Lancaster PA Remodeling Tips & Tricks

July 15, 2013

“How much will my _______ remodel cost?”

Understand the pitfalls with “Ballpark Figures” in remodeling.

by Matt Blank


Curiosity led to some of the greatest discoveries mankind has known… and it also killed the beloved cat. Many Lancaster, PA homeowners have thought about remodeling projects for their home, finishing the basement, kitchen renovations, adding a bathroom or family room; but they rarely have any idea what the price tag will be. This isn’t a bad thing. Someone without construction experience rarely understands the remodeling process puzzle, and more importantly, how the pieces fit together: design, selections, demolition, framing, drywall, electrical, plumbing, inspections, etc, etc etc.

This leads to the inevitable question: “How much will my bathroom remodel cost?”. If not their bathroom, then remodeling their kitchen, finishing their basement, adding a room addition…

The difficulty with ballpark figures is the idea that a remodeling project is an item like a car or computer – one product sold by many vendors. Carpentry is a custom art, not just a skilled trade. A company may sell a new bathroom “system”, but that isn’t a custom renovation project.

Custom: No two projects or remodeling companies are the same. The design you choose and the selections you make will determine the cost of your project.

A general contractor may be able to give you an average price for similar jobs; unfortunately “average price” for all of their kitchens, etc, does not mean the same thing as the “ballpark figure” for your specific project. A price range is a reasonable request, just understand what those numbers mean.

Understanding “Ballpark Figure” Ranges:

-Low Price – You think this price is great! However, keep in min this is the bare bones, everything goes right price. Until we actually get in there and see what’s going on, we never really know what work will be involved. Beware when the actual proposal comes back and you are shocked to find the price higher than this.

Or worse, the contractor gives you a lowball “estimate” just to get the job, then you steadily watch the price rise. Learn the warning signs of these Horror Stories.

-High Price – This is usually for a higher end, more expensive selections and design. Beward that you are not scared off from the project before you even discuss what can be done within your budget.

Where to start:

Cost vs. Value for Harrisburg/Lancaster/York. This guide will help you begin to understand the average cost of several different project categories and how much you can expect to recoup in home value on your remodeling investment.

Click here for tips on how to find and interview experienced contractors.

About: Matt & Mike Blank of MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC have been making homes happy since 1999. We have hundreds of satisfied remodeling clients across Ephrata, Lititz, Landsiville, Millersville and everywhere else in Lancaster County.

Meet Mike Blank, CGR CAPS, President of MBC

 


June 24, 2013

Your Family Room Options

Families are much like “chills”… they’re multiplyin’! Having a common area to spend time with your loved ones, that’s important. We have helped many Lancaster County, PA families realize their dream space.

The first thing you must ask yourself about a family room is – where do we put it? When considering your home, you may wonder where the best spot is. Below we discuss your 3 main options:

Basement – For years, basements have been home to the family room area – a big TV and sound system to watch all the big games and blockbuster movies. You can practically double your livable square footage. Or, as MBC says, make your available space more livable.

Don’t Forget: You will need an egress window or door to the outside for fire escape, or be putting one in, to secure a building permit.

Addition – Family room additions come in many shapes and sizes; in-laws quarters added off the1st floor, build a 2nd story, or a family area above and garage below – you have many options to consider here. Your budget, your homes style and lot space will help determine the best choice for your situation.

Tip: Check our Addition Cost Calculator for some basic pricing ideas.

Lancaster PA Home Addition

Take down an interior wall – is there a pesky wall between the dining and living rooms? We often take down walls to open up space. A header board will need to be installed if any of the walls are load bearing. This will allow you more space to entertain and always be in the same room.

Design tip: light colors & mirrors help open up a room visually.

Home addition, in-laws quarters, basement or taking down walls? MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC can help you figure out is best for your situation! Contact us for a free consultation! Serving Lancaster County, PA, including Manheim, Millersville, Lancaster, Manheim Township, Lititz, Landisville, Lampeter and everywhere in between!

May 1, 2013

2013 Kitchen and Bath Remodel Design Trends from NKBA

By Matt Blank

What’s hot… and what’s not… in kitchen and bathroom design and remodeling for 2013?

From National Kitchen & Bath Association:

“As we settle into 2013 and a seemingly healthier national economy, some kitchen and bath design trends continue to flourish, while consumer budgets for these projects appear to have shrunk just a bit. To get specific —

* Gray color schemes in both kitchens and baths have witnessed a dramatic escalation since 2010, particularly over the past year. Used currently in 55% of kitchens and 56% of bathrooms, shades of gray are growing in appeal, creating chic, sophisticated spaces that many consumers desire.

* Also, continuing an important trend from last year, transitional-style kitchens and baths have clearly surpassed traditional styles, a longstanding favorite until 2012.

* While the use of quartz finishes was in slight decline last year, it has surfaced as a clear trendsetter this year, coming a close second to granite.

* Homeowner spending on their kitchen and bath remodels was trending upward a year ago, but the latest numbers tell a slightly less robust story. Heading into 2012, the total cost of the average kitchen and the average bath design was $51,050 and $18,575, respectively. As we move into 2013, the figures have dipped to $47,308 in kitchens, while staying steady at $18,538 in bathrooms.

Over 300 National Kitchen & Bath Association member-designers participated in the 2013 NKBA Design Trends Survey, reporting the materials, product types, and styles that they specified in their kitchen and bath designs over the final three months of 2012. While broad trends won’t be evident in every local market, the following are the top overall trends that emerged for kitchens and baths across the United States and Canada.”

General Kitchen & Bathroom Trends for 2013

  1. Shades of Grey
  2. Quartz Counters
  3. Trending “Transitional” Style (a seamless blend of traditional and contemporary)

2013 Kitchen Remodeling Trends

Kitchen Design and Remodeling by MBC Lancaster PA

  1. White Painted Cabinetry
  2. Glass Backsplash
  3. LED/Energy Efficient Lighting
  4. Touch-activated faucets
  5. Satin Nickel finish faucets on the rise

 

2013 Bathroom Remodeling Trends


  1. Ceramic/Porcelain tile flooring.
  2. Undermounted sinks remain the most requested in bathrooms.

Average Total Costs: No Growth

NKBA members did not see any increase in the average costs of their bathrooms and kitchens. Kitchens actually fell by .08% (around $3700 less than 2012). Bathrooms sunk even less – .017% (about $300 less than 2012). While no growth sounds like a bad thing, these numbers are up thousands of dollars from the bottom of 2011.

You can view and download the complete 2013 report here.

When you want to make your ideas a reality, call MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC in Lancaster County, PA for the Kitchen or Bathroom of your dreams!

March 19, 2013

Designing Your In-Laws Quarters Home Addition

Budget: A major step, and one of the first places you should start is developing an investment budget for the project. This isn’t always easy; without experience in these types of large home addition projects, you may have no idea what to expect. If you aren’t sure where to even begin, try our Addition Cost Calculator.

Style: Maintaining the style and aesthetics of your current home are very important when considering an addition. You do not want an eyesore stuck to your house just to cut costs – it is better to be patient and save so you can do it right the first time. Potential buyers will notice this right away… and will keep on moving.

2story_addition_mbclancasterpa

Create a Wish List to start: Bring ideas to the meeting. Involve your family members as much as possible in the interior designing, colors, flooring, bathroom fixtures and all of the other selections made during the design phase. This is a fun family activity, but also since they will be the one living there, their input is important. An experienced contractor can help you make the right choices to keep your budget intact while making sure of a win-win-win project design process.

Location: Should we go off the back? Add a 2nd story? What about a master suite and garage addition? Maybe we should do a garage conversion? You might have several options as to where to put the addition; or you may not. Working with an experience general contractor will give you some trusted guidance as to the pros and cons and feasibility of the different addition placement options you are considering.

Choosing Your General Contractor: Have they done the type of addition you are looking for? Putting a room on the back of a house is not the same as opening up the roof to add a second story. Always ask for work samples, state registration information and references. Check their website for evidence they have the quality and experience you desire.

From Lititz to Conestoga, Columbia to Manheim, MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC knows Lancaster County, PA home additions.

February 25, 2013

Making Your Bathroom into a Relaxing Retreat

Filed under: Bathroom Remodeling & Renovation — Tags: , , — MBCremodeling @ 2:38 pm

After the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, we all deserve to come home to a luxurious place to unwind. Your home’s bathroom, although often overlooked, could be your personal retreat.

While planning a bathroom makeover, it’s best to start from the ground up. The floor is the priority, because it’s the most permanent part of the room. Options range from luxury vinyl, to natural stone, to porcelain or ceramic tile, to marble. Tiles and marble may have a higher price tag, but they are durable and long-lasting. Vinyl on the other hand, is a lesser expensive option for a remodel, especially coupled with the intent to sell.

The right style and color of flooring can also make a bathroom feel much larger than it is. A light-colored marble floor with a thin, complementary-colored vein adds luxury, while also keeping the space fresh and airy.


Cabinetry is the next step in the remodel design and has the potential to be the largest cost in your budget. A cost-saving alternative is to give your current cabinets a facelift with a coat of bright, white lacquer.

Another option is to reface your current cabinets. This involves replacing or upgrading the cabinet door and drawer fronts and retaining the cabinet base. If the existing cabinets can not be maintained, there are many styles to choose from, including custom-made wood cabinets, oak panels washed in white, mirror-on-mirror treatments, warm pecan-stained oak, contemporary metal drawers or soft frosted glass panels.

Selecting the countertops is your next step. Often times, marble or granite can be purchased at a discount from a stone scrap yard.

Laminate or Formica are two other great options, which will give you similar look to marble or granite at a fraction of the cost.

The finishing details and accessories have the ability to take a nicely remodeled bathroom and make it into your luxury get-away.

Hardware is a simple way to add your personal touch and style. Whether it’s modern with clean lines or old and vintage, it’s about what makes you happy.

Let the sunshine in! A skylight may be just what you need to allow natural light into your space. A skylight is also quite private.

For windows that need a covering, bamboo or other natural fibers add tranquility and warmth, while allowing natural light to pass through.

Turning your bathroom into your personal retreat is all about reflecting your style, attention to detail and selecting the right materials.

January 17, 2013

Remodeling Sense is not Car Sense.

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , — MBCremodeling @ 3:54 pm

Fact: You get what you pay for when remodeling.

Car Sense is a no-haggle way to buy the car you want. You research the make & model, and you can trust great service and the right price. Many inexperienced homeowners treat remodeling they same way; they decide it’s time for a new kitchen, and all they need to do is shop around for the lowest price.

Remodeling is not a product and it definitely isn’t a commodity – it is a service, plain and simple. This is sometimes easily forgotten, especially in an era when Carpentry is not given it’s proper due as a professional trade; it was in fact once considered the artist’s trade.

No two remodelers are the same… no two remodels are the same either. Deciding you are building a kitchen addition isn’t the same as deciding on the new Samsung TVs. It’s more like computers- brands, not models. What you save buying an off brand can easily cost you when the product quickly fails and you are left at square one.

MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC spends a lot of time discussing best practices for choosing a remodeler in and around Lancaster County, PA.

We hear so many Horror stories, even locally, from homeowners who thought all builders were the same, and that amazing low price was just their luck…

How many horror stories do you need to hear to realize that ‘too good to be true’ lowball offer is just that. And having a true professional contractor to come after and fix the subpar work the cheap guy completed (or didn’t…) is going to cost more to fix than to do it right the first time.

What To Do

What do you want – the Lincoln, the Ford… or the Lemon? Considerations for choosing your remodeling contractor based on Quality and Value – NOT price alone.

1. Better materials – this is often a main thing not considered by the average remodeling client, especially the first-timers out there. Also consider pricing is low due to big Home Improvement warehouses carry lower quality product lines.

2. Better craftsmanship – higher % increase of home value after project.

3. Better warranty – Most contractors offer no warranty. Some offer a year.

(P.S. MBC offers 5-years.)

4. Peace of mind – You need to trust this person and their crew inside your home, around your family, your pets, and with the fact you are paying them at work intervals and/or start of phases and not all up front. PA State Law allows no more than 1/3 down payment, excluding special order items.

Ask Your Yourself:
• Is a professional someone who makes money… or pays taxes?
• Gives their employees 100% health insurance coverage?

October 31, 2012

DROP THAT TOOLBOX!

DIY or OMG?

We spend a lot of time (and people spend a lot of money) fixing subpar remodeling work. You might be willing to do just about any home improvement project around your house… but before you tackle any major work, consider two things.

First, ask yourself if you can do the job right. Saving money is one thing, but are you knowledgeable enough about the task at hand to avoid major (and costly) mistakes?

Second—and perhaps more importantly—put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer – even if you’re not likely to sell for years. You might be proud of all your home improvements, but that won’t stop the homebuyer from asking questions about the work. Fair or not, there is an inherent skepticism about homegrown handymen, no matter your talents.

Professionally done work, on the other hand, tends to have a certain “seal of approval” that assures the job was done properly. Plus, most pros guarantee their work for an extended time, which gives buyers even more confidence.

Can you get things done – or can you get things DONE RIGHT?

Just some food for thought!

September 7, 2012

Home Safety Tips for Seniors

*You should consider having a professional install/perform these Long Term Considerations.

    Bathroom

Free/Low-Cost Home Improvements
1. Set the hot-water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce energy costs and prevent scalding.
2. Mark cold and hot faucets clearly.
3. Leave a light on in your bathroom at night.
4. Use a rubber-suction bath mat or anti-slip floor strips or decals in the tub or shower.
5. Increase contrast: Avoid low contrasting items. Adding contrast is as simple as a blue tub mat in a white bathtub or painting the edge of the steps a contrasting color from the rest of the step surface.
6. Install a handheld adjustable showerhead for easier bathing.
7. Install user-friendly lever handle faucets in your sinks and in tubs or showers. Some faucets even
8. Skid-proof the tub and make sure the bath mat has a non-slip bottom.

Long Term Considerations*

1. Install a raised height toilet or sink/vanity.
2. Place a sturdy bathtub or shower seat in the tub and/or shower.
3. Mount grab bars next to the toilet and bathtub and in the shower for help getting up or down.

    Kitchen

Free/Low-Cost Home Improvements
1. Keep floors clean and uncluttered.
2. Illuminate work areas.
3. Mark “on” and “off” positions on appliances clearly and with bright colors.
4. Store heavier objects at waist level.
5. Place or mount an A-B-C rated, all-purpose fire extinguisher in an easily accessible location near the stove and oven so that you’re prepared for any type of kitchen fire.
6. Store sharp knives in a rack.

Long Term Considerations*

1. Replace knobs on cabinets and drawers with easy-to-grip, D-shaped handles.
2. Install offset hinges on all doors to add two inches of width for wheelchair access, if needed.
3. Install a security peephole on exterior doors at the correct height for you.
4. Install outdoor floodlights that switch on by motion sensors to light your way and to deter burglars.


    General

Free/Low-Cost Home Improvements
1. Open blinds and curtains and raise shades during daylight hours to increase natural light inside the home.
2. Place exposed electrical, telephone and computer cords along a wall where people won’t trip over them.
3. Remove all cords from under furniture or carpeting to lessen the risk of fire.
4. Remove clutter from stairways and passageways to help prevent trips and falls.
5. Check the carpeting on your stairs to be sure it is firmly attached.
6. Arrange furniture to allow for easy passage.
7. Create an emergency exit plan in case of a fire.
8. Remove debris from outdoor walkways.
9. Trim shrubbery to provide a clear view from doors and windows.
10. Increase light and decrease glare by using the highest-watt light bulbs or compact-fluorescent bulbs appropriate for your light fixtures or lamps. Use only non-glare incandescent bulbs (or the fluorescent equivalents).
11. Put nightlights in the bathroom and in hallways leading from the bedroom to the bathroom.
12. Keep a smoke detector on every floor and in each bedroom.
13. Make sure that all staircases have good lighting with switches at top and bottom.
14. Replace traditional light switches with easy-to-use, rocker-style light switches.
15. Install smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors on all levels of the house, especially where the bedrooms are.

Long Term Considerations*
1. Install railings on stairs, including basement stairs, and consider railings on both sides of the steps for an extra stability option.
2. Have a professional home evaluation to match your individual needs and habits.
3. Install a shelf at the main entrance door to hold items when locking and unlocking the door and install bigger, lever handles.

August 22, 2012

Apples to Apples? How to Compare Remodeling Proposals

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , , — MBCremodeling @ 3:58 pm
    Most Importantly… Do You Trust This Person?

When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own instincts. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home and around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs? Are they an expert and experienced in the type of project you are envisioning? Don’t throw away money on poor workmanship that will lower the value of your home. And then cost more to be fixed.

    Important Considerations:

• Remodeling is NOT a commodity – you don’t decide on the project you want done and, like a TV or Car, go bargain shopping on the internet or around town. This effects your family’s wellbeing for an extended period of time, the value of your home and your hard earned dollars.
• No two Remodelers are the same.
• Every project is custom.
• You must thoroughly review each proposal to get an understanding of what each contractor is presenting a bid for.
• Your prospective Remodeler’s should be consulting with you to create your project, not selling you on what they think should be done.

    8 Questions to Ask:

1. Will they provide their Contractor Registration info (1)?
2. Do they offer Full Health Insurance to their employees?
3. Do they have Liability Insurance?
4. Are they Lead Paint Certified (2)?
5. How much will Change Orders cost / change the original quote?
6. Do they guarantee their proposal price? Or is it just an ‘estimate’?
7. Are they experienced in home remodeling or new home building (there is a HUGE difference)?
8. Have there been any complaints to the BBB (3) about them?

    Does the contractor, price and contract include?

• Designs/Plans/Permits
• Realistic Allowances for your fixtures, cabinets, flooring, etc?
• All required legal documents – 3 days to cancel clause, Arbitration clause, etc
• Do they require no more than 1/3 down payment (excluding special order items), as required by PA law?
• Is there a clear listing of all of the specific details involved, including design, permits, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, inspections?
• A workmanship warranty?

    VALUE is KEY.

There are two ways a contractor can earn your business. He can try to be the lowest price or the best value. (4)

The lowest price typically comes with a large amount of risk. A low price typically means the following: no experience, low overhead (lack of capital, needs large down payment), no workers compensation insurance, no general liability insurance, no business license, and no contractor’s registration. The more items on the above list that applies, the greater the risk to the homeowner.

The best value is typically achieved when the customer knows exactly what they are going to receive (detailed specifications) from a company that has a solid reputation built on years of experience with the type of project you are having done. They will supply a large reference list of previous customers in your area, require no more than 1/3 down payment (PA State Law, excluding special order items), provide proof of insurance with a contact and phone number, proof of business license, and a state contractor’s registration and EPA lead paint certification. They will also offer a Warranty on their workmanship.

Resources:

(1) PA Attorney General Contractor Registration Search
(2) EPA RRP (Lead Paint) Certified Firm Search
(3) Better Business Bureau (BBB)
(4) Remodeling Magazine 2011-12 Harrisburg, PA Cost vs. Value Report

August 7, 2012

Home Contractor Horror Stories (and how you can avoid them)

Sometimes real life is scarier than the movies… like when you are looking for a Home Remodel Contractor in Lancaster, PA, but have no idea who to call. All we hear are stories, like the ones below, about contractors ripping people off and walking off with sometimes 6 figures of hard earned money. Some reports say upwards of $2 Billion a year is taking from people in Contractor Fraud. And that doesn’t include the ones that perform shoddy work that needs to be redone by a professional remodeler within a few months… or the value of the home will significantly drop.

Our tips: Do your research! Ask for references and registration info and check for ratings online. Throw price aside, you get what you pay for – select the remodeler who you feel comfortable working with. They will be in your home day after day.

Videos:

NC Home Contractor Accused of Fraud:

Home Improvement Scams: Unlicensed Contractors:

This woman was ripped off so bad, she started her own bootcamp to help people avoid a similar nightmare: http://www.contractorsfromhell.com/home-premodeling-boot-camp-for-women-and-the-men-who-love-them/

 

Articles:

Excerpt from “A Contractor Horror Story? Join the Crowd” from NYTimes.com.

ALL she wanted was a nice fence around her backyard. Danielle O’Connell was planning a 2-year-old birthday party for her daughter at the family’s Elmsford home and wanted the 18 toddlers safely fenced in.

Mrs. O’Connell and her husband got several estimates but were discouraged by the cost and how long it would take to finish. All the contractors who bid told them the fence would cost at least $5,000 and take four to six weeks to put up.

Then the O’Connells got lucky — at least they thought they did. The couple found a contractor in the Yellow Pages who promised to build the fence for $2,000 and to do it in a week. “We were like, ‘Thank God we found this guy,’ ” Mrs. O’Connell said. “We’re thinking, ‘This is fantastic — those other people were going to rip us off.’ ”

There was a rip-off involved, of course, but it was by the low bidder, not the other contractors. After pressuring Mrs. O’Connell to give him a $1,000 deposit for construction material quickly, he disappeared. He never showed up to build the fence, nor did he answer the phone calls Mrs. O’Connell made as the weeks dragged on.

The O’Connells later found out that he is suspected of bilking at least 11 others out of their money, too.
Excerpt from “Learn from Other People’s Contractor Horror Stories” from NewsChannel5.com.

Jason Brooks is another former customer of Carlton’s.

Brooks paid him $50,000 to build an addition for his in-laws.

As he walks around the half-finished project, he points out different areas where there are problems. Much of Carlton did, Brooks tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates, failed inspection. And then, he says, Carlton vanished and wouldn’t return calls.

“He’s turned what was supposed to be a dream project into a complete nightmare,” Brooks shares.

But perhaps what is most surprising is that Carlton knows what he’s doing is wrong.

Our investigation found that he’s been arrested repeatedly for working as a contractor without a professional license. We also found that he’s ignored repeated orders by the state to stop working until he gets a license.

And, get this. He’s even used someone else’s license, claiming it was his.

Jason Brooks believes, “He doesn’t care. That’s the thing. He doesn’t care about this. He doesn’t respect the law.”

Gene Spitzer adds, “We just thought cause he was a minister, he would be a decent human being.”

Tips on choosing the RIGHT home remodeling contractor:

Tips from the BBB: Hiring a Contractor – Do you know the Red Flags?:

PA State Rep Joseph Preston, Jr: “Check for Home Contractor Registration”:

 

When it’s time for your Lancaster County, PA renovations – Trust MBC:

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