Estimating Home Improvement Projects

More and more homeowners are turning to home improvement to transform their New York homes to ideally fit the needs of the family, realize their dreams of luxury and style, make everyday life a whole lot more convenient, boost property value, or just any other reasons. One of the most crucial factors when jumping into the bandwagon is the right budget. The more accurate the estimate, the closer you are to achieving project success. To get to this, here are essential things to know about estimating home improvement projects ideal whether you are in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn or Staten Island.

Estimating your planned home improvement project is a crucial task that should be taken carefully. Falling short on budget can cause grave issues such as an incomplete project, an inferior result, or financial instability that can lead to debts that can easily snowball into other problems.

If you haven’t done anything similar to the home improvement you have in mind, then getting an estimate would be the best way to start your project. This would get you a good idea on how much the entire project would cost thus helping you get financially prepared and preventing a busted budget. Just as no two houses are exactly the same; your specifications would vary with that of others even for the same project. There are a lot of factors that affect the overall cost and asking around for other homeowners who have had done something similar would be the roughest assessment you can get.

When estimating home improvement projects, the easiest and fastest way to get one is through using an online remodeling calculator from any renovation and home improvement or contractor website. But the closest and most accurate estimate you can get is one from a reputable professional or contractor company.

There are various factors that will affect your home improvement project estimate and these are:

Scope of the Project – this includes the size of the room or rooms that you plan on improving. What materials and supplies you want to integrate into the project. How you envision the project finish and what are the methods and steps to take to achieve the specific look, feel and functionality.

Labor Trends and Regional Pricing – fact is, remodeling costs will differ depending on the state that you are in. This proves true for both contractor fee as well as material costs.

Labor Fees – There are choices when it comes to managing home improvement projects and this includes: managing it yourself, getting a general contractor or hiring a project manager part-time or full time. Each option has its pros and cons and deciding on which depends on your experience, preference, budget and availability. Aside from the labor trends in different states, other factors that will affect contractor fee are specialization/s, experience, skills and even how well established and well-reputed the contractor or company is in the industry.

One of the greatest tips when undergoing home improvement projects is to allot a budget that is more than that of the estimated amount. By allowing flexibility in your finances, unexpected expenses that may arise throughout the project (which are not uncommon), can be accommodated efficiently before the problem balloons. If you have to save, then choose to do so in a smart way. Cut costs without sacrificing quality and you can do this by buying materials on sale and scheduling work at off-peak seasons.

They Don’t Build ‘Em Like They Used to! Women Who Project Manage Their Home Construction

It’s well known that project managing the construction of a home will save you money – and give you more decision making control. What is less widely known is that many successful project managers are women – who have no construction experience whatsoever.

My company has been selling cedar homes for 18 years. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with all kinds of home buyers. Their backgrounds and experiences are as varied as the houses they build. However, I’ve noticed that the women who elect to project manage the construction of their homes share similar characteristics that uniquely qualify them for the job.

What women lack in home construction knowledge, they more than make up for in natural curiosity and organizational skills – or as some prefer to say, “multi-tasking abilities.” Anita Legaspi and her husband Ray (neither of whom had construction experience) built a 3,600 sf custom cedar home near Lake Stevens, WA about 5 years ago. At the time, Anita was a stay-at-home mom who enjoyed sewing and Ray was employed at Boeing. They realized early on that “they could get more house for their money if they did it themselves.”

Of the pair, Anita had more time available to organize the project and research their options. She realized that her experience with soliciting items for school auctions would also be helpful in obtaining subcontractor bids for their home. “I wasn’t afraid to talk to people and ask questions. I had the ability to communicate on the phone,” commented Anita.

With the help of a timeline (outlining tasks and deadlines), Anita obtained bids and contracted out: the foundation, shell construction, electrical, plumbing, roofing and deck installation. Anita, Ray and their son Christian did much of the painting and finish work themselves.

Anita admits that the time spent building the home was difficult for their family. Ray and Anita chose to live onsite by utilizing their small trailer and a camper. She remembers the initial fun of “camping,” complete with bonfires (to burn up the stumps) and hot dog roasts. However, the summer fun dissipated when wet weather set in. Ray and Anita realized that their trailer was becoming more claustrophobic than cozy – and it wasn’t very well insulated..

Looking back on their house building days, Anita offers this advice: 

  • Decide what’s important to you. If you really want that special kitchen – go for it.
  • You can never go wrong with quality.
  • Develop a cost breakdown sheet to help you compare bids and expenses.
  • Big name companies don’t always offer the support you’ll need. You need to be able to communicate with a dealer, subcontractor, etc. You should feel like you can call them any time.

Nancy and Paul Davis knew that they wanted a cedar home for their mountain retreat near Cle Elum, WA. Neither Paul nor Nancy had bought property before and the whole process of developing the property and building a home was new to them.

In an effort to learn more about the process, Paul and Nancy attended a Log Home Seminar and also researched companies and products on the internet. According to Nancy, “The seminar was good for us. It brought up all the things we hadn’t thought about.”

Prior to staying home with their son Cory, Nancy had been a foundry supervisor and had also worked in a human resources department. She knew a few things about interviewing, hiring and managing people. She also knew that if she and Paul were to build the cabin themselves, “it could take years!” Their solution was to put Nancy at the helm and have her manage the construction of the cabin.

Paul and Nancy elected to undertake the finish work themselves, but hired separate subcontractors to handle the foundation, shell construction, electrical, plumbing and roofing. At one point, Nancy put together a work party with three girlfriends. Together they installed the wood flooring in the great room and kitchen. However, Nancy noted that this was done “only after we had dinner out on Friday night to discuss our approach – and of course, a great breakfast with lots of chit chat before we actually began.”

A low point for Nancy came when she was the only person onsite and “the cabinet people dumped all our kitchen cabinets right in the middle of our driveway.” It was up to Nancy to figure out how to get them all inside by herself. Nancy called for back up and said, “I had to be really assertive, which is totally out of my personality.”

Today, the Davis’ are very proud of their 2,300 sf cabin retreat. “We knew we could do it with the support of knowledgeable people in the industry.” Based on her recently acquired construction management skills, Nancy offers the following tips: 

  • Find your own system to stay organized. Nancy used a notebook divided into tasks, i.e. electrical, plumbing, and roofing, etc.
  • Network with other people within the construction community and seek their advice
  • It’s OK to be assertive – especially when you are trying to track down answers and make decisions.

“Everybody is blown away by how beautiful my home is,” says Diane Weibling who project managed the construction of her own 1,200 sf cedar home in North Bend, WA. For ten years, Diane, a family support worker for the Seattle public school system, read “how to build your own home” books at the North Bend library. The librarian finally told her she was going to have to stop reading and start building her own home. And that’s exactly what she did.

In addition to her library research, Diane attended open houses and talked with other homeowners. She says that the idea of project managing the construction her home evolved slowly. “I felt like if I wanted it done right, I’d have to do it myself.”

She obviously did a lot of things right. Her home has a panoramic view of Mt. Si – in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. People drive slowly past her home so that they can appreciate her unique setting and beautiful home.

Diane took time to look for bargains on cabinets and appliances for her new home. She said, “I got all my solid maple kitchen cabinets for $1,200. Someone had ordered these and never picked them up. I went to the Sears Outlet and checked out their scratch & dent models. I bought a fridge with a broken plastic handle that I easily replaced. I bought a demo wood stove at the fair and saved $600.”

Her project managing experience has taught her a few more things, including:

  • Try not to micromanage the subcontractors. It’ll drive you (and them) crazy.
  • Ask the builder how many projects they have under construction. It may mean they won’t have blocks of time to give to your project – and this could extend your timeline.
  • Ask for contractor prices

Each of these women brought unique skills to their home projects – none of which was a background in construction. What motivated them to manage their home construction? Certainly money was a factor. By project managing the construction of their own homes, each woman realized many thousands of dollars in savings. The savings could result in a lower mortgage payment – or it could mean having a larger home for less money – or both! In some cases, project managing is a way for the homeowner to maintain more control over all aspects of the home’s construction. 

Project managing home construction is not an option for everyone. The state of Washington allows homeowners to serve as their own general contractors (or project managers) – but not all states will permit this. Bear in mind also that not all banks will finance owner-built homes. Lastly, remember that when the plumber doesn’t show up on schedule, you’re responsible for keeping the project moving forward and on budget. Some subcontractors are aware that your home is a one-time project for them – whereas a contractor will be calling them for other jobs in the future. This may affect the quality and timeliness of their work which in turn may adversely affect your timeline and budget.

None of the women interviewed for this article had building background and none of them had ever project managed the construction of a home. However, all three women had a natural curiosity about the process and were willing to step out of their comfort zone and try something new. Certainly, the end result for each of these project managers is a beautiful home and many thousands of dollars saved. The most unexpected outcome has been a change within each woman. When asked, “What did you learn about yourself” all three women project managers responded, “I learned I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Garden Furniture – Blending in With Nature

When you have a home of your own, there is so much of effort that goes into making every part of it beautiful and presentable. There are so many things to look at, such as the doors, windows, and furnishing and of course the outside of your home as well. The first impression of your home will come from the lawn or the garden if you have one. If you have green thumbs and have always loved being around the plants in your garden you will certainly enjoy getting some garden furniture to relax in the midst of your greenery.

Work with a theme for your garden

For many people gardening is not just a hobby but much like an extension of themselves. If you love your garden then you will certainly want to have a space where you relax in the middle of what you have literally given birth to. Nurturing your garden will make you want to spend more time in the midst of your painstaking labors and garden furniture are great not just for that but also to add to the ambience you wish to create there. There are a lot of different materials used to make the furniture. If you have a theme in mind or a traditional look you can go for teak garden furniture or even wicker chairs for a quaint look.

Contemporary or traditional

If you are looking for a more contemporary style you can get metal chairs and tables to grace your garden. There are so many things that can go into the landscaping of your garden. Having flowing water someplace will also be a good idea. If you wish to have a small fountain with a pond of fresh water lilies it will add a nice touch to your garden. You could have little trellis in redwood around with a small stone bench and flowered vines around it for a nice cozy corner to curl up with a book. Garden furniture should blend in with the surroundings and add to the enchantment of the place. For many people being outside in the garden is an experience that soothes them. Through the right choice of decor and furniture you can make your garden a unique place to unwind at.

Where to find it and what you need

To find your choice of garden furniture, you can try any furniture store; they will offer you many choices in design and work. You can also browse online and see what sort of furniture you would like and what fits well with your type of garden. You could also look for ideas online and have it handcrafted by a furniture store that offers custom models.

When you choose garden furniture you must keep in mind that it will stay outdoors for the larger part of the day, in that case, you need to choose materials with a good protective finish. Whether you choose wood or metal or plastic, be sure to pick out long lasting ones that can brave the elements. Of course you can move it in case of rains or snow but for the most part if you plan to have fixed ones then choose your furniture with care.

Garden Furniture

Gardens now serve as an integral part of a home’s living space, so it only makes sense to invest in garden furniture. When shopping for pieces, remember to look past the aesthetics and go for functionality, too. Here are some tips:

Remember: safety first. You don’t have to be living in a windy city to know that as a precaution, garden furniture (together with outdoor play furniture such as swings) should be properly assembled, and if possible, anchored to the ground. This is especially true for bigger garden furniture, such as arches or tents. When major weather changes (such as storms or light hurricanes) suddenly occur, bring garden chairs and smaller garden furniture inside the house to keep them from being blown away by the wind and causing harm to people or damage to property.

If your garden furniture is made of wood, make it a habit to regularly check for splintered wood or cracks. They can wound you if left un-repaired. If your garden furniture is made of metal, regularly check for rust. It is easier to treat smaller corrosion spots, so don’t wait for them to become bigger and obvious. You may have to replace the whole set if this happens.

Be environmentally friendly. Make sure that the garden furniture you are buying is made from renewable resources. Be extra careful when buying wooden furniture. Make sure that the manufacturer uses only sustainable sourced timber.

Invest in maintenance. Garden furniture does not come cheap, and to keep it looking new, it’s a good idea to purchase tools that can protect it from outdoor elements. For as low as $30, you can buy garden set covers (for patio furniture, etc). These covers are usually made of woven polyethylene. Get those that are washable and do not tear easily. Also be sure to check the stitching – it should be firm and long-lasting. Buy only garden furniture covers with big eyelets so that you can secure them to the ground during windy or stormy conditions.