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Baywolf Dalton | Nancy Dalton

As the co-owner of Baywolf Dalton, Inc. since 1989, Nancy Keenholts Dalton is involved with the design, materials and labor specifications and management of employees and sub contractors. She has taught design/remodeling at North Seattle CC, and has been the guest host of ABC “Homefront” radio show. She believes listening is the most important skills. She listens to her client’s needs, budgets and time frame; developing and managing projects that exceed expectations.



Best Time for a Remodel

As a kitchen and bath remodeling company in Seattle, we are fortunate to be able to work at any time of year without much concern with the weather. This year was very challenging for most of the other areas of the country and it does affect us when we have a shipment delayed or a manufacture has to be closed due to a blizzard. From a client’s standpoint spring or summer is a terrific time to remodel. They can be outside cooking and usually there are more activities outside of their own home to attend. If you don’t have a choice when you remodel because something has failed and you must move forward, I suggest a good conversation about how the contractor will protect your home from the elements. Also from the mud or dirt that may come in through the process that wouldn’t happen at a different time of year. Additionally, where will they work outside in the elements? Has that been figured into the mix? If you have tile work going on in a bathroom is there a sheltered deck, carport or other area they or a carpenter can work in? You certainly don’t want a tile saw in your living room.
future house

The Future of the Home Industry

I believe lighting and power will be seeing the most changes in the home remodeling area. If I could invent and patent one technology it would be a drawer with a bottom that allows all items in it to re-charge without any cords, just put them away at night. I think we will see energy saving materials from recycled goods. There’s a new building in Germany that has very special glass that refracts the light into the interior space allowing natural light to light the spaces without the use of interior lights. Let’s see where this technology goes. I don’t stop learning and I’m a firm believer in knowledge outside my own industry. TED talks are great and the internet has opened up tremendous avenues for learning. Some really good universities have some of their classes on line you can audit. Bill Gates over twenty five years ago talked about a computer in every one; my 92 year old father lives in a retirement home where most of the residence have an internet connection. How cool is that!
dream project

Dream Projects

I am so fortunate to have access to the best of the best materials and products, so dreaming happens on a regular basis. My dream was to have a large bedroom and master bathroom ours was small. Twelve years ago we decided to move or remodel our home, we remodeled. We added on to our home increasing the size of the dining room and also added 2 pairs of French doors. In the dining room we have a large built in buffet with an integrated warming drawer. There is lots of storage and a great place to serve from. The floor is honed and shaped marble creating a 9 piece pattern; the chandelier over the Baker French walnut table is Italian. I actually purchased the dining room table first; that lead to the need for the first addition. We have had some of the most wonderful dinners with friends and family at this table. We added on the back of our home instead of adding a second story. We had seen too many homes with a second story addition that looked oversized for the lot and just out of proportion. With this new entry, master bedroom and large master bath and walk in closet totally 1000 square feet we did something we had always wanted. We planned and engineered for a structural concrete deck surface and built a rooftop entertaining deck off the dining room. The way this is done is the roof has a ¼” per foot drop for the drainage away from the rest of the home. The 1 ½” thick structural concrete pavers are elevated off the deck as the roof slope is dropping so the pavers stay level. There is not grout so the rain water flows to the torch down roofing below and leaves via an internal roof drain system. The addition was built to accommodate 100 # live and dead load due to the 22,000 pounds of deck surface. We added a commercial BBQ, seating and plants. Half the year we are out on this deck and love it. The master bathroom, bedroom and closet make us smile every day. The cabinetry is walnut, with a mix of limestone, glass mosaics and even a concrete wall tile in the backsplash. In this addition we added a hydronic heating and towel warming. In researching this we found that we were able to use our existing gas hot water tank. We are fortunate to have been able to build all of this ourselves and with the help of our sub-contractors. When I say ourselves I really do mean it. My husband shingled the entire addition, I stained it and we insulated and painted too. I did the design and project management and we had an architect we work with engineer the structure for us. Recently I’ve been fortunate to design several Rutt Handcrafted cabinetry kitchens for clients. Very custom designs and finishes with LED lighting routed into the side walls of the cabinets allowing for solid shelves instead of glass. One project was a white painted kitchen with solid walnut drawers and walnut accessories. Your jaw would drop the first time you opened a drawer! Tile design is another passion and I’ve again been fortunate to work for several clients that appreciate custom materials. I did a back splash for a client that was Moorish in style and composed of water jet cut Calcutta marble and two colors of glass. The pattern was more like wallpaper than tile and with the glass surrounding the pieces of marble; from the side you see the finished sides of the stone. It’s just beautiful and has incredible depth.
refuse project1

Refusing to Do Projects

We do “gently” bow out of projects that are not going to be beneficial for ourselves and our potential client. We just can’t do work that doesn’t meet codes or best practices in our industry; our warranty and reputation is on the line every time we work on a project. Sometimes the best service we can provide a client with is to decline to do the project. It wouldn’t be fair to either party. This last summer I met with a very nice couple that had purchased one the worst homes I have ever seen from an infrastructure standpoint. It also seemed they had been misled by who ever had done the home inspection and probably a real estate agent about what would be possible and what it would cost. I felt sorry for their situation, some of what they thought they could do was actually impossible and the other half would cost a great deal to correct. All of the prior work on this home was without permits, very sub-standard and potentially dangerous. We didn’t work for this couple and I’m not sure they will stay in the home. Unusual and unsound ideas stem from “Cost savings” and in the end, they won’t be. The other end of the spectrum is a client that wants to obfuscate local codes to add something more to their home they shouldn’t otherwise be able to do. This will backfire when you sell the home and the inspection goes very poorly.

Best Resources for Home Improvement Professionals

As an owner of a design build firm I need resources on both the custom design side and the installation side of things. In fact with some of the very complicated projects I work on, I’m not sure how you could provide accurate design work without the clear understanding of the installation. Every resource I use has a person on the other end of the line. There are web sites and even manufacturers installation guides but I really want a trusted professional to also consult with as well. A good example that I run into are high end appliance specs that are not entirely clear; some are but many are not. I build in appliances but in my field there are different kinds of built in installations. Flush framed installation or just a framed installation, or are you after a frameless installation? If you don’t know what you actually need you won’t know which dimensional guide is correct. My resources are my engineering team at Rutt HandCrafted cabinetry. They’ve helped me engineer very specific custom cabinets as well as custom LED lighting and motor applications. I also depend on Wick at Hafele America for LED specs and custom storage solutions. Kirk Fisher at Albert Lee helps me find the buried hard to find critical dimensions for some of my appliance “dimension critical” installations. Karen, Nancy, Susan and Belinda at Statements work with me and several custom tile and stone/glass manufactures on some unbelievable projects. Robbie my representative from Fabrica Carpet has been wonderful for so many years on many of our carpet and custom rug projects. Since I’m part of this industry I have a terrific team of people to work with, for a homeowner I would suggest learning more about a product and then finding out if there is a local representative or even e-mail the manufacturer with questions. Usually they will put you together with a knowledgeable person that works with their products.
project pride

Getting Started in Home Improvement

Pablo, I always enjoy reading your comments. In some ways, I've restated them in my own way below. Best!
project pride

Getting Started in Home Improvement

I think there are two questions here; one about breaking into the business I’m in and the second is being an owner. Being president of my own company is much different than working in my field of design build, specializing in kitchen and bath remodeling. I enjoy both aspects of my career but they are very different. I began my career in commercial work and then changed to residential design / build. I would encourage people to get an education in their chosen field but if it’s in design find a way to stay creative. Be interested in more than a narrow perspective of your field; look to trends in art, antiques, fashion and even theater. Most people realize early on if they have the personality, initiative and desire the complexities of responsibilities that come with upper management and ownership. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing a profession and also deciding ownership or management isn’t for you. From an owner’s point of view, I’ve never stopped learning. I’ve always had mentors and I formed a trusted group of professional advisors. You’ll need a CPA, an attorney, insurance and investment advisors as well as a good bookkeeper. From my very first job, I would listen and learn everything I could from the owners. This has been invaluable to me and how I’ve forged relationships with suppliers, sub-contractors and working with my own employees. Be engaged in life. In my first year in business a client asked me to attend a Rotary meeting. I enjoyed the camaraderie, speakers and doing something for my community locally and worldwide. Twelve years later I was president of my 125 member club. Six years after that I was Rotary District Governor for District 5030 with 3,300 members and 54 clubs. This was an opportunity of a lifetime and a full time other job. The opportunity to speak routinely to groups of 10 to 600 and provide training and education for thousands and to lead an entire organization in achieving multiple goals of both club and District was a dream. I should also mention this was entirely volunteer work and a completely unpaid position. I agree with what Pablo was mentioning, have a rounded and very full life. I know I have.
within the law

Working Within the Law

We work within local building, plumbing and electrical codes. Reputable General Contractors, plumbers and electricians follow codes. If a homeowner finds a person or company that suggests not following codes don’t hire them. If they are not licensed and don’t carry the correct insurance, don’t hire them. Poor work and bad reputations come from sketchy un-licensed and non-code compliant companies. The reason consumers may have a negative reaction to codes are the permitting fees associated with them. In Seattle the cost for plumbing and electrical permits aren’t outrageous but building permits can be very expensive. The benefit of permits are twofold; first you have a second set of eyes looking at the work and you have documentation the work was done to code when you sell your home. If I had to address one fairly new code, it would be “make up air”. This is the requirement to have a system in place that is electrically connected to the switch on a kitchen hood fan or down draft that mechanically opens a baffle to allow outside are into the home to compensate for the air leaving the home. This is required at 400 cubic feet per minute of air flow leaving the home. It can be more difficult than it sounds to add this system. The air coming in needs to be tempered to match the interior temperature. Also the location of this intake must meet a set of guidelines to avoid noxious gases from gas meters and gas furnaces or gas hot water tanks. With homes being built so tight and new windows going into older homes with the same effect it can create a situation where the pull of the air leaving is actually pulling natural gas from fireplaces, furnaces and other areas. I was surprised the threshold wasn’t at 600 CFM since this throws almost all kitchen ventilation into this category. I understand the need and we work with our HVAC contractors to meet this need. If a homeowner has their pilot lights going out in either fireplaces or furnaces when they turn on their hood fan, they need make up air.

Ridiculous Customer Stories

We spend a great deal of time preparing pricing that is accurate. We certainly hope clients compare apples to apples but I'm afraid that rarely happens. It's usually lack of understanding or understanding that the term "white painted cabinets" does not constitute a specification of any type of quality level. I recently met with a potential client that was an economist. I mentioned that she should also view the work of those of us bidding to compare quality levels. Go out and see actual completed projects. She was surprised there would ever be any difference. Oh yes.... Great comments.

Ridiculous Customer Stories

The most unbelievable situation was an old home with old 1940’s cabinets in terrible condition. The client wanted a very expensive stone countertop installed over the very bad cabinets. You can never replace the cabinets once the top is on. The second surprise was the 4 week old, very poorly done back splash was to stay in place. So the new counter was to go in below the bad new tile job. The tile then dictated the overhang of the countertop, which needed to be a different overhang in several areas due to the tile being run randomly past the cabinets. I suggested that the tile worth about 50.00 could be removed and re-done. No that was not what our client wanted. I always want our clients to be happy and 99 percent of the time they do listen to our professional opinion. This was not one of those times. They’re happy and I’m still shaking my head.

Upcycling, Recycling and Removing Old Junk

Since I remodel homes I run into this as we prepare for tear outs. Between the old things our clients have stored up in their kitchens or basements and their larger items like cabinetry, appliances and windows and doors. We deal with this all the time. Seattle is a great place to recycle and re-use. Sometimes newer appliances can work for churches, or food banks; it’s worth checking in your immediate area. We have several companies that will pick up all kinds of things and provide a value for donation. My favorite is Second Use. I fill out an online form, attach pictures and they will tell me if they would like the cabinets, or lighting, whatever know they might be interested in. They even take old kitchen gadgets, big planters, and vintage metal milk containers. They can take items as a donation or they have a consignment option. Besides arranging to have materials picked up for my clients; I’ve been a buyer. I’m building a garden shed and I wanted old mullion windows, a pair. Second Use has their inventory on line so I found several possibilities, went down last weekend and bought them. So many building materials are recyclable; you just need to go online to check. This is the Seattle link to what you can place in your home pick up recycle bin. http://www.seattle.gov/util/MyServices/Recycling/HouseResidentsRecycle/WhatsAcceptedHouse/index.htm If some of these items aren’t able to be picked up in your area, I would contact your utility and see if they might be interested in expanding their services as Seattle has over the last twenty years. In Seattle there is a fee with electronic purchases and we have locations all around town that you can drop off old electronics for free or the residential pick up will cart it off for a 20.00 fee. We even took our old, very large copier in to a location and since some of it was salvageable they paid us 80.00. This saves energy, creates jobs and finds a home for your vintage, space hogging stuff!

The Keys to De-Cluttering

Clutter kills a space. No matter how wonderful the room could be it won’t be, you can’t find things and you can’t clean in overly cluttered spaces. You won’t believe how wonderful you’ll feel after de-cluttering. Usually it happens at entry points to a home or behind doors in a closet or spare bedroom. Realize where your clutter comes from. Is it the mail, taking off your shoes as you come into the home or super purchases at Costco? At entry points find great looking baskets or anything that looks good and has three matching pieces. One is recycle, one is pay, and one is file (and do have a file cabinet or scan and get on a hard drive & back up). It sounds simple and it is, you still have the same stuff but once a week you toss into recycle, make time to file or pay. In the mean time you have sorted and disguised your stuff. Some people can get this down to two baskets. Your list could include other things, keys phones or glasses that you can never fine. Again attractive storage on a counter, in a drawer but if everyone knows “This is where we keep these” you find them without always seeing them. Big purchases need big space and if you don’t have the space you may want to split these buys with your friends or neighbors especially in apartments and condominiums. Shoes can be hidden in a basket, I’ve even designed cabinets in entries or mud rooms to handle all of the storage I discuss here but you’d never know the cabinet wasn’t a hutch. My favorite company for organizing wires, electrical and data messes is Mockett @ www.mockett.com. These are some of my favorites below. When you have the opportunity plan ahead and hire an electrician to install a cool power and data pop up in a counter or desk. If you can’t hide them completely at least keep them organized and out of the way.

Making Your Man Cave

My experience with man caves has been actually pretty cool. I seem to have clients that don’t long for Barcaloungers! Man caves should represent a passion; wine collecting, playing pool or poker or the latest theater or gaming room. They shouldn’t be ugly or have furniture that’s way too large for the space. The wiring should be done professionally so you don’t see a mass of tangled cords. Decorating a room tastefully is really important so budget to do the room well. I think a pitfall would be to do a room that looks like a garage and is unfinished. The best “client cave” I ever did was to connect a free standing outbuilding to the main home. We completely remodeled the 30’ x 22’ building with French doors to a huge deck. The ceiling was vaulted and we clad the beams and did all the millwork in VG fir. We up lit the ceiling from lights concealed above the clad beams and had down lights hanging from S shaped aluminum trims. There was room to chill out, a pool table, space for a group of electric guitars and drum kit and of course a wet bar with kegerator. The room that we added to connect the home to this other space was a home theater. This was an incredible space that both the husband and his wife loved even later after they had kids. Maybe the key to a man cave is to add your spouse into the mix so you both can enjoy the room, even if at different times.
green tips

Quick Tips for Going Green

I agree with Pablo, small steps with a change of attitude. Decide and then options that will work for your family will be clear. What works for me may not work well for you. Use less, walk more and grow some vegetables!

DIY: the Dos and Donts

Some people want to tackle DIY projects because they think they can’t afford to have the work done by a professional. My advice is to get quotations from a professional well established company that specializes in whatever you need replaced/upgraded or fixed. You will probably learn much more about the process and all of the additional prep or parts you didn’t realize you might need. After learning more about how a professional would tackle your project is the time to weigh the pros and cons of attempting it yourself. All of us have different skill levels and experience and in some cases a homeowner might be able to do the work, but my experience has been that once you understand the costs involved most people will opt for the professional. Please understand, none of the work you do on your home is covered by your homeowners insurance, ever. If you act as your own General Contractor any damage, repairs or damage as a result of your efforts will have to be paid for totally out of your pocket. I do encourage people that like to paint, or do yard work to get the right equipment and do these things to brighten up their homes. Maintaining your home by keeping it clean, keeping the gutters clean, your furnace filters clean and re-caulking around doors and windows will save you money by extending the life of the materials that make up your home.
historic home

Expert Tips for Historic Home Owners

I think the first distinction a homeowner and especially a home buyer should know, is this an old home, or a historic home. I would contact the local AIA chapter to assist if you can’t determine this yourself. There are rules and regulations, steps homeowners have to take to have their home on the registry and what you are allowed to do if your home is on this registry. I think there are pros and cons with this listing and some people with a home that might qualify opt not to pursue this kind of registration. If you are updating in an older home, use older style materials and not pre-finished flooring for instance. I’m working with a client in an old home that is quite historic but not on the national or city register. They have found the original plans for the home at our local university. They found that after a fire in the 1930’s the roof was removed and the dormers were never replaced with the new roof. Since they already needed a new roof they re-framed the roof to include the original dormers. When it came to replacing the hardwood floors, they worked with a mill to have quarter sawn oak milled as wide plank and in 16-22 foot lengths. They also had plasterers come in and re-plaster walls with Italian marble plaster. What I’m describing is not typical for most projects but it does highlight the added costs to replicate older building materials and styles. The infrastructure of the home and the entire heating and plumbing systems were removed and replaced with modern energy savings systems. Complicating matters, but this isn’t uncommon, was that the home had not had the upkeep and care it should have for decades. When remodeling old homes, keeping a focus on the materials and style in the period of the home costs more. It’s a lot like owning a wooden boat: you really need to love it because it takes ongoing work.
Home Hazards

What updates can make a home healthier?

The least expensive changes involve cleaning and maintaining damp areas of your home. Showers, grout and p-traps come to mind. Mold and mildew are common issues, and slow or blocked drains as well. Once you’ve cleaned the tile you’ll probably need to remove the caulk, too, and re-caulk. Remember to also re-seal your grout to keep all of your hard work intact as long as possible. When you’re doing routine cleaning of grout, try to use a mild eco-friendly product. The scrubbing foaming sprays may get your grout clean and you may initially need to use them to get rid of the mildew, but after you’ve sealed your grout you will immediately remove the sealer with the same product the following week and you’ll wonder why the sealer didn’t work better. Cleaning your ventilation is really important--both kitchen hood fans and your dryer vent lines. Most kitchen hood fans have easily removed, dishwasher-cleanable filters. Keeping these clean will keep your home smelling fresh and also reduce the possibility of a grease fire. Your furnace also needs new filters and if you have an electronic air cleaner those need to come out and be cleaned at least every 60 days during your most active (warm or cold depends on the climate you live in) heating or cooling periods. Your ceiling bath fans need a good vacuuming, too, or they just will stop working. They are the best way to keep the humidity and mildew out of the bathroom in the first place. Besides mold and mildew, which aren’t good for you, and in some cases the type of mold can be toxic, asbestos and lead are concerns. Find a lab in your area and have the mold tested to be sure what you are dealing with if you have something more than a shower issue. Before you decided to remove that popcorn ceiling over the weekend and paint, carefully remove a tablespoon into an envelope you can seal up and take into a lab that can test it for you. To find out more about lead and asbestos, check out http://www.epa.gov/lead/ Homeowners can do some of the abatement themselves, but be sure you understand the guidelines and process first. Certified abatement companies are less expensive than they previously were since more homeowners are aware and having this process done correctly. Another issue that homeowners can run into is lack of make-up air. This can be dangerous if you have a gas fireplace or furnace. If you notice that your furnace pilot light or fireplace pilot light is going out, you could be at risk of drawing noxious gasses into your home. Homeowners who install strong hood fans as part of a remodel or appliance update may not realize they need a make-up air system that is connected by relays to their hood fan switch. When the hood is turned on, a vent flap on the outside of your home opens up and the same amount of air you’re removing from the home is returning with good fresh air. In the past this wasn’t as much of a problem, but with energy efficient windows, doors and building wrap materials our homes are very tight.
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How can renters improve their rental experience?

As a kitchen and bath designer I spend quite a bit of time on organization as well as colors and materials. This is a great way to improve the function of your space as well as adding color and texture. A home office with cubbies and fabric covered baskets, a laundry area with modern storage that snaps together for a quick and easy install. There are great products from stores that specialize in organization and containers. Really cools stuff, and who doesn’t need more storage in a rental space? When we photograph our kitchens we stage them for the photo shoot. Look at photographs in magazines and on Houzz, they have been staged with items that can easily be removed and won’t leave any lasting marks since they usually don’t always belong to our clients. You can replicate these designer looks in your rental home, condo or apartment. Get to know your landlord and be up front with things you might want them to consider allowing or assisting you with. I’m a landlord too and I want my tenant to stay for a long time as long as they are honest with me and pay their rent on time. If I had a tenant that wanted to have us install a really cool light fixture in the dining room, we’d do it. But I would want to have our electrician do this not the tenant. We would also be the one to remove to fixture for the tenant. I should say again that this is the kind of thing a landlord does for a great tenant. If you like your rental unit you can also ask if you could sign a longer lease to offset the modifications you are requesting. Don’t ever do things without asking and if they say no, don’t do it anyway, you may forfeit your damage deposit.
2013 trends

Top Home Trends Predicted for 2013

Kitchen and bath design trends for 2013 will be texture, depth of colors and finishes and even more customization, even on a small scale. Wood finishes have actual texture to them, in both contemporary applications and traditional; think of roughhewn cuts. I think this is to juxtapose the technology we all live with today. I do see urban projects going very modern too and chrome has made a comeback. The cabinets have paint finishes like high end cars and plenty of technology as well. I routinely use LED lighting inside cabinets and pantries that come on and off with doors or drawers opening and closing. Even the way cabinet doors slide and bi-pass each other has changed. They can now function the same way a sliding door on a minivan moves with the door actually coming forward, creating a new modern look with both doors in the same plane. If you want to keep your view but need your knives and utensils, the cabinet in the center of the island or peninsula raises up and down with wave of your hand. My favorite carpet mill has just added ten patterns of loop and cut wool available in any color you choose. The patterns are shown in one base color, every order I place is made specifically for my client in their own color. Instead of looking at 9 or 15 colors to choose from, you select your pattern and you decide what shade is best for your home. A small sample is made to approve before it is made up. As I am describing this I have to say this is really revolutionary and I’m feeling like adding the tag line, “There’s an app for that”. People are so used to being able to design their computer desktop, phone or tablet to reflect who they are and how they work, why wouldn’t this transfer to their home? As a designer, I’m having the time of my life with these changes to my industry!
polluted air

The Danger of Polluted Indoor Air

In the kitchen remodeling industry we have new building code requirements for “Make up air”. The guidelines differ by state and city codes so be sure and check your specific area. When we install a hood fan or down draft unit we are pulling the moist, oily and odor laden air out of the home. This is a good thing, but what is actually happening is air has to come from somewhere; your chimney, leaky windows or if you have an energy efficient tight home you may be pulling natural gas literally from pilot lights in fireplaces or furnaces. This is the hazard and the reason these codes exist. A mechanically operated vent has to be electrically tied into the fan switch so when you turn on the fan the vent on the outside of your home opens automatically. This can be trickier than you might think because kitchens are on exterior walls and many times the mechanical room is below and on the same wall. The location of the intake vent has to be a certain distance (check codes with your city or HVAC professional) from the gas meter and any other noxious gas ventilation such as the venting of a gas furnace. This make up air also will need to mix and temper with your home, or have a supplemental heating source. Imagine the make-up air coming through the toe kick of your cabinets. This might be fine in southern California but not appropriate for Alaska. Sometimes the make-up air can enter a room that isn’t used as often, but it must have a clear path to reach the kitchen. Venting your kitchen and your bathrooms is very important, that’s the source of most of your moisture in the home. Encouraging clients to turn them on and use them regularly and long enough is a good idea too. One last word of advice about exhaust fans, everyone hates the noise and may not use them all the time. Think of a paddle fan at the ceiling, it’s almost silent. If you think remoting the fan motor to the outside will change things it really won’t. What you are hearing is the air rushing through the ducting. If you have the opportunity to run the largest ducting circumference you can based on the manufactures specifications do it. The noise level goes down. Once people understand that it’s actually the air moving and not a loud motor they seem more agreeable to using their fans. You’ll also need to paint less frequently and that loops right back into air quality issues.
new homeowners

What essential skills should every new homeowner have?

The most important things to know are how to shut off your water, electricity and natural gas. In areas prone to earthquakes or other movement disasters I would install an earthquake natural gas shut off that will do this automatically. Beyond stopping and minimizing any damage, what you need to know about repair and maintenance will depend on your abilities and interest and resources. Some people are skilled with tools and want to take care of their homes and others are only able to do minor fixes. It’s okay not to be a hero! Some poor fixes prolong or exacerbate problems that should have been taken care of by a professional so if you don’t know how to fix your furnace, or electrical problem….please don’t try. Cleaning out a plastic p-trap is easy; snaking out your sewer line is really better left to a professional. They can tell you why you are having the problem, materials flushed, roots or a terribly old sewer line that needs to be replaced. I have found videos on various web sites or u-tube informative for most things around the house I would want to be involved in fixing. Find a video from a reliable source and check to see if your situation is the same as the video. Do you have cast iron drain lines and you’re watching someone work on plastic for instance? Do maintain your home, caulk, clean gutters, keep debris away from siding, change furnace filters. If you have a neighbor or friend that is really handy they might be happy to walk around your home with you to make a list of easy projects you can tackle. If you are trouble shooting a problem or even cleaning your gutters be extremely careful. Wear safety equipment, tie yourself off, and don’t step on the top of the ladder above the step that tells you not to. I do believe in having a tool kit and keeping your warranties in one place and maybe you won’t have to fix the problem after all.

Manufactured Homes, Do or Don’t?

Pre-fab housing has been thought of as something less than a real home for a long time. In the last few years, I’ve seen some incredible very modern LEED built pre-fab homes in many national magazines and my own Sunday newspaper. I think these would be great for small families or even when my husband and I retire and downsize. Many of the things you would think about when buying a home would apply to the location of these structures. Is the lot in a flood plain, near a river or in a high fire danger hillside? I would build a very sound foundation based on the pre-fab engineering and I’d probably hire a structural engineer for a site visit and any additional work necessary to meet my local codes. If I was doing this for myself I’d also investigate the cost of a thermal heating system. If you’ve got a bulldozer out there for the foundation why not included digging down for the heating system. I must admit, I am assuming that I would buy a lot and not rent an area for a typical mobile home. I went online and found a number of pre-fab home builders that do a more standard and probably less expensive options that would be fine in many communities. I think that’s the key, would this home be out of place with the neighborhood. Are there community restrictions that would not allow this? If you are renting a space for the mobile home with utility costs I believe you might be better served in an apartment and put what you would spend on the mobile home itself in a savings account earmarked for a purchase of a more traditional home or condo.
winterize article

How to Winterize Your Home

Beyond the usual re-caulking of windows and looking for drafts I would recommend walking around your home, under the deck and around to those parts that you just don’t walk by very often. And for the areas you walk by all the time stop and take a close look at trim that may have separated or have gaps; foliage that has grown too close to the house or signs of vermin. Always check your roof and gutters too. I just came from a home where we are re-finishing the top cap on three different decks. Each cap has a sided parapet wall below. As I was poking and feeling around the top cap, I realized there had been water infiltration into the wall below and the coated deck was covering more rot. As I stepped into the corner area my foot “sponged” down. Not a good sign. Unfortunately this client let this un-repaired area go too long, but it’s a good reminder to really asses the outside of your home before heading into another raining, snowing season. There is time to get ready for the season that's toughest on your home.
Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.03.25 AM

How do you avoid scam repairs after a storm?

Because of all the terrible stories about people losing large sums of money, I would depend on my insurance agent and insurance company. I have a very good relationship with our agent and we use one company to cover as much as we possible for the best pricing. We also insure our business through the same agent. This makes you a much more valuable client for your agent. I strongly suggest sitting down with your agent before there is a crisis and make sure you have enough insurance and the right insurance. Flood insurance is usually inexpensive, but you need to purchase it several months prior to the event. In the case of an emergency I would work with the agent and expect the insurance company to repairs including deposits. Of course the insurance company would like to pay the least they can but with a local agent involved, I believe my best interests would be protected. If it were not an emergency I would not have the insurance company be this involved, but if I have a tree in my living room and so do 300 of my neighbors, I may not have the luxury of getting multiple bids and being sure of the references. I may be naïve since I’ve never been faced with this problem but I just wouldn’t want to hand over a large sum of money to someone I didn’t know. And there is the whole subject of what was and was not covered and how it did or did not get taken care of by insurance companies with Katrina. I know that in the state of Washington we have a good Insurance Commissioner and I would contact his office if I had problems resolving my claim. I think it’s a good time to mention the great work of the Red Cross and support their efforts!
green certification

Evaluating Green Home Certifications

As I work with clients designing and remodeling kitchens and baths we discuss green, energy and water savings routinely. Our clients want to use greener products but the extent to how green that will be varies. So many of the products I specify and use are forestry certified or CARB compliant that some “green” is built right in without a discussion. Probably because we are not doing new construction and generally working only in certain areas of the home whole house certification does not come up as a need or desire. If I were buying a new home and could see big savings in my energy costs looking forward, it would be a reason to buy one house over another.

What is the season’s effect on design?

In the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have seasons but not very severe like some parts of the country. Since I design kitchens, baths and great rooms most of the time I’m focused on where people gather and many times share a great meal. We have an abundance of farmers markets and wonderful local wineries. I love changing a dining room, great room or kitchen with bowls and platters of seasonal fruit or vegetables. Artichokes piled up with lemons or big bowls of red and green apples; even mixing flowers from the garden and vegetables for floral displays on a dining room table. My other passion is setting a seasonal table with different dishware and glasses, mixing casual with formal pieces. In the summer I have glasses that have jute slip covers for wine, mix in seashells and light blue napkins and sea glass votives for a terrific outdoor salmon dinner. In the winter blend plaid napkins or inexpensive tea towels with a wildlife dinner plate, add a silver platter with a long bowl of pinecones and tiny pumpkins or small glass ornaments and candles. Your children make some of the best seasonal art work and decorations so find ways to incorporate these treasures into your kitchen or great room. There are great buys on inexpensive frames that you can use to “Professionalize” and thrill your kids. When you’re making decisions about colors and style that are permanent in a kitchen or bath, keep in mind this is a backdrop you’ll live with for many years. I’m currently completing a kitchen and great room for a client that has a decorating friendly color palate; creamy white cabinets in the kitchen and island with a built in ten foot long espresso cherry buffet. The kitchen has dark soapstone counters and the dark buffet has light Calcutta marble countertop. I wainscoted the dining/great room in the same creamy white as the kitchen cabinetry; the paint color was an extremely dark grey that picked up the glass liner bar used with Calcutta marble and white crackle subway tiles. Even though the space has very dramatic backsplashes and lighting with a deep wall color because of the unifying creamy paint color the space is perfect for bold accents and art work. Also for this kid friendly family we added a large white board framed in espresso cherry in the kitchen.

Toilet Buying Guide from the Experts

As a kitchen and bathroom designer I look closely at the plumbing I specify for my clients. Toilets really need to work or they’ll drive you crazy. I think manufacturers have taken really impressive steps to improve the function and styles available. I have a few must haves on my list for a great toilet: • A concealed trapway for a sleek look and easy cleaning • A 3” flush valve with a proven engineered flush • “Right height” 16 ½” rim height; easier to get on and off • Elongated seat if the space is available in the room; it’s just better. I’ve used quite a few Toto toilets, but in the last few years I really believe American Standard has some terrific toilets and great values. The Cadet 3, flowise with concealed trapway, right height and elongated with a 5 year warranty is a great value in the 300-400.00 range. For a super sleek one piece toilet, the Boulevard with siphonic dual flush in the 600-700.00 range and ten year warranty would be perfect for a master bath. These toilets also are part of the EPA Watersense program, have everclean surfaces and other great features. The Toto heated seats and cleaning features or Kohler’s hat box toilet are right for some clients that have very specific requirements. These are always fun to see at home shows but the criteria and the styles I’ve listed usually satisfy my client’s needs.
managing projects

What’s the best way to choose a home improvement team?

As a design/build general contractor we assemble a team based on the design and labor necessary for the specific project. There are very few homeowners that have the expertise or the time. You will also be assembling a team that has never worked together and this brings with it many other factors. We’ve spent years assembling the right team of professionals for our projects. I think it is in the client’s best interests to have someone in the leadership role. The project needs definition; design with labor and materials specifications along with other specialty trades that may be required. Without a defined project with a budget and a group working together without a leader; either a general contractor/design build; or an architect the project risks a lack of accountability and either too much overlap or areas that are missed in the planning all together. We had provided design / build services for many members of her family, want to contract with us for design, cabinetry and the installation for her “new construction” home. Four years after the home was complete, I was working with her on some furniture for the house. She told me that all four of her shower pans were leaking and that she had contacted her home owner’s insurance company. She learned that since she managed the work and paid the sub-contractors; she was the general contractor and was not insured for these defects. The tile contractor’s phone was disconnected and nowhere to be found. The repairs cost her $28,000.00. Homeowners need to understand they are accepting the responsibility for the labor, defects and materials used, and they are not going to be able to make claims for any defective work if they cannot reach the sub- contractor, have their insurance documents and make a claim during their states defined warranty period for that work. They may also be at risk financially if someone is injured on the job. I would urge any homeowner to meet with design / build general contractors and architects to discuss their project, the process and project management. Who is responsible for what and how do we stay on budget. Look at the quality of the finished projects. Remodeling and new construction have levels of complexities depending on the size and scope. Find a good professional and understand the process; keep looking and asking questions until you have found a good fit for your project.

How are you using sustainable materials?

We’ve been specifying green and more sustainable products since we opened 22 years ago because it just makes sense. Products and materials have come a long way in that time too and the definition of what is green. Here’s what we focus on: • All of our cabinet lines are made in America and are sustainable, eco- friendly, low VOC • What can be kept as part of the structure? • What can be donated for re-use • Water saving through WaterSense Certified products • Energy efficiency through LED lighting if possible for the project. Just yesterday I spoke with a client about her ship lap flooring. It was in good condition and by screwing it down tightly to the existing floor joists; there was just no reason to remove it. Why send more material to the landfill? The current living room, hall and two bedrooms on this floor are resting on this same material. I have to be honest, we sometimes lose the gains with our clients when they use green but add more. When you go from a single fridge to a three in the kitchen; or when a second shower head is added and heated towel bars. I can’t say I blame anyone for making their home more comfortable and I’m pleased that most of the time they are still better off from an energy standpoint than when we started.

How did the recession affect your business?

This last recession was the worst I’ve ever seen and I’ve been through all the up’s and downs including the early nineteen eights with mortgage interest rates over 16 percent. What helped us work through this time period were several things: our 23 years in business, an eagerness on our part to spend our time learning more and working even harder. We were able to sign contracts with every single client referred to us. We took good care of these new clients and thanked those that referred them. We just worked as hard as we could to provide the best design and bring our expertise to the table. Since we are also the owners of our company I think it made clients feel they were getting the best attention and put them at ease during a turbulent economic time. I spent many hours building our web site and learning as much as I could about social media. I learned about the newest green products available. We also added a new cabinetry line that we felt added a custom very high end product to our showroom. This was counter intuitive and has been the best thing we could have done. Clients may not want flashy, but they do want the very best construction and finishes. At the beginning of this recession I had just taken the position of Rotary District Governor; a demanding and time consuming second full time job. I was doing a great deal of public speaking and working with our 3300 local Rotarians to bring positive changes to our community and to various areas throughout the world. Business was difficult and the days were extremely long, but this put things into perspective and gave me a wonderful sense of purpose and happiness.
home show

How can homeowners make the most out of home shows?

I enjoy home shows to see what’s new and what trends other professionals see ahead. So much more technology is being integrated into our designs that we have to stay in a learning mode. Clients usually start that learning curve six months to a year before they meet with me and many times one of the tools of choice is a visit to a home show. This year our Rutt Handcrafted Cabinet line has partnered with Harmon Kardon at the Kitchen and Bath show to feature a flat speaker that is routed into the back of a cabinet door; keeping the face of the door intact (no opening or speaker cloth) and not using any of the space inside the cabinet for the speakers. The speaker is probably less than an inch thick, and the sub-woofer is hidden in the toe kick. One of those really “Wow” accessories for a kitchen or den. Without trade shows and home shows we would never have the time or opportunity to look in depth into the application, function and quality level of many of these products all in one space. If you have limited time, say focused on your priorities and ask a lot of questions. It’s a good idea if you are looking at very new products to ask if they are available immediately. Sometimes new models are brought to home shows that are not available until the second half of the year.
project pride

What projects are you most proud of?

A project I am most proud of happens to be the one I am just completing so the photos were just taken as my client was moving into her new kitchen. I’ve been designing and providing general construction for kitchens and baths for twenty two years so I’ve had many projects to consider. This kitchen and family room project was wonderful because everything in the design and planning stages went perfectly. I had clients that knew what they wanted; I could envision exactly how I wanted this to look to meet my client’s expectations and style requirements. And they left me alone to do what I know how to do well. I had exceptional products to work with; I also had a client who understood what their vision would cost. This was the finest experience, not only for me, but for my employees, subs and clients. All, because we had a shared vision and high expectations for this project. Using Rutt Classic cabinetry allowed me to highly customize my design with shapes and details found only on custom furniture. The seven drawer curved face bay cabinet and barrel vaulted valance over the Marvin French window is the focal point of the room. Usually a 48” commercial range and decorative hood take over as a focal point but not in this case, it transitions to a wide peninsula. The countertop is very rare quartz that has transparency and depth. So exceptional is this Quartz, that that we doubled the thickness creating a 6 cm edge. Stacked stone was installed in the back splash, even reaching and following the curve of the barrel valance. Every sub-contractor and employee that worked on the project told me it was the most amazing kitchen they had ever seen, even our cleaning crew. They’ve seen everything over the years and not just our work. Hearing this from some of the very best craftsmen and technicians in our industry was a rare and wonderful thing. Our clients are thrilled too.
happy customers

What are the benefits of repeat business?

We enjoy a great deal of repeat business with our kitchen and bath remodeling firm. People that have a great experience want others to know. Our showroom and office is in a vibrant neighborhood near the University of Washington and we've been in business for the last 22 years. Not only does repeat business grow our business but it keeps us connected with clients that have become friends. We have clients that just stop by our office to catch up. This is professionally so rewarding. Our method of keeping in touch is through our electronic newsletter and website. We also have very detailed knowledge of our client's homes and tastes so when a new product or a special office is available we let them know about it first. Over course anything an existing client needs jumps to the front of the list, even if it's a very small job. We also tend to work for families and in one case remodeled every family member's kitchen in an extended family and then their corporate offices. Now we are working for our client's children. Twenty one years ago a client of mine asked me to join his Rotary club; I did and went on to be District Governor with over 3,300 members. The integration of business and philanthropy wouldn't have come about without a wonderful client.
home improvement technology

What emerging technologies are making your jobs easier?

This is going to sound so basic but for me it's all about communication and specifications. Working with my clients or sub-contractors on a daily basis I find Smart phones, my lap top and digital pictures indispensable. It really took a while for manufacturers to put together very useful web sites that I can quickly get product technical information for my use and visuals to send to my clients. As a designer if I go to a manufacturers web site that is very hard to use or even un-usable for my needs and if I'll find another manufacturer and they've lost my business. For me truly, “A picture's worth a thousand words”. I also use networking to share my designs and communicate with clients. Houzz is a great site to share ideas with clients and blogging on elocal with my peers.
home estimates

How should homeowners interpret estimates?

Kraig, I understand what you saying. I own a design/build firm that specializes in kitchens and baths. My advise is to work with someone competent, licensed and insured to providing the correct information. Also find a professional that does the type of work you're looking for on a regular basis. Budgets that don't take into account all the work (labor and materials) needed usually don't have really good specifications either. Homeowners also need to understand that there can be unforseen conditions. These should be limited to things you couldn't have known and couldn't have been determined. A good example would be that you open up a wall and a previous homeowner or builder did unsafe or incorrect plumbing, electrical or framing. If you're talking about sofa's that won't fit through a doorway, or it's twice the price quoted; there's no excuse.
home estimates

How should homeowners interpret estimates?

It's important to understand the difference between an estimate and a firm quotation. In either case you need to know you are dealing with a professional, reputable and licensed company to do any work on your home. The cost of the project needs to be directly tied to specifications; what is included, what isn't and what unforeseen condition could potentially come up. As a general contractor and designer; l remodel homes and specialize in kitchens and baths. I write detailed labor and materials specifications. These specifications are based on a budget for the project; my design work and the client's level of quality. You need to be very clear with contractors and sub-contractors regarding the level of quality of the materials used, work schedule, and clean-up for an accurate quote. Be prepared with pictures and manufacturers of products you would like included. Whether it's a kitchen or a driveway; have some idea regarding how you envision the finished project. I am currently adding a new driveway to our home and the finish details, the excavation (who takes the dirt away and is it included?); all of this matters. Good estimates come down to good communication and reputable companies, because they want your referrals and future business. A poorly written estimate that doesn't spell out what you have requested is a sign you should avoid that company. The estimate should also include: time line with a start date; payment schedule; license and bonding information and their warranty for the work and materials. For complicated projects; drawings, product information and model numbers need to be included. Complicated projects that require drawings you can't provide and specifications as a homeowner you may not be able to write will probably come with a cost to provide a proposal. At the point a tile contractor or general contractor is doing drawings and writing spec's you may want to consider a designer or architect so you can provide this information uniformly too all bidders so you can compare apples to apples.
historic home

What should homebuyers know about older homes?

Pay for a very professional in depth home inspection; complete with lead testing, radon testing, asbestos, and sewer line. Also confirm all building permits that should have been necessary were actually taken out. Without permits the likelihood of the work being sub-standard or wrong increase greatly. If you're buying an older home and plan on remodeling to 2012 level of comfort and finishes, be ready to replace the entire infrastructure. You can't extrapolate remodeling costs from magazines because these won't include the cost to re-plumb, re-wire, new heating system; hot water tank, new windows, additional insulation and possibly a new roof and gutters. The costs shown for kitchens and baths in magazines only include the work that was completed inside the bathroom or kitchen itself not the infrastructure. Be prepared to spend quite a bit to bring it up to a new home condition and don't plan on moving in right away. I recommend consulting with an established design / build firm or contractor that does work in the neighborhood to go over what the estimated costs would be. Have a clear conversation about your expectations regarding the quality level of finishes and materials so they can provide you with the most accurate estimate of costs. This kind of undertaking isn't for everyone. If an older home has been remodeled and isn't in need of a lot of updates always ask for a list of what companies did the work and when and are any of the warranties (roof for instance) transferable to you. I am actually very positive about purchasing older homes that have been maintained and are structurally sound. I've seen new homes that are put together fast, have poor workmanship and very inexpensive materials. These will be in need to be remodeled soon too. I really like older homes, the architectural detailing and mature neighborhoods can't be replicated in new neighborhoods. I have to admit that my house is seventy years old and yes we have replaced everything; remodeled every room and done two additions.
kid construction

How can you keep a remodel safe and kid-friendly?

The safety of children in the home is a priority since things can happen so quickly. Any home may have a child visit and simple steps can help lower the risk that someone is injured. The gates, locks and childproofing help; but beyond that the tamper resistant outlets and plug strips are great to incorporate into a remodel. Turning down the temperature of the water heater can keep kids from accidently burning themselves and it's so simple to do. Consider adding seating area designed for small people and big people to take off shoes, a lower set of hooks to hang up kid's jackets next to the doorway you enter from. Design an area in your entertainment center for toy storage and kids books that the children can access themselves. This is great for families with kids or grand children. Adding organizational tools like these not only help keep the clutter down but also help teach kids to responsibly care for their own belongings. In the last five years or so we have seen a huge number of great durable, cleanable and UV resistant fabrics and carpets to choose from. Quarts materials for countertops that can be easily cleaned with antibacterial products without damaging the counters help keep the young and the elderly healthier. Using low VOC paints and products will help keep the entire family feeling better too.

How can you creatively reuse or recycle in the home?

All of my clients are supportive of donating materials to second use or re-use facilities. When items are more valuable they have sold them on Craig's list, which at least keeps things out of landfills. Be sure to ask your neighbors if they need something you are removing from your home. Many times the homes on your street were built at the same time and have the same radiators, interior doors and trim. Especially if your home is older, some of these items would need to be custom ordered and expensive. If your neighbor was planning a remodel they'd be thrilled to be on the receiving end. When you consider a remodel or an addition think about what you need, what you will want to maintain and heat five years later. Sometimes you don't need to add or change as much as you think. Add crown molding or wainscot a wall. In relatively new homes I've reconfigured islands and cabinetry instead of doing the entire kitchen over again. Waste isn't always what you throw away; sometimes bigger isn't always better and remember to maintain what you have for a longer lifespan.
buy home

What do home buyers need to know before buying?

Buying a home is such a personal decision with many so many factors. For me it has always been location. You can buy a good home or a poorly constructed or maintained home anywhere so invest in a very good home inspection from a licensed and qualified individual. Have the sewer scoped too for problems. In Seattle we have hills and rockeries. To do a new sewer line with a home thirty feet above the street with a sixty year old rockery might cost as much as %30,000 or more. Always replace the water line at the same time. Do you want to be the most expensive or the least expensive home on the block probably depends on your time horizon, needs and financial situation. If you are the least expensive home, are you prepared to invest more money to update/remodel /repair the home? If you are buying the most expensive home on the block I think you have to ask yourself why. There are some good reasons to buy the most expensive; a water view or access, a historically significant home, or LEED certified construction eliminating most of your future energy costs. For some people new construction is important enough to be the most expensive, but personally I wouldn't consider a top dollar new home unless it had a solar or thermal energy component to offset my energy and mortgage costs.

Where do you find inspiration for remodeling projects?

I think where you get your inspirations may have something to do with your age and passions. I happen to still like magazines, both hard copies and on line. Take a broader view and look at the styles and patterns in magazines that feature things you are passionate about. I enjoy cooking and gardening and find inspiration for design and color outside of the traditional design magazine. I look at those too but you shouldn't be limited. I am also a huge fan of visiting open houses; new condominiums, restaurants and great hotels. Projects that had great designers and architects, maybe people you could not afford to hire. Find out what they are doing with color, materials and products. Take a look at the big picture, even though sometimes you see one thing you like, try and take it all in. How could some of a great concept work in your home? Design and inspiration aren't out of reach, many times its right in front of you.
Home Design

What elements are overused in home improvement?

The trend that makes me cringe is a Shaker cabinet door style. It isn't that I don't appreciate Shaker and Mission styles; in fact we were on HGTV with the “The Ultimate Craftsman” project about ten years ago. We have a number of neighborhoods that are definitely craftsman, but I can tell you for a time EVERYONE wanted the same door style; whether it had anything to do with the architecture of their home, and the design of their interior spaces or not. The other part of the Craftsman craze was the misunderstanding of the door style itself. Clients would say they want a Shaker door style, only to have them pointing to something that was not a Shaker style door at all. They would continue to refer to something with bead board or other ornamentation as Shaker. I stopped trying to explain. I guess what really rubs me the wrong way is for a client to insist on a trend that is completely juxtaposition to the architectural style of their home. There are times when a house is fairly new and so vanilla it doesn't matter; but when a client wants to remove a 90 year old barrel vaulted ceiling from a historically significant Tudor home I become an advocate for the house itself. The other trend I don't need to see more of are interior water features. Mc Mansions with a waterfall over glass mosaics as you walk in, or walk over. Maybe in Hawaii or Florida but in Seattle it feels more like your waiting for a table in a restaurant.
media home improvement

How does the media portray home improvement?

I enjoy some of the well done programming and print work regarding remodeling and decorating since this is my profession. A well done media piece about remodeling for me personally is something either informative about a new product or technology, or design and materials that I like very much. I don't like information that isn't correct regarding the budget, number of trades required or time frame. Too often projects are portrayed as weekend jobs and couldn't possibly be done correctly in two days. Or the extensive prep work needed for what is being depicted is never discussed. Most of the time permits and the time it takes for inspections are not described either. I'm not sure the misleading information available from the media is much different than the misleading information from advertisements at big box stores. In fact I believe the big box stores and the like suggest a level of quality that they don't even sell. The pictures look great but the products may not be what a client expects. A $400.00 stainless steel hood fan is not the same as a $2,400.00 stainless hood fan even if the pictures look similar. It all comes back to working with a professional that you trust and that can help educate you about design, materials, the process and the budget. It's never a one size fits all, even if you have a lower budget. Even with poor programs and articles available it is still a great for homeowners to have an abundant choice of materials to sift through. They can see what might be possible in their home. They get motivated to make improvements and when they contact professionals like us, we can explain the steps and costs associated with a project. This is good for our industry. Homeowners are more educated now about remodeling and construction and are suspicious about how a sophisticated project could be completed so quickly or inexpensively. They will tell me that as they show me a picture and say, “That had to have cost more than they are saying”.
natural disaster

How can homeowners protect from natural disasters?

I live in Seattle, an area of the country that doesn't have that many natural disasters; but we have the potential to have an extremely bad earthquake similar to the recent quake in Japan and tsunami's. I think the best advice is to build in accordance to your local building codes and for homeowners living in homes more than twenty years old to research the changes in their local codes and consider upgrades. I know on the west coast we have much better structural requirements because of the risk of these earthquakes. Things like bolting your home to its foundation are smart upgrades. Even maintenance like keeping your brick chimney tuck pointed and in good condition just may keep it from falling over into your home and actually hurting people. Our other natural disaster is slower to recognize, rain. Especially this year, we have had so much wet weather. If windows and doors aren't installed properly and with the right flashing you'll have damage. This is the kind of damage you may not see for a while and can be very serious. Caulking is another maintenance item that needs to be done routinely to keep weather and pests out of a home. Have a structurally solid, well maintained home with a weather tight exterior and plenty of supplies (food, water, radio, sleeping bags those sorts of things) readily available. Keep copies of your homeowners insurance and other documents in a plastic sealable bag with your emergency items. Have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit and extra medications if you need them. Have a plan that your family knows and some of your extended family knows about.
outdoor living

How can you create the ultimate outdoor living space?

Five years ago I designed an addition to our own home that included a 1000 square foot rooftop deck. We enjoy my outdoor room for almost five months a year. We live in Seattle which isn't always warm or dry so there are issues with these kinds of spaces in our climate. I use the same technology when designing for super bright UV areas of home and for kids. I would also encourage anyone planning this kind of space to spend the money it takes to do it right. It will cost as much and in some cases more than an indoor space. My tips of designing a space you will love to use are: 1. Always include a cooking and dining space; if you have the budget plumb for your gas barbeque and a sink. Remember to use heat tape on your waterlines if you're in a cold climate. 2. Include more electrical outlets than you think you need and more hose bibs; you'll be happy later. 3. Include outdoor lighting in layers. Up light plants and trees and include lighting for walkways or paths. Include really big and good quality (statement pieces) pots for your plants. You're going for less quantity but big impact. Add a humming bird feeder and plants that attract them; everyone enjoys watching them. 4. I like to include a water feature and in Seattle we don't have many swimming pools. 4. Use materials that can withstand the elements and understand that nothing lasts forever. Bring in cushions and umbrellas over the winter if you live in a wet and cold climate. 6. Take advantage of the incredible fabrics that are UV resistant. They now come in chenille and great patterns that I also specify for super bright areas of clients homes or kids rooms. 7. Add texture and interest through decorative pillows and throws to stay warm at night. I design spaces to look as comfortable and well done as any family room.
obligation green

Should professionals promote the green movement?

I believe most construction and design professionals want to include sustainability, energy and water savings into their projects. It's the degree we can do it that can vary, and it's dictated by our clients. We can educate them about products that can improve water and energy efficiency, saving them money in the long run; the decision is up to our clients. More and more options are coming on the market that work well and cost less than in the past. Toilets with 1.28 gallon flush, energy star appliances, efficient lighting and insulation products help clients make good decisions for their homes. This question is similar to our terrific farmers markets in Seattle. Given the choice of some of the best produce, handmade cheeses and fresh seafood; who wouldn't want to eat better than they did 20 years ago! The same is true of sustainability for our homes.
home improvement technology

How is technology affecting the way we live at home?

Technology is evolving and will continue to develop into products that make our lives easier or better. As both a kitchen/bath designer and remodeler, I discuss options with clients that fit their needs, project and budget. Technology that's over the top from a price stand point will never be commonly used; those products will either disappear or come way down in price. These have been the most popular with our clients this year: Quartz solid surface countertops; Cesarstone, Silestone, Chroma and others. No maintenance, no bacterial growth and a life span that will equal my clients. The only product you will never need to replace in your home. Lithium battery operated window treatments. I do these all the time with Roman shades, roller shades. They operate with a remote; you can have multiple treatments on the same remote. These can be for windows you can't reach, mobility issues or just because it's so easy. With the advantage of batteries we don't have to run new circuits and power to window locations. This is very cost prohibitive unless the walls are exposed during a renovation. Re-circulating pumps that are programmable to run when you are most likely in the shower or requiring hot water. The average family wastes 75-125 gallons of water a day waiting for hot water. Adding interior cabinet lighting that use batteries for closed spaces can be added with or without a remodel. We use a high end German lighting system and mount them inside cabinets and even drawers with a touch control. When you open a door or drawer and the light comes on. These are great for retrofits. We hardwire the LED version when doing a new kitchen. This may not seems so high tech, but when I demonstrate this heavy duty corner pull out that brings everything located inside a blind corner, outside in ten seconds with one hand they understand. Our clients love this option instead of the old lazy Susan. You have to see it to realize how cool it really is blind corner video

How will our homes change in the next 5-10 years?

Scott, you're absolutely right. Everyone in the process benefits, the design/build firm and the client. Less confusion and terrific outcomes. I also see clients taking the process more seriously and being clear about their needs and budget right from the beginning.

How will our homes change in the next 5-10 years?

The next movement we will see is multi-generational living spaces as the new norm; apartments within homes. Whether it's a son living at home after college to save or pay off his student loan; a aging parent, or a paying tenant, we will see many added to existing homes in the next 5-10 years. For some, this is a cost savings measure, for others a better way to take care of a parent. Actually with the cost of caring for seniors and some without enough savings, this may be the new alternative. For young adults, living at home may the best way to save the 20% down payment for a new home that will include an apartment to offset the mortgage! Along with MGL's you will notice design trending toward universal design; the ability for all ages and levels of mobility to live in the space. Personally I would add features that allow the apartment to function as a home office if not being used as living space. The ability to have an eating space and a restroom in your office allows for an assistant to work in one area, while the owner has their own space. Then in the following year, or next owner; instantly has a suite for another use all together.
diy do and dont

When should a homeowner hire a home professional?

You should consider working with a design professional, architect or structural engineer if you're making structural changes to your home. You may need one of these professionals to help obtain a permit in your city to do the work. I would suggest that unless it is really a small chore a good general contractor would be a better resource, they have the expertise, insurance and bonding. Some handymen are not insured and may not be paying taxes. You could have a problem if something is done wrong, check for business licenses and insurance for anyone working in your home. Many good contractors are doing smaller jobs right now and this is good for consumers. The benefits of a designer or architect can be invaluable for projects as simple as room layouts, colors, adding a French door. We are professionals and bring more knowledge and skills to our work than many people realize. Our projects demonstrate our understanding of how things need to function and product knowledge our clients just don't have. Here are several examples; in-swing vs. out-swing doors, low voltage lighting vs. line voltage; abrasion ratings for floor tiles and code requirements. This is the technical part of my work. The part the public is most familiar with may be my understanding of colors, textures and finishes but there's just so much more. Have you ever wondered why that hotel lobby or restaurant looked so amazing? A commercial project would never be built without professionals. If you want a great project, large or small find the right professional for your project. I partner with structural engineers and architects when I need their expertise and I refer them when most of the work is structural or beyond my area of work. Any good professional would advise a client if they needed a different specialist; then refer them to someone they trust. You don't need to wait until you have a large project; in fact don't wait until then to meet with and hire a professional. Find out more about their work, how they charge and if this something within their scope of expertise. I can't see the downside to working with a professional, really only up side. As a client, you're not giving up control, your gaining valuable insight and expertise.
working with professional

How can homeowners make a professional’s job easier?

I always take pictures, not only to have before shots, but as I do a measure and get back to my office I can review the photos to double check details. We just completed a steam shower for a client and took photos every day to demonstrate the process; tear out, framing, plumbing and electrical, waterproofing…on and on. This project took a month and we had people working at the site every day. I made it into a movie and posted it on our web site. Some people have never done a remodel and just can't get their arms around the fact that labor is a large percentage of the cost of a project. This used to bother me but I realize some people don't understand the steps, man hours, skills and tools necessary to complete a project. I don't know how I lived without e-mail. I can communicate immediately, scan drawings and send pictures to both clients and sub contractors working for me. We send almost all of our invoices electronically and we get paid faster than a mailed invoice.
working with professional

How can homeowners make a professional’s job easier?

Pablo, You've saved yourself money by being able to show these pictures to trades people. Save all of this and turn over copies to a new buyer when you sell. This is valuable and could make the difference between two houses a buyer may be considering. This also shows quality and that you didn't cut corners. Great job.
working with professional

How can homeowners make a professional’s job easier?

This can be the start of a good professional relationship with open communication; a clearly defined scope, a list of criteria that we all understand and honesty about your budget. Be honest about your budget, even if you don't know what it will cost. Provide a range and be willing to learn about your options. Pictures are great if you have some to share. I always bring many photos of my projects as a spring board for conversations and to demonstrate cost differences. If the relationship is professional, based on trust, and open communication from all parties you will have a successful project. You should know something about company you're working with; providing you with the confidence from the beginning that you can be honest or you may find it hard to have the openness I outline above. For real professionals in the design and home improvement field, this isn't about a quick sale. Nothing's that quick and most of my projects are complicated. It's about getting it right, doing a great job that may be published and a client that refers you to everyone they know. We want great clients, repeat business and referrals. Know something about the professional you are working with; enough to communicate honestly and to trust them. For all the reasons I list above, we have huge incentives to provide you and your family with a very good project. What to do: - Understand your finances and your budget for this project. - If you have a spouse, determine the scope and criteria before I meet with you. It's more embarrassing for you than it is for me to find out you haven't talked, or one of you doesn't want to do this at all. - Outline the scope, the must have's on your list. - Know your likes and dislikes. Sometimes I learn more when I understand your dislikes. - Tell me the things you already know are seriously wrong with your home. - Make arrangements for your children to be occupied in another room so you can focus on our conversation. Treat this as you would if you were meeting with your accountant or lawyer. - Be willing to listen, learn and then share your feelings about new ideas. - If I don't think I understand some part of what you are trying to tell me, tell me that. What not to do: - Meet with me without your partner if their input matters or if they are the final decision maker. - Tell me you don't have a budget yet, or and be unwilling to discuss what you could spend.- Hide problems with your home; tell me things that aren't accurate. - Make are appointment for a time you are tired, your kids need you or your partner can't be there too.
house facelift

What preventive maintenance tasks are essential?

This is a great question and it falls in two categories; what needs to be changed or completed to avert a potential destructive event, and what is typical maintenance. Water is the number one damaging event most homeowners will face. Maintenance will provide the longest life for the systems and finishes in your home. It saves you money, and it increases the value of your home compared to others in your neighborhood in need of repairs. If it hasn't been done, do it now. Change out your washer water lines preferable with SS water lines. Change out the waterlines to your sinks to SS water lines and change to ¼ turn ballcock shut offs Use copper for your ice line, not plastic tubing, and change out if needed. Upgrade to a dishwasher that has an automatic shut off and pan to prevent leaks. Check hose bibs for leaking at the wall or at the shut off. Always correct problems in electrical; if breakers are blowing repeatedly something is overloading the circuit or too much has been added to this circuit through possible DIY projects. If lights won't work, check for rodents. They chew the insulation off the wiring. If you have a rodent don't wait to eliminate them, they can cause a huge amount of damage. Make sure everyone in your household understand: feminine products, wipes, string, thread and hair does not go down the toilet. They will have to be removed and probably professionally. Install an earthquake shut off to your gas meter if you live in a prone area of the country. Common Maintenance: Walk around your house, look up and down; inside and out for discoloration or damage. Get up in your attic and do the same, also look for any sign of rodent or bug/bee infiltration. Check your vents and grills, animals chew through these and you may think you are protected. Check your roof, gutters, down spouts and chimney for any needed attention or replacement/tuck pointing. Clean out your p-traps and run water in baths or shower you don't use once a month to eliminate sewer gas smells. Check and re-caulk your doors and windows, especially at the flashing. Service your HVAC in the summer when there may be specials. Change filters, clean. Painting and staining your home on the outside routinely will increase the lifespan of trim, siding and decks. Clean out your dryer vent with a shop vac. Vacuum out your fans and your refrigerator vents and compressors. Clean and re-seal grout and stone surfaces. Clean carpets and touch up your interior paint you'll be surprised how much cleaner and better your home looks. This can add several years to your interior painting. Know where all of your shut offs are located and make sure your family knows as well. If your basement is unfinished, check the foundation for cracks and water on the inside; if finished look outside. Things to take notice of: Lack of water pressure; you may need a new water line Lights that don't work; or a funny musty smell; you may have had a rodent. Water coming in through your can lights or a wet ceiling may indicated a clogged gutter or downspout and may not indicate a roofing problem. A washer that stops routinely in the spin cycle; may need to be re-leveled. A slow draining toilet and sinks may be indicating a sewer line back up, clean p traps, try to plunge but be ready to turn the water off to the toilet quickly.

Renovations and their resale value

I understand your concern that clients may not realize what things cost, especially when you consider the labor involved as well as the materials. Some of what's out there is misleading but I take the position that it's inspired more homeowners to remodel and given me more opportunities to show clients the value in doing it correctly. I spend time educating my clients on the real costs and permiting involved. I can show previous projects we've done; materials, labor. We don't sign a contract with a client without all aspects specified in detail, and costs based on the actual completed design. This takes more time but the client understand clearly what is going to be involved as well as the timeline. The 3-5,000.00 budget can be doable for many. This would depend on the size of the room, the type of lighting used and if they were to undertake the painting. I work in homes that range in size from 17,000 square feet to 1,800. I was basing my figures on a modest / average size room in a 2,000 square foot home. If a client has a larger budget for a project like this we can do more or utilize more high end materials.

Renovations and their resale value

Before you take the plunge and begin upgrading your home visit some open houses in your neighborhood to see what others have done or not done to their similar homes. Take some notes about what works and what you felt didn't. Many may even be the same floor plan. What is your budget? With a $3,000.00-$5,000.00 budget I would focus on a large space; either your family room or living room. Probably the most dramatic change you can make is with your flooring. Consider an engineered hardwood that has a rich appealing finish. Also consider changing your base molding to a taller 3” more sophisticated looking base. Paint the room a warm taupe or soft color that accents your furnishings. This could by a buttery color, or sage. Work with a design professional for a few hours on furniture layout and universally appealing colors. A better furniture layout can make a room feel much larger. Paint your ceiling a white, or a lighter color than the walls to add height. Usually a white trim color feels crisp and clean. Add 5” can lights with white trims to accentuate your new furniture layout and accent walls, bookcases or art work. Free: • Clean • De-clutter your home • Freshen up the front of your home by pruning, weeding and polishing up your house numbers $10,000 to 20,000.00 the bath wins! Everyone starts and finishes their day in the bathroom and it's typically the room that turns off buyers. Worn out, tired baths feel dirty to buyers and many of you know an old bath just can't be cleaned enough to sparkle. This is a room to remodel correctly; consider professionals. If you're not highly skilled at tile work or rough in plumbing and electrical work it will show and you won't get the bang for your buck you expected. Don't fall into the trap of installing a granite counter on an old 1960's vanity. If it's old and tired painting a vanity or even re-facing it won't help when the buyer can't easily open drawers and sees water stains. The buyer also feels guilty about those fancy updates they wouldn't want to tear out to fix the underlying problems. This also leads a buyer to suspect other things in your home are cosmetically hiding issues. You can update an existing vanity if it's in great condition with new doors, hardware; plumbing and countertop. In both cases, do the work really well. If you're doing your own painting spend some time learning how to do the prep right, cut in right and use enough coats of paint. You want to spend your money wisely and have a professional looking project when you done. Hire good professionals when you need them and get assistance from a reputable contractor to establish realistic budgets from the beginning and speak with previous clients.


Refusing Projects: Home Expert Awards

We do “gently” bow out of projects that are not going to be beneficial for ourselves and our potential client. We just can’t do work that doesn’t meet codes or best practices in our industry; our warranty and reputation is on the line every time we work on a project. Sometimes the best service we can provide a client with is to decline to do the project. It wouldn’t be fair to either party. This last summer I met with a very nice couple that had purchased one the worst homes I have ever seen from an infrastructure standpoint

Home Expert Awards: Dream Projects

I am so fortunate to have access to the best of the best materials and products, so dreaming happens on a regular basis. My dream was to have a large bedroom and master bathroom ours was small. Twelve years ago we decided to move or remodel our home, we remodeled. We added on to our home increasing the size of the dining room and also added 2 pairs of French doors. In the dining room we have a large built in buffet with an integrated warming drawer

Future Home Industry: Home Expert Awards

I believe lighting and power will be seeing the most changes in the home remodeling area. If I could invent and patent one technology it would be a drawer with a bottom that allows all items in it to re-charge without any cords, just put them away at night. I think we will see energy saving materials from recycled goods. There’s a new building in Germany that has very special glass that refracts the light into the interior space allowing natural light to light the spaces without the use of interior lights. Let’s see where this technology goes