Friday, February 28, 2014

Remodelers Say Attic Conversions on The Rise

More and more homeowners are converting their attics into living space.  This allows the homeowner to have the extra space needed to live a superlative lifestyle. At Incredible Renovations 1 in 4 jobs are attic conversions, says Adam Bakir, General Manager.

According to the EPA, "Converting attic space to living space is popular and can be very economical. However, as you bring an attic into your living space, you should use care to ensure the attic is brought all the way into the living space to avoid comfort problems (too hot/too cold) and to prevent other conditions which could impact your health or the structure of your home. These include the air-sealing and insulation issues discussed above, as well as other considerations mentioned below. No-Regrets Remodeling provides a good overview of the issues."

"Converting your attic to living space may present a good opportunity to replace old windows with new ENERGY STAR® windows. While costs do not always justify the change from purely an energy savings perspective, there may be other benefits of new windows."

"More efficient windows may be less prone to condensation and related mold growth. Painted window sashes and frames in homes built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint; this is a special concern because the friction of opening and closing windows can release lead dust into the home; new windows can solve this problem."

With the summer on its way, what a better time to convert your attic in living space.

For more information, contact Incredible Renovations at 713-532-2526 or

Monday, February 3, 2014

Questions to Ask Potential Contractor

What are the questions I should ask potential contractors?

NARI members share the short list of questions they are usually asked by homeowners and offer a list of questions that you should ask:

Timing and money are the most common questions a home improvement contractor hears, but during an interview with a homeowner when homeowners should be asking about credentials and verifying business practices what is often heard is, “When can you start? When will it be finished? How much will it cost?"

These simply aren't enough. Yes, timing may be "everything" in comedy, but that certainly isn't the case when it comes to remodeling. If you are going to have a successful remodeling project, you need to learn the right questions to ask and how to ask them.

When a group of NARI remodeling contractors were asked what questions homeowners asked most frequently, the group unanimously agreed that their most popular queries were:

  • When can you start?
  • When will you be finished?
  • What time will you knock on my door each morning?
  • What time will you quit for the day?
  • Are you going to work everyday?
  • Can you finish before (insert any major holiday or significant family event)?
  • How much will it cost per square foot?
Unfortunately, these are not the type of questions that are going to tell you much about a particular contractor.
While a reasonable timetable and budget is important, it shouldn't be the primary focus of an interview or a job. Homeowners should also focus on trust and quality.

Start by asking questions about a company's business practices and experience in a similar type of project. If you decide you want to hire a particular remodeling contractor, then you can discuss when he or she can start, what time he or she can knock on your door each morning and when you will have your home to yourselves again.

Here are some questions NARI members recommend you ask before signing a remodeling contract:

  •  How long have you been in business?
  •  Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  •  Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  •   Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date. you cannot tell if the insurance has been canceled by either party. If licensing is required in your state also ask if the contractor is licensed and call to verify compliance with the law. Not all states offer or require licensing. Check with your local or state government agencies.)
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  •  May I have a list of reference from those projects?
  •  May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  •  What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  •  Are you a member of a national trade association?
  •  Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS) or Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR) designation? 
It's also important to realize that sometimes it's not the answers you get that are significant, but what you don't get. Asking the right questions is not enough. You need to pay attention to your instincts and to what information is missing.

Unlike your accountant or stockbroker, your remodeler will be a part of your daily life and available for some on-the-job education. He or she will be privy to your personal life, more so than your doctor or lawyer. Your contractor will know how you look early in the morning and how well behaved your dog is. It makes sense that you should take some time to carefully select this person and make sure that it is someone to whom you can ask questions.

Remodeling can be a fun experience. You get to create your dream room or home and learn a little about design and building along the way. All you need to do is ask questions. Questions that, according to NARI members, remodelers don't feel that are getting enough of. So tap into your curiosity and ask away. 

Does every remodeling job need a permit?

Building codes have been established by most cities, towns and countries. They vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another. A building permit generally is required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic living area of the home is to be changed. A professional who works in your city or town every day will know to local requirements.

What is the difference between a remodeler and a builder who decides to also do remodeling?Builder News magazine offers insight on the difference between the building and remodeling industries.

How much does it cost to join?

The member-at-large dues to join NARI are $280 annually.  For members joining through a chapter the dues vary.  It is best to call the chapter directly for that information.

- See more at:

Sunday, February 2, 2014

GHBA Announces the "Of the Year Awards" for 2013

The GHBA recently announced the "Of the Year Awards" for 2013 Volume Builder, Custom Builder, Developer, Remodeler and the coveted Bud Inscho Associate of the Year award at the 73rd Anniversary Extravaganza held at the Hotel ZaZa. Dan Bawden with Legal Eagle Contractors and Toy Wood, CEO of the GHBA, presented the awards. The Extravaganza event also marks the installation ceremony for the incoming GHBA board of directors and officers. The annual "Of the Year" award winners are selected by industry peers.

Volume Builder of the Year 2013:Trendmaker Homes

The 2013 award went to Trendmaker Homes. The award was accepted by Will Holder, Trendmaker president. Mark Welch with David Weekley Homes, the previous year’s recipient, was onhand to present the award. Trendmaker Homes was chosen for its involvement in the community and the association. The company has been a long time supporter of HomeAid Houston, and has provided leadership through political action and participation in education at GHBA and in the new University of Houston Masters’ program. The Trendmaker team is also a key participant in the growing Green Built Gulf Coast program.

Developer of the Year 2013: Lisa Clark, Ryko Development

The 2013 Developer of the Year award was presented to Lisa Clark with Ryko Development, GHBA’s first female president, for her long time membership in the association on various councils and committees, including the Developers Council, government affairs, political action and HomeAid Houston.

"She makes a difference wherever she is," said Toy Wood, CEO of the GHBA. "Lisa is now a two-time winner of this award."

The 2006 awardee, Parke Patterson of Parke Patterson Land Development, presented the award.
Custom Builder of the Year 2013:Greg Hawes, Jamestown Estate Homes

The 2013 Custom Builder of the Year award was presented by the 2012 recipient, Dave Gordon of Whitestone Builders. "This award goes to a person who has served in the leadership of the Custom Builders Council, assisting the council with everything from contracts to policy," said Toy Wood. "The winner for 2013 is Greg Hawes, Jamestown Estate Homes."

Remodeler of the Year 2013: Jim Nowlin, Remodeling Concepts Inc.

The 2013 Remodeler of the Year, Jim Nowlin of Remodeling Concepts Inc., has been a leader for the Remodelers Council for many years and has maintained outstanding work and a reputation for professionalism and excellence within the industry. Jim also took a leadership role as president of the council in 2013. The award was presented by president of the NAHB Remodelers Council, Bill Shaw of William Shaw and Associates Inc.

Bud Inscho Associate of the Year 2013: Judy Bonica, Ferguson Bath, Kitchens & Lighting Gallery
Judy Bonica with Ferguson Bath, Kitchens & Lighting Gallery was honored as the 2013 Bud Inscho Associate of the Year. The 2012 recipient, Denny Patterson with BMI, presented the award. Judy was honored for her service at the GHBA and within her industry. She serves with passion and integrity. She is also a leader in various positions on committees, councils and divisions and she volunteers wherever she is needed.

Presidential Citations were also presented at the event. These awards were given to GHBA members for their outstanding contributions to the association.

2013 Presidential Citation Honorees are:
Amy Robinson with Ft. Bend Publishing — Amy was presented the citation for her many years of volunteering at the GHBA and promoting the association, especially the Remodelers Council.
Christy Stratton with Connecting Houston Home — Christy was honored for her involvement with the GHBA as a great promoter and educator. She has been instrumental in building stronger ties between the GHBA and the Realtor community. Christy was responsible for the GHBA’s unique Fall Event, a breakfast with superstars David Weekley, Leigh Steinberg, and Dave Blanchard.

Earl Chamberlain with BMC Building Materials — A relative newcomer to the GHBA efforts, but someone who immediately jumped in with both feet, never missing a beat and always ready to help is honoree, Earl Chamberlain with BMC Building Materials.

Steve Wilson with Allpoints Surveying — Steve Wilson is a member that everyone knows because he is a regular visitor. Steve volunteers for everything from the Benefit Homes Project to the Associate Council’s Annual BBQ Cookoff, where he comes fully loaded with his barbeque rig.

John Williams with Brighton Homes — John Williams received this honor as a highly active volunteer with the growing Young Professionals in its advocacy efforts. In addition to the YP Committee, he also serves on the GHBA board and the executive committee.

Carl Stephens with Stephens-Tingley & Associates — A long time member, Carl Stephens received this award for sharing his experience and business acumen with the association and his commitment and prowess in the political action arena. His face and work is well known within the city of Houston.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Clean Air Act Violations Stemming From Illegal Import of Vehicles

WASHINGTON – A Dallas-based group of companies and their owner must either stop importing vehicles or follow a comprehensive compliance plan to settle alleged Clean Air Act (CAA) violations stemming from the alleged illegal import of over 24,167 highway motorcycles and recreational vehicles into the United States without proper documentation, announced the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The four parties are also required to pay a $120,000 civil penalty.

“Vehicles are one of the largest sources of pollution that significantly affect public health,” said Cynthia Giles, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Holding importers accountable for meeting U.S. emissions standards is critical to protecting the air we breathe, and to protecting companies that play by the rules.”

“Importers of foreign made vehicles and engines must comply with the same Clean Air Act requirements that apply to those selling domestic products,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to vigorously enforce the law to ensure that imported vehicles and engines comply with U.S. laws so that American consumers get environmentally sound products and violators do not gain an unfair economic advantage.”

Savoia, BMX Imports, BMX Trading, and their owner, Terry Zimmer, allegedly imported the vehicles from several foreign manufacturers into the United States through the Port of Long Beach, Calif. The vehicles were then sold through the Internet and from a retail location in Dallas, Texas.

Today’s settlement requires that the companies either certify that they are no longer engaging in CAA-regulated activities or follow a comprehensive plan over the next five years that would include regular vehicle inspections, emissions testing, and other measures to ensure compliance at various stages of purchasing, importing, and selling vehicles. In addition, the companies are required to export or destroy 115 of their current vehicles that have catalytic converters or carburetors that do not adhere to the certificate of conformity that they submitted to EPA. The purpose of the certificate of conformity, required by the CAA, is to demonstrate that vehicles or engines meet applicable federal emission standards.

EPA discovered the alleged violations through inspections at Long Beach and other U.S. ports of entry, and through information provided by the company. EPA’s investigation showed that approximately 11,000 of the imported vehicles were not covered by an EPA certificate of conformity, which means that EPA is unable to confirm that the emissions from these vehicles meet federal standards. Other violations included approximately 23,000 vehicles sold without the required emissions warranty, and approximately 500 vehicles that did not have proper emission control labels.

The CAA requires that all vehicles have certification, warranty, and labeling prior to being imported or sold in the United States to demonstrate that they meet federal emission standards. Engines operating without proper emissions controls can emit excess carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides which can cause respiratory illnesses, aggravate asthma and contribute to the formation of ground level ozone or smog.

The consent decree, lodged today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval. The consent decree is available for review at

More information on the settlement:

More information on EPA’s Clean Air Act mobile source enforcement programs:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Builder Confidence Improves by Four Points

Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved four points to a 58 reading on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for December, released today. This gain reflected improvement in all three index components – current sales conditions, sales expectations and traffic of prospective buyers.

“This is definitely an encouraging sign as we move into 2014,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “The HMI is up 11 points since December of 2012 and has been above 50 for the past seven months. This indicates that an increasing number of builders have a positive view on where the industry is going.”

“The recent spike in mortgage interest rates has not deterred consumers as rates are still near historically low levels,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.  “Following a two-month pause in the index, this uptick is due in part to release of the pent-up demand caused by the uncertainty generated by the October government shutdown.  We continue to look for a gradual improvement in the housing recovery in the year ahead.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.
All three HMI components posted gains in December. The index gauging current sales conditions jumped six points to 64, while the index gauging expectations for future sales rose two points to 62. The index gauging traffic of prospective buyers gained three points to 44.

Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the South edged one point higher to 57 while the Northeast, Midwest and West each fell a single point to 38, 59 and 59, respectively.

Editor’s Note: The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is strictly the product of NAHB Economics, and is not seen or influenced by any outside party prior to being released to the public. HMI tables can be found at More information on housing statistics is also available at