What is the Real Difference Between Remodeling and Renovating?

If you’re planning a major overhaul of your home, you may be unsure about what to call it. Is it a renovation? Is it a remodel? Aren’t they the same? Though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually are two separate things, depending on how deep into your house’s structure your changes go. A remodel means you’re changing the actual structure of your home, while a renovation is making surface changes while keeping basic structure intact. While it’s possible to overlap these a bit, these two general definitions should cover the bases nicely.

Now, if you’re not the DIY type, or even if you are but just need to hire another set of hands, you can get a general handyman to help you with most renovation projects. However, unless you’re really experienced and confident in your skills, we wouldn’t recommend trying to complete a remodel yourself. Once you start tearing down walls or cutting windows, you can easily make a mistake that will cost you thousands of dollars to fix. Best to hire a small company or team of professionals to handle it for you.

These differences in labor and depth of work should give you some concept of cost disparity between renovations and remodels. Renovations can often be completed on a budget, while remodels are going to cost you a little more money. This is especially true if you are adding something to your home that will require a permit, which is sometimes an unexpected extra $1,000. Also, if you got an estimate from your contractor, make sure you have some extra set aside, not only for if you go over budget, but also for extras like appliances, flooring, paint – all kinds of little things that contractors may not have factored into their price. So if you don’t have the big bucks, a renovation may be more your speed. However, if you have the cash, a remodel can really transform your home in a significant way.

Why No Staircase is Complete Without a Banister

When modern architecture came in fashion, a lot of decorative elements of homes fell by the wayside. One of these was banisters, which at their base-level are handrails for your stairs. They’re finally experiencing a comeback, which we we are so excited about because while they may seem simple, this diverse little bit of built-in furniture can really add style and flair to almost any home-type.

From curved to blocky, wood to wires, a banister can change your staircase from a utilitarian element to a thing of beauty. Updating your banister can be costly, however, depending on the materials you want to use. If you’re going for a classic wood look, it should only run you between $700-$2,500. While wood banisters look beautiful and even regal, you can instantly make a staircase a more modern piece by using metal, wires, or even hanging your banister from the ceiling!

However, if you do decide to update or install a banister, make sure that it’s done to code. The requirements vary depending on where you live, but they typically have to be between 30-38 inches, the hand grips have to be consistent so people who need to grasp them can do so continuously up the stairs, and they’ll also have to support a certain amount of weight (usually around 200lbs). There’s also certain requirements for how far apart the bulstrodes have to placed. That being said, if you can navigate all the red tape, banisters have the potential to completely transform the look of your home and the impression it gives to visitors.

12 Ways to Save Money When Shopping For New Home Appliances

Buying new appliances for your home can get really expensive really quickly. You need a new fridge, and the one you like is stainless steel! But the oven is white… Well, your oven is getting old anyways, why not replace that too? But then the dishwasher is acting funny… Suddenly you’ve decided you need a whole new kitchen and panic sets it. Before you decide to hyperventilate, check out these ten tips to get appliance costs down so you can get all the new items you want, at a fraction of the cost!

  1. Do your homework. If you’re just skimming websites for prices, you may only encounter the manufacturer’s minimum price, meaning the retail company can’t advertise the appliance for less. But if you click on the item or go into a store, you may find they’re actually selling it for less money.
  2. Time your purchase right, if you can. Buy towards the end of the year or the beginning of the next, when new models are coming out and last year’s are discounted.
  3. Build your online shopping cart… and then let it sit for a week. Some retailers will email you a coupon to get you to buy. 
  4. Puzzle out the price tag. Some companies use symbols by their tags to indicate things like whether the price can and will go down soon.
  5. Snoop around the price tags – often there’s a tag behind the one on display that shows how the price will change.
  6. Chat with your repairmen. Often they know where to get good deals in the neighborhood!
  7. Combine discounts! This one is becoming more common since we’ve become more aware of “extreme couponing”, but it’s worth noting because it can save you a bundle. 

  8. Don’t be afraid to haggle. It may seem weird in a modern appliance store, but it can save you as much as $200!
  9. Sell your old appliance for scrap! Even if it doesn’t work, you can sell it on craigslist or to a used appliance store willing to fix it up.
  10. Send in your rebate. A lot of us simply forget to do this, but though it takes a while to get back to you, that extra cash makes it so worthwhile.

The Last Original Frank Lloyd Wright Homeowners Tell Their Story

What would be Frank Llyod Wright’s 150th anniversary will be this year, and in celebration of the prolific and iconic architect’s work, we’re taking a look at people who commissioned Wright to design their homes – and then have stayed in them until this day. Wright often developed designs for patrons after having extensive conversations with them, which is why talking to these people who spoke to the master is integral to understanding his work.

For example, Roland Reisley, 92, thinks he might in some small way be able to credit Wright’s design with his longevity. “Living with a source of beauty in a comforting, enriching environment is psychologically beneficial. There’s not a day of my life when I don’t see something beautiful: the sun on a particular stone; the way the wood is mitered.” Helen and Paul Olfelt recall being concerned that Wright had put doors to the outside in their children’s’ rooms. “He gave us quite a lecture on why we shouldn’t be so controlling of children,” Helen recalls, but in the end he changed them to large windows.

Bob Walton said he was initially skeptical of Wright, but that he was impressed by how much he wanted to take the environment and landscape into account before building the Walton’s a home. “He wanted an aerial photograph, he wanted to know the flora and fauna. And he wanted to know how we were going to live.” Wright loved trying new materials to accomplish his practical-but-beautiful visions, and in a life spanning from the civil war to post-WWII, he saw a lot of new innovations. Often these came at a steep price tag; Wright was perpetually over-budget. He also could get tyrannical about his vision, but not at the expense of his client’s needs. Reisley notes, “If you said, ‘I’d like this here instead of there’ ”—questioning Wright’s judgment—“that’s what led to all the sparks. But if you described a need, he’d try to satisfy that.” His patrons loved him, and they love the houses that some of them still live in because of the character they possess and functionality they still exude, as much as 70 years after the architect’s death. After all these years, these houses are still inexcusably Wright.

Is Buying Land a Good Investment?

Most people have hopes of owning a house one day, but only a smaller group want to own land, undeveloped, untreated land. There’s something mystical about owning your own land – it makes us feel like pioneers using string and pegs to mark out our domain. But is it a worthwhile investment in modern times? True, it’s a finite resource, so theoretically it can only increase in value. But can you, in your lifetime, make a profit off of buying a piece of undeveloped land?

The answer is that worst of all possibilities: maybe. More specifically, the answer depends on what you plan for your land, and how proactive you want to be with regards to it. If you plan on selling it to a big developer down the road for lots of money, check out how it’s zoned before you buy, because that can kill commercial dreams right there. Sure, you can try to get your land re-zoned, but that puts you at the mercy of city politicians, and that of course could go several ways.

If you want to keep your land open (i.e. not building something yourself, like a home), keep in mind that you’ll continually have to pay taxes on it, meaning that land that doesn’t actively make you money will slowly drain you of it. And if you do want to build your dream home on it, make sure you consult a developer first. What may look like a beautiful plot of land to you can be an architectural nightmare to the well trained eye, and you don’t want to end up with a useless plot of land that you can’t build on. Land can be a wonderful investment, if you’re smart about it. However, if you’re a novice, make sure you consult experts before you sign on the dotted line.