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Home Remodeling Tips
Home Remodeling Tips
There are lots of ways to build a house — or remodel one. For proof, just page through this end-of-the-year issue of Smart HomeOwner, which we’ve dubbed our Great Homes issue. You’ll see a wide variety of homes in varying sizes, with different layouts and built in different styles, from modernistic to contemporary and regional to rustic. But as different as these homes may appear on the outside, they have one common factor under their skins — they all demonstrate the current state-of-the-art when it comes to eco-friendly, energy-efficient design.
Typically our goal here at Smart HomeOwner is to drill down into the various and distinctive components of a home (whether it’s the foundation, building envelope [walls and roof], windows and doors, heating and cooling system, insulation, flooring or what have you) and examine the best options for homeowners. But in every issue we also feature what we call “whole house” stories. These are articles that take a look at how all these individual components join together to create a unique home.
Lately, we’ve been seeing more and more homes that push the envelope when it comes to green and energy-efficient design — so many, in fact, that we thought it was time to devote an entire issue to these ground-breaking homes.
The properties we spotlight in this issue are located in all regions of the country, from coast to coast, and range in size from 1,252 square feet to nearly 7,000 square feet. Many were constructed using building systems such as structural insulated panels (SIPs) and insulating concrete forms (ICFs). All have superior insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors. Many feature geothermal heating and cooling systems, and make extensive use of reclaimed and recycled building materials. And most take advantage of the sun’s energy, either with active solar photovoltaic systems or with passive solar design, which includes such features as roof overhangs to help shade the homes during the summer.
Most importantly, these homes demonstrate what’s possible using current and widely available building techniques and materials. Sourcing green building materials is now easier than ever before, and opportunities exist locally for homeowners and builders in just about every region of the country (and throughout Canada as well) to find smart building materials within a 500 mile radius of the construction site.
If there’s any downside to some of these homes, it’s the fact that many of their systems and materials are still too expensive for many homeowners. That, admittedly, is a drawback, especially when you must factor in payback times in order to achieve a reasonable building and long-term household budget. But as these building materials and systems become more pervasive, and as more and more builders and homeowners recognize the value of specifying green and energy-efficient materials and products, prices will begin to moderate. Before you know it, we’ll all be living in homes we can truly classify as “great.”
Five Tips for Hiring a Remodeling Contractor
Remodeling a kitchen or bathroom can be daunting, to say the least, to know where to start when looking for the right contractor for your next home improvement project. There are many different kinds of Remodeling Contractors, some of whom specialize in a particular area while others have the experience and dedication to tackle just about any projects. The former would consist of in house renovation projects such as bathroom and kitchen flooring, countertop contractors, and so on while the latter would most likely be general contractors that specialize in construction projects.
There are several home remodeling questions you should keep in mind when you begin your search for the right contractor in your area. Many people often shy away from asking the most important ones. The most common reason is that they don’t know the first thing and don’t want to feel ignorant or stupid and besides, they should trust their contractor. You’re hiring someone to work on your home; you have a responsibility to ensure that it is done accurately and professionally. Here are some questions to ask yourself before hiring.
1. What kind of project are you planning? This may seem mundane, or something that should be common sense, but if you’re planning on a new home construction, for example, you will be dealing with an array of different remodeling and general contractors, each one specializing in their field of expertise. Due to permits and other town and county license requirements, you won’t be able to hire one general contractor (for example) to complete the job from start to finish. Many of these general remodeling contractors, however, have a network of associates they deal with to help the process go smoother. If you will be remodeling a kitchen, let’s say, then you will have to find a good remodeling contractor, an electrical contractor, and possibly even a floor tile specialist. Or you may not have to hire them directly, but rather the remodeling contractor has a specialized crew or will subcontract the work out for you.
2. How many years have they been in business? The longer a remodeling contractor has been in business, the more experience they have. If you want the best work and are willing to pay the price, you’ll want a contractor who has been doing this work for many years. Success breeds experience.
3. Are they licensed? Make sure that you ask your potential remodeling contractor if they’re licensed to operate in your state. States’ requirements vary and someone may say they’re licensed, but may not be for your state. A license means they have passed requirements to operate in your area.
4. What kind of experience do they have? A remodeling contractor should have a decent amount of experience if you want quality work for your home’s roof. The notorious winds and harsh weathers mean that an inexperience-roofing contractor might not use the proper nails or other materials.
5. Do they have references? You have every right to demand references from the people who will be performing work inside of your home. If they hem and haw about the idea of offering up references, or tell you that they have to ‘dig them up’ and will get back to you with the names and phone numbers, they may not have the experience you require. Less seasoned or veteran general contractors often overlook having a portfolio, especially when they have only done a few small, insignificant projects. Some contractors may even try to say that they value their customers’ privacy and refuse to divulge names and phone numbers. This isn’t a red flag, per se, but they should have before and after photographs of several of their most recent ventures.
Attribution: The author maintains a Kitchen Remodeling Dupage County site, if you’re local in the Chicago suburbs you may want to visit his site. Kitchen Remodeling Chicago
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