Three Important Documents for Your Home Remodeling Project

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were without question two of the most important documents in the building of our country. There are also some very important documents you should pay attention to when you’re remodeling your home.

1. Your Contract: The contract you sign with your remodeler spells out all the terms and conditions involved in doing the remodeling work. It covers price, materials, schedule, and a host of other things. This document exists to protect both you and us, so don’t be in a rush to sign it. Verbal communication about your expectations and commitments can be misunderstood. Your written contract spells everything out in detail and makes sure everyone involved are on the same page.

2. Your Plan/Design: The plan/design for your project is your chance to visualize how the new remodeling will look. This is helpful because sometimes seeing the plan/design laid out gives you a clearer idea of what’s really happening. And it’s better to make changes at the planning stage rather than during the construction phase.

3. Your Change Order Form: Let’s be honest, sometimes changes do happen in the middle of a project. Some may be small changes – some may be more significant. A change order form spells out exactly what the change is, what it will cost, and how it may affect the schedule. Once again, it makes sure everything is clear and all parties are on the same page.

These documents are essential to making sure your home remodeling delivers the results you want, so read them carefully before signing your “John Hancock!”

Should You Declare YOUR Independence?

Maybe your 4th of July celebrations are making you feel a bit independent yourself. Should you tackle your home remodeling project on your own or hire a pro? According to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 58% of people planning a home remodeling project plan to use professional help.

The NAHB has mercifully not released figures on how many people start a project on their own and then call in a professional to clean up the mess!
We are here to help! Reply back to this email or give us a call (415-410-6237) with any remodeling project questions you have!

10 Home Areas That Likely Need a Pro

If you are working on a DIY remodel, deciding whether to call in a specialty contractor to perform a specific task comes down to several areas you’ll need to consider:

  • • Skill. Do you have the necessary skills to build a sound structure, and do it safely?
  • • Scale. Is the size of the project one that you can handle in a reasonable amount of time?
  • • Cost. When factoring in the value of your own time, can the project be completed for less cost by a professional? Do you have the tools you need?
  • • Aesthetics. Can you finish the project attractively enough that you’re not sacrificing resale value? Would a rough grout joint or wallpaper seam bother you?

 

Learn more about the specific problem areas that often require professional help below.

1. Structural elements

Beams, footers, headers etc. — these are the unglamorous and often hidden parts of a home that are critical to its long-term stability and safety. Don’t take chances with structural components. Everything should be drawn or approved by an engineer, whose specifications should be followed to the letter.

2. Electrical

Here’s another one where safety and skill intersect. Poor wiring can be a safety hazard — just because you were able to wire something up and it worked, doesn’t mean you haven’t created a safety hazard. If you aren’t confident you have the knowledge to perform the needed work and assess the implications of your work on the rest of the circuit and panel, call in a professional.

3. Roofing

Here’s a good example of a project where even if you feel you have the skills to perform the task safely and properly, you may not be able to complete the project in a short enough period of time to avoid exposing your home to damage from rain. If you can’t get your roofing project done in a couple days, don’t start it. Even professionals can underestimate the time a project will take to complete, so you may want to double your estimate.

4. Plumbing

A clogged drain line and a faucet that needs to be replaced are tasks that you know you can complete. Before you do either yourself, though, think about the true cost.

What is your time worth? Do you have the tools? If you end up renting a drain snake from the home center that doesn’t work when you get it home, and you need to make another trip before you even clear the drain, you may lose much of a precious Saturday.

5. Insulation

Certain types of insulation, such as spray foam, should be left to the professionals. Many people assume that installing batt insulation like fiberglass is an easy project, but there is a lot of room for error here. If you leave gaps you can create spots that draw heat and moisture into your walls — a bad combination. Even if you do the job well, it’s messy work. Plus, insulation contractors get a much better deal on the material costs than you would, offsetting the labor savings of a DIY project.

6. Carpentry

Even if you have the skills to complete the project, professional carpenters will have the tools and experience to get the job done quickly. If you are trying to complete the project on a part-time basis, remember to factor in setup and cleanup time. Working a full day is often much more efficient than an hour here and there.

7. Masonry

This is one that bridges all four factors — if there is a structural component to the masonry project (and there usually is), safety is a concern. The scale of projects involving stone, brick and concrete can be deceiving. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Wrestling a heavy stone into place and making it look good takes years to master. When you factor in all of this, the cost of paying for good work can be a bargain.

8. Wallpaper

There isn’t much room for error here. You have to get it right the first time. You’re drawing attention to the wall by dressing it up, so it had better look good. You wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg for a beautiful fabric and then make a sloppy-looking dress, so don’t buy a gorgeous paper and put it up with misaligned seams and bad corners.

9. Tile

The pace of tile installation is slower than that of wallpaper, and there is a lot of contemplation that goes into a good tile installation. If you aren’t experienced, you may discover something you should have thought about when it’s too late. You also want to prep correctly. Tiles are all different and require different approaches to installation. Your DIY tile floor may look good when it’s done, but can you be sure it will hold up and not crack in a year or two? If you are confident about that, go for it. If not, call a professional.

10. Painting

I know, it sounds ridiculous — if you can’t paint, what DIY project can you do? Keep in mind, I’m not here to stop you from painting your own house. Just consider that a good, lasting paint job takes a lot of prep work. Sometimes this can involve wall repair, scraping paint (which can be a health risk if it’s lead paint), priming and caulking over old finishes with various products. Depending on what you’re working with, you may need someone with more experience to help.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/5023189/list/Contractor-Tips–10-Home-Areas-That-Likely-Need-a-Pro

Top 10 Home Remodeling Don’ts

Whether you work with a general contractor or act as one on your own project, getting a glimpse into the mind of a contractor can give you a new perspective into remodeling projects around your home.

I’ve learned a lot working as a contractor, and some of those lessons can help homeowners too. What you do is just as important as what you don’t do, and sometimes a homeowner’s instinct can negatively affect a home renovation project.

How do you know if you’re helping or hurting your project? Read on to find out and to see what can help simplify your home remodel.

1. Don’t delay decisions.

If you want your remodel to go well, the best thing to do is make every single decision before work starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren’t usually what cause delays.

Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things like paint, trim and faucet selection. These may seem small, but when your faucet is two weeks late, plumbers have to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door hits the faucet when it’s installed, you’ll see how something small can balloon into a week’s delay on a five-week project.

2. Don’t change your mind (too much).

Even though it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind about something on your project, know this: Every time you change your mind, it’ll result in a change order. Although the change may seem minor, there are always added costs — even if it’s only the time spent discussing the change.

Scheduling can be affected too. Everyone working on the job needs to be informed of the change so no one’s working on the old plan. Everyone makes changes, and that’s OK — just be aware of the potential to disrupt and delay the job.

3. Don’t buy your own materials.

It seems like an obvious way to save money — a builder is going to mark up the cost of materials and pass that added cost on to you. That’s true, but the builder may get a better price than you to begin with, meaning that even after markup, you’ll pay the same price.

4. Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

Though a builder will rarely come right out and say this, some houses should be knocked down rather than have money put into them to fix them up. Though this is a rare situation, it’s common for people to put money into fancy cabinets for a house with a sagging foundation, or into a high-efficiency furnace in a house with no insulation. Listen to the professionals who come to look at your job. Be open to their suggestions.

5. Don’t work without a contingency fund.

If you find out that the work you wanted to do costs more than you expected or budgeted, you’re in good company. It’s almost unheard of that a person sets a realistic budget for a project. But don’t eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. If you follow rule number one and make every decision ahead of time, you can probably get away with a 5 percent contingency if you have a good general contractor.

6. Don’t let kids and pets get in the way.

Though the people working in your home will often try to accommodate your pets and kids, they shouldn’t have to — it’s just not safe to have children or animals around construction.

7. Don’t live in the home.

Most people ignore this rule, and for good reason. Remodeling is expensive, and moving out just adds to the cost. If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away and set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

8. Don’t be a distraction.

It may sound harsh, but every minute someone working on your house spends talking to you, they are not working on your house. Is the conversation important and one that will have an impact on the job? That’s one thing, but the electrician on the job isn’t getting paid any more to spend 30 minutes talking about your vacation plans.

9. Don’t ignore what the house wants.

Though some people can pull off wearing a pair of high-top sneakers with a tuxedo, it can also go horribly wrong. Houses are the same way. Can an ultramodern kitchen in a Victorian brownstone work? Absolutely, but make sure you can pull it off. This is not to say a house can’t evolve with the times. There are no hard and fast rules — just get to know your house, live in it and do your research before you pull out the sledgehammer.

10. Don’t work without a design.

Some projects require an architect, some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.

Whatever you do, don’t start a remodel without a detailed floor plan. A lot of elements interact in a space — put them all on paper and you’ll catch problems before they are built. You may be able to build a functional space without a plan, but if you want a functional and beautiful space, hire a designer.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3839541/list/Contractor-Tips–Top-10-Home-Remodeling-Don-ts

10 Hats Your General Contractor Wears

 

Unlike a specialized contractor, a general contractor (GC) oversees all onsite aspects of a construction project. Whether the GC, any employees or any subcontractors do the work, this is the person you call about everything. A good GC needs to know enough about everyone’s job on a construction site to estimate and supervise the work going on, but also needs to know about more than just plumbing and painting. To get through a significant remodeling project, the GC fills any number of the following roles.

1. Therapist

Remodeling or building is incredibly stressful. Delays, dust, design flaws — when clients need to vent, it’s often the contractor who listens. We might not be particularly interested in hearing about your brother-in-law’s problems, but if we think we can get you to pick a toilet paper holder if we stick with it, we’ll talk you through almost anything.

2. Mediator

Neighbors, inspectors, architects, homeowners, subcontractors — many parties are involved and impacted by a renovation, and a good contractor can keep anyone from coming to blows. Some disputes are bound to occur, and the contractor is often the one trying to reach a resolution, because next to the homeowner the GC has the most at stake.

3. Marriage Counselor

If your builder asks for your spouse to be there when you meet for the first time, don’t be insulted. He or she is not saying you’re wrong in thinking you’ll be making all the decisions but rather just wants to watch your spouse react to that concept. All too often, a once-silent partner can want to change the project once things get going. Of course, having all the interested parties in the room for every decision isn’t easy, either. Even the couples who work great together can be pushed to the brink trying to pick a baseboard style after working through the thousands of other decisions there are to make during a remodel. A good contractor doesn’t take sides, just guides the ship safely into the harbor.

4. Financial Adviser

Your contractor has probably dealt with many banks, insurance agents and loan consultants over the years. Take advantage of this expertise to find out how the money side of building generally goes. Most people finance at least part of any big project, so getting advice can help.

5. Secretary

Though every contractor goes to bed dreaming of a project where there are no changes over the course of the job, that’s not how remodeling works. There will be many conversations, emails, texts, phone calls and notes written on fresh drywall. A good contractor keeps a record of all of it, along with a record of payments, plans and spec sheets from appliances and fixtures.

6. Realist

Regardless of what has caused a project to drift into a realm populated more by dreams than reality, the contractor has to bring things back down to earth. Plans with perfect details aren’t cheap, and if the money isn’t there to build them, the builder is the one who’s got to break it to you.

7. Real Estate Adviser

Contractors end up seeing almost as many houses as Realtors, so they know what houses in your neighborhood are like. They can tell you if you are overimproving or underimproving. They can tell you the looks and features from renovations of the past that people are asking to be torn out and redone. Most important, they can tell you what things cost. This can help you decide whether to renovate or move. Of course, resale value isn’t everything; if you think you’re in your forever home — or will be there for at least seven to 10 years — do what makes you happy and comfortable.

8. Your House’s Best Friend

Even though you may have hired us to figure out why the attic fan stopped working, we’re going to listen to what your house has to say while we’re crawling though the attic. Is the insulation dirty in spots (a sign of air infiltration)? Is there mold on the sheathing? Knob and tube wiring? A contractor knows a house, and if it has problems, it’ll tell a contractor about them.

9. Translator

Architects, carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, cabinetmakers — they all use terms most homeowners are not familiar with. Your contractor has seen that look on your face before and knows when to explain what was just said in a walk-through.

10. Builder

Sometimes when it’s quiet, we get to take off all of these other hats, hang them up and put on our tool belt. It may seem like all we ever do is respond to text messages and chat with subcontractors, but once in a while we actually get to pick up a tool other than a cell phone.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/5288905/list/Contractor-Tips–10-Hats-Your-General-Contractor-Wears

 

Many homeowners decide remodeling is wiser than moving

Reporting from Washington—

Do you fit any of these descriptions?

• You came through the housing bust and recession far more debt-averse than you were before.

• You’ve been reluctant to consider selling your house because you don’t believe you’ll get what it’s really worth.

• Buying a new home is out of the question, even with today’s low interest rates, because it’s so difficult to qualify for a mortgage.

• You’ve gradually come to the conclusion that it’s smarter to improve the house you already own — spend some money on making it more comfortable, more up-to-date — and just stay put for a while.

Whether you share them or not, sentiments like these are having profound effects on real estate markets across the country, fueling post-recession interest in remodeling. According to federal estimates, by late last year the annualized dollar value of expenditures on renovations outstripped expenditures on newly constructed single-family homes — a huge change from pre-recession years, when the ratio was sometimes 3 to 1 in favor of new construction.

Underscoring this trend: In late January, the National Assn. of Home Builders’ remodeling market index hit its highest level in five years. David Crowe, chief economist of the association, said that for many consumers, fixing up their house fits their sentiments — and their finances — far better than selling or buying.

Interviews with builders and remodelers in different parts of the country point to important changes in homeowner strategies. In Seattle, Joe McKinstry, president of Joseph McKinstry Construction Co., said inquiries about possible remodeling projects have nearly tripled in the last 12 months.

“I feel like people are starting to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to move any time soon because if we do, we’re going to get 30% less than the house is worth. Why don’t we do something in the kitchen or bathroom for our own enjoyment, since we’re not going anywhere real soon?’”

Generally the projects that people want to do are no longer on the grand McMansion showoff scale, but smaller, more modest, less costly efforts than five to seven years ago, with more emphasis on finishing details and quality than square footage.

Owners “are being much more judicious about how they spend their money,” McKinstry said. “They’ve gotten smarter and more analytical” about what they want to invest in their real estate.

Bob Peterson, chief executive of ABD Design/Build in Fort Collins, Colo., also is seeing a significant jump in interest in renovating, especially from owners who have been in their houses for years, have built up some savings and managed to get through the recession without falling behind on their mortgages.

The average project that Peterson’s firm is doing costs about $45,000, and 90% of his clients are finding ways to pay cash.

“If they’re financing anything, they’re not telling us about it,” said Peterson, who is also chairman of the Remodelers Council of the National Assn. of Home Builders.

Bruce Case, president of Case Design/Remodeling of Bethesda, Md., agrees that because of high underwriting hurdles in the mortgage market, the majority of his remodeling clients are tapping savings, retirement accounts, securities and the like. But 20% of his firm’s dollar volume still involves some form of financing, particularly for higher-cost projects.

Where do these folks go for their money? Case says local and regional banks and credit unions are increasingly important sources. They tend to know the local real estate environment better and “are willing to look at [applications] more holistically.”

Some clients are using the Federal Housing Administration‘s renovation financing program known as FHA 203(k). Others who have solid equity stakes, high credit scores and other assets they can bring to the table are persuading large national banks to give them a mortgage. And a few are pulling on lines of credit that weren’t yanked or slashed during the recession.

What Case and other remodelers are not seeing is clients who fret about paybacks from the improvements they make. Most owners want assurance that their renovations will enhance the property’s market value, but boom-time expectations of immediate 100%-plus returns on investments are gone.

Most people are happy with modest returns, remodelers say, which is right in line with what’s happening overall in the real estate market: a slow, modest recovery, spurred by modest and realistic expectations about where we’re headed and how fast we’ll get there.

 

original link: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20120205,0,6800874.story

Green Shoots in the Remodeling Industry

Contractor Characteristics That Affect Green Product Use

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that energy efficiency and environmental sustainability have benefited from increased media attention in recent years. The report, Green Shoots in the Remodeling Industry: Contractor Characteristics That Affect Green Product Use, is available for free download along with other Reports, Working Papers, Research Notes, and research publications at www.jchs.harvard.edu.

The Report starts by saying that “Energy efficiency and environmental sustainability have benefited from increased media attention in recent years. Despite a proven record of improving the energy efficiency of homes, however, green remodeling has not received the attention or study that sustainable new home construction has received. This paper uses a survey of remodeling contractors to examine the role of government regulations in promoting the use of green products, as well as whether certain contractor characteristics are associated with higher levels of green product use. Government regulations tend to favor environmentally sustainable products over other green categories. These policies appear to have a positive effect on the use of green remodeling products in general, but sometimes even strong government support is not sufficient to encourage substantial use. In general, consumers seem less likely to obtain additional products, that are not strictly substitutes for traditional products, to improve the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of their home…”


Andrew Mark Construction continually watches the housing markets trends to better serve our clients needs. AMC is a full service Construction firm providing excellence within San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Our services and expertise include Pre-Construction, Construction, Remodeling and Ongoing Maintenance. We have an extensive track record of successfully completed projects throughout San Francisco, Palo Alto, Marin, Mill Valley and Tiburon.

A New Decade of Growth

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies characterizes the U.S. home improvement industry as “poised for growth.” The report, A New Decade of Growth for Remodeling, is available for free download along with other Reports, Working Papers, Research Notes, and research publications at www.jchs.harvard.edu.

The Report starts by saying that “Slowly but surely, the US home improvement industry is emerging from its worst downturn since the government began tracking spending in the early 1960s. Homeowners who deferred maintenance and improvements during the recession may soon start to spend more freely. Lower household mobility in the wake of the housing market crash could also mean that homeowners will focus on upgrades with longer paybacks, particularly energy-efficient retrofits. The industry is also beginning to benefit from spending on the rehabilitation of foreclosed properties. Over the coming years, real spending on homeowner improvements is expected to grow at a 3.5 percent average annual pace, ensuring that the industry captures a large share of the residential investment market…”


Andrew Mark Construction continually watches the housing markets trends to better serve our clients needs. AMC is a full service Construction firm providing excellence within San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Our services and expertise include Pre-Construction, Construction, Remodeling and Ongoing Maintenance. We have an extensive track record of successfully completed projects throughout San Francisco, Palo Alto, Marin, Mill Valley and Tiburon.

 

Three Important Documents for Your Home Remodeling Project

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were without question two of the most important documents in the building of our country. There are also some very important documents you should pay attention to when you’re remodeling your home.

1. Your Contract: The contract you sign with your remodeler spells out all the terms and conditions involved in doing the remodeling work. It covers price, materials, schedule, and a host of other things. This document exists to protect both you and us, so don’t be in a rush to sign it. Verbal communication about your expectations and commitments can be misunderstood. Your written contract spells everything out in detail and makes sure everyone involved are on the same page.

2. Your Plan/Design: The plan/design for your project is your chance to visualize how the new remodeling will look. This is helpful because sometimes seeing the plan/design laid out gives you a clearer idea of what’s really happening. And it’s better to make changes at the planning stage rather than during the construction phase.

3. Your Change Order Form: Let’s be honest, sometimes changes do happen in the middle of a project. Some may be small changes – some may be more significant. A change order form spells out exactly what the change is, what it will cost, and how it may affect the schedule. Once again, it makes sure everything is clear and all parties are on the same page.

These documents are essential to making sure your home remodeling delivers the results you want, so read them carefully before signing your “John Hancock!”

Should You Declare YOUR Independence?

Maybe your 4th of July celebrations are making you feel a bit independent yourself. Should you tackle your home remodeling project on your own or hire a pro? According to a 2015 survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 58% of people planning a home remodeling project plan to use professional help.

The NAHB has mercifully not released figures on how many people start a project on their own and then call in a professional to clean up the mess!
We are here to help! Reply back to this email or give us a call (415-410-6237) with any remodeling project questions you have!

10 Home Areas That Likely Need a Pro

If you are working on a DIY remodel, deciding whether to call in a specialty contractor to perform a specific task comes down to several areas you’ll need to consider:

  • • Skill. Do you have the necessary skills to build a sound structure, and do it safely?
  • • Scale. Is the size of the project one that you can handle in a reasonable amount of time?
  • • Cost. When factoring in the value of your own time, can the project be completed for less cost by a professional? Do you have the tools you need?
  • • Aesthetics. Can you finish the project attractively enough that you’re not sacrificing resale value? Would a rough grout joint or wallpaper seam bother you?

 

Learn more about the specific problem areas that often require professional help below.

1. Structural elements

Beams, footers, headers etc. — these are the unglamorous and often hidden parts of a home that are critical to its long-term stability and safety. Don’t take chances with structural components. Everything should be drawn or approved by an engineer, whose specifications should be followed to the letter.

2. Electrical

Here’s another one where safety and skill intersect. Poor wiring can be a safety hazard — just because you were able to wire something up and it worked, doesn’t mean you haven’t created a safety hazard. If you aren’t confident you have the knowledge to perform the needed work and assess the implications of your work on the rest of the circuit and panel, call in a professional.

3. Roofing

Here’s a good example of a project where even if you feel you have the skills to perform the task safely and properly, you may not be able to complete the project in a short enough period of time to avoid exposing your home to damage from rain. If you can’t get your roofing project done in a couple days, don’t start it. Even professionals can underestimate the time a project will take to complete, so you may want to double your estimate.

4. Plumbing

A clogged drain line and a faucet that needs to be replaced are tasks that you know you can complete. Before you do either yourself, though, think about the true cost.

What is your time worth? Do you have the tools? If you end up renting a drain snake from the home center that doesn’t work when you get it home, and you need to make another trip before you even clear the drain, you may lose much of a precious Saturday.

5. Insulation

Certain types of insulation, such as spray foam, should be left to the professionals. Many people assume that installing batt insulation like fiberglass is an easy project, but there is a lot of room for error here. If you leave gaps you can create spots that draw heat and moisture into your walls — a bad combination. Even if you do the job well, it’s messy work. Plus, insulation contractors get a much better deal on the material costs than you would, offsetting the labor savings of a DIY project.

6. Carpentry

Even if you have the skills to complete the project, professional carpenters will have the tools and experience to get the job done quickly. If you are trying to complete the project on a part-time basis, remember to factor in setup and cleanup time. Working a full day is often much more efficient than an hour here and there.

7. Masonry

This is one that bridges all four factors — if there is a structural component to the masonry project (and there usually is), safety is a concern. The scale of projects involving stone, brick and concrete can be deceiving. Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Wrestling a heavy stone into place and making it look good takes years to master. When you factor in all of this, the cost of paying for good work can be a bargain.

8. Wallpaper

There isn’t much room for error here. You have to get it right the first time. You’re drawing attention to the wall by dressing it up, so it had better look good. You wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg for a beautiful fabric and then make a sloppy-looking dress, so don’t buy a gorgeous paper and put it up with misaligned seams and bad corners.

9. Tile

The pace of tile installation is slower than that of wallpaper, and there is a lot of contemplation that goes into a good tile installation. If you aren’t experienced, you may discover something you should have thought about when it’s too late. You also want to prep correctly. Tiles are all different and require different approaches to installation. Your DIY tile floor may look good when it’s done, but can you be sure it will hold up and not crack in a year or two? If you are confident about that, go for it. If not, call a professional.

10. Painting

I know, it sounds ridiculous — if you can’t paint, what DIY project can you do? Keep in mind, I’m not here to stop you from painting your own house. Just consider that a good, lasting paint job takes a lot of prep work. Sometimes this can involve wall repair, scraping paint (which can be a health risk if it’s lead paint), priming and caulking over old finishes with various products. Depending on what you’re working with, you may need someone with more experience to help.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/5023189/list/Contractor-Tips–10-Home-Areas-That-Likely-Need-a-Pro

Top 10 Home Remodeling Don’ts

Whether you work with a general contractor or act as one on your own project, getting a glimpse into the mind of a contractor can give you a new perspective into remodeling projects around your home.

I’ve learned a lot working as a contractor, and some of those lessons can help homeowners too. What you do is just as important as what you don’t do, and sometimes a homeowner’s instinct can negatively affect a home renovation project.

How do you know if you’re helping or hurting your project? Read on to find out and to see what can help simplify your home remodel.

1. Don’t delay decisions.

If you want your remodel to go well, the best thing to do is make every single decision before work starts. A good builder can talk you through the list of situations that might come up on your job, but decisions about situations aren’t usually what cause delays.

Instead, most of the issues are related to decisions about things like paint, trim and faucet selection. These may seem small, but when your faucet is two weeks late, plumbers have to be rescheduled and the medicine cabinet door hits the faucet when it’s installed, you’ll see how something small can balloon into a week’s delay on a five-week project.

2. Don’t change your mind (too much).

Even though it’s inevitable that you’ll change your mind about something on your project, know this: Every time you change your mind, it’ll result in a change order. Although the change may seem minor, there are always added costs — even if it’s only the time spent discussing the change.

Scheduling can be affected too. Everyone working on the job needs to be informed of the change so no one’s working on the old plan. Everyone makes changes, and that’s OK — just be aware of the potential to disrupt and delay the job.

3. Don’t buy your own materials.

It seems like an obvious way to save money — a builder is going to mark up the cost of materials and pass that added cost on to you. That’s true, but the builder may get a better price than you to begin with, meaning that even after markup, you’ll pay the same price.

4. Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

Though a builder will rarely come right out and say this, some houses should be knocked down rather than have money put into them to fix them up. Though this is a rare situation, it’s common for people to put money into fancy cabinets for a house with a sagging foundation, or into a high-efficiency furnace in a house with no insulation. Listen to the professionals who come to look at your job. Be open to their suggestions.

5. Don’t work without a contingency fund.

If you find out that the work you wanted to do costs more than you expected or budgeted, you’re in good company. It’s almost unheard of that a person sets a realistic budget for a project. But don’t eat into your contingency to stretch the budget. If you follow rule number one and make every decision ahead of time, you can probably get away with a 5 percent contingency if you have a good general contractor.

6. Don’t let kids and pets get in the way.

Though the people working in your home will often try to accommodate your pets and kids, they shouldn’t have to — it’s just not safe to have children or animals around construction.

7. Don’t live in the home.

Most people ignore this rule, and for good reason. Remodeling is expensive, and moving out just adds to the cost. If you can’t move out for the whole job, try to schedule some time away and set up a clean, comfortable place to retreat to when you can’t handle coming home to a messy and stressful construction site.

8. Don’t be a distraction.

It may sound harsh, but every minute someone working on your house spends talking to you, they are not working on your house. Is the conversation important and one that will have an impact on the job? That’s one thing, but the electrician on the job isn’t getting paid any more to spend 30 minutes talking about your vacation plans.

9. Don’t ignore what the house wants.

Though some people can pull off wearing a pair of high-top sneakers with a tuxedo, it can also go horribly wrong. Houses are the same way. Can an ultramodern kitchen in a Victorian brownstone work? Absolutely, but make sure you can pull it off. This is not to say a house can’t evolve with the times. There are no hard and fast rules — just get to know your house, live in it and do your research before you pull out the sledgehammer.

10. Don’t work without a design.

Some projects require an architect, some an interior designer, and sometimes a talented builder will get your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.

Whatever you do, don’t start a remodel without a detailed floor plan. A lot of elements interact in a space — put them all on paper and you’ll catch problems before they are built. You may be able to build a functional space without a plan, but if you want a functional and beautiful space, hire a designer.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3839541/list/Contractor-Tips–Top-10-Home-Remodeling-Don-ts

10 Hats Your General Contractor Wears

 

Unlike a specialized contractor, a general contractor (GC) oversees all onsite aspects of a construction project. Whether the GC, any employees or any subcontractors do the work, this is the person you call about everything. A good GC needs to know enough about everyone’s job on a construction site to estimate and supervise the work going on, but also needs to know about more than just plumbing and painting. To get through a significant remodeling project, the GC fills any number of the following roles.

1. Therapist

Remodeling or building is incredibly stressful. Delays, dust, design flaws — when clients need to vent, it’s often the contractor who listens. We might not be particularly interested in hearing about your brother-in-law’s problems, but if we think we can get you to pick a toilet paper holder if we stick with it, we’ll talk you through almost anything.

2. Mediator

Neighbors, inspectors, architects, homeowners, subcontractors — many parties are involved and impacted by a renovation, and a good contractor can keep anyone from coming to blows. Some disputes are bound to occur, and the contractor is often the one trying to reach a resolution, because next to the homeowner the GC has the most at stake.

3. Marriage Counselor

If your builder asks for your spouse to be there when you meet for the first time, don’t be insulted. He or she is not saying you’re wrong in thinking you’ll be making all the decisions but rather just wants to watch your spouse react to that concept. All too often, a once-silent partner can want to change the project once things get going. Of course, having all the interested parties in the room for every decision isn’t easy, either. Even the couples who work great together can be pushed to the brink trying to pick a baseboard style after working through the thousands of other decisions there are to make during a remodel. A good contractor doesn’t take sides, just guides the ship safely into the harbor.

4. Financial Adviser

Your contractor has probably dealt with many banks, insurance agents and loan consultants over the years. Take advantage of this expertise to find out how the money side of building generally goes. Most people finance at least part of any big project, so getting advice can help.

5. Secretary

Though every contractor goes to bed dreaming of a project where there are no changes over the course of the job, that’s not how remodeling works. There will be many conversations, emails, texts, phone calls and notes written on fresh drywall. A good contractor keeps a record of all of it, along with a record of payments, plans and spec sheets from appliances and fixtures.

6. Realist

Regardless of what has caused a project to drift into a realm populated more by dreams than reality, the contractor has to bring things back down to earth. Plans with perfect details aren’t cheap, and if the money isn’t there to build them, the builder is the one who’s got to break it to you.

7. Real Estate Adviser

Contractors end up seeing almost as many houses as Realtors, so they know what houses in your neighborhood are like. They can tell you if you are overimproving or underimproving. They can tell you the looks and features from renovations of the past that people are asking to be torn out and redone. Most important, they can tell you what things cost. This can help you decide whether to renovate or move. Of course, resale value isn’t everything; if you think you’re in your forever home — or will be there for at least seven to 10 years — do what makes you happy and comfortable.

8. Your House’s Best Friend

Even though you may have hired us to figure out why the attic fan stopped working, we’re going to listen to what your house has to say while we’re crawling though the attic. Is the insulation dirty in spots (a sign of air infiltration)? Is there mold on the sheathing? Knob and tube wiring? A contractor knows a house, and if it has problems, it’ll tell a contractor about them.

9. Translator

Architects, carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, cabinetmakers — they all use terms most homeowners are not familiar with. Your contractor has seen that look on your face before and knows when to explain what was just said in a walk-through.

10. Builder

Sometimes when it’s quiet, we get to take off all of these other hats, hang them up and put on our tool belt. It may seem like all we ever do is respond to text messages and chat with subcontractors, but once in a while we actually get to pick up a tool other than a cell phone.

 

By Kenny Grono / Houzz Contributor

Original article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/5288905/list/Contractor-Tips–10-Hats-Your-General-Contractor-Wears

 

Many homeowners decide remodeling is wiser than moving

Reporting from Washington—

Do you fit any of these descriptions?

• You came through the housing bust and recession far more debt-averse than you were before.

• You’ve been reluctant to consider selling your house because you don’t believe you’ll get what it’s really worth.

• Buying a new home is out of the question, even with today’s low interest rates, because it’s so difficult to qualify for a mortgage.

• You’ve gradually come to the conclusion that it’s smarter to improve the house you already own — spend some money on making it more comfortable, more up-to-date — and just stay put for a while.

Whether you share them or not, sentiments like these are having profound effects on real estate markets across the country, fueling post-recession interest in remodeling. According to federal estimates, by late last year the annualized dollar value of expenditures on renovations outstripped expenditures on newly constructed single-family homes — a huge change from pre-recession years, when the ratio was sometimes 3 to 1 in favor of new construction.

Underscoring this trend: In late January, the National Assn. of Home Builders’ remodeling market index hit its highest level in five years. David Crowe, chief economist of the association, said that for many consumers, fixing up their house fits their sentiments — and their finances — far better than selling or buying.

Interviews with builders and remodelers in different parts of the country point to important changes in homeowner strategies. In Seattle, Joe McKinstry, president of Joseph McKinstry Construction Co., said inquiries about possible remodeling projects have nearly tripled in the last 12 months.

“I feel like people are starting to say, ‘Well, we’re not going to move any time soon because if we do, we’re going to get 30% less than the house is worth. Why don’t we do something in the kitchen or bathroom for our own enjoyment, since we’re not going anywhere real soon?’”

Generally the projects that people want to do are no longer on the grand McMansion showoff scale, but smaller, more modest, less costly efforts than five to seven years ago, with more emphasis on finishing details and quality than square footage.

Owners “are being much more judicious about how they spend their money,” McKinstry said. “They’ve gotten smarter and more analytical” about what they want to invest in their real estate.

Bob Peterson, chief executive of ABD Design/Build in Fort Collins, Colo., also is seeing a significant jump in interest in renovating, especially from owners who have been in their houses for years, have built up some savings and managed to get through the recession without falling behind on their mortgages.

The average project that Peterson’s firm is doing costs about $45,000, and 90% of his clients are finding ways to pay cash.

“If they’re financing anything, they’re not telling us about it,” said Peterson, who is also chairman of the Remodelers Council of the National Assn. of Home Builders.

Bruce Case, president of Case Design/Remodeling of Bethesda, Md., agrees that because of high underwriting hurdles in the mortgage market, the majority of his remodeling clients are tapping savings, retirement accounts, securities and the like. But 20% of his firm’s dollar volume still involves some form of financing, particularly for higher-cost projects.

Where do these folks go for their money? Case says local and regional banks and credit unions are increasingly important sources. They tend to know the local real estate environment better and “are willing to look at [applications] more holistically.”

Some clients are using the Federal Housing Administration‘s renovation financing program known as FHA 203(k). Others who have solid equity stakes, high credit scores and other assets they can bring to the table are persuading large national banks to give them a mortgage. And a few are pulling on lines of credit that weren’t yanked or slashed during the recession.

What Case and other remodelers are not seeing is clients who fret about paybacks from the improvements they make. Most owners want assurance that their renovations will enhance the property’s market value, but boom-time expectations of immediate 100%-plus returns on investments are gone.

Most people are happy with modest returns, remodelers say, which is right in line with what’s happening overall in the real estate market: a slow, modest recovery, spurred by modest and realistic expectations about where we’re headed and how fast we’ll get there.

 

original link: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20120205,0,6800874.story

Green Shoots in the Remodeling Industry

Contractor Characteristics That Affect Green Product Use

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies shows that energy efficiency and environmental sustainability have benefited from increased media attention in recent years. The report, Green Shoots in the Remodeling Industry: Contractor Characteristics That Affect Green Product Use, is available for free download along with other Reports, Working Papers, Research Notes, and research publications at www.jchs.harvard.edu.

The Report starts by saying that “Energy efficiency and environmental sustainability have benefited from increased media attention in recent years. Despite a proven record of improving the energy efficiency of homes, however, green remodeling has not received the attention or study that sustainable new home construction has received. This paper uses a survey of remodeling contractors to examine the role of government regulations in promoting the use of green products, as well as whether certain contractor characteristics are associated with higher levels of green product use. Government regulations tend to favor environmentally sustainable products over other green categories. These policies appear to have a positive effect on the use of green remodeling products in general, but sometimes even strong government support is not sufficient to encourage substantial use. In general, consumers seem less likely to obtain additional products, that are not strictly substitutes for traditional products, to improve the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of their home…”


Andrew Mark Construction continually watches the housing markets trends to better serve our clients needs. AMC is a full service Construction firm providing excellence within San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Our services and expertise include Pre-Construction, Construction, Remodeling and Ongoing Maintenance. We have an extensive track record of successfully completed projects throughout San Francisco, Palo Alto, Marin, Mill Valley and Tiburon.

A New Decade of Growth

Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies characterizes the U.S. home improvement industry as “poised for growth.” The report, A New Decade of Growth for Remodeling, is available for free download along with other Reports, Working Papers, Research Notes, and research publications at www.jchs.harvard.edu.

The Report starts by saying that “Slowly but surely, the US home improvement industry is emerging from its worst downturn since the government began tracking spending in the early 1960s. Homeowners who deferred maintenance and improvements during the recession may soon start to spend more freely. Lower household mobility in the wake of the housing market crash could also mean that homeowners will focus on upgrades with longer paybacks, particularly energy-efficient retrofits. The industry is also beginning to benefit from spending on the rehabilitation of foreclosed properties. Over the coming years, real spending on homeowner improvements is expected to grow at a 3.5 percent average annual pace, ensuring that the industry captures a large share of the residential investment market…”


Andrew Mark Construction continually watches the housing markets trends to better serve our clients needs. AMC is a full service Construction firm providing excellence within San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Our services and expertise include Pre-Construction, Construction, Remodeling and Ongoing Maintenance. We have an extensive track record of successfully completed projects throughout San Francisco, Palo Alto, Marin, Mill Valley and Tiburon.