Our friends at iDallas Realtor Group in DFW contacted us with a hot housing market trend for those living in the Dallas area considering buying upscale properties in the Highland Park area. Apparently, the remodeling of condos in zip codes like 75205 and 75219 is becoming an increasingly popular practice as the housing market shows no signs of slowing down.

A real estate agent named Kevin chimed in: "The demand for quality remodeling contractors has never been higher in the north Texas area. If your business is struggling in another area of Texas, consider picking up and moving to the Dallas area, where the number of homes and condos in need of work far exceeds the number of quality contractors in town. I have clients ask me for references of qualified contractors and remodelers on a weekly basis and simply don't have anyone to refer them to."

So why is condo remodeling such a hot trend? It has to do with the age of homes in the Highland Park area. Many condos in the 75205 and 75219 zip codes are in high demand and have been lived in by one tenant for 30+ years in some cases. Thus, when they go on sale, they often need work as the kitchens and bathrooms look dated and simply haven't been updated since the 1970s. 

So what does a remodeled condo actually look like in this pricey area of Dallas? Take a look:
condo interior - photo by plush photo pod
photo credit: plush photo pod

Because the quality of architecture is so timeless, these condos will never fully be torn down. Thus the renovation process will continue unabated for many decades to come. 
Compared with the kitchens of the past, with their coal or wood burning stoves, rudimentary ventilation, and primitive cleaning equipment, today's kitchens and their luxury granite countertops are easy to keep clean for the most part. Streamlined built-in cabinets and slot-in surfaces leave little space for dirt and dust to gather, while minimal mono-black designs in theory reduce cleaning tasks to the bare minimum.

But despite our wipe-down countertops, exhaust fans, and supply of products that remove all known germs, the kitchens of today are actually dirtier than those of generation's past. Few of us have the time to scrub and polish as our forbears did, and even if we have help with housework, basic cleaning tasks often get neglected. Even windows can get dirty and are virtually impossible to make like new after a layer of grease hits them. Also, of course, modern cleaning solutions can be full of chemicals, which, though they make our surfaces look squeaky clean, can pollute both the domestic environment and the wider one.

It is worth getting back to basics and drawing up a cleaning schedule. Though you won't want to include the obvious daily activities or even the weekly chores, such as cleaning the fridge or the oven, it can be a useful way of making sure other cleaning jobs get done in rotation. 

Other ways to cut down on cleaning:

  • Closed cabinets rather than open shelving will give you less dust and grime to deal with.
  • Smooth countertops are easier to clean than tiled ones; dirt is bound to gather in any cracks and crevices.
Below are some recent pics taken by Pete's Remodeling, a Dallas-based remodeling contractor serving all of Texas. Pete's was contracted by Paradise Nail Salon and Spa down in San Antonio to assist with a commercial renovation project for their grand opening and the results look fantastic. Take note - this is what a good commercial remodeling job should look like!

Not only does the front entrance (below) look great, but as you can see the entire salon was given a makeover and updated just in time
Commercial roofers across the US weigh in with tips on handling materials, repairs and more:

"Asphalt shingles have strips of adhesive that bond the shingles together after they are installed. The heat from the sun softens the adhesive. When storing asphalt shingles put them on wood pallets in a shady spot. Cover with plastic sheeting so they do not get wet before they are installed. Do not stack the bundles over 4 feet high." -Jim, Charlotte NC

"Store wood shingles and shakes in their original bundles in a dry place. If left outdoors, put them on wood pallets to get them off the ground and cover with plastic sheets. Metal roofing panels are stored horizontally on wood pallets to keep them clear of the ground. Be careful they do not bend, twist, or get scratched. Cover with plastic sheeting." -Brad, Phoenix AZ

"After a decision has been made on the type of roofing material to be used, the amounts of the various materials needed must be estimated. Roofing materials are estimated and sold by the square, which is the amount it takes to cover 100 square feet of finished roof surface, no matter what the actual surface area of shape of the particular roofing pieces. To find the number, divide the roof area by 100." -Alex, Oakland CA (Bay Area Roofing)

"Once the total square footage is found, divide by 100 to find the number of squares of roofing needed. The base is the width of the intersecting building. The height is the distance from the exterior wall to the point where the ridge of the intersecting roof meets the other roof." -Alan, Toledo
Ever since the modernists started using glass as a building material in the 1930s, it has been gaining popularity in the home. Solid, hard-wearing, hygienic, and transparent, it works on both a large and a small scale, maximizing natural light and the sense of space. There are increasing numbers of kitchens with glass ceilings and walls: cooking and dining areas divided by glass panels; walls with internal windows and back-splashes of glass. Special thanks for our friends at Fresno Commercial Roofing and Siding for helping with this article.

Safety is an issue, of course. All internal glass should be at least 3/8th of an inch thick and strengthened to prevent accidents. Wired, toughened, and laminated glass are all extra-strong, and sandblasting will make a panel of glass more visible, so you won't walk into it. Opaque frosted glass is useful if you want kitchen mess to stay hidden when you are in an adjacent dining area.

Machine-cut glass comes in any reasonable size, but if you want a non-standard piece it will have to be custom-made. Remember, too, that thick glass is extremely heavy and will need a strong supporting floor. Textured and colored glass can bring a decorative flourish to any utilitarian space, so choose a vivid glass back splash, or seek out individual glass designers or kitchen remodelers by zip code on our directory. If your kitchen is small, mirrored glass tiles or mosaics can increase the sense of space. 

Five Top Glass Tips:

  1. The thicker a piece of glass is, the heavier it will be. If you want a thick glass wall, check first with a structural engineer that your floors will be able to stand the weight.
  2. Glass tends to smear easily. A solution of water and vinegar, rubbed off with old newspaper, is an effective and eco-friendly alternative to commercial glass cleaners.
  3. New technologies in glass manufacturing have led to many new inventions: glass that goes from clear to opaque at the flick of a switch, for example, and glass that can conserve heat. Ask suppliers for info and remember that high-tech gadgets usually mean high prices.
  4. If you want to retain your privacy but get more light, install high windows or skylights.
  5. A completely see-through wall can be a hazard, particularly to small children. Divide up the expanse with steel-framed doors or frosted panels.
We asked some of the top contractors and kitchen remodelers in Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Fort Worth to share design tips, ideas and inspiration when it comes to custom cabinet installs. One topic that kept arising was in regards to coordinating looks of custom cabinets to catering-style and French ranges. These top-of-the-line appliances offer fantastic cooking capacity: two or more multifunction ovens, five or six gas burners, integral broilers and grills, for example. You might even get warming drawers, work stands, and rotisserie facilities. Freestanding, they are reasonably heavy and need a strong floor. A favorite with professional cooks, they cost big money, though less-expensive and scaled down versions are on the increase. Some include hanging rods for utensils. You may learn more at the links above.
The kitchen is usually the least eco-friendly room in the house. Appliances eat up energy and water, and we are carless with these resources. We use detergents and disinfectants that are full of petrochemicals and phosphates, and we fill our waste cans with non-biodegradable waste.

Whether you are creating a new custom kitchen from scratch or just going for a revamp, put environmental issues at the top of your shopping list, and buy appliances and products that have good eco-friendly credentials. 

Four Essentials for the Eco Kitchen:

  1. Choose eco-friendly materials. Wood is one of the best, but make sure it comes from a sustainable source, or buy reclaimed boards. Cork and ceramics also have good eco-credentials (as long as they haven't been treated with chemical lacquers and varnishes), and stone and steel rate fairly highly. Avoid plastics unless they are recycled, and use plywoods and particleboards sparingly, if at all.
  2. Opt for eco-appliances. These days, most come with a rating to show you how efficient and energy-saving they are.
  3. Avoid chemical-based kitchen cleaners. Basic pantry items can clean just as effectively and won't pollute.
  4. Minimize packaging. Buy food with as little packaging as possible and recycle as much as you can.
  1. Rationalize appliances: Minimize the amount you keep in the kitchen. Appliances can be placed in a cellar or another room; cleaning products can be stores under the stairs; and dishes or glassware may be stacked away in living room cabinets.
  2. Avoid eye-level cabinets: Although wall-mounted cabinets will give you extra storage space, they will also make the room seem cramped. Without them, the perimeter of the room will be visible, and the kitchen will seem more spacious.
  3. Wall of glass: Use glass for a kitchen wall or ceiling. Having a see-through rather than a solid barrier, even on just one side, will make a small kitchen seem bigger.
  4. Clever storage: If you have little room for cabinets, use the walls, the ceilings, even the windows for storage. Divide cabinets internally with one or two shelves to give yourself twice the storage space. And customize the backs of cabinet doors with narrow shelves and hooks. A long, narrow shelf can also be squeezed above the backsplash. 
  5. Invisible solutions: Use as many pull-out/foldaway features as you can. Anything that can be invisible when not in use is an asset in a small kitchen.
If doors are to work properly, they must be installed level and plumb. Open and close the main exterior door several times. Does it scrape the floor? If so, something is out of line. Either the door is improperly or the floor is not level.

Many door problems are caused by poor workmanship. If a door is out of level or out of plum, rehanging may be required. Check the floor all around the doorway. In this area the floor is often unlevel, but unless the problem is severe, there is no reason to be concerned.

In most homes, cold drafts from underneath doors are a common problem. Exterior doors and doors leading to an unheated areas such as a garage or basement should be inspected for gaps at the bottom. These gaps should be weather-stripped.

Air leaks at the tops and sides of exterior doors are usually not as critical as those at the bottom. But these leaks also waste fuel, also all sides of exterior doors should be weather-stripped.

Do the hinges squeak when you open the door? The solution may be simple – like oiling the hinges. Or, the doors maybe warped, placing a strain on the frame. Warped doors that won't close tightly and that are beyond the help of weatherstripping should be replaced.

If a replacement is needed, look for a prime door with insulation value as well as beauty. Doors with a polyurethane core insulate better than solid wood doors.

Look at the framework that surrounds the doors. Do you see any cracks? Cracks often indicate that the wood may not be in good condition. You obviously don't want trim work that is rotting or decaying.
Drywall is perhaps the one pre-finish stage of construction that takes the longest and shows the least progress and it's timeframe. While drywall panels are relatively easy to manipulate and put in place, the numerous joints between the panels in the divots made for nails and screws must be filled and smoothed out to create a flat, seamless service for the eventual wall and ceiling finishes.

The first phase, hanging the drywall, takes the average three-person home remodeling crew about three or four days to complete, less so on simply designed homes or with more crewmembers. Most drywall panels need to be cut to accommodate windows and door openings, corners, arches and other features.

The panels also need to be nailed or screwed to be houses frame, with the edges of two panels often sharing a narrow stud. Where there is no stud or other structural member for securing the edge of a panel, some manufacturers offer metal clips that stabilize the drywall. Emailing pattern for drywall is typically 6 inches between nails or screws along the perimeter of each panel and 8 inches with the field of each panel. Once the drywall is hung in place, however, the interior of your home takes on a more realistic appearance.

No longer are you distracted by views through wall studs, now blocked by the drywall. You get a real, tangible sense of the width of your hallways and door openings, and a more clear idea about where furniture and artwork might go to cover these blank walls.

Unfortunately, if you visit the house again within a week or so, not much will have changed that you'll immediately notice. The next two phases of drywall installation, tape and texture, are slow moving. Simply, the wet compound, used to bridge the joints between drywall panels, cover fasteners and create finished quarters, needs to drive, be sanded and reapplied a few times before the walls are adequately smooth and seamless.

The initial but being in taping of joints, fasteners and quarters takes about a day or two. Then strips of paper are sent into a swath of joint compound along the length of each panel connection is a bridge to mitigate cracks and then are pressed tightly along the bud vase, securing it along the joint and squeezing the excess to either side of the tape. The excess is then scraped off and used as needed.