home improvement

Three Ways to Freshen Up the Look of a Room

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It’s finally springtime and aside from the usual ‘spring cleaning’, you might be looking for other home improvement ideas to keep yourself busy while the weather warms up enough to do the outside projects. Here are three ways to spice up your rooms this spring.

Add a Little Paint

You may be looking for something simple and affordable rather than a big expensive project, so know that a coat of fresh paint (chosen well) never hurt any aesthetic. Take to Pinterest to inspire you with a new color scheme to carry the fresh feel of spring throughout the rest of the year. Maybe you aren’t looking to repaint the entire house, but you know that big wall in the living room that you can never figure out what to do with? Turn it into an accent wall with a color that ‘pops’ or upcycled panels. Trellised rooms are exciting to the eye and can be a great creative project that will occupy some time.

Hang & Rearrange

Redecorating always feels good when you’re in the need for something fresh. If you aren’t emotionally attached to the artwork you have already, consider finding some new pieces to accent the room. A nice mirror or a creative family portrait montage brings a new energy into an otherwise stagnant space. There are thousands of DIY projects to incorporate some crafty art into your home during the season of fresh starts. Sometimes, even the rearranging of the furniture can give you the fresh new look you are craving! Plants can also bring a brand new life to your space.

Add Some Depth to the Walls

If you are feeling adventurous and motivated, wainscotting or paneling might be just the spring project to take on. Wainscoting is not only aesthetically pleasing, it also protects the lower portions of your walls from damage. Adding trim or molding to wainscoting creates an elegant, classy look to an otherwise boring wall. Some people are even taking to decorating their ceilings with different panel designs to add a little extra charm. However, this undertaking doesn’t have to be pricey. A suggestion is to apply a grid of 1x6 drywall panels to a drywalled surface, add a coat of paint to the grid, and then magically, the boards, stiles, and rails create a look like something out of a design magazine.

Whatever it is that calls to you, all three of these are easy enough and have millions of points of inspiration throughout the internet to help get you started on spicing up the rooms in your home before summer projects start. It is time to let go of the old and bring in the new! Reach out to Bright Star Handyman Service for all of your home renovation needs in Philadelphia and South Jersey!

Top Home Improvements for 2019

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Luxury Upgrades

“Luxury” means “a state of great comfort and extravagant living”. These days, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drive a Ferrari or buy a solid gold toilet - small improvements in your home can make all the difference. A 2019 trend in home improvement is to add luxury touches to your home, rather than starting from bare bones. Buying a fancy coffeemaker, re-painting your kitchen cabinets with chalk paint, or even upgrading your furniture can loan a luxury feel to your home.

Home Automation

With advances in technology like Nest and Google Home, you can operate anything in your house with the touch of a button. From advanced security systems to remote operation of utilities, the phone that’s constantly in your pocket will allow you to manage your home from near or far. Want to use alternative energy sources? Charge up your solar panels from afar during a sunny day. Kids home from school and you’re not there yet? Grant them remote entry with a touch of your keypad. You can even set when your dishwasher starts from your iPhone, but you still have to load it - for now.

Natural Light

Increasing amounts of research demonstrates what natural light can do for our homes and our moods. The trend in 2019 is toward bigger and bolder windows, with light fixtures in the less sunny parts of our homes that can create the same ambience. More natural light equals more Vitamin D, which can boost our moods during the cloudiest parts of the year. In addition, sunlight boosts our body’s production of serotonin, known as the ‘happy hormone’. Finally, natural light is beneficial for your sleep/wake cycle – allowing natural light into your home will help your body know when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time for bed.

Open Floor Plans

These days, we’re knocking down the walls and blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor. Main floors are spacious, with kitchens looking into the living rooms on one side and opening up to a patio on the other. Top floors are open too! In addition to being the place that we live and sleep, our homes are the place that we entertain friends and family – it’s much easier to do so with big, open spaces. Especially look for kitchen and dining areas that emulate open air bars and restaurants, with collapsible doors, durable rugs, and patio bars.

8 Ways to Update Your Home for Less than $500

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Contrary to popular belief, the winter months are an excellent time to commence home improvement projects. They say spring brings new beginners, but winter home improvement projects offer slight advantages over warmer seasons, including shorter completion times and potential discounts. This timeframe, although generally reserved for family, friends and holiday celebration, is an end-of-the-year slowdown for many businesses and contractors. In return, it can be a lucrative time of year to not only secure a great deal, but check off those last-minute items on your to-do list before washing your hands clean of 2018.

The general perception of winter home improvement projects involves a hefty price tag, but the reality is quite the opposite. Whether small projects or moderate upgrades, the following highlights the best winter home improvement ideas that won’t break the bank:

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Turkey Day from Bright Star!  We want to express our love and gratitude for your support over the years!  

We hope your day is filled with great food, family time and love with the ones you love the most.  Count your blessings, love on those around you, and choose to be grateful for all the things around you.

If you’re looking for a great holiday gift for your family?  Give the gift of a home remodel!  We want to support you however we can in your next home renovation.   Winter is the best time to settle in and decide what changes for the upcoming year.  

If you want to make changes next year with a home remodel,  contact us for suggestions on your renovation!  We would love to consult you on your choices to making your home dreams become reality.  Let us know what you’re thinking for 2019, and we’ll do everything we can to bring your dreams to life!  

Have a happy holiday weekend!

Love, 

Bright Star

Happy Halloween!

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Happy Halloween to all of our friends and family in South Jersey and Philadelphia! We are grateful for your love and support as we enter the last quarter of the year! If you have been considering a home renovation or remodel, now is the time to reach out to Bright Star Handyman Service for a free consultation regarding your next home improvement project.

If you’re curious about whether or not Bright Star is the right fit for you, check out our ever-growing project gallery or our Facebook reviews from satisfied clients. We love hearing from you and supporting you in your kitchen remodel, bathroom redesign, new deck build, garage or basement renovation, or anything else you can imagine! From installing new windows to adding an extra bedroom, we’re happy to help you!

From all of us at Bright Star, we hope you and your family have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Need Help Organizing?

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There’s nothing like trying to get something done in an unorganized home. It may seem like there are 50,000 projects to do and you have no idea where to start. Sometimes, a major overhaul isn’t necessary, if you can optimize your space in a way that fits you. Here are 5 Ways to Add Storage into Your Home:

Elevate Your Bed

One easy way to create more space in a bedroom is to upgrade to a bed with storage underneath.  With the current trend of functionality in home furniture, there are several styles of bed frame with built-in storage that can include cubbies, drawers, or cabinets.  A simple way to create more space without purchasing a brand new bed frame is to raise the bed.  Many bed frames have a low clearance to the ground, which will not allow for larger storage bins to fit underneath.  There are blocks that can be placed under the feet of the bed to add a small 3-4in lift that allows more space underneath.  Using a bedskirt can also help hide under the bed storage.


Bookshelves & Cubbies

When you compare a small table to a bookshelf, the surface areas to hold things is typically greater for a bookshelf than a table because of the various levels.  If you’re looking for a way to create an organization system for the whole family, get a three-tiered shelf.  The bottom shelf is for the kids, and can include baskets for easy organization, the middle shelf is shared family space, the top shelf is for mom & dad.  To double up the shelf space in one area, a second the tiered shelf can me mounted on the wall with adjustable bracket hanging tracks.

Hanging Wall Hooks and Fixtures

It’s helpful to move storage off of the floor and countertops and on to the wall for an even higher level of organization.  Hanging small baskets in the kitchens and bedrooms can offer a home for keys, mail, pets supplies, and small knick-knacks to provide more countertop space.  Hanging hats and long jewelry on the wall in the bedroom or bathroom will help with organization and get your favorite pieces out in front of you to wear more often than tucked away in a drawer.  

Optimizing Bathroom Space

There are several relatively easy installations that can accommodate an overcrowded bathroom.  Installing an under-the-sink cabinet will offer a tall, hidden space.  If you’re still needing more space, mounting a cabinet or series of shelves over the toilet or towel rack can also increase surface area.  If you have open shelves, small baskets or organizers can help keep the area looking neat and clean.

Over the Door Organizers

Do not underestimate the space and freedom an over-the-door organizer can offer.  Whether you prefer to use a multi-hook hanger or a full-length shoe organizer, you will be surprised how much stuff the back of a door can hold.  This is a great place to store shoes, scarves, jewelry, purses, backpacks, jackets, etc.  


There are hundreds of ways to create an organization system in your home and the cost can vary greatly. While it’s definitely accessible to do most of the organization yourself, if you would like assistance in creating a custom in-home organization system, reach out to Bright Star Handyman Service for a free consultation!



5 Ways to Waterproof Your Home!

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Clean & Repair Rain Gutters

As fall approaches, leaves fall and begin to gather on roofs and in gutters.  One of the best ways to prevent water entering your home is to make sure your gutters are offering proper drainage for your home.  Wet leaves left on the roof can cause mold and a number of other damaging issues.  If you have a really tall house or a steeply angled roof, it might be best to hire a professional to help you out!


Repair Cracks in Concrete

Various temperatures create different stresses on a number of elements in your home.  Your concrete, like garage floor, foundation, or even house walls can begin to show signs of wear.  In the summer, the heat forces the stone to slightly expand, while the stone contracts in the colder months.  While it’s normal and expected, over time the fluctuations can be too much for the concrete.  Cracks in your concrete are typically not too hard to repair (unless it’s in the foundation) but are necessary in maintaining the integrity of your home.  If water seeps up from the foundation, it can ruin your floors, walls, and anything else the water may touch.  It’s best to take care of these repairs quickly and they can be as easy as using a caulk gun and doing it yourself!  


Replace or Seal Old Wood

Old window and door frames can be a huge culprit in allowing water into your home.  If you own an older home, the sealant on wood can begin to wear down and expose the material to air and water.  The elements can begin to break down the integrity of the wood, sometimes allowing water into your home.  Sometimes, the fix is as easy as resealing the material, while other times it may take a full removal and re-install process.  Your best bet is to ask a professional to inspect the wood to make sure it won’t cause you future problems.


Update Door and Window Seals

When we say ‘seals’, we don’t mean the wood trim and frame around the windows and doors.  We’re talking about the rubbery material that creates an airtight seal around your windows and door.  As most plastics and rubbers, they will wear down over time.  The rubber can shrink and become stiff, hard, and holy, exposing holes in the seal.  With these holes, water, air, and sometimes little insects can get into your home.  Just like a windshield wiper loses its effectiveness over time, these guys should also be looked at if you’re having leakage around your windows or doors.


Check the Basement

Basements are typically the most common thing to flood in a home.  There are many things that can contribute to basement flooding like cracked concrete, leaky washer & dryer intake, or old basement windows.  Make the effort to check out your basement from time to time to make sure everything is properly sealed to keep everything dry!

Stairwell Rehabilitation

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One of the things I love the most about my job as programming manager for DIYNetwork.com is discovering the things you love about us, but also the things you want to see. And long have I labored on a piping-hot laptop eager to fulfill a common desire among passionate DIYers: staircases!Let's face it, very few of us could add an interior staircase where there isn't one now or heavily remodel an existing one. More approachable DIY staircase projects are utilizing them for additional storage or painting them. A wooden staircase, especially one that has lost its luster, can be painted with powder-room-esque gusto, as Shannon Kaye demonstrates here.

Shannon's project — coupled with your response to it — caused us to dig around for more painted staircase inspiration, like Bryan Patrick Flynn's step-by-step faux runner and seven more colorful examples.

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Fall 2018 Color Trends by Pantone

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It's that time again, Pantone has unveiled its Fashion Colour Trend Report Autumn/Winter 2018 edition ahead of London Fashion Week. The report features the top seasonal colours we can expect to see on the runway, which inspires fashion, home décor and design.

The Autumn/Winter 2018 palette incorporates 12 top colours and a collection of five 'classic' colours. So if you're planning to decorate your home and are in need of some inspiration, take a look at the colours that will shape home décor palettes this year.

But what can you expect? A bold palette of deep and rich autumnal hues complemented by some more surprising shades that expresses originality, ingenuity and creativity.

Whilst mixing and combining unexpected colours can help to create a wonderfully bright and bold space, many of these unique shades can be similarly impactful when used alone.

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Things To Know About a 2018 Kitchen Remodel

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Kitchen renovations are number one on the remodel list for 2018.  Whether it's the large style shift, or high return on investment, kitchen remodels are on the rise compared to the last 2 years.  What are some key components to creating the kitchen of your dreams and working within your budget?

Organization is Key!

One of the largest complaints by homeowners is clutter, especially in the kitchen.  There are so many new ways to optimize the space in your kitchen.  There are storage items for the backs of closet and cabinet doors, utensil organizers, hanging baskets, pot and pan hangers, pull-out cabinet trash cans, dish bins, and more.  In one study, more than 60% of homeowners rated “Easy to Store/Find Things” as the top functional necessity in a kitchen remodel, followed by “Easy to Work/Play,” “Easy to Entertain,” and “Easy to Clean.”

 

Kitchen Remodels are the Most Requested Renovation of 2018

Kitchen style has varied greatly the last few years which could be a contributing factor as to why kitchens the most requested home remodel this year.  While modern and traditional kitchen styles have been most sought after for the last few years, consumers are now searching for more transitional and farmhouse style kitchens.  Kitchen technology is also advancing like any other room in your home, like appliances with greater energy efficiency updates.  Stainless steel has been the top selection for appliance color for the last few years.  Refrigerators are most commonly replaced appliance in the house.

The average small kitchen minor remodel in the US runs about $14,000, while a major large kitchen remodel can average around $42,000.  This wide range offers quite a bit of wiggle room for you to budget for your remodel.  In Philadelphia, the average professional minor remodel of large kitchen runs around $28,200, while a major remodel will creep into the $50k range.  Approximately two in five homeowners chose to begin a remodel because they could no longer stand their old kitchen, whether stylistically or functionally.  The rest of the majority of homeowners stated they chose to remodel because they finally had the means to do so!

95% of homeowners will update their countertops with a kitchen remodel, closely followed by kitchen sink, backsplash, and metal fixtures like faucets.  Engineered quartz is the top splurge for kitchen and bathroom countertops this year, followed by appliances and cabinets.  Nearly half of all homeowners choose engineered quartz over granite.  

The Look

Stylistically, the most popular kitchen color choices are modern & minimalist.  More than 40% chose white, shaker-door cabinets to be installed in their homes, while the number one color for kitchen walls is gray. The number one flooring material and color is hardwood, instead of tile or carpet.  Many homeowners are able to cut costs on flooring installation, too.

Across the board, the average size of a renovated kitchen is between 200-250sqft, allowing for more space in rural areas, and slightly smaller in urban areas.  In 2018 specifically, there has been a rise in increased kitchen space during a renovation.  This increased square footage can come in many forms.  For example, many kitchens are being convented into an open layout, where walls or partial walls are removed to create more space.  The second most popular way to expand a kitchen includes creating more outdoor space that allows the kitchen to spill out in nice weather.

While there are always trends, there are so many ways to make a remodel your own.  Bright Star Handyman Service is willing to work with you on a budget and create the room of your dreams!  Reach out to our consultants today to learn more about your future project!

Beginning a Basement Conversion

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Remodeling magazine conducted a study that shows that the average basement remodel will offer a 75 cent return on every dollar spent, placing it in the top 10 best investments for home improvement, behind bathroom and kitchen remodels.  This top 10 placement is based on the useable square footage addition, adding an extra bedroom, bathroom, in-home office, or family space.

 

There are several things to consider when looking to finish your basement.

  1. Moisture
    One of the number 1 destroyers of basements is moisture.  There are multiple ways to test for moisture levels and prevent leaks and mold from ruining the hard work you put into your new space.  While a dehumidifier may help alleviate some density, it can sometimes pull moisture through unsealed walls from the surrounding earth.  Alternative ways to reduce water problems include professional HVAC installation, sealing walls, and choosing correct flooring like floating vinyl slat flooring.  A vapor retardant is also recommended between floor slabs and foundation walls to help reduce the amount of water that comes from the outside.  If you plan to install a bathroom in the basement, make sure it is properly equipped with exhaust fans and ventilation that will help reduce steam buildup. 
  2. Lighting
    Most basements have limited options when it comes to natural lighting.  Organizing your space around optimizing the available light will create a warmer space to spend time in.  Optical tricks, like lighter walls and mirrors, will help the space look larger and allow more natural light in.  If you’re unable to harness natural light, there are lots of lighting options that mimic sunlight that could be better fitting alternatives.  Planning the layout to be more open around your light source can also allow more light into the subterranean space.
  3. Soundproofing
    Being on the garden level of a home can be the noisiest place in the house.  While vinyl slat flooring may be the best option for moisture control, it will only help to amplify the sound that is coming from the floors above.  It’s up to you to choose your flooring in respects to soundproofing your basement.  Water & mold resistant carpeting could be your best option if you’re looking to add an extra bedroom, playroom, or movie room, as the carpet absorbs quite a bit of sound.  Other ways to soundproof the basement include adding fiberglass batts behind the drywall to create an extra layer of insulation.  Sound absorption pads and matts can also be added between the first-story floorboards and the basement ceiling.  
  4. Storage
    Take into consideration how much space in your basement is currently used for storage.  If your answer is “none” than this will be less important than the last 3 suggestions.  However, as you grow into your home or your family begins to grow, having designated storage space will benefit your entire family.  There are creative ways to add storage without reducing the useable square footage of your home.  Adding a closet underneath the stairs will offer great storage space without cutting into an open floor plan.  Creating a full closet wall can also minimize the intrusion of storage into an open layout.  This can be created with an extension of added drywall just a few feet from the original basement wall.  Another option includes building a cabinet and cubby system on one of the walls for all of the kitsch things you may have.

 

There are so many other factors that go into a basement remodel, like egress/emergency exit installation, ceiling heights, etc. but these will give you a framework of important things to note when considering finishing your basement.  One other noteworthy point includes examining the stairwell to the basement.  Basement stairs are often not even or have deteriorated over the years due to moisture and most likely need maintenance too.

 

If you’re thinking of adding on to your house, we would love to offer a free consultation for renovating your basement space.  Contact Bright Star Handyman Service for more information today!

Top Renovation Returns by Bankrate

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Whether you plan to stay in your house a long time or just a few years, it’s smart to know which home renovations add the most value to your place.

“Remodeling,” a magazine for the construction industry, in its 2018 Cost vs. Value report, compares the average cost of 21 remodeling projects in 149 markets with the value those projects retain at resale in 100 U.S. markets.

Here are the six interior remodeling projects that deliver the highest return.

1. Garage door replacement

  • Average cost: $3,470
  • Average resale value: $3,411
  • Cost recouped: 98.3%

A good-looking garage door tops the list when it comes to returning cash to your pocket, the Cost vs. Value report shows. This project involves removing an existing 16-by-7-foot garage door and replacing it with a new four-section garage door with heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks. This curb-appeal enhancer will get you back almost every dollar you spent on it when you sell your house.

 

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When Is It Time to Replace My Carpet?

About Your Carpet

Typically a carpet can last you from 5-15 years depending on the foot traffic, quality, and padding.  These are all great starting points to determining if you need a carpet replacement. 

Carpet installation is a little more complex than you might think, as there are a few layers that go in before the carpet that you walk on can be installed.  First, there are the tackless strips.  These wood pieces have small pins that stick out to hold your carpeting in place.  If you’ve never seen these, you might have felt them when walking through a doorway of an older home, where the carpet is wearing low.  These strips are nailed into the floor around the edges of the room to hold the carpet in place.  The second layer is typically a layer of foamy material that helps to create a cushion underneath your carpeting.  Placing carpet directly on wood or concrete will not give it that comfortable, squishy feeling that the cushioning offers.  For example, you can usually feel the difference between a floor rug and a carpeted room.  This foam also helps to fill the space between the tackless strips so the full room is flush and level and not elevated around the edges.

So, When Do I Know That I Need to Replace My Carpets?

…When It Smells Funky

Usually the musty smell is the key indicator that it’s time to do something about replacing your carpet.  Sometimes all it needs is a deep cleaning, but if a deep cleaning doesn’t eliminate the smell, you might have to think about a more permanent change.  Many times the cleaning can help with the top layer of carpet, while the spongey bottom layer may be molding or holding more permanent smells.  One of the largest absorbers in a room can be your carpet, so pets, smoke, spills, and similar issues can leave you in need of a replacement.

 

…When It Starts To Clump

Depending on the material of your carpet, some may last longer than others.  For example, polyester carpet won’t last as long as nylon carpeting and will begin to start matting sooner.  Once a polyester carpet begins to mat, there’s not much you can do to salvage it.  One way to keep your carpet lasting longer is to treat it to a deep clean every so often.  

 

…When You Can’t Remove The Stains

Deep cleaning will only take you so far with some stains.  While they can remove the discoloration for most things, sometimes a shampoo just won’t cut it.  Foot traffic and other wear & tear can bring deeper stains to the surface if the padding underneath the carpet is still holding on to it.  Some stain removers can also damage the carpet’s integrity.  If you have multiple deep stains like red wine, it may be your best bet to fully replace the carpet.

 

Options to replace your carpet include wood flooring, tile, slat flooring, laminate, or even concrete depending on your budget and aesthetic choices.  Wood and slat flooring will typically outlast most carpet choices.  If you’re looking for a revamp for your floors, reach out to Bright Star for a consultation on your options!

Why Home Maintenance Is Important

Owning a home requires a lot more responsibility than renting. If something breaks down, there's no landlord to come and fix the problem; it's in the owner's hands. That means the responsibility of keeping a home clean and maintained is up to the homeowners. Your realtor, mortgage lender and everyone on the Internet has told you how important it is to keep your home maintained, as well as thousands ways to do it. But why is it so important? As a home warranty company, Landmark's main purpose is to help homeowners who have systems and appliances that fail from old age and normal wear and tear. However, in our contract, we stipulate that if a system or appliance has failed because of lack of maintenance, it's not considered "normal wear and tear." You shouldn't just maintain your home because of the benefits of a home warranty though (although that's an excellent reason to do so!). There are a number of other reasons home maintenance is so important.

Home Maintenance Saves you Money

The first reason home maintenance is so important is that it saves you, the homeowner, money. "That can't be right," you're thinking. "I spend so much of my time, money and energy cleaning and maintaining. How does that save me money?"

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Home Improvement Loans

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or stay in your home, you may be considering a home improvement project. And while renovations can help increase the equity of your home, and add a personal touch, they can be costly.

Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) may tap into your home’s equity to fund improvement projects. And not all improvements will create the highest possible return on investment.

Personal loans offer a possible alternative to home equity financing. Home improvement loans can make it easy to increase your home’s value without tapping into equity.

Home improvement loans are useful for financing:

  • Kitchen remodels

  • Bathroom remodels

  • New deck/patio/porch

  • New exteriors

  • Green homes

  • Home repairs

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31 Home Improvements That Will Double the Value of Your Home

From big to small, we have home improvements that add up to a huge boost in the value of your home!

Additional bathroom 

This may be the best home improvement you can make. After all, can we ever have enough bathrooms? According to Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and founder/broker of Yonder Luxury Vacation Rentals, a one-to-one bedroom/bathroom ratio is ideal. "An additional bathroom creates greater functionality of a home, while also increasing resale value." Not sure where you could possibly squeeze in an additional bathroom? There are usually a variety of hidden opportunities in homes. This may be an underutilized closet, space in the basement, or "stealing" a little space from a bedroom or hallway, says Frellick. 

Spruce up the bathroom

"Bringing your bathrooms into the 21st century creates a high degree of functionality and a huge return on your investment," says Frellick. You don't have to necessarily gut it and start over. New fixtures, fresh paint and light fixtures, and exhaust fans are good places to start. 

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Update bathroom tile

Replace worn out tile with subway tile for a classic look that will appeal to most tastes, says Frellick. If you have more wiggle room in your budget, replace a water-hogging toilet with a slimline, low-flush model.

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Spring Cleaning Has Begun

With memories of snow and cold fading, it’s time to remind home owners to take stock of important work to be done for themselves and potential buyers down the road. Keeping on track with seasonal maintenance will lower costs and raise value.
APRIL 2013 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER

Besides cleaning closets and planting flowers and cool-weather vegetables, spring should involve scrutinizing the condition of a house following the rough winter. Repairs and replacements won’t just help owners enjoy their properties more; they’ll also keep energy costs down as hot weather rolls in and attract more buyers, many of whom have become meticulous about inspecting roofs, appliances, and HVAC bills.

While most home owners need to prioritize costs, these 10 improvements are at the top of many contractors’ lists. Some of them are even more affordable than ever before, thanks to rebates from local communities, utility companies, and the federal government.

1. Replace windows

If home owners’ houses felt drafty this past winter and they have single-pane windows, there’s a good chance those were one of the culprits. But replacing them all can be costly — $400 to $500 per window, plus $100 to $150 for installation, according to home improvement expert Tom Kraeutlerof The Money Pit. Whether that’s the place to spend dollars should depend on how long home owners plan to stay put or what houses listed in their neighborhood offer if they’re selling. “If they’re the last ones with old, rotting-wood windows, that negative may affect buyer attention,” Kraeutler says. This year’s “Cost vs. Value” report from Remodeling magazine pegs the payback for vinyl windows at 71.2 percent and for wood windows at a similar 73.3 percent. A less costly alternative can be to add storms, caulk, weather strip, or rim joists in a basement. Contractor Paul Eric Morse of Morse Constructions Inc. in Somerville, Mass., suggests gradually replacing windows in any room that owners remodel to make the cost less prohibitive.

2. Install a new heating system and change filters

If a seller’s furnace and boiler were on their last legs this past winter, it may be time to install a new one, or at least provide sellers with a credit toward new equipment.  Existing systems still in good condition should have filters checked monthly and replaced when dark and clogged, a DIY project. For great energy efficiency, Morse is installing more heat exchanges that provide both heat and air conditioning and can be less costly than a new central air system with new ducting and a new furnace.

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We Need More Space

Many people have a love/hate relationship with their unfinished basements.  Whether updating your basement has been looming on your to-do list, or has become a home for displaced things that you’re not totally ready to let go yet, Bright Star can help.  

Why a basement and not a home addition?

When deciding how to expand your home, resources like time, money, and space can truly make the decision easier for you.  If you’re lucky enough to have the space to expand with a home addition, it is a great option, however contractors have noted that finishing a basement could cost a homeowner only half or even one third of the price as an addition. 

An article by HGTV states that square footage in a basement is often valued at about half what the above ground cost is, meaning if the first floor is $200/sqft then a basement would estimate $100/sqft.  While the price per square foot may not be as much as the rest of the house, the ability to add another living space could greatly increase the value of your home.  Current homeowner trends include large, open layouts, making a basement finish a great way to add space and satiate those goals of wide, open spaces.  Some reports from Remodeling magazine boast up to a 70% payback when finishing a basement, truly giving you the best bang for your buck.  

 

There are some thing to consider up front:

Is it a wet basement?
Understanding the plumbing of your basement is important because you wouldn’t want to spend a few thousand dollars on some nice wool carpet, only to have a flood and have to replace it shortly thereafter.  Every basement is different and plumbing will depend on the year the house was built, but there are several options to waterproof and seal off your wet basement.  

What type of room should we add?
If you have children, a play area is always a great option to get all of the kids’ stuff in one place.  Some studies have shown that younger kids who still need parent stimulation will not utilize the basement as well as, say an older child or teen.  If your kids already have a space (or you don’t have kids) some other ways to utilize the basement are as a gym, workspace, extra bedroom, or extra living room.   Since basements are typically low light, keep that in mind while choosing and redecorating.  Unless you want a home theater, it will be important to optimize the light of the space if you plan to spend more time underground.  

If you do not have a need for an extra bedroom, etc. refinishing the basement as storage is also a great option.  It is still important to waterproof the basement, but remodeling the basement to a more attractive storage space or laundry room could still improve your home’s value.  Especially in smaller homes, creating organizational tools to maximize the use of the space, like cabinets, shelving, modular organizers, & hanging racks, can be incredibly attractive to a home buyer.

So whether you’re looking to expand your family or increase your property value, utilizing the space you already have in the basement will be one of the best options when it comes to money well spent.  Every basement is unique and Bright Star is happy to consult you for free to address your home needs!

5 Winter Home Improvement Projects You Should Never DIY

Winter isn’t just a time for celebrating the holidays and spending more time in shopping malls than you ever dreamed possible. This time of the year is the perfect opportunity to catch up on those winter home improvement projects taking up space on your to-do list.

As with any home improvement project, especially those you do yourself, there’s always risk; not just in terms of expense and time spent, but the possibility you’ll do serious damage to the property. Said risk is even more pronounced when adding a DIY winter home improvement project to your schedule, when the weather is almost as brutal as those frozen pipes that need to be replaced.

Before you strap on the tool belt and head to Home Depot, here are five winter home improvement projects you should not DIY, and instead leave to the professionals.

Winter Home Improvement Projects Best Left to the Pros

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Insulating Your Home by Energy.gov

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For optimal energy efficiency, your home should be properly insulated from the roof down to its foundation. The illustration above shows all the areas of the home where there should be insulation. The numbered areas shown in the illustration are as follows:

1. In unfinished attic spaces, insulate between and over the floor joists to seal off living spaces below. If the air distribution is in the attic space, then consider insulating the rafters to move the distribution into the conditioned space.

(1A) Attic access door

2. In finished attic rooms with or without dormer, insulate (2A) between the studs of "knee" walls, (2B) between the studs and rafters of exterior walls and roof, (2C) and ceilings with cold spaces above.

(2D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows.

3. All exterior walls, including (3A) walls between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs, or storage areas; (3B) foundation walls above ground level; (3C) foundation walls in heated basements, full wall either interior or exterior.

4. Floors above cold spaces, such as vented crawl spaces and unheated garages. Also insulate (4A) any portion of the floor in a room that is cantilevered beyond the exterior wall below; (4B) slab floors built directly on the ground; (4C) as an alternative to floor insulation, foundation walls of unvented crawl spaces. (4D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows.

5. Band joists.

6. Replacement or storm windows and caulk and seal around all windows and doors. 

In addition to insulation, consider moisture and air leakage control in each area of your house. If radon is an issue where you live, you’ll also need to consider radon and radon-resistant construction techniques as you research foundation insulation options. In addition, if you live in an area with termites, you’ll have to consider how termite protection will affect the choice and placement of insulation in your home.

 

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