The Metal Roof – an energy efficient alternative to traditional asphalt roofing

Metal roofs absorb 34% less heat than traditional asphalt shingles, according to a 1985 Florida Solar Energy Center study. This can translate into significant energy savings.

Most metal roofs reflect away more of the sun’s heat than do asphalt shingle roofs. This keeps the roofing materials cooler so less heat is radiated down through the ceilings to the living area. Also, the underside of the metal surface has lower emissivity than shingles, so even less heat radiates down to the ceiling below.

The final energy advantage is the metal is relatively thin and has a contour stamped into it to simulate other styles of shingles. This contour creates an air gap between most of the roofing and the roof sheathing below it. With a sloped roof, outdoor air naturally circulates up under the metal roof to keep it cooler.
- kansas.com

A metal roof may cost more initially but pays back in the long run even without the tax credit ( Metal roofs qualify for a $500 energy tax credit – use IRS form 5695).

Other benefits of a metal roof:

  • long life / durability
  • low maintenance
  • fire retardant
  • green benefit: can contain recycled material
  • green benefit: can be installed over existing an existing roof, eliminating the need for your existing roof to go to a landfill

For more info read:

The latest remodeling trends

Found an interesting report on Remodeling Trends from the recent National Association of Real Estate Editors Conference

Spending on Remodeling

The experts are predicting a slight and short-lived decline in renovation spending, in line with other national reports and studies.

Tips for working with renovators

  • don’t be afraid to vet your contractor – go ahead and ask the tough questions,
  • specify everything in your contract, and
  • check your contractor has the proper insurance — including workers’ compensation – else you could get saddled with the liability.

Remodeling Trends & Homeowner Demand

“Nearly every panelist mentioned the pervasive influence of TV design shows”. In other words, the media is heavily shaping and influencing consumer demand. Popular trends include:

  • the rise of the outdoor living space
  • home kitchen and bathroom remodels are taking longer because of the selection process – more choices = more time
  • radiant heat floors
  • green flooring (cork or bamboo)
  • more cultural diversity in color schemes
  • pot-filler faucets, and
  • energy-saving appliances or accessories

But the single most striking trend?

“the urbanization of cities”: in essence, more and more people are moving out of the suburbs and into cities … [and] the new urbanites, apparently, are renovators.

… city dwellers are willing to spend freely on their smaller spaces. “A survey we did a couple years ago,” Wilkinson said, “noted that people who live in condominiums spend the same amount of money renovating their homes as people who have driveways and backyards.”

Source: Remodeling the American Dream, Inman News.

DIY vs DFY (Done For You) – the DIY backlash has arrived

DIY Disasters have become on cottage industry for both home improvement television and contracting consultants. The DIY backlash has arrived on these shores and – surprise! – it has a Scottish accent.

The charge of the alternate “DFY” (Done For You) brigade is being led by two Scottish interior designers who have recently made Toronto home.

Their advice to do-it-yourselfers? ” … get out the Yellow Pages and get out of the way.”

McAllister and Ryan worry the renovating public has become overconfident. They wonder if certain Martha Stewart-style television shows, home decor magazines and even the ads for hardware stores are complicit in making the rather complicated task of installing kitchen cabinets, for example, seem like a no-brainer.

“Do not inflict yourself on your home. It’s most people’s biggest investment, yet they too often treat it badly,” says McAllister.

I smell a PR grab. They are saying what some have been thinking. It’s just a shame they have to be so arrogant about it. But hey that’s what gets the press.

Read the source article Don’t try this at home on TheStar.com

The Top 5 Unexpected Pitfalls of being your own General Contractor

Acting as your own General Contractor is a DIY option which sounds good on the surface. What a great way to save lot of money on your renovation (typically 15%) by replacing the General Contractor. How hard could it be?

Hard. Here are your responsibilities as your own General Contractor:

  • managing the details of the renovation project,
  • securing the required building permits,
  • hiring, firing and scheduling subcontractors,
  • ordering building materials & supervising installation,
  • inspecting the work of subcontractors,
  • coordinating formal building inspections (with the permit office),
  • ensuring work is done to code, and
  • troubleshooting design or logistics issues.

That’s a tall order. It should be clear from the job description that not every homeowner is suited to being a General Contractor.

Acting as your own general contractor works best if you’re highly organized, detail-oriented and have a clear idea of what you want in your home.
- Bankrate

Even if you’re “organized”, you still need to decide if it’s truly worthwhile as the pitfalls may eat up your savings handily and then some.

“Don’t do it just to save some money,” he said, “because it’s a lot of work and a lot of research. If you’re not interested in the process, if you don’t want to learn more about construction than you thought you’d ever want to know, then don’t do it.”
- Graham Irwin from Remodel Guidance, SFGate

Ok you’re highly organized, good at planning and management, and really want to learn the ins and outs of construction. Most people understand that they will pay more for supplies which seems to be an acceptable trade off for the control they gain over the process. And everybody knows they have to do their research when hiring subcontractors. But are they aware of the surprise gotchas?

Here are my Top 5 Unexpected Pitfalls of being your own General Contractor.

1. Not having the same relationship with Subcontractors

A reputable general contractor usually has a good long-standing work relationship with the subcontractors, the ones who actually do the work. The general takes care of them and the subcontractors make an extra effort to do a good job on schedule.

If you are your own general contractor, the subcontractors will not have the same allegiance, so you can plan on running behind schedule a little. This can eat up at least 5 percent of the savings
- Ms Builder

That’s 5% gone …

2. Not having the time to closely monitor the project.

You need to be available to spend time on site. When needed. Could be anywhere from 10 to 40 hours per week, depending on the stage in the process. If you have a demanding full time job, be prepared to take time off. You must also

… have an intimate knowledge of the plans so that you notice any accidental deviations. If you miss something early, repairing or modifying the plans later, to accommodate the error, can use up much of your 10 percent savings. …
- Ms Builder

Ok so now your 15% savings could be gone and maybe some of your vacation time. What’s next? Ah yes …

3. The Building Permit Maze

Many people underestimate the time it will take to get building permit approval.

“Sometimes half of the project is just getting the permits … Go into the permit office as early as possible in the process to find out the restrictions. That way, you’re not spending time and money developing plans that you can’t get permits for.”
- SFGate

This homeowner relates how his building plan estimate went south because of permit problems stemming from a lack of awareness of the local building regulations, among other things. “My conservative estimate of six weeks for plan approval was woefully inadequate”.

4. Liability Insurance, Workers Compensation & Lien Laws

When you act as your own General Contractor, you become responsible for any third party injuries that may occur on your property or damage to property by subcontractors. If they aren’t covered the claim could end up landing on your homeowners’ insurance … or worse. Also, if your subcontractors don’t pay their suppliers or subcontractors, a lien could be filed against your property.

And finally, on a personal note …

5. It can KO Your marriage.

Anderson, the Oakland homeowner, remembered a book that “quoted a higher than normal percentage of DIY construction couples ending in divorce,” he said. “Be sure you’ve got a strong relationship and that you’re in 100 percent agreement about doing it yourself.”
- SFGate

Summary Judgment:

This testimonial summarizes the pitfalls very well:

While we learned many things while serving as our own GC, the top three lessons are as follows: first, if you are looking to save time, don’t be your own general [contractor]. We can easily say that the project took twice as long due to our lack of experience and limited time. Second, be sure that you and your spouse can work together and are like-minded when it comes to what you are looking for in a finished product. Last, what we saved in money we paid for in sleepless nights worrying about what needed to be done before the next subs arrive, lack of free time, and lots of other unforeseen costs.
- Jonathan Norling

How can you act as your own General Contractor, get around these pitfalls and sleep better at night? I would suggest hiring a Renovation Advisor to help bridge the gaps in your knowledge and experience. Yes it’ll cost you a few bucks but in return you might be able to keep more of your General Contractor savings, a good return or payback on your consulting investment.

Open concept more cost effective than a home addition

Homeowners wanting to add living space to their homes are turning to ‘open concept’ style renovations over home additions to achieve this goal. Read the full article Walls tumble in home remodeling.

Too much of a good thing: the 5 dumbest renovation fads

Playing catch up on the news … came across this timely slideshow on CNNMoney about the 5 dumbest renovation fads.

They are:

Good pictorial that demonstrates how overkill killed some great renovation ideas, and how to do them the right way.

Pump up your Home Remodel with a Renovation Coach

Browsing the news, a phrase caught my eye – “Renovation Coach“. What a marvelous idea! Personal coaching & training has been all the rage. So now you can get a coach for your home improvement projects?

I imagined a “Renovation Coach” as someone who calls you early on Saturday morning to get you back on the renovation horse when you’ve fallen off or have an unpleasant maintenance job to do. Or gets you up at 6am to go to Home Depot for those needed materials. Or trains you with that nifty new nail gun before you hurt yourself.

Well … not really. A Renovation Coach is the same as a “Renovation Consultant”, which although less catchy is every bit as useful. In 2007, the Renovation Coach or Consultant is an idea whose time has come.

Previously, I wrote posts about the rising number of DIYers needing to be bailed out by professionals. And interviewed online “Electrical Coach” Wayne Gilchrist. But it’s not only the DIYer using and needing this type service. People who are going to hire someone to do the job are also discovering the benefits of a little “renovation coaching”. This Old House goes so far as to call them “a new breed of therapist “.

“The thing about home renovation is that very few people have been able to practice for it,” says Irving, who honed his skills working on 33 whole-house projects in his 17 years with the show. “They get wound up and ner­vous, facing this potential money pit, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

I second that emotion. An experienced Renovation Coach can help with …

  • setting goals or developing a vision for your large home renovation
  • determining the return on your renovation investment – Cost vs. Value or Move vs. Remodel – to help you decide
  • identifying the professionals you will need (like an Interior Designer) for a quality renovation
  • giving you a ballpark figure against which you use in evaluating quotes from contractors
  • navigating the building permit maze
  • a wealth of experience about products & approaches, pros and cons
  • negotiating or communicating with contractors during the process
  • planning and project management
  • Quality Assurance to ensure a job well done and up to code
  • mediation in disputes with contractors

And yes, he or she can even go shopping with you for building materials and supplies if need be.

Although they work on an hourly rate, and they usually don’t come cheap, the benefits of using a Renovation Coach or Consultant are numerous. They bring planning, project management and experience to both flesh out and ground your renovation ideas. The result? More understanding for you the homeowner. More control over the process and your budget. A successful project. An empowering DIY experience. And of course, a beautiful renovation. All you need to be “home improvement happy”. And put in that context, well … maybe they are therapists after all.

Hot Bathroom Fixture Trends for 2007

See a full review of new model shower heads on Trendir

Large round shower heads that simulate the sensation of rainwater are one of the hot trends for this year. For a full run down on what’s hot read Shower Head Trends 2007 – The most desirable shower heads on Trenddir.

Not surprisingly, showers are getting bigger (faster than we are getting bigger anyway). There seems to be less interest in adding whirlpool tubs; although they add value, people don’t have the time to enjoy them. Instead, homeowners are enhancing the experience they have time for, the shower, making it a more luxurious, spa-like experience with pulsating and multiple spray options. Hand held showers are also very popular because of their flexibility.

Read more from the original source article: April Showers – The latest trends in bathroom fixtures.

5 Surprising Home Remodeling & Building Trends

From a recent survey of real estate execs, agents and brokers, here are the surprising features people are asking for:

  • Upscale garages
  • “Caving” – more personal space, a room of one’s own
  • Rejuvenation rooms
  • Heated patios
  • Snoring rooms

Read Five Home Trends We Never Saw Coming for the full story.

Mike Holmes, Marketplace & Max Pies – How not to get nailed by bad contractors

While researching hiring home improvement contractors, I stumbled on this insightful online video featuring Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes on CBC Marketplace, a Canadian consumer affairs / investigative journalism show.

How not to get nailed … No one sees more renovation ripoffs than Mike Holmes. Marketplace uses hidden cameras to expose a contractor responsible for the latest disaster he’s fixing.

Marketplace sets the Sting

“The real deal on Home Contractors … Home Improvement Horrors … Hidden Camera Job Quotes … Who to trust … One very questionable character.” Oh boy, I can’t wait.

The show seemed to have 2 goals. First to set up a “test” to illustrate to viewers how to weed out the good from the bad contractors, what to look for. And second, to “bait a trap” for one particularly bad contractor (Leo Dos Reis of Max Pies Home Improvements), who crops up time and time again in complaint email to Mike Holmes from disillusioned homeowners.

The contractors job quote and interview segment is instructive and revealing but not terribly surprising. None of them quite measured up to Mike Holmes’ wish list … but then his standards are pretty high.

The Max Pies expose and sting operation, however, is brutal. Mike Holmes investigates the job and points out how the home is now unsafe, how the room built for the family baby could endanger her health, and how the house doesn’t meet building code.

Wendy Mesley of Marketplace interviews unhappy homeowners. And investigates the misleading Max Pies web site which is revealed to use photos of work by other contractors without their permission. How one contractor has tried repeatedly to have his photos removed even to the point of engaging a lawyer, without success.

A Very Questionable Character Caught in the Act

Leo Dos Reis, the owner of Max Pies Home Improvements, is the “very questionable character” mentioned in the teaser. FYI, Max Pies Home Improvements in Canada is not affiliated with the similarly named US flooring company.

Leo Dos Reis - Are you licensed?

The piece de resistance is the video sting of Dos Reis in action – the sales pitch, the misleading actions and statements about his license and qualifications, the customers he claims to have worked for who’ve never heard of him, the protestations about his reputation, the over-priced estimate, and the high pressure sales tactics.

Turns out Mr. Dos Reis has been charged with 14 counts of fraud. Marketplace tried to meet with him but he beat a hasty retreat when he saw the cameras. Apparently, he was supposed to be in court again last week. I checked out the local home improvement rating & reviews site and he has a solid 3 Star Rating in spite of the above. Interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Summary Judgment

Five Star piece of reporting by Marketplace, irrespective of the city you live in; highly recommended viewing if you are considering hiring a home improvement contractor.

The episode originally aired in January but you can see all the videos on the Marketplace site – including a March update on the story. Apparently Dos Reis is now running Platinum Home Renovations – with the same photos and content. He is still also going to court. All of which makes him Canada’s poster boy for bad home improvement contractors. You can find out more about the charges by searching the Consumer Beware database for “Max Pies” then clicking on DOS REIS, LEONARDO. Searching for “leo dos reis” won’t bring anything up, due to the way the search is designed.

DOS REIS, LEONARDO
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – FRAUD, 13 CHARGES ON 2006/05/03
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – ATTEMPT FRAUD, 1 CHARGE ON 2006/05/03
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – FRAUD, 1 CHARGE ON 2007/04/04

For more info about crusading contractor Mike Holmes check out the Mike Holmes -Wikipedia entry and the Holmes on Homes website. Holmes on Homes airs on the Discovery Home channel in the US and HGTV in Canada.

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