Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Floor Resurfacing the Right Way

It’s an inescapable fact that the relatively simple task of resurfacing floors is often confused and considered interchangeable with the process of refinishing floors. Neither job is particularly pleasant but unlike refinishing, resurfacing is something that an ambitious amateur could undertake and likely succeed at. Here are some simple A-Z steps you can take to ensure that the job gets done right.

Prepping Your Room:

What’s the first thing a painter needs? A blank canvas! Any furniture or rugs should be moved out of the room you’re working on.  The smartest move would be to put it in another room but if you simply don’t have the space, rent a small moving truck or van for the day (U-Haul works fine). Once you’ve cleared the room, give it a solid sweeping and mopping. Be as thorough as possible to ensure a clean workspace.

The Buff ‘n’ Shine:

Now, it’s time to rent a buffer. Most day rentals for buffers hover around $30. Ask an employee to give you a general overview of how the machine works. It’s a relatively easy machine to work with but it’s also helpful to know how to maintain and clean it. Once you start buffering, be sure to go over the area at least two or three times. Depending on the size of the room, it will take you anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to complete. Top it off with another good sweep.

Pick and Apply:

Waterborne finishes are safer and quicker than any other option, and they are more scratch resistant, making it a clear choice for pet owners. Waterborne finishers are also the most environmentally friendly finishes on the market (low on volatile organic compounds). Each waterborne coat takes only an hour to dry. You will have to apply more coats than with oil-based finishes but it’s worth it in the long run; three coats should be sufficient. When it’s fully dried, give the floor one last sweep and that’s that.

Hiring Out:     
Resurfacing is not a job that every person wants to roll up his or her sleeves for. Time restraints or the stress inherent in any home improvement project may make hiring a flooring specialist or contractor a more viable option for you. If so, consider these questions when interviewing prospective contractors.

1.     How long have they been in business? Over three years is best.

2.     Do they have a timetable? They should have a secure idea of the amount of time needed.

3.     How do they stand with past customers? Ask around and get an idea of their track record.

The job should not take longer than two days. Doing it yourself will run you anywhere from $100 to $200 while hiring a professional will run you anywhere from $300-500. When Click and Improve handles a job like this, we demand a pre-set schedule and price. So, you should expect the same if/when you hire a contractor or service provider.

Don’t be shy to call up a professional and ask about when it’s safe to move furniture back in, as it can vary depending on the finish. Once every thing is back in, you can admire and take pride in your floors, which should be ready for several more years of use and abuse.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Avoiding That Sinking Feeling

If I were to sit here and type out every option available when it comes to bathroom faucets, this post might run the length of Moby Dick. Technologies advance, trends change, and handymen, plumbers and contractors install new, uniquely designed sinks every single day. The choices of faucets are innumerable but the bathroom sink is a central part of the bathroom and home improvement professionals of all sorts will tell you that the days of everyone installing the same simple sink unit with a vanity mirror and cabinets underneath are over. There are new ways to save room, ensure a more modern and stylish design, and make cleaning a breeze. Here are three or four options to consider talking over with your local NYC plumber.

·      On the Wall: Sinks attached directly to the wall are becoming popular for several reasons, not the least of which being that they cut down on the instances of plumber’s crack. There’s a minimalist bent to this that makes it easy to see leaks and to keep your bathroom clean. It gives off a spacious look as well and allows you to think of new, fun ways to design storage for your hygiene and medical supplies. Bad news: You need to think about new storage ideas…now.

·      Vessels: Vessel sinks, which essentially sit on your countertop like a large bowl with a faucet, convey a sense of containment. This means less clipped hairs from shaving and excess water from washing on your countertop. They also look incredibly nice and personalized. They are also very large and take up a lot of the countertop. Investing in some reasonably priced, wall-mounted holders for your toothbrushes, soaps, floss can solve this problem, and face washes.

·      Consoles and Pedestals: Like the vessel sink, the console conveys a sense of personalized attention. The sink is attached to the wall but has a set of legs going to the floor that are used for support. They are very classy looking and it’s only slightly harder to clean than the wall sink. There are also pedestal sinks that essentially do the same thing but with one thick stand that offers support and is attached to the wall as well. If you do chose this one, be sure to discuss it with a plumber or home improvement professional, as pedestals are a bit harder to install.  

Any of these options are easy enough to plan with a plumber but you might consider undertaking this project while remodeling other parts of your bathroom and get it all done in one fell swoop. I am a huge fan of console sinks: They look classic and give the room a stylish yet open feeling. In fact, I recommended a console sink to my cousin last month and am happy to report that she just recently got one installed. She will not stop raving about it. But, as always, different strokes for different folks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking A (Proverbial) Bath

With a few notable (and largely private) exceptions, the bathroom is still largely considered a place where one goes to be alone. It’s a place of personal business, things we don’t really like to talk about. More and more, however, I have found myself talking to friends who are planning or have already completed remodeling jobs that distinguish the bathroom as a place of utmost comfort and even luxury. To be perfectly frank, these are not always cheap fix-ups. However, it won’t be long until they are as normal as getting a new tub or new fixtures put in.

Below, you’ll find some of the more interesting and provocative advents that have become popular as of late and piqued my interest particularly. With the amount of fresh and modern ideas coming in concerning how we use our bathrooms, it’s only a matter of time before the bathroom is as regularly remodeled as the kitchen.

·      Soaking Tubs:

It used to be that when a homeowner had some extra money to spend, a Jacuzzi was one of the first things on the wish list. Jacuzzis are still a solid, fun investment but they can be a bit obtrusive. So, think about getting a special soaking tub in your bathroom. They are deeper than normal tubs and look incredibly stylish, offering the perfect place to relax with a book and a glass of wine or to simply zone out for an hour. Most salesmen or contractors will be able to help you plan where you could possibly place the tub most conveniently.

·      Big Showers:

The act of taking a bath has gone down in popularity, largely due to green concerns about inflated water usage. Showers are now the key component of any bathroom, along with your toilet. A recent home improvement trend is to make the shower bigger, more stylish and more spacious. Making your shower larger gives off the feeling of a top-grade spa, allotting more room to enjoy the steam and even take a seat. Some contractors have even started to take out the doors, glass and tubs, centering the entire bathroom on a drain in the middle of the room. This feeds into a growing trend towards porcelain and stone tiles in bathrooms, though this isn’t recommended if you are thinking about selling your house in the near future.

·      Heat & Steam:

Steam baths, which essentially work like a sauna, are coming up in a big way and though they are a bit pricey (north of $1,500), it isn’t a bad idea if you treasure your alone time in the bathroom. This also adds to that spa feeling I mentioned before. Another big idea has been to put mesh under your tiles and connecting it to thermostat to ensure warm floors and a more comfortable experience for your bare feet.

·      Tear Down the Walls:

The aforementioned idea of breaking down the walls to create a shower as a main component of the bathroom may be a bit adventurous or daunting to some. In this case, if you want to get a bit more private, think about building a separate, enclosed area for your toilet, not completely unlike a stall but more soothing and personal. If you’re a tech person or just an entertainment hound, you might even think about putting a small flat screen on the back of the door, allowing for you to watch the latest episode of Glee or a recent Brad Pitt movie as you handle your business.

The landscape of the home has become more and more personalized as the years have gone on and the bathroom is no different from the kitchen or the bedroom in this regard. As in most things, it is a determination that depends largely on room, as my favorite of the lot – the soaking tub – is best in a more open bathroom, whereas making your shower bigger is something that nearly any homeowner could benefit from.

For me, the soaking tub is a home improvement project that offers both a sensible source of leisure that can add to the value of your home and help you rethink the design of your bathroom. That being said, any of the aforementioned additions can fill similar roles, depending on the individual, and each one helps redefine the bathroom as room deserving of thought and not just a place to, er, take care of business.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Collecting the Evidence on Countertops

Cooking and trying out new, bold cuisines at home has seen a huge surge since cooking shows (main offender: Top Chef) have begun to dominate television programming. Thus, it is only natural that people would want to focus on home improvement projects in their kitchens, turning them into laboratories where they can experiment with recipes.

The first thing that comes to mind when undertaking a remodeling project in the kitchen is the countertops. Whereas cabinets are often the face of your kitchen, countertops are where all the work gets done; following the metaphor, countertops are the body of the kitchen whereas the refrigerator would be the brain. Okay, enough with wordplay…down to business.

·      Wood/Butcher Block: Maple and oak are the most popular materials in this situation and they look gorgeous. It is easy to maintain their inherent smoothness, as they can be easily sanded and resealed. These types of countertops are very easy to clean, but they can be damaged by water and can stain without proper care. In addition, they are prone to scratches and cut marks, the degree of which depends on where you order them.

·      Stainless Steel: Stainless steel allows for a very modern, industrial look that often conveys discipline and precision. Again, these are very easy to clean and are not sensitive to heat, unlike wood. They are, to be honest, a bit pricey and can be especially noisy, especially if you live with sensitive sleeper. Stainless steel countertops also can dent and are very easily scratched by knives.

·      Ceramic Tile: This is a great option, especially considering the relative inexpensive cost of a tile project. There’s also a very “Mom’s kitchen” feel to a tile countertop. There is a slight issue with unevenness and easy damaging, but these are relatively minor considering how easy these are to clean, not to mention the innumerable amount of choices you have in color and texture. Lastly, they handle heat very well.

·      Laminate: Another particularly inexpensive choice. Laminates, made of plastic-coated synthetics, come in a wide range of colors to suit your personal style, are incredibly easy to clean and maintain, and are also remarkably durable. That being said, if you do chip or scratch laminate, it is often going to be there for good and front edge choices can run you a pretty penny, if you are at all particular.

·       Granite: Prices are dropping quickly on this option and it is a viable choice when it comes to remodeling. They are essentially permanent, extremely hard to damage, need very little maintenance with new sealers, and are immensely attractive to homebuyers. Make sure you get a good contractor on this job, however, as a lousy installation is the only thing that can really botch granite countertops. Try not to cut on it, as your knives will dull. On the flipside, granite holds up to heat and there are literally thousands of color choices.

·      Soapstone/Concrete/Engineered Stone: Soapstone has a rich, classic look and is smooth to the touch. It is ostensibly stain resistant but it takes a bit of effort in the way of maintenance, needing regular applications of mineral oil. If you have the income, concrete is a good alternative, as it is heat and scratch resistant, offers decorative finishes, and boasts a unique look. Most cracking or problems with porousness can be easily fixed. Similarly, you could go with engineered stone, which is a bit more expensive, but is resistant to stain and acids. They also require very little care.

·      Marble/Solid Surface: The aesthetic value is extremely high with marble. These surfaces also handle heat very well and are basically waterproof. Then again, they can be pricey, are prone to stains, and need periodic resealing. For a good alternative, look into solid surface, which are stain resistant, seamless and offer an array of colors. The only big flaw is that solid surfaces are a bit sensitive to heat. As with granite, be sure to get a good contractor with good standing with this option, as installation is a key component.

If you’re going DIY home improvement with this, best of luck, but this is the sort of project that even if you were to take it on by yourself, you would want to consult with a professional contractor or service provider. Putting in countertops are one of those projects that, if not done right, isn’t worth doing. So, be smart about it and think about what you really want from your kitchen. My favorite kitchens tend to have wood countertops, not only because of all the positive uses, but also because of the homey, almost rustic look they exude. There’s warmth to wood that is impossible to replicate. When it comes to the kitchen, however, everyone has a different opinion of how it should look and what should be done in there.