a good time to sell or donate your unwanted furniture and accessories.

8. Don’t settle. By the time your new furnishings actually arrive, you may be so tired of working on your project that you are tempted to let less-than-perfect products stay, rather than expend the energy needed to deal with them.
Don’t do that. Mistakes happen, even to the pros, but a pro would never let a piece that just doesn’t work stay in the space. Muster your strength and send the piece back — the sooner, the better.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

Whether you're remodeling your kitchen or just fixing a leaky faucet, keeping up with your house's basic maintenance is an essential part of home ownership. And with these helpful mobile apps in your tool-belt, you'll be able to tackle virtually any project without having to get your contractor's license.


7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

You never know where you'll find the perfect color for your living room. But when the moment of inspiration strikes be sure you're ready for it. The free Colorsnap app (iOS, Android) from Sherwin-Williams can help by analyzing that perfect color, wherever you find it, and converting it into a matching, custom tint mix code for the company's paint brand.

All you have to do is take a picture of the color you like, tap on the hue you like best, and the system will return its "closest result". An image of my Navy Blue lighter shot under bright white indoor LED lighting for example, came back as "Quixotic Plum, SW 6265" which is close enough!


7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

"Measure twice, cut once" is one of carpentry's most fundamental rules, up there with "no horsing around near the band saws." The same holds true for home improvement in general. Before you can start in on a project-whether re-tiling a bathroom, laying down new hardwood floors, or even painting a hallway-you've got to know exactly what the scope of the project is and how much materials you'll need.

The Handyman Calculator (Android) can assist you with the more complex math-from figuring square footage and stud spacing to unit conversion to asphalt volume, tile, paint, carpet, and linoleum coverage calculators, this app takes care of all of the heavy mental lifting. You just need to provide the correct measurements.
7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

The iOS faithful should check out Home Improvement Calcs from Double Dog Studios ($2, iTunes) for similar functionality to the The Handyman Calculator, including more than 74,000 preset functions from mulch coverage to attic insulation volumetrics. It also includes enough helpful explanatory illustrations that you'll be able to BS your way through the lumber section of your Home Depot with ease.

Or better yet, avoid the hassle of going to the home improvement store altogether. Both the Home Depot and Lowes offer dedicated apps for both iOS and Android which allow you to shop, purchase and, most importantly, have delivered just about everything the two stores sell.


7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

In addition to big renovation projects, a house requires regular maintenance and upkeep- especially the older it gets. To keep on top of the innumerable little duties that keep small problems from becoming big, expensive issues, check out House Maintenance Schedule ($2 freemium, Android). This calendar app helps schedule and remind you of upcoming maintenance projects, from flushing the water heater and inspecting fire extinguishers to changing HVAC filters and cleaning downspouts.

7 Home Improvement Apps to Help Your Inner Handyman

And if you find yourself stumped by a project, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to help you along. The Family Handyman DIY Tip Genius ($5 freemium, iOS) by Readers Digest is designed for both the iPhone and iPad and is packed with more than 300 (1,800 if you pony up $5) ideas and tips to keep you from bungling the job. For more ideas and tips be sure to also check out the regularly scheduled podcasts from Handy Guys and Money Pit Home Improvement. Now get out there and make Tim Taylor proud.

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Article source http://www.gizmodo.in/articleshow/25234220.cms

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Six Tips to Consider When Investing in Home Improvement

Homeowners are opening their wallets. A rebound in the housing market has made them more willing to invest in renovations that could boost the value of their homes even more in a rising market.
Spending on home remodeling has picked up over the past 18 months and is expected to rise nearly 20 percent to $151 billion by the fourth quarter, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Many homeowners decide to make upgrades with the idea that the bigger kitchen or finished basement will make their home more enjoyable. But those looking to sell should know that not all home improvement projects will boost the value of a home.

Here are six tips when considering investing in home improvement projects:

1. Consider all buyers

The classic example here is installing a swimming pool.

A pool could make your home a tougher sell, and it's unlikely you will recover your expenses, says Richard Borges, president of the Appraisal Institute, a professional association of real estate appraisers.

It may be a deal-killer for buyers who might not want to take on maintenance costs or safety risks for small children. "It's not going to contribute a full measure of its cost of installation because its utility is so limited," Borges says.

The principle holds true for other large projects that can alter the structure of the property, such as adding a second garage. In some neighborhoods, they may be a common feature that becomes a selling point. But if it's not common, it could discourage buyers who don't have a need for it.

2. Don't 'overimprove'

Some home improvements can help lift a home's resale value, especially updates to features like cabinets and appliances that are clearly dated.

The key is to select finishes and appliances that don't go well beyond what a buyer might find in similarly priced homes in the area. The term appraisers have for that is "overimprovement."

Consider a homeowner in a neighborhood with modest homes who splurges on pricey countertop finishes like quartz or marble. They're not likely to recoup the cost when appraisers look at recent sales of comparable homes that may not have such lavishly appointed kitchens.

3. Expand wisely

One of the home improvement projects that's least likely to produce a return on the investment is a room addition that expands the size of a home beyond its original floor plan, says Borges.

Projects that require tearing down an exterior wall often involve moving doors, windows and other features, which can drive the costs higher than, say, converting an attic into a bedroom, which uses existing space in the home.

The more expensive the project, the harder it can be to recover one's costs.

Also, making major changes to the original structure, even when permitted by the city, runs other risks.

"When you become the oddball, the only home in the neighborhood with four bedrooms, probably the fourth bedroom is not going to be that desirable," Borges says.


4. Estimate cost-to-value

 One way to gauge whether a home improvement project is worthwhile is to estimate how much of what you spend will be recovered at resale.
For example, if you spend $1,000 on siding and it only adds $500 to the resale value of your home, that upgrade is giving you a 50 percent return on your investment.
Remodeling magazine's latest cost-value study, which is based on surveys of real estate agents, can help provide a ballpark reference. You can find it at go.madison.com/remodelindex.
That said, when home prices are rising fast enough, like during the last housing boom, it's easier to recover costs spent on home improvements, regardless of the upgrade. The alternative scenario also holds true.

5. Prioritize curb appeal

Making the master bedroom bigger or converting a downstairs closet into a half-bath might seem like good investments, but not if you need to upgrade your roof or fix window seals.

Those fixes may not be aesthetic upgrades, but often make a home easier to sell.

Replacing your front door might cost you $1,500, but it's the type of upgrade that can make a home attractive to buyers, says Sal Alfano, editorial director of Remodeling magazine.

The magazine says replacing the front entry with a 20-gauge steel door is the upgrade from which homeowners can expect to recoup the most money among renovations that cost less than $5,000. The magazine estimates a recovery of 85.6 percent of the cost.

6. Consult an expert

Before moving forward on a home improvement project, consult with a real estate agent or an appraiser who knows your market.

They should be able to gauge how the upgrade could affect the sales price of your home. That can help you determine how much of your investment you're likely to recoup.

Almost all appraisers are independent and set their own fees. A consultation could cost between $500 and $1,000. Real estate agents might be willing to offer their assessment for free, perhaps with the understanding that they might earn your business when it comes time to sell.

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*article from heraldextra.com

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Remodels You Can Have Done Before Thanksgiving!

Great article from Service Alley's blog!

5 + 1 Easy Kitchen Remodels That You Can Have Ready Before Thanksgiving


So it may be a little early to start talking about Thanksgiving. I, personally, think it is (I’m still sweating from my commute to work this morning), but one thing is undeniable: we tend to start thinking about fall holidays when summer’s over. Maybe it’s the fact that, after Labor Day, we don’t get any more days off until then. Regardless, in the coming weeks, you’ll likely start dreaming of snow, evergreens, lazy Sundays, and family-fist-fights.

Want to stun your holiday visitors into submission this year?  Doing just a bit of remodeling can reinvent your kitchen, your cooking and your reputation as a host. My wife and I did it last year and, instead of Dad’s usual ‘pleasantries’, he and Mom couldn’t get over one thing: how did you do this in such a short time?

It’s true, my parents make two yearly visits to our home: one during the beginning of August (for reasons that completely escape me) and one for Thanksgiving. And in the short period of time between visits, for relatively little money, we’d completely reinvented our kitchen. Now, when I say reinvented, I don’t mean we knocked out walls, bought pricey new appliances, or put in new windows. No. I mean, c’mon, I’m a blogger. Instead, we did these five things that completely changed our space. Some we contracted out, some we did ourselves (I mean, you’ve got to know your limits, right?), but they were simple, relatively painless (except when I fell off the ladder painting cabinets) and surprisingly affordable.

The plus one (which stands out like a sore thumb because, c’mon, six) is one I’m undertaking this fall.

Thanksgiving is less than 90 days away! Here we go:

1. Chalkboard Wall:

I know this is super-popular now, but I like to think my wife and I did it before it became so (we didn’t; I’m just being wishful). And it’s popular for good reason. It’s cheap, versatile, and instantly modernizes (to some degree) any space that it’s in. Simply pick a wall, go to a store that sells paint, buy a can of chalkboard paint (it’s usually somewhere around the spray paint), and paint on two coats. We didn’t use primer (you can), but two coats is typically necessary and really renders the primer kind of unnecessary.  After you let it dry, the sky’s the limit on what you can actually do with it: meal plans, reminders, inspirational poems (I recommend “Western Wind”), drawings. Really, whatever you need it for. And it can change if, say, your kid needs an impromptu math lesson or you’ve always wanted to have a fancy menu for your Thanksgiving feast. Here’s your chance to show everyone the writing on the wall. The best part is that, when you out-grow it (like that could ever happen), you just paint over it.

2. Replace Your Countertop:

I know this seems like a hassle. Surely, your laminate counter-top can hang out for another year, collecting stains and wear. I thought mine could. My wife, however, told me otherwise. And after doing a bit of research, it started to seem pretty feasible. We elected to go with a quartz top, but the one that we really, really lusted after was actually made of concrete. The cool thing about concrete is that it can be poured in any shape, and any design details you want can be set directly into it. Now, deciding between the two is really just a matter of taste; if your home style is more traditional, you might go with quartz. However, if you find yourself favoring that modern/industrial look, concrete might be your best bet. Both of these are nearly comparable in strength and price, require little maintenance, and can easily be purchased and installed by the holiday (as long as you get on it like now). While, obviously, I can’t quote you exact prices, I can tell you that quartz runs about $3-4K (depending on quality) and concrete runs $3.5-5K. At first I thought I’ll save us on installation and do it myself. That was stupid. Really stupid. Unless you or someone you know someone does this professionally, do yourself a favor and hire a contractor. Really, the installation itself costs about $300 max. It’s worth it. I almost destroyed the countertop and was nearly crushed to death in the process.

3. Paint Your Tile Backsplash:

In my last apartment, there was this completely gruesome backsplash. It must have been installed in 1981 when Norman Rockwell-style fruit basket sketches were a thing one might want to look at every morning.  It drove me insane. The deal my wife made with me was, as long I didn’t complain about it EVERY DAY, when we got a home of our own, it would never have anything like that in it. Fast-forward to us finding our dream starter home last year, complete with IDENTICAL backsplash. I thought this was a dark, cosmic joke, that someone out there was really living it up at my expense, that I was doomed to be followed by ugly flowers against a nicotine-yellow tile… and then I read that you can paint a backsplash to look however you like. So I did that. It’s really a fairly simple process:
      1. Buy some oil-based, semi-gloss paint of your preference and a gallon of Adhesion Primer (do not omit this)
      2. Scuff the backsplash with sand-paper. Do this a lot, until it’s no longer smooth
      3. Apply two coats of Adhesion Primer (again, DO NOT OMIT THIS)
      4. Let primer dry and then roll on two coats of that oil-based, semi-gloss paint you bought.
      5. Enjoy your new backsplash.

4. Change out your hardware:

This is honestly something that wasn’t even remotely on my radar until I met my wife. It never occurred to me that all those cabinet and dresser knobs were actually screwed into the furniture and could be removed/changed out. The first time I took one off, I showed her proudly while she gave me that look that only a smart person who loves an idiot can give. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty excited to change hardware since then. Mostly because it’s easy, cheap, and can be a real game-changer. If you’re looking for micro-design details to accentuate the larger-scale stuff you’ve already done, this is your calling. Depending on your budget, you can get hardware at a variety of places (stores like Home Depot or Lowes, specialty stores with home sections like Anthropologie, or online from sites like Knobs N Pulls) and, if you look enough, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits your home. And, I mean, even if the one’s you select don’t have the same measurements as your current ones, simply drilling new holes/widening current ones will get the job done. If you accidentally drill a hole in the wrong spot on your cabinet (guilty), or just have a handle-to-hole mismatch, you can find wood filler at a local hardware store that matches the wood tone of your cabinet, or that you can stain to match it in just a few minutes.

5. Spruce up your cabinets (or replace them entirely):

At this point in my career, I’m a sprucer. Now, some of you may be replacers, and more power to you; please know that I envy you from the bottom of my everything. If you’re a replacer, you’ll need to get started on this now. While it’s totally feasible to have your cabinets replaced by Thanksgiving, the process can take some time, so the sooner you get started, the better. Now if you’re a sprucer, boy do I have some good news for you (not really). Cabinet painting can be a pretty involved process, but is very approachable. You’ll need to remove all doors and hardware, sand everything, and get plenty of the paint you want before you get started. There really isn’t a secret to painting things—sand surface, apply paint, allow to dry, reapply paint, allow to dry—but, if you’re an advanced sprucer (or just one who really hates paint-brushes), you can apply a spray-on finish instead. I don’t know a whole lot about that, but here is a very solid how-to. Either way, taking time to do this process carefully and correctly will leave you with stunning, inexpensive results (but you’ll be really tired). Also, from my experience, if you can’t quite reach the corner of a cabinet from the ladder you’re standing on, get down and move the ladder. Otherwise, you could become much more intimate with the fridge, then the ladder rung, then the floor than you might otherwise care to be.

If you complete these things before Thanksgiving (I did, but, I was otherwise only sporadically employed at the time), two things will happen: 1) you will feel like a champion, a real Sean Connery or Lucy Lawless and 2) your kitchen will look completely different, brand new. If you don’t have the time to do all of them, don’t worry. Pick and choose what’s going to work best for you. Pair them, if you like. Anything will help (though any of the painting tasks will make more dramatic differences than if you, say, change your hardware.) What’s most important is that you get your space back, really make it yours, and maybe stifle some holiday drama in the meantime…


I’m sure you thought I forgot. I mean, really, I’ve already concluded, and this seems almost unnecessary. But I’m so excited about doing it that I just can’t resist. This year, I’m going to build AN OUTDOOR FIRE PIT! Both my and my wife’s parents had these when we were kids, and we’re both so really looking forward to carrying on some of those memories. On holidays, my family would gather around, drink mulled wine, and talk. My wife’s family would cook a whole animal over theirs (they’re obviously from a much more exciting culture than I am). So this fall, you’ll be able to find me in the backyard following this DIY tutorial. I’ll probably let you know how it goes unless I fail hard. Or if I undercook the turkey out there (because of course I’m cooking our turkey there.)

To order your copy of Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
For more information about Remodeling Hell, CLICK HERE
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*article from servicealley.com blog