How Are Virginia General Contractors Different From a Local Handyman?

Filed Under: Virginia Contractor    by: Steve Kayhill

virginia_general_contractorsWhen you are planning a home improvement project it is very important to hire the right contractor. Not just the best company in your area, but the proper type of firm. Many homeowners are not clear on the differences between Virginia general contractors and a local handyman. They wonder whether hiring the handyman will save them money and what kind of specialized service they can expect from an experienced general contractor.

Let’s clear up the confusion.

The Basic Difference

Although there may be exceptions to the rule, most often a general contracting firm has a licensed tradesperson on staff. Sometimes there is more than one and several disciplines are covered. You may find a contracting firm with licensed plumbers and electricians on staff, or engineers, planning consultants and architects.

A handyman is most often a highly skilled individual who can handle many different projects, but cannot offer you the value of papers, certifications or designations. It may seem to be a trivial difference, but those credentials come with some very serious specifications and deliver immense value to homeowners.

Look at What Those Certifications Offer

When you are tackling a major Virginia home improvement project, such as a kitchen remodel or home addition, the skills of Virginia general contractors are essential. They will help you with the design stage and have the knowledge of building codes and permits that you need to get the project off of the ground. Without a well planned renovation you are not going to get approval from the municipality or state to begin the project. And that plan needs to be drawn up by a certified professional.

You are also covered under the general contractors liability, from start to finish. The plans must be written to follow building code, which will be the engineer’s responsibility and not the homeowner’s. Liability on the jobsite in case of accident or injury is also covered by the company, which is standard practice for a general contracting firm. You may find that a handyman company offers worker’s compensation or liability coverage, but most often that is not the case.

What About Small Projects?

You may feel more inclined to hire a handyman for those smaller projects around your home. Do you need your siding painted? Or a new bathroom put in? A handyman can look after that for you without the need for all of those designation and certifications, right? Possibly. But are you willing to trust their experience or would you rather know that a third party has licensed the contractor based on proper work practices and current industry standards?

The choice is yours.

It may be true that a handyman can complete these projects for less money. Since budgeting is a big part of renovations, that is a major factor. But if the handyman isn’t able to do the work properly or needs to bring in a licensed professional for inspections, planning and other stages, are you sure that you will save money in the end?

Compare the prices quoted by each type of company based on the value and services offered. Hiring Virginia general contractors will be the right choice in many cases, but a skilled and familiar local handyman may also do the trick for others.

Three Tricky Elements of Northern Virginia Siding Installation

Filed Under: Siding    by: Steve Kayhill

northern_virginia_sidingYou will be faced with many different decisions when installing the siding on your home. There are different types to choose from (vinyl, aluminum, fiber cement and stucco, for example) and different contractors available for hire. But only an experienced installer will be able to handle these three tricky elements of Northern Virginia siding installation. Be sure you can trust them to get the job done right.

Stripping What Is Necessary

Stripping is the term for removing the old siding on your home. If you are involved in a replacement project, it’s important that you ask the installer how they handle stripping.

Some contractors will install a new layer of siding right over top of the old one. Others will attach a layer of foam insulation for good measure and still others will strip the existing material right off in order to begin the project with a clean slate.

It does depend on the type of siding you have chosen – fiber cement needs to be installed directly onto a stable layer of rigid insulation or into the studs. This style cannot be installed over old materials, although certain types of wood siding and vinyl can be attached in that way. Find out what method the contractor uses and why before you hire them on.

Seamless Coverage

Siding sheets often come in 12 foot pieces and are able to provide a seamless finish on some walls. Using full pieces will also cut down on the seams that exist on walls longer or taller than that 12 foot size. But there are bound to be scraps and smaller pieces. Some may be wasted, unless a spot is found for them.

Certain contractors make a habit of using the smaller pieces together to cover small walls. But this will create seams and many opportunities for water and wind to get under the siding and into the house. This may cut down of waste, but it will result in a lower quality finish. Good contractors should use full sheets whenever possible and create the least amount of seams.

Cutting Corners Correctly

Installation of siding pieces on large sections of wall is straightforward. But the quality and expertise of a contractor will be evident in how they install corner pieces. These essential trim elements provide the finished look you want and amateur or inexperienced installers may have difficulty getting them straight, well cut and neatly attached.

Corner trim covers the unfinished edges and seals off these vulnerable areas from water infiltration. Since you have made a sizable investment in your Northern Virginia siding, it’s important that you choose a contractor who will pay attention to these little details. Well-cut and neatly attached corners do make a difference, to both the overall appearance and the longevity of the project.

There are certain details that will noticeably affect the overall appearance and quality of your Northern Virginia siding job. Ask each contractor about how they handle stripping, seams and trimming the corners. Have a look at some jobs they have done to get a feel for their attention to detail. Then make your final decision based on how confident you are that they will come through on your home improvement project.

To Buy or Not to Buy | Virginia Realtors Weigh In On This Pressing Question

Filed Under: Virginia real estate    by: Steve Kayhill

virginia_realtors_helpIt is a commonly held assumption that buying a home is more advantageous than renting. But it’s also important to note that buying real estate is a serious decision and should be undertaken in the right way and at the right time. It should be much easier to decide whether or not it’s the right call for you with the help of experienced Virginia realtors who are working for your best interests.

What Every Realtor Knows

The market moves in all different directions. What is an ideal time to buy for one family may be the perfect time to sell for another. First time home buyers are best to get in while mortgage interest rates are relatively low, but it is never a good idea to stretch your budget too thin. That will only get you into trouble and, eventually, that trouble will head back into the market in the form of foreclosures and stifling financial conditions.

If you are recently out of school and have not been working at your job for long, it may be wise to rent for a time while shopping for real estate. That will allow your credit rating to improve and increase the time elapsed at your workplace. Mortgage companies look favorably on dependable income, so the longer you’ve been at your job, the better.

That being said, even students with a healthy financial situation can secure mortgages. The trick is to be sure that the Virginia real estate you purchase is affordable and priced well. When your credit rating and balance sheet (what you own versus what you owe) looks good approaching a financial institution about mortgage preapproval is a wise first step. Then you can shop for the ideal first home with more confidence.

Why Renting Doesn’t Pay Off In the End

There are a few major disadvantages to renting. In the first place, your monthly payments are serving to line the landlord’s pockets as opposed to building up equity for yourself. Even at the opening stages of a large mortgage amortized over a long period of time you are paying off some of the principal. The longer you pay that mortgage (without borrowing against it), the more equity is building up. After years and years of renting, you will essentially have nothing of value to show for it.

Rental increases are out of your control, meaning you cannot be sure of the overall cost of your place over a long period of time. Mortgage rates, however, can be locked in for substantial terms – from six months to twenty years, depending on the financial institution. In that case your mortgage payment will be set for the term. Most likely the mortgage rates will have changed by the end of your term. But the principal will have decreased, giving you flexibility and control over the size of those payments even beyond the initial term.

Virginia realtors are ready and willing to help first time home buyers and those re-entering the market. They can show you what’s out there and are willing to offer advice on your personal situation – advice that will help you answer the tough question, “to buy, or not to buy?”

How To Combine Your Virginia Deck With Stunning Backyard Landscaping

Filed Under: Deck    by: Steve Kayhill

virginia_deck-landscapingThe beauty and comfort of your backyard will depend on many factors. Size, shape, features and design all come together to create an outdoor living space that allows you to relax and shed the stresses of the day. Your Virginia deck design should be woven together with beautiful landscaping to create the framework and structure for this space. But there are tricks to weaving these backyard elements together properly.

Take Stock of Your Grade

The design of your backyard will greatly depend on the grade of your property. On a walkout lot a deck needs to be at least 8 feet off of the ground and include stairs to the grade. At the foot of those stairs welcoming and seamless landscaping including stone pathways, gardens and soft turf will encourage traffic on and off the deck. But the landscaping and deck surface on a walkout lot do not come together in the same way that they will with ground level homes.

If your rear entrance comes out at ground level you have a little more flexibility in terms of deck and landscaping design. A wooden deck can be easily combined with stone to create a multi-layered area including a variety of outdoor rooms. Those patios could be surrounded by lush gardens and bordered with wood or stone retaining walls to create stability and visual interest.

Ground level grading certainly provides more options, but walkout decks and landscaping can also be incredibly beautiful and comfortable.

Get a Bird’s Eye View

Think of your backyard from a different perspective. Although you will be living on the ground, it helps to make sketches of your space from above. Use these sketches to plan for the location of specific features like ponds, sheds, fountains and that all important Virginia deck. You can even make this drawing part of the overall plan for your yard, only tackling certain stages as they are possible but keeping the end goal in view.

It’s best to draw out this plan on graph paper, since that will allow you to maintain balance and the proper scale. Try not to build a massive desk or a sprawling patio without having decent sized flower beds and other landscaping features to balance the area. Draw in the trees, turf and flower gardens, as well as all of the structures in the yard and both the wood and stone patio areas. Label everything carefully, but don’t be afraid to play around with the design as well. That’s why you have a plan, to experiment.

Consider the Contractor

It helps to use the same contractor for the construction of your deck, patio and any fencing. Find a reputable and experienced pro who can do all of this for you – that will save you time and streamline the installation process. Many decking contractors will be able to handle the hardscaping projects, but they may need to recommend a landscaping firm for the sod, gardening and soft landscaping elements. Be sure that you are hiring the best contractor for every stage of this project .

Your Virginia deck can combine with strikingly beautiful landscaping to provide an outdoor space that is attractive, comfortable and built to last. You’ll want to spend much more time outside when this atmosphere is waiting for you in the backyard.