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Don’t Be Fooled by Invisible Home Intruder—Mold Often Hard to Detect...Vulnerable Groups at Risk

  • Written by Craig Hawkins, EnviroShield
This time of the year we spend the majority of our time indoors. For certain folks more susceptible to respiratory viruses, it’s important to make sure our homes are free of airborne contaminants. We asked Craig to help us understand the risks:

Question: If I don’t see signs of mold/water damage, is it safe to assume my home is free of contamination?

Craig: Our experience over the years has shown that is not the only way to detect problems. There are places in our homes that no one ever goes to like the crawl space and or the attic of your home. There could be a bathroom vent in your attic that does not vent to the out side of your home but into the attic space and with that hot humid air creates a petrie dish for mold to grow. I just saw a crawl space that had a hot water leak which created steam in the crawl space and that also produced in a very short time mold in the crawl space that needed to be remediated or cleaned up.

Question: Can these accumulations cause people living in my home to experience health issues?

Craig: In certain homes these colonies can absolutely produce enough organic compounds to cause allergic reactions, sickness, and extreme cases cause you to be hospitalized with an acute asthma attack.

Question: How does mold enter my home in the first place?

Craig: Mold is considered ubiquitous, meaning it is everywhere. It needs three things to start a colony. #1 Temperature 45 degrees F – 120 degrees F. #2 Minimal moisture source – 60 percent relative humidity or above.  #3 Food: wood, sheetrock, paper, etc. That being said, mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness – such as the areas we discussed earlier.

Question: If I do discover a problem, how do I choose a water/mold damage company?

Craig: The first step is to call your insurance company and also a water damage company.

I would use this checklist:

1. Guarantee — Look for a company that provides a guarantee for mold remediation after the water dry out is complete.

2. Experience — Make sure that the water damage/mold remediation company that you choose has the training and the certifications that are necessary for the type of job they are doing for you.

3. Containment — A 1-inch by 1-inch area of mold creates millions of spores that are released into the air during the cleaning process, which can be very dangerous to the health of everyone in the home.

Only water damage companies that utilize what’s called a HEPA Negative Air System to direct the contaminated air should be the ones you use.

7 Strategies to Keep Control of your Remodeling Budget

  • Written by Nip Tuck Remodeling
Have you ever heard the complaint ”it took twice as long and cost twice as much…I’m never remodeling again!”?  This is a common problem and can be avoided in almost every case if you approach your project with a planning mindset and a realistic goal for the investment in your home.

Inevitably, a new client will ask me “how much will my project cost?”  There is not any black & white answer when you are talking about a remodeling project.  What I can tell you is that regardless of your budget, a properly planned and executed remodeling budget will be about 30 percent labor & installation and 70 percent materials. This means that you, the homeowner, really are in control of up to 70 percent of your budget and can keep it on course if you work closely with your contractor and honor a few basic concepts.

1. Fail to Plan….Plan to Fail.  One of the top budget busters is to start construction without a well-documented plan. A fully documented scope of work will tell you what will happen, and a complete list of what you have chosen will tell you exactly how much it will cost and when it can be delivered to your home.  There are a myriad of decisions to be made during a construction process, but selecting just the right tile or plumbing fixture should not be one of them.  Feeling pressured to make a decision or going with the product that is “fine” because it is available will leave you with a bad feeling well after the project is finished.

2. Hiring a designer can actually save you money.  Shopping for your remodel is one of the exciting parts and can also be one of the reasons a budget gets blown before you even get started.  A short example of this is a client that goes with her girlfriend on the weekend to the supply house recommended by her contractor, budget figures in hand.  The supply house is closed for the day, but another “boutique” supplier is in the same parking lot, so the women decide to stop and look.  Long story short, a lovely wall tile with a shimmering finish and individual glass decorator tile samples leave the store with the client, and from that point on, nothing else will compare and the tile budget has now almost triple.  Professionals will design for your tastes AND honor your budget.

3. Beware of the “cruise ship” mentality. Invariably, something will come up while you are remodeling that might not have been considered in the planning stage and you ask your contractor to take care of it “while they are here.” If enough of these type of things occur, you can be looking at a substantial uptick in the cost.  All is well and good during the process, but then at the end you get a huge change-order bill at the end (remember the free-wheeling spending on the cruise ship?). Go back to your plan, be thorough and detailed and stick to it as best you can.  A detailed plan will pre-plan for many of these types of budget creep, and pay for changes as they come up so you will be very aware of the addition.

4. Prepare to compromise.  Remember the designer tile story above?  Know yourself and your tastes as you prepare your remodeling budget.  Understand that choosing the most amazing tile, glass sink or designer light fixture will require a compromise on another line item to balance your budget.  Your designer and contractor can likely recommend areas you can safely save some money without taking anything away from the overall design.

5. The value of working inside your existing structure.   Updating and remodeling your home is intended to create a new space that will be comfortable, fits your tastes and living habits, and of course enhances the home with beautiful products and craftsmanship.  Maximizing space and function while keeping major plumbing and electrical components in the same place will save time and money in your budget.  Removing interior, non-bearing walls to make more room is popular and can be easily accomplished with a modest amount of additional labor.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to keep to a tight budget, removing structural walls and moving plumbing can be a significant increase. You can ask your contractor how to “value engineer” just the right solution.

6. Have a contingency for Murphy and his friends.  Remodeling is different than new construction.  There can be many surprises behind the walls either relating to water damage or previous remodeling done in less than a professional manner, etc.

Most areas of concern can be identified prior to construction, and some assumptions made as to the extent, but there is always something to learn.  I would recommend putting aside at least 10-15 percent of your total budget for contingency and then as milestones such as demo, plumbing and electrical are passed, you can gradually relax on the “what-if” and re-allocate funds in other areas.  Knowing you have a safety net in the finances will save headaches in the long run.

7. Participate in the project.  I am often asked “where can we trim our budget?”.  The answer may be that the homeowner does all the demolition and disposal prior to the anticipated start date.  In a typical kitchen or bathroom project, this could save up to $1000 on the front end and be allocated towards something else.

You want to be careful in this area that you are skilled enough to do this and know your limitations so that you don’t create more damage and increase labor costs to repair your efforts.  Another area to save is paint, however you must remember this is a finish detail and you or someone you know will want to do a great job so as not to lessen the rest of the “professional” work you’ve invested in.

Nip Tuck Remodeling is a woman owned and operated General Contracting company located in Woodinville. We serve King & Snohomish County and specialize in Kitchen, Bathroom and Condo Remodeling.  www.niptuckremodel.com   425-681-7668   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ten festive holiday gifts to have on hand

  • Written by Molbak’s
The holidays are filled with fun surprises—a spur-of-the-moment dinner invitation, a plate of fresh-baked cookies on your doorstep, a letter from a long-lost friend. These unexpected gestures make the season truly bright, and being able to pass this generosity along to others makes it even brighter.

“You can make it easy on yourself if you simply think ahead,” Molbak’s manager Susan Burchak, explains. “Early in the season, pick up a few thoughtful gifts, wrap them right away, add a blank gift tag, and set them in a safe place.” That way, when your neighbor invites you over for hot toddies, or when your trusty delivery person arrives at night in the pouring rain, you don’t have to scramble to say thank you. You’ve got something festive wrapped up and ready to share.

Here are a few thoughtful, easy gift ideas that are destined to delight:

1.  Poinsettia perfection: Nothing dazzles the eye at holiday time like a fresh poinsettia. It’s so gorgeous, it basically wraps itself—just add a festive bow and a colorful gift tag and you’re all set.

2.  Write on: Tie a colorful ribbon around a stack of greeting cards and top it off with a matching pen – it’s pretty and practical.

3.  Raise a glass: Wrap up a bottle of your favorite vino in a festive bag, thread a pretty wine stopper through the ribbon, and you’ve got a gift that’s good to the last drop—and beyond!

4. Delish dish: Hand out a festive candy dish brimming with gourmet chocolates. The chocolates will disappear in a wink, but the dish will serve up holiday memories for years to come.

5.  Chef’s special: Wrap a copy of your most trusted cookbook in a festive dishtowel. It’s a fun gift any cook is sure to savor.

6.  Get fresh: Deliver a loaf of fresh-baked bread in a beautiful ceramic bread pan. Top it with a ribbon and a copy of the recipe they can add to their recipe collection.

7.    Bowl them over: Give them a stunning holiday bowl brimming with bright, fresh tangerines. It’s a healthy, heavenly holiday treat.

8.  Let it glow: A fragrant candle is truly a gift for the senses. Best of all, many candles are beautifully packaged in festive tins or specialty glass holders—all they need is a gift tag and they’re ready to shine.

9.  Cozy up: For a heart-warming gift, tuck some specialty teas or a pack of gourmet cocoa in a festive mug, and bundle it all together with a cozy scarf and a festive ribbon.

10.  Gift of choice: Present your giftee with a gift card to their favorite store, or a Charity Gift Card they can pay forward to their favorite non-profit. Pair it with a bright ornament and a peppermint stick, and you’ve got a sweet surprise that’s just their style.

Molbak’s gift cards are available online at molbaks.com and at our Woodinville store. To learn more about Charity Gift Cards, visit www.tisbest.org.

Why winter is right time to plan outdoor updates

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) - Does the bitter cold weather have you dreaming of warm days spending time with friends and family in your backyard? The cold may keep us indoors, but professionals in the landscape and remodeling industry are still thinking about the outdoors and use the winter months to plan spring projects, and so should you.

Winter months provide the perfect opportunity to prepare your outdoor space for the warmer months. Planning and prepping now will ensure that you get full use of your outdoor space for the entire season once warm weather arrives. Get a head start by planning some of these spring projects now:

Grass

Before you know it, you’ll be peeling off your wool socks and walking around your yard feeling the soft grass between your toes. To ensure a lush lawn, spend time this winter researching grass seed options so you can repair any sparse areas in your yard. Planting grass seed early gives the seed plenty of time to germinate which will give you a healthy, green lawn in the spring. In addition to research, you can also chat with someone at your local nursery for help choosing the appropriate type of grass to plant in the early months of spring.

Bulbs

Some bulbs grow best when planted in the early spring when the ground is still cool. Do some research to figure out the best bulbs for your region so you can determine the ideal planting time. There’s nothing better than having a yard full of colorful flowers providing great curb appeal early in the season.

Deck

13813_B10_rgbSitting on your deck enjoying warm, sunny days or cooler evenings is something everyone looks forward to. Adding a new deck to your home or replacing an existing one adds value to your real estate investment. Homeowners have been consistently choosing composite decking over wooden decks over the past several years because composite decking is high performance and low maintenance, unlike wood decking which can splinter and crack, and often requires staining and sealing. Composite decking is long-lasting, durable, made of recycled materials, and resists mildew, warping and insects. According to Remodeling magazine 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report, adding a composite deck to your home has a 70 percent return on investment.

You can find free online tools to help you plan your new decking project during winter months. Visit  www.timbertech.com to learn which decking materials are best for you by taking a quick quiz. Create free deck designs with the Online Deck Designer. Mix and match decking and railing colors with the Color Visualizer and be inspired by other deck designs in the Photo Gallery. Before you know it, you’ll have the perfect plan for your dream deck so when warm weather hits, you’re ready.

Trees and shrubs

As you’re deciding on the deck, consider a plan to plant trees and/or shrubbery to provide a more natural outdoor atmosphere. The right type of landscaping will not only be visually appealing, but will also provide privacy and shade. Planting your selections early can have many benefits including time for each tree or shrub to establish a strong root system so that it flourishes for many years to come.

Stop dreaming of warm weather and put that energy into planning your outdoor space. From decking to landscape updates, your efforts during the winter months will bloom into big results once the spring thaw hits.

Cooler fall temperatures illuminate water/mold issues in kitchen, bathroom and furnace room

  • Written by Craig Hawkins of EnviroShield www.enviroshieldnw.com
October is traditionally the busiest month of the year for Craig Hawkins and his team of water and mold remediation specialists.  Craig says the cooler temperatures return our focus to inside and the most common living areas.  It’s also often the first time that the summer dormant furnace rumbles back to life.  We asked Craig to help us keep an eye out for the most common areas to have suffered water and mold issues:

Question:  You mentioned October is your busiest month. What is the most common issue customers’ face?

Craig: Kitchen issues.  You now notice water leaks and moldy smells with the doors and windows closed.  A typical problem is a leaky waterline attached to a dishwasher, refrigerator or sink.

Another major area of course is the bathroom.  Waterline leaks behind the toilet and underneath the sink.

Question:  Mention the word furnace and some of us grimace while picturing the beast in the dungeon.  Do I really need to go near it?

Craig:  Actually, you do.  The potential gremlin is the chance of a water leak in the crawl space.

Unbeknownst to most of us, a majority of the furnace ventilation systems go through that space. We often have no idea there is a problem until now when the beast roars to life.  Check for any funny smells that could be caused by water and mold in the crawl space.

Question: If I do discover a problem, how do I choose a water/mold damage company?

Craig: The first step is to call your insurance company and also a water damage company.

I would use this checklist:

1.    Guarantee — Most water damage companies will not offer any guarantee to remove mold damage.

2.    Experience  — Most water damage companies do not have the certification, training and experience to remove mold damage.

3.    Containment — A 1-inch by 1-inch area of mold creates millions of spores that are released into the air during the cleaning process, which can be very dangerous to the health of everyone in the home.

Only water damage companies that utilize what’s called a Negative Air System to contain the contaminated air are able to prevent health issues.