Month: June 2020

Get the Best of Both Worlds – Bathtub and Walk In Shower, All the Tips 

Get the Best of Both Worlds – Bathtub and Walk In Shower, All the Tips 

Get the Best of Both Worlds – Bathtub Or Walk In Shower, All the Tips – The walk in shower is something that is starting to grow in the interior design enthusiasts hears! Some people think that this shower design is that old stand-alone shower that is placed where a bespoke bathtub couldn’t fit… However, they couldn’t be more mistaken and the Maison Valentina team is going to let you know why!

Continue reading Get the Best of Both Worlds – Bathtub and Walk In Shower, All the Tips  at Maison Valentina Blog.

A 1919 Colonial House Finds Renewal in Soft Tones

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 power 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.

The post A 1919 Colonial House Finds Renewal in Soft Tones appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

Remodeling a Garage into Living Space in Nashville

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.

The post Remodeling a Garage into Living Space in Nashville appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

Save Money While Remodeling: Avoid Order & Delivery Hiccups

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.

The post Save Money While Remodeling: Avoid Order & Delivery Hiccups appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

Modern Bathrooms – The How-to Guide to Transform Your Bath Space

Modern Bathrooms – The How-to Guide to Transform Your Bath Space

Modern Style furnishings and decor celebrate natural materials, neutral or earthy colours, the elimination of unnecessary detailing, natural light and materials such as unpainted wood, metals, leather and natural fibres.

In collaboration with our partner brand Brabbu, we have prepared a whole e-book with multiple ideas and inspirations on bathroom design, with a special focus on Modern Bathrooms Style. Download our e-book and discover the best products and compliments for your bathroom!

Continue reading Modern Bathrooms – The How-to Guide to Transform Your Bath Space at Maison Valentina Blog.

New E-book Page : Get Exclusive Access to Bathroom Design Go-to Resources

New E-book Page : Get Exclusive Access to Bathroom Design Go-to Resources

New E-book Page : Get Exclusive Access to Bathroom Design Go-to Resources – Looking for inspiration for your bathroom remodel? Do you have a special project in hands and need a top-notch idea? Browse our new e-book page and all the resources we have prepared for you – and best of all, get it for free!

Embark in this quest and create your bathroom with products that fit your personality and that above all, raise your well-being. 

Continue reading New E-book Page : Get Exclusive Access to Bathroom Design Go-to Resources at Maison Valentina Blog.

Support Black-Owned General Contractor Companies | Sweeten

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.

The post Support Black-Owned General Contractor Companies | Sweeten appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

How to Prepare Your Home for Extreme Heat in Dallas

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.

The post How to Prepare Your Home for Extreme Heat in Dallas appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

A New Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout + Island

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.

The post A New Kitchen Dazzles With an L-Shaped Layout + Island appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

2020 Cost Guide for a Home Renovation in New Jersey

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.

The post 2020 Cost Guide for a Home Renovation in New Jersey appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

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