How Long Is Your Contractor Liable?

Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.

But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.

How to Hire a Contractor

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

What Is a Warranty?

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.

The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.

“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.

At least in the ideal case.

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

The Law Governing Warranties

Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.

The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.

The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.

Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.

Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects, and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latentdefects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to design or construction of the building.

Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come see it and repair it.

To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

The One-Year Warranty

The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.

Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.

The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.

But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”

Janet Paik, original photo on Houzz

Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty

Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.

In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.

If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.

If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.

“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”

Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.

Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Going Beyond Warranties

Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”

More Ways to Protect Yourself

So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)

Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that are backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.

Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”

Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz

Posted on January 20, 2018 at 9:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , ,

Great Design Element: Why Awnings Are Making a Comeback

Awnings are a valuable home design element that our grandparents knew all about. In the days before air conditioning, they were used to shade interiors and help keep homes cool. With the focus on sustainable design today, there’s renewed interest in the power of awnings. They block the sun from entering the house and warming it on hot days, and can be removed or retracted during the winter months when you’re craving light and warmth. Depending on the fabric you choose, they can also keep harmful UV rays from damaging your skin and fading your fabrics.

Awnings 1: Flagg Coastal Homes, original photo on Houzz

Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Besides all of that great money- and energy-saving function, awnings are an aesthetic asset. Colorful materials, stripes and scalloped edges are just a few of the options. Awnings bring softness, pattern, color and nostalgic charm to a home’s facade.

This photo shows awnings at work — you can see the shadows they create and how they’re protecting the interiors and the second-floor balcony area from the sun’s rays. Aesthetically, the stripes break up the white on the home — they are the home’s flirty false eyelashes.

Awnings 2: Christina Karras, original photo on Houzz

The retractable awning is curb appeal gold and transforms a space out front into a shady outdoor room. This style of retractable awning has poles that help support it, but there are other options that don’t require the added support.

Retractable awnings that don’t require support poles have retractable arms to support them. This provides a cleaner look. These can extend up to 14 feet.

Awnings 3: Exteriors by Chad Robert, original photo on Houzz

This style of awning, called a spear awning, adds to the style of the home. The decorative wrought iron rods have finials that pick up on the iron lantern and metal furniture frames on the patio.

These awnings are easily rolled up by hand when inclement weather is expected.(You will need to retract awnings when high winds are predicted. The awning company will let you know how many miles per hour their products can withstand.) There are also motorized versions on the market. Factors to consider when deciding whether to go hand-cranked or motorized include the ease of simply pushing a button versus the increased cost of the product, installation and maintenance.

“The motor is an up-charge and usually adds another $800 to the cost of the awning,” says Sandy Price of PYC Awnings. “The motor comes with a 12-foot cord and a plug, or you have an electrician hard-wire it for you.” (That cost is not included in the $800.) By the way, motorized awnings come with a hand crank in case the power goes out.

Awnings 4: Our Town Plans, original photo on Houzz

This roller shade protects those on the porch from the sun and wind. “It has a cable on each side that passes through rings at the bottom of the shade to keep it from flapping in the wind,” says Suzanne Stern of Our Town Plans. The shade has a crank for rolling it up and down by hand (which you can make out on the left side of this photo if you really squint).

Related: Patio Details: Awning-Covered Patio and Playhouse for a Shared Property

Stern also notes that this solution doesn’t change the look of the column and that the shade can be rolled all the way down below the railing.

Awnings 5: Becky Harris, original photo on Houzz

These valance awnings on a house on Florida’s Marco Island are more decorative than functional. They’re installed across extensive porches and tie into larger retractable awnings used in other spots on the home. “The customer used the Costa Track installation so they wouldn’t see any hardware and did a ceiling-mount installation,” Price says.

By Becky Harris, Houzz

Posted on December 25, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

How to Step Up Your Entry Design With a New Welcome Mat

Right before the guests ring the doorbell or give the front door an old-fashioned knock, they step on your welcome mat. This mat serves two purposes: catching debris and adding style. Here are some ideas for how to give this entry detail a refresh before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season begin.

Welcome Mat 1: Caela McKeever, original photo on Houzz

Say Hello

A lettered mat can help you say exactly what you want to say when someone comes to your door. Obviously nothing says hello more than the word “hello.”

The simple greeting might also draw visitors’ eyes to the ground and remind them to take off their shoes before they step inside.

Coordinate Colors

If you have a colorful front door, use that as doormat inspiration. If your door lacks color, maybe it’s time to paint it.

Door paint: Scarlet Ribbons, Dulux

Welcome Mat 2: Zack | de Vito Architecture + Construction, original photo on Houzz

The whole mat doesn’t need to match the door. This striped mat draws on other colors found on the home’s exterior.

Welcome Mat 3: Rustic Porch, original photo on Houzz

Think Outside the Rectangle

Many front doors feature rectangular doormats, but other options exist. The semicircle mat in the photo works nicely with the rustic rockers, porch swing and shutters.

Welcome Mat 4: Garrison Hullinger Interior Design Inc., original photo on Houzz

Roll Out a Rug

A big, bold rug in front of the door adds color and life to this home’s entry, designed by Garrison Hullinger.

A large porch rug can also make the space feel like another room of the house. If you add a few chairs, people can stop, relax and enjoy the outdoors. Plus, more rug means more chances for it to pick up any water or dirt from the shoes of incoming guests.

Welcome Mat 5: Seattle Staged to Sell and Design LLC, original photo on Houzz

Play With Patterns

An intricate design gives guests a reason to notice this front door mat. A mat’s design can also pull together all the elements of a porch, such as the front door, mailbox, planted blooms and exterior paint.

“I chose the mat because it is fun, colorful, and it accentuated the colors of the house and the plants,” says Shirin Sarikhani, the owner of Staged to Sell and Design in Seattle.

Keep It Natural

If the entry is already bursting with details, such as eye-catching hardware and light fixtures, a neutral mat will help keep the attention on them. Natural doesn’t have to mean boring.

Welcome Mat 6: Grandin Road, original photo on Houzz

Personalize the Space

This contemporary monogrammed mat is hard to miss. “Don’t be afraid to choose a doormat with personality, says Kate Beebe of Grandin Road. “Work some wit and whimsy into your entrance, and choose something that will put a smile on your guests’ faces.”

She also recommends picking a mat that covers at least three-quarters of the entrance’s width and allows the door to open easily.

Change With the Seasons

While you are changing the front porch decor, swap a plain doormat for a festive option.

After the holidays, clean off your seasonal doormat and store it until the following year.

Match Materials

Doormats come in many materials, including ones that mimic entryway hardware. A rubber mat offers the wrought iron look without the weight and expense of the real material.

The punched-out spaces in a rubber mat also catch a lot of little pebbles, which can then be easily swept away with a broom.

Make It Feel Like Home

Doormat options are pretty much endless, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one that works for you.

By Brenna Malmberg, Houzz

Posted on December 24, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

5 Mid-century Modern Homes That Make the Most of Their Small Design

Mid-century modern homes were small out of necessity. Money was in short supply after World War II, so architects and builders had to keep houses compact yet functional to stay within homeowners’ budgets. At the same time, lifestyles were changing. Smart architects took on a new approach and designed homes with an open feel, which differed greatly from the boxy designs of the previous era.

Related: Why You Should Embrace Your Midcentury Modern Kitchen

Midcentury Modern 1: Flavin Architects, original photo on Houzz

I’ve been enamored with midcentury modern homes since my childhood in California, where I was privileged to spend time in the intimate houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Mark Mills. Mills was the on-site architect for Wright’s famous Walker House, or Cabin on the Rocks, in Carmel, California, pictured. It was during this time that Mills learned an important lesson from Wright: Reject a larger house in favor of a modest home with flowing spaces and no excess.

The following ideas show how midcentury modern homes beautifully make the most of their space in ways that can easily be incorporated in homes today.

Midcentury Modern 2: Wheeler Kearns Architects, original photo on Houzz

1. Open floor plan.

Above all else, the open floor plan is the defining characteristic of midcentury modern homes. Closed-off rooms gave way to flowing spaces that strung one room to the next to form fluid kitchen, living and dining areas.

In a small home, the key to making the open floor plan work is to understand which rooms need privacy, and when. Of course, bedrooms and bathrooms need separation from the main areas of the home, but it’s also good to consider other areas that need privacy: for example, a study where a parent can work without interruption while the kids play nearby.

In this lake house by Wheeler Kearns Architects, the common areas are located in a centralized area, while the more private areas are off to the side or tucked away on another level.

Midcentury Modern 3: Balodemas Architects, original photo on Houzz

2. Expanded sightlines.

The tendency of midcentury modern homes to have open floor plans speaks to the elegant details often seen within these houses. Without trying to be too sparse, midcentury designers included functional details in their homes that were as uncomplicated as they were beautiful. Finding the balance between sophistication and openness was in the hands of the architect.

Take, for example, the stairs in midcentury modern homes. In this remodel of a midcentury home by Balodemas Architects, they preserved much of the original stair and design. The riser, or the vertical part that connects the stair treads, was simply left out for a lighter appearance. The stair was no longer in a hall but fully opened up and integrated into a room. Walls were often dispensed with entirely. Instead, partial-height screens inspired by Japanese shoji were used to subtly separate spaces.

Midcentury Modern 4: Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects, original photo on Houzz

3. An instance to avoid “open.”

While photographs of midcentury modern homes often feature great walls of glass, what’s often not shown, perhaps because they are not as photogenic, are the equally generous opaque walls.

These walls are key to the home’s aesthetic success. They provide a protective backing to the composition, since the opaque side of the home often faces the road, as with this house by Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel Architects. Although the back of the house is open, with lots of glass and a sense of ease between inside and out, the street-facing side would never give that away. An opaque wall creates a boundary to the outside world while extending the perceived size of the home. Walls of glass are expensive, so opaque walls are also an economical design move.

Midcentury Modern 5: Flavin Architects, original photo on Houzz

4. Everything in its place.

Thoughtful storage is a another key aspect of what makes a small mid-century home completely livable. Most mid-century modern homes, particularly those on the West Coast, had no basements or attics, so storage closets needed to be located among the main living spaces. In part, the answer was to do more with less by having well-designed storage throughout and daily items close at hand, as in this kitchen. This has to be married to an ethic of keeping only what you need and having periodic yard sales.

Midcentury Modern 6: Koch Architects, Inc. Joanee Koch, original photo on Houzz

5. Display with a purpose.

In a small home with innovative but limited storage, it’s important to have display areas for the pieces that don’t need to be tucked away in drawers or closets. This was done beautifully in mid-century modern homes by integrating display areas as a means of aiding with the potential conundrum of scarce storage.

This restoration by Koch Architects shows this exact notion at work. Every other step in the stair has an integrated bookshelf. This would make a perfect rotating library with a range of titles easily seen while ascending the stair.

By Colin Flavin, Houzz

Posted on December 23, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

4 Simple Steps to Painting a Wall Faster

Many books about painting will tell you to paint a small strip along the baseboards, doorways, trim and other edges of the room with a brush before breaking out the paint roller to paint the rest of the wall. But before you do this paintbrush work, called “cutting in,” consider paint expert Shauna Gallagher’s method: Roll paint on the wall and then use a paintbrush for the edge work. To learn more about this technique, watch as she paints the feature wall of a room.

Paint Faster 1: Houzz TV, original photo on Houzz

Watch a video tutorial here

Step 1: Add Paint to the Roller

With a paint roller in hand, Gallagher dips her roller cover into the paint and then rolls it down the cage in the bucket to remove excess paint. She recommends rolling down and not up to avoid splattering paint out of the bucket. If you have excess paint on the edge of the roller, use a chip brush to wipe it off so it doesn’t drip on the wall.

Paint Faster 2: Houzz TV, original photo on Houzz

Step 2: Roll on the Paint

In rolling the paint on the wall, Gallagher uses vertical movements — rolling up and down as she moves across the wall — so she can glide right up against the taped-off edges. The paper-and-tape combo, which she applied to the wall’s edges with a tape gun, gives her extra protection against getting paint on the ceiling and adjacent walls.

Because she is painting a smooth wall with a thin roller cover, she can get closer than if she were painting a textured wall with a fluffy roller. Additionally, she rolls horizontally along the ceiling line to get even closer with the roller. She says she can roll paint within about 1 inch of her taped-off edges. If she would have cut in first, she says she might have painted a strip of 5 to 6 inches with a paintbrush.

“You are looking at a huge time savings if you roll paint first,” she says. “It might be 1½ hours versus 25 minutes.”

As she rolls, she keeps the arm of the roller on the side of the direction she is traveling across the wall. She is going from left to right, so the arm is on her right side. She uses this method because a small line of paint forms on the edge, and she can pick up that extra paint and spread it out as she goes.

Keep a Hamper Nearby for Messy Rags

After she completes a section, Gallagher lightly goes over the wall again, this time rolling only downward, to remove any roller lines and give the paint an even finish.

Paint Faster 3: Houzz TV, original photo on Houzz

Step 3: Paint the Edges

Once you have rolled paint on as much of the wall as possible, fill in the unpainted areas with a paintbrush. Because she rolled paint close to the wall’s edges, Gallagher can make quicker work of the cutting-in step of her project.

For this step, she dips her paintbrush into the paint and then removes paint from one side of the brush by wiping it along the edge of the can. She uses this side of the brush as she paints along the taped edge. Applying less paint to the taped edge keeps the taped line crisper, she says, and prevents paint from squishing up into the corner.

Paint Faster 4: Houzz TV, original photo on Houzz

Step 4: Remove the Tape

After painting, Gallagher waits until the paint is just dry before methodically removing the tape. She recommends putting your hands close to the wall and pulling the tape at a 45-degree angle.

“When you are farther away, you are yanking on the tape a little more,” she says. Her technique helps keep paint from pulling away from the wall.

When you are done, you can step back and admire a wall that you painted in a fraction of time, thanks to the reverse method.

Next Up: How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro

By Brenna Malmberg, Houzz 

Posted on December 22, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

Blinds or Curtains? Or Both? Top Things to Consider When Choosing Your Window Style

Some rooms just need blinds, other rooms just need curtains, and then some rooms look best with both. But how do you decide which rooms need what? There are a number of factors to consider when you’re picking window treatments for rooms in your house, from price to insulation to style to orientation within the room.

Price

Adding a combination of blinds and curtains on your windows may seem like the best idea for almost any room in your home. But that can get pricey. Basically, you’re doubling up the cost of the treatments for each window. So when you’re deciding on a budget for your treatments, be methodical. Guest bedrooms, laundry rooms, bathrooms, or any uncommon, informal areas in your home are good candidates for either blinds or curtains, not both—you likely don’t spend much time in these spaces, they don’t need to be the most styled part of your home and/or they don’t require a high level of privacy. Save the money on these areas and choose a treatment that gets the job done. On the other hand, living areas, formal dining rooms and master bedrooms are places where a combination of both can add ultimate style, privacy and temperature comfort, and it could be worth the money to invest in these high-impact areas.

Insulation

Sunlight can be a blessing and a curse for your home. It can fill living areas with wonderful natural light. It can liven up dining areas or kitchens. But, harsh sunlight can also heat up a room late in the afternoon, it can fade furniture, or it can wake you up too early on the weekends. When it comes to blocking out the sun, faux wood blinds and heavier curtains should be considered. Wood blinds or faux wood blinds block out a great deal of sun, but not all of it. If you want complete darkness to grab a few more winks on weekends, add some curtains over the binds to double up the sun defense. Consider the positioning of the windows throughout the house and protect the windows and rooms that bear the brunt of the sun, while making it easy for natural light to shine through when you want it.

When it comes to curtains and shades, there are a number of sun-blocking options. Cellular shades filter out the sunlight while still letting enough natural light into the room. Roman shades, sheer shades, and curtain fabrics all have different thicknesses, which block out different levels of UV rays and sunlight. If your living room faces west, you will certainly want some thicker shades to block out that evening sunshine and keep the temperature in the room manageable.

Style

Just about any style under the sun is available when it comes to choosing window treatments. Gone are the days when curtains were the only way to add style, warmth and luxury to a room. Many options in shades and blinds can achieve the same effect.

Whichever you choose, you want the window treatments to accent the furniture in your room, not vice versa. For example, if your furniture is heavily patterned, choosing solid colors for blinds and curtains is the way to go. If your furniture is solid, light patterns and designs could accentuate certain colors or themes in the room. Keep theme and tone in mind: You wouldn’t choose earthy bamboo shades for a room with a sleek, industrial vibe, or beachy plantation shutters for a room with a modern artsy feel.

Choosing the proper window treatments for each room in your home comes down to a handful of factors. Don’t break the bank or overspend where you don’t need it, make sure you know where the sun is most intrusive in what rooms, and go with a style that fits the vibe of your home. Blinds and curtains can complete the look of a room, and make it feel like home.

Katie Laird is the Director of Social Marketing for Blinds.com and a frequent public speaker on Social Media Marketing, Social Customer Care and profitable company culture. An active blogger and early social technology adopter, you can find her online as ‘happykatie’ sharing home décor, yoga, parenting and vegetarian cooking tips. If you’re interested in window blinds like those described by Katie, please go to the Blinds.com website.

Posted on December 21, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , ,

6 Plumbing Hacks for Tiny Homes

Small spaces can drive you crazy, especially if you need pipes in a compact bathroom, kitchen or laundry to run toilets, sinks and washing machines. Here are some must-know tips and tricks for your home’s high-traffic rooms to free up space for features and fixtures that need plumbing.

Plumbing Hacks 1: eat.bathe.live, original photo on Houzz

1. Tinker with the toilet. Many decorators will have ideas about how to create the illusion of space in a small room or house, but the trick is to free up space. And most of the time, the busiest and most-used rooms in the house — the bathroom, laundry and kitchen — are the best rooms to start with.

If you find your fixtures take up too much space, slim them down or get rid of them altogether. A wall-hung toilet with a concealed tank, for example, saves precious capacity in the smallest room in the house. The tank sits in the wall and the buttons and bowl are all you can see. Be aware, though, that concealed tanks can pose an access problem for your plumber and one day that tank will need maintenance and, eventually, replacement.

Pro tips: Hide an access panel, or position the tank where the wall it backs onto is a closet or cabinet, and buy only well-known brands so replacement parts are easily found.

A close-coupled, back-to-wall toilet, where the tank and bowl sit flush — excuse the pun — against the wall, can be a good, more affordable compromise.

You may also consider an integrated toilet with a sink on top. This is a great option if you’re looking to reduce water usage and become environmentally friendlier. It could be just what you need: a sink where the wastewater from washing your hands runs into the tank for the next flush, and you save space because you don’t need a separate sink.

Hiding the tank in a setup like this streamlines the room and creates counter space — a luxury in a tiny bathroom. Connecting the sink wastewater to the tank is also an option in this integrated design.

Plumbing Hacks 2: Sarah Blacker Architect, original photo on Houzz

2. Bath or shower? Why not both? Some bathrooms feature a separate bath and shower, but if you’re short on space, consider getting rid of the bath altogether to create more space, or even combining the two in a shower tub. Modern inset bath designs are slender so you can gain space while still keeping a tub.

Pro tip: If you’re not crazy about the look of a built-in bath-shower, consider a back-to-wall bath design. It has the same style as a free-standing bath on the side facing the open bathroom, but it fits snugly against one wall (or two) for ease of cleaning.

Another option to consider is a wet bathroom. The layout consists of a toilet and small sink with a shower overhead and a drain in the middle of the room. As the name implies, it means everything can (and usually does) get wet, but without a surround for your bath or shower you can really maximize space.

Related link: Make the Most of Your Bathroom With These Key Measurements 

If that’s not for you, a frameless glass screen to keep the water contained could be a great alternative. This is a practical option, but always remember to hire a professional to waterproof and tile the walls to prevent dampness from seeping in.

Plumbing Hacks 3: clim createur d’interieur, original photo on Houzz

3. Buy compact fixtures. Getting rid of bulky faucets in favor of compact fittings is a small job that can make a big difference, so don’t discount this method of slimming down your bathroom. Consider a side-mounted faucet, which combines hot and cold taps in one, but check the handle swing direction since this may negate the space saved. Or you can opt for wall-mounted mixers that allow the basin to be pushed back and have the no-gunk-around-the-bottom advantage.

The shower head can also come from the ceiling to accommodate a smaller recess.

Pro tip: If your shower walls are being rebuilt and tiled, have niches for your shampoo bottles built into the walls to keep your shower area looking sleek. Hide the niche out of view from the doorway because, more often than not, your shower gel, shampoo bottle and razor collection are not photo-shoot-ready.

Plumbing Hacks 4: Interbath, original photo on Houzz

4. Rethink your sink. Replacing a large laundry sink with a smaller kitchen-sized basin will gain you valuable extra counter and storage space.

Related link: Want More Advice Like This? Ask a Professional Plumber

Pro tip: Switch an indoor hot water tank that holds multiple gallons to a continuous-flow system, which is a small, wall-mounted unit.

A smart placement of features is another good way of gaining extra room. A sink in the corner of the kitchen will give you more prep space, for example.

Plumbing Hacks 5: Day Bukh Architects, original photo on Houzz

5. Off the counter, onto the wall. Wall-mount as many fixtures as possible to use vertical space and clear counter space. This goes for every room in the house.

In the bathroom, consider a sink rather than a full vanity, and build cabinets and shelves along the walls or install a mirror-fronted cabinet above the basin to compensate for the missing vanity storage. Some mirrored cabinets can also be recessed into the wall cavity behind. Accessories such as toothbrush holders and hair dryer docks can also be wall-mounted.

In the laundry, wall-mounting what you can will make doing the washing easier on your back and create a little more room underneath to stash linens, detergents and even your vacuum cleaner and other cleaning equipment.

You can wall-mount storage in every room. In the kitchen, for example, move appliances such as microwaves onto the wall and off your precious counter space. Install a wall-mounted magnetic strip for knives, and mount a paper towel holder onto the wall for easy access.

If you need every bit of space in a room, consider recessing your cabinets or shelving into the wall — the unused space under the stairs is the perfect opportunity for this, as is a wall cavity. If you need deeper storage and can take space from the adjoining room, that’s even better.

Plumbing Hacks 6: Whiting Architects, original photo on Houzz

6. Make more room for what matters. Ever noticed how much room doors take up? You need to keep a space clear to allow them to swing open, which can be a hard ask in a small bathroom. Consider switching the orientation of the door so it swings out of the bathroom, or install a sliding or pocket door.

This also goes for doors on showers, vanity units and medicine cabinets (which can also be recessed into the wall). Some people remove the doors to their kitchen and laundry rooms altogether to create a more open space. The more space you can create, the easier it is to install the fixtures (and storage) you want or need.

Related link: Keep Shower Supplies Tidy With a Chic Caddy

Pro tip: Light is an important element when it comes to creating a feeling of space. In addition to optimizing natural light from windows, install good overhead lighting. Consider skylights or translucent ceilings if the windows are too small in a bathroom or kitchen. Mirrors can be your best friend in creating the illusion of space by doubling the visual area and diffusing light around the room.

Whether you live in a tiny house or simply have small rooms in your home, being able to use what you have well is key to freeing up space. It doesn’t need to cost much to create the illusion of a bigger area, even in the smallest room in the house.

By Darren Clancy, Houzz

Posted on December 18, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

How to Live Through a Home Remodel

If you’re thinking about remodeling or are about to break ground on your first renovation, odds are you probably know a bit about how the project is going to go. After all, you’ve watched a few TV shows, your cousin’s husband is a general contractor and the guy you sit close to at work tells you every detail of how his wet bar is coming together. So you pretty much know all there is to know, right? Not so fast.

Live Remodel 1: JLB Property Developments, original photo on Houzz

As much as you may be able to glean from friends and family, articles and TV, there’s no experience quite like personally getting down into the dirt (more on this later) of a remodel. And what you don’t often hear about are the harsh realities of wading through such a detailed, often stressful project.

We’ve written before about how remodeling a home is the ultimate litmus test for your relationship. And that’s why I think understanding a few of the common negative things that happen during remodel is a vital component of being prepared.

I’ve not only braved a few remodels myself, but I’ve worked on the other end as a general contractor, and while I can’t claim I know everything, I do think I have a lot to share. Here are a few things you should know about what it’s really like to live through a renovation.

Related: How to Survive the ‘Punch List’ Phase of a Remodel

Live Remodel 2: Turnbull Griffin Haesloop, original photo on Houzz

It Will Upset Your Daily Schedule

Say, for example, every day before you leave for work you like to brew a cup of tea, settle in with your tablet at your breakfast nook and prepare for the day by going through your emails.

Now picture this exact routine while your kitchen and breakfast nook is under construction. The peace and tranquility (and cleanliness!) of your morning retreat is no more.

You may have to alter your daily routine a bit by finding a coffee shop near your house where you can relax, or by relocating to your bedroom for your beloved cup of chai.

Creatures of habit, be warned: You may have to (take a deep breath here) change a couple of your habits while your remodel is going on.

Related: Remodeling Your Kitchen? Move Your Coffee Station to Your Living Room

Contractors often like to take up shop (if permitted) in garages, as they are often places where they can make a bit more of a mess and noise while remaining close to the job site. If you want certain parts of your home, yard or garage to remain sacred, talk with your contractor about areas where work can and cannot occur.

Live Remodel 3: Kasper Custom Remodeling, LLC, original photo on Houzz

There Will Be Dust

This one may be a no-brainer to some and a shock to others (again, take a deep breath). Some contractors will give hints that the project will get dusty, such as: “We will take measures to put up dust barriers around the area of the remodel” or “we will keep a broom and dustpan on site at all times.”

But no matter how many protective products are put up, there are certain stages of construction that can get intense (for example, sanding down drywall). Not only does dust get thrown into the air while work is going on, but it stays floating around in the air for a while afterward. And floating dust’s favorite pastime is, regrettably, travel.

It may travel to different areas of the house, settling into your dog’s bed, onto your kitchen counters and even into your lungs. You may be thinking, “So what? I breathe dust all the time. That’s just life.” This is true, but the dust you’re usually inhaling is dirt and dead skin cells and other organic stuff. Remodeling dust can be made of not-so-nice things such as chemicals found in paint, fiberglass insulation or cement.

Have a conversation with your contractor to see whether he or she plans on using an air scrubber during your remodel as well as dust barriers and traditional cleaning. This combined system helps to prevent dust from traveling, and it also takes a lot of the nasty particulate out of the air before it has time to invade other areas of your house.

While most contractors genuinely work to keep your home clean, safe and comfortable during a remodel, sometimes dust control isn’t a top priority. It will quickly become front and center in your home, though, if it isn’t properly managed from the start.

Related: Bathroom Renovation? Get Ready for the Day in Peace With a Bedroom Vanity

Live Remodel 4: studiovert design, original photo on Houzz

It Can Be an Emotional Roller Coaster

Every person handles stress and emotions differently, but the fact is that having a bunch of unfamiliar faces tear your house apart before your very eyes is stressful. I know that sounds like a bit of hyperbole, but when you’re actually living through a remodel, that’s exactly how it feels.

It can be tough to keep your head on straight when you’re trying to make selections for tile and lighting fixtures that suit your budget while simultaneously worrying about whether the project will end on time. Add family and work life to that? Yikes.

Now that I’ve worked you up, let me provide some peace of mind: Contractors know what they are doing. They will do everything they can to make sure you are happy with your home and the job is completed in a timely manner. Your local YMCA provides yoga classes, which can be very helpful with managing stress. Feeling better?

Accept that you will feel some stress and some emotions, and allow yourself to be OK with that. It’s a part of the process. Freaking out about the fact that you’re freaking out will only make things, well, freakier.

Live Remodel 5: Amanda Armstrong Sava, original photo on Houzz

Now that I’ve shaken up any romanticized beliefs you may have held about remodeling, let me instill a bit of faith by saying that it’s not all bad. Remodeling can actually be quite pain-free, in fact, if you communicate. I know I’ve harped on this before, but I can’t stress the importance of it enough. Talk with your contractor before work starts about things such as scheduling, dust control and communication preferences. It makes a world and a half of difference.

So, yes, there will be dust, and yes, you might get tired of seeing your project manager every day, but there will be days when you come home after work and see new countertops being installed, and it will stop you dead in your tracks because — whoa — those look great!

Other times you might have the house to yourself for a second and you can poke around to “ooh” and “ahh” over all of the new, shiny things filling your beloved home. So not only is it not all bad, some of it is actually pretty good. So good, in fact, that you might even start thinking about your next project before the first one even ends.

By Hannah Kasper, Houzz

Posted on December 16, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

10 Projects to Start at Home Over a Holiday Weekend

Putting photos into albums, tidying your closet, making holiday gifts — a long holiday weekend can be the perfect time to tackle a project you’ve been wanting to get to but just haven’t had time for. Here are 10 ideas for home projects that are doable over a long weekend, from changing a light fixture to framing a treasured family recipe.

Home Projects 1: Titan Homes, original photo on Houzz

1. Make a meaningful display. The walls in this dining room feature framed recipes from the homeowner’s grandmother, hung alongside treasured family heirloom serving dishes and other favorite pieces. Create your own meaningful display for the holidays and beyond by framing a favorite family recipe (handwritten is best!) or collection of china. For a twist on this idea, try decoupaging a handwritten recipe (use a photocopy if you want to preserve the original) onto a plate or platter to create a unique and personal art piece.

2. Poll family and friends about a decorating or renovation decision you’ve been waffling on. Trying to choose the right paint color, upholstery fabric or kitchen tile? Use the holiday weekend as an opportunity to poll the family and friends who come over — even if you don’t agree with their preferences, it can help you figure out what you do want!

Home Projects 2: Sophie Sarfati, original photo on Houzz

3. Make a handmade holiday gift in multiples. If you’d like to try your hand at homemade gifts this year, it can be tempting to choose a different craft for each person on your list — but this can be a recipe for disaster as the days count down to Christmas and half your list remains unfinished. To maximize your time (and the cost of tools and materials) think up a project that’s easily repeated, and gift a version of it to multiple people. The mugs shown here would make a great project: Take plain store-bought cups and personalize them with handwritten messages in permanent marker.

4. Try the KonMari method of tidying. By now you’ve probably read (or at least heard of) the phenomenally popular book on decluttering, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. Use the long weekend as an opportunity to try out her method of decluttering your home, starting with your clothes.

Home Projects 3: H2 Design + Build, original photo on Houzz

5. Decide on a new light fixture or two. New lighting can completely transform the look and feel of a space. Having a light fixture replaced is usually a quick and easy job — an electrician can typically get it done in about an hour, more if you’re relocating the fixture or if you want to add a light where none currently exists. Try replacing your old dining room fixture with a beautiful pendant light or pair of lanterns, or change out the row of lights above your kitchen island.

6. Finally put loose photos in albums. Dig out a box of photos you haven’t gotten around to sorting, have a stack of blank albums at the ready, and hold a photo-organizing session solo or with family. To get through a lot of photos in a single afternoon, keep your albums simple, with just a few notes about the people and places featured.

Home Projects 4: rigby & mac, original photo on Houzz

7. Sort through baby clothes to make a memory quilt. Even if you’re not a quilter yourself, you can hire someone locally to use the fabric you provide to create a one-of-a-kind keepsake quilt. Sift through all those boxes and bins of saved baby clothes and pull out the most meaningful and lovely pieces to include in the quilt — just imagine how wonderful it would be to enjoy using those sweet little clothes again, instead of hiding them away in a box!

8. Put up picture shelves. If putting up a gallery wall of artwork has you feeling overwhelmed, take a different approach and install a row of picture shelves instead. The horizontal lines give the display structure, so you can mix and match sizes and shapes of frames as much as you wish — and with picture shelves, you can swap out your artwork whenever the mood strikes, without measuring or adding nail holes.

Home Projects 5: Traditional Bathroom, original photo on Houzz

9. Repaint the bathroom. Typically the smallest room in the house, the bathroom or powder room also tends to have very little wall space thanks to the tile and fixtures, which makes it a quick room to make over with paint. If you’ve been living with a plain white or builder’s beige bathroom, why not try a paint color with a bit more oomph? Slate, charcoal, mocha and silvery green are all elegant choices for the bath.

10. Put new planters on the front porch. Add fresh greenery to your entrance with a pair of matching topiary flanking the front door. If your region experiences cold winters, choose evergreen plants that can stand up to the weather, like boxwood or juniper. This simple change is a sure way to boost curb appeal and make your home look more inviting.

By Laura Gaskill, Houzz

Posted on December 15, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

9 Options to Remove, Hide or Play Down a Popcorn Ceiling

Don’t love your popcorn ceiling? You’re not the only one stuck with some unwanted stucco overhead. There are many options for moving on from it, but not all of them are equally effective — or equally easy. To help you decide how to address your popcorn problem, here are some top ways to remove, cover or distract from stucco ceilings.

Related: How to Decorate Your Ceiling

Popcorn Ceiling 1: The Kitchen Source, original photo on Houzz

From the 1950s to the 1980s, so-called popcorn ceilings (with their prickly stucco texture resembling the popular movie theater snack) were a major architectural staple in America and many other nations.

Eventually the asbestos commonly used in the application was found to be toxic, and demand severely dropped.

However, a textured ceiling does have its advantages. It reduces echoes and hides ceiling plane imperfections, which is why it’s still used (in asbestos-free formulations) today, as shown in the bathroom here.

Despite its practical uses, popcorn ceilings, for many people, are considered an unfashionable eyesore, especially with contemporary demand for “clean lines.” Also, popcorn ceilings can gather dust and be difficult to clean or repaint, which means they don’t always age beautifully.

But don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of options.

Popcorn Ceiling 2: Designs by Gia Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Ceiling Scraping

The good news is a sprayed-on stucco coating can be scraped off to reveal the original ceiling surface, a process usually known simply as “ceiling scraping” or “stucco removal.” A specialist typically does this because (here’s the bad news) the process can be somewhat costly at around $1 to $2 per square foot. It’s a messy, labor-intensive process, hence the high cost.

Also, in some cases, the results may not achieve the crispness of a ceiling that had not been stuccoed in the first place, especially if the stucco has been painted over, which greatly complicates the removal process.

Even in the best cases the exposed ceiling will typically require at least some smoothing and patching to create a more even and crisp final product, which makes this an extensive and relatively challenging undertaking for DIYers.

While ceiling stucco no longer uses asbestos in modern applications, homes built before 1980 (or even in the early ’80s while old stucco products were still stocked) may include asbestos. If there is any doubt, a professional asbestos test should be conducted before any resurfacing, which could release heavily toxic dust.

Ceiling Replacement

One of the simplest alternatives to scraping is removing and replacing the ceiling drywall. Alternately, you can have the ceiling layered over with new drywall. The drop in the ceiling plane will often be minimal, and this method can encase asbestos rather than releasing it into the air, delaying the issue, if not resolving it.

Redrywalling a ceiling will cost closer to $4 to $6 per square foot, but the results will be more predictable.

Popcorn Ceiling 3: Diament Builders, original photo on Houzz

Covering Stucco

Speaking of layering, there are many other materials besides drywall that can be installed over a popcorn ceiling, many of which add extra personality to a room.

Related: Keep Your Cottage Cool

Beadboard. Classic beadboard makes a charming ceiling treatment, and not just in a rustic cottage. Painted white, the subtle texture of beadboard paneling works well in traditional spaces or modern ones, adding a layer of depth in an unconventional place.

Popcorn Ceiling 4: Spinnaker Development, original photo on Houzz

Panels of beadboard often cost less than 50 cents per square foot, making this a very affordable option, especially for handy DIYers.

For a contemporary twist, try finishing the ceiling in a gloss paint, as shown here. This slow-drying finish will take more labor to complete, but the results have incredible depth and elegance.

Warm wood. If you’re not into painted beadboard, try multitonal wood for a rich, inviting treatment that’s great for a den or sitting area. Contrast it with white molding and crossbeams, or let the wood speak for itself. This approach works well with rustic decor, as a gentle touch in a modernist space or somewhere in between.

Popcorn Ceiling 5: Bravehart Design Build, original photo on Houzz

Pressed tin. Whether you use true pressed tin tiles or a fiber substitute, this classic ceiling look recalls speak-easy style and makes a great cover-up for a kitchen ceiling. You can paint it white or pale gray to keep the look breezy, or an inky dark hue (like charcoal or navy) for moody atmosphere. Or choose a metallic finish for extra sheen and drama.

Many companies now provide faux pressed tin and other panel systems specifically designed to cover stuccoed or damaged ceilings. They typically cost $1 to $5 per square foot.

To have a professional install these materials for you, expect to pay several hundred dollars extra.

Popcorn Ceiling 6: The Morson Collection, original photo on Houzz

Other Options

Lighting. Sometimes the best way to deal with ceiling stucco is to de-emphasize it, and smart lighting choices can go a long way toward that.

Notice how the lighting hitting this stucco wall emphasizes the texture. Great when the effect is desired. To avoid highlighting unwanted ceiling stucco, choose lights that aim downward, rather than upward or outward, so light is cast on beautiful surfaces below and not on your ceiling itself.

Try pot lights, or semi-flush-mounts (or pendants) with an opaque shade to aim light downward rather than multiple directions.

Paint. Ultimately, the best way to deal with a popcorn ceiling may simply be to learn to live with it. Think about it: How many people do you know who live with popcorn ceilings? I bet you can’t specifically remember who has it or doesn’t, because unless a ceiling is highlighted, we don’t typically spend much time looking at it.

Try painting the walls and the ceiling the same color to blur the lines between them, and then create drama at ground level to draw the eye down. You’ll soon forget about your stucco altogether.

By Yanic Simard, Houzz

Posted on December 10, 2017 at 8:00 am
Greg Rittner | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged ,