Home Improvement's Popular Posts

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stuck Homeowners Spend Big Bucks on Remodels

Stuck Homeowners Spend Big Bucks on Remodels
Doug Magditch

As the housing market struggles, homeowners are staying put. Rather than selling at a loss, many are working with what they've got.

That means big business for home remodelers.

Ralph Stow started a home remodeling business five years ago, and business is booming. He now owns four different remodeling businesses, under the umbrella Dallas Renovation Group, and he doesn't forsee things slowing down.

"I think people are staying in their homes a little bit longer, and by virtue of that, people have a little bit of disposable income. So, they're really looking at ways where they can make their homes more livable, more energy efficient. They're seeing themselves in their homes longer," said Stow.

That includes people like the Ponds, from Grapevine. With retirement right around the corner, they knew they couldn't afford a dream condo on the beach.

"You start looking at what the potential, having to sell one and moving, and relocating away from the family, and the expense of having to find a second home. For us, it was a no-brainer. We just couldn't do it," said Robert Pond.

Instead, they sunk $80,000 into a home over-haul. Robin Pond sacrificed her beach dream for a dream kitchen.

"I'd always wanted a nice kitchen, with spacious cabinets, that was updated. That's what we did," said Pond.

Contractors say, rather then people spluring on media rooms or wine cellars, most remodels these days are kitchens and bathrooms. They're spending their money on updating and upgrading.

"Now we're kind of back to the basics a little bit, doing more kitchens and bathrooms. We're still doing some large remodels, but again, it's people really saying, 'hey, I'm going to stay in this home and I want to upgrade this home,'" said Stow.

Like many owners at the DFW Home Show, when the market was up the Ponds may have considered selling. Now, they're in it for the long haul.

"It benefited us, at our age right now, to spend the money to get things upgraded to a point that it would last us through the rest of our lives," said Robert Pond.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

5 Home Improvement Projects for Under $25

5 Home Improvement Projects for Under $25

HouseMaster Provides Homeowners With Easy Do-It-Yourself Fixes to Keep Repair Costs Down
BOUND BROOK, NJ--(Marketwire - Aug 8, 2011) - Today's cost conscious home owner is focused on two things: reducing costs and protecting the value of their home. Accordingly, HouseMaster, the first and one of the largest home inspection franchisors in North America, provides homeowners with simple tips on how to maintain and update their homes with fixes that they can inexpensively do on their own.
"One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is letting small problems turn into big ones," said Kathleen Kuhn, President of HouseMaster. "Home maintenance is crucial since a home is typically the largest investment an average person makes in their lifetime. Proper home maintenance can alleviate the need for large and often costly repairs and protect the value of the home."
HouseMaster provides homeowners with the following five tips that can all be completed for under $25 and can save homeowners thousands down the road.
1. Be aware of termite or carpenter ant damage. Homeowners who diligently check their property and foundation can alleviate serious termite or carpenter ant problems. Before selling or purchasing a home look closely for any signs such as "mud tubes" or wood damage. Also, moving wood piles and debris away from the home can eliminate termite or carpenter ant problems.
2. When it rains, it pours. One of the most common places for water damage is in a bathroom. When grout breaks down water can easily get behind the tiles and cause them to come loose. An easy solution to this is to re-grout, caulk and use sealant on bathroom tile and surrounding fixtures. In other cases, where water penetration is affecting the foundation of a house, a splash box is a cost-efficient solution to direct water away from the foundation.
3. Clean the Gutters. Stained siding under a gutter indicates overflowing, which can cause structural damage. In addition, overgrown vegetation on gutters can cause clogging or potential termite issues. Trimming vegetation away from the house and cleaning gutters offers many advantages and minimizes the risk for potential costly repairs in the future.
4. Replace Rusting Roof Flashings. Flashings deteriorate over time and can allow water penetration, resulting in expensive damage to the underlying roof structure. For under $25 replace roof flashings or apply sealant to the problem area.
5. Seal your Deck. If not properly maintained decks are very susceptible to the effects of weather exposure. Once wood becomes rotted it is more likely to be infested by termites, carpenter ants, etc. Purchase deck sealant at an inexpensive price to seal your deck and prevent future damage.
For additional $25 tips for homeowners or more information on HouseMaster, please visit www.housemaster.com or call (800) 526-3930. For more information on HouseMaster franchise opportunities, please email franchise@housemaster.com.
About HouseMaster:Headquartered in Bound Brook, N.J., HouseMaster is the oldest and one of the largest home inspection franchisors in North America. With more than 365 franchised areas throughout the U.S. and Canada, HouseMaster is the most respected name in home inspections. For over 30 years, HouseMaster has built upon a foundation of solid leadership and innovation with a continued focus on delivering the highest quality service experience to their customers and providing HouseMaster franchisees the tools and support necessary to do so. Each HouseMaster franchise is an independently owned and operated business. HouseMaster is a registered trademark of DBR Franchising, LLC.
For more information please visit www.housemaster.com or call 800-526-3939.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Builders catering to couples who start the night together but end separately

That's it honey, I'll be in the snore room
Builders catering to couples who start the night together but end separately
By Jane Hodges

Judy MacDonald faces a near-nightly domestic conflict. When she wakes around 2 a.m. to her husband’s snoring, she has to decide between migrating to another room or toughing it out beside him in bed and watching TV to block out the noise.

If Judy and her husband, Ross, were in the market for a home today, they could snap one up with a feature designed to solve the problem of late-night sleep incompatibility: The snore room.

Builders specializing in communities for “active seniors” over 55, such as PulteGroup’s Del Webb brand and D.R. Horton, are offering new home designs featuring snore rooms near the master bedroom for couples who can’t always catch a good night’s sleep together due to differing schedules, nocturnal habits or medical conditions.

The concept of the snore room isn’t unknown: Celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and “Judge Judy” Scheindlin and her husband, reportedly have snore rooms in their homes. Crowne Plaza, the international hotel chain, began testing “snore absorption” rooms this year to cut down on noise in 10 hotels in European and Middle Eastern locations.

But for 55-and-up communities, the concept of a snore room is an outgrowth of the realities couples like the McDonalds experience: Many older adults get into bed together but wind up unable to make it through the night together.

Indeed, as many as 23 percent of married couples don’t sleep side-by-side through the night, up from 12 percent in 2001, according to research cited by Del Webb.

“The chat we hear about on the sales floor is often about nocturnal sleeping habits,” says Andy Pfeifer, VP of sales for PulteGroup in Tennessee. “What we’d see happen before we offered our new floor plan option was that one spouse would be relegated to a secondary bedroom.”

McDonald, an Arizona retiree, said she wishes the concept was available when she and her husband bought in 2008. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to leave the master bedroom to make the trek to the sofa or guest room, which is often occupied by visitors anyway. On the other hand, if she stays at her husband’s side counting sheep while infomercials roll, she won’t get a good night’s rest either.

“It’d be nice to have a little room for when my husband wakes me. I’d be much more likely to use that room than to wander out to the sofa,” says McDonald. “Usually I don’t go in the other room. I turn the TV on, and sometimes it’ll wake him up, and sometimes it won’t.”

Del Webb and D.R. Horton don't specifically refer to snoring but market the new areas as optional “dual owner suites” (Del Webb) or “alternate dual master suites” (D.R. Horton). Both builders say these elements don’t typically change the overall size or price of a home. At Del Webb, for instance, a dual owner suite may mean trimming a little garage storage space or slightly reducing the size of a walk-in closet.

Del Webb has begun offering the dual owner suite configuration as a customization option at communities in Houston and Nashville and will be available in Southern California starting this fall, according to a spokeswoman. D.R. Horton, which is building model homes showcasing the designs at sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

John and Jaunita Veasy, a couple in Tennessee, were intrigued by the idea of a dual owner’s suite when they learned of its availability. They’re among the first two buyers to choose one at Lake Providence by Del Webb, a 55-and-up community outside Nashville. Their home should be completed in October.

Jaunita says she and her husband chose the home design because they keep such different schedules. She is still working full time and goes to sleep at 8, rising around 3 a.m. He goes to sleep between 10 and 11 p.m., rising between 6 and 7 a.m.

“If I get up and turn on the TV it wakes him up,” she says. “And sometimes he wakes up at 2 in the morning and makes popcorn, and that wakes me up.”

So their home will offer a room linked to the master bedroom via a pass-through bathroom, but also accessible via a hallway. The couple plan to arrange the room with a day bed and television as well as desk space for Jaunita when she gets up and wants to get on her computer or watch TV.

“In today’s active adult and empty nester communities it's about choice and adaptable home designs,” says Jessica Swanson, a spokeswoman for D.R. Horton.

She adds the room designs aren’t just for senior couples but also can serve extended families. “Flexible home designs such as this are perfect for dual-generation active adults that live in the same home.”

“It’s not something for everybody,” says PulteGroup’s Wong. “No one says, ‘I want another bedroom for my spouse.’ But many say they wind up sleeping separately by the end of the night, even though they start out in bed together.”

The Veasy family says simply that the room offers “dual-purpose” functionality.

“I looked at the floor plan when this became available, and I thought, ‘This is pretty wild,’” says John Veasy. “Because of her late-night antics, we took this option to make the space a dual-purpose room.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Millions In Disputes With Builders - Survey

Millions In Disputes With Builders - Survey

More than 2.5 million people have had a dispute with a builder or decorator over the last three years, a survey has revealed.

Householders are advised to get written agreements with builders before work starts
A quarter of those cases saw formal action taken, according to the research by consumer group Which?, with quality of work the most common source of disagreement.
Traders failing to turn up at agreed times, delays over completion, and properties being left untidy were also major causes of complaints.
Which? said the figures showed householders should always have a written agreement in place with builders or decorators in case a dispute breaks out.
The survey revealed quarter of people failed to receive a written quote from their builder or decorator before work began.
As many as 4% were asked to pay the full amount for the job upfront.
Being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after a bad experience can be a huge blow for families already feeling the pinch.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd
Trader disputes left two in five people out of pocket, with a quarter feeling they were owed at least £500, and one in 10 saying they had lost more than £1,000.
And while most managed to resolve their quarrel, 15% had to seek the help of a professional body and 18% were forced to spend more money by taking the trader to court.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after a bad experience with a builder can be a huge blow for families already feeling the pinch."
Which? Legal Service suggests householders find builders through personal recommendations and obtain three detailed quotes before traders begin work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mother-in-law suites growing home trend

Mother-in-law suites growing home trend

Betsy McCann and her husband, Jim Forbes, often worried that his mother was growing isolated in her Los Angeles-area home. At 90, Lois Brokus had stopped driving and was sometimes afraid to be alone in her house.

Jane and William Merrill also decided that they didn't want his mother living on her own any more. Then 81, Jane Merrill, who shares her daughter-in-law's name, was still active but in need of companionship.

Both families considered nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities. In the end, they came to the same conclusion: Their homes were the best place for their mothers. But they needed more home.

So McCann and Forbes added a 400-square-foot bedroom and bathroom to their Escondido, Calif., home; the Merrills converted a two-car garage at their 8-acre spread in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis.

Now, both older women live with their adult children, with a large degree of independence and privacy.

Although it isn't for everyone, it is a choice many families are making. Home builders across the country say they are getting an increasing number of requests for such additions, known as mother-in-law suites, granny flats or accessory dwellings.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 62 percent of builders surveyed were working on a home modification related to aging in 2010. About one in five builders added an entry-level bedroom.

About 3.5 million American households last year included adult children and their parents — a number expected to rise as the country ages and baby boomers move into retirement, said Nancy Thompson, an AARP spokesperson.

To accommodate the growing demand, AARP teamed up with the home builders' association to create a designation for Certified Aging in Place Specialists, who are trained in designing and modifying buildings for the elderly. About 3,000 builders, contractors, remodelers and architects have been certified.

One is Todd Jackson, CEO of San Diego's Jackson Design and Remodeling, which handled the room addition at McCann's home.

"There's both a physical component and a sensitivity side to these projects. The family needs to take that into account," said Jackson, who noted that aging parents may be reluctant to move into their children's homes, and may worry about losing their independence.

"The transition will go over a lot better if you bring the parent into the conversation," said Jackson. "Ask them: 'What do you need?' 'What color do you want?'"

That's what McCann and her husband did when they decided to build an addition in 2008. Brocas, now 93, was part of the planning.

"We didn't want her to feel like a guest intruding on our house," said McCann. "She kept telling all her friends about how she was involved in the design process, and that the paint colors were her choice."

Brokus now proudly calls the addition, which includes a bedroom, wet bar and wheelchair-accessible doorways and bathroom, "her apartment," said McCann. Every month, she writes a rent check covering the cost of utilities — an act that adds to her sense of independence.

The arrangement has given the family more time together and greater peace of mind, and may have averted a tragedy in July when Brokus suffered a heart attack. Had she been alone, McCann said, she might not have called 911. As it was, she just had to walk a few feet for help.

The addition, which was part of a major renovation to other parts of the house, cost the McCanns $250,000. The average price for a bedroom addition can run from $100,000 to $400,000, depending on size and amenities, according to builders.

For the Merrills, who used a company called Next Door Garage Apartments to do their garage conversion, the cost was much lower.

The Indianapolis-based company remodels two-car garages into complete apartments within 10 days for $35,000. (The Merrills, who converted their garage 11 years ago, paid $25,000).

The company's owner, Susan Jennings, came up with the idea when she was managing a trust department at a bank and often worked with widows yearning to live with their adult children.

Jennings worked with a designer to come up with a dwelling attractive to both the adult children and the older parent. For privacy and independence, the apartment has a separate entrance, full kitchen and wheelchair-accessible features.

"The biggest advantage is that my husband can sit down with her every evening. Because of that constant contact, he has learned much more about his parents and their lives," said the younger Jane Merrill. "He would not have had that if she was in assisted living."

However, both Betsy McCann and Jane Merrill caution that this may not work for every family. For one thing, their mothers-in-law are self-sufficient and do not need daily medical care. In both families, they got along well before moving in together.

"If you can't stand one week or one weekend together, this won't work," said McCann. "You need to have realistic expectations about the impact on your life."

Nancy Thompson, of AARP, offered other tips for families considering building a mother-in-law suite for an aging parent:

— Decide what your expectations are well in advance and make sure everyone agrees. Involve the elderly parent in the process.

— Make sure the addition is built following universal design guidelines. Are counters, bathrooms and doorways wheelchair accessible? Is there a walk-in shower with grab bars? Opt for entry-level additions to eliminate stairs. Look for a contractor or builder with experience in universal design or aging in place.

— Check municipal building codes to make sure that accessory dwellings are allowed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Animal ingredients often found in home improvement products

Animal ingredients often found in home improvement products

To get serious about having a vegan home, you must look beyond the pantry and the wardrobe. A large number of home improvement products contain animal ingredients. Unfortunately, it is hard to identify all these animal byproducts because most home improvement products are not required to list ingredients.

To avoid animal ingredients, consult the Vegan Society's Animal Free Shopper directory or look for the "no animal ingredients" label. However, note that there is no independent verification of the "no animal ingredients" label. It may mean different things to different manufacturers, and it does not guarantee an avoidance of animal testing.

Here is a partial list of products that may contain animal ingredients. In many cases, synthetic ingredients or petroleum products have largely replaced the animal ingredients, but these substitutes may be a greater concern for some eco-conscious homeowners.


Many hammers, axes, knives and other carpentry tools still have real leather handles. Even if every hammer and knife you own has a 100-percent plastic handle, tool belt and tool aprons are most often made of leather. Some people also have secondary environmental concerns about the chemicals used in leather tanning and production, and the resulting pollution.

Rubber tool parts may also contain animal ingredients, including animal fats and casein, a milk protein derivative.


Casein also is a common binder in paint. It is widely used in natural paints as an alternative to synthetic binders. Some paint colors also include animal ingredients. For example, Golden Paints notes that it uses no animal ingredients, with the exception of bone black pigment, which is derived from ground cattle bones.

Also, many paints and paint ingredients are tested on animals. Even Golden and other companies that avoid animal testing say they cannot guarantee all their suppliers avoid animal testing.


Natural paint brushes have animal-hair bristles. Many are pig hair, but some artists' brushes and other specialty products contain hair from more unusual animals such as the Siberian weasel.


Shellac is made from the secretions and bodies of a tropical insect, and it is used in varnish, as a wood and plaster coating and in electrical insulation, among other uses.

A small number of lubricants still use oil from fish and marine mammals, such as porpoises. However, most modern lubricants are derived from petroleum or synthetic oils.

Notably, WD-40 is not believed to contain animal ingredients. The all-purpose lubricant is a petroleum-based product despite a widespread urban legend about fish oil being the main ingredient. The WD-40 formula is a closely guarded secret, but the U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet lists mineral spirits, liquefied petroleum gas and mineral oil as making up more than 90 percent of WD-40.

Many fatty acids and other animal fat derivatives are used in soaps, detergents and household cleaners. The fatty acids may come from cows, sheep and many other animals, including cats and dogs that were euthanized in animal shelters. If ingredients are listed, animal-based fatty acids may be listed as caprylic acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid. Some of these fatty acids also have plant sources, so you may be able to use products containing them if you can verify the source.

Of course, many fertilizers use animal waste products, but a cow is unlikely to miss its manure. However, bone meal is also widely used in garden and lawn fertilizers. The ground animal bones are also used in toothpastes and vitamins, but animal-free alternatives, such as vegetable compost and vegan toothpaste, are widely available.


Laminated wood and interior doors sometimes contain adhesives made with casein glue, which is derived from a milk protein.


Another animal-based adhesive is blood glue, which is a slaughterhouse byproduct. It has traditionally been combined with soybean protein to make an adhesive for soft plywood. However, the formula has largely been replaced with a synthetic adhesive.

This is a partial list of home improvement products with animal ingredients. Keep in mind that not every paint or fertilizer contains animal products, but some do, and the animal content may be worth considering in shopping choices.


Vegan Society's Animal Free Shopper directory: http://www.vegansociety.com/afssearch.aspx

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remodeling broadens food format at Target

Deal of the Week
Remodeling broadens food format at Target

Target has completed remodeling the bulk of its 20 Houston-area stores slated for a new format designed to bring more fresh grocery items to the chain nationwide.
"You'll find fresh items that frequently top weekly shopping lists, like bananas, seasonal fruit, baby carrots, meats and chicken," said Kristin Jahnke of Target. "It's really about added convenience."
Target is adding about 10,000 square feet of grocery space to the typical 135,000-square-foot store. The stores will have 40 percent more food offerings, including prepackaged baked goods such as dinner rolls and pies, fruits, vegetables, packaged meats and dairy goods. SuperTarget stores, by comparison, average 186,000 square feet and offer a full line of groceries.
The concept was first tested in Minneapolis in 2008 and was rolled out on a wide scale last year. By the end of 2010, 450 stores offered the new format and another 380 stores are being remodeled this year. Stores with the new format show an increase of 6 percent in sales and traffic, Jahnke said.
Completed renovations
300 Meyerland Plaza
2580 Shearn
13250 Northwest Freeway
984 Gessner
1100 Lake Woodlands Drive, The Woodlands
4323 San Felipe
25901 U.S. 290, Cypress
4510 Garth Road, Baytown
19955 Katy Freeway
6955 Texas 6 North, Copperfield
21515 Tomball Parkway
23912 Commercial Drive, Rosenberg
6801 FM 1960, Willowbrook
8605 Westheimer
to be completed by October
10801 Westheimer, Westchase
202 Texas 332 West, Lake Jackson
6128 Broadway, Galveston
14302 FM 2920, Tomball
12701 FM 1960, Steeplechase
32858 FM 2978, Magnolia
There are 20 Target and 13 SuperTarget stores in the Houston area.