Category Archives: Home Improvment

Learn More About The Guest House

Having space already set aside for those who visit is convenient for host and company alike. While a spare room is often sufficient for this purpose, having a guest house is a far superior way to quarter an out-of-town friend.

Host Benefits of a Guest House

Since every home has a finite amount of space, the inner workings of a household can get thrown for a loop with the addition of more people. In some cases, the effect can be quite tumultuous and lead to a general sense of disorder.

A guest house can put an end to all that. It is an excellent alternative to renting a hotel room or cramming more people than necessary under one roof. Generally equipped with all the necessities any traveler could need (bathroom, refrigerator, microwave, etc.), the guest house will provide everyone with enough space to keep things running smoothly and keep everyone in the same vicinity.

Guest Benefits of a Guest House

When traveling, most people can’t help but be a little turned off by the sterility and lack of warmth you find in many hotel rooms. At the same time, it’s hard not to feel like you’re imposing when staying in someone else’s home. It is often the case that the habits of hosts and guests are very different. In the same space, one or the other is often forced to change their ways for the duration of the visit.

A guest house provides company with the best of both worlds. They have a warm place near people they care about, but also enough room so that no one feels in the way. Everyone gets to socialize, but there is also a sense of privacy.

Other people aren’t the only ones company won’t want to put out. A guest house is also a plus when a visitor has an allergy (or simply an aversion) to a host’s pet.

Guest House Plans

There are many designs and guest house plans available for those who are interested in building one. They range from very simple to extremely extravagant. Some designs will provide all the basics and be relatively simple to build; others are more like a luxury suite in a fancy bed and breakfast than a cabin in the backyard.

The guest house plan you choose will depend heavily on who will be building it. A basic guest house plan is often tailored for homeowners who want to do a bit of the work themselves. A more luxurious plan will most likely require a crew of some sort for the whole process.

Whether simple or complex, guest houses are never a job for a novice (or at least not a novice who’s only got a weekend to spare). Building a house, even a small one, is still a big job. It will require many construction skills, including knowledge of plumbing and electricity.

Major Basement Remodels on the Rise

This article originally appeared in Qualified Remodeler in June 2016.

It would stand to reason that homeowners seeking more space would renovate their basements when the housing market is weak and move into bigger homes when the economy is strong. A recent analysis of HomeAdvisor data shows the exact opposite to be true.

In 2015, 6.31 percent of homeowners categorized their basement remodels as ‘major remodel — multiple rooms.’ While the percentage may not seem high it represents a 7.5 percent year-over-year increase from 2014 and a nearly 200 percent increase from 2008.

Encouraged by historically low interest rates and the strengthening economy, the percentage of major basement remodels has steadily grown year over year for the past several years. The question now becomes: Will the percentage of major basement remodels continue to increase given the drop in existing home sales and the rise in new home sales? And, if major renovations represent a small percentage of basement renovation projects, what relative jobs represent the higher percentages?

According to HomeAdvisor data, homeowners have most frequently submitted requests for the removal and hauling of waste, junk, building materials and debris over the past four years. Since this project represented 15.87 percent of basement projects in 2015, this could indicate that these homeowners are preparing for a larger remodel down the road. Other health-and habitation-related maintenance projects — such as air duct and vent cleaning, replacing a water heater and removing mold and toxins — also consistently ranked in the top categories for basement renovation.

Sunrooms & Patio Enclosures

This article originally appeared in Qualified Remodeler in August 2016.

Sunrooms and patio enclosures are surging in popularity. In fact, requests for professional sunroom and patio services are up 26 percent year over year, according to HomeAdvisor. Unfortunately, as nice as they are to have, sunrooms and enclosed patios aren’t always a sound investment. Here’s what you need to know to help your clients make an informed decision.

The word ‘sunroom’ evokes different images for different people. To some, a sunroom is a simple patio enclosure made principally for seasonal use. These sunrooms are typically built on garden grade and comprised of glass panels inset into a thin metal structure, making them feel more connected to the garden than to the home. Patio enclosures may or may not be conditioned for increased comfort.

At the other end of the spectrum, sunrooms may evoke an extension of the home’s interior — conditioned rooms comprised of large windows or French doors connected with heavy mullions. These sunrooms may contain exposed beams or made to feel more like an enclosed porch.

Sunrooms that act as an extension of the home provide the most value. Patio enclosures at the lower end of the spectrum tend to age quickly, and they are frequently the first item a new owner will remove after purchasing a home. The average cost to build a patio enclosure is $15,216, according to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide, and the average cost to build an interior addition is $41,087.

Bottom Line: Sunrooms can be a fantastic way to engage with the outdoors and increase the useable space of a home, but the return on investment is low. In fact in some cases, such projects can even detract from resale value. If a homeowner wants to build a sunroom for personal use, there’s not reason not to do it. But when homeowners propose a sunroom project with added value in mind, you might suggest that they proceed with caution.

Renovate Your Home for Best Selling

Everyone selling a home wants to pad the profit margin and get top dollar for the property. Yet, buyers on the other end want to make sure they’re getting a deal. Fortunately, it’s possible to make both parties happy at the closing table. It all starts with an honest look at the house and careful evaluation of how well it matches up with the potential buyers’ expectations. With these renovation tips for getting the best selling value help sellers prepare their properties for a big sale.

Make the first impression memorable.
When it comes to real estate, first impressions count. In fact, many buyers decide within a few minutes whether they want to add a home to their short list of options or ignore it altogether. For this reason, spending a little time and money on the entryway pays off. The to-do list for this task should include the following:

Take down old spider webs.
Sweep the floors.
Add a coat of paint to faded floors.
Remove or replace broken furniture.
Repair broken doorbells.
Spruce up the area with potted plants, flowers, and throw rugs.

Install an awning or portico over the front door.
Homeowners who don’t have the time to clean themselves should hire a professional cleaning service to do this for a few hundred dollars. One final consideration for the entry area is replacing the existing door, especially if it shows signs of age like, is drafty, or doesn’t fit the house’s architectural style. This project has minimal costs and brings a 75 to 100 percent return on the investment.

Give the house room to grow.

In general, buyers still prefer houses with open floor plans that offer flexibility. According to Consumer Reports, millennials say this is the second-most important characteristic they look for in a home. To create this, sellers can remove non-structural walls like a partial divider between a kitchen and living room or replace a bulky kitchen island with a portable one that frees up room in the center of the kitchen. In small rooms, replace heavy drapes with shutters or blinds that create a streamlined look or install cabinetry or storage units to keep space-hogging clutter out of sight. Other ways to show off the flexibility of the floor plan include finishing the basement and converting the attic to an additional bedroom or office space.

Go green.
Today’s homebuyers also show interest in energy efficient homes, as they view them better for the environment and more cost-effective over time. Since houses lose considerable heated and cooled air through inefficient windows and doors, sellers can boost their home’s value by replacing aging ones with energy efficient models. Another option is to replace siding with newer material that is fade resistant and offers more insulation. One such product is fiber-cement siding. Although it costs more than vinyl siding, it offers an attractive look and excellent durability. Other energy-efficient remodels include:

Replace traditional light fixtures with LED lights.
Add solar panels to the roof.
Replace an aging air conditioner or heating system.
Install tubular skylights to bring in natural light.
Add or replace insulation in the walls and attic.
Homeowners who are not sure how energy efficient their homes are can hire a professional to evaluate the home. These individuals can also give tips for improving the energy efficient of the home.

Find the right floors.

Buyers inspect houses from top to bottom, and they do pay attention to the surface they’re walking on. Sellers need to replace broken tiles or damaged laminate flooring, scrub stains out of carpet, and spruce up natural hardwood. It’s also a good idea to get rid of mismatched floors or dated pieces made from vinyl or linoleum around the house. Updating the flooring doesn’t cost as much as other home renovation projects, and it makes a big difference in the look of the room. Natural hardwood and cork floors are popular with today’s buyers who want durable, yet eco-friendly floors. Flooring is also an important consideration for buyers who have concerns about allergens. Instead of carpeting, the prefer hard-surface floors like laminate or tile since they are easier to clean and do not harbor potentially dangerous allergens.

Give the heart of the home some character.
Kitchen remodels still rank at the top of the list of most desired home renovations, which should be no surprise since the kitchen is the busiest room inside. These renovations range from simple upgrades of fixtures and hardware to complete remodels, such as replacing the following:

Cabinet and drawer pulls
Appliances and sinks
Cabinets or cabinet doors
Counter tops
Stainless steel appliances remain popular with buyers who enjoy the sleek, modern look they bring to the room. Durable counter tops made from material like quartz and sustainable flooring like cork also score points with buyers.

Know More About Bathroom Addition

There can be many reasons why you want to add a bathroom to your house, though this might not be intuitive at first. For example, maybe you’re expecting more children and you already have too many people in your house per bathroom. Perhaps you are having extra guests coming that will need to stay with you for a while. Regardless of your reasoning, an extra bathroom is a useful addition to make to your home and it may even increase its value.

Costs of Adding a Bathroom

The cost for adding a bathroom can vary widely based on a number of factors. The lowest cost is going to be around $3,000. This is a good estimate if you’re taking an area that you already have all marked out that has all the necessary components. If you need to add an entirely new space totally from scratch, the cost will be closer to $25,000.

Of course, very large bathrooms that have a lot of extras can cost many times the maximum, so it’s worth paying attention to what you’re doing while you’re budgeting out the costs. Other examples of costs connected to adding a bathroom include the cost of installing a new tub or shower, which can be around $3,000. Tile averages in at around $1 per foot depending on what you’re actually using for materials. It often costs hundreds of dollars to install a toilet, with the average max somewhere around $500.

Unless you can do the electrical and plumbing yourself, you’re going to need to hire plumbers and electricians, and this rate is often going to be at least $50 an hour. And this isn’t even getting into the potential costs of permits and other legal requirements. You definitely need to check with an expert in the area to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes by adding another bathroom.
Where Do You Add the Bathroom?

Here are some possibilities for where you can add the new bathroom:

Hallways – This especially a good place to add a bathroom if you have one end of a hallway that isn’t used very much. If the end contains at least 30 feet or so, this is plenty of room to make your conversion. It also helps if there’s a window. Hallways can be convenient for this purpose since it’s good to have a bathroom located in a place easily accessible by several other rooms.

Closets – Converting a closet to a bathroom is a wise idea as long as it’s big enough. If you have multiple closets that adjoin, this can also make it more likely you’ll have enough room. The recommendation is at least 4 feet by 4 feet of combined space.

Laundry Room – If your laundry room is big enough, converting part of it into a bathroom can make a lot of sense. After all, you’re likely already going to have water and drain hookups necessary for the conversion. You can even switch over to smaller washer/dryer hybrid combinations or stackable appliances to give yourself enough room.

Bedroom – Everyone likes to have a bathroom directly accessible from their bedroom since it’s so convenient. It’s usually possible to get a couple of feet on one side of a bedroom that’s large enough to make the conversion. A master bedroom bathroom is often particularly attractive to buyers.

Garage – A first floor garage is convenient for bathroom conversion since it’s often going to be close to the areas you need to connect to anyway. Also, garages often tend to have a lot of excess space due to how they’re built.

Plumbing Considerations

There are a number of things you need to consider in regards to the plumbing part of the exercise. This involves primarily checking to see what the codes are in your particular area. You also need to see if an inspection is required.

This really does vary from state to state and town to town, but if you’re changing around the floor plan at all, you will likely need some type of official permission. This is also the case if you’re going to be messing with the ducts, electrics, or plumbing to any major degree.

You also need to decide how to find the professionals you need to get the work done, especially the plumber. You can look for such a person yourself online generally, or else you can be more specific and head to a local hardware store.

Is the Addition Worth It?

If you’re looking for a half bathroom or powder room which consists of a shower instead of a bathtub, then you’re going to need a space that’s just a minimum of 3 feet wide and 6 feet long. So, the space you have available will determine this. If you don’t have this much space, and you can’t figure out how you would get it, then you may want to decide against an addition. If you only have enough for a half bath, and all you want is a full with a bathtub, then this is also a reason to decide against the addition. The reason for the space in the half bath is that you should at least be able to put a toilet and a sink in there.

Another important consideration is the amount of value you might add to your house by adding a bathroom. It’s important to note that you’ll get diminishing returns in terms of value if you already have a house that is among the highest in value of any other on your street. The conventional wisdom on this is that you’ll add about a fifth to your house’s value, in general, if you add a full bath.

If you add a half bathroom, then you’ll get about a tenth of the value added on. It’s a good idea to try to use the plumbing already installed in your house whenever you can if you’re going to add a bath because this will ensure you don’t waste funds.

You’d also be well advised to consider insulating against sound in any bathroom you install if you know there will be a bedroom or even just a living room nearby.