Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Luxury Outdoor Living

This project displays the transformation of a back yard into a gorgeous portico designed for entertaining. It features a fireplace, tv, tile floor, great lighting and elegant seating areas. Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. creates any space one can conjure in or around a home. The award-winning design + build staff manages the entire project from concept to completion.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Go green in remodel to get your money back

Just a few years ago, a real estate flipper could parlay a several-thousand-dollar upgrade into a substantial profit. A $30,000 investment in new kitchen tiles, countertops and appliances, for example, might reap $60,000 upon resale.
Those days are over. Contractors' phones are no longer ringing off the hook, and as housing prices continue to drop, cash-strapped homeowners are
remodeling in different ways.
One clear favorite? Going green. "Sustainable" and "renewable" materials and appliances are in high demand based on present trends, according to the American Institute of Architects.
A large part of that has to do with how people now view their homes. As flipping has stalled, and many would-be sellers are sitting out the market, they're turning to green changes as a way to reduce their energy bills and improve their quality of life. Based on AIA research in February that polled 500 architects in the residential sector, buyers are willing to pay $5,000 extra for an
energy-efficient home.
Kitchens have always been home-design hot spots, and that is unlikely to change. But instead of shelling out for a stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigerator or marble countertops, homeowners are opting for
renewable materials.
"There is a growing interest in eco-friendly features for kitchens, such as bamboo and
cork flooring, and concrete and bamboo countertops," says Kermit Baker, the AIA's chief economist. He says that this trend continues to the bathroom, where water-saving toilets and LED lighting have displaced demand for luxury installations like towel-warming drawers, double-sink vanities and whirlpool baths.
Radiant heating, though, is a luxury buy that for some is also economical. While outfitting an 800-square-foot space with such a system, which entails installing heatable coils below the floor surface, can run between $5,000 and $7,000, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that radiant heating saves 20 percent a year in energy costs.
energy-efficient features like these will undoubtedly require an outlay, many come with large tax rebates. In heating costs alone, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates as much as $465 in savings when EnergyStar windows are used to replace single-pane ones. What's more, you'll get a tax rebate of 10 percent of costs, up to $200.
But before you hit up your local home store, take heed. Appraisers stress that simple cosmetic touch-ups often have the highest rates of return.
"It can be as simple as making sure landscaping looks good, or that the exterior paint is fresh," says Alan Hummel, chief appraiser of Minneapolis-based Forsythe Appraisals. "Especially with median to luxury homes, curb appeal is very important."
That means
additions like carriage-style garage doors or a well-manicured flower bed. Garages, in particular, can take up one-third to one-half of a home's exterior, and a sharp door and drive might impress online house-hunters and create a favorable impression once they get there.
One final note: Given the current state of the market, you might have to settle for these improvements merely helping to
sell your home faster, as opposed to netting more cash at the bargaining table.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BBB offers winter checklist

In an effort to save money through energy efficiency, many people are looking for ways to ensure their homes are ready for the cold winter months. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is offering a checklist for homeowners to safely prepare their homes for winter and perhaps save a few dollars in the process.
“With energy costs on the rise, winterizing a home makes good economic sense,” says Beverly Baskin, of the Better Business Bureau. “A small up-front investment can pay dividends for months by increasing the energy efficiency of a house and reducing overall heating costs.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, home heating costs this winter are expected to rise by 23 percent for homeowners who rely on heating oil, 18 percent for homes relying on natural gas and 10-11 percent for homes heated by propane or electricity. Luckily, homeowners can fend off some of the rising energy costs by winterizing their home before the harshest weather takes hold.

Below is the BBB home winterizing checklist for consumers to consult when preparing for the cold months ahead:
Furnace. Furnaces older than 15 years might be due for a replacement. For younger furnaces, BBB recommends making sure the
furnace filter is clean, the thermostat is working properly and the pilot light is functioning. Homeowners can also hire an inspector to do the job and make sure the furnace is in safe working order.

Heating ducts. Ducts should be cleaned once every two years. Homeowners should also consider adding insulation to any exposed ductwork. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home with central heating can lose up to 60 percent of its heated air before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not well-connected and insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces.

Chimney. Before lighting up, homeowners planning on using their fireplace come winter should have the chimney inspected for animals, debris and leaves that may have fallen in. BBB also recommends installing a screen over the chimney opening.

Gutters and ridge vents. Gutters should be cleaned to prevent any clogs that would cause rainwater to back up and freeze, making the gutters expand and crack. The ridge vents need to be cleaned as well in order to allow the house to "breath" correctly. Otherwise, air will stagnate and create an unhealthy environment.

Smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors. BBB recommends testing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and installing fresh batteries. Homeowners should consider replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.

Caulking and weather stripping. The average American home has air leaks that amount to a nine-square-foot hole in the wall, according to the EarthWorks Group. To prevent leaks, homeowners should inspect the caulking around windows and doors and check for cracking and peeling. In addition, BBB recommends ensuring that doors and windows shut tightly and no cold air is coming in due to worn down weather stripping.

Seasonal equipment. Homeowners won’t need their spring and summer equipment for a few months, so BBB recommends draining the water from garden hoses and air conditioner pipes and the gasoline from the lawnmower and other garden tools. It’s also time to pull out the snow shovels and plows and ensure they are in good repair.

Emergency kit. When a winter storm strikes, an emergency kit should have all essential materials in one handy place. An emergency kit should include flashlights, candles and matches, a first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food and a battery-powered radio. BBB recommends creating the same emergency kit for the car as well, including several blankets.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Increase your home's value - simply

These are the 10 home improvements that you can make that will increase the value of your home.

·         Clean / De-clutter: Remove clutter by storing items in basement, attic or friend’s home. Rent a storage space or sell excess items, if needed. Keep every room very clean during open homes. Do pre-open house cleanliness inspections.

·         Lighten & Brighten: Replace any burnt-out bulbs and use higher wattage bulbs, if possible. Have defective electrical components repaired or replaced. Make sure skylights are clear and keep drapes open during the day.

·         Yard: Store away personal effects from front yard. Hire gardener or landscaper to trim back the overgrowth and maintain yard. Make sure that your lawn has a healthy green appearance.

·         Plumbing & Electrical: Consider repairing or replacing any defective plumbing or electrical items in your home. 

·         Staging: Buy some fresh flowers, live plants and other decorations to liven up the home. Dispose of old furniture or other large items. Consider renting furniture or hiring a staging consultant.

·         Update Kitchen & Bath: Update kitchen and baths by resurfacing cabinets or painting with neutral color. Replace toilet seats, dated fixtures and drawer/cabinet handles. Freshly caulk and redo grout in counter-tops, sinks, tubs and showers.

·         Paint Interior: Repair any damaged interior walls by patching all chips, holes and cracks; then touch up or repaint interior walls with neutral color.

·         Carpeting: If carpets are only lightly soiled, shampooing and/or spot removal should suffice. If there are rips, fading, heavy wear, smells or deep stains, replace with neutral color.

·         Flooring: Repair and refinish damaged floors, or cover with neutral-colored wall to wall carpet and note damage in your disclosure.

·         Paint Exterior: Repaint or resurface the outside walls of house, as needed. Patch and repair any damaged areas.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Home Maintenance Club at home show

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. had its new Home Maintenance Club on display at the Jersey Shore Home Show in October. As a kickoff, there is a free prize drawing for a one year GOLD membership to the Club.
The HMC ladies, Marissa and Karyn, met with many homeowners throughout the weekend and discussed the various benefits the Home Maintenance Club has to offer.
More information about the Club and the free, no obligation entry to the prize drawing can be found on the website: www.HomeMaintenanceClub.com 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bathroom Remodeling

When you are getting ready to remodel your bathroom, you need to do some research. Even though the bathroom is a relatively small room in the house and is not used every second of the day, it still needs sufficient attention. The bathroom is one of the wettest and most humid rooms in the entire home so the materials you use needs to be used to some abuse. It is important to do this room right because if you use porous materials or do not take the time to seal everything properly, you will have much more trouble down the road. By spending a little more money the first time around, you will save hundreds of dollars down the line by preventing any leakage or water saturation in the walls.
When it comes to bathroom remodel, you usually do not have much flexibility as to where certain items go. Unless you are willing to tear up the entire room and rearrange the plumbing, you may be stuck leaving the toilet, bathtub, and vanity in the same place. However, the design and style of these features can change completely. You can remove the old items and replace them with new ones. Even though the features may be in the same place, the room will look brand new.
It is time to go shopping! Start searching for a double sink bathroom vanity, enclosures for shower, and a toilet. It is best to start with the vanity because it is the centerpiece of the entire bathroom. It will affect your choice of towel racks, mirrors, and other accent pieces so it is best to have this piece chosen as soon as possible. It will make the several other choices you need to make much easier.
When it comes to the bathtub and shower feature, you need a set of beautiful shower doors. Glass is the most popular choice these days because it gives your bathroom an elegant and modern look in addition to making it seem more open and spacious. Enclosures for showers and shower columns are also easy to find, you can even purchase steam and jetted showers for great discount prices!
Putting a new bathroom together is not difficult, but you need to make sure you do it right the first time. Invest in high quality materials and experienced workers and you will be very pleased with the results.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Home Maintenance and Remodeling Books and Publications

Home Maintenance and Remodeling Books and Publications
by Bethanne Patrick -- Publishers Weekly, 10/13/2008

The Clean Team
The dirty secret behind home remodeling and decorating? Cleaning and organizing still need to be done. Fortunately, there are new books to help with those endless tasks.
First, the clutter. Everything has to go somewhere before you can actually clean, so take a look at The Clutter Clinic: Organize Your Home in Seven Days by Romaine Lowery, from Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Sept.). Touted as a “complete clinic,” this book provides practical and colorfully illustrated guides to restoring order in each room of the house, with a helpful guide to retailers who can help.
Second, the dirt. Who better to help you deal with it than Thelma Meyer, a woman who raised nine children in Iowa—and always kept her house clean? Her daughter Monica took inspiration from her mother when she created the “Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day” household products. Now, mother and daughter have teamed up to publish Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You to Clean Like the Dickens (Mar. 2009) from Wellness Central.
Senior editor Natalie Kaire says, “Millions love the Meyer's products, which dominate the environment-friendly cleaning market. There is an uptick in environmentally focused publishing, and titles that focus on cleaning tend to do well.”
Green Is the Word
“One word: green,” says Taunton's Chapman. “If in previous years the home improvement/home decorating list has been dominated by books on organizing and storage,” he says, “this year we are seeing green coming into its own—with books on everything from solar power and green building to green cleaning and living an earth-friendly life.” Chapman also believes that while some DIY projects, like large-scale kitchen and bath makeovers, have been sidelined by the economy, “Homeowners are looking to replace windows, insulate and weatherize, which ties in to the green surge. The biggest trend in this segment is projects that save money and add value to the home.”
Taunton's big title this season in this category is a perennial bestseller: The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live 10th Anniversary Edition by Sarah Susanka with Kira Obolensky (Sept.). Susanka's manifesto of scaled-down home architecture and design has a new cover, new introduction and a new chapter that highlights three new “Not So Big” houses in Minnesota, North Carolina and Washington State.
When it comes to things green, Quadrille Publishing offers Urban Eco Chic (Sept.) by noted eco-designer Oliver Heath, who wants to “create energy-efficient homes that are beautifully designed” and combine elements of “vintage, nature and technology.” In keeping with that goal, the book is printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper and recyclable laminate. Creative Homeowner has Natural Style: Decorating with an Earth-Friendly Point of View by Janet Sobesky (Oct.), in its Green House line.
Another design friendly “green” title is Clarkson Potter's Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire by Lisa Sharkey and Paul Gleicher (Nov.). According to editorial director Doris Cooper, it's “the very first, high-end book that shows extraordinary homes that marry elegance and environmentalism.”
Easier Being Green
Amacom puts the emphasis squarely on the homeowner in its November release Your Eco-Friendly Home: Buying, Building, or Remodeling Green by real-estate expert Sid Davis. This book addresses practical considerations of how to find and finance eco-friendly real estate as well as use environmentally sound materials and techniques to make homes more efficient—even how to take advantage of tax credits available to those who “build green.”
Meanwhile, The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit by Stephen and Rebekah Hren from Chelsea Green (July) brings a tighter focus and a more hands-on approach to green real estate. Their ideas range from simple (growing potatoes in a barrel) to labor-intensive (installing a green roof), and they give detailed, clear instructions for each project, along with a chapter on their philosophy of home energy use that explains how each of these remodeling projects contributes to a greener, healthier home.
Creative Homeowner also offers The Little Green Book: 365 Ways to Love the Planet by Joseph Provey (Sept.), filled with nontechnical, easy ways to be greener at home, at work and at play. Similarly, National Geographic's True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin (Sept.), the third in a popular series (True Green Home and True Green @ Work were the first two titles). So many of the suggestions in the book, from reducing shower times to four minutes per family member to using all-natural cleaning products, will help younger home residents understand the importance of green living.
Two Big Hitters
Two of this season's biggest home/décor books may hit home runs because of magazine branding. House Beautiful: The Home Book is a November titles from Hearst/Sterling, and Hearst Books v-p and publisher Jacqueline Deval notes, “We've found great success over the past few years with our House Beautiful titles, despite the softer marketplace, largely because of our variety of formats, affordable price points and the strength of this particular magazine brand, which has been doing exceptionally well at the newsstand—that success naturally has a halo effect over our book business.”
The book is meant to become the home owner's bible on interior design, and the book's editor, Marisa Bulzone, says, “The practical advice extends so far as to how to choose a good umbrella stand.”
Home as sanctuary is, of course, behind Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC, starring Ty Pennington. Pennington's new book is Good Design Can Change Your Life: Beautiful Rooms, Inspiring Stories. (The initial print run of 50,000 was bumped up to 150,000 in anticipation of a September appearance by Ty on Oprah.) Pennington thinks that no matter what the market is like, “What people need to initiate change is inspiration.”
Frugal Fixes
Quadrille Publishing's Courtney McLaughlin agrees with both Chapman and Singletary. “Our response is books that suggest numerous ways to save money while improving the home. After all, we are spending more time in our homes now that the prices of fueling up and eating out have skyrocketed, and people still want to make their homes more comfortable and pleasant.” Since not every green consumer is ready for a renovation or even new furniture, Quadrille's The Little Book of Thrifty Fixes for the Home by Bridget Bodoano (Aug.) is meant to offer ideas for “turning the home into a sanctuary of sustainable style” through reclamation, reassessment and recycling (for example, instead of painting or wallpapering a room, hang maps).
A blunter approach is taken in Mariposa Publishing's Screw It! I'll Be My Own Contractor by William A. Trimble (Sept.). Trimble, an award-winning builder/contractor, recommends spending money on the things that can be seen, since things like kitchen and bath remodels may be expensive, but can result in an over 100% return on investment.
Still, some experts believe that there needn't be a sacrifice of beauty for budget. Design expert Barbara Flanagan's new book Flanagan's Smart Home: 98 Essentials for Starting Out, Starting Over, Scaling Back (Nov.) is Workman's lead fall contribution to the home pack. Flanagan selects only the right stuff for every household function from sleeping to cooking to cleaning. Her fiercely edited list includes not just the items themselves but information about which types are best: for example, she recommends using a French press as a coffeemaker since it not only brews excellent coffee but can be stored out of sight when not in use.
Says Workman editor-in-chief Susie Bolotin: “We all know that we have to stop throwing so many things away.... At the same time, we want our homes to be as stylish as our clothes. So how do we tackle that disjunction between style, which implies trend and change and disposability, and function and permanence? Flanagan's Smart Home...is a book based on the notion that if we shop wisely, we can make choices we won't regret... choices we can live with for decades.... I love the idea that we can lead totally comfortable lives—no deprivation needed—with only 98 things in our homes.”
The Design's the Thing
Any apartment dweller knows that even if every item you own is exquisite, your space can still look dull or cramped if it's not well thought out. Chronicle comes to the rescue with Apartment Therapy Presents: Real Homes Real People, Hundreds of Real Design Solutions by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan with Jill Slater and Janel Laban (June). “We've found that more and more people are looking to decorate on the cheap,” says Christina Loff, lifestyle publicist, “which is why we decided to bring out this title.
It offers alternative ways to work with the space and budget constraints.”
Even those with larger budgets may have space constraints, especially when it comes to rooms with a purpose. Says Cooper at Clarkson Potter, “A strong trend is in books that focus on helping people create the perfect room for their passions.” To that end, CP is offering The Luxury Bathroom: Extraordinary Spaces from the Simple to the Extravagant by Samantha Nestor (Aug.), perhaps the ultimate guide to the ultimate room with a purpose.
“Books for a targeted and high-end audience continue to have great front list and backlist lives,” Cooper adds, mentioning Equestrian Style: Home Design, Couture, and Collections from the Eclectic to the Elegant by Vicky Moon (Sept.) and The Divine Home: Living with Spiritual Objects by Peter Vitale (Oct.) as two higher-priced entries that are expected to do well.
An October title from the Taunton Press will be of interest to anyone attempting to make sense of classic rooms. Roots of Home: Our Journey to a New Old House by Russell Versaci (Oct.) traces the development of today's traditional homes to their earliest predecessors, whether New England colonials or French Creole cottages. Versaci has been designing new houses that look like old houses for more than 30 years, and his explanations of what works from each of the 13 classic house forms he discusses will help homeowners understand what appeals to them and why.
The Designer's the Thing
Of course, in the decorating category, books with personalities behind them also do well. Clarkson Potter released Darryl Carter's The New Traditional: Reinvent-Balance-Define Your Home in August, a must-have for fans of the designer whose line for Thomasville has brought him wide attention.
Another “it” designer with a book from Clarkson Potter is Celerie Kemble. Her To Your Taste: Creating Modern Rooms with a Traditional Twist (Nov.) shows readers what's beautiful about the traditional, but also help them to feel comfortable breaking the rules in order to create spaces that are both original and livable.
In October, Broadway Books is releasing A Passion for Blue and White by tastemaker and decorator Carolyne Roehm, which showcases Roehm's take on two “seemingly everyday colors.” From French blue to navy and from stark white to cream, the pairing is shown in living rooms, bathrooms, tabletops and even gardens.
Norton Books for Architects and Designers' Michael Taylor: Interior Design by Stephen M. Salny (Jan.) is a tribute to the famed designer, called “the James Dean of interior design” by Diana Vreeland. Taylor's casual/formal, antique/rustic “California Look” aesthetic can be seen in places ranging from his own Sea Cliff home and office to a villa for a Saudi Arabian sheikh and the resort Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley
Women in Charge
Despite ideas and inspiration from books, the remodeling market remains slow, continuing its gradual decline since 2005. David Seiders, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, sees a light at the end of the tunnel: “We expect remodeling to remain generally flat in 2009 followed by strong growth due to home maintenance needs.”
However, the NAHB also knows that market demographics have shifted: according to a recent Harvard University study, women control 91% of home buying and remodeling decisions. That's why the NAHB's BuilderBooks imprint recently released Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions by Tara-Nicholle Nelson. Says Sandy Dunn, first vice president of NAHB and a builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va., “Builders recognize that women have more buying power than ever.... This new book provides building professionals with unmatched insight into this important segment of the buying population.”
Considering that all of the current trends, from green living and great design to frugal DIY, are what modern women attend to, perhaps this NAHB angle is a way out of the home/décor publishing market slump: appeal to the female demographic.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Home Show at the Jersey Shore

Tackle Your Home Projects for the Holidays!
The 2nd Annual Fall Jersey Shore Home Show features the finest home related exhibitors from throughout Monmouth & Ocean Counties who'll help you create the home you have always wanted. This Fall show allows time for you to begin planning that special home project and possibly have it completed by the holidays.

Build It Better
Whether you're in need of completing some nagging home maintenance, embarking on a remodeling project or planning on building the custom home you've always dreamed of. You'll find it here at the Jersey Shore Fall Home Show. Meet the pros, get new ideas, learn about the hot new products and services all in one place while having fun and saving time.

Visit the Home Maintenance Club display to enter for a one year FREE membership then stop at the Mark of Excellence Remodeling booth to receive your FREE Path to Excellence consumer guide.

See You At The Show!

Conveniently located in Monmouth County
The Jersey Shore Home Show is located at Brookdale Community College 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738

Hours and Admission
Friday: 4 pm - 9 pm
Saturday: 11 am - 9 pm
Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm

Adults: $6.00
Kids (12-17): $4.00
Children (11 and under): FREE
Check your newspaper for any additional discounts and promotions

Special appearance: Dr. Lori's - Hate Art & Antiques Comedy Tour
Sunday, October 19th at Fall Jersey Shore Home Show from 11:30 to 4:00 on Sunday.

Hate art and antiques? Tired of all those silly stories you see on TV antique shows about pieces of junk? Don’t believe news reports about million dollar prices for items found behind a picture frame? Know a family member who buys antiques that they like and you think their stuff is just plain ugly?

Attend Dr. Lori’s “Hate Art & Antiques?” comedy tour for one day only on Sunday October 19th and laugh with your friend or spouse about their “collection of clutter”.

As seen on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, nationally known and funny art and antiques appraiser, syndicated columnist and award winning TV personality Dr. Lori will hold no punches as she reveals lies and myths about art and antiques. She will also discuss your friend or spouse’s flea market addictions as she makes you laugh about your junk.

Dr. Lori says, “You’ll laugh out loud while learning about antiques, your friends and even your spouse at my event! I’m not an antique dealer, reseller, or affiliated with any auction house and my evaluations of antiques are straightforward and honest. I will not hesitate to tell your friend or spouse that their compulsion for buying and saving items is a sickness, just adding to the clutter.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Maintenance rules!

Homeowners opt for more affordable updates
By Christa Buchanan C & G Staff Writer

With the state of the current economy, home repairs and maintenance are one-upping most larger remodeling projects.
“Most people are just trying to keep their home in its current condition, so it’s mostly just upgrades. Literally, this summer has been the biggest hodgepodge of jobs,” said Blake Wasilkowski, owner of a construction company.
Basically, Wasilkowski said, preserving both the home and its value is the current trend among homeowners.
“Right now, people are worried about their home’s value, and they’re doing more basic home maintenance projects — repair work such as new concrete steps, replacing porches and drives, installing more energy-efficient windows, new siding … new roofs are big,” said remodeler, Mat Vivona Jr.
Wasilkowski agrees that roofs are a biggie.
“I’m seeing more roofs than anything, because people realize that if it leaks it will ruin the house,” said Wasilkowski, citing water damage to ceilings and drywall, and possible mold issues as costly consequences to a leaky roof.
To help maintain their home’s value, said Paul Schiller, a home improvement sales representative, a lot of homeowners are improving their home’s outdoor aesthetics.
“Right now a lot of people are having new siding, roofs and windows installed. They’re changing the façade, the color, modernizing windows … making sure the roof is good for winter,” said Schiller, adding that putting in insulation with a higher R-value — the measure of the insulation’s efficiency — is an added benefit of installing new siding, as it can help save money in energy costs.
“If you want to save on energy, put in new insulation … (and) replacement windows,” said Vivona, adding that there’s a new energy-efficient replacement window out that is “virtually maintenance-free. It’s vinyl on the outside and has a gorgeous oak interior — it’s just beautiful.”
That’s not to say people aren’t aesthetically improving their home’s interior — they are, just differently than in the past.
“In this economy, things like room additions are a necessity — a son or daughter moves back or parents move in — so we’re seeing a lot of in-law suites. … Basements are a rarity right now — because it’s not considered living space, it’s not the best return for the money,” said Vivona. “We’re still seeing some second-story additions, just not as much as we used to.”
For those planning on staying in their homes, said Vivona, kitchen and bath renovations still top the list of updates, especially before the holidays.
“In the fall, the rush is on for kitchen and bath renovations. People usually want to do the kitchen before the holidays,” said Schiller.
New cabinets and solid surface countertops — especially the more affordable and durable acrylic countertops — are the most common kitchen updates, said Vivona, who noted that it’s actually more affordable to install new cabinets rather than refinish old ones.
As for bathroom renovations, Schiller said many homeowners are opting to enlarge their current space.
“The average bathroom is small, only about 5 by 8. Often, there’s a closet behind the bath and we can make the tub area bigger, so the bath is more spacious,” said Schiller, adding that people seem to be gravitating toward “larger tiles and more of a white look.”
Another trend that has resulted from the down economy is that more people are attempting to do various projects themselves, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, said Wasilkowski.
“A lot of homeowners are painting and doing the demo work. I’ve ran into problems where people think they can do the whole job, and then someone realizes, usually the wife, it’s beyond their grasp — sometimes they do more harm than good,” said Wasilkowski, who recommends homeowners call a pro, and check their references, before they do anything.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aging in Place - Universal Design

Your home is your refuge. A sanctuary that should be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.
People are remaining in their homes longer than ever before. The challenge is to design a home that will be open and usable throughout your and your family's lifetime, regardless of changing capabilities. This concept is called "universal design"-the craft of designing a home that is open to people of all capabilities, whether that includes children, elderly or those inconvenienced by a temporary or permanent disability.
It is also a fact that more homes are becoming multi-generational as Baby Boomers bring their aging parents home to live while still raising families of their own. It is not uncommon today to have small children and grandparents in the home at the same time. The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that the home is usable by each member of the family, today and in the future.
Where do you begin? First, analyze your lifestyle and your family's unique needs. Do you have someone in your family who needs to sit down while preparing meals in the kitchen or who may have balance problems stepping into a tub? Do you have small children who could help in meal preparation if they had a lower counter at which to work? Are you planning on having children in the future? What features would make your home more comfortable during the pregnancy and for the infant children?
Second, decide how long you want to stay in the home. If you plan on keeping your home into your golden years, you may want to consider some accessible features, such as digital displays which are easier to see; wider doorways that can accommodate walkers, crutches and wheelchairs; minimum thresholds on interior and exterior doorways for easy maneuvering; etc. There are thousands of ways to make a home more usable. The key is to look at the "universally designed" products and match them to your home, your capabilities and your anticipated future needs.
Third, if you are planning on selling your home in the near future, consider these facts that: Currently 49 million Americans have a disability, with the number of elderly persons expected to reach an all-time high at the end of this decade; experts predict that by the year 2000, fully one-third of the country's population will be either disabled, chronically ill or over the age of 65; and 84 percent of senior citizens prefer to remain in their home as they age (according to the "Understanding Senior Housing" survey conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons). If you want to sell, universal features may help. Until that time, the universal design features will only make your home more convenient for your family.
Fourth, talk to your remodeling professional about available options. There are a number of universal products available on the market that blend seamlessly with other popular products. There are also a variety of design ideas that can make the home easier to live in for everyone, including the new trend toward open living spaces and the great room.
Fifth, the most important step: Match your design to your family. Each family will have different challenges and anticipated needs. You may find that varying counter heights in the kitchen are a good idea for your family, while more floor space in the bath is not a viable option. The point of universal design is to make the home comfortable and convenient for its occupants throughout their lives. Your remodeling professional will be able to provide the best solution to meet your particular needs.

Designing your bathroom?

Below are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when considering the design and function of your new bath.

What features would make the bath more comfortable for you?
How would you like to use your bath?
Is this a family bath or master bath?
How many people will be using it?
Are there enough sinks and counter space for everyone?
Are there enough baths in the house or should you consider adding another room? (This is usually a concern as children reach their teen years and also with expanding families.)
Do you prefer to take showers or baths? If you like baths, would you prefer a tub and shower combination unit or separate facilities? Have you always wanted a claw foot tub or would you rather install a whirlpool?
Do you have adequate storage? (Make a list of all the items you need to store in the bath to ensure proper storage space in the plan. This list also should include cleaning agents, toiletries, linens, first aid items and medications. Indicate on this list where in the room you would like to store each of these items. For example, you may want some of the toiletries in the shower area, while others will be used by the sink or dressing area. Storage is one of the biggest concerns in any design, particularly in rooms as small as the typical bath. Carefully consider this aspect of the room during your preplanning phase.)
Have you considered the lighting in your bath?
What kind of lighting do you want in your bath?
(You can still obtain a water rich environment with water-saving features.)
If the bath in question is a shared bath for the family, would a separation of the sinks from the rest of the room be helpful?
Have you considered newer water-saving fixtures? (You can still obtain a water rich environment with water-saving features.

By the Light of the Sun-Daylighting Trends

A reprint of an article from Nari.org:

The latest trend in remodeling is daylighting – the use of glass intensive designs to draw in more natural light. Opening the home to maximize the amount of natural light available creates a stronger, more visible bond with the environment and can visibly stretch the space. It has even been known to enhance emotions and moods.
Windows, skylights, roof windows and sunrooms are key elements in any modern home. In fact, they are a mark of modern architecture. The number of windows per home has increased from an average of 8.6 to 15.5 in the last decade alone, and skylight numbers have grown too. Not only are homeowners requesting more windows, the windows they are getting are bigger. Replacement windows that fit the same size opening contain eight to ten percent more glass than windows of the past.
"This daylighting trend has led to new forms of design," says Robert Schindler of Great Lakes Window, Inc. "What we consider to be a typical design today, simply did not exist ten years ago. A good example is the window wall which is a new phenomenon. People would not use that many windows in the '70s and '80s because of energy reasons. With today's energy efficient windows, those concerns no longer exist. As a result, windows are taking over in home design."
The desire for more light and airier spaces is not new, however. Daylighting started with the Victorian homes which used windows as a design element. Frank Lloyd Wright also was fond of daylighting. He was noted for having said, "The best way to light a home is God's way."
Once windows became energy efficient, architects and designers took Wright's advice to heart and made windows the feature point of nearly every new home built. Now that trend is crossing over into the remodeling industry.
"As energy efficiency became the norm," says Schindler, "windows became more decorative - something to look at, not just through. The main reasons for purchasing windows today are beauty and aesthetics, not energy efficiency."
There is a resurgence of traditional window designs: prairie grids, leaded designs, bows, bays, and unusual shapes such as half circles, Palladian styles, arch-tops, eyebrows and more. Designers can create light patterns and moods by the windows they choose and how they place them. Homeowners today want a variety of light patterns, from the traditional vertical windows to the diagonal light gained through skylights and roof windows.
"Roof windows and skylights admit 30 percent more light, and offer better light distribution and better views, than traditional dormers, and are less costly to install," says Leslie Devore of Velux. "Another benefit of a skylight or roof window is privacy. There are times when a vertical window is not the best option. You may be backed up to neighbors or may not have the wall space, such as in a room tucked under the rafters."
If you decide to use a skylight, it should cover a minimum of ten percent of the total square footage of the room. You may want to cluster smaller skylights together for maximum effect or install one large skylight.
The key to creating the best daylighting design is to find a combination of vertical and diagonal light that can create the right mood for your home. Another option for bringing in the outdoors is to build a sunroom.
"Sunrooms are a creative way to add extra square footage," says Esposito. "You can open your home and draw more light into the home, while gaining living space at the same time."
The most influential motivation behind this trend toward more light-filled, open homes is most likely the psychological and physiological benefits. Scientists have proven that sunlight improves moods and production levels in businesses. People work and live better in settings with more natural light. It enhances moods, improves our health and can boost energy up to 24 percent, according to scientific experts. A home with maximum daylighting is the perfect retreat in this stress-filled world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What were you planning to do this weekend? The Home Maintenance Club may have the answer.

Mark of Excellence Remodeling, Inc. of West Long Branch, New Jersey has launched its newest division – the HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB. This new service provides homeowners in Monmouth County and surrounding areas the ability to sign up online for a customized membership package for their home's maintenance and preventive care. Of the many features included are extensive checklists on numerous items that are vital to a home's infrastructure plus a complete GREEN home energy audit.

The new site is located at

The web site has complete details on how the program works as well as a frequently asked questions section. There are three distinct membership levels: gold, platinum and excellence. The site features an extensive portfolio displaying remodeling projects completed by Mark of Excellence Remodeling. There are also many articles related to home maintenance and green remodeling.

Company President Mark T. Elia, CGR, CGP states, “We recognize that there is a need for regular home maintenance for many homeowners in our community. Our HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB will help clients avoid early repair or replacement of many of their home’s products and systems. Ultimately this service expects to save homeowners money in the long run while securing the integrity and value of their home for the future.”

As a Certified Green Professional, Mr. Elia wants to raise the level of green remodeling awareness throughout his marketplace. “Most people hear the term green remodeling and think it merely refers to using recycled materials. Green remodeling incorporates many practices, products, and services. They include energy efficient products, renewable materials and simply items there are constructed to last a very long time. While people perceive green remodeling choices are very expensive, if instituted properly as part of the project and scope of work, it can actually save clients money through efficiency and energy savings as well longevity.”

Currently the HOME MAINTENANCE CLUB has exclusive online introductory rates and special offers for its annual membership packages. Homeowners that enroll for a two-year membership at the platinum or excellence levels will receive free replacement light bulbs for the duration of their membership. There is also an opportunity to enter for a chance to win a FREE one-year gold membership.

For further information visit the web site http://
www.HomeMaintenanceClub.com or call 800-734-3737.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fall Maintenance Tips

If you've ever seen a movie or documentary about ships you know that a ship is home to sometimes thousands of sailors. You will often see sailors swabbing the decks, painting or fixing engine parts as part of their daily routine. These small jobs are part of the preventative maintenance schedule for the vessel and, joined with the hundreds of other chores, keeps it operating at peak capacity.

Your home and the ship share similar qualities. Both are the sum total of many working parts that have to be coordinated in order for them to run smoothly. Any lapses in the maintenance process will result in either instant failures or premature wear. The best way to assure that there are no unpleasant surprises, or that the home is always looking great, is to have a maintenance schedule. This is a four-season set of checks that will ensure everything is running right and that no deterioration has set into any part of the home. It is always best to catch problems when they are “potential” problems.

The hardest time on a home for most Americans is the winter. The extremes in temperature and prolonged periods of sub-freezing weather take a toll on many parts of the home. However, a thorough check in the fall may prevent an emergency like a pipe freeze-up.

Fall Maintenance a Must
Here are some tips for what should be checked by either yourself or a professional:
Heating and Air Conditioning
Oil furnace: This should be done every year by a qualified technician. This includes cleaning and adjusting burners and changing filters.
Gas Furnace : A qualified technician should inspect this every 2 years.
Hot water heating : Lubricate pump parts, check zone valves, bleed air from radiators.
Forced air heating : Clean dirt build-up, check fan belt for wear, lubricate motor, change air filters, vacuum out plenum.
Clean duct grills on force air systems and vacuum radiators on hot water heating and electric baseboard heaters.
Windows and Doors
Put up the storm windows and take off screens from casement for air flow to the

window to prevent condensation.
Check outside doors and casement windows to see they shut tightly and that the weather-stripping is alright.
Check skylights and smaller windows for weather sealing.
Protect the outside of the air conditioning unit with a cover.
Roof, Chimney and Gutters
Clear any obstacles that can divert water to the basement
Clean leaves from gutter and downspouts after leaves have gone from the trees
Check chimney for an obstructions like a bird or wasp nest
Get a professional chimney cleaner for a wood burning
fireplace or oil furnace.
Check shingles on the
roof to see that they are all in place.
Yard and Clean Up
Clean debris from the yard to avoid mishaps when the ground freezes
Drain and store garden hoses
Drain garden pond (if required)
Drain swimming pool (if required)
Cover shrubs with burlap and tie to prevent limbs from breaking in the snow
Store garden tools and utensils
Drain the gas from the lawn mower and run the mower until the motor quits. This will get rid of the excess gas in the carburetor and prevent gumming up over the winter
Seal driveway and sidewalk cracks