remodeling Uncategorized

Make Home Improvements with a Plan

Gene and Katie Hamilton

The best approach to remodeling while living in a fixer-upper is to create a twofold plan. Start with a long-range plan for completing the house to its ultimate condition, with a working estimate of the investment dollars you plan to spend on the house. That’s the overall plan and budget to update the property.

Make a short-term plan that’s more immediate. It should include quick fixes and repairs that are needed to make the house safe. Take care of a faulty roof, plumbing, heating and other essential elements of the house. Then make low-cost instant-gratification improvements that you can enjoy while you are living there. We always paint the rooms and refinish hardwood floors to create a clean, new living environment. Sometimes the first improvements are not cosmetic such as upgrades to the heating and cooling or electrical systems. Both are often required in houses without air conditioning or enough outlets.

No matter what our ultimate decorating scheme is, we start with a coat of white paint on the walls and ceilings to freshen the look and give the property a nice clean smell. Paint the ceilings and walls the same color so that you won’t have to make the time consuming cut between the ceiling and wall colors. We add inexpensive miniblinds to windows instead of investing in expensive window treatments. Other quick fixes can include repairing a wobbly railing on the back stairs, replacing the handle on a sliding patio door, adding a new mailbox, painting the front door – any improvements that are necessary to make the property more livable, functional and attractive.

If an older house doesn’t have a shower, which tops our priority list of creature comforts, we have a plumber run the water lines and valves for a new one in the tub. Then we throw up a shower curtain, but we leave the rest of the bathroom as is until we’re ready to remodel it. In one house, there was no storage space to speak of, but there was an unfinished attic, so before we did anything else, we built pull-down attic stairs to give us access to the space. We also had to reinforce the floor and put down some plywood decking. In many bedroom closets of older homes, we have replaced the traditional single shelf with shelving components that greatly increased the storage capacity. These inexpensive improvements increased the livability of a house, and we could enjoy them immediately.

We put off any improvements that change the floor plan of a house until we’ve lived there for a while because it’s important to see how the space works. Moving a wall might seem like a good idea, but until you’ve lived in a space to see how it functions, it’s difficult to consider all the choices you have. While it doesn’t seem so at the time, there are advantages to living with a kitchen and understanding its shortcomings before tearing it apart. Only by living in a house can you see how the windows in a room open up the space to daylight or recognize the need to widen the window opening to a family room.

Excerpt from Fix It and Flip It by Gene and Katie Hamilton, McGraw-Hill

Replace a furnace

Thoughts on Replacing a Furnace

Gene and Katie Hamilton

Replacing a furnace or central air conditioner can intimidate any homeowner because it’s not a trivial investment and there’s a lot to know about choosing an appropriate unit. The experts at Trane, a major HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) manufacturer, have some suggestions. A furnace should last 12-18 years with proper maintenance; an older model can run longer, but may require lots of maintenance which could end up costing home owners in the long run.

When choosing a new unit make sure to avoid purchasing an oversized unit to avoid uneven temperature problems within your home. In our opinion replacing a furnace is not a do-it-yourself job, and best left to a local dealer who will visit your home, measure and inspect it and recommend the best size.

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficient ratio and it’s a useful reference to make your decision when choosing a new unit. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. A higher SEER rating means greater energy efficiency. For example, consider any unit above 16 SEER which is considered high efficiency. This rating could help you save money heating and cooling your home.

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LED Lighting

Change Your Light Bulbs to LED

Gene and Katie Hamilton

The ENERGY STAR program recently released a study about LED (light-emitting diode) lighting saying that American consumers are about to experience a game-changer in the way they light their homes. LED bulbs will become the dominant light bulb technology lighting homes within the next three years. Once thought to be a lighting technology only for early adopters willing to pay top dollar, LED bulbs are now a possibility for the average consumer, with prices hovering around $2 per bulb across the country, and as low as $1 or less in many areas. Using less energy, the bulbs pay for themselves in a matter of months, and can save households $50-$100 per year in utility costs.

LED bulbs will see widespread adoption by 2020 in significant part because of utility programs across the country continuing to rebate the bulbs and educate consumers about their energy efficiency.

Despite the tremendous savings opportunity, many Americans have yet to experience the LED difference in their own homes. Less than 30% of U.S. light bulb sales in 2016 were LED. And according to a report by ORC International, a marketing form, most consumers have little knowledge about the various light bulb options available to them. With the average American home containing approximately 50 light sockets, and about 60% of them still containing an inefficient bulb, the opportunities for energy savings are huge.

Energy saving alternatives to the familiar incandescent bulb have been around since the 1980s, but none of them have brought on a massive evolution in the lighting market. Compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) proved the most successful, but early performance concerns made widespread adoption a hard sell for many consumers.

LED bulbs have faced their own challenges, in particular suffering from limitations affecting brightness and light distribution. But bulbs that have earned the government-backed ENERGY STAR label are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to ensure that they perform as promised, saving energy, delivering on brightness, and working the way consumers expert.

Bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR use 70-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and last at least 15 times longer. The ENERGY STAR program is betting that as more and more consumers learn about the benefits of this technology, they will see the light and join the LED revolution.

Learn more at And visit to learn the cost of these energy-wise improvements.