What you can do now to plan and manage a home renovation once conditions are right

TWP – Like everyone else, you’ve been spending lots of time at home during the past several weeks. And you’ve probably become more acquainted with all the flaws in your home: the outdated kitchen cabinets, the frayed carpeting in the family room that needs to be replaced by hardwood, the spare bedroom that needs to be converted into a dedicated office.

Maybe the thought of a renovation has crossed your mind. But this couldn’t possibly be the right time for one, could it? Well, it depends.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, home construction — including remodeling — had been deemed an essential business under the original stay-at-home orders in the District, Maryland and Virginia. But whether a specific project is considered appropriate is a matter largely determined by homeowners and contractors.

“Putting a roof back on is essential,” said David Merrick, president of Merrick Design and Build in Kensington, Md.

Merrick, who also serves as chairman of the government affairs committee for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), said contractors are more likely to take on outside rather than inside projects. In the case of a customer seeking to renovate the basement of her D.C. rowhouse, the decision was made to wait until the late spring or early summer when everyone would feel more comfortable.

Not surprisingly, home construction activity nationwide has fallen significantly since the covid-19 outbreak, according to the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and is not expected to recover until well into 2021.

The slump in activity may work to your advantage, experts say. Because work has dried up, some contractors may be more willing to give you a better deal on the pricing than they would have several months ago when demand for their services was high.

If you opt to wait until the pandemic eases, experts say, you can still use this downtime to plan your project and get on your contractor’s radar.

“If you have a four to five month timeline, you can talk to friends on who they used and look at Angie’s List reviews on their performance,” said Kermit Baker, project director at the Harvard remodeling program. “You can do your due diligence as you prepare to get the project ready.”

Once you decide on what work needs to be done and when to do it, be sure to put your order in right away. “If you wait until September to place your order, [contractors will] have five months of orders in front of you,” Merrick said. Then, it will “be hard time to get the contractor to return your phone call.”

Here are some other factors you can consider ahead of time during this lull:

Budgeting and financing

Probably the best thing you can do is not get too caught up in the aesthetics but to invest considerable time concentrating on the logistics.

“Every home improvement project will cost more than you think it will and will take more time than you planned,” Bob Harkson, chief financial planner at Phase2 Wealth Advisors in Gig Harbor, Wash., told The Post in May 2019. Harkson said the biggest problem he sees with his financial-planning clients is that they haven’t budgeted enough.

The tricky thing about home improvement is maximizing your return on investment. You want to spend money that will yield a return when you sell your home, but not overspend way beyond what a buyer would be willing to pay you. So how do you find the sweet spot?

Experts say that kitchen and bathroom renovations are among the projects that provide homeowners the best yields. According to Remodeling magazine, kitchens recouped 62.1 percent and bathrooms 67.2 percent. Others include: 70.8 percent for windows; 75.6 percent for siding; 68.2 percent for roof; and 75.6 percent for deck.

Dan DiClerico, a smart-home expert for HomeAdvisor, a New York-based home improvement platform, offered this rule of thumb: “You should spend about 5 to 15 percent of your home value on kitchen renovation,” DiClerico told The Post in May 2019. “So, if your home is worth $300,000, you should spend $15,000 to $45,000 on the kitchen. A bathroom renovation should cost about 3 to 7 percent of your home value.”

If you’re into analytics, HomeAdvisor’s State of Home Spending offers data and charts to help you determine whether your budget is in line with what other homeowners pursuing similar projects paid. Another useful source is the Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, which offers searchable databases to compare renovation costs by Zip code.

“The more thorough you are in the planning stages, the more likely you are to come in on budget for your project,” DiClerico said.

A major component of planning involves accounting for surprises. Sonu Mittal, head of retail mortgage lending for Citizens Bank in Plano, Tex., said you should budget an extra 10 percent for unforeseen expenses.

So how do you pay for a home improvement project? There is no shortage of methods. Here are a few:

  • Savings: This is the easiest because it doesn’t require getting approval or paying fees and interest.
  • A Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 203(k) or Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation loan: “An FHA 203(k) loan offers flexibility because you can finance up to 97.75 percent of the improved home value,” Catherine Holtman, operations support manager for Embrace Home Loans in Middletown, R.I., told The Post in May 2019. “There’s a streamlined version for improvements up to $35,000 that are nonstructural and a standard version for major renovations including structural changes.
  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): This provides homeowners flexibility in that they only pay interest on the line of credit they use, and the closing costs are minimal.
  • Cash-out refinance: Borrowers should keep in mind that closing costs for cash-out refinancing is higher than a HELOC, but interest rates are lower.
  • Personal loan: A personal loan is best for borrowing smaller amounts because it has to be paid back sooner and have higher interest rates than a HELOC.
  • 401(k) loan: The loans have a low interest rate. Financial advisers discourage these type of loans because they must be paid back immediately if the borrower leaves their company.
  • Credit card: This is a simple way to pay for a project. However, they come with high interest rates.

Undertaking a major project

Before embarking on a major renovation, you should take some time to determine the best approach given your budget, timeline, patience and willingness and ability to do some of the work yourself. Here are seven methods:

  • Design-build firm: These firms, which include designers and architects, can manage the project from beginning to end and oversee all the subcontractors. The downside is that they can be costly.
  • Kitchen designer: These firms specialize in kitchens and can often provide a more custom look for your project.
  • General contractor: A general contractor is best for people who know what they want but need someone to manage the project. Because of their relationships with vendors, general contractors often can get discounts on supplies.
  • Specialty kitchen store: These retailers offer discounts on kitchen components and fixtures and custom services.
  • High-end design firm: This is for homeowners who want the best of the best, and don’t mind paying for it.
  • Big-box store: Stores such as Home Depot and Ikea can often get special discounts on labor and can generally offer their services at prices lower than general contractors.
  • DIY: For people who would like to save a ton of money, but are also handy.

If you’re pursuing a bathroom renovation, for example, keep in mind that 50 to 75 percent of the project’s cost will be labor. So it’s important to educate yourself on how to negotiate labor costs or hire a contractor who can do so.

Working with limited dollars

If you’re looking to start off small to get your feet wet, Zillow offers some suggestions on lower-cost projects that can give you a bigger bang for your buck. For instance, Zillow says spending $3,000 on outdoor “curb appeal” projects such as paint and landscaping can yield $3,500 when selling.

Zillow also recommends that when renovating to sell that you try to incorporate the latest design trends into your home.

When trying to prioritize limited dollars, Zillow recommends that you simply ignore the basement. Basement projects, according to Zillow, yield only 50 cents on the dollar even when a bathroom is added.

Justin Pierce, a real estate investor and real estate agent, suggests that homeowners opting to manage their own projects should use a Construction journal to stay on top of the project and to give them a record with contractors when something goes awry.

“Keeping a journal has really helped me,” Pierce wrote in a Post column in July. “If things go badly, it can be useful in court or arbitration. Contractors, especially shady contractors, are good at complicating the issue or adding doubt in your mind. They blame delays and increased costs on the weather, additional work, inspectors and the client. You may be shocked to receive $10,000 in change orders at the final accounting. This is impossible to unravel six weeks down the road. It’s best to note things as they happen and share milestones and your understanding of them with the contractor.”

Pierce said the journal should include: the start date, major milestones, inspection dates, subcontractor work schedule and change orders.








Coronavirus didn’t stop home renovation projects, survey finds

Despite fear, restrictions and the economic downturn that followed the coronavirus, more than half of homeowners who were working on a renovation project before the pandemic were able to continue it, according to a new study.

On Wednesday, home renovation and design platform Houzz released the results of a survey of about 1,000 American homeowners who use the platform.

The survey found that 52 percent of respondents said they were able to continue their home renovation or design project even after the coronavirus was declared.

The ability to continue a project depended on state and local restrictions.

According to the report, 64 percent of respondents in the South were able to continue their projects, which was the highest percentage in any region.

The South was followed by the West, where 56 percent of respondents said they continued, the Midwest, where 40 percent said they continued and the Northeast, where 37 percent said they continued their projects, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, about 47 percent of respondents put their projects on hold, but only 1 percent completely canceled their project, the survey found.

Among homeowners who paused their projects, about 40 percent said their project “wasn’t urgent and could wait,” another 38 percent were concerned about health and safety and 27 percent had to wait for local restrictions, according to the Houzz report.

The most likely projects to continue during the coronavirus were focused on home offices and master bedrooms, the survey found. Houzz also reported remodeling projects in the master bathroom and kitchen were also likely to continue.

The survey also found that the projects that were most likely to be put on hold were focused on guest bathrooms and garages.

The coronavirus also inspired 79 percent of respondents to consider making home renovations or other changes to “help them enjoy their homes more,” according to the report.

Houzz also found that about 50 percent of respondents said they faced challenges in their homes.

Among those, 34 percent of respondents said they needed more storage, 24 percent said they needed better lighting, 23 percent said they needed a workout space and 23 percent said they needed a workspace.

Three remodeled homes to see

Tulsa people -Spring is an inspiring season for design refreshes and home remodels. Three interior designers took on major remodel projects to transform outdated or uninspired spaces into artistic, functional and beautiful homes.

These houses aren’t just on trend. They’re centered around the client’s idea of a dream home. Whether the project focused on preserving history or making a statement, these designers overcame challenges and obstacles to deliver stunning results.

Transformation with vibrant details

The Raffle family wanted a home in midtown but had been struggling to find something that was just right. After touring a new construction home in their desired area, Piper Raffle decided it was a great opportunity. The family purchased the home before construction was finished so they could make changes to the color palette, fireplace and other fixtures.

To transform this new-construction home into their dream home, they called upon Mel Bean, owner and designer at Mel Bean Interiors, to help reshape the space.

“The home was modern farmhouse style in a way, but pretty safe with grays and whites to keep it simple and universally appealing,” Bean says. “We were able to update, add color and architectural elements and really transform it.”

The transformation process began before the Raffles closed on the house. This meant Bean had a tight timeline. However, the starting point was a solid green sofa the couple wanted to utilize. They also loved the sofa’s Schumacher Shockwave and Chiang Mai Dragon pillow fabric and wanted to see those colors throughout the space.

“My philosophy is custom design for each client,” Bean says. “I love to get inside a client’s head and push their boundaries, taking the design further than they imagined.”

Bean used the rich and vibrant colors inspired from the fabric selection and used navy blue as a base color to transition the design to each room. The design also mixes patterns to provide variety.

“The kitchen, entry and dining rooms all open to one another,” Bean says. “Navy becomes the visual anchor, taking your eye to each area.”

With so many interesting elements within the space, it was hard for the Raffle family to pick a favorite. However, the fuchsia and navy wallpaper in the study is one of the family’s favorite details.

“All of the elements work together to provide continuity and playful use of color, but it’s still sophisticated,” Bean says.

Casual, colorful comfort

Joe and Emily Padalino knew they wanted to make the move from Jenks to midtown. When a traditional-style, 1930s-built home went up for sale in the Lorraine Terrace neighborhood near Philbrook Museum of Art, they hired homebuilder and interior designer Jennifer Strickler to redesign the home and to add additional square footage.

“The home was a blank slate, but we wanted to stay true to the time period of the home,” Strickler says. “I came up with the overall floorplan, then we formalized it with an architect and began putting it into the plans for permitting.”

The Padalino family knew they wanted a comfortable home accommodating five children, three of whom still live in the house. The family also loved color and wanted to modernize while keeping the original elements of the home.

“They are a casual, comfortable family. I was immediately drawn to the idea of making it a Craftsman-style home,” Strickler says. “I wanted it to feel like an old home, not modern with new construction.”

Strickler was able to salvage elements from the home, including the original hardwood floors, exterior brick that was added to the walls of the entryway and Moroccan tile where the dining room is now located.

“People definitely told us we should have torn it down,” Strickler says of the home. “There were challenges of matching old framing with new framing. It’s not perfect; it doesn’t have perfectly square walls. It was such a learning experience, and everything went well.”

Looking at the home today, no one could imagine tearing it down to start over. This renovation and rebuild process took nine months and was a labor of love for both the homeowners and Strickler.

But with so many meaningful details, how can anyone choose their favorite element? Strickler says the Padalino family loves the colors, tiles and wallpaper that make the home not only functional, but also fun.

Focus on function

Julia Kirkendall had the opportunity to shop for homes alongside her client, who sought a midtown home for entertaining that fit his lifestyle. Owner and principal designer at Kirkendall Design, Kirkendall knew the perfect home had been found when they came across a 1920s Tudor-style house within walking distance of Utica Square.

“It needed a transformation inside,” Kirkendall says. “A larger kitchen to entertain, a large front room. This house was cut into three sections with rooms about two-thirds the size

they are now.”

This wasn’t Kirkendall’s first time renovating a house from this era. In fact, she grew up in a house built in the 1920s and knew what had to happen to gain extra square footage. “The house was built around a coal furnace and the chase (enclosed space around the flue pipe) that went through the middle of the house,” Kirkendall says.

Because these elements are no longer used and have no structural effect on the home, her team removed the coal furnace chase, allowing for a larger kitchen and living room and eliminating unnecessary hallways and closets.

Once the floorplan opened up, Kirkendall began updating the house from a cottage-style Tudor to a modern Tudor, which focuses on the character of the home and functional design. However, the design team ran into some challenges, including the adobe-style fireplace.

Kirkendall managed to salvage all of the hardwood floors in the home, but laced in new red oak floors to match. She also updated the floor furnace, and its wooden grates were changed to steel for more durability.

The designer retained some of the home’s original charm by restoring the original doors and finding decade-specific doorknobs to replace broken ones. She also kept the hallway’s original phone stand, and restored the hall bath with original tile, updated facilities and timeless black-and-white print wallpaper.

The former sleeping porch turned study was updated with a modern HVAC system for year-round comfort.

Although the home is modern, the elegance of the original design remains. Kirkendall’s favorite part of the home is the kitchen.

“It’s highly functional and great for entertaining,” she says. “The island can seat five people, and there is still space for a dining table.”

Smart Home Construction? 5 Smart Ideas to Integrate Into Your New Build

Smart home construction is now a dominant trend in the real estate market. What looked like a fad a few decades back is now a major feature in new home builds and renovations. By 2022, the global smart home market will reach $53 billion.

If you want to invest in a new smart home or you want to upgrade your existing property, the market offers an overwhelming range of options. Here you will find some of the most innovative ideas to integrate into your smart home build or renovation.

Smart Thermostats

Air conditioning is one of the most critical components of home maintenance. The quality of the heating and cooling system determines how comfortable and energy-efficient your home is, and this is where smart thermostats come handy.

These thermostats adjust temperatures automatically depending on the settings you feed. Some gadgets learn from these adjustments and make the changes for you. Others come with multiple remote sensors for individual room temperatures customization. You can also adjust temperatures from your smartphone from anywhere and at any time. Ready to head home from the office, make your home ready by increasing the temperatures on a cold evening.

Smart Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are an integral part of home heating and cooling system. A smart ceiling fan is a cool addition to your home as it saves you money without you lifting a finger.

These fans feature a combination of sensors that monitor room conditions to switch their mechanics. The fully integrated motion-sensing system automatically tells when there’s someone in a room and turn on and off accordingly.

They also have a Wi-Fi connection to link up with your automated home system.  The best fans also have a stylish and luxurious look that enhances your home’s décor.

Smart Lighting

Lighting is a crucial aspect of your home’s décor and it also has important functions. Smart lighting goes an extra length to make life easier in your home. You can operate these lighting systems from your smartphone even when away from home.

These lights have broad capability from dimming lights to suit the mood you desire, on/off settings, changing color schemes and check your home’s lighting status remotely.

Smart Bathroom Technology

Your bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your living space. This is where you head after a tiring day at work and it is a sanctuary where you can relax and unwind. Smart home technology makes your bathroom even better and saves you money while at it.

Smart showers can save you money by cutting the flow of water once it gets to your desired temperatures. This shower then starts the flow when you step into the shower. The system also reduces flow if you move away from the showerhead and this cuts wastage.

Video Door Bell

Remember the traditional peephole? The video doorbell transforms this old school idea into smart home technology, allowing you to see who’s on the other side of the door. These gadgets allow you to speak to the visitor even when you are not at home.

Wrapping Up

Smart home construction is the future in new home builds and remodels. With these smart ideas, you can upgrade your new build or remodel into a smart home. The smart technology saves you money, boosts safety and makes your home more comfortable.

Hot trends in kitchen remodeling

Year after year, the most popular home improvement project for American families remains the same: remodeling the kitchen. Today, kitchen makeovers are more ambitious than ever, with homeowners willing to spend larger budgets to upgrade both the aesthetics and the functionality of what is, after all, the most used room in the house.

“Many architects, designers and homeowners are specifying hardwood as an essential part of any kitchen refresh,” notes Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center. “That’s because wood not only offers a wide variety of looks and design possibilities, it also exemplifies the kind of material today’s environmentally conscious consumer wants: One that’s renewable, sustainable, plentiful, durable and easy to work with — all of which makes it an excellent return on investment.”

Replacing tired old kitchen cabinets with stylish new ones is a favorite starting point, but there are several strategies to help maximize their impact. “I like to specify one type of wood for an entire kitchen — cabinetry, furniture, millwork and flooring — but use different stains and finishes on each element,” says New York designer Laura Bohn. “That creates visual interest without losing a sense of overall unity.” In one all-walnut kitchen project, for instance, Bohn painted the Shaker-style cabinets a putty tone for a serene background. But she stained the wide-plank floor a darker shade than the granite-top island so that the latter stands out like a beautiful piece of furniture.

In a similar vein, a recently completed 1920’s Bungalow house renovation had quarter-sawn white oak used throughout for floors, interior doors and kitchen cabinets. While the floorboards were lightly white-washed and given a protective coating to create the look of bare wood, the base cabinets, supplied by Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, received a slightly darker cerused finish just different enough to distinguish them from the rest of the woodwork. The oak wall cabinets were painted white to match the kitchen’s shiplap ceiling. “It’s peaceful rather than exciting,” said the homeowner. “And that’s exactly what we wanted.”

If you’re after a livelier effect, you might consider another emerging trend: mixing up wood species and cabinet-door styles. Wellborn Cabinets demonstrated this strategy at a recent kitchen and bath show where their Rustic Global Spice Kitchen incorporated not only two types of hardwood — oak and maple — but also three door styles each with its own stain. “To make this look succeed, you or your designer will need to find common stylistic threads running through the various elements — underlying kinships of shape, color, texture and proportion that will pull the disparate parts together into a unified whole,” advises San Antonio-based designer Melissa Morgan. “It’s takes a certain amount of confidence, but the results can be spectacular.”