Interior Remodeling Basics: Choosing Wall Treatments

Wouldn’t you like to liven up your room and show off your personal style? Wall treatments can give you the opportunity to add color, texture, depth and creativity to your spaces. A common option is to create custom walls or an accent wall by using bold patterns or three-dimensional patterns on one wall with paint or paneling on the others. There are several home remodeling options to choose from that can bring some excitement into your living spaces. Merge colors and patterns with textures to create depth in each room.

Wallpaper
Today’s wallpaper isn’t like the old-school wallpaper that covered all four walls and was hard to remove if you ever wanted a change. Today’s wallpaper designs are often larger prints and can be used in concert with paint and other wall treatments to create a “wow” factor. Many wallpapers are paintable, so we can customize them to your color choices for the rest of the room.

Fabric Panels
Visually, fabric panels can create a dramatic presence. They can be a series of panels with a design for a mural-type effect, or they can have a more upholstered look. Use them to create or reinforce a theme and to add texture to an otherwise blank wall covering a select a portion or the entire wall.  Mount fabric panels on the wall to cover audio speakers or camouflage wall safes or other hidden features on a wall to create visual and acoustic functionality in any room. Use panels of nearly any type of fabric, from cotton to canvas to suede, to serve as a sound barrier in entertainment rooms, the baby’s nursery or a workout room.

Wood Paneling
Use wood paneling or wainscoting to blend or contrast with other room furnishings. Wood paneling or beadboard, with materials ranging from pine to cedar to oak, can be stained or painted to provide a more traditional look and can easily be refinished when you’re ready for a change. Depending on the finish and wood species, wood paneling can also create a rustic look or a more luxurious environment. For environmentally-conscious homeowners, reclaimed wood paneling is a green option for a custom remodeling project.

Drywall
Gypsum board and drywall have evolved into more sophisticated wall treatments than a simple flat surface that is covered in paint. Drywall can be textured, reinforced with fiberglass, or mudded and sanded. It can also be painted and stand alone or serve as a base underneath other forms of wall treatments.

Wireless Lighting Controls and Home Automation

Wireless controls for lighting and home automation are gaining popularity in home remodeling features. Once you’ve used a remote to turn down the lights or turn up the volume on your sound system, you’ll probably be hooked. Wireless functions go far beyond the convenience of making adjustments without getting up out of your chair, however.

Consider the different lighting and electrically powered items you use each day. Most of them can probably be added to an automated system to reduce inconvenience and the repetition of turning them on and off. Some of these features can be incorporated into a home security system, while others are operated by separate controls. The number of wireless automated devices available on the market is constantly evolving. Your system can be set up to accommodate newer products and models as they become available.

Activity Choices
When choosing which items you want to have control with a wireless timer, think in terms of indoor and outdoor lighting, thermostats, pools, hot tubs, warm floors, security cameras and home surveillance. Use remote control devices from inside or outside the house to turn on specific lights and small appliances. You can also add motion detector alarms to items like cabinets with cleaning supplies or medicine cabinets to help keep kids and toddlers safe. Room-to-room intercom systems are another convenience feature that adds peace of mind for parents or convenience for those with spacious homes. Trigger automation is another option; turn on certain lights when the garage door activates or turn on the deck lights when the sliding door opens.

Types
Wireless devices typically work on a radio frequency (RF). There are three main types of wireless control, Z-Wave, Insteon and X-10. They can be combined with wired automation or stand alone with wireless capabilities, depending on which system you choose to use. Controllers for automated systems come in the form of remote controls, wall switches and tabletop panels. Some wireless speakers and home entertainment systems require hard wiring to create a signal that can be used by wireless remote control devices.

Remotes for Convenience
Dimmer switches powered by remote can raise and lower lighting and sound for everything from kitchen lights to home entertainment. When planning your home remodeling project, do a room-by-room survey with your design-build contractor to cover all of your potential needs.

Energy Conservation
If you’re aiming for greener energy usage, use automatic timers for scheduling the thermostat, towel and floor warmers, and outdoor lighting. Motion sensors can also trigger lights and fans to turn on and off when someone enters or exits the room.

The choices in home automation and wireless controls are practically endless. If you’re not sure which systems you want to control or what the most effective RF or wired signals are for your lifestyle, discuss it with a Bay Area design-build contractor.

Choosing Windows and Exterior Doors for Your Home Remodel

You may be asking yourself, “How do I make a decision regarding which windows and doors would be suitable for my remodel or new home? When I look at all the possibilities out there I get overwhelmed.”

We understand the stress related to the thousands of decisions a homeowner faces when it comes to undertaking a remodel. With such a permanent and lasting decision like windows and doors, your first intuition should be to trust a professional. It is important to know what you are hoping to accomplish with the purchase of windows and doors so they can best direct you to the appropriate brand and style.

Here are some things to consider:

Windows: How do you want them to operate? Will they slide or swing open? Let’s start with sliding windows. You will need to decide if they are to slide horizontally or vertically. Once that decision is made a great number of questions will be asked to point you in the right direction. What if they are to swing open? Do you want them to roll open, push open, or pull open? Are there any walkways, shrubbery, or furniture to consider that may affect your decision?

Doors: Will they slide or swing? If sliding, do you want them to be French (wide stiles and rails) or Patio (narrow stiles and rails) style frames? If swinging, do you want Inswing or Outswing? Also, think about the obstructions as you would with windows and if they swing out, how will you keep the doors open if a wind kicks up or if there are lighting sconces on the wall?

If you don’t mind painting or staining on a regular basis there are windows and doors made completely of wood. However, there are low-maintenance wood windows and doors with exterior frames clad in aluminum or vinyl. This gives you the traditional warm look of wood on the interior yet protects the exterior wood from damage by the natural elements. (You just have to clean them once in a while.) There are also windows and doors made with aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass framing, each with their own special aesthetic and feel.

There are also different types of glass, grids (mullions), hardware and screen styles, each varying by brand and each offering an array of energy efficiency.

Stroll through your neighborhood or thumb through magazines to get an idea of what you would like to see in your home. Then take the time to visit showrooms in your area in order to see the differences up close. Consumer Reports can help you compare brands.

The right purchase not only enhances the warmth and beauty of your home, it will also help create energy savings for you and our planet.

By: Danielle LaNear

Flooring Choices and Where to Use Them

When it comes to Bay Area home remodels, flooring options can affect the look, feel and sound of any room in the home. Some types are more environmentally-friendly than others. While flooring choices are nearly endless, here are four popular choices in Bay Area remodeling.

Marmoleum
Marmoleum is a type of linoleum made by Forbo Flooring Systems. Its roots are in the phrase “marbleized linoleum.” Marmoleum is anti-static, anti-microbial, is easy to keep dust-free and is ideal for people with allergies. It’s a solid choice for kitchens and bathrooms because of its naturally clean features and lasts between 25 and 40 years. Vibrant color and pattern choices are diverse, separating it from its stereotypical ancestry of linoleum. This green material is not based in petroleum, but in linseed oil. It is one of the greenest flooring materials on the market today.

Amtico
Vinyl flooring has long been a popular choice in flooring for any room in the house. From kitchens to living rooms to hallways to bedrooms, Amtico flooring is a popular choice for remodeling projects. Manufactured by a British company, this is a higher line vinyl floor known for use with accents, designs and patterns. It discolors with high heat, and protective floor guards will keep it from getting scratched by furniture. An Amtico floor dressing will provide added protection from scuffs, spills and scratches.

Cork
Cork flooring is a sustainable material that comes in as many as 40 different shades of color and a variety of patterns. It is comfortable to walk on in bare feet and is an excellent choice as a noise barrier. Use it for upstairs floors or for rooms where quiet is appreciated. Although it is insect-resistant and can last for years, it is susceptible to scratches and dents from furniture, sharp objects and high heels. Cork flooring is practical for people with allergies, but fades under constant light and warps with high humidity. Use it in any room in the house except the bathroom and laundry room.

Hardwoods
Hardwood floors are durable, ranging in color from blond to black. Exotic and domestic woods offer high-quality. They blend well with any decor and will last for years when sealed. Medium shades show less dirt than dark or light hardwoods, and placing mats by high traffic exterior doors is wise. Hardwood flooring lasts more than 100 years and can be refinished or repurposed to extend its life. Hardwood floors are good for people with allergies and are easy to keep clean.

Warm Flooring Offers Cozy Options For Cold Feet

If you’ve ever walked across a cold floor barefoot, you’ve probably wished for a warmer surface. You can change that with your next remodeling project. There are a variety of floor heating systems, each a little different but all with the same purpose – warmth and coziness. Flat heating mats typically offer electric radiant heat. Loose heating cable systems are another option. Hydronic radiant heat pumps warm water through flooring pipes. Air-heated floors are similar to hydronics, using air tubes instead. All warm flooring heating elements are installed underneath the floor and are invisible from above. Depending on the type, they can be used to heat the floor or the whole room with a minimum installation area of about 20 square feet.

Where to Use Warm Floors
If you’re primarily interested in foot comfort, consider putting them in the hallway, kitchen, bathroom, living room or bedroom. Hydronic systems are also used to heat swimming pools and outdoor living spaces from below.

The Basics
Mats and loose cabling are powered by low voltage electrical wiring and affect the immediate area. Hydronics are designed much like the loose cabling method, snaking through the space in a carefully planned configuration. Regardless of the method of heat used, your floor typically needs to be removed and replaced during installation. This is one reason why installing warm floors as part of a remodeling project is a frequent choice among Bay area homeowners. Another option is to use a warm floor system that installs underneath the floor joists. This allows you to keep your existing floor if the joists are easily accessible from the ceiling below.

Flooring Surfaces
Radiant flooring can be used under a variety of surfaces, but are most effective under marble, tile and natural stone, creating floor temperatures into the mid-90s if desired. They are less effective with carpet, hardwoods and vinyl. There are also some systems specifically designed for concrete floors.

Scalability Options
While incorporating a warm floor in your bathroom remodeling project is a popular choice for cold feet, there are multiple alternatives. Choose from floors only to whole rooms to whole-home heating. Radiant underfloor heating is cleaner, quieter and more energy efficient than using forced air, although certain systems are more energy-efficient than others. If you are incorporating soundproof rooms into your home and you’re concerned about unwanted noise generated by forced-air heating systems, warm floors are a quiet alternative. Hydronic heating is a strong solution for whole-home heating. Installation involves multiple zones which are controlled with programmable thermostats for your family’s lifestyle.

There are several alternatives in warm flooring, depending on your needs. The design + build professionals at Harrell Remodeling can help you to choose the one that works best for your Bay area home.