Remodeling University: EPA Lead Paint Rules – An Update

Well, April 22, 2010 (the date the new EPA rule concerning lead-paint came into effect) is behind us…and there are already updates.

If you are a homeowner planning a remodeling project and your home was built prior to 1978- this concerns you. For a detailed post about the EPA rule please read this. If you are a contractor involved with renovation, repair and remodeling, I strongly recommend that you read the same. The fines for non compliance with this new rule are brutal – $37,500/violation/day!

Today’s post is about the changes just announced to this rule.

The most important of the changes is the elimination of the opt-out option. Till now, the homeowners on whose pre-1978 home work was to commence, could opt-out of the requirements of the lead-paint regulation (basically, so they could avoid the additional expenses involved). Pursuant to a law-suite filed against the EPA by some environmental groups, the EPA agreed to have this provision eliminated. And it was now announced that the rule has been re written to exclude the opt-out provision.

Other changes involve post-work testing and reporting issues.

The changes will go into effect 60 days after their posting in the Federal Register.

What should you do?
1. Educate yourself.
2. Hire an EPA certified company. They should be able to display a logo like the one shown above.
3. Make sure sub contractors and employees have been trained and/or are also certified.
4. See that proper procedures are observed during demolition and renovation operations.
5. Get clearance from post-remodel testing.

Aside from the costs involved (FAR, far exceeding the unrealistic $35 per project estimated by the government), this is all for the good. The elimination or reduction of lead exposure may go a long way enhancing the health of the public and of the workers and could do wonders to the health of the children that would have otherwise been exposed. A worth while cause indeed.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Getting Ready for a Large Remodeling Project

You selected your general contractor, you have your new home plan, the permits for your major remodeling project were ‘pulled’ and a start date has been secured for the work. Congratulations! Are you now ready for the project to begin? Read on.

When all the ‘big stuff’ is out of the way (selecting an architect or a design/build firm, getting the design you want and can afford, securing financing for the project and getting the plans approved by the city, by the HOA and others) – when all of this is done, there are still things you must do for your project to be a success. Embarking on a major remodeling project can be likened embarking on an adventure trip to an off-the-beaten-path destination. Much like you’d prepare differently for an African safari that for a Disney World vacation, so you should prepare differently for a major remodeling project as compare to some minor work in your home.

Here are some of the issues you need to consider:
1. Can you stay in the home: go over the planned work and work-sequence with your builder. Can your family stay in the house during the work? Could your family relocate to a section of the house not worked on (or worked on during a different phase of the project)? These decisions need to be arrived at in concert with the builder.
2. Can you stay in the home: beyond the physical aspect of the question you should consider the other aspects as well. Do you have small children that might wonder off into unsafe work zones? Is your family’s temperament is such that members of the family can take the significant discomfort associated with the house being in an upheaval for weeks on end? The noise? The disruptions to power and water service during work hours? The pervasive dust?
3. Would the home’s content (furniture, furnishings, etc.) need to be removed/stored?
4. If you must get out of the house, will you be out for one long stretch of time? For the entire duration of the work? Or maybe you could leave intermittently for shorter spells, as the work progresses?
5. If both your family and the home’s content need to be out of the home, do you know how much this would cost? Did you budget for it?

As you work your way through these issues remember that ultimately there would be a trade-off between the family’s comfort and the family’s sanity (and costs). Try to find your equilibrium.
Here are some tips:
1. Here too, your selection of a competent and reliable general contractor is imperative. With a top-tier home builder the completion date should be a known and a given. Something you can and should rely upon. When this is the case, you can find less costly accommodations. When you know exactly how many weeks you are renting a place for you can avoid committing for longer periods ‘just in case’ – saving on rent.
2. Instead of packing the whole content and having a moving company pick it up, store and than reset it when work is done, which would be very costly, consider this alternative; First, see if there is a room in the house that could be used for storage. A room that is not majorly affected by the planned project might qualify. Have all the family pack the ‘little’ items over time, to lighten the work load. Than ask your builder to provide a couple of guys for a day or two for the heavy items. We provide this service gratis to all our clients. Your contractor should be able to do the same. Whatever won’t fit in the ‘storage room’ might fit in a storage bin. Get one and use it. Remember to coordinate that with your builder so that this bin is not in the way and does not take the room planned for the roll-off needed for the construction debris.
3. This is a great time to get rid of junk. Get a roll-off (your contractor might be able to get one for a better price) and fill it with all the items you no longer need. Think “what would I want to bring back into my new home when work is done?” – everything else should be donated or disposed of. Almost without exception, I see homeowners paying to store items for the work’s duration only to throw them away at completion because they no longer seem appropriate for the newly done home.
4. Make sure your storage bin is water tight. A leak would destroy the contents.
5. Some homeowners plan long trips to coincide with their remodeling work. This way they are out of the way, and no alternative lodgings are needed to be arranged. Consider this only if you have a top-tier, completely trust worthy builder and if you feel comfortable empowering your builder (or someone else, such as your architect or your designer) to make decisions for you.
6. Prepare yourself mentally: You are about to embark on a significant new endeavor. One that would require many decisions, would tax your patience and one that can potentially get out of control in terms of costs, time and legal issues (did I mention it is important to select a builder that is competent, experienced, trust worthy and reliable yet – as opposed to those who’s main attraction is that they are seemingly cheap?). So, prepare yourself mentally; take a deep ‘mental breath’ and develop a positive mindset. Predispose yourself to consider the coming months as an adventure and a learning experience and promise yourself to take everything in stride. Try to be a positive member of the project’s team and remember that as the homeowner and the purse holder you are actually the boss.

You are now ready to break ground. Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Saving Water

With winter behind us and spring in full bloom summer cannot be far behind.
Southern California summer means an increase in both energy use (for air conditioning) and water use (for maintaining a green lawn and yard).
In case the wet winter dimmed anyone’s memory, the cost of water skyrocketed last year with significant penalties for water use above the allotted quota.
It is therefore time to quickly review what can be done about avoiding water waste and about saving on water use.

Even minute leaks can add up to a LOT of water (and a correspondingly painful water bill).
How to discover water leaks:
1. Check for leaks: after making sure that no water is running, take a look at your water meter. There should be a little (red or blue, typically) dial, that is separate from the main dial. This dial is sensitive to any water use and would rotate even with a little leak. Make sure it is rock solid for a whole minute or so. If it is not, somewhere water is being used or is leaking.
2. Check for leaks: Review all sprinklers and sprinklers’ valves. When not in operation all parts should be dry. If parts seem wet or damp, there is probably a little leak. Replace all needed parts.
3. Check for leaks: Review all toilet flushing mechanisms. Once the tank is re-filled, no more water should ‘run’. It is not uncommon for toilets to ‘run’. That is, for water to continue to fill the tank, only to be discharged into the bowl. This can be in a continuous manner or in short bursts every 30 seconds or so.
4. Check for leaks: Check all faucets in the house to make sure none is dripping when not in use. Replace gaskets, cartridges or entire faucets as needed when leaking.
5. Check for leaks: If you have an automatic pool filler make sure it is operating properly without a constant water loss.

Now that you know no water is leaking you can focus on reducing your water use.
Aside from the obvious (shorter showers, for example) here is what else you can do:
1. Toilets: At worst, you should be using toilets with 1.6 gallons per flush. If you have much older toilets it might be a good time to upgrade. Note that even thriftier toilets are available. Do some research.
2. Washing machine: While I don’t recommend going out and getting a new washing machine just to save on water usage, I do recommend looking into energy and water efficient washing machines when you do need to replace the old one.
3. Yard: in many residences, most of the water usage is for watering the yard. Savings here could be very significant as most sprinklers systems are hugely inefficient. Very significant savings can be had with weather based or moisture based controllers. Many of these systems tie into your existing timer. A much more efficient watering schedule and use results.
4. Yard: If you are redoing your yard or parts of it, try to minimize lawn areas as these are the ‘water hogs’ you want to avoid.

For the most part, saving significantly on your water bill is not too complicated nor expensive to do. When remodeling, Los Angeles residents can easily increase their ROI by paying attention and allocating some resources to saving water. As noted above, these savings are not expensive to realize and would pay for themselves in no time at all.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Designing a Large Scale Remodeling Project

With the 2008 implosion of the real estate market, the deep recession in the construction industry that followed and the almost total lack of financing options for remodeling and construction projects, at this point last year we were projecting a significant shrinking of our average project size for the foreseeable future. While many segments of the construction and remodeling industries are still straggling, we are surprised and thankful to note that at least in our market – Los Angeles, remodeling (large-scle projects) is back!

I am therefore finding myself writing about a subject I thought I will not be writing about any time soon: what a homeowner needs to know and do in the design phase of a large scale remodeling project. How can you get the best home plans for your hoped-for project?

Successfully designing a large scale remodeling project:
1. Budget: It all starts with defining and setting your budget. Many would recommend to first get designs and than see how much they would cost. Why spend time, energy and money on designs you won’t be able to afford? Funds is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ in as far as your planned project is concerned. Start by articulating for yourself, as best you can, what is your actual budget. Depending on your circumstance and on your project, the budget may be based on cash-on-hand, equity, future value of the remodeled home or some combination of these elements.
2. Wish list: before you meet with a professional to actually develop the design you should commit to paper your objectives for the project. Writing things down tends to focus the mind and is great for clarity. This ‘exercise’ should be done by all decision makers involved with the project (e.g. both husband and wife). Think this through and once you have your wish list try to prioritize it so that the ‘must haves’ are at the top of the list.
3. Hire a design professional: Of the various options available to you here, you should really consider only two – an architect or a Design-Build firm. You can review earlier posts for a discussion and comparison of these two options. We recommend a competent Design-Build company because odds are far better in your favor here that the design would be in lockstep with the budget (something that is rarely the case with an independent architect’s plans).
4. Communicate your wish list and budget: If you have done your due-diligence and your wish list and budget are both well thought out, you need to communicate those to your design professional in a way that assures his/hers adherence to these guidelines. Both architects and Design-Build companies sometime have ‘selective-hearing’ issues, that is they don’t internalize all of what the homeowners are telling them. Rather they pick on certain elements and tend to ignore others. Make sure to put both your prioritized wish-list and target budget in writing as part of the design agreement so that there are no mistakes.

If you have selected your design professional well, you should soon have a compelling design(s) to look at. How should you evaluate the proposed designs:
1. Have your designer ‘walk’ you through the floor plan. As you don’t spend your days looking at plans and this is not your profession, you should not be embarrassed to take your time evaluating submitted plans and to need help in doing so.
2. Ask for renderings. Most designers today would be using computers for their work. It should be easy (and should not cost extra) to produce any number of renderings of the proposed space. These are very helpful for anyone not used to 2-dimensional plans. The 3-dimensional renderings are a great tool for the homeowners trying to get a ‘feel’ for the new home.
3. Take your time: Don’t commit for a design after just having reviewed it. I strongly recommend to take some time to look at it again and again. Let it sink in. familiarize yourself with all aspects of the proposed plan. You will notice that in the beginning you are seeing the ‘big picture’. As time goes by and the more you look at a plan, your attention would be drawn to more minute details.
4. Evaluate: compare the plan with your wish list. Are all important elements there? If they are present, are they featured in a way that would match or complement your life style and your circumstances? Would the proposed plan fit your needs in the future (for example, as the kids are growing or when the in-laws would be moving in)? Are the closets of sufficient size? Were hallways minimized or eliminated altogether? Is there enough natural light? Was attention paid to energy efficiency and conservation in the orientation and planning? The list of questions here could be very long. Think the proposed design through and don’t hesitate to write down your reservations and all items you’d like to see addressed.
5. Implement changes and re-evaluate: Have your designer incorporate your feedback into the proposed plan and than re evaluate (see above).
6. Consider interior and exterior aesthetics: Having a plan that addresses your wish-list fully and that meets your budget is a great start. Now, is it also beautiful and fitting your chosen style? Look at interior and exterior elevations and review the roof lines. Everything must also look good to you. You will be spending a lot of money, effort and time to get this project done. Than hopefully, you’ll spend much longer enjoying the fruits of your labor. Make sure that you’d like what you end up with.

Like everything else in remodeling, the more involved you are the better the results would be. Get yourself involved fully in the design phase of your project. You do not need to be a design professional to know what is a good design for you. It might take more efforts to get it right, but the end result would be well worth it.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: The Pros & Cons of Pocket Doors

The Pros & Cons of Pocket Doors… and what to do when you have to have them:

Note: I originally wrote this article for – a general interest remodeling blog, at’s invitation and request. The subject therefore, is a little different from what we typically cover in our Remodeling University blog. It is, nonetheless, a subject many remodeling homeowners would need to deal with, so the information is of use and merit to our readers as well;

There are homeowners that ask for pocket doors simply because they like them. Many homeowners, though, find themselves in a position where they have to decide about including pocket doors in their homes during the design process of a remodeling project, weather they would like to or not.

Pocket doors present particular challenges and solve particular problems. You should be mindful and informed about the pros and cons of choosing or agreeing to have a pocket door included in your project. If a decision was made to include a pocket door, your contractor and you should also be aware of the potential and common pitfalls associated with pocket doors and how to avoid them.

Why should you consider pocket doors:
1. Space: In tight quarters, like a small Jack and Jill bathroom, multiple swinging doors can ‘eat’ into the space available. The door might also be swinging into each other. Pocket doors solve that condition.
2. Space: swinging doors ‘occupy’ a wall space (when swung open) equal to the door’s opening. In small rooms, where wall space might be at a premium, pocket doors solve that dilemma.
3. Space: when two separate rooms are designed so that, when needed or desired, the rooms could be joined, a door system is often used. For example: the formal dining room has a wide opening towards an adjacent space. This can enable larger dinner parties to fit in, while it still allows for more intimate settings, when the door system is kept closed. There is a difference in the ‘flavor’ of a French door system (for example) and the ‘flavor’ of a pocket-door system that slides out of sight into the walls.
4. Aesthetics: as noted above, some folks simply prefer the look and feel of pocket doors and opt to use them for that reason.

Why should you avoid choosing pocket doors:
1. Sound: pocket doors do not ‘sit’ as tightly, as by design they merely slide into position rather than fit into it. As a result, pocket doors are not nearly as effective as standard doors in preventing sound from propagating from one room to the next.
2. Smells, light: for the same reason noted above, pocket doors are poor performers with respect to sealing off a room’s smell (think kitchens or bathrooms). Similarly, more light escapes from one space to the other, though this is rarely a big deal.
3. Wall’s sturdiness: for every pocket door, a wall opening, double its size is needed. While that opening is later covered up with the wall finish material (e.g. drywall), because there are no studs in that space (so as to allow for the pocket door to ‘disappear’ into it) – that wall section is flimsy and tends to wobble and sound hollow when tapped (which it is).
4. Function: pocket doors are notorious for function issues. They fall off tracks, they are difficult to roll, they are problematic to lock, they screech when rolled, etc.
5. Difficult to operate: pocket doors are not very friendly to anyone with difficulty grabbing or to anyone with diminished dexterity in their hands (e.g. arthritis sufferers). More dexterity is needed to grab and pull a pocket door out of its pocket than to grab a well designed and user-friendly (regular) door hardware.

So, if you have no choice but to choose a pocket door for your project (or, if you simply prefer it), here is what you and your contractor can do to be successful with it:
1. If possible use pocket doors in 2”x6” walls, rather than in 2”x4” walls.
2. Always spec and order heavy duty hardware. Note that pocket doors typically come with cheap hardware. Go for heavy duty ball-bearing nylon rollers.
3. Order (true) solid doors. Although these are heavier and thus more challenging to the hardware, the hardware would tend to pull out of the hollow core or composite doors with time.
4. Take special care to avoid any wall fasteners’ penetrations into the pocket space. These are often inadvertently and unknowingly project into the door’s travel path, creating a need to open the wall to fix the problem. It also means re painting the door. In cases where the projection into the door’s path within the pocket is not actually locking the door in place, such interference would forever undermine the door’s travel and will leave an inescapable scratch on the door’s face. Be especially careful if the wall is being tilled (with lathing used).
5. Print out the door’s installation instructions (online, at the manufacturer’s site and/or at many other online locations) and post them for your installer. While it is certainly possible that your contractor is an accomplished pocket-door installer, odds are against it.
6. Pay attention to your door’s hardware selection. I’m referring here to the door’s pull, not hangers/rollers.

The bottom line?
When and if you can – avoid pocket doors.
If you find yourself having to have a pocket door installed, educate yourself and your contractor and follow the advice above.
With care, attention (and a little competence wouldn’t hurt either) you’ll do just fine.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: How to Hire a Contractor

The First and Most Important Step for a Successful Home Remodeling Project:
How to Hire a Contractor

One of the hardest parts of a home remodeling project is selecting a contractor. Your contractor is the one who you need to trust to successfully complete your home remodeling project. Your home is probably your most important asset. Make selecting a contractor as painless as possible by taking your time, following your instincts and doing your homework. Start your project off right by following the tips below for selecting a reliable and professional contractor.

Types of Contractors & Home Improvement Professionals:
The type of contractor you need to hire depends upon the size and nature of your project. Understanding the different types of contractors will help you narrow down your search.

General Contractor – General contractors handle most home remodeling projects from start to finish. They typically hire subcontractors and work in conjunction with architects and designers to get the job done. Think of a general contractor as the project manager of your project. [Editor: the distinction made here about General Contractors working mostly though subs and Design-Build Contractors (see below) working with in-house crews is inaccurate in our opinion. The main difference would be that the Design-Build firm incorporates the design phase in its services, often offering it ‘in-house’ as is accurately noted below].

Architects – Architects design larger projects, such as room additions and home remodeling projects that require structural changes.

Interior Designers – Interior designers can work alone or with an architect to plan and design the finishing touches for your project.

Design/Build Contractors – Design/build contractors provide the same services as a general contractor but typically do not sub-contract the work [Editor: please see our editorial comment above].
They have architects and designers on staff. Homeowners do not need to hire any additional contractors or designers.

If you don’t know where to start looking for a contractor, the best place to start is by asking your friends, family and co-workers who you trust. If your friends and family were happy with a contractor, then chances are you will be, too. It’s best to consider recommendations from friends and family who have had similar projects completed. If you are planning a kitchen remodel and addition, don’t necessarily take a recommendation from a friend who had garage and deck work. Include questions about whether the job was completed on time and whether the contractor was accessible to answer their questions and address any issues. Keep in mind that each person has his own idea of quality. Inspect the work completed at your friend’s house so that you can determine if it is the quality that you want.

Contact the Contractor
Call or E-mail the contractor you are interested in and ask a series of initial questions to find out how long have he been in business; how many similar projects he has completed; what type of suppliers he uses, and whether he will work with the materials of your choice?

Get references and ask if you can view any of the completed projects. This may be more difficult with an indoor project. However, if a homeowner had a wonderful experience and is pleased with the results, he’ll probably be happy to show you the completed project. You can also request to visit jobs in progress. This step will give you a lot of insight into how the contractor works and interacts with his clients.

License and Insurance
Walk the other way if you come across an unlicensed contractor. Unlicensed contractors are a red flag. Any contractor who claims to be professional would not be without a license. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “most states license electrical and plumbing contractors, only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers. The licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process.” Check with your local licensing authorities to see what a contractor in your area is required to have.

Liability insurance is equally important. In most states, a license will not be granted without liability insurance [Editor: In California, there is no requirement for a contractor to have a liability insurance. A license will not be granted without a bond, but that is very different from liability coverage] . If the contractor uses sub-contractors, you must check that the sub-contractor has liability insurance or is covered under the policy of the contractor. This is extremely important because if a sub-contractor gets injured while working at your home and he is not covered by any liability insurance, he is legally allowed to sue you for the damages. [Editor: injuries to workers and subs are not covered by a liability policy, unless the general contractor was negligent. Always ask for and verify that every worker on your job site is covered with a workers’ compensation insurance. This is a mandated coverage in most states, but it is too often absent, leaving homeowners with a significant liability in case there is an injury]

A simple Internet search will reveal if there are any unresolved complaints against a contractor. Additionally, check with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB). [Editor: In California, check with the CSLB]

Check Out Remodeling Magazines
Several remodeling magazines, such as “Remodeling,” publish an annual list of the biggest home improvement companies in the country. While biggest isn’t always best, consulting with these companies will lead you to recommendations for quality contractors in your area. Additionally, remodeling magazines can help you think of design ideas for your project and to learn about new products.

Resist the Urge
The lowest proposal is definitely not the best proposal. For many homeowners, that urge to select the lowest bid is strong. Resist the urge to go with the lowest proposal. Instead, use your instinct, be smart and your homework will lead you to the best contractor for your project.

The Contract
Learn all you need to know about contracts here.

Written by Marcy Tate
Marcy is a home improvement blogger at the Networx blog..

Remodeling University: We welcome posts by guests

“If you built it, they will come”:

In the past few weeks we have been approached on several occasions by other bloggers and industry experts in the areas most often covered in our Remodeling University blog about contributing posts to our blog, to the benefit of our readers.

Starting today, we will post here articles submitted to us that are dealing with the issues addressed and covered by Remodeling University that we can see would benefit our readers and visitors.

We start with Marcy, who is a home improvement blogger for

If you are a blogger and/or an industry expert in an area of interest to Remodeling University, we would be happy to review your submission and post it here. It should it be accurate, professional and of interest to the readers of this blog.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Choosing a Kitchen Designer, by Mal Corboy

The Benefits of a well-designed kitchen

“Good kitchen design involves both function and form; often, kitchen designers focus too much on the form, appearance and aesthetics of a kitchen at the expense of considerations concerning how the space functions. There are 40 design rules that apply when designing a kitchen, all of which involve the function of the kitchen. The form of the kitchen and its aesthetics are for me the requirements I have to fulfill for the client and the overall appearance of the project, regardless of the kitchen’s style.

In this article I would like to outline the benefits of using a qualified Kitchen Designer.

As a designer, I focus on the kitchen area and products that are available to give the client the best of both worlds. When designing a kitchen, the first and foremost thing on your mind should be “what appliances do I want for my kitchen”. The appliances opted for would determine to a great extent the direction the design and layout would take. For example, a double door refrigerator with an icemaker requires water and a fair amount of space in the overall design. It has to be accessible and not ‘hard against’ a wall. It also needs ample adjacent counter space. There are double ovens, which come in many different forms, and are either side-by-side or stacked. The amount of cooking and baking done in your kitchen will determine the type of oven you require and the layout as well. There are various types of cooktops that can be used, from electric to induction, gas and BBQ. When designing these into the kitchen there are several requirements that have to be met so that the construction conforms to the building code, and so that the end-user (you) get to use the space with full facility and enjoyment.

Perhaps you would like a coffee machine built in or a wine fridge. Many of us evolved into a café society and so these items are becoming very popular within modern kitchens, almost mandatory. As we all generally entertain and gravitate towards the center of our home, the kitchen, its look, function and facility are important to get ‘just right’.

Next we need to think about the products and finishes that we need or desire. These will be determined partly by the style of kitchen that you want and by your preferences. For example, if you don’t like to deal with scratches you should not opt for a stainless steel counter (or sink, for that matter). However, if you like the look of stainless steel the scratching eventually becomes part its character. The counters are an area of the kitchen that gets the most wear and tear. The counter is also a large element, visually. So it requires a fair amount of attention, and often investment. A good designer will advise you of all the pros and cons with each surface that is available, but remember it is always best to go with products that are tried and true.

This advice also applies to the finishes, the doors, drawers and the hardware that you choose. There are many hardware companies out there. Your Kitchen Designer would know which one would suite your needs and budget best. In most of the kitchens that I am designing (and in all of our Mal Corboy Cabinet lines), I am specifying the best available hardware on earth, as the hardware has so much impact on how well the kitchen would ultimately serve the clients over the long run.

When you are dealing with a competent Kitchen Designer (and when your budget and the skill-set of your contractor permit it) various materials are available to help create a unique look and feel for your new kitchen. A great example is colored glass. This is a great product to add texture and reflect light around your kitchen that can also provide the sense of bringing the outside in.

A lighting plan is an integral part of a good kitchen design. The kitchen should be well lit, good task lighting is essential as well and nice ambient mood lighting will complete ‘the picture’ nicely. Again, a good lighting plan goes beyond a number of recess cans and under-cabinet lights. Your Kitchen Designer could be a very valuable assent with that aspect of the design as well.

There are two principal aspects of a successful remodeling. One is the design. The other is your choice of a remodeling contractor. As far as design goes, your choice should be easier. Look for and hire a competent Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD).

Mal Corboy CKD

Remodeling University: Announcing our ‘Featured Designer’ Series!

In our on-going attempt to bring value to everyone contemplating a remodeling project or involved in the remodeling and construction industries, and so that we could further expend the scope of useful information that is available here at our Remodeling University, we are announcing today our new “Featured Designer Series”.

In remodeling well in excess of 1000 kitchens over the last two and half decades we have crossed path with some of the area’s best (and worse) kitchen designers and architects. Thanks to our social networks activity and presence we had the privilege and pleasure of ‘meeting’ many of the country’s (and the world’s) best and brightest designers and architects as well.

Starting today, we are going to feature here guest posts by leading designers that we will choose based on the caliber and originality of their work. You will be able to review designing advice, approach and ideas for a variety of styles from a varied and leading talent. This should be great!

There is no better way to kick off the Featured Designer Series than to post an article by the ‘man himself’, Mal Corboy. Designer of the Year and manufacturer of the cabinet-line bearing his name, Mal is a force to reckon with, as far as modern design goes. He is a frequent guest speaker in TV and radio shows, was featured multiple times in international and local magazines and he gives seminars to kitchen professionals and designers, a new series of which would be launched in Australia in May and may even come to these shores.

Modern kitchens are the up-n-coming trend in design. Mal is at the forefront of this watershed change.

We are proud to be the exclusive distributors in North America of Mal Corboy Cabinets and we are proud to launch our new Featured Designer Series with Mal.

Happy remodeling!

Remodeling University: Dealing with Hazardous Materials

A couple of days ago I had a call from a gentleman, whose parents hired a Los Angeles contractor that removed acoustic ceiling material as part of the demolition work at their home. The problem was that no one bothered to test the material for asbestos beforehand and, after it was all removed, it turned out asbestos was present.

Why is this a problem? Asbestos, once air born (no longer encapsulated) remains suspended in the air, contaminates flooring, walls, furnishings, clothing, etc. It becomes extraordinarily expensive to abate such contamination and complete success is questionable.

And why is that a problem? Because studies have conclusively demonstrated that long term exposure to asbestos leads to many health issues, not the least of which is cancer!

And that gentleman’s parents? They are very elderly and are staying in their home, in spite of the asbestos. Guests and family though, cannot visit them due to fear for their health, as the house is massively contaminated. Both the state and federal governments are now investigating. And the contractor? Well, not surprisingly – no sign of them (and this was a license company, as best the owners could tell).

Of the possible hazardous materials at homes, asbestos and lead would be at the top of the list (there are others). Please read a previous post regarding new lead-paint regulations. Like asbestos, the adverse effects of lead exposure are well researched and documented. Lead is especially devastating to kids and to pregnant woman. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you, your family or the workers you hired are placed in harm’s way.

Here’s is what to do:
1. Age of home: Neither asbestos nor lead should be found in new construction. Asbestos wise, there might be a risk if the house (or ceiling material) is from 71′ or before. Lead paint wise, your ‘cut off year’ is 1978. If your home is newer, odds are good you should not worry about asbestos or lead.
2. Testing: do not let anyone scrape off your (71′ or older) acoustic ceiling until and unless it was tested for asbestos. Asbestos test is inexpensive. Not doing it is a fools’ bargain. With regards to lead paint, starting April 22, 2010 no one is allowed to disturbed more than 6 square feet of interior paint (or replace a single window) unless they either tested the paint for lead or assume lead is present and take the required precautions. Lead testing is more involved than asbestos (more sampling is required) but it might be cheaper than to spend money on precautions if lead is not there.
3. Contractor: make sure your contractor is an EPA certified firm to deal with lead paint. This is applicable to your general contractor, to your painter, to your window replacement company or to any person or company working on your home, as the replacement of even a single window, as mentioned above, falls under the EPA regulations. No exceptions.
4. Records: review the credentials of the testing company/lab. Ask for a copy of the results and keep all pertinent paperwork for your records. If any abatement work is done, keep those records as well. This paperwork may become handy when you are selling your home or when a CalOsha or an EPA inspector comes calling.
5. Educate yourself: Reading this blog is a very good start. There are many online resources and publications available (EPA and CalOsha have great publications available free of charge) that can help you get a sense of what the correct abatement or defensive procedures should be. Educate yourself so that you could intelligently review your contractor’s efforts and confirm that what is done at your home is in compliance with the ‘best practices’. Its your family’s health that’s at stake here.
6. Cut costs at your own peril: Abatement can be costly. There are endless stories about homeowners that opted to ‘save’ by not properly handling and disposing of hazardous substances. If you don’t get caught “all that’s at stake” are your family’s health (and that of the workers – a potential liability issue for you to consider). If you do get caught (neighbors complain, a worker complained, an inspector drove by, etc.) the costs could be enormous in fines and in remediation work that would be needed to undue the damage.

“Knowledge is power” if and when it is intelligently acted upon. You now started collecting the knowledge. Next you ‘simply’ need to take the needed action. Think of Hazardous Materials as just one more thing to consider when planning a remodeling project.

If your home falls within the ‘problematic’ age group, a little caution will go a long way.

Happy remodeling!