Category Archives: Home Improvement

Creating Your Dream Home

When it comes to home renovation, it’s something that’s very important to us. After all, why shouldn’t our home be a perfect expression of ourselves, our desires, our needs, our personality? Owning a home is a big milestone for us, so it seems only natural to do yourself the service of making that home the best home it can be. So, when the time comes to redesign your living space, you’re going to want to nail it. But, where do you start? There are countless options to choose from, after all. Well, it’s not as hard as it seems. Here are a few tips.

First and foremost, a theme can do wonders for your home. A good theme can make your home come alive and feel more like a cohesive whole. An example of a great theme is an oceanic theme. Using colors like seafoam, cyan, and teal, among other shades of blue and green, can help you evoke the essence of the ocean. You could further this theme by adding thematic decor like seashells, anchors, and nautical stars. Bonus points if you have a fish tank to add to the mix. You could also hang some thematic art, as well, to make the theme complete.

Another important thing to consider when redecorating is flow. When arranging furniture, imagine invisible pathways along the floor. Making these pathways between rooms as short and sweet as possible will do wonders for your space. Making the transition between one room and the next will improve your home greatly.

Another aspect of interior design that often goes unnoticed is your wardrobe. After all, your clothing are so important as to have their own dedicated space, but we don’t often pay much attention to our closets. So, don’t be afraid to spend a little on some new threads, or some new shoes from Puma to make your wardrobe part of your dream home.

Benefits of Solid Surface Products

Solid surface products are made in acrylic, polyester, or other hard synthetic materials and primarily used for kitchen and bathroom hardware like sinks, shower walls, service counters, and tubs. Solid surface is a highly versatile material that can provide a wide range of advantages in relation to aesthetics and performance. But, before installing this type of product it benefits to request a sample because certain materials are liable to scratch quite easily.

Because of the design flexibility, texture, and color options, these products have become a firm favorite with homeowners, architects, and builders in the process of renovating a property.

Here are five of the solid surface advantages:

Easy to clean

Similar to natural quartz or stone, a solid surface sink is easily integrated into a work surface to create a very streamlined and smooth look which is appreciated for its easy to clean surface. Because this material is 100% non-porous it is very sanitary and great for use in the kitchen or other eating areas.

Impervious to stains

The non-porous nature of these products means there is less chance of foods or liquids being able to penetrate the surface which lowers the risk of stains, bacteria, and mildew.

Unique shapes

These modern surfaces are made of materials like polyester or acrylic resins which are easily heat sculpted to create the more unique shapes and configurations. Polyester is appreciated for its ability to hold the darker colors, while acrylic is a lot more pliable which makes it easier to create the more distinctive shapes. Also, the manufacturing process can make it possible for this material to appear like other materials, such as stone.

Does not fade

Even if the solid surface products are installed in kitchen with bright open windows the material is able to resist UV damage and isn’t likely to fade in the future.

High Strength

The design of the solid surface products means it is stronger than a material like laminate because the plastic goes the entire way through the surface. This means it is more effective at standing up to impact damage.

Any potential downsides to these products

Even though the solid surface products are generally hard-wearing they aren’t the strongest option to install in the bathroom or kitchen. In fact, many of these products rely on a material that is softer than certain alternatives like quartz composite. Care should be taken to avoid denting, scratching, or nicking the items in an acrylic polymer composite. It is possible to repair the defects in the surface, but it helps to use a special repair kit.

 

How to Make a Healthy Change

While homeowners probably don’t have to worry about a visit from a building inspector in the same way owners of commercial properties do, building codes are there for all of us. Even residential buildings need to comply with the laws in their area to ensure a safe and comfortable living environment. This is even more important when purchasing a house or making an improvement on an existing residence.

Do You Know the Local Building Code?
Building codes vary between countries and from state to state. When making any kind of addition to an existing structure, or even changing the inside of that structure, building codes should be consulted before any actual construction begins to make sure everything that is planned is compliant with the area’s laws.

DIY
Generally, if you hire a contractor to do the job, they are responsible for keeping construction within the perimeters of what is allowed. If you are planning to do the work yourself, not only are you responsible for adhering to building codes, but zoning codes as well. Building codes generally deal with issues of safety and encompass things like structural soundness. Zoning codes vary dramatically from place to place and include regulations on sizes of structures, and even the aesthetics (style of building, color, etc.) of the structure. If you plan on, say, putting up a garage with the help of friends or family, it’s a good idea to consult a building inspector before breaking ground.

Renovating
The building code plays a big part when renovating a residence. Many have the idea of purchasing an old house that is in disrepair, and making it into something beautiful with their own hands. Here, the building code is especially important because of structural considerations. While preexisting conditions aren’t a problem when the property is purchased, they certainly become an issue when that property is being renovated. While it is rare for an old residence to be sited for an existing condition, building inspectors need to be sure that the new construction is in line with the latest guidelines for safety. This is even more pertinent when dealing with commercial property. If that dream was renovating an old pizzeria, the rules that need to be followed increase immensely.

Safety First
The best way to make sure your property is up to code is to have it inspected, and have a professional present when deciding how to proceed with your plans. Adhering to building code is a good way to ensure that your newly renovated home will be safe and sound for years to come.

Accent Your Home With Simple Home Improvements

gfciyckhIf you’re your home’s resident handy man, or even if you are a novice, but you want to give home improvement a try, there are options out there that can cut your costs by sometimes hundreds of dollars. Factory direct building materials are less expensive than the same materials you might pick up at the hardware store. You can even order them online and have them sent straight to your front door. This money saving strategy is worth looking into even if you’ve hired a contractor to do the work. There are lots of projects where buying factory direct just makes sense.

Redoing your kitchen cabinets is a quick and easy way to give your kitchen a facelift. Shopping factory direct for your new cabinets will help you do it on the cheap. If you aren’t sure what look is right for your update; there are several styles to choose from. Wood cabinets add warmth to a kitchen: cherry, oak, birch, and maple will all give you a different look. If you’d prefer laminate, there are plenty of styles, colors, and finishes to choose from. You can also browse different styles of hardware to give your kitchen a makeover that reflects your home’s personality. You’ll be amazed at the improvement you see when you replace the cabinets you’ve seen everyday with something fresh and new.

Glass block is a terrific material that can be had for a song when you buy factory direct. Adding a glass block window in a dark room will work wonders for the space, opening it up with welcoming natural light. Glass block walls are excellent room dividers if you want to distinguish space without cutting up the landscape of your home. The bathroom is another room where a glass block addition would be welcome. You can pick up a kit and put together a sparkly new shower stall that will allow you to cast off that moldy vinyl curtain for good. These versatile gems are also lovely around your foundation vents or as basement windows-they really complement the garden border from outside, and inside they let in light without sacrificing privacy or security. As basement windows, glass blocks are also a god way to safeguard against leaks if you get a lot of rainstorms. There are all sorts of prefabricated kits you can buy that will match any project you can dream up, or if you have designed something original, you can get glass blocks with the holes already drilled to save you time. You might also consider acrylic blocks as an inexpensive option that has the look of glass.

Adding a skylight is another way to wake up a tired room. These will allow you to use less electricity by filling the room with natural light, and can even save on your home heating bills if you plan right. Solar tubular skylights are a newer product that allows you to enjoy the sun’s natural light and radiant heat long after the evening has fallen. Solar tubular skylights do not collect potentially damaging moisture, which can be a concern with traditional skylights. Whichever you choose, buying factory direct is a terrific way to save money.

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!

Inspections
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: http://www.servicemagic.com 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.

 

Top 6 Home Improvement Investments

Considering a home improvement? Check out the top 6 home improvements across the country.

1. Bathroom Remodel/Addition
A bathroom remodel is a smaller, affordable remodeling project that can have a great impact on your everyday life. From updating tired fixtures to adding more storage to creating a relaxing haven, any changes you make to your bathroom are guaranteed to improve your daily routine.

Bathroom remodeling wish list: New cabinetry and storage, artistic sink fixtures, jetted tub, skylight

2. Kitchen Remodel
Today’s kitchens are at the hub of family life, often serving as a dining area, home office, and gathering place. Whether you choose a major kitchen remodel or just want to rejuvenate one aspect with new lighting, appliances, cabinetry or tile, updating your kitchen can make it easier to accommodate your busy lifestyle.

Kitchen remodeling wish list: Granite countertops, walk-in pantry, state-of-the-art appliances

3. Basement Remodel
Remodeling the basement is a cost-effective way to greatly expand your home’s living space. Suddenly you could have a guest room, a children’s play room, a home office, a recreation room. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Basement remodeling wish list: Media room, bar, soundproofing, plenty of natural light

4. Windows
New window installation offers a great opportunity to upgrade your home in style and resale value. Not to mention, with nearly 40 percent of central heating lost through windows and doors, quality window replacement with proper insulation ensures substantial savings on utility bills.

Window wish list: Custom windows, UV protection glazing, tubular skylights

5. Siding
One of the most overlooked home improvements, new siding will dramatically change your home’s appearance. In the past there weren’t many siding options to choose from, leaving homeowners few choices besides the often unattractive vinyl siding. But today there are a wide variety of options available, including the much improved vinyl options, not to mention metal, wood, brick, stone and stucco.

Siding wish list: Natural bark siding, natural stone siding, reclaimed brick

6. Roofing
For many homeowners a new roof is a grudge purchase. However, with all the many options available today, it certainly doesn’t have to be. Today roofing materials are available in wood, metal, tile, slate, and even asphalt shingles that mimic nearly everything else. And of these roofing materials offer a wide color palette to choose the best color to complement your home’s exterior.