Author Archives: Cari

About Cari

Cari Barron, owner and founder of Contractor Hotline, purchased a home in need of various repairs in 2002. The process to find a quality home remodeling contractor proved to be a complex challenge. The first-hand experience was the inspiration behind founding Contractor Hotline in 2006. Connect with her on Google+

Home Energy Audits

Home energy audits help us understand how much energy a home uses and identify ways to improve its efficiency. There are many things you can do on your own, such as caulk and weather strip around doors and windows or wrap exposed water pipes. Many homes, however, are so inefficient that even after completing the more obvious improvements, there are still many ways to further reduce your home’s energy consumption and increase comfort.

A professional audit can cost upwards of $400 or more, but when used wisely can pay for itself in a short amount of time. If this is out of your budget, there are do-it-yourself alternatives. For starters, there are easy online surveys such as Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick. The survey compares your home’s efficiency to similar homes in your area. A more comprehensive self-study is the Home Energy Saver.

While an online audit can be a good starting point, it is no substitute for a home inspection by a professional energy auditor. A Home Energy Audit is an investment to help you determine the best steps to increase your home’s efficiency.

The many benefits to a Home Energy Audit and related improvements include:

• Improved comfort & safety

• Enhanced appearance

• Increased salability

• Reduced environmental impact

• Assists in tenant retention of investment property

Many home improvements, such as adding insulation or replacing the furnace, can be costly. Having an audit conducted before making these improvements will help you prioritize the best approach for long-term value. It doesn’t do much good to install a new heating system if the air leaks have not been addressed. Planning a remodel? Having an audit completed before starting a remodel will help you plan and incorporate energy saving upgrades into your project.

Following are things to consider when determining if your home operates as efficiently as it could.

• Is your home comfortable during hot and cold seasons?

• Are your energy bills excessive?

• Does the HVAC system run constantly to maintain a desired temperature?

• Are there drafty rooms or variable temperatures throughout the house?

• Are the floors cold in the winter?

• Is moisture on the windows?

• Do you have excessive dust?

A thorough inspection will determine what components are negatively affecting the comfort and efficiency of your home. Based on the inspection results, you should have a good understanding of recommended repairs and improvements, along with an idea of estimated costs and potential annual savings in energy bills.

A professional auditor uses a variety of techniques and equipment to determine the energy efficiency of your home. A thorough audit will include:

• Blower Door Test (used to de-pressurize the home and expose air leaks)

• Infrared Camera (reveals hard-to-detect air leaks or missing insulation)

• Combustion Safety Testing (detects carbon monoxide leaks)

• Complete Basement to Attic Inspection

• Survey of Appliances & Lighting Systems

The following video Energy 101: Home Energy Assessment provided by the Department of Energy explains each of these steps in detail.

Home Energy Audits alone won’t save energy. The results of the audit will help prioritize repairs and put a short or long-term plan in place, depending on the extent of improvements needed and your budget.

A Home Energy Auditor should be certified through either the Building Performance Institute (BPI) or Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Both BPI and RESNET have set standards for home energy professionals and are recognized by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. View a list of certified BPI accredited contractors near you.

Seattle City Light customers have many options to save money and energy for both their home and business. For more information visit the Home Energy Solutions page of their website or call an Energy Advisor at 206-684-3800.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) offers its customers a variety of rebates for energy efficient products and services. You may request a referral for a PSE Recommended Energy Professional (REP). For more details, contact a PSE Energy Advisor at 1-800-562-1482.

Snohomish County PUD offers customers with electric heat a variety of rebates and special offers toward energy-saving home improvements. These include heat pumps, insulation, windows, duct sealing, and more. Contact the Energy Hotline with questions at 425-783-1700.

Beware – Energy Saving Scams! Snohomish County PUD warns of scams committed by phone, mail, text, and even in-person visits to homes and businesses. If you received a notice in the mail, someone visited your home or business, or you received a text or phone message demanding payment of an unpaid bill, please beware. Call 425-783-1000 for more details to report or avoid becoming a victim of an energy saving scam.

Home Improvement Cost vs. Value

Have you ever wondered what a kitchen or bathroom remodel may cost these days? Or what type of home improvements are likely to bring the highest return on your investment?

The Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value report is a valuable resource for any homeowner. The information will help you budget realistically and know when a contractor is providing a fair proposal. Perhaps your goal is to make improvements that are the best value. The report will help with that, too.

As in prior years, exterior improvements such as new siding and garage door replacement remain at the top of the list. Interestingly though, this year a new improvement has made the list. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) ranks second place in Seattle for highest return on investment. Technology has evolved significantly as demand increases for electric heat pumps. If warmer temperatures have you thinking of adding AC to your home, now might be a great time to consider this project.

According to the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report, the following top five projects in Seattle are expected to bring the largest return on investment.

Download the free Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) to see all 23 featured projects and a more in-depth scope of work and cost. Input your zip code for details that even more closely resemble those projects in your neighborhood.

Siding Replacement | Fiber-Cement

According to the Cost vs. Value Report, this improvement can yield a whopping 151.3% return on investment. It includes replacing 1,250 square feet of siding with new fiber-cement that has been factory primed and painted. Now that’s good value!

HVAC Conversion | Electrification

Converting from a fossil-fuel-burning furnace to an electric heat pump is next on the list with a potential 103.4% return on investment. The example reflects adding an electric heat pump for heating and cooling a 2,000-square foot-home.

Siding Replacement | Vinyl

Upgrading your home with new vinyl siding rates as the third highest value investment. This improvement could yield a return as high as 99.2%. It includes replacing 1250 square feet of siding with factory trim around openings and at corners.

Grand Entrance | Fiberglass

Nothing makes a positive impact on a home’s street appeal quite like a stately front entry. The example includes a ‘grand’ entrance upgrade from a standard 3-0 door to a fiberglass door with a wider opening to accommodate dual sidelights, new threshold, lockset, and decorative half-glass to match sidelights. This investment in your home’s entry is expected to bring an 89.6% return.

Garage Door Replacement

Lastly, replacing the garage door ranks fifth on the list with an anticipated return of 88.7%. This investment includes replacing an older 16×7-foot garage door and tracks with a new, four-section, insulated, high-tensile steel door, with a lifetime warranty. Includes new heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks (reusing existing motorized opener), factory-applied paint, thermal panel seals, and insulated windows in the top panel.

© 2023 Zonda Media, a Delaware Corporation. Complete data from the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.

Exterior Home Care

Winter is hard on homes. Spring is fast approaching and the best time to inspect your home’s exterior for damage or wear.

Start with a visual assessment from top to bottom and compile a list of any noticeable damage or areas that need attention. Pay special attention to the roof and gutters, siding, paint, windows and doors, chimney, the deck or porch, and fences.

Roof & Gutters

The roof and gutters are a home’s first line of defense against the elements. Maintaining them will protect your home and help to prevent future costly repairs.

During your inspection, look for curling, buckling, cracked, or missing shingles. Ensure flashing is firmly adhered around skylights, vent pipes, and chimneys. Clean debris from roof and valleys. Apply moss retardant, if needed. Ensure gutters are secure and correctly sloped for proper drainage. Clean gutters and downspouts to prevent leaks and back-up. Seal all gutter seams where leaks are evident.

If you suspect any concerns, or your roof is nearing 20 years old, you should have a professional inspection.

Siding

We don’t often think about maintaining siding until we see mildew, cracks or holes, and even broken or missing pieces. With a little preventive care, siding upkeep or repairs will be minimal, the product will last much longer, and the outside of the home will continue to look its best (think curb appeal!). The proper siding can also increase energy efficiency and the home’s value.

Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is an affordable, resilient, and versatile product. Although mostly maintenance free, vinyl siding must be checked regularly for cracks and broken or missing pieces. Clean regularly to prevent dirt and mildew build-up.

Fiber-Cement Siding

Fiber-cement siding is a cost-effective material that emulates wood and requires little maintenance. Annual inspections are recommended to spot any cracked or broken siding. Cleaning when needed with a low-pressure garden hose is usually adequate. Avoid pressure washing.

Cedar Siding

Cedar or wood siding is a popular choice in the Pacific Northwest. Make sure it is properly sealed or painted as moisture is wood’s worst enemy. Termites or other pests can be detrimental; regular inspections are recommended. Other things to look for are cracks or breaks in the wood, which can lead to moisture leaks.

While every type of siding requires slightly different care the most important thing is to prevent moisture from getting past the siding, thus shortening the lifespan of the product and its effectiveness to protect the home.

Paint

Exterior paint is more than just for show. In addition to providing a visual pop, a quality exterior paint acts as a protective layer.

Regular inspections help to identify problem areas early, before siding and trim begin to deteriorate. Staying on top of minor repairs, replacing worn caulking, and regular touch-up painting helps maximize the overall life of the paint job.

Chimney Care

Although not all homes have a chimney, those that do are often older so maintaining it is even more important. If you use a wood burning fireplace regularly, the chimney should be cleaned and inspected annually. Doing so in the spring will beat the fall rush (and may save you money by avoiding the high season).

From the outside, inspect for any mortar or brick damage. Cracked or crumbling mortar should be removed and replaced, known as re-pointing. If you find significant mortar or brick damage it is generally best to consult with a professional.

Decks

When the first warm days of summer arrive, you’ll be grateful your deck is ready to BBQ or to simply relax and enjoy the weather. A thorough cleaning and inspection is the first step.
Different types of decks require slightly different cleaning methods. Choose an appropriate cleaner for your type of deck. They vary for wood and composite surfaces. Most of the time a soft to medium bristle brush or push broom is a sufficient tool, followed by a rinse with the garden hose. If using a pressure washer, avoid damaging the deck by using the right tip or nozzle for the job.

Once the deck is clean, inspect for rot. Make sure all wood posts, beams, planks, and stairs are secure. Re-secure or replace any loose, broken, or rotted sections. Apply a protective sealer to wood decks.

Fences

Walk the full perimeter of the fence and check for any weak spots, loose nails or planks, or loose and damaged posts. Re-secure or replace any loose or damaged portions.
If your fence is constructed of wood, mildew can be a nuisance. Scrub the fence with a mildew cleaner to prevent build-up. If you want to give your fence a facelift and extend its longevity, paint or stain the fence every few years.

Have Some Fun

Home maintenance doesn’t have to be all work. While you’re at it, use the opportunity to enhance your personal outdoor space in ways you will enjoy for years to come.

An easy and inexpensive way to make the most of your outdoor space is to add or build a fire pit. A cozy fire extends the amount of time you can comfortably spend outdoors and provides a conversational gathering place for family and guests.

Ensure your backyard and deck have ample lighting to keep the party vibes high. The choices are endless from landscape lighting, to LED patio lights, to solar options.

If you really want to go all out, consider an outdoor kitchen. This more substantial improvement will elevate your dining experience and create a space for year-round entertainment.

Making exterior home maintenance part of your spring routine will keep your home well-maintained and looking beautiful. Preventive care saves time and money in the long run.

Composite deck

Outdoor Living Spaces

The advent of ‘streateries’ as a solution to indoor dining restrictions inspired innovative ways to maximize outdoor spaces. Demand for outdoor living space at home gained traction and remains a popular improvement. Depending on available space and budget, the opportunities to elevate your outdoor experience are endless.

Is dining alfresco something you enjoy? Consider converting an underutilized area into an outdoor dining location.

Perhaps add or convert a patio or deck into an outdoor kitchen. With some thoughtful overhead protection and a source of warmth, enjoying the great outdoors year-round is a practical expectation.

A simple outdoor fire pit creates a cozy spot to gather with friends and family after sunset.

These are just a few ways to elevate your outdoor living experience.

DECKS & PATIOS

Decks & patios add value to the home and provide a variety of uses. They are the perfect location for a table and chairs or container gardening.

Traditional wood decks can be less expensive to construct than an engineered deck but require regular maintenance.

Decks made from engineered products, such as Trex or Azek cost a bit more initially, yet longer-lasting and easy to maintain.

Some popular types of patios are stamped concrete and paver patios. Stamped concrete is a popular option because of the beautiful aesthetics and durability. Re-sealing is recommended every three to five years.

Paver patios are another good choice for a long-term solution. Paver patios require minimal maintenance, anti-slip, and durable. Design options are unlimited.

OUTDOOR KITCHEN

Do you love to cook and entertain? Enhance the alfresco dining experience even further by combining a love of cooking and entertaining with an outdoor kitchen. Adding a kitchen is a larger commitment and investment. Like a patio, it adds value to your home and entertaining options.

Outdoor kitchens are designed to withstand exposure, within reason. Typically, they are constructed with some type of overhead cover and open air on the sides. This design, along with a heat source, allows for maximum use nearly year-round.

An outdoor kitchen will need to have water and electricity, and possibly natural gas or propane. Construction and zoning rules are considerations for this type of project. Working with a certified home improvement contractor who specializes in outdoor upgrades will be helpful.

SUN PROTECTION & LIGHTING

Keep in mind how your outdoor space will serve you, day and night. By day, you might want protection from the sun. Just type in sunshades or awnings in your favorite browser. You will be amazed at the variety of designs and options available.

After dark, outdoor lighting plays a large part in the ambience and usefulness of your space. Experiment to find that perfect balance of not having to play hide and seek with your guests while maintaining a soothing glow on those warm summer nights.

Don’t forget about pathways. Strategically placed solar stake lights are inexpensive and will help avoid anyone tripping on the journey to your outdoor mecca.

FIRE PITS

Another source of light and warmth is an outdoor fire pit. Adding a fire pit to your patio or outdoor kitchen pulls everything, and everyone, together. Common options are gas and wood burning fire pits. Gas is clean and easy to light and doesn’t give off smoke.

If you enjoy a natural flame, then a traditional wood burning fire pit may be a desirable choice. Be sure to check your city’s zoning rules to see if wood burning fire pits are allowed. Consider how a wood burning fire pit may impact your neighbors, as well.

Any of these outdoor enhancements are a guaranteed way to sizzle up your summer and expand your home’s living space. Even the smallest updates can elevate the outdoor experience for you, your family, and your guests.

For larger projects, such as a kitchen, deck, or concrete patio installation, we recommend you consult with a certified contractor who specializes in that specific type of outdoor renovation.

Off-Season Savings

If you hired a home improvement contractor in the last few years you likely experienced some sticker shock and delays getting your job scheduled. Many things contribute to this ongoing challenge. While we can’t control a lot of it, there are some things we can do to minimize scheduling delays and possibly save some money. Understanding what drives some of these setbacks is helpful.

For starters, contractors in Western Washington are in high demand. One long, ongoing challenge has been finding experienced, skilled labor to hire. For many years, there has been a shortage of skilled labor in Seattle and the surrounding area. Contractors must pay higher wages and benefits to attract and retain good employees. This affects both contractor availability (or lack thereof) and the cost of doing business.

Another factor is material costs. The cost of construction materials was high before supply shortages further aggravated price increases. Inflation and supply interruptions have driven up the cost of lumber, steel and aluminum, concrete, gypsum, and plastic products, to name a few. These increases add up on a sizable remodeling project or upgrade.

These reasons, among many others, affect contractor availability and the increased costs associated with home improvement. If you are willing to get a little creative, there are ways to get around some of this.

OFF-SEASON SAVINGS

Many trades have a high and low season. Scheduling your projects during the off-season whenever possible is worth considering. Doing so will minimize scheduling delays and could save you money. Some trades even offer discounts during the off-season. Be sure to ask!

HEATING & AIR-CONDITIONING (HVAC)

The non-heating and non-cooling seasons are the best time to schedule tune-ups, repairs, or new installs of these systems. Typically, HVAC companies provide both heating and cooling services. Aim to have the heating system serviced in the warmer seasons and the air-conditioning in the cooler seasons.

CHIMNEY CLEANING & REPAIR

Chimney cleaning is a great summer project. Oftentimes this important maintenance project is overlooked until it is time to stoke up that first fire. By then, the chimney sweeps are booked for weeks. Thinking of adding an insert? Summer is also an optimal time to refurbish or reface the fireplace or have an existing insert serviced.

PAINTING

Exterior painting is seasonal in Western Washington. There isn’t a lot we can do about that. If you need your house painted it will be done as weather allows. The key take-away is to plan ahead. By late spring, most painter’s schedules will be booked for the summer. To ensure your job is completed while the weather allows, start getting bids in late winter and get your job scheduled by April or May, latest.

On the flip side, interior painting can be done year-round. However, unless you hire a painter that specializes in or prefers interior painting, you may have a hard time getting a painter’s time and attention during the summer season. If you can, plan your interior painting projects outside of the peak summer months.

KITCHEN & BATH REMODELS

Remodeling contractors don’t have much down time these days. That said, there is still a spike in spring and a slow-down in late fall and winter for many types of remodeling projects. Many folks don’t want their home to be a construction zone during the winter holidays. This can be a tremendous opportunity to get your remodeling project completed timely and with less competition than the rest of the year. If it is an option, crash someone else’s home for the holidays or plan a well-deserved vacation and take advantage of this window of time. Keep in mind, a remodel requires some advance planning. Ideally, by summer your plans have been finalized and you are scheduled with your contractor of choice for a fall or winter start date.

DECKS & FENCES

The call for deck and fence repair and new installations peak in spring and summer. The first warm days of spring beckon us outdoors, perhaps reminding us that our deck or fence is in a state of disrepair. By then, deck and fencing contractors are flooded with calls. Get in line. If you are lucky, you might get your deck completed in time to enjoy the final dog days of summer. Those same contractors would love your business in the winter. Fall is a great time to start talking with contractors. They are winding down from summer and able to start scheduling winter projects. Your project will be completed and ready to enjoy by the time the first warm days of spring arrive.

ROOFING

We don’t always think of replacing a roof outside of summer, and for good reason. You certainly do not want to expose your home to adverse weather conditions. A reputable roofing contractor won’t either. Most roofs can be removed in a matter of hours promptly followed by the installation of a waterproof felt paper. It usually only requires one reliably dry day for this procedure. The new roofing material can be installed during inclement weather. Most roofs will be completed in less than a week, start to finish. There are many opportunities throughout fall, winter, and spring where the weather cooperates for this often overlooked ‘seasonal’ project.

 

Smart Home Improvement Planning

Whether planning a small home improvement or a large-scale remodel, cost is always an important consideration. It is important to know what you can expect to recoup from that investment when the time comes to sell your home.

According to the 2022 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), following are the top five projects in Seattle expected to bring the most value at resale. Download the free report to see all 22 featured projects and a more in-depth scope of work. Input your zip code for details that more closely resemble those projects in your neighborhood.

Garage Door Replacement

According to the Cost vs.Value Report, replacing the garage door tops the list with a potential 99% return on investment. This is up slightly from 98% in 2021.

It includes the replacement of an older garage door and tracks with a new, four-section, insulated, high-tensile steel door, with lifetime warranty. Includes new heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks (reusing existing motorized opener), factory-applied paint, thermal panel seals, insulated windows in the top panel, galvanized steel hinges, and ball-bearing urethane rollers.

Average cost $4,130 (up from $4,068 in 2021).

Average resale value $4,088.

Manufactured Stone Veneer

The second project with the highest possible return includes adding a stone veneer accent to the front of the home. This relatively modest investment can dramatically change the exterior and increase curb appeal.

At a significant potential return of 92.1%, this upgrade has great value. The example includes removing 300 square feet of vinyl siding from the entire bottom third of the front of the home. Replace with a manufactured stone veneer, two layers of water-resistant barrier over bare sheathing, corrosion-resistant lath and fasteners, and a ½ inch mortar scratch coat and setting bed. Outline arched entry.

Average cost $11,755 (up from $11,265 in 2021).

Average resale value $10,831.

Siding Replacement (vinyl)

Upgrading your home with with new vinyl siding rates as the third highest value investment. This improvement could yield a return as high as 87.2%. It includes replacing 1250 square feet of siding with factory trim around openings and at corners.

Another popular siding product is fiber-cement. Coming in just slightly below vinyl it still carries a significant 84.6% return. The example includes the same specifications as above in addition to being factory primed and painted before installation.

Average cost $21,608 (up from $19,620 in 2021).

Average resale value $18,847 – Vinyl.

Average cost $25,601 (up from $23,240 in 2021).

Average resale value $21,663 – Fiber-cement.

Minor Kitchen Remodel – Midrange

Coming in at number four is a modest remodel of a 200 square foot kitchen that is currently functional but in need of cosmetic updates.

Leaving the cabinet boxes intact it includes replacing the cabinet and drawer fronts with shaker style wood panels and new hardware. Replace laminate countertops, sink, faucet, flooring. Paint ceiling, walls and trim. Replace cook top/oven range and refrigerator with new energy-efficient models.

Being careful to stay within a modest budget this type of remodel could yield an 86.8% return.

Average cost $30,942 (up from $29,183 in 2021).

Average resale value $26,845.

Window Replacement (Vinyl)

We all know how important first impressions can be. It’s no wonder that four of the five top improvements all enhance a home’s street appeal.

The last, but not least improvement includes replacing ten, older 3×5 double-hung windows. New windows are insulated, low-E and include simulated-divided-light panes and custom exterior paint finish. Exterior trim to match existing; interior trim is not disturbed.

This upgrade is expected to bring an 86.6% return on investment.

Upgrade from vinyl to wood windows with the same specifications as above and see just a slightly less return at 83.5%.

Average cost $21,698 (up from $20,788).

Average resale value $18,798 – Vinyl

Average cost $25,407 (up from $24,539).

Average resale value $21,207 – Wood

“©2022 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2022 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.”

Evergreen Spring Home Show, Apr 22, 23, 24

Home show season is back and better than ever. The former Everett Home Show is now the Evergreen Spring Home Show, located at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds Event Center in Monroe. We hope to see you there April 22, 23, 24. Free parking, low admission rates, and plenty of fun and new exhibits await you. Click here for more details.

Planning a Successful Remodel

Successfully pulling off a large-scale home improvement project requires careful planning. You may spend hours, weeks, and even months working on preliminary design and choosing finish materials. Just as important, if not the most critical part of a successful remodel, is hiring the right contractor to execute your plan.

Following are some considerations when planning a remodel and deciding who to hire. Taking time to go through these steps will greatly improve the chance of your project being completed to your satisfaction.

Design

The first step involves working with an architect or designer to create a conceptual design you can share with prospective contractors.

This first phase provides a rough idea of your overall project and allows you to explore estimated budget numbers and timeline. Expect to pay a fee for this service. However, it will be much less than the cost of a detailed set of building plans.

Some remodeling or design/build firms provide in-house design services. Others collaborate with business partners who specialize in design and architecture. If you don’t already have a contact for design, this can be a convenient alternative. In this case, you will typically pay an upfront fee as well. If you proceed with the same contracting firm for the construction portion, there will later be a construction proposal and contract.

Whichever direction you take, this first step is necessary to establish a budget and to begin seriously vetting contractors.

Interview Contractors

You could be working closely with a contractor in your home for many months. Selecting a professional who is experienced with your type of project and has an agreeable personality are both important considerations.

Take a few minutes initially on the phone with each prospective contractor to help determine who you want to consider for your project.

  • Have they worked on similar projects as yours?
  • Do they provide references?
  • Will they share financial references from suppliers?
  • What is their availability?

Narrow it down to a few contractors who satisfied your initial questions and schedule an appointment to meet in person.

In the meantime, check with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Better Business Bureau for any disputes with clients or subcontractors. For video instructions on how to verify a contractor in Washington State, click here.

Review Budget Proposal

In your initial meeting, be prepared to share your design concept with prospective contractors. From this preliminary design, the contractor can provide a budget proposal and estimated time to complete the project. A budget proposal is usually provided with no monetary obligation. The exception may be when working with a design/build firm as there may be billable hours to create your initial plans.

If the project exceeds your budget or will take longer to complete than you can allow, now is the time to revise your plan.

If the budget proposal meets your expectations, you are ready to decide on a contractor.

Choose a Contractor

Review the list of questions from your initial phone interview and request references or other supporting documentation. Don’t rely on testimonials, speak with their references.

Ask if you can see a finished project or visit an active job site.

  • Does the job site appear safe?
  • Are subcontractors and employees professional and courteous?
  • Are proper measures being taken to protect the homeowner’s property?

At this point, you should feel confident in your decision and ready to proceed toward a contractual agreement.

Complete Building Plans & Proposal

Once you decide on your contractor the next step is to finalize the building plans. Typically, you, your designer, and your contractor will collaborate to prepare a comprehensive set of building plans that include material selections and finishes. Depending on the complexity of the project, this process can take 50-200 professional hours to complete.

A detailed construction proposal is prepared from the final building plans. It should include a scope of work, materials needed/agreed upon, subcontractors to be used, estimated time to complete the project, price, permit fees, payment terms, warranties, and procedures for change orders.

Finalize a Contract

A typical contract includes the detailed proposal, proof of liability insurance, a security or performance bond, start date and projected completion date, and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. For residential jobs over $1000, the contractor must provide the property owner a Disclosure Statement, outlining the customer’s rights and responsibilities and information regarding liens.

Work in Progress

Once the job is underway, take time to meet with your contractor regularly to ensure the work is progressing according to the contract and schedule. Check that proper permits have been obtained and required inspections are conducted.

Once the project is complete, do a final walk-through with the contractor. Make sure any items on the punch list are completed before making final payment. If you request lien release documents, avoid making final payment until you have received the lien release.

Our expertise is matching customers with the most appropriate service professional for their home improvement project. Let us know how we can help by completing our online Work Request.

Home Health & Safety

Pest Control

Routine pest control of rodents and insects is an important part of your home maintenance. Left unchecked, pests such as rats, ants, bees, and roaches pose health risks to your family and can cause substantial damage to your home.

There are steps you can take to help keep your home healthy and free of pests. If you need help sealing openings or have a pest problem, your local pest control service can assist.

Outdoors

  • Keep outdoor garbage cans sealed with a tight-fitting lid.
  •  Pet food bowls should be brought indoors overnight.
  • Compost is an attractive food source for pests. Consider a closed compost bin system.
  •  Seal any cracks and holes on your home’s exterior, top to bottom. Look for gaps around attic vents, soffits, foundation, crawl space covers and vents, doors, windows, and where plumbing and utility lines enter the home. Secure screens over attic and crawl space vents.
  • Cut back vegetation to prevent contact with your home’s structure.
  • Keep firewood stacked off the ground and away from the house.

Indoors

  • Pests are often attracted to water sources. Repair any plumbing leaks around appliances, fixtures, and piping in the crawl space.
  • Store food in sealed containers. Keep kitchen countertops and sink clean and free of food waste.
  • Seal openings around windows, doors, in the attic and crawl space, and where utilities enter the home – the same places you identified around the outside.

 Tree Maintenance

Trees require ongoing care to keep them strong and healthy. A diseased or damaged tree can be a danger to you and your property. Trees and other vegetation growing near your home also provide easy roof access for rodents and raccoons. Larger tree work is best left to the professionals.

  • Take special care to have any dead or diseased branches removed from trees that may fall and cause injury, damage property, or take down power lines.
  • Trim back limbs or vegetation extending over the roof and gutters. This helps to prevent potential damage from a falling limb and limits rodent access.

Fireplace & Chimney Care

Nothing is more inviting on a chilly evening than relaxing in front of a cozy fire. Whether you have a traditional wood burning, gas, or electric fireplace, there is a certain amount of maintenance required to keep them functioning properly and safely.

For more information visit American Lifestyle’s Fireplace Maintenance Tips, by Nathan Smith.

Wood Burning Fireplace

  • Have the chimney inspected and cleaned annually, especially if you use a wood stove or fireplace regularly. On average, the chimney should be cleaned after every two cords of seasoned, dry wood is burned.
  • Clean the firebox weekly during the burning season. Take caution that the coals have cooled (at least 12 hours) before disposing. Use a metal ash can for added safety.
  • Always have a glass or metal screen in front of the firebox to block sparks and embers.

Gas Fireplace

  • Your gas fireplace should be cleaned and serviced annually. This will include an inspection for gas leaks and proper ventilation.
  • Carefully vacuum the inside of the fireplace monthly to prevent dust build up. Clean doors with fireplace glass cleaner.
  • Check the gas connection regularly to ensure it is secure.
  • Periodically check the external vent to ensure there are no obstructions.

Electric Fireplace

  • Electric fireplaces require the least amount of maintenance. Other than periodically checking the electrical cord for fraying or damage, you can enjoy this type of low maintenance fireplace worry free.
  • Dust the vents and full appliance as needed.

 Dryer Duct Cleaning

  • Clogged dryer ducts can be a fire hazard. Clean the dryer duct annually and clean the lint trap after each load of laundry.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms

According to South County Fire, most deadly house fires occur during the night when you are sleeping. Smoke alarms provide early warning and save lives.

  • Test smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries annually, or sooner if needed.
  • Install a smoke alarm in each bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every floor of your home.
  • Replace smoke and CO alarms when 10 years old, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Fires

Modern, open floor plans and newer furnishings made of synthetic materials often contribute to how quickly fires spread.

  • Sleep with bedroom doors CLOSED to help slow the spread of fire and reduce heat and smoke exposure.
  • Minutes matter! Prepare and practice a home fire escape plan at least twice a year with everyone in the household. If possible, identify at least two ways out of each room.
  • Check for damaged electrical cords and avoid overloading electrical outlets or extension cords. Do not place cords and wires under rugs or across high traffic areas.

Visit South County Fire for helpful resources and more lifesaving tips.

Emergency Kit

Prepare an emergency kit for you and your family in the event of a power outage or other emergency. This kit will be helpful even during temporary power outages.

  • Your kit should include at least a three-day supply of food, water, medications, pet supplies, flashlight, battery-powered radio, spare batteries, and a first aid kit.
  • Emergency kits can also be purchased at the Red Cross Store.

If you need assistance with any projects or upgrades, we can connect you with the appropriate service professionals for your specific needs. Just let us know how we can help by completing our online Work Request.

Best Value Home Improvement Projects

As we near the half-way mark of 2021 you may be thinking of home improvement projects you want to tackle yet this year. Now, more than ever, planning and budgeting is important.

The great thing is, you don’t have to research for hours to have a good understanding of what different projects cost and what you can expect to recoup on your investment. The Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) is a concise and accurate tool, all in one easy to navigate report.

Featured below are the top 5 projects in Seattle. Download the free Cost vs. Value Report to see all 22 featured projects and a more in-depth scope of work for each. Input your zip code for information that more closely resembles those projects in your neighborhood.

Garage Door Replacement

Garage Door Replacement

We all know the importance of first impressions. It’s no wonder four of the five top improvements all enhance street appeal. According to the Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com), replacing the garage door tops the list with a potential 98% return on investment.

The example includes replacement of an older garage door and tracks with a new, four-section, insulated, high-tensile steel door, with lifetime warranty. Includes new heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks (reusing existing motorized opener), factory-applied paint, thermal panel seals, insulated windows in the top panel, galvanized steel hinges, and ball-bearing urethane rollers.

Average cost $4,068. Average resale value $3,986.

Manufactured Stone Veneer

Stone Veneer Accent

The second project with the highest possible return includes adding a stone veneer accent to the front of the home. This relatively modest investment can dramatically change the exterior and increase curb appeal.

Imagine a street of similarly designed homes and one of them has been upgraded with this classic look. If you were shopping for a home on that street, which one would pop out at you?

At a significant potential return of 93%, this upgrade has great value. The example includes removing 300 square feet of vinyl siding from the entire bottom third of the front of the home. Replace with a manufactured stone veneer, two layers of water-resistant barrier over bare sheathing, corrosion-resistant lath and fasteners, and a ½ inch mortar scratch coat and setting bed.

Average cost $11,265. Average resale value $10,477.

Siding Replacement

Vinyl: Upgrading your home with new vinyl siding rates as the third highest valued investment. This improvement could yield a return as high as 87.6%. It includes replacing 1250 square feet of siding with factory trim around openings and at corners.

Fiber-cement: Another popular siding product is fiber-cement. It too has a significant 85.6% return. The example includes the same specifications as above in addition to being factory primed and painted before installation.

Average cost $19,620. Average resale value $17,301 – Vinyl.

Average cost $23,240. Average resale value $19,887 – Fiber-cement.

Minor Kitchen Remodel – Midrange

Minor Kitchen Remodel

Coming in at number four is a modest remodel of a 200 square foot kitchen that is currently functional but in need of cosmetic updates.

Leaving the cabinet boxes intact it includes replacing the cabinet and drawer fronts with shaker style wood panels and new hardware. Replace laminate countertops, sink, faucet, and flooring. Paint ceiling, walls, and trim. Replace cook top/oven range and refrigerator with new energy-efficient models.

Being careful to stay within a modest budget this type of remodel could yield an 87.7% return.

Average cost $29,183. Average resale value 25,599.

Window Replacement

Window Replacement (Wood)

Vinyl: The last, but not least improvement, includes replacing ten, older 3×5 double-hung windows. New windows are insulated, low-E and include simulated-divided-light panes and custom exterior paint finish. Exterior trim to match existing and is not disturbed. This upgrade is expected to bring an 87.6% return on investment.

Wood: Upgrade from vinyl to wood windows with the same specifications as above and see just a slightly lower return at 84.4%.

Average cost $20,788. Average resale value $18,209 – Vinyl

Average cost $24,539. Average resale value $20,718 – Wood

©2021 Zonda Media, a Delaware corporation. Complete data from the 2021 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com

If you need assistance with any projects or upgrades, we can connect you with the appropriate service professionals for your specific needs. Just let us know how we can help by giving us a call at 425-775-9085 or submitting an online Work Request.