Five common mistakes

Tantalizing Thanksgiving Trivia Questions

If you dread those awkward moments around the Thanksgiving dinner table when the conversation drags, here are a few trivia questions that can get things going again.

  • How long have Americans celebrated Thanksgiving? This is a trick question. Although the tradition extends back to the days of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until President Lincoln declared it such in 1863.
  • According to Pilgrim etiquette, which fork should be used for turkey? The Pilgrims didn’t use forks! The instrument was introduced by Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts 10 years after the first Thanksgiving and didn’t gain popularity until the 18th century.
  • What’s the connection between Thanksgiving and football? In 1934 G.A. Richards purchased the Detroit Lions.  In an attempt to build up the team’s fan base, he scheduled a game against the world champion Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day. The game sold out and was also broadcast live on radio. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you need more trivia questions, you can find them here!

Avoiding Calamity in the Kitchen: 5 Common Kitchen Design Mistakes

November means Thanksgiving dinner for many of us – and that means spending plenty of time in the kitchen. Here are five common mistakes homeowners make when remodeling their kitchens.

  1. Open Shelving Overload: Having open shelving is a somewhat new trend, but sometimes homeowners have too much of it. Not everything needs to be on display. Use it sparingly to highlight certain items. Too much “openness” makes things look cluttered.
  1. Stainless Saturation: Stainless steel remains very popular for kitchens. But using too much stainless steel robs your kitchen of warmth and can make it look like a morgue!
  1. Outlet Shortage: It’s easy to think that you have “plenty” of electrical outlets in the kitchen – until you actually want to plug things in. Make sure you include plenty of places to plug in.
  1. Trash Happens: Let’s face it: Kitchens generate a fair amount of trash. If you don’t plan for a place to hide it away, it’s going to be out there for everyone to see.  Plan a place for trash to live.
  1. Inadequate Lighting: Your kitchen needs different kinds of lighting. Make sure you plan for task lighting and for ambient (mood) lighting!

Forget Long Black Friday Lines – This Is a Bigger Problem!

Roto-Rooter says incoming calls surge 50 percent the Friday after Thanksgiving, because of Thanksgiving plumbing jams. Here are a few quick tips to save you from calling the plumber:

  • Don’t pour fat, grease, or cooking oils down the drain. Use paper towels to wipe grease from pots and throw them in the trash.
  • Keep fibrous and starchy waste (poultry skins, celery, fruit & potato peels) out of the garbage disposal.
  • Run your disposal before you put food into it instead of waiting until it’s full.
  • Wait 15 minutes between showers to allow slow drains to clear.

Don’t Be in a Hurry

October is More Than Jack-o-Lanterns

For many of us, the first thing we think about when we see the calendar turn to October is Halloween. The grocery stores have had Halloween candy for sale since August. Big box stores have had candy and costumes on display for almost that long. But Halloween isn’t until the end of the month.

There’s lots of other good stuff that happens before then. People living in the northern part of the US generally see the first frost and get to watch the leaves starting to turn. If you live in the south, the temperatures have begun to be bearable (and the snowbirds haven’t arrived, yet!). All across the country, Starbucks offers pumpkin lattes. And baseball fans settle in for the World Series (while football and basketball fans are getting their yearly fix of their sport of preference). There’s a lot more to enjoy in October than just the last day of the month!

Successful Home Remodeling: Don’t Be in a Hurry to Jump to the End. Take it One Step at a Time.

When it comes to remodeling our homes, a lot of homeowners tend to jump to the end of the project. It’s understandable. They get excited about how the new kitchen, bath, or family room will look, so they focus on the finishing touches such as cabinets, flooring, molding, and fixtures. Those are all important things, but the real keys to a successful home remodeling project begins long before the finishing touches are added.

While you want a remodeling project to leave your home looking better, the real goal is to make your home feel more comfortable and be more functional. But that doesn’t happen without planning. How do you go about planning your home remodel? It’s a bit of a challenge—particularly if you haven’t done it before. Here are three simple steps that can help.

  • Know What You Want: Sometimes homeowners know they want to make a change, but they aren’t sure what that change should look like. Create a list of things you like about your current home and then make a second list of specific things you’d like to change. You don’t have to come up with the solution—just what results you want. For instance: More workspace in the kitchen. More light in the family room. Open space between the kitchen and family room. A multiple space room that doubles as a guest bedroom and a home office. Be as specific as possible.
  • Gather Ideas and Information: Once you’ve identified what you want to do, look around for ideas that fit your personality and sense of style. is packed with ideas for updating and remodeling your home, and you can search for ideas by room. is also a great source of ideas, as is Pinterest. You don’t have to mimic what you see—just gather ideas.
  • Talk to Us: This is where you begin to turn your ideas and wishes into reality. Take your “wish list” and photos from your online search and ask us what it will take to make that happen. We can advise you about the feasibility (can you even do what you want in your current home). We may also give you other ideas that are more practical for your situation. And finally, we can usually help you set a realistic budget for what you want to accomplish, and how long it will take.

Again, don’t be in a hurry to jump to the end of the project. There are lots of good things to enjoy at the beginning of the process. And if you take care of those, you’ll be happier with the end results!

What’s October All About?

If you’re wondering about the real meaning of October, it’s pretty clear—at least to the retailers: It’s the start of the holiday shopping season! (We hope you enjoy your fall without worrying about what the retailers say!)

It’s September. Are You Prepared?

September is National Preparedness Month – a month when all of us are reminded to make simple plans that can have a huge impact if we’re faced with natural disasters. This year, will focus on a different theme each week:

  • Week 1:  September 1-5th – Flood
  • Week 2:  September 6-12th – Wildfire
  • Week 3:  September 13-19th – Hurricane
  • Week 4:  September 14-26th – Power Outage

And while nobody likes to think about emergencies, a small amount of preparation can mean the difference between safety and disaster. Click here for more information about how to prepare your home and family to stay safe in difficult times.

Home Remodeling: Are You Ready For Some Football (or the New Fall Shows)?

September also is a great time to prepare your home for some serious fall television viewing.  Whether you’re anticipating watching the World Series, the kick-off of the NFL or college football seasons, or the newest batch of fall shows, you’ll want to do it in comfort and style.

Ah, but where will you watch? More and more families want to enjoy the pleasures of big screen entertainment – without having to sacrifice the comfort and style of their family rooms to do so. That probably means creating a great family entertainment room. But there’s more to doing that than just buying a big screen T.V. and hauling it down to the basement or into the spare bedroom.

If you decide to use an existing room for this important space, you’ll want to make sure that space is really ready to be turned into a comfortable place where people enjoy being. That means proper lighting, wiring, flooring, and perhaps even plumbing. Can you reinvent the room by putting built-in shelving between the studs? By doing that, you can dramatically increase your storage space without losing any of the room’s square footage.

And if you’re planning an entertainment room, don’t limit yourself to TV viewing. Think about other activities such as gaming, crafts, karaoke, or whatever you enjoy. And talk with us about creating the best plan to get the most out of your family entertainment center. The better your plan, the better the result.

Don’t settle for “just a place to watch the game.” Make sure your family entertainment room is a place you, your family, and your friends love to hang out!

How Big Is Big Enough? Choosing the Right Size Screen For Your Entertainment Room.

No matter where you build your new entertainment room – or whatever else you use it for – being able to watch movies, sports, or your favorite shows will still be a big part of the room’s use.

So what size screen should you put in your new room?  While some say, “Bigger is better,” that only goes so far. Your budget, of course, is an important factor. But size and distance both matter.

In most homes people sit about 9 feet away from the screen. For that distance, THX (The Home Entertainment experts) recommend anything from a 60” to a 90” screen. If your room is a little smaller, and you’re sitting about 4-6 feet away a 40” screen should be big enough. Click here to check out their other recommendations – including screen height.

Remodeling Lessons from the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, in the northern Indian city of Agra is without question one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The majority of the structure—commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1632—took 11 years to complete and additions to the project went on for another 10 years.  Approximately 20,000 artisans were employed to create and decorate the building, which cost an estimated $827 million (in 2015 dollars). Roughly 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year.

Most of us don’t have the building or remodeling budget that Shah Jahan had. And we generally can’t afford to wait for 21 years to complete a project. There are, however some lessons we can pick up from this spectacular building.

  • Great Design Never Goes Out of Style: The Taj Mahal was completed more that 350 years ago, but millions of people flock to see it every year because of its exquisite beauty. When you’re considering a remodeling of your home, good design is an essential. Fads (including home design fads) will come and go, but quality design will ensure that you end up with remodeling results that still look good years from now. That’s why it’s important not to rush the design part of the remodeling process. Make sure you have a design you’ll be happy with when the project is done—and for years down the road.
  • The Importance of Form and Function: When you look at the Taj Mahal, it’s easy to imagine you’re looking at some grand palace. In fact the building is a mausoleum—a monument built to honor the memory of the shah’s wife. It is an enduring reminder of his love for her. When you remodel your home, you’re not building a monument—but you probably have a specific reason for making some changes. It can be easy to get wrapped up in details during the remodeling process, but it’s important that you (and your remodeler) stay true to the purpose for which you’re doing the remodeling. Focus on the function. What are you trying to accomplish with your kitchen or bath remodeling?  Make sure you communicate that to your contractor early on. Remodeling is all about making your home more comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Details Do Matter: As impressive as the Taj Mahal is from a distance, it’s the attention to detail—both on the exterior and in the interior—that really make this structure so remarkable. When you choose a remodeler for your home, make sure you pick someone who will pay attention to the details that make a difference when the project is complete. You don’t have to strive for absolute perfection, but you also don’t settle for “close enough.”

Three Important Documents for Your Home Remodeling Project

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were without question two of the most important documents in the building of our country. There are also some very important documents you should pay attention to when you’re remodeling your home.

1. Your Contract: The contract you sign with your remodeler spells out all the terms and conditions involved in doing the remodeling work. It covers price, materials, schedule, and a host of other things. This document exists to protect both you and us, so don’t be in a rush to sign it. Verbal communication about your expectations and commitments can be misunderstood. Your written contract spells everything out in detail and makes sure everyone involved are on the same page.

2. Your Plan/Design: The plan/design for your project is your chance to visualize how the new remodeling will look. This is helpful because sometimes seeing the plan/design laid out gives you a clearer idea of what’s really happening. And it’s better to make changes at the planning stage rather than during the construction phase.

3. Your Change Order Form: Let’s be honest, sometimes changes do happen in the middle of a project. Some may be small changes – some may be more significant. A change order form spells out exactly what the change is, what it will cost, and how it may affect the schedule. Once again, it makes sure everything is clear and all parties are on the same page.

These documents are essential to making sure your home remodeling delivers the results you want, so read them carefully before signing your “John Hancock!”

The Key to Keeping Remodeling Under Control

june_planningIf you’re thinking about remodeling your home you’re probably not considering anything that approaches the scope of what took place at the Truman White House. You may be thinking more along the lines of remodeling your kitchen, your master bathroom, or opening up space inside your home to give it a roomier, more spacious feel.

Your remodeling project, however, will share two elements with the White House renovation: A timeline and a budget.

As remodelers, two of the most common questions we hear are: “How much will this cost?” and “How long will this take?” The good news is that there is a simple key to keeping your remodeling project on schedule and within budget: Planning.

It sounds simple, but it’s so important. Good planning for a remodeling project begins with you. You need to figure out exactly what it is you want. This involves more than simply looking at great pictures on or HGTV (although, you can glean some really great ideas that way). Planning means identifying how you want your home to better fit your lifestyle.

Do you want to entertain in your kitchen? Do you want to do more gourmet cooking? Do you simply want more space—or more efficiency in your kitchen?

Do you want to create a spa-like atmosphere in your master bath so you can retreat? Or perhaps you’re thinking about the future and you want to create a master bathroom that looks beautiful but will also be easily accessible as you get older.

Another part of planning is creating a realistic budget. The idea here isn’t to see how cheaply you can build something. The idea is to determine what you can really afford to pay and still get the value (quality) you want. You don’t want to spend more than you should, but you don’t want to cut corners (which will end up costing you more later).

Once you’ve decided what you want and how much your budget should be – or if you have questions – sit down with us. As a professional remodeler, we’re trained to solve those kinds of problems. We may have ideas and solutions you hadn’t considered. And we’ll be able to give you a pretty accurate estimate for how long it will take and what it will cost.

Planning ahead yourself and then planning together with us will help you keep your remodeling project under control.

Great results, on time, and on budget

May is also a great month for home remodeling.

For some homeowners, however, facing a remodeling project feels like the Mexican army facing the French army: They feel overwhelmed and ill equipped. That’s when working with a professional remodeler like us really helps. We can help you come up with a “battle plan” for tackling what can feel like insurmountable odds.

Here are some of the key components of that “battle plan.”

  • Project Goals and Scope: We can help you map out exactly what you want to accomplish. You tell us what you want to achieve and we can come up with the plan for making that happen. You don’t have to figure out how to do it—that’s our job. We are trained to come up with solutions that you might not even consider.
  • Budget: Together, we need to arrive at a realistic budget for the project. Realistic is a key word here. You don’t want to pay more than you can or should. But your goal isn’t to see how cheaply you can get the job done. You want to get the job done right at a fair price.
  • Schedule: We can also provide you with a schedule for how long your project should take. While projecting an exact date is tricky, we will have a solid idea of when the project can be completed. If you have a specific date in mind (for a wedding reception or a birthday celebration), make sure you share that up front. That can alleviate a lot of stress later.

With the right remodeling team in place and some thoughtful planning, you can take on any remodeling project and end up with great results, on time, and on budget. Now that’s worth celebrating!

Everybody will cut you some slack

Two simple steps can help you choose wisely instead of foolishly.

1. Identify a Problem or Something That Needs Improvement: The whole purpose of remodeling is to increase the comfort and convenience of your home.

First you need to figure out what you don’t like (the problem) and then identify how you want things to improve. You don’t have to figure out how to make it happen. You just have to identify what the problem is and what you want things to be like once the problem is solved.

Here are a couple of examples of what that might look like:

  • Problem: Master Bathroom is crowded and dark and it’s a pain to get ready for work in the morning when sharing a sink.
  • Solution: More space; a double sink, and more light (natural light if possible)
  • Problem: Kitchen feels crowded, dark, and cut off from dining area. It’s not ideal for entertaining guests.
  • Solution: Open up kitchen space; redesign configuration for more efficiency; open up view to dining area; bring in more light.

 2. Establish Priorities: You may have several things you’d like to do, but what are your priorities? What should you do first? It can be helpful to think in terms of “Must-Haves” (things that are really essential) and “Nice-to-Haves” (things you’d like to do if you have the time and money). Let’s use the kitchen project above as an example.

  • Must-Have: A more efficient kitchen with enough room for family to eat together.
  • Nice-to-Have: A larger, dramatic-looking kitchen with top-end appliances, and more space to entertain guests.

Again, you don’t have to come up with the solution. You need to communicate your priorities to us. But go ahead and share your “Nice-to-Haves” as well. Sometimes we may be able to satisfy your “must-have” needs, and some of your “nice-to-have” needs at the same time.

April 1st may be a fun time to enjoy foolish pranks, but wise homeowners identify their real needs and then prioritize which ones to work on.

A brilliant person came up with this concept

More Than Hearts, Flowers, and Chocolates
Chances are that when you think of February, Valentine’s Day is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a nice image: hearts, flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinners.

It wasn’t always that way. The Old English term for February was Solmonath – or “mud month!” The folks at Hallmark are eternally grateful that this particular moniker didn’t catch on.

For a lot of homeowners, dealing with mud is a much bigger problem than picking out flowers or chocolates. And mud isn’t something that’s restricted to one day in February. It’s something many of us face throughout the year.

Of course that’s why some brilliant person came up with the concept of the mudroom – to keep mud (and other dirt) out of the home. But your mudroom doesn’t have to be dirty and dingy. Installing larger windows can really brighten it up and make it a more inviting entrance into your home. And it’s a logical place to add increased storage in what could be considered “wasted” space.

It’s also a great place to put your washer and dryer so that you don’t have to haul laundry down to the basement and back up again. And if you’re a dog owner, you might even want to install a sink for washing the dog (which you can also use for other clean-up projects as well).

Maybe the Old English were onto something after all. February may not be “mud month” where you live, but it’s a good time to think about adding a mudroom—or remodeling the one you have to get more out of it.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Looking Back and Looking Forward
Even those of us who don’t write out a list of New Year’s resolutions tend to look at January as a time of new beginnings and fresh opportunities. In fact, January takes its name from Janus. In ancient Rome, it was Janus who guarded the gate to the New Year. He was often depicted as having two faces (as shown here on this Roman coin): One looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new one. The beginning of a New Year is a great time to think about new beginnings for your home. But like Janus, you may want to take a quick look back at your home (and specifically how you’ve used it in the past) before you start making plans for the future.

Coming off the holiday season, you probably have some pretty clear impressions of what it was like to entertain larger groups of people. What did you like about hosting company in your existing home? What was frustrating? Would you do more entertaining if your home was better able to accommodate guests?

Perhaps the first home remodeling project that comes to homeowners’ minds is the kitchen—because so much social activity revolves around the kitchen today. Would having a bigger—or even just a more efficient—kitchen make it more enjoyable to host guests in your home? A redesigned kitchen can have a huge impact on your whole home. And while this involves more than just a “face-lift” that a fresh coat of paint provides, it also delivers a lot more in the way of enjoyment.

Or maybe you felt a little cramped in your family room over the holidays and you’re thinking it would be nice to open up the space between your kitchen and your family room. Creating an open, airy space like this is something else that can change the whole character of your house.  And while it may sound a bit intimidating (and you don’t want to start knocking out walls without having a professional check the structural integrity first), there are few renovations that have such a dramatic affect.

So as you enter the New Year, take a cue from Janus and give a quick look back at what you liked or didn’t like about your home and then look forward to what you’d like to change.

The problem with winter sports is that—follow me closely here—they generally take place in winter
– Dave Barry