Monday, September 19, 2016

Designing Renovations for Home Owners, Buyers, Sellers and Investors

Not all renovation designs are created equal. One of the most critical elements in the early stages of the design process is to determine who the client is and what the long-term goal of the project will be. These answers can vary greatly depending on if your client is a current home owner, buyer, seller, or investor.

Anyone who has owned and lived in a particular home for an extended period of time has likely discovered a few things that they would like to change. From structural issues to dated kitchens and baths, there are a lot of things a homeowner could want to change or fix! If they plan to stay in the home for a long time, their design recommendations are often more customized to their particular tastes and lifestyle. These customizations could be anything from handicap accessibility to designing an entire bathroom around a bold tile that they purchased while on vacation in another country. This group is also the most likely to build an addition to their home, especially as assisted living care costs rise and multi-generational homes become more common.

A recent or soon-to-be home buyer's design can include a long list of changes, or very few, depending on the condition of the existing home. Many of our clients that fall into this category are first-time buyers and young families, who usually have the smallest renovation budgets. Many of the homes that fall into their price range are foreclosures or otherwise neglected properties. We work with these clients to determine which items are a priority (like electrical or structural issues) and which can wait (like an ugly 1970's kitchen) and fine-tune the design to meet their budget restrictions. This group is also encouraged to customize their new home as much as their budget will allow as they will likely be staying for a while.

Sellers often have the shortest list of changes that they want to tackle. The most common reasons that sellers hire a building designer are because the home inspector uncovered some issues that they are required to fix or they are getting negative feedback during showings. For homes in more expensive or desirable areas, these designs can also include updating kitchens and baths to removing walls to create a more open floor plan. We advise sellers to stick with "safe" designs and materials that will appeal to a wider range of buyers. Depending on the home, some of our suggestions might include upgraded kitchen cabinets or repairs that would limit the number of items discovered during inspection.

The most varied group in terms of design are investors. This group is so varied because of both the condition of properties that they are purchasing and their long-term goals for the project. The most familiar type of investor is the "flipper". These types of investors are becoming more and more prevalent because of the popularity of television shows depicting it as a fast and relatively easy way to make a lot of money. We work with a wide variety of these investors, from first-timers to seasoned veterans. The common denominator between them is that they are looking for the best return for the least amount of investment. This isn't to say that they are always going to be "cheap" or "cheap-looking" renovations, but upgrades like quartz counters aren't common or recommended in most cases. These types of clients are also advised to go with "safe" material and color choices that will appeal to the broadest range of potential buyers.

The other common type of investor is one looking to rent their property after renovation is complete. The designs for these investors are not much different from those of "flippers", but more emphasis is put on choosing long-lasting and durable materials that are less likely to require repair or replacement between tenants. For example, we usually recommend a porcelain tile (or natural stone for higher-end properties) for flooring because it is less likely to show wear, crack, or chip, versus wood or laminate flooring that wears easily and would require repair or replacement between tenants. The initial investment is a little higher, but the likelihood of further investment down the road is minimized.

No matter which category a client falls into, we can create a customized renovation design that best meets their particular needs, budget, and long-term vision for the project. Give us a call today at (941) 462-0110 to discuss your needs and come up with a plan for your next project.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Roofing: Pros, Cons, and Useful Information About Different Roof Coverings

The type of roof covering that you put on your home determines not only how your home will look, but how much maintenance and expense you have in your future. Different types of coverings function differently based on your actual site conditions. My goal is to provide you with enough information to be able to make an educated decision on what type of covering is best for you.


The most popular type of roof covering in Florida is the asphalt or fiberglass shingle. It's cost effective, looks good on a variety of home styles, and comes in just about every color imaginable. Most shingles have a rated lifespan of about 20 years (standard 3-tab shingles) to 35 years (architectural 3-D shingles). The thing that most people don't take into consideration is that these calculations were not done with Florida's climate in mind. Our constant sunshine, high winds, heat, and proximity to salt water reduce the life expectancy of shingles about 20% on average. The wear is even greater when tree limbs and debris are allowed to contact the roof. For this reason, most insurance underwriters do not want tree limbs overhanging the roof. The lifespan of shingles is also greatly reduced when applied to a manufactured home or other un-ventilated roof system. The trapped heat causes the shingles to "bake" at a higher than normal temperature. You should also be aware that the Florida Building Code requires a double layer of felt underlayment when shingle is applied to roof pitches less than 4 in 12 (rising 4" for every 12" of roof). Shingle cannot be applied to roof pitches less than 2 in 12. The lower the roof pitch, the more water that could potentially stay on the roof during a heavy rain. Shingle roofs require the most maintenance since shingles can rip off during storms or curl from exposure (also called "baconing").

A cousin of the asphalt or fiberglass shingle is the roll shingle. Also known as peel-n-stick, roll roofing, and a variety of other names, this product is essentially a giant shingle rolled up and applied in overlapping strips. This type of roofing is most commonly used on flat or very low sloped roofs that standard shingles are not suited for. It is very inexpensive, but not very pleasing to the eye. It is also subjected to the same degrading conditions that affect standard shingles, making the realistic overall life expectancy only 5 to 15 years. 

Another popular roofing choice is metal roofing. There are an endless variety of colors, styles, finishes, and prices for metal roofing. Prices for metal roofing range from slightly more expensive than shingle for basic metal roofing, to 3 or 4 times the cost of shingle for ceramic-coated and enamel-baked varieties. It can be installed on most roof pitches, and does well on low-pitched roofs and manufactured homes. Homes in close proximity to salt water should opt for ceramic-coated or enamel-baked metal roofing to keep corrosion at bay. Even galvanized metal will eventually rust in coastal areas. Metal roofs can last 50 years or more if they are kept clear and are not in close proximity to salt water.

Tile roofs are the other popular choice for roofs in Florida. Most people choose tile roofs to complement Spanish and Mediterranean architectural styles, but are unaware at how exceptional tile performs in our climate. There are a variety of style and color options available, from flat tiles to S-shaped tiles and everything in-between. They are usually the most expensive roofing option, and the roof system must be specially designed to handle the additional weight. Tile roofing can only be installed on 5/8" plywood or greater, while the standard roofing plywood/o.s.b. is only 15/32" thick (1/2" nominal thickness). Most roof coverings weigh about 55 lbs per square foot when installed, tile averages about 85 lbs per square foot installed. That extra 30 lbs per square foot adds up quickly over an entire roof surface, and can cause structural damage if the roof trusses were not designed for the load. The major positive aspect of tile roofs is that they can last indefinitely if they are properly maintained and repaired if damaged. Tile roofs should be painted every 5 to 10 years to preserve the tile, or covered with a membrane roofing every 10 to 30 years. If left alone, the tile will become brittle, crack, and break. This is also known to happen when people attempt to walk on a tile roof. Unlike other roof coverings, tile is dependent on every individual tile to make the rest of the system work effectively. If one tile is broken and not repaired/replaced, it can eventually lead to a chain reaction of damage to the entire roof. Modern tile roofs are usually installed with a layer of roll shingle underneath to prevent water intrusion if a tile is damaged. Tile roofs are typically installed on roof pitches between 2 in 12 and 6 in 12. Steeper roofs can make installation difficult due to the weight of the tile and the effects of gravity.

The last type of roofing commonly seen in Florida is membrane roofing. It is not typically used on new homes unless the roof has a very low pitch because it lacks visual appeal, but it can be cost effective depending on the product you choose. It is usually used over another existing roof covering to seal and extend its life. It can be applied over most other roof coverings, and can last 10 to 30 years, depending on the product. A very common use for this covering is to apply it over the original existing roof on manufactured homes since applying most other roof coverings to older manufactured homes will require a roof-over that involves putting new roof trusses and plywood over the original roof. This can be very expensive compared to applying the membrane, but modernizes the look of the home greatly and allows for roof ventilation. Membrane roofing can be installed on nearly any roof pitch, but does best on roof pitches less than 6 in 12 so that it doesn't "drip" during installation.

Choosing the right type of roof covering for your home is a much more important decision than many people think. The wrong type of roof covering can lead to increased cost and decreased life expectancy, or even cause structural problems. If you have questions about what type of roof covering would be best for your home, give us a call at (941) 462-0110 or email us for more information.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Is the 50% Rule?

   First, let me clarify that there are in fact two (2) 50% rules to consider when renovating or adding on to a home in Florida. The Florida Building Code (FBC) 50% rule applies to all homes being modified. The FEMA 50% rule only applies to homes in documented flood-prone areas (flood zones).

  The Florida Building Code (FBC) governs all buildings built or modified in Florida. It went into effect on March 1, 2002, almost a decade after Hurricane Andrew tore through South Florida and devastated many structures. The idea behind the FBC is to create stronger, safer, and more energy-efficient homes, which benefits homeowners and municipalities. While it shares similarities with codes used throughout the country, the FBC is uniquely suited to Florida building conditions.

   If you are renovating, adding on, or otherwise modifying 25% or more of the gross floor area of your home, you will be required to bring certain things such as GFCI/AFI outlets and smoke detectors up to current standards. This is generally not a huge expense, and is a good idea to do for safety reasons anyway.

   Once you reach 50% of the gross floor area of your home, most municipalities (because of the FBC) will require you to essentially bring the entire structure into compliance. Among other things, this includes adequately sized egress windows in bedrooms, hurricane tie-downs on roof trusses/rafters, electrical upgrades, and even filling the open cells in concrete block walls. These types of extra work can break a project budget if not included in the initial plan.

   The FEMA 50% rule applies to homes in flood zones only. This rule states that only 50% of the value of the structure itself (not including the property) can be used for renovation of or addition to homes in flood zones without bringing the entire home into current compliance. This can be particularly difficult for older homes as the required floor heights have changed several times over the years, and most of these homes are several feet below current requirements. Some municipalities, like the City of Palmetto, have additional ordinances that apply to building and modifying homes in flood zones.

   When considering a renovation or addition, make sure that you are familiar with the codes and ordinances specific to your project and location. If reading several code books more than 3" thick isn't your thing, let us help! We'll help make sure that your project is sized right for your budget and timeline.

   Visit our website at to view samples of our work. Have a question? Call Jenni at 941-462-0110 or email her at

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Architect, Engineer or Designer - Which Is Best For Your Project?

One of the most confusing aspects of planning a new building or renovating an existing one is deciding which type of professional will best fit your particular project needs. Designers, Architects and Engineers all have different specialties, and each individual professional often has their own niche market. By understanding what types of services each professional provides, you will be better prepared to find the right professional for your needs.

Architects: Architects specialize in producing engaging and thought-provoking building designs to evoke emotion from all who view the building. They are masters of creating aesthetics that are unique and sure to set your building apart. Many Architects will specify the finishes, trim profiles, paint colors, and flooring selections, among other aspects, to ensure that the final design is cohesive with their vision of the project. In order to maintain creative control of the project design, Architects often do all of the drafting work themselves, while sometimes collaborating with an Engineer for more complex structural designs. Architects are able to certify their own drawings for permitting in most municipalities. Architects create designs for both residential and commercial projects.

Engineers: There are several different types of Engineers available, however Professional and Structural Engineers are the most common when it comes to building designs and permitting. Engineering itself typically involves geometric shapes, straight lines, and calculating a lot of loads. Engineers are masters of structural integrity and are often called in to identify the cause and solution for issues in existing homes. Engineers often partner with Architects and Designers to produce structurally sound and visually pleasing permit-ready construction drawings. Engineers handle both residential and commercial designs.

Designers: Designers can be thought of as an intermediary between the services provided by Architects and Engineers. While some designers/consultants have more structural engineering experience than others, most are masters at taking your vision and interpreting it into build-able construction drawings. The services offered can be simple, the minimum needed to permit and build your structure. They can also be much more extensive, including interior material specifications and 3-D virtual renderings of your project. A Designer must work with an Architect, or in most cases an Engineer, to produce permit-ready drawings. Designers are a great choice for clients who need guidance in producing the final design, but also desire more control over the design itself, particularly renovations. Plans drawn by a Designer are in many cases more affordable than those prepared by other professionals, however the requirements of your project and finding the right professional is ultimately more important than the cost of the plans. Designers work primarily on residential projects, but often provide drafting support services for Architects and Engineers on commercial projects.

Whatever your project needs are, there is a professional to help you. All of these professionals are generally aware of what their strong points and weak areas are, and many are not afraid to refer you to a professional better suited for your needs if your needs fall outside of their scope of work. As a result, many residences and commercial buildings in our area are a collaboration between all three professions. At the end of the day, all are working towards making sure your needs are met.

To find out more about our company and the design/consulting services that we offer, please visit our website at