The Art Of Starting A Major Renovation

You have an idea about what you would like to accomplish with your home improvement renovation. You went over it and now the timing is right for you to start and complete in 2 months. Does that sound good? Well hold on there. You need plans, yes plans.

You see the building inspector is also interested in you home improvement project from a building up to code standards point of view. Well, this now involves an architect. I hope you thought of that and figured it into your time allotted for completion. This is the most common mistake a homeowner makes. You see Architects are very busy even more so than a home improvement contractor. Therefore, a home improvement contractor is useless until you can furnish him with plans. In addition, any contractor that says he can build without them is going to make both of your lives very interesting.

Now you must choose an architect. This also is a tricky task. Because they are so busy, you can wait for drawings for months. In addition, you need to scrutinize architects just as you would a builder. Because unbelievably there are some lets just say some architects out there that will not have your deadline in mind.

What have you learned? You need to start the process in the winter so that you can begin the project in the spring. Taking on a major home improvement renovation is a time consuming and stressful decision. You can avoid most of this stress by starting early enough so as not to rush. Then you can save all of your stress for when you are ready to choose cabinets and tile.

10 Things You Have To Know About Wooden Garages

Wood structures are pretty much the hottest fad in the real estate world right now. Log cabins are growing in popularity, backyard sheds made of lumber are hot ticket items and gazebos are an obsession. Even wooden garages are a big hit and you may be considering getting your own to take advantage of the many benefits it can provide.

Here are ten things you should know about wooden garages before you buy.

You Have To Regularly Keep It Clean – This is a big deal and one too many people ignore. Dirt may just slide off of metal siding but it can cause damage to wood. When you get a wooden garage you are committing to keeping it clean and maintained. That will keep pests out of the corners, or from burrowing into the lumber.

Staining Is Necessary – Another element to maintaining your wooden garage is staining it. This has to be done every three to five year to maintain the integrity and health of the lumber. If you don’t do it the logs will crack, blanch and possible let in pests like termites. The wood may also become warped or even rot from the inside. Luckily it isn’t an expensive investment, is simple to do yourself and there are many environmentally friendly chemicals to choose from for the tasks.

It Is Prone To Pests – As mentioned above, wood is attractive to pests. Termites, spiders, ants, rats, mice, even racoon..they like the wood. For the most part this won’t be an issue as long as you stain your wood, keep the garage clean and look out for cracks. But if you find a hole you should fill it as quickly as possible to avoid an infestation.

Materials Can Be Expensive – Looking at the cost of building a wooden garage you may be shocked by the discrepancy in cost when compared to metal structures. The other side to that argument would be how sturdy lumber tends to be, as well as how attractive it is. People who buy wooden structures are essentially investing in the property. When you look at it that way you will see why the cost can be worth it.

Pre-fabs Are More Cost Effective – If the price tag on a custom built wooden garage is a deal breaker it may be time to consider an alternative. Pre-fabs are much more inexpensive, fitting into most budgets. They come in multiple sizes with various features, such as automatic doors, or even manual double doors for a more rustic look. These will average between $1500 and $5000 for most models, though more complex garages can be more.

You Can Fix Them Yourself – This is a big plus for a lot of folks who don’t want to have to turn to a contractor to fix future problems. Wood is easier to work with than metal and you can replace whole logs if you have to. Any lumber seller, from hardware stores to wood based recycling centers, can help you find the right size, color, shape and weight to make a repair. But in many cases you can just to small patch jobs to take care of problems. If you maintain your garage properly it might never even come up. On the other hand, if you do need someone to come and fix it for you it isn’t hard to find contractors who can deal with wood. Metal repairs can cost more.

Damp Can Ruin The Wood – It can’t be said enough, you have to stain your wooden garage regularly! Staining seals the wood and keeps moisture out of the lumber. When the stain begins to breakdown it will no longer repel water. The damp will push its way into the logs and start to rot it from the inside. Warping will form, pushing the logs out and causing gaps where the wood has shrunk. Heat will make it expand again, exacerbating the problem. Cracks will form in the surface, letting in more damp and in some cases various pests. All it takes is a bit of rain when the garage isn’t properly fitted and you will have to replace full logs. Make sure you prevent it!

They Can Be Used as More Than Garages – Some people are choosing these structures, but not for their cars. Wooden garages make great sheds, extra rooms and even guest houses. Depending on the size you select (and that of your car) you might be able to share the space for multiple purposes. All it takes is a bit of imagination and you can turn it into anything you like. Because of the low price it might also act as an alternative to more expensive structures you were considering putting on your property.

They Improve The Look Of Your Property – Let’s face it, metal garages are ugly. They take up too much space, make weird noises in storms and are just an eyesore. Wooden garages look great, have a classic feel and are popular for a reason. If you want to make your property look as good as possible, especially if you are considering a sale in the future, this is a great step to take. Throw that metal garage in the trash heap where it belongs.

They Can Increase The Value Of Your Home – This is one of the biggest reasons people choose to go with wooden garages. There are many different upgrades you can do to increase the value of your home. Some people put in swimming pools, others go with guest houses in the backyard. Others put in a rock garden or install solar panels. Wooden garages are a practical upgrade the looks good while being fully functional. That gives it an edge to many of the other improvements, especially given the lower cost.

How to Choose Home Remodeling & Repair Companies

Our home is one of the must important assets that we own and often it requires maintenance and remodeling of one kind or another. We all dream and aspire to have a place where we can retreat from the stresses of the out side world and connect with ourselves and with our family. This necessity it is not a cheap one but rather something that takes time and money as well as a good home remodeling & repair company to achieve. A home is as personal and as precious as a beautiful piece of jewelry and just like an expensive diamond is handled by a professional jeweler so too a home should be given to a good home building contractor to remodel or maintain.

General contractors, home improvement and home remodeling & repair companies are abundant like mushrooms after the rain, and although many of them do have the right credentials in terms of experience and licenses, some are less then amateurism to say the least. One can not stress enough how important it is to choose a good home improvement company for your construction project, a company that can show and prove its excellence and performance with testimonials and recommendations by other happy home owners.

The golden rules to follow in finding a reliable home remodeling & repair company are very clear cut: 1. the company must have a license and should present it to the home owner before the signing of any contract. A general contractor must have a general B license and all sub-contractors needs to have a license for their specific specialty. 2. The company should, by law, have the proper insurance such as liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. 3. As mentioned before, it is recommended to check previous home construction work by the general contractor you are dealing with. Usually the home remodeling & repair company can provide a few telephone numbers for references and recommendations, and if possible maybe even ask to visit a site where the general contractor is currently working on.

Today the construction industry is regulated with very strict laws and building codes by the government and state license board and most general contractors are educated and reliable builders, with integrity and high standards of good service and customer satisfaction. So as long as you follow the guidelines mentioned above in deciding on a general contractor or home improvement company things should work out smoothly with your construction project.

Home Improvement Ideas for Every Area of Your Home

With the holiday season now just a memory, perhaps you find yourself with some time on your hands to devote to those big New Year’s resolutions-so you’ve been frequenting the gym, taking Sundays to prepare and freeze healthy recipes for the week and spending more time with your family and friends. But what about all those to-dos on your house that never seemed to get done in 2010?

Whether you’re looking to put your house on the market in 2011 or just want to make some positive changes for your family, here are some great home improvement ideas that will deliver the most bang for your buck that you can spend a winter weekend or two or three on implementing. If you live in a condo building make sure to speak with the homeowner’s association first about any changes you’re planning to make.

Kitchen and Bathroom Upgrades

Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms have the highest return on investment. You could replace the cabinetry or install energy-efficient appliances, but a surefire way to immediately up your kitchen’s visual appeal is to replace the counter-top.

For good or bad, the bathtub can be a focal point in your bathroom. If a new tub is in your budget, you could add a new model or a freestanding soaking tub to really increase your bathroom’s luxuriousness factor. Even just refinishing your existing tub can make it look brand new.

Let Their Be Light

Recessed lighting looks clean and doesn’t compromise headroom. It’s easily installed and will instantly brighten the room. You also might want to consider adding new windows or expanding existing ones in order to make a room seem larger and more inviting. Even just adding or moving electrical outlets and switches can allow for easier access to electricity, and improve the eyesores associated with electrical cords being visible throughout the room.

Better Flooring

New flooring is one of the best projects for whatever room you’ve decided to focus on, whether that includes carpet in the upstairs bedroom, hardwood floors throughout the downstairs or a unique tile in the bathrooms. People constantly can see and touch their floors, and prospective buyers will definitely be interested in the quality of your flooring when considering whether to make your home theirs.

Hide Unattractive Storage

If you live in a small space, you might not have a home office that can house an unsightly file cabinet. In that case, you probably have to hide your files in the open. This entails measuring fabric to the length and width of the cabinet and using hook and loop tape to attach the fabric to it. Or you can find extra storage space by using a skirting table, under which you could stack boxes. It pays to be inventive, and the pay off is extra room for your belongings without any additional eyesores in your home.

Give Your Home a New Look With a Fiber-Cement Siding

The exterior of a home is what protects against the elements. Having quality siding not only adds a great look to the home, but it also helps a home last as long as possible. There are many different types of siding available to homeowners from aluminum to wood to vinyl, but none of them can offer the protection that James Hardie Siding can. This is a fiber cement siding that comes in many different colors and styles. The siding is made to withstand the elements, protect the home and last as long as the house itself. The siding does not give in to typical wear and tear issues like water damage, insect damage, fading or rusting.

The installation of siding is where much of the expense comes from for homeowners. With James Hardie Siding, the installation costs are going to be less than with other materials. The design and measuring process that James Hardie Siding puts their potential customers through helps to get a very customized fit. This cuts down on the labor required to get the siding prepared for the installation. There are over four million homes nationwide that have chosen James Hardie for their siding installation, and that is a testament to the quality of the product.

Vinyl and aluminum siding are more vulnerable to the elements when compared to James Hardie Siding. Both of these materials will crack or break if something of great impact hits them. This could happen with a hail storm, or with debris that is picked up and thrown during high winds. Both vinyl and aluminum also need to be replaced sooner than James Hardie Siding because their structural integrity breaks down a lot faster. The siding can warp which can lead to damage being done to the home. The warping also looks bad so it can decrease the value of the home.

People want protection for their home, but they also want their home to look exceptional when they put up new siding. With James Hardie Siding, they have a color fast program that gives buyers access to a computer system that helps with the design process. Picking out the siding colors, getting measurements and even seeing a virtual image of what the siding will look like can all be done through this system. Homeowners take great pride in maintaining their living space, and the installation of James Hardie Siding is a huge positive step toward that goal. There is no other siding on the market that can provide this level of protection, durability and style.

How to Choose the Right Home Repair Service – 3 Tips to Help You Out

Do you need to know how to choose the right home repair service for your current home improvement projects or job? From knowing what type of past experience and how many years the contractors or handyman has been in business to knowing if they can insure and guarantee their work these 3 tips will help make your search easier.

1. By getting a company with a track record of more than a few years of service you can be sure that the well-being of your home will be accounted for. Nobody in business can sustain it without providing good customer service at a fair price.

2. Before you get to far into the decision making process on who will be working on your house be sure to ask if the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Also ask and be sure that the company and its workers are aware of any and all types of city and county building and construction codes.

3. A top priority when getting any type of work completed for home is making sure you get a guarantee from the handyman. Contractors who provide a written warranty for completed jobs and construction work show they have pride and care about their ability to satisfy your home repair needs on the first try.

Now you should have a very good idea on some of the basic details and traits to look for when you start calling different handyman services to come and give you your free estimates. From knowing the business has a proven track record to knowing they are insured and licensed you now have a better idea on how to choose the right home repair service for your needs.

Check Out Available Government Grants For Essential Home Repairs

Did you know homeowners with low incomes who need repairs to their homes might be eligible Rural Home Repair grants and/loans from USDA Rural Development? Any rural areas and communities that have a population of 20,000 or less are eligible. Types of repairs that can be done range from improving the safety or sanitary conditions of a home to correcting any safety or health hazards as well. However, grants are used for the removal and repair of safety or health hazards only.

The Purpose Of Loans And Grants

Grants are available only when the repairs or improvements will take away any safety or health hazards that have been previously identified. However, if the goal is modernizing or improving a home in addition to health/safety hazards being removed, then loan funds may be available. Also, the repairs made to a home with grant or loan funds do not have to meet the development standards of the agency, nor do all known hazards have to be removed as long there’s no further major safety/health concerns when the scheduled repairs have been done.

The work covered by authorized grants and loans includes, but isn’t totally comprised of, the following:

  • Sanitary Disposal Systems: repair or installation, including fixtures or plumbing, that are in line with the requirements of the area health department.
  • Needed Insulation

It is required, before filing the USDA Rural Development application, that the applicant is the owner and has been living in the home. A permanent foundation defined as either:

  1. A foundation that is a complete below grade, or
  2. The home sits on piers, blocks, or a similar foundation that has anchored tie-downs and skirting.

Maximum Amount of Grant or Loan

  • Rural Development rural home repair loans have a maximum limit of $20,000, either initial or subsequent, to any person.

Limitations On The Use Of Grant/Loan Funds

Grant funds or a home repair loan from Rural Development cannot be used for:

  • Help for the construction of a new home.

Limitations On How Grant Funds Are Used

Additionally, the grant funds from Rural Development rural home repair cannot be used for any changes made for convenience or cosmetic purposes unless those changes have a direct connection to the hazards that are being removed. The definition of convenience and cosmetic changes might include, but will not be limited to:

  • Any Painting

Requirements For Eligibility

Applicants for Rural Development rural home repair are expected to meet these requirements:

  • Must be a United States citizen.
  • Application is for only a Rural Development rural home repair grant.
  • Must be a minimum age of 62 years.

You can get additional information at any of the USDA Rural Development Offices, located in all the states, for Rural Home Repair Grant and Loan Programs.

Reasons Why Using Outdoor LED Signs Is a Good Idea

The use of LED signs outdoors is a great trend in today’s world. What you should know is that it has become a very important part of business today. The signs have actually been proven to increase awareness in the community as well as sales.

The outdoor LED signage can be applied for any kind of business, especially the medium and small sized kind of companies that don’t have a lot allotted to advertising. When a LED sign is in full color, then it promotes the business in a more effective manner regardless of the kind of business is in question. When electronic signs are compared to billboards, radio, newspapers and other traditional mediums, then they appear to be so much cheaper.

When you use the outdoor LED signs, you have in your hands a very powerful and very dynamic medium of advertising for the business. Your target audience and potential customers will definitely see it and take note.

Reasons why you should use the signs

Bright

Many people choose the signs because they are brighter than other kinds of signage. The bright signs attract attention and can be seen from a great distance, making them so attractive even in the sun.

Cost effectiveness

When purchasing the LED, it can be rather high priced. However, you will notice you save a lot in the long run. You will not spend anything when making changes to the display. The signage also consumes very little energy and you will need to do very little to maintain it.

Durable

Durability y is the other thing the outdoor LED signs are able to offer. The materials used to make them are not breakable and they do last a long time. You only need to do very few repairs as well as maintained. The LED modules come with a long lifespan.

Versatile

The LED signs are versatile. You can update them from your own computer just by a simple click. The changes can then appear immediately on the signage. You can also give scheduled messages.

Attractive

Use of visuals and graphics usually attract the attention of many and they are able to convert lots of information than would be the case if words alone were used. The aesthetic appeal of a place is also improved and this is why the signs are so widely used in airports, train stations and malls.

Less consumption of electricity

One of the main strengths of LED signage is the fact that power consumption is kept at a down low. LED sign boards consume less electricity than other signs that use incandescent bulbs and neon. It is therefore quite environmentally friendly as the carbon footprint is reduced.

Customized advertising

The use of LED signage helps one to keep pace with all the current situations like weather and so on. You can simply change the advertising message so as to customize it for the target audience. You can change the signs, text, messages and graphics at will so as to match the prevailing business goals.

Top 5 Qualities of Landscape Pathway Materials

You can easily find your way to a better yard with the right landscape pathway materials. If you are looking for new solutions for your outdoor area, then you will also want to consider the qualities for the hardscape you are working with. This will make a difference in how you approach your next landscape project while ensuring that you have the right options for your pathway. Following are the top five qualities to look for with the materials.

1. Water Resistant. A common mistake that many make with landscape pathway materials is the water erosion that occurs. Often, jointing sand, stabilizer for aggregate pathways and other materials don’t have resistance to water. You want to make sure that you have the materials that allow you to maintain the pathway for a longer time frame.

2. Durability. Nothing is better than a durable pathway. You not only want to find stronger paving stones or aggregate. It is also important to make sure that your jointing sand or stabilizer is durable with the pathway. This will assist with a long – lasting solution for your pathway.

3. Low Maintenance. Even though all landscape pathway materials claim to have the best options for maintenance, they often erode quickly or don’t provide you with the correct solutions to upgrade your path. You want to find materials that allow you to replace sections of your pathway or to find solutions that are based on long lasting formulas.

4. Easy to Apply. Some of the landscape pathway materials are mixed with chemicals and other materials that are not compatible with aggregate or paving stones. You want to find options that are natural and are able to easily mix and work with the applications for your pathway.

5. No Chemical Residue. For paving stones and other unique materials, there is often a white haze left behind from poly haze. If you are applying specific pathways, then you want to make sure it won’t leave behind chemicals and white residue. Environmentally friendly solutions with the landscape pathway materials you are looking for will provide you with different levels of compatibility for your hardscape.

Upgrade your outdoor area without problems. If you are looking for different options, then landscape pathway materials can assist you with the desired options. There are a variety of alternatives that you can look into, all which will provide you with high quality, long lasting materials for your next hardscape project.

Timber Framing on a Budget

Timber framing construction uses tenon and lap joints along with wooden dowels or pegs to create the frame structure of a home. This is a historic method of constructing the frame structure and can be expensive. One reason is that this type of construction is more advanced that stick frame construction. People like to use timber framing because it will continue to hole up the weight of the home long after the nails of stick frame construction has rusted and created the need for some major repairs. If you are building a new home and want to use this type of construction there are ways in which you can work this into your budget.

Use the local species of timbers

When using timber framing make sure that you use whatever tree is a native species of that area. It is expensive to ship timbers across the country. For example, if you love on the East coast two of their native species trees are oak and white pine but on the West coast it would be the Douglas fir. You also have to look at the cutting and material handling of the joinery. One of the harder ones to work with is oak because it is heavier so it would take more time to make the joints.

Choose a simple frame design

If you have a complex design in mind it will simply cost you more because of the board footage of food and number of joints you would need for the frame. Some companies that do timber framing will count how many joints will be used for the frame and will give you an estimate based on that information,

Find the best pricing

This includes not only the building material but also the contractors who are going to build your timber framing for your home. Make sure that you get at least three estimates because if you only get a couple you have just one to compare against another one. Make sure that you get a written estimate that lists the costs of materials, labor costs, and anything else that will figure into the cost of the home. Do not choose the lowest price because they may be using inferior timber. If possible ask to see the timber they will be using before you make your decision. You should also ask to see the results of their construction to make sure that they have the actual experience to construct your dream home. Ask for references and check them out. You and your family are going to be living in this home for a long while and you want to make sure that it well constructed.

Following these tips will allow you to have your dream home and stay within budget.

This article is penned by Lora Davis for Arrow Timber Framing. Arrow Timber Framing has worked hard to gain the experience necessary to streamline production. Timber framed homes are built with mortise and tenon joints connected with wooden pegs.