Archive for October, 2010

Finishing Your Basement: 5 Tips If You’re Starting from Zero

This is a guest post by Matthew Candelaria

Matthew Candelaria is a full-time writer with internet marketing company Page 1 Solutions, but working on weekends and evenings he recently finished the basement of his home, despite his previous near-total lack of home improvement skills. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son.

Finishing a basement is a daunting project, but if you complete it, you might double the room in your home and add significantly to your home’s value in the process. If your job situation is bad or unstable, moving to a new house might not be an option for getting the space your family needs. And with the housing market where it is, the chances are your home may have lost value since you bought it, and an improvement like this is a good way to bump up your equity, which can significantly improve your terms if you’re considering refinancing. So whether you are looking for more room or more equity or both, basement finishing makes sense.

For most of us, the cost of hiring a contractor to do the job is prohibitive, so it’s either do it ourselves or it doesn’t get done. But if you don’t have any experience with framing, wiring, plumbing, or other necessary skills, you might not know where to start. Here are a few tips to help you get on track and get good results.

Find a good book. If you’re really starting from zero, the most dangerous part of the project is what you don’t know you don’t know. A good home improvement manual will outline the project from start to finish and give you a good sense of what you’re dealing with. It will also give you the vocabulary for talking about your project to people who can help you learn what you need to know. Check several out from the library before deciding which one has the best illustrations and explanations that make sense to you.

1. Get a permit. No bones about it, getting a permit is expensive. Basically, they assess the projected value of the improvement and start taxing you on it up front, in addition to various other fees. But the permit is invaluable because it will:

a. Protect you from legal penalties if a nosy neighbor reports you to the code office

b. Ensure the value added from the project actually benefits you if/when you decide to sell the house. In some jurisdictions, assessors may look askance at work not to code, so the assessed value of the house will not reflect all your hard work.

c. Give you access to a wealth of practical information and advice.

2. Utilize the inspectors. Every time you call out the inspectors, they will not only assess your work, but also give good advice on how to do it better. It’s not a bad idea to call in an inspection before you get started to go over the project as approved by the planning office to ensure you understand what is being required of you. The inspectors are happy to give advice–it makes their job easier if you do it right the first time–but make sure you don’t abuse this resource or you can make an enemy that will make your life much harder.

3. Know when to tear it down and start fresh. Whether you’re dealing with work you did before you knew what you were doing or something done by a well-meaning, but completely ignorant previous owner, trying to preserve bad work can be more trouble than its worth. Tearing out the old work will save you time and grief.

4. Know when to call in a professional. There are some times when it is smart to call in a contractor because the job is too dangerous, technical, expensive, or time-consuming to do yourself. Think twice before trying to cut a hole in your foundation for an egress window. If you’re just not good at plumbing, you risk leaky or poorly functioning pipes when you do it yourself. And finishing drywall seams yourself can be excruciating–they can take forever and look terrible when they’re done. In these cases, a professional can get the job done better, faster, and for relatively inexpensive.

Following these steps will help you end up with a finished product you can be proud of, not to mention additional space and an increased home value. Good luck!

Color Splash: Mediterranean Patio Makeover

David Bromstad, Color Splash host, created a Bellagio Hotel inspired romantic getaway for Mark and his wife by adding dramatic and elegant scenery. A simple backyard equipped with a grill, a pool, and some seating for entertaining guest has become that of a vacation romantic getaway for this couple. Not only does this couple have a getaway to enjoy for themselves they now have a place to entertain guest like that of an oasis.

How was this done, a backyard turned into an oasis? David and his crew added a vintage cabana for added luxery and comfort. He added trees, urns and other sculptures, added flowers, a fountain with a face of a lion, and other decorative items to give the ambiance like that of Bellagio Hotel. Near the cabana the crew added tall Cyprus trees to make a focal point. To make things complete, they primer and painted the brick to their fireplace to accent the colors in the statues added to the yard, then decided to paint the back of the home a dark gray to better mesh with the decor.

As an addition, the Color Splash crew added many home décor additions to make this space an extension to this family’s home. They added window treatments to the outside of the home to make a more elegant feel and look softer. Added as well, a valance to their patio that matches the cabana they built but was placed on the other side of the yard to create a flow. Adding the finishing touches; additional seating, flowers in vase on table top, pillows throughout, a coz fire pit, a painting, lighting in the trees, added table umbrellas, and waalaa! At last, this family has an elegant romantic getaway, right outside their door step.

Curb Appeal: The Block: Car Crash Catastrophe

Three years prior to airing this segment of the Curb Appeal: The Block, the Tates experienced a Car Crash Catastrophe. Their beautiful home became “that house” to many neighbors. With a $20,000 transformation, “that house” became “the house” of the block. When making a dramatic change the value of the whole neighborhood goes up along with the house. This is very beneficial for all.

Larry and Hillary Tate’s home has been the eyesore for years. Their home has a leaning fence, a deep driveway that is sunken underground, a front door with no personality, and grass growing through the cracks. The host to Curb Appeal speaks to the home owners to go over their desires. Hillary Tate has a long list of ideas and the host now has something to work with.

The crew gets started with their long overhaul. The fence is taken down; the garage door is taken down as well. The driveway is then completely demolished to make the garage into a basement adding dirt to make a leveled driveway. The neighbor complains in hopes to save her red maple trees from having little room to grow. Curb Appeal makes big changes, curving the driveway which adds value to the home. All is pleased once again. Finally the roofing NJ is complete, and it’s time to paint. Once all is done, the home looks beautiful and all the Tate’s neighbors are ecstatic.

Curb Appeal: The Block, right? The block gets added help. Other homes on the street need some help too. Melissa needed a new porch floors, and explains this she plans to fix soon. The host recommends she use composite board for her new deck renovations. I would recommend deck lighting NJ as well. The crew helps by adding planters, flower baskets and even fixed her quant swing, all within a budget of $500 dollars. A job well done and the equity of the homes are higher. This works out great for all.

Kitchen Impossible – The Little Kitchen that wood

What do you expect out of a kitchen once it’s completely remodeled? A down home feeling with hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, new appliances, and sturdy materials would be what many would desire for their new kitchen to posses. John and Danielle attempted to remodel their kitchen after their contractor skipped town with their money and after doing an incomplete job. Doing the work themselves didn’t work out so well so Mark came to the rescue and brought his show with him, Kitchen Impossible.

When Mark came to help John and Danielle’s kitchen needed major help. The countertop wasn’t attached, walls weren’t finished, and the family disliked their awful flooring. Mark comes up with an action plan by gaining the wants from the project that were desired by the family in need. He then draws out the plans which included adding a backsplash, tile, cherry wood cabinets, new appliances, renovating the ceiling and the floors.

Demolition time, however, safety measures were taken and many useful tips were given. The crew ripped up the floor and the ceiling. They proceeded by installing drywall and laid down wet bed before installing flooring and cabinets to add a solid base. Danielle helped Mark build a chase to hide piping and electrical wiring, this is what our local licensed electrician NJ recommends as well. Not only did Danielle help build a chase, she helped build a chalk and cork board, this is great for families to keep track of important task and needed grocery items.

To finish things up, Mark gets busy installing the countertops and appliances. Once he is done he installs a wooden backsplash. Now it’s time for clean-up to decorate making an incomplete kitchen look vibrant and beautiful. Kitchen impossible made a kitchen very possible in this segment.

Desperate Landscapes – The worst yard on the block

Driving home from work and catching a look each day at a neighbor’s disastrous front yard can be disturbing. Imagine how the home owner feels about driving up to their driveway each day. I can only imagine, when I skip mowing my lawn and it grows tall I’m a bit disturbed. Toys everywhere, weeds, burnt grass, dumpster in the front yard, dead trees, old paint… We’ve seen it all before.

Desperate Landscapes host, Jason Cameron, comes to aide Tom, Kara and family. The neighborhood is otherwise nice with beautiful landscapes and beach styled property equipped with fresh paint, nice deck, and beautiful window treatments. The neighbors complain and compare their homes to that of Tom and Kara, all to see Jason unload a truck full of trees, flowers, bushes, dirt, grass, and landscaping equipment.

Jason gets busy with the real work now. His crew and the family of the home owners get busy removing shutters, painting the house, painting the door, adding a custom fence, adding big trees, shrubs, and does this all in 8 hours. One mistake, the cable line is accidently cut; they can now use a licensed electrician NJ.

Naturally, the host gets the reaction of the home owner’s neighbors once the job is complete. The neighbors are shocked and ecstatic that such a great landscaping job was done, and completed so quickly. The best thing is that Tom and Kara feel like their house is now the best yard on the block and are refreshed.

Besides the outcome to the whole project and the overall morale of the neighborhood, there are a few key points that stand out in the way Desperate Landscapes gets things done. The show donates reusable items or recycles them in any way they can. The host gives great tips such as how to mix paint and tools that can be used to do so, use a drill with a mixing bit. The host, full of energy, gives great tips on how to landscape and how to use tools properly. Jason doesn’t stop there. He educated his viewers how to choose these tools when purchasing them as well. Overall, Desperate Landscapes is an informative show with plenty of energy who makes lives of those who have eyesore landscapes in better shape.

Choosing a fireplace Screen

This is a guest post by, Cynthia Taylor-Beacham

Cynthia is a freelance writer, blogger, e-book writer; she also edits and proofreads documents and novels.

The focal point of any fireplace can be beautiful stained-glass fireplace screen; with the fire flickering through the elegant screen it will create an atmosphere of relaxation and tranquility.


You can make your room look more beautiful with the perfect fireplace screen that just fits into your home décor. A stain glass fireplace screen is made up of several pieces of stained glass or decorative glass to make a complete panel. The choice of designs and colors are many and varied, from a flowery vista to a holiday theme.


The complete screen can consists of more than one panel hinged together, such as a three panel or a four panel screen. Each panel is encased in steel or iron and is then connected with adjustable hinges to make up the whole.


One thing you have to decide on when choosing a fireplace screen, do you want it to be just decorative or functional as well.  It is important to choose the screen its exact purpose you wish to use it. Placing a fireplace screen that is designed to be only decorative it will not be able to withstand the heat from the fireplace. Many of the fireplace screens that are decorative you will find are also handcrafted with the specific purpose of being only decorative.  So read the labels or ask the vendor whether the screen can be usable in front of a fire.


Before you purchase your screen it is a good idea to measure your fireplace, using a tape measure, measure both height and width of the hearth area, that is, the fireplace opening.  When you have the measurement of the fireplace opening then you need to add on an additional twelve inches to the width and five inches to the height, these measurements should be sufficient to cover the fireplace opening. Beautiful stained-glass fireplace screen will give you years of pleasure if well looked after.

Hidden Potential – Keeping the family together

Two young newlyweds, living in tight headquarters, need major help if they will continue to share their home. Hidden Potential comes to aide in giving these newlyweds options in buying a new home or in remodeling their current home to fit the family comfortably. Those sharing a home consist of two sisters, their husbands, and catch this… one is expecting a baby! They need to add more space to their current home or someone has reached their time to go.

The problem is that the sisters always have lived together, so staying close to each other is ideal. The host to Hidden Potential shows the non-expectant party several houses near their current home that meet the parties needs. It was agreed their main concern was that their current home was outdated and there isn’t room enough for two couples to be comfortable in.

The couple first viewed two co-ops, one that needed major remodeling and one that needed little updates. After viewing the co-ops they were shown remodeled examples virtually. They showed room by room as to how the co-ops would be remodeled, such as opening up the kitchen, updating hardwood flooring, building onto the bathrooms and making the master suite larger equipped with master closet (the list goes on and on). Once the updated co-ops were viewed virtually, the lively host went over cost for each home after remodeling was complete showing the couple they would still be within their budget.

Will the couple move out or update their current home? Hidden Potential’s host showed their current home updated. Adding space to their current home and making it more functional, again going over cost to their existing homes’ ideal updates. The couple gets to decide which avenue to take saving over 100,000 in staying put or venturing out on their own. Just like many who decide on home remodeling NJ, the couple decided to stay home-sweet home being that it would save them money and will give them more room in the end! Moving isn’t always the answer, renovating your home can save you a grip of money and adds the space you’ve been looking for, your home may have that ‘hidden potential’!