How to Purchase/Lease Solar Panels for My Home

When deciding on going solar there are many different options and scenarios you need to understand before making any final decisions. Therefore, learning all you can about how solar contracts work, as well as their associated issues, will help you make an educated decision about which solar option is best for your particular situation. If you don’t, you could end up making a long-term commitment that doesn’t fit with your long-term goals costing you a significant amount of money in the long run.

Here are the different areas of the solar arena you need to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Solar Company Warranties

There are three common types of warranties that might be offered with a solar PV system.

1. Product Warranty

The product warranty covers the panels and some of the other components of your system. Most manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty on their panels which means if anything happens to them, the affected part(s) will be replaced at no charge.  However, most solar panels will last much longer, even as many as 40+ years.  One caveat to this is the inverter and other power optimizers which generally carry a shorter warranty period. For lower grade inverters, the warranty is generally about two years. And for higher grade inverters the warranty is usually between 10-15 years.

2. Workmanship Warranty

The workmanship warranty covers any labor and installation related issues. Workmanship warranties will vary greatly depending on the company. However, most workmanship warranties will range between two and ten years with 10 years being the most common.

3. Performance Warranty

A performance warranty is for the solar panels energy production, which is based on an average number of years. For example,  a common performance warranty will generally guarantee 90% production for 10 years, and 80% production for 25 years. All solar panels lose a small amount of production each year, so this is not uncommon.

Solar Payment Options

Understanding the different types of solar payment options and their associated contracts is one of the most important aspects of deciding on which one is right for you. Therefore, you should spend a significant amount of time learning about your options before making any decisions. And always make sure every detail discussed is clearly written in your contract.

Outright Purchase, Finance Option or Energy Efficient Mortgage

An outright purchase is a solar PV system you pay for with cash or via a home equity loan, etc. and is always your best bet. However, if you don’t want to go that route, a third-party solar loan is another option to consider. Many solar companies work with preferred lenders who are familiar with the green energy sector and are willing to offer financing for such services. However, some solar companies don’t, in which case you would have to acquire your own financing. Or, you could check into getting an energy efficient mortgage to finance your solar panels.

Solar Lease or Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s)

Solar leases and PPA’s are very similar. These work much like renting anything else. The solar company owns the equipment and you rent it to receive the monthly benefits which amount to a reduced utility rate. These are very popular because oftentimes they don’t require any money down and there are no associated upkeep or maintenance costs.

A word of caution though, opting for a solar lease is something you need to thoroughly understand before deciding on which route to go. Many people have been duped into a solar lease because they didn’t really understand what they were getting into. So please take heed and do your homework prior to signing a contract. However, with that being said, a solar lease/PPA is the perfect option for some, so please don’t take this warning as a non-recommendation for choosing a solar lease.

  • Solar Lease. With a solar lease, you will receive a fixed monthly rate (rent) or lease payment. This rate is based on the estimated amount of electricity your system is anticipated to produce in exchange for using the solar company’s system.
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). A power purchase agreement is slightly different from a lease because instead of paying to rent/lease the PV system, instead, you agree to purchase the power that’s generated by the solar company’s system based on a set per-kWh price.

Important Factors Regarding a Lease/PPA Option

Most lease/PPA options don’t require any money down, have no installation costs and don’t require the homeowner to perform any maintenance. Therefore, you can’t have a solar PV system installed and start saving immediately. Additionally, when you choose a lease/PPA option the company who installed the system is the one who retains all incentives and rebates. This is how they are able to offer you a system at no cost.

Solar energy rates can be between 20-30% lower than traditional utility electricity costs. However, the price paid for solar electricity generally increases annually at a pre-determined rate; therefore, you’ll have to factor this into your savings equation while making sure this pre-determined rate is clearly stated in your contract.

In some leases, if you put money down, usually between $1,000 and $3,000 you will receive a lower monthly payment, a lower per kWh, and avoid any annual increases.  Additionally, at the end of the lease, which is usually either 20 or 25 years, you could be offered the option of extending your contract or having the panels removed at no cost to you.

Tax Credits and Rebates

The tax credits and rebates on solar PV systems vary significantly from state to state with some states not offering much of anything at all for installing a solar PV system on your home. However, in several states, the tax credits and rebates are so significant that they will, in many cases, pay for the majority of your system making it much more affordable than you might think. Therefore, you will need to check into what the state incentives are for any given state for more details. However, California has some very generous solar incentives available.

Solar_panels

Other Things to Consider

Here are a few more things to consider when trying to decide whether or not a solar PV system is right for you.

Solar Equipment Monitoring

Most solar PV systems come with one or more monitoring options. Online monitoring is the preferred option as it allows you and the solar company to monitor your system’s energy production and usage online from your Smartphone, tablet or PC. But not all solar companies offer both production and usage monitoring options; therefore, you will need to confirm this with your chosen solar company.

System monitoring is also important in the event of any malfunctions because if there is any type of error, the solar company will be notified immediately and be able to repair the problem before you lose too much money and energy savings due to long periods of downtime. The only issue with monitoring is who pays for it. Therefore, be sure you inquire about who pays for the monitoring before you make any final decisions.

Moving Options and Issues

It’s important to find out who pays the moving costs should you need to have your panels moved to replace your roof. Not all solar companies offer this service. If they don’t, you’ll have to find a qualified electrician or builder who is experienced in moving solar panels. And, in this case, if any of the panels are damaged during the move, they will generally not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

Are the Warranties Transferable?

You should always ask the solar company you’ve chosen if their warranties are transferable to the new owner should you decide to sell your home. Just keep in mind the new owner will have to qualify for that solar system just like you did.

Damages

Another issue you should get in writing is who pays for any damages done to your roof, home and/or property during installation should they occur. Especially if the solar company doesn’t use an in-house technician and/or roofer to assist with the install.

Solar Contractors

When signing (up to) a 25-year contract, you want to make sure the solar contractor you’ve chosen will be around long enough to honor their warranty and to handle any repairs, etc. Therefore, you should inquire about how long they’ve been in business and check their Better Business Bureau rating. This will give you a sense of their reputability and how they handle any customer service or repair issues. Additionally, many solar installers are certified, and the company accredited, by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) which is helpful, but not a requirement.

For more tips on improving your home’s energy efficiency, check out the Green Living section on our blog.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar Energy for Your Home

Seems like everyone’s going green these days… and with good reason! If you’ve noticed more homes sporting those shiny solar panels on the roof, you’re not alone: solar energy is growing in popularity year over year, with installations increasing exponentially over the past decade. Along with rising popularity comes falling prices for consumers. Since 2010, the cost of solar panels has decreased more than 60 percent, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Given solar’s popularity among homeowners, you may think you already know all there is to know about this increasingly prevalent renewable energy source. Here are six facts you might not realize about solar energy for your home.

1. Solar Energy is the Earth’s Most Abundant Energy Source

At any given time, about 173,000 terawatts of solar energy are striking the planet’s surface. That’s enough energy to power the entire world 10,000 times over, all striking the Earth continuously! Put another way, enough solar energy shines on the Earth in 40 minutes to meet the entire world’s power needs for a year. (One full day of solar energy would power every city on the planet for almost 30 years!)

To put it in perspective, Hoover Dam generates about two gigawatts of hydro-electric power, enough to provide energy to more than 350,000 homes. New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, also a two gigawatt plant, generates enough power for 1.4 million homes. In contrast, one single terawatt consists of 1,000 megawatts…. that’s a lot of energy.

2. Solar Energy Cells Date Back More than Half a Century

Though most of us tend to think of solar power as a relatively new technology, the first solar cell was actually invented in 1954. Built by Bell Laboratories, the first solar cell was made of silicon and was hailed as the harbinger of a new era in energy. The space industry was among the first to take advantage of solar cell technology, using the sun to generate energy aboard spacecraft. The oldest satellite still in orbit, launched in 1958, uses solar cell technology and has logged more than six billion miles during its long trek around our planet. Vanguard I remains a testament to the long-lasting, renewable power of solar.

3. California is Home to the World’s Largest Solar Power Plant

The biggest solar thermal energy plant on Earth is found in California’s Mojave Desert. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Facility employs more than 173,000 mirrored panels to generate 377 megawatts of power. Each year, Ivanpah generates electricity for 140,000 California homes, reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tons.

4. Demand for Solar Power is Strong… and Growing

According to the Department of Energy, the demand for solar power in homes has never been stronger… and it continues to increase. In 2008, about 1.2 gigawatts of power used in American homes came from solar energy. At the end of 2015, that amount had ballooned to 27 gigawatts, a.k.a. a 23-fold increase. That means about 5.4 million homes across the country are powered by solar, making the United States the third-largest solar power market in the world.

5. Solar Prices Continue to Drop

Demand for solar powered homes may be growing, but prices are dropping. The Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) reports that cost for residential solar installation has dropped more than 60 percent over the past decade, including a 29 percent drop from 2015 to 2016 alone. In large part, price drops are due to the availability of less expensive hardware. As residential solar power continues to experience high demand, many predict that prices will continue to fall.

6. Solar is Growing More Affordable

California leads the way when it comes to solar power. According to the SEIA, the Golden State has, by far, the largest capacity for solar power access in the country. Programs such as incentives and tax rebates make solar more affordable, while financing and lease options can make solar more accessible. The energy savings from solar generally pay for themselves within just a few years. Further, solar panels may increase the resale value of homes.

7. Homeowners Enjoy More Solar Options than Ever

You may be surprised to learn how many appliances and other home products have gone solar. From the grill in your backyard to the burbling fountain on your patio, solar powered devices offer a sustainable option. New sun-powered products include stepping stones to light your outdoor paths, security lights, attic fans to further cut down on A/C bills, pool heaters for summer fun, water heaters and even outdoor speakers.

Innovative ways to collect and store solar energy are on the market, as well. If you’re not keen on the idea of solar panels on your roof, consider using flexible film modules. These thin sheets offer easy peel-and-stick installation and weigh significantly less than traditional panels. For shingled roofs, solar shingles offer an attractive, high-tech solution.

As a renewable, sustainable energy source, solar is a win-win for homeowners. To learn more about how solar can work for you, contact the experts at Glasshouse.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace My Home’s Windows?

If you own a home, you know that repairs and replacements are part of the equation. And since a home is one of the biggest investments many people will make in their lifetime, it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to a home’s repairs and replacements. That means having a well thought out preventive home maintenance plan in place. And, being a homeowner who performs enough research into their home’s functions so they can properly identify the signs of wear and tear and contact a professional for a probable replacement when needed, and that includes the windows.

How Long Do Windows Last?

The average lifespan of a window will vary depending on the quality and components used. However, most windows will last between 10 and 20 years, but cheap windows that sell for $150 to $200 might only last for three to five years. Additionally, some manufacturers claim their windows will last for 50 years to a lifetime. However, many of those manufacturers don’t provide any documentation to back up their claims. Therefore, you should always perform your own due diligence before making any final decisions about your window purchase.

Six Signs Your Windows Need to Be Replaced

Sometimes how well your windows are performing is not readily apparent. Therefore, there are some red flags you can look for that will help determine whether or not your windows need to be replaced.

  • Your windows are drafty.
  • You have single pane windows (they don’t have an insulating layer of gas between two panes which makes them less efficient).
  • Cracked or warped frames, especially on wood windows.
  • Inoperable windows or cracked glass.
  • Broken seals (you will see fog or condensation which indicates your windows have lost their insulating properties).
  • Increased utility bills.

The Benefits of Replacing Your Windows

There are plenty of benefits that come with replacing your windows. With energy-efficient windows, you will enjoy substantially lower heating and cooling costs, regardless of the climate where you live. New windows will also provide you with improved comfort levels in your home due to eliminating drafts, reducing direct sunlight and the ability new windows have for maintaining the temperature level in a room.

Additionally, new windows that have been properly installed will eliminate frost, condensation, and the impact that fluctuating temperatures and humidity have on your home. You will also experience the increased light new windows provide, as well as reduced fading on your carpet, furniture, and other decor.

Different Window Options From Which to Choose

Since there are so many different window options from which to choose, it’s best to determine what your particular needs are before you begin your search. Do you need lots of natural light? Do you want a traditional or a more modern style window, etc? Once you’ve determined your needs, you have plenty of window options to choose from such as:

  • Double-hung windows (least energy efficient windows on the market).
  • Casement windows (best for light and air entrance).
  • Awning windows (best for maximum light and privacy).
  • Picture windows (best for bathroom type settings).
  • Transom windows (these are commonly used over a door and are often segmented).
  • Slider windows (best for framing a view or to brighten a room).
  • Bay or bow windows (best for allowing light to enter from different angles).
  • Jalousie windows (these are inexpensive and best for warm weather areas).
  • Hopper windows (these are most commonly used for basements).

The Average Cost of Replacing Your Windows

The average cost to replace your windows is between $600 and $1000 per window if you opt for a quality window. However, this amount can vary depending on the type and style of materials used, and your local installation costs for the labor.

Other Things to Consider

1. Window Company Reputation

Before making any final hiring decisions make sure you thoroughly research the reputation of any given company prior to signing the contract.

2. Warranty Fine Print

You should also read the fine print for any warranties being offered. Many window companies offer a so-called “Lifetime Warranty,” which is misleading because “lifetime” in the fine print often states that it’s for the lifetime of the window, not the homeowner. Therefore, this type of warranty is oftentimes misleading.

3. Frame Choice

Another thing to watch out for is your choice of frames. There are a wide variety of frames on the market and sometimes the frames that a window company will recommend is the one that’s best for their bottom line, not yours. Unfortunately, to go into all the different types of available frames is outside the scope of this article. However, there are pros and cons of each type of frame, so make sure you have all the facts before you decide on which type of frame is best for your particular situation.

4. Energy Efficiency and U-Factor

Energy efficiency is another area to pay close attention to if you want to get the best performance possible out of your windows. The first thing to look for is the Energy Star label, but keep in mind that just because it has an Energy Star label, doesn’t necessarily mean that window meets the .30/.30 requirement to qualify for a tax credit. And, the .30 is just a minimum requirement so you might be better served to look for a window with a lower U-factor than the .30 needed to qualify for a tax credit. The lower the U-factor, the more energy-efficient the window will be. The U-factor of a window can be quickly checked on the NFRC website.

The Bottom Line

The best thing you can do as a homeowner is to take the time to educate yourself about proactive ways to maintain your home. This will help you make more informed decisions about what you actually need, don’t need, and how you should proceed when an issue arises, now and going forward.

4 Ways Plants Can Destroy Your Home

Believe it or not, some plants cause damage to your home. The damage that they cause might not look too serious, but to repair it can cost thousands of dollars. This article discusses four ways that plants can damage homes and buildings.

1. Loosen Bricks and Destroy Siding

Climbing plants might look beautiful growing on the side of house or outbuilding, but beware, as some climbing plants are known to cause damage. In the hot seat are vines such as grapes, English ivy, common Ivy, Wisteria, and Bougainvillea.

These plants cause damage in a variety of ways:

Plants like grapes and ivy use small roots or tendrils to cling to surfaces. When these plants are young, they are very flexible, and they use their stem roots or tendrils to cling to vertical surfaces. That is not such a problem in the beginning, but over time, they grow and require more stability. Their stem roots and tendrils force their way into tight crevices causing brick and brick mortar to become loose, and in some situations, they can displace bricks.

2. Destroy Wood

On wooden surfaces, the vines snake under siding and into the walls of a building as a means of grasping onto the vertical surface. They can poke through to the inside causing damage to the inside of the house, and they can begin to feed on the wood siding and structural supports. Over the long-term, this can cause structural weaknesses in the building and create a place where water can infiltrate the walls.

3. Water Damage

As vines grow, they can lift boards and siding away from the wall supports and, if tall enough, from the roof too. Vines that are not controlled can break gutter systems, lift flashing, and distort roof tiles causing an opening where water can seep or leak into your home. The same is true when a vine lifts the siding away from the wall. That gap allows water to seep into the wall and then into the interior of the house where it can cause rotting, mold, mildew, and weaken support structures.

Common vines include:

  • English Ivy
  • Common Ivy
  • Bouganvillea
  • Wisteria
  • Grapes
  • Honeysuckle
  • Ficus
  • Jasmine
  • Climbing Roses
  • Virginia Creeper

In fact, there are many plants that climb. While climbing plants are beautiful, they are best kept away from homes and outbuildings. Place them in planters and let them grow up a trellis, pergola, arbor or gazebo.

4. Plants that Damage Foundations

When it comes to foundation damage, the culprit is usually tree roots. However, some plants like alkaline soil and will grow towards a foundation causing damage.

Trees such as Oak, Willow, and Poplar are trees that people love to plant near their homes and why not, they are great shade trees. The problem is that their root structure is close to the surface and spreads out at the same soil-height as your foundation. If you have a basement, tree roots will infiltrate the foundation and cause damage both in the foundations and secondarily from water infiltration.

Mimosa, Ginkgo, and elms spread by sending up suckers or runners. Those runners are an underground reproductive system, and if they are not removed, the new trees will destroy your home’s foundation.

Other plants to be wary of around your home include mosses. They secrete a chemical that can consume concrete. Mosses are not alone in this oddity; they are joined by algae and lichen too. These plants will eat your foundation, stone roofing, and happily, multiply.

Want to learn more about how plants damage your home? Maybe you want to do something about the plants around your home that might be causing damage? If so, just reach out to us with your questions or concerns.

How to Free Up Space in Your Garage

For some people, their garage ends up being a dumping ground for unwanted or unused items. And for others, it’s a place that’s desperately needed for storage, but a little assistance is required when it comes to organizing it in a functionally user-friendly way. Organizing your garage doesn’t have to be hard nor does it have to be a 100% DIY project. There are plenty of things you can easily do yourself in an effort to organize your garage, but don’t feel as if you have to do everything yourself.

How to Begin Organizing Your Garage

Before you begin, take some time to walk through your garage and think about what you have and how you want the end result to function. It’s best to either have a written organizational plan or a vision of where you want things to go based on how often each item is used and how it will be stored. Then you should divide your available space into zones for a more systematic means of organizing your things.

DIY Tips for Decluttering Your Garage

The easiest way to begin decluttering your garage is to set up a staging area. You can easily do this by creating zones for your staging area just like you did for your initial plan. Your zones can be set up in the middle of your garage, the driveway, your yard, or any other nearby area where you can systematically pile your things into groups before putting them into their permanent zone in your garage. The reason for this is that you might have one box full of things that should be stored in different zones based on how often you use them (like seasonal decorations, sporting equipment, etc.).

1. Assign your zones. For example, trash should go directly into a trash can, dumpster, Bagster, etc. so you only have to handle it once. You should make every effort to donate or throw away as many things as possible. This will make it easier to organize the things you do need in the most user- friendly way. Your other temporary zones could include a space for each member of your family, seasonal decorations, summer, winter, paint related items, dog stuff, etc.

You will probably also have a variety of items you aren’t quite sure what to do with. Put these in a separate zone of their own, so you can go back over them later after you’ve emptied out the rest of your garage.

2. Go through everything in your garage piece by piece and place each item in the temporary zones you created for organizing.

3. Once your garage has been emptied and everything is in a temporary organizing zone, you will then have an idea of what types of storage you need and be able to approximate how many storage bins, boxes, etc. you will need to put them in. This will also help you determine how big each permanent zone in your garage will need to be once you begin putting everything back in its designated space (zone).

Unique Ways to Free Up Space in Your Garage

Here are some great ways to create space in your garage using the areas you might not normally consider for storage.

  • Build ceiling hugger shelves that will hang from the ceiling of your garage for long flat items such as ladders, wood, folding tables, etc.
  • Install a fold-down desk. This is a desk that is stored upright against a wall, then folded down when you need a solid workspace, but it doesn’t take up valuable garage space when not in use.
  • Put wheels on a freestanding workbench so it can be moved around when you need it. Then it can be put back into the corner or another storage area when you’re done. This could be a table that you put wheels on. Then a framed pegboard sheet can be nailed to the long side of it to hang your tools. With this idea, you can also build some shelving underneath the table for additional storage, which is great for shop vacs, air compressors, tool boxes, etc.

Professional Help for Organizing Your Garage

If you have the need for a more functional space in your garage than you can effectively do yourself, don’t hesitate to hire a contractor. Hiring a contractor to design and build out your garage into a functional space is one of the best ways to make the most of the limited space you have.

A contractor who does this for a living might very well have ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. Contractors are great for building custom cabinets, professional workbenches, tool storage walls, bins, customized compartments for hobbies, or building designated spaces for each member of your family, etc.

The Bottom Line

The best way to free up space in your garage is by getting rid of everything you don’t need or use, and trying to elevate as many things a possible by hanging them from the ceilings and walls.  Additionally, you should also put some thought into the finished product prior to beginning, so you end up with a functional space that works for the entire family.

And, you should never hesitate to hire a contractor when you don’t have the time or the skills necessary to properly do the job yourself. Sometimes spending the money on a contractor is cheaper than trying to do everything yourself, especially if you don’t really have the expertise to do things right the first time around.

How to Put Your Home’s Maintenance on Autopilot

Your home’s maintenance can often get put on the backburner, and by no fault of your own. Life, work, family —it’s easy to push your home’s maintenance to the lowest spot on the totem pole, especially when your home looks and feels like it’s working just fine.

Nevertheless, maintaining your home is one of your primary responsibilities as a homeowner, and good home upkeep can prolong the life of many of the systems in your home. It also helps to keep and add value to your property. But what’s the busy, working professional to do?

The answer is to put your home’s maintenance on autopilot. With a little bit of preplanning and your resolve to buckle down when maintenance calls, you can keep your home in tip-top shape without feeling overwhelmed.

Follow these steps to put your maintenance on autopilot:

Step #1: Organize Tasks by Season

One of the best ways to stay ahead of home maintenance is to organize tasks by season. This will ensure you’re not racing to clean the gutters before a heavy downpour or that you get stuck in the winter with a malfunctioning furnace.

Below are some of the basic tasks you should do during each season, but feel free to add others that fit your particular style of home.

Spring

  • Check the drainage around your home. This includes gutters and downspouts, as well as making sure water can easily move away from your home and won’t pool up in undesirable areas.
  • Inspect the exterior of your home. Look for any damaged siding, cracks or general wear and tear, and make repairs as needed.
  • Consider having your air conditioning serviced in preparation for the hot summer months.
  • Clean windows and screens and repair any areas of concern.
  • Inspect your roof for any signs of wear and tear, and consult with a professional for any needed repairs.

Summer

  • Clean and repair deck and patio, as needed.
  • Summer is a playground for pests and insects. Take care of any pest problems you may have and take preventative measures.
  • Check and clean dryer vents and other exhaust vents on your home.

Fall

  • Flush your water heater and check for any signs of age or deterioration.
  • Get your heating system ready for winter. Consider hiring a professional for an inspection.
  • Get your chimney cleaned if you have one.
  • Get ready for winter —purchase supplies like sidewalk salt, shovels, etc.

Winter

  • Inspect your attic’s insulation and watch for any areas that might need replacement.
  • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Insulate any exposed plumbing in your attic, garage, basement or exterior of your home.

Step #2: Choose Your Technology

With so much technology available to us, Step #2 towards putting your home maintenance on autopilot is to choose a technology that will alert you when it’s time to take care of these (and other) maintenance tasks.

Apps like HomeSavvy, ChorePad, and HomeRoutines can be used to build home maintenance to-do lists, and the app can alert you based on your preferences. You can also use Google Calendars to set email and phone reminders to keep you on task.  

Even if you write a list and put it on your fridge, taking the time to organize your tasks into a list and prioritize them by season will keep you organized and knowing what’s next.

Step #3: Resolve to Take Action

Once you’ve taken the steps to put your home’s maintenance on autopilot, it’s time to resolve to take action. When that buzzer rings or that email reminds you it’s time for a maintenance task, don’t let the time pass. Home maintenance only becomes overwhelming when it piles up.

Perhaps you set aside one weekend a month that’s dedicated to home maintenance. Whatever your schedule, your home will thank you.

When in Doubt … Glasshouse

Whether you’re simply too busy to commit to home maintenance or don’t have the energy or ability to stay on top of it, there’s another way! The real autopilot is Glasshouse.

By subscribing to our home maintenance services, you’ll never have to think about checking your water heater or changing air filters again. Glasshouse offers routine check ups, repairs and updates, and can deal with problem areas around your house before any permanent damage is done. We have pre-set maintenance schedules that ensure your home is kept in tip-top shape.

To learn more, connect with our team today or reach out to your contractor or builder for more information on home maintenance services.

3 Compelling Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Triple Bid on Construction Projects

A quick Google search on the best-practices for getting contractor bids will return numerous results on why consumers should “triple bid.” The argument is that the consumer will be able to find the best contractor at the best price, leveraging bids to their advantage.

But, while this has been the standard of practice for decades, it has become an outdated model that really doesn’t serve the best interest of consumers —or contractors. There are a growing number of reasons why consumers shouldn’t triple bid on construction projects. Below, we’ll look at just a few reasons why we believe everyone is better off avoiding it.

#1. Service Disadvantage

The entire triple bid process revolves around finding the cheapest option. But, in the construction world, the lowest bid does not always mean the highest quality service, materials, or workmanship. The consumer who is simply looking for the best financial deal may find that the contractor has to skimp in certain areas to be able to fulfill the terms of the bid.

If you’re doing a minor home maintenance item like pressure washing your driveway —where not too much can go wrong— then it might make sense to find the cheapest option. But on a home renovation or remodel where there are many moving parts, focusing on price alone could mean that your expectations for service, quality, or timing are sacrificed. Which leads to the second point …

#2. Takes Focus Off Relationships

When consumers triple bid, it takes the focus off of the relationship between the contractor and the homeowner and puts it on the price. Is this really the way to start a relationship with someone who will be in your home for weeks or months helping you make improvements to your biggest investment?

Having price be the driver can send the wrong message when you’re making such a big investment in your home. Our argument is that more weight should be placed on the relationship between contractor and homeowner —on communication, respect, trust and workmanship.

For all the same reasons that you wouldn’t want the cheapest surgeon operating on your body, you shouldn’t want a contractor who offered the lowest bid to work on your home. You should set out to find a contractor that you feel you can openly communicate with, who understands your vision for the project, whose reputation is impeccable, and who can help you execute with ease. You may not find this if you’re focused predominantly on price, which is the message you’re sending to the contractor when you solicit multiple bids.

#3. It Really Costs More

It may seem counterintuitive, but triple bidding your project actually ends up costing more in the long run. Simply put, it’s expensive and time consuming for contractors to create a bid. There are materials to source, labor costs to confirm with third parties, dumpsters and trash pickup to estimate, plumbing and electric bids to outsource, and more. Creating a pricing matrix for all of these moving parts can take 40-80 hours depending on the project —and two-thirds of the contractors who create the bid aren’t going to get the business.

The time to create the bid is a sunk cost for contractors. So when they incorporate the costs of doing this for each project, even though they’ll only win a third of them, they have to charge more in other areas to maintain a livable profit margin. As a whole, the industry is working these costs into their overall cost structures, which includes their time, the bidding software, and more.

What’s the Alternative …

If the triple bid process is not effective in finding a contractor based on service, quality and cost —what’s the alternative? We would argue that the best method for selecting a contractor is to call, meet and interview your prospects. There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family for recommendations and for doing your due diligence online, but once you’ve narrowed it down to a few prospects … meet them!

In your face-to-face meeting you’ll be able to gauge their ability to communicate effectively with you, as well as their ability to “see” your vision. Don’t be afraid to trust your gut instincts regarding their professionalism. And, don’t be afraid to talk about money. Most quality contractors are able to value engineer the budget to work with your needs.

Remember, it doesn’t cost anything for you to do your homework!

 

 

10 Ways to Improve Your Backyard

One of the most important parts of the home is the backyard. The backyard is a place for your family to come together, have fun, and commune. It shouldn’t be a part of your home that you avoid because it has nothing to offer. The backyard should be the perfect place to enjoy nature and decompress. If your backyard is nothing more than an empty patch of grass, you’re not using it to its full potential, and that is why Tru-Link Fence put together a slideshow that lists 10 backyard ideas that can bring life back to your property. You can view the slideshow here.

improve-backyard 1

10 Ways To Improve Your Backyard created by Tru-Link Fence

About the Author

Dean White is Owner and Operator of Tru-Link Fence, one of the largest fence companies in northern Illinois. He has more than 30 years of experience in the fence industry.

7 Upgrades to Avoid When Remodeling Your Home

When thinking about upgrading your home, you should also be thinking about whether or not those upgrades will add or detract from the resale value of that home. Most people don’t stay in one home for their entire life. In fact, most people buy several homes in their lifetime as their family and lifestyle changes. Even if you buy a house with the expectation you will live there forever, generally, various life events will create a need to move at some point. Therefore, it’s best to think about how your chosen upgrades will affect your home’s resale value before you begin.

Here are seven upgrades to avoid when remodeling your home.

1. Pools and Hot Tubs

There is only a small segment of the population who view a pool or hot tub as a must have when it comes to buying a home. In fact, most people see a pool or hot tub as an added burden due to the labor involved and the expense of maintaining it year round.

2. Room Conversions

While more and more people are working from home, converting one of the bedrooms to a home office is not a good idea. When looking for a home, people have certain requirements before deciding which home to buy. For example, a home with a minimum of three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Therefore, if you eliminate one of the bedrooms you will be hurting the resale value of your home. The same goes for taking down a wall to enlarge another room. Either way, you are eliminating a bedroom; therefore, it’s not a good idea.

3. Garage Conversions

Converting the garage into a room is another no-no when it comes to home renovations. The majority of homebuyers want that space to use as it was intended versus having additional living space. If they wanted additional living space they would just look for a home with that already has that much space and a garage. Most people need a garage to park their vehicles, for storage, and other miscellaneous uses.

4. Customized Features and Designs

Any feature or design that is very specific to your needs and desires should be avoided. For example, adding a built-in aquarium might be something you’re passionate about and it might look great as well. But not everyone will feel the same. Not to mention the expense and upkeep an aquarium would require.

5. Built-In Electronics

Another upgrade that might seem like it should add value to your home is built-in electronics. However, built-in electronics are a bad idea because everyone has different wants and needs. For example, how big of a TV they have, or if they need a space for a gaming system or other lifestyle specific electronics. Not to mention how quickly new technology changes. Who knows what might be needed, or not, within the next few years. Therefore, customizing a space based on your technology needs should be avoided.

6. Extreme Outdoor Renovations

Outdoor living spaces are great and will add some value to your home. However, expansive outdoor renovations might not add as much value you as you would like. For example, building out your backyard with an outdoor kitchen with plumbing, a built-in grilling station, and an entertainment system is an attractive feature for most buyers; however, generally, you won’t recoup the money you’ve spent to have it installed. Not to mention that in most parts of the country, an outdoor living space can only be used during certain times of the year.

7. Over-Improving

Over-improving your home versus what the other homes in your neighborhood have or over-improving any given room in your home isn’t good. For example, if you add improvements to your home that aren’t in line with what the other homes in your neighborhood generally have, you usually won’t get back your investment when it comes time to sell. Because most people aren’t going to pay more for your home than the market will allow. So just because yours is the only house on the block that has a sunroom and it cost you $20,000 (just a sample figure) to have it built, doesn’t mean a buyer will pay more for it. The same goes for over-improving any of the rooms in your home. Because you will almost never get back anywhere near what you put into having it done.

The Bottom Line

Before choosing any upgrades or renovations for your home, spend some time learning which upgrades will add value to your home, and which ones won’t. Otherwise, it could end up costing you in the long run.

5 DIY Ideas for Renovating Your Living Room

Do you want to renovate your living room, but have held off because of budget? While full-scale remodels can be costly—according to Pro Referral, the average price to remodel is $1,649, and that price goes up exponentially with expensive renovations like lighting and flooring installation—the great news is you can make significant changes to your living room without spending thousands of dollars. Even better: you don’t need to hire a contractor.

Take renovations into your own hands with these simple DIY tips and ideas. You’ll quickly find that small changes go a long way.

Repaint or Redecorate Your Walls

Adding a little color or redoing your current color scheme can bring new life to the living room. A can of paint costs about $30, making this a budget-friendly way to give this gathering space the facelift you’re looking for. Do it right with a paint roller, taping off the walls and protecting the floor with a paint cover or tarp. To make give your paint job a little flair, layer colors for a more textured look or use distressing techniques to give that trendy, vintage vibe.

You can also change the look and feel of your living room by adding artwork to your walls. Check local thrift stores and consignment shops for less-expensive pieces or add some mirrors for extra light and shimmer. Bonus: well-placed mirrors make the room look bigger, according to Get The Most From Your Square Footage.

Install Glass Doors on Your Fireplace

As the centerpiece of your room, the fireplace is one of the best ways to update the look and feel without putting in a lot of time and money. Start by replacing your old, dirty screen or ceramic fireplace doors with prefabricated glass doors. These add elegance and style to your living room, giving the space a chic, modern look.

Glass doors are easy to install if you follow the correct procedure. Experts at BrickAnew explain the DIY process:

  • Step 1: Remove your old fireplace doors so you can see the amount of space you have for your new doors.
  • Step 2: Measure your fireplace so you know the exact dimensions.
  • Step 3: Determine the make and model of your fireplace, so you can find the right doors for your particular unit.
  • Step 4: Order new doors and install following manufacturer instructions. In most cases, all you need is a screwdriver.

New glass doors typically start around $200. If that’s not within your budget, you can also repaint the brick or refresh decorations on the mantle. Replace old items with new candles, Pinterest-worthy decorative pieces, fresh flowers, etc.

Upgrade Your Floor

There are a number of ways to update your living room floor. If you want an entirely new look, install wood floors and try a new layout like a parquet or herringbone design. Replacing wood floors costs $4,430, on average, according to Home Advisor and is best done by a professional.

The next best option is to re-stain it to add a bright, newly finished look, which is much less expensive.

If you prefer carpet in your living room, change the color or style. Better yet, use inexpensive accent rugs that are both budget friendly and versatile.

Change Your Furniture

While buying a whole new furniture set can be expensive, you can find nice pieces at thrift shops or estate sales. Remember: you don’t need to replace every piece of furniture in the living room. Adding one new piece can bring new life to a stale space. Think: new coffee table, interesting bookshelf or set of unique lamps. If you want to make the most out of a small space, try using furniture pieces that do double duty, like a trunk. This gives you more storage space and a new coffee table.

You can also rearrange your current furniture; a new furniture layout can change the entire look and feel of your living room. Check out these living room arrangement ideas from Better Homes and Gardens for inspiration.

Get Crafty

Use your own creativity to add new items to your living room. Paint a picture for your wall (or ask a friend), mold a bowl for the coffee table, do your own real or fake flower arrangements, or sew a blanket or pillow for the couch. Do you collect anything like vintage plates or antique spoons? Find an inexpensive cabinet to put these items on display.

Save your money and renovate your living room yourself. Try one or a few of these ideas to give your living room a whole new look without spending more than you can afford.


About the Author

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She’s worked with a variety of real estate clients, and has written for Forbes, Inman, House Hunt Network, Homes.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.