Archive for October 2005

Secret Tests To Check A Property’s Condition

If you’re considering buying a house that’s more than a few years old, there may be some hidden problems you can discover before you make a purchase offer. Although putting a professional inspection contingency in the contract will help protect you from surprises, doing your own inspection before making an offer could save you considerable time and money.
How can you tell if a property is worth buying? Here's how to look at the big picture -- for structural concerns, major repairs that are needed, appliances that have to be replaced.
Crawl The Walls
Start going to the right when you enter the house, and keep on following to the right. You will check each wall that way. Do the same on every floor. Look for settlement cracks, separating joints, defective plaster or other signs of stress or damage. Check wallpapered areas for crinkling or gathering, which may mean walls are settling or shifting.
Look For Leaks
Loose or wrinkled wallpaper could indicate a water leak somewhere. Look for water stains on the ceiling and walls. You may have to look closely -- bring a flashlight -- in case they have been painted over or repaired.
Spend time in the bathrooms and in every area with pipes, checking for leaks and drips. Also, run the shower and basin, then flush the toilet to check water pressure. Look for cracked or loose tiles and missing grout or mildew stains on the walls or floor, which could indicate a behind-the-wall leak.
Plug Into The Electrical System
Check every electric socket or outlet. Use a plug-in night light and turn every switch on and off. Look for extension cords and multiple plugs in sockets, which could mean insufficient or poorly placed sockets. Also check every appliance to be sure it works well.
Focus On Condition
Open and close every door and window. Look and listen for squeaking, sticking, or a tendency to close on their own. Check for evidence of shifting or settling around the front stoop, chimney and walks, and places where the driveway and the fence meet the house. Also check the deck for sturdiness and look for rotted wood. Go into the garage and check the walls, floors and doors -- inside and out.
Pay Attention To Pests
Look for termites and ants. Especially look along the foundation, around doors and entry points of wiring and pipes. Check the grading of the yard to be sure water runs away from the house.

If everything looks good to you and you decide to purchase the house, be sure to require a home inspection by a professional inspector before settlement. You will want a professional who will crawl into the crawl space, climb onto the roof and poke around with a flashlight in the attic. Your professional should also carefully inspect the major systems -- electrical, gas, plumbing and heating/air conditioning.
You can and should insist on a written report detailing what the problems are with the house, how important each one is. You may have to consult a contractor to estimate repair costs on any problems found.

Pitfalls of kitchen remodeling revealed

New book helps overcome obstacles

By Robert J. Bruss
Inman News

If you are thinking about renovating your kitchen, first read "Tips and Traps for Remodeling Your Kitchen" by R. Dodge Woodson. Especially if you are thinking of doing the work yourself or being your own contractor and hiring sub-contractors, this book will bring you to your senses.
Woodson, a contractor for more than 30 years, shares his expert insights into the kitchen remodeling business and all the important aspects. Placing a very high emphasis on price, the author explains the pros and cons of being your own renovation contractor or doing some of the work yourself.

If the book has a fault, it is Woodson makes some of the work seem too easy. For example, he makes "hanging Sheetrock" appear to be a simple job. It's not. Having been involved with many house and kitchen remodels on my properties, I've watched expert drywall workers; even these professionals sometimes have difficulties getting it right.
Although the book has many photos of remodeled kitchens, illustrating the topics such as floors and cabinets, it is mostly about hiring a general contractor or doing the work yourself. Woodson explains, often in painful detail revealing possible complications, what is involved in tearing out an old kitchen and replacing it with an up-to-date kitchen.
Not only does the author explain unanticipated problems that he has encountered over his 30 years of construction experience, but he emphasizes the possible pitfalls to be anticipated. If ever there was a book of required reading for kitchen remodelers, this is it because it exposes the pitfalls and how to overcome them.
Having watched many friends remodel their kitchens, I understand the possible problems. One couple I know took almost a year to complete their kitchen because the remodeling contractor they hired was a real dunce. After they fired him, they discovered other remodeling contractors didn't want to complete their project started by another contractor.
Woodson explains how to successfully remodel your kitchen. He begins with the basics, such as roughly drawing what you want and then interviewing several remodeling contractors. He emphasizes how to compare bids, check references, and then hire a contractor. Or, you can do it yourself based on the great information in this new book.
More important, the author emphasizes how to save money. He shares his calendar of when is the best time of year to hire a remodeling contractor. Don't tell, but the best time is November, December or January when most remodeling contractors are least busy.
In addition, Woodson explains how to get even a better price by agreeing with the contractor to make your remodel a "fill-in job" or a "reference job." A fill-in job is highly discounted because the contractor can work on it when his other jobs are tied up with sub-contractors who are late or he has time between jobs.
A "reference job" means the contractor can refer other prospects to inspect the work in your home. The author recommends becoming a "reference job" in return for a big discount. He says you are likely to get the highest quality work and best service because the contractor will be using you as a reference.
Any homeowner considering remodeling his/her kitchen must read this book for its "insider information," which only an experienced remodeling contractor knows. To illustrate, Woodson explains why homeowners can save by shopping for materials among suppliers to get the best discount prices. He even shares how homeowners can get the customary contractor's 10 percent discounts.
Chapter topics include "Planning Your Job"; "Drawing Your Own Rough Plans"; "Solidifying Plans and Estimating Job Costs"; "Choosing Your Materials"; "Getting Your Best Price on Materials"; "Subcontractors"; "Selecting Contractors and Subcontractors"; "Dealing with Contractors"; "Code Considerations"; "Financing Your Project"; "Ripping Out Kitchens"; "Unexpected Conditions"; "Flooring"; "Walls and Ceilings"; "Mechanical Work"; and "Cabinets, Countertops, Fixtures, Trim and Appliances."
This ultra-complete guidebook for kitchen remodelers cannot be recommended too highly. It won't help you decide what kind of kitchen you want. But it will show you how to profitably deal with the contractors and sub-contractors. On my scale of one to 10, this simple book scores an off-the-chart 12.
"Tips and Traps for Remodeling Your Kitchen," by R. Dodge Woodson (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2005, $16.95, 202 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and

Blast From The Past

PastLove that retro look? You're not alone. Vintage and retro home furnishings, housewares and collectibles are hot.
If you're looking for authentic Fifties fabrics, a retro chrome floor lamp or starburst clock, or you just want to take a trip down memory lane, you may find these websites worth checking out: