Recouping Costs

Written March 18th, 2013

Cost vs. Value When Remodeling Your Home

Now that the housing market is once again on the upswing, perhaps you’re considering that remodeling project you’ve been dreaming about. In a down market, that kitchen remodel may not have been the best option. But now, with lower than ever interest rates and housing sales on the rise, the investment you make in your home today, will pay back not only in utility and function while you’re still occupying your home, but also in profit if or when you sell, making that remodel not such a bad idea after all.

We’ve looked at Remodeling magazine’s 2013 Cost vs. Value Report to get a better sense for just how big of a return you can expect from various projects. When looking at midrange remodels, twelve out of the twenty-two projects listed offer over 100% return on investment here in the Bay Area! That’s wonderful news for folks considering selling their home in the current market. Now, remember, we’re in a bubble here in the San Francisco Bay Area when it comes to property values and cost of living. A minor kitchen remodel here in Oakland might recoup 129% of costs whereas the national average yields only 75%. The report encompasses the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin Counties, comparing it to the national averages, which are significantly lower. The projects range from replacing the entry door to major kitchen remodels or family room additions.

Most of the projects offering the highest return on investment are ones that offer curb appeal such as front door and window replacement or a deck addition. Also critical upon entering a home is the status of the kitchen. Dated and tired looking kitchens offer no real value.

The top projects for return on investment are as follows:

  1. Entry Door Replacement (steel) – 131%
  2. Minor Kitchen Remodel – 129%
  3. Deck Addition (wood) – 129%
  4. Window Replacement (wood) – 121%
  5. Bathroom Remodel – 119%
  6. Attic Bedroom Remodel – 114%
  7. Major Kitchen Remodel – 107%

Now you can rest assured that taking on any one of these projects will certainly improve the value of your home not to mention your quality of life while you’re still residing there. If you have a spouse or partner that needs convincing to move forward on that remodel, show them the facts. These numbers are hard to resist.

Taking on a Kitchen Remodel

Written November 5th, 2012

Any kind of home remodel is a big deal and potentially a major disruption. Kitchen remodels are particularly so. For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of the home. In our house it is not only the place where meals are prepared and eaten, it is also where homework is done and, inevitably, most socializing takes place. Let’s face it, I practically live in our kitchen.

So timing and prior planning is everything when embarking on that kitchen remodel. Important considerations include weather, time of year, alternate kitchen space, and prior planning. Let’s look at a few of these starting with prior planning.

  • Kitchen Designer: Yes or No? The answer to this question depends on how extensive your remodel. If you are knocking out walls, moving appliances, adding new windows and doors, then we strongly suggest that, yes, a designer or architect is needed. Designers not only help you with thinking creatively about your space and drawing up your new floor plan, they are also a very valuable resource on materials, trends, function and style choices. They often will shop with you when choosing countertops or cabinets to help expedite the process. Designers also make the contractors job easier by ensuring that design and material decisions are made prior to construction. If you are just replacing cabinets and counters and updating appliances, then a designer may not be necessary. Cabinet makers and vendors often offer design services for laying out a basic kitchen and this may be all you need.
  • Time of year: Depending on if you’re moving exterior walls, weather will be an issue. If moving beyond the footprint of your current house, while not impossible, it may be wiser to stick to the dryer months of the year. Keep in mind, however, that family schedules should also be taken into consideration. If you’re remodeling in the summer and you have young children, will kids be out of school and potentially underfoot? When we remodeled our first kitchen, we tried to time it prior to the birth of our first child. We wanted all aspects of the project to be complete before our baby was born so as not to deal with the dust and mayhem of construction. Of course, this meant that I was dealing with a makeshift kitchen, construction smells, and general mayhem during morning sickness. Ugh! To this day, I can’t go to a Home Depot without feeling nauseous from the smell of saw dust.
  • To Move or Not to Move?: While moving out of your home during the kitchen remodel is preferable, this may not be an option. If you choose to stay in the house, the key is to ensure the worksite is as clean and contained as possible. We can set up makeshift kitchens in other areas of our client’s homes prior to demolition. These new kitchens, often moved into garage spaces, can include a temporary sink and washing area, cooking area with microwave, toaster oven and hot plates or camp stove. Construction zones are sealed off with heavy duty, sealed plastic walls or entryways, some with zippered closures. We’ve also found handy adhesive “doormats” which act like double stick tape to remove dust and debris from shoes before entering living areas.
  • Making Decisions: Try to make all style and material decisions before beginning your remodel. Choose as much is possible of your your cabinets, counters, hardware, flooring materials, paint colors, lighting choices, appliances, and fixtures prior to construction. This enables us to pre-order items so that work can continue without lengthy pauses while waiting for back-ordered materials.

The key to a successful kitchen remodel is not only a fabulous kitchen at the end, but also a seamless transition before, during, and into your new kitchen. Happy remodeling!

Choosing Bathroom Tile

Written October 16th, 2012

In planning our own bathroom remodel, choosing tile has been the most daunting. There are so many material choices, color and design options, and sizes. Then there’s the permanence of tile, unlike painting a wall, which can lead some to freeze, like me. Where does one begin?

Let’s break it down and look at the various decision-making factors:

  • Home style. The first, and easiest, determination, is general home style. What type of home or apartment do you have? Is it modern? Victorian? Arts and Crafts? The answer to this question will guide you in a general direction. For example, you likely would not use modern, large glass tiles in a Victorian bathroom.

  • Type. For floor tile, you want tile that is durable, strong, and slip resistant. Good choices here are: Stone, ceramic, porcelain, or even small, glass mosaic tiles. For wall and shower tile, these same options are good in addition to larger glass tile. Read up on types of tile for a more in depth description before deciding.
  • Size. One rule of thumb is that large bathrooms support large size tile better. If your space is small, consider penny or mosaic tile for the floor. If your shower is sizable, large square or rectangular tile fills a space nicely and can cut down on costs.
  • Colors. If looking for longevity, avoid trends. It’s best to stick with neutral colors such as white orearth tones and add
    pops of color and style with bathroom accessories such as towels and other decor. Or add color to small accent areas, such as trim in a shower or colored glass mosaic to frame a window or mirror. Or, you might choose a full white palette, with three dimensional accents, as in this bath remodel on Clover drive. Here the client opted for timeless all white tile, choosing to add pops of color with towels, wall paint and other accessories.
  • Maintenance. Keep in mind cleaning and maintenance when choosing your tile. Porous and textured stone tile may need to be sealed and maintained. Large glass tile will streak and may show water stains and will need to be wiped down or squeegeed daily. Small tile requires more grout and may be more difficult to clean. Be realistic about how frequently you clean your bathroom when choosing your tile. Check out Tile Cleaning for more information on maintaining tile.
  • Grout. These days there are many different colors to choose from when it comes to grout samples and each will give your tile a different look. Color will determine if the eye is drawn to the individual beauty of each tile or to the overall pattern or placement. By matching grout to tile color, the tile itself is accentuated. Contrasting grout color with tile, draws attention to the overall layout of the tile. This cool Grout Selection Tool that lets you see the impact grout colors have on various tiles.

Finally, get samples! Just like paint, the lighting in your bathroom can change the look of your tile choice. It’s important to see how it looks in the room you are using it in. If choosing floor tile, lay the sample on the floor in the pattern you like to see how the lighting effects the color and position. Most tile stores will give samples or sell tile in small amounts.

Closets to Bathrooms

Written October 3rd, 2012

One of the closets in Oakland remodel used for conversion.

After a long summer hiatus away from our new blog, we’re back with more remodeling news to get you excited about your next big remodel. We’ve been busily remodeling lots of bathrooms and, true, there was a lovely vacation to Spain in there too, so it wasn’t all work. Perhaps in a future blog we’ll show some pictures . . .

When space is at a premium in your home and an addition isn’t an option, it’s time to look with new eyes at closets and other hidden nooks that can be transformed into more usable space. Right now we’re working with two Bay Area clients that are converting closets into bathrooms.

Our Oakland client and repeat customer is a family of four with one bathroom where their two growing boys dominate. As the boys move into their teenage years, Mom longs for an ever-clean bathroom to call her own. By thinking creatively, they envisioned converting a small entry closet and the closet pictured at right which is directly behind it into a small but highly functional full bath.

The new bathroom, at 4′ x 9′, is just enough space to squeeze in a wall mount toilet, sink, and a decently sized corner shower. Short on space, but long on style, our clients opted for natural stone with glass accents for their tile and an enduring woodgrain porcelain for floor tiles. The custom shower is a neutral tumbled marble with airy sea mist blue glass accent strips. The result is elegance, serenity, and beauty–something she desperately needs in a house with three growing boys.

In our Berkeley project, we’ll add a master bath in a space that was previously a tiny closet and somewhat larger nondescript storage space off the bedroom. The tiny closet will become a dedicated toilet room with pocket door into the bathroom. The new bathroom will have a decently sized steam shower and vanity.

The lesson here is to think creatively about how you use the space in your home. There may be hidden gems of space that can be better utilized.

Latest Trend in Bathroom Remodels?

Written March 16th, 2012

We’re noticing a new trend lately in the standard bathroom remodel. And, it’s not something we would have guessed. It seems that families whose kids are grown and out of the house are opting for eliminating their bathtubs and either adding a larger shower or requesting a custom built hybrid style bath/shower. In one of our larger remodels for 2011, where we completely redid two full bathrooms, kitchen, and a bedroom, the client opted to remove two full size bathtubs. In the main bathroom for the house, we added a fully tiled, walk-in corner shower with bench seating in its place. For the second bath, in an in-law unit, we built a custom hybrid style bath/shower with low walls and a higher bench, also elegantly tiled. See the Clover Baths page for photos.

Another large remodel job in 2011 with kitchen and bath included a walk-in shower in Alameda. This client opted for a shower that could be fully wheelchair accessible. The end result is a beautiful, fully tiled large shower with no curb, making for a smooth transition from bathroom floor to shower.

We’re about to embark on another project in Berkeley where the client has requested their tub be removed and a full shower installed in it’s place. The shower will have a prefab, marble shower pan with tile walls and, like the others, bench seating.

In my own home we considered replacing our main bathroom, which currently has a tub and separate shower stall with a fully tiled decorative roman style bath that included a shower. But with two kids who still largely prefer baths, we opted to go with a more modern looking Duravit tub with tiled walls for a shower. When we start that job, we’ll keep you posted on the progress in our blog. Though, as my wife says, contractors families are like the cobblers kids with no shoes. While we have the materials and know-how to remodel our own bathroom, actually doing it is another matter entirely.