How long should they last?

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a life span, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades.  (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the life span of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB).

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models, and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a life span of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Counter-tops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The life span of laminate counter-tops depends greatly on use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years.  An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The life span of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them.  You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty.

Posted on February 11, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

New Features vs. Character

We are often asked, “Which is the better buy, a newer or older home?” Our answer: It all depends on your needs and personal preferences. We decided to put together a list of the six biggest differences between newer and older homes:

The neighborhood

Surprisingly, one of the biggest factors in choosing a new home isn’t the property itself, but rather the surrounding neighborhood. While new homes occasionally spring up in established communities, most are built in new developments. The settings are quite different, each with their own unique benefits.

Older neighborhoods often feature tree-lined streets; larger property lots; a wide array of architectural styles; easy walking access to mass transportation, restaurants and local shops; and more established relationships among neighbors.

New developments are better known for wider streets and quiet cul-de-sacs; controlled development; fewer aboveground utilities; more parks; and often newer public facilities (schools, libraries, pools, etc.). There are typically more children in newer communities, as well.

Consider your daily work commute, too. While not always true, older neighborhoods tend to be closer to major employment centers, mass transportation and multiple car routes (neighborhood arterials, highways and freeways).

Design and layout

If you like VictorianCraftsman or Cape Cod style homes, it used to be that you would have to buy an older home from the appropriate era. But with new-home builders now offering modern takes on those classic designs, that’s no longer the case. There are even modern log homes available.

Have you given much thought to your floor plans? If you have your heart set on a family room, an entertainment kitchen, a home office and walk-in closets, you’ll likely want to buy a newer home—or plan to do some heavy remodeling of an older home. Unless they’ve already been remodeled, most older homes feature more basic layouts.

If you have a specific home-décor style in mind, you’ll want to take that into consideration, as well. Professional designers say it’s best if the style and era of your furnishings match the style and era of your house. But if you are willing to adapt, then the options are wide open.

Materials and craftsmanship

Homes built before material and labor costs spiked in the late 1950’s have a reputation for higher-grade lumber and old-world craftsmanship(hardwood floors, old-growth timber supports, ornate siding, artistic molding, etc.).

However, newer homes have the benefit of modern materials and more advanced building codes (copper or polyurethane plumbing, better insulation, double-pane windows, modern electrical wiring, earthquake/ windstorm supports, etc.).

Current condition

The condition of a home for sale is always a top consideration for any buyer. However, age is a factor here, as well. For example, if the exterior of a newer home needs repainting, it’s a relatively easy task to determine the cost.  But if it’s a home built before the 1970’s, you have to also consider the fact that the underlying paint is most likely lead-based, and that the wood siding may have rot or other structural issues that need to be addressed before it can be re-coated.

On the flip side, the mechanicals in older homes (lights, heating systems, sump pump, etc.) tend to be better built and last longer.

Outdoor space

One of the great things about older homes is that they usually come with mature tress and bushes already in place. Buyers of new homes may have to wait years for ornamental trees, fruit trees, roses, ferns, cacti and other long-term vegetation to fill in a yard, create shade, provide privacy, and develop into an inviting outdoor space. However, maybe you’re one of the many homeowners who prefer the wide-open, low-maintenance benefits of a lightly planted yard.

Car considerations

Like it or not, most of us are extremely dependent on our cars for daily transportation. And here again, you’ll find a big difference between newer and older homes. Newer homes almost always feature ample off-street parking: usually a two-car garage and a wide driveway. An older home, depending on just how old it is, may not offer a garage—and if it does, there’s often only enough space for one car. For people who don’t feel comfortable leaving their car on the street, this alone can be a determining factor.

Finalizing your decision

While the differences between older and newer homes are striking, there’s certainly no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of personal taste, and what is available in your desired area. To quickly determine which direction your taste trends, use the information above to make a list of your most desired features, then categorize those according to the type of house in which they’re most likely to be found. The results can often be telling.

If you have questions about newer versus older homes, or are looking for an agent in your area we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

Posted on February 9, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged

How to Decorate a Rental

living-room-626588_640
Abiding by rental rules is important, but so is style and making a house feel more like a home. Thus, we’ve put together a little list for you to help personalize your home, while still insuring you get your security deposit back by the end of it.

Storage – Let’s be honest, rentals often lack sufficient storage place, and since custom cabinetry isn’t usually an option for renters, investing in some added storage is key. Add some simple shelves, bookshelves, baskets, or under the bed storage.

Blinds – Vertical blinds may be the ultimate decorating sin. No one likes feeling as if they’re living in a motel room. We suggest you either take them down or hide them under curtains. Just don’t throw them out or you may not get your security deposit back!

Accessorize Pillows, throws, candles, books, light fixtures… the only way to get a truly genuine space. This is by far the easiest and a MUST.

Wall Art – Those pesky holes might keep you from hanging art or photos on your walls, but when it comes down to it, they’ll only take a few minutes to patch up when it comes time to move out. This doesn’t mean you have to hang an entire art gallery, but hanging one statement piece and placing the rest of the photos on a mantel or shelf should do the trick.

Rugs – Last but not least, rugs: the peanut butter to your rental jelly. If there are scratched hardwood floors or stained carpets, you can cover those up easily with a throw rug. Not only that, a rug is a great investment piece that will add your personal flavor to any space. And they absorb noise and make a room feel comfy.

Posted on February 8, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: For Buyers, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate | Tagged , , , , ,

3 Quick Maintenance Tips to Make Your Roof Last

Your roof is one of the most important assets of your home. Here are some tips to help maintain it.

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

Written by Peter Kim

A brand-new roof is a massive investment, but no other element of your home is quite as valuable. While the average lifespan of a roof is about 15 years, careful homeowners have a few ways to extend the life of their homes without enduring too many headaches. Take a look at these three quick maintenance tips that will make your roof last.

Read Related: Need A New Roof? Here’s Your Roofing 101

1. Keep Your Gutters Clear

Most people don’t think of their gutters as part of their roof, but allowing debris to accumulate and clog your gutters adds extra weight and pulls away at your roof’s fascia, which can be a costly fix. Look down the length of your roof for any signs of sagging or bending – that’s a sure sign your gutters are carrying too much weight and pulling at your roof. Downspouts should also be carefully maintained, but don’t be fooled by easy-flowing water. Moss and algae buildup on and around your roof can slowly eat away at your roofing material and severely compromise its integrity.

Read Related: How To Remove Ice Dams From Your Roof & Gutters

2. Focus On The Attic

The exterior of your roof isn’t the only area you should be focused on. Your attic is your roof’s first line of defense against damage and you have two methods of attack: insulation and ventilation.

Insulating your attic has the double benefit of keeping your home’s internal temperature at a more reasonable level while also preventing vapor and moisture buildup on the underside of your roof. When combined with proper ventilation (which may mean adding a fan to your attic), your attic can stay dry and keep your roof’s rafters safe from moisture damage.

Read Related: 5 Steps to Maintain Your Attic

3. Catch Problems Early

Check on your roof regularly, whether it’s with every change of the season or after a significant storm. Catching small issues early on can only save you money in the long run, so utilizing the services of a reliable, professional roofer is an invaluable asset. As with any working professional, it’s a good idea to establish a working relationship with a roofer and even consider scheduling a yearly checkup for your roof just to make sure there aren’t any problems sneaking up on you. After all, spending a little each year to maintain your roof is a lot better than dropping $15,000-$50,000 on a new one, right?

Read Related: Roof & Gutter Maintenance Plus Ladder Safety

 Porch.com is the free home network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

Posted on February 7, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , ,

Five Essentials for Your Home Office

Most people dream of working from home, but ask anyone who does it on a regular basis, and they’ll tell you how hard it can be to stay productive when you work where you live. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to rise and grind and get into work mode.

Having a designated work space is quite possibly the most important piece to the WFH pie. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to keep at it late into the night. But maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for overall well-being. What are some other must-haves for a successful home office? Here are the top five:

  1. Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feelings rested and refreshed.
  2. To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the work day. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
  3. Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
  4. Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
  5. Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your work space is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
Posted on February 3, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

How To Prevent Your Pipes From Freezing

As winter temperatures begin to creep up around your home you may start feeling nervous about your water pipes and plumbing. If so, you’re not alone. Frozen pipes (or rather, burst pipes) can cause expensive water damage to your home and property. Even a small tear in a water pipe can send hundreds of gallons of water each minute into your home. According to the Insurance Information Institute, one in 55 homes will submit a property damage claim due to water or freezing this year.  Given the fact that many homeowners take the winter holidays to travel and leave home, it’s important to know what preventative measures you can take to winterize your home. Here are some tips for protecting exposed pipes from freezing temperatures.

Wrap and insulate pipes and plumbing

You can purchase inexpensive foam pipe covers at the hardware store and wrap pipes or plumbing to prevent heat loss inside the pipes.  You can also invest a bit more money and create a more permanent insulation environment for your plumbing by thoroughly wrapping pipes with layers of thick fiberglass insulation. This can be a DIY project or you can hire a plumber to do this for you. Keep in mind that the cost to fix a burst pipe runs an average of $5,000, so spending money to properly insulate your home is a smart way to approach this project.

Identify exposed pipes

Exposed pipes are pipes that are not insulated and may be subject to greater shifts in temperatures. This could include pipes located on the exterior of your home, pipes that lead from the exterior to the interior, or plumbing located in colder rooms like the garage, the attic or the basement (37% of frozen pipes occur in the basement). For faucets or plumbing located outside, like an exterior faucet, you’ll want to follow these steps to get them ready for winter. If you plan on being away from home for a long period of time, it might be a good idea to shut off the water supply and open all of the taps until they run dry.

Why frozen pipes burst

The rips and tears that occur in a frozen pipe aren’t primarily from the expansion of ice: ice blockages create a build up of pressure between the ice and the faucet, and it’s this increase of pressure that actually breaks the pipe. (It should be noted that the expansion of ice can directly cause damage to connection points or weak plumbing.) Additionally, several ice blockages might occur within the same pipe, as can several tears or breaks. The water leaks out when the ice melts and releases the water trapped behind it. Homeowners might not actually see the damage until just after winter, when temperatures rise, ice melts, and water starts leaking into the house. Water can freeze in the plumbing when temperatures reach 20 degrees Fahrenheit, however it has been determined that wind chill factor can increase the likelihood of frozen water so even temperatures higher than 20′ F can result in risk.

Don’t turn off your heat

If you plan on being away from your home for an extended period of time, like for a long holiday break, think twice about turning off the thermostat. First, with the temperature off or set too low, even your pipes located within insulated walls have the potential to freeze. Second, when you enter a freezing home and crank up the thermostat your heating unit will have to expend a tremendous amount of energy to warm up the home, costing potentially more money and stressing the system. Set the thermostat to a temperature you deem safe for being away and consider opening up interior doors and cabinet doors to keep the warm air flowing to all of your plumbing. If you fear a burst pipe, install a water sensor that can remotely alert you to the presence of water inside your home.

Leave the water running

If you are expecting freezing temperatures you can turn on a faucet and let the water run in a steady but small flow. An open tap releases air pressure from inside the pipe, and can prevent tearing. So even with a blockage of ice inside the plumbing, an open tap can keep the pressure from building between the blockage and the faucet. If you have both hot and cold taps then leave both open.

Homes most at risk

Homes located in regions that experience reoccurring freezing winter temperatures are usually constructed with well insulated pipes and plumbing. Unfortunately, homes built in Southern climates where only occasional freezing occurs are potentially more at risk for burst pipes. Homes in these warmer regions aren’t usually constructed with frost in mind and homeowners may be caught by surprise by a singular, but damaging, winter ice storm. Regardless of which area you live in, if you suspect air leaks or are wondering if your home needs additional insulation, consider hiring an energy efficiency expert. This expert utilizes specific measuring tools and devices (like infrared technology) to understand exactly where heat loss is occurring in your home and can make recommendations as to how to make your home warmer.

How you can tell if your pipes are frozen

The test to tell if your pipes are frozen is simple: just turn on your faucet or flush the toilet. If no water comes out, suspect a blockage of ice. Turn off your water supply immediately. You may be able to use a heat source like a hair dryer to warm up the pipe and melt the ice however, be aware that any dripping water can cause the potential for electrocution. Never use an open flame as this could cause a fire. Always call a plumber right away if you suspect damage to the pipe or if you aren’t sure where the blockage has occurred. Find an expert on Porch.

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

Written by Anne Reagan

 Porch.com is the free home network that connects homeowners and renters with the right home service professionals.

Posted on February 2, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Managing a Remodel

Browsing photos and ideas can be a fun part of creating your dream room. But making your designs a reality also takes smart planning and organization. Project management is an essential part of remodeling, and there’s nothing like the feeling of implementing a plan to create something new and beautiful. These tips can help you achieve your desired results.

Find a Local Contractor to Create Your Dream Home

YourSpace Contractors, original photo on Houzz

Become a list writer. Making lists is key when it comes to project management. It’s the only way to properly organize your thoughts and prevent any details from being forgotten.

The most important list is your scope of work, or specifications, document. This is basically a detailed list of everything to be done, from start to finish. If you’re dealing with one main builder who’s organizing all the work, then you’ll need to make sure he or she gets a copy, so the goals are clear and all the information is provided.

Also, having detailed specifications makes it easier if you want to obtain multiple quotes, and you’ll know it’s a fair comparison since all the builders will be quoting using the same criteria.

frenchStef Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Make sure you’re all on the same page. If you’re coordinating separate subcontractors (cabinetmaker, plumberelectrician), then it would be worth indicating who’s responsible for each task. Give a complete copy of the specifications to all of them, so they’re all aware of what everyone is doing. Discuss the specifications with your subcontractors since they may be able to provide help and advice. A schedule is also useful, so you can keep track of progress and everyone knows who’s going to be on-site on which day.

With prior knowledge that a partition wall will feature some lighting, for instance, the builders will know to leave the stud frame open for the electrician to run the wires through before it’s boarded up and plastered over. Trying to feed wires through after the fact is much harder, takes longer and risks unnecessary damage.

Sian Baxter Lighting Design, original photo on Houzz

Break into subsections. In addition to your main specifications, it’s a good idea to have sublists for each separate element of your design. For example, your main specifications may say “install 6 x recessed LED downlights in ceiling,” but your lighting specifications will detail where they are to be positioned, the type of bulb, the hardware finish and so on. The more information you provide, the more accurate your quote should be and the less likely it will be for mistakes or misunderstandings to occur. It will also minimize any unexpected costs.

This bathroom has a minimalist elegance, but it’s far from straightforward. This project would have required a builder’s spec, including layout and elevation drawings with dimensions, an electrical spec with lighting plan, a plumbing spec with layout drawing, and a decorating spec — phew!

Plan like a pro. Finalize your design before starting any work, rather than trying to do it as you go along. The process will be much more enjoyable without constant deadlines presenting themselves, and if you haven’t planned, you may find your options restricted based on work that’s already taken place.

Take a couple of weeks to put it all together, write your specifications, draw up the plans, get everything ready and make all the decisions before proceeding. This will save you time and money along the way, and significantly reduce stress levels during the project.

This clever design features well-thought-out lighting and custom cabinetry. Careful consideration would have been given to where to position the outlets, radiators, lights, switches and other details.

Yellow Letterbox, original photo on Houzz

Never assume. You know the saying. When writing your specifications or drawing your plans, never assume that someone else will know what you want unless you explicitly state it. Include every tiny detail, no matter how picky it may seem. As well as avoiding mistakes, it also prevents any disputes over what is and isn’t included in the quote.

This bathroom just wouldn’t have looked the same if white grout had been used, for instance. You may think it would be absurd to even consider using white grout in this case, but if you haven’t asked for dark gray, you can’t expect it and you can’t assume that you will be asked what color you want. White is standard, and a tiler may use it if nothing has been specified.

Stand by for decisions. Your builder will present many questions and decisions to you along the way. Which tiles do you want on the walls? Where do you want these wall lights? What color do you want on the baseboards?

Your best bet will be to try to pre-empt as many of these decisions as possible and have the answers ready or, even better, provide the information in advance. Making these decisions under pressure can lead to impulse moves you may regret later. However, taking too long could hold up the project, costing you time, money and the patience of your builder. No one wants an unhappy builder.

Inevitably, there will be some questions you couldn’t have anticipated, but if you communicate well with your contractors, they should, where possible, give you time to make a decision without holding up the project. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinion on the best course of action, but don’t feel pressured to compromise on the design if you don’t want to.

Brilliant Lighting, original photo on Houzz

Give yourself time to deliver. This is one of the classic pitfalls, so take note. When pulling your design ideas together and deciding which products and materials to use, make a note of the lead times. Many pieces of furniture are made to order and can have lead times of up to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Similarly, tile and natural stone can take much longer than expected to arrive, and products from abroad can encounter holdups during transit.

This chandelier was custom-made for the project and looks fantastic. This is no last-minute, off-the-shelf, next-day-delivery job. It can be a huge shame if you’ve spent hours, days, weeks choosing the perfect product, but when you come to order it, you find that it will take too long to be delivered, perhaps time you can’t afford. Then you have to decide whether to hold up the work or pick something else based on the fact it can be delivered quickly.

Find a Bathroom Vanity for Your Bath Remodel

Factor in a contingency. Even when you have the very best of intentions, issues that you couldn’t have predicted may arise during your project. So it’s a good idea to factor in a 10 percent contingency within your budget for these matters, especially with old buildings. Who knows what condition the walls are in behind those kitchen cabinets before you rip them out? Or what may be lurking underneath that carpet when you pull it up?

In these situations, it’s important to expect the worst and don’t let it throw you off your game. You are a project manager extraordinaire, and you’ve totally got this. Just accept that these things happen, find out what the options are and make a decision. Your contractors will be able to advise on what to do, so harness their expertise and trust them to help you find the right solution.

Elayne Barre Photography, original photo on Houzz

Call in the cavalry. If you choose to manage your project yourself, it’s certainly an enjoyable and rewarding process, but it also takes a certain type of person. You have to be organized, calm under pressure, strategic and confident — not to mention being able to afford the time to plan, coordinate and oversee the work.

If you have qualms about taking it on yourself, then consider hiring a project manager. Yes, there will be a fee, but consider that a badly managed project can cost you time and money, and you may not achieve the results you were after. A pro will take care of everything and allow you to rest easy, knowing you’re in safe hands.

By Jennifer Chong, Houzz

Posted on February 1, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

Keeping Up with The Joneses: Seven Yard Tools a First-Time Homeowner Needs

So basically, when you have a baby and wife and a career, your home reno slows down a little when your extended family flies back to their respective time zones. Last month, we shared about that pesky 15% of a project that gets left undone.  And maybe we still haven’t fixed the grout line in the shower but… we did start a new project!  Cleaning up the yard!

Did you know that gardening tools are really expensive?  I didn’t.  We even priced out what it would cost to have a landscaper come every two weeks just to mow and edge our front and back yard (which would leave us to the weeding, sweeping, etc.) but alas… that is also expensive (about $100 per month).  So… Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Home Depot we go…

Seven Yard Tools All First Time Home Buyers Need:

Lawnmower: Self-propelled so you don’t have to work as hard. Just being real.  Our lot is about 7,000 square feet so there’s a whole lot of other things I will do to break my back.  Mowing the yard doesn’t have to make the cut (the cut… because it’s a lawn mower… get it?) $399 + gasoline (verses $150 for a bagless push mower… ain’t nobody got time for that.)

Weed-eaterNot just for trimming weeds but more for making the edges of things look more like edges rather than wobbly overgrown lines.  It basically gets to the stuff your mower can’t.  My dad advised we buy a gas-powered trimmer – he said they last longer and can be more powerful.  A little more tricky to start though and more maintenance.  I guess we could have gone either way.  Who knew gardening would be such a gamble?  No wonder my wife loves to garden.  She also loves the casino. $119 + gasoline (Sorry, environment!)

Hose Reel: Speaking of my wife, I called Jenn from Home Depot and told her that I had found the perfect solution to our front yard hose, all coiled up on the ground.  I had found a $70 hose reel/box.  It was the prettiest hose box I had ever seen.  My wife said that spending $70 on a plastic hose box may be a little extravagant so we met in the middle and purchased this $30 reel that seems to do the trick.

Gardening Gloves: Protective gloves are probably the cheapest thing on this list… yet we have not bought them.  After paying over $100 for literal dirt to fill our raised garden boxes, I guess some luxury had to be sacrificed.  $3.98/pair which is less than my typical triple shot Americano (which is a luxury I cannot part with.)

Hedge TrimmerI haven’t used ours yet as my wife has taken up hedge trimming to express herself artistically.  The previous owner of our 1940’s fixer was really into her yard and planted some really cool stuff over the last 65+ years.  But as she aged, the yard was less tended to and some of the larger bushes took on a life of their own. This trimmer does the trick.  I recently asked Jenn to commission a topiary of our dog, Whiskey.  She declined. $49.97 for a corded trimmer.

Push Broom: Good for sweeping up the big mess you make when you’re trimming stuff.  I love that ours is called the “Quickie Bulldozer.” Doesn’t that just radiate power and sweeping efficiency? $9.98 well spent.

Blower/Vacuum: I experienced the thrill of my lifetime when I realized that our electric leaf blower was also a vacuum!  Perfect for sucking up all the lawn clippings left behind from the weed eater.  It puts that Quickie Bulldozer to shame.  It’s got a max air speed of 250 MPH for $63.21.  Enter manly grunt akin to Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.

Tyler Davis Jones is a Windermere Real Estate agent in Seattle who, with his wife Jenn, recently traded in their in-city condo for a 1940s fixer-upper. Tyler and Jenn, along with the help of some very generous friends and family members, are taking on all the renovations themselves. You can follow the transformation process on the Windermere Blog or on Tyler’s website and Instagram
Posted on January 31, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build

Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sun room. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep roof-lines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.

Posted on January 27, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Home Builders, Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

3 Garden Alternatives for a Patchy Lawn

I’ve met with more than one client while standing on a struggling lawn. “I keep trying,” they tell me, “but the grass won’t grow.” I tell them that maybe this means there’s another option, something even better than a lawn. Maybe it’s time for a garden. And it’s as if I’d just told them the secret to eternal happiness and long life.

Still Have Hope for Greener Grass? Ask a Lawn Professional

Don’t keep tossing grass seed on your bare lawn. Instead, put a garden there, or at least plant something that has a better chance of surviving. Here are three situations where a languishing lawn may call for a new vision — a self-supporting garden that wildlife will love to call home.

BE Landscape Design, original photo on Houzz

1. Blazing sun. Whether it’s out in the open on a flat grade, on a slope or atop a hill, lawn just never does well in hot sunshine. It burns away each August, opening up holes for advantageous weeds to move in.

You could seed or plant drought-tolerant native grasses like sideoats grama and blue grama (Bouteloua curtipendula and B. gracilis) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Or try sedges like shortbeak and Bicknell’s (Carex brevior and C. bicknellii). And while you’re at it, get some flowers. If it’s a larger area, think self-sowers like upright prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and skyblue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense). For smaller areas, ‘October Skies’ aromatic aster (S. oblongifolium ‘October Skies’) works well, along with pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), purple and white prairie clover (Dalea purpurea and D. candida), many species of Baptisia, and more.

Try to create a base layer of sedges and grasses that will work to mulch and cool the soil, adding clumps or drifts of flowers among them for seasonal interest and pollinator action.

Attract Pollinators for a Productive Edible Garden

Anne Roberts Gardens, Inc., original photo on Houzz

2. Ponding water. After a heavy — or even moderate — rain, water may collect in an area of your lawn, drowning grass for days or even weeks. When that water finally vanishes, you’re left with barren soil that’s both unsightly and open to weed invasion.

This sounds like an area where rain garden plants may work. These are the plants that thrive in the boom-bust cycle of spring and fall flooding with dry summers. Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), muskingum sedge and fox sedge (Carex muskingumensis and C. vulpinoidea), New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra), white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), and Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) are all good options.

If it’s a large area and you want privacy, a shrub hedgerow is an option. Plant redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea), red or black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa), or elderberry (Sambuca sp.) — they will slowly sucker to form a massive bird and native bee habitat.

Sisson Landscapes, original photo on Houzz

3. Dark or dappled shade beneath a tree. Trees are great: They cool homes, clean the air and provide for so much wildlife. Oaks (Quercus spp.), maples (Acer spp.), elms (Ulmus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.) are near the top in serving a diversity of pollinators and other insects, specifically, that use the leaves and blooms at different life stages. But grass doesn’t often grow underneath these tall trees — mostly because they cast dense shade.

If you have rich, moist to medium soil, there are many spring ephemerals to choose from: Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), trillium (Trillium spp.), shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia), yellow trout-lily (Erythronium rostratum) and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

For gardeners with dry clay soil, early meadow-rue (Thalictrum dioicum), zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), calico aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) and wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) are solid choices. Sprengel’s sedge (Carex sprengelii) is a grass-like option.

If you don’t want a large bed of strictly plants, weave a path of mulch or stepping stones through. Place a chair or two, a hammock, or a potting bench.

The Philbin Group Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz

It’s always important to carefully research the plants before you buy them to make sure that they suit your conditions. Clay soil is different from sand or rocky loam, and while some plants may do well in several kinds of soil and light conditions, others won’t. You may also prefer plants that create short drifts rather than tall ones, or vice versa, or clumping plants instead of aggressive spreaders.

When you take the time to carefully match the plant to the site and your region, you’re setting yourself up for more success and beauty with less maintenance — unlike sowing grass seed over the same area year after year.

By Benjamin Vogt, Houzz

Posted on January 24, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged