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Friday, December 14, 2012

Vaulting a Ceiling: The Cost, Process, and ROI

Vaulting a Ceiling: The Cost, Process, and ROI
Article From By: Dave Toht
Photo: Flickr CC License: OlgerFallasPainting

Feeling hemmed in? Wish you had more space? If your house has low ceilings, vaulting your ceiling may be the answer.
If your home is a modest-size, single-story tract home with standard, 8-foot ceilings, it's an ideal candidate for vaulting a ceiling. Depending on how steep your roof pitch is, vaulting a 20-by-20-foot room creates a new ceiling that's 11 to 12 feet high at its peak. The price isn't low, though. You'll pay $18,000 to $25,000.
But that cost will transform your whole house, adding volume and lots of light at a fraction of the cost of adding square footage.

How to know if your home is right for a vaulted ceiling

Take a trip to your attic to look for the following:
Roof framing: Is your attic framed with rafters or trusses? Rafters are best because of the open space they leave. But if your attic has trusses - a type of crisscross framing - that makes it much more complicated and expensive, costing you 20% to 40% more.

Chimney: Is your chimney slanting into the space you want to open up? If so, that's pretty much a deal breaker.

Electrical lines: Look cable or conduit will be attached to the tops of the joists. Moving wiring is routine.

Ductwork: Any sheet-metal ducts will have to be rerouted, typically under your house. Rerouting ductwork adds to the overall expense.

Plumbing pipes: Plastic vent pipes are easy to move; copper or galvanized-steel supply lines less so.

It's not a DIY project

It's a messy and potentially dangerous job. You should hire a professional contractor. Your contractor may enlist the expertise of a structural engineer to produce a framing plan.

The contractor's crew will handle the demolition, framing, insulation, but will sub out the drywall, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. You may want to tackle the painting yourself to save costs, but bear in mind that you'll be working at heights.

How much time will it take?

For a 20-by-20-foot room, allow at least a month from demolition to the final coat of paint and installation of electrical fixtures. Complications, such as rerouting HVAC ducts, will add to the time it takes to complete the project.

A vaulted ceiling remodel is a great opportunity to add skylights. You may also want to move to a more open plan, removing a few walls to create one large, vaulted space. However, more time for demolition, and installing new flooring and repairs to walls.

What are the costs?

Costs vary according to size of your space and how much the framing and other components have to be changed and moved. Here's a breakdown for a basic vaulting project:
planning, structural engineer, and permits: $1,000

demolition and disposal: $3,700

reinforce framing, remove ceiling joists: $3,600

moving, adding wiring: $2,900

insulation: $1,300

drywalling: $3,900

painting: $1,600

Total: $18,000

How does a vaulted affect resale value?

For an otherwise claustrophobic tract home, a vaulted ceiling is a boon.

"A lot of the homes that were built before the '90s had 8-foot ceilings and a small rooms, giving a kind of a chopped up feel," says Bill Bartlett, a broker in Newburgh, Ind. He estimates that a vaulted ceiling and an open floor plan can boost a home's value dramatically -- as much as 25%. However, with higher-end homes, such amenities are expected and the premium is less.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Biometric Locks: Even the Jetsons Would be In Awe

Biometric Locks: Even the Jetsons Would be In Awe
Article From By: Jan Soults Walker
Photo: Flickr CC License: Hosting Coupons
Biometric locks employ high-tech fingerprint recognition technology to verify your identity before allowing a locked door to be opened.
George Jetson would definitely be eyeing a biometric lock as a present for his boss, Mr. Spacely. In addition to keeping Spacely Sprockets safe from the prying eyes of rival Spencer Cogswell, a biometric lock will provides home security and ease of entry-no more fumbling with keys.
A biometric lock uses an optical or thermal scanner to read and memorize your fingerprint (and the fingerprints of other authorized users who you decide should have access to your home).
Opening a biometric door lock is typically a two-step process. First, press your fingertip-or hand-to the scanner, and the device identifies your unique characteristics. Next, you type an authentication code into a keypad to open the lock.

Biometric locks characteristics
Goodbye, keys. You'll never leave your fingerprints in your other pants, so biometric locks offer convenience and fast entry for an authorized user.

Biometric power. Many biometric security systems provide alternate key access in case the battery-operated system fails.

The ouch factor. Some biometric scanners will no longer recognize your fingerprint if you get a cut or develop a scar.

Price particulars. Biometric door locks range from $69 to $350 or more, and are readily available at hardware stores and home improvement centers.

Three innovative biometric lock ideas
Safe keeping. The portable BioBox Fingerprint Safe is sized (about 7x11x2 inches) for stowing small items such as jewelry, cash, medications, or a firearm. Press your fingertip to the scanner on top for quick one-second access. Stores up to 30 fingerprints for multiple users, and operates on four AA batteries. Sells for about $200.

Computer critter. BioCert Hamster IV Optical Fingerprint Reader connects to any Windows PC as a security feature for your computer. The device is designed to work with special software to capture high-quality fingerprints from a wide range of traditionally difficult fingers, including those from dry, wet, scarred, or aged skin, and in bright ambient conditions such as under direct sunlight. Priced at about $100.

Alarming option. If someone tries to break the BioAxxis Biometric Deadbolt lock, an alarm sounds. Named the best fingerprint door lock by Good Housekeeping Research, the lock sells for about $69.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Can Remodeling Spook Sleeping Ghosts?

Can Remodeling Spook Sleeping Ghosts?
Article From By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Photo: Flickr CC License goldberg

Sometimes home owners don't know their houses are haunted until a remodel disturbs the spirit world.
Over the years, I've had more than one friend tell me their house is haunted. Usually, the ghosts are harmless pranksters who move items on a dresser, or leave small toys in a house that hasn't seen kids in years.

What prompts this supernatural silliness? It may be a recent home improvement project.

"When you remodel, you change the restful spirits' environment, and it may not be comfortable with the outcome," according to David's GhostHunting Blog, which collects ghost stories. "Some may bother you just to let you know, 'Hey! You may have changed the house, but I'm still here!"

We at HouseLogic want you to get the most out of your remodel project. Occasionally, that may mean more than you bargained for. Get your Halloween spirit stirred up and check out these spooky renovation tales:


1. After a major kitchen remodel, a Virginia home owner believes a ghost repeatedly locks her son in the basement, even after she has removed all keys from sight.

2. Soon after a young couple bumped out the front of their house, an otherwise friendly ghost began making trouble. The ghost stole tools, pulled down drywall, and pushed workers.

3. Through the years, claims have surfaced that the White House is haunted. Mysterytopia has pictures of a 1950 remodeling that shows, if you look hard enough, an apparition supposedly standing in the middle of the renovation.

4. The moment a South Dakota woman walked into her 1910 home, she felt that the kitchen was backwards, even though she'd never been in the house before. When the real estate agent confirmed that during a previous kitchen remodel, the configuration had indeed been reversed, the new home owner wondered if she had been receiving messages from another world.

5. Soon after remodeling began on the historic Felt Mansion in Holland, Mich., shadowy figures appeared and doors opened and closed themselves. Click on this video and decide for yourself if the mansion is haunted.

Have you disturbed the ethers during a remodel at your house? Share your otherworldly story!

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
Blogspot - Pinterest - Twitter - Facebook - Google+

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chimney Maintenance for Warmth and Safety

Chimney Maintenance for Warmth and Safety
Article From By: Wendy Paris
Photo: Flickr CC License: Marion Doss
Chimney maintenance and a fireplace inspection can make the difference between warm safety and drafty danger.
Your fireplace, the most low-tech piece of equipment in your house, may seem like a simple load-and-light operation, but ignoring annual maintenance can impair its performance, leading to heated air (and dollars) blowing out the chimney, harmful smoke inside, and possibly even a chimney fire.

The average number of annual U.S. home fires caused by fireplace, chimney, and chimney connectors between 2003 and 2005 was 25,100, and the average costs for those fires was $126.1 million, based on the most recent statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That's roughly $5,024 in damage per home. Annual chimney maintenance removes flammable creosote, the major cause of chimney fires, and identifies other performance problems.

Is it worth the $205 fee, two-hour service call, and all that ash possibly blackening your carpet? Here's what you need to know to decide.

Annual inspections keep flames burning right
Creosote-combustible, tar-like droplets-is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn, the wetter or greener the wood, and the more often you restrict airflow by keeping your fireplace doors closed or your damper barely open, the more creosote is produced.
Soot build-up, while not flammable, can hamper venting. One half-inch of soot can restrict airflow 17% in a masonry chimney and 30% in a factory-built unit, according to the CSIA. Soot is also aggressively acidic and can damage the inside of your chimney.

The more creosote and soot, the more likely you are to see signs of chimney fire-loud popping, dense smoke, or even flames shooting out the top of your chimney into the sky. Chimney fires damage the structure of your chimney and can provide a route for the fire to jump to the frame of your house.
"If the chimney is properly maintained, you'll never have a chimney fire," says Ashley Eldridge, the education director of the CSIA.

The best way to ensure your chimney isn't an oil slick waiting to ignite? Get it inspected.

Three inspection levels let you choose what you need
A level-one inspection includes a visual check of the fireplace and chimney without any special equipment or climbing up on the roof. The inspector comes to your house with a flashlight, looks for damage, obstructions, creosote build-up, and soot, and tells you if you need a sweep. If so, he'll grab his brushes, extension poles, and vacuum, and do it on the spot.
"You should have it inspected every year to determine if it needs to be swept. An annual inspection will also cover you if the neighbor's children have thrown a basketball in it, or a bird has built a nest," says Eldridge.

A level one typically runs about $125. Add a sweep, and you're talking another $80, or about $205 for both services, according to CSIA.

Consider a level-two inspection if you've experienced a dramatic weather event, like a tornado or hurricane; if you've made a major change to your fireplace; or bought a new house. This includes a level-one investigation, plus the inspector's time to visit the roof, attic, and crawl space in search of disrepair. It concludes with a sweep, if necessary, and information on what repair is needed. The price will depend on the situation.

A level three inspection is considered "destructive and intrusive" and can resemble a demolition job. It may involve tearing down and rebuilding walls and your chimney, and is usually done after a chimney fire. The cost will depend on the situation.

Small steps can improve your fireplace's efficiency
Besides the annual sweep, improve your fireplace's functioning with responsible use.

Only burn dry, cured wood-logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow. Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you'll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to CSIA.

Wood, only wood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising your air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your fire going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.

Close your damper when not using the fireplace to prevent warm indoor air-and the dollars you're spending to heat it-from rushing up the chimney.

On a factory-built, prefab wood-burning fireplace, keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room.

Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney and to reduce downdrafts. The caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one available at most home improvement retailers because it won't rust, says Anthony Drago, manager of Ashleigh's Hearth and Home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. "You can get a top-mounted damper that functions as a rain cap, too, an improvement over the traditional damper because it provides a tighter closure," says CSIA's Eldridge.

Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house-near the fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.

If you burn more than three cords of wood annually, get your chimney cleaned twice a year. A cord is 4-feet high, by 4-feet wide, by 8-feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pick-up trucks.

To burn fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats and keeping your damper completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally-with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering the fireplace and creosote from developing.

By the way, fireplaces aren't officially rated for energy efficiency because they're so varied. Depending on the source of information, they can be 10% to 30% efficient in converting fuel to heat.
No inspection will turn a masonry or factory-built fireplace into a furnace, but it can improve efficiency somewhat, decrease the amount of heating dollars you're sending up the chimney, and increase your enjoyment of your hearth time by reducing smoke. If a sweeping prevents a chimney fire, you're talking about the difference between another ordinary January day, and the potential loss of your home, or even life.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Shhh! 9 Secrets for Soundproofing Walls

Shhh! 9 Secrets for Soundproofing Walls
Article From By: Dave Toht
Photo: Flickr CC License: parkeyparker
Forget stapling egg cartons to your walls -- you can quiet down your house for good if you know these 9 little secrets for soundproofing walls.
Down the hall, your 10-year-old practices saxophone. In the garage, your husband fires up his table saw. The racket has the artwork on the walls jiggling.

Wouldn't it be great if you could muffle all that noise? By soundproofing your walls, you'll gain peace and quiet, and restore a little sanity to your household.

To quiet household noise, you'll need to reduce vibrations, plug sound leaks, and absorb sounds.
Secret #1: Extra drywall. Sounds are vibrations. Deadening those vibrations is best done with heavy, dense materials that stop noise in its tracks.

When it comes to heavy, brick and stone are great but impractical for retrofitting your interior walls. The easiest strategy is to add a second layer of drywall to build up a thick, sound-deadening barrier.

You don't have to add drywall everywhere - you can isolate the noisy room (kid's saxophone) or the quiet room (your reading nook).

You'll have to refinish and repaint your new drywall, and probably extend electrical outlets and switch boxes, but those are relatively easy and inexpensive DIY projects.

Secret #2: The caulk sandwich.
As an extra defense, separate the two layers of drywall with 3/8-inch-thick beads of acoustical caulk ($9-$20 for 28-oz. tube). The caulk deadens vibrations that try to travel from one layer of drywall to the other.

Secret #3: Mass-loaded vinyl. Made especially for noise control, mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) is a flexible material that comes in 4-foot-wide rolls. It's made to hang on walls or install on floors to help deaden sounds. Sandwich it between layers of drywall to greatly reduce sound transmission through walls.

A 15-foot-long roll of 1/8-inch-thick MLV (60 sq. ft.) is $80-$110. It's heavy, so if you buy it online, expect to pay another $40-$50 for shipping.

Secret #4: Plugging sound leaks.
"Sound is like water," says Josh Kernan of Westside Drywall in Hubbard, Ore., noting that anywhere water can leak through - cracks and openings - sound can get through, too.

To stop leaking sound, use acoustical caulk to plug holes and gaps around:
ceiling fixtures

switch boxes

receptacle boxes

door casing

Add sweeps ($6-$14) to the bottoms of doors and weatherstripping to door frames.

Secret #5: Absorbing sound with acoustic panels. Acoustic panels absorb sounds before they can bounce off walls and ceilings. They're made to improve the sound inside a room, such as a home theater, but they're also helpful in reducing sound transmission through walls.

Made of porous expanded polypropylene (PEPP), panels come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Most types for home use are covered in fabrics with dozens of colors to choose from. Some manufacturers offer custom-printed fabrics that turn your sound blocking panel into a piece of wall art: Send in a digital photo, and they'll reproduce it on your panel.

Panels attach with clips or Velcro, and installation is an easy DIY job. A standard 2-by-2-foot panel is $25-$30.

Secret #6: Quieting ambient noise. Adding soft items to rooms -- rugs, carpets, drapes, potted plants -- helps reduce vibrations and ambient noise.

Secret #7: Silencing ducts. Sound-deadening duct wrap quiets noisy ducts and adds thermal insulation. A 4-by-30-foot roll of 1-inch-thick wrap is $50.

Secret #8: Adding solid-core doors. A solid core interior door ($60-$80) absorbs sound better than a hollow-core door. Add a sweep to cut airborne sound.

Secret #9: Knowing your STC ratings. Soundproofing products often come with a Sound Transmission Class (STC) rating. STC is a measure of how many decibels of sound reduction a product provides. The higher the STC rating, the better.

An improvement of 10 STC makes the noise seem like it's been cut in half. On the other hand, a rating difference of 3 STC or less is nearly imperceptible -- worth knowing when comparing products.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

© 2015 Dan Benton
Dan Benton - Realtor with Real Estate Brokers of Alaska
1577 C Street, Suite 101A., Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 727-5279

Join Great Alaskan Homes on:
Blogspot - Pinterest - Twitter - Facebook - Google+