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Why Hire a General Contractor?

It’s a classic question that comes up time and time again. Many DIY homeowners are used to doing their own renovations around the house and it’s natural for them to want to retain that autonomy by dealing with sub-contractors directly on bigger projects. In addition, one of their main motivations for going without a general contractor comes down to cost: why fork out extra money for a general contractor when I can just tell a sub-contractor exactly what I want myself?

 

What’s missing in that picture though is by focussing solely on cost, the value of what a general contractor brings gets lost. There are several benefits – both tangible and intangible – to working with a general contractor that are often overlooked, but are important to keep in mind:

 

Project management skills

Renovation projects – especially large remodels – are much more than just telling the sub-contractors what to do. There are many pieces to the puzzle like how long each sub-trade takes, the most time-efficient order to schedule them, and how best to re-shuffle priorities on the fly when unexpected problems crop up. General contractors have to understand how all these puzzle pieces fit together inside-out because if they don’t, it means wasted time that leads to unfair extra costs for the client and loss of future business for the general contractor. So the project management skills that general contractors draw on to keep a renovation project on track are built from the need to succeed in a competitive business; when push comes to shove during a crisis, the value of skills honed out of survival necessity will become that much more apparent.

 

Knowledge of current construction codes

General contractors also keep on top of all the current construction industry standards so you have peace of mind knowing that your renovation project is built to code. Individual sub-contractors may very well complete their parts of the project up to code in their trade, but a licensed general contractor will also consider the impact of sub-trades on each other and make sure that the combined product of the project is code-compliant as a whole.

 

Maintaining product warranties

One of the tangible benefits of using a general contractor is the fact that some construction products or materials actually require a licensed contracting professional to install them if you want their warranties to still be valid. This benefit alone would be a huge cost-saver if ever you have the misfortune of having to deal with a product defect.

 

Insurance and workers’ compensation

This is a mandatory cost of doing business for general contractors. What it means for you is that you wouldn’t be liable for any damages or injuries that occur on your property during the course of the renovation – everything would be on the general contractor, including the responsibility of making sure all sub-contractors are licensed and insured. If you’re managing sub-contractors yourself and just one of them actually turns out to be unlicensed and uninsured, you could be held liable for any damages/injuries as a result of that sub-contractor.

 

Industry connections

General contractors are always in the know of who the trustworthy tradespeople are as well as what fees are reasonable for their services. Another crucial advantage of using a general contractor is that they know exactly who to call and how to go about pulling permits quickly enough for your renovation project to stay on schedule. Often times, it’s the general contractor’s list of contacts that’s worth its weight in gold.

 

Quality guarantee

Last but not least, we get to the key benefit of using a general contractor: quality guarantee where if the renovation final product is not satisfactory, the resulting fixes/repairs would be on the general contractor’s dime.  Although many sub-contractors also offer quality guarantees, consider this scenario: if a sub-contractor’s repair requires taking out a different sub-contractor’s finished product, you will most likely have to suck up the cost of getting that second sub-contractor to re-do the work after the repair. If more than one trade gets affected by the repair, it could end up being a very costly domino effect for you. With a general contractor, of course, every repair and its repercussions would be borne by him/her.

 

At the end of the day, the decision on whether to hire a general contractor or not rests on how far people’s DIY comfort level extends to. Like any major decision though, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of both sides before choosing one – and you’re already off to a good start with this handy article on the value of hiring a general contractor!

9 Tips to Maximise Your Kitchen Space

You can have a kitchen that takes up more than half your house, but even all that space can easily go to waste if you don’t make efficient use of it; with a small kitchen, it’s even more important to find any way you can to make every inch count.

 

That being said, you don’t need to install a bunch of cleverly hidden secret compartments (although that would no doubt be pretty awesome!). The next time you feel like your kitchen has suddenly shrunk on you, think about these 9 creative tips to squeeze more space out of it:

 

Multiple slide-out shelving

It’s exactly what it sounds like: shelves you can slide out…lots of them! This idea allows you to put shelves in awkward places and still have easy access to their contents; no more straining your muscles just to reach the back of cabinets. It’s especially useful for that dreaded corner cabinet space under L-shaped countertops. Another idea for this corner space is to install a couple levels of “lazy susan” shelves that rotate on a centre axis so that you can reach contents in the back by just spinning the shelf.

 

Shelf under-racks

This won’t be an option if you have a lot dishes that stack to the very top of each shelf level; if you do have some empty space between your dishes and the shelf above though, you can mount a rack or wire basket to the underside of the top shelf and create an extra level to store light contents.

 

Cabinet bottom hooks

There’s actually a lot of unused space between the wall cabinets and the countertop that’s often overlooked. One way to make use of that space is to screw in hooks to the bottom of your cabinets so that you can hang your mugs on them. This will also add a whimsical feel to your kitchen, especially if you’re the kind of person who has a collection of colourful mugs with witty quotes.

 

Backsplash shelving

If you’re okay with covering up your backsplash a little more for the sake of taking advantage of that unused space, you can put up shelves either directly on the backsplash or anchored to the bottom of your top cabinets.

 

Hanging door organisers

What’s great about this idea is that you can find an unending selection of organisers with varying layouts and styles that can hang from the top of doors. Choose the ones that best fit your content needs and space requirements; the key here is that you’re making efficient use of the gap between your doors and your shelves. If they fit, they can be used for the doors of your cabinets, pantry, and under-sink cabinet. The area under the kitchen sink is a classic storage spot for household cleaners, but you can prevent them from descending into a jumbled chaos by using a hanging organiser.

 

Tilt-out sink drawers

Continuing with the kitchen sink area, how many times have you cursed at those faux drawers in front of the sink for being so fake? What if there actually is a way to turn them into usable drawers? Well, there is! Just install drawers that tilt out and you can store small kitchen odds and ends like steel wools, scrubbers, or brushes.

 

Rack for pots and pans

Pots and pans are usually placed in the bottom drawers beneath countertops because of their larger storage space. You can free up all the space for other stuff though if you simply mount a rack to hang up your pots and pans. It can be a rack that goes on an unused section of your wall or it can hang from the ceiling above your kitchen island. With the ceiling rack version, you can even wire the rack with lamps to turn it into a dual-purpose fixture.

 

Flatware drawer organisers

These are always must-haves in the kitchen because there’s nothing more frustrating than digging through drawer after drawer for that one elusive utensil. If you don’t have enough drawers to separate cooking utensils from flatware, a creative trick is to create cascading double-layer drawers. The idea is to make the top layer a flatware organiser that sits neatly on the drawer’s top edge and only takes up a little more than half the drawer depth. So when you pull out the drawer part-way, you get the flatware on top; when you pull out the drawer all the way though, the back edge of the flatware organiser will catch on pegs that stop it from extending out any further, which exposes the bottom layer for cooking utensils.

 

Knife storage

Rather than having a clunky knife block taking up valuable space on your kitchen counter, you can get a custom-made knife rack drawer that slides into the cabinetry beneath the countertop. Another much simpler option – again, only if you’re comfortable covering up your backsplash – would be to attach a strong magnetic strip to your backsplash and just stick your knives flat against the wall.

 

So you see, there’s always more space if you set your mind to it. With enough practice, you may even want to try your hand at becoming a Tetris world champion one day! Before that though, let’s start with your kitchen. Keep in mind that some of these tips above may require some expert cabinet wizardry skills so give us a shout when you’re ready to maximise your kitchen space.

6 Practical Basement Ideas for You and Future Buyers

The basement is perhaps one of the most challenging spaces to deal with in the house. It’s usually left till the very end during renovations and when you finally do get to the end after spending all your energy and money on the rest of the house, you wearily let it slide with a whispered, “Let’s just keep storing stuff down there.”

 

The opposite extreme can also happen: let’s say you’ve been good and saved up a nice chunk of money that you plan on using to finish the basement. By now, you’ve probably already made full use of all the rooms in the house and the sudden idea of having extra space in the basement is just pure gravy. Your head is spinning with wild ideas about what you can use that space for and when the dust from the finishing whirlwind has settled, you somehow find yourself with an indoor floor hockey rink, or an indoor pool, or a giant shrine for your collectibles. While these ideas may sound amazing to you, it may not fit the tastes of everyone and may even hurt your chances of attracting a future buyer one day. (Of course, if you’re already in your dream house or don’t plan on selling any time soon, by all means go for whatever you want!)

 

If you are going to put your house on the market soon though, these practical basement ideas will help you get top value for your house:

 

Guest suite

Extra living space is a solid choice because it gives you the option to offer comfortable quarters to your friends and relatives if they ever need to stay the night. You’d no longer have to awkwardly try to cobble together something resembling a bed out of your couch and thankfully still clean blankets. Your guests would also appreciate the privacy of the basement suite without having to worry about getting in the way of everyone the next morning. You can even build a separate entrance from outside and turn the suite into a rental unit. The potential of extra rental income would pique many buyers’ interest.

 

Den or home theatre

The TV screen is still the most popular entertainment hub in most households; the bigger the screen is, the better because people want to re-create the cinema experience in their own homes. Most big-screen TVs are placed in the living room because there isn’t another room that’s central and large enough to hold the TV. The living room is also where you entertain your guests though, which means there’s a limit to how big the TV can be so as not to make it the main focus of the room. However, if you have the opportunity to turn your basement into a den or full-blown home theatre, well you can get a TV that takes up an entire wall if you want. That way, you can maintain the true spirit of the living room where everyone chats on comfy couches over some wine and move downstairs for a full cinematic experience whenever you want.

 

Home office

If you have a side business or are planning to start one, a home office may be the best option for you. You won’t have to hunch over your laptop at the dinner table or on the living room couch anymore. You’d also have a dedicated space to store all your physical files and documents. What’s more, a lot of people are supplementing their regular income with a side business these days and future buyers who see a fully renovated home office in your house will find it irresistible.

 

Home gym

A home gym would be a great long-term investment if you regularly work out at a gym with a membership. You’d not only save on membership fees over the long run, but also the time and gas spent on the commute to and from an outside gym. Setting up a home gym also means that you get to customise it exactly to your fitness routine.

 

Playroom

This is a no-brainer if you have kids. They’ll have their own place to run around in and you get to be the world’s most awesome parent in their eyes. Think about this, too: a playroom doesn’t have to only be for little kids; it can also be paradise for the big kids that we all are. So you can stock the playroom with a pool table, foosball table, ping pong table, dart board, video games – anything you want to have fun after a hard day’s work.

 

Multi-activity room

Stuck on picking one basement idea out of all the equally great ones? Why not get them all? If you have a large enough basement, you can split it up into different zones for different activities. For instance, you can work out in your home gym corner while keeping an eye on the kids playing in their corner and then you can all watch a movie together later on at the other end of the room. The advantage of this idea is that you don’t have to sacrifice one idea for another and from the buyers’ perspectives, they get to see how the basement space can be maximised to its full potential.

 

Just keep in mind that although we’ve focussed a lot on basement ideas that will appeal to future buyers, the final choice has to be something you’ll be happy with that fits your needs. It’s impossible to predict what the tastes of future buyers will be; however, it should bring you peace of mind knowing that a finished basement – regardless of the style – is often already a big home value boost.

8 Must-Have Bathroom Features to Boost Home Value

There’s no doubt that an updated kitchen is top of the list for many buyers. After feasting their eyes on the kitchen though, the next room they also need a huge checkmark next to on their list is the bathroom. The appeal of the bathroom is in the fact that it’s where you can get away from people – completely opposite to the kitchen – and is perhaps the only place you can be in the comfort of your guaranteed privacy. So it goes without saying that you – and future buyers – want the bathroom to be loaded with features that help ease you into that pool of calm where you can relax and truly be yourself.

 

You can personalise your bathroom any which way you want, but if you’re thinking of selling your house in the near future, it’s probably best to stick with the features most people love so much that they’ve become must-haves in their dream bathroom. Let’s take a look at what some of these features are, from the easiest and space-friendly upgrades first:

 

Shower head upgrade

Spas are the ultimate relaxation treats and many people want to bring a little bit of that experience into their own bathrooms. One way to do that is to upgrade your shower head system into one that has a body spray function and a rain shower head, with the option of a separate shower wand.

 

Water-efficient plumbing fixtures

People are becoming more aware of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply and many want to do their part in water conservation. Installing low-flow shower heads, low-flow faucets or faucet aerators, and low-flow or dual-flush toilets is a big step towards reducing household water usage. Having water-efficient plumbing fixtures already installed is a major plus on many green-conscious people’s books.

 

Built-in cabinets or open shelves

Extra storage is always appreciated and that’s often a rare commodity in the bathroom. You can put up open shelves on any empty wall space or even have custom cabinets built to keep your bathroom essentials out of sight. Better yet, if you have the room and want a lot of storage space, convert a corner into a storage closet complete with floor-to-ceiling shelving and its own door.

 

Vanity mirror lighting

Many bathrooms are actually inadequately lit with a single lamp in the middle of the ceiling. So any bathrooms that have additional lighting will stand out from the rest. The most important area that needs ample lighting is by the vanity mirror, where people spend much of their time brushing away their sleepiness in preparation for a brand new day. That additional lighting can come in the form of a pair of sconce lamps on either side of the vanity mirror and/or a pair of table lamps that match the bathroom décor on the vanity. If you need electrical wiring or extra sockets installed for the lamps, make sure it’s done by a professional electrician.

 

Benches

Ever notice how you never seem to have enough space to place clean clothes or towels when you’re about to take a shower? Or you when you need to sit down to dry your feet and have to do that on the toilet seat lid? If you have the space in your bathroom, a built-in bench (maybe even one that flips up against the wall to save space) or at least a portable one would make life a lot easier.

 

Trough sinks

Again, this feature is only if you have space in your bathroom. Trough sinks are great because they give you and your family the flexibility of using the sink simultaneously if you’re all pressed for time some mornings.

 

Radiant floor heating and/or towel warmer

There’s nothing quite like stepping out of a shower onto a warm tile floor. Not only does radiant floor heating keep you from missing your hot shower too much, but it also helps dry the bathroom floor a lot faster and prevents humidity build-up in the bathroom. You can even add a wall-mounted or freestanding towel warmer for an extra touch of cozy luxury.

 

Bathtub-shower wet room

There’s a growing trend these days to place a freestanding bathtub inside a shower area partitioned from the rest of the bathroom as a wet room. This trend is catching on because it’s safer (you don’t have to take a big step over the side of the bathtub every time you just want to take a shower), low-maintenance (you can clean around the bathtub without having to step into it to clean the wall on the bathtub side), and design-friendly (the ability to use a freestanding bathtub opens the door to a wide range of bathtub looks and shapes that you can choose from).

 

Even if your bathroom can’t accommodate all of these features, integrating any of these into your bathroom will make it that much more attractive. If you want your bathroom to stand out to potential buyers, always make sure to check out what features are standard in your neighbourhood so that you can match them and add extra unique features that will put your bathroom a notch above the rest.

How to Prepare Your House for Remodeling

You’ve spent pretty much an eternity building up that dream home in your mind, you’ve got contractors lined up, and you’d like nothing better than to have your dream home just appear already. Time works a little differently outside our head though, unfortunately; that means we have to prepare ourselves to put in a lot of patience. Unless you have a magic wand, of course, in which case you don’t even need to read this. For those of us who don’t have a magic wand though, there are steps we need to take before contractors can start work on remodeling the house.

The simplest way to break down the remodeling preparation process is to group all the steps into three separate sections:

 

Scheduling

Some renovation projects are best done in certain seasons so try to schedule them during those times. For example, winter is usually for inside renovation projects only while outside renovation projects can be scheduled in spring, summer, or fall. There are some outside projects that should be done in a specific season though:

–    Window replacement and door replacement should be done in spring to fix any problems that came out of the winter cold

–   Deck-building, siding, and roofing work should be done in summer to minimise the risk of wet weather damaging your house

–   Chimney repairs and any projects to winterise your home should be done in fall so that your house is ready to withstand the coming winter.

Next, adjust your personal schedule to make sure you’ll be in town during the renovation. This just means not going away on vacation so that contractors can check in with you in person throughout the renovation process; it doesn’t mean you need to take time off work though as contractors will accommodate your work schedule.

 

People

Let your contractor know what communication method is the best way to reach you (i.e. phone, text, e-mail, etc.). Provide your contractor with secondary communication options as well just in case the first one doesn’t work. This way, both you and your contractor will have peace of mind knowing that you have open, reliable communication channels with each other. Next, confirm that the contractor will take care of the permit process for the renovation. Let’s be honest: the contractor has done this way more often than you so just trust your contractor to know all the ins and outs to streamline the process. Also, let the contractor know whether or not you’re okay with the renovation crew using your bathroom. Contractors usually bring a portable toilet for big renovation projects, but it may not be the case for smaller ones. If you have a spare bathroom, feel free to offer that up. At the end of the day, it’s really up to your comfort level to make that decision, but it does make it much more convenient for the contractor if you allow the crew to use your bathroom. Finally, tell the contractor which areas in the house are off-limits and that you’ll also tape the areas off with signs to identify them.

Notify your home insurance company about the renovation and ask them if they have any suggestions on what else you need to take care of before and after the renovation. Their suggestions are given often because they’ll affect your insurance policy so do your best to follow them.

The next people you need to communicate with is your family. Discuss with them how the renovation will change the routines for everyone in the house and come up with creative ways to work around disruptions. This is also a good time to highlight safety measures and precautions to take during the renovation period – especially if you have children in the house. Sitting down with your family to have these discussions is important because it reassures them that you’re all in this together, coming up with solutions to only temporary disturbances to home life; it’s what will keep the family sane and focussed on getting one step closer to the dream home, instead of letting the stress of renovation get the better of everyone.

Lastly, give a courtesy heads-up to neighbours on both sides of your house that you’re doing some renovation work on your house and ask them to please bear with you for the next few weeks. This step is optional and it really depends on your relationship with your neighbours. You’re definitely not obligated to notify them of renovation work, but it is a nice, friendly gesture that they’ll appreciate.

 

Possessions

Wrap all your antiques and fragile items with padded materials like bubble wrap or blankets. Store them somewhere safe away from the renovation site, maybe in an unused spare room that won’t have any renovation work done in there. Lock up all your valuables and jewelry in a home safe or, even better, a safe deposit box. Move all your furniture out of the renovation site and into that unused spare room; if some furniture pieces can’t be moved, cover them completely with plastic sheets, tarps, or cloths to prevent construction dust from getting all over them. Take away any remaining loose items still left on the site.

Clean up the site before the contractors arrive. If you’re doing your own demolition, finish that before doing the clean-up in advance of the contractors arriving. Last but not least, run tape across the entrances of all the areas in the house that you’ve identified as off-limits and stick “Off-Limits” signs to the tapes.

That’s it – you’re now prepared for the remodeling work to begin on your house!

What are some other steps you like to take to prepare your house for remodeling? Share the steps you took and tell us why it was important for you on that project!

Are Kitchen Renovations Worth It?

Think about all the parties you’ve ever been to or hosted where you felt it was the best party ever at the time. Besides the friends you love, what’s the one common factor that made each of them great? If you’re like me, that would be the good food and drinks.

I like to hang out around the source of food and drinks whenever I’m at a party and if it’s inside a house, that would mean spending much of my time in the kitchen. Call me a glutton, but there’s actually a method to my munchiness: the kitchen is the place where I’ll get the most chance to chat with everyone because all the hungry people will gravitate there and even the non-hungry people will follow eventually. It’s not only at parties where the kitchen gets the most foot traffic – the same goes for our everyday lives. Cooking and eating is still a big part of our daily routine; it just makes sense to do all that in a nice, comfortable kitchen.

Having a renovated kitchen customised to your lifestyle means that you get to enjoy these benefits:

 

Fresh, “new house” feeling

This is usually the main reason many people dive into kitchen renovations. With the kitchen being the most popular area in the house, who wouldn’t want to show it off to friends and family in the best light possible? That could mean replacing old appliances, refacing cabinets with new hardware, changing the paint colour scheme, getting a general contractor to do a full service remodeling, or a combination of all these. Whatever changes you make, you will definitely notice their effect from your friends’ gushing and most importantly, from that warm fuzzy feeling you get inside yourself that you haven’t felt since you first bought the house; recapturing that “new house” feeling is priceless.

 

Inspires healthier, cost-effective eating habits

It’s a well-known phenomenon these days that we are spending less and less time in the kitchen preparing meals. When we do cook in the kitchen, it often means warming up processed food so that we can quickly eat and get on with our busy lives. The beauty of a renovated kitchen is that the new changes make you want to linger in there longer. You’ll want to make use of its every reimagined square inch and in the kitchen, that means getting re-inspired to cook again. Whether it’s making a simple pasta dish or preparing a gourmet three-course meal, you’ll save a lot of money and headaches about health issues in the long run by cooking more often at home. All it takes is a little time and planning, which you’ll find creative ways to fit in once you’ve got the spark to liven up the kitchen again.

 

Increased home value

You’re not the only one who wants an updated kitchen – it’s usually a top priority for many buyers as well. This is why renovating the kitchen is often a sure-fire way to attract buyers who’ll pay a higher value for your house. If you are renovating your kitchen before selling your house though, make sure to find out from experts (i.e. real estate agents, general contractors, etc.) what the current kitchen renovation trends are in your neighbourhood and don’t go overboard from there. You want the most bang for your buck so you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars only to bump up your home value by a few thousand. It’s best to focus on the must-have features first and not spend too much on high-end stuff that are not on top of people’s wish list in your area.

These are all crucial benefits that offer a return on your money and time; for that, I’d say kitchen renovations are definitely worth it. Of course, you can argue that the costs and time it takes to put up with the renovations are a big factor to consider. But like any investment, you have to put in a little to get returns and if you have a limited budget for home improvement, then the smart move would be to reap several dividend-paying benefits at the same time by renovating the kitchen first.

What are some of the must-have features in your area? Share your thoughts and see how different each area is from one another.

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