Planning & Hiring
Plan ahead. By making your product selections ahead of time, you can avoid delays once your project has began.
Visit contractor's websites. A good remodeling contractor not only has a website, but ensures it is organized, well-maintained, and user friendly.
Check References. Ask each contractor for local references (recent projects) and find out if these customers were satisfied with the contractor's work.
Gauge the contractor's professional standards. First, find out if the contractor is a member of a professional organization, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which has standards or a code of ethics for remodelers. Next, contact your local BBB to find out how long each company you are considering has been in business (most unsuccessful companies go out of business within the first 5 years) and if they have any complaints against them. Also, ask the contractor if they are insured. Remodeling companies are required to have liability insurance, therefore if they don't, you know they aren't a legitimate business and likely won't do legitimate work. If they don't have a copy of their General Liability Insurance, call their insurance company to verify. In addition to being insured, it is important to check with your state, county or city housing authority to make sure the contractor is properly licensed and bonded.
*Be cautious when using cost as a determining factor.* It is extremely important to compare costs before making a financial commitment to any home improvement project. If you solicit more than 1 bid from prospective contractors you should discuss each one in detail with each contractor, making certain you understand the reasons for any variations in the prices. Do not automatically choose the lowest price. One contractors bid might be higher because they bid using a higher quality material or an installation method that ensures a higher quality and therefore more time. (A contractor could be the lowest bidder because he is taking shortcuts that will compromise your project and create additional work later, or he could be giving you a low-ball price to get the job and then once the project has started come up with a large number of "additions" that will add a significant amount to the final cost.)
Insist on a contract. The contract should include as many details as possible so you know the extent of the services your contractor is providing. Lack of detail in a contract can often be indicative of a contractor's intent to cut corners (why their bid is also often much lower in cost than others). Likewise, never pay a contractor for the entire job in advance. Most companies will ask for a deposit at the start of the job for materials, and then payments will be made as the job progresses for labor and any additional materials needed.
Communicate with your contractor. Your contractor is here to make YOUR dream a reality, but they can't do that without knowing what exactly you want. Let them know what you have in mind, and work together to reach that end. But communication is never one-sided, a good contractor will always keep you informed of progress and any variations from schedule.
Connect Spaces. Opening walls and hallways will not only create more livable spaces, by increasing the possibility of interaction, but will also make the spaces you have feel bigger than they are. Open floor plans increase the amount of light that emanates through the house as well as maximize the airflow through the house when windows and doors are open (effective cooling method- especially is the Southwest Metro area).
Maximize Storage. Take areas that feel like wasted space and utilize them to your advantage. Do you like to entertain? Add a bar. Do you have lots of clutter? Add some built-ins. Do you have a room that you hardly ever use? Open it up and add it to your living space.
*Some tips adapted from Chet Baker of Ezine Articles
Homeowners are spending more and more of their "leisure" time in their own homes, a term now known as "cocooning". The kitchen has become the "family room" where friends and family gather to socialize. With the current economy, more consumers are likewise warming up to the idea of cocooning, making it the perfect time to update the kitchen space. Homeowners want the spaces they spend the most time in to be the most comfortable, often also meaning the most up to date. When designing how to make your kitchen the most effective but also the most comfortable, keep the follow design tips in mind:
1. Taking out walls/adding islands
Breaking down interior walls can create an open floor plan between the kitchen and living room or kitchen and dining room. (For more benefits of open floor plans, see "Connect spaces" in Project Planning Tips). There is likewise the added benefit of extra square footage for entertaining. Islands are also a common trend considering they are an excellent places for entertaining and add additional storage.
2. Picking cabinets
A clean, simple, yet contemporary look will be a beneficial choice for homeowners looking to economize and eliminate unnecessary details that equate to high maintenance and complicated living. Mixing cabinet colors (i.e. dark wall cabinets and light island cabinets or vice versa) will be favorable to homeowners that want to spice up their living space and veer off the beaten path. Homeowners should also consider cashing in on the added benefits of specialty storage features and hidden cabinets including designs such as spice racks, lid drawers, wine coolers, trash compactors, etc.
3. Picking appliances
Current appliance trends include commercial-style ovens, in-cabinet microwaves and ovens, and gas or induction cooktops. While induction cooktops are beneficial because the pans heat faster and the cooktop itself doesn't feel hot to the touch, they do require special pans (how the induction heating works). Gas cooktops, on the other hand, are compatible with almost any pan type (copper pans works best with gas cooktops), but are hot to the touch and take slightly longer to boil your pot of water.
4. Choosing countertop material
While granite is still a fan favorite of many homeowners, many others are venturing off the beaten path and experimenting with more modern styles. One such style is quartz composite. Not only is it durable (though less durable than granite) and heat resistant (up to 535°F), there is also virtually no maintenance because of its smooth surface and nonporous nature. Another popular trend is concrete countertops. While they offer a chic new perspective on kitchen designs, there are some drawbacks that may make you reconsider. Not only is it the most expensive, is it also susceptible to stains and scratches and there is a possibility that the slab could crack.
5. Choosing a flooring material
Wood floors have taken the construction industry by storm. Whether it's hardwood floors, wood-looking tile, bamboo, or cork, wood floors are the in-trend of 2019. Pre-finished and engineered hardwood are likewise seeing an uptick in use due to the fact that they are durable, more economical, and are compatible with under-floor heating systems (perfect for our Colorado winters!).
6. Picking a backsplash
While backsplash's once served to protect kitchen walls from the food and filth that life throws at it, they now function as decorative wall pieces meant to accent the cabinets and countertops. This is great news for homeowners because there are now numerous different backsplash materials for homeowners to choose from. Glass has become an extremely popular choice, as has subway tile. There are likewise more options for how much backsplash to include. While most homeowners run it from the top of the countertop to the bottom of the cabinets, those looking for an even edgier look will run it to the ceiling.
7. Choosing a sink
Goodbye double-sinks, hello deep single-bowl sinks! While the possibilities for choosing a sink are virtually endless, homeowners are starting to want larger, deeper sinks to accommodate their larger cookware and dinnerware. While stainless steel sinks are still a popular option, more and more homeowners are choosing quartz composites for their great value and durability.
Regardless of motivational reasoning, bathroom renovations can go a long way towards making not only the bathroom, but your home overall, much more enjoyable and valuable. Trends have evolved from the age of excess. That being said, we aim to encourage people to be smart about the improvements they make, invest their money wisely into the things that will have a lasting influence on the value of their home, and create an elegant space without going over the top.
~Don't Forget to Budget~
Whenever you're taking on a remodeling project, it's important to remember that there is a good chance you'll go over budget.
Research costs upfront and add a cushion of 10 to 15 percent above projected expenses.
You can't think of everything, and unexpected expenses are bound to come up, but by adding this cushion you can save yourself potential financial headaches once the project is in progress.
Things to Consider:
1. Current Layout
While sticking to the existing layout will be easier, faster and often more cost-effective, sometimes changing the layout makes sense. If your current layout is awkward, not visually pleasing or otherwise frustrating to you, CHANGE IT. But, if your looking to save a few extra pennies, keeping the existing layout can avoid you the costs of having to move any plumbing or electrical.
If your home is more than 20+ years old, your vanity height is most likely 30 inches. While this height is great for small children, it's not very adult friendly. The standard is now 34 inches, which is much more suitable for the average 5 foot 10 inch man.
3. Is That Tub Necessary?
Homeowners have been told for years that a
5-piece bath was a necessity in a main bathroom. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Homeowners now have the options to either put the tub where it best fits their needs, or get rid of the tub completely. In the current housing market, a shower is sufficient to consider it a full bath, meaning the resale value goes unaffected contrary to prior belief.
4. Water, Water & More Water
Today's showering experience has almost unlimited possibilities. Shower heads are only the first step. Additional features include body sprays, hand held's, and more. Additionally, you can upgrade your standard shower head to a rain head. Keep in mind, however, that any additional features will increase both your rough and trim plumbing costs, as well as your fixture costs.
For location, consider putting your standard shower head up higher on the wall if you're taller. Or, if you plan on having a bench, why not make sure the hand held can be used while shaving your legs?
Lastly, remember to put the controls somewhere accessible outside of the shower. The shock of the cold water is something everyone can live without.
5. Shower Design
A great way to make space for your bathroom essentials (i.e. shampoo/conditioner, soap, candles, etc.) is to create a niche (or multiple) in the shower or bath wall. These are modern, more efficient versions of the outdated plastic shower caddy and will give you a place to organize that clutter.
Additionally, consider adding recessed lighting in your shower. This will not only make it easier to see (especially while shaving), but will make the room feel brighter and therefore bigger. Recessed lighting doesn't have to be limited to the shower either, it will have the same beneficial effect to the bathroom regardless of positioning.
*Tips adapted from Erica Garland's article Remodeling Your Bathroom: Top 10 Things to Consider on hubyourhome.com
Living Space Design
According to Absolute Remodeling, the first step to creating a beautiful & useful living space is to throw away traditional concepts of basements. It is no longer a dark, dank, storage area, but a place to enjoy and relax with friends and family!
Some common uses of your "new" space could include:
Guest room + bathroom
Office and/or study area
Playroom or activity area
Additional family room
Or, a combination of the above
Basement finishing is a simple and cost-effective alternative to adding square footage onto a house. In fact, the cost of finishing a basement is about 25% that of completing an "add-on" because the structure already exists: four walls, a floor and a ceiling, that YOU don't have to pay for. The key is to stop thinking of the space as a "basement", and consider it itself as an "addition", because you're adding to your livable space.
LOTS of lighting (You'll need general lighting, which is your overhead lighting; accent lighting, which highlights specific details; and task lighting for work or play areas.)
Access to the outdoors (Access to the outdoors is an underestimated asset. If you have a walk-out basement, replace the existing doors with French doors. It opens up the space and adds more light.)
Headroom (Ducts and plumbing may need to be relocated along walls or beams, but this is typically where headroom isn't so critical. Shortening door and jambs by an inch or two as well as shortening moulding can make the ceilings feel higher.)
Tile flooring (Carpet is acceptable, but tile is the prime choice if you're looking for low maintenance and durability. Laying them in a diagonal pattern will make the room feel wider and larger.)
A full bathroom (an extra full bathroom used to be considered an option, but now is considered a must.)
Deck Tip #1
Homeowners and buyers rate decks as one of the most desirable outdoor features of a home. Building a deck onto your home can be a great way to expand the possibilities for enjoying your backyard. Decks are typically built on the side or back of the house as extensions of the living room, dining room or kitchen. They not only provide an easy transition from the indoors to the outdoors, but open up your yard for dining and entertainment. If your home is situated on a hillside, a deck can be a great way to enhance the usability of your yard.
Deck Tip #2
It makes sense to have the deck off of the kitchen or dining room if you plan to use it for occasional meals. Free-standing decks can also be placed away from the house. Usually, there will be an obvious place for your deck. But, if you have several options to choose from, it is a good idea to consider weather conditions as well.
Deck Tip #3
Observe the degree of sun and shade that fall on your deck throughout the day. Keep in mind that the north side of your house will usually receive less direct light than the south and be more exposed to wind and chill in the spring and fall. A south facing deck, on the other hand, may be subject to extreme heat in the summer. Regardless of where your deck is placed, modifications can include structures such as lattice walls or arbors that can be used to grow vines to provide shade and protection from the elements.
Deck Tip #4
A deck should be placed so that it offers an easy transition between your home and the outdoors. Typically, decks have one point of access to the house, and one or two points of access to the yard. The door leading from your home to your deck can be placed where you have an existing door, or it can be installed in an area that is currently walled. Sliding glass doors are easy accessibility to the deck. If you will be installing new doors for your deck, this should be done before the deck is built. Railing, steps and ramps should all be included in your plans for accessibility.
Deck Tip #5
When planning your deck, consider size and style. The main factor to consider is that the deck should complement your house and yard. It is sometimes recommended that your deck be built about the same size as the living room, or the largest room in the house. Decks can be simple in structure or can include multiple tiers and additional items such as hot tubs, arbors, wooden planters, built-in seats, water features, or gazebos.
Deck Tip #6
Before you begin your deck project it is a good idea to check with your local building department, which can be done online, and decide if a permit is necessary. Factors that can apply to your project include restrictions, regulations, and local building codes. In addition, check with utility companies to see if underground or overhead cables need to be accommodated. Wells and septic tanks may also restrict placement. Likewise, there may be lot regulations concerning how close your deck can be built to neighboring properties.
Deck Tip #7
Real wood must be used for the structural support of your deck. Pressure-treated wood is the strongest. Synthetic materials don't have the strength or flexibility needed for structural support. When designing your deck, keep in mind that naturally rot-resistant wood can be used in combination with treated or synthetic lumber. Treated lumber is generally cheapest and synthetic lumber the most expensive of the three types.
Naturally rot-resistant wood
Chemically treated, or pressurized, wood
- Pine (treated)
- Fir (treated)
These are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they are also structurally strong woods and naturally resistant to dry rot. While they are easier to work with than treated or pressurized wood, they are easy to dent and mark up since they are soft. When selecting this lumber type, use middle and high grades of wood, as the lower grades do not stand well to warping and weather.
Treated woods are less expensive than natural woods, and are artificially resistant to decay. Be sure to check on the type of chemical that is used to treat the wood, as poisons such as arsenic can be hazardous to human and environmental health. Look for a label that indicates the wood is kiln-dried.
Wood will need to be refinished occasionally to keep it resistant to moisture, insects and sun damage.
Treated woods may need to be resealed annually.
These are made from recycled materials. They are durable and stand up to water, insect and sun damage. They also now come in a wide variety of colors.
Synthetic lumber is relatively maintenance free, other than occasional washing.
While replacing your windows is a smart choice, considering it will increase the value of your home, there are numerous considerations that must go into the decision. The choice isn't simply the brand you choose, but the framing materials, glass choice, color, and any additional convenience features. We have adapted Scott Merrell's 7 Most Important Factors to Consider When Buying Replacement Windows to provide you with what we feel are the necessary considerations for replacing your windows.
There are numerous different materials that can be used to build the frame of the window, including traditional wood, aluminum, fiberglass, composite or vinyl. While these various options exist, we suggest using vinyl. It outperforms the other materials when it comes to durability and performance, and it offers easy maintenance and excellent thermal performance. Did we mention it's also the cheapest?
Choosing a wooden frame will allow you to pick whatever color you would like because they need to be painted regardless. Aluminum windows are typically offered in options of white, anodized or bronze. Vinyl windows are offered in a variety of colors, and the paint is "through and through", meaning it won't fade, chip or flake.
The simple glass choices of the past no longer exist. Now you can get 2 or even 3 panes, Low-E coating, tinting, etc. In the end, choose the best glass package that your budget will allow. Spend your money on the glass itself, rather than a frame made of fancy material because at the end of the day, the glass itself is what will be energy-saving and comprises the majority of the window. And who's to say you can't make the glass itself fancy? Decorative glass options now also include etched glass, leaded glass, or glass with frosted edging.
While many homeowners are wanting clear-glass as opposed to grids, grid windows are still available by opting for decorative muntins to divide the glass into smaller sections. However, these do deter from the convenience considering they are more difficult to clean. That being said, there are convenience features to compensate, such as a tilt in sashes, allowing you to clean the outside of the windows from within the comfort of your home, extra-secure locks and even micro-screens for keeping out even the smallest buggers (pun intended).