Design Tips for Kids Bedroom

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

Age Matters

     Unlike other rooms that have designs that should last a lifetime, most kids rooms require changes as your child grows older. Obviously, designing a 7-year-old’s room will require a different style as compared to a room of a 12-year-old. Thus, extra care must be taken.

     It is important to design a room that reflects your child’s age. I’m sure your 13-year-old son wouldn’t want his room filled with inferences to the Teletubbies or to Blue’s Clues. The room’s design should remind him of his age and shouldn’t hinder his maturing process.

     It’s always a good idea to ask for his opinion as it will also make him fell more important and capable of making decisions on his own. You should allow them to have a say as to what colours, theme and designs they want included in the decorating as well as what kind of furniture they would like to have.

Cool & Comfy

     Because of all the complexities involved in designing a kids room, it’s very easy to get lost and end up paying too little attention on the important things. One of the elements you must never forget is the bed as this is pretty much the centerpiece of your child’s room.

     In picking a good bed you must consider two things. The bed you end up getting should be both comfortable and cool. It should be comfy enough for your kid to get a good night’s sleep while staying cool and stylish, depending on what your kid enjoys. There are a variety of options—from the ever-popular race car bed all the way to a playful cartoon character-themed bed.

As a leading designer for Willow Custom Builders, Andrea has improved the quality of home design while countering the elitist image of interior designers so commonly held by the public.

Andrea understands that homes are a reflection of the people who live in them. She shows us what is really missing in our homes and how to do something about it. Just as with building or remodeling a home, clients discover that it is more about quality, not quantity and that which brings meaning and fulfillment to homes and lives.


How to avoid remodeling hazards with a pregnant homeowner?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

Q: I recently became pregnant and plan to be remodeling my home before I give birth. Is there anything I should be aware of (off-gassing, asbestos, glues, etc.) that could hurt my unborn baby or me, before I hire you?

A: There are two points during a remodeling project that are critical times at which to consider the impact of potentially hazardous materials.

    The first is during demolition, when materials are removed or disturbed, as some of the materials may have been manufactured with known toxins such as asbestos and lead.

     The second is during the construction phase, when you should be aware of potentially harmful products used to manufacture building materials that will go in your home. To stay safe, before beginning demolition, I recommend getting a hazmat inspection by a licensed inspector. This inspection will determine if there is asbestos in any materials that will be removed or disturbed.

     For example, asbestos was used in old vinyl sheet flooring, in adhesives used for installing floor tile, in popcorn ceilings and in insulation around furnaces and ducts. While the asbestos in these building materials is not a danger to health if left undisturbed, demolition or removal of the materials releases the asbestos into the air and becomes a health hazard.

     As most people are aware, paint manufactured before 1978 may contain lead, which could lead to lead poisoning if ingested. Not so well known is that pre-1978 ceramic tile may also contain lead. When lead compounds are locked up in the paint or tile glazing, they are benign to human health.

     However, crushing, abrading or shattering of a glaze and sanding or scraping of paint can release a fine dust in which the lead becomes a health risk. So don’t think just because you’re not ingesting flaky paint chips that you’re safe from lead.

     With demolition over, when you begin selecting products for the remodel, pay attention to products that may contain formaldehyde and/or other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Both formaldehyde and VOC’s can be found in a variety of building materials. Cabinets and shelving often are constructed from pressed-wood products that use glues that may contain formaldehyde.

     In general, formaldehyde off-gassing sources emit less and less formaldehyde over time. However, it can take weeks, and sometimes even months or years, to disappear completely. Long-term exposure to moderate formaldehyde concentrations (at levels lower than those causing irritation) may be linked to respiratory symptoms and allergic sensitivity, especially in children. That being said, all of the above mentioned aspects of remodeling need to be taken into consideration by both the contractor and you, the homeowner.

Keys To Securing Your Home:

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

5 Easy ways to help protect your home

Many high-tech, high-priced home security products are available today. Fortunately, there are less expensive – but no less effective – ways to protect your home, too. Check out these smart home security tips!

Eliminate Hiding Places. Keep all entry points to your house well lit. Trim shrubs and trees that could provide cover for an intruder. Trim tree limbs that could enable intruders to gain entry via an upper-floor window or balcony and keep items such as ladders locked inside the house.

Don’t be an easy target. Burglars want to hit the easiest target on the block so give them reasons to skip your house. Home-security decals or “Beware of Dog” signs are good deterrents. Home security alarms are also good. A subscription to a monitoring service isn’t always necessary. The sound of an alarm is often enough to scare off a thief.

Lock windows and doors. Department of Justice statistics report more than half of all burglaries occur with no sign of forced entry — meaning a robber was able to enter the house through an unlocked door or window. Use a heavy-duty deadbolt that is bolted to the door frame with three-inch screws.

Appear to be home. When you’re away, have someone pick up your mail and newspaper or have them stopped for the duration of your trip. In addition, have someone mow your lawn. Also, use timers to turn specific lights on and off in the house to make it seem as if someone is home.

Know your neighbors. Make sure neighbors know when you’re planning to be away and how they can reach you in an emergency. Leaving an extra key with a trusted neighbor is a good idea. It’s better than hiding one under a mat or in some other outdoor hiding place.

Add Daylight by Borrowing it

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

Among the most frequent request from our remodel clients is for more daylight. Here are five tips for adding daylight to your home.

This Room Highlights First three Principals of 'Daylighting'

1. Light every room from at least 2 sides – We feel more comfortable when we have daylight from 2 sides – it reduces glare and increases exposure. When the room you’re ‘daylighting’ isn’t on a corner with windows on 2 adjacent walls, you can borrow daylight from other areas of the home.

2. Bounce Lights off surfaces – You’ll get more daylight if you bounce the light off adjacent surfaces – walls and ceilings. So we’ll place windows adjacent to a sidewall or close to the ceiling rather than in the middle of a room. If you have windows in the middle of a room, add painted built-ins on either side to bounce the existing light further into the room.

3. Doors vs. Windows – Whenever we’re remodeling to connect a home to the outdoors, we’ll use glass doors instead of windows. This gives you the sense that the outdoor garden room is an extension of the home rather than being outdoors. Glass doors make Garden Room part of home.

4. Consider Exposure – If you’re in the south or other areas where cooling is a greater expense than heating, you’ll want to limit southern and western exposures or at least include overhangs that block intense summer sun. However, in northern climates, such as New England, where heating is a bigger cost and concern, you want greater southern exposure. Of course, in a remodeling situation you have a lot less choice than in building new.

5. Light from above – Light from skylights can be nice but we resist putting them in western and southern facing roofs. The daylight is too intense and much less controllable than are windows. However, in a very shaded lot, skylights can make what was previously a dark room wonderfully comfortable. And we usually, again, place skylights at the room edge to bounce light off the wall and help brighten and diffuse the light in the room.

Skylights At Room's Edge Bring More Light Into Room

No Clog ~ No Problem with PermaFLOW

Posted in Uncategorized on February 11, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

Just recently my sink clogged up, I tried the force of a plunger to unclog the drain. When that failed miserably, I switched to liquid drain cleaner, then graduated to crystal drain cleaner and finally moved up to a thick gel. Nothing helped. At all. Finally, I removed the trap and cleaned it out by hand. Fun, fun…

A great solution for preventing clogs such as this, is the PermaFLOW drain. The green design of the PermaFLOW Drain is a great contribution to eliminating the need for chemical drain cleaners, and the task of plunging. It’s a fixture that replaces the conventional P-trap drain. You can get a PermaFlow for both your kitchen and bath sinks. Ever want to see wants going on down there? Personally, not me. Seen it already. Got the T-shirt to prove it. It’s not pretty. But if there is something specific blocking the passage, especially if you have playful children. Then tagging the culprit is easy with it’s see through fixtures. You can spot your ring or other lost item and actually retrieve it yourself. There is a dial that can be turned to bypass the water flow. Make less phone calls to the maintenance man in your building, or trips by the plumber. Not to mention the time spent waiting for their arrival, the visit, (ah precious time), if you forgot how valuable that is, just wait for that whopping bill! It’s claim to environmental safety is ending the over use of drain cleaners and the ‘hazards of exposure to sewer gases. The PermaFLOW also necessitates a flowing drain which keeps molds at bay. How it works is with a ‘wiper that removes stagnant debris in the trap area.’ This design ‘increases turbulence to minimize routine buildup’. Combined, these features reduce ‘gray water pollution’ which makes the water able to be recycled.’ These facts from PF WaterWorks, where you will find a way to order one as well.

 It costs only about $40 (less than I spent on the drain cleaner alone), and it’s apparently it’s a cinch to install yourself. Still, even if you had to have a plumber do it, isn’t it worth it in the long haul the next time it bogs down? If you would like assistance, give us a call and we’ll recommend a great plumber to install it for you.

Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 by willowcustombuilders

We are frequently asked by our clients whether they will get back the money they put into remodeling when they decide to sell.

In 2005-06, during the height of the housing boom, you could recoup 90% to 100% of your cost for many home improvement activities.  And in hot areas – such as Washington, DC where we’ve done some design projects – you could recoup more than 100% of your cost on kitchen and bath remodeling as well as many outdoor rooms.

Today the picture is quite different; the regional averages show few home improvements return more than 80-90% of their cost and most return between 60-75%.

For the past 22 years, Remodeling Magazine has looked at the relationship between remodeling costs and resale value.  We’ve included a table, below, that compares the regional averages for projects during 2009-2010 year with the previous 2008-2009 year.

Mid-Range Projects Job Cost  09-10
    Deck Addition (wood) $11,207 84.1%
    Deck Addition (composite) $15,724 71.5%
    Two-Story Addition $144,325  66.1%
    Family Room Addition $86,854 62.3%
    Master Suite Addition $97,165 58.3%
    Garage Addition $55,525 56.2%
    Bathroom Addition $39,046 59.5%
    Backup Power Generator $13,686 56%
    Sunroom Addition $69,388 52%
    Attic Bedroom $52,668 83.6%
    Minor Kitchen Remodel $21,951 81.5%
    Basement Remodel $62,067 75.4%
    Major Kitchen Remodel $58,996 72.9%
    Bathroom Remodel $16,142 71%
    Home Office Remodel $29.076 47.8%
    Siding Replacement (vinyl) $10,969 86%
    Window Replacement (wood) $12,199 79.1%
    Window Replacement (vinyl) $11,155 82.3%
    Roofing Replacement $22,463 67.4%
Upscale Projects    
    Master Suite Addition $225,995  55.7%
    Garage Addition $87,230 55.9%
    Bathroom Addition $75,812 57.9%
    Deck Addition (composite) $37,745 60.8%
    Major Kitchen Remodel $111,794   63.2%
    Bathroom Remodel $52,295 61.6%
    Roofing Replacement $37,359 60.5%
    Window Replacement (wood) $17,816 71.5%
    Window Replacement (vinyl) $13,862 76.5%
    Siding Replacement (fiber-cement) $13,287 83.6%
    Siding Replacement (foam-backed vinyl) $13,022 79%

It’s also clear that we’re thinking more modestly about our homes and looking for home improvement projects to return other benefits – so the return on siding and window replacement, while declining, have held more steady than have bath or kitchen remodeling.

Bathroom remodeling – whether mid-range or upscale – have lost between 17% and 20% of the return from just 4 years ago.  However,  decks, window and siding replacement have retained much more of their resale value since real estate peaks in 2005 than have other improvement activities.

When you’re thinking of remodeling it’s important to understand how much value your investment is likely to return – but few of us make our decisions based solely on return on investment.  Moreover, the numbers here are New England averages.  It does not speak to your specific circumstance. With our assistance, we can certainly help design & plan a remodel you wish to have done to give you the greatest return.

What are you thinking of doing? Let’s talk.


Cost data are generated by HomeTech Information Systems, which updates its database of construction costs quarterly, using construction commodity data, as well as labor cost information from a nationwide network of remodeling contractors. The company prepares a detailed construction estimate for each project, then adjusts this baseline cost for each city to account for regional pricing variations. Construction cost figures include labor, material, and subtrade expenses, plus industry-standard overhead and profit. However, project costs are based on estimates for hypothetical projects, with no reliable way to accommodate short-term fluctuations in supply and demand.

Resale value data for each project are aggregated from estimates provided by members of the National Association of Realtors. E-mail surveys containing project descriptions and three-dimensional illustrations, plus construction costs and median home price data for each city were sent to some 150,000 appraisers, sales agents, and brokers. More than 4,000 survey respondents used this information to estimate the value that each remodeling project would add to the house at resale in the current market. Respondents were instructed not to make judgments about the motivation of the homeowner in either the decision to undertake the remodeling project or to sell the house. The most recent survey was in the field for approximately eight weeks in July and August of 2009.

 Find full 2009 report here.

Homes – “My How You’ve Grown…”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2010 by willowcustombuilders


 The year was 1950. World War II had ended a few years earlier. Many military personnel had come home to begin their lives. Owning their own home, the American dream at that time for the ‘Baby Boomers’, was soon to be reality. The first Levittown house had no garage, no basement, no finished 2nd floor and fit the entire family on one floor of 750 sqft with one bathroom. The house sat on a concrete slab on a 60 ft-wide 1/7-acre lot and sold for $7,990. Average family – 5. 

Levittown house -1948


The average home built in 1950 was 983 square feet. Compact, with good use of space. But things changed drastically over the next fifty years. The average person needed only 208 square feet of living space. Since then, people are demanding 970 square feet per person. The explosion of space occurred as families shrank. And then something else happened – the 80’s. 

It was  the “Decade of Decadence”. Americans became tired of the social struggle during the 60’s and 70’s. They had worked together for common interests.  Times were good economically. Quite good. Reaganomics, anyone? We didn’t have the worries of global warming and the depleting of earths natural resources. People were feeling good about the world and themselves.  Now, many wanted to spend more time on their own personal interests – and have their own space. People wanted ‘their MTV’ and then some. Even entertainment showed the interest society placed on financial success and large palatial homes. Remember ‘Who Shot J.R.”?  Like art imitating life, the home building industry reflected this. 

Now we are right in the middle of another change – a shift in our thinking. It is not as obvious as the bright colors and big hair of the 80’s, but it is here and becoming more prominent everyday. What is it? Better use of space. Efficiency. New home sizes are slightly smaller than in the past. Designs are more open. The home doesn’t have specifically designated areas for congregating any longer. Designated areas of congregating, you ask? Yes, historically, living rooms and dining rooms. Today, spaces are opening up, such as Kitchens that have an open floor plans that flow between the Living room and Dining area for entertaining or simply hanging out as a family. 

Open Spaces


That being said, house sizes have grown by great amounts over the past sixty years, but our desire [need] to share space again cannot be ignored. As a design/build company, we too consider such things as the flow of a home. Humans are busy creatures. The times when individuals are in contact with one another is greatly reduced. By limiting the amount of walled spaces to areas other than kitchens, living (family) rooms and dining areas, a feeling of freedom, less restrictive can be discovered for the betterment of the home and those who reside in it. Through design, a true habitat  that promotes flexibility and freedom for any homeowner can be created.