Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pressure Washing the Home's Exterior

Cleaning your home's exterior is important in maintaining its appearance and value. When your home is neglected, it affects your curb appeal and ultimately your property value. In addition, the longer you wait to clean the exterior of your home, the more damage environmental contaminants and pollutants can do.

For example, mold actually "digests" and helps to decompose and break down things like leaves, wood and other plant debris. But they become a problem when they go where they are not wanted and digest the exterior of your home.
Car and factory emissions also take a toll on your home, especially those near high-traffic areas. While you may not notice it at present, when cleaned, a black filth washes off most buildings in cities and suburbs.
Having your home professionally cleaned regularly will not only ensure that the exterior is not being damaged by mold, mildew and algae, but it's a relatively inexpensive way to increase its curb appeal and overall market value by thousands.   

Best Paint Colors for a Small Space

Are you still under the misconception that a completely white color palette will make an apartment or house appear larger? The trick to painting a small home or apartment is to use vibrant or dark colors with discretion to enhance areas you want to play up, such as a living room wall or entry way.  

As a general rule of thumb, darker tones will make a room seem smaller and cozier, and lighter and brighter tones will make a room seem larger. It's also important to leave negative space (white or light neutral tones) between bold splashes of color to give the eye rest, and to enhance the openness of adjoining or connecting areas.      

When in doubt, there's nothing wrong with choosing a neutral shade in a dark room with little lighting. For example, a small bedroom will do well with a dark, comforting paint color like gray or a soft, light brown, which can help a tiny room feel cozy, instead of simply small (which is often the case with white walls). When painting with a dark color in a small room, make sure to decorate to provide balance with lighter shades in bedding or living room furniture.      

The good news is that painting a small space to help it appear larger isn't governed by one set of rules. You can use bright hues to liven up a little room or stick with dark neutrals to help a tiny room feel cozy and inviting.

Need a New Flat Roof? Consider the Green Alternative

Conklin Roofing Systems' Spray Polyurethane foam or "SPF" system is a great way to provide high-grade insulation on roofing for top-down protection from the elements. An SPF application effectively eliminates air infiltration, adds building strength and reduces cooling and heating costs.  
During the restoration process each problem area of your roof is addressed, repaired and resealed; then the entire roof is sealed with foam and a reflective finish coat. No tear-off of your existing roof is required. That means you'll experience no disruption to your home or lifestyle, and no debris will be added to the landfill. 

Additional advantages of Conklin's SPF system:   
  • Adds structural strength without adding much weight.
  • Can be applied to most existing flat-roof surfaces
  • Withstands hurricane-force winds
  • Can easily correct damaged substrate and/or poor drainage
  • Will not absorb water due to foam's closed-cell insulation ies
  • Reduces sound transmission
  • Is fast and easy to repair or recoat      

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Your Dream Remodel made Easy!

When you think of doing a dream remodel, what first comes to mind? Is it how beautiful, updated and spacious your home will look, or does the thought conjure images of all your furniture piled in one room, walls and floors torn up, and eating fast food for weeks because your refrigerator is temporarily out of service? 

We'll help you through the process
The thing is, you shouldn't put off your dream remodel because you're afraid the process would be too inconvenient, costly or require a great deal of know-how. Regardless of the size of your dream renovation, whether it's an overhaul of at least half of your home, or a one-room remodel to create the perfect kitchen, House Calls Maintenance can make it easier than you think. We can help you sail through a remodel with little interruption to your lifestyle.

 At House Calls Maintenance, we have the expertise to help you develop an overall design concept, and then break the project into manageable pieces that enable you to remodel slowly, with far less impact on your activities and your budget. By taking a remodel one room at a time, you can feel more comfortable about the cost, and maybe even add a few extra details to the remodel.

You can also relax knowing that most of your furniture-and your life-can stay right where it is. And when you hire the experts at House Calls Maintenance to do the work, you can rest assured that your dream renovation will be done with quality and precision.

Isn't it about time you turned your renovation dreams into reality? 

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Kitchen & Bath Remodel "Decision Pyramid"

Have you found yourself staring at your kitchen, thinking it looks tired, and imagining it with a whole new look? Does your bathroom seem dated or drab? It's probably time for a kitchen or bath remodel.

So where do you start? First, you'll need an expert to help you through the kitchen and bath remodeling process. At House Calls Maintenance, we've been doing renovations for years, and we can steer you through all the renovation stages with ease - ensuring you end up with the kitchen or bath you want.
Here's how we'll help you begin the process

Think of your remodel as a pyramid with 3 "decision" levels. Start with the big concepts, then continue to hone your decisions until you've got a clear-cut plan that fits beautifully into your budget.


Overall style
Your first decision will be to choose the overall style of your remodel. You might want to be sure it blends well with the style of the rest of your house, or, you might like to depart just a bit. Do you want a country look? European? Traditional? Contemporary?

Set a reasonable budget and stick to it           
Don't just pull a number out of the air; do your homework and research what cabinets, countertops, tile, appliances, flooring and fixtures cost. Look at top of the line products, middle-of-the-road, and economy-based products. Be sure to pencil in labor costs, too. If you've got $10,000 to spend, but your dream bathroom would cost $15,000, you'll know you have to rein in your expectations.

Determine your priorities
Unless you've got an unlimited budget, you'll have to decide what's most important to you, and what you can live without. Go with what will create the most impact. Would you like to have beautiful rustic tile on the floor of the bathroom and the shower surround? Then you'll probably have to settle for more moderately-priced cabinets and sink, and go with fairly standard fixtures.



Choose your cabinets
Keeping your overall style choice in mind, you'll need to choose your cabinet style and stain or paint color. Remember to consider the wall and floor colors of the room. If you haven't decided your wall color, now is a good time to get serious about it. You'll also need to coordinate your countertop.

Choose your fixtures
Remember that fixtures exude just as much style (or lack thereof) as any other component in your remodel, so choose carefully and ensure that they go with the overall look you have in mind. And there are more color choices now in fixtures than ever before. Are the fixtures durable? If your budget allows, get fixtures from well-known, time-tested manufacturers.

Choose your appliances           
Not only can you choose between white, black or stainless, but there are now different stainless options. Appliance manufacturers are designing less expensive appliances that are white or black with stainless accents. This can give you that "upgrade" effect without busting your budget.
Be sure to check on the electronic features on the appliances as well, so you'll know what's a must-have, and what you can consider optional.



Reassess your choices        
After the fun of choosing your cabinets, fixtures and appliances, (or tubs, sinks, vanities and marble), chances are you're not even in the ballpark when it comes to your budget. So reassess what's most important to you, and what will make the most impact.

Then make up your mind to be comfortable with having to make more economical choices with other things. If you really want top-of-the-line granite countertops, then be OK with middle-of-the-road cabinets. You've already got the "wow" factor with the granite, so perhaps the cabinets might not have to be top-of-the-line.
We're experts in home remodeling. We can help you with all of your decisions at every level, so that every component of your redesign works together as a cohesive, stylish and welcoming whole, no matter what your budget. And with our quality work and installation, you'll be thrilled with the outcome. Call us for an appointment to talk about your home remodel today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Painting...touch-up or 'Go Big'?

While most homeowners often hope they can put off repainting their homes just one more year, such procrastination can end up being a costly decision in the end. An excessively humid summer (in Florida?....really?) can increase paint failure. This can cause damage to siding and internal wall paint which would require far more expensive repairs in the long run. Moisture eventually brings mildew and just don't even want to go there! With that in mind, it's best to tackle this common home improvement job as soon as you sense the need.

So, your need to paint......should you just touch it up or 'Go Big' and make a statement? You only live once and paint is the most inexpensive way to make a design statement in your home or "Go Big". There is a science to colors and how they affect us in a space. I would recommend that if you don't have that specific talent, you get a professional designer to give you color palette ideas for your home or business. The color palette should work together in common from the exterior to the interior....or should it? I have a lot of clients who are afraid of color, but there is no reason why a closet can't be orange, a kitchen pantry purple or a laundry room magenta as long as it works within an overall concept, or it can come off as tacky. Every room can be fun, and if you don't like it, you can change it. What's the worst thing that can happen? It's only paint. Here is a decent website for some good color combinations and palettes: Click Here!

There are also many color tricks that can be achieved. Here are a few tips with 'Big' results! 

1. How about painting the bottom of a table red. If you have lighter color floors, the light will reflect up and cast a reddish color under the table. Everyone will wonder where the color is coming from! Again, if it is in the overall color palette it will be a great design aesthetic.

2. Here is another suggestion from Sarah Cole director, Farrow & Ball "Paint the insides of shelving a dark color. That will set off dishes, glassware or books. Also, if you have a long, narrow hallway, paint the walls a dark color from ceiling to floor, making sure to include the baseboards and molding so the line is unbroken. Then paint the floor (or choose a light color floor) and the ceiling white. The effect will be that the floor and ceiling will reflect light, so it's not a dark, gloomy space, and the walls will look graphic. It will also make the room that you're entering look especially bright and airy".

3. Here is a good one from Sarah Fishburne, manager of innovation and design, Home Depot "Use the Eight-Foot Rule, which says that contrary to what people think, white ceilings can seem lower. The rule is that if your room is less than eight feet high, paint the ceiling a shade or two lighter than your wall color. If your room is higher than eight feet, paint the ceiling two shades darker than your wall color".

4. Should you use flat, eggshell, semi-gloss or gloss? here are some tips from Vic Barnhill, Mythic Paint  Flat or matte paints don't reflect light, so they hide imperfect walls better than higher-sheen paints such as eggshell, semi-gloss or high-gloss. However, the smoother the finish, the easier it is to wipe dirt and grit out of cracks and crevices. Flat paints allow moisture to penetrate the walls, and that can result in a mold or mildew problem, so it's best to use them in low-humidity areas such as bedrooms, living rooms and hallways. Keeping that in mind, use semi-gloss paints in bathrooms and kitchens or any other high-humidity area. They have tighter films and are able to repel water. High-gloss finishes are good for cabinetry and trim. Remember, if you're using high-gloss paint on walls or ceilings, make sure the surfaces are perfectly smooth, because it will show every imperfection".

If you are doing it for yourself or selling a home, the bottom line is that when you have to re-paint, why not make your space look like a designer space? Why not go for a home run? It just takes a good concept and color palette to make the space work and separate it from the everyday same old, same old. It's just paint!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter..the best time to evaluate your roof.

Roofing: Just saying the word usually brings dollar signs up in your head! But lets start from the beginning. First of all you need a good roof inspection. As a home owner it is wise to get at least one roof inspection per year in a Florida climate. However, in colder climates, many roofers recommend two roof inspections each year. An inspection in the fall helps ensure that minor problems don't become major problems under the pressure of rain, ice and snow, while a spring inspection helps evaluate any damage done during the winter that may prove costly following heavy spring rains. As a realtor or a seller, it is usually a good idea prior to the sale of the house.

Who should inspect your roof?
Choose a licensed professional with a state roofing certification. Roof certifications are separate from home inspection certifications. Home inspectors for the most part, do not perform thorough roof inspections. Instead, roofing inspectors climb up to the roof and issue reports on:
  • Possible movement
  • Condition of roofing materials
  • Ridges, caps and drip edges
  • Soundness of drains, downspouts, and gutters
  • Flashing around roof pipes, chimneys, vents, valleys and mounting of HVAC units

How long is a roof inspection?
It varies depending on the size, materials and complexity of the roof. A general roof inspection will take from 45 minutes to several hours depending on number of roof penetrations, condition of roof and complexity of roof. After the roof inspection a report should be generated by the roofing inspector.
A roofing inspector will climb up to the roof and locate the various dormers, chimneys, gutters, and any flashing points to see if they require remedial work. He will examine the condition of the roofing surface material. He will also inspect inside the house looking carefully at the eaves, interior chimney surfaces, fasteners, roof braces, and support material.

What is the cost of a roof inspection?
The cost of a roof inspection from a certified roofer will range from $150 ~ $500 depending on the size and type of roof. This is well worth the cost as a good inspection should give you enough information to make some choices about your roof.

What are my choices?
Depending on the inspection report, unless the roof is in very poor condition, there are more cost saving choices you can make other than total roof replacement. The most cost effective is just repairing the areas that are not conforming. This could be replacing flashing or roofing material in certain locations. Of course replacing the roof is another choice when all other options are not available. Even with a new roof option depending if it is residential or commercial, there are many types and cost ranges. You should explore all your roofing material options as they can vary greatly in cost depending on type and warranty.

With commercial roofs there is a a new accepted (although its been around awhile) alternative to new roof replacement. It is called a 'Cool Roof' and is a 'green' roof coating system that provides a cost effective alternative to total roof replacement on commercial roofs. The roof coatings are usually an elastomeric acrylic coating that is seamless and lightweight and goes over the existing roofing with a minimum 10 year renewable warranty. It is usually about 1/2 the cost of a new commercial roof. One of the best I have found is the 'Conklin' roof coating system. Click on the following video for a look at a commercial application:

This cool roof also qualifies for federal tax incentives as well as most utility companies offer rebates when installing these roofs. So there are several benefits besides cost savings when choosing a 'Cool Roof' system.

So, there are many decisions to make when dealing with your roof or a clients roof. The best time to make roof choices for Florida is in the winter months! You have less rain to deal with and prices are most competative. Make sure you explore all your roofing options!   

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Steps to Sell an 'Ugly House'.

I am sure you have seen the handmade signs on the side of the road:
'2 bed- 2 bath cheap house, $90K call 955-UGLY.'

For the purposes of this article, let's define an 'ugly house.'  For most of us these days it is probably a house that needs some kind of aesthetic work done if you want to sell it profitably or at all. The work required could be at many different levels from architectural elements, functionality, space planning, interior finishes, custom millwork, appliance selections, landscaping, cleanliness, clutter, etc. They can all play a part of 'ugly.'

With all the design, remodel and real estate shows on TV everyone has become more educated about renovating their homes, buying homes or flipping homes.....or have they? On TV they make it look so easy!  

On the show 'Flipping Out' (my favorite) you can see some of the trials and tribulations that designer Jeff Lewis goes through trying to get things done. 

And he does this for a living in front of an audience!   By the way, what are his design credentials anyway? ...sorry, off track. It's easy to get some ideas off these shows but it is a whole other story to try and execute it in your particular home. Every home is different and has different parameters than the show you see on TV - scale, natural lighting, utility locations and code requirements to name a few.
So you want to buy or you have a client with an 'ugly house' ...what should you really do to make a profitable sale? Here are 5 steps I recommend to be successful.
1. I would suggest you get a professional designer to give you a free consultation on some ideas that will help the house out of 'ugly.' This can be as easy as changing wall colors to adding some new walls to better define a space or removing some walls to open a space. It's called a 'Designer's Eye' for a reason....we can see things how they will be, instead of how they are. Simply put, get a professional.
2. Set a budget and implement the designer's renovation suggestions within that budget. Be sure to at least repair anything that is broken or not functioning. Get written estimates for all the repairs and renovations and then make decisions with your designer and realtor on those that will most affect your success in selling the home. Make your home stand out from the rest in that price range.

3. Remove as much clutter out of the house as you can. You want prospects to see as much of the walls, floors and ceilings as possible. The scale of furniture and accessories is important in helping the spaces look larger and having a prospect envision them living there. Your designer can really help you here.

4. Get the house cleaned. I mean super clean! Clean the windows, walls, rugs, floors, mirrors and anywhere else where dirt reigns supreme. The smelly carpets should be out by now and that fresh coat of paint will give the home a new feeling when your clients walk in!
5. After you've made designer improvements, offer a good deal.  Buyers are very knowledgeable these days of home prices in their area.  Make sure you are priced competitively, but be sure you are educating them on the advantages of your particular home. The designer's improvements will be evident when they walk in the home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Pura Vida' - A Costa Rican experience.

I just returned from a business trip in Costa Rica last week. Being in their business environment gave me some great perspective. It seems that things in San Jose were humming along, people going to work, crazy....I mean CRAZY traffic, busy restaurants (many of them American chains), and the Architecture/Development office I was working from, no one was idle....not even for a minute! Seems like sales of new mid-rise condominiums are going very well, and I see more than a handful from my office window under construction. After settling in I was thinking to myself, wow... does not look like the recession has hit here. But after talking with the president of a major development company he stated that things were moving forward but they were still very cautious. They are definitely feeling the affects of the great recession but you would not know it by everyone’s attitude.

While there I visited some retail stores and restaurants and not one person complained about a poor economy, they were just moving forward. BTW, the average income in Costa Rica is eight times less than the U.S. average. The saying amongst Costa Ricans is "Pura Vida"...translated 'Pure Life' or 'Full of Life'. Basically they 'enjoy life' regardless of their circumstances. Seems like their culture has a strong faith in God as I heard many times such references. On one of my taxi rides, because of a different currency, I apparently gave the driver too much money and as I was getting out he practically chased me down to tell me I overpaid by 4 dollars.....honorable people. I also attended a 'Home Show' in a make shift convention center. It was so well attended that we had to park in an open grass field a distance away from the center. When we got out of the car, my Costa Rican friend who drove us was walking back and forth looking for something or someone. When I inquired who he was looking for, he stated he wanted to make sure to pay someone to park there. To my amazement, after much looking around he finally found a guy that accepted his 5 bucks. Believe me if he would not found this guy it would not have tow trucks that I have seen in Costa Rica. But it mattered to him....honorable people.   

Back to the 'Home Show'. Funny how when I walked in the set-up looked like any home show in the United States. They had all the different booths lined up with different vendors; builders, banks, tile companies, developers, homes and condo's for sale....same old, same old.....but wait! There was a line around several Bank booths...I mean a loooooong line. Like a line of people waiting for tickets to a 'Beetles' Concert! I asked my friend...what are they in line waiting for? What could be so important? Is it free food or a raffle? No, other booths had all that too. It seems they were waiting to apply for a new loan or refinance existing loans. Apparently the banks are lending money a lot easier than before....sound familiar? My friend tells me that more people are qualifying for car loans these days in San Jose....everyone drives....oh no! I just hope it is not an indication of irresponsible lending practices that got the U.S. in trouble. Lets hope not......'Pura Vida'.

I also observed that there was real relationship between my Costa Rican friends. They seemed to really have each others best interest in mind. They ate over at each others houses.....a lot....socialized.... a lot. I have to mention the food... just crazy good! Seems like relationships were more important than business....they made me feel like a 'Tico' and a friend....honorable people.

On my return, as I sat in the Miami airport (good thing I speak spanish) after my cancelled flight because of hurricane Irene, I thought back to my Costa Rican friends. Instead of stressing over my 5 hour delay, I thought.....when was the last time I got to do some duty free window shopping and hang out at 'Fridays' on a Thursday for 5 hours? .....Pura Vida! I think from now on I'll incorporate that more into my thought process.