Home Renovation

Going Solar - Changes to Local Programs!

Northampton Area Homeowners take note, there are some important changes coming to local solar programs that may effect you. If you are thinking about adding solar power to your home or property, it seems that now might be the time to do it! Read on for more details about how new tariffs instituted by the President,�and changes to local incentive programs, might effect costs for installation and use of solar power. The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lays it all out.

Environment: Changes coming to solar programs

  • Phil Crafts, left, and Joan Snowdon, both of Leverett, look toward the angled roof on their house which would not allow for the installation of rooftop solar panels, Oct. 21, 2017. Instead, they had freestanding panels installed on their property.�GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

By CAITLIN ASHWORTH
@kate_ashworth
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

With a tariff on solar product imports, a new incentive program in Massachusetts and a change in rates from Eversource, industries and consumers using the sun's rays to generate energy are sure to see a change.

President Donald Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff -- which took effect last month -- on solar products in an effort to revive American solar manufacturing companies and create jobs. He also put a tariff on steel and aluminum. Both materials are used to mount solar panels.

Northampton-based Valley Solar general manager Patrick Rondeau said the company quickly bought up panels before the tariff kicked in.

"We've already seen our most popular panels increase in price," Rondeau said, adding that the costs have raised 10 to 15 percent.

Rondeau said homeowners looking to convert to solar could see a 3 to 5 percent increase.

"As one of the largest residential solar companies in the U.S., we are disappointed in the decision made by the Trump administration to set a tariff on imported solar panels," David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, said in a statement. "We know that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, overwhelmingly support the expansion of solar power because they know it's a good thing for the health of our environment and economy, as well as our energy independence."

Bywater added that the company, which has a branch in Chicopee, will continue to provide customers with a better way to create energy and priorities remain unchanged.

In Easthampton, Patrick Quinlan, CEO of the start-up company SolaBlock, said that while the company will be affected by the tariff, he's optimistic for the future.

SolaBlock manufactures "solar masonry units," concrete blocks with integrated solar electric cells, according to the company's website. Quinlan said he purchases the best products he can, but products made in the United States are limited. Some U.S. suppliers have factories overseas, he added.

Sarah Zazzaro-Williams, manager of All Energy Solar in Chicopee, said the solar industry in Massachusetts is competitive and has seen steady growth within the last few years. She said many of the people who get solar panels installed do so to save money on their home's electricity costs.

While the tariff may increase costs, both Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the state's new incentive program Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, as well as new rates from Eversource may have a more direct impact on residents using or switching over to solar. She said many of people that get solar panels installed to save on home electricity costs.

Rondeau said "demand charges" by Eversource, which will be in effect next year, will have a greater impact on homeowners switching over to solar�than the tariff and new incentive.

Eversource

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a "demand charge" for residents using solar panels to generate energy for their home. The charge is based on a consumer's peak demand over a specified time period, typically the monthly billing cycle, according to the DPU decision.

"This new charge helps ensure we collect the costs to serve distributed generation without other customers subsidizing those choosing net metering options," Eversource wrote on its website. "It also helps Eversource recover the cost to serve net metering customers. We developed the demand charge using a cost of service model that established the minimum cost to maintain system reliability."

Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the charge is based off peak energy use.

"It is unfair," Rondeau said.

State solar program

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke said the SMART program will replace SREC II, the solar renewable energy credit.

"With over 2,000 megawatts of solar now installed, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in solar deployment and clean energy innovation," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement last month. "Through our next solar incentive program, SMART, and our forward-thinking solar grant programs, we look forward to doubling that amount of solar and building a sustainable and affordable clean energy future for the Commonwealth."

The main difference between the two programs is that SRECs are a tradable commodity where the market price is determined by supply and demand in a particular year, and SMART is a tariff-based incentive program, according to Gronendyke.

Zazzaro-Williams said the new incentive does not offer as much benefit as the current one, adding that All Energy Solar is pushing for customers to get solar panels fast while the current incentive is still in effect.

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Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.

Design Elements for Modern Homebuyers

As realtors, we are first-hand witnesses to the changing tides of desirable home design elements for home buyers. Seven years ago, when I became a realtor: granite and poured concrete were all the rage for kitchen counters, everyone seemed to be looking for an open concept living space, flat yards bested yards with any slope, and stainless appliances were a must-have. It's interesting to see preferences for certain types of layouts, paint colors, building materials, design elements and landscaping choices ebb and flow over time. I even notice that my personal preferences change, depending upon what I'm seeing more of. I've grown to love marble in kitchens and baths, but I can imagine that, over time, I might tire of their stark whiteness and required maintenance.

The following article from my favorite home and design blog, Apartment Therapy, talks about *modern* homebuyer preferences. While the Northampton area isn't overflowing with Sub Zero or Viking appliances, per se, I agree that the other elements of this article hold true.

 

What Modern Homebuyers Are Looking For (Hint: It's NOT Granite Countertops)

Brittney Morgan
Oct 25, 2017
 
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)
 
When looking at homes, we all have our own preferences for different home features—one person might want a huge, modern kitchen and another might not care about the kitchen as much as they care about having walk-in closets. But which features are most commonly used as selling points for homes?

Trulia pulled data from homes for sale on the site over the past year to see what design features are most popular for listers, pitting different features against each other. While some trends and design staples unsurprisingly won out—looking at you, subway tile and hardwood floors—others didn't necessarily come out on top, and some were just plain missing (seriously, no mention of granite countertops? I'm shocked!).

Here's how the most popular design features fared against each other.

Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

The Winner: Quartz countertops—they're more expensive up front, but marble countertops require more maintenance by comparison, which can add up.

Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

The Winner: Soaking tubs. Claw foot tubs may seem more luxurious, but soaking tubs were far more popular according to the data.

Hardwood Floors vs. Carpet

The Winner: Hardwood floors. According to Trulia, real estate agents frequently see a strong preference for hardwood floors from clients, because they're easier to clean and long-lasting.

Basketweave Tile vs. Subway Tile

The Winner: Subway tile—although Trulia admits the numbers for each were so close, it's nearly a toss-up.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

The Winner: White cabinets, and real estate agents point out that lighter, brighter cabinets can make a kitchen look bigger.

Sub-Zero Appliances vs. Viking Appliances

The Winner: Sub-Zero appliances—although, like the tile style toss-up, Viking appliances were just barely behind.

Bay Windows vs. Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

The Winner: Bay windows. Another close call, but bay windows were still the more popular selling point.

Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

The Winner: Gas stoves—while they're more expensive initially, they save money in the long run as gas in general is less expensive than electricity. Gas stoves were far more popular than electric stoves among listings.

 

 

Lighting Updates to Attract Home Buyers

One of the many services that we realtors provide our seller clients, is to preview their homes and make suggestions about affordable updates that can give a dated home, or room, a fresh appearance. It rarely makes sense for someone who is planning to sell their home to make a deep pocket investment such as a total kitchen or bathroom renovation. Style choices are subjective, and expensive renovations that a new buyer would want to "undo" can actually negatively affect the bottom-line sale price.  Sometimes a fresh coat of paint and some new light fixtures can go a long way towards making a space feel updated and attractive.

Since we do tend to have a fall upswing in home sales here in the Northampton area, now would be a good time to call your realtor for an opinion about which affordable updates to make before putting your house on the market. This recent article from the Boston Globe gives sound advice about light fixture choices:

Ask the Stager: Tips for choosing lighting that attracts buyers

   

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens.

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens. Tim Lee Photography/Staging by Staged To Move

Kara Woods - Globe Correspondent

August 15, 2017 11:00 pm

Updated interior lighting is one of the most efficient ways to get a potential buyer’s eyes to light up. Just like a fresh coat of “greige’’ (a color between beige and gray) paint, lighting has the power to change the entire feel of a room instantly. It’s an affordable fix with maximum impact.

We’re currently using the transitional style of lighting to get our clients’ homes showcase ready. A mix between traditional and contemporary, its streamlined and sophisticated look tends to appeal to the broadest audience.

Here are a few of my go-to transitional-style light fixtures:

Dining room/kitchen

The “orb,’’ or round fixture, is replacing the traditional six-candle chandelier. In addition to a dining room or kitchen, these fixtures also light up a foyer.

The Solaris 6-light sphere chandelier by Crystorama Lighting. —Photo by David Turner;Staging by Stage To Move

Kitchen pendants

When updating or installing kitchen pendants, it can be tricky to determine the size fixture you’ll need and how many will fit in the space. The rule of thumb is to space the lights 30 inches apart and 30 to 36 inches above the island surface.

Popular styles that will make your kitchen shine include:

Industrial 

Inspired by factories and older buildings, this style is now used in contemporary kitchens. Industrial-style lighting is common in Restoration Hardware designs.

Glass or clear pendants in a transitional style

Selected for its clean, linear lines, this style creates visual impact without taking up a lot of visual space. A favorite among stagers, potential buyers are able to move their eyes easily over, and through, the entire space. Stick with a polished nickel or chrome finish.

The kitchen pictured below had outdated bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy and blocked the view of the large kitchen and eating area. When we installed these lighter glass fixtures, they opened up the space and showcased the full potential of this beautiful kitchen. (We also painted the cherry cabinets white, which also brightened the space.)

Bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy were replaced with transitional-style glass fixtures, Birch Lane by Northport Pendant, that opened up the space. —Photo by Anthony Acocella; Staging by Staged To Move

Bathroom

Sconces

  • Stick with straight, clean lines and a polished nickel or chrome finish.
  • Avoid the glass shades that look like a bell — in other words, pronounced curves.
  • Stay away from sconces with mini shades.

Stick with clean, straight lines for bathroom sconces. Shown here is the Hewitt single sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Overhead

  • Stick with the same rule of thumb as the sconces — opt for straight, box-like lines.
  • Stay away from curves or bell shapes.
  • Select polished nickel or chrome finishes. For overhead bathroom fixtures, select polished nickel or chrome finishes. Shown here is the Alcott triple sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Hallway

This situation typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture.

Hallway lighting typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture. The fixture pictured here, by Progress Lighting, features a low-slung shade. —Courtesy of Progress Lighting

Final thoughts

A couple of things to keep in mind as you select lighting and prepare your home for sale:

1. Be sure to combine the new lighting with existing fixtures. For example, if the sconces in the hallway are brushed nickel, pick a semi-flush fixture in the same material so they coordinate.

2. Focus your staging budget on high-priority areas, which include the first floor (or public spaces), the master bedroom, and the master bath.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.

Laminate Flooring is the New Black

One of the benefits of being a realtor, is the satisfaction you gain in selling a home to friends, so that you can watch the transformation of their new home over time. Super handy friends of mine bought a house that needed a lot of elbow grease in Florence center a few years ago. It has been so much fun to watch them transform this diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem, one room and one project at at time. Their most recent project has been to finish the spacious basement. They decided to save some money by GC-ing the project themselves. They hired contractors to do some of the work - hang the ceiling, rebuild the staircase, install lighting and outlets, etc. The rest of the work they did on their own, and the results are beautiful! 

To me, the standout of this space has been their choice of flooring (well, that and the sleek and modern cable stair rail). They decided on a floating laminate floor - and it is beautiful! "Beautiful", you may ask yourself - "but that's not possible with a laminate floor!". Well, that is what I would have thought too, once upon a time. But the laminate "floorboards" they used are just that, beautiful! The photo below (though not a basement space) mimics the floor in question quite accurately. A rustic-looking "wood" floor in medium browns and tans. The fact is, laminate ain't what it used to be. Read on for a recent New York Times article about laminate flooring.

 

Under Your Feet, the Floor Show

By JAY ROMANOAUG. 6, 2008

SOMETIMES neither wood, tile nor carpeting seems like the right choice for a floor. An alternative worth considering is laminate.

“Laminates are probably the most exciting change the flooring industry has seen in the last decade,” said Tom Kraeutler, who is a host of The Money Pit, a radio show, and with his co-host, Leslie Segrete, author of “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008).

Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association in Washington, said laminates account for 18 to 21 percent of the retail flooring market for residential remodeling. And since 1993, he said, sales of laminates have increased by more than 10 percent nearly every year.

Mr. Kraeutler explained that earlier versions of laminate flooring were difficult to install because as each strip of flooring was laid, the tongue and groove connection required gluing and clamping of the joints.

Photo
 
CreditJoel Holland 

Laminate flooring available now, he said, is much easier to use. Glue is no longer needed as the adjoining boards snap into place, and it is also more visually appealing, with hundreds of patterns to choose from. “A laminate floor can look like any kind of wood, stone, tile, vinyl, or just about any other flooring material available,” he said. Paul Murfin, vice president of sales for Armstrong Floor Products in Lancaster, Pa., said the flooring can be anywhere from 7 to 12 millimeters thick and can have a smooth or textured finish. With laminate that looks like stone, the surface can have a stone-like texture; laminate that looks like wood could have a raised grain. Early laminates had a tendency to produce a hollow “clippity-clop” sound when walked on with shoes. Newer laminates, particularly thicker ones, eliminate that sound. In addition, Mr. Murfin said, laminates are free-floating surfaces. They are not glued to the subfloor but rest on foam.

Amberlee Virgili, a customer service representative for FloorOne.com, an online retailer of laminate flooring products, said her company sells about 16 brands of laminate flooring, with prices from less than $1 a square foot to about $5 a square foot.

Bob Middleton, technical and installation manager at Lumber Liquidators, a nationwide retailer of flooring products based in Toano, Va., said consumers should look at a product’s warranty. Laminate floors can carry warranties of 10, 20 or 30 years, he said.

Mr. Dearing of Nalfa said, “The best thing to do is to try to look at a display floor.” That is particularly helpful, he added, when a homeowner is considering a laminate floor with a textured finish. Another thing a homeowner can do is visit the organization’s Web site at www.nalfa.orgcom. The organization has established a set of voluntary standards for laminate manufacturers. Manufacturers then submit their products to the organization and can obtain a certificate, usually depicted on the packaging, that indicates that the product in the box meets Nalfa standards.

One final question that many homeowners may ask is whether laminates are right for do-it-yourselfers.

“Absolutely,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports in Yonkers. Mr. Markovich said his organization tested and reviewed 41 flooring products for its August issue, including a large number of laminates. “If you’re looking for flooring that’s reasonably priced, tough and realistic-looking, and you want to install it yourself, laminates are the way to go,” he said.

The Joys of a Properly Finished Basement

This time of year, better known as the "spring market" to Northampton Area realtors, we find ourselves showing a lot of houses to potential buyers. With all of the rain we've been having, the dryness (or dampness) of a basement is at the forefront of the minds of home buyers. There are many factors that can add to or take away from the potential livability of a basement space. Inheriting moisture problems from a previous owner is something one hopes to avoid when purchasing a home. 

A few years ago, friends of mine purchased a ranch in Florence. It was in solid shape, with a damp basement. They intended to ultimately turn the basement into living space. The advice they received from their contractor was to demo the space and live with it for a year to see if/where/when/how water was getting into the basement. This was great advice! They eventually found an area where water was seeping in - not from below ground, but from the outside. They put in a perimeter drain, and diverted the downspouts from the gutters away from the house. Presto! No more water in the basement. Now they have begun the project of finishing their basement properly. 

The article below, from the RAPV newsletter, gives good advice about how to properly finish a basement.

How to Finish Your Basement Right!

 

Like most things, planning a basement renovation is easier when you have all the right tools at your disposal. Read on to learn about a few tips and tricks you can use to make your project as quick and inexpensive as possible.

Tip #1: Find a good contractor.

Finding an experienced contractor can help make the renovation proceed as smoothly as possible. The contractor will be able to help you acquire all the necessary building permits that might be required by your city. This person's business network and connections can also be a huge asset when you are arranging subcontractors to help you with specific parts of the basement renovation. 

Tip #2: Choose the right materials.

You will have to order or purchase the building materials for each phase of your basement upgrade, and it is important to make sure you choose the best materials for the job in every scenario. A good contractor will be able to help you make the right decisions about each of your building materials. 

Tip #3: Increase airflow.

The basement tends to be the coldest room in the house. Many homes have the furnace at one end of the basement, making the opposite end chilly by comparison. Consider installing ducts with an in-line fan in order to even out your basement's temperature.

Tip #4: Check for signs of possible water damage.

Before you proceed with the renovation, check the foundation for cracks and check the basement floor for any pools or drips. Repairing any potential problems before you begin to renovate can save a lot of time and money down the road. If you live in a particularly damp climate, you might want to consider adding a vapor barrier before sealing off your walls and floors. Another way to reduce moisture in your basement is to offset the interior walls from the home's exterior walls. This can be done using thin strips of wood or metal, and can also be used to balance out an uneven exterior wall.

Tip #5: Add additional insulation.

Most basements are not as well insulated as the home's other levels, so if you are planning to start spending more time in the basement, it might be a good idea to add some extra insulation to your basement's walls.

Tip #6: Sand down your ceiling joists.

Many older homes have ceiling joists that are beginning to sag, and this can cause problems if you are installing a new ceiling in your basement. Sanding or planing these joists can help make your ceiling appear as smooth as possible. You can easily do this yourself by using a level and an electric sander. 

These basic steps can help give your newly finished basement a solid foundation to grow from and become an integral part of your family's life.

Choosing the Right Siding for your Home

We lived in a 100 year old house with clapboard siding for 8 years. We loved the look of painted clapboards, but we quickly tired of the upkeep and expense of the exterior paint job. 2 years ago we bought a new home, with Hardie Plank siding. The exterior paint has shown no signs of wear and tear since it was painted. In fact, the paint job looks new! 

Here in the Northampton area, we realtors sell a mix of +/- 100 year old homes with clapboard siding (or clapboards covered over with vinyl siding, aluminum siding and, sometimes, asbestos shingles), as well as mid-century homes with aluminum or vinyl siding, and, lastly, some new construction which usually has vinyl or Hardie plank siding. The Daily Hampshire Gazette recently ran a special section on homes, including this interesting article about choosing the right siding for your home. If you are a homeowner who is thinking about residing your current home, or you are building a home and wondering what siding might be best for you, this article should come in handy.

Here is an example of Hardie Plank siding.

Vintage Farmhouse, www.jameshardie.com

Deciding on siding

GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Tim Uhlig, pictured in photo at left, from Wilcox Builders in Hatfield, primes a new edge on a fiber cement soffit

board being installed on a home in the Village Hill development at Northampton. At right, and below, Michael

Cendrowski, works on the soffits while Uhlig cuts the siding, shown above right.

4 HOME MAGAZINE, Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 By LINDA ENERSON

For the Gazette

Siding is just one element of a home, but it’s an important one, as siding is often the first thing people notice when

they walk up to or drive by a home —and there’s a lot of it. If, for some reason, you don’t like the siding you’ve picked

out for your new or renovated home, it’s pretty hard to overlook it. Siding is made from a variety of materials,

some of them time-tested, like vinyl and wood, but there are also some newer products on the market, such as

fiber cement and OSB. With so many options to choose from, it can be a confusing task for homeowners to pick the siding

option that will serve their needs best.

Wright Builders constructs new homes and commercial buildings around the Valley using all kinds of siding. Roger Cooney, vice president

of design, sales and estimating, helps customers make decisions about what siding they want based on price, environmental impact,

aesthetics, durabilityand maintenance. According to Cooney, the key to picking

the right siding is for homeowners to understand their own priorities. For example, how critical is it for their home’s

siding to be eco-friendly, and what price point will their budget allow?

Vinyl

Vinyl is the least expensive siding option. When it comes to the environmental impact, “it’s pretty nasty,” Cooney said. Vinyl siding is largely

composed of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). During the manufacturingprocess of PVC, dioxin (a carcinogen) and other toxic gases are

produced, which are harmful to the  health of workers, as well as people and animals in the surrounding area. Dioxin and other toxins are 

also released when vinyl begins to  break down through the natural weathering process or when the siding materials finally make their way 

to a landfill. And Cooney said that in the unfortunate circumstance of a house fire, vinyl can actually melt, releasing more toxic chemicals.

Fiber cement

Fiber cement siding is a composite material made from cement, cellulose and sand. It is produced in a variety of styles, including shingles,

lap siding, vertical siding, and panels, and like wood, can be easily painted or stained, though unlike wood, it is impervious

to water and termite damage. Cooney said his company is installing fiber cement on many of the homes and commercials they build

because it is very durable, reasonably priced (about $3 per square foot at R.K. Miles), and more aesthetically pleasing than vinyl, as well

as fireproof. Fiber cement siding is used on all of the homes that Wright Builders recently constructed at the Village Hill developmenton the

old State Hospital grounds in Northampton. In terms of the environmental impact of fiber cement, Cooney said that while it is inert once

produced, fiber cement siding does require a fair amount of energy to manufacture. During installation, workers must wear a respirator to

prevent inhalation of silica dust when they cut the product.

OSB (Oriented strand board)

(OSB) is a siding product made of many glued layers or strands of wood. The price point of OSBproducts is similar to fiber cement siding

materials. According to Cooney, when it comes to durability and environmental impact, OSB scores less favorably than fiber cement. “It’s

has a lot of formaldehyde and glue in it,” he said.

Wood

The old standard, wood clapboard siding is still among the most environmentally friendly siding available, as long as it is sourced from

companies that practice sustainable forestry. Cooney said consumers should look for The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, which

certifies that responsible forestry standards have been maintained in the production of wood products bearing that label. Consumers

should also be aware that FSC certification adds cost. While not FSC certified, most locally harvested wood products are managed 

suitably and sustainably, according to Cooney. Pine and cedar are the two types of wood siding. Both can be sourced locally, as Eastern 

cedar and Eastern white pine grow in the Northeast. Pine is relatively inexpensive. Clogston says pine clapboards run between $1.50 and 

$2 a square foot at R. K. Miles. Cedar, which Cooney said holds up to the elements better than pine, showing less discoloration from

weathering, is the most expensive of all siding. Clogston said cedar runs in the range of $5 to $7 per square foot. The problem with wood

is that it requires a new coat of stain or paint about everydecade. According to Cooney, the best way to preserve wood siding is to paint or

stain all sides of it including any cuts made during installation, and install it over a drain plane to allow rain and other “bulk water ” to exit. 

But maintaining wood is only a problem if you don’t like to paint. Cooney recentlypainted his own house over Labor Day weekend. 

“Personally, I find it meditativeand satisfying … I’m sure I’m unusual in enjoying that type of work!” he said.

Painting Over Wallpaper

In the real estate market in the Northampton, MA area, many of the homes for sale are 100 years old or older. While houses of this age are generally full of charm and character - with age often comes a set of issues to deal with. Items such as possible presence of lead paint, asbestos wrapped heating pipes, floor tiles or exterior shakes, and old wallpaper over original plaster are among the issues found in older homes.

I recently sold a sweet, old farmhouse in Williamsburg, MA. The house was full of charm, character, and good vibes. The upstairs bedrooms, however, were wallpapered, and the plaster to which the wallpaper was adhered had shifted away from the walls and the lathe underneath. In a situation such as this, I would imagine that the only solution is the remove the plaster and the wallpaper - and recover it with new sheetrock and paint. There are times, however, when it is possible, and a good solution, to paint right over existing wallpaper. This article from Angie's List explains when and how this remedy would apply.

When you have to paint over wallpaper


 

 

Painting over wallpaper is acceptable if removal will damage the wall or the wall is already damaged. 

 

(Brandon Smith, Angie's List) Brandon Smith/Angie's List--TNS
By OSEYE BOYD
Angie's List (TNS)
Thursday, March 31, 2016

While painting over wallpaper isn't the best option, sometimes it's the only option.

Forget what you've heard: It's possible to paint over all wallpaper -- and not just the paintable type.

While it's always preferable to remove wallpaper before painting, it's not always possible. Sometimes, you'll find layer upon layer of wallpaper, or removal will cause significant wall damage, says Jeff Sellers, owner of Merrifield Paint and Design of Arlington, Virginia.

"In some of these older homes, when you start pulling paper off you really don't know what you're getting into," Sellers says. "You can get the paper off and find the wall is damaged, and that's why they put the wallpaper up. You never know why people put up wallpaper."

Sellers says the type of wallpaper is a good indicator of whether it will come off easily. Paper-backed wallpaper is more difficult to remove than vinyl. You'll likely need to use a scoring device and adhesive remover, which may prove laborious and result in possible wall damage.


How to paint over wallpaper

You may be tempted to slap some paint on the wall, but there's more to it. Without proper preparation, the wallpaper will eventually lift and begin to show through the paint -- and look like painted over wallpaper.

According to experts, the wall should be clean and dust free. Remove all loose ends. If unable to remove, glue or cut away, spot prime and fill holes with spackle. Prime the wallpaper with an oil-based primer and skim the wallpaper with drywall mud to cover seams from the wallpaper and create a smooth wall. After skimming, sand the wall and prime again. Be sure the wall is dust free before applying paint.

"What matters is that you use an oil-based primer to seal the wallpaper," says Carlos Mendoza of Carlos Mendoza Painting, in Spring, Texas. "That's what's going to seal the wallpaper."

Once you've prepped the wall, Mendoza recommends using satin finish paint instead of flat, which is porous. If you prefer, you can use flat paint. However, because it's porous, flat paint holds dirt and is difficult to clean.

"The satin finish does show imperfections, but as long as you keep the texture consistent, you should be OK," Mendoza says.

Avoid bubbling, lifting or other issues with the wallpaper by testing a couple of spots and allowing to dry completely before painting the entire wall, said Octave Villar, manager of Behr application laboratory in Santa Ana, California.

 

Are Smaller Kitchens The Wave of the Future?

I recently put together a comparative market analysis for homeowners in Northampton who are hoping to sell their home in the spring market. Their ranch-style house has 3 modest bedrooms (yet with a small en suite master bath) a relatively small eat in kitchen, some nice open common living spaces and a lovely back yard. I was struck by the functionality of their small, yet streamlined kitchen. I'm always impressed by friends and clients who have the vision to create beautiful and functional small spaces within their homes. We realtors are seeing a trend towards buyers (generally speaking) seeking homes that aren't overwhelmingly spacious. With more modest-sized homes comes smaller rooms, including the kitchen.

Local design writer, Debra Jo Immergut, recently wrote the following article for the Boston Globe, describing how to design a functional and great looking compact kitchen. As we move towards becoming a culture that is ever more mindful of waste, hyperconsumerism and keeping a check on our carbon footprint, the trend towards smaller kitchens may become more popular.

 

Great design ideas for small kitchens

Advice from the experts on creating a tasteful and organized kitchen when you're short on space.


The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality.

By Debra Jo Immergut GLOBE CORRESPONDENT FEBRUARY 19, 2016


For the last decade or two, the dream kitchen has been bulking up. Peruse popular home-centric websites, and you'll see marble-topped islands big enough to merit their own coordinates on Google Maps, ranges with sufficient burner capacity to launch small rockets, and cavernous fridges that could double as bunkers. Yes, some people have kitchens on steroids. And some -- urban dwellers, tiny-house revolutionaries, and countless homeowners who simply live less large -- don't. The good news: The small-kitchen crowd needn't feel deprived. When designed for maximum efficiency and style, a more modest kitchen might even be considered the next big thing.

"The kitchen is ever increasing in importance," said Treff LaFleche, principal of LDa Architecture & Interiors in Cambridge, "but the space being dedicated to it is changing dramatically." The new 21st-century kitchen is less focused on square footage and more on a general sense of openness, flow, and functionality, he said -- it's less about a huge footprint and more about "serving as the heart of the home."


A few years down the road, a compact kitchen area may even be an attractive selling point. "Boomers are the ones with the money right now, but their millennial children are driving a move toward efficiency and sustainability," said Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, a trade group of manufacturers and designers. Smaller spaces fit the lifestyle of a generation more encumbered with student debt and less enamored with sprawling dream homes, Darcy said.

To make a small kitchen work, owners should plan a savvy layout and opt for simple aesthetics, said New York designer Young Huh, who sat recently on a trend-spotting panel for the association. "You have to make the most of your choices," Huh noted. One upside to remaking a tiny space: You might be able to splurge here and there. "You can really go for it and choose a beautiful floor tile, because it's not so expensive to order a small amount," she noted.

So forget the vast culinary palaces of the Internet. Instead, make the cleverest possible use of the space you've got. But first, arm yourself with these strategies from kitchen-design geniuses.

Tailor it to fit

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.
MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

A slatted shelf unit hangs over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot.

Even the tiniest space can be extremely functional if it's been fine-tuned to suit a family's daily routines. "Kitchens are very personal," said designer Emily Pinney, principal of Pinney Designs and owner of Cambridge boutique Syd + Sam. For example, "If your kids are always running in for drinks and snacks, maybe you need a refrigerator drawer that's really usable," Pinney said, noting that kitchen design should "be about what you really need in your life."

Creative solutions define the kitchen Charlestown's Bunker Workshop designed for an in-law apartment in Duxbury. The occupants wanted a dish-drying rack similar to ones they'd seen in Italy, so interior architect Chris Greenawalt devised a slatted shelf unit to hang over the sink; it air-dries and stores dishes in the same spot. A deep-green glass backsplash protects the wall from stray droplets and serves as a focal point for the all-white kitchen.


The couple made other requests for the space: They hoped for a kitchen island, a spot to sit and watch their grandkids play in the yard, and a full-size dining table. "We built a low, wheeled desk in front of the window where they could sit and have a glass of wine," Greenawalt said. The ingenious desk can then open into a table and double as an island work space.

Keep cabinetry streamlined

McMansion-dwellers may splash out on ornate cabinetry and crown molding, say designers, but in a small kitchen, it's best to keep it simple. "Go for a really good rhythm -- a line of cabinetry that's as clean and unbroken as possible," Huh said. If flat-panel styles are too contemporary, she said, Shaker is an ideal traditional alternative.

Consider covering appliances with panels to match your cabinetry: "It makes the refrigerator door disappear," said Huh, "and makes the kitchen look larger." Hardware, too, should be as simple as possible, designers say -- or go without it, opting instead for touch-latch doors. Portsmouth, N.H.-based designer Patty Kennedy found the paneling principle at work in a New York City kitchen she helped style for a photo shoot; the walls, refrigerator, and cabinets were covered with anigre, an African hardwood, lending a seamless finish to a potentially awkward nook.

Let there be light

In tight quarters, generously sized windows and pass-throughs can make a huge difference, as can white or neutral color schemes. "I'm a big believer in bigger windows that sit right down to the countertop, opening up to daylight and the outside," said Pinney, who loves their effect in a white-on-white Back Bay apartment she designed. Even a tiny over-the-sink window can be enlarged to make a confined space appear more spacious, she noted.

Sticking to the same materials and a neutral color works best in a diminutive space, "so your eye can focus and it's not all over the map," Pinney said. In the Back Bay kitchen, she used white Calcutta marble on the counters and white marble mosaic on the adjoining backsplashes, adding just enough visual interest while maintaining a restrained, unified scheme.

Choose small appliances



In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.
GREG PREMRU PHOTOGRAPHY

In this Cambridge kitchen, the fridge was placed below the counter.

As alluring as those blazingly powerful six- or eight-burner ranges may be, they're often not a great fit for many households. "I'm trying to get clients to consider using smaller appliances," Greenawalt said. "The way most people shop is changing, and the way we cook is changing as well." For smaller spaces, he prefers a separate wall oven and stovetop to avoid breaking up the counter lines.

LDa's LaFleche does see more homeowners moving away from "that whole trend of the giant Sub-Zero refrigerators" and shifting toward "right-sizing their cooking and buying fresh." To that end, he often recommends small refrigerator drawers dedicated to produce or dairy that are closer to prep and cooking areas. In a small but inviting Cambridge galley kitchen, LaFleche specified an under-the-counter fridge, plus a smooth glass-topped stove and separate wall ovens.

Go vertical

MATT DELPHENICH ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, the aligator board in this kitchen serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Before moving her operations to Portsmouth, Kennedy worked for years designing interiors for the cramped confines of New York City apartments, where she learned that "every space needed to serve a double or triple function." She advises owners of compact kitchens to squeeze maximum utility out of vertical spaces. She works with high-end materials, but in her own New Hampshire kitchen, she devoted a narrow wall to her pot collection, hanging them from inexpensive IKEA racks. ("I'm a big IKEA fan -- they just get it.")

Greenawalt used a similar strategy in a loft apartment in Boston's Leather District. In lieu of a traditional backsplash, he installed panels of bright red perforated metal ("It's called AlligatorBoard, and people usually use it to hang tools in their garages," he said). Outfitted with pegboard accessories from the local hardware store, it serves as custom storage for kitchen utensils and other small gadgets.

Most important, LaFleche said, is to think hard about what you actually need to store. "We're seeing the reverse trend from the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, when the goal was to put everything in the kitchen." He advises clients to divide gear into categories and keep items that might be used only every few weeks or months elsewhere: "They might move out to the closet or the hallway." Besides, if you're truly into cooking, he suggested, "the only thing you might really want is a set of knives."

And, on a related note, if you're truly just into eating, the only thing you might really want is a set of takeout menus -- and happily, those take almost no space to store.


Debra Jo Immergut is a Massachusetts-based design writer. Connect with her on Twitter @debraimmergut or send comments to Address@globe.com.

 

Keeping Up with the Needs of your Home

It's hard to pinpoint the moment at which your newly renovated kitchen or bath starts to feel and look dated. As the months and years go by, something shifts. Is it that the paint has faded? Is it that the white square tile just isn't as timeless a choice as white subway tile would have been? Are you wishing you had chosen oil-rubbed bronze fixtures vs. chrome? Whatever the case may be, time does take it's toll on our homes - both stylistically and actually. As realtors, we are often pointing out to sellers, that when faced with what to focus on with regard to house updates for resale, it's the systems that should come first. Roofs, windows and trim, HVAC systems, gutter cleaning, moisture management in basements -- all of these items may be less compelling than a gorgeous bathroom renovation - but aesthetic choices are subjective. For instance, If you spend a lot of money on a kitchen renovation in lieu of replacing an aging roof or aging HVAC system - buyers may not like your design choices; they would therefore be less likely to buy your home than a home with a slightly dated kitchen but a new roof and updated HVAC system.  Giving a house or room a fresh coat of paint can liven up the space without spending a lot of money.

The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette gives sound advice about the "whens" and "whys" to start taking on home improvement projects in an aging home.

 

 

Living Smart: Projects for your home’s difficult teen years



As your house approaches 20 years old, consider steps to improve window efficiency. (Summer Galyan/Angie's List/TNS)

By Michele Dawson Angie’s List (TNS)
Thursday, November 5, 2015


When it comes to home improvement projects on your house that’s coming of age, there’s no denying that your roof, windows and air conditioning and heating units might be getting moody, temperamental or give you the silent treatment altogether.

As your home ages, it will require more upkeep and improvements. It’s especially important to stay on top of some of the more potentially troublesome elements of your home — ones that can cause you massive headaches and put a huge dent in your wallet.

Many changes both small and large can increase energy efficiency and cut down on electricity or gas bills, as well as increase home value if and when you plan to sell your house.

If your home’s age is in the double-digits, some of the home improvement projects on your to-do list will include:

Roof repairs, shingles and gutters


While staying on top of roof maintenance should take place regardless of the age of your home, it becomes even more important in the teen years. The National Roofing Contractors Association says you should examine the condition of the shingles. Any sign of blistering, buckling or curling means it’s time to replace them. You should also check the chimneys and pipes for wear or anything that seems to be coming apart. Also, check your gutters for any shingle granules. If you’re finding healthy amounts in the gutter, that means they’re not on the shingles and your roof is missing out on ultraviolet ray protection. If you find any of these problems, consider a roof repair by a licensed roofing contractor.

Gutter cleaning plays an important role in protecting your gutters, downspouts and foundation. Keep a clean gutter by regularly hiring a gutter cleaning company, and consider adding gutter guards to further protect them.

Window replacement and repair

As your windows age, they’re bound to lose the battle with draftiness or become stubborn and stick to their frames, and you’ll likely see your energy bill increase. Checking your windows for drafts and caulking is an easy solution that can be completed in a weekend and with minimal expense. Or you might consider new replacement windows with high energy efficiency. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says you’ll save 7 to 15 percent on your energy bill, and your home’s temperature will be consistent. No more drafts if you’re sitting by the window or rooms that feel too hot in the summer. A vinyl window overhaul can cost you upwards of $10,000 to $15,000. But the good news is that you’ll recover about 78 percent of that when you sell your home, according to Hanley Wood’s 2014 Cost vs. Value Report.

Heating and cooling

Life expectancy in HVAC units is typically 10 to 15 years. Units produced today are much more energy-efficient than the models just a decade ago. If you’re constantly calling an HVAC contractor, your unit is noisy, it’s humid inside your house, your energy bills are rising, or your unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is less than 13, then it’s time to consider replacing your heating and cooling unit with a model that boasts higher energy efficiency. A licensed HVAC contractor can perform a load calculation that gets the most efficient model for your money.

Landscaping, tree service

When your house was new, the trees and landscape were so young and nonthreatening. As the years pass, the trees have matured and provide shade and beautiful aesthetics. But your gutters are getting clogged with leaves and you start to notice bumps and bulges in the path of tree roots, heading straight to your block patio. You’ll need to start cleaning those gutters more frequently. And if your tree roots are presenting problems, you can consider installing a barrier to the roots or dig and place pack material to discourage the roots.

A tree service professional can help ensure the best health for your trees by careful pruning and maintenance.

Painting and home décor


An easy way to help your home decor retain a youthful appearance is by livening it up with a new paint job. For both the interior and exterior, a fresh coat of paint can bring a crisp, clean, bold appearance. As walls get dingy and dirty, painting a room can do wonders. And introducing new colors can make a room or exterior of your house feel new again.

Staying in tune with your house during its tumultuous teen years is especially important if you plan on selling in the near future. Buyers tend to navigate toward homes that have been properly maintained and sport newer, more energy-efficient features. And exterior work such as regular tree service and fresh paint can increase curb appeal for a better home value.

 

Clever Storage Ideas for Everyone!

Those of you who have read my blog posts in the past, know that I am a big fan of the Apartment Therapy blog. Although the overall slant of the blog is about how to use limited space in a clever, tasteful and design-lover-worthy way (such as in apartment living) - I find there are many posts which are relevant to life in single family home as well. Many of us Northampton dwellers are design-driven. You don't have to live in a tiny apartment in a large city like NYC to appreciate clever and well-designed storage ideas! As realtors, we are often faced with the challenge of helping seller clients remove the clutter in their homes. This article highlights some great ideas for creating storage solutions in your home... which can help both with decluttering for resale, or just day to day clutter-free living! It also provides great ideas for people who are either building or renovating their homes. Enjoy!

 

10 Clever Hidden Storage Solutions You'll Wish You Had at Home


Run–don't walk–to your nearest contractor, cabinet maker or handy family member and ask–nay, beg–to have one of these seriously smart solutions built into the storage around your home.

Some of these ideas might even be worthwhile for long-term renters; if you're settled into your "almost-forever" apartment, give your existing cabinet specs to a builder and see if they can't craft a new drawer or slide-in piece with one of these brilliant solutions built right in:

Above: A drawer for all your endless utensils.
From Hearthstone Design.


This slide-out bathroom styling station.
From Sicora Design Build.



This pull-out sideways medicine cabinet.
From College City Design Build, via Houzz


These slim drawers built in the bathtub casing.
Designed by Wanda Ely, spotted in this tour on Houzz.



This convenient spot for dry ingredients.
From a 2009 issue of Maison & Demeure.



These stairs-turned-drawers.
As seen on Houzz, from Henarise Pty. Ltd.


This cleaning supply cabinet with a built-in caddy.
From Wood Mode Custom Cabinets.



This hideaway pet dish and food storage combo.
Another one from Wood Mode Custom Cabinets.



This slide-out knife block.
Designed by Signature Design & Cabinetry and featured on The Kitchn.



And this drawer, which is actually a ninja stepstool.
From The Kitchen Source, via Houzz.

(Image credits: Jeff Freeman; Sicora Design Build; College City Design Build; Andrew Snow; Maison & Demeure; Henarise Pty. Ltd.; Wood Mode; Signature Design and Cabinetry; The Kitchen Source)