Tag Archives: Remodeling Advice

Range Hoods and Make-Up Air: The Case for Clean Air

In the kitchen and bathroom, it is widely known that proper ventilation is needed for the safety and health of your family and your home.  In the bathroom, vent fans, and in the kitchen, range hoods, are included in nearly all present-day remodels.  When bathrooms don’t have ventilation, steam builds up and not only does it make for annoying foggy mirrors, it can also lead to mold which can be both harmful and unsightly.  When kitchens don’t have proper ventilation, specifically a range hood above the stove, steam and grease blanket your kitchen and the moisture and oils can settle on the cabinets causing them to warp and/or wreck.  It has always seemed like an easy enough fix to just add a ventilation fan to suck the unwanted elements out of the home, but something you may never have thought of is: how is that air being replaced?  That is what we call make-up air, the air that replaces the “bad” air that has gotten sucked out by a fan or range hood.

In the old days, homeowners were instructed to “open a window” when cooking, which allowed for fresh air to come in and fill the void.  Also, homes were much less “air-tight”, or “energy-efficient”.  Picture older homes that have air passing under the doorways, sometimes enough room to slide a thin package under. Also the windows were drafty, and you could hear a slight whoosh if you got near.  In newer homes, doors have weather-stripping that seal out any airflow underneath, and windows are so tight you wonder how they were even able to fit them in the opening.  These things are great for saving money on your energy bill, but did you know a tightly-sealed home can actually be dangerous?

When a range-hood is employed while cooking, it sucks air at variable rates, depending on the size and model of your unit.  The rate that the air is sucked is measured in terms of CFM (cubic feet per minute).  Think about it, that is quite a lot of air!  Currently in Michigan, there is a code stating that if your range hood has a rating of 400 or more CFM, you must have a system in place to provide fresh make-up air.  Without it, the air will try to replace itself, and if no fresh air is available (no window open), it will sometimes draw in exhaust from furnaces and water heaters (backdrafting).

A make-up air damper is what is recommended.  This is a flap that lets fresh air in the home.  Imagine a duct that goes from your kitchen to any exterior wall of the home. When the range hood turns on, it sends a signal to the damper, which opens up and lets in fresh air.  When the range hood turns off, the damper flap closes.  This is a way to ensure that there is no negative air pressure created when you use your exhaust fans.

This is a relatively new code, and so it is very likely that you either have no exhaust system at all, or you do have a range hood but no make-up air system. If you fall into the former category, you may want to consider installing such a system in your kitchen.  This is what the National Kitchen and Bath Association has to say:

“The EPA has labeled the kitchen as the number one source of contaminants in the home and the majority of those contaminants relate to the cooking activity. And because cooking generates periodic large quantities of contaminants, it is more efficient to have a specialized ventilation device (range hood) capable of handling the localized need to prevent the infiltration into the rest of the home. Many older homes have wall fans rather than range hoods and while this does provide ventilation it does not adequately prevent the spread of cooking contaminants in the house. The reason is that the particles from cooking are hundreds of time smaller than the human hair…it is vapor. If these vapors are not captured within the cooking area they are very likely to stay air borne for up to 72 hours and spread throughout the home. A wall fan is not powerful enough to prevent this spread…it can help but it is not a good replacement for a hood.”  (Source: NKBA)

If you fall into the category of having a range hood but no make-up air system, you want to make sure that you have a window open while employing the fan.  In Bathrooms, make-up air is not as big of an issue, because no bathroom fans that I know of run at 400 CFM, but you still may want to open a window if possible when running your fan.

When you are ready to remodel your kitchen or add a ventilation system, give us a call at (586) 777-6633!

The Benefits of Visiting Our Showroom

The majority of our potential clients will initiate their contact with us by sending an email or calling us on the phone, and requesting a free in-home consultation. While we in no way discourage this, I would humbly suggest that the better route to take would be to first stop by our Showroom. We are open from 8:30 to 5:30 Monday through Friday, and from 10:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, which should accommodate almost any schedule.

The reason I see it most beneficial to visit our Showroom before making an in-home consultation appointment is, by visiting, you will have the opportunity to meet with multiple members of our staff, from design, to pricing, to production. Even potentially the installers who will be working on your job, the bookkeeper who can answer any questions related to financing, and the marketing team who will gift you with a promotional item or two! We might be having an employee’s birthday party and invite you in for a slice of ice cream cake. You will have an inside view into our company culture instead of one stranger appearing on your doorstep.

Sometimes a walk-in client will be greeted by one of our designers, begin a discussion about their project, and come to a technical question that that individual is not an expert on. We can easily grab the nearby expert, and answer your question for you right there. Have a question about how long your project will take to start? Ask our production department, who know their schedules better than anyone. You can even meet the owner and shake his hand. I think you are beginning to get my point.

Additionally, we have thousands of product samples here that will inspire you. You will have a much better direction of which samples you would like brought out to your home during the in-home consultation. You can even borrow some to take home with you!

I would sincerely suggest visiting us here, developing a rapport with a design consultant, and then making an appointment for him/her to meet with you at your home to proceed further. By visiting us you will have a much clearer picture of whether or not our company is a good fit for you. Call 596-777-6633 to make an appointment to come visit, or walk-ins are always welcome!

Why We Don’t Email Quotes or Leave Them in the Mailbox

About once a month we receive a call from someone asking us:

“Can you please stop by my home, give me a roof quote, and then leave it in the mailbox?”

The short answer is no.

The long answer is, yes, we’d love to work with you to develop an accurate quote for replacing your roof. But just looking at your current roof is not going to give us all the information we need to develop that quote. There are many different types of roofs! What about insulation, gutters, etc? We need to meet with the homeowner one-on-one to have these important discussions and show them all of their options.

For kitchens and bathroom quotes, we often times will gather sample boards around our showroom, and develop an on-screen presentation to show the client, all things that cannot be relayed adequately through email. Our preference is for the client to visit our showroom for the second meeting, where the proposal will be discussed.

Still, many clients request that we “just email the quote”. All you will be getting that way is some technical verbage, some drawings, and a price. You will either love it or hate it, and if it is not perfect, you might dismiss us as a company.

If you were here in the showroom, however, we could take everything you didn’t love, and make revisions right there! Price too high? We can show you alternate materials to help save money. Everything is right here. We understand when clients cannot make it to our showroom for different reasons, and we will gladly come back to you, bringing as many samples as we can, but emailing quotes just does not make sense 99% of the time. It is just too impersonal. We put so much time and effort into developing these quotes, we do not like to simply press “send” and shoot off a PDF to you, we want to show off all the details!

Of course there are always exceptions. Some of our customers live out of state, and others have unique needs that we gladly fulfill. I just wanted to express the reasons you should let us go over the quote with you, if you are able to. You will definitely find it beneficial, and our time and advice are always free!

How to Compare Multiple Bids the Smart Way

You’ve surely heard the phrase “Comparing Apples with Oranges”.

If you change your design every time you interview a contractor and ask them to bid, then comparing their bids will be a worthless exercise.  Each contractor will be bidding on a different thing.

Avoiding this problem is obvious: have a clear detailed plan and give the same set of prints to each contractor you ask to bid.

However, even if you give ten contractors the same plans, when you receive the bids you must look further than their bottom line price.  You should not always go for low bid, assuming you will save money; or high bid, assuming you’ll get the best quality; or middle bid, assuming you’ll get the best of both worlds.  Smart comparison means reviewing exactly what you will get for your money.

For example, if one contractor takes responsibility for mistakes, and has a built-in 5% allowance for unexpected costs, their bid will naturally be higher and still be a better value.

Or a contractor might be high bid because the other contractors left out portions of the remodel on the bid, relying on charging for change orders to finish the project.

Or a contractor might be the lowest bid not because they are basing it on cheaper materials or omitting parts of the project, but because they have an original and unique solution no one else has thought of.

The thing is to be smart when you compare.  A good idea is to choose your bidding contractors by reputation and involve them in the budget.  A good contractor can help you make the correct decisions that will allow you to stay within your budget.

Basement Finishing: How Much Does it Cost?

Are you thinking about remodeling your basement space, but aren’t sure how much it will cost, how much value it will add to your home, and whether or not this is the right choice for you?  If so, I am writing this article just for you!

In the real estate world, basements (even walk-out basements) are not techincally allowed to be factored into the square footage of your home.

In the home pictured here, this is the case, even though the basement could be considered an entirely separate, 3,000 square foot apartment.

Basement remodels at Kopke range from $30-75 per square foot.  Add up the square footage of your basement (ignore the realtors, we all know finished basements “count”), and do a quick multiplication to figure out the range.  For example, a 1,000 square foot basement could cost $30,000 to $75,000 to finish, depending on the materials and layout selected.

Down the hall (and not pictured) is a large bedroom, a pool table room, a home gym, an office, a utility closet, a tool room, and a full bathroom with shower and walk-in tub.  To the left behind this wall is a storage room fit for an excessive collector / holiday enthusiast.

And what did it cost to finish this basement? $135,000.  At 3,000 square feet, this remodel came out on top of the price spectrum, at $45 per square foot.  This is because all top-of-the-line products were used, and very few items from the wishlist were overlooked.

I know what you are thinking: “Why spend $135,000 on a remodel that won’t add any value to my home?!!!??” That is where the debate comes in.  How can you deny the value of all the amenities I listed above?  And how about all the new friends you will make when people find out about the incredible bar in your basement?

All joking aside, every remodel increases the value of your home.  Each in a different way, relative to the wants and needs of the prospective buyer.  For example, if the buyer is handicapped, the walk-in-tub will be a tremendous value, and if the buyer is a chef, the wood-fired pizza oven* would fire him/her up, and the bathtub could be an unsightly nuisance.

If you plan to live in your home for a long time, update it to fit your lifestyle.  If you plan to sell soon, avoid trendy or niche products, and go towards something more universal. And I would say to be mindful of “technicalities”, but don’t get bogged down by them; each person has their own criteria for what is valuable.

Currently, we are finishing a basement in St. Clair Shores that is 1,000 square feet, and the price is about $27,000.  This one is at the bottom of the price spectrum, at $27 per square foot.  To keep costs low, we are salvaging as much as we can from the old basement to be reused, selecting “standard” products instead of “custom” as much as possible, all while still maintaining the Kopke standard for Quality.

To get started on turning your underused basement into extra living space, give us a call.  We can develop a customized plan to fit your needs, wishes and dreams!  www.kopkehome.com (586) 777-6633

*Unfortunately, the wood-fired pizza oven was one item on the wishlist that had to be forfeited.

The Importance of Not “Overbuilding for Your Neighborhood”

Home Remodeling Mistake #6: Overbuilding for Your Neighborhood

Your neighborhood has an enormous effect on the value of your home. No matter how large, elaborate or beautiful your remodeled home is, there is a maximum house value that your neighborhood will allow.  Overbuilding can mean that you will lose money on the sale of your home.  If you are going to live in your home forever, then this may not matter to you.  However, most people will move at some time, so consideration of your home’s resale value is of primary importance.

Make good decisions in the planning stages of your remodel to eliminate this problem.  For instance, if you want expensive granite counter tops, but your house’s resale value does not warrant this expense, you can get tile that looks like granite.  There is a wide range of quality materials to choose from today, so it is almost always possible to replace an expensive material with another that will still allow you to have the look and feel you want.

Remember, your home’s beauty is enhanced by its harmony with its surroundings.  Building a castle in a trailer park does not improve the trailer park.  It just makes the castle less valuable.