You may have heard me say “I gotta …
February 10, 2012
Have you got the power? It takes will …
May 24, 2011
Can you imagine yourself buying a house like …
September 16, 2010
Apothecary cabinets with glass doors and a simple …
January 26, 2010
Plumbing leaks aren’t supposed to happen. They’re more …
January 26, 2010
When confronted with a crisis, the outcome is …
January 23, 2010
Remodeling’s “Cost vs. Value Report” is out and …
December 17, 2009
Just got word our bid was accepted! This …
October 16, 2009
A complex commercial project. Extensive termite damage has …
October 16, 2009
We’ll be transforming an attic to a beautiful …
October 16, 2009
Monthly Archives: April 2009
Look at that tile job, it’s perfect! Most of us would say something similar after it’s finished.
Fast-forward two years of wear, with kids, pets and you-name-it. If you don’t make an effort to keep it clean, it won’t look as good. I recommend routine washing; don’t let it build up.
She cleans it with water. Here are her secrets:
• 1. “I use my ACT Natural microfiber mop,” says Cobb, who sells the miracle product on queenofclean .com. The microfiber traps the dirt and dust, she says, while other mops just spread the dirty water into impossible places like grout lines.
“When I found this microfiber, it was one of my magic moments,” Cobb says.
• 2. Rinse well, and rinse often. Keep your cloth clean, she says. Machine wash microfiber cloths separate from other items without fabric softener, bleach or other additives. They’ll last for years. And your mop handle, by the way, “should just reach your shoulder,” Cobb says.
• 3. If the grout gets really bad, Cobb busts out her SonicScrubber and a locally made product called Clean and Shield Bath Scrub (sold at Whole Foods Market). The SonicScrubber boasts “3,600 scrubs per minute,” Cobb says.
• 4. We should also mention that the Queen of Clean has a cleaning lady now. Cobb is busy. She travels. She needs help. Her cleaning lady is “even more anal than I am,” Cobb says. As for the cleaning lady’s phone number? That remains a secret.
Fallen behind on maintenance? Go green, via Mother Nature News:
To tackle mold and mildew without harsh, toxic cleaners, first mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray the affected area. Let it sit for an hour. Next, mix a cup of baking soda with just enough natural liquid detergent (like castile soap) to create a paste. Give it a good scrub and your tile will look as good as new.
Too late for cleaning? Let’s do it over. Give me a call and we’ll talk about what’s best for your situation.
It’s not as easy as it seems, but the DIY Network does a good job explaining it here:
I like these TV shows as they inspire my customers with new ideas.
Great advice from The Tile Doctor on selecting the right tile or stone:
First, will the ceramic tile be glazed or unglazed? Will the stone tile be polished or unpolished? These questions can be answered by the design requirements, personal taste, and the desired function of the finished surface. Generally, glazed or polished surfaces are easier to clean than unglazed, unpolished surfaces.
Slip resistance and abrasion resistance is always a factor in floor tile. These factors are somewhat flexible in residential applications. However, the use of a “wall tile” on a floor is not recommended. A tile with good breaking-flexural strength should be used.
It is very interesting that some polished stone tile have incredibly high slip resistance when dry. When wet, polished stone can be very slick.
Also with stone or ceramic, deep fissures, crevices, or voids in the tiles surface can mean more time spent in keeping the floor clean.
If the floor will be exposed to food acids or other acidic chemicals, then stone or ceramic tile vulnerable to such attack should be avoided. An example would be polished marble on a kitchen floor.
Slip resistance and abrasion resistance is critical in these installations. Many other recommendations can be made such as high impact resistance, breaking-flexural strength, and generally a tile with the durable requirements for the intended installation.
Generally, commercial floors are beefed up residential floors. This is true of the tiles chosen as well as the substrate below the tile. Other considerations are the type of ceramic or stone tile quality chosen. For example, only stone tiles in the group A or B classification might be considered for a commercial floor project.
Certainly the same basic requirements exist for the commercial floor as compared to the residential variety related to chemical resistance and the like.
These areas are considered wet areas and should be tiled with tile in the vitreous or impervious class for best results. Slip resistance is important since uncovered exterior floors most likely will become wet. The wet condition will change the slip resistance. Also, the same tile used on ramps will have a different slip resistance. Abrasion resistance is important especially in higher traffic areas such as exterior commercial installations. Additionally, tile susceptible to water damage or freeze/thaw damage must be considered.
Most stone tile is suitable for this application with the exception of polished stone due to its poor slip resistance when wet.
A great deal of latitude can be allowed here with many different options especially in a dry area. Special or decorative tile can be used here.
Stone or ceramic tiles with fissures, crevices, or voids can easily be used here depending on the project requirements and design.
Many tiles are suitable and the latitude enjoyed in the residential application is similar. However, the tile selected should be somewhat tougher and be able to resist more frequent cleaning and possibly harsher chemicals used to remove graffiti and the like.
These areas are considered “wet” areas and should be treated with the type of tile recommended. Classic wall tile should not be used on exteriors due to its high water absorption rate. In addition, tile that is freeze/thaw resistant should be considered in many areas.
Since kitchen counter tops are the most common factor, these installations should be treated as wet due to the normal way they are used. The exception is that a tile should have good abrasion resistance and impact resistance. In addition, chemical resistance is important due to the many acids common to cooking. Certain consideration should be given to stain resistance both to food materials and metal utensils.
Remember that polished stone in the marble variety will etch when exposed to even mild household acids.
Since these are generally considered wet areas, a tile in the vitreous or impervious class should be used. Remember that the glaze on wall tiles typically renders that surface impervious to water. Therefore they too can be used in wet areas. However, slip resistance should certainly be considered on shower floors.
Most stone tiles are suitable for this application with a caution for shower floors when tiling with polished stone relating again to slip resistance.
Again tiles should be in the vitreous or impervious class. Depending on the installation, care must be given to slip resistance.
Again stone tiles can effectively be used in these areas.
We’ve done extensive work at this residence before. We’re proud of the gorgeous spa-style master bathroom we built — and the new hardwood floor in the bedroom. The mud room featured custom-built benches and cabinets. We also built a custom Murphy-style bed and surrounding cabinets for the nanny suite.
The next project at this residence will include a complete renovation of the children’s bathroom. A new layout featuring glass tiles, a new shower enclosure and numerous new plumbing components. One of the kids’ bedrooms will be renovated with hardwood floors and new lighting.
Expect updates on this site as we move along toward completion.
A private home in Lincroft, N.J.: a water-damage remediation/renovation project, brought on by a burst water pipe. We produced a detailed, comprehensive report, then negotiated with insurance underwriters to yield a complete project plan to restore the residence.
Does it matter where you buy your building materials? You bet it does.
Big home improvement retailers such as The Home Depot or Lowe’s will carry just about all you’ll need for most projects. I tend to buy most of my materials at specialty wholesalers, some of whom deal only with the trade. It takes some research and experience to find the best ones, and I tend to stay with the tried and true suppliers.
Donated sinks, countertops, wood trim, ceramic tile, windows and hardhats are part of the new and used inventory at this store, one of about 550 operated by Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the United States. Proceeds from sales help support the organization’s mission of building modest houses that families in need then buy at favorable terms.
In the Southland, a Habitat for Humanity ReStore is at 180 W. Joe Orr Road, Chicago Heights.
People looking to save money during the recession are boosting sales at the stores. On the flip side, some stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked as demand rises and donations slip. Fewer homeowners are doing the kind of improvement projects that generate donations, and declines in home building have reduced the supply of materials left over from construction jobs.
“The person who was taking out their $4,500 or $5,000 cherry cabinet set, (donating it) and replacing it with a $10,000 set is not doing that now,” said Terry Assad, manager of Habitat stores in Charlotte, N.C. “People are hanging on to stuff.”
Kevin Campbell, director of building industry relations for Habitat for Humanity International in Apex, N.C., said there have been reports of “some softness” in donations, but “I don’t think anybody’s panicking that they’ll have customers and nothing to sell them.”
Sometimes businesses that close send their remaining inventory to Habitat stores. Then there are businesses that routinely donate merchandise to get it off their sales floors, items a Habitat store typically will price 50 percent below retail.
“They close something out, they quit selling a certain model,” said John Alexander, Habitat executive in Waco, Texas, where 15 percent of the Habitat budget comes from a store built on a former used-car lot. Among other things, shoppers find concrete pavers and blocks that a local producer provides by the pallet.
There’s quite a few in New Jersey, and they all support a worthy cause. Learning how to incorporate reclaimed/recycled materials in your next project can be similarly rewarding. Almost like shopping for antiques — you never know what you might find.
With a new president in the White House comes a new interior renovation. Whether large or small, the federal government allocates $100,000 for the task. For most of us, that’s a pretty good budget. But the presidential residence is a pretty big space.
Will this prompt another comparison to the Kennedys? The Kennedy renovation was significant, and the Obama renovation has already been noticed for its unique approach. The story, via New York magazine:
At a time when people are having trouble holding on to their houses, Barack and Michelle Obama have sensibly decided not to use taxpayers’ money to renovate theirs. New presidents are allotted $100,000 to overhaul the White House residence and the Oval Office, and the Obamas hired Hollywood decorator Michael S. Smith (known, per his site, for mixing “Old World classicism with very contemporary settings”). But the First Couple isn’t spending that money. They “are not using public funds or accepting donations of goods for redecorating their private quarters,” says Camille Johnston, director of communications for the First Lady. Nor is the couple, who reported $4.2 million in household income in 2007 tax returns, using money from the White House Historical Association, a privately funded foundation that paid for a $74,000 set of china shortly before Laura Bush left town.
But does this mean they’re going to spend more than $100,000 or less? Though Michelle Obama has talked up Pottery Barn, Smith’s client list includes cost-is-no-object types like Rupert Murdoch, Steven Spielberg, and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain—for whom he procured that $87,783 rug. “There’s no question that he’ll get it done in the way that it’s supposed to be done,” says Smith client and Democratic donor Katherine Chez. “But how, I don’t know.” The White House declined to disclose the budget, saying that all expenses would remain private as a result of the Obamas’ decision to absorb the cost.
I wonder if we’ll ever know how much they’ll end up spending. Good move.
Currently finishing an addition/rennovation project which encompassed a kitchen, pantry, dinning room, and bathroom in a “Craftsman Style” residence.
The bathroom included heated floors with Traventine marble, Shaker-style vanity, full glass shower enclosure and a custom-built linen closet with open shelves.
The kitchen included removing and salvaging existing hardwood floors. Removing the partition wall between dinning room and kitchen, and reinstalling the hardwood floor and weaving it seamlessly into the dinning room floor.
The kitchen style and character was reconstructed with an island incorporated into the layout. All of the 90-year-old trim was salvaged, stripped and reinstalled. The cabinets were Shaker-style as well, freaturing Costa Esmerelda granite. The dinning romm was finished with accent lighting with maple Craftsman-stlye raised-panel wainscoting.
The heating system was reconfigured, utilizing a “European” low profile system which not only allows for more space but an aesthetic and durable product.
Which remodeling project pays off best? Kitchens and bathrooms. They add value to a home, and tend to recoup the associated costs, provided you don’t overbuild — relative to your neighbors’.
But is this still true? Has the current economic climate thrown the remodeling market off balance? Apparently not — at least for bathrooms in upscale home across the Mid Atlantic region. That’s what I found in the “Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report 2008-09,” published by Remodeling Magazine in November, 2008:
The results of the 2008–09 Cost vs. Value Report are surprising. A sluggish real estate market, and an increasing number of foreclosures while our survey was in the field this summer, led us to expect that the ratio of a remodeling project’s cost to the value it retains at resale would drop substantially more than the 8.02% (6.1 points) decline experienced in 2007.
What the 2008–09 data show, however, is a slowdown in the decline of the average cost-value ratio across all projects to only 3.86%, just 2.7 points down from 2007 (see “Percentage Recouped at Resale” graph).
Even with a mild (2.67%) increase in 2007 construction costs, it seems likely that if house values were plummeting as far and as fast as media reports would have us believe, the Cost vs. Value results should have been much worse. Instead, these results suggest that instances of steep home-value depreciation occurring in some parts of the country, particularly those with widespread foreclosures, have led to conclusions about the weakening of the overall existing home market that, while certainly not unfounded, could be exaggerated.
A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggests something similar, while making the case that elements of the current housing crisis are overblown. In the 55-page report, entitled “The Foreclosure-House Price Nexus: Lessons from the 2007–2008 Housing Turmoil,” authors and university professors Charles W. Calomiris (Graduate School of Business at Columbia), Stanley D. Longhofer (Director of the Center for Real Estate at the Barton School of Business at Wichita State University), and William Miles (Department of Economics at Wichita State), say that it can be misleading to use the extreme circumstances in a few states to draw conclusions about the country as a whole — at least as far as the relationship between increased foreclosure rates and house-price declines. They conclude that, despite a rise in foreclosure rates throughout the country, just 12 states are projected to see price declines of 6% or more through 2009.
Most homes being built today have ample basement ceiling heights and are considered living space. That’s just how they’re designed these days.
Not so for older homes. We renovated a house in Leonardo, N.J., that was built in 1870 and the ceiling in the basement was six feet high. The floor was mostly sand and dirt, but the walls were reinforced probably in the 1970′s. Plans called for a full laundry room and HVAC mechanicals to be located in the basement, but first we needed to pour a concrete floor — and raise the ceiling by 18 inches.
Did we raise the house? Certainly not: we dug out over 130 cubic yards of dirt and sand to get want we needed. It was a ton of work, but it was worth it. Remember to check with a structural engineer before starting on a project like this. A collapsed foundation can be disastrous.
An old home on Byron Street in Mankato, Minn., just down the street from Doug & Candy’s
Today, I read a piece in Electronic House about a couple in Mankato, Minn., who dug out their basement to accommodate a beautiful home theater. They knew what they were doing:
Using hammers, he and Candy broke up the concrete floor and then started shoveling. “We hit clay, then water,” recalls Doug. A pump handled the water problem, and the couple continued digging until they reached 48 inches. In some spots, however, they went down even further—to seven feet—to provide ample support for the pylons they would add to help shore up the foundation.
While long days and nights were spent refurbishing the floor, the Lavens left the old walls largely untouched. Made of beautiful Kasota stone, they felt the old rugged walls would add a unique design element to the space. “It evokes the feeling of standing in an old castle,” says Doug.
Well done, don’t you think?