Home Remodeling for Financial Value Part I: A Kitchen Remodel

What is Your Kitchen Worth?


If you are ready to remodel your kitchen there are many things to consider, starting with the budget and then followed by other important considerations: aesthetics, functionality, price, and, for many property owners, financial gain.

To be sure, for bay area residents—who have seen their property values plummet in recent years and now steadily rise – a remodeled kitchen is an attractive financial investment that can add considerable value to a home.

A kitchen remodel in the SF Bay Area recoups 108% of its value, according to Remodeling Magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value Report. So when you sell, you'll earn a positive return on your remodeling investment.

But should you remodel your kitchen? There are pros and cons, to be sure, so here are five things to reflect on before making the decision:

Tip #1 - Look before you leap
If your current kitchen functions well and serves your needs adequately, then perhaps you are better off not remodeling. But if storage is limited, the style of your kitchen is dated, and things are beginning to fray or “fall apart,” then perhaps a renovation is a smart choice.

Here's a simple exercise that can help you decide:
Remove everything from the counter tops, cabinets and drawers. Then, throw out, recycle or give away what is unnecessary. Now put everything back in an orderly fashion -- cookware, plates, juicer, silverware, odds and ends, and consolidate space and tidy up as you go. How did this more efficient kitchen measure up? Has your degree of satisfaction been recast with fewer appliances and nick-knacks scattered about? Still feeling ambivalent about what to do? Then please read on.

Tip #2 - Consider the pay offs
As noted in Remodeling Magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, a kitchen remodel is a smart financial investment. So if you plan on putting your home on the market, a remodeled kitchen will increase your home’s resale value. But a redesign pays off in other ways: improved style, more space, greater versatility, upgraded appliances for a better cooking experience and, when done right, immense satisfaction from finally getting the kitchen you always wanted!

Tip #3 - Choose function over form
If your kitchen is cramped, has poor lighting or has other drawbacks, then it may be time to break ground -- but remember to stay financially grounded in the process. For instance, when shopping for appliances, buy items that are useful and stylish but try to avoid what is impractical. Think hard about whether you will need all those high-end features available on deluxe models. Overspending for high-end appliances is a sure-fire way to max out your budget.

Tip #4 - Go with quality
You can turn a dull, lifeless kitchen into a charming showpiece by choosing quality materials and practices over expediency. Quality craftsmanship endures and will stand the test of time. Hire a contractor with high standards, choose quality materials and don't compromise on important building steps.

Tip #5 - Choose energy-star appliances & green materials
Choose materials and processes that reduce fossil-fuel consumption and promote a healthy environment. Today's energy-star appliances help reduce energy usage significantly.

Select paints and cabinet finishes with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). And make environmentally-sound choices on materials whenever possible. Healthy, eco-friendly products, simply put, are good for the home and the planet.

Renovating Another Room?
Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report shows a positive return on investment for many home remodeling projects – bathrooms, attic and basement renovations, and outdoor decks. A wood deck recoups a stunning 147.1 % on its investment.  Contact us to learn more.


Until next time…
Best Regards,
Bruce Choi, Owner
A2Z Construction


Home Remodeling for Financial Value Part II: An Outdoor Deck

A Change of Seasons: Is It Time for a Deck?


The weather has changed . . . have you noticed? The summer solstice has passed and we are well into the warm (hot!) days of summer. And with the seasonal shift, many homeowners are thinking about (or wishing for) an outdoor deck.

Remodeling Magazine's 2015 Home Value Report by looking at the benefits of installing an outdoor deck. Interestingly, adding a mid-range wood deck to your home in the San Francisco Bay Area recovers 147.1% of its value. That's one of the highest returns on investment of any home remodeling project!

Decking Facts 
Decks offers extended living space and are more cost effective than a home remodel. Room additions are in the neighborhood of $200-300 per sq. ft. vs. $100 per sq. ft. for a deck. Today's decks can even mimic the look of separate rooms by elevating particular sections within the overall deck

Modern decks come in all shapes and need not conform to a one-size-fits-all design. Interesting deck contours add curb appeal and can become a focal point. And for versatility and comfort, why not include an outdoor kitchen, a special area for exercise, or even a hot tub.

And let's not forget one of the central benefits of a deck, especially for homes perched on a hillside … an amazing view!

Outdoor Decks: Hardwood? Composite? PVC? 

New technologies have given homeowners a range of material choices. Here are a few to consider:

Pressure-treated hardwood such as Redwood is an excellent value. Redwood looks beautiful, last for years, but requires some occasional maintenance, such as washing, stripping, re-staining and sealing.

Composite decks, which are typically a mixture of waste wood, cellulose and plastic, last longer than hardwoods and require very little maintenance and wear amazing well. Today's composites can also closely resemble hardwood, creating a deck with a natural look and feel.

PVC Decks are the most durable and are often combined with composite and/or metal inner core. Easy to maintain and requiring little-to-know maintenance, PVC decks come in a variety of styles.

Renovating Another Room? 
The 2015 Cost vs. Value Report shows a positive return on investment for many other home improvement projects – attics, basements, garages, kitchens, baths and more. Contact us to learn more.


Until next time…
Best Regards,

Bruce Choi, Owner
A2Z Construction


Home Remodeling for Financial Value Part III: A Renovated Basement

The Remodeled Basement: The Other Option!


Many questions loom large for homeowners desiring more living space. One of the most frequently asked questions is one of the most basic: Can we afford to build a new, second-story addition?

A second-story addition can cost several hundred thousand dollars, or significantly more. And although it can transform a home, resolve space issue and improve aesthetics, not everyone has the financial luxury to go this route.

But if your goal is to add approximately 1,000 square feet to your home, there is a more affordable option.

A Basement Remodel is a Better Value …

A renovated basement is a superior remodeling value. A mid-range basement remodel in the SF Bay Area, recoups 124.4% of its cost. In fact, building "up" (a basement addition) rather than "out" (a new addition or a second story) is always a cost-saving value. On average, a Bay Area homeowner will pay 240% more for a second-story addition than for a basement remodel, according to Remodeling.

A Remodeled Basement Provides More Space, Greater Comfort and Improved Aesthetics

It may be clear that a basement remodel is a smart home investment. But you still need to plan wisely for it. Here a few suggestions for your basement remodel to improve function, comfort and aesthetics and limit costs, yet not compromise on quality.

First, remember to keep your mind open to the numerous design possibilities. Basements can serve many functions and be turned into almost any type of room: game room, home office, entertainment center, guest suite, kitchen and large storage area, to name but a few. So think out of the box . . . or think multiple use!

It's best to work out (almost) all the details before you break ground. Generally speaking, the total cost for a basement remodel should be roughly 5% to 10% of the home's total value.

Other Things to Consider:

Open Floor Plan vs. Partitioned Areas. Most often, you'll want an open floor plan. It will provide more space and offer greater flexibility. Partitions, room dividers and walls that only serve to separate areas will often inhibit movement and decrease storage capacity.

Controlling Costs. Keeping the footprint the same is an excellent way to rein in costs. For example, if the current space is 1000 Square feet, keep the finished room the same size. And just because a basement remodel is a great value, doesn't mean you should ratchet up expenses with extravagant purchases. When decorating, balance quality and functionality against price.

Building Codes. Make sure things are done up to current building standards. Adhering to code will save you time and hassles down the road and help to increase your home’s resale value.

Moisture Control. Moisture can be a recurring issue in a basement before and even after construction. A moisture barrier will keep your basement warm and dry. Adding furring strips, wood or metal stripes that level or raise material to limit moisture, are important.

Retaining Heat. To create a cozy, warm basement there are several options: Ductwork from the house's central heating can be extended to the basement to ensure a constant temperature; free-standing or mounted baseboard heaters provide an economical heating option; and solar panels serve as an energy-saving, green solution for heating the entire home.

Improved Financial Value

The 2015 Cost vs. Value Report shows a positive return on investment for many other home improvement projects -- attics, basements, garages, kitchens, baths and more

How much a renovated basement increase the financial value of your home depends on where you live, the scope of the project, the materials selected, and the condition of your home. One things is for sure, though, your new renovation will transform a cramped, unfinished space into a comfortable and versatile living area.

Contact us to learn more.


Until next time…
Best Regards,

Bruce Choi, Owner
A2Z Construction


Home Remodeling for Financial Value Part IV: A Garage Conversion

A Garage Success Story …


You may be quite familiar with several “garage success” stories. Companies like Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Apple all started in a garage. And even Google, the multi-billion dollar internet juggernaut, had its humble beginnings in a garage.

But on the residential front, a garage conversion is an ongoing success story for many homeowners that you may know less about.

Indeed, given the proper attention and a dedicated commitment, a garage addition can bring you riches (too a modest degree), greater space and comfort, and more convenience. And perhaps notoriety, at least in your local neighborhood.

Legal Concerns?

In the San Francisco Bay Area, legal impediments have halted garage-building enthusiasts for years and forced them to circumvent legal channels when building Accessory Building Units (ADUs), or so-called granny flats. But bay area cities are now rethinking this issue. This past June, Berkeley's city council lessened the restrictions for building ADUs, and the city of Oakland will soon reexamine its current zoning regulations for building ADUs. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors took action in 2014, voting to make formerly illegal in-law units in San Francisco legally part of the city’s housing market.

What are my garage-conversion options?

There are numerous ways to convert a garage into a comfortable live or work space. For ideas, I recommend glancing at the photographic gems in House Logic: a home brewery, art studio, gymnasium, greenhouse, living room, guest cottage, wine storage room, and more.

A garage remodel is also a renovation project that pays off financially. Remodeling Magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value Report survey shows that a freestanding, 26 x 26, two-car garage addition, recoups 102.6% of its cost, and this is with an interior wall, the ceiling and floors remaining unfinished.

A converted garage can serve as an income-generating rental unit . . .

. . . and like all home remodeling projects, garage units have many v ariations. Some homeowners may opt for a luxurious master suite; others will be satisfied with a modest rental space; still others may want a garage conversion for multiple use. So let practicality and intended use be your twin guides.

Garage Remodeling Basics

It goes without saying . . . hire a reputable contractor and hold them accountable to high standards. Use the information below as talking points with your contractor before your project breaks grounds:

Permitting. Find out about the appropriate building permits for all construction, plumbing and electrical work.

Electrical. Normally, a garage will have inadequate wiring and too few electrical outlets. Appropriate lighting creates a comfortable and safe live/work space.

Heating and Cooling. Compare prices for installing heating and air ducts from the main house to the garage versus using smaller space heaters and an AC window unit.

Insulation. Select proper insulation to maintain warmth in winter months and cooler temperatures during the summer.

Framing and more. When converting a garage space, strengthen the framing. Drywall will also be needed to finish the walls and the ceiling.

Flooring. A garage floor is often sloped and lower than other household rooms. Therefore, before putting down a floor covering, raise the floor, level the slope, and fill in cracks with epoxy.

Renovating Another Room? 
The 2015 Cost vs. Value Report shows a positive return on investment for a variety of home remodeling projects -- attics, basement, kitchens, baths and more. Contact us to learn more.


Until next time…
Best Regards,

Bruce Choi, Owner
A2Z Construction


An Introduction to A2Z Construction

As a general contractor, I've been remodeling bay area homes and bringing people greater comfort for more than 30 years. So I hope you will find value in some of the home improvement tips I'll be sharing this year. I am offering them so you can have a healthier and more vibrant home, a house that grows each year in both personal and financial value.

How Will You Add Value to Your Home in 2015?


Remodeling your home is certainly a smart way to increase its value, but remodeling is not the only option for improving comfort and adding value to a home. Sometimes its about making timely repairs that improve aesthetics, add more living space and eliminate the need for a costly renovation.

Electrical Upgrade: What Does It Mean?

An electrical upgrade generally refers to one of two things: (1) a home that needs to be rewired, which involves replacing electrical wiring, much of it found behind walls, or (2) an electrical panel upgrade or replacement. In both instances, the need is either about adding electrical capacity to accommodate more appliances (often, electronic devices) or eliminating electrical problems like recurring shorts to improve reliability and safety. Let's explore these two possibilities …

New Wiring
New wiring is best undertaken when you are remodeling a room, say, starting a kitchen renovation or adding a room addition, as it can be costly and time-consuming. New wiring requires opening walls, running new wires, connecting outlets, switches and existing fixtures. And yes, new wiring can improve safety and promote greater efficiency; wiring in older homes generally works just fine, though insulation can wear out and expose loose wires. 

Panel Box
A panel box upgrade entails replacing the electrical panel, service cable and the meter. This electrical service is necessary when more power is required or something wears out or malfunctions. A poorly functioning electrical panel may result in a tripped breaker, flickering lights or a defective breaker that won't trip, thus presenting a fire hazard. In addition to improving home safety, an upgrade increases electrical capacity when several appliances or devices are used all at once.

Should You Upgrade Your Home? 

The general rule is look at the clues your home is providing you before upgrading your electrical system. You can make it fun by becoming electrical detective:What signs are evident that your home's electrical system is not providing enough power, is malfunctioning and/or has become a safety risk? 

More Electrical Capacity? 
Electrical capacity for a home is measured in amps, or amperes, and homes built before 1960 generally have 60-amp systems. Today, homes are often equipped with 100 or 200-amp service, though more capacity does not translate into better electricity. A higher-rated system means your home can handle a greater electrical load for, yes, all of those electronic devices. 

The Common Sense Approach?
Yes, use it. Sometimes "repairs" or "upgrades" take a back seat to simple steps like replacing a defective switch or outlet, turning a tripped breaker on again, or rebooting an electronic device.

I do not advocate replacing wiring or adding new circuits yourself without the proper experience, but I do suggest taking the simple steps that often work and will definitely save you time, energy and money. 

And like all thing home related, first assess the problem yourself the best you can, find the proper solution, and then, if necessary, hire someone you can count on to do the work.

Until next time…
Best Regards,

Bruce Choi, Owner
A2Z Construction


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(925) 726-7722 office
633 Falling Star Dr
Martinez, CA 94553

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