Archive for Kitchen Remodeling

Remodeling? Don’t Forget the Permit

Posted in Around Your Home, Renovation, Worth Repeating with tags , , on September 6, 2011 by Pat Hansen

As Remodelers, we often hear the comment, “Why do we need a permit?”

The following article, by Melissa Dittmann Tracey, appeared in REALTOR Magazine’s September, 2011 issue, and illustrates the problems that do-it-yourself enthusiasts and unlicensed contractors face by not securing permits with their municipality.

Home owners who fail to get a building permit for a remodeling project can jeopardize a sale.

When home owners take on a remodeling project, they’re often far more focused on choosing glistening fixtures for a new bathroom or debating the type of granite to use on a kitchen countertop than, say, navigating the intricacies of the building permit process. That could be a huge mistake, however, and it may not even come to light until the house is put up for sale. Ignoring local approval requirements not only poses safety and legal problems but also can potentially derail an otherwise smooth sale.

Home owners using licensed contractors for remodeling work typically don’t have to get involved with permitting. Most licensed contractors will handle the cumbersome process for them—filling out the paperwork with the municipality, collecting fees, and being present for the required inspections, says Michael Hydeck, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. But when home owners tackle do-it-yourself projects or use unlicensed contractors, they risk problems later.

The permit process varies widely from city to city and state to state. But the purpose of the document is the same everywhere: It offers assurance by a municipal building department that the work being done meets all safety codes.

Ask Sellers before You List

Home owners may be asked about permits in the process of selling a home. At closing, they may have to disclose any remodeling work they did and verify permits. A home inspector evaluating a property for a buyer may want to know whether a permit was obtained. Furthermore, the buyer’s appraiser may want to see permit records to check the legality of any home renovations.

“If no permits are found and it’s obvious the home has been renovated, the bank will likely refuse to make the loan,” according to the American Bar Association’s book Legal Guide to Home Renovation (Random House Reference, 2006). If the permitless work isn’t discovered until after closing, the home’s value could even be subject to a lawsuit, such as in cases when an addition added extra square footage to the home’s value but the construction wasn’t done legally with a permit.

That’s why contractors and legal experts say real estate practitioners are well advised to ask sellers before they take on a listing for a renovated home: “Did you get a permit for that?”

Remodeling contractor John Price in Merced,Calif., has been called in to help home owners after permit problems have been uncovered. He once worked with a home owner who installed siding by himself, but added it too far down along the wall of the house, so it rubbed up against dirt and picked up moisture. Eventually the poor installation led to mold growing in the drywall throughout the inside of the house.

Some home owners, however, are tempted to sidestep the permit process not wanting to pay the fees (municipalities generally charge a minimum issuing fee—such as $25—as well as an additional fee—sometimes 1 percent—of total construction costs), or they might not want to risk delaying a project or a sale by waiting for city inspections (obtaining permits can take anywhere from a day to six weeks or more).

“People have strong incentives to cheat, and some of that lays squarely on the feet of policymakers who have sometimes created a system that is time-consuming and frustrating,” Price says.

But caught without a permit during resale, home owners may face big consequences. They may have to pay fines (possibly up to quadruple the original permit cost) or may have to tear the project down and redo it.

Virtually No Job Is Too Small

Home owners making any changes to the structures of a home will likely need a permit—and you may need more than one, Price says.

While kitchen and bathroom remodels and housing additions are obvious permit candidates, people may not realize they might also need one for such projects as installing a window, adding a new light switch, or replacing a shower. “There are not too many jobs you don’t need a permit for,” Hydeck adds. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Reprinted from REALTOR Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.


Gas vs. Electric Cooktops

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , , on August 1, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Each type of cooktop has features that appeal of different buyers. Your decision must be based on the amount of cooking you do and the qualities that are the most important to you.

Advantages of Gas Cooktops

  • Gas cooktops offer immediate heat as soon as the burner is turned on. No waiting time is involved. The flame is extinguished as soon as the element is turned off.
  • You can use most types of cookware on a gas cooktop
  • Gas cooktops offer a precise tuning, and can cook food at a very high temperature. This is why most professional chefs prefer cooking with gas.
  • While cooking, the heat level can be visually checked. Change of temperature is also instantaneous by reducing the flame.
  • Sealed burners offer easy cleanup. The grates are built to last, and can withstand falls and heavy weights.
  • In most areas, gas cooktops cost less to operate.
  • If there is a power outage you can still cook.

Disadvantages of Gas Cooktops

  • The open flame makes cooking on a gas cooktop more of a safety hazard. You must be cautious not to wear loose clothing and also to keep children away from the flames.
  • Gas cooktops are not as environmentally friendly an option as electric cooktops.  There is also a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if the appliance is not used properly.
  • Gas cooktops cost more initially and require both a gas line and an electrical connection to power the burner igniters.  This also means that both a plumber and an electrician are necessary for installation.

Advantages of Electric Cooktops

  • There are more options available in electric cooktops such as solid, glass surfaces, induction, and of course, the coil-type burner.
  •  The solid surface burners are sleeker than gas grates.
  • Electric cooktops are considered more environmentally friendly to operate.
  • Safety levels are higher without an open flame.
  • Cleaning is easier.
  • The initial investment is less than a gas cooktop with the exception of the induction cooktops.
  • Water boils much faster on an electric cooktop.

Disadvantages of Electric Cooktops

  • If there is a power outage, cooking is not an option.
  • Preheating time is slightly longer.
  • Less efficient than gas which increases the utility bill.

As a Builder and Remodeler, we at Robert R. Jones Homes are often asked about the pros and cons of gas and electric cooktops. It really comes down to what features are important to the homeowner and which appliance suits their lifestyle better.

Selling Your Home? – Top 8 Returns on D.I.Y. Fix-up Dollars

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Renovation, The Drawing Board, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Foreclosures continue to negatively impact the housing market.  Homeowners wishing to sell their home today must do everything possible to differentiate their home from other homes on the market.  Spending a few dollars before putting your home on the market can pay big dividends if you know how to spend those dollars wisely.

HomeGain recently surveyed nearly 600 real estate agents nationwide to determine the top 10 low-cost (less than $5,000), do-it-yourself  home improvements for people getting their home ready to sell. The following are the top 8 do-it-yourself projects for under $1,300.  Note: Costs and returns are national averages.

8. Paint Interior Walls. Repair any damaged interior walls by patching all chips, holes and cracks; then touch up or repaint interior walls with neutral color. All woodwork like stairwell railings and doors should be repainted and or stained.

  • Average Cost – $1,012
  • Increase in Selling Price – $2,112
  • Average Return on Investment – 109%

7. Replace or Shampoo Carpets. If carpets are only lightly soiled, shampooing and/or spot removal should suffice. If your home has hardwood floors with room-size rugs, get the hardwood into its best condition with fresh non-slip floor polish or other coating to make it shimmer.

  • Average Cost – $647
  • Increase in Selling Price – $1,739
  • Average Return on Investment – 169%

6. Update Kitchen and Bathrooms. Update kitchen and baths by resurfacing cabinets or painting with neutral color. Replace toilet seats, dated fixtures and drawer/cabinet handles. If the appliances are included with the sale of your home, make sure they are operating and have proper documentation such as warranties and repair information.

Average Cost – $1,265

  • Increase in Selling Price – $3,435
  • Average Return on Investment – 172%

5. Repair Plumbing and Electrical. Consider repairing or replacing any defective plumbing or electrical items in your home. Make sure that all smoke and burglar alarms are functional.

  • Average Cost – $535
  • Increase in Selling Price – $1,505
  • Average Return on Investment – 181%

4. Landscaping. Hire gardener or landscaper to trim back the overgrowth and maintain yard. Add colorful plants or flowers near front door and porch area.

  • Average Cost – $540
  • Increase in Selling Price – $1,932
  • Average Return on Investment – 258%

3. Home Staging. Buy some fresh flowers, live plants and other decorations to liven up the home. Consider hiring a staging consultant. Set the dining room table for a dinner party.

  • Average Cost – $550
  • Increase in Selling Price – $2,194
  • Average Return on Investment – 299%

2. Lighten and Brighten. Replace any burnt-out bulbs and use higher wattage bulbs, if possible. Keep drapes open during the day. Turn on enough lights so home is well lit during showing.

  • Average Cost – $375
  • Increase in Selling Price – $1,550
  • Average Return on Investment – 313%

1. Clean and De-clutter. Rent a storage space or sell excess items, if needed. Keep every room very clean during open homes. Appliances should be cleaned – inside and out

  • Average Cost – $290
  • Increase in Selling Price – $1,999
  • Average Return on Investment – 586%

The article above is excerpted from HomeGain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey, initially posted by: Louis Cammarosano on January 18th, 2011.  Read the entire article HERE

Kitchen Top 5 for Remodeling or New Homes

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, The Drawing Board with tags , , , , , on April 8, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Whether you are remodeling or building a new home, you will probably want to include the following top 5 Kitchen features:

5. Furniture Finish Cabinetry

Whether your taste runs to light, natural woods, to dark cherry and walnut or to something in between, most, so called, stock cabinet manufacturers offer high-end finishes that once were only available on custom cabinets. As oak has faded in popularity, cabinet manufacturers have introduced cherry, maple, birch, hickory and pine cabinets.  More choices in stain, available glaze finishes and concealed European style hinges allow homeowners the opportunity to give their kitchen cabinetry the look and finish of fine furniture.  Pair those finishes with the many styles of door hardware available today to provide the finishing touch for your new kitchen.

4. Islands

Kitchen islands have gained popularity over the last 15 years.  The reason for this popularity?  Partly because of appearance, but mostly because of function.  Islands allow multiple cooks to work efficiently, even in small kitchens, with a minimum of traffic conflicts.  They’ve become the center-piece of any new kitchen.

3. SS Appliances

Black, white and a variety of colors have come and gone, but stainless steel continues to be in demand for appliances. Always the choice of commercial restaurant kitchens because of durability, stainless steel has gained in popularity for the home kitchen, first with the availability of professional style ranges and cooktops, and now with refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens.

2. Granite Countertops

When it comes to countertops it starts and ends with granite.  No other material comes close in popularity in today’s market.  Granite offers a wide range of colors and price points, with the durability and time-less good looks that savvy homeowners demand.

1. Walk-in Pantry

With today’s big box stores, buying in bulk is the new norm.  A Walk-in Pantry is a must have to store all those items.  It also allows you to quickly see everything you have on hand.  If you are remodeling, find a way to include one.  A clever designer can find a way to put one in.  Everything can be stored in your walk-in pantry, including all those odd-sized cooking and serving pieces that don’t seem to fit in any cabinet.

Find a way to include these top 5 features and your new kitchen will provide you with functionality, good looks and durability for many years to come.

For your remodeling needs or if you are planning to build a new home, visit our web site for more information or to schedule a free consultation:

8 Reasons to Invest in Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Kevin Fox

(from MONEY Magazine, By Josh Garskof) — Not long ago, you could have your big remodeling project and get your money back too. Owners recouped an average of 87% of home improvement costs at resale in 2005, according to Remodeling magazine.

But by 2010 the magazine had pegged the typical payback at just 60%. Hardly the right time to tackle the new kitchen or master bathroom you’ve been dreaming of, right?

Not so fast, says Kermit Baker, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“In many cases, these projects make more sense now than they did at the height of the market,” he said.

Assuming you like what you can’t change about your home — the neighborhood, the school district, the proximity to things that matter to you — and you’re planning on staying for five or more years, improving your home is a smart move. Here’s why.

1. Funding is cheap

The current economic climate sweetens the pot for people on solid financial footing.

Should I spend $60,000 to renovate my house?

“The Fed doesn’t want you to save — it wants you to put your dollars into circulation,” said Keith Gumbinger, mortgage market analyst at

Today’s historically low interest rates mean that most home-equity lines of credit are charging their floor rates (your HELOC’s probably is around 3% if you’ve held it for a couple of years, 4% or 5% if the loan is more recent).

And with the typical bank account and money fund paying far less than 1%, drawing down your savings barely costs you anything in lost income — just don’t jeopardize your safety cushion.

2. Eager contractors are discounting

Although the construction industry rebounded somewhat last year, business is still slow. Remember when getting a contractor to call you back was a challenge?

Now the best pros in town will happily bid on your job — and they’ll probably offer you prices that are 10% to 20% below what you would have paid when real estate was going gangbusters, according to Bernard Markstein, senior economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

3. Materials have come down

The cost of building supplies has tumbled too. Plywood is down 23% since its peak in the mid-2000s. Drywall is off 29%, framing lumber 35%.

Not all raw materials prices have fallen that much: Asphalt roofing, which is made from a petroleum byproduct, is down only 7% over the past two years. Insulation — which has been in high demand because of energy rebates and high fuel prices — is down a mere 2% since 2006. Still, on the whole, construction supplies are bargains right now.

4. You’ll cut your energy costs

You don’t have to hire a green builder to see energy savings from a renovation. In a prewar house in the high-energy-cost Northeast, for example, a standard kitchen remodel could cut your utility expenses by $400 a year thanks to new insulation, windows, and appliances.

Even years of such savings will never come close to covering the project’s price tag, but think of your lower electric and heating bills as an annual dividend.

5. Fixing up costs less than trading up

With the median home price down 22% since 2006, you might think this is an opportune time to trade up for the new master bathroom or other modern feature you want. After all, why not buy somebody else’s remodeling headache at a discount.

But you can’t assume that you’ll easily sell your house in this tough market and then find a new place that has the exact features you want (and not a bunch of stuff you don’t want). And moving remains far costlier than improving, said John Ranco, past president of the Greater Boston Association of Realtors.

For starters, commissions and fees to sell a $400,000 home could run $25,000.

“You can get a lot of remodeling done for that kind of money,” said Ranco. “And that doesn’t even include the higher price you’re paying for the new house, the moving costs, or the inevitable painting and window treatments the new place will need.”

6. You can keep that sub-5% mortgage

As long as you’re not underwater and haven’t wrecked your credit, you’ve been able to take advantage of recent rock-bottom interest rates to lock in a fixed-rate mortgage below 5%.

Move several years from now, and you’ll have to give up that loan, probably for something in the sixes or sevens, said Harvard’s Baker. That’s not bad, but it could mean hundreds a month in added interest costs.

“If you can remodel your way into staying put long term, you can hold on to that once-in-a-lifetime rate,” says Baker.

7. Smart projects still add value

In the post-boom era, the rule of thumb for gauging the potential payback from a home improvement is simple: If you’re bringing your house in line with similar homes in the area, you’ll most likely earn back the lion’s share of the cost when you sell. If you’re surpassing the neighborhood, you probably won’t.

“Remodeling a 10-year-old kitchen because you don’t like its style doesn’t pay anymore,” says Thomas Collimore, director of investor education for the CFA Institute. “But replacing a 1960s kitchen is a different story.”

At least for the foreseeable future, buyers will either lowball their bids or pass on your house entirely unless you’ve already tackled this kind of deferred renovation.

8. You get to enjoy the results

When it comes time to sell your place, chances are you’ll probably wind up having to do the sorely needed renovations you didn’t take care of earlier. Not only does that add a huge amount of stress to the process of putting a house on the market, but you still end up spending the money (quite possibly when contractor, materials, and borrowing costs are higher).

Why not get the benefits of a new furnace or an updated powder room for you and your family instead of buying them for the house’s next owners? And why not do the projects soon so you get as much time as possible to enjoy the results?

Unlike vacations, luxury cars, or other discretionary expenditures, your remodeling project might recoup a significant chunk of its cost someday.

Even so, home improvements aren’t purely investment decisions — you shouldn’t redo a kitchen or bathroom in the hopes of making a profit. But if you want to upgrade the quality of your home life and you can afford the cost, it’s money well spent.

To Remodel or Not To Remodel …

Posted in Around Your Home, Renovation with tags , , , on February 10, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Since the economy has slowed down, most of us are afraid to dip into savings or income because banks are making it more difficult to get loans. We think that holding on to our money in case times get worse is the best way to go. However, most people don’t know the smart ways to invest in their home. Remodeling is an investment that can help in the long run.

The first step towards successful Home Improvement Remodeling is to find out how much your home is presently worth.

The next thing you need to know is the top sales price in your area for totally updated and renovated homes of the same approximate size as your home.  You can start this investigation by talking to neighbors who have just sold their homes, by scanning your local newspaper, by searching your local area on the internet, talking to real estate agents who have an in-depth knowledge of your area and finally by visiting other homes for sale in the neighborhood to see what they have to offer that your home does not.

The end result of this search will give you the present top or “ceiling” price for similar homes in your area. The difference between the present value of your home and the “ceiling “ price of similar homes in your area is your maximum Home Improvement Remodeling budget for all and any work you plan to have done around your home.

Choosing the right project for your home remodeling is easier if you have seen the standard of finish and amenities featured in top priced homes in your area, the ones that are selling and not sitting on the market.

  • Kitchen Remodeling – An updated kitchen including energy efficient appliances, plumbing, wiring, flooring, lighting, quality cabinetry and countertops go a long way in raising the saleability value of your home.
  • Bathroom Remodeling – The more up-to-date facilities your bathroom offers the better, like Jacuzzi tub, spacious walk-in shower with body massaging jets, neutral tile and updated fixtures and lighting. The key here, as in the kitchen, is not over spending on designer fixtures and fittings when good quality options would update your project, reflect the value of your home and fit your remodeling needs.
  • Master Bathroom – The most popular home improvement remodeling options for the master bedroom is the inclusion of a master bath, and if space allows, a walk-in closet and/or dressing area. The potential for maximum results may be determined by any available space situated beside the present master bedroom, i.e. a small spare room that you can incorporate without adversely affecting the value of your home.
  • Energy Efficient Equipment – In all home types, updating all fuel consuming equipment for energy efficient options is going to be a solid investment now, on saved energy bills, and a great selling point backing up the value of your home in the future.
  • Exterior Renovations – Nine out of the ten most cost-effective projects, nationally, in terms of value recouped, are exterior replacement projects. These include front entry door replacement, siding replacement, both fiber-cement and foam –backed vinyl, window replacement and garage door replacement with an insulated steel door.


Robert R Jones Homes Remodeling

Hardwood Door & Bevel

KSI Kitchen Cabinets

Aging In Place

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , , on December 8, 2010 by Pat Hansen

While few of us want to admit that we are aging, an overwhelming number of home owners have made the decision that they want to live independently in their own homes.

The easiest way to prepare for aging-in-place is to include design features when building a home or embarking on a remodeling project. The following features can be added during construction or remodeling jobs for little or no extra cost:

Getting safely in and out of the house         

  • Better outdoor lighting, such as path lighting to the front or rear door
  • Attractive ramps or a “zero step entrance” for the home
  • Handrails at steps and porches
  • One-story ranch  designs for new homes

Changes in the kitchen for easier meal preparation and eating

  • Lever-handle faucets with a pull-out sprayer
  • Raised dishwasher to avoid back strain
  • Rolling island that can be placed back under the counter
  • Revolving corner shelves and pull-out shelves
  • Lower, side-opening oven
  • Pull-out cutting board
  • Adjustable height sink
  • Side-by-side refrigerator with slide-out shelves and a water/ice dispenser
  • Cooking range with controls on front
  • Larger, more accessible cabinet and drawer pulls

Changes in bathrooms (the number one place for accidents in the home)

  • Lever handles on the faucets
  • Two to three attractive grab bars in the shower
  • Slide-bar type hand-held shower, for sitting or standing
  • Shower seats
  • Inset shampoo nooks
  • Curb-less showers that can be rolled into for wheelchair use
  • Moving tub and shower controls closer to entry point
  • Anti-scald, temperature and pressure balanced tub shower valves
  • Widening entry doors to at least 32 inches for wheelchair access
  • Higher toilets

Moving around in the house

  • Improved lighting with recessed fixtures  in common areas
  • Lever handles on doors and windows
  • Grab bars at key locations
  • Lower light switches and thermostats; raised outlets
  • Stacked closets on the first and second floors.  Frame the floor to accommodate a future elevator shaft should the need arise.  Make sure you size the closets appropriately
  • Blocking in walls to accommodate a future chair lift – straight stairs work better for this

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) training program, created in collaboration with AARP, can help you create your “livable home,” whether you are building a new home or retrofitting your existing residence. Look for the CAPS credential as a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home or build a new one that is designed for a lifetime.

To find a CAPS designee in your area, visit NAHB.

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