Houzz for Homeowners

Introducing Houzz! It’s a fun, informational, collaborative website for all your home decorating and designing needs. This website has information from landscaping ideas to budget tips to listings of home improvement professionals in your area.

The idea behind Houzz is to provide a way for homeowners and home improvement professionals to communicate with each other and individuals on design or remodeling projects. The biggest appeal to Houzz is the Ideabook. You can add pictures and ideas for your remodeling project and include your designer and contractor, even friends and family, to gather input and make notes, essentially building your own virtual “idea book” of what you’d like your new creation to be. This makes it easier to illustrate what you’re thinking of and it’s all contained in one safe, convenient place. If you’re tech savvy, you can even download the app and take your Ideabook with you wherever you go, so if you run into something you like, you can immediately enter in your idea so you don’t forget it. Additionally, the website lets you browse through multitudes of photos that other homeowners have added, ask the Houzz community for advice, or see what projects professionals in your area have completed.

The Houzz website is ideal whether you are remodeling or just looking for innovative, creative ideas to spruce up your home. And since we all know how crazy and busy everyone is, it is the perfect tool to help maximize everyone’s time. As one happy homeowner testifies, “The time flies while flipping through Houzz! We’re building a new home and Houzz is making decisions and communication with everyone so much easier when I have a great picture to show.” Check out the Houzz website to see if your contractor, designer, or landscaper is listed. If they’re not, they may want to be after you both take a look!

What Is Design-Build?

You’ve heard it, you’ve seen it…but do you know what it is? Design-build is a more modern method of completing a construction project. It is a streamlined, more efficient process of operation and communication.

The reason design-build simplifies the job is because it provides one point of contact throughout the project rather than multiple entities to communicate with, as with traditional methods of construction. The design-build company provides both the design and the build teams, who work in conjunction with one another, utilizing one contract and one source of responsibility. As a result there is less confusion and a better flow of communication between the project owner and the project manager.

Keeping the project owner in mind, the design-build model saves money and time, and provides a more efficient work process. In doing this it also produces higher quality work and a faster delivery of the completed project. Additionally with design-build, there are fewer chances for change to occur throughout the job because of the interaction between the architect and contractor, which means less administrative work and more focus on the project.

If you’re thinking about remodeling or building, research both the traditional and the design-build methods to see what might be a better fit for you. Once you’ve done some research and have chosen the right construction method for you, you can then move on to hiring a contractor. Keep in mind that no matter what method you choose, you’ll want a contractor who listens to your requests, is professional, and is trustworthy.

Aging in Place Through the Golden Years

You’ve made it! Your Golden Years should be some of the best years of your life…easy living and stress free. The Aging in Place process has been created to help provide that for you. It’s an affordable way of modifying your existing home so that you can live comfortably, safely, and effortlessly.

Sometimes those Golden Years can prove to be a little more challenging for our body, which is why Aging in Place is a great option if you want to remain in your own home, keeping your independence. Rather than spend an average of $4300 per month in Massachusetts for Assisted Living, you can adjust your own home to fit your exact needs.

Your Aging in Place contractor can create many elegant options so that the alterations match the current style of your home and enhance your lifestyle. Whether you need specialized showers or wheelchair accessibility in your bathrooms, your closet customized for easier access to your clothes, or no step entryways, your contractor can communicate with your health care professional so that your home will be adjusted according to your specific needs.

Aging in place is a big decision that should be discussed with your family, as well as your health care professional. Should you decide to hire an Aging in Place contractor, make sure that he/she is well qualified, certified, and specializes in this field.

Aging in Place is the ultimate solution for seniors who want to age comfortably at home. It allows you to stay in a familiar environment where you’ll be safe and secure through those Golden Years. Whether you’re 1 or 101, comfort is what it’s all about!

Oh, the Possibilities…

Have you ever imagined a really crazy house design that you thought might be cool if there were such a thing? You may not want to disregard those creative thoughts so quickly…you never know what’s possible!

In the U.S. and other parts of the world, people have turned their outrageous imaginary homes into real live-in houses. Some are large, some are small, some are underground, and some are lifted up high. Check out the World’s Wildest Houses to see some of the amazing ideas and dreams that have come to life.

Who knows, looking at these homes may stir up some creative juices in your imagination so that one day your wild and wacky home is showcased here! Nothing is impossible…

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…The Remodeling Edition, part 3

Two Phases, One Project…Start To Finish

At this point of your project you should have completed Phase I and selected a contractor. Now comes Phase II…what to expect during the working phase of the project. Both Phase I & Phase II are processes that when put together have proven to create a successful remodeling project from start to finish.

Phase II

Commencement – This is where you plan the start date with your contractor. The commencement date may or may not be right away as it is determined by multiple factors. Depending on the particular project, your contractor will have to account for town approval, permits, and possibly variances. He/she will also need to take into account the availability of materials and shipping time, if necessary. Although commencement may not start for some time, it is important to clear out the area that will be remodeled (i.e.: a cluttered basement, kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanity & closets) so that when it’s time to begin, the team can come in and start immediately.

Daily Progress Report – Communication is key! You and your contractor should be frequently communicating about the project. He/she should report back to you daily as to how it’s going, progress that’s been made, problems they’ve encountered, and expectations. It is important to note that communication should only be between you and the general contractor. Communication with anyone else can cause confusion, mistakes, and possibly even a delay in work. If there are any problems or concerns, they should be addressed with the contractor only.

Milestones – Contractors use these as a way for you to see actual progress and what you are paying for. Milestones are usually smaller and more frequent achievements, such as a new tile or cabinet installation. They also help break down the total cost of the project since you make a payment at each milestone. They should be defined in the Scope of Work so that there are no surprises when it’s time to pay.

Change Orders (CO)/Additional Work Orders (AWO) – These are written agreements between you and your contractor approving a change or addition. COs for your project should be kept at a minimum unless you make changes along the way. Review all changes, including the price, with your contractor as they occur; do not wait until the end of the project. Reviewing and paying as you go will eliminate surprises at the end of the project. In order to keep COs to a minimum, make certain that everything you want done is clearly defined in the original Scope of Work.

Job Completion Date – This is a tentative completion date since it is dependent on so many other factors, such as weather, materials, sub contractors, inspections, etc.

Project Review (Lessons Learned) – Your contractor may want to schedule a time to sit down with you once the project is complete and discuss how it went. He/she may want to know how they did overall, what they can improve on, if expectations were met, what they did well, etc. This is a time to be honest with them so they know what to change for their next job.

CELEBRATE! Your remodel is complete. You can now enjoy your new space.

Remembering that communication is extremely important, and that your contractor is on your side trying to make your dream and vision come to life will help keep things in perspective. Even if there is a hiccup, your contractor will work hard to fix the problem and make it right. Trust in your research and judgment that you have made the right choices to complete your project successfully.


What To Expect When You’re Expecting…The Remodeling Edition, part 2

Hiring A Contractor: 101

Finding the right contractor for your remodeling project is important. This is your project so you want someone who will work with you, listen to your requests, and do quality work. The following guideline offers some tips on how to find a contractor that will achieve the end result you desire:

1. Do some research. Ask family and friends for names of contractors they’ve used and been satisfied with. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a company that has a good reputation. Also, look online for local contractors that seem qualified and worth checking into. Make a list of all the contractors you want to check out.

2. Meet with each contractor on your list. Take notice of how they talk to you and listen to you. Ask for a business card so that you have their name, company name, phone number, and address. You should also ask to see or have a copy of their license and insurance card. Protect yourself; if they hesitate to give you any information, you might consider that a red flag. If you hire a contractor that doesn’t have the proper insurance or license, you could be setting yourself up for a potential lawsuit down the road.

3. Ask to see some pictures or a portfolio of work they have completed so that you can see if their designs are well-matched with your style.

4. Check with the BBB, NARI, or Angie’s list, if they are participants, for legitimacy and to make sure there haven’t been any complaints filed or lawsuits brought against him/her.

5. Ask for a list of referrals/references. Once you have a list, call the satisfied customers on the list to ask questions. Check to see that the contractor was reliable, respectful, trustworthy, professional, cleaned up at the end of the day, and comfortable to be around. This is someone who will be spending a great deal of time in your home, so you want to make sure you feel safe and at ease with him/her around you and your family. You can also ask if they have any testimonials from customers, which would help you get a feel for the kind of work they do.

6. Confirm that the contractor will be taking care of all necessary permits. Be aware that if he/she fails to obtain the permits, work could be suspended and you could be charged a hefty fine or penalty.

7. Beware of contractors that offer to do the same work as other contractors but at a significantly lower price. This could indicate that shortcuts, inaccuracy, and unsafe practices will be used to complete the job at the discounted rate, which could end up costing you more time and money in the end.

Your contractor should be someone you can easily work with, trust, and communicate with often. Taking some time to do research will pay off with an enjoyable and successful experience throughout your project.


What To Expect When You’re Expecting…The Remodeling Edition

What You Should Know First…

Congratulations, you’ve decided to remodel your home! You’re on your way…you’ve made your first major decision in the process. Remodeling your home has many phases to it, and can be stressful and complicated at times. In order to get through your major project successfully, you’ll need to understand each phase of the process and how it works. The preparation process, or Phase I is where you should begin.


Idea In order to begin the process, you need a vision of what you want your new room, kitchen, basement, bathroom, deck, etc. to be. This will have to be communicated to the contractor and architect.

Find a Design-Build Company/Architect Once you have your idea of what you’re looking to do in your home, you can then begin to look for a DB Company, contractor, or architect. Generally there are two ways to go with the construction: Design-Build (DB) or traditional construction. The DB model is more modern, where the architectural and construction aspects are both completed through one point of contact, with one contract, thus creating extremely efficient results. The traditional construction method utilizes a separate contractor and architecture firm. With the traditional method, each entity does its own work and you are the point of contact.

Project DesignAfter you have chosen which type of company is right for you, you will need to meet with both the contractor and architect to discuss your ideas and vision for the project. You will all need to discuss whether the job is feasible, how it can be done, what each will be doing, what can be done differently, etc…this is called idea generation. It may take a few meetings to get the design complete, depending on how complicated the project will be.

Design Agreement(budget requirements.) This is where the initial costs for budgeting purposes are discussed for the project. Your point of contact, or architect and contractor will meet with you to discuss your budget, and then based on that and the project design, will calculate a preliminary cost for the project.

Scope of WorkAfter discussing the design and preliminary cost, the contractor and architect will come up with a scope of work (detailed description of work) or agenda of the work to be completed for the project. Once the scope of work is completed and agreed upon, a Final Proposal will be presented to you.

Final Proposal (Fixed Bid)This is the final step where you will be presented with a proposal and final cost for the project. Once you look it over, you can either agree to the terms, or go back to the design and reconsider some ideas.

The work from Phase I will pave the way for Phase II, so make sure you have all of the steps completed. Without Phase I, none of the other work can begin. Remember, a lot of time and effort from everyone goes into the remodeling process. Keeping the doors of communication open at all times will help maintain clear expectations, and will create a better experience for you.

Tips To Finding A Good Remediation Company

The subject of mold can be a touchy one. It is dangerously harmful to your health, and if visible, usually indicates there is more mold hiding and growing elsewhere. It is generally caused by moisture and mostly found in basements, behind walls, in bathrooms, or even beneath floors.

In order to get rid of the mold and take care of the problem, a mold remediation company should be contacted. But how do you know who to call? The following are some tips to help you find a good remediation company:

1. Licensed– make sure that the company and those who will be working on your home are currently licensed and/or certified. The contractor should be able to provide you with proof so that you can verify if need be. The IICRC is an organization that is known around the world for education and setting standards for mold remediation and other types of restoration. Certification thorough the organization is a good indicator of high standards.

2. Insured– check that the contractors are properly insured. The last thing you want is an uninsured contractor that gets sick or injured while working in your home. Ask to see a copy of the insurance document and look to see that “mold remediation” or “pollution control” is on it, otherwise you could be at risk.

3. Assessment & Estimate– a mold inspector should come in and analyze, as well as test samples of the affected area and/or air. You should then be provided with a written estimate, including information explaining the problem and their solution.

4. References– ask to see a list of references for jobs that the contractor has worked on recently. This will give you a better understanding of the standards and kind of work that the contractor does.

5. Second Opinion– it doesn’t hurt to have another company come in and give you an estimate. We do it frequently when it comes to the health of our bodies, so why not for the health of our home? In this case, more is better.

Dealing with mold in your home is hard enough so make it easy on yourself; if you don’t feel comfortable with one company, try another. The contractors will be in your home with you, so you’ll want to make sure that you feel safe and secure with them around. Once you’ve done your research and are comfortable with the company you’ve chosen, feel free to hire them!


In Case of Emergency, part 2

Emergencies happen. Flooding is one emergency that can happen in your home anywhere at any time. Whether it’s the result of a storm, broken pipes, washing machine supply lines leaking, melting snow, or water backup, a flood in your home can be dangerous and devastating. Last week we suggested the ICE list and guided you through the after effects of a fire. This guide will help you get through the immediate aftermath of a flood.

In case of a flood:

• Using your ICE list, contact your insurance agency so that you can discuss your policies, whether it be homeowner’s, renter’s, or even a flood policy. Your agent will be able to tell you what is covered and how they need you to proceed with claims.

• When you have been given permission by authorities you can re-enter your home cautiously. Turn off all power to your home using the main fuse box to avoid dangerous situations. (If you have to step in water to do this, wait until you can call an electrician to help you.) As you walk through your home proceed with caution, as there may be hidden dangers that are not apparent to you. If possible, keep your house open so that it can start to dry out.

• Your insurance agent may provide you with a list of clean-up or remediation companies. If not, make sure you check references and credentials. You’ll want someone you can trust and that is qualified to do the job.

• Contact a local relief organization for help in providing you with the basic necessities you will need.

• If you have cash or government issued documents that were destroyed, you can go online to get help, which can wait a while until you are more settled.

• Take care of yourself and your family. Make sure you are safe and that your needs are taken care of. Keep an eye out for health issues; oftentimes dirty contaminated water can cause illness, as well as the stress of experiencing such devastation.

The Red Cross says that it is estimated that there are about 150 fatalities every year due to accidents that occur after a flood. It is important to take extreme caution, even after the water is gone, because there may be damage that you don’t see. Don’t hesitate to ask for help…no question is a dumb question.

For more information on cleaning up after floods, visit


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