By now you’re familiar with our series uniting experts in the home improvement industry. If not, read our Blog-Off announcement.
During our last Blog-Off, our experts predicted the 2011 home improvement trends. They outlined everything, from colors and design to materials and fixtures. However, one trend dominated the rest: going green. Thus, for this Blog-Off, we wanted to see how going green affects the homeowner.
Why We’re Asking
Over the past few years, Going Green has become an increasingly popular trend and it looks like it is here to stay. Sustainable materials, energy efficient appliances, re-purposed furniture, recycled artwork…the green movement is appearing in our homes now more than ever. Implementing eco-conscious practices into our homes not only protects the environment and resources, but it can also protect our families, by eliminating toxins, for example. As a consequence, many people are injecting some green into their homes.
As the green movement gains steam, more eco-friendly alternatives are becoming available. However, going green is a relatively new concept, so it got us thinking. If “green” is a new concept, wouldn’t that mean there aren’t as many eco-alternatives to fuel endless remodeling possibilities? And, if that is the case, wouldn’t it mean homeowners would need to make sacrifices in order to go green? For an individual homeowner, are these sacrifices worth it?
We aren’t sure ourselves, so we’re turning to the experts for help and we’re asking them to weigh in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the raw, unedited answers directly from the experts. It also gives you, the homeowners, an opportunity to ask the professionals for clarification directly. This is the forum to learn the insiders’ opinion on going green.
So experts, it’s time to dish it:
Does Going Green Limit Homeowners?
We want more information on how this green movement is affecting homeowners, so enlighten us!
• How do you think going green constrains homeowners in the design/remodeling process? Are there any limitations or sacrifices required?
• How does cost play into this: do you think homeowners sacrifice hard-earned money by going green? Where is the overlap between being cost effective and going green?
• For homeowners on a smaller budget, which green elements are the most cost effective? Does a small budget limit going green or can a little go a long way?
Homeowners and buyers look at a home very differently. Neglecting to look at a remodeling project from a buyer’s perspective can result in money lost when it is time to sell your home.
Which projects will have the biggest bang for the buck? Our experts outline which renovations will improve your home’s resale value, no matter your budget…and what projects to stay away from.
Before You Begin a Renovation
In general, the top two areas to renovate include the kitchen and bath. The third most important involves adding energy efficient upgrades to your home. However, these projects can be very expensive if done to their full potential.
To account for all budgets, we’ve organized our experts’ suggestions by budget range. Note, some upgrades can be made suitable for any budget, but we organized the renovations based on the maximum potential of that project.
Before you begin any project, keep the following points in mind:
1. Homeowner preferences vary by geographic region, so knowing what the tastes are of buyers in your area will influence which projects have the best resale value. One good resource is Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value report, which allows homeowners to compare national and regional averages.
2. Look at your neighborhood and make sure that any work you do will not make your home “the most expensive” on the block. Do a comparative analysis of homes in your area and see what they have that you don’t. Avoid projects that will move your home out of the price segment for comparable homes in your area.
3. Consider your home’s architecture as a whole. Make sure remodels fit with the design of your house. For example, if you have a 19th century historic home, adding a euro modern bathroom will be inconsistent. Make sure upgrades fit seamlessly.
4. Though homeowners get really excited about trends, home buyers are more resistant to change. Thus, stick with a classic, neutral design to get the biggest bang for the buck. Personal touches should be added in non-permanent features, such as accessories, paint color (easy to change when selling), and art.
Now that you are equipped with the knowledge needed to take on a remodeling project, here is the breakdown of the top remodeling projects that will improve the resale value of your home:
Small Budget Renovations (Free – $2000)
Remove Clutter and Organize
Clutter can significantly influence how a space looks. By removing clutter and organizing your home, you can make it look instantly larger.
Similar to de-cluttering, cleaning your home can turn a space from dingy to new. Here are some examples: cleaning grout, scouring the stove and bathtub, and removing carpet or flooring stains.
Well-proportioned furniture that creates a welcoming flow throughout the home is essential. This is particularly important if you are selling your home. Research proper proportions and transform a room simply by moving things around.
Depersonalize When Ready to Sell
When home buyers are on the hunt for their perfect house, they want to be able to envision themselves in a prospective home. If there is too much personality in a space, it will make it difficult for them to use their imagination. To depersonalize your home, remove excessive accessories and family photos, taste-specific art, and collections.
Paint and Revitalize
Color can completely transform a space. For just a few hundred dollars, you can change the tone and feel of a room. A space that was once stark white can be turned into a warm, inviting oasis through color. Besides being one of the most easy and affordable renovations to accomplish, it is also one of the easiest to change later on.
Add Lighting & Window Covers
Bare windows can appear uninviting, while a lack of lighting covers can make a space seem unfinished. Make sure to cover bulbs (especially in recessed lighting fixtures) and add switch plates. Similarly, adding complementary window covers can make a space seem homey and cozy, which is important if you want to sell your home.
Upgrade your Hardware
Hardware is one of those little fixes that can have a big impact. When you find yourself saying, “something just isn’t right here,” chances are, a hardware upgrade is needed. Hardware upgrades to consider include kitchen and bath cabinets, towel racks, and door knobs.
Upgrade your Fixtures
Similar to hardware, fixtures can have a big impact on the look and feel of a space. By simply replacing a few lighting and plumbing fixtures, you can instantly make a room look modern. Avoid taste-specific styles and look for simple silhouettes and clean lines.
Pressure Wash Walkways & Siding
Just as you can transform the inside of your home by cleaning, you can significantly improve your home’s curb appeal by cleaning the outside of it as well. Renting a power washer can make walkways, driveways, patios, and siding look years newer than they are. Unless there is structural damage, consider power washing these problems areas before replacing, because oftentimes a heavy-duty cleaning is all you need.
Moderate Budget Renovations ($2000 – $10,000)
Add Crown Molding
Crown molding can add a “wow” factor that sets your home apart from the rest. It instantly defines a space and adds character, which lets the personality of your home shine through.
Home buyers and homeowners are consumers, so we have a lot of stuff. Adding storage to your home can not only help you stay organized, but it will allow the next homeowner to be organized as well. Storage to consider are built-ins, pantries, walk-in closets, garage shelving, and wall benches that double as chests.
Redefine a Space
Sometimes rearranging the layout of your home can transform a space. Consider creating open living spaces by removing non-load bearing walls, such as the walls dividing the kitchen, living room, and dining area.
Invest in Energy Upgrades
Making your home sustainable doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Small changes that have a big impact can significantly improve the resale value of your home. This includes switching to energy efficient lighting, using sustainable materials where you can, and investing in Energy Star appliances.
Now, adding hardwood flooring can easily become a large budget project, but it can definitely be affordable depending on the size of the space, materials used, and labor hired. Hardwood is the most sought after flooring material by home buyers, so removing carpets and unsightly linoleum will not only transform your home, but add to the resale value as well. Laminate is one of the most affordable options, where cork and bamboo are the most sustainable. Research material and installation (can you DIY?) costs, and weigh it against your desire for green options and quality.
Update Electrical System
The wiring in your home is rarely thought about unless there is an immediate problem. However, it can sneak up on homeowners during inspections. Consider hiring an electrical inspector to evaluate the condition of your wiring. You may also want to consult with a professional about sustainable electrical options.
Large Budget Renovations (Over $10,000)
First impressions are important, so any renovation you can make to improve the outside of your home is worth the price. Consider the following to add to the value of your home: new siding, updated roof, front door accessories (new address numbers, mailbox, kick plates, welcome mats, window boxes, shutters, etc.), and simple, streamlined, low-maintenance landscaping. Another project to consider is adding an outdoor living space, such as decks, patios, lounges, and entertainment areas. This adds to the livable space your home offers, making it jump in value.
Re-purpose Existing Spaces
Home buyers, in general, want to avoid major remodeling projects. By finishing spaces such as attics and basements and converting them into functional areas, you can significantly add to the livable square footage in your home.
An extensive remodel will cost a minimum of $10,000. However, know it is possible to renovate your bathroom for around $3000 (DIY is a must for this price range). One area in particular to focus on is the master suite. Popular choices for master suites include storage, large showers, and separate tubs. Aesthetically, stick to neutral, streamlined materials and fixtures.
The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home, and many of our experts categorize this as the number one remodel to boost your home’s value. The big ticket items will be counters (look for neutral granites and stones), cabinets, and appliances. That price will significantly increase if you need to add on flooring and reorganize the flow of the room (including knocking down walls, moving plumbing/gas, etc.). A typical complete kitchen remodel will cost approximately $40,000, and that is on the low end.
Need affordable kitchen upgrade options? Consider changing the back splash, paint color, hardware, and lighting in the space. These are the most affordable remodels, and they can have a huge impact. Note, cabinets can be an affordable fix, but this usually requires refacing and DIY rather than replacing altogether.
Energy Efficiency Overhaul
Investing in energy efficient remodels is expensive in the short term, but it will pay itself off in the long run when it comes to reduced utility bills and increased home value. Options to consider include insulating your home, replacing old windows with their energy efficient alternatives, installing solar panels, and adding a gray water system.
Remodels That DECREASE Your Home’s Value
Some projects are great for the homeowner, but can actually decrease the value of your home. Approach the following projects with caution:
2. Murals, stenciling, decorative plastering, and other permanent art
3. Over-the-top chandeliers and lighting
4. Expensive garage additions
5. Sun Rooms (opt for decks/outdoor living spaces instead)
6. Home Offices (It’s okay to turn a bedroom into an office for your own use, but don’t create a room specifically for working at home)
7. Using cheap, low-quality materials and shoddy construction
This article was originally posted on the eLocal.com blog.
To revive a quote from the Clinton/Bush election era, “It’s The Economy Stupid!” Business in backflow prevention and construction everywhere is reacting to the shift we have experienced in the economic realities of the last few years. Those who are waiting for a return or rebound to old levels are in for a long wait. Business as we know it has changed and so, too, must we — and the products we sell. The hydraulic conditions of backflow (back pressure and back siphonage) are still running rampant in our piping systems. The products being produced are being influenced by two key economic factors, the economy and legislation.
Recent legislative changes have led to a dramatic change in products being brought to market. In California and Vermont, new laws requiring bronze to be lead free by a new definition was enacted January 1, 2010. Federal and State governments have always known the hazards of lead and required lead free products. The problem was, what was meant by the definition of “lead free”. In some Federal requirements for backflow preventers and other plumbing products, it is said bronze shall contain less than 8.0% lead by composition to be considered lead free. In an effort to further remove exposure to lead California and Vermont took the definition to a lower level of 0.25% of the exposed wetted area.
Lead has been used in bronze to improve the alloy since before the Roman Empire. Lead has certain properties that make bronze a more well-rounded and usable alloy. Due to these lower lead level requirements, manufacturers must now review all bronze items main bodies as well as internal parts. This reduction in lead content has caused manufacturers to look for new metals to form an economical and easy to use bronze alloy. New materials are being examined to replace the 8% of lead in the bronze alloy but these new materials have significant cost increases in raw alloy cost and machining and manufacturing costs. Some manufacturers are even looking toward alternative non-bronze materials such as stainless steel and engineered polymers to assure their products are in compliance. Many people say “who cares what they do in California?” However, on January 5, 2011 the 111th Congress of the United States passed an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SB-3874) requiring the Federal definition to mirror the California and Vermont legislation. The Federal requirement takes effect approximately January 5, 2014 and all bronze plumbing products, which convey drinking water including backflow preventers will have to be in compliance.
Backflow technology trends
Backflow prevention manufacturers have always been under pressure to produce a reliable product more economically. Anyone can design something cheaper, but the product must still work when the hydraulic backflow condition is present. To assure the backflow preventers can stop backflow when needed, an approval process for all backflow prevention products has become mandatory and demanded by the public to assure their reliability in performance. The Foundation for Cross Connection Control & Hydraulic Research within the Engineering School at the University of Southern California has become the internationally recognized expert on approval of backflow prevention products. Their work and research has guided manufacturers to produce products that are reliably tested to assure they prevent backflow. The market system assures cost is taken into consideration once the products are approved.
Manufacturers have tried to provide features to their products that can reduce installation costs for the installing contractors. By making them lighter and more compact they require less physical space and equipment to install in a piping system. This smaller more compact size has led to the ability to use smaller valve enclosures and freeze protection when needed. This trend to lighter and more compact has helped to lower the average installation cost of backflow preventers.
Historically, backflow preventers utilized a horizontal installation orientation. This caused the larger assemblies (4″ -10″) to take up several running feet of installation space needed in a piping system. New approvals are coming out allowing certain assemblies to take that horizontal body and flip it into a vertical orientation following the piping up a wall. This sounds simple, but many assemblies arbitrarily taken from a horizontal to a vertical installation hydraulically will not prevent backflow. This new demand for vertical orientation design has caused manufacturers to address this feature in their designs.
The cost of maintenance is becoming another factor that contractors are evaluating and manufacturers are addressing. It is labor and material intensive to repair most older designs in the field. Field repair of newer designs is becoming far less labor and material intensive. Unfortunately, when business was good, some contractors, not well trained in backflow preventer repair, would mistakenly tell their customers that it is cheaper to replace small assemblies (1/2″ – 2″). As the economy has shifted, these same customers are questioning these statements and finding better educated contractors who can repair, rather than replace, installed assemblies when possible.
For a couple more years, backflow preventers will contain leaded bronze. For decades, bronze has been recycled through scrap dealers. The ever-increasing cost of copper (the major ingredient in bronze) has led to a proliferation of theft of installed backflow preventers and of other copper and bronze plumbing and electrical items. The most common theft has occurred on irrigation installations. Thieves remove the assemblies, and nobody realizes the irrigation is off until the sprinkler system is needed or until plant material dries up. Many new theft prevention devices, such as lockable enclosures, are coming to the market.
In any industry, trends can be short or long. The trend for more economical manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of backflow preventers will continue beyond good and bad economic times. The education of contractors who install and repair backflow preventers will help them be more efficient in their business. These are the trends for today. What the future holds is anybodies guess. In the past, manufacturers produced products they could make easily and economically. The future design features are forcing manufacturers to talk to their customers and provide the product features they want to see.;
Jim Purzycki is a wholesale master parts distributor of backflow prevention assemblies with BAVCO. Jim belongs to many industry associations (Fire, Plumbing, Irrigation & Water Works) and sits on national and regional cross-connection control committees. Jim teaches many backflow-related classes and seminars across the country.
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