Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Office Makeover

One thing that sets Benchmark Contracting apart from other general contractors is our ability to creatively envision with you for the best possible outcome. We work with your existing space, your budgetary constraints, and your ideas to design the perfect layout for your business.

Businesses have different needs in terms of privacy, soundproofing, seating, office spaces, lobby size, and front or back office billing areas. We will ask you all the important questions that you may not have considered to get you from "Oh, that looks better." to "This is my office? Wow!"

We even want to know how long your patients usually wait. Is it a short time and you merely need somewhere to store magazines so they don't look a mess and a friendly layout that works for both patients and staff? Or is there generally a fairly long wait with several doctors coming and going for their patients that requires a wider hallway and spaces for television and a fish tank in the lobby? Have you considered upgrading your electrical system to include more outlets for charging iPads and cell phones that clients frequently use while waiting? Leave it to us to consider all these factors and more!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gravel Driveway

At first glance, gravel driveways appear quite simple - grade the ground flat, spread some gravel and start using it. Well, it turns out there is more than meets the eye. Adam Heath, Design Director for Mid Atlantic Enterprise, a leading hardscape specialist in Eastern Virginia, recently shared these eye opening tips on designing, installing and maintaining gravel driveways:

Tip #1 - Spend money up front for proper installation
Many homeowners think of gravel as being an inexpensive driveway material. However, Heath explains that affordable gravel drives are often not installed properly. “Forgoing a compacted base or opting for flimsy plastic or wooden edging will eventually lead to maintenance problems and dissatisfaction," he says, "you know, everything everyone hates about pea gravel driveways."

Heath explains the proper installation method of a gravel driveway as follows:
  • Excavate down 12”
  • Compact the subgrade
  • Lay woven geotextile fabric so that it covers the bottom and sides of the excavated area
  • Add 8” of base material, compacting in 3” lifts (well graded crusher run)
  • Install edging (steel or anodized aluminum)
  • Spread a 3” layer of pea gravel
When using this installation procedure, Heath says you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $35 per square foot. “A quality pea gravel driveway will cost less than pavers, but more than asphalt or concrete,” he points out. Heath sees many improperly installed gravel driveways in his area of Virginia that have ruts, drainage problems and gravel that escapes its boundaries. “I’d recommend switching to exposed aggregate concrete to reduce costs rather than skimping on the installation,” he concludes.

Tip #2 - Use Belgian block edging to dress up a gravel drive
Most homeowners don’t put enough thought into the edging material for their driveway. Not only does it contain the gravel but it also can serve as a decorative border. Heath likes to use Belgian block along the edges of the gravel driveways he designs. “When edging a driveway, the jumbo blocks that measure 11” x 8” x 4” are best,” he says. This is because the block can be set lengthwise atop the compacted base material and the three inches of pea gravel added which will leave one inch of block rising above the surface of the finished driveway. "If you’re interested in going the extra mile, you could lay the block on its face in a running bond or offset running bond pattern to form a decorative apron," Heath adds.

Tip #3 - Be prepared for annual maintenance
In reality, no driveway material is maintenance free - concrete will need occasional cleaning and sealing, pavers require weeding and joint filling (if no polymeric sand is used), asphalt must be sealed and sometimes tar has to be reapplied. A gravel driveway comes with its own maintenance concerns, which according to Heath can be kept to a minimum with proper installation techniques (see Tip #1 above). “We find that yearly re-grading helps keep the driveway looking its best for years,” he says. For driveways that are installed without woven geotextile fabric or 8” of compacted base material maintenance requirements increase. Without these two elements the gravel will sink into the ground easily and is more likely to be washed out of place by rainwater or runoff from irrigation.

Tip #4 - Use your driveway to collect water
Your driveway covers a lot of square footage; in fact it is probably the largest paved surface on your property. For this reason, Heath suggests using it for water collection. “Gravel isn't permeable by itself. You must design a driveway in a way that allows water to pass through into an underground reservoir. Generally speaking you have a layer of #2 or #3 gravel, then #57, #8 as your setting bed, and then your pea gravel. Depending on the water collection needs the depth of each layer will vary,” he explains. The water collected from your driveway can then be used to supplement landscape irrigation needs. Products Heath mentioned using for this type of application are Gravelpave2 and Rainstore3 from Invisible Structures, Inc.

Tip #5 - Avoid ruts by making the surface layer of pea gravel shallow
Many people avoid gravel driveways because they don’t like the unkempt look of tire ruts. “When the gravel is too deep it moves around while cars drive over it,” says Heath. “We never spread more than a three inch layer of pea gravel.” Keeping the top layer of gravel shallow will mitigate general shifting and lessen the need to regrade.

Using the Gravelpave2 system from Invisible Structures (as mentioned in Tip #4), can also help keep gravel in place. In this case, only one inch of gravel should be spread. The grid below the gravel holds it in place and prevents ruts. However, Heath points out that with this system re-grading may be needed more frequently to keep the grid-work from showing through.

Tip #6 - Use local stone for a color that will look natural
Most regions have their own distinct color of gravel that is readily available. “Here in Williamsburg darker browns and beiges are common, if you move south to North Carolina the colors get lighter,” says Heath. If you want your driveway to look natural in its wider context, select a gravel color that comes from a local source. However, if you have your heart set on a certain color, anything can be obtained for an added price.

Tip #7 - Consider how gravel will look with the style of your home
When making decisions about the design of your driveway, including the materials you will use, start by taking cues from the style of your home. “Gravel pairs especially well with Colonial or country estates, while it may not be the best choice for a modern home,” says Heath. “I rarely suggest a gravel drive for clients that want a clean, crisp and contemporary landscape.” If you’re looking to enhance the historical roots of your property, he does say that gravel is well suited for your home.

Tip #8 - Let your climate dictate whether you use gravel
When making improvements to your landscape your climate should always be a top consideration. Do you have any extreme weather conditions - lots of rain or snow, blazing heat or high speed winds? “The biggest downside to gravel driveways is that plowing takes special considerations and a very experienced operator,” Heath points out. If you have snow accumulation on the ground multiple times during the winter gravel may not be the best paving choice. “One trick is to allow the first snowfall to pack down forming a protective layer further mitigating gravel migration or loss,” says Heath. As long as your gravel driveway is installed properly (see Tip #1), rain, heat and wind should have little impact on the surface.

Source: Landscaping Network

Friday, December 7, 2012

Designing for a Galley Kitchen

Galley Kitchen
A Basic, Inexpensive Kitchen Design that Really Works for You
By Lee Wallender, Guide

Think the galley kitchen is working against you? Think again. The galley kitchen is a classic, and it works beautifully with your remodeling--and with your eventual cooking needs.

FAQs About the Galley Kitchen

Yes, the name “galley kitchen” really needs to be changed, as it evokes images of tiny propane stoves on sailboats (it is often called a corridor-style kitchen, too).

Q: What is a Galley Kitchen? 

A: A galley kitchen is defined as a long, narrow kitchen that has counters on either side of a central walkway. The counters can be interspersed with appliances, sink, cabinetry and other functional items.

Q: What Benefits Do Galley Kitchens Have? 

A: Galley kitchens are, by nature, small. So, you have the cost-saving benefits of size. Also, galley kitchens are ergonomically superior to other kitchen design layouts.
  • You save space in your house for other rooms. 
  • Because countertops are one of the most expensive elements in the kitchen, this cost is drastically minimized. 
  • The major kitchen services (water, electrical, etc.) are kept together. 
  • An excellent use of the kitchen triangle design. 
  • You save money because you can use stock kitchen cabinets. 
Q: Can I Remodel My Galley Kitchen Myself? 

A: Yes. A typical galley kitchen might range from 100-150 square feet, a very manageable size for a DIY remodeling job.
Steps to Galley Kitchen Remodeling

The galley kitchen can be remodeled much like any other kitchen, but there are a few exceptions. Take note of the following:
  1. Use Kitchen Designs Appropriate for the Galley Kitchen. Kitchen islands, breakfast bars, and other similar things only suck away room from the galley kitchen. You’ll need to keep the galley kitchen to the basics: upper and lower cabinets, counters, refrigerator, sink, stove/oven, and possibly a dishwasher. 
  2. Watch the Sink. Huge farmhouse sinks or sinks angled at 45 degrees are great ways to waste space. Instead, look for scaled-down sinks and keep sinks parallel to the counters. 
  3. Find Creative Space-Saving Ideas. Pushing kitchen cabinets all the way to the ceiling maximizes storage space, though this does tend to create an imposing presence. If storage isn’t all that important to you, then pull the cabinets down six inches to give you more breathing room. Use lazy-susans and roll-out shelves to better utilize that often-wasted space at the back of cabinets. 
  4. Consider Blocking Off a Window. This is one of the more painful decisions to make. Does the window give you ample light and air? If not—and if you really need cabinets—you can install a drywall “plug” over the window, and then run the cabinets right across. 
  5. Use Light and Neutral Shades. Lighter tones will make your galley kitchen feel much larger. You can use brighter shades for nearly everything in your galley kitchen: counters, cabinets, flooring, wall paint, and even appliances. 

Source: Home Renovations

Friday, November 30, 2012

Small Kitchen Makeover

Do you have a tiny kitchen, but your current setup is not working with the space you have? Here are some tips and tricks for redesigning a small kitchen for functionality and appearance:

Choose smaller appliances. European appliances tend to be thinner than US appliances, so their smaller spaces are better designed. Look for a European brand when shopping for a smartly designed dishwasher to keep all the modern conveniences with the same cleaning capacity.

Move the faucet. In addition to having a smaller basin, get rid of the faucet built into the sink and mount it to the wall.

Switch out the oven. A convection/electrical oven will allow you to double burner size with a turn of the knob instead of having burners that you never use. Opt for a narrow model, about 24", which is still wide enough for a turkey, and often has the ability to rotisserie a chicken by moving the drawers.

Chill out. Your refrigerator is the bulkiest appliance in the kitchen. Search for under-counter fridge or freezer drawers for tight spaces, or replace your existing fridge with a narrow model that may be taller.

Lay it out well. The most important space in a kitchen is the area between the cooking surface and the sink. As long as this space is at least 36” you won’t feel cramped during meal preparation. Even if the cook top has to be within 6-9” of a tiled wall, it’s good to maintain these measurements for ease of cooking

Open up. Avoid wall cabinets which can make the space feel boxed in. Instead, use floating shelves for storing and displaying dishes.

Declutter. Keep only the gadgets and items that you truly need and use on a regular basis. After all, a professional chef can whip up a gourmet meal with just basic kitchen items. You can, too.

Source: Cultivate

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paver Driveway

A paver driveway will lend a sophisticated appearance to any style of home. Interlocking pavers come in a wide array of colors and shapes and can be laid in many different patterns. You can choose from concrete pavers or clay brick pavers, both are very durable. One of the main benefits of a paver driveway is that it will not crack because of the flexibility the joints between each paver provide. Additionally, repairs are simple because specific areas can be targeted without having to redo the entire drive.

 Better Brick   The part of a driveway where visitors park is among the most important parts of an entry landscape. It's also the largest expanse of paving, which becomes costly when poured in place. Traditional brick is not always strong enough to become a driving surface unless it is laid on a concrete slab, which is very expensive since this involves literally paving the area twice. Precast concrete pavers made to look like brick provide the perfect alternative. Here reddish coloring is blended with dark steel gray accents that undulate through the paving. This is an excellent relief for an otherwise too-red surface, but more importantly is a strategy for concealing discoloration from oil spots and tire tread marks, both unique to driveways.

Turf Lattice   This innovative driveway utilizes lattice pattern turf pavers to create a highly permeable driving surface. What would have disappeared beneath a lawn is fully visible in this application, but its subgrade installation detail is much the same. Gaps that would otherwise be filled with soil and planted are packed with tiny gravel to create a highly permeable surface for coastal conditions where regulations strictly deny runoff. This unique application demonstrates how precast concrete pavers can be the stuff of truly innovative green modern design.

Exact Match   This beautiful new home with its sandy color palette features real stack stone veneer. To apply stone to the driveway to pick up the same tones as the stone would not be worth the high expense. The huge color range of precast pavers allows this driveway to become a perfect match to the overall palette without custom manufacturing. The variations give this driveway the same values of light and dark that real stone would have provided at a fraction of the cost. Add this to the potential for permeability and the solution proves to be the perfect contemporary use of the product.

Source: Landscaping Network

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Renovation ROI

Beyond curb appeal, certain projects will provide higher returns than others. U.S. News asked real estate agents and home contractors for their recommendations:

Attic bedrooms. 
According to Remodeling, you'll recoup 73 percent of your investment when turning the attic into a bedroom. However, this also ranks as one of the most expensive projects, averaging $50,148 nationally. But if you have the money, an attic bedroom is a desirable feature among homebuyers. "Any time you add additional square footage like that can have a very positive effect on the selling price," says Paul Wyman, a real estate agent with Wyman Group in Kokomo, Ind.

Although a kitchen remodel returns only 66 percent, on average, Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis, says kitchens are one of the first things homebuyers look at. "If you have a house that doesn't have an updated kitchen but you have a remodeled attic, that's not what people are looking for," she says.

The cost of a major kitchen remodel varies widely depending on the region. Nonetheless, it's important not to go overboard, as you don't want to price your home out of the local market. For example, if you're in a neighborhood where the average home value is $200,000 and you put in a $50,000 kitchen, you're out-pricing your house.

A major kitchen redesign may not be a good decision if the space only requires a facelift. "You don't have to completely gut your kitchen if it's in good working shape," says Adam Taffel, a real estate broker with Centre Realty Group in Newton, Mass. In many cases, less-drastic updates like refinishing surfaces, upgrading appliances, and installing new light fixtures will cut it.

But making the mistake of opting for a facelift when the space does, in fact, need a full-scale remodel will cost you. "You need to ask yourself questions like, 'Are the cabinets structurally sound enough that if I spend a significant amount of money refacing them, are they going to just fall apart anyway?'" says Darius Baker, a contractor with D&J Kitchen & Baths, Inc. in Sacramento, Calif.

Investing in a bathroom remodel yields a 62 percent return, on average, but you've got to do it right. Many homebuyers are looking for a master bathroom with two sinks, custom showers, and great lighting. You'll turn off buyers if you only put in the minimal amount of work. "A lot of folks, when they buy a home, don't want to have put a lot of work into it," says agent Wyman. "An outdated bathroom requires a lot of work." Since bathrooms are especially prone to looking dated, pick neutral colors and finishings.

Also consider bumping out the size of a bathroom. Many buyers looking for a three-bedroom home want two full baths rather than one full and one half bath, says bath contractor Baker.

And sometimes less is more. "Giving it new paint, a new toilet, a new shower faucet, and a new [shower]head is probably the best bang for your buck. But that's assuming the flooring is nice and the walls around the tub and shower are in good standing condition," says contractor Dennis Gehman of Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville, Penn.

As you aim for the best ROI, don't squander money with these renovations:

Home offices. 
A number of people work from home, but most don't need a full-blown office. If you do convert a spare room to an office, opt for removable furniture rather than built-in cabinets. Built-in furniture gives the buyer fewer options with what they can do with the room, says Gehman. A home-office remodel recoups only 43 percent, on average.

Sunroom additions. 
You may recoup a fair amount if you live in a region where the sunroom can be used all four seasons, but in most cases, adding a sunroom will get you nowhere near a dollar-for-dollar return. Sunroom additions were among the lowest on Remodeling's list in terms of recouping costs—a paltry 46 percent. "We always try to get [buyers] their top three 'must haves' and a sunroom is rarely one of them," says agent Dossman.

"I see almost no sunrooms going in right now," says Daniel Steinkoler, president of Superior Home Services, Inc. in Washington, D.C. "More people these days are working within their existing footprint to improve their home."

Friday, November 9, 2012


Look out for these big problems when homeowners design things without the help of an architect or contractor:

Dysfunctional floor plans
One Frankenhome owner constructed an addition that made the traffic flow in the home a nightmare. The only way from the living room to the kitchen was through a bedroom. Imagine stumbling through a bedroom for a midnight snack!

Room ratios gone awry
One of the signs that a home was remodeled without much thought is a five-bedroom-to-one-bathroom ratio. That makes for a scary morning schedule! A similar problem is a home with inadequate infrastructure. This would be an existing kitchen and/or dining area that is too small to support the crowd that can be gathered in a huge, new family room or the family members that fill up a newly added suite of bedrooms. Make sure you keep the big picture in mind and don't get carried away with "fixing" only one area of your home. Remodeled areas or additions must be carefully balanced with your existing home.

The bad garage conversion
Converting the garage to extra living space can be one way to add space while minimizing costs. However, thoughtless conversions ruin curb appeal when the new residential wing still looks like the old garage. In addition, you should also carefully consider a major consequence of this type of remodeling: You don't have a garage anymore, which can seriously affect your home's value and appeal.

Unbalanced floor plans
While you may want to devote more space in your home to your hobbies or areas of interest, don't do it at the expense of everything else. For instance, one home we saw had a huge kitchen, complete with a beautiful island, but no living room. That doesn't make sense for most families! Even if you think it works for you, you must keep an eye to resale — even if you anticipate that it will be years in the future. No one will want a house that is too intensely personalized.

Bedrooms with no closets
Bedrooms may end up with no closets for a couple of reasons. A previous renovation could have removed closets to increase the bedroom's floor space, or could have reallocated the square footage of the closet to an adjoining room. (For instance, they could have used the closet space to add a separate shower to an existing bathroom or to maximize the closet space in a master bedroom. Whatever the cause, this is not a good design solution. It negatively affects resale value since rooms without closets cannot be considered bedrooms, as well as reducing the functionality of your home for your own family.

The house that ate your neighborhood
Monster houses are aptly named for this season. Homeowners or speculators who try to force too much onto a residential lot cause many problems for those nearby. Views are blocked, sunlight is restricted, and neighborly relations are strained to the breaking point. While variety in design styles or elements can add interest to a neighborhood, make sure your remodel takes into account the context of its immediate environment.

Jungle landscaping
No matter how lovely the inside of your home, when the landscaping is taking over the yard and sometimes the house, it creates a dark, scary feeling. Keep the landscaping under control and you will avoid the appearance of a Frankenhouse.

Source: Desert News

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Concrete Driveway

Concrete, the most popular option for residential driveways, is incredibly versatile and can be used to achieve a variety of looks. Stamping and coloring make it possible to use concrete to recreate the look of natural stone, brick or pavers for a fraction of the cost. Custom designs can also be created on a concrete driveway to give your home a unique entrance.

The cost of your concrete driveway will vary depending on its size and the decorative options you choose. The more specialized the design, the more expensive the price will be. If you want a decorative look but are on a tight budget consider stamping or coloring only the borders of your driveway. 
  • Elaborate designs start at $18/sq ft
  • Custom designs are $12-18/sq ft
  • Simple designs are about $8-12/sq ft

  • Used in massive building projects for its strength, concrete is durable and known to keep its form even through natural disasters like earthquakes.
  • Concrete is a versatile material that can be stamped and transformed to many different patterns such as: European fan, random interlocking, natural stone, cobblestone and many more.
  • Concrete can also be transformed using color. No longer limited to the standard gray color, you can use a variety of chemical stains and concrete dyes to achieve nearly any color you desire.
  • Being one consistent slab makes concrete easy to maintain throughout the whole year.
  • With the ability to stamp and color concrete you can achieve the same look as natural stone and pavers, while saving a significant amount of money. Concrete is one of the most cost effective paving materials out there.
  • Although concrete is a very strong durable material, it may crack over time. Cracking can be caused from many different reasons such as; lack of control joints, improper strength poured, rapid drying and excess water. Although your concrete may crack, there are things you can do to prevent and keep your slab from cracking in the future.
  • Concrete is an ideal material to use for driveways because of the strength, however, cars can leave oil stains or tire marks. There are many products and methods available to assist you in returning you driveway to its natural state.
  • Concrete is more affordable than most paving materials but not the least expensive. Gravel and asphalt cost less than pouring a concrete driveway.
  • Pouring a concrete driveway can be challenging, it requires a skilled installer to avoid the problems listed above and get the job done right.

Source: Landscaping Network

Friday, October 19, 2012

Driveway Beautiful

The material you select for your driveway must be attractive and durable. Your driveway will be driven on nearly every day and needs to hold up to tire marks, oil drips and other hazards. Popular driveway paving materials include concrete, pavers, gravel and asphalt.

Pro Tip: Avoid porous materials, such as sandstone, that may soak up leaking fluids resulting in a stain.

A big consideration when paving a driveway is the size. If you have a very long driveway you will need a lot more material to pave it. The cost of a driveway this size can be quite high if selecting expensive materials. This is why you often see large driveways paved with gravel, the most affordable paving material.
Pro Tip: Since driveways are a lot of square footage, it is often not possible to pave them entirely in expensive pavers or cobblestones. Instead, opt for decorative bands, borders or an apron.

You'll also want to think about the surface of the material you select. Do you want something that will allow rain water to filter through and back into the soil? Do you have extreme weather conditions that could affect the safety of driving on your driveway? Do you want a decorative design or a grid of grass? The look you are going for will dictate what materials you should use.
Pro Tip: If you live in a snowy climate, think about what material will be easiest to plow or shovel.

The next 4 weeks will feature blogs on they types of driveway materials that are most popular for a beautiful driveway that is the centerpiece of your home's exterior

Monday, October 8, 2012

Home Office Remodel

Describe how you'd like to feel in your home office in a word or two. 
  • Productive
  • Serene
  • Competitive
  • Relaxed
  • Determined
Add to that with thoughts about your style in relation to that feeling. 
  • Homey
  • Woodsy
  • Preppy
  • Outdoor
  • Stark
  • Country
  • Sleek
Allow us to rearrange your furniture, suggest pieces to work with those frameworks, repaint, add shelves or built-ins, and suggest accessories like a throw rug to reach your perfect feeling in your home office.

This is a relatively inexpensive project to make your office your favorite room in your home. After all, you are in there a lot! Here are some design ideas from Houzz:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Kitchen and Dining Room

When considering your remodeling project, think about usable space and the nature of your family's lifestyle.

For instance, do you love to cook, but there are only 2 of you in the home? It may be smarter to open your kitchen up as shown in the photo above, giving you lots of counter space, but encroaching in what was your dining room. Get rid of the dining room table formality if you don't use it or don't need it, and utilize the space in a smarter way by putting in a bar and comfortable stools for every day use.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Remodeling Over Renovating

In this economy, remodeling is booming over renovating. Read what one contractor thinks of the challenges of this process:

Remodeling a home — a practice one building-industry official likened to a tailor altering a suit while someone is wearing it — poses some unique challenges. In an environment where new is combined with existing, care has to be taken to make sure the changes fit, physically and esthetically. Workers have to be supervised more carefully. Another consideration are the owners. If they remain in the house while it is under remodeling, work must be done around them, tailored to fit their schedule. Electricians, for example, like to work early, often beginning their day at 7 a.m. Few homeowners are equipped to have workers moving through their house as they have their morning coffee or get ready for work, he said.
There is also the question of cleanup. Everything has to be put away and cleaned up at the end of each day, a task that can add hours to a job. “Remodeling is much more work, it takes more time and pays less,” Edwards said.
Bill Huffstetler, operations manager for Master Builders and Remodelers, holds a different opinion. He said his company’s main focus is remodeling, with an emphasis on repairing storm-damaged homes. “It’s what’s kept us going in this economy,” he said. But Edwards’ situation is not unique. While home construction saw some rebound earlier in the year, June and July housing starts began to show a decline. A joint release by the Census Bureau and the
Department of Housing and Urban Development calculated July housing starts at 668,000, a decline of 1.1 percent. Completions for the month were 448,000, a decline of 5.9 percent from June. August housing figures will be released Wednesday.
Source: Loan Safe

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Decorate like a Kitchen Designer

Kitchens aren't what they used to be. The space formerly known as the scullery is becoming the most popular part of the house. "The hierarchy of the home has changed to become more kitchen-centric," says interior designer Mick de Giulio. "Think of the kitchen not just as the kitchen, but a room to really live in." Follow these tips from House Beautiful Kitchens contributors de Giulio and Mark Leslie to turn your kitchen into your family's favorite hangout:

Make it comfy. For a homey feel, display personal photos as art work. "It can be framed family photos," Leslie says, "It doesn't have to be an oil painting by the Masters." Bring in elements from te living room, such as comfortable upholstered chairs and tabletop lamps for a cozier space.

Make it kid-safe. Even the most beautiful kitchen can withstand kids' messes if materials have durability, Leslie says. For upholstered seating, stay away from linen. He recommends leather and Naugahyde for a polished but low-maintenance look. Quartz and marble counter tops are easy to clean, and laminate cabinetry is the most durable, de Giulio says.

Make it light. To brighten a dark space or open up a small one, think about natural light. Try hanging a large mirror over your sink for a reflective focal point. Leslie recommends scoping out your local flea market for inexpensive, quirky finds.

Source: USA Weekend

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wood Flooring

Flooring is one of the first things the eye sees upon entering a space. People touring a new house will notice furniture, but tastes vary. They will notice wall color, but that only has to go with the style of the room. Flooring is fixed and draws the eye. Here are some great reasons to install hard wood flooring in your home or property.

Resale Value
Not only are wood floors beautiful, but they increase the value of a property and are considered one of the top remodeling projects when preparing a home for sale. Even if a potential buyer dislikes your taste in carpeting, they are likely to enjoy hardwood floors. Use of hard wood flooring throughout a home can raise property value an average of 15-35%. That's a smart investment!

Ease of Maintenance
Routine maintenance is a little more than simple sweeping and vacuuming, always making sure your hardwood floors are protected from moisture and heavy wear which creates scratches. Preventive maintenance includes area rugs and floor protectors on your furniture's feet.

Unlike most floor coverings, wood floors come from a natural resource that is sustainable. According to U.S. Forest Service statistics, almost twice as much hardwood timber Is added every year through new growth as is harvested. Additionally, there is more standing hardwood timber today than there was 50 years ago.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that indoor air quality is one of our top health threats. Installed in the home or elsewhere, wood floors help contribute to a healthy living environment as hard surface flooring does not trap or harbor dust mites or molds, which creates better air quality, especially for the estimated 35 million Americans who suffer from allergies.

Selection and Variety
Hardwood floors come in many sizes, styles, colors, finishes and species. These many choices can compliment any home or office with style and a beautiful product that last a lifetime.

Benchmark Contracting can help you select a type of wood to fit your budget and install it for you, giving your home an updated look and raising the value of your home as well.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dome Home

Recently featured on Extreme Homes, the Dome Home is a hurricane proof house that features no flat walls, redirecting wind around the home in case of severe weather. The owners built it after their home (in the same location) was destroyed in 2 hurricanes. The house did well in Hurricane Ivan. What do you think of the Dome Home?

See video here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Universal Design

Remodeling you home for retirement may not be your concern in your 30s or 40s or even your 50s, but the new trend in home design and remodeling is focused on just that - designing your home for your current use with a focus on your future needs. This concept is called universal design.

Kiplinger suggests these simple changes to add 5% to the value of your home:
Substitute door handles for doorknobs. The handle material and design, which can match the d├ęcor of your home, will make it easier to open doors with arthritic hands.
Older folks need more light and are more sensitive to glare. Lights with extra illumination and lighting controls can be incorporated into a kitchen remodel.
European-style showers are sophisticated and don't have a lip, allowing wheelchair access as well as a way to wash plants and even the dog. You don't need to put a grab bar in the shower now -- but why not install the plates during a bathroom remodel so that a grab bar can be quickly attached later? 
Many of today's remodeling projects will be undertaken by middle-aged homeowners who are happy to stay in their home and make everyday living more comfortable. If you're one of them, remember that remodeling your home is as integral to your retirement plan as your asset allocation in your 401(k).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dining Room Remodel

Small changes in your home can make a big impact in how the room feels and functions. If you have an open space with seating for 3 people or 10 people, these ideas may strike a chord with you:

Change the furniture to be ultra modern and create a chic space.

Add a chair rail for a contemporary feel that is still homey. More subdued colors can work with country charm or a shabby chic feel.

Utilize a partial wall for pizzazz.

Paint or wallpaper an accent wall for a striking feature that ties in metallic colors or a favorite piece of art without overburdening the room.

Utilize a wide open space for a breathable room with room to grow.

Make use of a small space with tall chairs for graceful elegance.

See more ideas like these at: Interholic

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Buying a Foreclosure

With the housing market down, a lot of homes are going into foreclosure. A lot of homeowner, angry with the banks, or for other reasons, are trashing the homes before they leave. As a buyer, these foreclosure homes are a great deal, but require a lot of work. More so than the "handyman special" homes of a decade ago, these homes may require new pipes, lots of wall replacement, all new fixtures, and electrical work.

If you are considering buying a home from foreclosure, here are some tips:

  1. Have the house inspected by a General Contractor before making a bid. This will ensure that all aspects of the home are verified and you will know what you are getting into before you put forth any money.
  2. Keep my number in your cell phone. Being a general contractor who is familiar with both new and existing construction, renovation and remodeling, I can assist you with making a budget, planning projects, prioritizing, and completing each task to your satisfaction.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Girls' Rooms

Continuing from our last post about cool rooms for your kids, this week's entry shows you amazing ways to showcase your daughter's room, whether she is a toddler or a teenager. Storage is key, as well as usable space to play, to learn, and to express her individual style. Built-in shelving and wardrobes set these rooms apart and could be easily done for you on a budget.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Boys' Rooms

Want the coolest room for your son? Check these out, then let us help you make your dreams a reality!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Outdoor Lighting

Today we take a note from Home Interior Basic with regard to how to best show off your yard, pool, gazebo, and water features to make even a small investment look luxe. We can help you optimize lighting to showcase your home.

There are a variety regarding choices onindustrywhich includes low-voltage illuminationflood equipment and lightingsapling lightingpublishequipment and lightinglanternsline light bulbs pertaining to joyful occasions, recessed lighting effects, scoops, pagoda-style louvered experienced equipment and lighting that granite conclude that simply mixture with out door environmentsand even solar power lighting lacking wire connections and also operating in NiCad battery packs.
Numerous techniques regarding lights can be utilized in landscape lightingSpot lightingthat works onlight upon architectural capabilitiesmight be placed to attenuate glare while focusing completely about the centerpiece. Silhouetting is placing the light sources at the rear of the object to bring your shape ofthe item rather than specific shade along with structure. Key mild as well as following their every movedemands positioning the sunlight origin straight as you’re watching subject of curiosity to produce amild along with darkness result. Moonlighting takes a fixture being added to the actual trees and shrubsas well as looking that down to provide a natural tranquil moonlit effectTerrace illumination, grazing (light concentrates on the object at the well-defined anglealong with washing the surface (lightingtargets items at the larger or perhaps frank position), phase illuminationpathway lightingwater-featureand also fountain lightsas well as indicator illumination are one of the a variety of techniques employed for outdoor lighting.
In outdoor lightinga basic issue that has to be kept in mind is that the lamps face every one of thefactors outsideIn case there is lighting effects water featuresthe light resource may also be internallyto create a enchanting glittering and also rippling influenceConsequentlyappropriate lights andlighting ought to be decided on.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Insurance Discounts and Coverage

When it comes time for a home renovation project, think beyond installing granite countertops or knocking down walls. Think about renovating your home insurance to protect your investment.

The insurance industry suggests reviewing your coverage with your agent annually, a recommendation roundly ignored by many homeowners. Keeping your agent informed especially makes sense if you're planning a makeover, simply because there's no magic formula to determine how much a project might affect your premium.

Ed Charlebois, vice president of personal insurance for Travelers Insurance, recommends talking to your agent if you're adding to the value of your home by 5 percent or more. Explain what work you're planning and get an estimate of how it will affect your premium.

Increase your insurance coverage before the work begins in case there is loss or damage. While you're at it, make sure the contractor and subcontractors are insured for liability and workers compensation.

The most popular renovation projects are redoing the kitchen or bath. Though these jobs can run into the thousands of dollars, they often offer high rates of returns on the investment.

Installing a fire alarm system can save on an insurance premium through discounts, said Charlebois.

Another safety-related project that could save money is replacing an old knob-and-tube electrical system.

"If you completely updated your wiring — modern wiring, circuit breakers — you're probably eligible for an upgraded program (that could result in a lower premium)," Charlebois said.

Smaller projects — replacing carpet with new hardwood floors or installing granite countertops, for example — aren't cheap, but the cost isn't enough to justify a call to your agent. Those things can be taken care of in your annual review.

When you first apply for insurance, prepare to answer questions about square footage, the style of the home, number of bathrooms, the quality of your kitchen and bath (basic builders grade or is it more?). The answers help the agent calculate the replacement cost or cost to rebuild. When you do an annual review, you and the agent can catch those little improvements that add up to a significant increase in cost to rebuild.

Charlebois also recommends taking a complete inventory of what's in your home. Anyone who has experienced theft, damage or loss knows how important this record is to expedite the claims process. (The Insurance Information Institute offers tips on taking a home inventory at

"Keep an inventory, and keep it off sight in case you suffer a total loss," he said. "That makes life much easier going forward."

To learn more about the costs of rebuilding your home, visit and search for "home insurance cost to rebuild."

Source: Chicago Tribune

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ideal Shower

Today's inspiration: The shower.

Let's face it, you're in the shower every day. The hot water feels good on tired muscles - but wouldn't it be great if the shower did more than just clean you? What if it massaged you, lit up, changed colors, fell like a waterfall, fell like rain, was adjustable, was customize-able, or hit you in all the right places? Oh, that'd be really nice! Theses are all possibilities with the modern options available for your ideal shower.

Custom colors add ambiance

Custom jets hit you in all the right places

Rain heads provide the perfect level of pressure