Reclaim Your Car’s Home

The Garage Ranks as one of the most disorganized rooms in the house, according to several highly rated professional organizers across the country. Worthless junk often crowds out the family car. “They’re one of the most neglected areas and can get out of hand quickly,” says Alexis Rubin, owner of A-rated Funktional Home professional organization service in Littleton, CO. 

She estimates garages make up one quarter of her business, and she charges an average of $500 to $800 to clean and organize them. “Considering that cars are often a family’s second most expensive investment, professional help in desiging a garage that can maximize and maintain its function is a good use of money,” Rubin says. “Beyond that, a well-designed garage can expand storage for a wide variety of household items.”

Professional organizers help homeowners sort, purge, categorize and put items back in a way that makes the most sense to the individual. They will often discard unwanted items, either by donating them to a charity or consignment shop or posting items for sale online. 

Some organizers sell storage products and install them, while others handle the decluttering and bring in help to install cabinets and perform other tasks. “I consider myself project manager of other community experts, such as handymen or women who can assist with hanging,” says Melanie Raelin, owner of A-rated Wits End Organizing in Somerville, MA. “I personally set up donation pickups and yard or estate sales to help the person offset the cost.”


Photo: Your Great Garage

Highly rated Your Great Garage in St. Petersburg, FL., sells and installs garage-specific solutions. Owner Tony Braswell says costs start at $99 for simple shelving and go up to $5,000 for multiple solutions in a large garage, such as overhead rack systems, epoxy floors and custom workspaces. 

Angie’s List member Carol Pressman of New Port Richey, FL., hired Baswell in July to clear out junk, organize her hobby paraphernalia and corral her grandchildren’s toys. The job, which took just over two days and cost $2,800, included an epoxy floor coating, overhead racks, wall storage and a customized gardening workbench. “It will make everything I do much more pleasant,” she says. “And they took away everything I didn’t want – that was a huge selling feature.”

Rubin and other organizers stress the importance of developing a system that’s easy to maintain. “Clearing out a space and making it look nice is just the beginning,” she says. “Organization is about maintenance. We can help change habits and build structures that work for you.”

Angie’s List member Cathy Flanders of Littleton, CO recently hired Funktional Home for the third time. After tackling the home office and kid’s playroom, Flanders wanted to maximize storage space for toys and bicycles and add a mudroom area in her garage. For less than $500, Rubin cleared out unwanted items and added shelving, hooks and bins to store outside toys, garden tools and other supplies. “It doesn’t just look pretty – she put in new systems that are easy to keep up,” Flanders says. “Our garage was a disaster,” Flanders says. “We could only maybe fit one care, if everyone held their breath. Now, we have a workable garage that should last.”

Flanders says her favorite part is a brightly painted accent all that Rubin suggested. “It feels like a finished space that’s an extension of the house,” Flanders says. “It makes me smile”.

The Great Room Evolves

Eight new residential design trends turned heads at the annual Best in American Living Awards (BALA), presented by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at the 2012 International Builder’s Show. One of the most-buzzed-about was a changing approach to “the family triangle.” The term refers to the three activities and spaces that generally draw families together: cooking (kitchen), eating (dining room), and relaxation (living/family/great room). The latest approach creates spaces that link these activities, as a traditional great room would, while also allowing private nooks. 

The family triangle continues the movement away from formal, compartmentalized space toward more open living. One of the judges, Heather McCune, Marketing Director for Bassenian Lagoni Architects of Newport Beach, CA, said demand for such spaces is strong across all buyer profiles, in all regions of the country.


Photo: Bassenian Lagoni Architects

More than a Big Room

But the family triangle is more than just a big room. It modifies the conventional open floor plan by including “different areas for different tasks and levels of comfort,” says Amy Martino, principal of Building Site Synergy, an architectural firm in Media, PA. “It should be able to accommodate large groups, but should also feel comfortable if just one person is in the room.” For instances, eliminating the living room and adding a flex space or den near the kitchen and family room allows for privacy when needed, but let’s family members in different parts of the space easily interact with one another.

McCune isn’t surprised at this trend. In fact, she sees adaptable spaces as a sign of the times. “We’re looking to shrink the home’s overall footprint, while allocating space in the home so it lives bigger. It seem natural in a post-recessionary period.”

Emphasizing the Practical

To help the home live bigger, a plan that emphasizes the family triangle will eliminate spaces that aren’t needed and more practical touches to spaces that are. Case in point: don’t count on hallways sticking around. “The spaces that people never use are gone.” says McCune. 

What you’re more likely to see is a kitchen island with lots of convenient storage and an island sink that faces the living space. The expansive island provides useful workspace for one or more cooks, while also creating a “safe zone” that separates the cook from children and guests. When no one is cooking, the island can also serve as a place to study or work on a project. Incorporating varying counter heights makes the island comfortable for family members and guests of different ages, heights and levels of ability. 

A nearly universal element of the family triangle? “Some kind of kitchen command center,” says McCune. Often a small dedicated desk area works as a place for bill paying or where children can do homework.

Defining Spaces

One challenge when designing a family triangle revolves around how to create small pockets of relative privacy in the midst of all that space. According to Martino, designers use architectural elements like ceiling treatments, columns and softfits to create distinct zones for reading, working or simply relaxing, while also retaining the openness of the overall space. 

Lighting plays an extremely important role, too. Different levels of lighting with dimmers can accommodate different tasks and completely change the room’s ambience. Layered lighting – overhead, sconces, accent lighting, task lighting, and specialty lighting such as a chandelier or colorful pendant – can be adjusted, used separately, or as a group to create a sense of place within the space. 

Green Remodeling Ideas That Will Save You Money

“Going green” is more than just a passing phase – being environmentally thoughtful has become a way of life for many Americans, not to mention businesses that serve their needs. From recycling bottles and cans to investing in a do-it-yourself composter, homeowners all over the country are doing their part to help reduce emissions and protect the planet for future generations. 

There are plenty of small things you can do to make your home more energy efficient, but what if you want to go a step further? Whether you’re building a new home or renovating your current place, these green remodeling ideas will save you money over that long haul and make your home more appealing to buyers when you’re ready to sell – while saving the earth in the process. 


Solar Panels

They’re expensive to install, but solar panels are worth the investment. Last April, the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory released its findings of an eight-and-half-year study of the California real estate market. According to the report, existing homes that were retrofitted with solar panels sold for an average of $17,000 more than comparable homes without them.

They’ll also save you a lot of money over time. For example, a homeowner in Chicago who pays an average of $200 per month on electricity would spend more than $43,000 to have solar panels installed. After tax credits and rebates, the total cost would be just over $30,000. However, after just one year, that homeowner would save anywhere between $1,200 to $2,778 on electric bills. After 25 years, that savings could be as high as $116,560.

To find out how much solar panels could save you, visit:


Composite Decking

In addition to saving trees by using composite decking instead of wood, you’ll save yourself a big hassle. Wooden decks need to be sealed every couple years to keep water out, and eventually the elements will cause at least a few boards to rot and splinter. 

Composite decking, made from a blend of wood waste and plastic, doesn’t require the same upkeep as traditional wood deck boards. You won’t need to seal it, which eliminates the time and money you’d spend resealing plus fewer chemicals will be released into the air. And since the deck won’t rot, no trees will be cut down and used to replace it after a few years. 

The average cost of a composite deck addition is $15,579, according to Remodeling Magazine, but you can expect to recoup more than 60% of your cost when you sell your home – more than if you replaced your roof or added a master suite. 

synthetic grass.jpg

Synthetic Grass

It sounds crazy, but using fake grass in your yard is a real thing. It looks surprisingly real, and is great for homes in dry climates where it requires a lot of extra effort – and water – to grow the real thing. According to online retailer Artificial Turf Supply, the synthetic stuff costs about twice as much to install as sod. In a 1,500 square-foot yard, ground prep, sod and a sprinkler system would cost $4,750 a year while artificial grass would run just over $10,000. 

But over an eight-year period (the warranty period of the synthetic grass listed on the site), the cost of maintaining a sod lawn would cost more than $14,500. During that same period, there would be no additional costs to maintain the fake stuff, which means a savings of more than $4,000. After 15 years, the savings skyrockets to $13,000. Basically, artifical turf pays for itself completely.

And you’re doing more than putting money in your pocket. You may still “rinse” the lawn from time to time, but you won’t waste gallons of water saturating the ground to keep the grass alive. It doesn’t need mowing, either, which means lower gasoline emissions polluting the air. 

No matter what green home remodeling project you want to pursue, make sure you find yourself a like-minded contractor. Look for a pro who has some experience in green building, or is at least open-minded and eager to get an eco-friendly project under his or her belt. 

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo! Inc.

An Angie’s List Guide: Home Maintenance for Summer

Home Maintenance Service Tips for Summer

Before you spend money on a home remodeling project this summer, check this graphic to see how well your investment is likely to pay off. Some remodeling projects, like updating your kitchen or bathroom, are much more likely to add value to your home than, say, installing a swimming pool. 

Plan Functional Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor Kitchen

Careful Selection of Grilling Equipment, Appliances and Cabinets is Critical to Designing a Successful Outdoor Kitchen

The popularity of outdoor kitchens continues to skyrocket, and with it the availability of products and techniques that make them affordable and functional also is increasing. If a client’s desire is to go beyond the standard grill, then an outdoor kitchen can provide all the conveniences to rival any indoor kitchen. Equipment selection remains the primary consideration. The second most critical consideration pertains to cabinetry. 


With its various features, the grill entices the novie and expert. Therefore, careful assessment of a client’s grilling style or desire is in order. 

Natural or propane gas and the accompanying storage/gas/electrical line placement is crucial. If built-in (versus freestanding), the 3/4-inch gas line needs to have a shutoff and quick disconnect for an emergency or season change. If using propane, there needs to be room for the tank that is easily accessible for replacement. If using natural gas, room for the line with a pressure  regulator is needed. All grills usually need an insulating surround (some come from the grill maker) to protect any material surrounding it, such as wood, particleboard or combustible materials. 

Attached lighting and electrical lines for igniters are a must with a shutoff if possible. All of these connections need to be sealed against water. A grill design element not usually considered is the placement of wind protection (a 10 – to 12-inch backsplash, if not in the design of the hood). When not considered, the hot air forced down from the back of the grill could melt plastic knobs. 

If you specify an icemaker and refrigerator, UL approved for outdoor use is necessary. A manufacturer’s warranty usually is only for temperatures down to 32 F. This requires more consideration in colder climates for a complete disconnect. Ice machines and sinks require a couple quarts of marine-grade antifreeze be placed in the drains in off months. Water lines need a bleed-port through which water can be depleted so lines don’t freeze. Ice machines should have a gravity drain; pump models are too prone to freezing. 


With introductions of teak, cypress and other waterproof woods, outdoor-grade laminates and man-made materials, the aesthetics of cabinertry can be enhanced beyond stainless steel. Select cabinets made with marine-grade materials, such as plywood, that have weep holes for water to drain out of in cabinets and drawers. Doors and drawers need rubber gasket seals. The flashing on any grill insulation kit installed around the perimeter of the grill should protect the cabinet on each side, as well as from any heat below. 

Drawer glide systems should be of the highest stainless/nickel content to protect against moisture/dust infiltration. Hinges need to have a tighter tension to prevent wind from opening them; otherwise a lock may be needed. 

Equipment and cabinetry are the most important components of an outdoor kitchen. Once they are designed, selected and installed well, they will provide optimum pleasure. Ensure your design/construction team understands some of these practical but sometimes overlooked aspects of an outdoor kitchen.