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7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

by The Schnoor Team

Follow these seven strategies to get the most financial gain on your kitchen remodel.

Homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project. And with good reason: Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.

A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. A complete kitchen renovation with a national median cost of $65,000 recovers about 62% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to the "Remodeling Impact Report" from the National Association of REALTORS®.

The project gets a big thumbs-up from homeowners, too. Those polled in the "Report" gave their new kitchen a Joy Score of 10 (out of 10!), a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

To help ensure you get a good return on your kitchen remodel, follow these seven tips:

#1 Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem will be minimized. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment. 

Some tips on planning:

Study your existing kitchen:
 How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway.To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height, too.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; counter heights that can adjust up or down; a wall oven instead of a range: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.

#2 Get Real About Appliances

It’s easy to get carried away when planning your new kitchen. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

Appliances are essentially tools used to cook and store food. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be about the tools, but the design and functionality of the entire kitchen.

So unless you’re an exceptional cook who cooks a lot, concentrate your dollars on long-term features that add value, such as cabinets and flooring. 

Then choose appliances made by trusted brands that have high marks in online reviews and Consumer Reports.

#3 Keep the Same Footprint

Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.

So if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

#4 Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lighting

Lightning can make a world of difference in a kitchen. It can make it look larger and brighter. And it will help you work safely and efficiently. You should have two different types of lighting in your kitchen: 

Task Lighting: Under-cabinet lighting should be on your must-do list, since cabinets create such dark work areas. And since you’re remodeling, there won’t be a better time to hard-wire your lights. (Here’s more about under-cabinet lights.) Plan for at least two fixtures per task area to eliminate shadows. Pendant lights are good for islands and other counters without low cabinets. Recessed lights and track lights work well over sinks and general prep areas with no cabinets overhead.

Ambient lighting: Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights create overall lighting in your kitchen. Include dimmer switches to control intensity and mood.

#5 Be Quality-Conscious

Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains, and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they’ll look great for a long time.

And if you’re planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.

#6 Add Storage, Not Space

Storage will never go out of style, but if you’re sticking with the same footprint, here are a couple of ideas to add more: 

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops.

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

#7 Communicate Clearly With Your Remodelers

Establishing a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project:

Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.

Be kind: Offer refreshments (a little hospitality can go a long way), give praise when warranted, and resist pestering them with conversation, jokes, and questions when they are working. They’ll work better when refreshed and allowed to concentrate on work.

And a final tip to help keep your frustration level down while the construction is going on: plan for a temporary kitchen along with the plans for your new kitchen. You'll be happier (and less frustrated) if you've got a way to have dinner while construction is ongoing.

Source: "7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling"

Unexpected Remodeling Expenses That’ll Bust Your Budget

by The Schnoor Team

Common remodeling projects can be more complicated than you think. While you’re still in the dreaming stage, factor in realities that could add time and money to your project.

Surprise! That remodeling project you’ve been planning, such as taking down a wall or adding a kitchen island, can have sticker-shock repercussions. Why? Hidden costs, including moving pipes and installing beams, can add up quickly.

Time for a reality check. First, we’ll peek behind some common remodeling tasks to reveal the less obvious challenges that could add hundreds, even thousands of dollars to your remodeling budget.

Then we'll give you advice on how to protect yourself from unforeseen costs that may pop up during remodeling.

Taking Down Interior Walls

Taking down a wall to combine two areas and improve flow is more involved than just swinging a sledgehammer at some drywall and studs. I learned that during one of my early DIY projects -- tearing down a wall to combine two apartments.

  • Smashing the wall was the easy part. I also had to:
  • Reroute electrical wires.
  • Create a chase to hide HVAC ducts.
  • Patch a small landing strip of parquet flooring where the old wall once lived.
  • Refinish the hardwood flooring throughout the combined areas.

And I was lucky. I might have had to:

  • Cap and reroute plumbing pipes.
  • Replace electrical wires not up to code.
  • Exterminate termites and other pests living behind the walls.
  • Patch, prime, and paint the ceiling where the wall used to be.

The trickiest part of taking down a load-bearing wall in a single-family house is temporarily shoring up the area, then putting in new beams and supports.

“There’s a lot of jacking and shoring and building temporary walls,” says Jeff Patrizi, a Houston builder and remodeler, who estimates that work adds $500 to $4,000 to the job, depending on how the newly open area must be re-engineered.

Adding a New Kitchen Island

It seems no gourmet kitchen transformation is complete without an island. But installing an island is more complicated than just topping a couple of base cabinets with a slab of granite.

Electric outlets: Building codes typically require that islands have electrical outlets every 6 feet. Adding a circuit or two is no big deal if your kitchen is above a basement or crawl space and near your electrical panel. It’s a bigger deal if the kitchen sits on a slab, and your electrician has to drill through concrete to run electrical wires a long way from panel to island. Figure an additional $500 to $1,000 to your project.

Task lighting: Your new workspace will need overhead task lighting. Added cost depends on how far your kitchen is from your electrical panel, and what type of fixture you install.

If your kitchen is under an attic space, running new wires is relatively easy. But if your electrician has to open up the ceiling to access joists, you're looking at drywall repair and a whole new paint job for your ceiling, adding another $300 to $1,000.

Plumbing: Island prep sinks require new plumbing. Your plumber will probably tap into the pipes of your primary kitchen sink. But, if the island is on a concrete slab, plumbing costs could rise up to $2,500.

Clearing corners: When you order the island countertop, make sure your fabricator measures to ensure the finished countertop can be carried into the house easily -- fitting around corners and up stairways if necessary. If dimensions don’t work, the fabricator will have to cut the slab, creating an unsightly seam in your gorgeous stone.

Installing Dream Appliances

Creating a dream kitchen might include installing industrial-sized refrigerators and ranges. But bigger isn’t always better.

Industrial refrigerators: Sure, that commercial-style fridge holds more and looks great. But the thing can weigh 800 pounds -- the average fridge weighs 250-300 pounds -- and be a bear to carry into your home and maneuver into position. That monster fridge may force you to shore up floor joists (consult a structural engineer) or remove door jambs to squeeze it into your home.

Six-burner ranges: I had to have six burners and a grill when we built our home 16 years ago, so I sacrificed a 24-inch cabinet to fit the 48-inch range into my kitchen design. As it turned out, I never use six burners at once (and I've used the grill only twice), and I’m always short of storage space.

Commercial range hoods: A pro-range requires a pro-hood, which has a stronger motor (600-1,400 CFMs) than a typical range hood (200-400 CFMs), and may require an upgraded venting system. Such systems require large vent ducts (8- to 10-inch diameter vs. the normal 4-inch) that must take a straighter path to the outside of your home, adding $1,000-plus to your kitchen renovation, depending on the length of the run.

Asbestos Up-Charges

Homes built prior to 1975 may contain deadly asbestos fibers sleeping in vinyl and linoleum flooring, old drywall compound, popcorn ceilings, and old siding. All these materials should be tested by an asbestos inspector before disturbing them ($400-$800).

If asbestos is found, you’ll need to hire a remediation company to remove it, which could cost $1,000-$3,000 at minimum; $20,000 to $30,000 if asbestos is everywhere.

Adding a Basement Bedroom

It isn’t a bedroom just because you call it one. A legitimate, up-to-code bedroom has an egress window or door big enough for you to escape and for firefighters to enter in an emergency – a minimum of almost 6 square feet. If the room is below grade, the window must be paired with an exterior window well.

Tim Snyder, a Connecticut-based remodeling contractor, had to explain basement realities to his client when, on the first day of construction, the client changed his mind and decided to turn a new basement playroom into a more flexible space that also could serve as a bedroom.

“The tiny basement windows weren’t even close to being egress compliant,” Snyder says. “So we had to break the bad news to the client.”

The news included replacing windows, digging around the foundation, and adding a plastic window well, which jacked the price up $2,000.

How to Protect Yourself Against Unforeseen Costs

An important step to take when moving from the remodeling fantasy phase to reality is signing a fixed-cost agreement with your contractor. The contract should include a detailed scope of work.

Contracts should contain change-order policy that states that all changes or unforeseen costs should be put in writing and signed by you and your contractor before additional work begins.

Source: "Unexpected Remodeling Expenses That’ll Bust Your Budget"

 

Mold. UGH. Soooo Gross. Here’s How to Kill It Forever

by The Schnoor Team

By the way, bleach doesn’t work. And don’t try to scrape it off, either.

Ugh. Mold. It’s ugly. It’s tenacious. It’s the uninvited guest that keeps visiting — no matter how rude you are to it. But, unwittingly, you may be setting up the perfect conditions for mold’s return: a food source, lots of moisture, and a pleasant temperature.

“You’ve got to eliminate one of those three legs of the stool so mold won’t grow,” says Pete Duncanson, director of system development for ServiceMaster Restore. “And it’s always easier to prevent than to remediate.”

Assuming you like warm showers and a comfy thermostat setting, there’s not much you can do about the temperature mold loves. But you can get rid of mold — and permanently prevent it — by controlling the other two factors: food and moisture. Here’s how.

Starve It Out

Mold is a horror flick cliché. It’s everywhere. It’s alive. It spreads by spores floating in the air. And it can grow on any surface — porcelain, plastic, copper, silicone — as long as that surface is coated with organic matter.

“Mold doesn’t live on your shower walls or the grout or caulk; it actually lives on the deposited skin cells and soap residues (which have your skin cells in them),” Duncanson says. So. Gross. So, yes, if you want to get rid of mold you gotta break out the cleaning bucket. There’s no way around it. But the good news is that you don’t need toxic cleaners. Soap and water works just fine with some elbow grease, says Bob Justewicz, a director at the National Association of Mold Professionals. But two warnings:

  1. Don’t bleach it. Online chat rooms and myriad websites might have you believe that bleach kills mold. Both professionals say it’s not true. “Bleach or peroxide removes the stain, but they don’t kill the mold,” Duncanson says.
  2. Don’t scrape it. Remember, mold is alive (it’s ALIVE!) and reproduces through microscopic spores. “If you brush [mold spores] with your hand, they just go into the air and look for new places to colonize,” Duncanson says.

What about those daily shower sprays? Will they work? They are of some benefit, says Duncanson, in that they help push mold’s food sources down the drain. But as a solo act, no, they won’t keep your bathroom clean.

Dry It Out

How? Use your exhaust fan. “Running the fan any time the bathroom is in use is a good idea,” Duncanson says. “Then leave it on for 30 minutes after or at least as long as the shower ran.”

But make sure your fan actually exhausts outside through the roof or a side soffit and not into the attic. “If it’s going into the attic, you’re causing moisture to go into an unconditioned space, and you can cause mold growth there.”

No exhaust fan? “Any movement of air will help dry out the bathroom,” says Justewicz. “Even a desk fan on the vanity will help.”

After a shower, use a towel or squeegee to wipe down shower walls. Open the shower curtain to let it dry. Mop any water spills on the floor and counters. Avoid piling in too many shampoo and body wash bottles. They’re a perfect place for moisture and mold spores to hide.

Make It Stay Away

Here are a few more tips if your bathroom mold seems especially strong-willed:

Re-caulk. Mold adores crevices — probably because it knows you can’t reach it there. If lots of mold has built up on your caulking, it’s probably because it’s spread deep into unseen spaces behind it. If so, re-caulking may solve the problem. Just be sure to follow these tips to keep the problem from getting worse:

  1. Once you’ve removed the compromised caulk, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry the area before putting down new caulk.
  2. Use caulk labeled specifically for the bathroom, which means it will be mold resistant.
  3. Let it cure for at least 24 hours (or as long as it needs to) before taking a shower or bath. If it’s not dry, it’ll allow moisture to creep back in, undoing all your hard work.

Check everywhere for mold. If it keeps coming back, it may have a colony somewhere you haven’t found. Check behind the toilet and under the sink. Moist drywall and wallpaper are tasty treats for mold.

Install a humidity monitor. Affordable at around $10, they can let you know when moisture is building before it turns into an indoor rain forest.

Know when to get help. If it keeps coming back, or you see areas of mold the size of a quarter or bigger you want professional help. “You’re dealing with excessive moisture or a food source that needs to be controlled,” Duncanson says.

How to Get Rid of Bathroom Mold

  1. Use soap and water, not bleach. Bleach only discolors it; it does not get rid of mold.
  2. Keep your bathroom as dry as possible. Use squeegees on shower walls and doors. Use an exhaust fan religiously. Wipe wet areas with dry towels.
  3. Recaulk your tile if necessary. Be sure to get caulk that is meant for humid and wet areas, like bathrooms.
  4. Get a humidity monitor to let you know when moisture is building up to mold-friendly levels.

​​Source: "Mold. UGH. Soooo Gross. Here’s How to Kill It Forever"

Kitchen Color Schemes: How to Avoid Kitschy Colors

by The Schnoor Team

The timeless beauty of versatile hues.

The kitchen is the heart of the household, a place where you prepare meals and make memories. So it only makes sense that your kitchen’s color scheme reflects your unique tastes and personality, right?

The answer to that is yes — and no.

Although there may be a special hue that gets your heart thumping, there are many reasons why it makes sense to opt for a neutral palette in your kitchen. Many design professionals agree that using shades like white, beige, or gray as the foundation for your kitchen not only open up a spectrum of colorful possibilities, but enhance the value of your home.

The Never-Regret Factor

“Timeless colors are perfect, whether for resale or for your dream home,” says Jackie Jordan, Dallas-based director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams. “Your kitchen won’t suffer from this-looks-like-it-was-done-in-the-90s comments if you opt for a neutral palette.”

“It’s a space where potential buyers envision themselves spending a lot of time,” agrees Sue Pelley, spokesperson for Decorating Den Interiors in Easton, Md. Thus, although you may believe your purple cabinets are divine, others may think they’re dreadful. And that, she says, can be a real barrier to a sale.

The Versatility of Neutrals

But does going soft and natural mean you have to stifle your inner Van Gogh? Not a chance.

“A neutral kitchen is the perfect canvas to personalize as your tastes change,” says Jordan. “It gives you the opportunity to accessorize with fun rugs, dinnerware — even just a fresh vase of flowers to liven things up.”

“I love being able to change moods with colors, often inspired by the changing seasons,” says Wendy F. Johnson, a certified kitchen and bath designer based in Manchester Village, Vt. “Neutrals can provide the base for a huge range of related or contrasting colors to be used with them, from bright and saturated to peaceful, muted hues.”

Texture also adds enormous impact to a neutral kitchen. A combination of materials from rough to smooth and matte to high gloss creates visual contrast and reflects light differently throughout the day, says Johnson. “For example, you can mix barn wood walls and satin painted drywall, white oak cabinetry with glass insets, lustrous concrete countertops with a stone tile backsplash. These might all be in the same tones, but there is nothing boring here.”

Using Color to Complement Your Kitchen's Size

Your kitchen’s square footage is another important factor to consider when choosing a color palette. If the space is small, opt for paler hues for cabinets, walls, and countertops. Shades of white, bone, or cream reflect light and help a tiny kitchen feel brighter and more spacious.

Neutrals are also a great choice for kitchens that open up to other rooms, notes Pelley. “If your kitchen is part of a great room design, remember that any new paint will need to work with the color schemes in those rooms, too.”

Non-Permanent Ways to Add Pops of Color

Rather than committing to a single color scheme, a neutral kitchen lets you sample the rainbow. One option is to choose coordinating window treatments and chair cushions to liven up the space, says Johnson. An eye-catching poster, multihued area rug, or a collection of pottery displayed on a shelf all add personality to your kitchen and are easy to change when you’re ready for something new.

Paint is another low-cost way to incorporate a pop or two of color into a neutral room. You can grab a brush and paint your kitchen chairs or counter stools, or add a bright hue to the interior of a glass cabinet. Ready for something bigger? Consider rolling a bold shade on a single wall to create lively contrast in an otherwise single-color space.

Top Neutral Color Schemes

Neutrals may be timeless, but there are some combinations that look especially fresh. “I love warm grays and whites — always have,” says Johnson. “There are so many natural materials available in these tones that mix together beautifully, and all colors look gorgeous against this type of palette.”

Sherwin-Williams’ Jordan also favors white and light grays in a kitchen. “It’s a sleek and modern combination that works perfectly with the ever-popular stainless steel appliances and subway tile.”

When it comes to a big-ticket item like a kitchen, it makes sense to choose a palette that will endure for the long term, says Johnson. “Those of us who thrive in colorful surroundings will groan at this, but even we need some soft, peaceful environments sometimes.”

Source: "Kitchen Color Schemes: How to Avoid Kitschy Colors"

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