5 Signs you Should Hire a Contractor

With all of the home improvement DIY networks and Pinterest How-to’s, it’s sometimes easy to think you can tackle just about any renovation project on your own. While it may be tempting to take on a major home improvement project to save money, it’s not always wise to do it alone.

Here are five signs that you’ll likely need remodeling help from a professional:

  1. You’d like to remove that dated popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings were popular in the 1950’s and 60’s as a form of acoustic treatment. In 1978, this method was banned because the treatment contained asbestos, which can cause mesothelioma (a fatal cancer that affects the lining of the lungs). Despite the health risks, the government allowed builders to use up their on-hand materials after the ban was instilled. For that reason, popcorn ceilings installed post-1978 may still contain the carcinogenic material.

 

Scrape Your Popcorn Ceiling

That’s why you should not try to remove popcorn ceiling yourself! Contact a contractor who can connect you with a properly certified asbestos abatement company that can safely dismantle the ceiling and remove it from your home (without risking your family’s health)!

  1. You plan on taking down walls

Open floor plans are increasingly sought after among homeowners, but no demolition should ever be done without the proper tools and safety precautions! You must be 100% certain of the location of all load-bearing walls in the home. Even if the wall you want to remove isn’t load-bearing, you never know what lies behind a wall. There could be wiring, plumbing –or both, and you don’t want to risk hitting those things with a sledgehammer! The best course of action when taking down walls is to work with a professional remodeler.

 

Wall Demolition

 

  1. You’ll be dealing with electricity

    An accident with electrical wiring can cause fire, serious bodily injury, or even death. Always work with a professional when it comes to the electricity in your home.

DIY Electrical Work

 

  1. There is plumbing work involved

Messing around with plumbing when you don’t know what you’re doing can cause major issues in your home! You should not attempt to move or update plumbing on your own. Mistakes can lead to anything from a leaky faucet to damaged or burst pipes and severe water damage, which can lead to a whole separate set of problems, such as mold or rot. What a headache!

 

DIY Plumbing Work

 

  1. As much as you’d like to think so, you’re not a professional contractor

Professional contractors can DIY a home remodel, but homeowners who only dabble in occasional projects should step aside and leave the project to a professional.

Building may seem simple if you watch home improvement shows, but the truth is they are extremely complicated and require professional knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, just because you’ve tackled a few small DIY projects over the years doesn’t mean that you are able to take on an entire remodeling project.

DIY gone wrong!

 

Just remember, the cost of a single DIY mistake can be extremely high. If you attempt to take on the project yourself, you’re likely to make a costly mistake. In order to end up with the remodel of your dreams, it is best to work with professionals and keep yourself, your family, and your home safe throughout the process! Check out NARI/CT  to find a #professionalremodeler near you that is a #dedicatedprofessional who will help make your #dreamscometrue.

Smart Home Tech Products

Companies that make appliances and electronics for the home spent their time doing two main things at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this past January: exhibiting their smart-home tech products and explaining to people just what a smart-home tech product is.

That’s because while there’s obvious interest, even demand, for devices that allow people to adjust lighting or unlock a door from a smartphone, the average homeowner isn’t quite sure what to make of it all yet. There are so many different products running different software systems, each with its own smartphone app, that it’s hard to know where to begin in making a home more “connected.”

Searching for Connection

For now the smart-home frontier is more like the Wild West, with many developers creating their own operating systems independent of one another or compatible only with certain brands. It’s somewhat good for innovation but sort of bad for the consumer, because it’s hard to make sense of the overwhelming number of products and which ones have the ability to coordinate with others.

For example, you might own a smart thermostat, a smart light dimmer package and a smart door lock, but all three could have very different systems that don’t necessarily communicate with one another. So, you’re left to toggle between different apps, interfaces and panels to control them all. As a consumer, you have to do some serious research before buying smart-home products if you want them to be compatible in the future. For now it can be like having a separate remote for the DVD player, TV, stereo, ceiling fan and so on. At some point you just say, “Well, how is this smart?”

Missing Links

That’s why a large appliance company like Bosch sent its CEO of software innovations to CES  along with executives from Lutron, Yetu and Lowe’s. These companies are betting big on the future of home automation. “The evolution is occurring,” says panel speaker Michael Pessina, president of Lutron, which focuses on electronic lighting and shading control. “The key thing is figuring out a way to make it simple.”

Pessina points to platforms such as The Home Depot’s Wink, with which Lutron is compatible, Lowe’s’ Iris and even Staples’ Connect as major drivers for promulgating connected-home technology and making it affordable and available for the masses.

Additionally, several companies plan to make announcements about integrating their products with those from companies like Nest, the thermostat developer that was acquired by Google in the beginning of 2014. And as Apple and Samsung also look to capitalize on the growing connected-home buzz with HomeKit and SmartThings, respectively, things are bound to get patchier before they get smoother.

In November Bosch, ABB and Cisco somewhat acknowledged the ironic disconnect between emerging connected-home appliances and announced plans to develop and operate an open software platform for homes beginning in 2015. “For a home to be ‘smart,’ it is crucial that all the appliances and systems in the home — e.g., washing machines, heating units, lamps and window blinds — can simply and securely exchange data with each other as well as with smartphones and tablets,” Bosch said in a statement announcing the partnership.

Video monitor. Amaryllo’s iCamPro is a “home security robot.” In other words, it’s a security camera that’s designed to see, hear, sense and track moving objects in your home. Say a burglar breaks in while you’re on vacation. Mounted iCams would sense the movement and track the intruder through the house, sending you picture alerts and allowing you to control the camera through your phone. There’s also two-way audio.

 

Doorbell. You see a lot of Wi-Fi-enabled door locks out there but not many doorbells. DoorBird is a German product whose maker is hoping to change that. The device lets you talk to visitors via video and open the door using a phone or tablet, even if you’re out of the country. There’s a motion sensor that will send you an alert if someone walks up to your door, even if he or she doesn’t ring the bell.

 

Locks and keys. The Elgato key chain connects your keys to your iPhone and lets you know if you’ve left your keys behind. If you do lose them, the phone app can tell you where they were last seen, while the fob makes a sound to help you locate them.

Unikey’s and Kwikset & Weiser’s lock, called Kevo, allows users to unlock doors using just a phone. In fact, you just need the phone in your pocket, then touch the lock and you’re all set. The mobile app lets you send or disable e-keys to your friends, family or other visitors.

Dimmers. The founder of Lutron invented the solid-state dimmer in the late 1950s, and the company has been developing high-tech light switches ever since. Lutron will showcase its Caseta Wireless collection of dimmers, shown here, and will make announcements regarding new integration capabilities for its products during CES.

In another effort to make the technology more appealing to the average consumer, companies are focusing on offering options with broad aesthetic appeal so homeowners can try to make devices part of the decor and not have a living room that looks like the bridge on the U.S.S. Enterprise. For example, Lutron has more than 30 colors and five metal finishes for its products, as well as more than 1,500 fabrics for its wireless window shades.

Thermostats. As mentioned, Bosch will be a big player in the connected-home category at this year’s CES, with many of its key players making appearances and speaking about tech in the home and showcasing new and existing products.

Bosch’s Nefit Easy, shown here, lets users control their heating systems via their phones.

Multipurpose console. Lucis Technologies will showcase its recently launched NuBryte cloud-based home lighting, energy and safety console, shown here. It fits over any light switch terminal, and the company says all you need is a screwdriver and basic wiring skills to install it. You use the interface or an iPhone app to control lighting and get simple energy reports.

 

Ceiling fan. Billed as the world’s first smart ceiling fan, Big Ass Fans’ new Haiku with Senseme (available in February) connects with Jawbone’s Up system of activity trackers to adjust the speed of the fan while you sleep. It can also help you wake by gradually increasing the speed and light level.

But while the market seems to be exploding with connected-home tech products, executives like Lutron’s Pessina are quick to point out that there are still kinks to work out. After all, technology isn’t always perfect. Take your phone, for example. It sometimes freezes, runs out of battery power or behaves like it’s possessed.

When it comes to the home, Pessina says people are extra sensitive about having things work right. “It’s your castle, the place that’s supposed to be there for you,” he says. “So if we can make things work all the time, provide the right experiences and make the connection simple, then mass adoption could potentially be right around the corner.”

Visit our website to find a #professionalremodeler to help #makedreamscometrue

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Maintenance Tips

With the days lengthening and weather warming, spring is a good time to get outdoors and tackle some larger home projects. Now that the threat of winter storms has passed, you can look for damage and make any needed repairs, as well as prep your home and garden for summer. We spoke with an expert to get helpful tips on what to watch for this season, from proper irrigation to mosquitoes and termites (oh my!).
daffodils
 1. Clean gutters and downspouts. After the last frost has passed, it’s important to have your gutters and downspouts cleaned and repaired. “Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause the wood trim at the eaves to rot, and that can invite all kinds of critters into your attic space,” says Victor Sedinger, certified home inspector and owner of House Exam Inspection and Consulting.

groundcontrolpub

Having your gutters and downspouts cleaned early in the season can also help prevent damage from spring rains. “Gutters and downspouts should be clean and running free,” Sedinger says. “If your downspouts are installed properly, water is diverted away from the house so that no water collects around your foundation.”

2. Reseal exterior woodwork. Wood decks, fences, railings, trellises, pergolas and other outdoor structures will last longer and stay in better condition if they’re stained or resealed every year or two. Take this opportunity to make any needed repairs to woodwork as well.

3. Check for signs of termites. Beginning in March and going through May or June, be on the lookout for these winged insects. “Termites swarm in the spring,” Sedinger says. “If there’s a bunch of winged insects flying out of a hole in the woodwork, that’s probably termites. Call a licensed professional pest control company. You’ll save money and trouble in the long run.”

4. Inspect roof. Winter storms can take quite a toll on the roof. When spring arrives, start by making a simple visual inspection of your roof. “It doesn’t require a ladder, and you certainly don’t have to get on a roof to look,” Sedinger says. “Use binoculars or a camera or smartphone with a telephoto feature if you need to.” Look for missing shingles, metal pipes that are damaged or missing or anything that simply doesn’t look right. If you notice anything that needs closer inspection or repair, call a roofer.

Bartlettbrainard2

5. Paint exterior. If you’re planning to repaint your home’s exterior this year, spring is a good time to set it up. Want to paint but can’t decide on a color? Explore your town and snap pictures of house colors you like, browse photos on Houzz or work with a color consultant to get that just-right hue.

6. Inspect driveways and paths. Freezing and thawing is rough on concrete, asphalt and other hardscaping materials. Take a walk around your property to look for damage to walkways, paths and driveways, and schedule repairs as needed. Asphalt can often be patched, but damaged concrete may need to be replaced entirely.

 

7. Check sprinkler and irrigation systems. Checking your sprinklers or irrigation systems in the spring can save water — and save your plants. Sedinger shares these tips for checking your watering system:

  • Run the system through all the zones manually and walk the property.
  • Make sure none of the heads are broken or damaged.
  • Adjust any heads that are spraying the house, especially windows, as this can cause moisture problems.
  • Adjust heads that are spraying the street, sidewalk or porches to avoid wasting water.
  • If you don’t know how to maintain your sprinkler system, call a professional to do it. You’ll save money on your water bill and protect one of our most valuable natural resources.

sprinkler

Need help with any of these projects? Check our website to find a #professionalremodeler to do the job. And do it right.

March Madness Comes Home

March Madness is here and not a moment too soon for those wanting to stretch their spring legs. If you’re looking for some great ideas on how to watch the tournament, check out our Super Bowl post, but if you have the itch to shoot some hoops, maybe it’s time to put in a court of your own.

Outdoor courts and hoops have been staples of suburban America for decades: providing enough open space to shoot threes and play small-sided games. While a hoop hanging over the garage will suffice for many, there’s so much room for innovation, like building a patio court with a beautiful, wooded backdrop.

Exterior

Although we have had a pleasantly mild winter this year, that’s not always the case in New England.  As a general matter, an outdoor hoop around here would only be used for a part of the year. While for many an indoor hoop isn’t an obvious possibility,  it can be as attainable as a hoop in the garage.

Interior

The other quick fix is, of course, to incorporate a hoop into an existing bedroom without needing too many alterations.

Interior

Interior

If you’re willing to dedicate a bit more space, multipurpose rooms can be a great place to hang a hoop while not losing too much space when you aren’t playing. You’ll still be able to shoot free throws, without sacrificing the utility of the room for other activities.

Interior

Interior

Interior

Basketball fanatics will really want to make a fast break for hardwood flooring, though, as it provides the most authentic experience. You’ll be playing half-court and sinking threes from the comfort of your own house—not having to bear frigid temperatures outside during basketball season will be nice too.

Interior

Interior

Interior

Whichever option suits your fancy, incorporating basketball into your home is not only a healthy decision, but an accessible one. What could be better than having guests over for the game only to take a break and shoot hoops at halftime?

We can help make your dream come true: find a #professionalremodeler by visiting our website at #NARICT

A Rot Job to Remember

Newsletter of Kruse Home Improvement winter 2016kruserot2

This past fall Kruse Home Improvement had the privilege of working on beautiful old house on the outskirts of the Historic District of Farmington Village. The house – first constructed around 1741 – was all timber-framed, with much of its original framing and hardware still in use. The homeowners had water leaking into the home from various locations as a result of significant ice damming and an aging roof. What began as a roof replacement evolved into a much larger project.

We first noticed a few locations around the home’s exterior that required addressing. On the eastern gable end wall was an area of rotted siding with a 2-inch hole straight into the home’s sheathing. From experience I knew that there was likely a larger issue at play and figured we’d have to replace a couple studs and a small section of sill, which we run across with relative frequency.

As we removed siding to expose the situation, the more the problem exposed itself. In all, we removed entire 20+ feet of siding on the gable end wall, up to the roof line. The home recently had been worked as the sheathing had been replaced with some quick fix patches applied to the framing, which actually contributed to the rot. Whoever had done the prior work went over the home’s original board sheathing with a new vapor barrier and applied new plywood with an additional layer of vapor barrier. The moisture that is in all wood was trapped between two impervious layers of non-permeable vapor barrier, allowing the wall of the house to rot from the inside out. A home always has to breathe; this is basic knowledge for any reputable contractor.

In a typical modern home, the floors are framed first with the walls sitting on top of the flooring system. In this older, timber-framed home, the studs pocket into a large beam that sits directly on top of the stone foundation. This beam had significant evidence of rot and had also been previously patched with concrete in an attempt to fill the gaps that began to form as the wood rotted away. With this, the entire exterior wall of the house had started to compress and sink as the beam disintegrated. Since this happens over a long period of time, the house just naturally moved and adjusted with the compression. By the time we began work, there wasn’t much left of the original beam. In several spots it was essentially missing, leaving only dirt and dust behind.

We realized the situation we were in was drastically more involved than first suspected. We opened everything up and removed the previous materials to allow the space to dry out for several days. We replaced the entire beam, which was 21 feet long by 9 inches wide by 8 inches high. The massive piece of lumber had to be custom milled at a local saw mill. This new beam was precisely cut to fit in both the stone foundation and the varying heights of the studs that sit on top of it. The timber-framed construction called for bracing the flooring and wall in multiple ways to keep it in position.

First, we constructed a temporary wall in the basement to hold the floor in place since the beam we had to remove held everything up. The exterior wall was braced completely since there would be nothing to keep it in place once the existing beam was removed. We braced the wall from both the inside and outside of the home and lagged 4×4’s across the outside of the framing, positioning 4 bottle jacks across the 20 feet. This allowed for fine tuning adjustments to the height to level things out as best as we could.

Installing this massive beam was no easy task. It took six people to move and was complicated by the fact that we had to work around the bracing that we needed to keep in place. After four hours, the beam was in, followed by a celebration amongst the team. The fact that the beam was installed in that amount of time is a true testament to the quality and precision of the guys I have working for me. The installation was not an easy feat and I was extremely happy with the way it unfolded. However, we were still only halfway done with the job. Everything had to be assembled and sheathed properly with a cedar breather backing installed. The wall needed trim, a cedar clapboard and painting, not to mention removing the bracing and reconnecting the electrical that was removed to accomplish the job. This job went from what I thought was a couple days of rot repair to a massive structural repair that took more than five weeks to complete properly.

kruserotIt turned out to be the kind of job a homeowner needs Kruse Home Improvement for. It took a lot of knowledge, thought, and planning to accomplish without causing a much bigger problem or having the house fall apart! I was very proud of the team and outcome. It was the most complex – and memorable – repair job we had ever undertaken, but it was a great experience to be involved in and it kept us on our toes the whole time.

Kruse Home Improvement
33 Lufkin Lane Bristol, CT 06010
Office 860/584/8784  Cell 860/877/0775
License # 0618590
kruseshawn@krusehomeimprovement.com
www.krusehomeimprovement.com
http://www.houzz.com/pro/kruseshawn/krusehome-improvement

Kruse Home Improvement is a proud member of #NARI/CT.  To find more information on them and other #professionalremodelers in CT, visit our website at NariCT.org