Sweeten Blog https://blog.sweeten.com Renovation stories, tips, and inspiration Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:23:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://blog.sweeten.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/cropped-sweetenlogo-pinterest2-1-1-150x150.png Sweeten Blog https://blog.sweeten.com 32 32 A NYC Bathroom Remodel Restores Prewar Beauty https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/bathrooms/a-bathroom-restores-its-prewar-beauty/ https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/bathrooms/a-bathroom-restores-its-prewar-beauty/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:00:00 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=31820 For this prewar NYC bathroom remodel, tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm Homeowner: Leah posted a project on Sweeten Where: Upper…

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For this prewar NYC bathroom remodel, tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm
prewar bathroom renovation

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten


  • Homeowner: Leah posted a project on Sweeten
  • Where: Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: A rip-and-replace bathroom
  • Notable: Feature and custom items were worth the wait.
  • Result: The removal of a drop ceiling brought the space closer to the original feel.
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

BEFORE

Leah, a lawyer in the finance industry, bought her prewar one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. She spent several years living in the apartment before embarking on a kitchen renovation. She also redid the floors. “The decisions I made after really living in the space were just better—how I moved in and out of the kitchen, how the rooms communicated with each other,” she said.

The renovation projects became exhausting, so she took a break—even though the bathroom was disjointed from the rest of the apartment, with its beige tones and frumpy ’70s aesthetic. It also had a dropped ceiling for seemingly no reason, which cramped the small space. “I backed away because it seemed like too much to take on,” she said, but she finally took the plunge and posted her NYC prewar bathroom remodel on Sweeten to find a general contractor.

Slideshow:

AFTER

Leah envisioned something that was reflective of her co-op building’s beautiful foyer with its marble and clean look. “I think my design was to let the space speak for itself,” she said. The Sweeten contractors she hired set out to raise the ceiling. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” Leah said. Because they could not find any pipes or any other obvious reason for the dropped ceiling, they were able to raise it again.

She selected classic subway tiles for the walls and a marble top for the vanity. With the floors, the Sweeten contractors made a reassuring discovery—the original tiles were still underneath, and matched the new creamy hexagon tiles Leah had chosen. It was a confirmation that her design choices were in line with how the bathroom was originally meant to be.

Slideshow:

While Leah had planned for white and silver tones, she made a last-minute decision to bring in gold fixtures. “I wanted to add warmth,” she said of the 11th-hour choice. Luckily, she found the renovation process to be far less taxing than she had anticipated. She was in daily communication with her Sweeten contractors, who helped solve problems and helped her make those nuts-and-bolts decisions, like how far up the wall the tiles should go. “It was a very collaborative process,” she said.

BONUS

Leah decided early on where she would save money (like tile choices) with her budget and where she would spend more lavishly. Because of the small space, she decided on a custom bathtub, which took six weeks to make in South Carolina. “Every bathtub that was standard was made for bigger spaces,” she said. “I needed something that fit my dimensions.” The shower enclosure and tub combination became a showstopping centerpiece of the bathroom and were well worth the wait.

STYLE FINDS

Casa Vogue porcelain wall tile in glossy Snow White, hexagon floor tile, and white chair rail: Kohler. Bathtub: MTI Baths. Shower and sink fixtures in French Gold: Kohler. Empire Windsor vanity: Kitchensource.com. AiO Cabinet and mirror: Robern. Vanity light fixture: Restoration Hardware. UltraMax toilet: Toto. Glass surround: Alpha Glass.

Even small changes to a floor plan may free up enough square footage for an extra bathroom. Here’s how five Sweeten homeowners who added one.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Miami Condo Renovations: What You Need To Know https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/miami-condo-renovations-what-you-need-to-know/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/miami-condo-renovations-what-you-need-to-know/#respond Wed, 22 Jul 2020 14:18:19 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45351 An outline from permits to building requirements for condo remodeling Miami Are you considering condo remodeling in Miami? While renovating a condo…

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An outline from permits to building requirements for condo remodeling Miami

Are you considering condo remodeling in Miami? While renovating a condo is usually a more limited proposition than renovating a house, Sweeten offers guidelines on a few special considerations you’ll need to take into account. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A brand new condo remodeling Miami

City of Miami Building Permits 

First, you will need to obtain the proper city and building approvals before beginning your project. Sweeten contractor Sandra, who is based in Miami, tells us, “The typical process takes about 4-8 weeks for a mid-sized project. [Usually,] the office management has pretty much the same requirements as the city.” You must apply first to the city, and once the city approves the permit, the information is submitted to the management office for the condo. The most common permits needed in condo renovations are required for floor soundproofing, plumbing, electrical, and framing.

Building Requirements 

In addition to obtaining city permits, many new building projects must also meet new building requirements. You must usually meet and comply with regulations around work hours, rubbish removal, gas installation, and more. Here’s a list of everything you should be mindful of during your project:

1) Working hours

These are more limited than in a free-standing house. Typically, buildings will permit workers access between the hours of 9AM – 4PM (occasionally, until 5pm) on weekdays. This translates into shorter working hours. As a result, a condo renovation may take longer than that same project in a house.

2) Prepping common areas

Buildings will require workers to protect the common lobby, hallways, and elevators. This needs to be done on a daily basis. Just note, this can keep the GC from working on the actual project on any given day. 

3) Rubbish removal

As in all large buildings, trash removal presents a bigger obstacle than in a free-standing house. As Miami-based Sweeten contractor Adrian explains, due to the more protracted process, “the cost of removing the trash is much higher in a condo than in a single-family home.” Sweeten contractor Sandra concurs: “We spend a lot of time doing this and do it on a daily basis. That means we need to reserve the elevator every time we have to bring it down. We cannot use the building dumpster, so we need to put it in our truck and haul it away.” 

4) Altering the slab

Since even the oldest Miami condos date only back to the ‘50s and ‘60s, they are largely concrete structures. Sweeten contractor Sandra explains, “It is possible but very complex. We would need a structural engineer affidavit and structural plans.” Management will likely be strict about this aspect of the renovation. After all, Altering the slab can affect the building’s other units. Technically, it is possible to trench or drill to lay plumbing or electrical. However, you would need to prove that you will not compromise the integrity of the slab. Oftentimes, buildings will require “scanning” (via a professional vendor) of the area where the proposed alteration will occur. Sweeten contractor Adrian estimates that it usually costs approximately $600 to scan 100-200 square feet. 

5) Gas

Most Miami condos feature electric stoves and dryers. That said, gas stoves are becoming slightly more common in new luxury buildings. Our Sweeten contractors do not know of buildings that permit gas dryers. If your condo unit does not currently have a washer/dryer in-unit, there’s a 50/50 chance that it’ll be permitted. Again, this is up to your management company’s rules. 

6) Windows

Due to the seasonal hurricanes, building codes require impact windows. Luckily, this isn’t the responsibility of the individual renovator because windows are typically a building-wide project. 

7) Fees

Lastly, expect the management company to charge you a fee for renovating your condo. Just note, these fees are paid in addition to any permit and approval charges. These fees aren’t unique to Miami, this is standard in condos across the U.S.

Now, you should have a sense of what to look out for in your Miami condo renovation. All that’s left is to get started! Read up on how long it takes for a typical apartment remodel to complete.

 Have a good handle on your budget. Our Miami home renovation cost guide can get you on your way.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A Full Apartment Renovation Smooths a Family’s Traffic Flow https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/full-apartment-renovation-smooths-out-traffic-flow/ https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/full-apartment-renovation-smooths-out-traffic-flow/#respond Thu, 16 Jul 2020 18:36:42 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45325 A full apartment renovation in Clinton Hill prioritizes comfort and storage Homeowners: Dara + Mauricio posted their project on Sweeten Where: Clinton…

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A full apartment renovation in Clinton Hill prioritizes comfort and storage
Kitchen view

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten


  • Homeowners: Dara + Mauricio posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York City
  • Primary renovation: An 1,800-square-foot full apartment renovation to increase function and storage
  • Notable: Giving the kitchen more space and flow by moving the refrigerator out of the space
  • Result: A larger kitchen and better flow throughout
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Dara

Figuring out the best layout for the apartment

Our building was originally constructed in 1930, possibly for officers of the Navy Yard located several blocks north. Like many buildings in NYC, it turned into a co-op in the ’80s. The overall layout of the apartment was great, with a lot of natural light, but the configuration of the space in both bathrooms, as well as the kitchen, was awkward.

Mauricio, an architect, and I wanted to open up the kitchen so that all four of us, including our 5-year-old twins, could move around it comfortably while adding counter space and enlarging the existing island. But solving that problem was really challenging. We must have gone through at least ten different layouts.

We discussed everything from a standard galley kitchen layout, to relocating the gas line and stove, but nothing felt quite right. Then we said, “What if we extend the kitchen by taking a bit of space away from the adjacent dining room?” Ultimately, we realized that by moving the fridge and aligning it with an enlarged island, we could seamlessly expand the kitchen without sacrificing room for our dining table.

The kitchen remodel worked, and now we have a much bigger kitchen with a lot more storage and prep space. We even have huge cabinets underneath our island. Most importantly, our dining room is still perfectly roomy.

 

Renovation tip to help save time

We planned for minimal construction and maximum impact.  The access point to the washer and dryer was moved from the master bedroom to the third bedroom by easily rotating it in its existing space, rather than relocating it. That way, you don’t need to walk through the master to do a load of laundry. It also allowed us a larger shower.

We opened up the “den” off the living room by removing built-ins along three walls to create a more flexible space as a TV room and an office. We saved money and time tailoring modular closets to our needs rather than building out new closets. Non-layout items we needed to address included fixing the electric panel and installing new hardwood floors since the original wood was as thin as the veneer.

Throughout the process, we kept in mind our 3 R’s mantra: Things needed to be easily repairable, replaceable, or recyclable. Most of our purchases were made from local stores that had minimum to no lead time. We chose not to do anything custom until our kids stopped sharing a bedroom when they get older; we might need to rethink some of the spaces.

 

Compromising on style

In terms of style, we tried to reach a middle ground between our preferences. I chose a more eclectic style in the second bathroom: gray-and-blue patterned tiles on the floor and shower wall mixed with large white subway tiles. In the master bathroom, Mauricio preferred a more streamlined and minimalist look with grays and whites with a floating white glossy vanity.

We had a lot of opinions and ideas, and we were thankful that our contractor took the time to talk things through.

For the kitchen cabinets, we went with Ikea, that we could upgrade to semi-custom later on. We wanted solid hardwood that was reminiscent in the color of the original floor, but more modern looking. We chose a white oak in wide planks.

A good-working Sweeten reno team

Our Sweeten contractor and his dad made a great team. He was very easy to talk to, and his dad was quite resourceful, with many solutions for various problems we encountered along the way. We had a lot of opinions and ideas, and we were thankful that our contractor took the time to talk things through. We could debate different ideas with him, but he was never pushy or non-communicative.

Avoiding subcontractor issues

One thing we would do differently is to put all of the renovation items (except finishes) under the contractor umbrella. We bought our countertop slabs from a local store, which encouraged us to use their fabricator rather than using our contractor to oversee the subcontractors. At installation, there were problems with sizing and fit. The fabricator blamed the contractor for moving the kitchen cabinets. Meanwhile, the contractor blamed the fabricator for cutting a countertop that didn’t fit. If the fabricator had been a subcontractor of our contractor, and under his supervision, that would have all been avoided.

 

Finally, we’re extremely happy with our home. After the full renovation of our apartment, all four of us can have breakfast at the kitchen island with room to spare. Plus, with all of the closets plus the kitchen storage, we finally have enough space to store everything. It all makes us happy on a daily basis. Now we are gearing up for renovating our rooftop, to create an outdoor space for our family that rivals the interior.

Thank you, Dara + Mauricio, for sharing your full apartment renovation with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Cabinets and hardware: Ikea. Countertops: Quartzmaster. Sink: Kohler. Faucet: Grohe. Fridge, dishwasher, and stove: Bosch. Lighting: West Elm. Paint in Decorator White (eggshell finish on walls and semi-gloss doors): Benjamin Moore

MASTER BATHROOM: Medicine cabinets: Wyndham Collection. Toilet and sink: Duravit. Accessories: Delta. Slate floor and wall tiles: Galactic Tiles. Paint in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

SECOND BATHROOM: Medicine cabinets: Kohler. Toilet and bathtub: Duravit. Accessories: Delta. Faucet: Kohler. Floor tiles: Vintage and purchased locally. Paint in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

LIVING SPACES: Prefinished white oak flooring and base molding: Lumber LiquidatorsShaker-style doors throughout: Brooklyn Windows & Doors. Paint and Plaster in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

Plan ahead and read up on how long it takes to renovate a whole apartment.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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How to Protect Your Home For a Houston Flood https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/how-to-protect-your-home-for-a-houston-flood/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/how-to-protect-your-home-for-a-houston-flood/#respond Wed, 15 Jul 2020 14:04:42 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45323 Though Houston floods are inevitable, damage to your home is not—here’s how to protect your home from flooding Houston natives can list…

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Though Houston floods are inevitable, damage to your home is not—here’s how to protect your home from flooding

Ways to protect your home from flooding in Houston, Texas

Houston natives can list many great things about the city: Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the South, and it has a vibrant culture. Houston residents enjoy a relatively low cost of living. But if there is one aspect about Houston that most residents would like to change, it’s the floods. In Houston and Harris County, floods affect huge sections of the city on a regular basis. Sweeten outlines ways to protect your home from flooding in Houston.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Why Houston floods devastate homes

Houston’s wet season, from May to October, brings a punishing round of tropical storms, hurricanes, or just old-fashioned heavy rain. 

Houston rests near Galveston Bay, four major bayous, and numerous creeks. Floods are a fact of life in a city surrounded by so much water. If you live west of the city center, your home will generally hold up better during flooding. Residents of EaDo (East Downtown), Garden Oaks, Highland Village, and Midtown tend to fare better than other areas.

Moving eastward from the city center increases the likelihood of high water levels and floods. Kingwood, Spring Branch, the Heights, and Sharpstown all flood regularly. Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda turned these neighborhoods brown with floodwater. The storms hit Meyerland, located mostly within the 100-year floodplain, particularly hard.

Houston and Harris County are so heavily paved-over that runoff water cannot keep pace with these huge increases of water. Short of moving to another city, you can take a number of steps to protect your home: 

Tip 1: Grade soil away from your house

Houston’s mostly flat topography only rises about 50 feet above sea level. You won’t find steep hills and high elevation in this city. But you can create a type of “micro-elevation” on your own property.

When building or renovating your house, redesign your property’s grading. Regrade with proper water, erosion, and storm runoff management in mind. You want to avoid your yard and home turning into a lake.

Tip 2: Install a sump pump and maintain it

If your Houston house has a basement, it undoubtedly already has a sump pump. If not, install one immediately. Sump pumps discharge interior water to the exterior. It is valuable for high waters or for minor interior flooding. However, it will not protect your home against catastrophic flooding.

Your sump pump should be ready to turn on at any time. If not, it may experience power loss, clogging, or switch issues. If the unit cannot keep up with the water, install a larger unit. The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years. If your sump pump is at the end of this lifespan, consider replacing it.

Tip 3: Raise your house

The best solution to protect your home from a Houston flood is to elevate it. 

At a very minimum, the City of Houston requires homes to have a one-foot elevation above the 100-year floodplain. But that minimum nowhere nearly addresses catastrophic events, like the rapid 12-inch rainfall that fell during Hurricane Harvey. If you plan on elevating your house, experts recommend elevating your home over 18 inches. Six-foot elevations are not uncommon.

When building a new house, resist the urge to build slab-on-grade if living in a flood-prone section. Instead, explore elevated foundations of three feet or more. 

If you already own a house, you can retroactively elevate your house. This retrofit begins much like a house move, with the house raised by jacks on piers. But the house isn’t loaded onto trucks and moved. Instead, a new, higher foundation is placed under the house.

Elevating your home starts at about $75 per square foot. It’s a major project that can take up to three months to complete.

Tip 4: Dry floodproof your foundation

Imagine the outer part of your home’s foundation wall as the hull of a boat. Water constantly surround a boat’s lower half, so it must be watertight. 

Dry floodproofing treats your foundation with sealants and membranes. If water surrounds the lower section for a limited period, there should be little or no leakage into the home.

With dry floodproofing, the emphasis is on positive-side (exterior) sealants and membranes. Workers also apply negative-side (interior) sealants and membranes. 

FEMA recommends homeowners opt for a “substantially impermeable wall.” The wall helps limit water accumulation. In 24 hours, water will accumulate to a 4-inch maximum with a sump pump. Entrust this project to a qualified contractor who has experience in dry floodproofing. Contractors well-versed in this project can often exceed that FEMA minimum performance level.

Tip 5: Install flood vents

In lieu of dry floodproofing, consider installing flood vents. Contractors can install FEMA-compliant flood vents in your foundation walls. In dry times, these vents prohibit vermin from entering underneath your house. During floods, these vents open freely to allow the passage of floodwaters. At the same time, these vents block debris that can damage the structure.

Flood vents may also help you reduce your flood insurance premiums. Houston homes receive so much structural damage because of the force of the water on the foundations. Flood vents reduce that pressure.

Only certain types of foundations require flood vents. Many older Houston homes have a crawlspace foundation that supports the house with piers or columns. This foundation often has a skirt or non-load-bearing wall around the house perimeter. Sometimes, brick or concrete comprises the skirt wall instead of wood. Because the wall cannot hold back floodwaters, dry floodproofing is not a viable option. 

Many Houston contractors can advise you on how to protect your home from flooding in Houston. They can assess whether dry floodproofing or flood vent installation is your best option.

Tip 6: Install and maintain a backflow valve

During floods, one unhappy byproduct is sewer or water drainage backflow. During this, backflow sends sewer water into the house. Floodwater itself is dirty enough. But when sewage pipes directly into your home, that only adds insult to injury. 

Some backflow valves are automatic, such as ball float valves in floor drains. On the other hand, manually-operated gate-style valves open and close by turning a wheel. 

Note that backflow valves prevent your house’s sewage from running into the sewer main. Standard backflow valves provide no way for you to flush a toilet. Speak to your contractor about backflow valves with ejector pump attachments. These attachments can divert your sewage back into the sewer system, while still preventing backflow from coming into your home.

More ways to prevent or ease flood damage in Houston

Raise exterior outlets 

Electrical code typically requires only that exterior outlets be accessible from grade, or ground, level. For Houston with its floods, this usually translates to “too low.” 

An electrician can relocate your exterior GFCI outlets. The outlets should be at least one foot above the expected flood line.

Check your exterior drainage system

Your house’s gutters collect rainwater from the roof. Drainpipes move that water downward. Make sure that this interdependent system works properly which your contractor can assess. If your system needs repairs, they can recommend and install solutions.

Install waterproof flooring at (or below) grade

If your home’s lowest level is on-grade or is below-grade (like a basement), avoid installing carpet, solid hardwood, or engineered wood flooring. As long as that level remains dry, you are fine. But if that level overflows with water, the best response is to remove the flooring.

Hard-surface, 100-percent waterproof flooring stands a good chance for successful cleanup. Consider installing ceramic or porcelain tile, resilient plank, sheet, or tile floor.

Using these ways to protect your home from flooding will provide peace-of-mind. Understanding your options based on your budget and the type of home you have is a good start.

Set your calendar and your budget, here are the starting costs for renovating your home in Houston.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Pay Securely Online With Sweeten Payments https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/process-guides/pay-securely-online-sweeten-payments/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/process-guides/pay-securely-online-sweeten-payments/#respond Tue, 14 Jul 2020 14:09:25 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45333 An all-in-one tool for managing your renovation payments Sweeten Payments makes it simple, secure, and fast to pay your general contractor securely…

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An all-in-one tool for managing your renovation payments

finding general contractors

Sweeten Payments makes it simple, secure, and fast to pay your general contractor securely online, right from our website.

Until now, most contractors would only accept paper checks. You’d have to write a check, send it in the mail, and wait a week or more for the funds to clear. Contractors usually won’t start work before funds arrive in their account.

Our tool links directly to your bank account. It transfers funds to your contractor in 4 to 6 business days.

Benefits:

  • Make payments quickly and conveniently
  • Pay securely online right from your Sweeten dashboard. Your contractor’s payment requests will automatically appear in the order they’re due. When you’re ready, just click to approve the payment.
  • Take control of payment scheduling
  • Make partial payments at each major project milestone. Your contractor can begin the next stage of the project right away.
  • See your payment records at a glance
  • Check the status of all in-progress and completed payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will Sweeten Payments be available?

We’re launching Sweeten Payments on July 15, 2020. It will appear as a new tab on your Sweeten dashboard.

Do all Sweeten general contractors accept payments through the Payments tool?

The tool is new; contractors will have to set up their Payments accounts before they can receive funds. Ask your contractor  if they’re ready to receive Sweeten Payments. 

How do I sign up?

Go to the Payments tab on your dashboard and follow the simple instructions. We’ll ask you for some basic information, and then ask you to upgrade your Sweeten password for improved security. We’ll then ask you to link your bank account, with a simple, secure interface.

How will my bank account and personal information be protected?

Sweeten will never see your account information or social security number. Your contractor will also never see your account information or social security number. We work with a 3rd party payment system that is built around security and privacy. It uses strong, end-to-end encryption for all transactions.

Do I have to keep funds in my Sweeten Payments account?

No. We transfer the funds directly from your bank. You’ll only see a balance in your Payments account if we’re unable to deliver a payment to your contractor.

Can I link Sweeten Payments to my credit card?

Currently, Payments can only link to a bank account. It’s usually not possible to pay for a renovation with a credit card—most contractors only accept paper checks when you pay them directly.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget,  and scope. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A Check-All-The-Boxes Apartment for Empty Nesters https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/a-check-all-the-boxes-apartment-for-empty-nesters/ https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/a-check-all-the-boxes-apartment-for-empty-nesters/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2020 15:58:17 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45311 Seasoned renovators bring all their expertise for empty nest renovations to their prewar gem Beth and Bob Judge knew what they wanted:…

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Seasoned renovators bring all their expertise for empty nest renovations to their prewar gem
prewar apartment

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Beth and Bob Judge knew what they wanted: a prewar apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And the couple—a residential real estate salesperson and a financial industry consultant—were willing to wait (and renovate) to score one that suited their family’s needs, knowing that an empty nest renovation was on the horizon. When they found the approximately 1,450-square-foot co-op in a 1917 Beaux-Arts building complete with 9-10-foot ceilings, they went for it.

For the couple and their son, Rip, a college senior, (their daughter Meghan, a recent college grad, lives nearby) and their corgi puppy Watson, the apartment was perfect. It had room for Beth’s home office and potential for smart, modern upgrades. To bring their empty nest renovation vision to life, they posted their project on Sweeten and chose their contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest post by Sweeten homeowner Beth Judge

Moving back to the city

We relocated back to Manhattan several years ago after residing in the Midwest and South for work. It was simply time to return home to our families in the Tri-State area. Bob and I met in NYC while studying for our MBAs, and Bob grew up here. While away, we owned several single-family homes —a few we had renovated—so we weren’t strangers to the process. There was a high likelihood of renovating to make a space our own as we started the buying phase.

NYC renovation portrait

We rented for a few years until we located an apartment that would satisfy our love of prewar architectural details while accommodating modern living. Our home was purchased through an estate sale and we immediately started renovating. It had been updated in the early ‘90s, when the owners created an open floor plan of living room, dining room, and foyer which was a big draw for us. And there are two windows in every room except the bath, so the light was a huge selling point!

 

Mapping the “musts” for an empty nest renovation

While Bob rents office space, I required a fully functional home office in a dedicated space. Also, a washer/dryer! We lived without them for a few years in Manhattan after having a laundry room in suburban homes, and we didn’t want to do that ever again. Both the kitchen and the bath needed better functionality and major cosmetic updates. Storage was essential throughout the apartment, as well as better lighting.

Our vision for the apartment was classic and period-appropriate but updated for today. We felt it was important to keep within the prewar aesthetic, including subway tiles, wood flooring, wide baseboard and door frame moldings, classic single-panel doors, radiator covers, and shaker-style cabinets.

closet turn home office

More storage and a tip for staying cool

The master bedroom initially had a large double door closet. We flipped it to be used in the second bedroom next door as a home office. We created built-in drawers and cabinets, as well as added new closets to account for the one given to the home office. 

I loved ditching the tub for a large shower stall and completely rearranging the master bath. We went for a custom industrial-style shower screen, mosaic floor tiles, and classic subway tiles with a twist: a crackle pattern. Plus a black metal grate for heat. The design worked!

I sourced what I needed at the onset so we weren’t crunched for time in selecting and getting product delivered in time.

Electrical rewiring was not expected, but it had to be done. Then we replaced all the lighting and added ceiling fans in the bedrooms and kitchen. It’s a trick from the south because you can cut down on A/C bills. And it’s a plus in a prewar building where you can’t regulate the heat in winter.  We went for sleek, custom radiator covers that are great for display on top, too.

In the foyer, we extended the closet out by six inches and added shelving on top. So what was non-functional became completely utilized, with tons of space! We added bookshelves in the living room—we love books and are avid readers.

stainless steel kitchen counter

Enlisting Sweeten during a hurdle

Bob would say the stainless steel countertops surrounding the range are a throwback to a ’50s kitchen we had. Those tops are indestructible! It was the only design element he wished to have a “say” in. Bob is the master of paint colors. I can give him a palette of 10 colors and he can narrow them down so that they flow together from room to room.

While we had renovation knowledge, every experience has its unexpected nuances. We were very relieved to have Sweeten as the backstop when needed. It was great to have someone who could assist in holding the contractors accountable. We had problems with the contractor with a leak after move in. So parts of the kitchen had to be dismantled, the leak fixed, and put back together again. Sweeten stood by us and made sure the job was completed correctly. 


When planning for the unexpected pays off

I wish I had engaged Sweeten to talk through the contract, which might have avoided several issues. Having a second set of eyes is never a bad idea! For example, while I was very specific on the type of cabinetry I wanted, we found the budget in the contract did not align with reality. 

To help alleviate the overage, I hit the sales.  Also, I sourced what I needed at the onset so we weren’t crunched for time in selecting and getting product delivered in time. Additionally, we had allocated extra funds for overages and the unexpected.

Our new home makes us feel joyful. Our daughter commented that the space is aesthetically a culmination of all of our past homes, with a bit of industrial thrown in. It’s truly who we are at this stage of life, a mix of the past and present: kids grown, empty nesters with a puppy in the house!

Thank you, Beth and Bob, for sharing your empty nest renovation with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Countertops, subway tile backsplash: Caesarstone. Stainless under-mount sink and pull-down commercial faucet: Kohler. Refrigerator: Miele. Dishwasher: Bosch. Range: XO.  Microwave: GE. Paint in Pale Oak: Benjamin Moore. Washer and dryer: Blomberg. Fanimation custom drum ceiling fan in black and brass: Pottery Barn. Custom pine shelving: Delirious by Design. Shelving hardware: Rejuvenation.

BATHROOM: Merola mosaic floor tile: Home Depot. Crackle subway shower wall tile in Tierra Ceramic Filed: Complete Tile. Watermark shower fixtures, sink faucet, and train rack: Pottery Barn. Shower screen: Custom. Vanity: Custom. Lucite drawer pulls: LuxHoldUps. Toilet: American Standard. Lighting: Shades of Light. Vanity mirror/medicine cabinet and sink: Kohler.  Towel ring, toilet paper holder: Rejuvenation. Wall paint in Calm, custom vanity paint in San Antonio Gray: Benjamin Moore.

HOME OFFICE: Wallpaper in Dog’s Life: Anthropologie. Maple shelving and table top: Custom. Shelving brackets: Rejuvenation. Chair: West Elm. File cabinets: Pottery Barn.

MASTER BEDROOM: Drawer pulls and cabinet knobs: Restoration Hardware. Paint in Knitted Cap: Benjamin Moore.

LIVING AREA: Door hardware: Baldwin.  Bedroom ceiling fans: Hunter. Dining room chandelier, foyer ceiling light: Ballard Designs. Hall crystal flush mount: Shades of Light. Paint for all trim, kitchen cabinets, master builtins and radiator covers in Dove White; bedroom wall paint in Constellation: Benjamin Moore. Radiator covers: Custom. Existing hardwood floor and new hardwoods in kitchen: Custom gray wash.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Remodeling Old Homes on a Budget in Boston https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/remodeling-old-homes-on-a-budget-in-boston/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/remodeling-old-homes-on-a-budget-in-boston/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2020 14:36:05 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45317 How to take on older home renovations in Boston (on a budget) for energy efficiency and function With a 250-year-old history, the…

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How to take on older home renovations in Boston (on a budget) for energy efficiency and function

Boston old house remodel

With a 250-year-old history, the Boston housing stock is flush in centuries-old buildings. Here, Colonial, Federal, and Victorian styles are among the many that enrich the residential landscape. While many exteriors tend to be well-preserved, interiors commonly need to be updated.

Sweeten offers an outline on what to know before starting older home renovations in Boston (plus, which rooms get the most bang for the buck!) Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Upgrading electrical in Boston homes

What makes us comfortable in our homes? What will most improve the layout and/or function? Before you start with the obvious, consider what’s not visible, but is still very impactful. 

No matter what the scope of your remodeling is—the whole house or just a kitchen and/or baths—electrical service may need a boost. One 100 amp circuit box may not be enough. For a 2,000-square-foot home, 200 amps are optimal. It’s better to go bigger, allowing for add-ons in the future, since it’s more cost-effective. A professional electrical audit helps determine what needs upgrading (like adding GCFIs where there is water, in kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, for example).

Older home renovation “Must”: Bring the HVAC up to speed

Depending on the age of the heating and cooling systems, you may want to replace units for more efficiency. Newer systems have been designed to work better. Sizing is calculated according to square footage; sometimes two or more furnaces and air conditioners are needed. Make sure ducts are insulated. Zoning spaces also is smart, so that you can shut down areas of the house that may not be used all the time. 

Note that AC units manufactured before 2010 contain Freon. That R-22 material has been banned by the EPA (as of this year) because it’s ozone-depleting. It’s still available, but much more costly. Eventually, those air conditioners will need to be retrofitted for a new refrigerant or replaced as supplies run out. 

Hot water heaters generally have a shelf life of seven years. If you need to replace one, consider high-efficiency tankless heaters. They supply hot water on demand.

Improve window efficiency

Even the best HVAC system won’t work optimally if you have leaky windows. Single-pane glass common in older homes often is a source of heat loss. Consider replacing windows with Energy Star-qualified ones. Options include all-wood, vinyl, aluminum-clad with wood inside, and fiberglass. 

Features to look for:

• Low-E, or Low-Emissivity, with metallic coatings that allow windows to reflect rather than absorb heat

• Double or triple panes

• Gas-filled (argon or krypton gas) between glazed layers to improve heat insulation and slow heat transfer

How to preserve the best elements of your older Boston home

One blessing of older homes is inheriting original features. Hardwood floors, crown moldings, and wood built-ins add warmth and character. If the materials are generally in good shape, it’s best to restore. Even if repairs are in order, costs usually are far less than replacement. Lifting up wall-to-wall carpeting may reveal intact hardwood. Sand out tack holes and refinish the floors. Yellowed boards can also be fixed with sanding. Stain, or leave the floors natural, topped with non-yellowing polyurethane. And relocating a built-in can save thousands of dollars. It’s possible, for example, to repurpose a kitchen cabinet as a linen closet.

Make a master plan

Once you’ve brought electrical and mechanicals up-to-date, you’re ready to dive into room remodels. Create a wish list in order of your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Sweeten gets you started with a renovation cost guide for the interiors in Boston here. One way to keep the costs down is to maintain the existing floor plan. Add about 10 percent more to your final budget for contingencies. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of permits and dumpsters. 

The kitchen: the hub of the historic (and modern) home

For most, remodeling the kitchen is the biggest game-changer. It’s at the core of today’s living—no matter what your lifestyle. For those who love entertaining, it’s even more pivotal. 

The price tag for a kitchen remodel, of course, is affected by materials and appliance choices. You may want to splurge on a dual fuel range and choose a more modest dishwasher or refrigerator. Once you start comparing prices, you can play the balancing act. Decide what’s most important for your lifestyle. Ultimately, there are a few key kitchen renovations you can do (on a budget!) for an older home in Boston.

In a minimal remodel, it’s more cost-efficient to keep the plumbing in place. Re-piping or relocating pipes for remodeling adds between $5,400 and $7,000 (based on 1,500 square feet). Amping up the supply line from the main sewer to your home will assure a good flow of water throughout the home. If your water pressure needs help, ask your contractor whether a booster might work. Obviously, an overall kitchen and bath plan for plumbing is ideal. Also be sure plumbers check for lead in pipes, valves, or faucets.

If the cabinets are in good shape, they may be candidates for a new stain or paint. Replacing the fronts with simple shaker-style wood panels is an easy facelift. New hardware also can raise the style quotient. For some, storage may be an issue. Reconfiguring interiors with slide-out shelves or adding deep drawers for cookware are one answer. 

Adding or extending an island also may improve its efficiency. The additional surface extends prep and eating space. Then, you can build in more storage below it. 

Create a functional layout for your older home

Floor plans in older homes may not work for today. Some are too small or have chopped up rooms. An addition may not be in your budget, but it may be possible to borrow space. Look at closets, small rooms, hallways, even a sunroom or porch. There may be enough space for a breakfast room. Creating a new layout may even net a family or a bedroom.

A powder room on the first floor is a must-have today. It also can provide a canvas for instant style. Since it doesn’t require a large footprint, you probably can find the square footage. Some have even tucked powder rooms under back stairs. Without a shower or tub, a powder room is less expensive than a bath. So you might feel more comfortable splurging on some materials.

Refreshing a master bath

A spa bath may be on your wish list but not in your budget. Still, there’s a lot you can do to get a more modern look. Replace the fixtures. Get a new vanity. Install light sconces as well as an overhead chandelier. You can give it all a luxury look with porcelain tile instead of marble or limestone. There are so many stone lookalikes at a fraction of the cost. A mid-range bath remodel recoups close to 59 percent of the job cost.

Even modest renovations to an older Boston home can be transformative! You’ll certainly realize there’s an upside: the more you live in your home, the more you’ll see its full potential with future renovation projects.

Doing renovations to an older home—in Boston or beyond—is crucial for protecting it from the winter cold from pipes and roof to masonry.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A Crumbling Garage Turns into a “She Shed” https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/derelict-garage-finds-purpose-she-shed/ Fri, 03 Jul 2020 14:00:13 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=25835 A “she shed” in Queens emerges from a garage renovation, complete with a pull-down ladder, kitchen, and bathroom When her elderly mother…

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A “she shed” in Queens emerges from a garage renovation, complete with a pull-down ladder, kitchen, and bathroom
She Shed

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

When her elderly mother needed some assistance, Michelle, a paralegal from Queens, New York, decided to move back home. From the start, she knew she would want her own space to thrive in this new living arrangement. Renovating a 228-square-foot beat-up garage in the backyard provided the perfect solution: the ultimate “she shed” retreat that she nicknamed The Shak. As this was her first-ever renovation project, posting her project to find fully-vetted contractors through Sweeten “seemed like a no-brainer.” Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner. The result: a vibrant space that is truly all her own.

Guest post by Sweeten homeowner Michelle

Finding the right contractors

My journey down the renovation rabbit hole began when I found myself picturing the dilapidated garage in the backyard as my dream “diva den,” as my best friend calls it. While researching different designs and models, I remembered an article on Sweeten I’d read a few years ago and had always wanted to use their services. It seemed like a no-brainer to have an intermediary help locate vetted contractors. It also solved the huge question of ‘where to begin.

Since I had no idea what my renovation would cost, Sweeten helped me modify my scope of work and nail down a realistic budget. They introduced me to a few contractors who were a good match for my project. I finally felt like I had a team behind me, which is great once you start writing big checks.

 

I asked questions that clearly came from watching copious amounts of home improvement TV. Everyone was extremely patient and explained why things are done a certain way.

Planning the “She Shed” garage remodel

I knew instantly that the first Sweeten contractor I met was the right fit for the job. Finally, I found someone as excited about my garage as I was! At that stage, I only had a basic idea of what I wanted. We took down most of the existing structure, retaining only the foundation. Since I was renovating a 12′ x 19′ garage, I wanted the interior to be basic and for the structure to retain the identity and functionality of a garage. That meant concrete floors, no molding, and a statement-making garage door. If you took out the rugs and furniture of the she shed, the structure could have use as a garage or workspace. I also wanted a calming space with one stipulation: no white walls.

Experiencing a real-life renovation

Working with everyone on my contractor’s team was amazing. I asked questions that clearly came from watching copious amounts of home improvement TV. Everyone was extremely patient and explained why things are done a certain way. Most importantly, nobody exposed me for the complete novice that I was. Gaining an understanding of how everything worked also helped reign in some of my design ideas. To top off the contractor’s great service, he downloaded WhatsApp to stay in touch with me when I left for Cuba mid-project. I greatly appreciated his dedication to my peace of mind.

The weather was one of the biggest challenges during my project. It wasn’t an issue when my project started in August. However, when November arrived, it was either too cold, too rainy or was supposed to rain but didn’t. Either way, there were a few bad weather days that halted work on The Shak. My contractor also had to juggle other clients. In my naiveté, I thought contractors worked on one project at a time. I came to understand that The Shak was my highest priority, but contractors work on other dream projects at the same time.

ladder to garage attic

Building a ladder to the attic

As the exterior took shape, and the interior work began, I became more involved in the project. That is also when my attention to detail heightened. For storage, we utilized the space, we utilized the space above the ceiling. How to access that space became an hour-long discussion. I asked the contractor and his partner how I would get up to the storage space. “Use a ladder,” they said. “That’s what I do in my garage.” I’m no mathematician, but a nine-foot-tall ceiling plus a five-foot-tall girl does not equal easy movement of big boxes up a six-foot ladder. And where would I keep this ladder when I wasn’t using it? After a bit of selling on my part, they agreed to install an attic ladder. It was worth hashing out and in the end, my contractors loved the ladder too.

Personalizing the “she shed” bathroom

It may sound weird, but finding my dry-flush toilet was exciting. The she shed did not seem usable to me if you had to keep going into the house to use the bathroom. After endlessly searching for a toilet that did not need to be hooked up to sewage lines or have an odor, I came across a dry flush toilet. It is a great invention. It works like a Diaper Genie disposal system with a continuous bag that self-seals when “flushed,” then, a new portion of the bag opens for use.

Since the bathroom is a small 3’ x 4’ space, I definitely wanted some over-the-top designs on the walls. I initially thought of using three-dimensional self-adhesive wall panels but decided against that since I wanted a mix of color and patterns. As a naturally curly-haired girl, the print I chose was a perfect fit for my preference of streamlined chaos.

garage bathroom remodel

A tip on DIY wallpaper hanging

However, by the time I found the mural, the contractors had completed the interior space. So, my best friend and I enrolled in the university that is YouTube. After watching about twenty videos, we felt qualified to hang wallpaper, something neither of us had ever done before. I love what we accomplished, but some things take more skill and patience than she or I possess. I will never hang wallpaper again.

Ultra-bold backsplash tiles

After the contractor installed the sink and countertop, my next big project was the backsplash. I wanted something different and eye-catching, something that would not bore me. I came across graffiti tiles but the designs weren’t bold enough. After feeling empowered with my new construction knowledge, I decided to decoupage my own tiles. We figured out the dimensions for the backsplash and measured out 5′ x 2′ worth of decoupage tiles as well as some purchased ones. It is one of my favorite things in The Shak. Now, when my friends come over, they all choose their favorite tile. I love how they invite interaction.

I have never embarked on a project of this size. At times, it was scary. I would get a call at 8 a.m. from my contractor, asking which direction I wanted the French doors to open or what size I wanted the windows to be, with no clue of how to respond. My advice to anyone starting a project would be to pick a contractor that listens to your ideas. It is also helpful to watch some YouTube videos, home improvement shows, or however else you like to educate yourself. The more a homeowner knows, the better he or she can direct the construction of their masterpiece. I couldn’t be happier with everything I accomplished in making The Shak a reality.

Thank you, Michelle, for sharing the story of your she shed, The Shak with us! We hope it brings joy and relaxation.

RESOURCES: Garage door: Clopay Avante. Flooring: stained concrete. Stone Harbor Greige paint,10YY 48/071: Glidden. Exterior light fixture; Doors and windows: Lowe’s. Siding: Vinyl. Midea 9,000 BTU mini split central air: Amazon. Boholmen sink and Grevsta cabinets: IKEA. Refrigerator: Home Depot. Backsplash: Zazzle and custom tiles. Toilet: Laveo Dry Flush. Foam bath floor mat tiles: Amazon. Wall mural: Pixers.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A Fresh Home Renovation Trend: Mint as the New Neutral https://blog.sweeten.com/gallery/reno-notebook/a-fresh-home-renovation-trend-mint-as-the-new-neutral/ https://blog.sweeten.com/gallery/reno-notebook/a-fresh-home-renovation-trend-mint-as-the-new-neutral/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2020 17:56:37 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45270 Move over, beige: this refreshing hue is here to stay Pale yellow used to be the cheerful go-to color and beige was…

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Move over, beige: this refreshing hue is here to stay

light green galley kitchenPale yellow used to be the cheerful go-to color and beige was the sought-after neutral; now, mint is quickly becoming a popular home renovation trend, popping up in newly-renovated kitchens. Mint brings a light and fresh vibe. Here, examples of this kitchen design trend recently completed by Sweeten contractors. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A galley kitchen goes minty-green

Laura and Tim lived in their 1929 brick townhouse in Rego Park, Queens, for many years before deciding to renovate. They loved their home. However, it became what Laura calls “grungy and old.” The kitchen had been damaged by a leaky shower from the bathroom above and needed new cabinets, flooring, and wall treatments.

The couple turned to Sweeten for the overhaul. Their contractor enclosed an outdoor patio connecting it to the back of the kitchen. With the introduction of skylights and a new color palette, the kitchen became a cheerful space for the family to gather.

Laura and Tim selected Shaker-style cabinet fronts in mint green. The hue “matches the feel of the old house but is also clean and modern at the same time,” said Laura. Moreover, the brushed bronze hardware and stainless-steel appliances provide a nice contrast. “The kitchen came out beautifully,” Laura said.

The mint home renovation trend brings the outside, inside

Two years after buying their two-bedroom apartment in Queens, Gina and Andrew decided to renovate. The couple wanted to fix the kitchen’s small, awkward layout and create a space that would inspire them to cook. After hiring a Sweeten general contactor, they were on their way.

The pair was inspired by the lovely mix of greens in their co-op courtyard. To bring this into their design, they chose beautiful lower cabinets in the shade of agave. Warm brass hardware stands out against the more muted green cabinets. “I never used to cook and after our renovation, I’m cooking up a storm,” said Andrew.

A compromise on color becomes a designer kitchen

Design is definitely in this couple’s wheelhouse. A former architect and interior designer, Maggie and Adam knew that they would have to make some concessions when designing their co-op. Their focus: the kitchen.

Their kitchen was small and outdated. Luckily, they were able to make it much larger by removing the surrounding wall, changing the location of the refrigerator, and adding shelves instead of upper cabinets.

According to the couple, the kitchen really reveals the way they communicate. “The kitchen shows the full-scale of compromise between our distinct design ideas,” said Adam. “For instance, the light green lower cabinets add the layer of color that fit her style, but have a gray tone that doesn’t stray from my own style.”

It was important to Maggie to “add a personal touch, warmth, and texture to the kitchen,” which they achieved through the mint-green cabinetry—a style that is classic yet contemporary.

Find more inspiration in the Before & After: Kitchen edition.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

 

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A 1919 Colonial House Finds Renewal in Soft Tones https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/entire-homes/a-1919-colonial-house-finds-renewal-in-soft-tones/ https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/entire-homes/a-1919-colonial-house-finds-renewal-in-soft-tones/#respond Thu, 25 Jun 2020 17:07:47 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45285 Clever ideas for a Colonial home kitchen remodel and a newly-created bathroom When Amanda, a former pastry chef, and Cory, a tech…

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Clever ideas for a Colonial home kitchen remodel and a newly-created bathroom

When Amanda, a former pastry chef, and Cory, a tech executive, saw their 1919 Yonkers Colonial house for the first time, they were charmed. They loved everything, down to the kitchen’s dated salmon formica. But they also knew that after they lived there for a bit, they would be renovating it to suit their family’s needs. With their son, Herschel, and their cat, Horse P. Cat, they moved into the 2,600-square-foot home and brainstormed about how to best remodel the kitchen and add a new downstairs bathroom.

To bring their Colonial home remodel to life, they posted their project on Sweeten and hired this Westchester-based contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

drip dishware collection

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Amanda

A charming (but not functional) Colonial home

We had been dividing our time between a farmhouse in Dutchess County and a walk-up apartment in Brooklyn. When our son was born, neither of these homes was quite suited to us. We decided to find a place in between with a shorter commute for my husband, more social opportunities for me, and easy access to the home.

When we first saw the house, we were charmed by the time-capsule of a kitchen—salmon formica, dark-wood cabinets, and a dishwasher that predated the other elements. That said, we knew we would eventually update the kitchen. Having a lavatory on the ground floor and not having to run upstairs was also on the wishlist.

Yonkers family portrait

The existing kitchen had one radiator, which was buried in the back of a custom cabinet. It was a clever solution at the time, but ate up a lot of cabinet space and wasn’t heat-efficient. We decided to install a radiant floor heating system that we could run off of our existing hot-water heating system. A more formal, fully-functional island would offer storage, outlets, and a bigger counter area.


We wanted to create a better flow of traffic and light. The main entrance to the kitchen from the dining room was a narrow 28-inch-wide doorway. It made the kitchen feel isolated from the rest of the house. Bringing down the wall would not have respected the house’s character. Instead, the opening was widened and centered between the two rooms to bring more natural light into the north-facing kitchen. 

Balancing the kitchen structures

Some infrastructural elements dictated a lot of the design. One was that the major waste line for the three upstairs bathrooms lays along the kitchen’s exterior wall. It had been boxed out previously, and the existing cabinets had been customized around it. We didn’t want to relocate that line, so we decided to figure out how to incorporate it.

The second element was a sheetrock box-beam of sorts. We didn’t know what was in it, but since it was asymmetrically placed and not detailed like the house’s other box beams, we assumed it was hiding something expensive to move. Our thought was, let’s give this weird beam and column matching mates to create symmetry.

Colonial kitchen remodel

These design decisions hid the two odd-ball elements by making it look like they’d always been there. Bonus: We made that second column a sneaky little cabinet right between the sink/dishwasher and our espresso machine. It’s the perfect spot for drinking glasses and cups. We love it!

I wanted to bring the warmth and softness of natural wood into the kitchen, so I chose a darker wood for the cabinets that echoes our furniture. A built-in pantry was replaced with custom open shelving. The birds-mouth adjustable shelves look like they might have been there when the house was built. It enhances the room’s original feel and provides a display for our brown-drip dishware collection.

Turning closets into a powder room

There was no bathroom on the first floor. We combined two closets—approximately 4’ x 4’—and some square footage where we used to hang coats by the back door. The sacrifice was worth it for what would become the most frequented bathroom in the house. A pocket door with frosted glass saved space and allowed light to flow through. We installed Art Deco wallpaper, wainscoting, a picture rail, and paint in neutral tones.

Though manufacturers say that you can install wood flooring over radiant heat systems, it made me leery, and wood is not an efficient conductor of heat. I was certain I wanted tile, but one that wouldn’t appear cold or hard.


Finding the right contractor for our remodel

Sweeten helped us find a group of tried-and-true general contractors to vet. In the past, we’d tried a few recommended by neighbors, but this time that didn’t work. And this project was too big an investment to just pick somebody out of a hat. It was great to be able to talk through everything with a Sweeten professional and get a curated list. I doubt we’d have found our contractor on our own, and I’m so glad we did.

They were much more organized than contractors we’d worked with previously. Our contractor seemed to have experience and know-how beyond his years. When we ran into uncertainties, he was great at suggesting possible solutions. There was a structural issue discovered during demolition that required changes to the design layout. He was quick to help us with potential resolutions, down to providing revised elevations so we could visualize the new design. And he always discussed costs with us before we signed off. They also provided spreadsheets to help me keep track of all the elements I needed to order and have on-site.

The sacrifice was worth it for what would become the most frequented bathroom in the house.

Veteran renovators share advice

The biggest challenge with our renovation was waiting for it to be finished! Time moves slowly when you’re living on the second floor of your home, feeding a family from a makeshift kitchen in your bedroom. This was no fault of our contractors. Our city building department took three months to issue our permits.

If you can, live with your space for a while before renovating. You’ll end up with a much clearer picture of how to make your new space work best for you.

Also, always budget for 10-20% more than your original estimate, especially for kitchens and baths in old houses. This is our fourth renovation experience, and there has always been a major structural or plumbing issue (or both!) that have come up. It’s never pleasant, but if you plan for it, it’s way less painful.

Our new space makes us feel happy! We really love all of the new millwork in the home remodel, it feels so harmonious with the rest of our beautiful old Colonial home.

Thank you, Amanda and Cory, for sharing your Colonial home remodel story with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Textile 24″x24″ floor tile in Sand: Cancos Tile. Metro style (slab with full overlay) cabinets in oak with Prairie stain: Vista. Riverwood knobs and Edgecliff pulls in Matte Bronze finish: Schoolhouse Electric. Taj Royale countertop and backsplash in honed: Caesarstone. 32” single-bowl undermount Kraus sink: Signature Hardware. Single-hole pull-down faucet in oil rubbed bronze by Bocard: Signature Hardware. Fridge / Dishwasher / Stove: Bertazzoni. Oswego 9” pendant light in burnished antique: Rejuvenation. Lucia flush mounts in white: Cedar & Moss. Wildwood sconce in white: Cedar & Moss. Wall paint in Pale Oak; trim paint in Cloud White: Benjamin Moore.

POWDER ROOM: Textile Deco floor tile in Dark: Cancos Tile. Deco Paradiso wallpaper by Anaglypta: Wallpaper Direct. Ringo faucet in oil-rubbed bronze: Signature Hardware. Skime wall-mount sink and vanity: Magnus Home Products. Storjorm mirror: IKEA. Toilet: TOTO. Sculptural Glass Pebble small flush-mount: West Elm. Towel hook: Sugar Tools. Wainscoting paint in Quietude; ceiling paint in Pale Oak: Benjamin Moore.

If you’re remodeling an old house, here’s what you need to know from layouts to additions.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Remodeling a Garage into Living Space in Nashville https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/remodeling-a-garage-into-living-space-in-nashville/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/remodeling-a-garage-into-living-space-in-nashville/#respond Wed, 24 Jun 2020 15:45:50 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45271 How to remodel your garage into living space, a rental studio, or even a gym If you are like many homeowners, you…

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How to remodel your garage into living space, a rental studio, or even a gym

garage remodel nashville

If you are like many homeowners, you may be looking in all directions to increase living space. Looking upward means building a second story. Looking toward the back translates to a house addition. But one direction that is often overlooked is to the side or front: the garage. Sweeten outlines how a garage remodel in Nashville could be your solution amid several home addition options. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Types of garage remodels

  • Living rooms or family rooms

Garages are often remodeled to provide supplemental living or family room space. The garage is insulated, wired, painted, and flooring is installed. Sometimes, a small powder room, with only a toilet and sink, is added. The powder room eliminates trips to the main part of the house.

  • Living quarters for renters

Some homeowners choose to install a self-contained apartment for renters. This arrangement can give the homeowner a source of passive income. Over the long term, it may defray the cost of the garage remodel. 

Living quarters typically include a bedroom, full bathroom, and a kitchen. A lockable pass-through to the main part of the home is usually included. With this, homeowners can lock the door on their side to prevent the renters from entering. Most remodels of this nature include a separate exterior door so that renters can enter their apartment without going through the main house.

  • Living quarters for self or family

Garages are often remodeled to provide living quarters for elderly parents, friends, or children. In many cases, this apartment has the same facilities as does an apartment for renters. 

  • Dedicated entertainment or work area

Your garage remodel may create a single room or multiple rooms for a specific purpose. The remodeled garage may become an entertainment room, home movie theater, gym, office, workshop, or studio.

Garage remodel costs in Nashville

Garage remodel permits alone can cost $1,000 to $1,500. For a simple living-room space that does not include plumbing, the cost will begin in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. Most of this cost is devoted to outfitting the space with a floor and filling in the garage door.

More often, though, garage remodels intended as living quarters begin at $20,000 and rise sharply.

Garage remodel process and timeline

  1. Before you speak to a contractor, decide on the primary function for the remodel. A basic family or living room can be a relatively simple project since plumbing may not be involved. A full-scale rental apartment will be more expensive and will take several weeks or months.
  2. After you’ve received multiple estimates and chosen your contractor, discuss if any Nashville overlay and zoning issues need to be considered.
  3. You will meet with the contractor and an architect. The architect will draw up plans. The contractor applies for permits.
  4. After a roll-off dumpster is delivered to the property, workers demolish parts of the interior of the garage. The garage door is removed.
  5. Carpenters fill in the empty space where the garage door was located. Usually, this will be an exterior wall system, complete with insulation and perhaps even windows.
  6. Depending on the plan, workers may need to frame the floor with joists. This will raise the floor to the height of the main house’s floor.
  7. With the walls open, electricians and plumbers run wire and pipes through the walls.
  8. Carpenters frame the interior walls and the ceiling.
  9. Workers add a heating and cooling system.
  10. Drywall installers hang and finish the drywall.
  11. Floor installers add the floor covering of your choice on top of the subfloor.
  12. A painting team will paint the inside of the garage remodel. They will also paint areas outside of the garage, in front.
  13. Plumbers finish installing bathroom fixtures. Electricians complete the rest of the wiring.

How a garage remodel affects house value

One important consideration before starting a garage remodel is whether it will increase the value of your home.

If you are considering a garage remodel in Nashville, you might be thinking of immediate, personal needs. Your family may be increasing in size. Or you may have elderly parents who need housing. In either case, remodeling your garage may represent a lower net financial cost than building a separate structure or buying a new house.

On the other hand, if you do intend to eventually sell your home, consider how the garage remodel will affect your home’s value. Potential home buyers may view the lack of vehicle storage as a deficit. Other buyers may welcome the extra space.

Permits and restrictions

The City of Nashville requires a building permit for any new building or a modification of an existing structure. You must also have permits for individual tradework, such as for electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work. 

Nashville is a city of many historic structures. The Nashville Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission (MHZC) was formed to protect Nashville’s architectural styles and character. If your home is located in a historic preservation and historic landmark overlay, you must apply for a Preservation Permit.

MHZC permit applications require a full set of plans, elevations, photos, and more. After you submit the permit application, the MHZC will meet to consider your project. After a permit is approved, you must stick to the conditions of the permit. For example, the MHZC will impose penalties or injunctions if the garage siding does not match that of the rest of the house.

In Nashville and Davidson County, neighborhood leaders and government officials take a close look at Airbnb-type rentals. These types of rentals are called Short Term Rental Properties (STRPs). The Metro Codes Department must approve of your rental property before you list it as an STRP (but not before you build it).

Heat and cool your garage remodel in Nashville

With Nashville’s extremes of heat and cold, you should add a heating or cooling system to your garage remodel. Generally, there are three options:

  1. Continue with the main house’s HVAC system. Workers continue the ductwork from the main house into the garage. The main house’s HVAC system must be adequate to handle the increased loads. This option works well when remodeling a garage for a living or family room: one that will flow seamlessly from the main house.
  2. Install a separate HVAC system. This is the best option when remodeling a garage as living quarters. It is also the costliest option.
  3. The lowest cost installation option is heating in the form of baseboard or wall heaters. For cooling, install one or more window or wall unit air conditioners. Installation is less expensive but the cost of service is higher. This is because baseboard heaters, wall heaters, and window unit A/Cs are less efficient than HVAC systems.

Where to park your vehicles

When reviewing permit applications for garage remodels in Nashville, the city will want to know where the displaced vehicles will go. Like most large cities, Nashville wants to reduce the number of cars that are street-parked.

If you have a paved driveway, the solution can be as simple as moving the cars to the driveway instead of in the garage. This is the lowest cost solution, though your vehicles will be left out in the open.

If you have ample room in the front of your property, you may wish to build a carport or even a new garage. This will completely or partially protect the vehicles. It also may appeal to future buyers. Zoning issues may come into play since a 20-foot setback in front must be maintained. 

A garage remodel is a lower-cost alternative to building an addition but it is not low-cost. Think of a garage remodel as an investment in your home’s value and in your happiness.

Renovating in Nashville? Here’s a home remodeling cost guide for this city to get your budget in order.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Save Money While Remodeling: Avoid Order & Delivery Hiccups https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/process-guides/renovation-cost-savings-avoid-order-and-delivery-hiccups/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/process-guides/renovation-cost-savings-avoid-order-and-delivery-hiccups/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2020 14:50:10 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=12103 Successful handling of orders & delivery is a simple way to save money while remodeling and keep the project on track Every…

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Successful handling of orders & delivery is a simple way to save money while remodeling and keep the project on track

Every homeowner wants their home remodeling project to be finished by a specified date and on (or under) budget. For example, a basement remodel that is contractually expected to be finished by Christmas for visiting relatives, must be done by the specified date. Yet, it is not uncommon for homeowners to wonder why the project isn’t following the schedule or if the job will finish on time. How can homeowners (or contractors) keep a project on schedule, while also saving money during remodeling? 

Sweeten highlights one part of the process that both parties have relative control over to help keep the project on schedule. The logistics of ordering materials, including selection, payment, and delivery, is one area that both homeowners and contractors agree upon as being vital to that common goal. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Mythbuster: Contractors want a project to go on and on

One thing that might surprise homeowners starting a project is that the contractor is equally or even more anxious to keep the project on track. This is because a smoothly running project means that the contractor can keep the client happy and within budget. Plus, this allows the contractor to successfully manage concurrent projects or move onto the next project on time.

Who does the ordering: contractor or homeowner?

Before anything else happens, draw up a contract which both the homeowner and the contractor can sign. With this contract in place, a creative union with a common mission can begin: completing the project outlined in the contract. 

The logistics of ordering materials and their delivery is one factor that the homeowner can easily control in either direction to suit their style better.

When should the contractor order materials?

Generally, the contractor handles most of the supply chain of materials in a home improvement project. 

First, the contractor will order the materials specified for the project. Materials are typically paid out of an initial deposit made by the homeowner and by scheduled progress payments or draws. 

The contractor rarely orders all materials at the same time. In fact, it makes more sense to stagger orders according to when they will be installed in the home. This also benefits the homeowner, because materials are paid for on a rolling basis. 

The contractor or a representative takes delivery of the items and holds them either at an off-site storage location or on the building site. When it’s time to install the item, the contractor’s crew will shift the item to the building site.

However, the contractor is not the only person responsible for managing the selection of building materials. Except for raw building materials like drywall and two-by-four studs, other materials are the homeowner’s choice. The contractor and the homeowner will sit down together and select materials that match the homeowner’s taste and budget and satisfy the project specifications.

When should the homeowner order materials? 

Occasionally, the homeowner and contractor arrange for the homeowner to order materials. Once the homeowner consults with the contractor, the homeowner then controls all aspects of this supply chain.

The homeowner chooses the materials, pays for them directly, accepts delivery, inspects the items, and stores them. If any items are damaged or incorrect, it is the responsibility of the homeowner to arrange for replacement or refund.

The secret: handling logistics and specs issues

Contractors understand why homeowners want to be on top of the managing of their own materials—it’s their dream space. However, a mix weighted on the side of the contractor handling most logistics often works best. 

Reasons why homeowners may want contractors to handle the logistics:  

  1. Homeowners often focus on showpiece items such as frameless shower enclosures, natural imported stone, and one-of-a-kind sinks or cabinets. These pieces often require special parts or unique installation packages.
  2. Homeowners who order their own items often lose sight of the bigger picture. By focusing on particular items, they may lose sight of how the components fit within the project as a whole. Spacing is crucial, with components fitting within code-required spatial areas.
  3. Delivery acceptance can be a hang-up for many homeowners, both due to size and quantity of materials. Large slabs of granite, countertops, assembled cabinets, doors, and bathtubs are often delivered curbside. Plans must then be made to immediately move these items to a secure location. Large-quantity items, such as the numerous boxes of flooring that arrive on pallets, are equally important. These, too, must be moved to a dry, secure area.
  4. Delivery timing can be difficult for busy homeowners to manage. While small items might arrive on a no-signature basis, most home-related items require that a person accept delivery and sign for it. For instance, when taking delivery of countertop materials or windows, you don’t want your neighboring signing off on it. A qualified person must inspect and sign for these items. With tailgate delivery items, you typically have the opportunity to view the item before it is off-loaded. This is also not something you want your neighbor to do!
  5. As a homeowner who happens to be available to take delivery of materials, should you be doing this? Most homeowners do not know how to properly check for order amounts, damage, and missing pieces. Many fixtures come with very specific pieces and parts. For some items, if a tiny screw is missing from a particular piece, installation can be help up for days or weeks while the exact piece is reported, matched, and shipped.

Pros of letting professionals handle the logistics:

Pros:
  • Orders delivered on time
  • Correct lead line
  • Specifications controlled by the contractor
  • All parts correctly ordered
  • Delivery acceptance and storage
  • Contractor expertise with materials
  • Trade discounts possible

How to save time and money while remodeling 

According to many contractors and veteran homeowner-remodelers, the easiest way to save time and money while remodeling is to master the logistics.

To do this, you must ensure that you purchase the correct items on time, in the right order. Materials purchased too early may sit in storage for too long, or might be unreturnable later on if they cannot be used. 

Even worse, materials bought too late slow down the project or bring it to a complete stop. When the project stops, the subcontractors go off to other projects. The contractor may direct his or her attention to other clients. Completed work, particularly exterior work, may become damaged.

How the homeowner can be involved:

This is your home, your renovation project. You want to help manage the project, especially in the area of materials ordering and logistics (and certainly if it’ll help you to save money while remodeling!) What’s the best way to do this?  

Communicate with each other

Establish a healthy flow of communication and information between you and your contractor. Phone, e-mail, video chat, and text each other on a regular basis over logistics matters; this is a best practice to follow which sets the tone for the renovation as it progresses.

Establish clear responsibilities

Establish an agreement between the two of you as to who is responsible for which part of the logistics. 

Aim for completion

Conclude with a complete list of responsibilities. Be sure to spell out every aspect in writing.

These options are open for you and your contractor to discuss. Take stock of how much you want to personally be involved in the logistics and what feels right to reach your dream space.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Support Black-Owned General Contractor Companies | Sweeten https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/support-black-owned-general-contractor-companies/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/support-black-owned-general-contractor-companies/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2020 20:02:58 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45251 Support Sweeten’s black-owned general contracting firms At Sweeten, we value every clients’ vision for their home. And we value our shared vision…

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Support Sweeten’s black-owned general contracting firms
black-owned general contractor companies

At Sweeten, we value every clients’ vision for their home. And we value our shared vision for a better, more just, more inclusive world.  

Many Americans are now wondering how they can best instigate change. One way is to hire professionals from groups who have historically been overlooked. Provide opportunities to those who have had to work harder to succeed. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Please consider supporting the following black-owned general contracting firms. We heartily stand behind these contractors’ work. They all have the expertise and dedication to build the home you love.

Sweeten General Contractor Saladin – NYC

1920s house remodel

Danielle Brooks

General contractor Saladin co-owns her contracting firm. She joined Sweeten back in 2018. Servicing all of New York City, Saladin can complete full-service gut renovations, additions, basements, and decks. Additionally,  they also specialize in kitchen and bathroom remodels. At Sweeten’s annual awards ceremony for their contractors, the firm earned the 2019 Breakout Performance Award. Sweeten Stories featured two of their renovations. They completed Kyli and Luke’s 1920 house (top image). They also updated brownstone of actor Danielle Brooks of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black (bottom image). Click here to see more of Saladin’s work.


Sweeten General Contractor Erik – Philadelphia

Philadelphia kitchen remodel

Philadelphia bathroom remodel

General contractor Erik operates in Philadelphia, Chester, and Montgomery, PA. He completes home renovations, additions, and specializes in finished basements and carpentry. One of Erik’s past clients, Jacobb G., offers this insight after their own remodel:  “[Erik] has high attention to detail. Any time there was an issue, he listened and was solution-oriented. His team is wonderful too. They’re people you feel comfortable having in your house.” Click here to read more about Erik.


Sweeten General Contractor Ron – NYC

Living room remodel Kitchen remodel

A Sweeten general contractor since 2014, Ron works in the New York City and Brooklyn areas. His expertise centers on renewable resources for a healthier lifestyle and minimizing environmental impact. His client Janet F. offered this endorsement: “Ron gut renovated our 1880s brownstone in Harlem. We found his aesthetic sense superb and were delighted at his ability to find clever solutions to the many challenges that arise when rebuilding a historic property. We very much appreciated his sustained upbeat and supportive attitude…” Click here to see Ron’s portfolio ranging from brownstones to penthouses and kitchens.


Sweeten General Contractor Daren – New Jersey

dining room remodel bathroom remodel

General contractor Daren runs his family-owned design-build firm out of Montclair, New Jersey. He has been part of Sweeten since the beginning of 2018. Daren’s renovations are primarily in the Bergen and Essex County areas providing all aspects of residential design, interior architecture, renovation, custom millwork, and construction project management. Yael L, a past client of Daren’s said: “They do not cut corners and they follow their proposed budget. They spend as much time as needed to truly understand what you are looking for and deliver it with smiles. I was happy to see them everyday and my kids even missed them when they were gone.” Click here to see more of Daren’s work.


Sweeten General Contractor Joycelyn – NYC

kitchen remodel outdoor kitchen remodel

General contractor Joycelyn is a co-owner of her contracting firm and has been with Sweeten since 2019. Her renovations are located in New York City as well as Brooklyn and Queens. Her firm brings 25 years of experience in interior renovation work, including kitchens and bathrooms. Maura R., a homeowner who had hired the company said: “Joycelyn and the team are nothing short of fantastic. We’ve used them for many home renovation jobs now, and plan on using them again soon when we buy a house.” Click here to read more about Joycelyn.


Sweeten General Contractor Dexter – Atlanta

Atlanta bathroom remodel Atlanta kitchen remodel

Covering remodeling projects in the Atlanta area, general contractor Dexter joined Sweeten in 2020. In addition to interior renovations, his services include storm, fire, and water damage restorations, roofing, and deck building. Dexter shared his expertise in Sweeten’s Atlanta home cost guide and our blog post on navigating hidden renovation costs in the area. His past client Shannon S. shared a review of Dexter’s work: “All of my questions were answered along the way and he made great suggestions based on his expertise.” Click here for more about Dexter.


Sweeten General Contractor Wayne – NYC

Outdoor remodel kitchen remodel

New York City-based general contractor Wayne started with Sweeten in 2019. His firm offers full-service construction management with capabilities in design-build, interior renovations, building additions, basement remodeling, and custom millwork. A review from past client Natalya N: “Simply the best! Project has been completed on time and within the budget, what else could anyone ask for? They listened to all my concerns and really went above and beyond of satisfying a picky client.” Click here to read reviews and see more of Wayne’s work.


Sweeten General Contractor Jarett – New Jersey

Addition renovation

General contractor Jarett brings 28 years of experience to general contracting, design, and supply and project management. He’s been with Sweeten since 2018 and services New Jersey: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, and Union counties. Jarett’s company is also a cabinet dealer. Their range of service options allows renovators to choose product only, services only (design & project mgt), or a combination of both. His former client Bernie R. offers this review: “He was really on point. We did have one delivery mishap with the tile but Jarett had the manufacturer correct the issue with a three-day turnaround. He is very meticulous and he sketched out each phase of the renovation so I had a lot of insight and it was efficient.” Click here to read more about Jarett.


Sweeten General Contractor George – NYC

ADA compliant bathroom

With 30 years of general contracting under his belt, contractor George has been with Sweeten since 2017. He services New York City including the Bronx. He offers light creative support to general renovations, kitchen and bathroom remodels, and customized millwork. Leila G. who worked with George on a project noted: “Any unexpected challenges—and there were a few—were handled patiently. George was tenacious in overcoming any obstacles that presented itself.” An ADA-compliant bathroom remodel (top photo) for Debbie’s father was featured on Sweeten Stories. Click here to read more reviews for George.

The right renovation team is accountable and protects your project.  Here’s why a licensed contractor makes a difference.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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How to Prepare Your Home for Extreme Heat in Dallas https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/how-to-prepare-your-home-for-extreme-heat-in-dallas/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/how-to-prepare-your-home-for-extreme-heat-in-dallas/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2020 17:37:23 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45201 How to keep your Dallas house cool and comfortable while saving money during the hottest days of summer Anyone who lives in…

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How to keep your Dallas house cool and comfortable while saving money during the hottest days of summer

Dallas extreme heat reno

Anyone who lives in Dallas knows about its legendary heat. March and April’s fair days in the 70s are nice but they never continue. Average maximum temperatures in Dallas in July and August hit a whopping 96 degrees F. Your air-conditioner is the largest contributor to your energy bill in the summer. While your own house will rely on that on the hottest days, Sweeten presents plenty of other ways to keep your house cool and supplement the A/C.

All of these changes will help you prepare your home from Dallas’ extreme heat. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Install a whole-house fan to keep cool

One way to assist your air-conditioner or even replace its operation on less intense days is with a whole-house fan.

In your house, the lower areas below the attic are artificially conditioned to a set temperature, often in the low 70s F. As the day progresses, your unconditioned attic builds up heat. By the end of the day, it is at its hottest.

Even though your attic may be insulated, a tremendous amount of heat has built up. The lower areas’ air-conditioning is working overtime to fight against it.

A whole-house fan draws air through open windows and pushes it out through the roof. The attic is completely ventilated, as well. Many whole-house fans have an air exchange rate of up to six times the volume of the house.

Speak with your contractor about the possibility of modifying the existing ducts of your HVAC system to provide whole-house cooling.

Paint your home with lighter colors

Most of us learned in school that lighter colors absorb less heat than do dark colors. To a limited degree, the same idea applies to your home.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that dark-colored homes absorb up to 70- to 90-percent of the radiant energy that strikes the house from the sun. Heat on the outside of the house can transfer to the inside, resulting in heat gain.

Does this mean that you should paint your house white? If you wish to, you should do so. But any type of lighter colored paint or siding color will considerably reduce heat absorption. These are creams and ivories, light tans, beiges, blues, and pastels such as peaches, lavenders, and greens. 

Choose cooler roofing materials

Roofs bear the brunt of the Dallas sun. Selecting the right type of roof can reduce heat. Up to one-third of the heat that builds up in a house comes through the roof.

One common misconception is that selecting a lighter-colored roof will do the trick. Not so: a study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that even white composite shingles absorbed 70-percent of the solar radiation. Essentially, the roof is blasted with so much solar radiation, that the selection of color alone will do little.

One lower-cost solution is to have a coating applied to the shingles. Containing glass fibers and aluminium particles, this coating ward off radiant energy to a degree that lighter colored shingles cannot.

More effective, though, is to choose a type of roof material that is less thermally reactive. Terra cotta and ceramic tiles, concrete tiles, and slab concrete are good choices.

Even metal roofs are good choices due to their built-in dead-air space. This space acts as a thermal barrier to block heat transference to the house below.

Choose a siding that beats the heat

The better insulated your home is against the heat, the cooler it will be inside. While in-wall and ceiling insulation are important, siding also will prepare your home from Dallas’ extreme heat.

Vinyl siding typically leaves a space between the siding and the house. Insulated vinyl siding fills that hollow space with a rigid foam plastic insulation. This insulation is permanently attached to the back of the siding. All insulated vinyl siding products must have an R-value of 2.0 or more. R-value is a unit of measurement for thermal resistance. Higher R-value numbers mean greater insulating efficiency.

Masonry siding products such as brick and veneer stone help protect your home from the heat. Fiber-cement siding contains a great quantity of mineral materials, too. 

Add continuous exterior insulation

You cannot have enough insulation when battling the heat. While walls have been insulated internally for decades, a newer form of insulation adds even more of that much-needed R-value.

By itself, continuous insulation falls mid-range in terms of R-values—8.5 is considered typical for 2-inch thick continuous insulation. By comparison, standard two-by-four wall systems usually receive R-13 insulation.

But the real benefit lies in its name: continuous. Continuous insulation severs those thermal bridges that draw hot air into the home. Wall studs or any materials that extend from the outside to the inside through the walls can act as thermal bridges.

It only takes one view through a thermal imaging camera while standing outside on a hot day. Before continuous insulation, telltale blue ribs indicate the stud thermal bridges. After continuous exterior insulation, those blue lines disappear and your cool air stays inside your house.

Buy the best windows for Dallas’ heat

Wall systems that are fully insulated are always the best way to prepare your home from Dallas’ extreme heat. But no one wants to live in a house with no windows. Instead, buy the best possible window for that wall opening:

  • Double-paned windows are standard, no matter where you live. For maximum heat protection, choose triple-paned windows.
  • Look for windows filled with Argon gas.
  • Choosing low-e (low emissivity) glass is considered a must in hot climates. Low-e is a coating that blocks much for the ultraviolet and infrared light from the sun. By controlling these two types of light, you control the passage of heat into the house.
  • Get your numbers straight. For hot climates, keep an eye on three numbers listed on the window’s sticker: U-Factor, SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficient), and VT (Visible Transmittance). You will want a low U-Factor number, a low SHGC number, and a high VT number.

Install and maintain roof vents

A whole-house fan pulls hot air from the entire house, including the attic, and expels it. Roof vents expel only air from the attic.

Ventilated attics can be as much as 30 degrees F cooler than unventilated attics. Chances are good that your home already is ventilated, and most newer homes are. The question is whether those vents are adequate for your needs.

For homeowners, calculating the number and size of needed roof vents can be difficult. Factors such as the presence of a vapor barrier, roof slope, type of roof, insulation, and more come into play. A qualified professional such as a roofing contractor can help with calculations and with installing the roof vents.

If your home has a vaulted or cathedral style ceiling or a flat roof, you will have no attic. With these types of roofs, ventilation works differently: the open plenum is within the roof itself. 

More ways to keep your house cool in extreme heat

  • Install exterior awnings over windows that receive the brunt of the sun during the hottest part of the day
  • Install ceiling fans in each room. Note that ceiling fans rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise. During the summer, you will want the ceiling fan to turn counter-clockwise.
  • Have your yard landscaped to add trees and shrubbery on the sunny side of your house
  • Add thick thermal draperies to your windows

There are many ways to keep your house cool in extreme heat, from changes to the house siding and windows and the attic. Whether upgrading your whole house or adding some supportive cooling elements, taking action will endure your summers are comfortable for years to come.

A good place to start your remodel is by setting a realistic budget. Our home renovation cost guide for Dallas can help you.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A New Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout + Island https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/kitchens/brooklyn-kitchen-shows-off-dazzling-side/ https://blog.sweeten.com/before-after/kitchens/brooklyn-kitchen-shows-off-dazzling-side/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2020 14:11:50 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=28169 Once kept to a single wall, a true working kitchen comes to life with an L-shaped layout and island Project: Update and…

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Once kept to a single wall, a true working kitchen comes to life with an L-shaped layout and island

“After” photos by Kyle Knodell

Project: Update and enlarge a small kitchen in downtown Brooklyn with an L-shaped layout and island

Before: Looking for more square footage in downtown Brooklyn led this couple to a 3-bedroom, 2-bath 1,230-square-foot loft in a 1920s Art Deco building. The kitchen was an unusual shape, with all of the appliances huddled together along one wall, not so suitable for avid entertainers.

kitchen renovation, Brooklyn

After: To expand the space, the couple wanted an L-shaped layout with a six-foot-long island and floor-to-ceiling cabinets for storage. They posted their project on Sweeten and chose their Sweeten contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Due to the building’s landmark status and paper-thin walls, condo approvals were a lengthy process. Once they were complete, the renovation itself took two months. Their contractor encouraged them to keep cooking as a focus, meaning no TV in the kitchen and leaving the “binge-fests for the den.” The couple eagerly agreed on a modern look mixing closed cabinets and open shelves while pairing white and gray shaker-style cabinets with custom black walnut slabs. One of the black walnut slabs acts as a desktop in a built-in—a workspace ideal for the husband, who is usually up before dawn checking email.

l-shaped kitchen layout with island

You could agonize over the exact CMYK breakdown in your grout, or you could choose one that’s a reasonable shade of gray, order it online, and get on with it.

A white subway tile backsplash with dark gray grout and white quartz counters serve as a simple backdrop. The couple also used brass hardware to add a modern touch. They also planned to splurge on quality countertops, which are known for their durability. To afford this, the couple decided to pass on a highly-desired farmhouse sink for a more affordable stainless steel sink. Durability was a priority for the couple. “This kitchen was built to be used,” said the homeowner. With its greatly increased prep space and extended bar seating, we couldn’t agree more!

l-shaped kitchen layout with wood topped islandkitchen renovation, Brooklyn

Bonus: After hosting their first dinner party in the space, she received a thank-you from a friend who said, “I could spend all my days in that kitchen.” The hostess’ response: “And that’s exactly our plan.”

Style finds: Cabinets: Fabuwood. Brass cabinet hardware: Semihandmade. Subway tile: Home Depot. Statuario Maximus countertop: Caesarstone. Custom black walnut slabs (open shelves, island countertop, desktop): 3 Dot Design. Light pendants: AllModern.com. Refrigerator: LG. Dishwasher: Bosch. Profile microwave: GE. Profile range: GE. Faucet: Delta. Chair (at desk) and Slope counter stools: West Elm.

Read how to minimize the mess during a renovation and how to clean up after it’s completed.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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2020 Cost Guide for a Home Renovation in New Jersey https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/cost-guides/home-renovation-costs-new-jersey/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/cost-guides/home-renovation-costs-new-jersey/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2020 14:00:47 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=36718 A guide to house renovation costs for New Jersey in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus a basement budget and permit…

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A guide to house renovation costs for New Jersey in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus a basement budget and permit tips!)

New Jersey renovation costs

Nine million New Jerseyans live in the Garden State. And why not? There’s the option to live close to beaches, own a farm, or live the quintessential American suburban life. There’s also a convenient commute to New York City and Pennsylvania. According to the US Census, 64 percent of the houses are owned by the inhabitants, which means there are a lot of homes available for renovation.

First step: Setting a budget

If you’re embarking on a home renovation journey, your first stop will be creating a realistic budget so you can compare what you have to spend and what you might need to spend to get what you want. Each project will have a unique process and outcome with many variables—from your own taste in material and workmanship to changes in layout—that will move your cost meter up or down.

Luckily, Sweeten has done some of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to understanding house renovation costs for New Jersey. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Here’s a breakdown of typical starting house renovation costs in New Jersey, compiled from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report. Renovators in denser areas closer to New York City will likely see slightly higher budgets. 

  • Full home renovation: $100 per square foot (psf) and up
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: $20,000 to $25,000
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: starting at $30,000
  • High-end kitchen remodel: starting at $60,000
  • Low-end bathroom remodel: $15,000 to $20,000
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel: $685 psf or $24,000
  • High-end bathroom remodel and expansion: starting at $40,000
  • Basement remodel: starting at $20,000

But remember this: While it is great to have an idea of your end cost, a contractor will want a detailed conversation and inspection of your home before delivering a more specific estimate.

New Jersey home remodeling costs per square foot

New Jersey is a big state. In the northeastern part of the state, real estate prices are slightly lower than neighboring New York City. To the west are better-priced rural properties that helped give New Jersey the title of “Garden State” for its extensive agricultural industry. The same cost variations can occur when it comes to renovating your New Jersey home.

Most Sweeten projects generally start at $100 per square foot (psf) in New Jersey. Sweeten contractor Norm, who is based in Northern New Jersey, has seen gut renovations start at $200 psf and go up from there. This cost range also includes everything from architectural design and drawings to fixtures, demolition, expediting, construction—the whole project.

Easier logistics in New Jersey

There are fewer obstacles to a New Jersey renovation than, say, a place like New York City, according to Norm. New Jersey renovations do not normally come against parking and access issues or limited hours a co-op will allow for construction each day, like what happens over the Hudson. This can mean more efficient use of time, less hassle, and a smaller budget for clients in New Jersey.

House renovations can be lighter on the wallet, too. Houses typically have direct access, whereas apartments require contractors to take extra care (and time) to keep communal hallways and lobbies clean and clear. “All those things make a home renovation much less labor-intensive than an apartment,” said Norm.

New Jersey renovation costs

How much a New Jersey kitchen remodel costs per square foot

Lower-end budgets
  • Low-end kitchen: Sweeten kitchen remodels can start at $20,000 to $25,000 for under 100 square feet with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Home Depot.

New Jersey-based Sweeten contractor Gregory recently completed a kitchen in Monmouth County’s Fair Haven for under $25,000 at $100 psf. For flooring, he used a prefinished engineered floor lumber core with a real wood veneer on the top layer. This cost $2,500. The cabinets were purchased ready to install and a stone counter was paired with a stainless steel undermount sink, “which was quite cost-effective,” Gregory said. “A good budget number per square foot of floor space might be $100 to $150 psf for economical kitchens,” he added.

Joshua, a Sweeten contractor who does a lot of renovations in Monmouth and Ocean counties, recently redid a 160-square-foot kitchen for under $20,000. To stick within this economical budget, he used vinyl plank flooring, a basic subway tile backsplash, and premade cabinets that come in standard measurement options like 12, 15, and 21 inches. “You can make it pretty close with those measurements, but with custom, you can make it fit exactly to what the space is,” Joshua said.

New Jersey-based Sweeten contractor Bruno, whose clients include the high-end homeowners of North Bergen and those in better value areas like Middlesex, agreed that a kitchen renovation can start at under $20,000 for something basic (premade stock cabinets, basic appliances, etc.) and small (10’ x 10’ square feet).

Mid to high-end budgets
  • Mid-range kitchen: Sweeten has seen mid-range kitchens start at $30,000. Joshua puts a mid-range kitchen in a range up to $40,000. Instead of hitting up big-box stores like Home Depot, as you would for a lower-end kitchen, this price bracket allows you to shop in specialty stores for items like tiles or cabinets, Joshua said. Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report puts a typical mid-range kitchen renovation at $375 psf or $75,000 total as an average for Trenton, New Jersey’s capital.
  • High-end kitchen: Sweeten’s typical remodel starts at $60,000. The average cost for this level in Trenton, New Jersey, is $145,000 or $725 psf, according to Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report. The largest kitchen project Norm completed in New Jersey was more than $150,000. Pumping up the price were items such as a kitchen island with double-thick quartz and a waterfall edge, a Wolf range, reclaimed wood beams added to the ceiling, a wine fridge, and a very large square footage.

How much a New Jersey bathroom remodel costs per square foot

  • Low-end bathroom: Sweeten bathrooms can start at $15,000 to $20,000 for a 5’ x 8’ space with budget-friendly finishes.

Bathroom renovations can cost less if the majority of materials come from big-box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot for porcelain tiles, a molded sink, and a fiberglass shower. “The crux of the job is always similar in terms of what you have—a toilet, a shower, tiles, vanities—then you expand your budget with what finishes you use,” Joshua said.

  • Mid-range bathroom: A mid-range bathroom that covers about 35 square feet in New Jersey will cost on average $24,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report. This comes out at $685 psf and can include a recessed medicine cabinet, a standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain tub. Typically, the smaller the space, the higher the square foot cost.
  • High-end bathroom: Sweeten has seen high-end bathrooms start at $40,000. That same Cost Vs. Value report puts a high-end bathroom renovation at $75,000, based on a bathroom expanded from 35 square feet to 100 square feet (or $750 psf).

The budget of a recent bathroom that Norm worked on came to that $75,000 average. “It had it all—an oversized, walk-in steam shower with body sprays and frameless glass,” he said. There was custom carpentry and a freestanding tub, “which are very expensive,” Norm added. Then there is the less exciting but very important work of replacing the plumbing lines. 

Costs for a basement renovation in New Jersey

For a basement remodel in the New Jersey area, expect the starting cost to begin at $20,000. The Cost vs. Value report puts an average basement conversion in New Jersey at $117 psf. The example project cost $75,000 and was 20’ x 30’ with a 5’ x 8’ bathroom, shower, a bar area, insulation, and laminate flooring.

But there’s a lot to take into account that will impact the budget. Sometimes the floor needs to be dug deeper to raise the ceiling height. The walls could require underpinning. Electricity and plumbing might need to be installed if there is no existing bathroom. Installation and waterproofing can also be a significant cost if it is needed as well as pumps to drain out incoming water. Some clients just want new drywall, new doors, a new closet, and a paint job, which could put a project at around the $20,000 mark.

A premium basement could cost between $100,000 and $150,000, according to Sweeten contractor Norm. Clients tend to get creative with basements from custom bar areas to cinema-style entertainment rooms. “I’ve done a lot that are geared towards homeschooling with learning nooks built underneath stairs,” he said. “Or there’s been funky, retro-style laundries with dropdown racks that fall out of the walls.” 

Costs for permits in New Jersey

There’s a lot of good news for New Jersey renovators here. A few years ago, the state eliminated the need for projects to get a permit for minor work such as a bathroom renovation in which fixtures are being directly replaced (often referred to as “rip-and-replace”). 

“Doing direct replacement — replacing the toilet or oven, old for new — will keep your costs down,” said Norm. This means plumbing and gas lines can stay as is, which can be a huge expense saver. For trickier renovations that need permits, some Sweeten contractors suggest budgeting between 10 to 15 percent of the entire project’s cost for permits.

In New Jersey, permits are often handled by each town and will likely be tied to the budget you submit.

  • In the township of Teaneck in Bergen County, the first $50,000 in your renovation or repair budget will cost $30 per $1,000 for permits (so permits for that $20,000 kitchen you’re planning will be about $600). The next $50,000 in a budget will cost $24 per $1,000 of planned work and any amount over $100,000 will cost $22 per $1,000 of planned work.
  • In Morris Township, a permit will cost $33—$44 per $1,000 for the first $50,000 of the renovation budget and $27—$33 per $1,000 for the next $50,000 and $20—$28 per $1,000 for a project over $100,000.
  • For Toms River in Ocean County, the fee will be $39 per $50,000 of the estimated cost of work, add $25 for projects budgeted from $50,001—$100,000 and add $19 for projects costing over $100,000.

Hopefully, all of these facts and figures give you a jumping-off point to begin pulling together a budget. Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers you a downloadable roadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a renovation, including laying out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves,” so you can plan and get started off on the right foot.

Preparing your home for resale? Read up on the best remodeling projects to invest in to appeal to buyers.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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2020 Cost Guide for a Home Remodel in Houston https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/cost-guides/2020-cost-guide-for-a-home-remodel-in-houston/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/cost-guides/2020-cost-guide-for-a-home-remodel-in-houston/#respond Tue, 09 Jun 2020 14:54:19 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45161 Sweeten breaks down remodeling costs in Houston, including kitchen, bath, whole home, and outdoor spaces (plus patio and permit costs!) Whether you’ve…

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Sweeten breaks down remodeling costs in Houston, including kitchen, bath, whole home, and outdoor spaces (plus patio and permit costs!)

Houston remodeling costs

Whether you’ve got a bungalow in Houston Heights, a Craftsman cottage in Montrose, or an apartment in downtown, it’s time to make your Houston home your own. Sweeten‘s guide to remodeling costs in Houston provides a jumping-off point to get you on your way. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

One of the first steps to a renovation is creating a budget. To get an accurate number that is specific to what you want and the home you’re working with, a Sweeten contractor will want to sit down and discuss the details. 

Here’s a quick overview of budgets for popular renovation projects:

  • Gut renovation: starting at $80 – $100 per square foot (psf)
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: starting at $10,000 – $15,000
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: starting at $25,000 – $30,000
  • High-end kitchen remodel: starting at $40,000
  • Low-end bathroom remodel: starting at $8,000 – $15,000
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel: starting at $15,000 – $25,000
  • High-end bathroom remodel and expansion: starting at $30,000
  • Deck composite: $18,000 or $56 psf
  • Wood deck: $13,000 or $40 psf
How much a Houston remodel costs per square foot

Remodeling costs for a total gut renovation in Houston starts at $80 – $100 per square foot (psf) for a project that uses affordable finishes. This means materials such as laminate flooring and countertops, value-brand appliances, and basic tiles from big box stores like Home Depot. 

Although a gut renovation is a big project, consider doing it all at once to get the best bang for your buck. It’s also going to get you your dream home much quicker than renovating room by room. The bigger your project, the less per square foot it will cost. 

How much a Houston kitchen remodel costs per square foot
  • A low-range kitchen remodel can start at $10,000 – $15,000. At this budget, the project would be a rip-and-replace job—plumbing and electrical remain where there are with no layout changes. The finishes such as tile, appliances, and cabinets would be budget-friendly from a big-box retailer.
  • A mid-range kitchen remodel in Houston has costs starting at $25,000 – $30,000. What does a mid-range kitchen look like at this starting cost? The key is keeping your layout the same. This means replacing your oven and dishwasher without moving their location so plumbing and gas lines can stay as is.

You can get a stainless steel sink with single-lever faucet, laminate countertops, a built-in microwave, value-brand appliances, custom lighting, and semi-custom cabinets. An island could also be added. Moving plumbing, gas, and electrical, reconfiguring the layout, or choosing custom features will increase the budget.

  • For an upscale kitchen, labor costs and a refresh with select high-end materials such as marble or quartz countertops, imported backsplash tile, and high-quality fixtures start at $40,000. The costs increase from there with custom features, new cabinets and appliances, and reconfiguring the layout.

chart of remodeling costs in Houston

How much a Houston bathroom remodel costs per square foot
  • At the low-end, expect a rip-and-replace bathroom with no behind-the-wall surprises to start at $8,000 – $15,000. The layout will remain the same where plumbing doesn’t move. This budget won’t include any issues like leaks or mold discovered once the project begins. Materials will include a prefabricated vanity, ceramic tile, and fixtures from big-box stores.
  • In the Houston area, a mid-range bathroom can start at $15,000 – $25,000. The average cost of a mid-range bathroom remodel is about $19,000 or $542 psf, according to Remodeling‘s Cost Vs Value report. Like kitchens, the key to a budget in this range is sticking to the same layout. This avoids costly and time-consuming plumbing work.

This budget is for a 35-square-foot bathroom with a new porcelain-on-steel bathtub, ceramic tiles, and a recessed medicine cabinet with built-in lighting. A renovation of this level can add almost $12,000 to a home’s value, recouping close to 60 percent of the project’s cost.

  • For a high-end bathroom remodel and expansion, the cost can start at $30,000. This budget includes a three-piece bathroom (tub/shower combo, toilet, and sink) for a typical 5’ x 7’ space. The cost increases with features including a double vanity, creating a separate shower from the tub, specialty tile, a custom vanity, or a toilet with additional functions.
Costs for adding outdoor space

Houston is a great city for year-round outside entertaining. Crisp winter nights can be spent by the fire pit. Humid summer afternoons can be paired with a cold drink on the patio. An outdoor area is a project to really let your creative juices flow. There are endless options to make your outdoor area your own with extensive outdoor kitchens, gas fireplaces, fans and misting systems for cooling, custom lighting, and landscaping. 

You can also stick with something simple that has a restrained budget. A basic wooden deck will likely cost $40 psf or $13,000 for something in the 320 square foot range. A deck made from composite, a mix of wood product and plastic, will cost around $18,000 for the same size or $56 psf. This material tends to last longer with less maintenance. 

Other remodeling costs in Houston: Permits

The cost of building permits varies from place to place. There are nine counties that make up the city of Houston. Each one has its own building permit system and fees. 

For example, in Harris County, most residential renovations attract a $130 fee. The minimum fee in Montgomery County is $15 plus $.30 per square foot of your renovating project. Depending on your remodel, there could also be a plan review fee (half the initial permit fee), a plumbing permit ($100), and a mechanical permit fee ($100). 

Enjoy making your Houston home your own. Understand the costs and find the right renovation team to bring your vision to life. Post your project on Sweeten and you’ll be one step closer to your home sweet home. 

Six steps on how to start your renovation and finding the right general contractor for your scope.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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A Duplex Loft Elevates to a Charming Rental https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/a-duplex-loft-elevates-to-a-charming-rental/ https://blog.sweeten.com/nyc/a-duplex-loft-elevates-to-a-charming-rental/#respond Thu, 04 Jun 2020 14:48:27 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=44278 Walls go up in a sleek upgrade to a Williamsburg rental property Appealing to the ideal renter Originally when entrepreneur, we will…

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Walls go up in a sleek upgrade to a Williamsburg rental property
rental property updates to Williamsburg loft

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Appealing to the ideal renter

Originally when entrepreneur, we will call him AC, bought his apartment,  he intended to live there himself. However, after a few months, he decided it would make an even better investment property as a rental. To make it more renter-friendly, he wanted to enclose the upstairs loft. Doing so would convert the apartment into a two-bedroom —opening it up to a whole new market. He also wanted the design of the space to reflect the neighborhood vibe and attract young professionals with a modern aesthetic and lifestyle. To take on this rental property upgrade, he needed a professional for the renovation.

Finding the renovation team

AC posted his project on Sweeten and hired this general contractor. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

“The contractor I found through Sweeten was great because he was very flexible with the changes to the scope of the work,” says AC. “Plus, the Sweeten team was accommodating and always on top of looking after my project.”

 

Choosing the finishes

To appeal to young professionals, AC chose on-trend luxe materials and finishes. He put in brass hardware that pops against the deep-blue kitchen cabinets. The cabinets weren’t originally this color, but AC knew that simply painting this rich hue would drastically change the look of the space. He was right. It went from drab to sophisticated.

He also made other smart paint choices. He brought the stair railing up-to-date with a new coat of paint and gave one of the bedrooms a masculine dark-blue accent wall. The bathroom was refreshed as well, adding interest with gray walls instead of plain white. 

upgraded bathroom sink in rental property

Creating a second bedroom

A lot of the renovation was more behind-the-scenes. The newly-enclosed bedroom required the electrical to be rewired and recessed lighting was added. They also changed the narrow hallway into a more useful space by configuring it as a small office area. 

AC’s advice to those thinking of renovation? “Just to be realistic,” he says. “With little changes, you can make a big impact.”

Thank you, AC, for sharing the results of your rental property upgrade.

Style Finds: Paint: Farrow & Ball. Kitchen hardware: CB2.

Check out another inspiring loft renovation.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Fridge Paneling: 8 Refrigerators in Disguise https://blog.sweeten.com/gallery/reno-notebook/wheres-the-fridge-6-kitchens-with-custom-refrigerator-paneling/ https://blog.sweeten.com/gallery/reno-notebook/wheres-the-fridge-6-kitchens-with-custom-refrigerator-paneling/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2020 15:00:12 +0000 https://blog-v2.sweeten.com/?p=22884 Let your fridge blend neatly into its surroundings with these paneling ideas One of the first things you notice in a kitchen…

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Let your fridge blend neatly into its surroundings with these paneling ideas

One of the first things you notice in a kitchen is the refrigerator. It is big and usually holds souvenir magnets, wedding invitations, or to-do lists. With more homes featuring open-plan layouts, its size and boxy shape interfere with the visual harmony. Paneling and built-ins can help hide a fridge door and integrate it into cabinetry, unifying the look of the entire kitchen.

The homeowners below lassoed their oh-so-necessary refrigerator into functional design statements with their general contractors from Sweeten. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A custom touch for a fridge

For their East Hampton kitchen, homeowners Jennifer and Alex wanted to keep the redesign simple but inviting. They chose to add a large island for entertaining and splurged on a wine fridge and quartz countertops. To make the design more modern, they decided to install an integrated refrigerator, which streamlined the look of the cabinetry.

refrigerator paneling

A repurposed structure

When Ainsley and Simon’s architect discovered that the column in the kitchen was merely decorative, they came up with a plan to tuck the refrigerator inside of it and add custom panels. “You don’t look at it and think it is a fridge at all,” Ainsley said.

refrigerator paneling to hide fridge door

A seamless built-in

Lauren’s front door led directly into the kitchen. She had to choose between a traditional entryway or a hybrid space that would add square footage to the kitchen.  She chose the latter and added a seamless wall of cabinetry with a refrigerator and pantry—plus, a coat closet.
kitchen storage and integrated refrigerator

A wall of closets

To improve the flow between their living and kitchen space, Tara and Brian’s contractor came up with an idea to move the refrigerator to a wall already outfitted with closets. Now the refrigerator fits right in with the cabinetry instead of jutting out in the main cooking space.

refrigerator paneling

A fridge in disguise

Casey and Kumar’s apartment is full of clever storage solutions to maximize their limited space. The kitchen is one such example thanks to creative built-ins, which also hide the fridge door. Custom cabinetry covers the refrigerator along with a neighboring pantry, and the whole unit conceals a structural column.

wooden cabinets to hide fridge door

Closet-turn-fridge spot

Scandinavian chic was the look that homeowners Roxana and Gabriel were going for in their Long Island City loft.  They turned to a Sweeten contractor who was able to update their space to match their minimalistic style. The refrigerator, which moved from the main kitchen area into what was formerly a coat closet proved to be one of the biggest challenges. They had to find the right size appliance and custom cut the Ikea panels to fit.  

Panels unify the kitchen

Creating an open concept living arrangement was the biggest goal for this Manhattan couple. They took down the dividing wall between the kitchen and family room and replaced it with a custom unit with storage on both sides. It was really important to the couple that they fit a fully integrated Sub-Zero refrigerator and other standard-sized appliances. “They [general contractor team] worked with me through a few kitchen iterations until we found a great open layout that permitted full-size appliances,” the homeowner shared.

A puzzle of panels

Less like appliances, more like furniture—that was Sally’s directive for her kitchen renovation. Her contractor built out a wall of cabinets covering the refrigerator, a pantry, and added narrow units designed to hold brooms and mops, too. 

Set your calendar. Here’s how long an average kitchen renovation will take.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration, and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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Renovating Your Home for Resale in Atlanta https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/renovating-your-home-for-resale-in-atlanta/ https://blog.sweeten.com/renovation-101/renovating-your-home-for-resale-in-atlanta/#respond Tue, 02 Jun 2020 12:51:14 +0000 https://blog.sweeten.com/?p=45177 The best Atlanta home improvements for resale, from new garage doors to a light kitchen or bath refresh (Above) Renovation in Roswell,…

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The best Atlanta home improvements for resale, from new garage doors to a light kitchen or bath refresh

atlanta renovate for resale(Above) Renovation in Roswell, Georgia by Sweeten contractor Justin

The Atlanta housing market is humming. The value of homes increased by over seven percent in 2019, according to data from Redfin. It’s one of those American city’s that is revitalizing with the fourth-fastest growth rate in the nation. As a result, Atlanta homeowners are increasingly planning for home improvements. 

If you’re thinking of prepping your house for sale, Sweeten outlines the top home improvements for the Atlanta market to get the best price and sell quickly. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Sometimes renovations aren’t always about what you want but what the homeowner who comes after you might want. A good idea is to take a look at the style of spec homes. “They try to use elements that have a large appeal,” said Sweeten contractor Lonny, who is based in Atlanta. When looking at the styles around Atlanta for your home improvements, sticking with what’s popular is best for resale rather than involving your unique preferences. “There might be hundreds of choices for faucets, but 95 percent of people might go with three styles,” said Lonny. 

Renovation projects to consider: 

1. Change out the front door

First impressions endure when selling your home. “It is crucial that your entranceway is well kept,” said Lonny. Sprucing up the front of your home could be as simple as adding a new front door. For one client, Lonny swapped out a plain door for a craftsman-style door along with matching shutters. “It really set the house apart,” he said. 

2. A fresh coat of paint 

Atlanta-based Sweeten contractor Justin advises homeowners to think like makeup artists when accessing the front of their home ahead of a sale. “You’re not going to attract buyers if the windows are fogged up and the paint is chipping,” he said. Ensuring your house is clean and your paint fresh will go a long way in getting the best price, Justin said. 

3. Replace the garage door

Along with your actual front door, replacing your garage door is a quick and easy fix to improve your home’s value. A garage door replacement costs $3,663 on average for the Atlanta area, according to Remodeling‘s Cost Vs Value report. Your home’s value is increased by more than 76 percent of that cost. 

4. Invest in siding

Lonny often gets calls about siding replacement from homeowners who are planning to sell their home. New siding is a great investment, according to the 2020 Cost Vs Value report for Atlanta. A project that installs fiber-cement siding costs an average of $17,000. Over $13,000 or 78 percent of the project’s cost is returned to you in the value that it adds to the home. That’s one of the highest returns on investment of any renovation project, according to the report. 

5. Basement as living space

The basement is the first thing Justin looks at if a client is planning to resell their home. An unfinished basement has the potential to significantly increase the square footage of your home. “Finishing your basement is going to yield the largest return on your investment,” said Justin. 

Other alterations, such as a kitchen or bathroom remodel, are helpful, but they don’t add to the size of your home like a basement can. The square footage of your home and its price per square foot will feature prominently in your home’s sale listing. Depending on how many floors you have, a finished basement could almost double that square foot measurement.

A full basement renovation that includes budget-friendly floors, paint, lighting, and a half bath can start at $20,000. “On the conservative side for finishes, a turn-key basement will cost around $50-65 per square foot to finish out,” said Justin. “This includes a small kitchen area and basement bathroom if all the rough-in plumbing is already installed.”

According to the Cost Vs Value report, the average cost of a basement remodel in Atlanta was $70,000. This increases a home’s value by $46,000 or more than 65 percent of the renovation’s cost, the report found.

6. The bathroom adds value

Giving your bathroom a makeover is an easy route to a higher house price. Recently, a real estate agent contacted Lonny with a house about to go on the market. To increase its value ahead of the sale, Lonny completed a modified gut renovation in the bathroom. “This was something that was needed because it was dated from the 1980s,” said Lonny. The customer had everything replaced except the cabinetry. The budget was about $20,000. A bathroom remodel in this budget range adds almost $13,000 —65 percent of the budget— to your home’s value, according to the Cost Vs Value report for Atlanta. 

If you don’t have the time for a major remodel, then simple superficial changes might be a better option. This could mean swapping outdated fixtures like faucets for something more modern, said Lonny. A new countertop on your vanity could also spruce up your bathroom with minimum effort.  

7. A streamlined kitchen refresh

Kitchens are the gathering place, a focal point for any home. A kitchen could also make or break your home’s value, according to Justin. Rather than doing a full renovation that involves the costly exercise of changing a layout, stick to a scaled-back renovation. “A new countertop, backsplash, and faucet can go along way,” said Lonny. “If there’s the budget for it then I also suggest lighting and flooring.”

Cabinets, especially if they are custom-built, can take up a huge chunk of a budget. For a renovation that is geared towards increasing value, Lonny advised keeping cabinets as is. That way the budget and timeline can be streamlined. 

A minor kitchen remodel with a budget of $23,000 has a high return on investment of 73 percent, according to the Cost Vs Value report. A minor kitchen remodel in this instance involves replacing only the front of your cabinets, sink, faucet and countertops while adding an energy-efficient cooktop, oven, and refrigerator.

Give your home a fresh and neutral slate. Curb appeal gets the potential buyer to enter the door. A conservative palette inside allows them to more easily see how they can make the home their own. Take these home improvement ideas into consideration and be one step closer to closing the deal.

Here’s the renovation cost guide for Atlanta for purchasing a new home or updating an existing one.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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