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Archive for the ‘HOME IMPROVEMENTS’ Category

Here is an excellent article about wood floors from REALTOR Magazine. I hope you’ll find it helpful:

“Just as with ties and hem lengths, wood flooring styles change. Colors get darker or lighter; planks get narrower or wider; woods with more or less grain show swings in popularity; softer or harder species gain or lose fans; and the wood itself may be older, newer, or even pre-engineered with a top layer or veneer-glued to a substrate to decrease expansion and contraction from moisture.

Here are key categories for consideration:

Solid Plank

This is what some refer to as “real” wood because the wood usually ranges from three-eighths to three-quarters of an inch in total thickness to permit refinishing and sanding. Thicker floors have a thicker wear layer to allow for more frequent refinishing and sanding, so they can withstand decades of use, says architect Julie Hacker of Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker Architects. It also can be stained, come from different species of tree, and be sold in numerous widths and lengths:

  • Width and length: Designer Steven Gurowitz, owner of Interiors by Steven G., is among those who prefers solid flooring for many installations because of its rich, warm look. Like other design professionals, he’s seeing greater interest in boards wider than the once-standard 2 ¾ to 3 ¾ inches — typically 5 to 6 inches now but even beyond 10 inches. And he’s also seeing corresponding interest in longer lengths, depending on the species. Width and length should be in proportion. “The wider a board gets, the longer the planks need to be, too, and in proportion,” says Chris Sy, vice president with Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. These oversized dimensions reflect the same trend toward bigger stone and ceramic slabs. The downside is greater cost.
  • Palette: Gurowitz and others are also hearing more requests for darker hues among clients in the northeastern United States, while those in the South and West still gravitate toward lighter colors. But Sprigg Lynn, on the board of the National Wood Flooring Association and with Universal Floors, says the hottest trend is toward a gray or driftwood. Handscraped, antique boards that look aged and have texture, sometimes beveled edges, are also become more popular, even in modern interiors, though they may cost much more.
  • Species and price: Depending on the preference of the stain color, Gurowitz favors mostly mahogany, hickory, walnut, oak, and pine boards. Oak may be the industry’s bread and butter because of the ease of staining it and a relatively low price point. A basic 2 ¼-inch red oak might, for instance, run $6.50 a square foot while a 2 ¼-inch red oak that’s rift and quartered might sell for a slightly higher $8.50 a square foot.
  • Maintenance: How much care home owners want to invest in their floors should also factor in their decision. Pine is quite soft and will show more wear than a harder wood like mahogany or walnut, but it’s less expensive. In certain regions such as the South, pine comes in a harder version known as heart pine that’s popular, says Georgia-based designer Mary Lafevers of Inscape Design Studio. Home owners should understand the different choices because they affect how often they need to refinish the wood, which could be every four to five years, says Susan Brunstrum of Sweet Peas Design-Inspired Interior. Also, Sy says that solid planks can be installed over radiant heating, but they demand expert installation.

Engineered Wood

Also referred to as prefabricated wood, this genre has become popular because the top layer or veneer is glued to wood beneath to reduce expansion and contraction that happens with solid boards due to climatic effects, says Sy, whose firm sells both types. He recommends engineered, depending on the amount of humidity. If home owners go with a prefabricated floor, he advises a veneer of at least one-quarter inch. “If it’s too thin, you won’t have enough surface to sand,” he says. And he suggests a thick enough substrate for a stable underlayment that won’t move as moisture levels in a home shift.

His company’s offerings include an 11-ply marine-grade birch. The myth that engineered boards only come prestained is untrue. “They can be bought unfinished,” he says. Engineered boards are also a good choice for home owners planning to age in place, since there are fewer gaps between boards for a stable surface, says Aaron D. Murphy, an architect with ADM Architecture Inc. and a certified Aging in Place specialist with the National Association of Home Builders.

Reclaimed Wood

Typically defined as recycled wood — perhaps from an old barn or factory — reclaimed wood has gained fans because of its aged, imperfect patina and sustainability; you’re reusing something rather than cutting down more trees. Though less plentiful and more expensive because of the time required to locate and renew samples, it offers a solid surface underfoot since it’s from old-growth trees, says Lynn. Some companies have come to specialize in rescuing logs that have been underwater for decades, even a century. West Branch Heritage Timber,for instance, removes “forgotten” native pine and spruce from swamps, cuts them to desired widths and lengths, and lays them atop ½-inch birch to combine the best of engineered and reclaimed. “The advantage is that it can be resanded after wear since it’s thicker than most prefabricated floors, can be laid atop radiant mats, and doesn’t include toxins,” Managing Partner Tom Shafer says. A downside is a higher price of about $12 to $17 a square foot.

Porcelain “Wood”

A new competitor that closely resembles wood, Gurowitz saysporcelain wood offers advantages: indestructibility, varied colors, “graining” that mimics old wood, wide and long lengths, quickness in installation, and no maintenance. “You can spill red wine on it and nothing happens; if there’s a leak in an apartment above, it won’t be destroyed,” he says. Average prices run an affordable $3.50 to $8 a square foot. The biggest downside? It doesn’t feel like wood since it’s colder to the touch, Lynn says.

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Bottom line: When home owners are making a choice or comparing floors, they should ask these questions:

1. Do you want engineered or solid-based floors, depending on your home’s conditions?

2. Do you want a floor with more natural character, or less?

3. What board width do you want?

4. How critical is length to you in reducing the overall number of seams?

5. What color range do you want — light, medium, or dark?

6. Do you want more aggressive graining like oak or a mellower grain like walnut?

7. Do you want flooring prefinished or unfinished?

8. How thick is the wear layer in the floor you’re considering, which will affect your ability to refinish it over time?

9. What type of finish are you going to use? Can it be refinished and, if so, how?

10. For wider planks that provide greater stability: Where is the wood coming from, how is it dried, what is its moisture content, and what type of substrate is used in the engineered platform?

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SOURCE: REALTOR Magazine

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Here’s homeownership course: Home Owner 101

1. Fix a leaky toilet. (more…)

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Home remodeling is expected to have its best year since 2006, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. The biggest focus areas of home owners in remodeling: Mid-size kitchen and bath projects, maintenance improvements, and energy efficiency upgrades. (more…)

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It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to improve a home and make it more sellable, according to HomeGain’s 2012 National Home Improvement Survey.

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HomeGain surveyed nearly 500 real estate professionals nationwide to determine the top do-it-yourself home improvement projects that offer some of the biggest bang for your buck when selling a home. (more…)

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Springtime is the best time to give a home a fresh coat of paint, according to the Paint Quality Institute.

“By painting in moderate weather, you’ll likely get a longer-lasting paint job,” said Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute. Zimmer said that exterior painting is best to do when temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but not when it gets too hot. “Very hot days can cause the paint to dry too quickly and impair good paint film formation,” she noted. (more…)

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.When deciding on home remodeling projects, homeowners find that some projects pay off more than others at time of resale.

Remodeling Magazine, in conjunction with REALTOR® Magazine, recently released findings of its annual Cost vs. Value report for 2011-2012, revealing which remodeling projects offer the biggest bang for your buck.

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Overall, the trend right now is replacement over remodeling–replacing the old with the new rather than doing a total gut job, which can be much more costly.

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Year 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value report found that exterior replacement projects–such as new garage doors and a new entry door–offer some of the best returns at resale, allowing home owners to recoup close to 70% or more of the costs of the project at times of resale.

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The following are the top, mid-range projects from this year’s report, based on what home owners stand to recoup at time of resale:

1. Replacing the entry door to steel

Estimated cost: $1,238

Cost recouped at resale: 73%

2. Attic bedroom (converting unfinished attic space into a bedroom with bathroom and shower)

Estimated cost: $50,148

Cost recouped at resale: 72.5%

3. Minor kitchen remodel (including new cabinets and drawers, countertops, hardware, and appliances)

Estimated cost: $19,588

Cost recouped at resale: 72.1%

4. Garage door replacement

Estimated cost: $1,512

Cost recouped at resale: 71.9%

5. Deck addition (wood)

Estimated cost: $10,350

Cost recouped at resale: 70.1%

6. Siding replacement (vinyl)

Estimated cost: $11,729

Cost recouped at resale: 69.5%

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SOURCE: REMODELING

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NOTE FROM VIVIANNE: I agree with four home improvements on this list, but I am NOT certain about the (2). Attic bedroom addition – depending on the ease of adding the extra bedroom and bathroom in the attic, and size and prices of other comparable homes in the neighborhood.

The additional cost of heating and cooling should also be factored in – especially if the attic is not properly insulated.

Most buyers would NOT be willing to pay additional $40,000-%50,000 for the extra bedroom on the fourth level UNLESS it added actual VALUE to the house.

Perhaps small number of buyers would pay more if the improvement was done exceptionally well, there was a need for an additional bedroom & bathroom in the house, and the improvement provided the WOW! factor.

My advice is to do a thorough market analysis of your neighborhood BEFORE you spend any money on converting the attic into another bedroom. It sure would help the economy, but I’m not certain it would put any money in your wallet.

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When it comes to home remodeling, EXTERIOR replacement projects have routinely rewarded home owners with the best returns on the investments. The 2011 year is no different: REALTORS® recently rated many exterior improvements as among the most valuable home investment projects as part of the 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report.

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report shows the value of putting your home’s best façade forward, so to speak,” said National Association of REALTORS® President Moe Veissi. “Inexpensive exterior replacement projects are not only crucial to a home’s regular upkeep, but are also expected to recoup close to 70 percent of costs. Specific exterior projects such as

  • siding
  • window
  • door replacements

are part of regular home maintenance. These projects also do not require expensive materials and they have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal.”

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HouseLogic.com, NAR’s consumer Web site, includes dozens of remodeling projects, from kitchens and baths to siding replacements, which indicate the recouped value of the project based on a national average. According to the Cost vs. Value, seven of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects.

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REALTORS® judged an upscale fiber-cement siding replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 78% of costs recouped upon resale.

Two additional siding replacement projects were in the top 10, including:

  • foam-backed vinyl siding, expected to return 69.6% of costs,
  • upscale vinyl siding, expected to recoup 69.5% of costs.

Three door replacements were also among the top exterior replacement projects.

  • the steel entry door replacement is the least expensive project in the report, costing little more than $1,200 on average and expected to recoup 73% of costs.

The upscale garage door replacement jumped to number six this year, primarily due to the average cost of the project declining more than 15 percent nationally.

  • the upscale and midrange garage door replacement projects are expected to return more than 71% of costs.

One window replacement project,

  • upscale vinyl window replacement rounded out the last exterior replacement project in the top 10, expected to recoup 69.1% of costs.

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The 2011-12 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels, and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 14th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood LLC, was completed in cooperation with NAR.

SOURCE: NAR

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To save your MLS real estate and homes for sale searches in Property Wizard and receive automated e-mail market updates and new listings that meet your criteria: http://www.realtorviviannerutkowski.com/pw_login.shtml

To search all Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County va OPEN HOUSEShttp://www.realtorviviannerutkowski.com/openhousesearch.shtml

To research Schools and Neighborhoods in Northern Virginia, Fairfax County VA, Loudoun County VA, Prince William County VA, Arlington County VA, Fauquier County VA, visit http://www.realtorviviannerutkowski.com/schoolinfo.shtml

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