Monday, December 31, 2012

Six Key Questions to Sniff Out Bad Contractors (Complete Interview with Shawn Kruse)

By Lee Nelson | Yahoo! Homes – Tue, Oct 30, 2012 1:18 PM EDT - Getting antsy to remodel your home? You might think your kitchen or bathroom needs a remodel right this minute, but remember: Haste makes waste.
Rather than rushing to hire the first - or even cheapest - contractor you come across, asking the right questions upfront will help you filter out the bad apples and find a reputable contractor to meet your needs.
"I want my clients to feel 100 percent comfortable with me," says Shawn Kruse, president of the Remodeling Contractors Association of Connecticut and owner of Kruse Home Improvement, LLC. "And honestly, the more investigation they do about me and questions they ask me, the better it is for me. It helps me get the job."
As Kruse points out, a thorough investigation can benefit both parties in the end. "Potential clients learn about your credentials, background and experience. They start to get to know you and see if your personalities can get along," Kruse acknowledges.
You may know exactly what you want out of your remodel - from the fixtures to the flooring - but you should know what you want from your contractor, too. Don't settle for the first or cheapest bid. Your contractor will control the project - and probably your stress level - from start to finish, so it's important the two of you are a good match.
If you want to find a contractor who suits your needs, try asking these six questions during the interview.

Question #1: What's Your Business History (and Much More)?

You wouldn't hire a surgeon without knowing how many surgeries he or she has performed, would you? Well, your home is about to go under the knife, so you'll want to evaluate contractors with the same level of scrutiny.
Kruse suggests first asking questions about a company's business practices and experiences with the remodeling project you need. Find out what kind of procedures and rules this contractor would follow to meet your demands.
Here are a few other things Kruse thinks you should ask contractors:
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you licensed by the state?
  • What percentage of your clientele is repeat or referral business?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Do you have a list of references from past projects similar to mine?
  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?
Kruse also recommends contacting a client with whom they are currently working. "This way, you can see how things are conducted on a day to day basis," he says. "You can find out if there are problems or issues that have arisen, and ask how well they communicate throughout the project."

Question #2: Do You Provide a Detailed Written Contract?

Misunderstandings happen. People forget. Things change. But a contract helps both you and the contractor know what is expected from both parties.
Every job, no matter how small, should have a signed contract by the contractor and customer, Kruse says. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast - the devil is in the details.
"A contract should be very specific and point out step by step what will be going on throughout the project and before it even begins," he adds.
Some things that should be on a contract - all written in great detail - include:
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties involved in the project, including vendors
  • Detailed list of the work to be completed
  • List of each product along with its price and model number
  • Who is responsible for pulling permits
  • Where deliveries will go and where the dumpster will be placed
  • What time the workers begin and end their day
  • Project's start and completion dates plus payment schedule
  • All work carried out by subcontractors
Anything that changes along the way must be written and signed in a change order, which makes sure everyone is in agreement on the change, price, time, or anything else that is adjusted from the original contract.

Question #3: How Much Do I Need to Put Down?

If the contractor asks you to pay for all of the project's cost upfront, it's time to find another contractor. An unreasonable deposit is the first sign something is fishy, Kruse says.
The Better Business Bureau's website suggests going by the rule of thirds: Pay one third at the beginning of the project, one third when work is 50 percent complete, and one third after it is final and you are satisfied with the outcome.
But chances are your contractor will have a formula to determine how much money is needed to get the job started. "Most contractors go with a 15 percent down payment on larger projects," Kruse says. "My clients usually give me the 15 percent deposit at the same time they hand me the signed contract."
Keep in mind that if the job is a small one, it's okay to provide money for the cost of materials - which might be 50 percent of the job or a little more, he says.

Question #4: Can I Get Itemized Price Estimates?

Some contractors like to hand you a bid with one price estimate for the entire project because it's less work on their end. Don't let them. You will need details on all the costs associated with the project and each item purchased.
Here's why an itemized estimate is essential: If midway through the project you decide to put in a less expensive countertop than the one originally discussed, you need to know the exact cost of the first countertop. Without it, you have no way of knowing how much of a credit you should receive. An itemized price list should detail the cost of labor, demolition, materials, electrical, plumbing, permits, and more.
Kruse explains how an itemized estimate is better for client and contractor: "It just makes it easier to track work, and it's transparent to both the client and I of what is expected on the job. I also offer my preferred vendor list to our clients so they know who we are buying their products from."
Some contractors use their estimates as proposals, but these might be very inaccurate and could mislead the homeowner, Kruse says. Don't assume anything. Be certain that once you sign a contract, what you see on paper is what you will be paying.

Question #5: Who Will Be at the Site?

Just hiring your contractor doesn't ensure he or she will be the one hammering and sawing. They might only show up to sign the contract and present the finished product. It's important to know that certain contractors manage their companies by getting bids or supervising many job sites at once and are not hands-on people.
How do you find out which one you have? "Ask potential contractors who is going to be in charge of your project at all times," Kruse says. "You need to meet with that person, get a feel for what he/she is like and get acquainted a bit. Go check out that person at one of their current jobs."
In their "Home Sweet Home Improvement" guide, the Federal Trade Commission urges homeowners to ask if subcontractors will be used on the project. If so, homeowners should ask to meet them to make sure they have insurance coverage and proper licenses.
When meeting the subcontractor, ask if the lead contractor pays them on time. Why is this little detail important? According to the Federal Trade Commission, "A 'mechanic's lien' could be placed on your home if your contractor fails to pay subcontractors or suppliers," who, in turn, could take you to court to retrieve their unpaid bills.

Question #6: Do You Think We Can Get Along?

Just like any good relationship, the one between you and your contractor should have harmony, communication, and collaboration. Some personalities and styles just don't mesh, so don't pick someone just because their bid is the lowest, says Kruse.
Your contractor will be part of your daily existence for quite some time. They will see how your children behave, how you don't water your plants, and how your breakfast dishes sit in the sink all day.
Hiring a contractor without much thought can be a big mistake, says Kruse. "Sometimes [homeowners] end up with work that is less than adequate, or they give these shady contractors a large chunk of money upfront and then they never show up again."
Protecting yourself from these nightmares means knowing exactly who your contractors are before you hire them. After all, it doesn't hurt to ask - but it sure could hurt if you don't.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Winter Home Remodeling Projects

If you own a home, you know it seems like the maintenance never stops, the improvement never ends and the dream projects never go away. Home improvement remodeling isn’t just for the spring and summer. There are a number of home improvement remodeling projects you can focus on during the cold winter months. Below are the top five home remodeling projects you can do in the winter to improve your home.
Remodeling the bathroom.
Bathroom remodel done by KHI
One of the best reasons to remodel your bathroom is because you aren’t happy with its current look however, if your bathroom has seen better days, a bath remodel is in order. Trying to maintain a bathroom with a leaky toilet or sink not only wastes gallons of water every day, but also results in higher utility bills. Installing new bathroom fixtures can both brighten up an otherwise bleak space and offer you considerable savings on your water bill. Another advantage of a bathroom remodel is adding more cabinets and/or space.

Painting the interior of the house.
Since you spend the warmer winter months sprucing up the outside of your home, winter is the time to focus on the inside of the house. Painting is a quick and easy way to refresh or update your home. If you've got a dull or dreary room, try a bolder color for a change of pace. Color can completely change the look of a room. 
Interior work done by KHI
Changing your carpets.
We tend to spend so much more time inside the house in the colder months. If your carpet needs refreshing, now is a good time to replace it as well as any worn down carpet padding. Replacing the carpet and padding as a winter home improvement project will increase the comfort in your home tremendously.

Adding Insulation.
Adding insulation in your attic can save you a lot on your home heating bills. Also check around your home's windows for any heating that could be escaping as well as cold air that could be coming into the house. Stop these heat leaks by caulking windows and door frames.
Replacing the kitchen cabinets.
Kitchen cabinets installed by KHI
The kitchen is the heart of the home. Updating
a kitchen with the latest cabinetry, countertop, fixtures and appliances can increase a home’s value. In a kitchen renovation, replacing the kitchen cabinets and countertops are the most common updates that homeowners tackle and it is best to do them at the same time.
To obtain a quote on any projects you'd like to complete this winter call Kruse Home Improvement at 860-877-0775


Monday, November 19, 2012

Start Your Home Improvement Project

Home improvement can be defined as modifying the existing structure of one’s home by making additions and making changes. Mostly a professional technician is recruited however, sometimes; the home improvements is done on a non-professional and an amateur basis by the homeowner.

As mentioned above, there are two ways of going about the process of home improvement. The first id the professional and the second is the do it your self (DIY) method. In the professional method you could hire a general contractor to be in charge of the whole home improvement project. On the other hand you could do away with the contractor and ‘do it yourself (DIY). You will need to hire the plumbers, electricians, roofers etc yourself. 

There are endless types of works in that you could do. To begin with the walls could be wall papered, or painted. Wood paneling can also be installed on it. New flooring, such as linoleum, hardwood flooring, and tiling can be installed. The kitchen and bathroom sink, cabinets, and pipes can be replaced with new ones. The electrical and plumbing systems could be upgraded. As also the heating and the air conditioning systems.

Similarly other home improvements projects that t could be undertaken are the tearing and replacement of the roof, repairing the foundation and the chimney if required, waterproofing the basements etc. these are only a few of the home improvements projects mentioned here. 

Home Improvement Products For The Kitchen And Bathroom

The kitchen and bathroom are considered the most valuable rooms in a home. Home improvement products that can create a better and more modern look for these rooms are good investments. They increase the value of a home, and they are items that will be used every day by everyone in the household. The products are available in every price range.

Kitchen and Bathroom Fixtures

In the kitchen and bathrooms, the fixtures are one of the most important home improvement products that can be purchased and installed. When a bathroom has a sink, faucet or shower that is outdated or in poor condition, the home’s value is severely affected. Installing the latest fixtures can be done by the homeowner, and they can often be purchased for a reasonable price.

In the kitchen, the sink, dishwasher and countertops are vital to the modernity of the room. Home improvement products that can update these features can add thousands to the value of the home. Home improvement websites can provide everything from the tools needed to install fixtures to the latest appliances.

Flooring for the Home

The flooring that you have in your kitchen and bathrooms speaks volumes about how up-to-date the home is. Updated homes often use tile or wood flooring in the wet rooms. Home improvement products available online can make it easier to lay tile or to install wood flooring. Some of the popular flooring styles are made to be easy to install for homeowners. With grooves built into each piece, they can simply be slid into place by anyone, regardless of their home improvement experience. Many brands of wood flooring come with a tongue-and-groove system that make it fast and easy to lay flooring.

Adding Personal Touches

In addition to the fixtures, appliances and practical items that every kitchen and bathroom needs, many people want those rooms to be personalized. Home improvement products like towel racks, wall shelves and even art work can be bought online and used to create exactly the room that moves you.

Paint, spackle and trim for the walls are all home improvement products that can transform the look of a room. A new paint job that keeps the room sporting the latest trendy color is an inexpensive way to update a room. Trim added to the baseboards or to the ceiling makes a room look completed. Often, these are the only items needed to take a plain, unmemorable bathroom and change it into a modern room that reflects the personality of those who live there. The rooms that you use every day should be attractive, useful and modern to make every day a little more enjoyable. 

Unexpected Home Improvement Projects

While the majority of home improvement projects are projects that homeowners are excited about there are those that homeowners dread or have forced upon them by way of damage to their home. Examples of involuntary home improvement projects include homes damaged by water and those damaged by fire. Both unfortunate incidences must be dealt with quickly and efficiently by a homeowner if they are to save their belongings, their home, and restore it to livable condition.

Individuals with homes damaged by water, more specifically floods, have an arduous and daunting task in front of them. Not only must they deal with the reality of damage and even potential loss of their home in some circumstances but they must also find and hire a reputable contractor that can help them return their home to its former condition and even restore damaged furniture and other items. Flooding in a home can occur as a result of an issue with the roof, troubled plumbing, and of course natural disasters. Should anyone ever find themselves in the midst of an emergency flood cleanup there are a few guidelines that, if followed, can help get their home up and running once again.

Anytime a home has been damaged by water safety assessing damage should be top priority for a homeowner. Before any phone calls are made or anything is thrown out or replaced a thorough evaluation of the damage should be taken by homeowners. Once a homeowner has a good idea of what has been damaged and to what extent it's, they can begin searching for a reliable specialist that can help them with their home. In some cases it might even be a good idea for homeowners to call in a professional assessor to evaluate the extent of damage done to their home. While homeowners can utilize their eyes and their hands to assess damage, a professional has tools and experience at their disposal which will help them evaluate the damage done to the internal structures and even electrical structures within a home.

Once the damage incurred within a home is been assessed homeowners should take great care to document everything. Documenting items that have been damaged and even those left undamaged can be of great benefit to homeowners when they go to file a claim with their insurance company. Not only should damage be documented on paper with written word but pictures and even video should be taken of the damage in order to provide professionals and even insurance personnel with physical evidence of the damage incurred. The more documentation a homeowner has for their flood/water damage incident the better off they will be moving forward and getting everything repaired.

With the essentials out-of-the-way homeowners should prepare themselves for some hard work. Homes will need to be dried and cleaned up as quickly as possible in order to avert further damage. Additionally houses with water damage that aren't cleaned and dried immediately run the risk of allowing mold and fungus to take root and grow rapidly. In most cases homeowners are best served by calling in a professional to help them clean and dry their home. Professionals can bring in commercial grade dehumidifiers and large fans that expedite the drying process. Additionally professionals will have other types of equipment and knowledge that homeowners don't which will help make drying out a home all the more quick.

Once a home has been dried out, with or without a professional, homeowners will need to begin the substantial undertaking of repairs. The nature and scale of repairs will depend greatly on the amount of and the type of damage incurred by water in their home. Some homes will need only minor cleaning while others will need new construction. Additionally homeowners with water damage may need to seek out temporary alternative housing while professionals repair their home and in worst case scenarios, rebuild it.

Any homeowner who has had water damage in their homes should at least speak with a contractor before moving forward with anything. This can provide them with invaluable insight into how to proceed and give them a number of different options on how to do so. Such professionals might also refer homeowners to other professionals who can help restore their homes and living order as well. 

Home Improvement Ideas: Fireplaces

Which is the best place in the world? To trace the answer, you need not to go out of your home as no other place can be compared with your own home. Surely, your home is always sweet for you and is always the best. Now don’t you want to make it look nice? Don’t you want to be envy of your nearest neighbor? If yes, online home improvement loan is here to help you. Featured with several beneficial aspects, this loan is a true choice to gain financial assistance for your home improvement.

Online home improvement loan can be accessed both in the form of secured and unsecured loan. To get online home improvement loan in the form of secured loan, you need to place any kind of security against the loaned amount. You can place your own home, jewellery, valuable papers as security. Now if you are a home owner and are not in the mood of risking your property, go for unsecured home improvement loan. Here the lender alone bears the risk and you remain free from the risk of repossession of property. 

With the new glass enclosures you can safely seal the fireplace opening and preventing the heat from disappearing. Using this method the damper will also remain open until de coal has dried and you won’t have to worry about smoke getting back in the room. Another factor that has great influence on the fireplaces and their efficiency is the outside temperatures, especially when we are speaking about masonry fireplaces. This is why experts recommend us to use these types of fireplaces only in the spring and in autumn. When the temperatures are low then the fire will draw in more cold air, replacing the warm air inside.

The prefabricated, heat circulating fireplace actually has a separate air space behind the firebox. The cool air enters in this box and then re-enters the room as warm air. This type of fireplace will heat the rooms properly and you will feel comfortable even when the temperatures are low.

When it comes to design, the open fireplaces are preferred by most consumers. Despite their wonderful design though, they are not very efficient when it comes to heating your home. Something that you might want to opt for instead are the gas and electric fireplaces. These types of fireplaces will offer you both the heat you need and the great design in order to transform your home. Such fireplaces are also great when it comes to mounting as they require little effort from your side. Asking professionals to help you with this is probably the best way to solve the problem. So, when you want to invest in a good fireplace you should think about the pros and cons of such an investment.

Home Improvement Loans, What Are They For And How Can They Help You

Home improvement loans as their names say, are home loans meant to finance home modifications. Doing a modification in our home can either be necessary or just because we want our homes to look better. Within modifications or improvements, we can count general repairs, adding a new room, a bathroom, or redecorating the kitchen, just to mention some examples.

In general, home improvements are done with the idea of maintaining or increasing a property's value. This is why landscape improvements or even constructing a swimming pool may be considered eligible for a home improvement loan, depending on the lender.

What Kinds Of Home Improvement Loans Exist?

There are many different options in home improvement loans, you should evaluate first what is that you want to do and compare then the options you got from your lender.

The most common options are: First mortgage loans, home mortgage refinancing, second loans and unsecured loans.

First mortgage loans are an option if you have purchased your home with a home mortgage loan. These loans are offered by your current lender, over you existent mortgage. In general, these kinds of loan are granted for the remaining period of your actual mortgage. The money can be given directly to the contractor or you can receive the total amount against presenting to your lender the proper proofs of monthly payment extended by your contractor.

Home mortgage refinancing are as first mortgage loans, a good option if you have purchased your home over a mortgage loan. By refinancing your actual mortgage loan, you will not borrowing extra money, but through lowering your home mortgage monthly payments, these kinds of loan may help you to release money to arrange monthly payments with your contractor.

Second loans are offered if you have a good equity in your property that justifies the loan. Before accepting any loan, try to search and compare as many different options as you can.

Unsecured loans are nothing but personal loans. If you do not look carefully for your lender, these kinds of loan may be a little more expensive than secured loans but it is worth to mention them. The best point they have, is that you will not need to have equity in your property or any other collateral.

Things To Have In Mind Before Considering A Home Improvement Loan

Before starting to search for a loan, you should have decided what sort of improvement you want for your home. Is it necessary or you just want it? Both options are valid but for those improvements that are not necessary but wanted, you may have more time to plan and evaluate the construction's details. Needed improvements may be urgent sometimes, so you should be extra careful on your decisions.

Other points to consider, that may be helpful are the costs, the contractors, and the consequences the improvements will have in your property's value.

Comparing how much are you willing to pay and the real costs of the improvements may not always match, this may sound as another silly advice, but before quitting your plans, or accepting to pay more than you can afford you should look for a second, a third and as many different contractor's opinions you can.

Contractors are other thing to care about, besides you agreed with the proposed improvement's cost, you have to feel comfortable with the contractor himself or with the team leader if you chose a big company. That person is going to be in charge of your home improvements and you are going to share some time before things get done.

I have also mentioned improvement's consequences, because you can be highly benefit if you plan your home improvements carefully, so your property's value will be increased over the loan that you are applying for. Other important thing to consider is that some home improvements can be tax deductible, so do not forget to check that with your tax advisor. 

Home Improvement - Small Tips That Make A Big Difference

If you are planning a big home improvement project, you can go one of two ways. You can hire a contractor or you can do it yourself. With some projects, the scope will be too large and involved for you to even think about doing it yourself. With others, you might have a lot of success making it a DIY procedure. If you do choose to forgo a contractor, here are some small tips that can make a big difference.

Kitchen Remodeling Works
If you're wondering which project to tackle first, kitchen remodeling is a great home improvement that can add quite a lot to the value of your home. It may come as a surprise to know that many buyers pick their house based on the kitchen. It's no wonder, really. A lot of time is spent in the kitchen. A lot of work is done there. It needs to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. If yours is falling out of date, you might want to bring it up to snuff before you put your house on the market.

Shut Off the Water
If you plan to do any home improvement work in the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry area, make sure you shut off the water before you start getting your hands dirty. You never know when you're going to hit that pipe and send water gushing into your house. Once this happens, it can be difficult to get it under control. It's a far better idea to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Finding Supplies on a Budget
Hardware and lumber for home improvement can often be the most expensive aspects of the project. If you're on a budget, you need to find what you can for a reasonable price. One of the best places to do that is the thrift store in your area. Other homeowners often donate their old fixtures to these stores when they do their own upgrades. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Take Out Those Top Cabinets
People often feel trapped in their furnishings, particularly in the kitchen. Don't be. Maybe you've been struggling with the fact that you simply don't need all of those cabinets. This would make for a good home improvement project. Take out the cabinets and give yourself some wall space for decorations. Just clearing out the clutter will do a lot for your perception of the space.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Updating Your Kitchen Lighting Fixtures

Kitchen remodeling can be a tough yet enjoyable project. Even if it has been years since you made any design changes, you can alter the entire look of your kitchen simply by making minor changes, such as updating old lighting fixtures.

Your choice in kitchen lighting can drastically change the mood in the room with just a simple change in the color of your light bulbs. You will immediately create a whole different atmosphere in your kitchen. If you want to give your kitchen a facelift, changing the lighting is definitely a great way to get started.

Kitchen lighting can be classified under three main types:

First is the surface mount ceiling light or recessed light, which attaches directly to the ceiling of the kitchen. This is most common and probably the cheapest kind of kitchen lighting you can find. Ceiling lights come in all shapes and sizes but the most common are rectangular and circular. These kitchen lighting fixtures are usually wide and can provide adequate lighting for the entire kitchen, but they are often lacking in style and elegance.

The second type of kitchen lighting is the hanging or pendant light. The hanging light can either be a single light hanging down from the ceiling. A chandelier is also considered a form of pendant light which is composed of several small lights hanging from the ceiling. Pendant lights are popular in groups of two or three mounted over a kitchen table or counter where bright light is needed to help with food preparation or eating.

The third type of kitchen light is the under cabinet light. Under cabinet lights are meant to be installed beneath the upper wall cabinets. Under cabinet lighting is both practical and decorative but is considered “task lighting” to aid with food preparation.

Hanging Lights and Under Cabinet Lighting
installed by Kruse Home Improvement
There are no rules in choosing the best lighting for your kitchen but it is always good to strike a balance between style and practicality. You should look for lighting that couples the light you need with the style you desire. For more information on updating your kitchen lighting fixtures contact KHI at 860-584-8784. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Adding a Kitchen Backsplash

Kitchen backsplashes are an affordable way to inject some style in your kitchen. A unique kitchen backsplash can define the look and feel of the room.

Backsplash installed by Kruse Home Improvement
Backsplashes come in a wide variety of materials and colors to suit your kitchen's vibe. The most common type is a tile backsplash for its dura- bility and easy cleaning. Tiles in all shapes, sizes, and colors can be con- figured into unique, one-of-a-kind back- splashes. Bead-board backsplashes are a popular selection while wood backsplashes are now seen in some of the most recent kitchen designs. If you like a clean, streamlined look, solid-surfacing backsplashes and solid-sheet glass backsplashes can add the finishing touch to your decor. In some areas, natural materials such as brick and Mexican terracotta tile are popular choices for a backsplash. A professional installer can create interesting combinations that play up the subtle texture and pattern deviations of the choice you make.

Below are some simple tips for choosing the perfect backsplash tile:

Look at your kitchen’s current color as a guide. Use the look and color of your kitchen cabinet finish and appliances to choose what color tile would match best.

You don’t have to follow trends. There are enough different styles of glass tile to suit any design budget and taste so take your time, compare tile colors and styles to choose something you’ll love for years to come. 

Backsplash installed by Kruse Home Improvement
Choose the correct tile size. Choosing the correct tile size is very important. A large tile in a small room can make the room appear even smaller. For small rooms, small tiles work great.  For larger rooms you may want to consider larger tiles such to create the right feel for the large space. Very small tiles can work great in a mosaic pattern and style which will give a nice uniform appearance throughout.

Keep it simple.Avoid kitchen backsplashes with too many colors and patterns as they may appear nice at first but over time, a classic or neutral looking backsplash will outlast the trends.

Monday, October 22, 2012

KHI Quarterly V3 Q4 - Fall 2012

Window Replacement: Saving you Time, Energy and Money

Are you ready to replace those old, hard to open, drafty windows? Windows are often the last thing homeowners think about when it comes to home improvement, especially in the face of more exciting and fun projects like redoing a kitchen, bathroom or putting in hardwood flooring. If you’d like to save money this coming winter now is the best time to replace your windows. There are many advantages to replacing your windows.  Here are some reasons to consider it:

Home replacement windows can add significant value to your house just by improving your energy efficiency. After all, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that as much as one third of the average home’s heat loss occurs through windows and doors! Today’s modern windows are draft free and will keep your home more comfortable on those cold winter days.

Investing in energy-efficient window replacements will result in lower heating bills. Did you know that poorly performing doors and windows can account for up to 40 percent of a home's heat loss during winter? That's 40 percent of what you pay each month to heat your home, literally flying out your window. This is usually the most convincing reason for homeowners to replace their windows. After all, who doesn't want to save money? Energy efficient windows can also give you a major selling point when you go to list your property in a highly competitive market.

Choosing Energy Star windows which comply with the Energy Code is a huge benefit to homeowners. Government-approved Energy Star labels can make a significant impact on your energy savings. According to the US government (, Energy Star windows, doors, and skylights are "independently certified to perform at levels that meet or exceed strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy." The windows are nearly twice as efficient as windows that were made just ten years ago!

The government estimates that a typical home that uses Energy Star windows to replace its old single-pane windows can save $126-$465 per year. Replacing double-pane, clear glass windows can yield savings of $27-$111 per year. By their calculations, a typical home in New England would save roughly $465 annually by upgrading from single-pane windows. Clearly, replacing single-pane windows would be a dramatic cost-saver.

You will love how easy it is to clean your new windows. Most new windows tilt in so you can easily and safely clean them without the dangers and inconvenience of ladders.

Another great advantage to replacing your windows is the greater UV protection. Recent improvements in windows include coatings that not only help reduce heat transfer but protect your interiors from the sun’s light as well. Carpets and furniture will be less likely to fade. It will also protect your photographs and artwork too.

One of the main reasons homeowners replace their windows is to increase home value.  Replacement windows are truly a solid investment. According to the National Association of Realtors, window replacements are among the home improvements offering the biggest return on investment. In fact, homeowners can generally expect to retrieve at least 70-80 percent of their investment in window replacements. That's why Forbes calls window replacement a "recession-proof" home improvement.

So how do you know when it’s time to change your windows? Consider the year that your home was built. Does it still have the original windows? As with any part of your home, windows will also age. Other changes may be obvious as they appear outdated or worn. Wood windows may start to rot, warp, leak or have insect damage. They may be difficult to open or close and you can literally feel the drafts on a cold day.

Older single-pane windows are the biggest reason to update your windows. Single glazings are enormously inefficient and rob energy from your home (and wallet). Replacing single-pane windows is a dramatic cost-saver.

If you upgrade to double-pane windows you can expect to end chilly winter drafts, condensation, and heat loss during the winter months. You'll also notice when it’s warmer outside, your home will stay much cooler inside.

Windows can create interesting focal points, let natural light provide most of the illumination, and establish a welcoming environment for you and your family to enjoy. With today’s ever increasing fuel costs there is no better time to replace your old windows. Call us for an estimate today and this winter you can enjoy greater comfort and a fatter wallet.

 Winter Home Prep Tips

The Fall is when most homeowners start preparing their home for the winter. Below are some helpful tips to get you started.

Inspect your furnace.  Furnace filters should be changed monthly during the heating season. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use. To save money, mark your calendar monthly as a reminder to replace your filter. For convenience, purchase several filters at a time so you’ll always have them on hand. To save even more, consider switching out your thermostat for a programmable thermostat. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you’ll save between 1 and 3 percent on your heating bill.

Get the fireplace ready. Start by having your chimney cleaned. The best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have the chimney cleaned. Cleaning will remove soot and creosote that build up over time. Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.  Stock up on fire wood and store in a dry place away from the exterior of your home. Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing. Check the mortar between the bricks and repair if necessary.

Check your exterior doors and windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste up to 30 percent of your energy use. In an older home, installing a storm door and/or storm windows can increase energy efficiency by 45 percent. That is well worth the time and effort.

Get ready for the snow. Start your snow blower before the weather is bad and have it serviced if needed. Once the snow starts, it is much more difficult to get it repaired quickly. Now is also a good time to stock up on shovels, ice scrapers and bags of ice melt and/or sand.

Be sure to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check the batteries in your detectors and replace them as needed. Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace and/or water heater. Test all detectors to ensure they work. It’s a good idea to buy a fire extinguisher or replace the one you have if it’s more than 10 years old.

Inspect your roof, gutters and downspouts. Before winter hits, you should replace all worn roof shingles or tiles. Clean out your gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear any debris. Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.

Prevent plumbing freezes. Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency. Take in your garden hoses and shut off the outside water. If your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off. It’s a good idea to insulate exposed  plumbing pipes. If you travel away from home for a number of days, leave your heat set to at least 55 degrees.

Prepare for an emergency.  Living in the Northeast, it’s a good idea to stock up on indoor candles and matches or lighters for use during a power outage. Keep the utility companies numbers handy and get extra batteries for flashlights and a radio. Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food items, including pet food if you have a pet, blankets and a first aid kit to easily access if need be. It’s never a bad idea to prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

For more information on anything you see in our newsletter or if you'd like to obtain a quote, contact us at 860-584-8784. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guidance For Home Improvement

Big home improvements may make a hole in your pocket. Even if you manage home improvements and the money involved in it, you should ensure that the corresponding value addition to your property is much more than your actual expenditure.

Many homeowners fail to save enough money for home upgradation. For such people, the lenders and other financial institutions may prove helpful. These lenders can provide you home improvement loans at competitive rates. The loan market is going through a very competitive phase where every lender is trying to outdo the other. In such a scenario, the customer is the king. 

Anyway, after arranging the finance the next question that arises is how to use the funds in a best possible manner. After all, home improvement loans carry a price and you have to repay such loans with due interest. The best bet lies in ensuring that the property value of your condominium rises more than what you spend on it. In particular, this aspect assumes a greater significance if you want to sell your condo.

If your condo has laminated floors and they are in good condition then what is the point in ripping them out and install real wood or a higher quality laminate floor. Instead, you can explore and adopt some other means to make your condo look beautiful. Many real estate experts believe that the money spent on your kitchen brings in the highest return on investment. After all, a new buyer usually heads to the kitchen before seeing other things. You should keep these things in mind if you are doing home improvements with an intention of selling out the condo.

To make up for the monetary requirements, you can apply for home improvement loans. These loans are also available online. The rate of interest usually starts from 6.5 per cent and may go higher up as per your individual circumstances. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quartz Countertops versus Granite Countertops

Although granite and quartz are similar in look and composition, they are very different products. Knowing the maintenance and benefits of each type of countertop material is vital to making the best choice for each space.

Granite countertop installed by KHI
Granite is a very hard stone found deep in the earth. It is mined at many locations around the world, including areas of Minnesota in the United States and places in India and Italy. The color and pattern of the stone is determined by the minerals found in the area in which it is located.Granite is composed of approximately 50% quartz; the remaining elements are softer minerals and impurities. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals found on earth, second only to the diamond so durability is not a problem. Quartz countertops are actually 93% quartz crystals, with resins and pigments making up the remaining composition.

Countertop Durability

Both granite and quartz countertops create a very durable countertop. However, quartz countertops, because of the way that they are made, are nearly twice as strong as natural granite. Quartz is very dense and free of the invisible fissures (tiny cracks) that can be found in granite. This is what adds to the strength of quartz surfaces.

Heat and Scratch Resistance

Both granite and quartz are resistant to heat and scratching. Although these products can resist heat from hot pans, it is always recommended that homeowners use trivets when setting a pot on the surface as thermal shock may cause damage. Because granite and quartz have countertops are very resistant to scratching, you should still use cutting boards when preparing food to protect your knives from being dulled by the hard stone surfaces.

Food Safety and Staining

Since granite is a natural stone, it is porous and liquids can penetrate it. As a result, staining, as well as the growth of bacteria, can occur. The lighter granite colors tend to be more porous, making them more susceptible to stains. Keeping the granite sealed periodically is the best way to avoid stains, and keep the stone looking new. Quartz is nonporous and is resistant to nearly all staining. Sealing quartz is not required. The nonporous composition also keeps them from harboring bacteria and many homeowners like the low-maintenance benefits of quartz countertops.

Colors and Patterns

Quartz countertop installed by KHI
Quartz countertops have a completely different look than granite. Granite has patterns that range from the very consistent to the extremely wild. Each slab of granite is unique and comes in a variety of color combinations. For home- owners preferring a more regular pattern, quartz may be the product of choice. Quartz lacks the depth of light that natural granite possesses, and can tend to look flat. However, quartz countertops offer colors that are impossible to find in natural granite.

For more information on countertop materials or if you'd like to obtain a quote on a bathroom or kitchen remodel project call Kruse Home Improvement today at 860-584-8784.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Top Choices for a Bathroom Countertop

For homeowners facing a bathroom remodeling project, choosing the right finishing materials can be quite a dilemma. The finished product’s appearance, benefits, price, and quality are all major considerations. Below are four popular choices for bathroom countertops.

Granite countertop installed by KHI
Granite - It’s no secret that granite is one of the best types of countertops for a bathroom. Aside from its beauty, granite is long lasting, stain and scratch resistant. It is the most durable material and easiest to care for material of any of the natural stones. There are hundreds of color choices, each and every granite slab is unique. Cleaning granite is easily done with warm water and a liquid detergent (avoid abrasive cleaners). Small chips and scratches can be polished down and very easily repaired if it’s damaged. If you’re looking for a countertop to last a lifetime, you may want to consider granite.

Manufactured Quartz - Manufactured quartz imitates the look of limestone, granite or marble, but is even more resistant to scratches and stains. It is also nearly twice as strong as natural granite and is available in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses. Quartz is the material to choose if you're considering a countertop with a specialized edging. It is a great choice for the bathroom because it is practical, durable, easy to clean, and doesn't require sealing.

Tile - Tile has always been a popular material for bathroom countertops. If you choose tile just be aware that you will need to clean the grout. Though today’s larger tiles eliminate the need for numerous grout lines, you can use a colored grout that doesn't show dirt as easily and which plays off the color of the tile. Although grout lines need regular maintenance and cleaning, tiles can be easily cleaned with any household detergent.

Solid-Surface Materials - Designed to look like expensive natural stone, solid surface is one of the most popular countertop options because it is economical yet extremely durable and crack-resistant. Scratches can be easily sanded out using fine-grit sandpaper and cleaning requires nothing more than a non-abrasive household cleaner and a damp sponge, wipe the surface dry afterwards. Choose a solid-surface material if you're concerned about mold or mildew as the nonporous, hypoallergenic surface discourages the growth of these allergens.

For more information on bathroom countertops or if you'd like to obtain a quote on a bathroom remodel project call us today at 860-584-8784.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hiring The Right Home Improvement Louisiana Contractors

At some point, homeowners will require major renovation or improvement to the house. And for any home improvement or renovation projects, it is important that the right contractor is chosen to carry on the renovation works. This is to ensure that everything in the renovation plan is followed and carried out. Whether it’s a bathroom renovation or changing roof or construction of additional space or structures, an experienced contractor should be able to manage the renovation works professionally and without delay and unnecessary wastage.

Hiring the right renovation contractor from the many Louisiana contractors can be a difficult task especially if it is the first time you are undertaking such a task. But some people can help you. Ask for referrals from people you know. One of them must have done some home renovations in the past and know some contractors as well. You can check local directories or phone books. Online directories can also give you a list of contractors specializing in home improvements. You can check some names and make online research about their background and experience. 

You should look for Louisiana contractors that specialize on the type of renovation work you need for your home. If you are renovating the entire house and not just replacing wood floors or electrical wirings, you will have to find a general contractor. They will be in-charge of providing you with all the services you need for the renovation of your home. They will provide you with the electrical contractor, carpentry contractor, plumbing, etc., and make sure that all the components of home renovation are complied with according the working plans. Essentially, the general contractor will be your supervisor-on-site as they will be managing the daily activities on the construction site.

In order to be assured of the credibility and integrity of the contractor you wish to hire, it is important that you check their licenses, permits and insurance for validity. The contractors should be able to provide you with copies of the licenses, permits and insurance certificates. When all the documents are properly checked, request a written and detailed estimate of cost for the project. Their estimate should include details on specific materials to be used and construction methods used (if applicable) and estimated completion per phase or stage. The estimate or quote should also contain payment terms. There should be no lump-sum payment. Negotiate for payments to be made after completion of each construction stage. And allow for a retention fee that you will keep until a specified time. This retention fee should cover for incidental expenses or repairs that might crop up after the project is completed.
The last part of the process is signing the contract. But before any document is signed, have a lawyer browse through the terms of the contract to make sure there are protection clauses for both parties and not just for one. The contract or agreement should also clearly spell out the specific responsibilities of the contractor with respect to the implementation of the renovation plan. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Benefits Of Home Improvement Projects

There are many reasons to consider a Home Improvement project instead of selling your house and buying another. A home improvement project can be a fantastic way to save money or just to personalize your home to suit you better. In today's economy, the ability to accomplish improvements, both small and large to your home, can be a great asset. If you are a handy person, this will be even easier for you. However, a novice can complete most projects.

What Kind of Projects Should You Attempt?

If the reason for your home improvement project is to increase the value of your home, the best places to start are in the kitchen and bathroom. These are two places that both prospective homebuyers and current homeowners tend to concentrate on. Luckily, for you, both of these rooms are relatively simple and while they can be expensive, they do necessarily need to be. Something as simple as resurfacing a countertop or changing a faucet in the kitchen or putting in a new sink or mirror in the bathroom can make an amazing change in almost no time at all.

Learning to Do Home Improvements

If you are a novice handyman, it’s easy enough to gain the skills needed to do the already mentioned improvements. A library is a great place to start your learning, there are some fantastic home improvement books with simple step-by-step directions and pictures to guide you every step of the way. Another way to learn what you need to know is to consult video sites online. There are experts and novices alike that can show and tell you all that is needed for just about any project that you want to complete. It is important to note, however, that it is a wise idea to watch several videos by several different people to get a good feel for whose example to follow.

Where to Buy Supplies

Now that you have decided on the perfect home improvement project and have researched just how to get it accomplished, it’s time to buy all of the needed supplies. This may present another issue. Where to buy the supplies? If you live in a town large enough, you can go to a large home improvement store for one stop shopping. However, in a small town, you may have to resort to a department store. They will generally have what you need, even if they don’t have as good of a selection. Sometimes it’s possible to find a discount store that specializes in scratch and dent product at a savings, allowing you to do more with your money.