The Toxin I Uncovered During My Basement Remodel


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Category: Buying & Selling a Home

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I grew up with the handiest dad in the entire neighborhood. When I was a kid, it felt like every six months there was a different room getting a facelift, ranging from completely renovating the kitchen to turning a small attic into our playroom.

This mentality rubbed off on me. Today, I’ve not only made improvements to my own home, but I’ve even taken on a few house flips in my spare time. However, the time and labor that goes into these projects shouldn’t be underestimated. My dad made it look easy, but there are always curve balls.

My Initial Purchase

For my past two house flips, I purchased bank-owned foreclosures. I found this process much easier than most people think, and it also typically leaves a nice cushion in your budget to invest in the renovation.

However, after renovating these homes, I was left with less of a profit than I initially calculated. This time around, I took a risk and bid on a home through a foreclosure auction. (The main difference between auction and bank-owned is that the homes at auction often are bid on sight unseen!) However, living in a rural part of New York, I have become familiar with the homes in the area and had a general sense of what I would be dealing with.

First Impressions

After finalizing the deal, I drove to the location with my husband and two children to get an initial look at our new property. As soon as we arrived, I began to see the potential that this home had to offer. A beautiful paint-chipped, white ranch that was constructed in the early 1950s. Set back on about an acre of land, all I could think was how perfect this home would be for a family to live and grow, with plenty of space for children to roam freely and enough privacy while having a central location near to highways, plazas, and our neighborhood.

We opened the front door to the main entrance with our fingers crossed, praying that the inside would be salvageable. Other than the extremely worn hardwood floors, everything was generally intact. Four bedrooms and two bathrooms, seemingly unscathed by the many cold winters that occurred over the years. Slight cracks ran the walls and almost everything was outdated, however, these changes would be minor, as I still wanted to ensure the home would maintain its timely character.

On the surface, our initial evaluation of the purchase was going well, briefly discussing our plans as we moved room to room. However, our luck was about to change as we descended the rickety steps into the basement.

The Monster in the Basement

As we entered the unfinished basement, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. It was a small space but could be used as an extra bedroom or guest room if it was finished. The drywall was cracked in multiple spots, exposing the insulation underneath. This initially concerned me, as given the age of the home I knew that the insulation could very well contain asbestos, a deadly carcinogen when exposed to humans. The basement was also very damp, which upon further inspection, it appeared that there was an abundance of mold along the ceiling.

The basement needed much more than a cosmetic lift.

Before we began any repairs, we had to have the home professionally inspected and tested, as we knew that the possibility of health risks was too high for us to begin renovating the basement.

Unfortunately, it seemed that our fears became a reality. Not only was there asbestos-containing insulation in the basement, but it was in other areas of the house as well! Flipping houses I’ve learned that asbestos was once a common additive in a variety of building materials, due to its unsurpassed resistance to heat. But asbestos was also found in our basement floor and ceiling tiles, somewhere I never expected a toxin to be present. While the mold was a quick fix for the abatement team, the insulation was the true task and a much larger undertaking.

A Delay in the Process

It took weeks for the insulation to be properly tested and eventually remediated. The time we could have spent renovating the home was used to break open a large percentage of the walls in the house by the remediation team and rid them of the dangerous material. Some spaces were left untouched, such as the attic, but this area was far too small for anyone to access.

The whole time our insulation was being replaced, the only thoughts I had were, what if they missed an area? What if there were asbestos fibers floating around without my knowledge? It was scary to think that we bit off more than we could chew with this flip. However, tests came back and our home was cleared for the projects we had planned.

Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

This home taught me the biggest lesson of all, no matter how big or small your home improvement project may be, it’s important to get your home checked out before you begin.

I’ve started doing this no matter what the quality of the house is.

With the bank-owned foreclosures, I was able to get an inspection done before the purchase. But with this most recent flip, I’m glad I had this done prior to breaking down any walls. The risks I could have put myself and my family in put a pit in my stomach, and it’s unfortunate that many of those who do these projects on their own unknowingly expose themselves to dangerous toxins. If you do decide to renovate your home by yourself, have it tested for all toxins.

And if you can’t complete the project on your own, consult a professional who can assist. Trust me.

Gina Wheeler is a content creator and freelance writer from New York. Beyond her obsession with interior design and home updating, Gina has a passion for the mind, body, and health excellence. Gina enjoys learning about the intricacies of the body including exercise, nutrition, and preventative care.


In What Order Do I Remodel My House? In This Order


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Category: Home Improvement

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Homeownership can be confusing and comes with a lot of expenses. Even after you write that big check for a down payment, you’re still going to feel like you’re bleeding money. New furniture, DIY updates, fixing this and that…it all adds up! It can be overwhelming.

So today we wanted to give you some tips on how to prioritize all of those early expenses. What should you splurge on right from the start? What should you wait on to help you save some cash? We answer all of those questions…and more!


These Are the Newest, Coolest Kitchen Designs


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Category: Home Decorating, Home Improvement

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They say the kitchen is the “heart of the home” and we couldn’t agree more. Even though we both can barely cook scrambled eggs and have burned our fair share of grilled cheese sandwiches (true story), we still l-o-v-e kitchen spaces. We don’t necessarily love to cook in these spaces, but we love to admire them. And because of this admiration, we’ve noticed some trends pop up over the last couple years. So whether you’re looking at a future kitchen remodel, or you simply like some good eye candy (I mean who doesn’t?!), we’re sharing seven of the latest kitchen trends.


10 Remodeling Projects With the Biggest Payoff


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Photo Credit: mlitty on FlickrHome improvement should not only be about making your living space more livable; it should also be about providing a long-term payoff. Every dollar you put into your home should, ideally, increase your home’s value when you’re ready to sell.

Yet, as you’re probably well aware, some remodeling projects are more about function than value. If you’re considering some changes to your home, start with the ones that you know will pay for themselves down the line.

Here are a few of the remodeling projects you can do that will give you a big payoff:

  1. Rethink your windows and window treatments. Windows are a home’s primary source of light and warmth. While you can’t control whether or not the sun is shining, you can control how much of the available light enters the home. Look into new blinds and window treatments, and you’ll be surprised just how much warmer your home will be (and how much it will increase your home’s appeal). Replacing the actual windows can increase your home’s energy efficiency (and there are blinds that can accomplish this task without replacing the windows, too).
  2. Do some landscaping. Landscaping is not only important when you sell your home, it’s important every day. When you come home from work, a well-manicured lawn with some nice shrubs or plants can have a de-stressing effect. This is also part of your home’s “curb appeal,” which will increase the sale price of your home when it is time to sell.
  3. Add a garage. A garage can add a considerable amount of value to the home. Today’s pre-manufactured garages can be a relatively inexpensive option, and even a stick-built garage can still pay off more than what it costs. In addition, you’ll increase the value and longevity of your vehicles, too.
  4. Remodel the kitchen. An updated kitchen can add several thousand dollars in value to your home. If you’re able to do some of the work on your own, you can usually come out ahead. Even just changing out your kitchen cabinets, refinishing them, or adding new appliances can improve your kitchen space and increase the home’s sale value. Be careful, here; you can sink an awful lot of money into contractors to fix up your kitchen. If you’re not doing a significant amount of the work yourself, you’re probably better off focusing your energies elsewhere.
  5. Remodel the bathroom. Kitchens and bathrooms are the two rooms buyers pay the most attention to. Here again, if you can do much of the work yourself, it can pay off big. Changing out counter tops, refinishing cabinets, and installing a new toilet and shower can significantl add to the appeal and the value of your home.
  6. Install a fireplace. There’s just something about sitting in front of a warm fireplace on a cold winter’s evening. You know it, and so do the people thinking about buying your home. Depending on your home’s layout, installing a fireplace might be fairly inexpensive, or at least less expensive than you think.
  7. Move the laundry room upstairs. You might not realize it, but having a laundry room upstairs as opposed to the basement actually increases the value of your home. In most cases, you’ll need both an electrician and a plumber to help you move the necessary fixtures, once you identify where the new laundry room should be. If you have a gas dryer, you’ll need someone to move or install a gas fixture, as well.
  8. Do some caulking. A couple of hours spent maintaining the caulking in your home can make a dingy bathroom look bright as new, and will help increase your home’s sale price.
  9. Brighten your home. Adding a light fixture or two to a room can help brighten it up significantly, especially if it’s a room with little opportunity for sunlight. Bathrooms and kitchens are excellent places to add lighting.
  10. Replace your door knobs and door plates. Door knobs and door plates are a fairly inexpensive investment, but you’d be surprised at the difference they make in making your home look new and shiny. New knobs catch the eye, and they raise the perceived value of your home.

Increasing your home’s value doesn’t always mean a major effort. Sometimes, it’s as simple as doing some repairs or installing a new feature. If you want to get the most for your home, consider some of these remodeling projects.

About the Author:
Nick Simpson is Social Media Coordinator at Blindsgalore, a leading provider of bamboo shades and faux wood blinds. In addition to their standard product lines, Blindsgalore carries a number of additional lines, including elegant natural wood blinds.
Photo Credit: mlitty on Flickr

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