Home Improvement's Popular Posts

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Save Time & Money: Do-It-Yourself Home Improvements

Save Time & Money: Do-It-Yourself Home Improvements
As warm weather rolls in, the for sale signs start going up. Homeowners are increasingly looking for ways to update their living spaces and maintain the value of their homes without completing extensive or expensive renovations.

Whether it's adding a fresh coat of paint to outdated bathroom walls or new hardware to kitchen cabinets, there are many ways homeowners can improve their spaces without spending a lot of time or money.

One of the best resources for do-it-yourself tips is DIY blogs. Bloggers tackle various home projects and document their journey online to help readers overcome their own home improvement hang-ups. With their efficient project know-how, homeowners can find stress-free and cost effective ways to renovate any space.

Efficient Home Transformations

Money Saving Tips - Provided by Sarah of www.ThriftyDecorChick.com
Accent a Room with Borders
Give walls a new look with decorative stencils, wallpaper or papered borders. They are a quick and easy accent that updates any room instantly.

Add Energy Efficiencies to any Home
DIY'ers are discovering that energy efficient homes are not only less expensive to own and maintain, but are also friendlier to the environment. Ways to make the home more energy efficient include using energy-efficient light bulbs, installing ceiling fans and insulating and sealing ducts to maintain the air conditioner.

Clean and Maintain The Furnace
Cleaning and maintaining the furnace once a year can make any home more energy-efficient and lower utility bills. By using washable filters, homeowners can save even more money by simply washing and allowing them to air dry. This cuts down on costs and is better for the environment.

Affordable Projects 

Adding a fresh coat of paint is one of the most inexpensive and impactful changes a homeowner can make. With great innovations in paint like, True Value Hardware's new EasyCare PLATINUM Paint and Primer in One, you can save time and money, making weekend paint jobs hassle-free. Check out www.TrueValuePaint.com for a full color palette.

Changing Light Fixtures and Hardware
Kitchens and bathrooms can be the easiest rooms to update with a few small changes. Replacing old, outdated light fixtures and cabinet hardware can refresh the kitchen or bath without consuming a ton of money and time with a complete overhaul.

Renovate Old Furniture
Updating an old chair or table is an easy way to spruce up a room. If you're looking for new furniture additions, shop local garage sales and thrift stores for old pieces that can be revitalized with a little sanding, paint and new hardware.

Time Saving Tips 
Make a Plan
Set aside time to think through projects and organize your plan of attack prior to jumping in. Utilize great resources for DIY tips on www.StartRightStartHere.com and shop online at www.TrueValue.com for all project needs.

Build Utility Storage Shelves
Building a basic utility shelf is a small project homeowners can do themselves to get organized. Planned shelves will put an end to haphazardly stowing away and stacking things in the garage and basement - unable to be found again.

Quick Fix-it Project Ideas 

Replace Old Faucets
Old faucets can make a kitchen or bathroom look dated and dingy. When choosing a new faucet, be sure that it will work with the existing faucet drillings, noting whether they're center set, widespread or single-hole.

Check Your Asphalt Driveway
Seasonal temperature changes can cause asphalt driveways to crack and dip due to water seepage. To sustain durability, be sure to routinely check the driveway and make repairs quickly to avoid further damage. In order to prevent future water seepage, consider sealing the driveway.

Repair Don't Replace
Tears in window screens can be a frequent and frustrating problem. Before deciding to purchase a new screen, assess the damage. If the tears are small, fix them with a screen patch.

Simple Room Solutions

Transform any room into a special haven with these simple fixes:

* Beginner: Brighten the heart of the home by installing new light fixtures.
* Experienced: Strip and repaint furniture to revitalize dated pieces and transform a room.
* Beginner: Clean tile grout to instantly refresh bathroom surfaces.
* Experienced: Update faucets and cabinet hardware.
Living Room
* Beginner: Let more light in by washing windows to remove layers of debris and film.
* Experienced: Install and paint window trim to tie the room together.
* Beginner: Redefine the entire room by adding color, or simply a fresh coat of paint. Use a shade or two lighter than the color of the walls to make a low ceiling seem higher. For high ceilings, use a shade or two darker to make the room feel cozy.
* Experienced: Create a custom stencil template and add a personal touch to your haven by adding a border.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Dreadful Kitchen Gets a Makeover

This Dreadful Kitchen Gets a Makeover

A kitchen goes from brown and blah to bright and whoa...all while maintaining its original 1950's-style charm.

Back in 2010, Cindy Black, the Austin-based architect behind Hello Kitchen, got to work on an 1959 kitchen rehab. While leaky pipes and outdated cabinets made a top-to-bottom overhaul a no-brainer, her clients wanted to preserve the original 50's vibe. So just how did Black rise to the challenge? She took it from kitsch to chic with a whole lot of color.

color-kitchen-makeoverPre-colorful kitchen makeover. Photo: Valarie L. Campbell via Hello Kitchen
A very Brady kitchen -- everything from the charred-coffee color to the structure of the old cabinetry weighed the space down. The room was too heavy and uninviting, especially for eating or entertaining. Countertop clutter also left much to be desired. And those bright aqua countertops...not the best way to bring brights into your space.

Enter Hello Kitchen to make it all better. All-white appliances reflect light brilliantly -- and when combined with the brushed aluminum backsplash and stainless-steel sink, still give the space that retro feel the clients wanted. The stunning custom European-style cabinetry (by RubyAnne Designs) and open shelving brighten up the space. Look below: Is this the same room?

Staying true to her clients' obvious affinity for ultramarine, Cindy even manages to pay homage to turquoise in the remodel. Here it is making a strong comeback in those kitchen drawers (below).

Since one of the homeowner uses a wheelchair, accessibility was first and foremost in the new design. We love how the shelving is thoughtfully anchored on the wall, not the floor, as not to get in the way. And notice how the 10-inch toe kick beneath the base cabinetry really looks like a cosmetic choice, even though it's there so that the chair can pull flush against counters. Ultimately, the makeover preserved the integrity of the kitchen's footprint -- everything is basically laid out the same way, yet it's all so, so magnificently different.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3 reasons to build green

Three reasons to build green

A personal account of building a LEED-certified home

Our family recently built a new home on the edge of Downtown. I had known from the beginning that I wanted to pursue LEED Certification. LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to define and measure “green” buildings. LEED for Homes is a national, voluntary certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes and encourages the adoption of sustainable practices by the homebuilding industry.

Personally, I had been researching healthy building materials, appliances and fixtures, and was well-versed in energy efficiency and renewable energy from my work with a solar energy company.  I didn’t need to hire a consultant to help me wade through all these decisions; I wanted to figure it all out for myself. We were going to have a green home. But pursuing LEED Certification, I quickly discovered, requires a little more effort. So why, many would ask me, would I want to incur that extra time and expense? My answer is threefold.

First, the LEED rating system helped tremendously to guide us along the path toward building a sustainable home. Its 342-page reference manual provides green building strategies in five key categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. The rating system itself is a gold mine for any builder or remodeler to learn more about building high-quality, durable homes.

Second, LEED certification requires third party verification. This means that we needed a “Green Rater,” who came to the site, twice: first, to inspect the insulation (pre-dry wall, post-insulation); second, to test the leakage of the entire building envelope, duct system and air flow. These tests were inexpensive relative to the entire cost of the building, and it was more than worth it to have the peace of mind that the house was actually built to specification (our builder agreed to pay for the tests, since they get the credit for building a LEED-certified home).

Third, and most importantly, we get to continue to benefit from living in this home. The way I look at it, there are only three reasons to go green: to save money, to improve our health and to feel good about doing the right thing. How did these three things play out? So far, so good.

Saving green 

Our green rater had predicted our energy consumption to be 35 percent of the “standard” reference home, a similar-sized home built to code. That means our utility bills would be 65 percent less than if we had not built a LEED home. (An Energy Star-rated Home, for which we also qualify, typically saves 15–20 percent.) Since we moved into our new home in February 2009, we now have almost two year’s worth of utility bills to compare against the planned design. And they are coming in right on target — actually slightly lower than predicted!

Our water bills are lower, too. We have dual flush toilets, our landscaping is irrigated with ground water (which is plentiful on our property) and we applied for and received a storm-water credit on our water/sewer bill for diverting most of the rainwater away from the storm water sewage system.

Improving health 

Clean water and air are truly the necessities of life. Many building products and materials — such as paints, finishes, sealants and adhesives — off-gas for a period of time, causing respiratory illnesses and headaches for the people installing them as well as for the homeowners. LEED for Homes addresses the issue of indoor air quality by giving credit to products with no added urea formaldehyde and products with no or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also requires that the home has adequate air ventilation, filters and fresh air circulation — so as we live in the house, we continue to breathe clean air. (The EPA estimates that indoor air quality is two to five times worse than outdoor air quality, and people spend 90 percent of their time indoors!) We added to this “healthy home” concept by adding a whole-house water filtration system to remove all the contaminants. Now I can breathe easier, knowing that my daughters are not absorbing chlorine into their skin every time they take a bath. Since our drinking water is R.O. (reverse osmosis) filtered, we never buy bottled water — helping to reduce that waste stream. And since we cook with and drink water every day, I viewed this as one of the primary components of a healthy home.

Feeling good 

Let’s face it — building a new home is not the most environmentally-friendly thing a person can do.  There is construction waste, harvesting or mining and manufacturing of natural resources, transportation for all the construction workers to and from the site, the list goes on. At the same time, we are all trying to do the best we can. What can we do, as individuals, to help save the planet?  Trying to live sustainably in our culture today is hard. It is inconvenient and often costs more money. But if we start with the intention to become more sustainable, each of us can make a difference.  And we need to feel like we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. So to me,  building a LEED-certified home is a good start. And it does feel good.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Remodeling trend: Practical — not luxury

Remodeling trend: Practical — not luxury

We're at the end of an era in home renovations. The expensive projects during the housing boom are giving way to more dollar-conscious ones as the economy recovers, according to analyst Abbe Will.

Goodbye, over-the-top kitchen remodel? Hello, sturdy but unshowy new windows?
Maybe so, if a recent report on where we'll put our remodeling dollars in the coming years turns out to be correct.
We're at the end of an era in home renovations. The big-bucks projects that transformed our spaces during the housing boom are giving way to more practical, dollar-conscious ones, according to analyst Abbe Will, who studied trends in remodeling for Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Home renovations soared with the real estate market, then crashed, Will said. Now, she said, although the phones are starting to ring again at remodeling companies, consumers are less likely to ask for the deluxe makeovers that were commonplace just a few years ago.
Here are Will's answers to some questions about where our nest-feathering desires are likely to take us as the economy recovers:
What happened to remodeling during the housing boom and bust?
During the boom, people focused on major, upper-end kitchen and bath remodels and room additions. Americans took it to unprecedented heights.
Construction peaked and started crashing in 2006, and remodeling followed about a year after. The focus went away from big projects to things people were doing if they were trying to sell their house, whatever they could do for curb appeal to make [buyers] stop and take a look. It was a lot of siding, roofing and smaller projects.
It has been a dramatic shift from the boom. In the last couple of years, people were focusing only on whatever needed to be done, such as replacing heating and cooling systems. They were trying to take advantage of the tax credit for energy-efficient upgrades.
What did this do to the remodeling industry?
The remodeling business is extremely fragmented, and we don't have terribly recent data, but the best data come from the census from 2007, which estimated there are 650,000 remodeling contracting companies. That number doesn't include the smallest, self-employed remodelers who are doing it part time or making less than $25,000 a year. Where we're seeing a change now is in the consolidation of the bigger companies.
At the peak of the market in 2007, remodeling of owner-occupied homes was a $327-billion business, and that number includes maintenance and repairs. In 2009, it was down to $286 billion.
Where is the business going now?
Our report doesn't include maintenance and repairs, but through the third quarter, at least, we see a very respectable gain, a 6.5% increase in home improvement spending. We estimate that homeowner spending will increase 3.5% per year, compounded, in 2010 through 2015.
What's going to lift the business?
We definitely think we won't be returning to those levels of spending from the boom. People are nervous about whether they can afford that big project because the credit markets are still tight, and homes that have lost so much value don't have the equity for big projects.
Once the foreclosures finally trickle through the market, once people start buying them, people will do some projects that have been backlogged, because any owner who was going through a foreclosure wasn't likely to invest anything in the home. So these newly purchased foreclosed homes are going to need a lot of attention once they work through the system.
The aging of the housing stock in this country and the projects they'll need to remain livable is another factor, along with people's reduced mobility. People just aren't moving very much because they haven't been able to sell their homes.
Until the housing market is back to a healthy level of activity, until people are confident about the labor market and think they can move again, people won't be changing their mind-sets. They used to think they wouldn't be in a home more than three years, but now they're thinking five or 10 years.
It's possible that they'll figure, "Well, if we can't move, we might as well make this house into our dream house." Reduced mobility will potentially lead to that, but we don't think it's going to happen soon. Instead, they're going to be thinking of a new roof or windows or doors, where they might have just presumed that they'd move and the new owners would do the replacements.
They're going to do smaller projects in the kitchen and bath instead of an overhaul. They might do parts of those fix-ups at a time. Mostly, they're going to stick to the projects that really need to be done or that will help them save money in the long run.
One trend that will push remodeling is "green." That's a fuzzy word and not well-defined, but it's a trend that's been growing: window replacements, doors, insulation, heating and cooling systems and energy-efficient appliances. When people need to make a replacement, they'll think about what's going to save more money over time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Consumers Have the Motivation—But Lack the Money for Home Improvement

Consumers Have the Motivation—But Lack the Money for Home Improvement

 The arrival of spring brings not only warmer weather, but also spring cleaning and the undertaking of do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvement projects. Much to the chagrin of home improvement stores, the DIY home improvement market has seen a 21% decline from 2005-2010 according to latest research from Mintel, and more than a quarter (28%) of DIYers say they would like to undertake a major renovation or addition to their home, but they just don't have the funds.

Surprisingly, the percentage of high-income consumers who can't afford renovations is even higher. Thirty-two percent of DIYers in households making between $75-99.9K say they lack the money to undertake a major home improvement project. Meanwhile, 17% of those surveyed who have completed a DIY project in the last year say they lack the skills to tackle a major renovation and 12% say they don't have the proper tools.
"When the housing market collapsed many consumers chose to make minor improvements to their homes instead of pursuing large, complicated renovation projects that would drain their wallets," says Bill Patterson, senior analyst at Mintel. "However, positive fourth-quarter sales suggest a thawing in consumer spending and the release of some pent-up demand."
According to Mintel research, despite their monetary shortcomings, consumers have a positive view of home improvement projects. In fact, 39% of DIYers say making a major home improvement is the best long-term investment they can make.
"We forecast growth to accelerate in 2011 and, presuming a stabilization of the housing market, to remain positive through 2015," adds Bill Patterson. "Pent-up demand, ongoing need for repair and maintenance, retro-fitting, and renovations from Boomers approaching retirement and demand from Millennials should all propel DIY spending."
Furthermore, 61% of consumers say they've completed a DIY project in the last 12 months and the average respondent has undertaken a little over four projects.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chinese Drywall Ruling Lifts Builders’ Prospects

Chinese Drywall Ruling Lifts Builders’ Prospects

Did builders know? That’s the central question at the heart of a Chinese drywall-related court ruling made public Wednesday.
Judge Glenn Kelley of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, Fla., said that builders and installers can only be held liable for “negligence” in faulty drywall cases if they had actual or implied notice of a defect in the Chinese manufactured drywall at the time of construction. Plaintiffs must prove that the builders and others should have known the drywall was defective. (This is the judge’s second seemingly pro-builder/supplier ruling.)
While the ruling affects only Palm Beach County, both sides hope it will sway court decisions being made across the Sunshine State and nationwide, particularly in Louisiana’s high-profile multi-district litigation, which consolidated federal drywall cases brought by thousands of aggrieved homeowners.
Builders, suppliers and others involved with construction say there’s no way they could have known that the drywall being used would end up emitting a rotten-egg odor and causing appliances to fail. This, they say, should give them some protection in lawsuits swirling over the issue.
“There is little evidence that many builders or installers had any knowledge — actual or implied — about problems with Chinese manufactured drywall until they were notified of such issues by the plaintiffs themselves — years after construction was completed,” said Stacy Bercun Bohm, a partner with law firm Akerman Senterfitt, which represents several builders dealing with the faulty drywall issue.
The other side sees it much differently.
“It’s as obvious as a banana on the floor. That’s how defective this product is,” said C. David Durkee, the Coral Gables, Fla.-based attorney representing about 20 Palm Beach County plaintiffs. “It’s not a heavy burden in this case. One whiff of the drywall will tell you that it’s not suitable for someone’s home.”
During the housing boom, drywall, which is gypsum pressed between paper and used in walls and ceilings, was imported from China to fill a domestic shortage. A growing number of homeowners — there have been more than 3,810 reports in 42 states and other areas — complain that it generates sulfurous odors and corrosion that tarnishes metals and causes appliances such as air conditioners to fail. The government recommends consumers remove any possibly faulty drywall.
Although no study has yet linked the drywall to specific health problems, homeowners have complained of respiratory issues and headaches. A 2010 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified several brands of Chinese-made “problem drywall” and said that some Chinese-made samples emitted hydrogen sulfide at a rate 100 times greater than non-Chinese drywall boards.
Earlier this month, the CPSC said faulty drywall did not pose a safety hazard to home electrical systems and affected homeowners no longer had to remove electrical wiring.
For several years, builders have feared expensive lawsuits and court settlements over a product largely purchased and installed by subcontractors. Some have even paid to fix the homes themselves. Lennar Corp., one of the biggest builders in Florida, set aside $80.7 million to cover drywall claims from nearly 900 homeowners, according to securities filings.
While several court settlements and decisions have been reached, the role and responsibilities of home-building companies related to drywall remain unclear. Last year, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin drywall, one of the biggest suppliers of the problematic wallboard, along with suppliers and commercial liability insurers, agreed to remove and replace drywall they made, as well as all electrical wiring, gas tubing and appliances, at 300 homes in four states.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home Improvement Still on Americans' To-Do Lists for 2011

Home Improvement Still on Americans' To-Do Lists for 2011; One Third Plan to Go Green

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of homeowners say they will invest in renovation projects this year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. While the number of people planning to make home improvements is similar to 2010 (62 percent), the amount they are planning to spend is significantly less -- dropping from an average of $6,200 in 2010 to $3,400 in 2011. Even though homeowners' confidence in the real estate market has increased compared to last year, less than half (43 percent) believe they would get the asking price for their home if it was on the market today.

The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker1 explores consumers' spending and saving behaviors as it relates to home improvement. The research sample of 2,045 adults included the general U.S. population, as well as two subgroups - the affluent2 and young professionals3.

Spending Green to Make Green 
Nearly one-third (32 percent) of homeowners with home improvement plans said they'll be looking to invest in green improvements this year. Many are choosing to spend on energy saving measures because of the long-term, cost-saving benefits (31 percent). Energy efficient windows and doors (16 percent) top homeowner's lists, followed by: insulation (12 percent), roofing (11 percent) and heating/ventilation/cooling systems (10 percent).

"This year, consumers are spending smart and looking for ways to save when it comes to home renovation," said Pamela Codispoti, executive vice present and general manager of Consumer Card Services, American Express. "Our survey revealed that consumers are investing in green improvements to increase their savings over time and choosing to handle renovation projects on their own to save now. Many also plan to use their tax refunds to pay for improvements."

I'll Do It Myself, Thank You 
More than three in five homeowners (64 percent) with home improvement plans say they'll take on at least some of the work themselves, 20 percent will hire a contractor to do all of the work, and 11 percent will ask a family member to do the work. Among those who plan to do some or all of the work themselves, 30 percent will be taking a "friends and family" approach to getting the work done. Twenty-one percent plan to split the work load by hiring a contractor for specialized projects. Thirteen percent plan to go it alone.

Bathroom Makeovers Top the List for Room Redos 
Indoor renovations outrank outdoor remodeling projects 55 percent to 29 percent respectively. Cosmetic work, such as painting, and redoing rooms were the most popular indoor projects, with bathrooms holding on to the top spot again this year for the most popular room remodel. Those who set their sights on outdoor projects are most interested in refreshing their landscaping (22 percent), followed by building or redoing a deck or patio (9 percent).

American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2,045 consumers aged 18+. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between March 1 and March 6, 2011. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending & Saving Tracker results, please visitwww.americanexpress.com/aboutus.

1 The research was conducted online March 1-6, 2011 among a random sample of 2,045 adults aged 18 and older

2 Affluent - defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000.

3 Young Professional - defined as less than 30 years of age, having a college degree, and a minimum annual household income of $50,000.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Remodel Without Regret

Remodel Without Regret

After years of living with your outdated kitchen—complete with orange linoleum floors, no windows and a completely non-functional work triangle—you’ve decided to take the leap and remodel. As you work with your contractor to design the perfect kitchen, you begin to doubt the placement of your kitchen window and the size of your new cabinetry. “I’m sure it will be perfect when it’s completed,” you tell yourself. But as the project progresses, the window isn’t exactly where you want it, the cabinets are a little too big, and now there’s no room for your French door refrigerator. Meanwhile, construction continues to disrupt your life.

Remodeling disasters such as these happen far too often. Choosing the right contractor can help you avoid these situations and a contractor with the right tools can make design dreams come true. When you’re working on a project as important as your home, a clear plan can help you improve communication, save money and create an end result you’re proud of. Contractors who use professional-grade drafting and detailing software understand that planning and design come first and are essential to efficient construction. Precise digital drawings of the project provide an accurate depiction of what the final result will be, keeping you and your contractor on the same page and helping you avoid spending more time and money than you planned.

Often, renovation projects can get derailed with time-consuming changes or easily avoidable errors. For example, contractors who still use a pencil and graph paper can spend more time making edits and have greater risk for error—like a misplaced window—using drawings that may not be exactly to scale. Contractors who use professional design software, such as AutoCAD LT software, can avoid these issues by working with drawings that more accurately represent the data throughout the design project. With a robust set of drafting tools, contractors can more easily create and modify their design documents based on client needs. 

Hiring a contractor who uses professional drafting software helps make sure that everyone involved is speaking the same language, avoiding confusion and coordination errors among the different trades installing the plumbing, wiring and tile. Drafting and detailing software is an excellent solution to help professionals efficiently and accurately create clear, precise drawings and drive projects to completion.

You need a reliable contractor with the tools to complete a quality project in a timely and efficient manner and avoid remodel disasters. Professional drafting software helps contractors get the job done more accurately and efficiently.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Home Improvement Scams

Home Improvement Scams

Reports of potential scam artists in Knox County have prompted the Michigan City Police and the 
Indiana Attorney General's Office to remind anyone who sustained storm damage during recent severe weather incidents to be cautious of frauds and scams.  Building scams are schemes con-artists sometimes use to defraud individuals recovering from manmade or natural disasters.
Individuals should be especially alert for solicitors who promise to speed up the insurance or building permit process and those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full.
Some con-artists may even pretend to be employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or other government agencies.  You can protect yourself from such impersonators and dishonest individuals by following a few precautionary guidelines.              
  • Ask for ID. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee, such as an inspector, but does not produce identification, ask to see it. A FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration shirt or jacket is not absolute proof of someone's affiliation with the government. Federal employees carry official photo identification.
  • FEMA representatives are never allowed to accept money. If someone claiming to be a federal employee or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their license plate number to your local police department.
  • Safeguard personal information. Never give personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers or credit card numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information.
When hiring a contractor:
  • Research. You may also check with the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders' association or trade council to independently confirm the legitimacy of a contractor.
  • Check references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job.
  • Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes and other fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate.
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. Take your time. Don't let the contractor rush your decision.
Before signing a contract:
  • Get a written contract. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing.:
  • The Price of the complete job
  • Payment Schedule
  • A detailed description of work and materials (including colors, brand names and patterns)
  • Estimated start and completion dates
  • The name, address and contact phone number of the contractor and his signature
  • Never pay for the entire project before work begins
  • Payments should be tied to a completion of specified amounts of work
As always if you feel that you have been scammed or someone is attempting to cheat you please contact Sgt. Chris Yagelski 873-1461 ext. #333 or email ASKACOP@Emichigancity.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Building permit rise may signal economic recovery

Building permit rise may signal economic recovery

SALISBURY -- Wicomico's housing market is still bruised from the economic downturn, but there's hope the industry will turn the corner in 2011.

In Wicomico County, builders applied for permits on projects with a construction value of about $57 million in 2010. That's double 2009's numbers, when projects were valued at $26 million.

The county issued 69 building permits for new homes last year, up from 61 home permits in 2009, according to figures provided by the county. However, those numbers are a far cry from the height of the real estate boom and reflect the glut of properties for sale on the market.

Between January and February, seven home building permits were issued in the county.

"The bottom of the market occurred some point in the summer or fall of 2010. We're just in the infancy stage of moving in the right direction," said Bill McCain, president of W.R. McCain & Associates, a Salisbury-based appraisal firm.

Home building permits are an important indicator of economic recovery because they show growth in residential construction.

The Salisbury Building, Permits and Inspections Department issued 910 permits from March 1, 2010, through March 1, 2011 -- covering everything from plumbing work, new decks, roofing, home additions and swimming pools.

However, of those permits, only 11 were building permits for new homes.

"Houses have fell through the bottom. Everything has come to a halt," said William Holland, the department's director.

Even so, the home numbers signal slight progress from the 12 months before them, when building permits for seven homes were issued. Holland said homebuilding is a "huge driving force for the economy."

In Salisbury, the value of permitted construction projects rose to $17.2 million during the past two months. It's up from $15.2 million in the year preceding that.

McCain said builders are having a hard time because their costs have risen, while consumer price expectations have dropped. For example, homes in high-end neighborhoods in the county, such as Nithsdale or Deer Harbour, are selling right now for about $100 per square foot, McCain said. The best many builders can do is $120 per square foot -- and that doesn't include the lot price either, he said.

McCain said the inventory levels of homes are starting to drop, but they're still at least three times higher than a normal supply-and-demand balance.

"We are seeing inventory levels coming down a bit. We are seeing sales numbers headed in the right direction on building permits," he said.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tools for Installing Carpet and Scraping Flooring

Tools for Installing Carpet and Scraping Flooring

Home improvement expert Danny Lipford demonstrates the tools used to install carpet as well as scrapers used to remove vinyl flooring.

This week, we're looking at a number of solutions to some very common flooring problems and Joe, I'll tell you when your at on a job site and the flooring guys are out there, they have some strange tools.

Joe Truini: Very strange looking tools but if you're going to be putting down your own floor, you're going to need these tools. Fortunately, they're all available at a tool rental dealer.

Danny Lipford: This one, really odd looking. It looks like something from the medieval torch or chamber. It's called a power stretcher.

Joe Truini: Yeah, so you use it in wall-to-wall carpeting to stretch carpet really tight. If you ever noticed carpet had wrinkles in it, it's because someone didn't use this tool properly.

Danny Lipford: They're usually used on larger areas so that you can put one end of it against the baseboard then you can really stretch it out in order to tighten it up.

In smaller areas, you use one of these odd, ball-looking things. You can see the spikes here that hook into the carpet and then you have this pad that you actually kick with your knee and it's called a knee kicker.

Joe Truini: And then for seaming large pieces of carpeting, I have two pieces that come together. There's a heat activated tape and they use an iron to go along the seam and it fuses the tape to the end of the side, so it becomes basically one big piece of carpet.

Danny Lipford: That smell, you can smell all of the job.

Joe Truini: Yeah, nothing smells like that, right? It's not good either.

Danny Lipford: Of course, when you're doing any other type of flooring like tile or vinyl, you normally have to remove some existing flooring. Joe, did you see this thing that I showed a little bit earlier in the show?

Joe Truini: I did, that is great not only for tile or carpeting, it's glued down but you probably get some wood flooring up as well. I like the fact that it's in cordless recip.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, it makes it a lot easier but when the pros are out there, a lot of times, they're dealing with larger areas and they use one of these and it's basically a flooring scraper but you can get some blisters in your hand, wouldn't believe on this thing.

Joe Truini: A really big job, so say I have floor that's fully glued down or a big ceramic tile floor. You might want to consider renting one of these, it's a pro tool; it's an electric scraper. It makes a lot of noise. This is about as lot of tool as you can find but it worked really well. I understand they use to use this on roofs, in fact to pull up roof shingles, imagine that.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, those roofs we get tired of dragging up and down the ladder but it does do a pretty good job for a lot of different floors. I've had to use that a number of times.