As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag.  

After repeat requests about “how much does a remodel cost,” we created this educational series highlighting places where expenditures rise.  Sometimes these expenditures can be avoided, sometimes not; however, the more prepared you are when it is time to remodel your home, the more confident you will be in your relationship with your contractor and your design decisions.

Tile

As a material, tile comes with a price tag  starting at $1.25 on up to hundreds of dollars per square foot.  This is pretty obvious when you have the material in hand.  What is not so obvious is the labor cost involved for the tile you are looking at.  Our first thought is that the cost to install tile is a flat rate no matter what tile we choose.  This is a mistake.

Floor and Wall Patterns

If you want to have your tile installed in a pattern, the floor on a diagonal for example, your investment goes up.  When tile is installed 90-degrees to the room, tile edges will line up with the wall; when the pattern is put on a diagonal, every tile that meets the wall will need to be cut.  This requires more material and more time for the installer to make these cuts.  As such, you will be looking at paying more.

The more intricate the pattern, the more time the installer will need to take during the install and the more expensive the project.

Odd Shaped Tile

The same thing applies to any tile that is not rectangular in shape.  Where floor meet the wall, every tile will need to be cut.

Mosaics

Mosaics are typically 1×1 tiles and come on a 12×12 mesh sheet.  These can be relatively easy to install.  But… here it comes.  If you are looking at a tile that is a hexagon you will want to be sure that the tile line carries “points.”  Points are pre-cut portions of the tile.  Remember, when you get to the wall you will need 1/2 of a 1″ piece of tile to fill the void.  Paying for your tile expert to cut 1″ pieces of tile is going to add up in a hurry.  If the tile doesn’t come with points and you really love it but don’t want pay your tile setter for the additional tile, you may opt to have the 1/2″ void grouted in.  Once the baseboard is installed it will be hardly noticeable.

Large Format Tile

Large format tile is anything over 12″x12″.  Large format tile is quickly gaining in popularity, and for good reason.  Why look at grout lines when you could be looking at a pretty tile?

However, the gaps between tiles is where installers find room for adjustment.  Perhaps the room isn’t perfectly square (most rooms aren’t perfectly square) or the wall/floor isn’t perfectly flat (most walls/floors aren’t perfectly flat), adjustments made in small increments are undetectable to the eye and, at the same time, hides the imperfections of the room’s construction.  (The reason why old homes feature mosaic floors is more than just a design statement.)

Now, compare the installation of  a 12×24 versus a 12×12.  Instead of making an adjustment every foot you are making an adjustment every 2 feet, this doubles the adjustment.  What may have been 1/16″ adjustment is now 1/8″ – and it is no longer undetectable.  However, if the adjustment isn’t made, your room will look out of square.

Every contractor wants repeat business and they aren’t keen on a shoddy looking room.  The resolution is to start with as near perfect room as you can.  This means more shimming, more skimming and possibly even a coat of self leveling floor compound.  This prep work is time-consuming.

If you are installing large format tile on the walls you can expect an added layer of cost.  The larger the tile, the heavier it is.  When working with small tiles, an entire wall can be set at once.  As the tiles get heavier, the more they want to slide down the wall.  Bottom rows of tiles need to set and cure before you can add height.  Your installer may only be able to set a few rows of tile (or just one row of tile it is very large tile) per day.

You may be trying to pinch your pennies during this economy.  In the past, there was a vast price gap between porcelain tile and ceramic.  Today, the difference in price is negligable.  For durability and longevity, invest in the porcelain.  And then, keep your tile rectangular and 12×12 or under in size.  Nothing feels worse than to buy a tile on clearance thinking you’re getting a deal, just to find out it will cost you double in labor… and when it comes to tile, the labor is usually the more expensive portion of the project.

As a side note, if you are looking for something truely unique but want to keep life simple for your tile setter, there are companies that will precut extensive tile patterns.  Your contractor can provide to this kind of company your tile and your pattern.  If you have a unique shaped tub of shower base, you contractor can give them a scribe or pattern of the shapes and they can cut your tiles to fit.  This will not only be a cleaner look, but may also be less expensive than having your contractor cut each piece on the jobsite. 

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag.  

After repeat requests about “how much does a remodel cost,” we created this educational series highlighting places where expenditures rise.  Sometimes these expenditures can be avoided, sometimes not; however, the more prepared you are when it is time to remodel your home, the more confident you will be in your relationship with your contractor and your design decisions.

Demolition

On average, newer homes are easier and less expensive to demo.  The plumbing and electric is generally up to code and building materials are in good condition.  So I will be addressing the cost of doing work in a pre-1978 home.

US EPA RRP Lead Laws

Right from the start, your contractor should be EPA Lead RRP certified.  When permits are pulled for your project, your local government will require it.  Homes that we’re built prior to 1978 have a higher chance of being painted with lead-based paint.  If your contractor is disrupting painted surfaces, they will need to partition off the area with plastic and vacuum the area with a HEPA rated vacuum.  This should lower the risk of contaminating the rest of the home with lead paint dust.

You can expect a fee of a few hundred dollars for the material and labor for this service.  The exact amount will be determined by the size of the area to be shielded in plastic.  Once the area has been taped-off, stay out.  If you do not like the way the plastic has been hung, talk to your contractor – do not remove the plastic on your own.  Not only could this make you responsible for any damage the contractor’s adhesive may cause your ceiling, walls or floor – but the contractor will probably charge you a second fee for having to reinstallation the plastic.

Glass Tile

Vitrolite: The bathrooms of older homes often have this beautiful glass tile in large format.  It can be just in the shower/bath area, or all around the room.  The biggest problem with this tile is that it is heavy and it is not tempered.  Carefully removing this kind of tile is time-consuming and therefore costly.  Many of our clients opt to save money by doing their own demo; however, removal of this kind of tile is not a DIY project.

(As a word of caution, if you currently have this kind of tile in your home and it is loose or falling off the walls, but you are not ready to renovate just yet; remove the few tiles in question carefully, or have a professional do it for you.  If you have another bathroom in the home, use it exclusively until you can have the room updated.)

Disruption of a “Seemingly Fine” Room

During demo is when problems with a room rise to the surface.  Walls are opened and mold is exposed, floors and soffits hide iron drain pipes where the top halves are rusted away.  If the room has never seen a renovation, or it has been several decades since the last remodel, be prepared for surprises.  It would be wise to budget for unseen expenditures, as your contractor will not know what these costs will be until they are uncovered.  Once you know what you can afford for your remodel, take 90% of it and give that number to your contractor or designer and save the remaining 10% as your cushion to pay for the unseen.

Can you save money on a demolition?  Yes!  But it will probably require you to take responsibility for the labor of removing and disposing of product and building materials.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

As consumers, we are always fearful that we will be taken for  a ride.  Remodeling is one of those places where, inevitably, the dollar amount charged is not what you expected and then there are the little things that carry a big price tag. 

Change Orders

Many builders and remodelers charge a fee for change orders.  This fee can be a flat price or a percentage.  Regardless of whether you are adding to a project or deducting from a project, this fee will probably hold.  Be sure to ask your contractor about this fee and scan your paperwork for it prior to signing anything; they need to be upfront about it in order to charge for it.

Once a project is sold, the office will start to process the finalized paperwork.  This process includes the obvious of ordering materials and scheduling trades.  The not-so-obvious part is the distribution of information.  Your salesperson/designer is your contact, but that person disseminates information to a team of people who distributes that information to their team of people.

Here’s an example to illustrate this:  The salesperson gives a copy of the contract and all supporting documentation to the comptroller (to enter all information into the company’s system), to the accountant (to figure out payment schedules to the various vendors), to the scheduling department, to the supervisor and to the material handler.  The comptroller pulls permits and other licenses, bonds, etc.; the scheduling department organizes all the various trades according to availability of labor and the availability of product; the supervisor looks over the plans and creates a work order for each trade and the material handler calls all the vendors necessary to get the products in-house when needed.

When a change order comes from a client, everyone needs to be alerted to the change.  Even something as small as changing the finish on a faucet can cause turmoil.  Time, effort and due diligence is required of all staff members and the risk of an error is raised substantially.

These are all factors that are considered when a contractor accepts a client’s change order.  Without involving a fee for this disruption in the process, a contractor could easily go broke.  And, of course, this is just for the service end of a change order.  By removing product from a project, you can also expect a restocking fee (25% is standard) for the unexpected shipping, handling and additional paperwork on the part of the warehouse.  Beware, custom and special ordered product is usually non-refundable.

Of course, things happen on job sites.  A wall is opened and surprise!  These kind of things are par for the course and you should not be charged an additional premium for a change order.

It can be said that change order fees discourage clients from changing their minds.  From a contractor’s stand point, that’s not a bad thing.   If you desire the smoothest project for the least amount of money, stay committed to the agreed to project.

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

Defining Style

November 16, 2010

What is the “current design trend?”

This year, article after article (in both retail and to-the-trade magazines) designers are contradicting themselves before they even get to penning the final paragraph.  As you read, experts are saying black and white combos are so now.  However, neutrals and earth tones are hotter than they’ve ever been.  Bold colors like hot pink and chartuese are timely.  But dark green is selling with clients.

Basically, anything goes… and it’s a blessing and a curse.

How fun it is to say that you can have almost anything you want and it is current with today’s style trends.  But what about tomorrow?

It’s enough to drive a designer insane, let alone a homeowner trying to update their house to sell (or live in for that matter).  With the economy strapped for cash, we want to spend our dollars on design that will last.

While the design industry seems to be saying “Anything goes!  Just spend money;”  consumers keep asking, “What design direction should I go in that is the best choice for longevity and resale value?”

So, adding our voice to all the other experts writing about home design, here is our take on how to focus yourself on a design for your home. 

  • Keep the architecture of your home in mind.  If you have a home with a predisposed historical design, then follow it (ie. owners of bungalows should look to 1920’s designs and materials for inspiration). 
  • Then be daring, go to the extreme.  High contrast or minimal contrast.  Stay way from the middle ground or the “safe zone.”  While, it does not need to shout, a home should make a clear statement.  
  • Finally, look for balance.  Some women need to take off a piece of jewelry before they leave the house while others need to put a piece on – designing a room is no different.

If you’re still finding yourself dazed and confused, even with a designer in tow as you visit the Merchandise Mart week after week, take heart.  You can never go wrong with buying design that you like… after all, you live there.  And if anyone asks you to define your home’s style, tell them it’s “eclectic” – after all, it’s all the rage.

Written by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.

Show Me Your Work

August 18, 2010

I love to look at the work of other designers.  I have subscriptions to atleast 10 magazines showcasing either design trends for the general public or ideas and knowledge for industry professionals.  Those fleeting moments when I’m waiting for applications to load on my computer, I’m surfing the internet studying the competition.

While our company is located in the midwest, I look at sites for designers and remodelers all over the world.  The ideas that can accumulate in one’s brain is amazing!  And while a popular design trend in Miami will probably never fly with my Chicago client, a solution to a design challenge can sometimes rise to the top.

Designers and remodelers should always be learning from each other.  But as I have been surfing often lately, I have been coming across a disturbing trend more and more… Photo galleries that are not necessarily reflective of a company’s portfolio of work.

The most natural thing when shopping for a designer or contractor is to investigate their website.  You see a link called “Photos” and wow!  Amazing photographs of amazing rooms.  The first question you need to ask… is this a “portfolio of work?”  Or is it a “photo gallery?”  The later being a collection of photos freely downloaded from the internet that has no relationship to the work performed by this company or individual.

Sad as it may seem, while not blatantly saying ‘this is my work’ when it is not – posting photos on a website gives the impression that this is the product of this particular company, especially when the source of the photo is not acknowledged.  With unemployment so high, many people are trying their hand at flying solo and an impressive website is a good start to finding clients.  The old adage of “fake it until your make it” comes in here.

There is nothing wrong with using a first time designer or remodeler on your project – as long as you know, up front, that you are a guinea pig and your investment reflects the inconveniences that you will inevitably encounter.

If you find a website where the photos are professionally shot and there are no acknowledgements attached to the pictures, ask them in an email or phone call if the photos of are their work.  If the answer is that it is not their work but they can replicate that look, ask to see a portfolio of their actual work.  Don’t be afraid to even ask for references for those photos.  Trust is earned, not given – and in this business, you are dealing with one of your biggest investments, your home.  Never assume anything.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. by staff designer Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Renovate Right

March 24, 2010

On April 22, 2010 the US EPA’s law on “Renovation, Repair and Painting” (RRP) will go into effect.  This new law will affect you, if:

  • You live in a home that was built prior to 1978.
  • Your children (age 6 or younger) attend a facility that was built prior to 1978.

Why 1978?  Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes and buildings until it was banned for residential use in 1978.  Once ingested, lead, like other heavy elements, has a way of hanging around in our bodies – this can cause biological disturbances.  In large doses, it can lead to toxicity – affecting our brains and nervous systems.  Children, in their developing stages, are the most susceptible to lead toxicity.

Lead in paint that is adhered to an object does not propose a danger – it does not out-gas or radiate.  If you live in a home that contains lead paint, you do not necessarily need to have a costly abatement team remove all paint from your home.  Disrupting lead paint is where the EPA’s concern is.

Lead gets into our bodies via nose and mouth.  Paint chips and dust particles are the biggest culprits to ingesting lead paint.  If you are renovating an older building, paint disruption is due to occur.

The EPA is requiring by federal law that all contractors who work in buildings built before 1978 and disrupt more than 6 square feet of interior paint or 20 square feet of exterior paint to be Certified.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Renovators
  • Remodelers
  • Plumbers
  • Painters
  • Electricians
  • Window and Door Contractors
  • General Contractors
  • Landlords and Property Managers
  • Some Building Engineers

Your contractor should provide for you, before the renovation begins, a copy of the EPA’s Renovate Right pamphlet.  You will also need to sign documentation for your contractor’s files saying that you received the pamphlet.  This documentation also outlines options available if you would like to opt out of the RRP procedures.

Certified professionals have been through training in how to properly handle spaces where lead paint may be present.  Containment of lead paint chips and dust are a primary concern.  These procedures are time-consuming and require additional job materials.  You can expect your renovator to line item this procedure for your home project (this small cost may vary depending on the space, project and your geographical location).  The added time and cost to your contract is worth the sense of mind in knowing that your health and wellbeing is being protected.  The federal government is currently experiencing a backlog as US contractors rush to get their certification.  If your contractor cannot produce a RRP Certification, ask to see proof of their RRP training.

Property owners who opt to DIY are excluded from this new law.  However, it highly recommended that homeowners take steps to keep themselves safe with these best practices.

  • Tape off with plastic the area you are working in.
  • Limit leaving the work area to go to other areas of the home.
  • Do not eat in the work area.
  • Keep children and animal out of the area until it has been throughly cleaned.
  • If you have them, use power tools that are connected to a vacuum system.
  • Do not sand lead-based paint.  If you must sand an area, wear a face mask.  When done, mist the area with a spray bottle of water to bring the dust out of the air.
  • When cleaning up the area, mist down all drop cloths.  Fold drop clothes edges in first to keep dust and particles from escaping.
  • Clean the area with a HEPA vacuum.  Remove the vacuum bag from the vacuum outside of the building and tape shut.
  • Promptly remove clothing and wash before walking through your home or coming in contact with other family members.

If you are not planning a major renovation, but you have paint flaking in your home, a fresh coat of paint will keep more paint from coming off.  And of course… teach your children to NEVER EAT PAINT FLAKES OR CHEW ON PAINTED SURFACES  (this includes furniture and window sills).

If you have further questions about this new law, you can add your comment below or visit www.epa.gov/lead/index.html.

Written by Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc.  Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. is proud to have completed their RRP required training.  As of March 18, 2010, Imperial is in compliance with the US EPA’s RRP rule and IDPH.  Pending official notice from the EPA, the company will be a RRP Lead Certified Renovator in the Chicago area.

We’re always looking for ways to save money when we are remodeling. Dare say it, no one want to be the one who pays too much for their remodel. However, you also don’t want to be the one who pays too little and ends up with nothing or a project gone wrong. Some of us have fairy godmothers looking over us as we shell out half of what the project should cost and the job is a success – the other 80% of us? Well, our angels took a coffee break at the wrong time.

Typically, good contractors are expensive – just as good products are expensive. And as an added FYI – when you are buying home improvement products (just like everything else) the less expensive the product, the more likely it is not made in the US or Europe. Just because the brand name says “American” to you doesn’t mean that the product is physically built here. Developing countries do not have to conform to the same eco-regulations as developed countries do – corporations do use this to their benefit.  If MADE IN THE USA is important to you, then make sure the product is made here.  Being a US company is not enough.

Getting back to our topic – you may have a remodeling contractor in your area that you have heard great things about, but you are concerned that they are just too expensive for you and your home. Not necessarily so. You can get “deals” from high-class establishments, but there is a price for it. First, educate yourself by going online – go to the websites of well-known brands and see if they are having any promotions. Then, negotiating for a rock bottom remodel begins with these questions to your remodeler:

  • Do you have any manufacturers that are currently offering incentives?
  • Do you have anything in stock that you are looking to move on?
  • My budget is only “x”, but I need a new “y”. Can you help me?

There is always at least one manufacturer, that the store represents, that is having an incentive program. If you have done your online homework, then you will be better apt to ask detailed questions like, “If I order a Corian counter made from one of the twelve promotional colors, do I still qualify for the free sink? And if not, which is the better deal for me? Is there a product similar to Corian that I should be looking at that could give me a better price point?”

Remodeling companies do sometimes have things in stock. We try hard not to, but it happens. Tile, in particular, has a way of hanging around the back rooms. Returning tile can be expensive and you have a short window to get it back to the warehouse (they don’t want it back once they have sold off the dye-lot because it may not match their current lot). Non-returnable custom orders sit in corners because someone made a mistake on the color, size, etc (this can be common for vanities). Countertop shops alway have remnant pieces hanging around. If you are looking for stone tops, tell your remodeler that you are not interested in going to the stone dealer warehouse – you want to go to the fabricator’s shop to see their off-fall (this usually only works for small tops). And then you have the few unfortunate cases where the client disappeared and never paid for the order.

Communication is key with your designer, remodeler, showroom sales, contractor – anyone and everyone you are dealing with for your project. If you share with them at the very start what your financial needs are then they can point you in the right direction.

So what is the catch? You lose some control in your project. Perhaps you envisioned your new bathroom in blue and cream with a large double bowl cherry vanity. The designer at your local remodeling company recommends two white pedestal sinks that have been discontinued and being sold at 60% and for storage they have a chocolate-colored linen cabinet in the back that was ordered for another client who changed their mind at the last-minute. You have a talented designer and you know that the new design would work well and look good – but it is not your dream room.  However, this could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars. You have to decide what is more important – the vision or the money.

Written for Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. by Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Note:  If you are interested in seeing an example of some of the current promotions available right now, take a look at this page on our website.  Your local dealer may be able to offer something similar to you or they may have something completely different.  The key is that there is always something going on with some manufacturer – you just need to ask.

There are many benefits to remodeling your home; at the top of the list is pride of homeownership.  But for so many of us, we have to remodel our home in stages – we don’t have unlimited funds to changes everything at once.  If you do not have an urgent need to remodel a particular space over another (ie. leaking roof, structural damage, etc.), how do you decide what takes priority?  If you are looking for tax deductions, then you may want to consider these remodeling projects first.

Current Tax Breaks

Cash for Clunker Appliances

Starting this fall, as part of the economic stimulus plan under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the “Cash for Clunkers” extends to Appliances.  Basically, purchase a new energy efficient appliance and get a tax credit of $200.  Just like the “Cash for Clunker Automobiles” there is a set dollar amount set aside for this program and once the money is gone, the program is over.

Appliance companies should have available to you the list of products they carry that qualify.  You may have to surrender your existing appliance in order to receive the benefit.

Energy Efficiency Tax Break

Install a solar panel to provide your home energy and not only will you see a substantial tax credit and your electric usage drop, but you may even be able to sell energy back to the electric company. 

For those of us who are less adventurous – upgrade your boiler, heater, furnace, air conditioner, windows, roof, or insulation and you will not only see savings on your gas and electric bills.  

The credit covers 30% of the energy saving improvements, capping at $1,500 for 2009 and 2010.  The credit will no longer be available after 2010.  When you complete your tax return be sure to include Form 5695.  The IRS website gives more information.

Potential Future Tax Breaks

The Home Improvements Revitalize the Economy (HIRE) Act of 2009

Provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 per family, or a tax credit of $500, for the purchase of certain materials and home furnishings.  If you use green products that meet LEED (or other recognized standards) the tax deduction would actually double.  Purchases excluded from the HIRE Act are major appliances, housewares and electronics.

The lead sponsors of the HIRE Act are Rep. Henry Johnson and Rep. Nathan Deal from Georgia.  (Be sure to contact them and your local representatives if you feel this benefit would have a positive effect on the American economy.)

Canada has had a similar program in place since January and has seen a positive effect in stimulating the home improvement industry with one in three Canadians planning to take advantage of the program. (Home Channel News, 9/21/09, pg 35)  For more information visit the HIRE Act of 2009.

Like the auto industry, the home improvement industry is huge.  This is a service industry rooted in American workers and the US economy.  In the past couple years over 270,000 Americans have lost their jobs in the building products and home furnishings sector, and a loss of over 290,000 jobs are expected for 2009.  Keeping Americans working is not only a short term tax relief for homeowners, but it is a way to help us all weather the long term effects of this stormy economic climate.

Whatever you do, when you remodel your home, keep documents of everything.  Think of each contract not as a receipt of purchase but a proof of investment.  Give a copy of what you did for the year to your accountant.  When you sell your home, have these documents on hand, you may be able to deduct these expenses from any capital gains.

* Consult your accountant to see what tax benefits you qualify for before you start a remodeling project.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths Designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

Many of us are strapped for cash, but we just can’t live with our bathrooms they way they are.   So here are a few ways that you can update your bathroom now and buy yourself a little more time before you remodel.

1. Fresh Paint. Giving the walls and ceiling a fresh coat of paint is fast, cheap and virtually mess free. A gloss finish works well in bathrooms, but beware if you have any defects in your walls the gloss will accentuate the negative. Matte finishes have a tendency to mildew and show humidity streaks; however, several paint manufacturers have been working to solve this concern. Eggshell is a nice middle ground. It will give you a soft sheen that will not readily absorb moisture and will not draw so much attention to flaws in your walls.

2. Update and replace lighting fixtures. If your bathroom lighting is not flattering your face, it is doing you no favors. Applying makeup, shaving, etc. in poor light will not give you the look you are going for. When shopping for a new fixture remember that is the quality and amount of light that is most important, style is second… how many people are going to see your face today vs. how many people are going to see your bathroom?

3. Replace outlets if the present outlets are not GFCI. This is one of the most important safety issues in a house. Electricity and water should never mix. A ground fault circuit interrupter, commonly known as GFCI, will protect you if your hairdryer, curling iron, etc. fall into a sink full of water. A GFCI outlet is one that has two little buttons in the center of the face. GFCI outlets should be around anywhere you have water.

4. New towels, rugs, accessories. Are your towels miss-matched? Is your bathmat tired? Do the accessories around the room have a pitted or peeling finish? Accessories are generally easy to change with only the need of a screwdriver or Allen wrench. Colors and patterns of towels and bath mats can be the same or mix-and-matched as sets. Fresh towels not only look good but feel good too. To keep you towels at their best, do not wash or dry with fabric softener… the waxy buildup on the material will make them less absorbent.

5. Reglaze the tub. Some tubs cannot be reglazed, but if your tub is looking shabby it is an option worth investigating. Sometimes reglazing can add ten more years to the life of your bathtub.

6. Clean up old caulk and grout. Nothing contributes to the gross-out factor in bathrooms like moldy caulk and grout. More than just aesthetics, mold is unhealthy. Of course in humid areas, like bathrooms, it is a constant battle. Cut out old caulk, clean out the area, LET DRY, then recaulk. Clean grout with vinegar on a regular basis, using a soft small brush in troublesome areas (be careful not to scrub out the grout). Bleach applied with a cotton applicator once or twice a year can be beneficial as well, as long as your grout is color safe (test a small inconspicuous if you are concerned). If all else fails, you can regrout. If you don’t want to try your hand at this project, there are services that do this. Once your grout is clean, seal it with a grout sealer regularly to keep it looking good with minimal effort.

7. Reface the vanity cabinets. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the cabinet is, the more expensive it is going to be to replace. It you have a bathroom with a large vanity area, you may want to consider refacing the vanity cabinet, the cost can be half as much as replacing. Refacing involves replacing the cabinet doors and drawer fronts and then covering the cabinet box in a material that matches the new doors. While the interior of the cabinet looks the same, the exterior will give the whole room an updated look.

8. New solid-surface countertops. The countertop marketplace is flooded with new materials; it can be hard to decipher which material will work best. Laminate and cultured marble is the most inexpensive option, but are not the most durable. Solid-surface materials like Corian and Meganite are renewable, can have the sink bowl fused into the top, are easy to clean and offer a 10-year warrantee. You will pay a little more for these products up front, but the long-term investment will pay for itself over and over again.

9. New faucets. You can buy an inexpensive faucet as long as you realize that you are getting what you are paying for and may have to replace it again in the next few years. If you are looking for a long-term investment you will be looking for ceramic disc-valves, this will guarantee that you are never fiddling with a drippy faucet. You will also want a PVD finish; this insures that your faucet finish will not change color, peel or pit over time. Again, you will pay more for these faucets up front, but over time they end up paying for themselves.

10. Hang framed artwork. You can get “canned” art from almost any hobby or furniture store. But a trip to your community art galley can open your eyes to some local staving artists and you may pay about the same amount for an original as you will for a mass produced print. If you are having artwork framed tell the framer that the piece is going in a bathroom and the amount of light the room gets so they will use the correct materials for protecting your art. A frame boosts the importance of any image, if it is done right, even a child’s handprint can claim Picasso appeal.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.

How Much Does a Remodel Cost?

September 16, 2009

About once to twice a week I find a blog asking “How much?”  How much is a bathroom remodel?  How much is a kitchen remodel?  How much to finish my basement?  And this is best answered with… how much is a car?

It depends.  What are you trying to achieve?  What products do you like and in what finishes?  What are you looking for in a designer or contractor?  People who are practicing their craft are often less expensive upfront than the seasoned professional.

Unlike the car industry, the remodeling industry doesn’t have factory set standards and internal quality control.  There is no government instituted lemon law for a botched remodel.  It is our hope that companies who are affiliated with professional groups like NARI and NKBA are playing by the “best practices” standards and their pricing should reflect that.  When you purchase a $10,000 car it is an economy vehicle, $30,000 is a mid range and anything above $60,000 is luxury.

My point is this; I could say a modest bathroom remodel is about $30,000.  But your bathroom is 5×7, $30,000 would be a bit luxurious… while $30,000 in a 12×20 master suite would not go far.  And to make matters even worse, your location also determines your investment figure.  People who live in New York city are going to pay a lot more for a kitchen remodel than someone who lives in Sandwich, IL.  Labor is more expensive in New York because the cost of living is higher.  Not to mention working in a high rise is more expensive than working in a home.  Just unloading tools and materials can take half a day when working in a high rise.

So, for a true idea on how much to expect your remodel to cost you, stop blogging.  Most of the people who will answer you don’t have a clue – even if they are professional remodelers, they don’t know your space.  Call a few local contractors.  Give them the same detailed description of your space and what you would like to do with it.  A veteran in this business will be able to give you ball park figure (ie. “Expect your bathroom to start at about $15,000.”)  For a more definite estimate, have them out to your home.  The Better Business Bureau recommends starting out with three bids on your project.

But you say that you don’t want to be completely in the dark before you pick up the phone.  You would rather suffer sticker shock in private.  Then the best place for a jumping off point is Remodeling Magazine.  Every November they put out an issue called “Cost vs. Value.”   This annual survey not only shows you the approximate cost of a particular remodel in your region of the US, but it will also tell you what kind of return you could see if you were to sell your home after the remodel.  You can find this information on their website: http://www.remodeling.hw.net/remodeling-market-data/remodeling-cost-vs-value-report-2008-09.aspx .

If you are improving your home with the intention to sell, remember that low-cost, low-maintenance improvements are where you are going to see the greatest return for your money.  However, most of us remodel our abodes for ourselves; it is about investing in our happiness at home.

Written by Imperial Kitchens and Baths, Inc. designer, Stephanie Bullwinkel, CBD.