It’s Remodeling Season. Vet Your Candidates Carefully

It’s Remodeling Season. Vet Your Candidates Carefully!

You’ve been dreaming of that new kitchen makeover, bathroom renovation, or addition for years, and now you’re ready to make it a reality. Selecting the right home remodeling company can be the difference between realizing your dream and ending up in a living nightmare. At first glance, all the candidates may look very similar and tell you what you want to hear. But what happens when you start asking the tough questions. The strong contenders won’t shy away, sweat under the spotlight, or try to redirect your attention to one of their talking points. They’ll welcome the scrutiny and answer your questions directly and thoroughly. Once properly vetted, only the strong will remain, the ones worthy of your vote and your hard earned investment dollars. Here are some key issues to raise as you evaluate the nominees.

What Kind of Track Record Do They Have?

How long have they been in business? What kind of references can they provide? Is it an extensive list where you can call and speak to whoever you want? Or do they just present a list of rather anonymous testimonials? “Steve in McLean, Mary in Alexandria… etc”. When you ask for references does it take days or weeks for them to get back to you? These are signs that they may have a hard time pleasing customers consistently or have something to hide.

Does their Rhetoric Pass Your Fact Check?

Don’t just take their word for it. Do your own investigating and independently verify their claims to be true. Reliable 3rd party sources, such as, the nation’s leader in customer satisfaction surveying for the building industry, provide hard data on how companies measure up, as well as reviews from previous clients. Consumer Checkbook is another vetting source. They provide not-for-profit ratings of local service companies. Angie’s List, Yelp and Google are also useful tools. Check them all. Some companies may have a few glowing reviews on one sight and a few scathing digs on another. Opinions vary, but listen for common themes. The reliable metric is a combination of quantity and quality.

Do They Have a Plan?

A renovation is a complex project that requires detailed preplanning and skillful execution. The more through and detailed the plan, the smoother the execution will go. That being said, unforeseen circumstances will occasionally arise. For the unprepared, a minor setback, such as a part damaged in shipping or a weather emergency, could create a bottleneck that delays the overall project. A reliable firm will have a comprehensive plan with built-in contingencies to stay on track.

Do they Have their House in Order?

Do the companies you are considering have a “bricks and mortar” office or showroom you can visit, or do they operate out of a truck with a website and 800-number. Be sure to get a copy of their business license and current certificate of insurance. What does their contract look like. Is it a professional document that is detailed yet easy for a layperson to understand, or is it a cryptic legalese that only a lawyer can decipher. Or worse, is it simplistic and vague. The home improvement industry has suffered many a black eye from shady contractors who disappear after a deposit has been given, or even worse, mid-project. If they do finish your project on time and on budget, what does their warranty cover. Remember, a warranty is only as good as the company providing it. If they go out of business, any warranty they’ve provided goes with them. Make sure the company’s foundation is as stable and secure as the one you’d have them pour for you.

Would You Trust Them to Hold Your Baby?

When you renovate your home, you are essentially inviting a stranger, or group of strangers into your house to tear it apart and put it back together again. Who are these people? How do you know you can trust them? A smart home owner will make sure everyone involved is properly trained, licensed, insured, drug tested and background checked. Taking these extra steps will result not only in peace of mind for the safety of your home and family, but also for the quality of the work being performed. If a problem should arise, those who go through the proper channels have recourse not available to those who gambled on a lower price, faster finish time, or some other carrot dangled to entice an easy victory.

When it comes to improving your home, vetting the candidates is a critical step. After all, once your vote has been cast, you’ll be living with the results for years to come. Choose carefully!

If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

written by: Dory Clemens, Design Consultant – Foster Remodeling Solutions, Inc.



Custom Remodeling Ideas for Growing Households

One reason people choose to put in home additions or do custom remodeling in Northern Virginia is to create more space for their growing households. Whether bursting at the seams is a side effect of merging families, new babies, aging parents or boomerang children, a home remodel can relieve the stress of a cramped house. Here are a few ways to make more room or better use of existing space for a growing household with a custom remodel.

The latest trend in sinks for multiple users is the trough sink. It features two or more stations with spigots and handles over a sloped basin that feeds into a common drain. For the kitchen remodel, it suits the cook, who has extra helpers to wash the vegetables while they’re filling up a pan with water to cook them. In a bathroom remodeling project, a trough sink saves time, allowing various family members sink access at the same time. This is great for kids.

In households with several drivers, the standard two-hole garage isn’t enough. A three-hole garage and a circular driveway can accommodate extra vehicles, increasing safety and convenience for everyone.  Depending on the lay of the land, the garages can be attached or detached. If you’re looking for extra space but you have a spacious garage and very few drivers in your family, you could convert the existing unit into extra bedrooms or a home office.

Home additions can increase your living area dramatically. An extra wing on the back of the house offers extra bedroom space, which relieves the cramped feeling experienced by Northern Virginia homeowners in older houses. When the same exterior materials are used for additions, the home keeps its cohesion without losing its character. Changes to the existing layout can complement the addition. for example, open floor plans in the existing area create more space for large dining tables, more seating for family members by the TV and larger bedrooms.

10 Elements to Remodel for a Family Addition

Starting a family can have a huge impact on how you view your home. When your family is expecting a baby, there’s more to a home remodeling project than converting the guest room into a nursery. Preparing your Northern  Virginia home for a new arrival can include added safety features, electrical and plumbing upgrades, comfort accents and practical changes. Here are 10 elements you should discuss with your Northern Virginia design and build contractor before deciding on the scope of your home renovations.
1. Safety
Keeping little ones safe is paramount, whether they’re infants, toddlers or even school-age children. Build safety features into your home through sturdy stair banisters, restricted access to stairwells and electrical rooms, kitchen cabinets and more.

2. Sound
Soundproofing rooms can work both ways. You may want to muffle sounds penetrating the walls of the nursery or protect other rooms in the house from loud crying. The floors and ceilings can also be soundproofed to minimize footsteps traveling to rooms below.

3. Lighting
Soft lighting with a dimmer switch can provide enough light to scare away monsters, yet be light enough to keep Mom or Dad from stubbing their toes on the crib in the dark.

4. Room to Crawl and Play
How much empty space is there in the baby’s room? While furniture is important, reducing clutter leaves plenty of room to crawl and play.

5. Home Sound System
When choosing elements for your home remodeling plans, a home sound system is another option. An intercom that connects sounds and communications to different rooms can be implemented. Some home security systems also offer similar features.

6. Generator
Adding a whole-home generator minimizes the inconvenience and health safety concerns when the power goes out. Hurricanes, ice and snow can cause downed power lines and outages for several hours or even several days. It comes on almost seamlessly when the power goes out and comes back on automatically when power is restored.

7. Visibility
An open floor plan on the ground floor increases visibility for parents and children who are in adjoining rooms. For example, a parent might be in the kitchen making up a bottle or a family meal while the baby is in the living room in the playpen or swing.

8. Flooring
Choose a surface that’s easy to clean and is resilient to stains and spills. Warm floors are an option for added cozy comfort.

9. Nursery Colors/Decor
Choose colors and decor that can adapt with age and interest. Pastels will make the room look bigger. Primary colors are attention-grabbers.

10. Room Location
When you first designated the room that is soon to become a nursery, you had a reason for putting it where you did. Whether it was the smallest room in the house or you didn’t want it near the master bedroom, now is the time to revisit the strategy of which room should become the nursery. Consider whether it’s big enough, if it’s close enough to parents and if heating and air conditioning are sufficient. Choosing a different room or planning other home renovations are other options.

Signs That You Need a Home Addition

When you’ve lived in the same Northern Virginia home for several years, you can grow accustomed to making small concessions to your comfort over time. Whether it’s feeling cramped, having several children sharing a room, or losing your coveted hobby space to the new nursery, at some point you’ll need to make a change. Staying in your home doesn’t have to be stressful. If your home seems to be bursting at the seams, it’s time to make it a bit bigger.

Home additions can range from a new garage to a backyard deck to adding bedrooms on to the back of the house. A second story can also alleviate the stress from having too many people in too small of a space. If you’re not sure whether you need a home addition, check out this list of 12 signs that it’s time to make your house bigger.

1. The number of people in your household has increased since you moved into it.
2. You find yourself tripping over furniture and furnishings in your walking path.
3. Family members sharing a room are frequently finding things to fight about, from who owns the right-hand side of the closet to whether or not the light should be turned on or off at bedtime. If you see lines drawn down the middle of the bedroom floor, it’s definitely time for a home addition.
4. There is a constant shuffle over the order of where the cars are parked, making you late for work when you can’t get out of your own driveway. You need a garage – or a bigger one.
5. There aren’t enough places for everyone to sit together during meals.
6. Your older parents are coming to live with you.
7. You don’t have a place where everyone in the family can comfortably gather at once without someone having to stand or just sit on the floor.
8. Your adult child is moving back into your empty nest and you’ve already converted the bedroom into another room.
9. Your back yard holds little or no interest.
10. Every closet is full, and there’s no room for any new furnishings.
11. You could work at home if only there was a suitable place for an office.
12. You wistfully look at other people’s houses and wish yours was more like theirs.

If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

Creating a Relaxing Environment With a Home Addition

There is more to life at home than eating, sleeping and watching TV. If you don’t have the space to do things you enjoy, it might be time for a home addition to increase your square footage. Create a special place where you can relax, have fun and actively improve your health. Relaxation and exercise can reduce tension and improve sleeping habits. These are elements that can be incorporated into the plans for your home addition for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Improve your lifestyle with a recreation room. Put in your own activity center with games and gadgets you love. From dart boards and cornhole to classic videos games, billiards and large screen TVs, this room can be a different type of entertainment center. It’s one where you like the music, the comfortable feel and the perfect floor. You don’t have to worry about damaging the walls or disturbing the neighbors. You can address those details and concepts with your design build contractor through soundproofing and protective surfaces. If you’ve got the space, add a bowling alley, a wet bar or a basketball hoop.

Fitness Center
If you don’t seem to use your membership to the local fitness center because it’s too inconvenient, move the fitness center to your basement. Furnish it with your favorite equipment and make it a place of comfort and motivation. From yoga mats and heated flooring to music and TV monitors for distraction, your fitness center can provide a personal environment where no one will judge you by what you’re wearing or how long you stay on your stationary bike. A heating and cooling system with a separate thermostat can help you stay comfortable during your workout. An adjoining bathroom can offer a quick and convenient place to clean up or to relax in a spa tub after a tough workout.

Woodworking & Crafts
Having a special place in your home to escape stress and let your creative juices flow is just as important as improving your kitchen, reinventing your bedroom or adding on a garage. A room designed for crafting or woodworking focuses on storage space, ample electrical outlets, suitable ventilation, sturdy flooring and comfortable workspaces.

If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

Making An Entrance With Home Additions

Building an addition onto the front of your house can balance out other changes in a multi-faceted Northern Virginia home remodeling project. When changing the number of stories or extending the higher floors already in place, adding another dimension to the front is one way to increase square footage and have more space to call your own. An overhang or structure above the front door provides visual sophistication and protection from the weather. Add outdoor lighting along the walkway and the entrance to make your guests feel safe with a warm welcome.

Porches and Porticos
One way to make your house grander is to add an entrance to your front door. Rather than a simple doorstep and a flat front, creating another dimension to your home with a distinctive front walk that ends in a porch or portico – or both — makes a statement. Add furniture to the porch for a cool respite from the hot Northern Virginia sun and perhaps an outdoor ceiling fan for those muggy summer days when you don’t want to be cooped up inside. A wide entryway should blend in well with the front of a two-story or three-story Colonial-style home. A covered front walk over a split-level or split-foyer house is another option.

Welcome Area
Consider features like columns or a veranda along the entryway that turn a flat front door into a grand entrance that lets your guests know that they have arrived. It can give texture and character to the house where matching and coordinating colors and trim are used. The angles of the new roof can mimic the rest of the home’s roof pitch to make it fit in while standing out.

Making Connections
For a ranch-style home where you’re putting a home addition on the back, a wrap-around porch that connects the new addition and opens up near the front door is another way to add depth and grandeur to your home.

Changing your entrance and building a home additions Arlington VA should take into account the shape of your property and the current structure of your house. To learn more about the possibilities for making your home larger and more welcoming to your visitors and guests, contact our office at 703-550-1371.

If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

Making Your Home Accessible to Aging In Place

The oldest of the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) reached the age of 65 last year in 2011 and by 2030 the number of Americans over the age of 65 will soar to 72.1 million, 1 out of every 5 Americans!  Given those numbers there is no question why we get so many calls here at Foster Remodeling on how to remodel an existing home to make it more comfortable and accessible for the homeowners as they age.  In fact, according to a recent AARP survey, 73% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “What I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible”.  Most homes, especially in Northern Virginia, weren’t designed with long-term accessibility in mind, but there are several projects that can make you and your family more at ease with you staying in your home as long as possible.

Kitchens are great way to update a home’s accessibility and a valuable remodel that many can enjoy over the years.  In the same AARP study, 75% of Boomers didn’t feel their current kitchen layout met their living needs; there are a few ways to update your kitchen.  For this generation transitioning from a 42” bar height table or overhang to a 28” or 30” height is more accessible should one need a walker or wheel chair in the future.  Also, because kitchen space is frequently used by Boomers and other generations alike a standard-height table or island for social gathering is ideal.  Creating wider walkways or paths throughout the kitchen and adjacent rooms provides easier mobility.  Storage options should be easily reachable and/or pull out, older cabinets without rollouts or few drawers can be taxing for those with back problems.  Keep hardware in mind as well, for those suffering from arthritis or hand-mobility/gripping issues small knobs can be difficult, but larger pulls can be much easier to manipulate.

Another room where updates should be provided is the bathroom.  Maneuverability should be a priority in a bathroom, providing a 60” turnaround (minimum size needed for a wheel-chair to turn) if the space allows or an acceptable T-turn space should be planned for.  Creating a shower with zero-threshold allows for easy entry and exit into and out of the shower space with no tripping hazards.  If a bathtub is a requirement, grab bars with adequate bracing behind them should be installed to ease entry and exit.  Benches are also a high-demand item which can be built-in or installed as a fold-down to accommodate those who have problems standing.  When thinking about faucets and shower valves, lever handles are much easier to manipulate and installing a separate handheld shower provides ease of use.  Toilets have come a long way, and many companies have “comfort height” or ADA approved height versions which typically have a seat height of 17”-19” above the floor, a much easier location to lower to and rise from.  Keep in mind that many of these features can be integrated into the overall design so it needn’t feel institutional or hospital-like.  Many of our clients are surprised at how gorgeous their “universally designed” bathrooms are when the project is complete.

There are several small areas around the house that one should also think about when remodeling.  With flooring, low or zero-thresholds between surfaces is important because of tripping hazards.  Typically we recommended hardwood, laminate or tile flooring since it is a smooth surface that is easy to get around on and dust is less likely to collect on hard surfaces compared to carpeting for those with respiratory problems to consider.  If you really feel more comfortable with carpet, consider a low pile height.  Hardware on doors should be levers, as knobs again, can be difficult to manipulate.  At the entry point of the home, creating a clear accessible path to a no step covered door is ideal, also providing a 36” wide opening of the door to accommodate walkers or a wheelchair.  If possible, we’ve had many clients relocate their master bedroom to the first floor or add an addition to accommodate a first floor primary suite for themselves or aging parents.

As many of our clients or their parent’s age, we know what your concerns are and can help you plan for them.  In a Genworth 2010 study of Cost of Care, they found the average cost of a 1 bedroom single occupancy assisted living facility was $38,220, multiply that by 5, 10, 15 years and you are looking at a large investment.  For many families whether they are keeping parents in their own house or joining them into their own homes, we can guide you to make smart choices to keep you or your family as independent as long as possible.  We know how important your home is to you, so whether you or a loved one is looking to remodel or update to accommodate your lifestyle give us a call.