Powell Custom Homes and Renovations' Blog

Building a New Home in King County? Avoid TheseTop 2 Mistakes

Posted by Brooks Powell on Oct 15, 2016 6:01:00 AM

Top-2-Mistakes-To-Avoid-When-Building-a-New-Home-In-King-County.jpgBuilding your own home in King Country can be extremely rewarding. After all, it’s your chance to create the dream home you’ve always wanted—designed to reflect your personality and lifestyle. The phrase, “build your own home,” however, can lead some individuals into a situation where they are in over their heads. Let’s look at two mistakes you’ll want to avoid in order to keep that from happening.

  1. Overestimating Your Ability to Be Your Own Contractor:Some people think that in order to ensure they get exactly what they want, they will need to oversee every single step of the building process. If you’re not used to that process, that can be overwhelming. In order to truly manage all of the details of the building process, you really need to understand how all the parts and pieces work together.

That means keeping multiple balls in the air at the same time. You’ll have to stay on top of permits and inspections—and coordinate multiple sub-contractors who will look to you for guidance and decision-making. Plus, you’ll need to hire all of these sub-contractors yourself and evaluate if they have the skill, expertise, and reliability to do the job right. On top of that, guess who gets to resolve conflicts between the framers and the plumbers, and the electricians? You do!

The thing is, when you’re building a new home you’ll already have plenty of decisions to make. You will be involved in the process. Here’s a post that highlights just a few of the responsibilities you’ll take on. Focus on the things you’re comfortable managing and deciding. Getting too involved in the specifics of the construction process can lead to unnecessary delays and costs increases—neither of which you want.

Even if you hire your own subcontractors, consider that you are only calling them for a one-time project, so they will not be as dedicated to you as they are to the company where they get their bread and butter. (Typically, such subcontractors work for contractors, like us.) They may not be as responsive, communicative, or passionate as you’d expect them to be. You have a high chance of being disappointed.

  1. Designing Your Own Plans: It’s great to sketch out ideas of what you want your home to look like or to draw out a representation of how you want a particular room to look. There’s a big difference between doing that and designing a true builders’ design for your home. You’ve heard the old saying, “Well, it looked good on paper.” It’s true for homebuilding. Some ideas are wonderful—but not feasible or affordable.

Some people see a free (or really cheap) plan online and think that it will suffice for their home. Let’s be honest: There’s a reason they are free or cheap. Most of these plans aren’t particularly good, and there’s a strong possibility that it will cost you more to correct the flaws in the free plan than it would have to have a quality plan created. Everything begins with—and depends on—the plan. This is not a place where you want to try to save money or cut corners.

One of the advantages of using a design-build homebuilder is that you can have absolute confidence that the builder can build what his team has designed for you. There’s no finger-pointing or confusion about what the plans mean because everybody is (quite literally) working off the same page.

By avoiding those two mistakes when building your King County home, you’ll enjoy the process much more (with less stress) and you’ll end up with a well-built home you’ll enjoy for years to come.


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Topics: Seattle Design-BuildHomebuilder, King Country new homebuilder, avoid common new home building mistakes

Before You Can Re-build, Sometimes You Have to “Un-build”

Posted by Brooks Powell on Oct 7, 2016 10:01:00 AM

Before-You-Can-Rebuild-Sometimes-You-Have-to-Un-build.jpgThroughout history, people have built new dwellings over existing structures. Around the world you can find modern cities built over the ruins of past generations. That’s even part of Seattle’s history. The Great Seattle Fire of 1889destroyed the majority of our business district. Business owners were anxious to rebuild and did so before the city had a chance to start their elevated renovations. The result is what’s known as the Seattle Underground (which you can read about here).

Archeologists love stuff like this, but it’s not exactly “best practices” for modern home remodeling. You may have big dreams for remodeling your Normandy Park home, but before you rebuild your new dream home you may have some “un-building” to do if you want to get the best results.

Let’s say you want to replace flooring in your Normandy Park home. You’re not going to want to install hardwood flooring on top of your existing material. You may need to remove existing carpet, tear out tile, or remove existing flooring before you can install your new floor. That’s really the best way to make sure your new flooring is level and fits right. And it may be the only way you’ll get rid of an annoying squeak in the floor.

What about exterior work on your home? Maybe the home you love needs some siding repairs. Simply patching rough spots isn’t going to give you the results you want. In some cases you’ll need to remove buckling siding. Then you’ll want to match existing siding so that it’s a perfect fit and paint the new siding so that it matches the rest of your home’s exterior.

Maybe what you have in mind is finishing out the basement to expand your living space. Perhaps you want to create a recreation room or a media area in your basement. There’s a lot more involved than simply putting some carpet down and moving in a big-screen TV. You may need to frame a new wall to create a separate room. If you don’t already have one, you’ll probably want to install a sump pump. If you have an old tile or linoleum floor, you may need to remove existing tile flooring before installing a new floor.

Sometimes, the “un-building” isn’t as simple—or as safe—as it seems. There’s more to the process than simply ripping out the old material—particularly if you’re remodeling a home built before 1978. That’s because homes built before then may have used unsafe materials. Today, all contractors involved in renovation, repair, or painting of homes where lead paint is present have to be certified as “Lead Safe” contractors. It requires special training and certification to properly dispose of those materials.  Here’s a post that explains more about that kind of scenario.

Remodeling your Normandy Park home can be a great experience, but you’ll want to make sure you enlist the services of a professional that understands solid building practices and not just cosmetic cover-ups. And you’ll want to use someone that’s certified and knows the ins and outs of the prep work that needs to be done in order to deliver results you’ll be happy with for years to come.


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Topics: existing flooring removal, replace flooring, install hardwood flooring, remove existing carpet, Seattle Design-Build Remodeler

Want to Remodel But Can't Find a Contractor?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 30, 2016 11:04:00 AM

Want-to-Remodel-But-Can_t-Find-a-Contractor_-_Copy.jpgOne of the most popular remodeling projects in West Seattle-area homes is re-doing the attic or basement.

Most of us enjoy hearing good financial news. A lot of news sources have picked up on the fact that the housing industry has been performing so well. But it’s not just new homes that are grabbing the headlines.  National Public Radio (NPR) reported on another aspect of the housing industry that may have an impact on you if you’re considering remodeling your West Seattle-area home.

NPR recently broadcast (and posted) a piece that may raise your eyebrows: There’s a Home Renovation Boom But Good Luck Finding a Contractor! What does that mean if you’re planning to remodel your King County area home?

One thing you can probably count on is that there will be people looking to cash in on this opportunity. While there are a good number of qualified and competent contractors in the West Seattle area (including some of our competitors) there are also people who see the shortage of remodelers as a chance to make a quick buck.  That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re dealing with someone you can trust to do the job right.

The thing is, it can be fairly easy for a contractor to make himself look good on a website. But images and appearances can be deceiving. That’s why it’s so important to take time to make sure that you select the remodeler that’s right for your project—and he has the credentials to back it up. Here’s a helpful post that tells you how to read the warning signs and avoid unscrupulous builders.

In addition to the tips you’ll find in that post, you’ll want to find a remodeler that has been around for a while, has established a good reputation, and will be there for you down the road if you ever have issues with the work that’s been done. Our family has been building and remodeling homes in the Seattle area for four generations. We’ve got plenty of satisfied customers you can talk to, and you can even download a list of questions to ask any potential remodeler to make sure you know you’re dealing with an experienced, qualified professional.

If you want to remodel your West Seattle-area home, don’t worry about finding a contractor. But don’t settle for someone who’s just interested in making a quick buck. Do your homework and then choose wisely. We may be busy, but we’re not too busy to help good customers make their remodeling dreams come true!


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Topics: West Seattle-area home remodel, West Seattle HomeRemodeler, shortage of quality remodelers, quality West Seattle-area remodeler

Remodeling Your Federal Way Basement—What’s the Cost and Is It Worth It?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 30, 2016 10:01:00 AM

remodeling-your-federal-heights-basementwhats-the-cost-and-is-it-worth-it.jpgIf you’re short on livable space in your existing Federal Way home, there may be a solution directly beneath your feet. Unfinished basements may be one of the most under-utilized spaces in Seattle-area homes.

It’s not surprising. The basements in older Seattle homes weren’t built with comfort and entertaining in mind. They were places where the washing machine lived and where you stored stuff that you only needed occasionally (or just hadn’t gotten around to throwing out). They were dark, damp, and not very welcoming.

The thing is, that there is usually a significant amount of useable space in the basement—if it’s remodeled correctly. However, if you really want it to be used on a regular basis, you’re going to have to do more than throw an area rug on the concrete floor, drag a sofa down, and put an old television down there.

So what will it cost you to do it right? The answer depends on the particulars of your renovation.  If you have to do plumbing and wiring, it may cost a bit more. In the Seattle area you’ll definitely want to pay attention to moisture control. But if you handle things like that properly, the options for using that “wasted” space are pretty impressive. Here’s a look at a few of the way you can take advantage of the extra space.

What is remodeling your Seattle basement going to cost? The Seattle average for a midrange basement-remodeling project runs between $90 and $120 per square foot. You can use that figure to calculate a ballpark figure for your specific space.  But when you compare that to the cost of extending the footprint of your existing home (if code will even allow it), it’s a bargain.

If you’re wondering what a remodeled Seattle basement can actually look like when it’s completed, I invite you to take a look at this basement-remodeling project we completed not long ago.

So if you’re in a jam for space, don’t throw your hands up. Take a look down instead and talk to a design builder about how to get the most out of the unused space you already have.



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Topics: Design Build Remodeler, basement remodeler Federal Way, Remodeling in Federal Way

2 Ways to Let More Natural Light Into Your Seattle-area Home

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 23, 2016 7:03:00 AM

2-ways-to-let-more-natural-light-into-your-seattle-area-home.jpgIt’s been recorded that the last mortal words of the great German philosopher Wolfgang Von Goethe were: “More Light!” That’s a sentiment that’s been adopted by many a Seattle-area homeowner over time.

To be honest, taking advantage of more natural light is actually a national trend for home designers (and homeowners). But in a region like the Puget Sound area—where overcast skies often subdue the light a bit—it’s extremely popular.

With that in mind, we wanted to highlight two different ways that you can let more natural light into your Seattle-area home.  If you’re considering a remodel of your Federal Way or Des Moines home, one of these approaches may help you to brighten your home—and even lend it more visual space.

  • Replacing Your Windows: One approach is to use your windows to let in more light. If it’s been a while since you replaced the windows in your home, it’s an option you might want to pursue. For one thing, you’ll see significant utilities savings from heating and cooling—in addition to the comfort that comes from avoiding drafts and from insulating you from outside noise.

When it comes to taking advantage of natural light, modern windows offer a big advantage. Today’s windows tend to be larger than the standard windows that were installed in homes even 10 or 15 years ago. On top of that, the trend has been toward sleeker, thinner frames. The obvious result of that is a window that lets in more light (and still keeps out heat and cold better).

You don’t, however, have to settle for standard solutions. If you look at the image above, you’ll see a solution that we created in a Seahurst home we remodeled. Not only does it take advantage of a large kitchen window, but it even extends the “window” to the overhang to allow even more natural light into the kitchen. Click here for a closer look at this solution.

  • 2-ways-to-let-more-natural-light-into-your-seattle-area-home-1.jpgConsider Adding a Sunroom: In addition to letting in lots of natural light, sunroom additions are generally a very cost effective way to add space to your existing home. Even if you’re not actually in the sunroom, the openness is something that is visible from other rooms in the house.

The National Association of Remodelers reported that a sunroom retains 92% of its value, should you decide to sell your home in the future.  When you compared that to the 30% retention for a swimming pool, or 70% retention for a family room addition, it offers a great return on investment. Plus, sunrooms can be very versatile and can function as a sitting room, a music room, or even a casual home office.

It’s hard to say what Goethe would have thought of today’s windows and sunrooms, but I have a hunch he would have liked them!



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Topics: Seattle Home Remodeler, incorporate natural light into remodel design, windows and sunrooms as remodel projects

Seattle Interior Design: How To Create the Ultimate Man Cave

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 22, 2016 10:01:00 AM

Seattle_Interior_Design-_How-To-Create-the-Ultimate-Man-Cave.jpgWant to create the ultimate “man cave” for your West Seattle-area home? That’s a great idea, but first, you may have to spend a bit of time defining your “ultimate man!”

There was a time when a “man cave” was pretty much universally accepted as being a place in the basement where guys could watch sports on a big-screen TV, listen to loud music, and hang out with their “manly” friends.

To be honest, not all guys are alike. Some like sports. Some don’t care that much. Some like music—but some like it loud and rocking and others prefer classical sounds. Beyond those differences, smart homeowners want a room that’s more versatile. It could be a room that the whole family uses for entertainment. Maybe you’ll want to devote a section of the space to board games. Or you might want to set aside some room for a hobby.

The point is that you don’t have to simply follow the herd when creating this room. Take time up front to think about how you want the room to function and what elements are important to you. Then talk to a designer to come up with a plan that makes maximum use out of the space you have.

One element you’ll want to pay particular attention to is lighting. It may not be the first thing you think about, but it’s absolutely critical in a basement room that’s going to perform different functions.

Your “man cave” doesn’t have to be a dark place. That may be great when you’re watching sports or movies on TV or if you and the kids are playing video games. But for other activities you’ll want adequate light. So as you create your plan, think of the different kinds of lighting you’ll want—lighting that will make you comfortable whatever you’re doing.

The same holds true for window coverings. You’ll probably want good light-blocking capability for watching television, but you may want to have window treatments that allow you to let in lots of light for other activities.

And don’t forget about the flooring. Years ago homeowners tended to settle for linoleum or all-purpose carpeting for their basements. Today, you have lots of options that are a lot more aesthetically pleasing. Of course, that requires proper preparation and installation. Here’s a helpful post on ways you can jazz up your West Seattle basement flooring.

If you really want this space to get full use, think of comfort first. It doesn’t matter how big your TV screen is or how great your sound system is if you and your guests aren’t comfortable. That’s why it’s so important (especially in an area like West Seattle) that you make sure your basement is warm and dry. Talk to your remodeler about ways to make sure your basement space is well ventilated and that you won’t run into problems with dampness or mildew.

Your “man cave” doesn’t really have to feel like a cave. Make it a place you’ll enjoy—but make a plan to make it a place that makes full use of its potential for the rest of your family as well.


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Topics: remove existing tile flooring, West Seattle Remodel, sump pump, media area

How Can You Set a Remodeling Budget for Your Des Moines Home If You Don’t Know the Cost?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 17, 2016 7:01:00 AM

How-Can-You-Set-a-Remodeling-Budget-for-Your-Des-Moines-Home-If-You-Dont-Know-the-Cost.jpgOver the years as we’ve talked to prospective remodeling clients about the projects they have in mind for their Des Moines or Seattle-area homes, we’ve regularly stressed the need to have a clear and realistic budget. We still stand by that advice, but it’s really hard to set a remodeling budget if you don’t have some kind of idea what it should cost.

It’s not surprising, then, that one of the questions prospective clients ask us is, “What is this going to cost me?” The answer, of course, depends on what kind of remodeling you have in mind; how complicated the project is; and what kind of materials you plan to use.

For instance, if you’re planning to finish the basement in your Des Moines home, we can tell you that (according to 2016 cost vs. value estimates) the Seattle average for a midrange basement-remodeling project runs between $90 and $120 per square foot with the total cost being around $77,469. That, at least gives you a very general idea. Your exact total could be considerably less, or more—depending on the specifics of the actual project.

Perhaps a more accurate way to set your budget is to talk to an expert about exactly what you have in mind. Creating an estimate based on some specifics will give you a much clearer range of costs—and that will help you to set a budget that really makes sense.

What if you’re not sure about what you want to tackle and need some ideas and some guidance? We offer something called “Talk to Rob,” that’s designed exactly for that purpose. You can schedule a free, no-obligation remodeling phone consultation with Rob Van Houten, a homeowner advisor for Powell Custom Homes & Renovations. In this 10-minute consultation you’ll hear some design ideas; find out about what others in your situation have done; get a budget range so that you have a clear idea as to the feasibility of the project; and get answers to questions and concerns.

At the end of your call, you’ll get advice as to the best way to pursue your goals—even if working with Powell isn’t the best solution for you. But at least you’ll walk away with some great ideas and a framework for developing a budget for what you want to accomplish in your home.

Creating a budget is essential for a successful remodeling of your Des Moines home. But make sure your budget is based on some actual data that reflects the nature and scope of what you want to do.


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Topics: cost of Des Moines remodeling, Seattle Design-Build Remodeler, budget for remodeling

Building a Seattle Home That Satisfies Your Heart and Your Mind

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 9, 2016 11:17:00 AM

Building-a-Seattle-Home-That-Satisfies-Your-Heart-and-your-Mind.jpgWhen building a new home in Seattle, should you listen to your heart or your head when you make decisions? If we’re honest, the right answer to that question is, “both.”

Sure, there are times when you’ll lean a bit more in the direction of rational thinking and look at the facts when making key decisions. But it’s not wise to cut your emotions out of the equation altogether.  After all, you never hear someone say, “Home is where the head is.”

It really is a bit of a balancing act. Here are some thoughts that can help you keep a proper perspective as you plan and build your dream home in the Seattle area.

When You Need to Heed Your Heart: We all know that a home is one of the single largest personal investments we’ll ever make. But it’s so much more than that. Your home is where life happens. It’s a retreat; a safe place; a place to relax and unwind; and a place where you cultivate relationships.  It should be a place where your heart is at ease. That means choosing a home style that fits your lifestyle. You’ll want to look at floor plans that arrange the space in your home in a way that matches your family’s lifestyle when it comes to entertaining, cooking, eating, and even sleeping. It also means finding a location to build that makes you feel at home.

When Your Mind Matters Most: The flip side of the story is that it’s hard to feel comfortable and secure if you’re over extended. Sometimes our heart can run away with our checkbook. That’s when our mind need to check in to balance things out. Probably the biggest area where our mind comes into play is when it’s time to set a budget. Here’s a helpful post about the importance of setting a realistic budget. By the way, setting a budget that’s too restrictive can cause just as much stress as setting your budget too high. If you don’t set your budget high enough (but still within reason), you can easily end up with less house than you want and need. Remember, your goal isn’t to meet some arbitrary budget goal—it’s to create a home that meets your needs and desires without causing financial hardship.

When you choose a place and a plan for the home you want to live in, make sure you listen to both your heart and your mind. Balance your decisions between the things your family’s heart desires and what your mind knows makes sense for you financially.


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Topics: Homebuilding decisions, Seattle Design-Build Remodeler

How to Avoid 3 Basic Bathroom Blunders When Remodeling Your Burien Bath

Posted by Brooks Powell on Sep 2, 2016 10:01:00 AM

How-to-Avoid-3-Basic-Bathroom-Blunders-When-Remodeling-Your-Burien-Bath.jpgOne of the most popular remodeling projects in Burien-area homes is re-doing the bathroom.  That’s really not surprising because (next to the kitchen) the bathroom is one of the most-used rooms in your home. There are, however, some basic blunders that many Seattle-area homeowners make when they tackle the renovation of this important space. Let’s take a look at three areas where it’s easy to make a misstep—and end up flushing money down the toilet.

  1. Beginning With an Unrealistic Budget: Occasionally homeowners underestimate the importance of the bathroom and the impact it has on daily life. When they do that, they also tend to underestimate the budget necessary to create a room that will make them more comfortable and continue to meet their needs for years to come. Cutting corners by using cheap fixtures (toilet, shower fixtures, bathtubs, cabinets, and faucets) really doesn’t pay off if you’re frustrated with how they work and have to replace them later. It will actually cost you more money to redo your bathroom to make it fit your needs. You may not need (or want) extravagant fixtures, but don’t let cheap fixtures rob you of comfort.
  1. Underestimating Space Needs: Sometimes homeowners feel that they have to use the exact same footprint of the existing bathroom. There are times when that may be true, but a good design-build remodeler can often “find” extra space that you may not have thought was possible. That’s why it’s so important to consult with a design professional before you begin construction. It can save you from wasting money on a bathroom renovation that doesn’t deliver what you really want: a comfortable, useable, bathroom you’ll enjoy for years.
  1. Wimping Out on the Windows: In addition to providing fresh air, a properly designed and well-placed window brings natural light into what otherwise can be a dark and dreary room. There are all kinds of window options that can fill those functions and still provide plenty of privacy. And some options—such as glass blocks—may not technically be windows at all, but can still provide ventilation and plenty of natural light.

If you’re looking for ideas for your Seattle-area bathroom, you may want to download our free Beautiful Bathrooms: Building the Ultimate Retreat eBook to stimulate your thinking. And once you have ideas in mind, you can “Talk to Rob” by scheduling a 10-minute phone consultation to talk about design ideas; find out what others in your situation are doing; and get a budget range to see if what you have in mind is feasible.

That’s a great way to avoid making some of these basic bathroom blunders in your Burien home.

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Topics: Seattle Home Remodeling, Burien Remodeling Project, Burien Remodeling Contractor, Design Build Remodeler

What Makes Remodeling in the Normandy Park Area Such a Good Idea?

Posted by Brooks Powell on Aug 26, 2016 3:37:00 PM

What-Makes-Remodeling-in-the-Normandy-Park-Area-Such-a-Good-Idea_.jpgThere’s a lot to love about living in Normandy Park. It’s a beautiful waterfront community. You’re close to Puget Sound. It’s convenient to get to downtown Seattle and the SeaTac International Airport.  This community of approximately 6,500 residents maintains a quiet, pedestrian-friendly, safe family environment. And you can even take advantage of local activities, such as Music in the Park and Shakespeare in the Park events in nearby Burien.

But what if the home you’re living in no longer meets your needs or is starting to feel a bit outdated?  Is moving out of the area your only option?

Remodeling your Normandy Park or Burien home can really make sense. You don’t have to give up the community you love and the relationships you’ve established to be more comfortable!

A good design/build firm or remodeler can do a lot more than simply give your home a “face-lift.” You can actually redesign your home to better fit your lifestyle and changes in your family situation: whether it’s adding a bedroom, opening up the inside of your home to create more useable space or remodeling your kitchen to make it more inviting and useable (for cooking and entertaining), like you see in the photo here.

Another reason that remodeling in the Normandy Park area may be a good idea is that finding new property in the Puget Sound region is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only is good, buildable property harder to locate, but the scarcity of property has driven land prices higher. In some cases, that takes building a new home out of the equation.

If you have your heart set on building a new home, however, we can help you find the best lot for your family in the area. We know about lots your real estate agent doesn't, and we’re constantly networking to find land that’s not yet on the market. We’re happy to help you get the inside track on unpublicized land opportunities.

But if you love living in the Normandy Park area and are over the moon about your existing neighborhood, a redesign of your existing house can help you create a home that you’ll love and one that will meet your family’s needs for years to come.

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Topics: Seattle Custom Home Remodeler, advantages to remodeling in Normandy Park, remodeling in Normandy Park