Home Remodeling: Tips for Hiring A Contractor

You don’t often buy a car without testing out a few different models. Why would you do anything different when contemplating a major overhaul to your home, or even a room or two.

It does not matter if you’re doing an overhaul of electric, plumbing or adding a new porch to the exterior of your home, when it comes to changing things up in the most important investment of your life, you need to know you’re hiring the right kind of professional(s) to do the job.

The Rule of Three

Get at least three different proposals and estimates, no matter the type of work. Three formal estimates will show you the highest, the lowest, and a “moderator” price—the one that most closely matches one of the other two. Chances are, the one that stands out as the over or under price is the one to avoid, either due to over-inflated pricing or inexperience, either or which could result in poor quality or drawn out work.

Meet the Manager

Before hiring any contracting company, meet personally with the boss, the general contractor; he/she will be the one managing the entire project—the buck truly does stop with them. Get all details in writing; don’t leave it to a verbal agreement. Get drawings; get quotes, down the the brick or flooring strip. And ask how the contract will be affected if the job goes over the projected amount—chances are, there will be unexpected things that crop up once the work has started: unanticipated pipes buried in walls; flooring that is uneven; rooms that are not quite square.

Pick their brain on how they will approach your particular project in relation to similar projects they’ve completed. Don’t neglect taking into account the contractor’s personal dress, personality or demeanor upon entering your home. Oh, and the type of vehicle they drive is another factor to consider. Do they drive a wreck, or is the car/truck/van in good condition, and does it publicize the business?

Get it in Writing

Get a firm timetable, within 5 to 7 days, of when the project will be completed. Confirm start and end times for each day’s work, and ask how workers will clean up after themselves after each day’s work. Ask for several (3 to 5) references who will agree to speaking with you about their satisfaction level with the contractor before starting your work. Any contractor worth their price will agree to this immediately. Ask to see credentials and ensure the contractor will be securing all necessary contracts, both local and/or county. Check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no grievances filed with the contractor.

Final points

Read the contract. Ask questions about any details you do not clearly understand. And if you have special requirements, such as pets that need to be watched so they don’t escape during the remodeling process, or a child or older adult with special needs, make sure this is part of the up-front discussion before signing the dotted line.

What Does a House Say About its Owner?

Buying New or Fixing Up? A Home Can Speak Many Languages

If a home could talk, what would it say about the owner? With any dialect, it takes practice to be able to speak the language. Experts say that homes go way beyond “comfy and cozy” these days. Thoughtful designs can incorporate many other important personality traits.

What Does a Floor Plan Communicate?

A home’s floor plan can be likened to a road map of how homeowners live. Kitchens are a great example. People who want more than one cook in the kitchen will choose open kitchen floor plans with areas for people to gather, such as hearth rooms and seating near an island.

open kitchen floorplan

For busy families who need to be organized, mud rooms with built-in cubbies for kids’ backpacks and sports supplies make living at home easier and more comfortable. Today’s homeowners are demanding a home that works with their lifestyle and complements their daily living.

The Conversation Starts Outside

beautiful home exterior

In addition to floor plans, a home’s exterior appearance has become a revealing characteristic of a homeowner’s personality. In addition to landscaping, driveways, sidewalks and even garage doors have their own abilities to communicate. Backyards have become popular venues for homeowners to interpret their lifestyle priorities. Outdoor living spaces offer extended areas to relax or take the party outside. Fire pits, outdoor kitchens, fountains, screened porches, patios and courtyards contribute to a homeowner’s ability to entertain or just enjoy the natural surroundings.

What’s Being Said Behind Closed Doors?

How a home functions is revealing as well. Energy efficiency is a top priority for homeowners right now. Green is “in”, and not just Crayola’s version. Green building offers many opportunities for homeowners who want to live in a home with environmentally friendly products and utilize techniques that help the home function more efficiently. Homeowners who choose green building and energy efficiency more than likely are environmentally conscious in other aspects of their lives as well.

If a home could talk, what would it say about the owner? With any dialect, it takes practice to be able to speak the language. Experts say that homes go way beyond “comfy and cozy” these days. Thoughtful designs can incorporate many other important personality traits.

If a home hasn’t quite found its voice yet, don’t worry. In many cases, all it takes is a fresh coat of paint, some new landscaping and updated design elements. However, for buyers considering learning a whole new language of homeownership, there are some incredible new homes on the market that offer creative floor plans and unique extras that make them stand out from the rest.

Finding a Home That Speaks in Today’s Housing Market

Currently, homebuyers have a large selection of existing homes on the market in a variety of neighborhoods across the country. The increased supply of homes available offers plenty of options, and low interest rates make it affordable.

Asbestos Testing

How to Test for Asbestos in the Home

While asbestos has been banned from building materials for decades, and manufacturers have voluntarily stopped producing it, it remains in the tiles, insulation, paint and shingles of many older homes. People exposed to asbestos fibers are at risk of developing health problems such as lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the chest lining), and asbestosis (scarred lung tissue).

If asbestos is present, but won’t be disturbed, it’s fine to leave it as is: it’s only dangerous when the fibers become loose and are inhaled. If a remodeling project is about to begin, though, it’s best to test for asbestos if it’s suspected to be part of the structure. The US Environment Protection Agency also recommends that any area suspected to be asbestos be treated with caution as though it is confirmed asbestos.

It’s best to call in a professional for asbestos testing, as accredited and trained individuals can ensure that the tests are conducted safely, without any risk for the homeowners. However, a homeowner can take a sample and then send it away to the EPA for testing. Here’s how to test for asbestos.

Asbestos Testing at Home

asbestos testing

The key to remember is that any asbestos fibers released into the air are hazardous, so precautions must be taken to ensure as few fibers are released as possible.

Before the asbestos sampling is done, look into local and state requirements for cleaning up and disposing of asbestos. These rules are necessary to follow for any of the equipment used to do the asbestos test.

Here are the recommendations to follow for asbestos testing according to the American Lung Association.

  • Have only one person do the asbestos sampling so that fewer people are at risk. Other inhabitants should not be at home.
  • Wear disposable gloves and a mask, and wash hands thoroughly when finished.
  • Ensure all heating and cooling systems are turned off, as are any fans, so that any released fibers won’t be blown around.
  • Take a very small sample so that as few fibers are disturbed as possible.
  • To prepare the area, place a plastic sheet on the floor, and spray a mist of water and detergent on the material to be cut. The mist will also prevent fibers from blowing around.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut the sample, and work very carefully. Place the sample into a clean container that can be tightly sealed.
  • Clean up the area by washing it with paper towels, and then dispose of the towels and the plastic sheet according to the local regulations.
  • Patch the hole created in the material using duct tape.
  • Label the container with the location and date, and send to an EPA testing laboratory.

Asbestos testing is important to ensure health risks are reduced or eliminated during a remodeling project, or even a task as simple as drilling a hole in a wall to hang a picture.

Asbestos Testing and Removal

If the asbestos test results come back positive, a professional should be called in to evaluate the material. Trained professionals can make recommendations on how to remove or deal with the asbestos, and will make sure it’s done safely.

There are three main options offered: sealing, covering, and removing asbestos. Sealing it binds the fibers together so that they can’t be released. Covering it can also be an option that prevents asbestos from being disturbed. Finally, removal gets rid of asbestos for good, but the process involves increased health risks, so it should only be undertaken by a professional. Because of the health risks, asbestos removal is expensive, but it may be the only option if the asbestos is in an area that will be remodeled or otherwise majorly changed.

Asbestos testing is a serious endeavor; while the asbestos itself is dangerous, the sampling process has its own risks, too. A professional is the best person to deal with the job, but whether a professional does it or the homeowner, all precautions should be followed to reduce the possible health consequences.

A Heated Floor and a Warm Home

Radiant Heat and Floor Heating Systems

Having a warm floor on a cold winter morning is an attractive idea. So is having an effective way of warming the whole house from the floor up. Whether the goal is to have a warm bathroom floor, or to warm the entire home, learning the difference between radiant heat and floor heating systems can help ensure that the right choice is made.

What is Radiant Heat?

There are different types of radiant heat; air, electric and hydronic. As the first two are not extremely cost effective in residential settings, and are therefore less used, this article will focus on hydronic radiant heat.

Hydronic, or liquid, radiant heat systems pump hot water through tubing laid in the floor. Water is heated in a tank, and sent through tubing to continually circulate and warm the area above it through convection. More efficient than baseboard heating, radiant heat uses heat transfer to warm people and objects in the room, rather than heating the air, and therefore uses less energy, allowing the homeowner to set the temperature lower than with conventional heating methods, while still maintaining comfort.

Radiant heat can be installed under any floor covering, and will make the floor, the room, and the people in it feel warm. The cost of installation will vary depending on the size of the house, the cost of labor and the type of subflooring used.

What is a Floor Heating System?

floor heating system

A floor heating system, such as NuHeat, is a mat inlaid with wires which is laid over the subfloor, but under the final floor covering such as tile. Used primarily to warm a bathroom floor, it uses approximately the same amount of energy as a light bulb. This system will only warm the floor, not the people or other objects in the room.

Many electric floor heating systems are available with a timer which will turn the system on and off during hours of peak use. For instance, if the homeowner typically uses the bathroom at 6:00am and departs the house at 8:00am, the timer can be programmed to turn on the floor heating system at 5:45am and shut itself off at 8:15am. Multiple times of day can be programmed, as the bathroom is used by different people.

The cost of installation is usually lower, as the mat is installed at the same time as the tile floor, and the tile installer will work together with an electrician to wire the system.

When to Choose One System vs Another

It may make more sense to install radiant heating, if a total home renovation or new home construction is underway. Because the subflooring and final floor covering is involved, it makes more sense to undertake this installation if both are already in the process of being replaced or laid. If the home is undergoing an overhaul of the heating system, this may be another instance in which radiant heat should be considered.

Electric floor heating system are easier to install, and therefore can be put in during a bathroom renovation just prior to the laying of the bathroom floor tile, or even just during a floor installation, if a mudroom floor is the desired choice to heat.

Whichever system chosen be sure to use certified installers that have worked with this material before. Many electric floor heating system retailers will have a certification course for installers to take before working with the product. Always ask to see credentials and examples of previous work if unsure.

How To Prepare For A Wet Weather Season

As a home owner you need to prepare yourself for all weather season especially the wet season. This is because during this season your house can incur massive damage due to the harsh cold and rain and it will be hard to go out in the cold and try to make repairs while it is raining. Therefore you are advised to take your time during the dry season and try to make repairs because you can easily access areas that are vulnerable to the elements without disturbance. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for this season.

  • Gutter cleaning

Rain gutters are essential part of the roofing system that help to get rid of water that can damage the system. If they are not regularly cleaned they will get clogged and will not carry out their functions as expected. Try and make sure that you clean your gutters a few weeks before the rainy season or else you will incur a lot of expenses for something that could have been prevented easily.

Gutter cleaning isn’t a task that can be completed by just anyone. You need someone who understands what should be done when it comes to gutter cleaning. Perhaps a gutter cleaning professional is the best option. He will first inspect the gutters, estimate the extend of cleanliness required, get the right cleaning equipment, and get the task done.

After cleaning, the professional must inspect the gutters again for any faults that need to be corrected. For example, holes, and cracks must be fixed as early as possible to avoid further damage.

  • Seal holes in your roof

If you don’t inspect your roof regularly you will fail to realize that the shingles get loose and even fall off. Before the rains start to fall you should check that the shingles are tight in place and if there are some missing replace them or use appropriate material to seal the hole to avoid leakage when it rains. Rainwater greatly damage the ceiling because water can spread and lot the ceiling creating a big hole on your ceiling which will be very expensive to fix or even replace if the damage is extensive.

Preparing your home for a rainy season is a simple task which should not be overlooked. This will greatly help you to avoid serious home damage.

How to Get Rid of Household Mold

get rid of household mold

Tips for Preventing and Eradicating Mold in Your Home

There’s nothing worse to you as a homeowner than discovering you have a household mold problem. Because its ugly presence can be a nightmare, it’s important to both recognize a mold problem before it grows worse, and take preventative measures so you won’t have household mold in the future.

Not only is household mold ugly and destructive to your house, it’s also bad for your health. You could be suffering from a household mold problem and not even realize it. Symptoms may range from anything from breathing difficulties to sinus congestion, watery eyes, and throat irritations to nausea, vomiting, fatigue and rashes.

How Molds Enter Your Home

Although mold growing outdoors is the natural result of breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves, it’s detrimental to both your home and family when growing indoors. Mold spores, which are invisible to the naked eye, circulate through the air, looking for a wet surface to land in your home. Once they find it, they begin to grow. Therefore, to prevent molds growing in your home, you have to check for moisture.

household mold

Hidden Mold

Although molds usually grow on fibers, woods, and damp paper, sometimes it’s not easy to know if you have a mold problem, as it could be lurking in your house without your even seeing it.

Even black mold isn’t visible at first. However, a few warning signs may include musty smells (although you can’t see it growing.) This is the result of widespread water damage, such as a burst pipe within a wall.

Too often mold is mistaken for common mildew. If you try to remove what appears to be mildew with bleach and water and it still comes back, chances you may have black mold, which is a bigger problem. If you suspect your home has this kind of toxic mold, call a trained professional because you don’t want to agitate mold spores, creating more damage.

Preventative Measures – The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) recommends a number of preventative measures to keep mold from growing.

Repair all leaks – Immediately repair and dry any water leaks within 24 hours.

Clean hard surfaces – Regularly clean hard surfaces with bleach-based products that not only kill mold but also destroy and neutralize any allergy-inducing spores. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, then have someone who isn’t sensitive do the cleaning.

Aerate all crawlspaces – Besides making sure all household crawlspaces (such as in attics and basements) are well ventilated, also place plastic over dirt in outside crawlspaces to keep out moisture.

Use exhaust fans – To guard against moisture in rooms such as your kitchen and bathrooms, install and use exhaust fans.

Use caution with humidifiers – Although humidifiers are needed, especially during the dry winter months, be sure to turn them off if you see condensation on your windows as that’s a sign of moisture.

Use dehumidifiers – Be sure to use a dehumidifiers in your basement, especially during hot humid weather.

Don’t carpet bathrooms and basements – If you already have carpeting installed over concrete, regular check for any signs of mold. Rather than carpeting your basement, it’s best to install flooring with area rugs that be taken up and washed. Installing a vapor barrier over concrete is also advisable.

Although finding mold growing in your home is not good news, at least you can feel good that you discovered it before it grew worse. Just take a deep breath (not literally) and do what you now know to do to get rid of it. If the problem reaches beyond your expertise, then find some dependable professionals who can take care of the problem. Most of all, take steps to prevent it from happening again.