Home Improvement Tips to Help You Get Started in the Right Place

You know you need some home improvement, but you don’t know where to start. This is a common problem that most homeowners go through at least once in their lives. Don’t let a little indecision stand in your way of improving your home.

The first place to start is creating a budget it will help you to choose what you can or can’t do. You should also check your local building codes to see what type of permits you’re going to need before you begin any big renovations.

Once you know where you’re at you can start to figure out what needs to be done.

I find watching home improvement shows can give you a lot of ideas on what you can do and how to do it. The one place most people look at improving is the kitchen because it is the one place that is easy to improve.

By simply changing your hardware or painting or refinishing your cupboards you can make a big difference in your home. One thing that I don’t see too often that works well is painting your appliances. I suggest finding a good heat resistant paint for the stove and going with a silver to make it look like you got yourself a new set of stainless steel appliances.

You’d be surprised at how big a difference it can make without spending a fortune. If you have money to spare replacing old appliances with new ones is going to go along way at improving the look of your kitchen. Counter tops are an item that makes a big difference. With so many types and styles to choose from I suggest going over your options with a professional and then looking into what options you have with the amount of money you have to spare.

Lights are a big thing adding the right type of light to your kitchen will finish it up perfectly.

Architects Versus Engineers: Who Leads the Project?

Architects and engineers are essential members of nearly every construction project. There are very few projects where you won’t need the skill sets from both. The division of labor between architects and engineers is a well-known and accepted concept, but have you ever considered, who leads the project?

For anyone in construction, this may seem obvious, but it occurred to me that it may not be as obvious to everyone else. So Today I wanted to take a moment to discuss the differences between an architect and an engineer and explain why one is exceptionally qualified to lead the other.

Before I jump into the meat of this discussion, I want to share an experience I had several years ago. A higher education client was modernizing their university’s central power plant. Given the substantial engineering this project required, the Owner selected an engineer who was exceptionally skilled with the various building systems impacted by the project. The firm was hired directly by the owner and setup to lead the project. The engineer, realized that while the project was primarily an engineering project, there were several architectural elements that would also be impacted. Not having any in-house architects, the firm turned to an outside architect and hired them as a sub-consultant with the principal engineer in the lead.

The firm I was with at the time received the award to provide the architectural services. I was assigned the project and worked with the engineer to complete this project. This was the one and only project I ever worked on where the architect did not have the lead role.

It was the single worst project experience I have ever had.

I’ve got a lot of friends who are engineers. My wife is one. Many of my closest friends are engineers. This means that I have endured decades of jabs about architects and typically being the only architect in the room, I have no recourse but to laugh along. The truth is that architects do push the boundaries of engineering. Often to the point of mockery. We tend to do so out of ignorance. After all, we certainly don’t understand each system the way our engineer colleagues do.

Despite this, there is one thing my fellow engineers don’t fully appreciate. Without proper coordination and alignment between all of the engineered parts, the entire project would fail to come together.

Coordination between the various building systems is a critical part of every project. If left undone, a deficiency in coordination stands to wreak havoc throughout construction and subject the owner to change orders, additional costs, and delays.

It may surprise some to hear that architects are responsible for coordination of engineering systems.

In order to better understand this, it’s important to review the education, training, and examinations required of architects and compare that to the education, training, and examinations required of engineers.

Engineers begin their academic careers in general engineering classes but soon concentrate their education in one of several major disciplines. An engineering student may choose a major in Mechanical, Electrical, or Civil engineering (just to name a few). Each of these concentrations focuses education on a specific set of physical properties in which students specialize. After graduation, those who choose to go into construction, learn to apply those concepts to specific building systems aligned with their engineering major. When it comes time to become a licensed Professional Engineer, the examinations required by licensing boards are tailored to the engineering discipline. In short throughout an engineer’s career, the concentration they choose stays with them throughout their lives. I won’t make a blanket statement stating that engineer’s don’t know more than one discipline, but I will say that I have encountered very few who either practice or even dabble in another.

On the other hand in addition to core design and architecture theory classes, architecture students are required to attend several years of classes in structures, building systems, and construction practice. When a student graduates, one of the first duties (pun intended) assigned is detailing bathrooms (where all building systems come together). When it comes time for license, an architect must pass a series of examinations (seven at last count) that include building systems and structural systems.

In short, the only licensed professional in the design team that is educated in all of the major systems of a building is the architect.

On my disastrous old university project, the engineer did such a poor job of coordination, that his own people would come to meetings often uninformed of the impacts that changes in another in-house engineering discipline had on their work. Often these guys sat just across the aisle from one another.

I certainly did not know it at the time, but the Owner’s mistake of hiring the engineer as the project lead doomed that project to failure.

It seems like a reasonable assumption that on a project that is primarily about replacing building systems, the engineer would take the lead, so I don’t fault the owner for making that assumption.

I now know what a folly that decision can be and hope I’ve helped some of you avoid this mistake.

Now, every time I am forced to hear another architect joke from one of my brazen engineer friends, I take solace in the fact that without me, the various systems they are such experts in would fail to suit their intended purpose.

I hope you now have a better understanding of the interplay between engineers and architects. Next week we will discuss whether it’s better to hire each one directly or have one subcontract the other.

What about you? Have you ever worked on a project with an engineer in the lead role? Was the project successful? Did construction go smoothly? Tell me your stories.

4 Tips for Maintaining Vinyl Siding

We all know that vinyl siding is a great choice for one’s home due to its low maintenance and longevity. But that doesn’t mean that it is totally without basic maintenance needs or steps to be taken to see that it looks its best. Some of the common issues one might deal with are cracking, puncturing or perhaps pulling away from the house.

Thankfully, these proactive measures do not take a great deal of skill or a toolbox full of special tools.

Tips for Maintaining Vinyl Siding

1. Be sure to keep any shrubbery around the home trimmed back so that the branches cannot poke or scratch the siding. Failing to do this will result in the coating on the siding being scratched, nicked or punctured thus making the siding susceptible or mildew and mold.

2. No matter what type of siding you have on your home. It is important to take time to clean it, at least once a year. With vinyl, you can do this by using a soft scrub brush, soapy water, and a water hose for rinsing. Yes, you can use a power washer but be sure to keep it at the lowest setting and take care not to use excessive force.

3. In the event that you do discover dents, punctures or scratching, replace the piece as soon as possible. Be sure in doing this, that you use a siding removal tool so you can avoid damaging the surrounding pieces of siding.

4. Make time to clean your gutters- especially during the spring and fall or after a heavy storm as this will help keep the siding clean and prevent risk of damage to the siding.

It is also worth noting that while most people opt to have vinyl siding in a color they like, it you purchase a home with siding in a color you do not like, it can be painted. It will take two coats of 100% latex paint and the paint will need to be re-applied every two years in order to always look great.

Maintaining your vinyl siding is not a full-time job, but it does need the occasional repairs or cleaning. Don’t just assume that your home’s siding is a one and done aspect of ownership. Take time throughout the year to ensure that your siding will last as long (if not longer) than you were promised at installation. If you are new to vinyl, then be sure to talk to a local siding company and find out what they recommend for your particular type and style of home siding.

Why Choose Concrete Construction

We are always looking for ways that we can add to our home. It might be in adding a specific type of siding or roofing, through updating the landscaping or perhaps by making our driveway smoother and easier to use, but the reality is that we are always on the lookout for something that can help us stand out from the rest.

When it comes to adding a feature that is practical and yet versatile one such option is to incorporate concrete construction elements. Be it a masonry patio, an outdoor fireplace, building a lanai or having an outdoor kitchen, the use for masonry are as numerous and varied as your imagination or budget. And, speaking of budget, because of its durability and ease of maintenance, opting for concrete construction is one of the most budget friendly choices available.

But what is that can be built using masonry? Why, nearly anything you might want! From indoor elements such as gorgeous stained or stamped concrete floors, stairs, or columns to outdoor features like pool side patios, driveways, walkways, garden paths, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces concrete is the perfect medium for all things house related.

5 Ways to Incorporate Concrete Construction:

If you have always considered concrete to be suitable for just the obvious things like driveways or by the pool, you might be surprised to think of it as other home elements. Consider these fun uses of concrete:

  1. Create a custom kitchen counter by using concrete. You can customize everything from the color, the thickness, or even opt to embed personal items in the concrete before it set up for a truly customized look.
  2. Add concrete stepping stones to a garden path Sure you can buy them at your local garden store, but why not create your own shapes, sizes, colors and designs! So much more fun.
  3. Have an outdoor kitchen built, and incorporate concrete elements such as seating, planters, or table tops,
  4. Need help with erosion? Add a masonry retaining wall and keep the dirt and lawn where you want it.
  5. Use concrete to design a raised bed area for your yard

Concrete construction is nothing new, as it has been used in architecture for years. However, we sometimes forget just how perfect it is for so many decorative elements. If you are trying to determine what to do with the appearance of your home or landscape, be sure to consider employing masonry features. You just might be surprised at their versatility. Talk to a local concrete professional today.

Taking a Look at the Cost of Home Repair

Most home repair work can be costly and time consuming. Yet, most people want to keep their homes in good shape and keep up with home improvements to increase the value of their property and place of residence. Some repair work must be done immediately in order to make sure that it isn’t becoming a dangerous place to live. With all of this, money becomes an important issue.

One reason why house repairs tend to be expensive is when contractor prices are used. These tend to be higher than when just paying for a service. There can be different rules attached to the hiring of a contractor, in terms of hours, overtime and other factors. This can make home remodeling far more costly than anticipated, so it is wise to ensure that contractor pricing will not be used when you arrange to have work done on your place of resident.

Even with a good budget and money available for home repair work, the cost can go much higher than first planned. Most home repair services will provide customers with an estimate. This is based upon them coming to your place of residence and finding out what you want done and then inspecting the home. The estimate gives you a range but it isn’t written in stone. The project may require added work to be done, which will drive up the cost.

Of course house repairs can end up being more expensive than originally thought if there are hidden fees worked into the contract. These are extra charges that are rarely openly discussed when the contract is arranged, and are only brought to light at the end of the project. This type of business dealing has given handyman home improvement services a bad name and has made many people wary about dealing with people in this industry.

To keep the cost of home repair work low, you can also do a lot of the work yourself. Some projects may be simpler than others, and a bit of research and some ability with tools will allow you to make many changes or improvements on your own. If you have to hire a handyman, then seek out a good referral from people that you trust. Be active during the estimate process, and carefully go over the contract. Monitor the actual work being done and you will not find yourself surprised at the final total.

Avoiding Basement Flooding

How great it is to have a basement in your house? Having one means more space for your home, and of course, more room to hang out in. You can convert your basement to a laundry room maybe, a storage room, or even a cozy hang out room where you and your family can pass the time and enjoy each other’s company in. Some even convert their basements to bedrooms! This space provides an almost limitless choice to what you want to put in it; the only limit is the imagination.

Having a basement, though, also presents a big problem to a home owner. Let us consider flooding in the basement. Flooding happens because water seeps into the ground and onto your basement. This especially makes a lot of damage after an extensive period of rain. All the furniture and other valuable things in the basement are of course ruined.

This is why sump pumps have been invented. Sump pumps are the best line of defense against water seepage. Sump pumps work through propelling the water via a pump system from the lowest section of the basement away from the basement floor even before it reaches the floor level. The groundwater will be directed to the sump hole, and is then pushed through a pipe that leads it away from the foundation. This is a great solution.

But you also have to remember to regularly check the sump pump to ensure an optimal functioning. All you need is some hand held brushes, screw drivers, and of course, some clean water to wash the sump pump. Make sure to brush the pump well, and do not remove the screws on the top of it to avoid releasing the oil in the motor. You might need to remove the cover on the bottom impeller to assure quality cleaning. Make sure to keep out dirt, stone and debris from the impeller, as this may cause some damage. Remember to screw the impeller on back tight.

Make sure, though, to remember to clean the sump pump when it is not in use, or when the weather permits you to. If you try to clean it up during heavy rains, you just might create the flood in your basement yourself!

If you regularly maintain your sump pump, you can now rest easy because your basement would be guaranteed virtually flood-less in the days to come!.

How to Enhance Your Home Using Vinyl Shutters

You may have noticed that some people use vinyl shutters on their houses. Generally they are an excellent way of enhancing the look of the home and they really can help you to add a touch of elegance and warmth to the home without needing to spend a fortune.

How Vinyl Shutters Can Enhance the Home

The idea behind the vinyl shutters has been around for years and the ancient Greeks used to use them in their homes. Today the reasons for using them are generally the same, for privacy and security, though less focus is placed on the security as we now have alarms for that purpose.

Some vinyl shutters can be used to protect the home in case of a hurricane. These types are generally built a little study than the ordinary ones as obviously they will need to be able to stay put in all kinds of extreme weather. With indoor vinyl shutters they are a lot less sturdy, though they will still last for years. Hurricane shutters are excellent if you live in any of the various countries which suffer badly from them every now and again. It gives you that little added extra piece of mind as you will know that the house is a little more protected with the shutters than it was before.

One of the main advantages of using vinyl shutters over wooden ones is the fact that they are easier to maintain. They are extremely easy to clean and they generally just need a wipe down every couple of days. You can either just dust them or give them proper clean using soapy water. They last longer than wooden shutters too which means that they are not only less expensive to purchase but they are also more cost efficient too.

Finally one option you also have with vinyl shutters is whether to have them moveable or completely fixed to the wall. Most people prefer to have shutters which they can open and shut on their own accord but other like to have the shutters tightly put on and left there for as long as possible. It is entirely up to you and both will enhance the look of your home so it is all down to personal taste.

Overall vinyl shutters definitely make a big difference within the home. They can protect the house, they keep the sunlight out and they also give you more privacy when needed. They are inexpensive and cost effective and they come in a large variety of types and colors too.

Tips on Saving Money During Home Improvement Projects

Many people may think that it will cost lots to remodel home. As a matter of fact, home improvement will not cost you much as long as you know some useful tips. When you are deciding to remodel your home, try the following tips which can save you much money on home improvement.

Firstly, you should see which part of your home need an improvement. Go around and note down these parts. After a long-time usage, these parts need to be remodeled.

You can seek the help from your friends, especially from the friend who is an interior designer. They can give you lots of helpful advice on how to remodel your home effectively and economically. These advice may differ from one person to another. When this is in case, you should compare these tips to see which is more favorable to finish the entire project.

Hiring a good contractor is also very important. You would better find one you are familiar with. These contractors can do the job for cheaper prices. Keep in mind that you can hire these professionals at an favorable price when there is not much work going on in the neighborhood.

Repainting the ceiling or walls is one thing most people will do when remodeling their home. This is easy. You just need to buy some paint and find a time to do it. You should do the task weekly so that one area of the house is finished before moving on to the next.

Certainly, you can do your home improvement whenever you like, but remember you can save much money when you do it in the lean months.

How to Protect Trees During Construction Work

The trees on your property add much value to it. Whether it is a commercial or residential site, shade trees are important not only because they contribute to the looks of the place, but also because they offer practical use.

When nearby construction work occurs at a given site, the importance of preserving the trees is even higher. As a matter of fact, homes are often constructed near trees due to their environmental and aesthetic value. It is construction work that causes the most damage to a tree. To avoid both long and short-term tree damage, you need to consult with arboricultural consultants and every other party involved in the project. Here is what you should be mindful of:

Protection of existing trees – heavy machinery and construction work within proximity of trees can cause irreparable damage. According to arborists, fixing tree damage is considered far more expensive than preventing it. For this reason, establish visible and durable barricades that keep trees protected. Young trees of 1 to four years require minimal protection of 30 cm area for each 2.5 cm of trunk diameter. For mature trees, the protected area should span two meters from the widest measure of their crown.

Protection of root systems – trees contain two types of roots: large and small absorbing roots. The large system expands in a horizontal direction and is 15-60 cm in depth. They serve to provide anchorage and nutrient transport. The smaller roots average 0.16 cm in diameter and serve to absorb nutrients and water. Damaging any of the two systems can have a significant impact on tree’s health.

Soil compaction – once a tree is established, any soil changing activity can prove detrimental to its health. With construction traffic near the tree, soil can become severely compacted, thus reducing permeability. Compacted soil significantly restricts root growth and contributes to less water and nutrients. A layer of 10-15 cm mulch of wood chips can reduce compaction.

Soil fills – adding an excessive amount of soil around a tree interferes with proper moisture and air circulation. With soil fills, roots can be exposed to improper gas exchange and build up carbon dioxide. The only soil fills that are harmless to trees are those with topsoil less than 8cm. Excessive fill symptoms include small leaves and premature autumn discoloration.

Direct physical injury – construction equipment can damage the bark in what is known as ‘skinning’ process. A tree cannot possibly survive without its bark, making that sort of damage particularly problematic. Trenching can also physically damage a tree’s roots. Boring a tunnel under the roots is the best way to save them. If trenching is not avoidable, it should be placed as far back from the trunk as possible.

It is wise to consider a tree survey before and after construction work takes place on your property. That is the best way to ensure trees are in good shape or what measures should be taken to minimize damage.

Home Improvement Tips to Help Sell Your Home

With the real estate market fluctuating, there comes a period every couple of years where there are more sellers than buyers and hence the people looking for a home can be choosy. They know that sellers desperately want to move on to their next home and will do anything reasonable to close a deal.

With so many homes on the market, many sellers resort to home improvement tips and tricks to make their house stand out from among the competition. However, the key lies in knowing which home improvement tips can increase the value of your home and which won’t make much of a difference. Here are some of the most popular home improvement areas that can help sell your home faster and for a better price

Paint

The cheapest home improvement aspect can also give the best payoff. You can save even more money by doing the job yourself. A fresh coat of white or taupe can really improve the homes appearance. It looks cleaner, looks bigger and looks like the people who live here care for their property. However, one word of caution here is to stick to neutral tones if you want to sell your home. Home improvement shows boast of the latest faux paint techniques and the hottest colors for the season. However, the green you like for your master bedroom may not appeal to prospective homeowners. If you do have hot pink bedroom walls for your daughter, tone them down or make them neutral as well. This is because new owners may not have a daughter who will use that room and they may want to move in to something that requires minimum effort.

Window Treatments

Again, if you can make window treatments yourself you can save some money. But even if you cannot, new curtains and blinds are home improvement aspects that really spruce the place up. Again, stick to prints and patterns that people of all ages would like so that you appeal to more buyers. Better still, opt for solids rather than floral or abstracts as they are a safer bet.

De-clutter

Perhaps the biggest payoff as far as home improvement tips are concerned is to make your home look bigger and less messy. You may have accumulated a lot of stuff (and junk) over the years. Ideally, go through the entire home and toss, donate or store anything you do not need immediately. This will free up walking space, wall space, counter space and the like and prospective owners will feel they are getting more footage for their dollar. If there are pieces you can not part with, hold them in a separate storage area not your garage or basement. Then if you still feel they are important, bring them back in your new home.