Things to Consider Before Home Renovation

Hey folks. Renovating your home is a big investment, and it not only affects your bank account, it also takes up a big chunk of your time. It could take anywhere between three months to three years, depending on the size of your home and the degree of changes you want to make. During my career, I’ve seen many lovely homes and many lovely people who just don’t know how to prepare themselves for this process. I have selected a few helpful tips, drawing from my long term experience, and hopefully, they’ll smooth out the way for you and help you get the home of your dreams.

First things first, you can’t start renovating without preparing a budget plan, and in it, you should include both the planned and unplanned expenses, as well as some impulsive or incidental costs, like ordering takeout more often than planned or having to stay at a hotel for the night – you see, home renovation is not a comfortable process.

Another helpful thing to consider is making an actual plan. This is very important especially when you’re renovating the whole house. You have to make a separate time-table for each segment of your home, but do this realistically. I’ve seen people thinking they can renovate a 200 sq ft master bedroom in just two weeks. This is where a lot of people make mistakes. Don’t underestimate the time you need!

Remember, you have to keep track of everything, from expenses to sticking to the schedule. Six months, for example, fly by so fast when you’re renovating, it’ll feel like the blink of an eye. That’s why I recommend never keeping your walls completely bare, but having a calendar and a clock in each room – it’s in everyone’s best interest. Wearing a wrist watch is also highly recommended, especially if you’re going in-and-out the house. Further research at Timepiece Quarterly. And if you’re not into the habit of wearing one, you definitely should, it will be useful for you.

You have to be sensible about these things – just like you need to evaluate your budget, you also need to evaluate your daily life and routines, and take these things into account when you make the general plan of what you want to change. Just look at where you are at the moment, what your current habits are and go from there. For example, don’t fill your outdoor patio with beautiful plants if there’s no one to water them regularly.

Another helpful tip I can give you is to not expect your home renovation process to go smoothly all the time, so prepare to be patient beforehand. You’ve gotta be practical. It’s not gonna last forever, and in the end, if you’re not prepared for it just yet, no need to rush. So, unless you can’t postpone it, prepare for the challenges, but also try to enjoy the process. It’s a stressful period for everyone, but try to keep your focus on how much you’ll enjoy your newly improved home and take it as a learning experience.

And lastly, always think twice when choosing bathroom tiles and particleboard designs. Good luck and I hope you get to create the home you’ve always wanted!

Make Your Water Heater Last Longer

I am happy to give advice on most any subject that interests homeowners and would-be builders. Today I will start small and offer my opinion on water heaters and some of their most annoying problems. For one thing, they can go off, leak, or cost an arm and leg to repair. They take regular maintenance. If you don’t have the knack, get on a plumber’s schedule. It will save a lot of grief in the long run. Nothing good comes from neglect.

While the old non-computerized models were simpler and easier to fix, they could overheat because you didn’t program them to the appropriate temperature. They are more reliable now in this regard. If you have been having more than your fair share of problems, it may be time to go high tech, according to Greg Mattson from Tankless Center. Otherwise, you may be facing scalding water from the tap that makes washing dishes impossible. Forget tap drinking water. There could be pressure issue inside your tank.

To troubleshoot this prevalent issue, be sure you understand the dial indicator on your unit and what temperature is suitable for a family home. A restaurant might have a different preference. Sometimes excess minerals in hard water accumulate in the tank, making it difficult for the appliance to function. As the heater warms the water, the minerals can start to clump and coat the heating elements. Regular servicing to reduce sediment will help diminish the problem. If you don’t attend to it, the elements may burn out.

To prevent overheating, you also need to check the pressure valve and thermostat. The shut off button must work properly should overheating occur. The valve allows steam to escape in the event of a boiling water level. Everything is designed to work in harmony, so make sure your system is up to snuff.

How to Interview a General Contractor

Before you hire a contractor, it is important to talk to them and explain the nature of what you want, and also learn what you can about them and the way they conduct business. I’ve come up with a few questions to act as a starting point for you to ask anyone you’re thinking of hiring to do construction work for you.

First, find out background about their business and experience. Ask how long they’ve been in business, the type of work they’ve done in the past (ask if they have pictures or a website you can see to get ideas), and their license and bond number if they are required to have it. Also ask if they have worker’s comp and liability insurance. You really want to hire someone who is insured, because it will take a lot of responsibility off you if someone gets hurt or there are other problems, for example say the contractor accidentally knocks down the wrong wall. Also ask for references, and then actually contact those references. Find out if the quotes they received were accurate, if they were happy with the work, how any issues that came up were handled, how the contractor and the team conducted themselves while on site, and if they’ve had any issues since the project was completed.

Next, ask questions specific to your project. How long will it take? How will they handle anything unexpected that comes up? How often will the contractor be on-site (the answer to that should be daily). Ask if you’re going to be assigned a project manager, and if so what that person’s name is. Ask what the crew’s work hours will be – set hours mean an organized crew and a better chance of your project being done on time. Also find out how you’ll be notified about progress and/or problems, and how often you’ll receive updates. Ideally, you will get daily reports from the contractor him- or herself, because you want to know that they are overseeing everything and know what is going on with your project.

Finally, get down to the paperwork. Ask to get the timeline and pricing in writing. Talk to the contractor and find out if there are any guarantees for the work they will be doing. Get everything the contractor promises in writing. If, for any reason, you end up having to go to court, it will be your word against theirs – so get them to commit everything to paper. Find out what your payment schedule is going to be like. Never, ever pay the full amount before the work even starts. A good contractor would never expect you to anyway. Also ask if they are willing to put in a termination clause in the contract – this way, if the construction team disappears for a month, you can end the contract without a penalty.

I hope you feel a little less intimidated by the interview process now. Go slow, ask all the questions you have, show the contractor the location of the job and what you want done. Be as detailed as possible. Write down the answers so you don’t have to worry about remembering everything. And if you’re not comfortable interviewing someone, you’re not going to be comfortable having them work on your house, so find another contractor.

Good luck.

Dumb Stuff

I was in the construction business for a long time and I saw a lot of dumb things in my time. I tried not to do any of them myself but back when I was an apprentice I am sure I made my fair share. Mostly I saw things when we were doing renovations that other people had done either because they lacked the skills to do it right or they were trying to do it on the cheap. I am here to tell you, if you don’t know what you’re doing or you can’t afford to do it right, you shouldn’t be doing it.

A big issue is electrical work. Nobody wants to hire an expensive electrician, sure. I get that. But what’s more expensive, hiring somebody who knows what they’re doing or running the risk of maybe burning your house down? There is a lot at stake when you’re dealing with home electricity. There’s a reason those guys only do one thing – it’s complex and possibly dangerous work. You want somebody who has the proper tools and gear, the training to do the work, the experience to have done it before, and the knowledge of whatever building codes you’ll need to be following. I heard of a guy who electrocuted himself on a metal scaffolding recently – it is real unfortunate that he died, but it does serve as a serious reminder not to be messing with electricity without knowing exactly what the heck you need to be doing.

There are a few plumbing jobs that people can do if they’re comfortable with tools. However, plumbing is another thing often requiring an expert. I knew a guy who tried installing his own fridge with a water filter. The water connection leaked under the fridge for weeks. You know how they finally figured out that’s what was happening? The floorboards rotted out and the fridge fell through into their basement. A bad plumbing job causes all kinds of problems. From leaks and water damage to mold and rot, it can really break your bank.

Of course, I’ve had guys do dumb things regardless of the skill level required on the job – accidentally welding a bucket handle to a pipe, miscutting wood and pipes, having to bend plumbing or ventilation ducts in crazy ways thanks to poorly located support beams. And every good builder has a story about somebody getting shot with a nail gun, getting stuck in wet cement, or losing a finger because they weren’t paying attention while using a saw of some kind. There’s also the welding burns from acetylene torches or from leaning on a pipe that’s been freshly welded.

Construction isn’t really the kind of job where you should be messing around. There’s too much at risk and too many ways to get hurt. What I’m saying here is if you’re doing the work on your own, know what you’re doing before you start. Don’t just take it on because you don’t think spending the money is worth it. These people cost money for a reason – they know what they’re doing! If you think you’re saving a buck by doing it yourself, think of what could happen if you do the job wrong, and how much that will cost you. That contractor suddenly starts to feel like a bargain, huh?

Car Storage Options

If you’ve got a car and nowhere to put it, you’ve got some options. Some are expensive and others not so much, some you can do by yourself and some you probably should not try. I’ll give you some ideas here and you can figure out if any of these options are right for you.

The simplest option is a good old-fashioned driveway. There are a variety of materials you can use to pave a driveway to keep your vehicle on. Gravel, bricks, pavers, or regular old asphalt work just fine. Some places near beaches will even use crushed shells. Depending on where you live, the material you use might take a beating. For example, if you live somewhere that the asphalt will get below freezing in winter and the mercury goes over 100 degrees in the summer, you might need to resurface it every other year or so.

If you want some shelter to protect your vehicle, however, a driveway’s not really going to cut it. Another option that will at least keep it out of the elements is the carport. A carport essentially covers a portion of your driveway to provide some protection from things like rain, hail, and snow. They usually only have a roof overhead, although some also have at least one wall (usually an external house wall). These can be some of your cheapest options because they aren’t always the most durable solutions. You can get the type that you put on poles and has corrugated metal on top – these are pretty reasonably priced and can go up quick, but a good wind or heavy snow might wreck ‘em. It’s best to cement the posts in for added stability. The good thing here is that most places will not require you to get a building permit for this, as it is not attached to your house. However, you can build something more permanent, either through denser and more sturdy materials or by attaching it to your house. Extending your roof over your driveway doesn’t cost as much as a full addition, and it looks nicer than the metal version of a carport. If you’ve got some space on both sides of your driveway, or the driveway runs against an external wall of your house, you might be able to add in a carport pretty reasonably and without being all that time-consuming.

However, you may want more protection than that, and then you’re gonna need a garage. A garage will protect your car from all the elements, except maybe heat. Some people have the garage attached to the house and others find a separate building works better for them. If the garage is to be attached to your house, there can be some costs involved. Often people will add in extra space above the garage, either as a loft space, an apartment, or even just for storage. The best thing to do is work with your original home design so that the garage looks like it was always there. I really recommend hiring a contractor and doing a garage addition the right way, as there will be permits and building codes and the like. If you’re going to do the detached garage, there are pole buildings, detached garage kits, and some other good DIY options. Or you can hire a builder to do it for you.

I hope this has given you some good ideas on what to do if you’re looking to get your car off the curb and onto your own property.

Kitchen Remodel Tips

Kitchen remodels are popular, but many people have no idea what it really entails. It is demanding work, it is expensive, and surviving one can feel like a major event. There’s no real way to avoid a lot of the difficulties that come with a kitchen remodel, it is the nature of the beast. But I can give you some tips so that maybe you can get through it without wanting to kill someone.

Get this through your brain first: it is expensive. Quality cabinets cost money, and countertops can be pricey too. Even crappy kitchen appliances can be pricey. You also have to factor in the flooring, backsplashes, plumbing, and electrical work that might need to be done. Be realistic about what you can afford. Many people figure they’ll make the money they sink into their kitchen remodel when they sell their house, but that is not always the case – if you go too trendy or dated, you might be eating that renovation bill down the line.

I recommend going through all of your existing cabinets and evaluating what you have before you start on a remodel. Do you need two junk drawers? Can you do without all those mismatched storage containers? Toss duplicate items and things that you don’t use. Once you’ve cleared away some of the clutter, you will have a better idea of how much storage you are going to need. That will help you in the next step.

Next, and this is especially true if you’re planning to relocate things or add something that wasn’t there before like an island or a double wide fridge: visit a designer. Talk to them about what you want to do in the space and have them show you some designs. Maybe you want to be able to eat in the kitchen, or maybe you want lots of counter space for all your kitchen gadgets. Maybe you want to include a wine fridge or a desk so your kids can do homework while you cook dinner. Having a professional show you different configurations can help you out even if you decide to do the remodel yourself – maybe you’ll see that you don’t actually need that island or that you can leave the sink where it is. You may end up saving yourself some money this way.

If you’re doing this on your own, the next step is measure everything. More than once. Check to make sure you can open the fridge door all the way without banging into a cabinet or an existing doorway. Be sure there is enough room not just for the oven door to be open but for somebody to be standing there, too. Measure the cabinets you’ve chosen to be sure that they all fit in the space and that the drawers and doors will open properly. You really don’t want to find out that the fridge won’t go in to the space you’ve set aside for it because you forgot to include the width of the countertop. The goal here is to prevent any surprises.

Lastly, have patience. Kitchen remodels take time to ensure they are done properly. Yes it is inconvenient to live without a stove or a working sink. I know how annoying it is to have to barbeque for days, eating off disposable plates and using plastic silverware, and scrubbing pots and pans in your bathroom sink or shower is pretty awful. But once the remodel is complete, you’ll have a new kitchen that is hopefully more functional and beautiful than the one you had before, and it will all be worth it.

Choosing a Job in Construction

Lots of people try to push high school students into college and I don’t really agree with that. Sure a degree is nice and you want your kids to reach their full potential, but I can tell you there is something to be said for trade schools and apprenticeships. People will always need things built for them, no matter how automated and prefabricated things become. While we work hard, there’s a lot of skill and the potential for some good money. I really liked my job. The wife says that I can’t let it go, and she’s probably right. Honey, if you’re reading this, you’re absolutely right. Always are. I guess that’s why I’m constantly messing around fixing all the stuff in our house that I didn’t have time to deal with before I retired and writing a blog about construction. I didn’t love my job more than my wife and kids, but it was certainly the right career for me.

I especially liked adding additions onto houses. People were usually excited about those. It was usually for a good reason, too. More kids, additional space, a home office for a new business, that kind of thing. I did my best to give people fair estimates and accurate timelines, but of course stuff comes up. You just had to hope it wasn’t the super expensive and time-consuming stuff. I always hated having to tell homeowners bad news – termites, foundation cracks, rot, and mold. Things like that. Nobody wants to hear that and I certainly didn’t enjoy telling them, even if it meant I got to stay on the job longer and make more money. But I’d rather solve construction problems than cause more for the people who hired me.

It was good to work with my hands and assemble things. Hopefully I built things that will last. I tried to, but even with all the experience and equipment and everything else we’ve got nowadays, you never know what’s coming. It amazes me how somebody 135 years ago could have made something as awesome as the Brooklyn Bridge and have it still be in use today. Cars were about 40 years away from being a common mode of transportation when that bridge was completed, and they obviously didn’t weigh or go near as fast what they do now. Yet it is still there. I consider that a kind of miracle.

When you really think about it, one of the major reasons people travel all over the world is to see things that others have built – places like the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids, the Empire State Building, the Great Wall of China, Big Ben, and Tokyo Tower. Sure the architects are the famous ones but they weren’t the ones who actually did the construction. It is really something to be able to contribute to a thing like that. Buildings matter. They matter to the people who live and work in them. It’s an honor to drive past places that I’ve worked on and say to myself, “I did that.” I hope the kind of work you do gives you the same feeling.