Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years on the heels of popular home improvement shows and publications. And, for certain small projects, a DIY project can be rewarding and fun – if you are prepared and have the proper skills. But before you start knocking down walls and taking out wiring, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a clear idea of what you want your project to look like?
- Do you have the time to complete this project (be realistic!)?
- Have you ever undertaken a project like this before?
- Do you know everything you will need (materials, tools, etc.) to complete the project?
- Are you familiar with the applicable building codes and permits?
- Do you enjoy physical labor?
- Do you have all the tools you will need?
- Do you have the necessary skills for this project?
- If not, do you have the time and resources to learn these skills?
- Where will you obtain the necessary materials?
- If you cannot complete the project according to your original schedule, are you (and your family) prepared to handle the resulting inconvenience?
- Will you need assistance with this project? If so, who will assist you? Do they have the time and skills required for this project?
- Do you understand all the safety issues associated with this project?
- Are you familiar with the architecture and structural makeup of your home (i.e., how knocking down one wall will affect the rest of the structure)?
- Have you considered the hidden costs associated with doing it yourself – time, tools, and the possibility that you may actually decrease the value of your house if the result isn’t up to professional standards?
It is easy to look at the cost of hiring a professional remodeler and think only of labor and materials. But remember that a professional remodeler offers you an important service – years of experience, the right tools, a network of suppliers and subcontractors, and an in-depth understanding of legal regulations, cost estimating, scheduling, and the latest construction techniques and materials.
Content courtesy of NAHB.
Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today discusses the innovations and uses that today’s garages have. Garages are no longer just for your cars or the storage place that never sees the light of day. They are becoming functional and organized. Maybe it’s time for you to get your garage in order and renovate. Let HomeServicesLink help you do just that.
The garage is going more high-tech, high-gloss and high-end at many houses.
But it doesn’t have to be upscale to be functional or fun.
Forget dusty gray concrete, exposed wall beams and a broken down TV in the corner. Many of today’s garages have granite-like floors, cabinets that would be at home in pricey kitchens, and audio and video that can rival home theaters.
Garages offer a way to expand a house’s living area and storage space without new construction. The home storage and organization market will total about $9 billion in 2015, and about $2 billion of that will be products purchased for the garage, which represents the fastest growing segment, according to a 2011 report by the the business research company Freedonia Group.
Whirlpool-owned Gladiator GarageWorks, which sells products including storage cabinets and garage floors, sees room for growth, because only 35 percent of garages made for at least two cars have room for more than one, says Tim Keaton, the company’s marketing, brand and product chief.
“Man caves have always been popular, but with the ever increasing size of rec rooms and kids’ playrooms, the man has nowhere to go,” says Todd Shuster, the custom audio and video manager at Abt Electronics. “Enter the garage, a place that can be a shrine to your favorite football team, your Harley, or sports car.”
The growing attention to garages started, not surprisingly, in Detroit, says says Tim Keaton of Whirlpool-owned Gladiator GarageWorks. First, garages were strictly functional as a place to store tools. Then came “form and function,” before it became what’s increasingly a family hangout.
“When people need space, it’s the only place to go,” he says.
Garage uses range from the mundane – like storage – to transformations that turn the space into art-like galleries featuring cars. Somewhere in between lie the more traditional man caves with refrigerators, couches and wide-screen TVs, or studios for homeowners who love to paint, sculpt or garden.
Men with renovated garages often tell Phil Berg, author and photographer for the book series “Ultimate Garages”: “I would live in my garage if my wife let me.”
Garage, sweet garage
For John Weinberger, that would hardly be a hardship. His 3,500-square-foot garage in Naperville, Ill., is the same size as his house. It’s so comfortable, in fact, that he and wife Lisa lived there for five months recently while their home was being renovated. Lisa says she misses it.
It helps that the couple share a love of cars. John, the retired founder of the Continental chain of Chicago-area car dealerships, used to race cars and still fixes them. He recently taught a grandson to rebuild an engine. Lisa has worked in dealer promotions and races cars as well. The couple actually met at a toll booth. John was scrounging around for change and Lisa lent him 40 cents.
The Weinbergers regularly host car clubs and parties in what’s really a series of garages that includes a party room filled with automotive memorabilia that sits on a black-and-white checkered floor. That room leads into the part of the garage that houses Weinberger’s collection of 30 classic and exotic cars that he, like many other auto enthusiasts, got tired of being separated from.
“Instead of reading the paper, I go out in the garage and tinker,” says Weinberger. “But it’s more of a museum than a mechanic’s shop.”
Livable garage space can include cars — or not. When people room is in short supply, less valuable cars usually move outside. The transition from junk-filled eyesore to high-tech hangout can be a gradual one. The first step, says Keaton, is to organize what’s there. Recognizing the trend toward garage living, the company has been making their storage cabinets more similar to the styles and finishes used inside houses.
Housing codes in many areas of the country require that garages have drywall of a certain width to help keep any car fires from spreading into homes. That gets homeowners partway toward having an enclosed living — or, at least, entertaining — area. If they have to add drywall anyway, Mike Gacek of LaMantia Building and Construction in Brookfield, Ill., recommends spending the extra $900 or so to add insulation. Then, the addition of a small heating unit and ceiling fans can make it a four-season room in much of the country.
Because well-heeled car enthusiasts like the Weinbergers often collect cars like others might collect art, they don’t want their masterpieces hidden away. But even those with just one classic — or simply old — car that they enjoying looking at will sometimes renovate their houses and garages to offer a better view.
While Berg was building a replica Porsche in his garage in the ‘90s, he added a glass door in the back of the house so he could pull the car out of the garage and admire “the fruits of my labor” while standing in his kitchen.
DEAR TIM: Spring is here and so are the incessant heavy rains. I have several places near my house where water ponds. This can’t be a good thing for my house, as I constantly am battling water in my basement and part of the house that has a crawlspace under it. My lot isn’t really that flat, so I’m at a loss as to what’s going on. Do I have to call a professional to solve this issue, or can I just add soil to fill in the low spots? What are my options? Marion R., Evansville, IN
DEAR MARION: While I don’t have accurate statistics to support my feelings, I suspect you’re in a vast majority of homeowners who have varying degrees of poor drainage issues on their land or near their homes. You’re correct in assuming that ponding water is not a good thing for houses.
My college degree was in geology. I gravitated to two disciplines within geology: geomorphology and hydrogeology. Geomorph, as we students affectionately called it, is the study of the Earth’s surface features. Hydrogeology is the study of ground or subsurface water, or at least that’s what we focused on the three years I was a geology student.
If you think about the Earth on a very large scale and take into consideration gravity, you quickly discover that Mother Nature is doing her best to constantly carry all soil, rock, your house, your car, your possessions and you down and into the oceans. She’s a very patient woman, but she’s also got a split personality as her evil twin is constantly building mountains where two crustal plates crash into one another. This is why the Earth has dry land that we build upon.
What does all this have to do with the water at and around your home? Simple. If you could look at a topographic map of your lot before it was developed, and in many locations these old maps are available, you’d see that your lot was shaped differently than it is now.
Your builder, or possibly the subdivision developer, undoubtedly moved dirt on your lot to prepare it for building your home. This process disturbed the natural slope of your lot as virtually no undisturbed land is perfectly flat. Almost all land has some natural fall to it that’s caused by natural erosion. When you do encounter marshy land, it’s because of some temporary geomorphological process. Lakes are a great example. You can find marshes next to lakes. Realize that lakes are temporary geological features. Mother Nature is constantly trying to fill lakes in.
Adding soil to the low spots is usually not a good method to fix poor drainage problems. Ponding water on your lot tells me that you don’t have low-slope culverts surrounding your house like a moat surrounds a castle. These depressions, or culverts, should have been created by the builder so surface water always flows around your house to the towards the lowest spot of land on your lot.
To provide great drainage around your home, you should always have the ground slope away from your home. The building code used to require that the ground should have 6 inches of fall in the first 10 feet of horizontal run away from your home. That can be confusing to some.
All it means is that within 10 feet of your foundation, the ground should slope at least 6 inches. This change in elevation could happen within a foot, meaning it would be a very visible slope very close to your foundation walls.
The builder should have then created an artificial channel around and away from your home that also has a slope to it. The water flowing away from your foundation would enter this channel and then flow, by gravity, completely around your home. There should never be any ponding in this shallow channel. A slope of at least 1/8 inch per foot is required. More slope is better if you can tolerate it on your lot.
Surface water is but one challenge around your home. You also need to deal with subsurface water that flows through the soil towards your foundation and crawlspace walls. You can capture and divert this subsurface water by digging a narrow trench in the center of the artificial channel around your home.
This channel should be about 2 feet deep and 6 inches wide. The bottom of the trench should be parallel with the top of the artificial channel until it gets around your home. The trench extends past your home towards the lowest point of your lot. Once the trench passes your house, the slope can be reduced so the pipe eventually pops out of the ground.
You install a 1 inch layer of rounded gravel that’s the size of large acorns into the bottom of the trench. Perforated drain pipe is laid on this gravel. The entire trench is then filled with the rounded gravel. This system readily collects subsurface water before it attacks your home. Water will flow from the end of the drainpipe where it eventually breaks through the surface of the ground.
Article content by Tim Carter, Ask The Builder.
A reverse mortgage might sound like the perfect answer if you’re looking for ways to cover retirement expenses. If you’re considering this option, come to Emery Federal Credit Union for assistance.
A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes and not repay it until the house is no longer their primary residence, they move out, or die. It lets a homeowner convert some home equity into cash without having to sell the house or pay additional monthly bills. Reverse mortgage proceeds are not taxable, and generally will not affect your Medicare or Social Security benefits. You retain the title to your home.
Unfortunately, new cases of reverse mortgage abuse by some small mortgage brokers, including some former subprime lenders, are growing.
If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, think about these warnings from the Federal Trade Commission and come to Emery for answers to questions you may have:
• Beware of sales pitches. Once sellers know you’re interested in a reverse mortgage, some will try to pressure you to buy additional financial products, such as long-term care insurance or annuities. If you’re interested in these products, take the time to comparison shop. You’ll have to maintain adequate homeowners insurance, but you don’t have to buy additional products to qualify for a reverse mortgage. Other sellers may offer home improvement services, and then suggest that a reverse mortgage would be an easy way to pay for them. If cost or features of a reverse mortgage are confusing, or if you’re feeling pressure to buy, walk away from the seller or lender and take your business elsewhere. To be safe, come to Emery.
• Know the features. Because you retain the title, you’re responsible for property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. If you don’t take care of them, the mortgage can become due and payable. Reverse mortgages can use up all or some of the equity in your home and leave few assets for you or your heirs.
• Know tax consequences. Reverse-mortgage interest is not deductible until you pay the loan off in part or in full.
• Remember the right of rescission. You generally have three calendar days to change your mind and cancel the loan. This process should be explained at the loan closing. Emery’s staff will give you the details.
• Come to Emery Federal Credit Union. If you’ve talked to another lender about a reverse mortgage and aren’t comfortable, walk away. To save time and not have to worry about safety, start with Emery. The professionals here will be straightforward about reverse-mortgage details.
Stop by a local office or call our call center today at (513)530-9351.
Generally speaking, modern homes have a variety of safety shutoff devices for water, electricity and gas and/or fuel oil (if present). For safety, each gas device is required to have an individual shutoff. You can save yourself untold damage and dollars if you know how to quickly locate and operate your emergency utility shutoffs. Here are a few suggestions to do just that.
Typically the Main Gas Shutoff Valve is located on the meter pipe outside the house and looks about like the one below. Normally, if the valve is aligned with the pipe it is in the on position. Shutting it off will likely require the use of a wrench or pliers – so have some readily available.
In multifamily units, condos and town homes the meters (and shutoff valves) are often grouped at the end of a multiunit building like this (be sure you know which one is yours – ask the management company/homeowners association, or meter reader):
If you have both gas and electric connections for your dryer and you are an electric dryer – be sure the gas shut off valve is capped, so a toddler can’t open up a simple stopcock valve like this one and fill you house with gas:
Usually newer homes with a public water supply will have an Emergency Water Shutoff in addition to the utility company shutoff. The utility company shutoff is normally co-located with the meter near the street. The residence valve may be a faucet handle (remember – “righty tighty, lefty loosey”) or a blade valve, often on the outside inlet pipe (aligned with pipe = ON: across pipe = OFF).
sometimes inset into an interior garage wall or closet:
The interior water shut offs are usually in the corner of the house nearest the outside water shutoff at the meter.
In recent houses the main electrical shut off is located inside the service panel (usually a gray metal box located on an exterior wall, in the garage of sometimes in an interior closet that houses the circuit breakers). Here’s what the circuit breakers look like with the deadfront cover in place:
The Main Shutoff is centered at the top (sometimes bottom) of the panel and looks like a big light switch on its side. This one has the cover removed for inspection (something you should not do!!!)
Sometimes in multifamily unit buildings the main shut off for an individual unit is located in a common utility room for the entire floor (which may be locked – be sure and check!!), typically nearby the meter and numbered such as this or at an outside location typical of condos (again normally labeled with the unit number) or sometimes pole-mounted.
Older homes may have plug fuses, which are normally inserted in a fuse panel or cartridge fuses and a panel more or less like this with its own shutoff (the blue metal loop at the right center) – pull it down to break the contact.
Both types often have a manual disconnect knife type switch with a handle. Raise the handle so the metal is not touching to disconnect the circuit.
If you have questions about your main utility shutoffs – ask your utility company, homeowner association or property management company, as appropriate, for help. If you ever have an emergency situation and need to quickly shut off gas, water of electricity – you’ll be glad you did!
Article content and images from Home Hints eNews by John Cordell.