Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Oil of Home Improvement Projects

Many people have been following the highs and lows of the stock market with the doom and gloom of possibly delayed retirement. Others follow the running CNN tally of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with a type of rubbernecking fascination, even as experts tell us that the credit markets are the bigger concern for the future of our economic health. As the impending economic recession drives down prices across the market, opportunity lies in more places than just the gas pump.

Lumber Prices, Oil Prices, and the Economy
Although lumber mills are getting crucified by steeply declining lumber prices, homeowners and carpenters are licking their chops at some real bargains. According to Random Lengths, from August 29th to October 24th, framing lumber dropped 21 percent. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where lumber is traded like stocks, saw framing lumber futures drop off even more precipitously from $254.8 to $178.8 per 1,000 board feet. That’s a loss of 30 percent. During the same period, light, sweet crude oil fell from $115.46 to $64.15 or a loss of 44 percent, one of the steepest declines in U.S. history.

Now, it should be noted that this type of decline from lumber prices is far from across the board. Specifically, the Southern Pine Composite (SPC) —an index for the weighted average price of 35 different lumber items including dimension, boards, decking, and timbers—has held its own against other lumber prices.

Lumber Keeps the Home Improvement Engine Running
Without oil, people can’t get to work, they can’t shop, and the economy stops functioning. So it is with lumber and the home improvement and home building markets. Without lumber, houses can’t be built, floors aren’t as extravagant, decks are made from cheap synthetics, and many people put off their fence building projects. Wood siding and wood cabinets go out the window, window frames must be made from vinyl or aluminum, outbuildings such as gazebos look artificial. There is no building material that is even in the same category as the timeless look of authentic wood. Moreover, vinyl, laminate, composites, and other synthetic materials are exactly like the electric and hydrogen-powered cars of the home improvement industry: They hold immense promise, but they haven’t delivered yet.

What Does this Mean for Homeowners?
Are you one of the many thousands of homeowners wondering what they should do with their money to keep it safe? Sure, you could take your money and buy U.S. Treasury securities, but odd as it sounds, now might just be the absolute perfect time to invest in your home and complete a home improvement. Take, for example, new hardwood flooring, a deck addition, privacy fencing, or any other home improvement that requires a good deal of lumber. The best method, regardless of lumber pricing trends, is to go to your nearest lumberyard every week to look for the best bargains. Plus, as more and more people continue to hoard their cash, flooring, deck, fencing, and other home improvement contractors have fewer and fewer projects on their docket, increasing competition among the contractors, and driving down project estimates.

Hidden Gems of the Poor Economy
Economists, TV pundits, and American families are looking for a silver lining to these tough economic times. Many of the experts are citing low gas prices as a type of indirect economic stimulus, putting money back into the pocket of U.S. consumers. People mistakenly believe that putting any extra cash toward a home renovation is a poor investment, since home values have tanked. This might be true if you have to put your home on the market in the next few months, but if you’re able to hang on to your property—whether it’s your primary residence or a rental property—the housing market will inevitably rebound. Meanwhile, the cost of home improvement will follow suit, meaning you might have a relatively short window to complete one of these bargain lumber-oriented projects.

Recession-Resistant Renovations

Upgrade Siding
When your siding has seen better days, upgrading it just might be one of the best investments you can make for your home, no matter what the economic climate. Since siding functions as a shield for the materials it covers, the better siding you have, the longer those materials are likely to last. Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report revealed that installing fiber-cement siding generally recovers over 87% of construction costs in added resale value. This makes upgrading from vinyl or aluminum to fiber-cement the best investment nationwide when it comes to recouping your costs!

Bathroom Enhancements
Though often the smallest rooms in the house, your bathroom can have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life. Bathrooms also pack quite a punch when it comes time to put your property on the market, and remodeling your bathroom can mean the difference between a home that’s sold quickly and one that stays on the market for years.

The average cost of a bathroom remodel over the last quarter was around $10,200. Out of a pool of 3,000 homeowners who found their bathroom contractors through SM, 9 out of 10 were not only pleased with their project, but would recommend it to others. When you think of the money and resources that get wasted by leaky pipes, dripping faucets, inefficient shower heads and obsolete toilets and, add the hassle of waiting for mirrors to clear up, waiting for hot water (or running out too soon) and dealing with water pressure problems it’s easy to see why so many folks are so happy with their new bathrooms!

While not technically a renovation, an inspection is a sound enough investment in shaky economic times that we had to include it in this list. The beauty of an inspection lies not in what it does for your property, but what it prevents. For instance, a chimney cleaning will often cost around $310, where a chimney fire can cost you thousands in property damage. Inspections are available for many of your home’s systems (roofing, foundation, waterproofing, etc.) and can either identify small problems before they become large or give you peace of mind that your home is in good shape!

Enhance Flooring
Few things can make a room shine like good flooring. Fortunately, flooring upgrades are also an excellent investment in just about any home. One of the nice things about replacing a floor with a more durable material is that you can really get your money’s worth. For instance, while carpet remains the least costly flooring material, the National Home Builder’s Association puts its life expectancy at 8 to 10 years “with appropriate maintenance and normal foot traffic.” Though definitely more costly, natural hardwood’s life expectancy is “100 years or more.” So, by upgrading, you might be spending a little more in the short term, but you can rest easy knowing that you (or even the next owners of your property) won’t have to bear the expense of flooring replacement!

Small Kitchen Remodels
In much the same way as bringing a bathroom up to par is almost always a good investment, minor kitchen improvements are generally a safe bet. Unfortunately, going overboard during a kitchen remodel is common, and many folks end up spending way more than they planned before the job is finished. To keep your investment budget-friendly, focus on the things that really need attention, and leave the elements of the room that are functioning just fine intact.

General Guidelines for Recession-Proof Remodeling
During uncertain economic times, the adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is certainly appropriate in many cases. However, to be completely accurate, you may want to add something to the effect of “If it’s slightly broken, fix it now.” “If it’s working fine, but it’s costing you plenty to operate, get a better model” might be another good phrase to live by. Basically, any remodeling project runs the risk of being more trouble than it is worth, but, in a nutshell, hard times call for projects that will not only make your property look better, but will help it function more efficiently for years to come!

What should you ask to Your Garage Door Repair Company?

The garage doors are directly exposed to various external conditions such as weather and temperature changes. This affects the lubrication and debris and dirt accumulation. Although controllable, it is not totally preventable. You might be seeing rather a lot of your garage door repairer than you had thought you would.

Obviously you can repair the door, if you have more or less experience or knowledge about it. However, if not done properly, this may lead to serious consequences and mishaps. Thus, contact the professionals, who are available out there round the clock with their technical and certified skills. There are such committed repairers or door installers in San Diego that  all you would need to do is give a call to a San Diego garage door company and they will be there rushing for your help without any delay.

However, it wouldn’t be wise of you just to call one, get the installation or repair done and bid them goodbye. To ensure the long term effective functioning of your garage door, you are recommended to ask some questions to the garage door repair company, a few of which are listed below:

  • Is the service providing company licensed?

Checking out the legal existence and registration of the company in question is the first thing you would want to do. If they are, you can be relaxed and hold the company accountable for any damage during the repairing and installation process.

  • Are the staffs qualified?

Keep in mind that you are only taking the aid of the company because you yourself do not have the technical skills required for the situation. However, it would be a poor look out, if the garage people who turn up are not professionals or certified ones, but only have gathered some experience that comes in handy. So, check the eligibility of the staff, the identification cards and their training records that would show that they are quite updated.

  • What are other customer’s reviews on the service?

Many companies these days have websites that allow you to check what other customers have got to say about the company. Check the reviews, consult with those who have had experienced their service and only contact the garage door company if the previous results were absolutely satisfying.

  • How much does it cost and how do you pay for it?

Ensure that the cost charged is affordable. Once that is done, find out what are the sources of payment accepted by the company. Be wary of those who refuse to accept checks and credit cards because their tendency to collect only cash could be a signal that they are not legally registered or are trying to avoid tax.

  • How long is the warranty?

Whether it is a car, a mobile, a laptop or even the garage doors, warranty is an important post purchase security element that you should always look for. With warranties guaranteed for a well defined period, you can remain assured that in case any damage occurs, you need not worry about the repair and financial factor likewise.

Thus, make sure you get all these questions asked before you go around repairing the garage door. Besides these, some basic questions such as area of service, time taken for the service, experience are recommended to be asked too.


Leveling a House

Q: I have been trying to find a contractor in the Atlanta, Georgia area that has the expertise and knowledge of leveling a home that was constructed in the 1950’s. I have exhausted all my resources and was hoping you could help me. What kind of damage (i.e. drywall, bathroom tile, etc.) will result from leveling a home? Thanks in advance.

A: You didn’t mention how or why the house is out of level. Has the foundation failed? Have the beams or sills rotted? Are the floors sagging or weak? Without those answers, it’s pretty hard to give you any specific answers but here are a few guidelines.

If the whole house is out of level or uneven due to the foundation, you will probably be best served having a house mover pick the whole house up, have the foundation repaired/replaced and then having it reinstalled on the new foundation. If the foundation is OK but the structure of the house is failing, you may be able to have it repaired in place.

In any event, you first need to determine why the building is out of level. A structural engineer or architect with experience in this type of work is the place to start. Call around and ask if they have done this type of work and ask for references. Call the references. Make sure they have done something similar. This is pretty specialized work. The professional will be able to advise you as to how he sees the repair taking place and what contractors you will need. Have the professional inspect the work before you make final payment so you can be sure it was done per his directions. That way if something goes wrong or the repair doesn’t work, you can look to the professional as well as the contractor for relief. Make sure the professional has Errors & Omissions insurance and get a certificate from his agent with you listed as the certificate holder.

As far as what the effects of leveling the house will be is equally tough because I don’t know how far out of level it is and how long it has been this way. The house is 50 years old and assuming it has been going “out of level” for much of that time, the effects of the shifting have been fixed over the years. Once you level it, doors won’t close properly, ceramic tile will probably crack, plaster will crack, and windows may cease to work. You really need to do a cost/benefit analysis before you undertake this. If it’s serious enough to consider “leveling” then there will probably be lots to fix or replace when you’re done.

This information is brought to you by Don Powell of Powell Building Corporation in Mt. Laurel, NJ.

To locate an engineer or architect to begin this process, please return to our site at: and type “Find An Engineer” and/or “Find An Architect” in the search box. Submit service requests, explaining what you need, and let us match you with the ideal service professionals in your area. Once your professional has determined the best course of remediation, you may return and submit service requests for foundation repair, general contractors and whatever other professionals you will need to take it from there.

Good luck!

How To Install Granite Countertops

Granite is a hard, igneous rock that can be cut into different shapes and makes a perfect material for making countertops. It is not only beautiful, but also durable and resistant to heat. Granite countertops are a luxurious addition to any kitchen or bathroom. They are available in a range of beautiful and unique designs to choose from.

In the past, it was advised to hire a professional for the installation of a granite countertop. Now, many companies offer DIY granite countertops kits that you can install yourself. Here are a few steps to install a granite countertop on your own:

– Once your cabinets are installed and securely anchored to the floor and walls, use craft paper to take exact measure for your countertop. It is important to include one to one a half inch overhang for the edges which will be facing the cabinets. Granite countertops are available in a range of styles and colors. You should choose one on the basis of the overall design and style of the kitchen and color of the cabinets and flooring. Buy a countertop either from a local retail store or you can also order one online.

– Cut plywood to fit on the top of the cabinets to support the weight of the granite. It is important to make sure that the plywood is square and level. Then, use pilot holes to screw the plywood in place to prevent it from cracking.

– Granite is a heavy stone and may break if not handled properly. You can get assistance in lifting the counter to set it on the top of the cabinet. Make sure that the countertop fits well in the cabinet.

– After that, remove the granite and create a pilot hole in the mark sink cutout using a drill. Use a jigsaw to create a hole for the sink. Install the sink properly and make sure that it fits properly.

– In the next step, level the seams for the slabs. It is important that the seams are absolutely leveled before gluing. Use screws beneath the plywood to make adjustments to the height of the granite.

– Apply silicone around the edges of the plywood every 6 to 12 inches. Seal the granite by laying a bead of caulk around the outer edge of the sink and the top of the sink. Fix the granite slab into place to make sure that the seams are tightly matched.

– Use blue masking tape to tape over the seam. Fill the seams using a dollop of polyester based resin and add small amount of color. After that, pull off the masking tape so that the mixture doesn’t dry on the tape. Once the color dry, smooth the countertop with a seam stone until it becomes smooth.

To clean the granite countertop, use only mild cleaning products and avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures.