Home Remodeling for the “Sandwich” Generation

I just came across a statistic showing that the number of multi-generational homes in the US has risen to a 50-year high. As a home remodeling contractor, this trend isn’t exactly news to me.

Even before the recession, more and more home remodeling projects involved creating suites for college grads who returned to live with Mom and Dad for several years while “getting on their feet.” We were also doing a number of projects to create extra space to accommodate elderly parents moving in – with remodeling being a far friendlier (and economical) solution than putting Grandma or Grandpa into assisted living facilities.

Moving in together also makes good sense in our “post-recession” world when different generations may need to pull together to overcome economic challenges.

No matter why people come together, there can be enormous rewards to multi-generational living. Now, of course I’m a home remodeling contractor, but from my perspective the secret to success seems to be to adapting the house with the right blend of private and “together” spaces.

Here are three home remodeling tips that seem to make a big difference when multiple generations live together:

Bathrooms: The more bathrooms, the fewer frustrations. Ideally, bathrooms would be “in suite,” associated with each bedroom. When bathrooms are shared, good storage space is critical in creating comfort and minimizing arguments over mess and clutter.

Sitting rooms: Even small bedrooms can be remodeled to include a separate sitting area. This creates a valuable retreat where family members can enjoy a little private time away from the rest of the busy, noisy household.

Gathering rooms: It’s important to create gathering rooms – kitchens, dining rooms and family rooms – that are spacious enough to welcome the whole family. Within a great room, for example, it’s a good idea to design different areas so that the kids can enjoy jumping up and down with their video games without being right on top of Gran who’s trying to finish the crossword. The kitchen should have space for the kids to do homework or enjoy a snack while the adults are sharing cooking duties.

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Ideas from a Professional Bathroom Remodeler

What would a professional bathroom remodeler do with your bathroom? A bathroom remodeler with years of experience as should be able to suggest creative ways to use new and traditional products, layout, and design to achieve the look and functionality you want. Here are a few things we like to suggest when working on a bathroom remodeling project:

  • Get a great look that’s also a great value. Hand-painted porcelain tiles, for example, are a beautiful choice for a bathroom. Remodelers love to work with them, but they may take up too much of your total budget, especially if you’re remodeling a large bathroom. Often, however, there are very fine alternatives that can satisfy your design concept by giving you the same look and coloring of high-end materials. You can also design the bathroom to use the more expensive materials as an accent so that you still get the “wow” factor.
  • Splurge a little. It’s true that you might not necessarily need “extras” like a steam shower or a towel warming drawer, but you may find that these luxuries create a pampering, spa-like environment that you enjoy day after day.
  • Design for how you really live. Quiet, luxurious soaking tubs seem to be replacing the noisier Jacuzzis as the first choice for today’s bath lovers. But while soaking tubs tend to be smaller than Jacuzzis, they still take up considerable floor space. The question to ask yourself before you reflexively install a tub when remodeling is will you use it. For many people – including many older couples – the answer is “no.” If that’s the case, why install both a tub and a shower? Instead, you might consider saving the space (and money) you’d spend on a tub – or using that same budget to enjoy a larger, more luxurious shower with seats, a no barrier design and extra room for storage. If you are remodeling with resale as a high priority, you may wish to include a tub in your plans even if you don’t plan on using it yourself. However, you might not have the tub in your bathroom.
  • Think universal design. No matter how young and fit you are, a bathroom designed for safety and effortless access will be a smart investment. If you’re older, features such as walk-in tubs can let you enjoy baths without worrying about climbing in and out of a traditional tub. Curbless showers are another good feature. A good bathroom remodeler can integrate grab bars, good lighting, non-slippery floors, and other universal design features beautifully into any style of bathroom so that you can enjoy your home longer while still being safer from slips and falls.
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What Kitchen Remodelers Know About Kitchens

As professional kitchen remodelers, we’ve designed and built many different styles of kitchens for many different types of clients here throughout the area west of Los Angeles. When we’re discussing a new kitchen, remodeler experience can often help clients think about things they might not otherwise consider. Here are a few examples:

Kitchen remodelers know the value of space planning. For example, in designing a dream kitchen, “remodeler experience” often prompts us to suggest keeping the actual cooking area compact to eliminate long walks from the fridge to the sink. We also emphasize planning up front for how you’ll actually use your space so that things work for the kitchen remodel ergonomically and practically as well as from a design point of view.

Separate “stations” can add ease and functionality. One of our jobs as a kitchen remodeler is to create a kitchen that makes life easier for our clients. A “station” can help. For example, a beverage center is great for parties and for getting drinks poured for dinner without being underfoot as the cook finishes up meal preparation. A breakfast station can make mornings easier by locating cabinets for cereals and bowls right above counter space designed to hold an elegant coffeemaker and retro-style toaster.

Lighting is so important — from natural light flowing in through windows and skylights, to layered lighting plans that combine under-counter and task lighting with ambient lighting on dimmer switches to go bright for meal prep or dim for dining and parties.

Explore new countertop options. All kitchen remodelers know that granite is a popular choice. But before you decide, you might want to consider the colors and designability of solid surfaces like Corian, as well as eco-friendly choices like concrete or “wow factor” materials such as thick glass countertops complete with LED lighting systems that can change the color and brightness of the counters.

As one of the area’s most experienced kitchen remodelers, we’ve done just about every type and size of kitchen. Ideas like the ones we’ve offered here can be of great help in the early stages of planning your kitchen remodel. For more inspiration, take a look at our photo gallery!

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Exterior Remodeling Projects That Make a Difference (part 1)

What’s the ROI on exterior remodeling?  New curb appeal, resale value, daily enjoyment, greater functionality and – if you do it right – significant savings in energy costs and maintenance as well.

 

Resale value isn’t the only reason to think about exterior remodeling. Curb appeal also means having an attractive, well-cared-for house that welcomes you home every day of the year. Stand in front of your home.  How welcoming is it? If it isn’t up to par, exterior remodeling can make all the difference. Best of all, whether you’re thinking of a major exterior remodeling project or small improvements, today’s new materials can help you build in lower energy costs and maintenance at the same time you’re enhancing your home’s attractiveness and eventual resale value.

Why invest in exterior remodeling?

 

1.       Exterior remodeling is as part of another remodeling job, such as a home addition.  Instead of just having the extra room “stuck” on, the entire exterior of the home is remodeled to integrate the new living space with the existing structure.

2.       Resale value prompts homeowners to use exterior remodeling to improve curb appeal and update the look of the home.  Adding a new entry door, for example, is a popular upgrade that continues to give homeowners a high ROI in terms of resale.

3. Repairs and replacements often lead to more extensive exterior remodeling. For example, when replacing old windows, homeowners can rethink not only the type of window, but the sizes and shapes – transforming those 1960s picture windows into French doors, Palladian arches or even Craftsman-styled windows and transforming the home’s exterior to match the new style.

 

4. Enjoyment is also a big factor. Homeowners may like the idea of exterior remodeling as a quick way to give their home a different look, adding a friendly front porch, covered entry or new deck and outdoor living room.

 

Our next post on this subject will be about the types of exterior remodeling projects that make the biggest difference.

 

 

 

 

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Exterior Remodeling Projects That Make a Difference (part 2)

What types of exterior remodeling projects make the biggest difference?

From adding new shutters and trim, to completely redesigning the façade, all types of exterior remodeling projects make a difference to the look of your home.  Some projects can also make a difference to how much you spend on home energy and how much time, money and effort it takes to maintain your home.  Let’s take a look at just a few of these “double duty” home exterior remodeling ideas.

Exterior surface.If you’re tired of painting siding or trim or it’s time to replace your sad vinyl siding, stone and brick can dramatically change the look of your home. Exterior remodeling materials like these last a lifetime and require very little maintenance.  If you don’t want the look of brick or stone (or the cost), new types of siding offer attractive options.  Fiber-cement siding, for instance, is guaranteed for 50 years, insects can’t bore into it, and it actually serves as an extra layer of insulation for your home — which can lower your heating and cooling costs.

Windows, Doors and Skylights.In addition to giving your home a fresh “look,” new windows can improve your home’s energy efficiency.  Plus, redesigning the way windows and skylights are placed – and even incorporating products like solar lighting tubes – can help you use natural daylight to significantly reduce your lighting bill.  Remember, however, that just buying new windows and doors won’t automatically reduce energy costs.  If they’re not properly installed as part of a professional exterior remodeling job, you can still find yourself paying to heat or cool the great outdoors.

Roofing. Having a new roof certainly improves curb appeal and pays off during a home inspection if you’re trying to sell your home.  Even if you’re not selling anytime soon, a new roof pays off in less worry during storms. While you’re at it, you may want to consider a new exterior, remodeling the roof line to add dormers, extend the roof over a patio, or create a new covered entry way. Plus, even small changes in the roof line can transform the character of your home, giving an ordinary ranch or split level the charm of a country cottage or a sleek modern profile.  Roofing materials can include anything from terra cotta tiles and slate, to cedar shakes and standard asphalt shingles.  But even if you choose shingles, today’s choices include all-new colors.  That’s important for energy costs because a hot black roof conducts heat into the home’s interior, running up your air-conditioning bill.  In fact, a cool white roof may be able to save you as much as 15% on energy costs.

Fire Resistance. You don’t need to be reminded that some of the homes in our area are in areas where wild fires occur all too often. If your home is in a danger zone, you should definitely explore with us the use of exterior remodeling materials that are designed to be fire resistant for homes in and near wild fire areas.

The bottom line is that even if you’re not thinking about selling your home, exterior remodeling can be well worth the investment – paying you back with daily enjoyment, greater functionality and – if you do it right – significant savings in energy and maintenance as well.

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Kitchen Remodeling Photos Offer More than Inspiration

When you’re thinking about kitchen remodeling, photos are a great starting point for collecting ideas for what your own new kitchen might look like. In addition to inspiration, kitchen remodeling photos can also help you work with your remodeler to get the absolute best results on your own project.

For example, our website has a portfolio of kitchen remodeling photos. Going through these photos with our clients opens conversations about the type of kitchen they’re looking for and it helps us quickly get an idea of what they do and don’t like. In fact, even kitchen remodeling photos they don’t like are helpful in alerting us to particular styles, finishes or types of appliances to avoid. This can save design time and help make sure that the ideas we do present are in line with clients’ tastes and right for their particular lifestyle.

Taking the time to review a variety of kitchen remodeling photos before you finalize your choices of appliances, finishes, and fixtures can also help reduce change orders and raise satisfaction once the actual remodel begins. For instance, you may love a particular cabinet line, but when you see those same cabinets paired with a certain countertop or flooring choice, they may look heavier or “busier” than you’d imagined. So, done early in the planning of the kitchen remodeling, photos can help you get a better idea of what the actual kitchen will look like.

Finally, seeing photos of actual kitchens helps you imagine yourself in the room. Is that where you’d like your refrigerator? Is that really the height you’d like the breakfast bar or island? If the stove isn’t close to the sink, should you have a tap installed so you can fill heavy pasta pots right there on the stove?

Again, we have quite a few kitchen remodeling photos on our website. We would also be happy to show you many more photos that we have from manufacturers to help you visualize how everything will come together. The more you “look” up front, the more you’ll love the results of your kitchen remodeling. Photos really do make a difference!

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A Home Addition Contractor’s Perspective on Cost v. Value

As an established home addition contractor, we talk with many clients who ask us what type of addition will give them the biggest payback. To provide the answer, we need to ask a question of our own: “What type of payback do you mean – resale or lifestyle?”

If you’re thinking in terms of resale value, sources in the home addition contractor business say some types of home additions do seem to recoup more of the initial investment than others. For example, Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost v. Value Report* documents that – on average – a two-story addition seems to offer the biggest payback at resale. Master suite additions and family room additions are virtually tied in second place, followed by bathroom additions and then sun room additions.

Remember, however, that local housing prices and the demographics are the most important factors in determining which type of addition will make the most sense purely in terms of resale. As a home addition contractor in this area, for example, we see variation literally neighborhood to neighborhood. In pockets of the community popular with older couples who are downsizing, a master suite addition might bring a higher resale ROI than a two-story addition. The sooner you may be putting your home on the market, the more weight you’ll want to give to the resale value of your addition.

Still, how many of us are thinking purely about resale when we consider a home addition? Contractors like us get calls mostly for other reasons, such as a growing family needing more living space, bedrooms or bathrooms.

If you’re thinking in terms of lifestyle value, the home addition that will give you the greatest ROI is the one that solves the real issues triggering your need for more space. For example, two families might say they need more space. But for one family, the need is actually for more private space, while the other family needs more space for being together and entertaining. So, for one family the highest-ROI solution that a home addition contractor can recommend is a master suite, while the highest-ROI addition for the other home is a spacious new family room.

Both resale and lifestyle should be considered when planning a home addition. We can tell you, however, that the best ROI comes from an addition that is built to meet today’s needs while keeping your home attractive to the likeliest type of family to buy your home down the road.

*SOURCE: Hanley Wood Remodeling cost v. value report 2010-2011 http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2010/costvsvalue/national.aspx
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Home Remodeler Tips for “Always Fresh” Kitchen Cabinets

As part of re-doing your kitchen, your home remodeler will ask you to select cabinets. There are so many styles to choose from that you won’t find it hard to zero in on cabinets that are perfect for your budget, tastes, and the configuration of your new kitchen. But a question we get a lot from our clients is this: “How do I choose cabinets that won’t look dated in a few years?”

It’s an important question. As home remodeling contractors, we can tell you that cabinets are a big portion of your kitchen remodeling budget. When you make that investment, you want to feel confident that your kitchen retains its “wow” even as styles change – and you can be sure they will! Here are two bits of advice to help you pick cabinets today that will continue to look stylish down the road.

Go with what you love. Today’s home remodeler magazines are brimming with a “new” look in kitchens where cabinets are painted or stained in everything from soft grays and greens to vibrant yellows and blues. If you love colored cabinets, then by all means go with a stained or painted finish rather than maple, cherry, oak or other wood finishes. You may, however, want to stick with softer, more neutral shades for the cabinets themselves – you can always add a punch of color by painting the walls, which is much easier to update than your cabinets.

Consider choosing a minimum of detail. We’re not talking about plain cabinets – after all, we’re home remodelers so it’s our job to give your new kitchen plenty of pizazz! But remember that the more details, the more your cabinets are locked into a particular look. For example, if you decide you want a sleeker, more modern look but have arched-paneled cabinets with elaborately carved moldings, it’s going to be a challenge to achieve the fresh new look you seek. If cabinets have less pronounced detailing, you have more options. In fact, you may be able to make over your kitchen – even take it from classic to contemporary – simply by switching out cabinet hardware and updating your countertop accessories.

Always opt for quality. When it comes to home remodeler tips for cabinets, this is the most important. That’s because nothing dates a kitchen more than cabinets that start to sag, chip, or lose their finish. For cabinets that continue to look good year after year, buy the best cabinets you can within your budget today.

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Secrets of Low-Maintenance Exterior Remodeling

Exterior remodeling is a great way to cut home maintenance time, cost and effort. In fact, a good exterior remodeling strategy can not only improve the value of your home, it can help prevent expensive repairs – and even fires. Here are a few secrets to keep in mind:

Low-Maintenance Siding

Painting is a chore. Plus, in the LA area, wooden siding raises fire concerns. Consider remodeling with brick and stone siding. Stucco is also fire-resistant and can last the lifetime of your home. Fiber cement siding looks like wood but resists insects and can last 50 years. Vinyl siding can last 40 years with an occasional hosing.

A New Slant on Roofing

Wood shingles are high-maintenance and not fire-resistant. Composite shingles are fire-resistant (rated A, B, or C, with A being the most fire-resistant). Metal is increasingly popular and can last at least 50 years. Tile and slate are durable and low-maintenance.

Windows

New windows make a big difference to a home’s exterior. Remodeling with wood windows looks good, and the new stained wood windows don’t need much work to keep them in good shape. Fiberglass, vinyl, and composite frames tend to be somewhat lower-maintenance. And, with good-quality installation and caulking, windows bought today can last 20-25 years!

Decks

Wooden decks can become hazards during LA’s wildfire season, and fire-retardant treatments won’t prevent wood from actually burning. Composites offer varying degrees of fire-resistance and give you a wood look without the fire hazard or the annual sanding, staining and sealing. Capped composites like Trex and Timbertech resist fading and stains and clean with just soap and water. PVC (like Azek) is another alternative for exterior remodeling that reduces maintenance!

Driveways

If you’re thinking about exterior remodeling, it’s an ideal time to rethink your driveway. Traditional asphalt driveways typically only last 10 years. Concrete can last up to 50 years — don’t make the surface too smooth or it will be slippery when wet. In our area, earthquakes are a consideration. A paving stone driveway won’t crack and doesn’t have to be sealed, though there will be weeds. Grass has become an eco-friendly choice — other than mowing, it’s good to go! New on the exterior remodeling scene are water-permeable solutions such as FilterPave, a glittery surface made from recycled beer bottles that lets through even more water than grass does!

The best way to create your own unique low-maintenance home is to work with an experienced exterior remodeling contractor, like us. We can suggest low-maintenance solutions for the specific chores you hate and the expenses you dread.

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Need Exterior Repairs? Think Exterior Remodeling.

Between storms, harsh weather and aging materials, we all know how Mother Nature and Father Time can be hard on your home’s exterior. Renovation – instead of just repairing or replacing what’s damaged is a way we can help you fix what needs repair or replacement while we also give the exterior of your home a whole new look. Many of today’s exterior remodeling materials also give you a makeover in terms of lowering energy costs and maintenance.

Here’s one example: homeowners who discovered water damage under their vinyl siding decided to look at exterior remodeling options. They ended up choosing fiber-cement siding because it is durable, low maintenance, moisture-resistant and comes in so many different textures, shapes and sizes. Instead of just repairing the damaged siding, they did a cost-effective exterior renovation that dramatically updated the home’s curb appeal. In addition, repairing the home’s water damaged wood created an opportunity to economically enlarge an existing deck which opened up the look and feel of the interior as well.

With an eye toward exterior remodeling, the possibilities can be exciting – and affordable. So before you settle for repairs or replacements, give us a call.  In the meantime, for ideas on what’s possible, take a look at our Exterior Remodeling photo gallery.

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