Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tiny House Living

Recently I've come across sites promoting smaller living spaces. It seems to be a popular trend these days and then my sister in law suggested I write a blog about it to share the information with those who may not be informed about small living spaces.

Small living spaces are a trend with those committed to sustainable living and focusing on off the grid living as well. Empty nester's are interested in downsizing and debt free living. For those of us growing up in the 80's and 90's and even into early 2000, we were use to everything being big. Big hair, big cars and big houses. For many reasons people began to downsize and there are a lot of benefits to a more simplistic lifestyle.

Small living spaces have a positive effect ecologically. The estimated size to a small living space is approximately 500 square feet. With less heating and cooling that small spaces require many people choose solar energy. Small living space cost less to build and use less building materials which is another bonus to our ecology.

With the high cost of living and for those who are tired of paying too much for rent.  These tiny homes would solve those problems.  The cost to build a small home can be built for less than what a new car cost.  Investing in a small home can create a debt free lifestyle for those trying to make ends meet. 

As I mentioned before empty nester's are looking to downsize and simplify their lives. Others are purchasing movable small living spaces.  These tiny houses on wheels are replacing motor homes and travel trailers. The homes are typically 8' x 20' and have a living space of 120 feet for easy towing and to exempt it from building permits. Some people are choosing small living spaces as a second home for vacations.

As I have browsed information pertaining to small living spaces I would have to say that the multi-purpose features and furniture are a highlight to me. The space saving concept and vertical optimization appeal to my practical mind. If you have the chance, look into small living spaces. If you choose to pursue building a small living space, give CH Construction a call to help you fulfill your tiny living lifestyle.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Home Decor Trends 2014

I’ve had a taste of spring weather and now my creative ideas are flowing. I want to get outside and plant and BBQ. Since the weather has decided to cool down I decided maybe it’s time to add some new color and redecorate. It won’t be long before I’m outside and the thought of staying inside is non-existent.

After doing some research I’ve discovered the new trend in colors for home interiors is grays and blues. Another favorite is bold colors of purple and green. The rich color of the purple would look wonderful in a living room. One thing I do know is whatever color you decide to choose, it will most likely be there for the next 5 years. Therefore, choose a color that you can grow with for the next few years. If you choose a neutral color for your walls you can accent the bold colors in your furniture and wall hangings. Suede and Corduroy are the textures of this season combined with bold patterns that don’t necessarily match.

Are looking to change the style of your room and don't want to take on the task of painting? Consider changing the accent pieces in your room. The trends for 2014 are an eclectic style. You can color outside the box with your style. No longer having to choose between traditional or contemporary. While spring-cleaning, don’t throw out mementos. Choose photos, artwork and personal objects to add personal touches to your space. Combining theses items on your wall to create a personal statement.

If you are going to be choosing new furniture choose light toned wood. These lighter woods combined with the design styles and will bring a light feeling to your home interior. Finally, sheers are making a comeback to window coverings. The overall looks to rooms are bright and cheery. After doing all my research I’ve decided I really like the trends for this year and hope you enjoy them as well.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Build a Backyard Chicken Coop

When our family was living in the suburbs of Kansas City I had never tasted fresh farm eggs. We moved to the country and started raising chickens and I really appreciate having farm fresh eggs. Because of the laws in some of the cities in the Kansas City area, people in the suburbs are not allowed to raise chickens. Thankfully there are those who are willing to challenge the laws and get them changed. Currently there are 4 cities in Kansas (KC area) and 7 cities in Missouri (KC area) that allow homeowners to raise their own chickens. If you are in one of these cities you could have fresh eggs of your own daily. To get started you will need a chicken coop and that is where this blog can help you.

Depending on your cities ordinance, you will need to decide on how many chickens you plan on raising. This will help you choose a chicken coop size. You will need 2 square feet of floor space per chicken (for larger breeds, like Jersey Giants add an additional foot) and one layer box (a square foot in size) for every 3 chickens.

You will be able to find plans that are free on the Internet. Once you have concluded what size of coop you will need. You will be able to find plans to build the perfect chicken coop to meet your needs. I would suggest that you find a flat area to build your chicken coop. You need a dry area to keep your chickens; you do not want the coop built in an area that will have standing water. Remember to choose a plan with good ventilation. A good fenced chicken run will help the chickens stay safe from predators (raccoons, opossums, cats or dogs). From experience I would suggest a plan that allows you to collect the eggs from the outside. Also, a door to access the chickens coop for cleaning.

There are several books available to learn how to raise backyard chickens. I would recommend checking a book out at the library before you get started. Raising chickens can be so much fun and having fresh farm eggs is wonderful bonus! If you are interested in CH Construction building you a chicken coop, give us a call for a free estimate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do You Want a 3 or 4 Season Room?

My favorite personal home remodel that my husband has done to our home is our 3-season room. This room has been utilized in so many ways. It acts as my husband’s office, my greenhouse and a place to gather to watch the spring thunderstorms. In this blog I hope to highlight how 3 and 4 season rooms can benefit your home.

 Understanding the difference in a 3 season room and a 4 season will help you decide which room will fit you and your families needs. A 4-season room has a permanent heating and cooling system. Banks and mortgage companies consider this additional living space when being appraised. If you would like a 3-season room there are options you can add later to add heat and cooling to your room so you can enjoy it all 4 seasons. We have added a wood-burning stove to our 3-season room. We also have a portable air conditioning unit for the heat of the summer. A fireplace can be added for heat and aesthetics. Typically 3 and 4 season rooms have sliding glass doors, French doors, or atrium doors. They also tend to have floor to ceiling windows to add more light and viewing. All of these add light and give the effect of being outdoors without the bugs or weather effecting your enjoyment. Flooring can vary in these season rooms depending on how the homeowner is planning on using the room. We personally went with a tile floor as I had planned on using it for plants. Some have even considered heated flooring to help in the winter months. When choosing a 3 or 4 season room think long term of how this room will grow with your family.

As mentioned above our 3-season room has many different uses. The additional living space is by far the biggest benefit to our family. My husband loves the outdoors and having an office where he can enjoy the view while working is a bonus. He shares the space with my plants giving him more of a sense of being outdoors.

If the weather keeps us from being outside, we can still enjoy the beauty from the 3-season room. I cannot explain how cozy it is to sit by the wood stove and watch the snow fall or enjoy a cup of hot tea and watch a thunderstorm from the safety of our 3-season room.

Having a luncheon with the girls with out the bugs is another benefit to a 3 or 4 season room. The beauty of this room is always a hit with the ladies. No matter the weather hot or cold you can enjoy the sunshine in this room.

In blogs of past I have mentioned ways to expand your living space. A 3 or 4 season room can help with the additional living space while adding to the value of your home. CH Construction is always available to help with any question or suggestion you might have on your home improvement projects.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Being Prepared For The Midwest Weather

People who live in the Midwest understand spring weather can come in any form; snow or ice storms, severe thunderstorms with hail, tornadoes or flooding. Some people even joke saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes it will change.” As a homeowner we should prepare our homes for these types of weather conditions. We’d like to offer some suggestions that can help you avoid possible damage to your home and property.

On these beautiful days that have us outside enjoying the warmth of the sun, take the time to complete these easy tasks. Walk around your property and evaluate potential problems. Strong winds can take up objects in your yard and these objects can damage your home. Our friend’s trampoline became an object of destruction to their home. After the storm they had roof and siding damage as well as some dents and scratches to the family truck. In the time that it took insurance adjusters to come and evaluate the damage the rains had left moisture damage and mold as additional damage. They had to move out of their home while the damage was repaired. You can avoid these possible damages by securing all play equipment to the ground. Do you have BBQ grills or furniture on your deck or patio? Consider finding a place to store them if you are aware of strong storms predicted for your area. The winds can move these items damaging siding and windows. If you do not have a place to store them you could possibly secure them to the railings of a deck.

Don’t forget to check the roof for loose shingles that can fly off in strong storms. Clean out the gutters of any debris will also help avoid gutter damage. If you have trees on your property check for loose or dead limbs. These limbs can become damaging flying objects in a storm or fall and damage a roof or siding.

Check the fencing on your property. If you have a wood privacy fence, make sure the all the boards are secure. Check your deck for loose boards and railings. Securing these items can help prevent further damage to your deck or home. Don’t forget to check your basements sump pump and make sure that it is in working order. If you do not have one you might want to consider installing a sump pump. Water damage to your basement can be costly

If a storm is approaching remember to secure or remove all items that could become projectiles: wind chimes, trashcans, bug zappers or hanging plants. Review your family’s disaster preparedness plan. If you do not have a disaster preparedness plan this is the time to consider one. CH Construction hopes that you have a wonderful spring and that these suggestions help you avoid any damage to your home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Types of Decking Material

If you are considering adding a new deck system or replacing an existing one, you will want to do a little research on different types of decking materials and fastening systems available on the market today. It wasn’t that long ago that the only choice of materials was limited types of wood.  Now composite wood, plastics and imported hardwood are also available.  With this being said, the homeowner has a larger selection of materials to research and meet their family’s needs. 

The most economical choice is pressure treated (PT) wood.  Pressure treated wood is widely available, affordable, and chemically treated to resist wear.  The PT wood resists rot, fungus and wood-boring bugs giving it a longer life than untreated wood.  Previous to 2003, PT wood was treated with chromate copper arsenate (CCA) some say a known carcinogen. Since 2003 the wood is treated with less toxic chemicals, alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) or copper azoles.  The CCA product was far superior to decay than what is available today, however.

If you are more interested in woods that have natural materials that help them prevent rot, decay and wood boring bugs, consider redwood or red cedar for your deck material.  These woods have a natural color that adds to the beauty of the material.  When considering these types of wood it is best to understand the level of heartwood in the material.  Heartwood is the wood nearest the center of the tree.  It is the most resistant to damage from decay.  Sapwood grows on the outer part of the tree closer to the bark and is softer.  Thus being more vulnerable to decay.  If you are considering redwood or red cedar wood discuss the wood grades with your contractor.  He will help you choose a grade of wood that will compliment your deck and fit your families needs. 

Another wood choice is exotic woods.  There are several choices of these exotic hardwoods; the most common is ipe (ee-pay).  Ipe is also known as ironwood or Pau lope.  These woods are very hard, difficult to cut, nail or screw into and are more expensive.  They are also more difficult to stain, as they do not accept stain well.   Builders charge more to install the exotic wood, as they are more difficult to work with. The pros to exotic wood are their beauty and they are more resilient to decay and bugs than other woods.  As with all the woods mentioned so far using wood materials requires power washing, staining and sealing every few years to preserve their beauty and integrity.

The most commonly used materials CH Construction deals with are cedar, composite and plastic decking material.  Composite material is made with wood fibers and recycled plastic. Plastic decking is made with 100% plastic (recycled and new). These crack free and splinter free materials are popular because they are more resistant to weather decay and bugs.  They come in a variety of colors, giving the homeowner a larger selection of choices.  Although, mold and mildew can develop in damp areas on the deck, composites are a good choice for those who want a low maintenance material.

With any home improvement project you will want to do research on every aspect of the project.  Choosing the best decking material for you and your family will benefit you in the years to come.  CH Construction is available to help you with any of your questions and can meet with you for a free consult.

Sustainability

Have you heard of the term Sustainable? Often time’s people use it interchangeably with the term “Green”.  Although they are similar they are not the same.  “Green” is defined as concerned with or supporting environmentalism.  Sustainability covers a broader spectrum.  When considering sustainability in your home it usually means energy or water efficiency or improving the quality of air in your home.  By making sustainable changes you are benefiting the home and the environment.

Check for drafts around window and doors.  You can use an incense stick (remove all drapery to avoid a fire) to check for window or door leaks.  If you discover a draft you can seal it with caulk or weather stripping.  These items can be found at a local home improvement store.  Check with your electric company to see if they do a free energy efficiency check of homes. 

Check the furnace and air conditioner to make sure it is running efficiently.  Furnace filters should be checked and changed if needed.  A clogged and dirty filter will make your furnace work harder, costing you more money.  Also check the furnace duct junctions.  The easiest way to check this is set your thermostat 10 degrees higher then the room temperature and let your furnace run for ten minutes.  Check for any warm spots in the duct junctions.  If it is excessively warm, there is a good chance you have a leak.  You can remove the insulation, reseal the area with industrial grade duct tape and place the insulation.  Having your furnace checked once a year can prevent problems and ultimately save you money in the long run.  Late summer or fall are the best times to have your furnace checked, as the rates tend to be higher in the winter.  Maintaining your central air is as important.  Annual checks are recommended for it also.  Spring, before the weather becomes too warm, is the best time to have your air conditioning unit serviced.  One other thing you can do is make sure that the area surrounding the unit is clear of grass, weeds or debris and keeping it clean with a garden hose.  All of these things can prevent your air condition unit from working properly.  Planting shrubs or trees that will shade your air conditioner from direct sunlight will help the unit in the heat of the summer.  To keep your air conditioner from working so hard in the heat of the summer, do the chores that heat up your home after the heat of the day. Another easy way to cut your electric bill is programmable thermostats and running your heat producing appliances (stove, oven, clothes dryer, dish washer, etc.) after the sun goes down can really help reduce your utility bills. 



Installing an attic fan can also be more energy efficient as it draws cool air in through the windows and removes the warm air through the attic.  People who have attic fans installed use their air conditioner less during the spring and fall.  Checking the insulation in your attic is another way to save energy.  If you have R-19 or less insulation you might want to consider R-30 insulation to help with heating and cooling your home. 

The U.S. Geological Survey suggests that a faulty faucet wastes 3 gallons of water a day.  Check all your faucets for leaks on a regular basis.  Replacing or repairing faucets, shower heads, and toilets that have become leaky will not only save you money but also will prevent mold and mildew from developing.  Choosing low flow to replace shower heads and toilets will ultimate save water and money.  These items are relatively easy to install yourself. 

When considering replacing any household appliance, consider energy efficient appliances.  They not only help to save the homeowner's hard earned money, but they also help to save the environment in the long run

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Avoid Home Improvement Mistakes

Remodeling your home can be fun and exciting. It can also become a headache if you are unprepared. We’d like to help you avoid some of the common mistakes homeowners can experience when remodeling. These suggestions are for both self-remodeling or if you are hiring a general contractor. Ultimately, you as the homeowner will be living with the finished product.

Before getting started you need to have a concrete idea of what you want. Do your research on products, plans and budget. If you are hiring a general contractor it is important to have this information to share with the contractor so he/she can give you a more accurate estimate. If you are unsure of some details, a good contractor can give you some ideas and help you decide what is economically more practical with your budget. A good contractor should also foresee possible problems that may come up during the remodeling project. If you are doing the project yourself, remember to take your time and prep the area before starting the project. It can save you time and possibly money as the project progresses.

You do not want to under estimate the time it will take to complete the project. While the project is under construction, this will affect your home. If you are remodeling your bathroom, choose a time that you are not expecting to have an out of town guest. Check a general contractors reference, you will want to inquire if he/she met the approximate completion dates of previous projects. Any home improvement project can have unexpected delays (i.e. weather, materials unavailability, delivery of materials). A contractor should be able to complete a project with in a reasonable time frame. If you are doing the project yourself, you can expect some of these same delays.

Depending on the home improvement project, it is unusual for a general contractor to expect full payment at the start of a job. If a contractor wants you to pay in full for a kitchen remodel, you might want to reconsider this contractor. You should expect to pay a percentage up front; this is called a start up fee. If the project is a large project, the contractor will set up a payment schedule for the homeowner.

Set aside a reserve account, for unforeseen problems. If you are having a bathroom remodeled and remove the bathtub to find dry rot and mold you will have an added expense you did not expect. This reserve account will help with those situations.

While choosing the design and style of your new project remember you will want the remodel project to last 10 – 20 years. Keeping this in mind when selecting materials for your project. Selecting materials that meet your needs is also advantageous. Choosing a gourmet double oven when you usually eat frozen pizzas isn’t practical. You can always upgrade appliances, vanities and hardware in the future.

You will want to invest in quality products that will last. If your cabinets are not made of sturdy material, everyday wear and tear on them will have them breaking down in no time. Remember what’s underneath the surface will make it last. You may pay more up front, but ultimately you will save money down the line for a possible replacement and installation.

Finally, if you are paying for a contractor you want him to use his time wisely. When the homeowners change their mind, it can cause delays and more money for you - time is money! The construction company is there to meet your needs, if you distract them with unnecessary conversation they are unable to work efficiently for you. They want to meet your deadlines and fulfill your agreement. Your home improvement project is their top priority, as it is yours.

Home Repair Grants and Loans

Recently I came across some information that I would like to share with the readers of this blog. Even if this information does not apply to you, you may be able to share it with others. Both Kansas and Missouri offer home remodeling assistance to those with low income. There are several different programs for homeowners and for those who rent.

In the state of Missouri there is a program called Home Repair Opportunity (HeRO). This program offers homeowners that meet the low to moderate-income requirements funding for home repairs. These homeowners must live in non-metropolitan areas. You will need to check the website and contact the agency to see if your town is eligible.

The residents of Kansas City, Missouri (Jackson, Clay and Platte counties) could be eligible for home repair assistance also. The Emergency Home Repair program offers homeowners that meet the low-income requirements. They offer to help with urgent repairs for plumbing, main water line (which may include branch lines and water heater), sewer, electrical and furnace.

The homeowners of Shawnee, Kansas could receive assistance on home repairs. The program "Rebuild Together Shawnee" consists of volunteers that come to the help of homeowners. Their focus is helping the elderly, disable and economically disadvantaged. On their website is an email address to contact for an application.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers loans and grants to those who need home repairs. As I navigated around the HUD (KS) (MO)website I will admit it was like chasing my tail. I’m linking the page that I found to be the most helpful. It specifically list towns that have assistance programs. Like the other programs a homeowner will need to meet the low financial requirement.

Last but not least, the USDA offers loans and grants for those who meet the financial requirements. They offer loans up to $20,000 and grants up to $7,500. There are certain terms to be met and it is important as it is with any application, read the details and contingency of any loan or grant.

Most of these grants or loans are for urgent home repairs. So you probably won’t be using the money to build an outdoor environment. Although, it might help you fix a leaky roof or replace the furnace. If you have any questions concerning home repairs please contact us at CH Construction.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Heartland Habitat for Humanity ReStore

I would like to share our support with other companies that are looking out for our environment. The Heartland Habitat Humanity ReStore is one of those companies. They are located in Wyandotte County, Kansas at 1270 Merriam Lane, Kansas City and in Johnson County, Kansas at 9850 W. 87th Street, Overland Park, KS.

The Restore sells new and used surplus building materials and occasionally will have appliances and furniture. All items in the store are donated and they help fund the building of Heartland Habitat homes. These building projects are in Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Johnson Counties in Kansas, and Clay and Platte Counties in Missouri.

Habitat for Humanity International was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller and is a non-profit Christian housing ministry. Their mission is to make adequate and affordable housing and to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness. Volunteers have built and renovated 200,000 houses since 1976. In 1987, a merger of Kaw Valley Habitat and Northland Habitat for Humanity formed Heartland Habitat for Humanity.

When you are looking to remodel, renovate, start new construction or need to update appliances and furniture you may want to consider stopping by the Habitat Humanity ReStore. You could be saving as much as 20% – 80% on you material and supporting an organization that is giving back to the community.

Why Should I Hire A Licensed Contractor?

Owning a home is one of the biggest investments a person will make in their lifetime. Therefore, it is important to protect your investment. As a homeowner you may be asking yourself, why is it important that a contractor is licensed? I am hoping to simplify this explanation for our blog readers. I will list the benefits of a licensed contractor and explain how this affects you as the homeowner.

I’d like to first point out that each state, county and city are not the exact same as to what is required to become a licensed contractor. It is important that each homeowner inquire about your municipality’s requirement. CH Construction received their operational license from Johnson County, Kansas. The general contractors license requires contractors to have workman’s compensation and liability insurance. By law they are required to work within the limits of their contracting license. This information is available on state; county and city general contracting license pages.

A licensed contractor has invested higher education, licensing fees, insurance and continuing education to become and remain current as a licensed builder/contractor. He/she does this to insure that the homeowner is confident in the contractor's ability to make improvements to their home. He recognizes the importance of the homeowners trust. The overhead costs associated with being a licensed contractor is reflected in his bid. An unlicensed contractor without required insurance and licensing will most always underbid a licensed contractor. You as the homeowner may be getting a better price initially on the home improvement project, but you usually get what you pay for. Often times the unlicensed contractor is not as experienced and his/her work is less than adequate. CH Construction occasionally will receive calls from people that went with other contractors. They call to have us come and repair the work of the contractor that did not do the work correctly the first time. This costs the homeowner more money. As they are now paying for us to repair the other contractors work/mistakes which they already paid for.

How can the homeowner avoid these types of mistakes? As I mentioned in past blogs, always check references on the people you are hiring to complete your home improvement projects. Call the county, state or city in which the inspector is licensed. Make sure his/her license is valid. Also make sure that the contractor you are hiring is not using someone else’s license to pull permits. If your project is not permitted or does not comply with building code, you will probably be ordered to either remove the structure or bring it up to code. Not to mention a possible stop work order that might be called for by associated jurisdictional authority. Again, costing you the homeowner more money. The contractor pulling the permit is legally responsible for the project. If a contractor is using someone elses license and there is a problem. It will be more difficult for the homeowner to have the original contractor whose license was used to come and make the repairs to bring it up to code. The licensed contractor is playing by the rules and looking out for the homeowner’s best interest. As a homeowner you need to insure that the contractor you are hiring has your best interest at heart.