Home Improvement Contract Tips

Many a soul has hired a contractor to do repairs or improvements on a home only to find something is fishy. Here are some tips to avoid problems.

Home Improvement Contract Tips

Hiring a contractor to do work on your home is not always as easy as it sounds. Many people call themselves contractors, but really are not. The first step to avoiding problems is to make sure you hire someone with who is actually licensed as a contractor. If you subsequently have problems, you can contact the licensing board to raise a dispute.

Most contractors are ethical, honest people and businesses. There are, however, others who are not. These individuals assume you do not really know what is involved in the construction process. This provides them with an opening to make substantially more profit. While you might think this means they will overbid the project, it does not. Most contractors believe you will pick the lowest price, so they rarely run up their estimate. There are, however, two other ways to boost profit.

The first thing unethical contractors will do is use low quality supplies. As with anything you buy, there is a high quality and lower quality version. While you may want the high quality version, you may have a hard time determining if you received it. The difference between high and low quality is often how long something lasts, not how it appears. The way to beat this problem is to specify the exact brand, size and part number [if possible] in your contract. Doing so accomplishes two things. First, it puts the contractor on notice that you know how the process works. Second, you can always resort to legal action if you later find the correct materials were not used. Since you have everything in writing, the contractor has little defense.

A second unethical tactic is the bait and switch. In this process, the contractor gives you a bid price that can’t possibly cover the project. You think you are getting a deal, but the contractor starts coming to you after the project has started requesting more money. The contractor refuses to continue work if you do not pony up. In this situation, the best defense is again to have everything in writing in the project contract. Make sure to include an attorney’s fee clause in it. If the contractor tries this tactic, you should contact an attorney. The attorney will set the contractor straight. If the contract refuses to finish the job, you will probably be told by the attorney to hire a new contractor while he sues the unethical one. Since an attorney’s fee clause is included in the agreement, you should end up paying no legal fees. This is not the best situation, but it beats getting scammed.

In general, the best way to find a contractor is to ask for referrals from trusted friends. Next, get everything in writing. With these two steps, you should avoid any major problems.

Free Cash Grants to Upgrade Your Home

Home owners who want to upgrade their home with new equipment and appliances can apply for home improvement grants, which can provide you with the cash you need to purchase and install your upgrades. Particularly if you would like to use more energy efficient products and models, there are a number of government and private foundation grants that can help you pay for those changes.

Once you search the grant database, you’ll quickly realize there are many programs that you may qualify for. Review the eligibility requirements, submit your application, and wait to see if you are approved. Once approved, you’ll not only get the cash you need to assist you with your home improvement projects, but you’ll never have to pay the money back.

There are also tax credits that you can receive for using energy efficient products. That’s why it may cost you a little money up-front to install and purchase new equipment and appliances, but there could be a greater savings on the backed. Particularly if you are receiving free grant money to help you finance the entire project.

But just because the grants are available does not mean you automatically are entitled to receive them. There is an application process and approval process, but there is also a way to put the odds in your favor. Learn these ticks to put your grant application in a favorable position, and there is a lot of money that you may be able to qualify to receive. There is no limit on the number of grants you can apply for and receive either.

Tips In Using Pre-Blended Mortar Mix

Most individuals plan DIY tasks to make their homes and properties appealing and strong. And, individuals use reliable materials when building such as cement. However, there are cases when cement is not suitable for such areas. Or perhaps, there are better alternatives for cement like pre-blended mortar mix.

Pre-blended mortar mix is designed for both professional and DIY persons since it is easy to use. In addition, this type of mix is suitable for brickwork, blockwork and stone laying needs. Other than that, homeowners can also use mortar mix in creating letterboxes, paving, retaining walls and garden beds. But, in order to create all of these, it is imperative to know how to use pre-blended mortar mix. To help you, below are some tips you need to know.

Mixing Tips

When mixing mortar, make sure your project is properly laid out with all the necessary tools at hand.

  • Next, individuals need to pour the required amount of mortar into a wheel barrow or a clean bucket. It is important to ensure you use contents as soon as possible after opening the product packaging.
  • After which, calculate the amount of water you will need. For each 10kg of Mortar add 1.6 litres of water.
  • Add water gradually and mix thoroughly to a stiff consistency (e.g. until the mix just slips off the trowel when lightly flicked). Note: Excess water can ruin good mortar. Should too much water be added, leave the mixture aside until it thickens to a workable consistency.
  • Finally, the mortar is now ready to trowel onto bricks or blocks.

Storage Tips

In case that you have not used all the pre-blended mix, it is imperative that you store it properly.

Most of the time, can be kept for up to six months if kept in a dry environment, off the ground and providing the bags remain sealed. Individuals must be aware that factors like high temperature and high humidity conditions may reduce the storage life of the product.

Safety Precautions

When using mortar mix, it is also best that you how to safely use it. Below are some safety tips.

During use, avoid inhalation of dust and contact with the skin and eyes. Wear suitable clothing, gloves, eye protection and respiratory protective equipment since it contains cement powders which can be harmful to the skin.

If contact with the skin occurs, individuals need to thoroughly clean the area with plenty of fresh water and soap. Meanwhile, in case of contact with the eyes rinse with plenty of fresh water and seek medical advice. And, if swallowed, seek medical attention immediately. Do not induce vomiting.

These are only some of the essential tips that individuals need to know when using pre-blended mortar mix.

Home Improvement Projects

When people are faced with dusting off the old tool belt and buckling it up once more, they may feel intimidated by the amount of work that lay before them. One may feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they must put in to these improvement projects that seem rather insignificant. Procrastination often ensues and the projects go untouched for even longer, further hurting the appearance or even healthiness of one’s home.

Home improvement projects do not have to be such a hassle and do not have to burden the homeowner one bit if the proper amount of careful planning is implemented to help alleviate some of this burden. Planning could refer to determining each step in the project before beginning. This is always a wise thing to do, especially if the homeowners plan on performing the work themselves. However, most homeowners do not possess the proper skill or know-how to complete these jobs effectively and efficiently. They often end up making a mess of the situation and can even fix things until they are actually broken. We have all seen the ‘handy’ dad in TV and film, in which he claims to know what he is doing, but often screws up a project beyond recognition, requiring the services of a professional handyman or contractor to complete their simple home improvement project.

Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon of an occurrence in the real world either. Hiring a contractor to perform the home improvement projects around your house will often save you both time and money. It will also ensure that the project is done right and effectively.

Home Improvements – Take Care of Your Home So You Can Enjoy it Every Day

Home improvements typically include working on things to make your home a better place. That includes home repairs, seasonal maintenance and decorating.

Some home improvements are obvious while others involve more exploration, like when you spot a puddle of water on the floor and need to determine the location of the leak. If you’re like most people, you’ll discover that home improvement is a never ending process. There’s always something you can do to make your home more attractive, more functional, more livable. It’s these things that keep pulling us back to caring for our homes.

However, it can be challenging to stay on track with home improvements. With jobs, families and other responsibilities, it is tempting to take a break from working on your home and let the problem areas slide.

That’s okay. Breaks are good for recharging. And after all, you want the majority of your life invested in the things that really matter – family and friends and helping out others. But, your home needs attention, too. After all – it’s the place you share with family and friends, and a place of respite after helping out others.

So sooner or later, you have to get back to the problems at hand. It’s important to keep at it because your home is a big investment and you want it operational.

The best way to handle home improvements is to have a list of items needing attention. Work out a plan to tackle them bit by bit. Eventually your repairs will get done. Your projects will get done. This room will get painted or that room will get no cluttering. Whatever it is that you’ve been putting off — just keep working at it over time and you’ll see things fall into place.

Home improvements don’t have to take over your life. But, they do need to be scheduled into your life so that your home is a place of enjoyment and becomes the special retreat you’ve always wanted it to be.

Fireplace Future: Comparing Available Fireplaces

As the snow finally falls on my neck of the woods and begins to lay a couple of inches, I’m enjoying the roaring fire inside. But, I don’t have logs burning warmth or gas glowing heat. Those are things of the past. The vent-less gel has proven itself to be the safe and cost efficient alternative.

Burning logs in your fireplace produces a great amount of heat, but it can lead to other problems. The venting has to be done right or you could end up smoking yourself out of the house. Smoke damage can be a costly repair. But, there is also the danger of sparks flying from burning logs. There are countless cases where burning logs have sparked and resulted in fire damage throughout the house. In worst cases, the house completely burned to the ground. Sometimes the simplest thing can cause a fire.

The gas fireplace has its setbacks as well. There’s something about a tube that blows gas into a burning flame that sends signals to me. I’ve seen gas lines erupt. Fire spews in different directions creating a very dangerous situation. But, gas lines don’t erupt often. It’s the other problems that you have to worry about. The byproduct of a gas fireplace is carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that spreads throughout your house. All experts promise that the gas fireplace doesn’t emit enough of the deadly gas to cause harm. But, it certainly makes me think.

The vent-less gel fireplace doesn’t share any of those problems. It’s vent-less so you never have to worry about venting problems like smoke damage. The Sunjel gel fuel doesn’t produce a smoke. It produces a water vapor that completely evaporates. Also, there are no sparks. A safe flowing stream of fire like that of a candle, the gel canisters are placed in the vent-less fireplace where they sit solidly on the base and leave you worry free.

But, if you are wondering about the heat that is produced from a small canister that lights like a candle, you don’t have to worry. The canister itself can produce up to 9,000 BTUs of heat. But, fireplace accessories help produce even more heat. A fireplace insert projects the heat throughout the room so that the 9,000 BTUs feel more like 20,000. That’s the equivalent to a small space heater in the center of the room.

The snow has fallen another two inches and I’m still enjoying my fireplace. Only it’s the safe and cost efficient vent-less gel fireplace. Once I started looking to have a fireplace installed in my home, I couldn’t help but decide on installing the vent-less gel fireplace for all the pros versus the cons of the others. If an entire condominium community invested in the vent-less gel fireplaces for each of its condominiums, I know I can’t be wrong.

Home Repair and Improvement Market Offers a Broad Range of Tools and Services

When one invests in a house, it’s not the last investment one makes on it. Every year, it’ll demand some kind of repair or remodeling — ranging from a small fix to a complete renovation of the house. As a house owner, one also carries the responsibility of home repair and improvement, and one cannot turn a blind eye to it. The fixes and enhancements may include areas like roof, plumbing fixtures, both interior and exterior painting, doors, windows, furnace, backyard, and more.

The home repair and improvement market offers a broad range of tools and services, including do it yourself (DIY) home improvement kits and professional services. One must make a sound assessment of the need to enhance, for example a stair or a backyard, before going for fixes or remodeling projects. Since it requires substantial investment, one must plan the entire repair and improvement project — from the inception to the final. The people using DIY tools to fix something must buy the right kind of quality tools that have been designed to perform specific functions. A number of companies offer a varied range of DIY tools, and before ordering, one must compare the prices of the tools offered by these companies, and also their features.

It’s important to determine the nature of the project and what all it requires before undertaking one. For some projects, one cannot go solo and need a team to accomplish a task. It’s better to assemble a team in advance rather than making frantic calls when in the middle of the project. Also, some home repair and improvement projects need professional help. It’s always a good idea to hire a professional that a friend or a relative has recommended. Repair industry is known for its scams, and one should be careful and take precautions when going for professional help.

Home Improvement Tips to Help You Get Started in the Right Place

You know you need some home improvement, but you don’t know where to start. This is a common problem that most homeowners go through at least once in their lives. Don’t let a little indecision stand in your way of improving your home.

The first place to start is creating a budget it will help you to choose what you can or can’t do. You should also check your local building codes to see what type of permits you’re going to need before you begin any big renovations.

Once you know where you’re at you can start to figure out what needs to be done.

I find watching home improvement shows can give you a lot of ideas on what you can do and how to do it. The one place most people look at improving is the kitchen because it is the one place that is easy to improve.

By simply changing your hardware or painting or refinishing your cupboards you can make a big difference in your home. One thing that I don’t see too often that works well is painting your appliances. I suggest finding a good heat resistant paint for the stove and going with a silver to make it look like you got yourself a new set of stainless steel appliances.

You’d be surprised at how big a difference it can make without spending a fortune. If you have money to spare replacing old appliances with new ones is going to go along way at improving the look of your kitchen. Counter tops are an item that makes a big difference. With so many types and styles to choose from I suggest going over your options with a professional and then looking into what options you have with the amount of money you have to spare.

Lights are a big thing adding the right type of light to your kitchen will finish it up perfectly.

Architects Versus Engineers: Who Leads the Project?

Architects and engineers are essential members of nearly every construction project. There are very few projects where you won’t need the skill sets from both. The division of labor between architects and engineers is a well-known and accepted concept, but have you ever considered, who leads the project?

For anyone in construction, this may seem obvious, but it occurred to me that it may not be as obvious to everyone else. So Today I wanted to take a moment to discuss the differences between an architect and an engineer and explain why one is exceptionally qualified to lead the other.

Before I jump into the meat of this discussion, I want to share an experience I had several years ago. A higher education client was modernizing their university’s central power plant. Given the substantial engineering this project required, the Owner selected an engineer who was exceptionally skilled with the various building systems impacted by the project. The firm was hired directly by the owner and setup to lead the project. The engineer, realized that while the project was primarily an engineering project, there were several architectural elements that would also be impacted. Not having any in-house architects, the firm turned to an outside architect and hired them as a sub-consultant with the principal engineer in the lead.

The firm I was with at the time received the award to provide the architectural services. I was assigned the project and worked with the engineer to complete this project. This was the one and only project I ever worked on where the architect did not have the lead role.

It was the single worst project experience I have ever had.

I’ve got a lot of friends who are engineers. My wife is one. Many of my closest friends are engineers. This means that I have endured decades of jabs about architects and typically being the only architect in the room, I have no recourse but to laugh along. The truth is that architects do push the boundaries of engineering. Often to the point of mockery. We tend to do so out of ignorance. After all, we certainly don’t understand each system the way our engineer colleagues do.

Despite this, there is one thing my fellow engineers don’t fully appreciate. Without proper coordination and alignment between all of the engineered parts, the entire project would fail to come together.

Coordination between the various building systems is a critical part of every project. If left undone, a deficiency in coordination stands to wreak havoc throughout construction and subject the owner to change orders, additional costs, and delays.

It may surprise some to hear that architects are responsible for coordination of engineering systems.

In order to better understand this, it’s important to review the education, training, and examinations required of architects and compare that to the education, training, and examinations required of engineers.

Engineers begin their academic careers in general engineering classes but soon concentrate their education in one of several major disciplines. An engineering student may choose a major in Mechanical, Electrical, or Civil engineering (just to name a few). Each of these concentrations focuses education on a specific set of physical properties in which students specialize. After graduation, those who choose to go into construction, learn to apply those concepts to specific building systems aligned with their engineering major. When it comes time to become a licensed Professional Engineer, the examinations required by licensing boards are tailored to the engineering discipline. In short throughout an engineer’s career, the concentration they choose stays with them throughout their lives. I won’t make a blanket statement stating that engineer’s don’t know more than one discipline, but I will say that I have encountered very few who either practice or even dabble in another.

On the other hand in addition to core design and architecture theory classes, architecture students are required to attend several years of classes in structures, building systems, and construction practice. When a student graduates, one of the first duties (pun intended) assigned is detailing bathrooms (where all building systems come together). When it comes time for license, an architect must pass a series of examinations (seven at last count) that include building systems and structural systems.

In short, the only licensed professional in the design team that is educated in all of the major systems of a building is the architect.

On my disastrous old university project, the engineer did such a poor job of coordination, that his own people would come to meetings often uninformed of the impacts that changes in another in-house engineering discipline had on their work. Often these guys sat just across the aisle from one another.

I certainly did not know it at the time, but the Owner’s mistake of hiring the engineer as the project lead doomed that project to failure.

It seems like a reasonable assumption that on a project that is primarily about replacing building systems, the engineer would take the lead, so I don’t fault the owner for making that assumption.

I now know what a folly that decision can be and hope I’ve helped some of you avoid this mistake.

Now, every time I am forced to hear another architect joke from one of my brazen engineer friends, I take solace in the fact that without me, the various systems they are such experts in would fail to suit their intended purpose.

I hope you now have a better understanding of the interplay between engineers and architects. Next week we will discuss whether it’s better to hire each one directly or have one subcontract the other.

What about you? Have you ever worked on a project with an engineer in the lead role? Was the project successful? Did construction go smoothly? Tell me your stories.

4 Tips for Maintaining Vinyl Siding

We all know that vinyl siding is a great choice for one’s home due to its low maintenance and longevity. But that doesn’t mean that it is totally without basic maintenance needs or steps to be taken to see that it looks its best. Some of the common issues one might deal with are cracking, puncturing or perhaps pulling away from the house.

Thankfully, these proactive measures do not take a great deal of skill or a toolbox full of special tools.

Tips for Maintaining Vinyl Siding

1. Be sure to keep any shrubbery around the home trimmed back so that the branches cannot poke or scratch the siding. Failing to do this will result in the coating on the siding being scratched, nicked or punctured thus making the siding susceptible or mildew and mold.

2. No matter what type of siding you have on your home. It is important to take time to clean it, at least once a year. With vinyl, you can do this by using a soft scrub brush, soapy water, and a water hose for rinsing. Yes, you can use a power washer but be sure to keep it at the lowest setting and take care not to use excessive force.

3. In the event that you do discover dents, punctures or scratching, replace the piece as soon as possible. Be sure in doing this, that you use a siding removal tool so you can avoid damaging the surrounding pieces of siding.

4. Make time to clean your gutters- especially during the spring and fall or after a heavy storm as this will help keep the siding clean and prevent risk of damage to the siding.

It is also worth noting that while most people opt to have vinyl siding in a color they like, it you purchase a home with siding in a color you do not like, it can be painted. It will take two coats of 100% latex paint and the paint will need to be re-applied every two years in order to always look great.

Maintaining your vinyl siding is not a full-time job, but it does need the occasional repairs or cleaning. Don’t just assume that your home’s siding is a one and done aspect of ownership. Take time throughout the year to ensure that your siding will last as long (if not longer) than you were promised at installation. If you are new to vinyl, then be sure to talk to a local siding company and find out what they recommend for your particular type and style of home siding.