Confessions of a remodeler

In late 2011 I leased a small beach cottage with an option to buy. Every once in a while you can still negotiate such a deal, but it’s rare.

In the spring of 2013 I exercised my option and became the owner of Chez Soleil, a charming getaway and secondary office where I would conduct business, host retreats, entertain clients and write the great American novel while basking in the sun on the deck overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

Since then, I have been remodeling. Seriously remodeling.

After a year and a half of renting the 1948 cottage, I had the place redesigned in my head at least a dozen different ways, with details down to the color and shape of the knobs on the kitchen cabinets decided. I was just waiting for settlement so I could begin and the wait was killing me.

Have I mentioned that I was planning my remodel on the “pay-as-you-go” plan? Yep, I told my contractor, “When I can pay, you can go.” Consequently, I am still remodeling.

Now, this is not my first time at the rodeo. I have renovated a ton of homes and have seen a lot of, shall we say, unusual construction techniques used in older homes. My favorite was finding empty potato chip bags stuffed between floorboards as insulation in my Capitol Hill remodel of the late ’90s.

This new project, scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014 with a massive housewarming party for clients, colleagues and friends to follow, is now in its second year. I know there’s an end in sight somewhere, but I’m not putting any bets down on a date.

It’s usually best to begin reconstruction with a house that’s in original condition rather than having to undo someone else’s renovations before beginning your own. With only one previous remodel, I still managed to discover the good, the bad and the really, really ugly workmanship that I inherited.

The Good: The property began its life as a two-bedroom structure with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, summer porch and a view to die for. Somewhere along the way, a new rear addition became the laundry, storage and utility room.

The previous owner enclosed and reconfigured the porch into a climate-controlled sunroom with a more conventional entrance. She also replaced all the windows, added the deck and enlarged and repositioned the bathroom by sacrificing one of the tiny bedrooms.

The Bad: Demolition begins in June by taking up the carpet, tile and subfloor. Salty words are spoken aloud when I find that the original foundation has cracked across the entire width of the living room. (Rent jackhammer, remove concrete boulders, pour new slab and blame earthquake of 2011.)

With the bathroom repositioned, the remaining bedroom is too narrow for a bed to be placed anywhere but lengthwise in front of a closet that is too shallow to hang clothes. (Remove offending closet and discover the original one inside it, widening the room.)

Hooray! The kitchen cabinets have arrived! Sadly, the truck cannot get up the street. (Cry girly tears and bribe driver $20 and a six-pack of Heineken. Driver then backs truck up to driveway and leaves pallet of heavy, flat-pack cabinets jutting out into the street.)

The new, custom shower pan is ready to be picked up at Home Depot and the contactor ties it down on the flatbed of his truck for delivery. Somewhere along Route 4 it flies off the truck. (Reorder and be thankful nobody was hurt.)

The Ugly: Memorial Day 2013 shall always be remembered as the day the toilet clogged up, the plunger disintegrated, the septic tank backed up and the plumber was unavailable. (Introduce myself to neighbors with bathrooms.)

While adding a few electrical circuits to a relatively new panel box, we find open junctions and stray wires in the attic, faulty plugs and switches, and enough crossed and improperly installed wires to make a firefighter slide back up his pole in horror. (Rewire and wonder why the house never caught fire.)

The bathroom demolition reveals the source of the previous plumbing backups and we learn that the water and sewer pipes are sloped in the wrong direction. (Re-rent jackhammer, dig trench in concrete, reinstall pipes. Create a noticeable ding in the second custom shower pan in the process. Sigh and order another.)

Shall I continue? You bet! I’m looking forward to more surprises before I’m done.

– See more at:

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Confessions of a remodeler

Five flooring ideas to better the bathroom

For most people, the bathroom is where the day usually begins and ends. And one major element that plays a role in creating a comfortable, luxurious environment is the flooring. Flooring is such a key part of any design scheme because of the sheer amount of space it takes up. Additionally, choosing the right bathroom flooring material also requires an eye for practicality because of the amount of moisture, heat and wear that will inevitably occur.

Ceramic – Tile is currently the most popular of all bathroom-flooring selections for a number of reasons. It’s easy to clean, fairly resistant to harboring germs and durable enough to uphold against heat or water contact. The most popular types of tiles are ceramic and porcelain or stone. Ceramic tiles are created from clay that is fired at high temperatures to create a hard, water resistant surface. These tiles are available in numerous designs, and are extremely durable (although they can possibly crack or break if they are not installed properly). Instead of being fired, porcelain tiles are made from pressed clay, which means they are more durable and water resistant. Porcelain tiles can be found in numerous styles and colors, and often at a very reasonable price range. If you are going for a classic or rustic look, stone tiles can add a natural beauty to the space. And of course, stone is so durable that it can be installed in outdoor areas as well. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the different tile materials when selecting a flooring design. When creating a tile design, you can add visual interest by creating patterns, varying the sizes or incorporating various shapes together.

Glass accents – Glass tiles can be integrated along with other tile materials into countertops, backsplashes and bathroom floors. You can even use glass to create tile borders surrounding the shower, tub, sink or other areas that you want to stand out.

Heated floors – Tile flooring is easy to maintain, visually eye-catching and available in countless design options. But because of its physical properties, tile can often feel cold underneath your feet. That’s why radiant (or heated) flooring can be an excellent addition to your bathroom-flooring plan. Flooring can either be heated using an electrical, or a water circulation system to warm the floor from underneath. Heated flooring is not a cheap option, but can add luxury to your bathroom (especially during these cold, winter months).

Kid-friendly options – Kids have a knack for making watery messes in the bathroom. So you’ll probably want to select bathroom flooring that’s equipped to handle spills. Sheet vinyl tiles are water resistant, but can be slick when wet. Look for a design that features an anti-slip texture if you are concerned about safety. You could also go with ceramic or laminate tiles, but be sure to choose a waterproof caulk to seal the flooring.

Green materials – For environmentally minded homeowners looking for a green bathroom flooring option, the top choices are definitely cork or bamboo. These two materials are made from renewable resources, which mean they naturally replenish their supplies in the wild. In addition, bamboo and cork have certain physical properties that make them suitable choices for bathroom flooring. Bamboo is made from a wood plant, so it will look similar to traditional wood floors. However, bamboo is naturally harder and more durable than wood, so it will stand up better to the moisture and heat contact. And cork naturally offers a soft, warm feel on bare feet. Both materials are resistant to mold, mildew and bacteria, and both naturally repel moisture, which are all especially beneficial properties for bathroom flooring to have.

Read more:

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Five flooring ideas to better the bathroom

Remodeling boom in D.C. area brings to light rich veins of old-growth lumber

It’s the most prominent thing in the room. The wood table is sturdy and spacious — eight feet by three feet — built of rustic old lumber with a grain that shines through. The best thing about it? All of its wood came from the Northwest Washington rowhouse where it sits.

“They’re old hand-milled two-by-fours that the house was made out of,” says Mike Iacavone, an artist who owns the 1920 house, in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, with his wife, Ali Jost.

When they bought the house, they knew it needed renovations, but they were determined to hold on to some of its old structural timber. Iacavone, 40, built the table — using a biscuit joiner and a lot of wood glue — with discarded lumber that the couple’s contractor had set aside for them.

Iacavone and Jost also wound up exposing ceiling joists in the kitchen, giving the room a farmhouse look and showcasing thick, 100-year-old planks. “We took out a wall and saw the beams, and they looked great, so I said, ‘Let’s not cover these,’ ” Iacavone says.

The couple may have simply followed their instincts, but they were spot on. The wood in many of the District’s rowhouses, particularly those built before the 1930s, is high-quality lumber cut from old-growth or even virgin forests that no longer exist in this country. That includes not only the flooring and trim, but also the internal framing wood, such as studs, rafters, and floor and ceiling joists.

It’s often the same kind of wood that was used to build barns in rural areas around Washington. But unlike reclaimed barn wood, which became popular more than a decade ago, the value of this wood isn’t widely recognized among homeowners and developers. And as the city experiences a remodeling boom, builders say, most of it by far is going into landfills.

“The wood [that was milled] at the turn of the century is probably two or three hundred years old,” says Andy Bohr, sales manager at Galliher and Huguely, a 100-year-old lumberyard in the District. “It’s more dense, a little more structurally stable, because these are older-growth trees.”

Unlike recently cut lumber, which generally has been grown over 10 to 30 years, the old trees had very tight growth rings, lending the wood strength and hardness — even in so-called softwoods such as pine and fir. Much of the framing lumber in District rowhouses is made of those softwoods. The flooring might be finished oak or pine, and doors and details could be American chestnut, a wood made rare by a century of blight.

Max Pollock is materials manager with Details, a firm that deconstructs buildings in Baltimore and the District to salvage their components. He says that although most old rowhouse lumber can be restored to good condition, one type of wood is particularly sought-after: old longleaf pine, also known as heart pine. “It has a rich color, nice smell, and the grain is much, much tighter than other softwood species,” Pollock says. “That’s the holy grail; it’s what we’re always looking for.”

Like many others in the building field, Pollock says much of that old wood — both longleaf pine and other varieties — is getting lost.

The District is experiencing a remodeling boom. In 2014, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs issued more than 8,200 building permits for additions or alterations to residential properties, almost double the number in 2010. There are few details available about those properties, but it’s likely that a considerable number of them were significantly renovated or even gutted. And because the District doesn’t have an obvious wholesale market for salvaged wood, it’s entirely possible that most of the lumber was thrown out.

As much as 80 percent of that reclaimable wood might be discarded, says Don Malnati, a general contractor and president of Renovations Unlimited. “If you’re going to do extensive work in a house, tearing out walls and floors, it’s easiest to call a dumpster company and have them take it all,” he says.

That’s particularly true when a house is renovated and resold, or flipped. Flippers usually remodel houses to appeal to the widest possible audience, and a not-quite-level floor or quirky old door probably won’t fit the bill. Tearing everything out and starting over often makes more sense.

Of course, not all of the wood in a house is worth saving; some of it may be rotted or cut by pipes. But one way to keep the good stuff is by strengthening the existing framing lumber, rather than removing it. “We try to leave most of the joists in place,” says Leroy Johnson of Four Brothers, a design-build firm. Over time, old floor joists can begin to droop, and rather than replace them, Johnson says, his company’s carpenters will add a piece in the middle to straighten and support them.

A contractor or homeowner might also remove wood very selectively. For example, if a staircase is sagging, a builder can take off the risers and treads, replace the beams underneath and then reinstall the outer elements.

But selective removal isn’t always possible. A homeowner or developer who’s interested in an open-plan house probably isn’t going to leave walls up just because they’re built with valuable old studs. Instead, reclaimable wood from the renovation can be salvaged and put to another use.

The possibilities are almost limitless. Marc Wallenstein, a lawyer, renovated his 1890 rowhouse, in Northwest Washington’s Shaw neighborhood, turning the second-floor bedroom into a bathroom. Doing so meant losing the room’s original pine flooring, so he used it to panel the walls of a nook in the new bathroom that contained the toilet. The result is a cabin-in-the-woods vibe, warm and cozy. “And to echo that design feature,” Wallenstein says, “we put some wood on the ceiling of the kitchen downstairs.”

Jay Chen and his wife, Tara, renovated their kitchen in Bloomingdale and found themselves with leftover ceiling joists they were loath to discard. So Chen, 32, cut, cleaned and resealed the wood, which he thinks is eastern white pine, and turned it into floating kitchen shelves.

Because so much old lumber is being discarded in the city, some homeowners have learned to look closely when they see a house being redeveloped. J.C. Callam and David Soo, residents of the Eckington neighborhood in Northwest, became interested in old wood while renovating their house, which was built in 1905 by Harry Wardman. Callam soon noticed that a nearby house, also a Wardman creation, was being gutted and flipped, so he spoke with the developer. “She said, ‘You can take whatever you want,’” says Callam, a flight attendant.

So along with oak molding and trim that he and Soo are storing for future use, Callam gathered 16-foot timbers from the attic that he thinks are old-growth Douglas fir. “I pressure-washed them, and they’re a beautiful reddish color, the most beautiful wood you’d ever see,” says Callam, 45. With those beams, he built a barn door that slides on tracks and installed it in the house’s “English basement” residential unit.

Now he’s got the wood bug. At another nearby house that’s being gutted, Callam asked the workers to save joists and other lumber; he plans to use the beams for a bed frame. “These guys are just chucking this stuff. It’s crazy,” he says.

It’s not necessary to be handy with tools to make use of salvaged lumber. Several companies in and around the District will create custom furniture and other household items for homeowners who provide the wood.

Mallory Joiner and her husband, Sean, gutted their Capitol Hill house and sought to do something with the salvaged old lumber. Eventually, they found James Navarro, a woodworker who runs Live Edge Studio, and he built them a dining room table using the floor joists, which they suspect are longleaf pine. At first, “the beams were so ugly, I couldn’t believe it. They were very dark, almost black,” says Joiner, a teacher. But Navarro sanded and stained them, and now, she says, “we are obsessed with the table.”

Firms that use salvaged wood to create such items as benches, countertops or decorative elements include Washington’s District Wood Co.and Kurtz+Atkins Design in Montgomery County. Vintage Lumber, north of Frederick, Md., will remill joists and other framing lumber to repurpose as flooring.

Homeowners and builders who want to make old wood available for others to use have a few options. Craigslist is one, of course; another is Community Forklift in Edmonston, Md., a nonprofit secondhand store for building materials that accepts donations of vintage lumber; and a third is the independent brokers who buy old wood from renovators and resell it.

The brokers often maintain a low profile and aren’t easy to find, though. One insists on remaining anonymous; he says he’s “swamped with work” and doesn’t want anyone else calling him.

He says he does the work as a labor of love, because he cares about beautiful old wood and wants to see it valued, not thrown away. “In another 10 years,” he says, “it’ll all be gone, and people will be saying, ‘What’d we do wrong?’ ”

Read more:

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Remodeling boom in D.C. area brings to light rich veins of old-growth lumber

Trend news helps fuel dreams of upscaling livability in a remodel

Changes that matter most are those that enhance home life.

January is the month when design and remodeling trend stories seem to show up everywhere. If you’re planning on updating your home, you’ve probably read a bunch of them already. Chances are, you’ve seen write-ups about Marsala, Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year, or maybe reports on which looks are hot on Pinterest and Houzz. Forget about them!

From a remodeling perspective, the current color and fads do not matter. You’re making an investment for the long term. The only trends that count are the ones that will enhance the value of your home and your life. Look for those that add comfort, safety, durability, ease, convenience, style cohesion, energy and water savings. Most important, choose those that truly fit how you live, your home’s architecture and your neighborhood. Yes, style definitely does count when you’re remodeling, but it should blend so well with your house that it looks like it was “born there.”

Here, then, are some 2015 remodeling trends that are truly worth considering.

There are several trends to consider when making your home more livable. One is to plan for future needs with accessibility features. More homes are including ramps or elevators, on-grade entries and new bedroom suites for live-in caregivers or multigeneration living.

Fitness rooms are a fast-growing quality-of-life trend and point to an athlete-in-place — rather than aging-in-place — mindset for baby boomers and retirees. That is particularly relevant to San Diego, home to so many current and former military service members who prioritize fitness in their lives, even post-retirement.

Livability also comes from convenience. Add that to increasingly better style and solid warranties and you have engineered stone (e.g., Silestone, Zodiaq, Caesarstone), supplanting granite as the dominant countertop trend. Busy parents and those who love to entertain at home especially appreciate its hardness and stain resistance.

Better style and convenience are also playing a role in backsplash and shower design trends. Thin porcelain tile slabs are delivering low maintenance with reduced grout maintenance and no need for stone sealing.

Livability is playing a role in the popularity of contemporary cabinetry chock full of organizers, as well. Most San Diegans don’t really want to be doing all of the extra dusting that elaborate traditional styles demand. You’re too busy enjoying your fitness rooms and outdoor living spaces — another livability trend with great appeal for San Diego’s enviable climate.

In the outdoor remodeling sphere, commercial-grade appliances are the hottest trend, with pizza ovens, Argentine-style grills, salamanders and keg tappers bringing outdoor entertaining to a new level.

LEDs are continually improving and showing up in recessed ceiling lights, appliance interiors, interior and under-cabinet lighting and decorative lighting fixtures. They are not a new trend, but they are an important one with current California building codes mandating sharp cuts in energy usage. The good news for homeowners is increased dimming capability and selection and decreased prices.

Hands-free faucets are another sustainability trend with an increasing array of price points and choices. Hands-free models not only reduce the amount of water you’ll use in the kitchen and bathroom, they also can reduce the spread of germs during cold and flu season.

Air-injected shower heads are a terrific water-reducing trend. When this performance-meets-conservation technology first started showing up a few years ago, the selection was minimal. Now, they’re available from numerous brands.

Other growing sustainability trends include solar panels, tankless water heaters and electrical car docking stations.

Technology is impacting our homes, as well as our lives. Our smartphones are almost always in hand, and finding spaces to charge, use and cradle them while we do other tasks has become part of many remodeling plans.

They have also made home automation a more affordable and popular option. The welcome familiarity we experience in starting our favorite apps is expanding to include opening and closing window coverings, turning alarms, entertainment and climate control systems on and off, even getting dinner cooking with connected appliances.

You can also stream your favorite tunes while standing under a streaming shower head or standing at your vanity. Each year brings new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled remodeling products for our indoor and outdoor spaces.

The trends shared in this article come from multiple sources, including practicing kitchen and bath design in San Diego for five years, visiting U.S. and international trade shows, and covering trends for print and online media.

Three very valuable association reports also contributed and reinforced direct observations. These came from the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the American Institute of Architects and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, is a San Diego-based, NKBA-certified, independent kitchen and bath designer and the author of “New Kitchen Ideas That Work,” (Taunton Press). UT San Diego.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Trend news helps fuel dreams of upscaling livability in a remodel

Home Tour: 200-year-old rural Indiana saltbox is a labor of love and four decades of restoration

WEST HARRISON, Ind. — The year 1814 is scratched into the plaster just below the roof line of Doug and Ellen Dodd’s West Harrison home.

They should supplement that with a carving that reads “Restored and expanded by Doug Dodd, decorated by Ellen Dodd.”

The couple’s 43 years of painstaking work outside and inside the old saltbox house built by an unknown Indiana Pioneer 201 years ago merits that kind of permanent recognition. The home is just over the Indiana-Ohio border and just north of Interstate 74, about a 30-minute drive from Downtown.

“I saved that sumbitch from falling in,” said Doug in the 72-year-old’s native south central Ohio drawl that belies his Ohio State education but befits the remote surroundings he and his wife have conquered. “It really was on its way.”

Doug, a landscaper with a degree in ornamental horticulture, and Ellen, who worked 25 years at the Bright Veterinary Clinic and is the ultimate cat rescuer, bought the decrepit stone house on Indiana 46 on Jan. 29, 1972. It had been unoccupied for a year or so and had major structural issues.

Doug said his father told him to knock it down with a backhoe and start from scratch.

“This place was such a wreck,” Doug said. “You want to hear snake stories, we can tell you snake stories.”

And where there are snakes, there are mice, added Ellen, who grew up in Middletown and Springfield.

“We lived with snakes, yes, and the mice would come out and sit in a dCON box and eat poison right in front of you,” she said.

Seeing the Potential
But Doug and Ellen saw the potential in the house and the 15 acres it sits on.

Doug dug in – literally. He built a long driveway and a series of stone retaining walls and water flow system that keep the house dry. He added three second-story bedrooms to the house’s first addition during the brutal winter of 1977-78 and tore down a third addition that had been “redneck construction done in the 1950s.”

He replaced the chimney, shored up the foundation in the walk-out basement, replaced the roof and extended it over a side porch he added.

“I did most of the work myself,” Doug said, just as he has for his one-man business, Terrascape Nursery, for more than 40 years.

Doug also built a garage and an old-style barn into a bank a stone’s throw from the house’s back door. He installed a large patio and planted a handful of Norway spruce trees that have reached their full height, as well as interesting perennials such as a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick shrub.

All of Doug’s landscaping other than the spruces is pretty much dormant now. And though he said he’d like to show it off when the property is in bloom in the spring, there is plenty of his carpentry and craftsmanship to see inside.

Filled With Antiques And Stories At Every Turn
Visitors enter the 3,000-square-foot Dodd house through what Doug believes was originally the saltbox’s side door.

They might have to dodge one or two of the couple’s 11 indoor cats. (Another 18 have their own Doug-made cat colony that resembles a conservatory.)

The main room of the old house is dramatically but safely sloped, dropping six or more inches from the front of the house to the stone fireplace in the back. It is well decorated with 19th- and 20th-century antiques, and the railroad tie beams in the living room’s cathedral ceiling pop out against the white ceiling.

But that’s not what catches the eye. There are two standalone features in the room: a four-foot-wide colonial style chandelier made by David T. Smith of Morrow, and a billowing green tree painted on the wall above the fireplace by the Dodds’ friend, artist Tom Greene of nearby Cedar Creek, Ind.

A third feature – the walnut mantel – has a story behind it Ellen likes to tell. The Dodds purchased it from the late antiques dealer Clark Garrett of Fairhaven, Ohio. The mantel fit so perfectly, the couple has their suspicions.

“I sometimes look at that and wonder if it was stripped right out of this house,” Ellen said.

The rest of woodwork in the room – mostly old oak, walnut and poplar – is highly crafted, in contrast to the room’s original stark and somewhat sloppy state. Doug did it all himself, using wood he reclaimed from old houses and new boards from a local miller, Wilhelm Lumber.

The balusters on the staircase that leads up to a loft lounge are reclaimed, but Doug added the posts and rail, using new wood that over the years has developed a matching patina from the many hands that have rubbed it.

An Entrance For Pigs and Chickens?
To the left of the front door in the corner is a hole in the original oak floor the opens to a tight spiral staircase leading down to the basement. It has a ground level door to the front yard and once was used as a root cellar and mudroom.

“We were told that pigs could go in and out of here, and I’m sure the chickens took the same route,” Doug said, gesturing to the door.

While Doug described all the structural work he has done to make it a dry living space, Ellen pointed out the highlights of the basement’s décor. More than 50 Longaberger baskets, less than a third of her collection at its peak, hang from the nine original oak branch beams.

In the center of the room is another pride-and-joy piece, a large authentic Civil War drum and leather stick.

“My dad found it in the hay loft of a barn and it was crushed into an oval,” Ellen said. “My dad gently worked it back to round.”

A third antique the Dodds are proud of is a wardrobe from the 1830 or ’40s they bought for $17 at a Clark Garrett auction. It was in “pretty bad shape,” Doug said, until he restored it.

“I’m a chainsaw carpenter, but this piece here, I’m pretty proud of it,” he said.

Back upstairs and through a second door in the living room is the dining room, which was part of the first addition built 20-30 years after the saltbox. The former kitchen serves as the dining room and is decorated in the period, from artwork to furniture.

Beyond the dining room is the kitchen where Ellen spends a great deal of her time enjoying her cats and plotting out the next piece of Fiestaware to add to her collection of some 550 pieces. (It is Ellen’s second largest collection – she owns about 2,000 Christmas decorations.)

Doug and Ellen designed the kitchen addition and he built it in 2003. It features a bay window and eat-in nook, knotty pine cupboards, walnut tongue-and-groove flooring, a backsplash using Louisville-made Hadley Pottery tiles Ellen had stockpiled for 23 years and a grand cupboard for the Fiestaware.

It was 1976 when she bought her first piece of the art deco dinnerware made in the Ohio River city of Newell, W.Va.

“I had an aunt in Kettering who had Fiesta, and I remember eating meals on it and thinking how cool it was,” Ellen said.

She was driving away from an antiques show in Northgate Mall when she passed an antiques shop up the road. Ellen stopped, went in and bought her first two Fiesta bowls.

So with all her collections, does her husband collect?

“Not really,” she said. “He just gripes about everything, but not me. I think this is what makes it a house.”

Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Original Article

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Home Tour: 200-year-old rural Indiana saltbox is a labor of love and four decades of restoration

Expert tips for choosing the right window for your kitchen remodel

What are the hottest updates for homes in 2015? The kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in the home to remodel, and for good reason. According to HGTV and Trulia, a kitchen update is one of the secrets to selling your home.

When it comes to remodeling your kitchen you must consider many aspects – cabinets, counters, floors and appliances – but you may not have thought about windows. According to’s 2015 Cost Vs. Value Report, window replacement – whether wood, vinyl or fiberglass – provides a good return on investment compared to other replacement projects, increasing the value of your home financially and aesthetically. So whether you’re making small updates or completely gutting your old kitchen, including window replacement in your project is a smart addition.

Here are three key elements to keep in mind when choosing a window for your kitchen:


Kitchen windows are often placed above counters or sinks, making them hard to reach and prone to moisture. Choosing a window style that is easy to open and close, such as an awning, sliding or casement, is a smart move.

Awning windows – which can be pulled in or pushed out – are perfect for ventilation, which can be especially helpful in a hot kitchen. Since hot air from the oven or stove typically rises, awning style windows perform the best when placed close to the ceiling or above eye-level.

Sliding or casement windows – which use a crank out method for opening and closing – are two good options for hard to reach areas, like above the counters or behind the kitchen sink. Pella motorized blinds and shades are also ideal for hard to reach window locations and can be controlled with the touch of a button.

Material type

With window placement above counters or sinks, moisture and staining can occur, so choosing an easy-to-clean material like vinyl or fiberglass, is equally important. Fiberglass windows can withstand extreme heat and cold, are energy efficient and can have the same quality look of painted wood. Vinyl windows are easy to care for, don’t require painting or staining, and stay looking great for years.

However, if wood makes more sense for you and the style of your home, then make sure to select a finish that will hold up against stains and moisture, and be prepared to do a little more cleaning and up-keep.

Features and options

Whether your new kitchen is traditional, modern or rustic, your new windows should complement the space. Window designs offer a variety of features including colors, hardware and grilles. Pella’s Designer Series windows even offer a between-the-glass solution that keeps blinds and shades located behind sinks from getting splashed. With so many options to choose from it’s easy to design a window that’s unique to you and the style of your kitchen.

Visit Pella Windows and Doors on Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration or visit to begin designing your new windows.

Read more:

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Expert tips for choosing the right window for your kitchen remodel

Our favorite home design apps

The designs we create in our heads don’t always look good in real life — take it from someone who knows.

The table we covet may not suit our dining room size and aesthetic, and it can be hard to know whether we’re really ready to take the plunge and paint the walls red. As homeowners we strive — sometimes struggle — to create our ideal environment. With the myriad of options available for furniture, paint colors, and window treatments, and the dizzying array of kitchen and bath possibilities, navigating the marketplace can be overwhelming. When it comes to DIY projects, we’re told that anything seems possible, but knowing where to begin can be daunting for many homeowners.

Fortunately, a multitude of smartphone and iPad apps help make designing and decorating our homes much easier and far more exciting than ever before. From basic room makeovers that just involve redoing the furniture layout to renovating your kitchen to building a home from the ground up, there’s an app that aids the process. The offerings include apps that serve to inspire with endless photo galleries replete with furniture resources; other applications supply detailed how-to guides for every home improvement project imaginable.

There’s an app that serves as a picture-hanging level, another that will provide the measurements of a piece of furniture, and one that offers a 3D-photo-realistic view of a floor plan — a tool upon which some architecture and interior design professionals rely.

These apps are some of our favorites out there:

Houzz is the largest database of home design ideas on the Internet. The app is similar to the site in that it features an extensive catalog of photos listed by room. It’s possible to narrow your search with subcategories based on style and location and to type in specific requests such as “moldings,” “counter materials,” and “bath fittings” to refine your hunt further. You can bookmark designs in your own idea book. The app also has lists of products for sale and professionals who can help you realize your design. Have children? Try the app Houzz Kids’ Rooms.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire

This clever app allows you to photograph color inspirations that catch your eye and instantly find their match among Benjamin Moore’s 3,500-plus paint colors. It’s easy to access the line’s full-spectrum color wheel to search hues. The app allows you to explore color combinations and group favorites. Of course, the app also lets you locate the nearest Benjamin Moore retailer in a snap.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

Change the wallpaper, paint the walls, and replace your furniture without actually buying them with this app, which lets you virtually redecorate your house with remarkable detail. Start by taking a photo of a room. Upload it, then drop in furnishings from a catalog of real items updated constantly. Walls can be repainted with swipes of your finger. There are detailed product descriptions with prices and availability, along with lists of trends and a trove of how-to articles.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

Online real estate database Zillow launched Zillow Digs as a hub for home remodeling ideas and to give users an understanding of how much specific projects cost. Users can browse and save images relating to rooms, styles, and specific elements. What truly sets this app apart? It provides users with remodel estimates on the kitchens and baths that inspire them. Estimates are based on location and are broken down by materials and labor costs. The app helps you find professionals to do the work, and you can follow, and comment on, other users’ projects.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

In what looks like a hybrid of Instagram and Pinterest, RoomReveal makes it possible to show the progression of your home improvement project. Users simply upload photos and provide a narrative. Not only does the app serve as a personal scrapbook, you can track — and, again, offer your comments on — projects other weekend warriors and design professionals are tackling. The catalog of projects changes daily. Users can also search by room, follow their favorite DIY homeowners, and seek out designers and architects.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

This app is an amazing all-in-one pocket-sized tool kit essential for anyone undertaking a home improvement project. Once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. It features five commonly used carpentry tools: a plumb bob, a surface level, a bubble level bar, a ruler (swipe left and right to measure things longer than your phone), and a protractor that measures angles from 0 to 180 degrees.
Cost: $1.99
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

While it’s tough to imagine that a handheld device can serve as a sophisticated starting point for building a house from the ground up, this one does exactly that. Starting in two-dimensional construction mode, users pick a floor plan, draw rooms, and adjust the height or thickness of walls. It’s possible to drop in furnishings and lighting from a database of hundreds of objects and to select door and window styles, floor coverings, and wallpapers. When the design is done, a click of a button can turn it into a 3-D version. Users can experiment with all sorts of redesigns and then take a tour of the new look with a 3D walk-through. The basic app is free, but if you want to save your work and take advantage of more features like an additional furniture pack, you will need to purchase upgrades, which start at $4.99.
Cost: Free (basic version, shown here)
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

If you’ve ever found yourself without a tape measure, EasyMeasure could be your answer. The app shows the distance between objects as seen through your phone’s camera lens. When you boot the app, calibrate it; enter your height minus four inches to get to eye level. Utilizing a 3D-camera-overlay grid, the app makes it possible to calculate the distance between furniture in your living room. Just stand at one piece and aim the camera at the base of the other. Want to get the width and height of an object? The upgrade will cost you a buck or two.
Cost: Free (measures distance only in basic version)
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

Renovation projects of all scopes will benefit from this photo-centric app. Pictures and design boards (collages of photos) are categorized according to space and style. It’s possible to organize ideas by picking your favorite photos and then cropping, resizing, and rearranging them to create personalized design boards that can include notes and drawings. For example, a design board for kitchen ideas would include “pins” of kitchen remodels you like. It’s a good way to visualize what colors and elements blend well together. One feature offers a directory of prescreened local professionals rated and reviewed by homeowners.
Cost: Free
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

This app is from the widely popular home design website A virtual trove of inspiration, the app serves as an online sourcebook showcasing architecture and interior design ideas, DIY projects, and “steal this look,” which offers tips on creating high-style ideas cost effectively. The best part is the top 10-like lists of products, which range from artsy wool throws to modern wood armoires to toilet paper holders.
Cost: $2.99 (a basic version of the app, Remodelista Lite, is available for free)
Devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Android

The Boston Globe

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Our favorite home design apps

Is hardwood flooring right for your home?


Hardwood flooring is considered a hallmark for floor covering. It has been used for ages and gives a warm and inviting look to any home.

The reason I can say “to any home” is because these floor coverings range from elegant to rustic in the choices. You can install this flooring in a contemporary home as well as a traditional one. Wood always emits a feeling of hominess so covering the floor in wood will naturally create a welcome emotion.

There are those who are afraid of using wood as their main flooring throughout the house. Perhaps some cons you’ve heard come from these facts.

Solid wood flooring is 100 percent hardwood that is milled from lumber. Since it is a natural material, hardwood reacts to changes in its surroundings such as moisture and extreme temperatures. These can cause solid wood to shrink or expand.

All solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished if needed over the years so they do last forever, but there is that maintenance that needs to be addressed. Solid hardwood is not recommended for installation in bathrooms and in kitchens because of moisture in those rooms.

Using wood on stairs is beautiful but noisy. With bedrooms upstairs and possibly sleeping children, the wood stairs will send noisy footstep sounds all over the place.

Also, safety is an issue. A wood stair is slippery, unlike one covered with carpet. A wood stairs with a runner up the middle will solve those problems. Realize though, that you are paying for the wood (not cheap) then covering with rug. Nevertheless, it is absolutely beautiful.

Here are some pros. Consider engineered wood flooring. It is built up of layers of wood consisting of three to 10 layers that are glued together. This multiple structure gives engineered wood superior stability, which reduces concerns associated with shrinking and expanding when temperature and humidity change. Engineered wood can be installed in kitchens and in bathrooms so no worries there.

Consider a laminate flooring. It has four layers consisting of a wear layer, a design layer, an inner core layer and a backing layer. This layered construction makes laminate floors remarkably durable. And it looks very much like a regular hardwood floor.

A definite pro: Hard flooring surfaces are allergy sufferer friendly. Allergens like pet dander and dust tend to build up in carpet and even with frequent vacuuming, the allergens can still be there. Those allergens don’t have as many hiding places in hardwood floors.

Another pro: House sale. A house with hardwood floors will usually have an advantage over one that has other flooring when it comes to real estate sales.

So there you have it, now it’s up to you to decide how to cover your floors.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Is hardwood flooring right for your home?

Remodeling with style for aging, illness

Detroit Free Press

HACKENSACK, N.J. – When designer Marlene Wangenheim was called in to renovate a master bath, her client was looking to make the space beautiful and comfortable.

But Wangenheim, of Interiors by Design in Morristown, N.J., thought the 50-something client should think about the long term and what she might need as she aged.

The result is an expansive, three-room luxury renovation, but with a secret: It can accommodate a person who uses a wheelchair or walker. Design choices like low shelves, an oversize shower and wider doorways mean that the homeowner can keep using the room even if she loses mobility.

This kind of accessible design is expected to become more popular as the giant baby boomer generation ages. Experts say even small design choices can help people stay in their homes in their later years — which, according to polls, most want to do. And the accommodations don’t have to be obvious or look institutional.

One obstacle to the use of accessible design, however, is that a lot of homeowners resist the idea that they might ever become disabled. Often, they’ll say, “There’s nothing wrong with me; I don’t need a grab bar.”

Rather than raise the thought of disability, Wangenheim tries a softer approach, saying, “How about we make it so you don’t have to worry if you’re still in the house in 10 or 15 years?” And she paints the design choices as ideas that would make the homeowner comfortable now: for example, rounded edges so they don’t bump into sharp corners if they use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Stephen Melman, director of economic services at the National Association of Home Builders, agreed that many accessible design choices — such as curbless showers and improved lighting — make homes safer and more comfortable for able-bodied people, too.

“If you’re bathing a young child in the tub, would it be such a bad thing to have a grab bar — and 50 years later, use it yourself?” he asked.

Companies that make these products are increasingly trying to win over customers by making them look less institutional — offering, for example, “designer grab bars” in finishes like brushed nickel or bronze, with detailing that mimics towel bars.

Maria Stapperfenne, president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, said that many products that were designed for accessibility have made it into the mainstream — for example, curbless showers, improved kitchen lights and console bathroom vanities with space underneath.

Craig Webb, editor in chief of Remodeling magazine, said that while many baby boomers hate the idea they will grow old, they tend to become more realistic about their future needs as they help their parents “and see the challenges they’re having.”

And designers say you don’t always have to spend a fortune to make a room aging-friendly; most of the choices don’t cost any more than standard versions, Wangenheim said. The pictured bath renovation cost more than $100,000 — but that was because it was a large, high-end project, not because of the accessible elements.

“We didn’t pay more to make the shower curbless, or use levered handles on the sink or countertops with rounded edges instead of pointed,” Wangenheim said.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Remodeling with style for aging, illness

10 Home Remodeling Trends for 2015

As we close out another year, many of us look forward to the rejuvenated possibilities and fresh starts that a new year presents to us. One way that new opportunity might manifest itself is in giving some part of your house a make-over. In fact, according to the National Association of Home Builders, home remodeling is at an all-time high, and it’s anticipated that it will only continue to grow in 2015. Here are ten of the home remodeling trends that we anticipate to see a lot of in the coming year:

1. Cabinets: The trend here is definitely fresh and simple cabinets with a modern look and feel. As a more affordable option, some people are refinishing their existing cabinetry to try and achieve that updated feel.

2. Countertops: While beautiful and durable granite is still a favorite, there is another strong, nonporous material called Caesarstone that is quite popular. Caesarstone is a quartz composite (93% quartz) that is resistant to stains, scratches and heat, and also doesn’t need sealing. In comes in a wide variety of colors, uses recycled material, and is easy to clean.

3. Backsplashes: When using granite or Caesarstone countertops, a natural stone or tile mosaic backsplash is an excellent compliment. They add texture and an extra visual component. Many of the more modern kitchens are using a glass backsplash to finish off a clean, polished look.

4. Sinks: The most popular current trend in sinks right now is the deep, single bowl. While the single-bowl size is large enough to accommodate pots and pans, people are utilizing fitted strainers and dish drains to maintain the benefit of a double sink. As for materials, stainless and quartz composites are popular for the bowl, while satin nickel is still most popular for the fixtures.

5. Color: To create the sophisticated modern look in the kitchen that works well with the natural stone of countertops and backsplashes, we are seeing a lot of charcoal shades, along with black and white.

6. Bathrooms: This next year will see many people knocking down walls and expanding their bathrooms to create that luxurious spa environment. It will continue to be popular to either rip out the tub to build a large walk-in shower or create separate tub and shower areas altogether. Other popular upgrades include double vanities and separate water closets.

7. Flooring: Pre-finished wood flooring is a popular trend as it offers a durable finish, easy installation, and come in a variety of colors, designs and textures.

8. Universal Design: The idea of universal design is to create a home that is customized to accommodate everyone living in it. This includes kitchen and bath upgrades to increase functionality and in general, knocking down walls to create a roomier, open, communal living space.

9. Green homes: 2015 will continue to see homeowners opting for a living space that is free of toxins and chemicals. Additionally, people are also becoming more and more energy-conscious which is reflected in the move towards energy-efficient appliances, materials, and designs.

10. Outdoor space: Not only are we seeing all of the above upgrades and additions to the houses themselves, but this next year will continue to see a growing focus on the outdoor space. This includes outdoor fireplaces, livable-screened porches, and luxurious eating and socializing areas.

Lajolla Light

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 10 Home Remodeling Trends for 2015