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Garage Remodeling: Hiring A Professional Or Doing It Yourself

When it comes to your garage, taking on a renovation project is more than a great way to update your home’s exterior — it’s a great way to add to its value. According to Remodeling Magazine, adding on a garage provides an average 69.3% return on investment for homeowners, and replacing the garage door can yield as much as 83.7% in resale value. That’s why the question is less about whether or not you should update your garage and more about how. So what is the best way to remodel your garage? Should you hire a professional to take on the project or should you go at it alone? Is updating the garage a good do-it-yourself project or is it best left to the professionals? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at the differences between these two options. When you’re trying to decide how to take on a garage project, here’s what you need to know:

1.     Hiring a Professional — More Convenience but More Costs

Hiring a professional to handle your garage renovation means putting the project in the hands of someone who specializes in the job. This gives you more confidence that the end result will meet your expectations and more convenience as you can leave the work to someone else. As Ann Reagan says at, “If you don’t know a stud from a socket, hiring a professional is the way to go. Your contractor can handle all aspects of your garage remodeling project, hiring subcontractors as needed for things like plumbing and electrical.”  You won’t have to deal with the stress of learning new skills and potentially messing things up, and you’ll know everything from electrical work to wall demolition are done the way you want. Laura Gaskill of Houzz says, “Because of the precision required, installing a new garage door is best left to the pros. A professional will have the most experience at fitting and installing your garage door.”

One disadvantage to hiring a professional is that it is usually more expensive. So if you think you are savvy enough to know how to take on this kind of project, you could save a bundle by skipping the costs of professional help. For some homeowners, the initial investment required to replace garage doors or make improvements to the garage space will be prohibitive and keep them from even starting the project to begin with.

2.     Doing It Yourself — More Work but More Savings 

Whether you’re already an experienced handyman or just interested in teaching yourself new skills, taking on a garage remodel yourself can be a highly profitable undertaking. You’ll cut costs, gain or improve your skills and, assuming that everything goes well, still wind up with an improvement you enjoy. Generally speaking, unless you’re a very seasoned DIYer, there are some tasks that you can assume will be too hard to tackle, however, like electrical work (which most building professionals call “the No. 1 no-go for homeowners to handle,” says HGTV), along with plumbing or removing insulation. That said, the less you spend on a renovation, the easier it is to recoup your costs, so doing work yourself can be highly advantageous.

Despite the potential savings, the problem with taking on a garage remodel is the same problem you’ll encounter with any home renovation you do yourself — the work takes a lot of skill, a lot of time and a lot of effort. What’s more, you will probably need to obtain particular permits, especially if you’re doing big projects, such as adding electrical wiring or knocking out walls. While contractors are adept at getting these permits, as well as knowing which ones are needed, amateurs can easily get stumped.

Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to take on a home improvement project — whether it’s the garage, a bathroom or the kitchen — is a personal decision. The best answer will depend on how much you’re willing to do yourself, as well as how much you’re willing to outsource. In either case, upgrading your garage’s doors, floors, shelving or layout can be a wonderful investment, so evaluate how and when you’ll get started soon!


Author Bio

Vicki Clary is the Marketing Director for the semi homebuilder, Curtis Homes ( For over 50 years, Curtis has been providing premium homes and townhomes for Southern Maryland Communities.

DIY – Prepare Your Home for Greater Efficiency Before Winter

The only thing that you may be dreading more than the cold weather that is coming soon is having to pay the high heating costs that come with it. Fortunately, there are several ways that you can save money on your bill, and many of them are easy to implement.

Of course, the most straightforward thing that you can do is to simply turn down your thermostat. The general consensus is that your heating costs will go down about 3 percent for every degree that it is turned down. One significant way that you can save money by doing this is to turn it down about 10 degrees when you are at work and when you go to sleep as doing so should decrease your heating bill by about 15 percent.

Another way to save money is to ensure that the warm air that is inside remains there. Walk around your house, and make sure that you do not feel any drafts coming in from the outside. The most likely sources will be around doors and windows. Make sure to check your attic as well as much of the house’s heat is lost through this area of the house.

Some people will hold a lit match or incense stick and see where it flickers. This is especially useful if it is not winter yet as it may be more difficult to determine where these drafts may be located without being able to feel the chilly air streaming in.

There are several ways that you can close up these drafty openings.

One of the simplest and most affordable ways is to use a draft stopper. These are cheap – and oftentimes cute – items that can be simply placed in front of cracks that are at the bottom of places like doors and windows. They come in a variety of types and sizes.

A couple of other options include using weatherstripping or caulk. These are useful for taking care of any drafts not located next to the floor. You should consider replacing these forms of sealant every few years.

As much as you want to ensure that drafty openings are closed, you also want to make sure that you have not accidentally blocked vents that are bringing the heat in. This is often done when carpets or pieces of furniture have accidentally been placed over or in front of these openings.

Many do not realize that their ceiling fans can simply be switched to a reverse direction, which redistributes the warm air that has risen to near the ceiling back into the lower portions of the room where you and your family and friends are.

Some people decide to install double- or triple-pane windows or storm windows in order to provide an extra buffer between the warm inside of your house and the frigid air that is outside. Although these can be expensive to install, they usually pay for themselves within a couple of years and make a lot of financial sense in the long term.

Another more costly item you can install that will quickly pay for itself is a smart thermostat. This can be programmed to turn the heat up or down at certain times of the day and to control the climate in individual rooms. The latter option is great if there are rooms that are rarely used as you do not want to be spending money heating these portions of your home.

Even if you do not have a smart thermostat, make sure that you close off unused rooms by closing the vents that enter those places or otherwise cutting them off from the heat supply.

Another important step in reducing your heating bills is making sure that your heating system has been maintained recently as clogged filters significantly decrease its efficiency and dramatically increase your bill. In general, filters should be cleaned every few months and replaced every few years.

Water heaters are another place where people can save money on their heating costs. This is especially true if it is still set at 140 degrees, which is usually what it was when it was installed. If you decrease this to a still comfortable 120 degrees, you can save up to 10 percent on your water heating costs for the year.

By taking advantage of these recommendations, you will surely have a more efficient home this coming winter.

DIY – How to Properly Treat and Maintain your Wood Deck

Old and new decks require a certain amount of maintenance to ensure they hold up to weather abuse, such as rain, snow and direct sunlight. While sun damage produces a dry, weathered look, constant foot traffic also ages a deck’s appearance over time. Rain, dew and sprinklers cause water damage that leads to mold, mildew and rot. Spilled drinks, food and old leaves stain the wood and alter its appearance. With proper treatment and regular maintenance, you can make sure your deck looks good no matter what you or the weather throws at it.

Testing New Decks Before Applying Finish
Before you apply finish to your new deck, test it with a few water drops. If the wood absorbs the water within a few seconds, it’s ready for finish. If you’re unsure whether or not to apply finish, check the finish’s moisture content requirement, and use an electronic moisture meter to test the wood’s moisture level. Protect pressure-treated wood with finish as soon as it dries to prevent sun and water damage and to maintain the deck’s new appearance. While pressure-treated wood holds up well to rot and insect damage, it does deteriorate over time without a weather-resistant finish.

Caring for Your Deck
Before you apply any finish, remove furniture, plants and other items from the area. If you can’t move certain deck or ground plants, soak them with water for protection against chemical deck cleaners. After cleaning and sanding, apply the finish out of direct sunlight, as the steady heat may cause uneven application and streaking.

1. Clean the deck.
After you move the furniture and plants, prep the deck for cleaning. Sweep the entire surface, making sure to clean any debris that’s caught between the deck boards. Avoid using bleach alone to clean the deck since it only removes mold and mildew stains without treating the wood’s deep fibers. Apply a regular deck cleaner to the surface, and rinse it clean with a hose. Pressure-wash the deck if it still looks dirty after using the cleaner. Wait two or three days for the deck to dry completely.

2. Sand and repair the deck.
Once the deck dries, sand down any weathered, raised or splintered areas, making sure to sand away any leftover stains or burn marks that can show through the finish. If the faucet near the deck leaks or the sprinkler heads need relocating, make the necessary repairs and adjustments. Perform one final sweep of the deck before moving on to the last step.
3. Finish the deck.
With the cleaning and sanding out of the way, make sure you apply the finish on a cloudy day or when the deck is out of direct sunlight. Make sure the deck doesn’t feel hot to the touch, as a hot deck could lead to failure of the finish. If the surface temperature exceeds 75 degrees, wait until it cools. Afterward, apply the finish according to the manufacturer’s directions. Wait until it dries before placing your items back on the deck.

Maintaining the New Finish
Depending on exposure levels, expect to refinish the deck every six months or so. Under normal conditions, the finish should hold up for a year or two if the deck was already in good condition. Some signs that it’s time to refinish your deck include:

The deck coloring turns gray.
The boards look weathered.
Stains set deep within the wood’s fibers.
Splinters and raised bumps form over the surface.

Even if you maintain your deck every day, you have to watch out for insect infestations, such as termites and carpenter bees. These insects burrow into the wood and leave piles of sawdust around the deck railings. Make sure to monitor for insects and take preventative measures to ensure your finished deck not only withstands the onslaught of sun and rain but also common wood-boring pests.

DIY – How to Replace Damaged or Missing Siding

Compared to other siding materials, vinyl siding is fairly prone to damage. Intense heat and cold can both degrade vinyl. Cold spells can cause brittleness, hairline cracks and full-on breakage. When one needs to repair or install smaller vinyl sections, it isn’t always cost-effective to employ a repair professional. This type of repair can cost several hundred dollars. Fortunately, small siding repairs are fairly simple and easy, even for people with little previous experience in this realm. Many people never perform their own repairs because they feel these projects are beyond their abilities. With a careful, methodical attitude, successful repairs are possible for people of all different skill levels. Before beginning any step in this process, gather all necessary tools and materials.

01. Secure Matching Vinyl Siding
Depending on individual circumstances, this step is quick or painfully slow. Obviously, some types of textures and colors are easier to match than others. If possible, it is wise to save leftover pieces of vinyl after every siding installation. With extra material on hand, one can save a lot of time and effort. Siding supply firms can use samples to find customers matching siding. If all else fails, some specialty firms will analyze siding, make distributor referrals and even provide options for replacing discontinued siding.

02. Fit Siding Together
One advantage of vinyl is its flexibility. Vinyl siding will flex and move with temperature variations. Pieces of vinyl siding interlock snugly to keep out the elements. Siding is attached to a dwelling by driving nails into holes in the nail hem. During this process, it is important not to drive in nails until they directly contact the nail hem. Without room to move and change with climactic conditions, vinyl siding won’t last.

Failing to leave a sufficient gap is one of the most common mistakes made by those new to installing vinyl. For a long-lasting installation, leave a 1/32″ space between nail heads and siding. This is roughly the same width as a standard U.S dime.

03. Unlock Damaged Vinyl With A Zip Tool
Before a person can install fresh siding, they obviously need to remove damaged sections. Zip tools are simple tools used to unlock siding for removal. To use the zip tool, simply insert the curved edge of the tool’s blade beneath the edge of the overlapping panel, hooking securely on the back lip of the bottom edge or buttlock. Pull the zip tool down while simultaneously moving the tool from the panel’s end. Continue this process as long as is needed to separate the entire length of the siding panel. Repeat this process along the top and bottom edges of the panel being replaced.

04. Remove Nails And Cut Out The Damaged Siding
After disconnecting the top and bottom of the siding panel, the panel will flap freely in the wind. Next, use a pry bar to pry loose the nails securing the strip above the damaged section. With tin snips, carefully cut out the damaged vinyl section. This is another step during which it is easy to make a critical error. Use caution and avoid cutting the whole panels adjacent to the damaged section.

05. Cut And Install The New Siding Section
This is another step that requires careful execution. When engaged in do-it-yourself projects, it is usually helpful to focus on accuracy instead of speed. It is certainly worth taking extra time in order to do the job right. For an eye-pleasing final product, it is particularly important to cut straight right angles. Using a layout square can ensure cleaner, straighter angles. To minimize the chances of having an accident, use a utility knife that has a sharp, new blade. The section of replacement vinyl should measure roughly three inches longer than the removed piece, providing 1.5 inches of overlapping material on both ends. To ensure a good fit, trim approximately two inches from the nail helm on either side of the replacement section. Next, slide the replacement vinyl section into place. The replacement’s buttlock will hook neatly into the lock at the top of the section below.

06. Nailing In The Replacement Siding
Spacing the nails approximately 12 inches apart, position them in the center of the appropriate holes in the nail hem. Nail them into place while remembering to leave a 1/32″ space between the nail heads and the siding. Always use galvanized nails with heads at least 5/16″ in diameter. Make sure the nail shanks are lengthy enough to sink at least 3/4″ into the framing. After nailing, simply take a zip tool and relock the topmost edge of the siding.

These are the essential steps for replacing damaged or missing siding. The more one prepares for this do-it-yourself job, the better one’s chances of executing the project without any hitches. While text instructions and illustrations are useful, it can serve well to watch online instructional videos covering this topic. Actually watching someone perform this task is helpful for avoiding common mistakes and problems. It is also sensible to ask advice from acquaintances that have replaced vinyl siding or performed similar home improvement tasks.

Top HVAC System Efficiency Comparisons for Homeowners

In the list of must-have features in modern homes, a long-lasting and efficient HVAC system ranks up there alongside sturdy foundation and dependable roof. The home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system determines the home’s livability regardless of the time of year. Aside from altering indoor climate to cool it down or heat it up, the HVAC system plays an important role in preserving indoor air quality. However, efficiency is an aspect of the HVAC system that more homeowners are paying attention to. In this post, we wanted to spend some time sharing some research we performed on various HVAC efficiency ratings and data.

What an Efficient HVAC System can do for your Home

The primary function of the HVAC system is to maintain thermal comfort inside the home. In warmer climates, homeowners rely on the air conditioning system keep their homes comfortable. During the cold season, the heating system ensures that indoor temperatures can be maintained to comfortable and safe levels.

The ventilation part of the system promotes airflow to preserve air quality. It is also the part responsible for eliminating excess moisture to prevent mold development, the spread of airborne diseases, allergens and unpleasant odors.

Controlling indoor temperature also ensures preservation of heat and moisture-sensitive furnishings and accessories. Air conditioning and proper ventilation promote a healthy indoor environment.

Types of HVAC Systems

The design of the HVAC system will vary from one home to the next, depending on the homeowner’s requirements and preferences.

Window Unit

When space is limited or when the home’s design restricts retrofitting with air ducts, window units provide a solution. This enclosed unit includes an air cooling system, an exterior heat exchange and an interior heat exchange. Window units are practical options for smaller rooms, but these installations can interfere with the architectural style, create noise when operating and cause unsightly leaks.

The Split System

The split system consists of an outdoor unit containing the compressor and the condenser while the inside unit contains the evaporating coil. This centralized setup requires a motor blower to force the air to circulate. Most of today’s homes are designed for central air conditioning using the split design with duct work located in the ceiling, basement or attic.

Packaged Air Conditioning

A packaged HVAC system is a pre-assembled unit that can be used to control temperature and ventilate specific parts of the house but not the entire house. A typical packaged unit will have a capacity of 400 cubic feet per minute of airflow for every ton of refrigerant. A larger tonnage means larger capacity, but it will require the installation of duct work.

How to Choose HVAC Systems

A new HVAC system is a big-ticket purchase: The upfront costs are substantial whether it is an all-new installment or a replacement of an existing system. Choosing the right equipment will depend on many factors.

ASHRAE Standards

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers defined the standards for determining minimum ventilation rates, humidity and temperature ranges to make sure that enclosed spaces are fit for human occupancy. The HVAC industry uses the ASHRAE standard to recommend the type of equipment suitable to the given space. In residential buildings, the recommended rate of air change to maintain acceptable indoor air quality is .35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet per minute for every occupant.

Home Features Affect HVAC Design

Clearly, the size of the home and its design features has an impact on the choice of HVAC system. A report from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that the type of HVAC equipment installed will have a significant effect on system efficiency and maintenance costs. The report emphasizes that differences in local climate will affect choice of equipment.

Load calculation takes into consideration the roof style, ceiling heights and type of insulation among other factors. An oversized system wastes energy but will also run inefficiently because the system will not operate at peak performance. Home renovation guru Bob Vila recommends that the capacity of the system should not exceed 25 percent of the calculated heating load.


For HVAC equipment, SEER or seasonal energy efficiency ratio is an indication of how much energy is utilized for cooling. Higher SEER numbers mean more efficient systems with many of the newer models ranging from 10 to 18 SEER. Currently, 13 SEER is the required minimum in most states. The heating seasonal performance factor or HSPF measures heating pump efficiency.

The DOE’s Energy Star Program provides an additional framework for assessing energy efficiency of HVAC and other equipment. The program mandates the inclusion of an Energy Star label on most appliances. It is the bright yellow label attached to the unit that outlines key features, an estimate of annual fuel usage based on normal use and possible savings based on national energy costs.

Investing in Quality pays Off

HVAC systems come in a wide range of designs, features and prices. Opting for a system that offers longer warranties with a track record for durability and dependability may pay off in the long run even if the initial costs are higher. For these systems, energy efficiency, lower maintenance costs and design features such as quiet operations may be worth the extra costs.

According to, the average expected life of HVAC equipment are as follows:

HVAC components: 15 to 25 years
Furnace: 15 to 20 years
Heat pumps: 16 years
Air conditioning: 10 – 15 years
Thermostats: replace as the technology changes

Comparing HVAC Units

Choosing the right HVAC system for your home can be complicated given the range of choices available. The following table summarizes some of the essential features of the more popular HVAC brands.

Lennox CollectionAmerican Standard PlatinumCarrier Infinity SeriesTraneRheem
Noise generated by operation(decibels)5955657271
Compressor Parts & Warranty10-year limited warranty on compressor and other components, but some high-end models offer lifetime warranties.12-year warranty on compressor and 10 years on other parts.10-year warranty for the compressor and other parts although premium units may offer lifetime warranties.12-year warranty for the compressor and 10-year warranty on parts10-year unit replacement warranty and 10-year parts warranty.
Extra FeaturesSome models offer solar-ready capabilities and Wi-Fi enabled control features.The AccuComfort technology in American Standard HVAC systems is set up to adjust in fractional increments instead of on and off.Carrier units are weatherproofed with Weather Armor Ultra Protection to enhance durability and increase life span.Weatherproofing is standard on outdoor units. Higher-end units offer Comfort Link communications technology that can be configured to optimize performance and provide smartphone management.An onboard diagnostic system and fault history code is standard on some models. The system can be configured to send problem alerts to the thermostat.

How HVAC Efficiency Results in Savings

An efficient HVAC system is an investment that pays back over time. The initial costs will be hefty because it will include equipment and installation costs. Installation expenses will vary depending on the type of installation, geographic location and other restrictions. At the outset, it is important to work with a licensed HVAC contractor experienced in installation and replacement.

To understand how a more efficient system results in savings, consider this hypothetical situation:

A homeowner is trying to decide between a 10-SEER unit and a 14-SEER unit. Based on Energy Star information, the 10-SEER that costs 1500 will result in utility bills of $125 per month. The 14-SEER unit will cost $2300, but utility bills will be reduced to $90 monthly. By spending $800 extra on a more efficient system, the monthly bill is reduced by $35, which means the 14-SEER unit pays for itself in about 23 months.

Other factors such as durability and routine maintenance requirements will also affect return on investment. However, the most important decision factor has to do with how the HVAC system enhances the homeowners’ quality of life and enjoyment of their property.


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