Watch a few remodeling shows, and the idea of buying a fixer-upper suddenly seems like a great do-it-yourself project — you gain equity, get to customize everything to your tastes and, if everything goes well, wind up saving a chunk of money in the process.
What could be better? Before you jump into the world of home renovations, do you truly have the budget you need to do it right? Like it or not, there are usually unexpected expenses in every remodeling project, even when you do a lot yourself and try to plan for everything. Whether you’re buying a property to remodel or looking to upgrade your current space, it’s important to keep in mind what costs can easily add up:
- Calling the Professionals: Sure, even the least handy homeowners can buy paint and start rolling, but when it comes to bigger projects like knocking down walls or replacing kitchen countertops, most people will need to hire a professional. Before you leap headfirst into a costly remodel, get quotes from various contractors to learn what it realistically costs to get the job done. “An important step to take when moving from the remodeling fantasy phase to reality is signing a fixed-cost agreement with your contractor,” says Lisa Kaplan Gordon at Houselogic. “The contract should include a detailed scope of work” so that you minimize the amount of miscommunications and extra costs. If, during this estimating process, you find you’re going to have to spend upward of $40,000 to gut and rehab the kitchen, for example, is it truly worth the expense? Will hiring still give you the remodeling savings you’d hoped for? If not, maybe you’re not ready to take the project on.
- Experiencing a Learning Curve: Unless you’re already a professional contractor, you can expect to deal with some kind of learning curve when you’re rehabbing parts of your home yourself. A lot of projects, from tearing down walls to adding an island, are harder than they appear. Maybe you will have no trouble mastering the new toilet installation or tile removal, or maybe it will take several tries and several return trips to the hardware store before you understand what you’re supposed to do. The extra time and products involved in teaching yourself new skills usually are not negligible, so make sure you factor them into your project remodeling costs.
- Dealing with Delays: No matter how well you plan the timeline for your project, you should always expect delays. “Remodeling projects can test patience to extreme levels,” says Brennan Windows. That’s why, “when you set a project timeline, [you should] tack on at least a few weeks to account for any delays from bad weather or product issues.” Unexpected problems with plumbing, your house’s structure, equipment damage, or a host of other things can all delay progress. Likewise, anything that you have to hire someone for, from an order of granite countertops to a plumbing project estimated to take three days, can wind up taking longer than you thought. These delays can up your project expenses, particularly if you’re under any kind of crunch with living arrangements or moving dates.
- Taking on Too Much: Generally speaking, there are some projects that most people can try — painting the walls, sanding cabinets, resurfacing floors — and some that require specialized skill. If you bite off more than you can chew, you can bet you’ll spend more than you bargained for. Whether you have to hire someone to fix your mistakes or just end up paying twice for equipment and supplies, taking on more than you’re qualified to handle usually won’t save you money in the long run.
If, after considering the unexpected expenses of a home remodeling project, you still want to take it on, there is good news for you: “research shows that kitchen remodeling can increase the value of your home by 10 to 15 percent,” according to Kendra Y. Mims at SheKnows Media, “and remodeling other rooms can also increase home value.” In other words, there’s a lot of potential gain from a remodeling project that goes right.
In order to make the most of your efforts, always weigh the investment against the potential increase in value. If you know remodeling the kitchen can boost your home value by $20,000, for example, spending less than that to remodel — whether on your own or with professionals — is a much easier choice to make. Though whatever you decide, go into the project with a cushion in your budget and your timeline, flexibility and an open mind.
Mike Dulla is the president and founder of United Home Loans, which was founded in 2002. United Home Loans has been in business since 2002 and has closed over 10,000 loans with over $2.5 billion in total closed loan volume. Learn more about United Home Loans at http://www.uhloans.com.
You’ve settled on a new home! Whether you’re building or buying, it’s a time of great excitement and hopes for the future. Acquiring a new home goes hand in hand with the desire to live a better lifestyle than before. For many new homeowners, this includes living more sustainably.
Here are some top picks for eco-friendly improvements that you can incorporate into your new home. Or, if your home already has sustainable features, use them to make it even greener.
1. Insulate the basement.
Most contractors and homeowners now understand the value of wall and attic insulation. However, did you know that up to 40 percent of the heat loss in a building can take place through the basement? Many people, including contractors, are reluctant to insulate basements. This is because in the past, incorrectly installed basement insulation projects created serious moisture and mold issues in many homes. However, by using modern, approved methods for basement insulation, you can avoid these problems. A properly insulated basement not only reduces your energy bills, it also becomes more pleasant, usable space. Just be sure whoever installs your basement insulation is familiar with proper vapor barrier placement and other basement insulation best practices.
2. Make smart landscaping choices.
Good landscaping can make the difference between a good looking home and a stunning one, but it can also affect your eco footprint. Well-placed trees and shrubs can help reduce your energy bills by sheltering your home from summer heat and/or chilling winds. Planting native species that can handle the climate in your area with minimal care can reduce your water bill dramatically, as well as provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Plus, installing water conservation devices such as rain barrels or weather-smart irrigation controllers will also help save water and keep your yard looking great without spending a bundle on water.
3. Choose eco-friendly materials.
Whether you’re building a deck, replacing a floor, or choosing the perfect pavement for your new drive, don’t just choose the first material that strikes your fancy. Do your research and find out what materials may be available that will suit your needs with less impact on the environment. Consider locally made, recycled, reclaimed and natural materials. You may be surprised at how affordable and/or beautiful some of these can be.
4. Lighten your lighting.
Did you know that on average, Americans spend 14 percent of their household electricity dollars on lighting alone? One of the best ways to shave your lighting costs is to build more daylighting into your home. Skylights and light tubes are easy to install and will pay for themselves over time. If you are building new, be sure to orient your home and place your windows to take advantage of available sunlight. Installing LED bulbs is another investment that will save you money over time. Also, be sure to put any exterior lighting on a timer or use motion sensor devices so that the lights will only be on when you need them.
5. Go green with solar.
Yes, it’s a big investment, but nothing displays your commitment to a green lifestyle like solar panels on your roof. A photovoltaic or solar hot water system will pay for itself in a few years. After that, it will provide you with free electricity or hot water for decades. With renewable energy incentives still in place in many areas, and creative financing for solar becoming more common, you might be surprised how affordable it can be, too.
Going green in your new home is not just the right thing to do; eco-friendly choices often are healthier for your family. They can improve your home’s appearance and comfort level, and, smart green choices can save you a lot of money in the long run. Go ahead — make your new home as green as can be.
Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Maryland based solar company.
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 Porch.com, “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!
Vicki Clary is the Marketing Director for the semi homebuilder, Curtis Homes (http://www.curtishomes.com). For over 50 years, Curtis has been providing premium homes and townhomes for Southern Maryland Communities.
Reroofing your house is a major investment. The choices you make will affect your family’s comfort and the value of your home as well as your bank balance. When researching roofing materials, take a long-term view. Consider not only the initial costs but also the life span, energy efficiency and environmental impact of your final decision. Metal sheet goods and shingles are very versatile and durable materials that compare favorably to other roofing options over the life cycle of your roof.
The Types of Metal Roofing
The most common types of metal roofing include galvanized steel, aluminum, copper and stainless steel. In general, metal roofing lasts from 35 years to around 200 (Haddock, 2004). In comparison, you may need to replace other materials such as asphalt shingles and wood shakes in as little as 20 years. Metal is fireproof, recyclable and environmentally friendly (Flamholtz, 1984). The primary drawback of metal roofing is its initial expense.
Metal materials are available in rolled sheets, shingles and tiles. Some products feature several color choices. Manufacturers offer stamped and shaped metal materials that resemble cedar shakes, clay tiles or slate as well as the traditional standing-seam panels.
Galvanized Steel Roofing
Galvanized steel roofing is a corrugated sheet metal product that you see on industrial and agricultural buildings as well as on homes. This material typically has a non-corrosive coating, consisting primarily of zinc, that impedes rust (“Corrugated galvanised iron,” 2014).
The pros of corrugated metal roofing include:
• Rust resistant coating
• Lasts 60 years or more
• Lower cost than other metal roofing
The main cons of this roofing material are:
• Industrial-type appearance
• Will rust where coating wears off
• Prone to salt damage in coastal areas
Aluminum roofing, unlike steel, withstands the corrosive challenges of salt water, so it is a better choice for coastal properties. Aluminum is a lightweight yet softer metal that is subject to denting, so it may not be appropriate in high-wind locations (Vandervort, 2013).
The pros of aluminum roofing consist of:
• Naturally non-corrosive
• Requires no painting
The cons of this material include:
• Average life expectancy of 35 years
• Soft metal mars more easily
• Higher cost
Copper roofing is impervious to rust and does not require protective coatings like galvanized steel and aluminum do. Although more expensive than most other roofing metals, copper is economical in terms of low maintenance and longevity. Copper roofing is particularly adaptable to architectural elements like domes and curved dormers because it is soft and flexible. Over time, the bright penny-toned surfaces develop a greenish patina (“Roofing systems,” 2014).
Among the advantages of copper roofing are:
• Low maintenance
The cons include:
• Easily dented
• Loses luster over time
Stainless Steel Roofing
Corrosion resistant and durable, stainless steel roofing tops such edifices such as the Chrysler Building in New York City. Because of its strength, stainless steel roofing is thinner than some other metal roofing and thus relatively light in weight, so it doesn’t put excess stress on your roof’s understructure. Austenitic stainless steel roofing contains approximately 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel. It forms its own protective coating when the chromium reacts with oxygen in the air (“Roofing: the technical guide,” 2014).
The pros of stainless steel roofing include:
• Low maintenance
Among the drawbacks are:
• Oxidation turns the shiny surface to a dull gray
• One color
Climatic Considerations When Choosing Roof Materials
Be sure to consider your regional climate when choosing new roofing materials. If you live in a high temperature zone, reflective metal roofing is a smart decision. It repels the heat of the sun before it can make your house intolerably warm. This saves on air conditioning costs.
Some aluminum and steel roofing with optimal solar reflective properties is Energy Star compliant, cutting down on cooling demand during peak usage periods by 10-15 percent (“Roof products,” 2014). In contrast, standard asphalt composition shingles absorb heat and trap it within the home, adding several degrees to the interior temperature. Composition roofing typically deteriorates faster in hot climates too.
In the winter, snow slides easily off metal roofing, reducing stress on the structure and eliminating buildup that could cause destructive ice dams. While some metal roofs do not have as much insulating power as built-up materials like asphalt shingles, they can perform well in cool conditions with adequate insulation.
Environmental Benefits of Metal Roofing
Most metal roofing contains a minimum of 25 percent recycled material (“Energy efficiency,” 2014). Unlike composite roofing, metal roofing is completely recyclable when removed from your home, so it helps cut down on the volume of solid waste in landfills. Because metal products help deflect the heat of the sun, your indoor living spaces require less cooling, saving on energy. In addition, many metal roof products meet or exceed local energy efficiency building standards.
The Final Factor: The Cost of a New Metal Roof
The cost of the roof is likely to be the decisive factor when you make a final decision. In general, metal roof materials cost between two and three times more than standard composition shingles. However, the life cycle cost, including all roof expenses from installation to demolition, is a more practical way to judge what you will pay.
Roofing installers typically charge per “square,” an area equivalent to 100 square feet. An average cost per square for roofing materials and installation is $350, but this varies according to geographic area. For example, a 50 x 30-foot standing seam metal roof in New England costs about 10 percent more than the national average while the same roof in the South Atlantic region costs about 10 percent less (Roof installation prices, 2013).
Low maintenance, energy savings and longevity may more than balance out initial reroofing costs. In fact, the expected life span of a new roof is more relevant in calculating its life cycle cost than the expense of materials and labor (“Calculating the life cycle cost,” 2012). Additional factors that pare down overall cost include energy savings and any tax credits for qualifying materials.
From a life cycle perspective, metal roofing measures up well compared to other materials. With a life expectancy ranging from decades to centuries, an ability to repel punishing solar rays, very low maintenance and complete recyclability, metal roofing turns out to be a wise choice overall for your home, your budget and your environment.
Calculating the life cycle cost of a roof (2012). Buildings, March 26, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.buildings.com/article-details/articleid/13816/title/calculating-the-life-cycle-cost-of-a-roof.aspx
Corrugated galvanised iron (2014). Wikipedia, April 28, 2014. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrugated_galvanised_iron
Energy efficiency (2014). Metal Roofing Alliance, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.metalroofing.com/v2/content/metal-roofing/energy-efficiency.cfm#recycling
Flamholtz, Cathy J. (1984). Metal roofing pros and cons. Mother Earth News, March/April 1984. Retrieved from http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-homes/metal-roofing-pros-and-cons-zmaz84mazgoe.aspx#axzz35gSpmGMo
Haddock, Rob. Metal roofing from a to z (2004). Interface, May 2004. Retrieved from http://www.rci-online.org/interface/2004-05-haddock.pdf
Roof installation prices guide (2013). Roof Calculator, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.roofcalc.org/roof-installation-prices/
Roof products for consumers (2014). EnergyStar, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.energystar.gov/certified-products/detail/roof_products
Roofing: the technical guide to stainless steel roofing. The European
Stainless Steel Development Association, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.euro-inox.org/htm/p_5_EN.html
Roofing systems (2014). Copper Development Association. Retrieved from http://www.copper.org/applications/architecture/arch_dhb/arch-details/roofing/
Vandervort, Don (2013). “Types of metal roofing materials,” Hometips, July 22, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.hometips.com/buying-guides/metal-roofing-materials.html
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.
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.
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 CNN.com, 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 Collection||American Standard Platinum||Carrier Infinity Series||Trane||Rheem|
|Noise generated by operation(decibels)||59||55||65||72||71|
|Compressor Parts & Warranty||10-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 parts||10-year unit replacement warranty and 10-year parts warranty.|
|Extra Features||Some 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.