Monday, April 29, 2013

7 Stunning Steam Baths You Can Afford in Your Home

Live a Little - Luxury Like This Doesn't Cost a Lot

I've always wanted a home theater.  Room.  You know, the massive TV on the wall, sound system that rocks the foundations, acoustics designed by a master, and chairs that adjust, recline, heat, cool, vibrate, and give me a foot rub.  I have a friend who does these rooms.  $100,000 and up... after the construction. 

But the truth is, I have a great flat screen TV, excellent Bose surround sound, recliner chairs and a massage unit that heats and vibrates.  So, while I can dream of the real thing, I have a "good enough" version.

But a steam room is another thing.  The pleasures and benefits of a good shower are appealing enough, but add in that steam and eucalyptus oil and you might be talking about a slice of what God has planned for us in heaven.

And the really cool thing is that you can modify many existing showers for around $1000, get a full prefab unit for under $2000, do a complete custom job for under $5000, and beat the Ritz for $25,000.  We've done the searching for you and pulled together some of our favorites. 

 You may prefer to build in a custom unit using various combinations of tile, wood, glass, or stainless steel.  Many of the less expensive units also have some plastic components.

Multiple shower heads, large baths with jacuzzi jets, and optional dry sauna can add to the total effect.

For me, I want some music in the steam room, so many of the prefab units do include sound systems, and a custom design can easily accommodate any quality of sound system you may like.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

8 Reasons You Should Add a Steam Room to Your Bathroom Remodel

Steam Rooms Aren't Just for Spas 

You can spend as little as $1000 or as much as $20,000 to create a steam room in your home.  If you're like me, you want to have a pretty good reason to spend even a $1000.  So why would I spend around a $1000 to add a steam room to my current tub/shower, $2000 or so for a prefab steam room, or $5000 or more for a steam room as part of a built in remodel?  Here's ten pretty good reasons.

 1) Increase the value of your home — bathroom remodeling projects return an average of 102% on their investment – Generally only kitchen and bathroom home improvement projects return more than they cost.  And 102% might even be conservative.  Turning an old bathroom into a stylish, state-of-the-art bathroom could easily add $25,000 to the value of a $400,000 house, and $50,000 to the value of a $1,500,000 home.   A steam room component alone should add $10,000 to the value of a $400,000 house and $15,000 to the value of a $1,500,000 home.

2)  A home steam room makes you happier —  Being able to hop into a steam room is a simple pleasure that you will enjoy every day of your life.  And you can find surveys that show that the the Swedes and the Finns are some of the happiest folks on earth.  They know the value of steam baths.

3)  Look better — There are some scientific studies showing the benefits of steam that indicate that it’s good for your skin.  One is stress reduction, because stress is proven to cause breakouts.  Another is cleaning out your pores.  Another study, conducted in Italy, indicated that individuals who steam reduced the # of visibly clogged pores by 40% after just 7 steaming sessions in a two week period.

4)  Impress your friends — I’m not sure how much of a benefit this really is, but it’s a fact:  your friends will be impressed (and a bit jealous) when they see that you have a steam room in your house.
So you can make your house better, improve your quality of life, and make money at the same time.

5)  Health benefits - As noted in and earlier post here, studies indicated that steam is very helpful in fighting off colds and reducing symptoms. 

6)  Relief for sore muscles - Of this we have no doubt.  Every coach or physical therapist will recommend heat for some injuries or sore muscle situations.  And if you've ever tried steam as a way to speed up the recovery time after heavy use of your muscles, you already knew this.

7)  Sell your house faster - There are a few things that just make a house super appealing.  A built in outdoor bbq for the husband, an amazing modern kitchen for the wife.  A steam bath, especially a steam bath in a beautiful master bath, could tip the scales on your home time after time.

8)  And best of all, add Eucalyptus Oil for Aromatherapy - You can dramatically increase all of the above benefits, plus add even more by adding some pure eucalyptus oil to the steam in your home steam bath.
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Lessons Learned From TV House Flippers

New HGTV Show “Flip or Flop” Premiered This Week 

First off, the show “Flip or Flop” opens up with scenes from coastal Orange County, Calif. so already viewers feel like they’re going to be privy to a soap opera. Enter a beautiful young couple dabbling in the business of buying and renovating houses for a profit, a practice known as “flipping.” It’s the perfect setting with likeable characters and lots of house flippin’ drama!

But the show can also be a great learning experience for those considering a home renovation or buying a home they plan to renovate for their own use.

Condensed into a 30-minute show, each home renovation goes through the typical highs and lows. The debut show opened with the couple teaming up to check out the house they want to buy at a government auction and heading to the auction without a minute to spare - and without seeing the indoors or backyard of the home they want to buy. After winning the auction during competitive bidding, the new owners make their first thorough inspection and discover the home is trashed, has illegal additions and features a pool that’s become a musty swamp for tadpoles. Their initial estimate of a $25,000 renovation soon turns into more than $70,000, threatening to wipe out any profit.

“This is a nightmare!” the new owner exclaims at one point in frustration. “This house is a disaster.”

Lessons learned:

1. Don’t buy a nightmare house! You should seriously consider how much money, time and energy you want to invest in a house loaded with problems. Remember that a reputable contractor can help you determine the cost and scope of a total renovation. They can walk you through existing and potential problems and tell you how they would tackle these.

2. Do consider buying a lower priced property that needs a renovation but could become the perfect home for you with the right fixes. Sometimes, it is better to buy a home that needs a renovation rather than buying a higher-priced home that does not need a renovation, but doesn’t fit your likes or needs.

3. Carefully consider your renovation and design choices and make sure you know what you want before it’s too late to make changes. You could get stuck with something you hate. In a second episode of “Flip or Flop,” the couple chooses a new paint color for the exterior of the home based on a few brushstrokes of paint samples that they paint themselves. After the whole house is professionally painted, the couple then stands in front of the house, looking agape at the unappealing muddy brown they chose. They had thought it would be lighter. They end up spending an additional $2,000 to have the house professionally painted a different, lighter color.

4. Admit that there are areas where you are clueless and need the advice of a professional. The “Flip or Flop” couple hired a home designer who helped them envision how structural changes could modernize a home.

5. Take a chance on a home that may be less than perfect. The “Flip or Flop” couple ended up in the black (we won’t say by how much) in both of the first episodes, but the renovation process for both houses was quite patchy at times. Best of all, both homes found buyers who were thrilled with their newly renovated home.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Avoid Going From Inspiration to Perspiration

Organize Your Home Renovation Plan and Avoid Stress

The best way to avoid sweating throughout the process of a home renovation project is to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Sure, there is no way to avoid the worry that is likely to accompany a home renovation project considering how much time, effort and money you’ll be spending, but there are ways to minimize the stress along the way.

We highly recommend that you organize all your ideas from the outset so that you can make sure the final outcome is in line with your initial wish list. First off, you should get yourself organized, preferably beginning when you first begin to plan for a home renovation project. One of the best ways to do so is to gather all your inspiration in one place.

Here’s some ideas on the best way to do that:

A three-ring binder with pockets and dividers. A little obvious perhaps, but a a three-ring binder offers portability and ease of use that makes it an invaluable tool for you when you embark upon a home renovation project. As the project progresses, you can expand (or delete extraneous material from) the binder by adding as many pages as necessary, while keeping organized with dividers and using the pockets to store estimate write-ups, receipts, product swatches, etc.

A simple bulletin board. Yes, we're talking about the kind that hangs on your wall. Perhaps you’re a visual person, someone who works better with visuals constantly at the ready for inspiration. You could just tack up inspirational images from magazines or photographs you’ve taken yourself. Many people love to visit model homes in new construction tracts to gather ideas on the latest materials and styles that they can later discuss with their contractor.

A digital scrapbook/bulletin board, such as Pinterest, Tumblr or Instagram. Pinterest has really taken off in the last year or so, becoming a place for endless inspiration. Try to find Pinterest users who really to take the time to curate their boards well. As you may know, we’re on Pinterest  and continually expanding our boards there with inspiring photos so make sure you follow us there.

A combination of the above three. There is no harm in collecting images that are hard copies in conjunction with digital images that are so readily available nowadays. The trick is not to let so many images and ideas overwhelm you to the point that you can’t make a decision on what you like. Eventually, you will want to curate your own finds and possibly take your files and inspiration boards one step further by creating a mood board, which many designers use nowadays to guide their projects. But the truth is that adding more images to your inspiration files will eventually help you form a picture of what you want the completed project to look like.

As you organize your images and ideas, it’s a good idea to really pay attention to how you envision the renovation project working for you on a daily basis. For example, maybe your inspiration binder has a kitchen with open shelves to store plates and everyday essentials that are beautifully arranged in the photograph, but you realize later that you don’t want to always worry about having those shelves perfectly styled since everyone can see them. In that case you, you may want to start a list of “wants” and “don’t wants” for your project, as in “Do not want open shelves.” This will become a list that you will likely consult again and again as your home renovation advances.

Another thing to keep in mind is that unexpected complications during a renovation can sometimes hamper your budget, meaning you end up crossing off something else on your “want” list.

This may all sound common sense to you, but a well-organized list and inspiration files will ensure that your project is completed and works for you and your family just as you envisioned it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eucalyptus Oil in Your Shower Could Help Your Cold

English: Eucalyptus polybractea, Blue-leaf Mal...
English: Eucalyptus polybractea, Blue-leaf Mallee, leaf and capsules, West Wyalong, New South Wales, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NYU Reports Multiple Scientific Studies Show Benefits of Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus Oil is getting more and more interest from the medical community.  While eucalyptus and other essential oils, such as mentha arvensis (menthol), have long been used to help with symptoms of colds, now scientists are studying a particular blend of products called Monoterpenes.  Monoterpenes combine cineol from eucalyptus, d-limonene from citrus fruit, and alpha-pinene from pine. 

Therapeutic Uses of Essential Oil Monoterpenes  

Most, though not all, studies indicate that oral use of essential oil monoterpenes can help acute bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, and sinus infections. 2-7
For example, a double-blind , placebo-controlled trial of 676 people with acute bronchitis found that 2 weeks treatment with essential oil monoterpenes was more effective than placebo and equally effective as antibiotic treatment for reducing symptoms and aiding recovery. 5
Also, a 3-month, double-blind , placebo-controlled trial of 246 people with chronic bronchitis found that regular use of essential oil monoterpenes helped prevent the typical worsening of chronic bronchitis that occurs during the winter. 4
Additionally, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of about 300 people, use of essential oil monoterpenes improved symptoms of acute sinusitis . 2
One study weakly indicates that essential oil monoterpenes may be helpful for colds in children. 1
Essential oil monoterpenes are thought to work by thinning mucus.

The NYU story above is just one of many that are showing the amazing benefits of eucalyptus.  While these studies deal with a specific combination of products, other studies have shown eucalyptus oil itself to be effective in helping with respiratory issues.

1 Benefits were seen in such symptoms as nasal congestion, headache, and overall malaise. Because the participants in this study suffered, in particular, from sinus symptoms, this study has been used to indicate that cineol may be helpful for viral sinusitis . Few significant side effects were seen in this study, but the product used was of pharmaceutical grade,... (emphasis added)
Note here that the NYU article above specifically points to pharmaceutical grade eucalyptus oil.  Now it is possible for owners of managers of commercial steam rooms to add pharmaceutical grade eucalyptus oil directly into the steam through the use of the Mystifier Automatic Injection System offered by Eurospa Aromatics.  For as little as $750 and a few dollars per day, spa and gym owners can add the deliciously fragrant aroma of eucalyptus to their steam rooms, and simultaneously provide their guest with multiple, scientifically proven, health benefits. 

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NYU Reports several studies showing benefits of Eucalyptus Oil for Common Cold - Now EO available for home shower use

Now you can get these benefits at home in your regular shower.  Eurospa Aromatics is now offering a 16 ounce spray bottle of pharmaceutical grade eucalyptus oil for use in home steam baths or in your regular shower.  Create the same mood in your master bath as you can achieve in the most exclusive spa on the Riviera. 

If you would like to build a steam room in your home, we can help.  Check out this post on how you can have the benefits of steam in your home for as little as $1000.
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Add A Steam Bath to Your Master Bath Remodel

For $1000 - $5000 You Can Get the Pleasure and Health Benefit of a Steam Room in Your Home
Here is an example of an inexpensive ready-to-go steam room

I'm a steam bath kind of guy.  Maybe your a sauna lover.  It isn't that I don't like a sauna.  I just like the cooler, wetter, effect of steam.  For today, I'm talking about how cheap and easy it is to add a steam room to your home, whether or not you are doing a complete remodel of your bathroom.  On another day, we'll look at the sauna or even a combination.

Years ago I added a couple of rooms to my house.  One was a family room.  The other a combination double tub with concentrated jets, twin shower heads, and a dry or wet rock pile for sauna or steam.  This was all enclose in a tiled 10 X 10 room.  It was great to look at, and a lot of fun to use.  The cost of all that was a lot less than you might think.

But, today I have different house.  The master bath has a full sized tub, glass sliding doors, and is quite separate from the rest of the room.  With no difficulty at all, I can add to the top of the glass slider enclosure and create a decent seal.  Or I could take out the sliders and replace with a unit that would completely seal that side.  The other three sides are all tile.  For under $1000, I can buy a steam generator, and Voila, I have a steam room.

Alternatively, I could take out the tub (there are other tubs in the house), and buy an enclosed unit that is all prefab and ready to install.  And those start at around $1400 and go up and up and up. For $2500 you can buy a very nice one.  Depending on the spot you want to place the unit, you may have some plumbing expense and then you have some minor construction costs

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Adding a Steam Room to Your Home Will Bring Years of Enjoyment and Enhanced Physical and Emotional Health

Maybe you are aware of the huge benefits to your skin, olfactory system, and mood that have now been proven to come from a steam bath.  But if you add eucalyptus oil to your steam bath, now you have multiplied the proven health benefits.   The combination of steam and eucalyptus oil has been used for centuries to promote health and well being.  Besides the experience would be worth the cost even if there weren't all the side benefits. 

If you would like to discuss the possibility of adding a steam room to your home, give us a call and we can come over and take a look at your ideas and plans. 
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pinterest Is An Amazing Home, Kitchen, or bath Remodeling Resource

Remodeling Is More Fun than Ever With Pinterest

Yep, we have a Pinterest site and we hope you'll go check it out, follow us, and repin some of our content there.  We are going to turn our Pinterest site into the best place online to view potential ways to build a new home or redo the one you have. 

As much fun as it is to window shop on Pinterest, when you get ready to break ground, break walls, or you about to break your nasty old cabinets and get something pretty and new, give us a call.  We will come out to your home and look over all your ideas on your Pinterest boards and help you decide which ones you want to get done.  Looking forward to your call at 214-533-0716

Monday, April 8, 2013

7 Pot Drawer Ideas to Include in Your Kitchen Remodel

Pots, Pans, and Other Cookware Take Up the Most Space in Your Cabinets.  Put Them in Drawers for the Greatest Convenience.


Pot drawers - simple straightforward - no gimmicks

Like so many things in the 21st Century, our abundant wealth can turn into just another headache.  50 years ago, you might have owned one frying pan, three sizes of pots, and a griddle.  Somehow we survived.  Today, you might have two sets of cookware, one with and one without a coated surface.  Then there's the electric skillet, the crock pot, and the sandwich maker.  This is just the beginning.

Next we have the baking tools and the glass casseroles.  "Nuff said.  We have stuff, and the kitchen is commonly loaded with tools we seldom, if ever use.  But since we "might need it someday," we are faced with how to store our largess.  The key things to think about with cookery is the size and weight of the pieces, plus keeping lids associated with their specific pot or pan.  (In some later post we can talk more about lids as it relates to plastic containers.  Yikes!)

Pot shelf slider behind cabinet doors.  Can go anywhere.
Many cooks love to display their cooking gear on hooks over the center island.  The good news is that in order to do this, you will end up being especially mindful to scrub ever pot and pan to a shining perfection, so they look nice as the centerpiece of the room.  The bad news is that you will have to scrub and spit shine every . . .  Of course, it also isn't easy to get these guys down from their hooks, and the more diminutive among us might even need a ladder. 

Pot drawer with lids separate. 

With size and weight being the issue, you will generally want to think large storage area, and counter height or lower.  I'm a big fan of lazy susans, pull out shelves and pot drawers.  Good pot drawers are very convenient and hold huge amounts of cooking items.

Use dividers if your crew will be able to figure them out.

The Seven Ideas

  1. Start with the end in mind.  Take out all your existing pots, pans, and other heavy and space consuming cookery.  Think.  Do you plan to add to this?  What would you add?  Now, what kind of space would this consume?  Two drawers?  Three?
  2. Are you a neat freak or a messy?  What about those who wash and put away pots and pans in your home?  If teenage boys, we know the answer.  This will potentially help determine if you want more of a filing system than just open space.  For teen boys and some adult men, you may want to have a location chart created to show where things go.
  3. With all drawers in your new kitchen, but especially pot drawers, don't skimp on the hardware.  You can buy hardware today that will handle very heavy drawers for 30 years or longer of daily use.
  4. Lids on or lids separate?  If separate, will they be easy to match with their mate, or will this be another plastic container fiasco?  If lids are to go on the pots, will this take up way too much room?
  5. Consider three pot drawers of different sizes.  One very deep for the large pans.  A second drawer that would be the right depth for smaller pots, casseroles, and frying pans.  Then a third drawer that might be set up as a filing drawer for all the lids.  
  6. It there is no where for these pot drawers to go do to space on the walls, consider a stand alone unit with wheels.  
  7. For almost unlimited ideas on pot drawers visit
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Choosing A Countertop Is the Hardest Decision in a Kitchen Remodel

Beauty and Durability Come at a Cost - But Don't Skimp on the Countertop

Whether you are doing a minor remodel or a total renovation of your kitchen, and whether it is an apartment sized room or includes a center work station and a wet bar, your number one cost in your new kitchen may be your countertop.  Moreover countertops and cabinets are the two aspects of the finished job that can cost you the most grief if not done to your standards.

When choosing a countertop, you will faced with an array of choices.  As you weigh out the various options, these features seem to be the ones that most homeowners consider most critical:
  • Looks - Certainly an issue of personal taste.  As in all things, beauty has a price.
  • Daily maintenance - How easy to clean?  How easy to make sparkle like new?  Two different things
  • Long term maintenance - Are there costs in time and treasure to keep the countertop new looking?
  • Chip resistant - Is the material easily damaged if something is dropped on it?
  • Cut resistant - Is the material subject to being cut if a good knife is used without a cutting board?
  • Stain resistant - What happens if something is spilled on the countertop?  
  • Acid/caustic material resistant - Will lemons, coffee, alcohol or cleaning materials hurt the surface?
  • Heat resistant - What happens if I put a hot frying pan on the surface by mistake
  • Cost - The range of costs for countertops is huge.  What am I getting for the money?
  • Resale value - If you should sell the house, will the countertop be a standout feature?

The Choices For Your Countertop Include the Following 

Available in a large variety of colors and styles, won't chip or dent, is resistant to heat, and has a nice smooth surface.
It is possible to scratch or etch the surface with the some acids, including coffee, alcohol, harsh cleaning products or even citrus fruits.  You can protect Marble by sealing it, but this may not stop the etching in every case.  You will need to seal the surface once or twice per year for optimum lasting beauty and to protect the surface.   $100-400/foot.
Pros: More durable than marble, won't scratch, resistant to stains, heat and water if sealed, low-maintenance, high resale value, lots of color options. About the same cost as Marble.  Excellent resale value. 
 Lava Stone
Pros: Many color options, non-porous, highly resistant to heat, cold, stains and scratching, highly durable, low-maintenance.  At least $225/foot.

Solid Surface (Corian, etc.)
Durable, smooth surface, can seamlessly integrate sink and backsplash, easy to sand away stains or scratches, lots of color and pattern options, can imitate other materials like concrete and marble.
Easily damaged by heat.  Susceptible to scratches and dents.  Stains. $45-150/foot.

Stainless Steel
Durable.  You can't stain or harm this surface with acids, stains or heat.  Easy to clean and maintain, but can look dull unless cleaned with a cleanser like Barkeep.
It is possible to nick or scratch Stainless.  $100-300/foot.

 Wood/Butcher Block
Good for chopping/prep surface and gives a great working kitchen feel.
This type of surface is easily damaged by scratches and dents, and can be stained.  Many believe that bacteria can reside in small scratches, so requires a food-safe protective sealer.   High maintenance.  Sink spray and or direct sunlight may result in some fading. $40-150/foot

Ceramic Tile
Pros: Durable, easy to install and clean, heat and moisture-resistant.
Cons: Uneven surface, tiles can get scratched, cracked or chipped, grout can stain. $2-150/foot.

Engineered Stone (90% Quartz)

This nonporous surface is excellent at         resisting abuse such as scratches or stains.  You never need to seal this product and it is easy to maintain.  The look is almost identical to natural stone but by mixing various pigments you can create completely custom looks.  It is not heatproof.$50 - $150/foot

This smooth surface is tough as they come and resists scratches and heat.  The potential palette is large and you can choose among  various surfaces. 
You must seal the surface as it is porous.  You will also want to wax.  Since you will need to custom cast to fit, you have flexibility in shaping.  Around $80-150/foot.
Resistant to etching from acids, but can be stained.  Scratches can be removed by sanding or sanded or oiling.
Needs regular maintenance.  Subject to cracks and chips that may not be able to be repaired by sanding or oiling.  The color may darken over time.  $75-150/foot.
Glass is obviously non-porous and very heat-resistant.  No worries about cuts.  It is very
hard to keep 100% free of haze, fingerprints, and water spots.  Cracks, chips, or breaks cannot be fixed.

An inexpensive option that provides plenty of color choices.  Very low maintenance, but subject to cracking, scratches and heat damage. 
$15-60/foot plus installation.

Paper-based Composite
Manufactured from recycled paper, so considered a green solution.  Even the resins are green.   Considered very durable.   Can scratch and stain, heat and stain resistant, but not stain and heat proof, These surfaces will darken over time.  Porous, so requires sealant.  Not readily available.  Need;postID=4345442332633159962to special order in most cases.
Bamboo & Paper Composite
Green, foodsafe, highly durable, hyperallergenic.  Looks like wood.  Bamboo won't discolor over time, is scratch- and stain-proof, water-resistant, and offers more light colors than Paper.  This surface does requires regular maintenance. $30+/foot.

If you found this post helpful, please give us a Like or a +1.  You might also like to check around the rest of the blog for similar articles that might help you with your renovation or remodel.  For instance this post is hugely popular:

21 Exciting Room Addition Ideas That Will Make Your Family Happy

As you may have noted, we are general contractors working in the Dallas metro area.  Please call us if you have any questions or would like a quote on a project.  You can also check our website at

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ask These Ten Questions of Your Contractor Before You Sign the Contract

How Stuff Works Has Advice on How to Make This Big Financial Decision

If you are looking for a contractor to remodel your Dallas home, you may appreciate the following list.  We at Unique Properties have been building in Dallas since 1986, and we have seen a lot of sad situations.  Some of these occurred because of unscrupulous builders, but not always.  There are many things that can go wrong on any remodeling job.  And the size of the job isn't the most important issue.  A bathroom remodel can end up as a painful memory as easily as a tear down and start over.  

You can be informed and ask the right questions in order to avoid home improvement scams and low-quality work. You contractor should be someone who will answer your questions readily, and can demonstrate their commitment to ethical business, attention to detail, and customer satisfaction.

How Stuff Works recommends these ten sensible questions you should ask anyone who may be building or remodeling your home.  We are providing you a digest version of their report, but by all means go to the full report if you want more detail.

10: What's your business history?

When you're first getting into the process of hiring a contractor, you'll want to dig deep to get an idea of his or her business history. This means requesting -- and duly verifying -- proof that he or she is currently state licensed in your area.
Other items to check up on include paying employees legally and carrying workers' compensation, property damage and liability insurance.  Find out if the contractor has ever declared bankruptcy or if anyone's ever taken legal action against him or her. Get the specifics too, like how long he or she has been in business and under what names.
It's important to confirm whether the contractor has any recent, relevant experience, so get a list of references who have had projects similar in scope to yours and follow up with them.

9: Who will be at the site and how will it be supervised?


It's important to ascertain during the course of the interview how the contractor plans on handling site supervision and subcontractors. 
Does the contractor have a work crew or does he intend to use  subcontractors? You can protect yourself by asking the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers for lien releases or waivers upon each payment.
Further key questions center on work-site presence.  Does the contractor plan on doing any of the actual labor, or is he or she mainly performing in a supervisory role? How often will the contractor be on-site, and who'll be supervising during times when he or she isn't there? A trustworthy and accountable presence should be on hand at all times.

8: Can you give me a timeline?


Before you hire a contractor, you should ask if he or she can provide you with a fixed start date and a completion date -- including any cleanup duties. These dates should be included in the formal written agreement.
Determine the best way to stay in contact with the contractor so you can communicate any questions or concerns to him or her.  Without proper communication -- and documentation -- your project might go from being a dream come true to a disaster.

7: What guarantees can you give me?


Warranties are­ a smart way to make sure you'll leave the table happy.  Hold off signing a contract until it includes everything you want -- and that you understand all the terms and conditions.
Make sure the contractor guarantees he or she will complete all the necessary permits and approvals during the process.

6: What's the bottom line?


 Estimates that fall in the shallow end of the pool can be a red flag for a hasty job that won't leave you with a quality finished product. If an estimate seems a good deal pricier than others, that could mean the other contractors were missing some core obstacle involved in completing the project and therefore didn't set a high enough estimate for a proper job.

ed.  Make sure that you are clear on change orders.  Even the best contractor may fail to provide all the options on every single aspect of the job.  Be sure to ask for clarity regarding how change orders will be handled. 

We just posted this cool article on some great technologies that you might like to incorporate into your remodel.  Click here.

5: What's your work routine like?


Having an understanding and expectation of a contractor's routine is vital to your own happiness. What time do they start working? Do they work until the project is finished, or will they be working on multiple projects at a time? It's also a good idea to inquire about what they do with leftover or waste materials. Will there be piles of timber in your backyard until April?

It's not unreasonable to ask the contractor beforehand if you have a schedule you'd like them to keep, and let them know that you'll be expecting regular progress reports. Once you have that schedule, take advice from the next page and get it in writing.

4: Can I get that in writing?


In the contract, have the details of the project carefully spelled out. What dates will they start? How long will it take? What permits are required to be pulled? And what, exactly, are you looking for in the project?
Be sure to include a broom clause in the contract, which legally requires them to do so.
It doesn't hurt to put a liability release in writing and to make careful note of the materials that will be used, which will also allow you to see where your budget is being spent.

3: What do I have to put down?


Down payments are a tricky thing when it comes to renovation and home improvements. Sure, it's certainly a sign of good faith for you to anchor your contractor with a bit of cash. But you also don't want to foolishly place your money in the hands of someone who you can't contact if, say, they never show up.
Don't let your payments get well ahead of the work.  However, many high quality contractors do expect materials to be paid for in advance of order. 

2: So, who do I write this check to?


If the contractor has a business license yet they're still asking for an individual check, it probably means that the contractor will not be reporting that income for taxes.  If they don't have a business license, you've now opened a whole can of worms. Not only are they unlicensed, but you're essentially putting yourself at liability for any badly done work (or worse, any injuries sustained by the workers). In addition, you should never pay cash, which is impossible to track and is often requested by questionable contractors. Checks, loan financing and credit cards are typically much safer options.

1: Don't Just Stop at the Contractor


While it's important to ask the contractor about any permits needed, don't think that due diligence after that isn't required. Many cities and counties have online resources that will let the homeowner know what is required from renovation or construction projects. Use those materials to double check your contractor, or call the permit center and inquire about any necessary codes to follow.

Another important reason to double check permits with the city or county is that your homeowner's insurance isn't a fan of unpermitted work; if something does go wrong, the chances that they'll cover your claim if the correct permits haven't been pulled is very slim.

Bonus:  How to Spot Shifty Contractors

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have some handy tips for spotting a disreputable contractor [source: BBB Blog].
  • solicits business by going door to door
  • prefers that you pay in cash
  • uses high-pressure sales tactics to convince you to make a quick decision
  • requests that you pay for the entire job upfront
  • has the "perfect" lender for you (which often leads to home improvement loan scams)

Our company, Unique Properties, has a demonstrated history of completing quality work on time, on budget, and according to plan. Not only that but we pride ourselves on having good communication and positive relationships with our customers. Your contractor should be someone who is courteous and pleasant, as well as trustworthy.   Call us today, and be sure to ask us the 10 questions on this page.  214-533-0716

Monday, April 1, 2013

Avoid These Three Top Remodeling Mistakes and Save Heartache

A One Minute Guide To Remodeling That Could Save you Thousands of Dollars

How many times have you built a house?  How many times have you added on a room or completely remodeled a kitchen or bathroom?  Maybe never before.  Maybe once.  Now you are going to spend $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 or more on a project for which you have little or no experience.  

And the project you are doing is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.  You are dealing with skill sets that professionals in the building industry may have spent years in school to develop and even more years in apprenticeship positions.  Almost any remodeling project will include:
  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Material selection
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Lighting
  • Flooring
  • Windows and treatments
  • Cabinetry 

 Most Homeowners That Are Unhappy with Their Remodel Have Made One of These Three Mistakes

  1. Mistake in the design: Did I tell you the one about my friend who built a 5000 square foot home with no maids quarters.  Or how about the one . . . Make sure that you have checked out the work of your contractor and asked for references.  If the project is very complicated, you should bring in a qualified architect with experience in your kind of build.
  2. Unscrupulous contractor: Unfortunately there are unlicensed contractors who may not provide the services they advertise, and may be scamming customers. We have heard too many horror stories of losses and damages due to substandard work or straight up money scams.  Even those who don't intentionally cost you money, may do so by lack of training or experience as a builder or a business person.  Check to see if your contractor is listed with the Dallas BBB.  Check out online reviews.  Find out through the state if his license and insurance is current.  See our article on how to choose a contractor.
  3. Budget Blowout: The old saw of remodeling is that it will take you twice as long as you planned and cost your twice as much as you budgeted.  This doesn't have to be true.  An experienced contractor should bring your project in on time and within budget.  You want to be able to trust that your contractor can give you an accurate estimate of the cost of your project, and deliver it at that cost.

Get the Peace of Mind You Deserve by Hiring a BBB Rated Licensed Contractor

If you've purchased a lot, and are ready to start building your beautiful new Dallas custom home, or if you are ready to start a kitchen, bath or room addition, it is time for you to select a contractor who has a reputation for great building and remodeling in Dallas. The importance of choosing the right contractor can not be overstated.

You might enjoy this fun post:  21 Room Additions That Will Make Your Family Happy