What Do You Need to Put Under Your Virginia Deck?

Filed Under: Deck    by: Steve Kayhill

You have big plans for your backyard, including a stunning new Virginia deck and beautiful landscaping to accent the natural features. But you also may be wondering what to do with that space underneath your deck. Several options are available, depending on the deck design and what you hope to do with that space.

Option # 1 – Close It Off Completely

Decks built close to the ground (less than 18-inches off of the ground) can be closed off with deck skirting. This barrier is designed to keep larger critters out and block the deck framing from view. You can add a gate to the skirting, in case you need to retrieve anything valuable that dropped through the gap in your deck board.

Skirting adds to the overall cost of your deck, but does create a more streamlined look and can be used as a retainer for garden soil if you plan to put in a flower bed around the perimeter of your deck.

Option # 2 – Spread Gravel and Landscape Cloth

Since grass will not grow well under your deck due to a lack of sunlight, it makes sense to landscape the area without turf. A popular and cost efficient option includes landscape fabric to block the growth of weeds and grass, covered in gravel for a clean, finished look. The type and size of gravel depends on your preference, but most homeowners go with something a little larger.

Your deck builder may choose to excavate the deck area before installing the fabric and gravel, just to reduce the chance of grass growth. Powerful and invasive, most turf grasses will grow wherever soil, water and some sunlight combine and a patchy gravel/grass area will not look attractive under your Virginia deck.

Be sure the gravel is thick enough and plan to have it refreshed every few years, especially if your yard is on a grade or you have pets. Consider using an edger around the perimeter of the gravel to keep stones in and grass out.

Option # 3 – Create a Living Space

Perfect for walkout decks (more than 5 feet above the ground), this type of deck design adds the greatest value to your backyard. For an inexpensive option, lay down patio slabs under the deck and use the deck framing to hang drapes for privacy or outdoor art for a more attractive space. Concrete pads and flagstone also work well.

Some homeowners invest in a waterproofing product to transform this area into a covered porch. Installed beneath the deck board and undetectable from the upper deck surface, this vinyl sheet is attached to the framing and directs water to an eaves system along the outer rim of your upper deck.

Option # 3 – Leave It Natural

This works for both ground level and walkout decks, and keeps your costs low. Consider whether or not you can live with grass and weeds growing in this space and take into account the balance of your landscape. The condition of your deck surface, stairs and railing will not be affected by anything under the deck. Letting nature have its way in this area is perfectly fine, as long as you’re happy with the outcome.

Talk to your deck builder about the various options available for the space under your Virginia deck. Although this decision may change the price and look of your yard, it’s an important element in the overall design and worth your consideration.

Top Four Hidden Challenges in Virginia Bathroom Remodeling

Filed Under: Bathroom    by: Steve Kayhill

credit flickr/iheartpandas

Major bathrooms renovations often require demolition, with walls, flooring and ceilings ripped out and replaced. You’ll likely uncover at least one of these hidden challenges during a Virginia bathroom remodeling project, and solutions often increase the budget or extend the renovation schedule. Be prepared and talk to your contractor about each of these common issues.

Notched or Cut Floor Joists

Are you replacing the flooring in your Virginia bathroom? After removing the existing floor, your contractor will inspect the condition of the floor joists. DIY enthusiasts and shoddy plumbers often notch floor joists to accommodate pipes, connections and valves. But this installation method also deteriorates the strength of your floor and might require extensive renovation work to correct.

Adding a plywood subfloor helps in some cases, but tiling and other styles of bathroom flooring must be installed on solid joists. If older renovation work reduces the integrity of your bathroom floor take care of the problem during the renovation.

Incorrectly Installed or Missing Ventilation

Bathrooms require full venting in order to cut down on humidity and improve the lifespan of building materials and bathroom furniture. But even those bathrooms with a venting fan experience problems due to incorrect installation or inadequate design.

Exhaust fans should be properly vented to the exterior of your home, using quality ductwork and an appropriately sized fan. If the fan directs air to the basement or attic, or doesn’t work at all, ask your contractor to fix the issue. Get the ductwork inspected for leaks as well, and be sure that the exhaust fan provides enough power for the room size.

Moldy Framing or Drywall

Mold presents various health risks and often grows in the bathroom, creeping up behind the shower stall or behind the drywall. Bathroom renovations that involve removal can stir up the mold spores and expose big problems, resulting in bigger renovation bills. But remember that this money is well spent on your family’s health and ignoring the issue is not an option.

Shower or bathtub surrounds that are not waterproof or water resistant present the ideal conditions for mold growth. Older homes often have plaster walls, which also encourage the spread of mold throughout moist areas of your home. Replace any moldy framing, drywall and plaster walls with proper moisture-resistant drywall, steel studs and other building materials designed to reduce the spread of mold and provide a healthier home for your family.

Corrosion on Plumbing and Joints

Even the best quality plumbing can result in corrosion over time, especially at joints and valves. Your contractor will need to replace corroded plumbing and upgrade existing materials that do not meet current codes and safety standards.

Think about your new plumbing design as well, and remember to choose materials based on durability, as opposed to cost. Stronger styles, such as copper plumbing, naturally resist corrosion and provide increased performance, while top quality fittings can help to reduce leaks.

Your Virginia bathroom remodeling may uncover hidden problems that require immediate attention. Hire an experienced bathroom contractor to handle these issues and you’ll end up with a beautiful room that enhances your home and lifestyle.

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Northern Virginia Home Additions

Filed Under: Additions    by: Steve Kayhill

credit Jeremy Levine Design, CA

Planning a major home improvement project takes patience and wisdom. You also need to seek out expert advice early on in the process, especially if you want to avoid these common budgeting mistakes that can effectively shut down plans for Northern Virginia home additions. Realize your dreams and stay on budget by steering clear of the following scenarios:

#1 – Investing in the Design Process Without First Considering the Overall Budget

Northern Virginia offers several top quality architects and home design firms, and many homeowners contact these professionals first. The initial design stage remains vital, and it’s wise to invest in a professional opinion, but not without having the overall budget in play.

How many projects make it through the long design stage, only to be abandoned when the project is put out to tender? Homeowners need to communicate how much they can realistically afford and designers need to stay within those boundaries, otherwise the home addition is bound to stall.

# 2 – Applying for Permits Too Early

Building permits are essential to any major home renovation, and Northern Virginia home additions require several permit stages. But homeowners can waste a significant amount of money on early applications.

Until you are sure of a solid design, avoid jumping to the permit application stage. There is no way to recoup costs for permit revisions or abandoned applications. Most contractors allow sufficient time for this stage, and if you work within the municipality’s guidelines, permit application should stay within the proposed renovation schedule.

# 3 – Having Unrealistic Expectations for Budget and Schedule

Home additions require significant design, labor and materials. Similar to constructing a new house, but involving a long list of other considerations, home additions demand a big budget and an extended schedule. This mistakes ties in with number one above, but also stretches far beyond the initial design stage.

Go into a home addition project with realistic expectations about the budget (which will be substantial) and the schedule (which will be extensive). Understand that wasted time and last minute changes cost more money and dent an already overloaded schedule. Trust your contractor and keep an eye on things, but avoid projecting any uninformed expectations and issues onto the staff working so hard to transform your home.

# 4 – Planning to Salvage Materials Without Examining the Feasibility

Recycling and salvaging existing building materials makes sense, both in terms of your budget and the environment. But many Northern Virginia homeowners assume they can salvage cabinetry, flooring, lighting or plumbing fixtures, without fully realizing the conditions and process involved.

Be sure to talk to your contractor about items that you wish to salvage. Have a plan B in place should those materials not work in the final design. Several factors come into play on a salvage mission, including removal, storage, overall suitability and current building codes. Your ambitious plans to reuse building materials may look like the perfect way to save money, but the renovation reality may be vastly different. Be prepared to boost the budget and keep in touch with your contractor when that stage comes around.

Budgeting for Northern Virginia home additions requires a sharp pencil and top-notch organization. Start the project off right and avoid these common mistakes to ensure your home addition provides the value and living space of your dreams.

Do You Have Low Ceilings in Your Virginia Basement?

Filed Under: Basement    by: Steve Kayhill

Finishing a Virginia basement with low ceilings presents a variety of challenges. How can you transform a cramped, often dark space into something comfortable? Take your time in the design stage and make the most of this space.

Look Under Your Feet

Maximize ceiling height by looking to the floor first. Many Virginia homeowners assume that a plywood subfloor is required, but other options allow for a more open feeling. Leaving the subfloor out will save an inch or two, which could be the difference in passing and not passing building code.

Your concrete subfloor needs to be fairly level to avoid installing a plywood subfloor. Check from corner to corner and pay special attention to any low lying areas; that is where water will collect should flooding occur. Use concrete leveling products to correct any major discrepancies.

Choose from several types of basement flooring that can be installed on a level concrete subfloor, including:

  • ceramic and natural stone tiles – mortared directly to the concrete
  • engineered wood flooring – floats over a poly barrier and closed cell underpad
  • carpet – laid over a closed cell underpad for protection from mold and other moisture issues

Look Over Your Head

The type of ceiling installed in your Virginia basement also makes a difference to the atmosphere, brightness and comfort of this below-grade living space. Depending on the construction of your home and the space required for lighting fixtures, homeowners have several types of ceilings choices available. Not all will help to maximize the feeling of roominess, and details like color choice serve to enhance the effect.

Wood paneling is one of the cheapest ways to finish off a low ceiling. This thin material can be stapled or nailed directly to the floor joists or wood blocking with light fixtures surface-mounted on the paneling. Consider how you will finish the seams and edges of your ceiling and look for rigid paneling with a decent structure.

Drywall ceilings also provide a low profile ceiling that can be mounted directly onto the floor joists. You’ll need to punch out holes for recessed light fixtures and box around bulk heads, but this type of ceiling can be painted white or off white to help expand the space.

Drop ceilings provide easy access to electrical and mechanical elements, but also cut down on the space available. If your Virginia basement has a low ceiling to begin with, this design makes it worse by dropping down two or three inches. Although you can get white tiles and add sound insulation, drop ceilings work best in basements with full ceiling heights.

Check with your local building department about the minimum ceiling height and stay within that limitation if you want to use the basement for living space. If the existing height is dangerously close to the minimum, talk to your Virginia basement contractor about installing the right types of floors and ceilings to maximize space and create an open, spacious feeling in this living area.