Ask This When Remodeling Your Home

Remodeling your home can be as stressful as it is rewarding. A smooth remodeling project requires impeccable preparation, a flexible budget and a high-quality contracting company that works with reputable subcontractors. On one hand, nothing can revitalize your home like a thorough remodel; on the other hand, a poorly executed remodeling project can leave you with a depleted bank account and a home that you're not entirely pleased with. Anything you can do to plan ahead for your remodeling project will pay off in the long run. That means asking the right questions as you do your research and shop around for the best home contracting firm for your project.

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We are adding a den onto our house. Should we get a wood burning stove, or conventional wall unit?
Wood-burning all the way!!! I live near Seattle, and it is pretty cold and wet up here for many months of the year. My house is an old 'bungalow' style house, so when we thought about remodeling the living room I thought a wood-burning stove would go well in our home, but were concerned about how well it would heat the area and so forth. After talking to a few friends and doing a little research we decided to go with the "quaint" stove. I can tell you that it is wonderful. The heat is organic (not dry like the forced-air heat) and it heats the room up way faster. I was told that making the fire could be a pain in the behind, but I actually like it. I have a friend who is a cabinet maker, so I have lots of scrap hardwood for fuel (don't burn plywood or anything painted in it or redwood!). Because the stove sits alone and away from the wall a bit it radiates heat outward from the whole stove, whereas a standard fireplace only radiates heat out from the open face of the fire and loses most of its heat up the chimney, but the stove does not and so heats way better. On top of all that...wall heaters are ugly, and I love the way the stove looks in the living room. Good luck!
How do I choose the right contractor for our project?
Make sure they're licensed and bonded. Always check the State Licensing Board to see if their contractor's license is current, and make sure their insurance is high enough to cover the project should anything unforeseen occur that needs covering. I always do a basic background check for arrests and DUIs, etc. Also I ask for references and talk at length with those given to see how their experience was with the contractor. Outside of that, it really is important to have a good line of communication with your contractor because you will be needing to exchange information and ideas in a timely fashion so your project can remain on budget and on schedule. Skill, trust, and communication are the three most important things I think.
What are the best windows for cutting down on heating costs?
As with anything, a lot depends on your budget. There are as many window manufacturers as there are shoe brands. When you choose new windows, appearance is often the first consideration. Initial cost is the next issue: Which window within the favored style costs the least? Cost really depends on durability and on the energy dollars lost via the windows each year (see your annual heating costs). Windows lose and gain heat by conduction, convection, radiation and air leakage. This heat transfer is expressed with U-values, or U-factors. U-values are the mathematical inverse of R-values. So an R-value of 2 equals a U-value of 1/2, or 0.5. Unlike R-values, lower U-value indicates higher insulating value. Conduction is the movement of heat through a solid material. Touch a hot skillet, and you feel heat conducted from the stove through the pan. Heat flows through a window much the same way. With a less conductive material, you impede heat flow. Multiple-glazed windows trap low-conductance gas such as argon between panes of glass. Thermally resistant edge spacers and window frames reduce conduction, too. The best insulating windows are double-glazed, argon-filled windows with a U-value of near 0.33. Wood-clad insulates better than aluminum-clad or vinyl-clad windows, but they are more expensive. In the alternative from wood, I would do vinyl-clad. Andersen makes a good mid-range window for almost every remodel or new construction need. I hope this was helpful.
Can a wood shingle roof leak be fixed? or must it be reroofed?
The problem with a leaky roof is that the place where it drips inside is not always the place where it is leaking outside. I had a leak in the back patio overhang and my husband and son redid the whole patio roof. Next rain it was leaking again. We finally called in a contractor friend and he actually went up into the attic and started looking for tell-tale signs that we had not. As it turns out, it was not the patio at all that was leaking, but the flashing of the new kitchen skylite (also done by my husband) adjacent the patio. The water had penetrated through the flashing and was running down the roof on the plywood UNDER the shingle roofing. When the water reached the patio that doesn't have as steep of a rake (I think they call it that—it's the slope of the roof) it just pooled there until it found a way through. So my advice is to find a good contractor you trust and have him find the leak and patch it. It will save you a lot of money and frustration, believe me.
I have an old Westinghouse heater in a rental of mine that's on the fritz. Should I replace it or fix it?
The problem with those old heaters is that ALL the components are old, not just the one that is broken now, and you may fix it only to have it break again soon. Also, the parts for old heaters are hard to find, and few retailers anywhere have them (they want to sell you a new one), and so you're left buying one from e-bay or whatever and it is no guarantee that it'll actually be the part you need, and it could take days or even weeks to get the part found, ordered, and shipped. I don't know where you live, but I wouldn't want to be without heat that long, or leave my tenants in that state. Though a new unit is more expensive in the short term, it can be taken care of immediately, and will probably cost you less in the long run because you have to replace that old heater one day if not now. Check with you local licensed HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) Contrator as to what your options are. But I say replace it. It's worth the cash not to have the headache of disgruntled tenants and a wonky old heating unit.

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