Savvy Buyers: Building a house? Here are some some things to add & some things to skip!

Here are some of our recommendations for making selections on new construction or remodeling your home…and some options to skip!

Skip the Following:

Remove oversized/glued-on mirrors in bathrooms.  This is another easy step to make a home look more custom.  Simply ask the builder NOT to install any mirrors and then go shopping for framed mirrors from a discount store like TJMaxx, Home Goods, or Ikea.  If you are remodeling, remove the glued-on mirror, repair walls if necessary, and replace with framed mirrors (or leave the mirror on the wall and have a contractor frame it out with trim wood).


Remove cheap closet organizers.  Remove the cheap wire rack shelves and rods and replace with custom closet organizers you can find at Lowes or Home Depot.  Even IKEA has solid wood closet systems. To save some time and money, ask the builder not to install these if you are building a home.

Delete Drawer Pulls/Knobs and Plumbing and Lighting Fixtures.  Builders often have only a few choices of these and if you do not like them, ask the builder to give you a credit and install the ones that you purchase on your own (that you can find at Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Overstock, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.).

Make Sure to Include the Following:

Add recessed and puck or pot lights as often as possible. Have your framer build braces for future ceiling fans if you choose not to install them right away.   You may want to hire a lighting specialist to help you with this.  If an attic is above the ceiling, the project is pretty straightforward.  But adding lights to finished ceiling areas requires cutting holes in the drywall and drilling through the joists to fish the wire through the framing.

Extend wood flooring into high traffic areas.  Even though it costs more, it is worth it.  Wood floor hallways or family rooms are always desirable, plus, you can throw a rug down if needed.

Add an outlet in the pantry.  Many homeowners keep a toaster oven, blender, and other small appliances (even a Swiffer Vac) in the pantry.  By adding an outlet, these items can be plugged in at all times and don’t take up valuable counter space.

These are just a few ideas that can get your juices flowing when you’re remodeling or building a new home.

- Debbie Gottwals

Top 5 Flooring questions - Guest Blogger Bill Iampieri

Before and After Flooring

If I have had these questions asked once… I have had them asked a million times. Here are the top 5 questions I get about the purchase of new flooring.

1) I want the carpet that will “wear” the best. Can you show me that?

When it comes to wear, we are usually talking about “crushing and matting” and “staining and soiling”. These are the main factors to how well your carpet will perform:

a) type of carper fiber used. You may be familiar with nylon carpet, but there is also polyester carpet and a new fiber called triexta. The fiber is important, but not the only factor.

b) how much fiber is used is obviously an important part of performance. But not just how much is used…but how dense the carpet is. Density is created by how close the strands of carpet are stitched together and how long each strand of carpet is. The denser the carpet is, the less chance the carpet can crush and mat.

c) the twist of the carpet fiber. Most people do not realize this is important as well. Carpet will “wear” better the more twists that each strand has. The higher the twist count…the better the carpet will perform.

We will work together to determine which fiber type works best for your particular flooring project.

2) Will this hardwood scratch?

Hardwood has a finish that protects and seals the wood. That finish (polyurethane) can scratch and that is what most consumers are referring to when they say "scratch". You can also penetrate the wood itself, but that is not typically what consumers are referring to. The good news is, that you can get a new urethane finish to restore the original luster and remove most, if not all of the surface scratches at a fraction of the cost of new hardwood…and get a new hardwood look! Ask me about sand and refinishing to see how we can restore your original hardwood look!

3) Does pad make a difference in how long my carpet will last?

Yes and No. Generally speaking, pad helps with the "walk and feel" of the new carpet. The better the pad, the better it will feel to walk on. Does it help the carpet perform well? Not necessarily. In the end, the carpet itself is the most important factor in how the carpet will perform relative to "wear" (crushing and matting). Also if the pad is not a high quality, it will begin to crush along with the carpet in traffic areas and that contributes to the look of carpet beginning to "wear out". I always recommend the best pad for your new carpet, as it is the least expensive part of the carpet installation.

4) Are your installers sub-contractors?

No our installation mechanics are not what most consumers refer to as "sub-contractors" that go from company to company or job to job. Our installation mechanics provide quality craftsmanship and in many instances have been installing with us for many years. A good installation mechanic is where the rubber hits the road. And like any other profession, some are better than others. I personally hand pick the installer that will work on your new flooring.

5) If I drop a can on my vinyl floor will it damage it?

If you drop a can on any hard surface it could damage it. Tile could crack. A can could penetrate hardwood surface and leave a dent. I always tell consumers, no flooring is bullet proof. Let's talk about your lifestyle and determine if we can find a product that suits you best. In the end, we have to care for our flooring and yes it can damage. I get people all the time trying to fix a section of their floor. That's the good many cases the damage can be fixed. In the end, most consumers want to feel that their new flooring will last and be beautiful for many years. With my guidance and experience, we will choose the new flooring that is best for your home!

For more information about flooring of all kinds and more, call Bill Iampieri Jr. at (410)-988-2834 or visit for more information and our current special offers. "Flooring of all kinds....service that's one of a kind!"

10 Home Improvements Sellers Can Skip

When appraisers determine your home's value, they compare your home to surrounding comparable homes. Although it doesn't happen too often, there is a chance that you can over improve your home for your market area.

We've seen sellers put thousands of dollars into gourmet chef kitchens, owner's baths with champagne tubs and imported tile from Italy only to learn later that they are unable to recoup the costs of when they go to sell. Check out this slideshow for additional examples of some improvements that you may not have to do to your home. Wendy was asked to contribute to this slideshow and she happily agreed!

Wine Cellar

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Remodel Your Kitchen

Written by guest blogger Karen Pitsley from Transforming Architecture.

Thinking about renovating or upgrading your kitchen?  The idea of doing a project in your home can be very exciting, especially when it deals with something you use constantly like your kitchen!  Sometimes, however, reality can be less enthralling.  Planning and preparation are the keys to a successful kitchen remodeling project.  Even the most careful planning doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it will certainly reduce the frustration and limit the surprises.  There are many different things that need to be considered before starting your home remodeling project.  Here are five questions you should ask yourself before you begin:

1. Should I hire a design professional?

I’m an architect, so of course my answer is YES!  Seriously though, all projects do not need an architect.  If you are moving walls or redesigning spaces, call an architect. If you are in need of a “room lift” with new colors and furniture, call an interior designer.  If you are unhappy with the layout of your kitchen, but are staying within the current footprint, I recommend calling a kitchen designer or architect or interior designer.  Kitchens in particular are such an essential part of your home, so if you’re unsure, call your design professional for a free consultation.  To most architects, every project is an opportunity to have fun, but I have told potential clients that their project just doesn’t need my services.

2. What is my five year plan?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a potential client’s home and will hear something like this, “we just finished our kitchen, got new windows and siding and are now ready to design an addition.”  This is sad for a design professional to hear.  We know you don’t want to pay a contractor to undo what you just paid him to do.  Nor do we like suggesting that you do so, but the best design option for your lifestyle may have been a fantastic kitchen open to the addition.  Work with your design professional and make sure you tell him/her what your future plans are.  The ideas you plan to implement in four years may impact your design today.  Why not plan it all at once?  The benefits can be: easier future budgeting, spending your money wisely, getting the best design now and when the next phase gets built, and being excited about the new house you will soon have.

3. Do I have the time necessary to complete the project?

Never plan a major remodeling project to finish just before some major event is to take place in your home.  Although it is tempting to want to host a Thanksgiving feast when your home is in its newly remodeled state, please resist the temptation.  It will add a whole new level of stress to everyone involved.   All projects should have a projected schedule for completion, but if there is a weather delay or cabinet order delay, your project may be completed the day before your guests arrive, but you’ll have no time to clean the pounds of construction dust, decorate the rooms and make the turkey!  Be kind to yourself, and schedule your event for New Years!

4. What is my budget?

This is a tough question.  It depends on the project complexity, your geographical area and hidden conditions.  This is especially true if you live in an older home. Tear out a wall and you’re sure to find something different than you had thought.  It might be lovely old brick that was covered over with drywall or it might be asbestos.  Make sure you have some contingency funds.  This could be anywhere from 10% for a newer home, and 15-20% or even higher, for an older home, but this is a great question for your design professional.  They will know your geographical area and from experience, be able to glean the likelihood of unforeseen conditions.  If all goes well, you’ll have more money spend on furnishings and fun details at the end.

5. Will my home be livable during the remodel? 

Remodeling is dusty, messy, and noisy.  It is challenging to live in a home that is undergoing a major renovation.  It is stressful.  If you are remodeling a part of the house that is not used daily, then you and your family can probably live through it.  I had a client whose project was to add a second floor, and they chose to stay and live in the basement.  Not fun and if given the same choice now, they would choose to move out for those eight weeks. Talk to your contractor. It’s possible you could save money by moving out.  Your project may be completed faster because your contractor doesn’t have to make your home clean and safe for your family (kid-safe and contractor-safe are two different levels) every night.  That half hour can be used to finish the trim or skim the drywall.  Some contractors will not take projects if the family is not moving out.  If nothing else, moving out will save you some SANITY!

One last bit of advice.  Find a professional that makes the process fun!

Karen L. Pitsley, AIA, is principal and architect at Transforming Architecture LLC, an architectural firm located in Howard County, providing residential design. She may be reached at 301-776-2666 or at

Yes, you should be keeping up with the Joneses...and here's why

The most frequent questions we hear from homeowners relate to maintaining or improving the value in their homes. Being active in the local real estate market means we know the trends. Some you may already know. Others may really surprise you.


Yes, this is a totally boring topic but it is super important! We cannot stress this enough: maintain, maintain, maintain! A stitch in time really does save nine. When something isn’t working, repair it right away. It’s the right thing to do and you’ll thank us later.


Everyone knows that kitchens and baths sell homes. Flooring is a close second. But even small changes can have a huge impact. Those old brass light and bathroom fixtures will age your home and make it seem dated. The good news: fixing this is affordable. Both Lowes and Home Depot now have great lighting options. We recently updated every light fixture in a townhouse for less than $400. It had a huge impact and the house sold quickly. Small investment for a huge impression!


It’s important to choose flooring and paint colors that are current. You don’t have to follow every fad but keeping up with trends while making your house still feel like your own will help to maintain or increase the value. Many designers offer color consultations at reasonable fees.  Again, investing a small amount for a fresh updated palette will make a huge impact in your home!


Maintaining and upgrading your home allows YOU to enjoy the house. Yes, you’ll recoup some of your investment but you’ll also fall in love with your home again. Should you sell down the road, your home will show like a model and you’ll sell faster and for more money than your neighbor.

Want some more free advice? Like us on facebook, follow us on twitter or contact us for more info about improvements and referrals to high quality service providers.

Wishing you all the best!

Wendy Slaughter

This article was originally published in Her Mind Magazine.

Guest Blogger - Handyman Matters

Bathroom renovation is something that most homeowners consider at some point while owning a home. Many times, it’s one of the first things on the list to be remodeled after purchasing an older home. Given that it’s such a popular starting place, we decided we’d pinpoint the top 4 benefits to renovating your bathroom.

1. Increase the resale value of your home. Renovating a bathroom – or really any part of your home – increases its resale value. New appliances, new showerheads, updated tile – these are all cosmetic details that can improve the look and value of your home, which is an increasingly important thing to remember in a down real estate market.

2. Improve the water efficiency of your home. The majority of the water we use each day is centered around the bathroom. From taking showers and baths to flushing the toilet to brushing our teeth, we use gallons of water each day. Replacing the toilet with a low-flush model or switching out a regular showerhead for a low-flow model can drastically decrease a family’s water usage, costing less money and helping the environment.

3.  Make better use of space.  Bathrooms are often designed poorly – shoving a sink, toilet and bathtub into a tight space as easily as possible without trying to intelligently make the best use of space for the room. By remodeling, you can add more free space and cultivate a better bathroom layout – especially when you get to choose which pieces of furniture and appliances will be used.

4.  Have full creative control.  One of the biggest benefits to remodeling your bathroom, aside from the increase in resale value, is the ability to make your bathroom uniquely your own. You get to choose the cabinets and countertops. You can pick out the perfect tub or shower, and you can handpick the tile and any other design elements so that they match your home and your personality perfectly.

Remodeling a bathroom can be a fun and exciting process for many homeowners. However daunting the task of designing and installing your new hardware, Handyman Matters can help you pick out the right materials for you and your home. Call us today at 410-549-9696 to set up a phone consultation to get started.

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