Pet safety during a home remodel

Creating dedicated areas within your home where your pet can eat, sleep and bathe tells them they are just as much a member of the family as everyone else. A built-in eating area beneath the kitchen counter, a custom napping nook under the stairs, or a washing station in the mud room are popular home improvements that can enhance your pet’s comfort as well as your home’s value.

But embarking on such remodeling projects — even small ones like these — can cause anxiety for many pets due to the increased noise levels and the unfamiliar faces in the home. That kind of stress can be avoided if you take certain steps to prepare your pet before work gets underway.

To help keep your pet calm and safe during a home remodel, consider the following:

Before the project

  • Prepare your pet as far in advance as possible by gradually minimizing the amount of time they spend in the soon-to-be project area. Especially if it is a space where they frequently like to eat or sleep, establish a different space within your home where they can temporarily do those activities.
  • Have the space inspected for mold, asbestos or lead-based paint (homes built before 1978). The presence of any of those things requires the contractor to use specific procedures and special equipment to reduce the risk of exposure and protect your pet’s respiratory system.
  • Anticipate that there will be varying levels of noise during the project. Ask your remodeler for advance notice of which days are likely to be the noisiest, and make arrangements to have your pet stay with a friend, family member or at a pet care facility on those days.

During the project

  • Introduce your pet to the remodeling crew. Whether the project duration is brief or extensive, allowing your pet to become familiar with the workers early on will help alleviate much of their anxiety.
  • Restrict your pet to other areas of the house away from the project zone — just as you would if there are children in the home. Most projects require the use of tools or materials that could potentially be dangerous if discovered by a pet.
  • Check throughout the home at the end of each day for any potentially hazardous items. Your contractor will take every precaution to ensure the area is safe and secured, but you know your pet better than anyone and can best identify possible risks. Inform your remodeler if you have any concerns or requests about how the project area is secured overnight.

Similar to how you appreciate being informed in advance of and during a remodeling project, your pet will also benefit if you help them prepare and adjust to the temporary change in routine.

Home remodeling requires planning and persistence

One thing the novel coronavirus has not changed is buyers’ attraction to homes that are updated, remodeled with an open floor plan and staged. As opposed to homes that are dated, disorganized, packed full of mismatched antiques, set to a backdrop of 20-year-old wallpaper.

When you do pull the trigger on your home remodel, whether you goal is to improve your success as a home seller or to improve the quality of your stay-at-home, work-at-home, and school-at-home experience, here are some tips for getting the best possible results.

Do your homework: Make sure you know what you want to do.

Look at all the go-to sites and apps for ideas on materials, design and color pallets. Choose an anchor for your project — be it flooring, counters, cabinets, or your favorite color.

Select some base point around which you make all of your other choices. This focal point might be the color of the water in your swimming pool, the tone of your hardwood floors or the distressed bricks around your fireplace.

Ask for referrals: Ask your neighbors who just remodeled their kitchen whom they used and if they’d recommend him.

Ask your agent if she knows anyone who can tackle your project. Go on Yelp and look at reviews for contractors in your area. Then interview as many as you have time to talk to. And realize, they will all have a different set of skills and a different way of approaching your project.

It may serve you well to start a spreadsheet with all of your projects and the parts and pieces necessary to complete them, including what each service provider can do and the providers need from you.

Know who’s on first: You know that classic Abbot and Costello bit.

You have to know who’s playing which position as you proceed through the process. Be prepared on demo day for there to be 3 to 6 people in your house doing things all at the same time.

Be prepared on installation day to make decisions about where the hole in the quartz counter is cut for the sink faucet; where the support legs go for your kitchen island extension so you can comfortably sit in the bar stools you ordered for those new quartz counters; and whether the backsplash in the bathroom should be cut around the electrical outlet or not.

Details matter, and if you’re not there, you can’t weigh in on the decisions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask your crew, now that you know who does what, the questions you may have and the choices you may be able to make. If you are not taking your house down to the studs, you have to connect the old parts to the bright, shiny, new parts, and that calls for creativity and decisions.

Get in there and stay involved.

6 Ways to Avoid Costly Home Renovation Mistakes

Many of us are spending more time at home in 2020, which could mean having more time to take on home improvement projects. But home renovations aren’t just a way to fill time; you want the results to be worth the hard work. The key to any successful project lies in careful planning — including financial strategizing — long before the power tools come out.

Roughly 3 in 5 American homeowners (61%) have taken on home improvement projects since March 1, 2020, spending $6,438, on average, according to an August 18-20 NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll among 1,414 homeowners.

Whether you’re outfitting your home with a new office or classroom, or taking on long-intended improvements such as painting or installing new flooring, here are five tips to help you make sure you’re heading into the right project, the right way.

1. Consider return on investment

Any project may be worth your time if doing it makes you happy, but if you plan to sell your home soon, make sure you focus on projects that give a good return on your money. Many renovations cost thousands of dollars but won’t increase the value of your home by the same amount.

For example, it costs about $50,000 to add a new bathroom, but homeowners typically recoup only about 54% of the cost in increased home value, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2020 Cost vs. Value Report. A minor kitchen remodel, on the other hand, returns about 78% of its cost, so that type of project might make more sense.

Consider calling local real estate agents to ask them about the return you might receive from a home renovation project. Some local markets or neighborhoods may reward certain upgrades more than others.

2. Create a budget

You don’t want to run out of cash in the middle of a home remodeling project. But unless you’re careful, your project may get more expensive while it’s underway. That nicer tile may add only $7 per square foot, but if your kitchen has 100 square feet of floor space, watch out! To avoid running short on cash, add up your expenses before you start the project. Then add 10% or 20% to the total to allow for cost overruns.

To get an idea of how much you’ll have to spend on a specific project, look at what others have spent on comparable projects using a project estimate calculator or perusing sites like HomeAdvisor or Remodeling Magazine.

3. Choose the right funding option

Since March 1, 34% of homeowners who undertook home improvement projects used cash on hand to fund those projects, 25% used money they had saved for those projects specifically and 14% used money from their economic stimulus check, according to the NerdWallet survey. As long as these projects aren’t being funded to the detriment of more important expenses, using available cash or savings can be a good way to keep from paying interest on your home improvement project.

If you have to finance your project, explore your funding options carefully. Among them are a home equity line of credit, a personal loan, a cash-out refinance or even credit cards. But they come at varying costs depending on the interest rate and how long it will take you to pay off the loan. A home improvement financing calculator can help you weigh these costs and make a savvy decision.

4. Research contractors

If you’ve decided to hire a professional, get written estimates from different contractors. As those estimates roll in, check their references and ask about their credentials. At a minimum, make sure each contractor is properly licensed to do the work on your home. You can also ask about their membership in trade associations. Many reputable contractors belong to professional trade groups such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or the National Association of Home Builders.

A good contractor will guarantee the work and offer a warranty. You can check Better Business Bureau ratings to see if others have had complaints about companies you’re evaluating. If there have been complaints, check to see how they were resolved.

When you select a contractor, make sure you get your agreement in writing.

5. Secure home renovation permits

Permits help protect your home and your safety. Without the necessary approvals to perform work on your property, there’s a chance the renovation won’t meet local building codes. It could even affect your ability to sell your home in the future. Contact your municipality for details about what permits you must have for your renovation project. And follow up to make sure your contractor has permits in hand before beginning the work.

6. Understand price/quality trade-offs

You’re probably planning to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars on a remodeling project. It’s understandable to look for ways to save money, but don’t automatically cut corners by using the cheapest materials.

Talk to your contractor about the trade-offs between quality and price for your project. You’ll probably be better off selecting the best-quality products that fit your budget. Otherwise, you could be stuck with having to make costly repairs after a few months because you skimped on quality.

A home remodeling project can give a big boost to your home’s aesthetics and market value — if you avoid costly mistakes. By setting a budget, researching contractors and making sure your improvements use quality materials, you can help avoid expensive pitfalls and enjoy your home’s new design.

When it comes to home remodeling, does old craftsmanship beat new technology?

(By Tim Carter / WP) – You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying, “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” Often it’s said in frustration when a newer product fails long before you think it should. If I were a teacher at a vocational school dedicated to building things, I’d divide my senior class into “old” and “new” teams and make them research the topic for a debate.

But since I am merely a builder, plumber and scribe, you and I will have that discussion here and now. Which team would you choose to be on?

I had the good fortune to cut my teeth as a young builder working in and on old homes in Cincinnati. The city experienced explosive suburban growth in the late 1800s. People started to see the benefits of living up on the hilltops that overlooked the smoky and grimy Mill Creek Valley. New single-family and multi-family homes were being built in a building boom that lasted decades.

Rough framing lumber back then was indeed rough. It was bigger than today’s wall studs and floor joists. The wood was cut from old-growth timber, and when you looked at the end grain, what stood out was the thin growth rings. There was often an equal amount of strong, dense summerwood — that’s the darker growth ring — as weaker, softer springwood, the lighter growth ring you see on lumber.

Today’s timber has been hybridized to grow faster, and you see far more springwood than summerwood. As a result, modern lumber is more susceptible to rot and movement.

Old brick homes didn’t have the water-leakage issues and mold problems of today’s brick-veneer homes. The masons of old knew that wind-driven rainwater would penetrate brick walls so they used a softer inner brick to absorb the water before it got indoors. After the storm, the water would be pulled out of the brick by the sun and wind. The masons also knew that hydrated lime and sand made for a much better mortar than today’s modern products.

Walk down older sidewalks in some cities or look at the concrete supporting railroad bridges and you might be able to make the case that today’s concrete is not as good as that made 80 or 100 years ago. This is a complex topic, but one thing the older concrete masons knew is that if you just added some additional Portland cement to the mix, the concrete would absolutely be stronger and last longer. There have been amazing advancements in modern concrete that, when coupled with expert installation, create an artificial rock that will last hundreds of years.

Those are some strong points from the “old” team. What could the “new” team boast about? They would most likely win the day when it comes to plumbing and electric service. It’s hard to disagree with the benefits of modern PEX water supply lines over the older galvanized iron water lines I used to remove because they were clogged with calcium deposits. PEX water lines don’t burst when they freeze, causing mayhem and untold headaches.

Old cast iron and galvanized drain lines would rot out or become clogged, whereas modern PVC can perform for decades with no issues if you watch what you put down your sinks and toilets. Granted, modern spun-cast-iron pipes are far superior to older cast iron, and they don’t transmit sound like modern PVC pipes, which sound like Niagara Falls when you flush a second-floor toilet.

Modern electric cable and advanced circuit breakers are, in my opinion, far superior to the old knob-and-tube wiring and screw-in fuses. Modern electric wiring in homes, installed to code, creates a much safer environment than what you might find in a home wired in 1913.

Ceramic tile would be an interesting debate subject. You might not know about ceramic tile set in concrete on both walls and floors. I can’t begin to tell you how durable older ceramic wall tile was when installed over screeded concrete mortar embedded in wire lath. Today’s tile installed over a waterproof gypsum board or ½-inch-thick cement board simply cannot compare.

The “old” team could have a field day with workmanship. In my opinion, the workmanship in older homes is far superior to what you generally see in today’s homes. Yes, there are still a few craftsmen who treat what they do as a vocation rather than a job. But go back in time and just about every worker took enormous pride in what they produced each day.

This is why I’m a huge proponent of reintroducing building technology courses into all high schools across the United States. I want to expose young girls and boys to the trades and open their eyes to how fulfilling it is to work with your hands and create things that help others. There’s a vast shortage of young people entering all of the building trades, and there’s never been a better time to get a job that will pay well.

Houses need constant care and upkeep, so there’s a never-ending stream of work for those who want it, especially those who value a reputation for good work. Do It Right, Not Over!

Four ways to pay for home renovations

After months of lockdown during the pandemic, many have become aware of the failings of their homes. Whether you want a cosmetic update or think your home may have a more serious problem, how to pay for a renovation may be your main concern.

We asked Todd Nelson of home improvement lender LightStream for suggestions on how to decide what projects to do and how to stretch your budget without derailing your long-term financial plans.

“Rather than procrastinate because you don’t know what to do first, it’s best to prioritize your projects,” wrote Nelson in an email. “If you’re not sure about the condition of your home, consider having your home assessed by a licensed home inspector. Tackle structural and mechanical system issues as soon as possible to ensure your home’s physical integrity and safety as well as to prevent costly repairs in the future.”

While hiring a home inspector may cost several hundred dollars, it could be a worthwhile expenditure if you purchased the house years ago and haven’t had any inspections since then.

Homeowners often delay their improvement projects because of a lack of funds, wrote Nelson, who suggests comparing and possibly combining the following payment options:

  • Savings: Tapping savings to pay for renovations is the least expensive option because you don’t need to borrow or pay carrying costs. In doing so, however, make sure to leave cash on hand to maintain an emergency fund, cover ongoing expenses, pay down existing debt and continue contributing to future goals such as retirement savings or college tuition, wrote Nelson.
  • Credit cards: Given the high interest rates often charged by credit cards, if you don’t know how or when you’ll pay off this debt, you can wind up paying significantly more for your projects, wrote Nelson.
  • Consumer loans: Online financing with a personal loan is a solution that can be used to completely pay for a home renovation or be combined with other options to make a budget go further. LightStream, for example, has an online process where you submit a brief application and, if approved, can receive funds as soon as the day you apply, at low fixed rates and with no fees, wrote Nelson.
  • Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC): If you’ve accrued at least 15 to 20 percent equity in your home, you may be able to borrow against its increased value. A HELOC is a variable rate bank loan where the amount available is determined through an appraisal that assesses the current value of the home and what is owed on the property, Nelson wrote.

Compare the payment plans, fees and interest rates on all these options to determine which one or which combination of options will fit your budget best.

“No matter what type of work you’re considering, get written estimates from multiple licensed contractors,” wrote Nelson. “Execute a written contract outlining every aspect of the project, its costs and the timeline to complete the work. Make sure to receive written proof that the people you hire carry appropriate insurance. With prioritized projects, funding and contracts in place, 2020 can be the year to create the home you’ve always envisioned.”