The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Renewal of Vows

Passing the midway point of a remodel can be an exciting time. After weeks (or months, but hopefully not years) of being in a state of disarray, things finally start to feel as if they’re coming together.

You’ve experienced the fast-paced bliss of the Honeymoon. You’ve trudged through the slowdown that comes with the Midproject Crisis. And now? Now you’re ready to gaze lovingly into your contractor’s eyes again.

 

Vows 1: Priority 1 Project Management, original photo on Houzz

 

Everything you’d hoped and dreamed about when you first envisioned your project is coming true, and you’re feeling ready to say “I do” all over again. It’s time for the remodeling phase I like to refer to as the Renewal of Vows.

You probably won’t hear your contractor refer to this phase as such (but how fun would that be?). Just as the Midproject Crisis is more commonly referred to as the mechanical rough-in stage, this phase has other, more industry-standard names. You will probably hear words like “finish out,” “trim out,” “mechanical trims” or “finishes.”

And, as you can probably guess, this phase is about finishing and beautifying the work that was started in the first couple of months. There’s a lot that may (or may not) be involved in the finish stage of your job, depending on your scope of work, but here’s a list of the most common steps that happen during this phase.

 

Vows 2: Traci Connell Interiors, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Sheetrock. Holes made during rough-in will be patched, new Sheetrock will be put up at any new walls or ceilings, and texture will be applied to make your walls look like walls again.
  • Trim carpentry. There are a few different types of trim that may be installed at this phase: baseboard (which runs along the joint where the bottom of a wall meets the floor), door and window casing (which is installed around the perimeters of doors and windows) and crown molding (which is run along the joint where the top of a wall meets the ceiling). Trim is purely optional — some more contemporary designs forgo it entirely — but it is meant to create a finished, unified look.

 

Vows 3: TOTAL CONCEPTS, original photo on Houzz

 

  • Cabinetry. The installation of cabinetry is usually around the time when I see a little glimmer come back into a homeowner’s eyes. This is when the kitchen starts looking more like a kitchen, but it’s also when you can visualize how your other storage pieces, such as built-ins and bathroom cabinets, will change the function of your home.

    Related: Shop for Kitchen Cabinets
     
  • Electrical and plumbing trim. This is the other big “wow” that comes with the finish-out phase. A master bathroom can start to look completed when tile and cabinetry is installed, but throw in a freestanding tub and a shower full of rain heads, handheld fixtures and a steam unit, and suddenly you’re not looking at a mostly done, unidentifiable space — you’re looking at your master bathroom.

 

The same goes for electrical items like decorative light fixtures or appliances. Seeing new stainless steel (or whatever your preferred finish is) appliances being brought into and installed in your kitchen make most people go starry-eyed and drool a little. No judgment here — I’ve done the same.

 

Vows 4: DKOR Interiors Inc. - Interior Designers Miami, FL, original photo on Houzz

 

  • HVAC trim. I mentioned in the last installment that most HVAC work is done during the rough-in stage, so what is left? Essentially, all that needs to be done is the installation of vent covers and thermostats and maybe a little tweaking of the air-conditioning system. Nothing too exciting, but it should be noted nonetheless.
  • Miscellaneous. Like I said, there is a lot that can be going on during the trim-out stage. Flooring — such as carpet, wood, tile or laminate — will be installed. (Flooring installers are known for insisting that they be the absolute last people to work on a house.)

 

Tile will go up in showers and as backsplashes. Countertops will go in. Priming and painting of walls, ceilings, trim and cabinetry will be completed. A little landscaping may even be done.

 

Vows 5: Viyet Luxury Consignment, original photo on Houzz

 

There are a million moving parts during the mechanical finishes phase. And I admit, as a homeowner and general contractor, this is exciting to see.

Just like during the Honeymoon, a lot of visibly quantifiable work is being completed. Only this time, instead of things being torn up and thrown out, they’re being brought in and installed. The puzzle pieces are finally fitting together, and you are starting to see the big picture. (Dreamy sigh.)

I’ve harped repeatedly about how communication is key, and this still rings true during the Renewal of Vows stage. But patience is also important.

As you see new things being carried in and installed, it can be so tempting to begin moving back into your new space or using your new kitchen. But your contractor may still need some time and space to work.

There are last-minute items that will ultimately guarantee your satisfaction that need to be taken care of before you and your family can begin enjoying your new remodel. So hang in there, and your patience will be rewarded.

 

Vows 6: Jay Jeffers, original photo on Houzz

 

You may be thinking: There can’t be anything left, can there? That’s it, right? Everything is installed, the house looks like a house again, time to move in and get settled. Not so fast. You’re almost there. Find out what final bits and pieces are involved in the end phase of a remodel, what I like to call the Happily Ever After stage.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

 

How to Avoid the Most Common Buying and Selling Mistakes

 

There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction, and there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.

How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:

 

BUYERS:

 

#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time

Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you'll have time to ensure the facts are correct, and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.

#2 Get pre-approved

Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you're serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.

#3 Know what you want

You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants. A good place to start is the “HUD Wish List,” which is available online for free at http://www.hud.gov/buying/wishlist.pdf

#4 Account for hidden costs

In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:

  • Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
  • Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
  • Learn whether there are any homeowner or development dues associated with the property.

#5 Get an inspection

Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.

#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location

When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.

 

SELLERS:

#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale

Once you decide to sell your house, it's time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.

#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)

Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.

#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)

Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.  

#4 Use quality photos

The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.

 

The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls. 

Home Decorating Trends Expected To Last Through 2018

 

Home décor and design trends are an ever-changing landscape by nature. Consumers grow weary of seeing the same colors and styles, and who doesn’t love to freshen up their home with a few new throw pillows? Some trends can be fleeting and you might feel resistant to jumping into them if you’re afraid that this year’s color of the year is next year’s Harvest Gold.

According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, there are several trends in home decorating right now that are so popular, she doesn’t see them going away any time soon.

 

Geometric Patterns

Geometrics are seemingly everywhere right now; from backsplash tile, throw pillows, and bedding to wallpaper - the biggest commitment of them all.

 

Typography

The popularity of this trend is not exactly new and it doesn’t appear to be losing any steam. Whimsical pillows and framed art with sweet messages seem to be the new text message of the home, inviting guests and proclaiming love for our friends, families and home town. In a world where Instagram and Pinterest appear to have taken over our lives – it’s no wonder we are so fond of these visual and tactile messages of inspiration, love, and comedy.

 

Wood treatments

The presence of technology, especially a year from now, will have us craving natural elements like wood more than ever. Expect to see wood in unexpected places like ceilings and as accent walls. But this won’t be your Grandparent’s wood-paneled basement from the 50’s. Think one accent wall of rustic, reclaimed wood with natural aging, or elegant box-beamed ceilings.

 

Fringe

Already very popular in fashion, fringe edging in small doses adds texture, softness and evokes a home-spun feeling that is endearing and blends well with other trends right now, like wooden accent bowls and handmade ceramics. Expect to see it used in more areas like blankets and curtains, as well.

 

Metallics

Metallic accent furniture continues to become so popular, it has been referred to being “the new neutral”. Along with larger pieces like coffee tables and dining room tables, iridescent fabrics and wall art are also becoming more readily available to add a little sparkle to a room. Don’t think that this means you’ll need gold-plated columns erected into your home. Vintage finds from thrift shops and DIY projects like painting old furniture are also a fun way to bring this trend home.

 

Intense colors

Anyone who is active on Pinterest knows that dark wall colors in vivid tones are wildly popular right now. In stark contrast to the bright and lively Greenery, chosen as color of the year by Pantone, the Benjamin Moore Paint Company chose their color of the year to be Shadow 2117-30. They describe it as “Allusive and enigmatic — a master of ambiance.”

Clearly a bold statement like this isn’t for everyone but an accent wall in a room that is not too small or dark already could be an amazing feature. Paired with metallic and lots of white furnishings and the effect is dramatic and glamorous.

This blog originally appeared on Windermere Spaces and Places.

 

The 4 Phases of Remodeling: The Midproject Crisis

We recently covered the ins and outs of what I refer to as the Honeymoon Phase of construction. Next up is a stage similar to a concept most everyone is familiar with: the Midlife Crisis. (Whether you’ve experienced one or not is an entirely different story.) It often comes with questions like, “What am I doing? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life?”

 

Midproject 1: J Design Group - Interior Designers Miami - Modern, original photo on Houzz

 

Likewise, the second phase of a home remodel, which I fondly refer to as the Midproject Crisis, is paired with parallel questions: What’s my contractor doing? Are we still moving forward as planned? Was this really all worth it? And of course: What is the meaning of life?

Fear not: Your contractor is working hard, your project is moving forward and, yes, your decision to renovate your home is, and will be, worth it. I can’t really speak about the meaning of life, but I can speak about the experiences of homeowners and remodelers during this period of a remodel.

 

Related: The Reality of Living Through a Remodel

 

Midproject 2: Vivid Snaps Photography, original photo on Houzz

 

Typically, once demolition and framing is finished (the Honeymoon Phase) and before sheetrock is put up, mechanicals will begin. (This probably is referred to as “mechanical rough-in” or “mechanical rough” by your contractor.) Mechanicals refer to the guts of the house: electrical; plumbing; and heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC). Like our own guts, most of the work done during mechanicals occurs behind the scenes.

So what is going on behind the scenes? Let’s break it down by type of work:

 

Midproject 3: Janet Brooks Design, original photo on Houzz

 

Electrical. The groundwork for all new light fixtures, outlets, switches and appliances will be done during this phase. New wiring will be run in the walls and ceilings, electrical boxes will be installed for future fixtures, and electrical panels may be upgraded so they can handle heavier loads (this is especially prevalent in remodels where appliances are added). At this point, electricians are making sure that everything that will need power will have access to it and meet your municipality’s building code.

Plumbing. As with electrical, plumbing rough-in ensures that all plumbing fixtures, appliances and other water features will be supplied with water, gas (if your house uses natural gas) or both. So pipes may be moved or installed in new places, shower pans (the things that make sure the water stays in the shower) are installed and inspected, and gas lines may be moved, extended or even put in.

HVAC. Unlike electrical and plumbing, HVAC is the only mechanical where nearly all the work is completed during the rough-in stage. Pathways for new vents (for bath exhaust fans or kitchen vent hoods) are determined and vents are installed, air conditioning units may be replaced, and air return vents are located in appropriate positions.

 

Midproject 4: Melbourne Contemporary Kitchens, original photo on Houzz

 

All this sounds exciting, right? No doubt, it is. But the progress isn’t as visual as it is in the Honeymoon Phase. Since everything occurs behind walls, under foundation or in attics, the big “wow” just isn’t there like it is when everything is torn apart.

It’s around this time that I’ve often seen homeowners concerned about progress. Yes, plumbers are there, but where are the new sinks? Why isn’t there a single light fixture installed yet? Is the HVAC guy even working, or is he just taking a nap in the attic?

The other contributing factor to the crisis is the fact that any speed bumps that crop up during this phase take a bit more time to resolve. Overall, the placement of existing framing is the biggest obstacle in mechanical rough-ins.

If your plans specify that there is going to be a can light in Location A, but Location A has a structural beam directly above it — no can do. Or say your architect has designated a toilet to be mounted on the wall instead of on the ground, but existing wall framing prevents this from being a viable option. Back to the drawing board. Or maybe your HVAC contractor needs to be able to provide ductwork to a new vent hood location in your kitchen, but there is no open attic space to place the ducts. Time to think through the alternatives.

Another obstacle, which is less common but should still be noted, is the condition of existing mechanicals. Any wiring, plumbing or venting that is found to be damaged, dangerous or just not up to par with your municipality’s building code will likely need to be remedied.

And don’t even get me started on inspections. If your job is permitted, inspections for mechanicals will occur during this stage. City building inspectors are (at least where I’m from) well known for being thorough. If you don’t have everything just right (which ultimately is good, because they’re looking out for your safety), they will not hesitate to make your contractor fix the issue before any work can continue.

 

Midproject 5: Kasper Custom Remodeling, LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

And finally, don’t forget to communicate with your remodeler. If you don’t understand something about mechanical rough-in (which is common), ask. If you’re concerned about the placement of pipes or wiring, say something. If you want an update on project status, request one.

I know it may be tempting to ask for advice from your neighbors who remodeled their house last year or your friend whose cousin’s husband is an architect, but in the end, the person with the most knowledge about your project is your building professional. See if you can get on your contractor’s schedule for a recurring biweekly meeting. It will help make the Midproject Crisis less of a crisis and more of an extended honeymoon.

So we’re halfway there. What’s next? Is the light at the end of the remodeling tunnel finally visible? When will your house start to look like a home again? What is the meaning of life? (I’ll tell you one last time — I can’t help with the meaning of life!)

 

But for more information on the next phase of a remodel, look for the next installment in this series: the Renewal of Vows.

 

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

Work Smarter – Not Harder with Smart Home Technology

 

While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. These are products and whole ecosystems that help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.

While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are some of the more diverse home gadgets we have found, beyond thermostats and security cameras:

 

 

GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER

Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven't been removed.

 

 

LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL

More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smart phone into an additional remote.

 

 

PETZI TREAT CAM

Missing your pet while you’re away? The Petzi Treat Cam provides a way to connect with them through your smart phone from anywhere. Dispense treats, watch live HD video and speak with your pet using the 2-way audio.

 

 

FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER

A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smart phone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!

 

 

SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR

A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5 inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.

 

Originally posted on www.windermereseattle.com.

Spring Perspectives

 

When Windermere first opened its doors in 1972, it was a one-office operation in Northeast Seattle. Since then, we have grown to more than 300 offices in 10 states throughout the Western U.S. We are truly, and proudly, a regional company. In that same vein, Windermere Living started as a Pacific Northwest publication but now encompasses all the areas where we have offices, from San Diego to the San Juan Islands.

 

FROM STARTER HOMES TO LUXURY ESTATES: Something else you might notice in the pages of this magazine is that we feature homes for just about any type of buyer. We pride ourselves on the diversity of the properties we represent. This extends to the people we represent, as well. Real estate is not a one-size-fits-all proposition, so we work with clients of all kinds, such as first-time buyers in search of something affordable, retirees who are ready to downsize, horse lovers who need an equestrian property, and buyers of ultra-luxury estates.

 

WEST COASTERS: The National Association of REALTORS® recently released a study of home buyers and sellers stating that the average distance people move from their former home to their new home is 12 miles. We also know a large percentage of West Coast buyers stay on the West Coast, even if moving long distances or to another state. That’s why Windermere has made its home on the West Coast and why we’ve chosen to focus our growth in this region.

 


So, whether you’re moving across town or out of state, or if you’re in the market for any kind of home from a condo to a waterfront estate, we have highly-trained professionals in every corner of the Western U.S. who can help.
 

A Quick Guide to Understanding Real Estate Designations

What do those letters and acronyms mean at the end of your real estate agent’s name? We’re here to answer that question and explain why it might matter to you. Like other professionals, real estate agents have the ability to specialize in certain areas of the business by earning designations. Those acronyms signify that they have achieved a specific designation through extensive training and education. In simple terms, designations enable agents to increase their skills, proficiency, and knowledge in various real estate sectors. They can also provide agents with access to members-only marketing tools and resources which can be an added benefit to their clients.  

So why should real estate designations matter to you? Depending on what your specific real estate needs are, certain designations might mean more to you than others. For example, if you are in need of a real estate agent who can help you or your loved ones transition to a senior living facility, you may want to work with a Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), because they are trained to understand the unique needs of seniors and their families in this type of situation.  Or, perhaps you’re selling your LEED-certified home and you want an agent who specializes in marketing these types of properties, then you may want to work with a Certified Green Real Estate Professional (CG-REP).

The National Association of REALTORS® offers the largest number of professional designations, which are designed to provide real estate agents with specialized training in a variety of areas. Here is a list of those designations and how they benefit real estate consumers.

Accredited Staging Professional (ASP): By increasing a home’s appeal to a higher number of buyers, home staging is commonly considered one of the best ways to sell a property more swiftly and for more money. Agents with an ASP designation understand the art of home staging and use special marketing techniques to increase the market value of a home.   

Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES): If you are considering retiring, downsizing or are trying to help an aging loved one transition to an assisted living facility, a SRES trained REALTOR is qualified to help support clients over the age of fifty with lifestyle transitions and major financial decisions. This includes knowing what to look for if you prefer to age in place, finding the resources to support a move from movers to financial advisors, and more.

NAR Green Designation (GREEN): If you are looking to buy or sell  a LEED Certified home, a GREEN REALTOR will have the expertise to help you. They are trained in sustainable and earth-friendly building trends, energy efficiency, and more.

Accredited Buyers Representative (ABR): If you are a first time homebuyer you may want to find an ABR designated agent. They are specially trained to work with buyers through every step of the home-buyer process from mortgage to closing.  

Accredited Land Consultant (ALC): Land experts have expert knowledge and experience in land auctioning, leasing, development, farm management, land investment analysis, and tax deferment. This type of designation is not needed for a general home purchase, but if you are looking at investment, development, or farming properties, an ALC can help.

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM): Purchasing or leasing space for your business is different than finding a home for yourself or investment property. If you need a commercial space, a certified commercial agent can help you locate this type of property and negotiate the intricacies of the contracts.

Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS):  International real estate can differ greatly from domestic transactions. If you are looking to purchase a home abroad, consider working with an agent who has their CIPS and specializes in international real estate. They can provide tools for understanding the international process, access to a global referral network, and additional international resources.

Certified Property Managers (CMP): Managing a rental property can be a complicated, time-consuming process. There are specific laws you have to follow, resident screenings, 24 hour maintenance issues, and more. A CMP is specially trained to manage your residential or commercial property on your behalf.

Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB): Managing a real estate business involves much more than overseeing an office with staff, marketing, and other resource needs. CRBs go through certification and extensive training for supervising a real estate brokerage, with essential business development and management requirements.  

Certified Residential Specialist (CRS): The prestigious CRS designation is awarded to experienced REALTORS who have completed advanced professional training and demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in residential real estate. This designation signifies one of the highest levels of success a REALTOR can achieve.

Seller Representative Specialist (SRS): Sometimes referred to as a “listing agent”, there are agents who specialize in working specifically with sellers. These agents have special training in all areas of the home selling process, providing increased professional standards and marketing expertise.

Certifications:

Military Relocation Professional Certificate (MRP): If you are a military service member or are relocating on behalf of the military, an MRP is specifically trained to address your relocation needs.  They can help you navigate through the financial process because they are aware of the benefits available to service members and can address the unique relocation needs of military clients.

Resort & Second-Home Property Specialist Certification (RSPS): If you have a destination property, consider working with a RSPS certified agent to manage the buying, selling, or management process. They have training specific to managing investment, retirement, resort, and vacation destination properties.

Short Sale & Foreclosure Certification (SFR®): Short sales are different than typical home sales because they deal directly with financial institutions. SRF certified agents are experienced at negotiating these types of transactions and are trained to work with finance, tax and legal professionals on behalf of distressed sellers.

Go here for a complete list of designations: http://www.realtor.org/designations-and-certifications

Indoor Air Quality Basics

 

Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too.  Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in products for the home has increased drastically, while at the same time, homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that indoor pollutants today are anywhere from five to 70 times higher than pollutants in outside air.

Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.

 

How pollutants get into our homes

Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. The “new car smell” is another example of this. The smell seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can actually “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.

We all know to use paint and glue in a well-ventilated room, but there are many other materials that don’t come with that warning. For instance, there are chemicals, such as formaldehyde, in the resin used to make most cabinets and plywood particle board. It’s also in wall paneling and closet shelves, and in certain wood finishes used on cabinets and furniture. The problems aren’t just with wood, either. Fabrics—everything from draperies to upholstery, bedding, and carpets—are a potent source of VOCs.

The good news about VOCs is that they do dissipate with time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.

 

How to reduce VOCs in your home

 

Make smart choices in building materials.

  • For floors, use tile or solid wood—hardwood, bamboo, or cork – instead of composites.
  • Instead of using pressed particle board or indoor plywood, choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
  • Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes.

 

Purify the air that’s there.

  • Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, and air out newly renovated or refurnished areas for at least a week, if possible.
  • Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly.
  • Install air cleaners if needed.
  • Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals.
  • Plants can help clean the air: good nonpoisonous options include bamboo palm, lady palm, parlor palm, and moth orchids.
  • Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner.

 

Fight the carpet demons.

  • Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal.
  • Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet.
  • Install carpet LAST after completing painting, wall coverings and other high-VOC processes.
  • Air out newly carpeted areas before using.
  • Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors.

 

Prevent Mold.

  • Clean up water leaks fast.
  • Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to keep humidity below 60 percent.
  • Don’t carpet rooms that stay damp.
  • Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation.
  • Kill mold before it gets a grip with one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water.

 

We hope this information is helpful. If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/. 

How to Install a New Tile Floor

A fresh, new floor is one of the most popular ways to update a bathroom. In fact, floors are among the top three features to upgrade during a master bathroom remodel, with about 91 percent of renovating homeowners making an improvement to this area, according to Houzz research. But what’s involved? And can you do it yourself?

 

Tile Floor 1: Alexandra Crafton, original photo on Houzz

 

Related: Considering a Clawfoot Tub? Here’s How to Get a Freestanding Tub for Your Bathroom

 

For some homeowners, laying tile that you’ll walk on for years to come can elicit a great sense of pride. Others may find the process a bit overwhelming. Read on to determine whether you’d like to tackle this yourself or hire a pro.

Project basics: Installing tile involves stripping the floor down to the substrate, installing a backer board or underlayment, adhering the tile to the floor and grouting it. Depending on the material, sometimes a sealer is needed to protect the material from stains or damage.

It’s a good project for you if: You have the ability to lift 50 pounds, can work on your knees without trouble and don’t have back issues, says Chris Harper, general contractor and partner at Harper Construction in Charleston, South Carolina. You also need to be able to follow directions and have a decent amount of patience. “It’s simple,” Harper says. “But simple does not equal easy.”

Things to consider: Before you decide whether to DIY or hire a contractor, think about the pattern you want to install. Is it basic and fairly straight? Then you might be just fine trying your hand at a little tile-laying. Going for something more complex, with angles or curves involved? You might want to leave the headache to a professional. The idea here is to match your skill level, DIY confidence and tolerance for imperfections to the task. Some creative people find no tile challenge is too great. Others who are certain they’ll be annoyed by off-kilter or irregular grout lines may want to enlist the help of a pro.

 

Tile Floor 2: Howells Architecture + Design LLC, original photo on Houzz

 

Another thing to consider is the condition of your subfloor. Chris Chumbley, vice president of USI Design & Remodeling in Southlake, Texas, says that on the concrete slabs common in his area, you must be sure the floor is properly prepped and cleaned and any spiderweb cracks addressed before tiles go down. Also, “you want to make sure your floors are laid level,” Chumbley adds. If assessing these conditions is beyond your DIY depth, even after reading up on the process or watching a host of YouTube videos, you may want to call a professional.

“The bigger the tile, the more challenging,” says Joe Smith, general contractor at Owings Brothers Contracting in Eldersburg, Maryland. A larger tile is more likely to show imperfections since a 2-foot tile may bow over an unlevel subfloor, while a 1-inch tile would climb right over the floor’s curves.

“Natural tiles cost more to install because you have to clean and seal them before you set them,” Smith says. “Glass and marble cost more because you have to prep [them] correctly.”

As you consider various tile options, also think about how well the type of material wears and how hard your family is going to be on it. Porcelain tiles wear “like steel,” Chumbley says, but limestone is more delicate.

Who to hire: A reputable tile setter or a general contractor who will oversee a tile specialist.

Basic steps: Decide what type of tile you want to install. You can get ideas in tile showrooms, magazines and photos and tile product shots on Houzz.

Next, consider the steps that will be involved, from demolition of the existing floors to any work that may need to be done to prep them for new tile installation. Leveling the floors and assessing any substrate issues is likely to be the most technical part of this project. Harper recommends consulting a general contractor who will “look at the structure of the subfloor and at all the angles to make sure what’s getting done is appropriate and will last for a long time.”

 

Tile Floor 3: Jay-Quin Contracting Inc., original photo on Houzz

 

How: It’s critical that you don’t install tile on old layers of linoleum, Harper says. Remove any old flooring and get down to the substrate. Needed repairs or leveling of the bare substrate come next.

Once the subfloor is ready, the next basic step is installing cement backer board or an uncoupling membrane. Both materials serve as the underlayer to the tile floor and help prevent cracks.

 

Tile Floor 4: Blank Page Design Build, original photo on Houzz

 

Joints should be staggered, not all lined up in a row, to make the floor more stable. “Once it’s all down, it’s a smart thing to go back and check everything and make sure all of those boards are secure by walking across and checking and making sure you have screwed things to the floor appropriately,” Harper says.

Next, mark out the tile layout. “Don’t start with the tile against one wall and go across the room,” Chumbley says. It’s better to start from the center of the room and work your way out. The layout of the tile is typically marked in chalk. The width and color of the grout are part of the aesthetics. The tile layer can use spacers to keep the tiles evenly apart as the pattern progresses.

 

Tile Floor 5: R.M. Buck Builders, original photo on Houzz

 

Finally, the tile may be set with mortar. Different types of tiles need different types of mortars or adhesives, so DIYers will need to research this and not grab the first can of mortar on the hardware store shelf. Typically, you need to let the mortared tile set for a day before grouting it. But there are some fast-dry adhesives that, if appropriate for the type of tile you are using, can speed up the process.

Once the tile is set, it’s time to apply the grout. You should take care to choose a grout that works with your particular material. “Glass can get scratched with grout,” Smith says. “There’s different grout for floors and shower walls.”

 

Tile Floor 6: JAUREGUI Architecture Interiors Construction, original photo on Houzz

 

Cost range: Labor, which varies greatly by region, may be charged by the square foot ($3.50 to $9) or the job ($300 to $600 per day for tile layers). The tile itself can cost $4 to $125 per square foot, and you also will need backer board or membrane, mortar and grout.

Typical project length:Three days, especially if demolition is involved. Cement board and mortar usually need a day each to set.

Permit: Often not required, but check with your local building department.

Best time to do this project: Since it’s indoors, any time of year is fine.

How to get started: Assess what your room needs and whether you will DIY. If not, find a good tile person. 

 

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz

Here’s Your Spring Maintenance Checklist

 

Now that spring has sprung, let’s clear the cobwebs and get your home ready! Here is our quick guide to spring home maintenance:

 

Inspection top to bottom: Now that the weather is temperate you will want to check on how your home weathered the winter. Check the roof for leaks, the gutters for damage, and the siding for cracks. You will also want to inspect your basement or foundation for any shifts. Make repairs now to prevent further damage.

 

Clean out the gutters: April showers bring May flowers… so clear out the gutters to keep rain from pooling on your roof or near your foundation.

 

Pest control: Spring is mating season for eight legged critters, so sweep out cobwebs, clear debris, and check the nooks and crannies. If you live in an area prone to dangerous species like brown recluse or black widows, you may want to contact your local pest control, but otherwise household spiders do help eliminate other bugs.

Check your basement and attic for signs of other infestations. For more information on pest control go here: http://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/categories/living/posts/when-things-go-bump-in-the-night

 

HVAC system: If you have an air conditioner now is the time to check to make sure it is ready before summer gets here and everyone else is clamoring for maintenance. Now is a good time to check your home air filters and replace or upgrade to keep allergens at bay.

 

Clear the clutter: Do a sweep around the house and get rid of junk that you don’t use! Take a little time each week to tackle a room. Closets, playrooms, and basements can be especially daunting, but getting rid of old stuff and refreshing your space will go a long way!

 

Deep clean: On a nice day open the windows, dust, wipe, scrub, and clean. You will get a nice work out and your home will look and feel so fresh after a winter of being cooped up.

 

Update your décor: Add a splash of color to your home with small embellishments. Add a colorful vase, a lighter throw for your sofa, pretty pastel pillows, or spring-time candles, to upgrade your living space.

 

Take it outdoors: Let your throw rugs, curtains, and other tapestries air our outside. Shake off the dust, spot clean what you can and let everything bask in the sun for an afternoon.

 

Don’t forget the back yard: It may not be time to start up the grill, yet, but you can get started on your outdoor entertaining checklist. Check your lawn, and if you have some spare spots start filling in with seed. Check your outdoor plants, prune, plant bulbs, start to replenish soil for your garden, and mow, so you are ready to start when the season allows. 

Speaking of the grill – if you have a gas grill you will want to pull this out and perform a maintenance check. Clean everything up and check to make sure all the gas lines are clear, as these can get clogged after sitting idle all winter. Make sure the grill is clear of spiders too, as they can build webs in the tubes, causing damage to your grill. You can start to bring out your garden furniture too, or clean it up if you left it covered outside all winter. Because before you know it, it’ll be barbeque season!