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Winter 2009

Kitchen design by

Remodeling makeovers feature Stanley standouts To DIY or not to DIY Can these windows be saved? A service directory of qualified remodelers

A consumer’s guide to residential remodeling in South Hampton Roads

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Vol. 12, No. 1, Winter 2009

Tidewater Builders Association leadership Pete A. Kotarides, president William H. Halprin, vice president James E. Jackson, associate vice president Charles J. Miller II, treasurer S.L. “Sam” Cohen, secretary Channing A. Pfeiffer, chief executive officer

Remodelers Council leadership

Chris Ettel, chairman Don Landle, vice chairman Frank Sgromolo, secretary/treasurer Jerry Pattenaude, past chairman

Remodeling Magazine Staff

Sandra Amidon and Joyce Hearn, APR, publishers Stacey Enesey Klemenc, editor Kim Powers, JoAnn Lucero and Jeanne Rogers, account representatives Paige Takach, Diane Trumbull, Rhonda Strong, graphic designers Randy Latham, financial manager Stella Council, production coordinator Remodeling Magazine: A consumer’s guide to residential remodeling in South Hampton Roads (ISSN 1552-8677) is published quarterly by Tidewater Builders Association, 2117 Smith Ave., Chesapeake, VA 23320, 757-420-2434. E-mail address: Web address: Remodeling Magazine is mailed to neighborhoods throughout South Hampton Roads. Articles appearing in Remodeling Magazine may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors and people quoted, and mention of specific products in editorial content does not imply endorsement by Remodeling Magazine. All advertising in this publication is subject to the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to advertise “any preference, limitations or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin, or intention to make such preference, limitation or discrimination.” We will not knowingly accept advertising that is in violation of the law. All persons are hereby informed that all services advertised are available on an equal opportunity basis. To complain of discrimination, call HUD toll-free at 1-800-669-9777. The toll-free number for the hearingimpaired is 1-800-927-9275.

2 Fall 2008/Winter 2009


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Local home building industry honors its superstars 8 Remodeling makeover: Loving her new kitchen, homeowner wishes she hadn’t waited so long 11 Intelligent interior design 12 Remodeling makeover: Historic and old were good … but the kitchen had to go 15 Make black gold from those autumn leaves 18 Can these windows be saved? 20 Today’s big closet question ... Would you like to super-size that? 26 Remodeling makeover: History in the remaking 28 Heading in to catch a movie 30 Going digital: Making the transition 39 To DIY or not to DIY?



Photo by Natanya Crumrine

Affordable Closet




From the Remodelers Council Chairman to You 17 Advice from a Pro: Freezer on the fritz? 24 Financing Options for Your Remodeling Project 32 The Do-It-Yourselfer: Floor it! Sprucing up the garage 34 New products to ponder: Energy-saving light bulbs 40 Remodeling checklist 42 TBA Remodelers Council Directory 44 Advertisers’ Index



on the cover: Kitchen King Cabinets specializes in taking dull kitchens and transforming them into the heart of a home. To learn more about the company, see the advertorial on page 7 and the feature article on pages 8-9. Or call (757) 467-5400 or visit remodeling magazine

DESIGN BUILD We trust Benson Builders with their quality of standards, with their honesty and integrity.


~ The Stephan’s, Virginia Beach

Taking the spotlight every step of the process

Read more about our process in this issue’s Remodeling Makeover article on Page 12.

Call now for your free consultation remodeling magazine

757.496.9613 Fall 2008/winter 2009 3


Why do homeowners choose VB Homes for construction and renovation? The answer is in our Right Steps Process. From initial consultation to follow-up, VB Homes is committed to the process that ensures complete satisfaction with your new living space. We’re proud to have earned an esteemed Guild Master of Distinction award for our track record of quality and customer service. Let us show you how our professionalism and teamwork can lead to happily ever after in your VB Home.

Check out our expanded portfolio of kitchens, baths, whole house renovations and more at today! 757.491.1996 • 3502 PACIFIC AVENUE • VA BEACH, VA 23451 • WWW.VBHOMESLIVING.COM

4 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine

from the chairman


Seven steps for remodeling success


By Chris Ettel TBA 2008 Remodelers Council chairman


t all begins with a dream. Gourmet kitchen. Family room addition. Luxurious bathroom. Room-sized closets. It’s one thing to know you want to remodel, but it’s another thing to know how to do it correctly. Whether you want to make Ettel simple changes in one room of your home or dream of transforming your entire house, the process can be enjoyable and trouble-free — if you take the time to plan ahead.

Here are some suggestions on steps to take to ensure a successful remodeling experience: 1. Do your research – Advance research and knowing your budget are key to getting what you want. Peruse through and cut pictures out of magazines to get an idea of the look you want. Make a list of rooms that need to be altered and the reasons for those changes. This information will help speed the design phase of your remodel. Another way to get inspiration is to talk with other homeowners who have recently completed home renovation projects. It’s also important at this time to be upfront with your budget. Know what you can afford. 2. Choose your team – After you have a general idea of what you want and you’ve listed all the items important to you, get the names of several professional home remodeling teams and interview them. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, request a list of references. It’s also a good idea at this time to call some of the remodeler’s previous clients and ask about their experiences with the remodeling team. Ultimately, make sure you choose a contractor you trust will achieve your goals. Make sure he or she is insured, licensed and a member of a professional trade association. 3. Work out a contract – Before signing a contract, read it carefully. Are you satisfied with the description of the work to be done? Are the responsibilities of the renovator clearly spelled out? 4. Clear plenty of time on your calendar for the project – Careful planning can greatly minimize inconvenience of living in the midst of a renovation. Talk to your remodeler about the schedule of work to be done and how your daily routine might be affected. For instance, will the water be turned off for any length of time? Do you need to set up a temporary kitchen elsewhere in the home? Can major work be done in stages so you always have some livable space? Discuss your expectations of the work crew and determine the work environment. 5. Establish a good working relationship with your design team – Mutual trust between the homeowner and the remodeler is essential. Keep lines of communication open at all times. Expect a brief report on the progress of your job at regular intervals. Be available to make decisions when they are needed so work is not held up. 6. Try to stick with your first choices – Once work is under way, changes should be kept to a minimum. The details of your project, described in the contract, down to the finishing touches form the basis of both the price and the schedule of your job. Your renovator, however, wants you to be satisfied with the final result and will likely

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Fall 2008/winter 2009 5

Chairman (continued from page 5)

attempt to accommodate any alteration in plans, as long as you accept a possible delay in completion and/or a change in price. 7. Be prepared for a successful outcome – Research, good planning, a professional work crew and open communication and trust are a recipe for a home renovation that you will enjoy for years to come. Remember, your home is often the largest investment you will make. Whether you want to remodel to sell your home or simply make it more comfortable for the coming years, remodeling can be a rewarding decision. Please visit Tidewater Builders Association’s Web site at for a list of professional qualified remodelers or turn to page 42. (Chris Ettel is a partner in VB Homes in Virginia Beach, a company that specializes in architecture, construction and renovation. He can be reached at Chris@vbhomesliving. com.)

Members of the Tidewater Builders Association Remodelers Council celebrate their winning entries in the 2008 Stanley Awards competition during the annual gala in April.

Stanleys for the best

Local home building industry honors its superstars


ffordable Kitchens & Baths of Virginia Beach won the 2007 Stanley Award for Remodeling/Residential Addition, $200,000 and over, for its Beach Spa Bed & Breakfast of Virginia Beach at the Tidewater Builders Association’s sixth annual Stanley Awards Gala in April. TBA’s Stanley Awards of Distinction for housing industry excellence are named for Stanley Waranch, TBA’s founding president in 1953.

It’s coming!

The other 2008 Stanley Awards of Remodeling Excellence went to:

Featuring: Ed

Begley, Jr.

February 13-15, 2009 Virginia Beach Conference Center

Residential Remodel/Residential Addition under $100,000 Kelsey Residence at Harbour Place, Allen Loree Homes LLC Residential Remodel/Residential Addition from $100,001 - $200,000 Caruthers Residence, A-1 Additions Historic Restoration McClellan Residence, Leo F. Johns Contractor Inc. Best Kitchen – under $50,000 Norris Residence, Kitchen King Cabinets Best Kitchen – $50,000 and over The Littel Residence, Benson Builders Inc. Best Bathroom - $25,000 and Under The Copeland Residence, C.E. Bryan Custom Builders Best Bathroom – Over $25,000 The Oman Residence, C.E. Bryan Custom Builders Best Outdoor Living The Brewer Residence, VB Homes

6 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine

Baby Boomers are staying in their nest

In today's ever changing economic roller coaster, most homeowners are realizing the value of remodeling their existing home. While some will downsize, many will revamp what they already have, making the space more attractive and useable. One of the most popular trends in remodeling today is opening rooms to one another. Removing a wall between two rooms makes a huge difference in not only appearance but also the usefulness of the space. The Eberhardt's came to Kitchen King Cabinets wanting their traditional colonial ranch updated. Since Kitchen King was a full service remodeling company, the Eberhardt's were able to have all their remodeling needs accommodated by one company. The kitchen, den, dining and living room had the traditional layout of four rooms separated by four walls. The living and dining rooms were rarely used since they becaming empty nesters. The existing kitchen was small and limited in both storage and eat-in space. The paneled den was the most used room aside from the kitchen. When Pat Ferguson, the chief designer of Kitchen King Cabinets, first met with the Eberhardt's she realized their lack of space in the kitchen could be solved if the floor plan around the kitchen was revised. "Opening up the long dividing wall between the kitchen/ den and living/dining room was essential to making the entire space flow together, yet give each side of the rooms their individuality. Since the dining and living rooms were rarely used, removing the wall between these two rooms gave new meaning to the space." During the interview process, Pat asked the

Eberhardt's what their goals were in remodeling and how they currently used their four rooms. "The kitchen storage space was very limited. By opening the wall between the kitchen and den, the new floor plan allowed for the kitchen and new dining room space to flow openly together. Instead of only using two walls of the kitchen, they now would have three walls of useable space, as well as added seating at the new peninsula. Their goal of additional storage and seating would now be achieved," said Pat. The existing living and dining rooms would now become a "great room" by removing the dividing wall between the two rooms. "Empty nesters share one thing in common; the house as a whole rarely gets used when you're down to just two people. Even though your family comes for visits, the day to day use of the space is limited to one or two rooms. By opening walls, you immediately start flowing space together and revise the way you use your space. You can still maintain a sense of luxury or formality in a room simply by how you decorate. Better yet, you can really start enjoying your home in its entirety," said Pat. The end result gave the Eberhardt's exactly what they needed and yet had not fully dreamed about until meeting Pat. Pat's philosophy is simple "The greatest reward I have in the design process is knowing that I've enabled my clients to think outside of the box. There is no reason why, if you plan to stay in your home, you shouldn't adjust your floor plan to your current lifestyle. I encourage my clients to make their remodeling plans around themselves. For the time being, it's your home and it should be designed according to your needs. Why live your life attempting to guess at what someone else may or may not enjoy after you’re gone. If you plan to make this your retirement home then make it work for you - not someone else."

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remodeling magazine

Fall 2008/winter 2009 7

remodeling makeover:

Loving her new kitchen

Homeowner wishes she hadn’t waited so long by Janet Yarbrough Meyer


arlyne Norris knows what she wants and doesn’t mind waiting for it. But she is quick to admit that 36 years is a long time to have her kitchen remodeling project on the back burner. “I had a kitchen fire back in 1972,” says Norris, “and after that nothing matched. Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about the kitchen, some much-needed changes got put off for one reason or another. I didn’t have the money to update anything at the time, so I saved until I knew what I wanted.” Even though Norris may not have known what she wanted in her kitchen, there was something of which she was sure. She didn’t want to leave her Huntington neighborhood in Kempsville where she had lived for 41 years. She liked the central location, was close to her grandchildren and loved her neighbors. She considered herself a permanent fixture in the community and wanted to keep it that way.

Remodel or bust

Bigger isn’t always better For Ferguson, adding square footage isn’t always the answer. “I listen to what the client wants,” she says, “and figure what’s working and what’s not. If it’s not working, I fix it. If it is working, I make it better.” By opening up the space, Norris has enjoyed her family gatherings more because it is now a place where people like to congregate. “I was most pleased when Pat suggested knocking out the wall,” says Norris. “Now I do more cooking and everyone wants to come to my house for a party because everything is so nice.” Ferguson also converted the existing coat closet from the dining room to a walk-in pantry. The original pantry in the kitchen now houses a reduced-depth refrigerator which keeps the working triangle conveniently configured, although its size has been increased. The granite countertops add a touch of elegance to the room. “The new design,” says Ferguson, “shows what you can do to improve upon an outdated layout, utilizing existing space without having to add onto the square footage of the home.”

For Norris, remodeling was the only solution to updating her old house. So in September 2007, she chose Kitchen King A new kitchen and all its glory Cabinets and never doubted her decision. For its efforts, the To make the kitchen lighter, Kitchen King replaced dark company won Tidewater Builders Association’s 2008 Stanley wood with natural maple cabinets with glass doors. The vinyl Award of Remodeling Excellence for Best Kitchen Remodel and carpet from the kitchen and dining rooms were ripped out under $50,000. and a neutral porcelain tile installed. To “They were ‘Johnny on the spot’ from To carry the continuity of design across the kitchen and keep the island from looking like it was the beginning to the end,” remembers into the old dining area, a built-in hutch with glass cabinsuspended in the middle of the room, Norris. “They were dependable, familyetry and lighting displays and stores china and crystal. Ferguson added an inlaid tile in a deco oriented, efficient and cleaned up their design around its base to make it look work every day. I appreciated that.” like a piece of furniture. Although no new space was added to Now the kitchen has doubled in size, the kitchen remodel, Norris feels like and Norris says she spends all her time she has gained additional room because in it. Whereas before the remodeling of the way Patricia Ferguson, interior deNorris had very little storage, now she signer and part owner of Kitchen King has all she needs. To carry the continuCabinets, configured the new space. ity of design across the entire area into The original floor plan that consisted the old dining room, a custom hutch of a small, dark kitchen and an unused, with a stellar black Silestone countertop formal dining room which had become adds a sparkle to the look, says Fergua catch-all area had to go. Norris shared son. The hutch area continues up the Ferguson’s vision of removing the wall wall with glass cabinetry and lighting on between the kitchen and dining room the left and right to display and store and adding an arched header to bear Norris’ china and crystal. the weight of the rooms upstairs and To add contrast, the new GE Profile give the feeling downstairs that the appliances have stainless-steel and blackrooms had always been one continuous glass fronts which pick up the colors from space. 8 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine

Over 13 years of Room Addition & Remodeling Experience


ADDITIONS before (Above) Although no new space was added to the Norris’ kitchen during the remodel, the homeowner says she feels the room is bigger thanks to the way the interior designer configured the space. The project netted Kitchen King Cabinets a 2008 Stanley Award in the Best Kitchen Under $50,000 category. (Below, right) The original floor plan consisted of a small, dark kitchen and an unused, formal dining room which had become a catch-all area. By removing the wall between the two rooms, the windows at the front of the house now flood the area with ambient light.

the granite countertops. To “pop” color, a burgundy/orange paint was used, and the colors of the kitchen are showcased in the drapes throughout the area. Norris has probably hit on something with her new use of space. Lifestyles have changed and people are shying away from a formal dining room because the area is used so infrequently. She believes her guests want to feel comfortable when they visit. “People don’t want to feel like they can’t sit on this piece of furniture or sit down and eat in that room,” says Norris. “This is more of a casual atmosphere, but it is elegant at the same time.”

She can see clearly now The last detail that completed the remodeling was the lighting. The outdated dining room chandelier was replaced with recessed cans. Lighting also was added under the cabinets and over the work stations. By removing the wall between the two rooms, the windows at the front of the house now flood the area with ambient light. According to Ferguson, the new lighting balances both rooms together and keeps the visual flow working from room to room. Since Ferguson has the natural ability to visualize the final outcome in her mind’s remodeling magazine



Design • Build • Remodel

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before eye, she is never surprised with the final result, but to help her clients see the finished room, she uses software to give the homeowner a visual presentation. “I knew what the rooms would look like before we started,” says Ferguson, “so there was no surprise for me.” Although that was reassuring for Norris, she still has a hard time believing this is the same house she moved into in 1967. “I feel sometimes like I am in the wrong house,” says Norris. “I lived here a long time, but it is so different from what I had. I am so happy with it. I wish I could have done it years ago.” (Janet Yarbrough Meyer is a free-lance writer and educator living in Virginia Beach.)

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10 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine


interior design

Story and photos by Elaine Caplan


fter having lived in homes in different countries, I’m convinced there should be a correlation between the way a house is decorated and the personality of the client. Life at home should not be dull or boring but instead a refuge where homeowners can just relax, read, watch television, do some work and enjoy their surroundings. For interior decorating to be successful, both the homeowner and the decorator need to trust each other and have confidence that it’s going to turn out the way the client wants.

How important is the decorator?

Choices There are seemingly endless kinds of wallpaper, tile, rugs, furniture, lamps, window treatments and accessories. You can make large changes to a given area or small changes. They don’t have to be dramatic, and they don’t have to use up the entire budget. It’s rather like preparing a meal. remodeling magazine

s Chic and comfortable, this living room depicts what designers call relaxed luxury. An elegant dining room with an air of romance fits nicely with this historic house’s ambiance. s

An experienced interior designer understands each client is different and each has his or her own personality, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, and objectives. Remodeling a home involves many choices and it’s the interior designer’s job to patiently discuss these choices, trying to keep them within the client’s budget. In this regard, over designing is just as bad as under designing. The key to remodeling a master bedroom, living room, kitchen, study or even the whole house is to design the different areas to be consistent with what clients want and how they want the house to look. In the end, one room should flow into another and the homeowner should enjoy each room for its designated purpose.

There’s planning, preparation, time element and ingredient choices. The difference is that once you’ve made your decisions about your home, the ingredients are more permanent. So take your time. Choose a decorator you can talk to and relate with.

Choosing an interior designer For most people, selecting an interior designer to spruce up their home opens a door for fun, imagination and, when it’s over, great satisfaction. Consider hiring a designer recommended by a friend if you like the results you see. Or at local home shows or even model homes, ask about the designer if you like a particular home’s décor. It will make all the difference if you (See DESIGN on page 38) Fall 2008/winter 2009 11

remodeling makeover: before

Historic and old were good … But the kitchen had to go by Janet Yarbrough Meyer


hen most people think about buying a home, the operative word is new. Bring on the bells and whistles. Toss around words like innovative and unique. The newer the better. Then there are folks like the Littels. Their idea of a new home meant an old house that’s new to them. When they started their search for the perfect house, they looked in Norfolk’s Ghent without any luck. Their future residence didn’t materialize until they walked through the door of the circa 1699 Hermitage house, a house that was part of the original Adam Thoroughgood estate in Virginia Beach. “I drove by the house a couple of times,” says Marianne Littel, “and finally dragged my husband to come and see it. It was in horrible shape. The yard was overgrown with poison ivy and Virginia creeper. But the moment we walked into the house, we fell in love with it.” The Littels invested much effort and many hours of sweat equity into fixing up the property but knew they would need help with other areas of the home — in particular the kitchen. Small and added onto the back of the house decades ago, the 1940s’ cookery was dim and shared the back of the dwelling with the maid’s quarters. It was neither practical nor inviting to the couple who loves to cook and entertain. It simply had to go. The couple found a perfect fit with Benson Builders Inc., a local firm with years of experience in every area of remodeling, from design all the way through the construction phase. In the end, the renovation was completed on budget and on schedule with a professionally run jobsite that was cleaned so “you could walk around in your stocking feet” at the end of every day. Benson Builders started the project in September 2007, changing the downstairs 12 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

(Above) The ceiling heights are raised to 9 feet and most of the interior walls are removed to really open up the space in the new kitchen. Before (inset above), with a kitchen more than 60 years old, the Littels were fed up with cooking on one burner and wanted modern working appliances in an up-to-date kitchen that flowed into the older portions of the original circa 1699 home. (Below) The sitting room is brought out another 4 feet to allow the family to be together while mom and dad cook.

remodeling magazine

floor plan to create a flow to the back of the house and the new kitchen. Now upon entering the foyer, the eye is immediately drawn to the windows on the back wall and the beautiful rose gardens in the backyard. By removing another wall between the tiny kitchen and maid’s quarters and raising the ceilings to 9 feet, Benson doubled the size of the new kitchen. “When you step through the front door,” says Jim Benson, “you start to experience the outdoors by seeing through the house and out the panoramic kitchen windows into the gardens. We were able to create a feel of a larger space without adding a lot of square footage.” Once in the kitchen, the light spilling into the room from the bay windows and reflected off the pale yellow walls invites guests to pull up a chair to the granite-topped island or relax in the sitting area to the right of the kitchen. “Having the kitchen remodeled,” says Littel, “completely changed our home. My husband, who is a great cook, now has his fantastic Blue Star gas range with high BTUs , just like Julia Child. What a difference from the old stove, which had one working burner.

This is a room created for entertaining.” In addition to new appliances, the interior design and trim was replicated in the kitchen to allow for the smooth transition from the 1699 front of the house to the 2007 remodeling at the rear. The feel of the original old heart pine floors was extended into the kitchen using new-growth wide-board pine flooring to match. Additional research was done in the selection of the cabinetry and accessories to keep the simplicity of the Shak-


The old family room would give way for the renovated kitchen. In the new floor plan, the two rooms trade places.

er style. A laundry and powder room were tucked behind the remodeled kitchen, and five-panel interior doors were made to match the original ones. This remodeling job earned Benson Builders the 2008 Stanley Award for the Best Kitchen – $50,000 and over. For Benson, who has been in business for 25 years, this project had a personal component because he grew up in a 150-year-old house in New England and has had very few chances to work on historical homes in Hampton Roads. As the renovation unfolded, he got to see the work of generations of craftsmen before him. He says he felt privileged to work on a home where so many others had shared their talent and labor. For the Littels, who are the 27th owners of this house, they feel like they are the next generation of stewards of the property. “This house has a personality,” says Littel, with tears welling in her eyes, “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I love it.” (Janet Yarbrough Meyer is a free-lance writer and educator living in Virginia Beach.)


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remodeling magazine

Fall 2008/winter 2009 13

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Make black gold from those autumn leaves By Susan Brimo-Cox


don’t like to throw money away. So, each fall when the leaves drop off the deciduous trees, I don’t bag them up to send to the landfill. I use them to make compost. You see, when I see the leaves of the maple turn yellow, I see gold — black gold, aka compost. Compost is my garden amendment of choice because it provides natural nutrients, serves as an ideal mulch and improves the soil — even clay and sandy soil. In the woods, tree leaves compost naturally, without the need for bins or elaborate systems. In my garden, I could wait for nature to take its course, too. But I don’t because I don’t want to wait that long, and I prefer my garden look a bit more well-tended than the woods. Another reason I’ve been composting for years is because it’s so easy. I’ve composted using the basic pile-iton compost pile. I’ve had a husband-built system of three bins to progressively make my compost. I’ve had black bins. And I’ve tried a spinning drum-type compost maker. Some people can get rather creative, such as using a large plastic trash can to make their own drum composter. All of the systems work, as long as you have the right recipe.

The ideal compost recipe The best compost has two basic ingredients: green and brown matter. Through remodeling magazine

about four times more brown than green, a 4:1 proportion. That may seem like an unbalanced recipe, but it’s not. Too much green material and you’ll wind up with a nasty-smelling heap. What you don’t want to add to your compost are meat or fatty scraps, diseased plant material, and dog or cat feces. Also a word of caution if you treat your lawn with herbicides: don’t use treated grass clippings in your compost. The herbicide may continue to have a residual effect that you don’t want to spread to your flower or vegetable garden. Autumn leaves are an important ingredient for successful home-made compost concoctions. (Photos by Susan Brimo-Cox.)

most of the growing season, grass clippings provide the green matter. Kitchen scraps of fruits and vegetables, such as apple, cucumber and carrot peelings, and egg shells are ideal additions to compost, as well. The brown matter, well, that can get to be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have dried, chopped-up leaves. That’s why autumn is important and why setting aside several piles or numerous bags’ worth of chopped, dry leaves is a really good idea. Like most recipes, it’s critical to have the ingredients in the correct proportion when making compost. The brown matter provides carbon to the mix. The green matter provides nitrogen. You need

Get your compost cooking Something you want to encourage in your compost is microorganisms. You can either wait for them to discover your compost pile on their own, or you can throw a few shovels full of good garden soil or a compost starter on your compost to jump-start it. As you add layers of green and brown matter, add another shovelful of soil every now and again. If I want my compost to break down faster, I turn it regularly. Good aeration is what does the trick. However, keep in mind that turning a compost pile is hard work. Compost piles need moisture, too, but you don’t want them to be soaking wet. Usually, I cover my compost and add water if it gets too dry. (See COMPOSTING on page 16) Fall 2008/winter 2009 15

Composting (continued from page 15)

You’ll know your compost is “cooking” by its temperature. As the wet green and the dry brown materials interact and the microorganisms get to work, the temperature of your compost should go up. Most weed seeds and insect and plant disease organisms will be killed when the compost gets up to 160 degrees F or so. That’s not hot enough for spontaneous combustion, but if you stir into compost that’s really working you’ll feel very quickly how hot compost can get. As the compost decays, the temperature will decrease but the microorganisms are still at work.

Save money and improve your garden Finished compost can be accomplished in a matter of weeks or months, depending on the composting system you use, how often you turn the compost and the weather conditions (compost works faster in summer than in winter). As the autumn leaves begin falling in my yard, I spend time running over them with the lawnmower to chop them up — a leaf shredder will work, as well — and I gather up the shredded leaves. Some will go right into my compost bin. Others I’ll bag up to add to the compost bin next spring and summer. I often wonder why people rake leaves, put them out in the trash, and then buy mulch and fertilizer. Not only are the ingredients for compost free from my household and garden, the no-brainer part is that it pretty much makes itself. If you don’t already compost, you should try it. If you want to wait until spring to try composting, just put those chopped-up leaves in plastic bags to keep them dry over winter, and use them to start composting when the grass greens up and you start mowing the lawn again. Then you’ll have both the brown and green ingredients you need for your own homemade compost.

What to do with your compost You’ll know your compost is “finished” and ready to use when it’s no longer hot and it gives off a nice earthy smell. Actually, your “finished” compost will continue to break down for quite a while, but it’s finished as far as your composting efforts go. 16 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

Here’s a compost pile cleverly screened by plants in a homeowner’s garden. The pile is tucked away in the garden but not really hidden in any special way. It works. (Photo by Susan Brimo-Cox.)

It helps to sift your compost through a hardware cloth screen to screen out larger unfinished material and rocks that may have mixed in. You can build your own screen or purchase one. Screened compost is one of the best mulches you’ll ever use in the garden. (Yes, I said that before, but it deserves repeating.) Not only does a layer several inches deep suppress weeds, it also helps hold moisture in the soil and it feeds the soil and your plants at the same time. A composting trick you can try if you’re planning to create a new flowerbed is to layer compost materials right on the lawn where the flowerbed will go. Layer green and brown materials in the same way you would in an enclosed compost bin. This is best done in the fall, when you have both green and brown compost materials readily available. Layer until you reach about 12 inches high. It helps to use a temporary enclosure, such as boards or chicken wire, to maintain the depth right to the edge, but you don’t have to. Through the late fall and over winter, the compost pile will do its thing. If you did it right, come spring you should have a planting bed ready for your new plants. And you didn’t have the backbreaking job of digging out the sod and amending the underlying soil.

Where to learn more about composting You may not think composting makes for enjoyable reading, but there are two books I recommend if you want to learn

more. Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost (2006, Sterling Publishing Co.) is a great read — really! McGrath, the host of public radio’s You Bet Your Garden, has an amazing talent of combining good information with a good dose of humor. His book has all the basics and also touches on compost teas, vermiculture (making compost with worms) and compost products you can purchase. This book won’t overwhelm you. Rather, it’ll make you laugh and you’ll learn something, too. For those of you who want to know a whole lot about composting, there’s The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin (2008, Storey Publishing). This book covers the who, what, where, when and why of composting. The authors begin with the basics of the composting process and the tools you’ll need, then they quickly delve into the details of what you can and shouldn’t compost. They explore numerous compost gardening techniques, offer problem-solving and alternative compost methods, and share information about making the most of your compost. They also tell you what plants will benefit most from compost. Throughout the book are excellent photos and illustrations. For additional information about composting, contact your local cooperative extension office. (Susan Brimo-Cox is an award-winning garden writer, master gardener and plant nut. She gardened and composted in Hampton Roads for well over a decade.) remodeling magazine

advice from a pro Diagram of a Chest Freezer

Freezer on the fritz? By Frank Sgromolo

R can provide doit-yourselfers with freezer parts, maintenance tips and money-saving home appliance repair help. A well-running freezer is a smart shopper’s best friend. Consumers wanting to maximize their food budget will buy favorite items when available at a lower price and then store them in the freezer for future use. To help keep the valued freezer clean and running efficiently, can provide appliance parts, repairs and tips for the ambitious do-it-yourselfer. “If you see frost or ice building up on the inside walls, ceiling or floor of your self-defrosting freezer, it may be time to do some troubleshooting,” says Chris Hall, president and co-founder of “Our Web site provides appliance diagrams and free repair help online for both chest and upright freezers — with manual or self-defrosting features. Frost buildup on a manual-defrost unit is normal.”

The freezer-related information available free online includes: Common freezer problems: This section helps consumers troubleshoot problems, such as noisy fans or improper cooling. All freezers should be in the 0 to 8 degrees range, which can be measured with a thermometer.  It’s normal for freezers to self-defrost three to four times in 24 hours. If a component in the self-defrost system fails, the freezer will continue to try and cool. However, eventually, frost will build on the evaporator coils (hidden behind a panel), and the circulating fan can’t draw air over the coils. The cooling process is limited, and the freezer will not be as cold as it should be. How freezers work: This area contains explanations on several freezer systems and components — including automatic defrost, temperature control, cooling and door seals. remodeling magazine

More and more men and women are discovering how empowering it is to fix an appliance themselves. Unlike cars, which have gotten more complex over time, major home appliances have gotten easier to repair. (Diagram courtesy of

For example, the seal is a rubber-like gasket attached to the door, and its job is to keep the cold air inside the freezer. This gasket contains a magnet to hold the door closed and create a tight seal. If this seal is in good condition, the appliance will operate more efficiently and last longer. Freezers in a garage or outside exposed to sunlight will run longer and may not keep proper temperatures on very hot days.  Freezer maintenance tips: Chest freezers require very little maintenance. However, all appliances operate better when certain components are clean. Two suggestions are for freezer owners to use a damp rag and a little dish detergent to clean sticky door seals and use a condenser brush and narrow vacuum cleaner attachment to clean the hard-to-reach coils behind or under the freezer. “A common question we get is how to avoid freezer burn on meat products,” says Hall. “Freezer burn is actually just dehydration of the meat caused by exposure to freezer air. We recommend using airtight containers or wrappings. Most wrappings from the supermarkets do not prevent dehydration. Although freezer-

burned food is safe to eat, it may be tough and tasteless — something every good cook wants to avoid.” regularly reminds do-it-yourselfers to consult their repair manuals and to disconnect the appliance from its power source before doing any repair work. If appliance owners have lost their manuals, check the RepairClinic. com Web site to see if a copy is available. To provide live repair help for major home appliances for the kitchen and laundry room,’s vice president, John Sowden, hosts “The Appliance Repair Show” every Sunday on News/Talk 760 WJR Radio in Detroit from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. EST. DIY listeners across the United States can access the popular show via the radio station’s “Listen Live” area on its Web site, Founded in Canton, Mich., in 1999, is a comprehensive online resource for do-it-yourself home appliance repair help, parts and information. The site features more than 80 appliance brands — including Kenmore, Whirlpool, Maytag, GE, Frigidaire and LG — across 16 appliance types including washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves, ovens and dishwashers. Fall 2008/winter 2009 17

Can these windows be saved? by Tom Weatherly


have this neighbor who’s a lightning rod for ridicule, and I think rightfully so. Not that I know him that well. We exchange civilities maybe once a year at our cul-de-sac cookout. However, according to those who would know, he’s a practicing attorney and is reportedly able to hold a job, sometimes for months at a time. What you can’t help but notice is that while each of his four kids drives a BMW, his relatively young 12-year-old house is visibly rotting around him. Weeds grow between the trim and siding, and either a small tree or thick ivy is coming up through the shingles next to the chimney. The window muntins are about as strong as wet cardboard, and no putty remains to hold the panes. Insects line up on his window sills like so many cars on I-264 during rush hour, except they have fewer slowdowns,

and rear-end collisions are rare. My wife gets annoyed when their BMWs spill over to park in front of our house, but I tell her maybe he doesn’t want to damage the bushes growing in their driveway cracks. Trick question: Should his windows be replaced? Answer: “No”… because it will just make it more difficult and expensive to demolish the house and start over. As you can see, when asking whether windows should be replaced, sometimes we just overcomplicate the question. On Overall, the average window replacement project cost ranges from around $8,000 to $15,000 a job, with replacement windows averaging between $400 and $800 apiece. But when the house is sold, the cost recouped is usually high, around 80 percent to 85 percent. (Photo courtesy of Integrity.)

the other hand, my neighbor believes if he can still see through the panes of glass, then maintenance is superfluous. He doesn’t realize that windows function on a number of levels to regulate light, temperature and air flow. He seems completely oblivious to the role appearance plays in overall home value. When windows become dysfunctional in these areas, or when the value of new windows overcomes the cost of replacement, you can make a fairly objective decision. Keep in mind that window replacement is far less costly if you don’t wait until the frames have become damaged or rotted and need to be replaced, too. Most manufacturers say windows should be replaced after about 20 years. Signs of a failing window include being sealed or painted shut, draftiness, and panes that collect condensation, ice and frost.

Window shopping considerations I noticed while looking at the Cost vs. Value reports in Hanley-Woods’ Remodeling Magazine over the years from 2002 through 2007, the average window replacement project cost ranged from $8,000 to $15,000 ($400-$800 per window) and the cost recouped on resale is usually high, around 80 percent to 85 percent. But at times when the housing market was doing better, say in 2005, the job cost recouped was around 87 percent. One way to look at it would be to figure that if you spend $15,000 on a window project, $3,000 of that will be a sunk cost in terms of appreciation. However, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can cut energy costs by as much as 15 percent by buying windows with double-pane insulated glass, heat-resistant coatings, airtight frames and/or Energy Star ratings. Thus, it would be reasonable to estimate $30 to $45 per month savings in a 3,000-square-foot home, given the high cost of energy in 2008. In this very simplistic calculation, you recoup the remaining $3,000 somewhere between five and eight years. In any case, this is one of those remodels that is rarely a loser. Energy Saving Exteriors, located in 18 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine

Virginia Beach and Newport News, adds two additional factors commonly cited for choosing to replace existing windows. One is the desire for greater security, such as with ESE’s UniFrame replacement windows, and another is the existence of reputable financing options. Approximately 70 percent of ESE customers choose some form of financing in their decision-making process. (Alternatively, if you were someone like my neighbor, you could always sell one of your kid’s BMWs instead.) If that extra level of security against break-ins and severe weather is what would tip the scales in favor of replacing your windows, consider shatterproof glass, which has a piece of plastic sandwiched between two glass panes. The fabrication produces glass that is two to four times stronger than standard window glass. These windows, which are now required by code in some hurricaneprone areas, are as efficient as low-E glass and also help reduce noise transmission. Progressive Window Co. in Virginia Beach is a firm believer in educating consumers before they decide to replace their windows. The company has compiled buying advice and educational material suitable for homeowners regardless of where they end up purchasing their replacement windows. See for yourself at buying_advice.htm. The importance of education in such a potentially costly endeavor isn’t likely to be overstated. Part of the economy calculation in terms of recouping costs is dependent upon having higher-quality, longer-lasting materials used in the project. The false economy of cutting corners is amplified with windows because the wrong choice can actually bring your resale value down. Speaking of declining resale value, while I make fun of my neighbor’s ignorance of home maintenance, his rotting home has a real impact on the property values of homes nearby — for example, mine. That made me consider that many people, myself included, would hesitate to spend money on improving their home when all people would see is an eyesore two houses down. That’s why the other neighbors and I tried a few tactics to persuade him to make some repairs. We went to the homeowner’s association with the problem and it proceeded to assess a pretty stiff monthly fine until he complied with its order to properly remodeling magazine

maintain his home’s exterior. It was to no avail. Remember, this is an attorney we’re dealing with and however bereft of common sense he may be, he was well trained in the art of avoiding responsibility. He shamelessly claimed, “I’m in such debt, I wouldn’t be able to subsist if I had to pay for repairs.” And this excuse worked; the association left him alone. Finally, we found his weakness. A few well-placed comments, and we found his kids were able to guilt him into replacing the window frames (and weeding the siding). At least now the front of his house looks better. None of us are brave enough to look at the back. (Tom Weatherly is a free-lance writer and engineering consultant who spent the better part of 20 years in Hampton Roads, including a stint on the USS Nimitz, before meeting his wife in Virginia Beach, and eventually resettling in Northern Virginia.) If that extra level of security against break-ins and severe weather is what would tip the scales in favor of replacing your windows, consider shatterproof glass. Seen here, lumber traveling at 33 mph hits a test unit without puncturing the impactresistant glass. (Photo courtesy of Simonton Windows.)


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Today’s big closet question …

Would you like to super-size that? By Stacey Enesey Klemenc


Bringing it inside Conventional dressers are going out the door as more and more people are including built-in drawers and extra storage space in closets. “Closets in new builds are getting bigger and bedrooms are getting smaller,” Cross notes. And this trend is crossing over to the remodeling sector, says Jeff Bruzzesi, owner of The Closet Factory, a company in 20 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

s For an upscale look, Rebecca Cross with Affordable Closet Systems recommends storing shoes on slanted shelves with a chrome fence. (Photo by Natanya Crumrine.) Responding to the flux in fashion trends when it comes to ties, Custom Closet Specialties offers customers an 8-inch-wide tie storage system that can hold up to 105 ties. s

hen it comes to closets, most people will agree that bigger is better. Research shows that it’s not unusual for closet renovations to top out at 50-square-feet plus. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, only onethird of homeowners think their current storage space is adequate. To solve this problem, some homeowners are transforming a spare bedroom into a large walk-in closet, says Mark Stearns, president of Custom Closets & Specialties in Portsmouth. “The only thing we need to work around is one or two windows,” says Stearns, who’s been in the business for more than 25 years, and a good window dressing will take care of UV problems. A room-to-closet conversion, as he calls it, usually allows ample space for an island in the middle and hanging rods and shelves along the walls. Rebecca Cross, who owns Chesapeakebased Affordable Closet Systems Inc. with her husband, Darrell, says in general she’s seeing more and more windows in closets, which have their pros and cons. “They’re great for letting in natural light, but you could have issues with fading from the sunlight,” she says. “On the other hand, a window offers ventilation and you can air out your clothes from time to time just by opening it.” Windows are also perfect places for built-in benches, both owners agree. They not only offer homeowners a place where they can sit and put on their shoes, but they also offer additional storage within.

Virginia Beach with a 14,000-square-foot facility where components are custom made. “People are moving dresser drawers into the closet where everything is within reach,” he says, from socks and shoes to undershirts and pants. “They can get dressed in the closet. They don’t have to go out to the dresser to get anything.” And it’s not just drawers that are finding their way into the closet. People are including ironing boards, linen storage, hampers and even washers and dryers. If the space is large enough, islands — the high-end versions with granite tops and accent lighting — are also popular items, Bruzzesi adds. Stearns says these “packing islands,” which typically feature a variety of drawers, adjustable shelves and baskets, not only serve as counter space for folding clothes but also are suitcase friendly, a real plus for the traveling homeowner. It’s also not uncommon, Cross says, to

find a television in today’s colossal closets, among other things. One house they were in, she adds, actually had a fountain.

Letting it all hang up Most people who call for the services of closet designers are tired of living with the builder-grade one-shelf, one-rod setup. Double-hanging rod configurations are pretty common these days, with a remodeling magazine

a teen’s.” In this instance, he can design a closet that utilizes a triple-rod setup that converts easily into a two-rod closet as the child matures. Stearns also notes that teens these days have very little if any long items to hang, so he usually configures less long-hanging space to allow more room for shelves and drawers. Rod configurations also take into account such things as how slacks are hung, whether folded in half or hung by the cuffs or waistband.

Popular closet features

s The Closet Factory custom makes all its components in a 14,000-square-foot facility in Virginia Beach. The company provides a designer to access customers’ needs and to help take inventory to determine what configuration will work best.

third rod higher up as a viable option for those with 9- or 10-foot ceilings. “Wardrobe lifts hang higher and are made to be pulled down easily,” says Bruzzesi. The high-hanging clothes are still accessible, he adds, and occupy a space that would otherwise be wasted.

It’s standard protocol for good closet companies to assess individual needs of customers and design a system based on what customers have and how they want to store it. For example, Stearns explains, “A youngster around 10 years old has garments that take up less vertical space than


Aside from including drawers in the closet configuration, there are myriad accessories to improve a homeowner’s storage options. Three very popular accessory items, says Cross, are sliding tie racks, sliding belt racks and valet rods. Valet rods are rods that extend toward you that are designed to hold an outfit for the next day. They also come in handy to hang items fresh from the dry cleaners before they’re actually put away. Speaking of the dry cleaners, don’t store clothes with the plastic covering (See CLOSETS on page 38)

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financing options for your remodeling project

If you’re happy where you are: Don’t move … improve! By Donna T. Davis


ometimes your best move is to stay where you are. You love your home and if you had a little more space, you’d stay there forever, right? A Construction to Permanent Renovation loan could be the answer. Making significant improvements such as adding a room, garage or swimming pool could make a difference, not only in how much you will enjoy your home, but upping its value as well. So if you’re happy where you live, don’t move….improve! A Construction to Permanent Renovation mortgage pays off your first and second mortgage (if applicable) and covers the cost of the new construction, with one set of closing costs from construction

You love your home and if you had a little more space, you’d stay there forever, right? A Construction to Permanent Renovation loan could be the answer. to permanent financing. In many cases, the maximum loan amount is calculated on the new appraised value of the home, including the addition or improvement. Even the closing costs may be able to be included. Typically a licensed contractor is required, and the program can be used for your primary residence or vacation home (investment property usually is not


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24 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

allowed). The construction period can be a variety of options….many times nine months up to 15 months. There are lockin protections (caps) available during the construction period to eliminate the additional stress of the unknown interest rate at the end of construction. Let’s assume you are ready to move, but the home you want to purchase is missing a few of the important features you and your family need. A Construction to Permanent Renovation loan also can be used to purchase the home and add the improvements. The same benefits are available — meaning the maximum amount of the loan is determined by the new proposed value or the cost of the home plus the amount of the improvements. At the settlement/closing, the first transaction is to purchase the property and pay the one and only set of closing costs. The remaining amount of the loan is held to be paid in draws as the work is completed. At the end of construction for either of these scenarios, the loan is modified to permanent. Another closing does not occur. A final inspection is performed to determine if the house was built according to the plan, and you simply enjoy your newly improved home! An experienced mortgage loan officer can discuss other options available and can assist in determining which will best suit your financial plan. (Donna T. Davis is a senior vice president and the Hampton Roads regional mortgage manager for BB&T. She can be reached at or [757] 8736001.)

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Fall 2008/winter 2009 25

remodeling makeover:

History in the remaking by Sandra J. Pennecke, photos by Andria McClellan


ndria and Mike McClellan knew instantly when they walked into the 100-year-old home in Ghent that it was where they wanted to raise their family and grow old. “We were drawn to the character of a historic home and the eclectic nature of this one,” Andria says. But, it would be a year, countless hours and an excess of funds before the couple and their sons — now ages 9, 6 and 3 — actually got to move into the home on Warren Crescent. In 2005, the couple purchased the house, built in 1905, and immediately began a year of renovations followed by a 900-square-foot, two-story addition of a first-floor family room and second-floor master bedroom that took another year to complete after they moved in. “Restoration is like a puzzle,” Andria laments. “You have to figure out where it was originally and put it back with modern amenities while keeping it usable for a family of five.” They contracted Thad “Pete” Broom Architects and Designers PC in Virginia Beach and Leo F. Johns Contractor Inc. in

before After the McClellans moved into their circa 1905 home in Norfolk, they added a 900-square-foot, two-story addition. The addition, which comprises a first-floor family room and an upstairs master bedroom with a balcony, took another year to complete.

Chesapeake to do the job. Leo Johns started the company in 1976, and 20 years later, Jerry Pattenaude, who had worked with Johns since 1981, took over. “Historic restoration is something we like to do. It’s different because you need to take your time and you need the right craftsmen,” Pattenaude says.

Shifting the innards The historic renovation of the McClellan home, originally designed to be similar to an 1850s’ Newport, R.I., shingle-style beach house, garnered Leo F. Johns Contractor a 2008 Stanley Award of Excellence in the Historic Restoration category. The full-service remodeling company also won a 2007 Stanley Award for Best Master Bath Remodel over $50,000 in the McClellan home. The house, with its 6,071 square feet, includes six bedrooms, six bathrooms, two laundry rooms, a music room, office, five rooms in a full basement and a two-car detached garage. The original family owned the house until 1992 when it was sold to a local architect who transformed the interior into a contemporary style. “He put the kitchen in the octagonal dining room, took a double-wide pocket door out, walled over the front foyer entrance and walled over a fireplace,” explains Andria. The new family room, which is built where a porch once stood, opens up to the kitchen to create a modern, open living arrangement.

26 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

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Back to Plan A The McClellans were intent on restoring the house to its original layout, which required removing and relocating several interior walls. The kitchen was moved back to its original location and the once-removed kitchen was restored to a grand dining room. The renovation left virtually no stones unturned — inside and outside, the house underwent repairs, replacements and restoration. Cedar shingles were replaced, all wood trim was stripped and painted, and the original slate roof was repaired. Aluminum gutters were swapped with period-appropriate copper gutters. Chimney liners were installed and the exterior brick was repointed. The aluminum garage door was removed and a periodappropriate carriage-style door with a similar lite pattern to the house’s main windows was put in. Original double-hung wooden windows were restored and new Marvin windows, made specifically to match the old, were installed. All original window hardware was reworked and made before operable or replaced. Hall lighting was substituted with period-appropriate gas-electricstyle fixtures. Damaged leaded glass in the front door and office cabinet was restored and replicated throughout the house. Walls were replastered and heartwood pine was installed throughout the house to match the remaining flooring. Stair treads and risers were sanded and refinished. The center chimney stack was cleaned, relined and made operable. A modern skylight in the kitchen was replaced with a coffered ceiling modeled after the original ceiling in the foyer area. Period-appropriate subway tiles were used for the backsplash and Richlite countertops — made from recycled paper — were chosen because they looked like soapstone. Custom period-appropriate cabinetry was installed in the kitchen and transoms were restored above doors in the dining room.

On to the finish Surprises abounded throughout the renovation, too. A 6-foot-wide pocket door found in the garage was repaired and reinstalled in its original location between the foyer and dining room. All the fireplace facades — a total of six — were restored, even ones found covered up by walls. “This was the largest historical renovation we’ve worked on in Norfolk,” says Frank Healey, project manager, noting the job was made easier by the McClellans’ quick decision-making and Andria’s research abilities. “I found a lot of great ideas and resources online including, and www. I picked out the fixtures, tile, flooring, hardware, cabinetry and so on,” Andria says, “but it was a team effort. The success of this project and the major credit goes to Frank because he had great ideas and a lot of experience working with older houses. “It was a challenge to do the historic restoration of the original house and tie in the addition in a respectful way to the original architect,” she adds. The McClellans applied for and received a historic rehabilitaremodeling magazine

The kitchen, which was situated in the original dining room area when the McClellans bought the house, is back in its original spot — where the family room was before the remodel. Below, this is what the family room looked like when the home was purchased. To the left is the old view from the kitchen to the family room.

tion tax credit administered through the Virginia Department re of Historic Resources. befo “It’s a three-step process and I highly recommend using a consultant to assist with this application and dealings with the state,” Andria says. The McClellans also intertwined some environmentally friendly components into their home: a geothermal heating system, recycled rubber tires made into tiles to give the appearance of a slate roof on the addition, removal of shag carpeting and installation of period-appropriate cork flooring on the third floor, and the recycled paper countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. “It was a labor of love. We love the neighborhood. It’s a unique and special place and we love living in something historic with the modern amenities,” Andria says. “We have the best of both worlds and now we have the opportunity to enjoy it. We already know where the elevator is going to go one day,” says Andria, a self-proclaimed serial renovator. The couple has moved onto their next renovation project, in Wintergreen, where this time they plan to create a modern and contemporary vacation home. (Sandra J. Pennecke is a free-lance writer living in Chesapeake.) Fall 2008/winter 2009 27

Heading in to catch a movie by Valerie Myers


alk home theaters with just about anyone and three things will inevitably be discussed: size, sound and picture quality. Home theater enthusiasts love their electronics and many seem to be on a never-ending quest to find the biggest, best and brightest in audio-visual equipment. To say we’ve come a long way in the area of home electronic entertainment technology is somewhat of an understatement. Since RCA began selling the first color televisions in 1954 to the latest offerings in high-definition television (HDTV) capabilities, homeowners have always enjoyed the luxury and convenience of in-home entertainment systems and that interest is showing no signs of waning. Whether in a room built and specially designated as the home theater, or an existing room outfitted and transformed into one, now with the availability of the best in high-tech electronic equipment, almost any homeowner can create an impressive home theater for the entire family to enjoy. 28 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

Advances in home theater technology have given people more affordable choices to enjoy a big picture show from the convenience of home. (Photo courtesy of Tidewater Builders Association.)

Size matters Usually, the centerpiece of any home theater is the television. Often, the old adage “bigger is better” tends to be an accurate guideline when choosing a television. “Generally speaking,” says Wayne Bradby, general manager of Home Theaters by DAS, “we advise going with the largest screen your room, viewing distance and budget can accommodate.” Most homes built to include a home theater typically can accommodate a television screen anywhere from 42 to 60 inches or more. If a flat-panel LCD or plasma television is the focal point of a home theater, most professionals advise wall mounting to achieve the correct viewing height for the television. Wall mounts conserve floor space and give the home theater a more finished look. Another space saver is a projection

screen, which can be free-standing, mounted to the wall or retractable from the ceiling. Whichever way, it saves considerable floor space compared to a big-screen TV. Because it contains none of the electronics, a projection screen literally can be paper-thin and when it comes to projector screen size, bigger is not automatically better. Projecting too large an image may produce a picture with less than optimum brightness. Proper viewing height is particularly important when using a rear-projection television. This type of television doesn’t have as wide a viewing angle as flat-panel LCD and plasma televisions, so seating should be arranged directly in front of it.

Quality control Picture quality is high on the list of priorities when it comes to an enjoyable viewing experience and remains the focus of the TV manufacturing industry. One of the most talked-about innovations in television viewing these days is the 1080p HDTV. Most 1080p sets are capable of displaying every pixel of the highest remodeling magazine

resolution HD broadcasts — that’s twice the resolution of the previous models. “Simply put,” says Bradby, “1080p technology offers the fastest display of moving images in the sharpest, clearest resolution currently available.” The majority of the well-known brands currently have HDTVs with 1080p capability on the market, including Panasonic, Pioneer, Westinghouse, LG, Sharp and Sony. A little less than two years ago, when 1080p technology was first introduced to the consumer market, these televisions cost about $1,000 more than the same screen size television in a 720p or 768p capacity. Today, you can still expect to pay between $400 and $800 more, depending on size and whether it’s LCD or plasma. Some experts in the industry believe the 1080p has only a minor impact on picture quality, particularly with televisions 50 inches or smaller. But it’s worth the difference for home theater use on screens 55 inches or larger, or with projectors that display a wall-size picture. Because of the superior picture quality on extra-large viewing surfaces — particularly with action movies and live broadcasts

such as sports events — many home theater enthusiasts are willing to adhere to the higher price tag for the 1080p technology. But, Bradby explains, “Currently the only commercially available way to get true 1080p output is through a Blu-ray or HD DVD player.” All Blu-ray players and some high-end HD DVD models support 1080p.

Convenience is key Robert Bracero of Chesapeake-based electronic engineering firm Converge Life Inc. notes, “The focus in the home theater industry is on convenience and greater accessibility to media from the comfort of your home.” Manufacturers are in constant competition to raise the bar with the vast array of products and services designed to replicate the movie theater experience at home. “Today’s media technology,” says Bracero, “allows movies and music to be seen and heard the way movie directors and music producers intended them to be.” Utilizing specially developed audio systems to achieve that level of quality, Bracero’s firm integrates and installs home cinema technology designed to

fully immerse viewers into whatever media they choose — whether it’s a movie, music or gaming. “Consolidation of electronic equipment for ease of use is what most home theater professionals seek to offer their clients,” says Bracero.

Advances are ever-evolving To that end, advances in home theater technology are ever-evolving. The previously mentioned Blu-ray audio/visual technology is an optical disc format developed to record and play high-definition video. Blu-ray discs are the same size as traditional DVDs, but they offer a more enhanced high-definition experience in terms of color and sound. They have more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs. Since its debut in the United States a few years ago, Blu-ray technology has steadily increased in popularity and is expected to reach parity with standard definition DVD format by 2010. Most Bluray players cost between $300 and $400. Several brands have recently released new sleeker, slimmer versions of their (See HOME THEATERS on page 41)

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Fall 2008/winter 2009 29

Going digital:

Making the transition


ndoubtedly you’ve heard about the impending transition to all-digital broadcasting as mandated by the Federal Communication Commission and the U.S. Congress. By Feb. 17, 2009, television broadcast stations in the United States must complete the transition from analog to exclusively alldigital broadcasting. If your televisions are already connected to cable, you’ll continue to receive a signal and don’t need to take any action. The change to all-digital impacts viewers who currently use analog televisions with an antenna — as in rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna — to access local broadcast stations. If your television uses an analog broadcast signal, you have a few options: • You can subscribe to cable to receive the all-digital broadcast signal. • You can purchase a digital-to-analog converter box for your analog television. • You can purchase a new television with a built-in digital tuner that doesn’t require a converter box. The converter boxes cost between $40 and $70 and are available for purchase at a number of retail locations including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Circuit City, Target, Sears, Kmart and RadioShack. To offset the cost of the converter boxes, all households are eligible to request up to two coupons worth $40 each to be used to purchase converter boxes. To apply for the converter box coupons,

30 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

visit www.dtv2009. gov and complete the coupon application. The coupons, available on a first-come, first-serve basis, will be mailed to eligible households and will expire after 90 days. Consumers may call (888) 388-2009 for updates in English and Spanish. If your television was purchased before 1998, it probably doesn’t have a digital tuner. If you bought the set after 2004, there’s a good chance it has a built-in digital tuner, but it may not. Televisions purchased after March 1, 2007, and those sold in recent years that are 25 inches or larger, already have digital tuners. If you are unsure about your current television, check your owner’s manual. If you subscribe to services such as DIRECTV or DISH Network, any televisions you have connected to your satellite service will continue to receive programming after the digital transition. But if you don’t receive local channels through your satellite system, you’ll need to either upgrade your service package to include local channels or purchase equipment that will allow you to receive the channels. This may be a converter box or an over-the-air tuner. It’s best to contact your particular satellite service provider to find out exactly what you need. For more information about the transition to digital, visit www. or

remodeling magazine

remodeling magazine

Fall 2008/winter 2009 31

do it yourself

Floor it!

Sprucing up the garage


f you’re like many people, your garage rarely (if ever) has an automobile in it. Instead, it’s a place to store everything from bikes and tools to surfboards and lawnmowers. And it’s also traditionally the room where the husband retreats to get away from the wife and tinker with stuff or maybe watch a football or baseball game, depending on the season, with his buddies. If your garage falls into the latter “man cave” category, you may be interested in learning how you can spruce up your digs for a couple hundred dollars with a floor coating that will transform an ordinary-looking garage floor to a bright and easy-tomaintain surface. Designed specifically for the do-it-yourselfer, UCoat It comes in a kit that’s been developed for ease of use and application. Unlike products found on the shelf at your local hardware or home improvement store, UCoat It is not a paint or stain but a commercial grade, environmentally acceptable, catalyzed epoxy floor coating. It’s applied to a prepared surface with a roller

Allow the floor to dry at least 12 hours before walking or placing any items on it. Cars may be driven on the floor within 24 hours of application.

and brush. The chemical properties of the materials cause it to react and harden not only on top of but actually into the surface, producing a permanently bonded, plastic-like finish. UCoat It, available in multiple color and finishes, can be applied to any concrete or wood surface. Proper floor preparation is vital when applying any floor coating. The information on the next page is intended to be used as a general guide only. Visit the UCoat It Web site at www.ucoatit. com for more detailed instructions or call (800) 826-2848.

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32 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

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remodeling magazine

1 s Clean and rinse the area with fresh water to remove dust, dirt and debris. The concrete should darken evenly as the water absorbs into it. If any area appears to be repelling or not absorbing the water, you’ll have to clean it further with a quality degreaser or acid wash.

4 s After the bond coat has dried, fill any cracks or holes with an epoxy material such as UPatch or an elastomeric material such as UFill. Apply the finish coat when the filler materials have cured according to their respective instructions. t Apply the finish coat within 72 hours of the bond coat. The finish coat will dry to the touch in four to six hours at 68 degrees F.

2 s After the area has been prepared to absorb water, clean it again with a 10 percent muriatic acid wash (1 part acid, 10 parts water) to neutralize pH levels and promote bonding of the UCoat material. Flush the area thoroughly with fresh water. Apply the mix a second time and rinse again. Be sure to rinse the area thoroughly. Do not let the acid wash dry on the surface. t Apply the bond coat directly to a damp-wet surface to achieve a permanent bond. (Have a hose handy to mist or moisten the floor.) Allow the bond coat to dry for four to six hours at 68 degrees F before filling cracks or applying the finish coat.

3 remodeling magazine

5 Fall 2008/winter 2009 33

products to ponder

Energy-saving lightbulbs grab the spotlight by Stacey Enesey Klemenc

Get progressive with LEDs

Progress Lighting’s Just what are LEDs anyway? LEDs Everlum LED collection stand for light-emitting diodes, and although they’ve been around since the ’60s, they haven’t been used Light up your kitchens much in home settings. Out of all the with under-cabinet LEDs light bulbs out there, including compact fluorescent lights, they are the As more and more consumers look for most promising in the area of energy ways to save energy, Kichler continues efficiency. to respond with solutions such as its For one, the bulbs last Design Pro Series, a new line of 100 times longer than a energy-efficient, LED underCompact Fluorescent cabinet lighting for the Light, with an LED kitchen. The system probulb’s average life vides considerable enspan 20.5 years. ergy savings with 40,000 Starlite LED chandelier They use 1/10 the hours (four times longer energy of a regular bulb. And there’s no than xenon or fluorescent). In many mercury to contend with. cases, this means the lighting won’t have Right now, they won’t adequately light to be replaced for more than 20 years. up an entire room like an incandescent In addition to its energy savings, will, but they’re great for spotlighting out- Kichler Design Pro Series applies the best side, reading, task lighting or as accents. LED technology available, which means Their strength is in producing a more no more intrusive, blue hues. directional, focused light rather than “In the past, LEDs were synonymous sending light in every direction. with harsh, blue tints, but LED technolAn LED uses two to five times less ogy has grown considerably,” says Jim power than the typical incandescent light Jones, Kichler product manager. “The bulb, which wastes nearly 95 percent of its LED chips Kichler uses emit a soft, white energy as heat instead of light. LEDs offer light that adds warmth and ambience to warm white illumination, comparable to a any kitchen. Plus, because kitchens incorstandard 60-watt incandescent bulb. They porate multiple light sources left on for also operate under cooler temperatures extended periods, the line offers considto increase safety over similar halogen erable energy savings.” sources and can reduce cooling bills. Sold under the new Kichler Lighting They’re available now from companies Systems brand, the product’s such as Progress Lighting, which offers LED light source LEDs in its Everlum line. The collection includes everything from chandeliers and pendants to recessed lighting and step lights. For more information about LEDs, visit or call (864) 678-1000. Kichler Design Pro Series

34 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

offers a safe, cool light with a very small profile. Measuring at 1/2 inch, it can be seamlessly hidden under any cabinet, no matter what the size or configuration. Installation is literally a snap. With an interconnecting wiring system, the fixtures snap together to create a seamless flow of light under multiple, separate cabinets. For more information, visit

Light-fast water OK. It’s not an LED but a new Temperature Controlled Faucet Light is designed to deliver some light-hearted fun to the kitchen or bath while offering an element of safety. The light can glow blue or red depending on the temperature of the water. When the flowing water is cold, a blue light shines down through the water stream. When the water reaches 89 degrees F and above, the stream changes to red to alert the user the water is hot. The designer maintains the light, which doubles as a night light, will help encourage kids to spend more time brushing their teeth or washing their hands. The patented device, measuring 2.5 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter, replaces the aerator on the end of an existing faucet. It includes a set of two universal adaptors that fit virtually every U.S. faucet (See PRODUCTS on page 37) remodeling magazine

remodeling magazine

Fall 2008/winter 2009 35


You can save up to 70% on heating and 50% on cooling with a FHP Geothermal Heat Pump. It’s the natural solution to high gas prices! For 25 years, Virginia Service Company has been dedicated to providing homeowners with energy efficiency and safe indoor air quality. We firmly believe that geothermal systems are not only the right choice in heating and cooling homes, but can also help keep our enviroment green.

In fact, we have one young lady who only two weeks after installing a geo-thermal system was able to quit taking allergy shots. Many happy stories from our customers have kept our fires fueled to continue another 25 years of helping people enjoy a safe and comfortable home.

We have many success stories about these geothermal systems, all testimonials to their comfort, costeffectiveness and clean operation.

To be a part of our happy family, come visit us at

Virginia Service Company (757) 306-6001 36 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

remodeling magazine

Products (continued from page 34)

and it screws on in seconds. The product comes in chrome and brushed silver finishes with two sets of button cell batteries. Typical battery life for one set is around four months. The faucet light, which sells for $21.95, can be purchased at specialty retailers or online at: You also can call (888) 231-6465.

Holiday LEDs

Lit up like a tree As more consumers embrace LED technology, the lighting industry is ramping up development and introducing a hodge-podge of new LED products such as landscape lights, rope lights and Christmas lights. With their long lamp life of 50,000 hours or more, energy-efficient LED decorative lighting is suitable for myriad applications, such as highlighting a favorite tree in the yard year-round. Standard grade and commercial grade sets are available online, as are replacements bulbs. For more information on a variety of LED decorative string lighting, visit www. or call (888) 430-6551.

Temperature Controlled Faucet Light

to combine light uniformly before it exits the luminaire glare-free. The result is consistent color production and concealed sources that create smooth, uniform illumination patterns. A light-sensing feedback system continually monitors and adjusts each luminaire to factory-calibrated color standards, resulting in fixture-to-fixture consistency and light quality throughout the 50,000-to-70,000-hour life span of the virtually maintenance-free product. Its compact package greatly expands its potential for all kinds of down-lighting applications, especially where ceiling congestion tends to restrict Renaissance Lighting the use of larger ED04 fixtures. It also performs extremely well in wet locations or in outdoor under-canopy applications. Utilizing green technology to make it environmentally friendly, the ED04 outperforms the most popular 4-inch 50-par20 products, yet uses only half the energy. It’s fully dimmable. For more information, visit

Not counting LEDs, what’s the best light bulb for me? As Americans struggle with myriad light bulb choices available to achieve energy efficiency and other objectives, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc. has created an easy-to-read Web site designed to answer the basic question, “What is the best light bulb for me?” The new site — bulbs — compares standard-socket (E26) incandescent, screw-in compact fluorescent (CFL) and halogen bulbs. The bulbs are evaluated in a variety of categories, including efficiency, price, performance, controllability and quality of light. According to the site: Incandescent bulbs provide rich, warm light quality, excellent color rendering and controllability, but are the least efficient. Screw-in CFL bulbs are generally the most energy-efficient and have the longest life. However, they provide the least-pleasing light quality, don’t start up instantly, sometimes flicker and are not disposable due to their mercury content. Additionally, they aren’t dimmable with a high degree of quality or reliability. Halogen bulbs, an efficient variety of incandescent lighting, are up to 30 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs. When dimmed by just 30 percent, they offer the benefits of CFL and standard incandescent bulbs without any of the drawbacks. A Lutron spokesman maintains if energy conservation, bulb life and light quality are important to you, then a good choice is a halogen bulb with a dimmer. You’ll get the energy efficiency and long life of a CFL bulb with the preferred light quality of an incandescent bulb — without any of the drawbacks of either.

A solid choice in LEDs Renaissance Lighting, a pioneering innovator of LED architectural lighting headquartered in Herndon, recently introduced a 4-inch solid-state LED suitable for high-end homes. New to the general illumination scene, solid-state LEDs support sustainable design while allowing precise control over color and intensity. The ED04’s design begins with a circular array of LEDs at the perimeter of a patented integrating dome inside each fixture. The system is designed optically remodeling magazine

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Closets (continued from page 21)

intact. It has a tendency to trap the chemicals used to clean the clothes and deteriorates the fabric. Clothes, as well as shoes, need to breathe. When it comes to women’s requests, most females want readily accessible shoe storage ... and a lot of it. “They want the shoes off the bottom of the closet and onto shelves where they are displayed and easy to find,” says Bruzzesi. This can take the shape of flat shelves — which is the most versatile choice — to slanted shelves and even individual shoe cubbies. “For a more upscale appearance, I like to recommend a slanted shoe shelf with a chrome fence,” Cross says. If space is limited, Stearns says, a shoe rack can be vertically mounted on a sidewall. It’s not as attractive as a laminate storage product, but it will do the trick. Men are a lot easier to please, Bruzzesi says. Most just want tie storage, belt storage and adequate room to hang their clothes. “Men who are clothes horses are typically very detailed and neat,” he says.

“They also want a jewelry tray for things like watches, cufflinks and change and a place for their wallet.” Many also request a wall safe that’s tucked out of view where they can hide important documents. Stearns says when it comes to men, you have to address ties. “If you’re like me, you don’t ever throw away a tie. If you hang onto it long enough, it’ll come back in style. So it ends up stored.” He says he has a tie storage system where he can get 105 ties in a space that’s 8 inches wide and 16 inches deep. “It’s a really cool system. It looks nice and we haven’t come up with a better way to store ties yet. It’s made of wood and each peg gives just enough friction that a nice tie won’t slide off, yet the wood’s smooth enough that it won’t snag a silk tie.” Ties aside, Cross offers this piece of advice: “It’s always a good thing to do a seasonal purging,” she says. “Go through your things twice a year and decide what you need to throw away, can donate and want to keep. This will help you from being overwhelmed with storage issues.” (Stacey Enesey Klemenc is a free-lance writer and also the editor of Remodeling Magazine.)

Design (continued from page 11) A corner of this living room is set aside as a sitting area for reading, a viable arrangement for homeowners with a passion for books.

work with an experienced designer who genuinely cares about the finished product. After sharing your preferences for color and style, listen to your designer’s opinion just as you would listen to other professionals you employ to keep your home in good repair. Keep in mind furniture and window treatments look different under the changing light of day and night. If you work with a designer who’s proud of his or her work, you in turn will be proud of your home and delighted to show it off to your friends. Remember, most people see results rather than beginnings.

Do this and don’t do that

Ma Maison, LLC

Interior Design

Interior Designer Elaine Caplan has over 29 years of experience both in the United States and Europe. She has designed the interiors of homes all over Hampton Roads. There is no obligation or cost to consult with Elaine at the Ma Maison showroom. Featured in Better Homes and Gardens; HGTV's “Designer's Challenge”, and “What You Get for the Money”; Virginian Pilot “Gracious Living”.

Historic Olde Towne, Portsmouth 630 High Street • Portsmouth, VA 23704 (757)397-5588 • Please visit our website 38 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

First, you need to decide which areas of your home you would like to focus on. Is it more important for you to start in your bedroom — your sanctuary — or in the living room where you entertain your friends? Once you decide, you need to set a budget. Your decisions will be dictated by the size of individual rooms, the height of the ceilings, number of windows and so on. Although it’s always good to read magazines to get different ideas, don’t worry so much about “decorating trends.” In the end, you’re the one who has to pay for the changes and you’re the one who ultimately has to like them. From understated elegance or European flavor to traditional or contemporary style, pick whatever suits your taste. After all, it’s your home, and you should be the one who enjoys it the most. (Elaine Caplan, whose designing career began in London, has been making homes beautiful for nearly 30 years. For the last eight years, she has been with Ma Maison in Olde Towne, Portsmouth, decorating homes throughout Hampton Roads.) remodeling magazine

To DIY or not to DIY? While many home-related projects can be tackled successfully by homeowners, others should be left to the professionals. But how’s a homeowner to tell the difference?


he annual Angie’s List project poll indicates homeowners will spend on average about $11,250 on home improvement and maintenance projects in 2008. Thirteen percent of respondents say they will complete the work themselves. “There are projects — like basic painting jobs or clogged drains, for example — that the average person might say ‘how hard can that be?’” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “But while a project may look simple at first, you never know what you’ll uncover along the way. Your goal may be to save money, but you could end up paying more in the long run if you botch a project and have to call a contractor to bail you out.” Besides the potential for making a project more costly, doing it yourself can be downright dangerous. Falls from roofs and ladders have resulted in serious injury and death, and more than a few DIYers bear scars from their home repair efforts. “I’ve heard recently from a homeowner who shot himself in the hand with a nail gun while remodeling the basement,” says Hicks. “Another was hit by a tree limb while helping a relative prune a

This is a real x-ray of a person who got nailed by his DIY basement remodeling project. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List.)

tree. There’s really no shame in asking for help. I would argue that it’s often smarter, safer and cheaper to call in the pros.”

Here are three questions to ask before tackling any project yourself: 1. What experience do I have? Just because you’re not afraid to take on a project doesn’t mean you should. Be realistic about your skills. Not having the expertise could lead to additional costs and work. Also, you might find it difficult to find a contractor who will fix your snafu. 2. Do I have the time? Many home improvement projects take weeks rather than days. Measure the inconvenience against the cost of hiring a professional. 3. Do I have the right tools? Consider what special tools you’ll need for your project. If you have to go out and buy a (See DIY or not? on page 41)

Be careful!


s more homeowners are trying to save money by doing home improvement jobs themselves, the number of do-it-yourselfers getting injured is growing. It turns out that some homeowners may not know when it’s time to hand a home improvement job over to a professional. A recent Angie’s List survey of homeowners indicates that some aren’t always sure when it’s time to call in a professional: • Respondents said they will spend on average about $11,250 on home improvement and maintenance projects this year. • Thirteen percent of respondents say they will complete the work themselves. • Each year 136,000 emergency room-treated injuries are because of ladders, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. • Hand and power saws cause more than 100,000 injuries a year and hammers account for up to 36,000 injuries, according to the National Safety Council. The majority of those power tools were not being operated by professionals. • Nail guns present an ever-growing problem to the do-it-yourselfer. Duke University researchers found the number of nail gun injuries is growing, accounting for 35,000 visits to emergency rooms last year.

remodeling magazine

When DIY spells disaster “It was New Year’s Eve and I had just got done thinking I needed to shower and get ready to meet friends for dinner. I was framing in a pocket door and the nail gun recoiled and got me. I went to the (town’s) ER and they gave me an IV. “The nail gun I have is a coil nailer, which means the nails come in a coil and they are held together with two thin wires that run perpendicular to the nails. Those wires break off and shoot into whatever the nail is going into, which in this case was me! “So, the ER doctor saw that they were in me and eventually sent me to (a neighboring town) for surgery. Once the on-call surgeon looked at my x-rays, he decided not to do surgery. He used regular pliers to pull the nail out. “Keep in mind the nail didn’t just slide out. He had to lay on my arm and pull as hard as he could for at least a minute. That was the most painful part because the thin wires that broke off with the nail basically acted like four tiny fish hooks as he was pulling the nail out. “The nail hit my bone and it actually bent, but it didn’t break anything. So I didn’t need any rehab and I would call my hand 99 percent right. I still have two slivers of metal in my wrist, though. I hope they will never bother me.” — Matt Taylor, nail gun victim

Fall 2008/winter 2009 39

remodeling checklist

Do your homework before hiring a contractor


fter months spent vacillating between two options — buy a new house or stay put in your ’70s-era ranch — you and your spouse have finally reached a decision: Let’s keep the great neighborhood and give the house a facelift. Now the really challenging part begins. You need to hire a professional remodeler who will take your visions and turn them into reality. So, to help you choose a remodeler, the Tidewater Builders Association Remodelers Council has developed this checklist:

First, qualify your contractor. . .     Make sure all contractors are es-

timating from the same plans and specifications (whether they are prepared by an architect, designer, contractor, etc.). Otherwise it is next to impossible to accurately compare bids.

  Determine if the contractor’s li-

cense status is appropriate for your size job. Class A contractors can make contracts of any value; Class B contractors can do work up to $70,000; and Class C, up to $7,500. Require proof of license status (this should be based on your total job estimate).

  How long has the contractor been

in business? Has the contractor had any serious complaints made with the Better Business Bureau? (You can inquire with the bureau at or call 531-1300.)

  Require the contractor to show

proof of workers’ compensation and general liability insurance before you sign a contract.

  Request references. Also, ask if it is

possible for you to visit a current or completed job of the contractor’s. Ask for at least one reference more than one year old.

40 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

  Is the contractor a member of any

trade association (Tidewater Builders Association and its Remodelers Council, 4202434; Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, 622-2312; National Association of the Remodeling Industry, (800) 611-6274 or other)?

Most importantly . . .     It should be stated in the contract

  Are subcontractors used by the con-

that the contractor must obtain a permit from the city. You should not get the permit. If you obtain the permit, this makes it almost impossible to hold the contractor responsible if any problems occur. The permit initiates inspections from the city to ensure the contractor is performing the work to meet regulations.

Get specific . . . and get it in writing     Insist on complete specifications

Ask yourself . . .     Was the contractor cordial and

tractor properly licensed? Ask the remodeling contractor who will be responsible for servicing the remodeling work installed.

before signing a contract.

  Make sure the contract includes a payment schedule.

  The contractor’s start date and

estimated completion date should be included in the contract. How will foul weather impact the project? Will you have a vacation or other event that may interfere with the project?

  Ask the contractor what provisions

responsive to my questions?

  Does the contractor fully understand the scope of work?

  Will the contractor be responsible and responsive to my needs?

  If a discrepancy occurs, do I feel

the contractor will promptly address my concerns?

  If the contractor cannot start at the anticipated time, will I be willing to wait and work within his time frame?

and policies he employs to assure the safety, security and cleanliness of your home. Make sure these policies and provisions are clearly stated in your contract.

  If I base my decision on the lowest

while your work is being performed, and will the contractor be readily available if there are any problems?

the contractor is building by and do I understand exactly what I am getting?

  Who will be your primary contact   What inconveniences will you be

subjected to and how long for each? Will workers be using your telephone? What time will the work begin and end each day, and does this include Saturdays? Where will the workers park? Where will delivered materials be unloaded and stored? Will workers use your restroom facilities or will the contractor supply a portable toilet? Find out when you will receive warranties for products purchased.

bidder, will the quality of workmanship be compromised?

  Is there a written set of standards   Do I trust this contractor to work on one of my most valuable possessions?

(For a list of professionals who are members of the Tidewater Builders Association Remodelers Council, turn to page 42, or visit The council network provides information and assistance to the public and increases the skill and knowledge of its members. The council also participates in an awards program recognizing outstanding remodeling and workmanship.) remodeling magazine

Home theaters (continued from page 29)

earlier Blu-ray players. For example, Sony has made available its new BDP-S350 which boasts a mere six-second boot time, an enormous improvement over early Blu-ray players. Also, this fall, LG launches its new BD300 Blu-ray player that streams movies and television episodes from the Netflix library of more than 12,000 titles. This player will run you around $500 and you’ll need to subscribe to Netflix, which costs less than $10 a month. Now with so many brands of Blu-ray players to choose from, a good source for detailed comparison information can be found at To take the convenience level even further, now there also are alternatives to actually purchasing HD DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Systems such as the Vudu movie ondemand service offers consumers the opportunity to rent or purchase their choice of more than 6,000 movies and television shows without ever having to leave home. The Vudu system works through an Inter-

net connection and movies can be viewed instantly. With the Vudu system, standard and high-definition movies can be rented for less than $6. Television episodes can be purchased for a couple dollars and movie purchase prices range from $5 to $20. The standard 250GB VUDU Box costs $299. The VUDU XL model, designed for high-end home theaters, cost $999 and is currently available only through authorized installers. There are no monthly subscription or activation fees or contracts with Vudu.

Inside out Recently, Bracero’s firm created a number of outdoor theater systems for private residences, adding a whole new level of entertaining opportunities. “From sound systems integrated into the landscapes to fully waterproof television screens,” says Bracero, “homeowners are now able to extend the theater experience to their poolside or other outdoor living areas.” (Valerie Myers is a free-lance writer living in Chesapeake.)

DIY or not? (continued from page 39)

power saw, but don’t plan on using it again in the future, it’s probably not a good investment.

When it comes time to choose a contractor: Call at least three contractors. Check references and/or business standing before hiring anyone. Be cautious of contractors who give you a post office box with no street address, or use only an answering service. Communicate your ideas. Explain what updates/repairs you want done to your home. It will give a potential contractor a better sense of what your expectations are and what you are hoping to accomplish. Get estimates. Once you’ve described your project, take the time to get at least a few different estimates for your job. And get it in writing. Documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong. For more consumer tips, visit www.

✓Complimentary Remodeling Consultations ✓Understanding My Project Concerns ✓Meeting the Needs of My Family ✓Design Expertise & Attention to Detail ✓Convenient Planning & Selection Studio ✓Stress Free & Personal Project Management ✓Fine Craftsmanship, Custom Homes & Remodeling ✓Creative Kitchen & Bath Renovations ✓Unlimited & Direct Communication ✓Client Testimonials & Referrals ✓Respect for My Time & Opinions

remodeling magazine

Fall 2008/winter 2009 41

2008 tba remodelers council - directory associates Appliances

East Coast Appliance Inc. (757) 425-2883 Sears Commercial Sales 800-359-2000 ARCHITECTURAL PRODUCTS/TRIM/ MILLWORK

Ervin Architectural Products (757) 427-2929 Banks/savings & loans/mortgage companies

American Best Mortgage/ National City Mortgage (757) 456-0155 Fulton Mortgage/ Fulton Bank Southern Division (757) 222-2406 Monarch Mortgage (757) 288-3822

Brick/masonry subcontractors/ suppliers

Batchelder & Collins Inc. (757) 625-2506 Lawrenceville Brick Masonry Supply (757) 558-2760 Building materials

Alside Supply Center (757) 857-1825 Burton Lumber Corp. (757) 545-4613 Greenwich Supply Corp. (757) 497-8908 Hudson Building Supply Co. Inc. (757) 430-2000 Lansing Building Products (757) 857-1278

Roofing/guttering/ siding/Trim

Apple Door Systems Inc. (757) 548-2828

Architectural Stained Glass (757) 583-5864

Pella Virginia Inc. (757) 499-7165

Glass Doctor (757) 456-9111

Security Systems/ Agency



Johns Brothers (757) 852-3300

Light House Electrical Services Inc. (757) 340-7212

Greenwich Kitchen Center Inc. (757) 497-8919


Smith & Keene Inc. (757) 420-1231

Talon Construction (757) 363-8400

Inner Space Systems Inc. (757) 487-1101


Utilities/public & private

Leo F. Johns Contractor Inc. (757) 545-0290

42 Fall 2008/Winter 2009


Entertainment Systems

BECO Construction (757) 547-1515

Definitive Homes (757) 460-9606

Ferguson Enterprises Inc. (757) 490-4885

Stock Building Supply (757) 543-6836

J.M. Froehler Construction (757) 481-5801

Cavalier Builders Inc. (757) 499-9040

The Mosaic Tile Co. (757) 498-4848

The Closet Factory (757) 486-2726

American Quality Remodeling (757) 855-4000

Case Handyman and Remodeling (757) 545-7100

Plumbing Subcontractors/Suppliers

Reico Kitchen & Bath (757) 361-3800

First Atlantic Restoration (757) 499-1915

Caruana Construction Inc. (757) 717-2233


Ornamental Tile Inc. (757) 631-7700

Mobility Center of VA (757) 382-7111

Allen Loree Homes LLC (757) 463-9887

Cape Construction Co. Inc. (757) 436-0117

Quality Stone Products (757) 615-7662

WAVY-10 (757) 396-6150


Designs of Distinction Ltd. (757) 547-8196

C.E. Bryan Custom Builders (757) 410-8896

Quality Kraft Inc. (757) 486-9627


Florida Tile (757) 855-9330

Saunders Supply Co. Inc. (757) 255-4531

PRO-Build (757) 548-1532

A-1 Additions (757) 672-9559

Benson Builders Inc. (757) 496-9613

Heritage Woodworks (757) 934-1158


Newman’s Contracting L.L.C. dba DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen (757) 773-7326


Belfor-USA (757) 547-9400


Ocean Construction & Development (757) 557-6793 Renovations & Innovations (757) 440-0015

AE Systems Home Automation & Entertainment (757) 393-2005 Life Electronics LLC (757) 465-1865 Equipment Rental/ Sales

Eure Equipment Rentals Inc. (757) 494-0536 PODS - Keep it Simple (757) 547-7220 FINANCIAL SERVICES

Edward A. Tyng Insurance & Financial Services (757) 493-4327

Major League Landscape Construction (580) 776-3509 Lighting

Coastal Lighting & Supply (757) 436-7595 Greenbrier Lighting (757) 547-0293 Marble (cultured & imported)

Dernis International Marketing (757) 427-1142 Virginia Beach Marble Co. (757) 340-0686

Affordable Closet Systems Inc. (757) 548-4107

Dominion Virginia Power (800) 827-7796 Virginia Natural Gas (757) 466-5559 Wholesale distributors

Eastern Aluminum Supply of VA (757) 318-7324 Noland Plumbing Showroom (757) 424-5616 Professional Supply (757) 318-9444 ProSource Wholesale Floorcoverings (757) 523-5000

Richmarc Building Corp. (757) 487-3406 Shoreline Custom Homes & Development (757) 337-8600 VB Homes (757) 491-1996 Wel-Vant Construction Co. (757) 855-7710

*The contractors on this list, current as of Sept. 16, 2008, are members of Tidewater Builders Association. Tidewater Builders Association makes no representation concerning the qualifications or performance of any of the individual contractors on this list. Consumers are strongly advised to carefully investigate the qualifications and references of any contractor before entering into a building or remodeling contract. Tidewater Builders Association specifically disclaims any liability that may result from the performance of any of the contractors listed here. Those companies whose names appear in green have a display ad in this magazine.

remodeling magazine

Xteriors, Virginia’s premier paver manufacturer, expands into the Tidewater market!

While most companies are downsiz-

ing during these economic times, Xteriors is expanding its operations. The company manufactures and installs paving stones and retaining walls for the residential and commercial markets, and is one of the leading sources for hardscapes on the East Coast. Priding itself on its attentive customer service and a wide selection of products, Xteriors recently completed a 10,000-square-foot Design Gardens complex chock-full of ideas for your driveway, patio, pool deck, outdoor kitchen, reflection garden … you name it! You’ll find the Design Gardens and adjacent manufacturing facility in Doswell, just a short drive from South Hampton Roads and an easy jump off Interstate 95 between Richmond and Fredericksburg. The beautifully landscaped setting showcases many of Xteriors’ more than 500 paver choices available. Xteriors founder and President Don Hall has more than 29 years of experience in the hardscape industry. Don has

Paid Advertisement remodeling magazine

served on the Board of Directors of the National Concrete and Masonry Association and was on the founding board of the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute. He has been involved in projects as large as the Port of Oakland (more than 2 million square feet of pavers) to backyard renovations using pavers and walls. Don’s strong technical background and experience give Xteriors a solid foundation. Customer service has been the key to Xteriors’ growth over the years. The company started its operations a decade ago in a small old barn in Ashland, Va., and grew into one of the largest companies of its kind on the East Coast. It moved into its new $6.5 million facility this past April. According to Hall, when Xteriors first started, it was a distributor for other manufacturers. However, it soon discovered that other companies were just not as customer driven as Xteriors, so the company decided to build its own manufacturing facility in order to provide customers with better service and selection. And because Xteriors sells directly to you, the customer, it bypasses the retail supplier

so you receive the best price possible. “Affordable elegance” is the term to best describe Xteriors’ pavers and walls. The company has introduced several new products into the marketplace, including an overlay system that allows you to install pavers over your old, ugly concrete and not have to tear it out. Removing your old concrete is expensive and creates a lot of damage. Xteriors’ new overlay system turns an old slab into a beautiful patio, walk or pool deck.

Xteriors offers free design estimates and experienced staff that comes directly to your home or business to help you create a backyard, driveway, pool deck or commercial project of which you can be proud. • 866-676-3339

Fall 2008/Winter 2009 43

advertisers’ index

Wel-Vant ConstruCtion

& Remodeling

Serving in Tidewater Since 1987


A-1 Additions Inc.


Affordable Closets


Assurance Ltd.

Inside front cover Belfor USA

Specializing In

Additions • Kitchens • Baths


Call Us About

A Custom Remodeling Job That’s Right For You


Benson Builders Inc.

Inside back cover Borte Construction 30

Budget Blinds and Shutters

Back cover Case Handyman & Remodeling 22-23 East Coast Appliance



Elizabeth Anne Home Design Studios


Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery


J.M. Froehler Construction


Greenwich Kitchen


Jack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center


Leo F. Johns Contractor


Kitchen Design Inc.

Front cover, 7 Kitchen King

855-7710 see us on the WEB at


Ma Maison


Mechanical Service Co.




Overhead Door Co. of Norfolk


Real Green Ideas Inc.


RSVP Publications


VB Homes


Virginia Service Co.


The Walters Co. Inc.


Wel-Vant Construction & Remodeling




44 Fall 2008/Winter 2009

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Remodeling Magazine, winter 2009  

quarterly consumer magazine, mailed to homeowners with incomes over $100,000. Filled with remodeling tips and articles about local people an...

Remodeling Magazine, winter 2009  

quarterly consumer magazine, mailed to homeowners with incomes over $100,000. Filled with remodeling tips and articles about local people an...