Kitchen Remodeling - 10 Lessons Learned

A full kitchen renovation is the kind of project that requires a lot of commitment on your part; and that means in terms of time, finances, improvisation, and stress management. You will have workers in your house for weeks at a time, you will run into unexpected problems, you will get tired of microwaving meals in your living room, and you will come out the other side of this project knowing some things that you didn’t know before.

In fact, that’s precisely the point of this article. We’ve chosen some of our favorite stories about lessons learned from kitchen remodeling. Each story comes from a homeowner who finally took the plunge, and can now relay some important things they’ve learned as a result.

Things like…

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Small doesn’t equal bad, especially when it comes to your kitchen! When this is your kitchen reality, and you’re not in the market for a complete remodel, it’s time to pull out some design tricks! The lucky thing is there are easy and affordable hacks to make a small kitchen look bigger.

From the Bottom to the Top.

Does anyone ever give much thought to the lower cabinetry other than stuffing in the soup pots and the cookie sheets then quickly closing the door before anything falls out? (Or is that just me?) Anyway, let’s start thinking of the lower cabinetry in the way of the saving some space. There are slimmer cabinets available for purchases (12-15 inches deep) that can be installed on the bottom. It creates floor space which is important when your space is already small. Take this cabinet change as an opportunity to purge some never used kitchen items that take up a lot of cabinet space.

Skip the Farmhouse Sink.

I know. We love big, double sinks too especially with a country, rustic styled home. But sometimes space is more important. Sometimes that sweet, sweet counter space is more useful. And without a huge block of a sink, which is a huge “eye stop” the space will look bigger.
Slim the Fridge. You may have noticed a theme: space saving with appliances helps to open up room elsewhere as well as giving the impression that there’s more space in general. If you can do it, look into a smaller fridge, 28-30 inches, and your kitchen will feel less cramped.

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Home Improvement - 10 Best Renovations to do Before Selling

Home Improvement

To put it lightly, selling your house is a pretty big deal. You have to interview realtors, clean more than you’ve ever cleaned in your life, welcome strangers into your home at all hours, and stage the place for sale.

For many homeowners, until their realtor walks through their home pointing out dozens of issues that could potentially diminish the selling price, they had no idea how much work was ahead of them. Of course you want to increase value anywhere you can, but home-improvement projects can easily stack up, and seem overwhelming at first.

In a perfect world, maybe you would be able to tackle each and every imperfection, netting the highest possible selling price. In reality, homeowners are dealing with limited budgets, limited time, and certainly a limited capacity for stress and chaos in the house where they still live.

Besides, as your realtor may have already mentioned, home improvements will not always get you a dollar for dollar return on investment.

A classic example:

A beautiful $80,000 in-ground swimming pool with all the bells and whistles typically won’t automatically increase a home’s value by $80,000 – not even close. For many potential buyers, the thought of maintaining a swimming pool is a turnoff, and can actually decrease a home’s value.

Very few people can afford to invest money without seeing some sort of return. This is why realtors, architects, and home renovators have all paid very close attention to the types of upgrades that will increase your home’s value. After years of working with families looking to upgrade their home before putting it on the market, we have come up with our 10 best recommendations for home improvements that are actually worth it.

To maximize your home’s value, consider these areas…

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9 Tips for a Successful Finished Basement Project

Finished Basement

A finished basement can add utility and enjoyment to your home, not to mention some much-needed square footage. If you find yourself continually wishing for more storage space, an extra bedroom, a dedicated playroom for the kids, or even just a more organized laundry area, the solution may literally be right under your feet.

Finishing a basement is complicated project, especially if you are working on a budget. However, you’ll be happy to learn that this project will cost significantly less than adding on an addition of the same square footage. If possible, it is always best to work within the existing footprint of your home, and to make the most of the space and foundation that you already have.

Of course, as most homeowners realize, basements come with their own particular set of challenges. With that in mind, we have assembled a list of 9 tips for a successful finished basement project. After years of helping families turn an unused space into something truly enjoyable, we have become familiar with some universal truths.

Here they are…

Finishing a Basement

Address Any and All Problems Before Beginning Work

Before you do a single thing – and this includes even sketching out a preliminary layout – have your basement professionally inspected so that you can address any problems before they have a chance to halt construction.

Minor issues can easily be handled by a homeowner with a good set of tools, but there are four specific problems which are best handled by a professional.

  • Structural damage – Cracks in the walls or ceilings of your basement may be the result of surface damage, but there’s also the possibility that they are the beginning signs of damage to the foundation of your home. Hopefully, you do not find this type of damage at all, but if you do, do not attempt to remedy it yourself. Get a trusted professional to assess the situation, and come up with a plan.
  • Radon – Radon is a radioactive gas which can seep up through the soil on which your home is built, and make its way inside. This is a dangerous situation, as radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. Radon will need to be detected, and if it is found, a removal system will need to be placed in your basement.
  • Mold – Basements are more likely to be wet than any other room in your home. If your basement has already been infiltrated by dangerous mold, you may need a professional to safely remove it before you can begin building.
  • Termites – If termite damage is found in the foundation of your home, you’ll need to call in a professional to exterminate the bugs, and to make sure the damage is not severe enough to warrant any further action.

Hopefully, none of these issues come up. However, if they do, it is best to call in a professional right away rather than try to tackle this yourself.

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Home Addition Plans

So, you think you are definitely ready to take the plunge. After too many years of bumping into furniture, squeezing the family into a cramped kitchen for dinner, or doubling up the kids in shared rooms, you are finally in a good situation to put an addition onto your home.

You are excited at the possibilities, but also overwhelmed at the number of choices that lay before you. What you need is to approach this project with solid home addition plans in mind before you begin.

Dreaming up your ideal home addition can be a lot of fun, but there are several important considerations for every homeowner to be aware of. Based on years of experience with helping homeowners put beautiful and functional additions onto their homes, here are our best home addition ideas and tips.


Things to Consider before the Project Begins

Home Addition Costs


Do You Need an Addition at All? – Adding an addition onto your home is one of the costliest projects you can undertake. For this reason, it is worth considering whether your goals can be accomplished simply through remodeling, as opposed to building an entire addition.

Skilled home remodelers can make excellent use of the space you already have within your home’s existing “footprint.” Remodeling services are significantly cheaper because there are no additional foundations to pour, and fewer (if any) legal or zoning considerations. Speak with a design consultant or an architect to determine if the layout of your home could be changed to maximize space and efficiency.

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How Much Does It Cost to Remodel a Bathroom

You may have been daydreaming about upgrading your bathroom for a while now. With so many remodeling shoes on TV, a completely redesigned bathroom now seems more accessible than ever. Of course, daydreaming about it and actually building it are two very different things. How much does it cost to remodel a bathroom anyway? Where do you begin?

We are going to take a look at three different price ranges encompassing basic, midrange, and high-end bathroom remodeling projects. Of course, these are just guidelines, but they should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect for your specific remodeling project.

Before we get to that however, let’s take a look at a few universal situations that will either positively or negatively affect your bathroom remodeling costs.

Situations That Will Add Expense

  • Adding plumbing to an area of your home where there is none.
  • Knocking down walls, or building additions to house your new bathroom.
  • If damaged or rusty plumbing is discovered.
  • If a mold or termite problem is discovered.
  • High-end cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, tile, or counters.

Situations That Will Lower Expense

  • Building within the established “footprint” of your current bathroom.
  • Working with the plumbing that you already have in place.
  • Doing some of the minor work yourself (keeping in mind that specialty work like plumbing and electricity should not be attempted by amateurs.)
  • Using new, but standard cabinetry, fixtures, flooring, tile, or counters.
  • Researching and choosing a trusted contractor to handle your project responsibly, and on budget.


Price Range: $3,000 – $10,000



 This price range is most attractive to those with a very limited budget, or those who are looking to update their bathroom in the hopes of selling their home. At this price range, you will mostly be dealing with standard, off-the-shelf fixtures, cabinets, lighting, and countertops.

If you are particularly creative, you can do a lot in this price range. For instance, while you may not be able to tile the whole bathroom, you can make a very good use of a partial tile job, or some accent tiles. Or, if tile is completely out of your budget, consider perhaps a chair rail, with the wainscoting or beadboard underneath (just make sure you have plenty of ventilation, and are using the appropriate vapor barriers for any type of wood that will be exposed to water.)

Another smart thing to do in this budget range is to choose one or two aspects of the bathroom that you really want to highlight, splurge on them, and then stick to the basics everywhere else. For example, you can dress up a very basic vanity with some beautiful, higher end lighting. Likewise, by splurging on a beautiful, vintage styled pedestal sink, you may be able to get away with a repurposed freestanding cabinet as storage instead of built-ins.

As with any project, you can save a lot of money by doing some of the work yourself. Of course, it is always recommended that you speak with a general contractor and designer prior to beginning any project, as they can help guide you in everything that from building permits, to waste removal.

The Breakdown:

Countertops: Look for cultured marble or granite.

Tile: Try very basic tile with a few expensive accent tiles, or mid-priced tile concentrated only around the bath or shower stall.

Walls: Paint will be your most affordable option, but remember that you can tile sections of the room. You may also consider properly sealed wood accents with a vapor barrier

Cabinets: Try refinishing or refacing the cabinetry you already have in place. If that won’t work, consider buying some freestanding furniture as storage. Any built-in cabinetry that you get in this price range will be of a very basic grade, but you can also dress it up with paint or stylish hardware.

Fixtures, Finishes and Lighting: Nearly everything in this price range will be bought off the rack. Again, you can splurge on one or two special accent pieces, but for the most part, you will be working with standard grade materials.

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Remodeling a House


Almost everyone approaches the prospect of remodeling a house with excitement and determination. Unfortunately, those feelings can cool off rapidly once the reality of the situation hits you.

Home renovation can be a lengthy and frustrating process. Homeowners who realize they are staring down a disruptive, occasionally messy, and expensive remodeling project often make some big mistakes in an attempt to make the process less impactful. You can avoid these pitfalls if you know where to look for them.

We want to level with you:

While we would all love it if we could simply point to a picture in a catalog, say “That one!” and have the kitchen, bathroom, or living room of our dreams magically appear, it simply doesn’t work that way.

There is a lot of planning, negotiating and patience required on the part of you, the homeowner. Trying to make the process go faster or cheaper can sometimes get you into big trouble.

So here are the 8 biggest mistakes to avoid during your renovations:


Overestimating Your DIY Prowess

It’s true that you can save yourself some money if you are able to do a portion of the renovation work yourself.

But here’s your gut check:

Be brutally honest. Did a single semester of shop class in high school truly prepare you for large-scale carpentry work? Likewise, just because you can tighten up a leaky shower head; does that mean you should start soldering pipes on your own?

If you have actual construction experience, then you can and should jump into the project, assuming you want to. If you don’t have solid skills, you may end up doing some damage to your home, resulting in a repair bill on top of your remodeling costs.

Professionals ply their trades all day, every day. They can spot potential problems that the average person may miss, and they can do the job faster and more efficiently. This is especially true of highly specialized tradesmen like electricians and plumbers. Messing up in one of those areas can have serious consequences.


Going With the Cheapest (or Most Readily Available) Contractor

Let’s be clear:

You should not allow yourself to be overcharged or treated unfairly, but if you run into a contractor who is quoting you much less than others, consider why that might be.

Remodeling contractors should provide you price quotes with extensive details. They should have specific plans outlined for job aspects such as permit costs, a general contractor fee, a waste removal plan, and insurance.

Make sure your contractor has also included information about how changes to the project are handled once the project is already underway, as this can make a big difference in the final price tag.

Of course, also consider the way the estimate is written as well. If you receive a document saying something along the lines of “finished basement,” with few other specifics outlined, you can safely assume your contractor did not carefully price out your job. He may be quoting low just to get his foot in the door. That’s a red flag.

One last point:

If you run into a string of contractors who all have a waiting list, and then one who mysteriously doesn’t, maybe take a pause before hiring him. The best ones can sometimes require advance booking.

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Bathrooms no longer have to be strictly functional. Homeowners are finding new ways to emphasize the formally taboo room with fun and elegant designs. Here are six unique vanity ideas that are guaranteed to instill bathroom envy in your family and friends.

Rustic Wood with Stone Farmhouse Sink
Combining the rich wood color with the bold metal fixtures and stone farmhouse sink creates a vanity that any Viking would be proud to install in their bathroom. Make sure you combine this style with light, warm colored flooring and walls to avoid making the space appear too dark.


Reclaimed Barrel
If you love wine, this vanity is perfect for you. Taking an old wine barrel and turning it into a vanity creates a rustic, elegant sink that can fit almost anywhere.


This trend has been gaining speed in the DIY community for some time. Savvy homeowners are finding old dressers with a lot of personality at antique shops and flea markets and converting them into bathroom vanities. But beware; many DIYer’s don’t have the proper skills or tools to pull this off correctly. We suggest that, after you find your desired dresser, you hire a professional to convert and install it.


Modern decorators rejoice! This floating vanity is the perfect way to create a sleek, sophisticated design without sacrificing storage or counter space. Add a couple floating shelves for even more visual interest.


Stone Slab
This incredible stone slab bathroom vanity is an unforgettable focal point that will leave your guests in awe. The rough stone edges paired with the smooth faucet and sink and iron chains create a perfect marriage between industrial and natural design.


Simultaneously adding a bit of historic class and extra storage, converting an antique armoire into a functional bathroom vanity is no easy feat. First, you must find the armoire you like in the right size and style. Then, it has to be properly fitted with plumbing and electrical before you can really enjoy this show-stopping piece. Just like with the dresser vanity above, we suggest hiring a professional.


29 Interior Design Ideas

The living room is the beating heart of every home. It’s where families gather together for everything from important celebrations to casual TV watching. If you’re going to take a picture of the kids in their graduation gowns, or open birthday presents, there’s a good chance that will happen in the living room.

For all these reasons, we don’t throw out suggestions for living room design ideas lightly. We understand that your family will spend more time together in this room than any other room of your home. We know that this will often be the first impression guests get of your place. It must reflect your family’s unique style, while also meeting all your practical needs. Clearly, this requires some careful consideration.

With that in mind, we have created a list of some of our favorite living room designs. We’ve picked out some great aspects of function and style to help give you some inspiration for your own home. Take a look, and let’s start planning your new living room together.


White Space


white-spaceClean, defined lines and understated colors brings this contemporary room to life. Without the “busy” feeling of too many colors or patterns, we can instead focus on the open floor plan, leading up into the dining room and kitchen area, as well as to the staircase in the back.


 Lofty Ideas


lofty-ideasThe extra-high ceilings with exposed wood beams allow plenty of room for windows and skylights. The natural lighting adds a bright and clean feel, enhanced by the polished hardwood floors. The floor-to-ceiling fireplace mantle draws the eyes upward, bringing the viewer’s attention to the loft-style hallway.


 Creating Space


creating-spaceThis smaller living room is given a more open feeling, thanks to a light color scheme, and a clever use of built-in storage and shelves. The space is cozy and inviting, without seeming cramped or disorganized. Custom lighting adds even more brightness.

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The kitchen island can be a beautiful and functional addition to your kitchen. Here are eight unique kitchen island ideas to give you some inspiration for your next kitchen renovation.

Rounded Corners
Many people assume that kitchen islands have to be rectangular; thankfully, this is no longer the case. Rounding the corners of a kitchen island will create a smoother, more relaxed feeling in your kitchen in addition to adding a bit of unique visual interest.rounded-corners

Island-Booth Combination
There are very few seating arrangements that are as cozy and quaint as a booth. Combine that comfort with the functionality of an island to create a space your family will never want to leave.island-booth-combination

Long and Sleek
Perfect for modern homes, this island comes with a lot of extra storage. If you’re the type of chef that loves investing in new cooking gadgets, this type of island may be a smart option for you – giving you a place to store all your new toys.long-and-sleek

Multi-level Eat-In
Adding multiple levels throughout your kitchen island means that you can increase the functionality and create a focal point for your kitchen. Use one level for eating, another for prep and the third for displaying flowers and knickknacks.multi-level-eat-in

Small and Open
A good option for smaller kitchens, this type of island creates a usable surface for eating and cooking while also letting light flow freely throughout the space. Islands like this can also be outfitted with wheels so you can move it away when space gets a little tighter.small-open-island

Table-Island Combination
Similar to the Island-Booth combination, this island type allows for uninterrupted family time. Combining the food prep and eating areas means you can spend less time transporting and more time enjoying each other’s company.table-island-combination

Modern Dual Level
This island looks like it could easily reside in the Jetson’s kitchen. The detached second level creates a futuristic look while also increasing usable surface area and allowing more light to pass through.modern-dual-level

Double Islands
As the saying goes, two is always better than one – and why should kitchen islands be exempt? If you’ve got the space for it, a double island means twice the prep area and twice the fun.double-island