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Home Remodeling

Remodeling your home can add additional living space while increasing the value of your home.  Make sure you do it right and click on the following articles to learn more about finding the right contractor and preparation that should be completed prior to the remodel.

Home Remodeling Articles

How to Work with your Contractor

Of course you believe you’re a reasonable, understanding person with whom anyone would be happy to work. However, if you’ve never been involved with remodeling your home, you’d be surprised what might happen!

Realistic Expectations

Everyone who begins the remodeling process has visions of the “dream” home they’ll have when it’s completed. Few, however, give much thought to the dust and dirt, noise, inconveniences, scheduling delays, and slight problems, which will need to be dealt with along the way. These elements are part and parcel of any remodeling job and every client needs to be realistic and accept the fact that there will be some inconveniences.

How inconvenient and unpleasant the process will be depends a lot on the working relationship we create right from the beginning. A good client-contractor relationship depends on several things:

Be honest with us from the beginning regarding your expectations. Clear communication is the foundation of a successful project.

Be realistic about what you are looking for in the remodel and what you are willing to budget for the project. Many Minnesota homeowners enter a remodeling project with grandiose plans which need to be scaled down to meet their budget.

Chad Miller Construction will work with you to provide you with the best your money can afford. But remember, this is our livelihood. As with any profession, some profit margin must be factored in to the price.

Let’s discuss our work schedule. If the schedule falls behind, feel free to ask why.

Realize that certain stages of remodeling may seem to go more quickly that others. For example, in stages when more tangible work is being done (for instance when walls are being torn down or replaced, framing construction, or appliances installed), you’ll have a true sense of rapid process. During other stages, however, which are more hidden (the installation of electrical lines or plumbing), it may seem that the work is going nowhere. Don’t worry. Just because you can’t see it easily doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Trust us . . . it is.

Recognize your role in the remodeling process and allow us to perform our work.  Your input regarding design, craftsmanship expected, etc. will be worked out before the contract is signed. Once work is underway, give us the freedom to execute the job effectively. This is not to say that if you see something going wrong you shouldn’t speak up.

Avoid changes to the job scope if possible. They tend to upset the schedule, which ultimately upsets you. If you decide some changes are in order, settle the cost difference up front with the lead carpenter or salesperson so there is no misunderstanding.

Finally, remember that maintaining a good contractor-client relationship is a two-way street. Just as you would want others to respect your professional expertise, respect ours. At the same time, you can be sure that we’re committed to providing you with as painless a remodel as possible, with the final results you expect!

But, perhaps it is time you reconsider how you use your basement? Remodeling the basement is a cost-effective way to greatly expand your home's living space. Suddenly you could have a guest room, a children's play room, a home office, a recreation room–the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Below are five easy steps to reclaim your basement.

1.  Solve Basement Water Problems First

Even if your basement rarely has problems with dampness or flooding, it's best to solve the problem completely before beginning any remodeling work.

Permanent solutions can take time to implement. A good place to start is to talk to an independent home inspector who specializes in basement or foundation waterproofing problems.

2. Decide on the Best Use of Your Basement

Consider using the space for activities for which typical basement characteristics offer natural advantages.

The lack of light is useful when setting up a home theater or a dark room. The isolation helps create a sound break for a play area, a teenager's hangout or a place to practice a musical instrument.

Also, in basements, there is usually ready access to things like water lines and heating and cooling ducts. This makes adding a bath easier than it would be elsewhere in the house.

3. Get Help with Your Basement Design

While your basement may not be much to look at now, you'll want to end up with quality living space when the project is complete. An architect or interior designer can help you get the most out of the space. A little forethought and careful planning now can help you create a space that is attractive, comfortable and useful.

4. Pay Attention to Air Circulation

When your home was first built, the odds are that there were few if any registers or vents installed in the basement. When you remodel your basement, you need to think about the need for good air circulation, adding openings where necessary.

You'll also have to include a return air duct, but it's important that it be located far from the furnace. Otherwise, it may suck dangerous furnace exhaust fumes back into the house.

To be on the safe side, install a carbon monoxide detector in your basement so that you'll have an early warning of any problems with the venting of the furnace or any other major appliances.

5. Maximize Your Basement's Natural Light

For many reasons, you'll probably want to add more light in your basement.

If parts of the basement extend above the ground, you can add new windows or enlarge existing ones.

If that isn't possible, another option is to dig window wells. Minnesota state Building codes require that basements with habitable space and all sleeping rooms have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue window or exterior door opening for escape and rescue. Window wells can increase the odds of water problems, so it's a good idea to build ones that tie drainage to your existing foundation drain tile.  

Maximize the effect of regular windows by mounting some windows in the interior walls between rooms that open pathways for natural light to reach interior rooms.

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Top Ten Things Before you Remodel

Yes, you can remodel your home with ease if you plan ahead and take one step at a time. The home is often the largest financial investment a person will make, and the decision to alter that investment by paying out more money is not an easy one-but it is worth it.

Whether you are remodeling to sell the home or just to make it more comfortable for the coming years, remodeling is a smart decision. But it is a decision that requires planning and patience.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) suggests following this ten step program when considering any remodeling project.

Step 1: Assess your current situation.

Do you have the funds, time and patience to remodel your home? Does it make sense to remodel or simply move into a larger home? According to the American Homeowner Foundation, moving can be extremely expensive, typically involving a 6 percent commission on the sale of the current home, plus another 2-4 percent for closing, moving and other costs. They suggest that if you like your present neighborhood, you should look into what improvements you could make for 8-10 percent of your current home's value before you seriously consider moving as an alternative to remodeling.

Step 2: Decide how long you intend to stay in your present home.

Are you remodeling so you can sell faster or get a higher sale price? Or are you remodeling to create a more comfortable environment for a long-term situation? The answers to those questions will determine how much money you should spend and the scope of the remodeling project you should realistically undertake.

Step 3: Start defining the areas of the home that you want to change.

You should have some idea of what the remodeling project will entail before you call a contractor. Cut pictures out of magazines. Make a list of rooms that need to be altered and the reasons for those changes. This information will help speed the design phase of your remodel.

Step 4: Clear plenty of time on your calendar for the project.

Do not attempt to remodel your entire kitchen the month before Thanksgiving-it's unrealistic. You should establish a realistic timetable with your contractor that allows for delays due to weather, supply shortages, or other glitches that may occur.

Step 5: Find a reputable contractor.

The only way to protect yourself during a remodeling project is to hire a professional contractor. Make sure that you choose a contractor who is insured and licensed (if required in your state).

Step 6: Create a budget.

Decide how much you can realistically afford for the project before you start. If you are remodeling to sell, your budget should not exceed the increase in sales price of the home that is the result of remodeling. If you plan on staying in the home for a lengthy amount of time, you should spend a little more to get what you want.

Step 7: Request a comprehensive proposal from your contractor.

The proposal should tell you how much the project is going to cost and what types of products will be used. If the proposal comes in above your budget limit, talk to your contractor about other options. Sometimes you can accomplish the same look with other products or design techniques.

Step 8: Get a complete, written contract before the work begins.

The contract should cover the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, types of products, etc., with provisions for the responsibilities of the contractor, subcontractors, change order procedures, warranties, and alternative dispute settlement clauses.

Step 9: Tie payments to work stages.

Be wary of any contractor who wants a large amount of money up front. Normal contracts split payments by decreasing percentages of total cost and are tied to significant work stages in the project. Please note, however, that a large amount of money is usually required at the start of kitchen remodels to cover the costs of ordering appliances.

Step 10: Take a deep breath and keep your perspective.

Remodeling can be noisy, time-consuming and disruptive to the normal home environment. It's important to keep your sense of humor and stay focused on the end result, not the process that takes you there.

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Brighten Up a Room with Bump Outs!

Re-modelers have long known that a small addition (“a bump-out”) that enlarges an existing room can be a value-conscious remodeling project. Often that bump-out brightens your home more than a large addition. Look around your home for cramped, dark areas that could be improved with a minimum sized addition.

Have you considered adding a walk-in bay window to your dining room? You’ll be amazed at how this small change will open up and brighten the room. How about a deep window seat in your favorite room for a cozy reading nook? This can be designed to include hidden storage. Angled entrances can give you access to a little used section of yard while allowing light to stream in. Have you been dreaming of a whirlpool in the bathroom? A bump-out would give you room for the new bath and an expanse of windows to add spaciousness.

Bump-outs may have a funny name but they can add much needed space, light and interest to many rooms in your house. Contact us today to discuss creative bump-out ideas for your Minnesota home!

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Home Remodeling

Finding the Right Contractor for your Project

As anyone who has any experience working with contractors will tell you, finding the RIGHT contractor for your project entails much more than just finding the lowest price. Less tangible items like your ability to communicate and feel comfortable working with your contractor will inevitably prove to be much more important in determining your eventual satisfaction with the job – particularly if it’s a large project.

Here are a couple of tips on finding the right contractor for your home improvement project:

Ask for references

Talk to homeowners this contractor has done work for in the past. Were they satisfied with the work? Was the work finished? Did the contractor keep to the agreed-upon schedule? Did the contractor return phone calls.

Get two or three specific written bids

Different contractors can vary widely on pricing and level of detail even when bidding for the same job. Make sure and get several estimates on your home remodeling project, especially if it’s a large project. As much as possible, make sure that you explain the job fully to each of the contractors to ensure each one bids on the same exact job so that you can compare the estimates ‘apple-to-apple’.

Don’t automatically accept the lowest bid

The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. A large number of complaints filed against contractors are the result of homeowner taking the lowest bid and then being unhappy with the low quality of work. Even when the contractor promises to do the same job, be careful – often contractors will bid a job extremely aggressively in order to get it. When the work takes longer than originally planned, the contractor can feel ‘squeezed’ by the budget and try and cut corners.

Make sure your contractor is properly licensed

A license is not an endorsement of the quality of work. It provides some financial protection for you, the customer. 

Make sure your contractor is properly insured

Ask your contractor for a copy of his proof of liability insurance and bonding or the name and number of his/her insurance agent to call and verify proof of coverage.

Most importantly…Do you trust this person to work on your home?

When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own gut feeling. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home? Around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs?

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Make a Small House Feel Big

Small houses needn’t look—or be small. Here are a few tricks for squeezing the most out of every square foot.

Use corner windows to capture those spectacular views. A solid corner confines a room. Opening up the corners with windows will make the room feel much larger. Drape them with exciting window treatments to enhance the room.

Lowering your window sills will enable you to gain more light into the room. Although you will need to double check on local codes first to find out the sill height at which tempered glass is required.

Limit your hallways. Halls are a lazy way of organizing rooms, and they eat up a tremendous amount of living space especially in a small house. Consider opening up a hallway or two and you will be surprised at the difference it makes.

Offer one semiformal dining area. Combine tiny breakfast nooks and claustrophobic dining rooms into a single large eating space that is separate enough from the kitchen to feel special.

Low walls will define rooms without closing them in. Your eye will be able to see beyond, giving it a much more open feeling.

Use open stairs whenever possible. Enclosing stair halls and solid rail walls will hop up the sight lines. Using open pickets will extend them.

Install see-through cabinets between the kitchen and dining area to give it that open look.

Use flooring materials for continuity. Switching abruptly from tile to hardwood to carpet chops up the house visually.

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The Art of Remodeling

Buying remodeling isn’t like buying a car or dining room set. You can’t simply compare prices and choose the one that requires the lowest investment. Because of the many types of home styles and the range of professionalism within remodeling companies, there is no way to compare apples to apples. Apples to llamas is more like it. In fact, remodeling is probably as far from commodity buying as you can get.

But if we wanted to compare, I’d say that buying remodeling is most similar to buying artwork or graphic design work. Your home is the canvas with a painting already begun. We’re the artist who will put our skills to work to finish the beautiful project.

Just like artists and graphic designers, each professional re-modeler will have a different creative mindset. This means that if you were to talk to several re-modelers, each will probably design a completely different solution to your problem.

And just like artists, each re-modeler will have his or her own taste and skill level. It’s really up to you, the homeowner, to find a re-modeler that shares your vision for the final result. So look at your search for just the right re-modeler as the search for an artist for your home. Here are some steps to follow:

Begin by looking at the company portfolio. Ask how they created the solution to the particular remodeling problem.

Let us be creative. After all, we spend our working lives designing projects that will help you make the most of the possibilities.

Remember, just like the more skilled and popular artists can command higher prices, so might you be asked to invest a bit more for the remodeler who can deliver the best product.

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Too Much Stuff, Too Little Room

Minnesota homeowners never fail to be impressed by the difference major space changes can make in the quality of a family’s life. You love your home but it isn’t working well for you. You don’t want to leave your neighborhood, your neighbors and your schools, but something really has to be done to refit your house to your lifestyle.

Not to worry. Adding a room, wing or floor to your existing home might be a major undertaking, but it can also be a fulfilling experience—especially if the remodeling is well designed. Excellent design is critical since the remodeling can either enhance or detract from your existing structure. The one thing you don’t want is an addition that clashes or sticks out like a sore thumb.

Begin by evaluating the style of your home. Is it contemporary, or traditional? Is it a Victorian bungalow, rambler, split level or colonial?

Each home style has specific architectural lines and details which can be echoed in the design of your addition. Next, think in terms of scale. A common design mistake is a addition that either overshadows the original home, or is much too small and insignificant to add to the overall architectural style. Cut out pictures of homes that you appreciate. This “homework” will help you zero in on your particular tastes.

Take a look at the style of your home. Pay special attention to:
the pitch of the roof; the style of windows and doors; the architectural details such as balustrades, shutters, moldings, porches; the material uses—type of shingles, siding, stone, brick, stucco.

Think about which architectural details you want to repeat in the design of your addition. Repeating design elements is an excellent method of creating additions that look as though they had always been there. For example, your addition could include a dormer that mirrors another elsewhere on your home. And it should include a complementary window style to that of the original.

The design of the interior offers more flexibility, since it’s not viewed in its entirety, as is the exterior. Even so, you’ll still want to strive for a comfortable transition from existing space to new. The ceiling style and height can make a big difference in the tone of a room. A steep pitched roof on the exterior can make way for a dramatic cathedral ceiling on the interior. This can add drama to a contemporary or traditionally designed space—in a living room, kitchen, bathroom, or family room.

Little is more satisfying than living in a house that’s been beautifully remodeled with a new addition by Chad Miller Construction. If you’ve taken the time to plan carefully and pay attention to the details, you’ll love your new space more with each passing day.

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Considering a Home Remodel?  Make Sure it Pays Off!

(ARA) – If your family has to wait in line to take a shower, or if you’re storing pots and pans in the laundry room due to lack of cabinet space, it could be time to consider a home remodeling project. Not only will an updated space make your house more pleasant for you and your family, it can pay off in higher resale value.

To find out if your project will add to the resale value of your home, take stock of other houses in your neighborhood. Have many of them been upgraded in the past few years? If your house is the only one around without a finished basement, that would be a good project to consider. If everyone on the block has added a bathroom or upgraded their master suite, these projects would pay off as well. On the other hand, you may not want to price your house out of the market by adding a third or fourth garage if that’s not the standard in your area.

Remodeling magazine conducts an annual survey that compares construction costs with resale values. Over the past four years, bathroom and kitchen remodeling have consistently shown good returns on investment. In 2005, a kitchen remodel that included updating cabinet fronts; replacing the oven, stove, sink and faucet; adding new paint or wall coverings; and replacing existing flooring recouped 98.5 percent of the job cost at resale time as a national average. In the East and West, the numbers were even higher, at 100.9 percent and 112.3 percent respectively.

Bathroom remodels pay off even better. Updating a bathroom that is 25 years old with new fixtures, tub, and toilet; adding new tile, a solid surface vanity counter, ceramic floor and wallpaper recoups on average 102.2 percent.

Of course, you won’t want to tackle a home improvement project solely for the resale value, especially if you intend to stay put for a while. A remodel can contribute to a better quality of living for your family while your house increases in value. “Choose an improvement that makes sense for you and your family and one that you can afford,” says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for Experian, a global information solutions company.

To decide if a home remodeling project is right for you, make a list of features that you would like in the room to be renovated, taking into account how you and your family use the space. Consider traffic patterns, lighting and special features you’d like, such as a wet bar or walk-in shower.

Next, figure out how much you can spend on the project. You might want to consider taking out a home equity loan to finance the remodel. Because the loan is secured by your home, it will likely have a lower annual percentage rate, and you may get some tax breaks, too. The amount you can borrow is limited by the equity you have in your home. Other factors that may influence the amount you can borrow include your credit history, income and current financial responsibilities. Also, be sure to have a plan for how you will repay the loan. You don’t want to put your home at risk or add too much stress to the family budget.

To make sure your financing is ready when you are, visit a credit reporting company online such as www.experian.com to quickly and easily access your credit report. “If you notice anything questionable, such as accounts you don’t recognize, or payment disputes, deal with those issues before applying for a home equity loan,” says Sweet. “It can also be helpful to have your credit score which will tell you specifically the factors in your credit history that could be considered risky by lenders.”

Finally, get bids from several contractors to see how your budget and the cost of your dream remodel compare. Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations, or ask your lender if they’re familiar with the contractors you’re considering. Another great way to check out a company is Smart Business Reports, also available through Experian at www.experian.com. These business credit reports provide consumers with background information, comprehensive financial information and credit risk facts about the business they are considering using in an easy-to-read, online format.

As with any big project, you’ll need to be flexible and not let the inevitable glitches get in the way of the big picture – when you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful new space for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.

Courtesy of ARA Content.

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Got that Soggy Feeling?

Have you noticed condensation lately? Do you have fog that suddenly appears in cold weather on the glass of windows and patio doors? Are the kids, or you for that matter, drawing pictures on the windows? Fog can block out the view, drip on the floor and freeze on the glass. It can be very annoying.

While it may seem natural to blame the windows, you shouldn’t. Unless you have older windows that leak quite a bit of air, window condensation is usually an indication of excess humidity in your home. The glass simply provides a surface on which the moisture condenses visibly. The important thing to realize is that if excessive humidity is causing window condensation, it could also be causing problems, sometimes hidden, elsewhere in your home. Problems like peeling paint, rotting wood, buckling floors, deteriorating insulation, mildew, even moisture spots on ceilings and walls. While foggy windows and patio doors may be annoying, they are really warning signs that humidity could be damaging your home.

Where does the moisture come from?

There are many things that generate indoor moisture. The normal perspiration and breathing of a family of four add half a pint of water to the air every hour. Cooking three meals a day adds four or five pints of water to the air. Each shower contributes another half-pint. In fact, every activity that uses water (like dishwashing, mopping floors, doing laundry) adds moisture to the air. The truth is, daily living activities of a family of four can add more than 18 gallons of water a week to the air in their home. Plants and fish aquariums are also a significant source of humidity. And the more water vapor in the air, the higher the relative indoor humidity.

What to do?

Although it’s oh so tempting to quit cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry, never take a shower, quit breathing and sell the kids, there are other alternatives that have been found to be very effective. Your first step is to control the sources of humidity.

Reducing excessive humidity reduces maintenance and will add to the lifespan of your home. If your windows are truly deficient, the only remedy is probably to consider replacing them with new units utilizing the latest technology. 21st century windows have come along way since the old onion paper stretched over the opening in the log cabin on the prairie . . . way back when.

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