Remodels can add value and beauty
October 27, 2010
By Dan Catchpole
With the economic recession and sluggish recovery, trends have changed in home remodeling projects in the past couple years.
Many clients of First Choice Carpentry are looking to add value to their homes and improve their energy efficiency, according to Max Capestany, the Issaquah-based company’s project specialist.
The company has worked extensively in the Snoqualmie Valley, including framing houses on Snoqualmie Ridge.
The tight housing market has changed some homeowners’ plans, he said.
“Some had planned on getting a bigger house as their family expanded, but they can’t sell, so they’re adding another bedroom instead,” he said.
Other homeowners are taking advantage of tax credits to improve their houses’ energy efficiency and save on their heating bills. Some are just taking advantage of a buyers’ market.
While it will continue to be a buyers’ market for the near future, tax credits for energy improvements will go away soon. The credits in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008 expire at the end of the year.
Until then, homeowners can receive tax credit for installing Energy Star materials or appliances. The credit is up to 30 percent of the project’s cost or $1,500, whichever is lower.
Plenty of things have an Energy Star rating: windows, dishwashers, insulation, shingles and so on.
A home remodel project is a big commitment for a homeowner, and there are some things they should keep in mind, Capestany said.
The first question they should ask is “Who’s doing the work?”
“The temptation of every homeowner is to get caught up in the types of materials being used,” Capestany said. “What’s most important is who you have doing the work.”
Don’t just go for the cheapest contractor. Check out their credentials and track record first.
When a contractor comes out to look at your house, ask for references on the spot, Capestany said.
“Anyone who’s legit in this business has four or five references saved on their phone,” he said.
Ask for the person’s contractor license number, and look it up on the website for the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry.
Check Angie’s List for customer reviews.
Talk to the contractor about how he or she does his or her work.
“Just taking time with the contractor in the home before any documents are signed” can save major headaches down the road, Capestany said.
If it is a general contractor, ask for a thorough energy-efficiency inspection of your house. This simple task can prevent a homeowner from wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars, he said.
Capestany recalled one house where the owner had installed an air conditioning unit because inside was sweltering hot in the summer.
The owner didn’t have a general contractor look at the house, which would have revealed that the attic was not properly ventilated and causing the house to heat up.
Walking around a house, Capestany said, he can quickly spot where a home is losing heat.
“Sometimes, I’ll go into a house and see 1970’s-era single-pane windows with aluminum casing,” he said. “When you stand next to the window, you can literally feel the cold air coming in.”
When crunching numbers, homeowners should consider a project’s cost versus the expected savings, Capestany said. Remodeling Magazine has useful cost-versus-value comparisons.
Seek information from professionals.
“Home shows are a great source of information,” he said.
Some homeowners are also taking advantage of the fact that it is a buyers’ market.
Ahren and Allie Johnson hired First Choice Carpentry to redo the exterior of their home in North Bend.
The project involved adding gutters, masonry work, a new entryway, new window trim and painting.
Because First Choice Carpentry was able to do all of the work, the couple was able to get price breaks.
“They got great bang for their buck,” Capestany said.
Dan Catchpole: 392-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Web
- Washington State Department of Labor and Industry: www.lni.wa.gov, search for “contractor”
- Angie’s List: www.angieslist.com
- Remodeling Magazine: www.remodeling.hw.net