Friday, August 31, 2018

Which Home Improvements Pay Off?

Basic maintenance, such as the roof and exterior painting, are frequently more important than an awesome kitchen.

Before you start your next home renovation project, read on for essential home-selling tips from HGTV.
In the first year my husband and I lived in our house, we spent almost $20,000 on home improvements. When we set that money aside at the beginning of the year, we dreamed about granite counters and steam showers; what we ended up with was a new furnace, new gutters, a drainage system to keep the basement dry, new landscaping and lots of new paint. At the end of that year as I wiped down my tacky Formica countertops and bathed in my 1950s seafoam green tub, I wondered if we had spent that money wisely. If we had put our house up for sale, would potential buyers have really cared about the dry basement and reliable furnace?
After talking to a slew of realtors, contractors and architects, the consensus was yes. "If the roof is leaking, buyers won't get beyond that," says Ron Phipps with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "I don't care how awesome the kitchen is."
According to Remodeling Magazine you're less likely to recoup your investment in a major kitchen or bathroom remodel than you are to get back what you spend on basic home maintenance such as new siding. Siding replacement recouped 92.8 percent of its cost, according to the study. The only home improvement likely to return more at resale was a minor (roughly $15,000) kitchen remodel, which returned 92.9 percent. Replacing roofs and windows were also high on the list, returning 80 percent or more at resale.
"Buyers want to take the basic systems for granted," says Sal Alfano, Remodeling's editorial director. "They assume the roof doesn't leak and the air conditioning and plumbing work. Maintenance can chew up a lot of cash quickly, and people are afraid of that."
That's not to say that granite counters and steam showers don't pay off; kitchen and bathroom remodels continue to be two of the best investments you can make in your house. "They're always right up there at the top of the list," says Alfano. "They're the big, sexy rooms that new home builders splurge on, so when buyers are shopping around that's what they want in an existing home, too."
If you're thinking about sinking some money into home improvement projects this year, keep a few things in mind. What you'll get back on your investment depends on the value of your house, the value of houses in your immediate neighborhood, the housing market where you live, how soon you sell after making improvements, and the quality of the project itself. Installing a $10,000 stove in a $200,000 house, for example, "just doesn't compute," says Ron Phipps. Nor does it make sense to update your kitchen if your house is the only house in the neighborhood with just one bathroom. Here, the scoop on home improvements that will give you the biggest bang for your buck:
Bathroom additions have twice the resale value of a new bedroom.

Kitchens and Baths

In the hottest housing markets, springing for a kitchen or bath remodel is a sure-fire investment, often returning more than 100 percent of the cost. In Baltimore, for instance, a $9,400 bathroom remodel recouped 182 percent of its cost at resale, according to Remodeling's 2004 study. The markets in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego also offered triple-digit returns on a bathroom remodel. Minor kitchen remodels (average cost: $15,273) also provided returns of more than 100 percent in cities including Providence, R.I., Miami, New Orleans and, of course, San Diego, where a $17,928 investment netted $27,000 on resale.
Kitchens and baths are the areas in a home "where you can tell if money has been well spent or not," says architect Steve Straughan, a partner in Los Angeles-based KAA Design Group. "They're the most expensive areas of the home in terms of construction. And they're where people spend time in their homes."
So exactly what should you improve when you redo your kitchen or bathroom? Think traditional: all-wood cabinets, commercial-look appliances, natural wood or stone floors and stone countertops. Walk-in showers have replaced whirlpool tubs as the must-have cleaning machine in bathrooms, Straughan says. His clients will "forgo the tub to have a big walk-in shower" if they don't have room for both. "Most people don't have time to take a bath," Straughan points out. "So a lot of time you're giving away all that square footage for a tub that rarely gets used." Floor-to-ceiling steam showers are also hot (so to speak).Two key points to consider, however: First, don't spend money remodeling the bathroom if it's the only one you've got. Your money is better spent adding a second bath. Many people love "the charm of older homes," says Long Beach, Calif., based realtor Dick Gaylord. "But a number of older homes lack a sufficient number of bathrooms. So if you've got a four-bedroom, one-bath home, it's certainly going to pay to add a second bathroom." A National Association of Realtors study by Florida State University professors G. Stacy Sirmans and David Macpherson found that adding a bathroom increased the sale price of a home by 8.7 percent, more than twice the rate for adding a bedroom.
Second, if you're not planning to move in the near future, spend your money remodeling in a way that you'll most enjoy. Realtor Ron Phipps recently showed a house with a kitchen that had been remodeled just two years ago. "I opened the Viking range and the original packaging was still inside," Phipps says. The homeowners "are not cooks. The kitchen is terrific, it's magnificent, but they don't use it."
In other words, you can't measure the value you get out of your use and enjoyment of the home improvements you make. "Even if you get less than 100 percent of your money back, you're really ahead of the game over time because you get the use of all that space," says Sal Alfano.

Home Maintenance

Still, new kitchens and baths lose some of their glamour if there's water in the basement when a potential buyer comes to look at your house, says Alfano. Every homeowner's first priority should be "keeping the existing structure sound," says Don Sever, a general contractor for 18 years and president of Sever Construction in Oakton, Va. "I've been in a lot of houses where people are spending thirty or forty thousand dollars to remodel the kitchen, but then you walk into the basement and there's a musty smell because water is leaking through the foundation. To me, it's more important to resolve those items first, and get the luxuries later."
Ron Phipps suggests thinking about it from a buyer's perspective. "I was with someone recently who was going to spend money to remodel their bathroom. But the roof is two layers and 30 years old." For a buyer, knowing the roof needs to be replaced is a much bigger issue than living with a functional, but dated, bathroom, Phipps points out.
Most buyers have a limit on what they can spend for a house. If they know they don't have to spend money on the upkeep of basic systems, then they're more likely to buy the house and consider upgrading the kitchen or baths themselves. More than 70 percent of buyers who purchased existing homes knew what they were going to remodel before they even closed on the deal, according to HanleyWood's Housing Continuum Study, conducted in 2002 in conjunction with Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. The same study showed that 30 to 40 percent of buyers of existing homes made home improvements within six months after purchase.
The importance of different maintenance issues varies with geographical location, too. Roof replacement (average cost: $11,376) was very important to buyers in the east, according to Remodeling, where homeowners recouped an average 96.3 percent of the cost. In the Midwest, the average return for the same improvement was just 71.1 percent.

Curb Appeal

Even in hot housing markets, the old saw holds true: "If people drive by your home and are not impressed they're not going to walk inside," says Dick Gaylord, who has sold real estate for 27 years.
"If I were going to spend money on a property, I would really work on making sure the curb appeal is strong," says realtor Ron Phipps. Phipps suggests adding a front porch to create interest to the exterior of a flat house, for instance. "You really want to convey a sense of welcome," he says. "If all your remodeling is on the inside but the outside of the house is challenging, you'll never have a chance to even show the inside."
Curb appeal is a major reason that siding replacement ranks so highly on the Cost vs. Value report, says editor Sal Alfano. Replacement siding also offers the added value of being low maintenance, an important issue for cost-conscious buyers.

More Space

Adding a room or two or five can be a good investment, particularly if you live in a hot housing market. "In the last couple of years there have been a lot of requests for additions," says general contractor Don Sever, who's based in the red-hot northern Virginia market. "Everything from adding a sunroom to doubling the size of the house." Much of the demand is driven by homeowners who want more space, but then realize they can't afford larger homes in their own neighborhood. Sever met with clients last year who wanted to fix up their house to put it on the market. After looking for homes to buy, "they decided that instead of spending money to get it ready to sell, they'd add features to make the house more livable and stay put."
Every 1,000 square feet added to a home boosts the sale price by more than 30 percent, according to the 2005 study for the National Association of Realtors.
Bathroom additions return the most, according to Remodeling magazine's report — an average of 86.4 percent. The addition of attic bedrooms, family rooms and sunrooms returned anywhere from 70 to more than 80 percent of the money spent — and that doesn't factor in the value of your own enjoyment of all that new space.
And more and more people want dedicated rooms for hobbies and crafts, says editor Sal Alfano, whether it's an exercise room, knitting room or home office.
One caveat: Don't add on so much that you price your house right out of the neighborhood. "You don't want to be the leading value for the neighborhood," warns realtor Phipps. "Although you can be at the upper end."

Bells and Whistles

For some homeowners, home improvement isn't about return on investment; it's simply about making dreams come true. Architect Steve Straughan recently finished work on a $250,000 home theater room with a 12-foot wide screen and an elaborate sound system. "There's not a home we're doing that doesn't have a home theater," Straughan says. "It's a common request across the board and typically it's a big investment." Most home theaters involve wiring speakers into walls and extensive built-in cabinetry, as well as soundproofing–"it's not something you can take with you" if you move, Straughan points out. Still, a home theater is likely to have broad appeal, so you may recoup a large chunk of your costs at resale. "A home theater makes sense," says realtor Ron Phipps. "A six-car garage does not make sense." In the high-end L.A. market, Straughan also sees demand for wine cellars, massage rooms and yoga rooms.

Top 13 Fall Home Projects

Fall is the perfect time to complete home improvement projects -- see Better Homes & Gardens tips for projects to wrap up before winter arrives.

Fall Lawn Care

To ensure your lawn's health and beauty come spring, there are several important yardwork projects to complete in the fall. Raking leaves and aerating will prevent your lawn and garden beds from suffocating, while fertilizing and winterizing grass, trees, and shrubs will allow your greenery to enter its winter slumber comfortably and properly nourished. Professional lawn care services will make quick work of these projects, freeing up your time for family, friends, and football.


Replace Windows

Do you feel a chill next to certain windows in your home during winter? Have you noticed condensation or even frost on these windows? Glass with multiple panes, spacers, or filler gasses (such as argon or krypton) will likely solve these problems. A professional can swap out your problem windows with more efficient models that will increase your level of comfort while decreasing your heating bills.

Exterior Paint

Fall offers plenty of days that are warm enough to work with exterior paint, and a touch-up can help prolong the life of your siding and trim. A fresh coat of paint or sealer on any surface that potentially will be covered with snow, such as wood floors or stairs, also is a wise idea. Sooner is better to contact a local painter -- many paints aren't recommended for application on days when the temperature will dip colder than 45 to 50 degrees.


Roof Repair

The cold of winter can aggravate a small roof leak. Any leaks in a home's roof should be fixed in advance of the first snowfall. Your best bet is to hire an experienced, professional crew that can accurately assess the leak and fix problems quickly and safely.


Power Washing

Having your home's exterior and windows power washed won't just make your home look sharp, it also will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that feed on grime. If you're not comfortable deciding whether your home's exterior can handle the pressure that will be exerted from the various pressure-washing nozzles available, hire a professional to do the work.

Seal Gaps & Add Insulation

Nothing makes a home more uncomfortable during the winter than a nagging, chilly draft. Consider a home energy audit that includes a review of your home's caulking and weather stripping. Energy auditors also will likely look inside your attic. If the insulation is at or below the level of the joists, you may be able to keep your home warmer by adding more. A depth of 10 to 14 inches is generally considered optimal, and you can supplement with a variety of different types of insulation to achieve that depth.

Tune Up Furnace

In winter the furnace is literally the heart of most American homes. Without it, comfortable life indoors would come to a grinding halt. Occasional maintenance from a trained professional can keep your furnace running effectively and efficiently and prevent potentially catastrophic damage to your home from burst or frozen pipes.

Clean Carpets

Fall is the perfect time to clean your carpets -- the humid days of summer have passed, but the below-freezing days of winter have yet to arrive. It's the best time to open windows for ventilation, which should speed the drying process. Let a professional wrangle the bulky cleaning equipment -- with a house full of wet carpet, you'll be best suited to get outdoors and enjoy the lingering warm days.

Clean, Repair, and Protect Gutters

Your home's gutters divert thousands of gallons of water each year. To keep the water flowing smoothly away from your house instead of into it, inspect and clean your roof's drainage system. Better still, protect your gutters with mesh guards to keep leaves and other debris from causing blockages in the first place. Hire a pro to complete this project, or be prepared to spend a damp-and-dirty day climbing up and down the ladder.


Install a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats save money without sacrificing comfort by using less energy on heating and cooling while you're away from home, asleep, or at any other specific times you select. More accurate and convenient to use than manual thermostats, programmable thermostats don't contain toxic mercury found in traditional models. Hiring a pro for this project is generally inexpensive, but this project is within the abilities of most DIYers.

Repair Driveways and Walks

Small cracks and gaps in a driveway or walkway can quickly expand during winter's freezing temperatures. Cracked cement and disintegrating asphalt also can create treacherous conditions for pedestrians. Hire a pro to ensure these cracks are fixed properly and won't return or get worse.

Winterize Faucets and Sprinklers

Most exterior plumbing in areas with temperatures below freezing must be winterized to prevent freezing and bursting. If you want professional help, contact a plumber, who can make quick work of winterizing exterior faucets, which are known as hose bibs. Winterizing more complex plumbing, such as sprinkler systems or water features, is best left to a professional.

Fireplace Repair

Proper inspection of a fireplace is vital to ensuring its safe operation -- even if it is rarely used. An experienced chimney sweep will check wood fireplaces for flammable buildup (known as creosote) and chimney blockages like bird nests. A chimney or fireplace professional also should check for these red flags: improperly functioning dampers, damaged brickwork and masonry, and missing or damaged flue caps (the screen covering the top of the chimney).

Are you ready to get your home prepared for winter?  Call Projects General Construction today at (805) 682-2226.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Hot Tub?

Have you always wanted a hot tub, but have been scared away by how much it will cost?  This informative article from Home Advisor breaks down the different types of hot tubs and the costs associated with them.  

Hot tubs make a great addition for both leisure and health. The benefits are numerous -- you can relax after a long evening, invite guests over for dinner with a bath afterwards -- the possibilities are endless. Make sure you know what style you want -- freestanding or built-in -- to better gauge what the total costs will be.



It might be tough to predict the cost to install a hot tub, as it depends on whether you get a free standing aboveground structure versus a built-in tub. The national cost to install an above ground hot tub averages $317, with most homeowners spending between $157 and $490. The approximate cost to install a built-in hot tub varies from $15,000 to $20,000.

Above Ground Installation

If you choose to install an above ground hot tub, there are many factors you need to consider. This includes:
  • Will it be on a deck or porch? 
  • Do you need a concrete pad?
  • Will you need electrical & plumbing setup? 
  • How will this affect your landscape (if placed in the yard)?
  • What kind of accessories will you need?
Prices for an above ground hot tub can range anywhere from $320 up to $17,000. The reason for this has to do with the type of hot tub you install and how many accessories you’ll add on. You will also have to factor in the cost of building the deck, concrete patio or installing the electrical and plumbing services if you don’t already have them.

Above ground models are also considered portable. You can set up a spa on your deck and then store the piece in your basement during the winter. They are difficult to move though -- about 225 pounds on average. Here are some types of above ground hot tubs to consider:
  • The least expensive is a soft-side inflatable one. These are made of vinyl and come to your home deflated. Then you just have to inflate it, add the motor and fill it with a hse. Once it’s plugged in, it’s a ready to go hot tub. You can get these for $500 or less.
    • Pros: Inexpensive, easy to move, less work for initial setup
    • Cons: Because it’s made of vinyl, this structure can puncture easily, which means you’ll have to replace it regularly.

  • Wooden hot tubs are the most common choice. Using redwood, cedar or teak, they have a round design with seating. It comes in pieces so you can easily get it to the room or space of your choice. They must sit on a solid base -- concrete or wood -- that can handle the weight of the tub and the water. These cost anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000.
    • Pros: Comes in parts for easy construction, very popular and solid material choices, appealing and will work with most home structures
    • Cons: It will require electrical and plumbing setup in the yard, and you will need to have a solid base for it.

  • Acrylic hot tubs are the heaviest and most expensive choice. They’re much heavier and cannot be transported in pieces, like wooden ones. They do require electrical and plumbing setup, like wooden tubs, but they’re much heavier and will require an extremely solid base. These cost anywhere from $11,000 to $16,000.
    • Pros: Very sturdy, can withstand the climate fairly well, has a very expensive and appealing look
    • Cons: Extremely heavy -- might require a new structure for placement -- and expensive to move. It will also require electrical and plumbing setup.

Built In Hot Tubs

In comparison to above ground styles, built-in (also known as in-ground) hot tubs are far more expensive. This is because installers will have to excavate the yard and install the necessary plumbing and electrical parts for the tub. Altogether, you’ll be spending anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 on the project. Here are some factors to consider with installing a built-in hot tub:
  • Location: Professionals will have to dig into your landscape to make room for the hot tub. This could affect your entire yard, so make sure you discuss the best location for minimal overall damage. Then factor in the cost to repair your landscape, anywhere from
  • Installation: Since a built-in hot tub installation is far more work than a portable one, it’s imperative you get a dealer who will help to walk you through the process. They can usually get contractors to help with the trench digging, electrical and plumbing installation. If you want a room for your built-in tub, they can set that up as well.
  • Materials: They are usually made of gunite or poured concrete. That’s why they have to be installed below ground, as a structure wouldn’t be able to handle the weight.
  • Size: The size of the tub you want installed should be determined by how many people will use it. For a family of four, a hot tub that holds 500 gallons and is about 7'8" x 7'8" x 40" should do fine. 
  • Electrical/plumbing: While these services will be costly to install, there are ways to save on the total cost. You can use alternative heating and plumbing systems, like a gas heater for the water. However, an in ground system isn’t as efficient as a portable hot tub, so expect to pay more on your monthly utility bills.
  • Surround: You don’t want the tacky look of a hole in the ground with concrete. So consider adding a surround, made of tiles, stone or bricks. It adds to the overall beauty of your hot tub and avoids potential mishaps with falls.
On the pro side of having a built-in hot tub, oftentimes these structures can raise the value of your home, depending on where you live. For the Northern states who have snow, only an indoor hot tub will yield more value. If you live in the South or on the West Coast though, a hot tub -- indoor or out -- could add significant value. The con of installing an inground style is you cannot take it with you.

Accessories

Once you’ve got the tub installed, it’s time to think about accessories. Depending on the type of hot tub you have, some accessories you should consider adding might include:
  • Covers: To avoid leaves and other debris getting in your hot tub, you will need a cover. Depending on the size, you might also need a cover helper, which helps to manage taking the cover on/off and preventing damage.
  • Jets: If you don’t have enough jets, you can have more added. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
  • Lighting: Lighting in or around the tub can help to avoid injury and potential mishaps if you get in the tub at night.
  • Drink holders: If you want to enjoy a beverage, get a portable drink holder than you can install on the side of the tub.
  • Ozonator: This injects sanitizer into the spa as ozone gas, which makes the spa easier to maintain.
  • Pump: This makes it easier to empty the hot tub, although most modern models have built-in drains.
  • Water access: This will make it easier to fill the tub -- might include a garden hose or an outdoor faucet.
  • Weatherproof stairs: Allows easy access into the tub. Make sure it’s made of durable materials and supported by concrete.
Some of these accessories -- cover, jets, lighting, ozonator -- might come with some models. Make sure to ask the dealer to avoid spending extra for something you won’t need. You also want to make sure and not crowd the hot tub with too many accessories. This could detract from its overall value and appearance.

Are you ready to turn your backyard into a relaxing getaway?  Call Projects General Construction today! (805) 682-2226

Your Guide to Grills and More for Great Outdoor Cooking

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Which Outdoor Home Improvement Projects have the Highest Return on Investment?


With summer in full swing, you might be thinking about home improvement projects you can tackle in the warm months to come. You also might be dreaming of firing up the BBQ. Why not focus on sprucing up the exterior of your home. According to an article from Electronic House, it can boost the value of your home and provide a huge return on investment. 

But where should you start? What will make the biggest impact both in the short term and long term?

Replace Exterior Doors

Replacing the exterior doors yields the biggest ROI according to the study, with an average of 101 percent. That’s double your money back. As long as you’re installing new doors, why not add a smart lock? They look great, offer superior home protection and are more convenient to operate than a traditional lock and key. Some of the top names in the business are AugustKwikset,Schlage, and Yale, but you can find smart locks from many other manufacturers. Depending on the model, locking and unlocking happens via a keypad built onto the lock, your phone, and with some models you can lock the door (great for when you’re in bed) via voice command. Many of these locks are also able to synch with other smart products; for example, when the door unlocks certain lights can turn on.

Replace Garage Doors

You can expect an ROI of 88 percent by replacing your garage doors. You can add to their value by automating them. A number of manufacturers offer kits that allow you to control the garage doors via a mobile app and voice commands, receive notifications if the garage door has been left open, and link with other smart home devices. The MyQ from Chamberlain, for example, integrates with the Nest Cam so you can view the garage door remotely—it’s a good way to check up on things. What’s really nice about the MyQ is that it can be added to any make or model of garage door, so you can pick a style that’s right for your home.

The Gogogate is another universal garage door opener. It has all of the features mentioned above, plus through its built-inn sensors lets you check the temperature inside your garage. You can also share access to the garage with up to 10 users for free, and automatically open and close your door using geolocation.

Spruce Up Outdoor Entertainment Area

Depending on in which part of the country you live, adding an outdoor kitchen yields an average of 100 percent to 200 percent. In addition to a sink, refrigerator, grille and dining surface, consider adding a weatherproof TV and speakers. Peerless-AVSeura, and SunBriteTV offer many outdoor TV options, and unlike years ago, today you can get one for a reasonable price.Outdoor speakers run the gamut, but wireless models are always easier to install and let you stream music right from your phone. There’s a variety of styles available, from in-wall/in-ceiling models (good for lanais and covered patios) , wall-mountable models (popular for hanging under a home’s eaves) to rock-shaped speakers and in-ground speakers that are ideal for the yard and landscape.


Add Exterior Lighting

Adding outdoor lighting is another solid investment with an average ROI of 50 percent. You can add floodlights, LED landscape fixtures, scones, and more to add real curb appeal and help protect your home from burglary and vandalism. There are many exterior lights that can be automated and controlled remotely via a smartphone app or integrated with other smartproducts.LevitonLutron, and Sylvania offer some great options. The Kuna Porch Lamp delivers and interesting twist: built inside its decorative housing is a security camera and intercom. You can not only control the light, but access the camera remotely to view the outdoor area and speak with visitors who approach the front door, for example.

 ROI for other outdoor improvements

  • Professional deck construction: 73 percent
  • Landscaping: 28 percent
  • Portable fire pits: 150 percent
  • Swimming pool: 7 percent


Top 3 Summer Backyard Projects

Are you dreaming of a yard is a relaxing oasis for you and your family?  An outdoor living space where the you can swim, eat and entertain?  Here are a few ideas for backyard projects that will turn your backyard into your own personal paradise!
Landscape Design Ideas:
·       Pool and/or hot tub
·       Outdoor kitchen
·       Fire pit
·       Avoid obstructing views

Pool and Hot Tubs
Before you begin your project, make sure you have the correct city permits and have reviewed your budget and the project scope.  Some design elements to consider:  in ground or above ground, what type of material to you want surrounding the pool (concrete, wood, grass), and if you want both a pool and a hot tub.  

Outdoor Kitchen & Bar
This is for the entertainers! Many cooking areas features a stainless steel grill, with a side burner, a ceramic smoker, or a pizza oven for Italian food lovers.  Things to consider for your bar are: refrigerator, ice maker, sink and beverage making center. 

Fire Pit & Patio
Intended for socializing with friends on chilly evenings or just relaxing on your own with a glass of wine, the fire pit is a beautiful addition to any backyard.  Adding a patio area makes your backyard feel more inviting and gives it a homey feel.  Patio options include hardscaping or landscaping, gravel, or even sand for a super beachy feel!