One of the most important decisions in the Remodeling process is which contractor to work with. These nine points will help you make that decision.
This is an interesting series of photos that can inform our use of reflection in designed spaces. We usually think of mirrors, as this title suggests, as something having to do with vanity. That is a reflection of ourselves and placed over a vanity cabinet. But mirrors reflect a great deal other than people. They can accentuate shapes and play a big part in lighting design. They can make a shall room feel larger and a dark room appear lighter.
One of the biggest obstacles to remodeling for many folks is the expense. Unfortunately, the alternatives can be even more expensive, both short term and long term.
Moving vs. remodeling: Leaving the memories behind
Many of our prospective clients are trying to decide between remodeling and moving to a house that better matches their wants and needs. Remember that the soft costs of moving, as well as the hard costs of moving, can be exorbitant.
Have you seen the cost of moving lately? You might be surprised at what it takes to move a household today even to another neighborhood in College Station or Bryan. Of course, there are other major hard costs involved in moving to a new home. Don’t just think of the closing costs. Remember the costs for refreshes on your current home like new interior paint and landscaping, staging, inspection-related repairs and cleaning. It all adds up.
The soft costs—your time and energy—can be even higher. If you don’t hire a moving company, the cost in your time to pack, unpack, and market your current home for sale is hefty. Add to that the considerable cost of your precious evenings and weekends spent trying to find that “just right” home and your valuable time can be monopolized for many months. Perhaps the largest soft cost, though, is the sentimental cost of leaving a space with so many memories connected to it. Those memories have a significant, yet unquantifiable, value to most people.
DIY vs. remodeling: Everything in moderation
Another alternative is to “do it yourself” (DIY). This is a good alternative if employed in moderation. Just don’t neglect to do a soul-searching reality check on your construction abilities before you begin.
DIY shows on TV are very popular. Those shows and their sponsors (like Lowes and Home Depot) would have you believe that you can remodel virtually anything without any prior experience. Not surprisingly, the big box home improvement stores sell massive amounts of products that are never used because unsuspecting homeowners bite off more than they can chew. Worse than the materials that are never installed are those that are installed poorly. For example, if you have never used a circular saw it might not be a good idea for you to build a multi-level deck. DIY jobs can put safety—not just aesthetics—in jeopardy.
That is not to say that a motivated homeowner with the right attitude, good training, and ample free time can’t do good work. But there is more involved than just craftsmanship. Building science is more complicated than is depicted in home makeover programs and requires knowledge and skills that range from architecture to engineering, from electrical to plumbing, and from heat to moisture management.
DIY remodeling: a cautionary tale
We are called in to fix DIY project fails frequently. Sally, a client we worked with not long ago, spent much of her time between her college studies refurbishing an old house she had inherited. Sally was a wonderful woman. She was very laid back and patient—just the sort of personality that is often associated with great attention to detail that is the hallmark of good craftsmanship. In fact, Sally had done some beautifully detailed woodwork and we were impressed with her trim work. Sally hired us a few years after college because she noticed a few soft spots in her floor. Sadly, while Sally’s craftsmanship with trim was top quality, she did not understand building science and had made a few errors in moisture-proofing the structures. The rot was not limited to the floor joists, either. This DIY project stands out because Sally was a gifted woodworker.
Very often it is the DIY work of a previous homeowner – or so we are told – that is the cause of our homeowner’s headaches. I’m not sure what it is that makes men feel like they must have competence with construction tools and knowledge of building science without ever having taken a course. Even brilliant men with PhDs express self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy because they cannot build a deck. Few carpenters feel that way if they cannot lecture on differential equations. My advice: Be real with yourself—and your family—about your abilities. Avoid a future headache and the cost of re-doing a DIY project gone bad.
Low-balling your remodeling project: buyer beware
Another alternative to reduce the cost of remodeling is to hire the low bid “contractor.” This is fraught with risk. In Texas, you have to have a license to sell a house or cut hair but not to build or remodel a house. The cost of entry into the construction field is low. Let the buyer beware.
Low-balling your remodeling: another cautionary tale
Mark was like many of our potential clients: He had his bathroom remodeled the year before he called us and now there was mold on the walls, the cabinet drawers were hard to open and shut, and the paint was peeling. He had done what he thought he was supposed to. He had solicited bids from three different remodeling contractors and accepted the low bid. The contractor stopped taking his calls after the second time he called to have the problems fixed. Mark did not hire us but hired someone else to try to fix the problems. After tearing out the tile and opening the walls, his second “contractor” moved to California. Last we heard, Mark had put his house on the market.
Cost to remodel vs. cost to build new
Remodeling often seems expensive when it is compared to the cost per square foot of new home construction. That is not an apples-to-apples or even an apples-to-oranges comparison.
New homes are often built en masse in an assembly line process that results in significant economies of scale. By contrast, remodeling is done to meet a homeowner’s exacting needs and wants within an existing structure. It is much more time consuming but, in the end, the homeowner gets a very personalized and professional product.
So, yes, professional remodeling can be expensive. But it’s much more expensive to move, to try to do it yourself, or to employ a lowball “contractor” to remodel your home—the keeper of so many precious memories.
Spring is here in College Station and Bryan and summer is just around the corner. Everyone already wants to spend more time enjoying the outdoors! It’s a perfect time to start planning and building your outdoor kitchen.
A great outdoor kitchen is at least a couple of notches above a nice patio furniture set and your portable barbecue grill. We all love that picnic feel, but if you are going to spend your evenings entertaining or just relaxing and enjoying the cooler evening temperatures outside, you may want more amenities. Plus, an outdoor kitchen is a great way to keep your home cooler by avoiding the use of your oven and other appliances inside.
You can start your unique outdoor kitchen by placing a grill into stonework and creating custom-built counter-tops on either side. This gives you easy-to-navigate areas for food preparation, cooking, and serving.
Next, you can add lights so that you won’t be limited to enjoying your outdoor kitchen during daylight hours. You may either choose to run electricity or install battery- or solar-powered lights. Since you want to enjoy the natural light as much as possible, you really just need enough light to be able to prepare, cook and serve safely. If you choose to run electricity to your outdoor kitchen, you can also add a small refrigerator to keep your favorite beverages and condiments handy.
Here are a few other ideas:
For shade during the summer, you can build your kitchen under an existing covered porch, add a pergola, or buy a large patio umbrella.
Adding a water line to your outdoor kitchen will allow you to install a small sink for food preparation and clean up.
Add a fireplace or portable fire pit if you want to keep using your great outdoor space when the weather turns cold or just to add a little ambiance for the adults and a way to make s’mores with the kids!
A gas line will allow you the option of barbeque fuels and adding a small cook top or oven can stretch your outdoor culinary choices even further.
The possibilities for your outdoor kitchen are numerous and really depend on the frequency that you intend to use your kitchen and your budget. You can always start small, building around your existing home’s features and your existing barbecue, and add on next year.
The key is to make it cool, keep it classy, and enjoy our wonderful spring and summer climate here in Bryan and College Station.
We also love Screened in Porches