Category Archives: Remodeling

Remodeling Cost vs. Value

The editors at Hanley Wood’s Remodeling magazine prepared an extensive analysis of remodeling cost versus value across the U.S..  It compares construction costs for 35 popular remodeling projects to the value those projects retain at resale.  The full report is available at, but we have summarized the  information that is pertinent to our region.

A minor kitchen remodel has an average job cost of $21, 678.00  (minor meaning more of a facelift – surface only).  Its value at resale is $14,144 (65.2% recouped).

A major kitchen remodel has an average job cost of $58,149.00 (movement of walls in addition to facelift).  Its value at resale is $36,373 (62.6% recouped).

An upscale major kitchen remodel has an average job cost of $113,027.00.  Its value at resale is $61, 017 (54% recouped).

While these values have been on the decline since 2006, we hope to see the percentage of value recouped to rise within the next few years.


Considering a new home

With all the homes on the market these days, new home construction has slowed dramatically – that is no secret. And some say that it is ‘greener’ to buy an existing home rather than building new. While this may be true in some circumstances, it is not always the case. Most existing homes need considerable remodeling to make them desirable and functional to the new owners – there is waste and the purchase/production of new materials involved. And what about energy efficiency? Most older homes will require new heating and cooling systems and their ductwork can be sub-par, not to mention the possibility of older windows and the gaps in the building envelope contributing to a loss in efficiency.

“New construction affords the opportunity to go beyond this for a higher degree of sustainability, with the focus on better vapor and air barriers for a tighter building envelope and the design of more efficient heating, cooling, and domestic hot water systems. Architects can also play a major role in new construction by designing a building form that can help to retain heat or even increase solar gain in colder months.”
-Joseph G. Metzler, AIA, CID, LEED AP of SALA Architects in Minneapolis, MN

While I love a good “fixer-upper”, I am also excited to see the progress that is being made in new construction and the focus on building better, healthier, more functional structures for living.


New Formica Laminate Patterns

Typically I’m not a huge fan of laminate except for the price point and durability.  As an Interior Designer I get more excited about weightier, natural, more “real” surfaces.  However, an impressive new collection has arrived in the Formica laminate line and has caught my eye.  Called 180FX, the series has 7 surfaces that mimic the look of natural stone.  I am pretty impressed in the images I’ve seen and can’t wait to see it in person.


Green Remodeling – Part II

Steps to take to make your home greener with Energy Efficiency.

Step 1: Reduce demand for heating and cooling

  • Sealing air leaks with caulk, expanding foam, or weatherstripping
  • Upgrading insulation – note that if your insulation is not installed correctly you will not be getting the performance you think; you may lose up to half of the product’s stated R-value for improper installation.
  • Replacing Windows

Step 2: Use efficient mechanical systems

  • Less is more: Oversized heating and cooling equipment is much less efficient than “rightsized” systems because it will cycle on and off too quickly which loses efficiency, causes more wear and tear on the equipment, leading to more servicing and shorter life span.
  • Kicking the fossil fuel habit: Think electric.  There are lots of ways to make it, some dirty, but in the coming decades more and more electricity will be from clean, renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, small-scale hydroelectric, wave energy, and methane recapture from landfills or from biomass.  As these technologies scale up, the price will come down.
  • Geothermal heat pumps work just fine in colder climates like ours!

Step 3: Reduce electrical demand

  • Upgrading appliances: example, if you own a refrigerator more than 15 years old, it is gobbling up a hideous amount of electric current every day.  New Energy Star rated refrigerators use a fraction as much electricity… so much less that the savings will be enough to pay for a new, energy-efficient refrigerator in as little as three years!
  • Phantom loads: many appliances use power even when turned off.  A simple solution is a switchable power strip to cut the power to those power vampires.  Or if you have an outlet wired to a switch, you can use that outlet for your TV, stereo, etc. and power is cut just as you would switch off the light.
  • Change your light bulbs to long-lasting CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs).

Step 4: Capture waste heat

Step 5: Harvest free energy with solar panels & small wind turbines.

From “Practical Green Remodeling, Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes” by Barry Katz, 2010 Taunton Press

Green Remodeling – Part I

What makes a remodel green?

Every Green Remodel is different, and each one requires individual solutions to its unique challenges and opportunities.  But they all have three things in common: energy efficiency, resource conservation, and healthy living environments. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the features that fall into each category.

Energy Efficiency

  • A tight, well-insulated building envelope
  • Efficient lighting and appliances
  • Efficient water heating and space heating and cooling
  • Passive solar heating
  • Natural ventilation
  • Ample daylight

Resource Conservation

  • Efficient use of construction materials to minimize waste
  • Materials with recycled content
  • Reclaimed materials
  • Rapidly renewable materials
  • Water-saving plumbing fixtures

Healthy Living Environments

  • Formaldehyde-free plywood and particleboard
  • Low-VOC or zero-VOC paints and finishes
  • Properly vented combustion heating equipment
  • Kitchen range hoods vented to the outside
  • Humidity control

There are a great many things you can do in each category to make your remodeling project greener.  But how many of them do you need to be able to call your remodeled home green?

You don’t have to do everything.  Some things won’t be applicable to your particular project, and some may not make sense to do for other reasons.  But the bottom line is this: To call a remodel green, it needs to address each of the three fundamentals in some way.  If it’s not energy efficient, it’s not green.  If it doesn’t conserve materials or water or reduce the strain your home places on the environment, it’s not green.  And if it’s not healthy to live in, it’s not green.

-From “Practical Green Remodeling, Down-to-Earth Solutions for Everyday Homes” by Barry Katz, 2010 Taunton Press