Organize Your Basement, Finally

pioneer (6)One of the books on a bestsellers list right now is about getting organized.  It’s not the first and it won’t be the last.  There’s a modern day mantra that goes like this, “I’ll be (happier, healthier, calmer, thinner, wealthier …) just as soon as I get (my life, the house, the kids, work, my schedule…) organized”.

I don’t know about health, wealth and happiness, but I do know that getting the basement organized can create a feeling of satisfaction – if that leads to those other things, then all the better.  The basement can be a good place to start your quest for more control over your stuff.

For most people looking at a project as a whole is overwhelming, especially those we really don’t want to do or are dreading doing.  It can be especially discouraging if it’s something we know we should do and know it’ll benefit us when it’s done, but we keep putting it off.  It adds guilt to the resistance, which is rarely a good formula for motivation.

The best way to stop this impasse is to break down the overall project into pieces that are controllable.  The key to any kind of organizing is to start with small manageable tasks which can be done in reasonable time frames.  How many parts you break it into depends on the size and scope of the job.  Here’s an example. 

Dyan and Sam had been wanting to organize their basement for years – lots and lots of years.  It was becoming an ever increasing irritant; they needed the space and their families had started making bad hoarding jokes.  So, they came up with a plan that fit both of their organizing preferences and agreed to be ruthless in getting rid of things.

Dyan wanted to do her tasks in frequent, but short time frames.  She did the initial organizing by sorting things into 4 piles – throw away, donate, sell and keep – for a ½ hour every day.  Sam wanted to set aside less and bigger chucks of times for his chores.  He set aside an afternoon every other week to go to Goodwill, haul the trash, or get the items ready for a garage sale.  At the end of the process they went through the surprisingly small “keep”  pile together.

How you carve the task of organizing your basement into manageable pieces will work better if it’s guided by your preferences and personality.  This method works for all projects, from simple to a major.  Also, once you get your basement done you can use the same skills to tackle the garage, attic or your kids’ rooms.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 



Should You Remodel Your Basement?

pioneer (13)There’s a lot of information out there about how to turn your basement into a fabulous living space.  Man cave?  Craft room?  Kid’s play room?  Home theater?  All good ideas.  But, before you spend your time, money and energy, stop and ask yourself a question.  What’s really right for your situation and your basement?

Here are some financial, physical and emotional questions for you to think about.

Return on investment (ROI) – When you’re figuring the ROI take the size, age and neighborhood of the home into consideration.  What are comparable houses selling for?  What up-grades do they have?  Is the basement the place to put your money or will you get better value from redoing the kitchen or a bathroom? 

The answer to that is usually in favor of the kitchen or bath — renovation costs for a basement can quickly exceed the ROI, especially if you’re going to do it “right”.  Often, a not remodeled space that’s clean, bright, organized and dry can increase the value of a house, while a poor or cheap remodel will detract from it. 

Structure of basement – There are a lot of older homes in Northeastern Ohio and many of them simply aren’t good candidates for finished basements.  They’re usually cold and damp, which only a lot of money can fix.  Also, the mechanicals (i.e., plumbing, electrical, support posts, HV/AC, sump pump) can be difficult to work around or hide — creating choppy, small rooms.

Don’t be lured to the design dark side by reality shows that aren’t real at all.  HGTV has a lot of resources the typical home owner will never have access to.  No amount of creative designing is going to make the sloping drain in the middle of the floor, which smells like sewer in the hottest part of summer, disappear.  Some spaces are simply too difficult to fix up.

Expectations – Take some time and think about what you want this space to “do”.  Think honestly about your emotional expectations for it.  People often think that internal problems can be addressed through external means, and they are disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

Want a quiet space?  (What are you going to do when the kids invade your craft room, like they have every other room in the house?)  Think it’ll prompt family time?  (Is a bigger flat screen the answer to not spending enough time together?)  Do you think you’ll finally get organized?  (Unless you’re committed to behavioral changes too more space usually means more clutter.)

Remodeling your basement can be a big project, so be sure it’s really going to meet your financial, physical and/or emotional goals.  The poorly lit, badly tiled, damp walled, low ceiled, cheaply paneled, smelly, circuit blowing, weird color remnant carpeted, deserted finished basements of our area are legend, don’t add to them.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

Basement Remodeling the Smart Way

Remodeling your basement is a no-brainer.pioneer (9)  Right?  It’ll give you the much needed space your family requires.  Also, it’ll increase the value of your home and make it more attractive to buyers when you sell.

Or not.  Contrary to what many people believe a finished basement isn’t always a good return on investment.  Depending on how you do the remodeling you may only break even or actually decrease the value of your home.

The smart way to avoid making a big expensive mistake is to “think” first and “do” second.  Here are some areas to consider.

Resale                                                                                                                                         

How long do you plan on being in the house?  Turning your basement into a Brown’s multi-media, wet bar, Dog Pound complex is fine if you’re going to be in the house for many years. But, if you’re planning on selling in 5 years or less you probably should rethink it. 

Most buyers look for the basics: is it dry, is the wiring up to code and can it handle today’s electronic needs, are the ceilings high enough, is there any natural light and is it a functional space which can be adapted to their needs?  (Putting a toilet next to the washer and dryer doesn’t make it a bathroom.)  They want good quality, neutral walls, ceilings and floors. 

Determine the requirements of the project

Intelligent remodelers do their homework to determine the practicability and ultimate outcomes of their project ideas.  For example, in case of fire, most cities require a bedroom to have a proper exit, which must lead directly outside.  It can’t be a door that leads to another room.   Where are you going to put a window in an underground basement? 

Here are just a few things to think about and determine.  What are the daily requirements of living with the project?  What utilities are going to be turned off and for how long?  How are the workers going to be going in and out?  Are they going to be alone in the house?  How do you find a good contractor?  What’s your budget and how are you financing it?

Be realistic about money

Dreams of craft rooms, kids’ play areas and man caves are exciting – why else would you be thinking of remodeling your basement?  But, they should be mixed with reality.  Look at your basement with a critical eye.  How are you going to work around 4 support poles, a sump pump, an electrical box and 2 drains in the floor?  And how much is it going to cost?

Adding a bathroom?  What about ventilation?  Truly evaluate current and future water/moisture concerns, as well as the expense of fixing them.  It’s almost impossible to live in Northeast Ohio and not know someone who’s ignored their basement water/moisture problems, resulting in expensive repairs to their basement. 

A basement remodel is a big investment in time, money and energy.  It’s worth the effort to do it smart.  You know someone who didn’t think a home remodel or project through before they acted, we all do.  Don’t be that person.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 200 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

3 Warning Signs of a Bad Contractor

pioneer (10)If you’re at a social function and you want to gather a crowd start talking about home improvement/repair projects.  It seems that everyone has a contractor from hell story, often more than one.  If you don’t want to be a part of that group, here are 3 things to pay attention to.

1. You have a bad feeling about him.  It’s a lot easier to never hire someone in the beginning than trying to get out of a contract at a later date.  Be aware of your personal feelings about him while when he’s standing in the middle of your basement talking about the project.  Trust your gut.

How’s he treating the kids or dog?  Would you feel comfortable having him in the house alone?  If you’re a woman — is he talking down to you or dismissing your concerns/questions?  (Yes guys, this is a thing.)  What’s his attitude like; helpful and interested or distracted and indifferent?  Do you seem to be communicating well and does he understand your ideas?

2. She’s really focused on money.  Primarily focusing on money, and not your job, is a classic sign of a contractor in trouble or one who’s “shady”.  She, absolutely, should discuss money, budgets and payment schedules with you.  But, it shouldn’t be the focus of her interest. 

Is she asking for too big of a down payment or full payment upfront?  Is she a cash only business?  Is she giving a low ball bid or using a “today only deal” to pressure you into making an immediate decision?

Also, look for signs of cash flow problems or under funding.  What does her truck and the tools in it look like?  (Red flag and a true story – A “roofer” showed up to bid a project and asked the home owner to borrow a ladder.)  Depending on the job, ask if she has the proper equipment for it or if she’ll be renting. 

3.  He’s in over his head.  Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want him to practice on your house.  He should be able to prove his experience in dealing with projects similar to yours.  His skills and knowledge should match your project.  He may be a wonderful bathroom remodeler, but that doesn’t mean he can build a deck. 

Do you know more about the project and what’s required than him?  Do his questions and answers show competency or inexperience?  Does he give well thought out ideas for the project?  Can he give examples of how he’s’ solved problems similar to yours on other jobs?

He should be a professional.  A professional: knows what permits are required, when and how to pull them, has insurance (workers’ compensation and liability), is bonded if the situation requires it and holds the proper licenses.  He’ll provide all this information to you as a standard practice of doing business.

It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk.  Paying good attention in the beginning can go a long way to avoiding problems in the future. 


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

References – the Consumer’s Secret Weapon

pioneer (6)In the digital world of Angie’s List, Yelp and Google Reviews, you don’t need to actually call people and check 3 references anymore.  It’s outdated and old school – besides they’re not going to say anything useful anyway.  No contractor would give references for someone who’d say something bad about them.  Right?

Nope, that’s wrong.  Most consumers don’t understand that live references are their secret weapon in the fight to find a good contractor.  While digital reviews are a good place to begin, they’re no substitute for talking to people.  They’re easier, but not better.  Use the following questions as a place to start and modify them to fit your situation.

1. What did the contractor do for you and did you like the outcome?

Be sure to compare the size of your project with the references’ project.  Contractors often overstate their experience.  If your remodel is major it’s important to know if he’s only done small ones. 

2a. Did you make changes and how did he handle them?                                                                2b. Did you have problems and how did he handle them?

Most projects have changes and problems, and the bigger they are the more they have.  Did he handle them in timely manner and with civility? 

3. What was your biggest positive and negative about the experience?

4. What were the crew/subcontractors like?

You want a good fit for your household, personality and project – be sure to ask follow up questions that are important to you.  (Did they show up on time?  How did they treat the kids and pets?  Was there a crew chief, if so what was he like?  How well did they clean up?  Did you feel comfortable leaving them in the house alone?)

5. Was there any trouble with the paper work (contracts, permits, licenses, etc)?

6. Were you happy with the contractor’s level of communication?

Again, look for what you expect and compare it to the reference’s experience.  (Did he give regular updates or only when there was a problem?  Did you hear from the foreman, contractor or office person?  How did he respond to questions and concerns?)

7. Did your job come in on time and according to budget?  If not, why not?

Look for patterns: was he chronically late, did he ask for advances, was he juggling several jobs at once, did he make a lot of excuses for poor work or work not done.

8. Did you get the results he promised and you expected?  If not, why not?

9. Would you hire this person again?  Why?

Just asking for references can separate the good contractors from the bad – say, “I want 3 references and be warned, I will contact them”.  You’ll be amazed at how many won’t follow through.  If the contractor is too disorganized to provide them or can’t find 3 people to vouch for his work you don’t want him for your project.

Unfortunately, there seem to be more incompetent contractors out there than competent ones.  Getting and calling references is a secret weapon you can use to increase the odds that you’ll find the capable one.  You’ll be surprised at what people will tell you.  I once had a man tell me, “I only agreed to be a reference for this guy so I could tell people how crooked he is.”

Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes.


Home Renovation Projects That Make Sense

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Springtime is for many homeowners the best time to start a new home improvement project.  The kind of home improvement they wish to do is entirely up to the owner of the home regardless whether it makes sense or not.  Budget issues, and the ROI the project brings do not matter if the home owner is set to do a home improvement project for their home.  If you are still wondering whether new windows versus a new garage door matters, read the article below to find more information about what home improvements will give you the best ROI.


Home renovation projects that can pay off in a big way

Spring is a peak time for home buying. And for sellers, it’s all about making their house stand out.

A recent survey from the National Association of Realtors showed that upgrades to the kitchen, bathroom and new wood flooring appeal to potential buyers.

But even cheaper and less time-consuming projects can pay off, often in areas you may least expect — the attic (insulation), the garage door, or even redoing your entry way.

“Some of the projects that have the biggest bang for the buck are these really inexpensive projects,” CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger told “CBS This Morning” Thursday. “These are projects that can really help sell the house.”

These types of renovations can “recoup a lot money” when selling your home.

By comparison, Remodeling Magazine found a new additional bathroom only returns a little more than half of your investment.

The idea of a new pool, Schlesinger said, is a “no-no,” because many people with children do not want to deal with the liability. Sun rooms, she said, are also a bad idea.


Crafty ways to tackle home maintenance projects: Part 2

According to the MI Money Health website, homeowners should set aside at least 3 percent of the value of their home for home maintenance each year. As the cold weather goes away and the spring rains begin to pour, it is a good idea to get outside and do some inspection.

  • Look around the yard for standing water left over from the snow melt.
  • Clean up the yard to make sure no sharp items or other hazards have not been uncovered.
  • Drain your hoses and check for cracks.
  • Take a look up and see if there are cracked or dangerous limbs.
  • Look at the shingles and vents on the roof and check for signs of winter damage.
  • Check your siding and paint for chips and cracks.

You might want to bring out a clip board and take notes or make a to-do list. You may uncover problems now that if not fixed will lead to great expense later.

According to the Healthy Homes Maintenance Checklist found on the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, maintaining a home that is dry, clean, well-ventilated, free from contaminants, pest-free, safe and well-maintained is a healthy home. Maintaining your home can lead to financial health as well. According to this Michigan State University Extension article, the first step toward financial well-being is to manage your money.


Will a Personal Loan Fund Your Home Repair Project?

The first day of spring is March 20, which means the days are growing longer and summer isn’t too far behind. While many across the country are still battling ice and snow, soon the weather will warm up and thoughts will turn toward outdoor activities. Some people might start planning vacations, but others might want to turn their focus toward their home. If you own a house, chances are there are improvements or additions you’d like to see made. You might be putting them off until you have the money or the time is right, but why not make your dream home repair project a reality this year with the help of apersonal loan?

Personal loans aren’t just for dealing with debt

Although a personal loan can be a great help to those who need to consolidate debt or pay off medical or other emergency expenses, that isn’t the only function it can serve. Although it isn’t necessarily a wise idea to take out a loan for something frivolous or to go on a lavish vacation, you could be saving money by taking care of necessary home repairs now — such as replacing your drafty windows — which could be adding up to unrealized costs, such as higher energy bills. And beyond personal savings, certain home repair projects that upgrade your home to be more energy efficient can not only be a help to the environment but also make your household eligible for certain tax credits.


 

Stop Mold Growth Before it Starts

pioneer (3)Mold occurs naturally in our environment, both indoors and outdoors.  Outdoors it plays a key role in vegetation decomposition, it’s beneficial.  But, indoors it’s undesirable and should be avoided.

Mold reproduces through spores that float through the air.  They’re invisible to our eyes and are always present.  Mold starts to grow when the spores land on a wet or damp surface — no water, no growth.  Therefore, it can only become an indoor problem, and a health hazard, when the situation is right for it to grow.

It’s impossible to get rid of all indoor mold spores, remember they’ll always be in the air.  However, a little bit of knowledge and work goes a long way toward limiting or stopping them from growing into an active mold culture.   

There are places in our homes more prone to humidity than others (basement, bathroom and the kitchen depending how often it’s used).  Humidity is water and it takes water for the spores to take hold.  Limiting or eliminating humidity is key to curtailing or getting rid of mold.

The ideal indoor humidity, for personal comfort and mold control, is between 30% to 50%.  It’s best to not let it go above 60%.  A basic, inexpensive humidity meter can tell you what the levels are in your home.  It’s important to move the meter from room to room as levels can change drastically from one to the other.

Of course, you may not need a meter.  If you can see the mold on the ceiling of your shower or the walls of your basement you know you have a problem.  But, a meter provides a helpful guideline, especially when you’re interested in maximizing personal comfort, as well as mold control. 

There are many common sense ways to reduce humidity: increase ventilation (open doors and windows, run exhaust fans), decrease condensation and it’s “hidden” sources (empty air conditioning and dehumidifier drip pans, insulate cold water pipes, cover sump pumps), wipe moisture from surfaces (windows and sills, walls, pipes), air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

Most people don’t know that many appliances produce moisture, especially in Northeast Ohio where we live in closed up houses for so much of the year.  Whenever possible, vent clothes dryers, stoves and kerosene heaters outside.   

It’s hard to have a completely mold free home.  There are just too many places in the average home for moisture and spores to join.  But, with some diligence you can go a long way toward limiting its impact on you and your family. 


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

Basement Waterproofing: Finding The Right Company

pioneer (14)We all have heard about the terrible job some waterproofing companies do when you hire them to waterproof your basement.  From the outrageous prices they quote, to the poor job they do and the mess they leave behind when finishing the job, some companies are not equipped to do a good job in your home.  There are many questions that as a homeowner you are entitled to ask before signing any papers with these so called contractors.

  • Are you insured, bonded, and have a license to do the job required?                           

Making sure that the company you hire has insurance that protect you from a lawsuit if anything should go wrong with the job, is a prerequisite you should not take lightly.  If any permits are required, you need to know they can take care of it without hesitation.

  • How long have you been in business?

The history of the company matters.  There are some companies that open for business, make some money doing bad jobs, close their doors and begin someplace else.  A company that has been in business for a long time and can provide you with a clean record, plus great references, is a company that you can trust and you can do business with, without too much concern.

  • Is this the best method and price for my particular problem?

IF the job they explain they are going to do seems “shady,” maybe you need to look someplace else.  The job they are proposing to do, materials needed and time frame should be explain to you easily. Any questions you have should be addressed and answered promptly.  If you do not understand the process and the materials they are using, you should look into a second opinion to make sure you understand what they are doing.

Having a good grasp on the information the contractors are telling you, requires that you do your homework too.  Knowing the problem your basement has, researching the methods, materials and companies doing these kind of jobs can mean saving money while having a job well done. 

If you have questions or need more information about basement waterproofing and foundation repair contact us.  We will be happy to offer a solution that makes sense to you and is kind to your wallet.


Communication is Key to a “Comfortable” Repair

stock-photo-3164773-executive-home-bar-and-entertainment-roomBecky recently completed an expensive home repair.  It went well and she was satisfied with the results.  But, throughout the process she had an uneasy feeling, which she was never able to identify.  Finally, she realized what she’d been feeling was uncomfortable.  When the workmen were there she didn’t feel comfortable in her own home. 

Several weeks later Becky recognized why she felt this way when an HV/AC contractor said, “I’m going to be in and out a lot.  Do you want me to knock first and then come in, or just walk in without knocking?”  She immediately felt comfortable with the knocking option.  She realized that when the other repair men just walked in she perceived it as impolite and invasive.

Her experience is actually very common.  People are so focused on cost, time and contracts that they don’t think of making the process more comfortable for themselves, their families and the workers.  They “just want to get though it”.  But, a conversation with your contractor about your expectations may go a long way toward helping you feel more at ease.

When expectations aren’t discussed the contractor, his employees and you are doing a lot of assuming, which often leads to confusion, misunderstanding and possible embarrassment.  People have very different opinions on what is appropriate in certain situations – opinions they assume others are aware of and share. 

But, people don’t have the same expectations.  Some home owners might think, “The workers need to take time to make friends with my kids and dog, it’s their home too.”  While other owners think, “It’s my job to keep my kids and dog out of the way, the workers are too busy to be bothered by them.”

If you and your contractor don’t discuss it he won’t know what your expectations and boundaries are.  A reputable contractor and his employees want you to feel comfortable – they want you to clearly spell things out for them.  Otherwise, they’ll drive to the closest gas station to use the bathroom, while you’re wondering why they’re not using the downstairs half bath. 


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

4 Things to do When Your Basement Gets Wet

stock-photo-6173250-pipes-under-houseA wet or flooded basement is a common problem in our area.  Clean up can be labor intensive, emotionally draining and time consuming.  It can also be time sensitive; the longer there’s moisture the higher the possibility of health risks.  Here are some steps to take to protect the health of your family if your basement gets wet.

Dry it out – The basement and all the items in it should be dried out as quickly as possible.  Use fans and dehumidifiers, as well as open doors and windows.  Even if it’s cold outside, when circumstances allow, open them anyway.  The faster it’s dried the better chance you have of saving possessions and decreasing the health (mold) risk.

Clean it up – The best way to avoid or eliminate mold growth is to immediately clean the things which can be disinfected.  Many porous items (i.e. clothes, carpet and padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, ceiling tiles, insulation, paper, wood products, toys, food) can’t be effectively sanitized.

Mold thrives in and on these surfaces, and the longer they’re wet the more difficult it is to kill all the spores.  This is the time to be ruthless – your kid’s school projects, pictures and stuffed tiger may not be salvageable. The Center for Disease Control recommends erring on the side of caution; even dead mold can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Throw it away – Triage is vital and decisions must be made in a timely manner.  Mold spreads fast and the longer you take to get rid of unsalvageable items the better chance it has of taking hold.

Items that can’t be cleaned should be immediately thrown away in receptacles outside the house (including the garage).  If you need to store something for an insurance claim, do so out of the house.  In extreme cases you may have to temporarily move out while damaged floors and walls are removed by professionals.

Take appropriate caution – Use strong, disinfecting cleaners and wear the proper equipment (gloves, face masks and protective clothing) while using them.  Try to avoid cross contamination – don’t wear your shoes on the wet, damaged basement carpet and then walk through the rest of the house with them on, spreading spores as you go.

Also, you may need to consult with your doctor before you begin clean up.  People with allergies, asthma, weakened immune systems and respiratory conditions should contact their physician to find out what type of participation is allowed. 

OK, you’ve had a big enough problem that you’ve had to follow some or all of these guidelines.  If the trouble is internal (i.e. sump pump, leaking basement walls, broken pipes) this is your wake-up call to fix it.  Don’t go through all the hassles of clean up only to have to do it all over when the problem reoccurs.


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 100 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes.