Posts Tagged ‘guest post’

Kitchen Remodeling On A Budget

The Kitchen is the heart of every home. Often the scene of breakfast chats and late night mingling with cocoa, it is in the kitchen where the family is gathered the most. It is not only the place where the food is prepared that nurtures the body but it is also the place where talks are held that nurtures the soul. If you feel as though your kitchen is overdue for a “facelift”, read on to get some inexpensive tips and remodeling ideas.

DIY, or Do It Yourself, is the first way to minimize costs. While you may not be able to do everything you should try to make as many changes as you can without hiring a professional, you’d be surprised at how much you know. Adding new doors and handles to cabinets will change the feel of the entire room. This is a pretty simple job that doesn’t require much knowledge or skill in carpentry. The biggest thing you will have to make sure of is that you measure the old doors correctly to make sure the replacements fit properly.

Backsplashes adds new depth and texture to the space. Update the old one or add one if none exist. The sky is the creative limit with this. You can use colored tiles or use other materials like steel or aluminum sheets. Repaint and match the tiles or use different tiles to make a fun design. It is always nice to see a backsplash that is not of one solid color which adds interest and a focal point to the space. Patterned tiles are a bit more expensive but they are a lot more interesting, a great option if you don’t have the time or desire to be creative. You will need to choose colors and patterns that will be best displayed by the lighting available in your kitchen. Lighting can play an integral part in the overall appeal of the kitchen. This may be another thing to think about replacing. You can buy new fixtures to accent and highlight the new look or install track lights over the backsplash to show it off better.

Counter tops can be a way for you to add a fresh bold look to your dated kitchen. Granite counter tops can be purchased and installed fairly cheaply. Do your research, compare prices and installation fees. Don’t be afraid to let people know what prices you’ve been getting they might price match or someone might be hiding some “unexpected” fees. The end result is always a beautiful more thoroughly modern looking space. Which brings us to the “triangle”; most kitchens are laid out in a pattern that flows similar to a triangle. There are some features that can only be accommodated by certain kitchen designs. You can ask your sales professional for more ideas based on your knowledge of your kitchen layout. Here are the four types of layouts of the kitchen that will help you talk knowledgably with salespeople:
– The Galley style: Makes use of dual walls to make going from workstation to workstation a lot easier.

Modern kitchen design

Modern kitchen design


– The one wall straight-line: This design generally has the sink in the middle of the station flow. Going from left to right it roughly goes in the order of refrigerator, counter top, stove, and sink counter top.

– The L- shape: Part of an open flow design it tends to blend the kitchen into the other sections of the home.

– The U-shape: By far the most versatile because it has more counter space. It usually wraps itself around as an entire room unto itself and features an island workstation.

Contemporary kitchens

Contemporary kitchens

Making an old kitchen fresh and new without having to totally demolish it can be done and it’s not so bad. Take it slow and do a little bit at a time; it will make it less stressful to you and easier on your bank account just keep on it. You may have to be a little handy with a few tools and you may even need to learn some new ones, but most of the work can be done even by a novice.

This was a guest post written by Rick Valence

Rick Valence has a vast array of writing interests that include fiction, non-fiction and how-to guides. He considers himself a bit of a wine aficionado and enjoys spending his vacations in the beautiful California Wine Country discovering great new wines and food pairings. Rick works Monday through Friday as a digital camera repair specialist at C.R.I.S. Camera Services in Chandler, Arizona. He is also the webmaster of his company’s camera repair blog.

How a Pond Adds Life To Your Garden

This is a guest post by Andrew Parker – http://www.electrostoreonline.com

Andrew is copywriter for Electrostore Online who specialize in electrical garden products including blanket weed controllers andsoil meters.

Landscaping is a renowned method of helping blend a building naturally into the surroundings, seemingly causing a ‘natural’ flow from the home into the landscape that subtly suggests that the home almost grew out of the ground rather than being “plonked onto land”.

A fantastic method of achieving this is by adding a pond with a balanced eco-system (with a variety of pond plants, rocks, stones and fish) – which adds a calming and peaceful area of natural beauty to your garden. A pond will bring wildlife into a landscaped area, which captures the essential “natural beauty vibe” that is desired by both landscape gardeners and their client and creates a tranquil area that adds beauty and value to a home.

However, a pond is not something that should be included “at a whim” as they do require effort and lots of care to maintain, especially if the pond contains fish that need feeding every day. Other maintenance that you perhaps wouldn’t have counted on is removing fallen leaves from the pond in Autumn, blanket weed/algae (which can be easily controlled once a blanket weed controller is installed), or protecting your fish from local predators like cats or even foxes.

Of course, now you have decided that you have the time to invest in a pond then you need to decide on the style of pond that will best work in your garden. Old houses will not benefit from having a brand new 2011 pond “clashing” with the house in the garden, while a Mediterranean-style pond with bold pink and purple bougainvillaea and red geraniums planted in bright terracotta pots might look out of place in a drab council estate in Milton Keynes. Special pond features (like waterfalls etc), surrounding plant life and layout should therefore mirror the existing styles on your property. Garden landscapers have plenty of experience in which styles suit different properties, so do ask for guidance and put in some research online.

If you follow the correct landscaping procedures when incorporating a pond, then you might even cause your garden to be a summertime venue hotspot.

How to Communicate with Your Contractor

You’ve finally decided to remodel your kitchen or add on that extra room. You’ve done your research and found 2 to 3 contractors who are licensed, if that’s required in your area, bonded, and checked some referrals. So you’re ready to pick up the phone and call. Wait a minute! Just like men and women don’t always communicate on the same wave length, contractors and the rest of us don’t use the same language. In order to make sure that you’re clear about what you want done and have the contractor understand and explain the process, you’re going to have to do a bit of homework ahead of time.

Let’s say you’re going to remodel your kitchen. You want new cabinets, counters, flooring, and appliances, maybe even a different layout. Check out some of the home decorating magazines and find pictures of the type of cabinets you want. Visit an appliance retailer and pick out the appliances you want. Make sure to note the model numbers and if they come in the color you want. Next, you can draw out what you want, or drop in at Home Depot or Lowe’s. They can print out what you want from their CAD program and if you have measurements, so much the better. Check out the flooring and counter departments and get samples of what you think you might like. Like paint chips, laminate counter top samples are available for check out, and there is usually a variety of composite, tile, or other counter top materials to choose from. Flooring samples are available as well. When you’ve decided, make note of the information on the back side of the sample – the manufacturer, the style name and number. Gather all your pictures, drawings, printouts and sample information into a useable format and make copies for each contractor you’ll be interviewing. Now, you’re ready to talk to a contractor.

It’s important to sit and down and visit with each contractor, show them what you want and the space they might be working in, so make sure you plan enough time. An hour should be enough, but depending on your project you may want to plan for extra time. They should want to see the space and take their own measurements. They’ll need to check if any plumbing or electrical work will have to be moved. If you want to have any structural elements moved, they’ll need to look at the space above and below.

There are some questions you’ll want to ask. How many workers does the contractor employ? Do they all work on the same job at the same time? Will the contractor need to hire subcontractors, plumbers or electricians for example? Does the contractor work on more than one job at a time? Can he or she guarantee his/her estimate or what are the procedures if the job takes more time and money than the estimate called for? Does the contractor have business insurance? Can he or she guarantee how long it will take to complete the job? Who will handle hauling the debris away? Who handles the permits? The answers will depend on the specific job. The more workers, the faster they can complete the job, but some individuals can be pretty fast and often more reliable. If they work multiple jobs at once, are they going to split their time between jobs? If specialized work such as plumbing or electrical is called for – they should either be qualified, or hire sub contractors to do the work.

There are obstacles that can occur that aren’t planned for that can add time and money to a project. Moving structural elements isn’t a good idea and if the contractor doesn’t think they need to be replaced, you might want to consider another contractor. Structural elements are vital to holding up a structure such as a house. Without them, the structure won’t be sound and damage to the property and injury to those inhabiting it can occur. They should be able to give you a timeline for how long the project will take. If not, look elsewhere. The contractor should also be the one who cleans up and hauls the debris away.

After visiting with each contractor, contemplate on how you feel about each one. Did they give you the opportunity to ask questions? Did they talk about everything but the job? Did they want to give you an estimate on the spot? Did they look closely at the space and listen to what you wanted? Did they offer suggestions that would help reduce cost or would be a better choice? For example, not moving structural elements, but working around them, not moving plumbing, but reconfiguring the floor plan so everything works well. Both of those examples will reduce cost and may actually work to your advantage if the contractor is good at his job. Making notes of your visit can help you remember when the estimates arrive.

Once you’ve received their bids, don’t automatically take the lowest one. Don’t automatically take the highest one either. Remember your visit with each contractor and how you felt about each one. Look at your notes to help you remember. The estimates should be very specific about materials and labor, including hardware and any subcontractor work as well. choose the contractor who explains what is going to happen at each stage of the project. You should also feel comfortable with that person’s knowledge and expertise as well as with the person him – or herself. When you’ve chosen the contractor you feel is right for you, there should be a contract to sign detailing what all is to be done and when, along with the cost. It should be very clear and understandable and it should match the estimate. Each party should get a copy. Now the work can begin!

This was a guest post by Jayne Yenko

Jayne is currently a writer for http://WesternWyoming.blogspot.com

Cost of Second Story Floor Addition

This is a guest post by

Erick D. Smith is a blogger living in San Diego who writes about home construction and remodeling. To get a more accurate estimate from one of San Diego’s expert home construction firms, click here.

A second story addition can be a great way to increase the spaciousness of your home, raising its value and giving your growing family the room it needs. Undertaking the project, however, is no small thing. It can be very costly, depending on the size of your house, and regardless of size, it will involve a lot of planning, time, and hard work. Making a thorough cost analysis and creating a realistic budget will make the whole process a whole lot easier and will help you avoid overspending. To help get you started thinking about and planning your second story addition, here is a brief breakdown of the costs that will be involved.

Important Things to Consider

• City and County Requirements – Before you get started on the logistics of the project, it’s important to do some research into the region’s second story addition regulations. Every city and county has its own set of rules regarding how much square footage you’re allowed to add to your home. This is usually based on the amount of land you have. Using San Diego as an example, a good place to find the information you need is the sandiego.gov construction permits page.

Temporary Housing – A lot of contractors will recommend that you live somewhere else, temporarily, while your house is being remodeled. This is a good idea, as it will be more comfortable for you as well as safer, so start thinking of a good place where you might stay before beginning your project. The cost of alternative temporary housing is something you should definitely calculate into your budget.

Standard Expenses

• Contractors – Even if you opt to do as much of the managerial work as possible yourself, there’s no getting around the cost of skilled subcontractors. About 30 – 40 percent of your budget is likely to go towards contract work. The average cost for contractors when adding a second floor to your home is usually between $70 and $150 per square foot.

• Structural Engineer – When you’re looking for home construction services, be sure to look for a good structural engineer in your area. This is someone who will be able to inspect your home and determine whether the existing foundation will support a second story addition, or whether additional foundation work will be required.

• Architect – An architect is an important part of a successful second story addition project. He or she will be needed to create a blueprint of the project and an accurate set of plan drawings. The cost of an architect depends on the size and complexity of the project, and will either be a flat fee or a 5 to 15 percent commission.

Effect on Your Home Value

Adding a second story to your home will lead to a reassessment of your property taxes. This means that they’ll probably increase, but in most areas the reassessment will only be of the second story addition, not of the whole house. The overall value of your home will increase significantly, but keep in mind that utility bills are also likely to go up.

How to do a Green Kitchen Remodel

Your kitchen might be the focal point of your home, and what better way to keep it current than making your kitchen remodel a green one? But doing a green kitchen remodel may be easier said than done. Here are a few tips that can point you in the right direction to getting the eco-friendly kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Start off Right

It can be important to get the right start to your green remodel. When you’re tearing things up and ripping things out, consider what could be reused or recycled. Everything from piping and tile to cabinetry and other hardware may be up for reuse or possibly the recycle bin. When it comes to your old appliances, consider handing them down to family or friends or, if they’re in good enough condition, reselling them, possibly on Craigslist or at a garage sale to give them a second life.

A Green Contractor

If you aren’t doing your green remodel yourself, then you’ll likely be searching for a good contractor. When you’re conducting your search, you might want to look for contractors that have experience with environmentally friendly work and let them know your expectations up front. This way they will know what to expect when it comes to the work they’ll be doing and the products and materials they should be purchasing.

Create an Efficient Kitchen

When you’re planning your green kitchen remodel, there may be more to it than just adding some compact fluorescents light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances. Although that might be part of it, it’s important to ensure your remodel remains conducive to your needs. When designing a kitchen to meet your needs, your green considerations might allow you to reduce waste, use less water, motivate you to recycle, allow you a spot to collect garbage for composting, design your kitchen to let in more natural light and reduce lighting needs with energy efficient-windows, and add eco-friendly accessories.

Conclusion

If you find that your kitchen is your kingdom when you’re at home, then it can be important to find a balance between this space being environmentally friendly and still remaining conducive to your cooking needs. While going green may be important to you, ensuring that your kitchen is functional and efficient when you’re in it can be equally critical to the enjoyment of the space.

Steve is president of a home remodeling company in Houston and has been in business for over 25 years. He has experience in all aspects of the industry from custom home building to kitchen remodeling. To see some of his work visit http://www.uniquebuilderstexas.com.

2010 Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency

This is a guest post by James Kenton

James Kenton is owner of Advanced Metal Roofing, a residential metal roofing company featuring ENERGY STAR metal roofing colors that qualify for the 2010 Federal Tax Credit.

The federal government is offering a tax credit for energy efficiency that expires December 31, 2010 through its ENERGY STAR program. This means that now is the time to make home improvements or jump start that remodeling job you’ve been waiting on in order to benefit from the tax credit. It’s important to first confirm with your home improvement contractor that the appliance or parts they are installing comply with the qualifications of the tax credit. You can also check this yourself in order to hold your home contractor accountable.

The ENERGY STAR website provides information on what type of home improvement or home remodeling projects qualify for the energy efficiency tax credit. They point out that products that qualify for the ENERGY STAR seal do not necessarily qualify for the tax credit, but they do ensure that you are helping to make your home more energy efficient while also saving money on home heating, cooling, electric, and/or gas bills. Categories of home improvement projects that do qualify for the 2010 federal tax credit include:

  1. Windows, Doors, and Skylights
  2. Storm Windows and Doors
  3. Metal Roofs with Appropriate Pigmented Coatings
  4. Asphalt Roofs with Appropriate Cooling Granules
  5. Insulation such as Bulk Insulation and Air Seal Products such as Weather Stripping, Spray Foam, Caulk, and House Wrap
  6. Gas, Oil, and Propane Water Heaters
  7. Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
  8. Advanced Main Air Circulating Fans
  9. Air Source Heat Pumps
  10. Central Air Conditioning
  11. Gas, Propane, or Oil Hot Water Boilers
  12. Natural Gas or Propane Furnaces
  13. Oil Furnaces
  14. Biomass Stoves

The home improvement items listed here each have specific requirements that make them eligible for the tax credit. You can check with your contractor to make sure that the appliance, item, or system you choose will meet those requirements. You can double check for yourself on the ENERGY STAR 2010 Federal Tax Credit website.

Each of these items are eligible for a 30% tax credit of the cost of the item up to $1,500. You may have heard of this tax credit referred to as the 30% Tax Credit or $1,500 Tax Credit. Those are both slightly misleading because you may receive a full 30% if the cost is under $1,500 or you may receive $1,500 if the item cost exceeds that amount. In most cases, the tax credit does NOT include installation costs.

In order to take advantage of this energy efficiency tax credit, you must purchase the qualifying home improvement item before December 31, 2010. Then you must file an IRS Form 5695 with your 2010 federal taxes (this link is for the 2009 version of the form – please check back with the IRS for the 2010 version).

The ENERGY STAR website has more information and answers to frequently asked questions: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index. This post is not a definitive resource. Please be sure to read the ENERGY STAR website thoroughly to be sure you are in compliance with their guidelines and that you follow their instructions in order to receive the energy efficiency credit.

Happy Home Remodeling!