Fun in the Sun with Decks!

Renovating your deck and tricking it out with the latest features has never been easier. Remember, adding in a built-in ramp gives a great look to your deck, and there’s the added bonus of making it accessible for everyone!

In Northeast Ohio, we never know what the weather will be like from one day to the next, so it’s important for us to take advantage of every nice moment we get. Whether you’re lounging back with a book trying to get a beach free tan or entertaining guests and grilling burgers, a deck is the perfect summer setting. But if your home has flaky wooden planks with nails sticking out of the boards, it might be the last place you want to be. Renovating your deck and tricking it out with the latest features has never been easier. Remember, adding in a built-in ramp gives a great look to your deck, and there’s the added bonus of making it accessible for everyone!

The important thing to keep in mind when doing any home modification is considering what you want to use it for. What will be the main activity you do on your deck?

If you’re looking for a casual place to play host to family and friends, maybe you want your deck to be an outdoor living room? You can structure everything around a great big table for dining or a fire pit for cozy evening ambience. 

Lounge chairs could serve as the main seating and your railings could even provide additional spots to pull double duty if they’re low enough. Utilizing leftover deck boards are perfect to use for these. This seating can also be used for storage and can cleverly hide blankets, towels, grilling tools, or anything else you might need out there. Similarly, steps can also be used as secret cabinets and drawers.

If you’re a big foodie, the centerpiece of your deck could be your grill with a prep station and serving area. The perimeter seating and dining table could come in handy here, and string lights or lanterns hanging above can give your home an intimate and romantic restaurant feel.

Let’s say you’re designing to fit your dream garden? Your flowers could lead right up to your deck in a foliage filled path. It can either draw you out to explore and give you that chance to take a second to smell the roses, or give you some privacy. A plant wall can make sure no nosy neighbors see you, or if you’re short on space, the wall could even be your garden. The same tucked away feeling can be done with planter boxes or hanging planters. Don’t forget that these could also add a dash of color to liven up your railings.

Pergolas can shield against some strong rays from the sun that still lets some light in, and building beneath trees can also be great for reducing wind or rain. Be sure to think about the direction your deck is facing. Is it going to be in the path of the rising or setting sun? Facing the rain or snow? Wind screens might not be a bad idea to up the comfort level, protect against strong gusts, and allow you to get the most use of your deck despite the unpredictable Ohio weather.

If the deck is merely a platform for something else – like a toolshed, Jacuzzi, pool, kid’s playhouse, or small bar, it’s crucial to accommodate for the weight of the item. You don’t want to overload the deck or make it sag. Before breaking ground, mark any underground cables or pipes. Every locale has their own restrictions that might interfere with your desired design, so contact your municipality before starting anything. Local codes must be followed so you don’t have to make future additional renovations before you sell.

But let’s say there’s something in the way? A tree? A rock? It’s possible to design your deck’s structure around it to make a unique layout. You can even use two or more trees to serve as support for a freestanding pergola. This also allows your deck to expand further into your yard. Make sure you allow enough space for the tree to grow to its mature form before boxing it in. Placing your deck on a corner or even curving the shape will also make it stand out. If you’re able, we recommend creating a staggered, layering of levels to give the edges a striking, modern appearance. If you have steps, make sure you they’re properly illuminated so you don’t slip at night. Railing also need to be sturdy enough to lean on and wide enough for plates and drinks to sit. 

A second floor deck can provide shade over a patio and give you access to a great view. It also allows you to build up instead of out to really make the most of what you’ve got. Beneath a single story deck is just as important as up top – you can use the space underneath as extra storage, or just section it off with lattice. Or, with a few simple hinge attachments, the lattice can open so you can achieve both.

Repurposing discarded items like old shutters or using cotton canvas tarps gives a modern feel to your deck. With metal clips or ties, you can hang something up to serve as an awning or even protect against the elements. Mixing things up with a wide variety of materials used in the construction can make your deck the difference between other homes.

Choosing a color or pattern to add visual interest can spice up an otherwise plain deck. Accented, angled, basketweave, herringbone, or nested squares can break up monotony of the floor.

Decks are perfect for homes of any size and people of all needs. If you’re concerned that your yard is too tiny, a smaller deck can actually make a space feel larger. And, if you’ve got a large property, a big deck is a great way to connect structures and increase your outdoor space all at the same time.

2019 Bedroom Trends

The reality of any bedroom renovation is that it must combine today’s trends yet still take into account the owner’s needs. For many, the bedroom can become a clinical and hospital like room as we get older and must deal with mobility or other health challenges. Think about how many times you’ve visited the home of an elderly friend or relative and seen a lone hospital bed parked in the middle of the bedroom. Or have seen a night stand piled high with medications, a blood pressure cuff, and a glucose monitor? The fact is that home owners do not have to trade a restful bedroom for a purely utilitarian space as they age.

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The reality of any bedroom renovation is that it must combine today’s trends yet still take into account the owner’s needs. For many, the bedroom can become a clinical and hospital like room as we get older and must deal with mobility or other health challenges. Think about how many times you’ve visited the home of an elderly friend or relative and seen a lone hospital bed parked in the middle of the bedroom. Or have seen a night stand piled high with medications, a blood pressure cuff, and a glucose monitor? The fact is that home owners do not have to trade a restful bedroom for a purely utilitarian space as they age. Any space in the home can change with its owners’ needs but still retain its character.

The bedroom is a multipurpose space yet is still dedicated to the one goal of being a restful haven. The sleek design of today’s bedroom along with the many options for customized features translates into a space that will easily transition and adapt with its owner’s lifestyle. It is a personalized and pampering space but can be outfitted with technology like a wall mounted television or wireless speakers. The predominant colors are still neutrals but a popular alternative is soft lavender and greys. These colors pair well with the floor of choice which is grey oak and blonde woods. The backdrop of the room is designed to be an unobtrusive accompaniment to the other elements of the room including the bed, lighting elements, and storage.

Grey Fabric Headbroad

The bed in modern rooms takes center stage and so the trend has been large pieces that have a dramatic headboard that the owner piles high with soft and inviting fabrics. Visually the first impression is a plush and billowy landscape for the owner to dream in. How can this style translate for the aging owner who has mobility issues? An option is to pair a firm mattress beneath the plush linens with guard rails that provide a hand grip. Others must try to balance very deep linens with the need to have a solid surface to push back on for mobility. One solution is to install a Hoyer lift above a hospital bed. Lifts range from those that have unobtrusive hand grips to larger systems that have seats for the occupant. This way, the bed can be outfitted with more plush fabrics without fear of not giving the owner enough support. A hospital bed with new bed linens in a bright white will have more of a modern spa feel rather than a clinical tinge. The visual texture of a fabric can determine its characteristics as a modern neutral rather than a convenient and easily bleached bed linen. A well made bed can be visually inviting which is half the battle of feeling rested in any space.

A spacious bedroom might be the ideal place to install window seats. This is an opportunity to let in more natural light as well as add color using drapery. The window gives the homeowner a good view from the bed and can also accommodate guests that visit for extended periods. Having this type of seating makes spending time together seem more casual instead of sitting in chairs pulled up to the bedside. Window seating also frees up floor space for better mobility and less visual clutter on a day to day basis.

Nightstands are equally important since they are very functional but tend to become clutter magnets with time. The solution? Build IN and UP! The plan is to put the bed in the center of a main wall and then built in a custom, floor to ceiling piece incorporating shelves and pull out storage on either side. The shelves on top will be a nice display area for photos or other personalized items and can house a charging unit for cell phones, a blue tooth speaker, or sound machine next to the bed. The shelves can also be outfitted with accent lights that will give the main space in the bedroom a warm glow (with recessed lights) or a more romantic feel with faerie lights. This might be a fun project for the home owner to have a hand in decorating their space to make it feel less clinical. Depending on the owner, the unit can be painted a neutral color in line with today’s trends or go bold with an accent color!

The next element that sets the mood for the bedroom is lighting. While natural lighting is best in most other rooms, the homeowner might consider recessed lighting which can provide the same glow in addition to bed side sconces. Another option is a statement piece such as a chandelier or pendant lighting. Chandeliers come in many styles so don’t automatically discount this as an option. Modern chandeliers have many incarnations from the traditional grand affair with pendants and crystals to more shabby chic interpretations or those that incorporate natural elements like beach wood or those with Edison style lights. The idea is to make a bright and glowing element that will draw the eyes upwards in a bedroom to make it feel more spacious, not re-create Versailles. No matter what the style, the home owner should install at least once sconce style light by the bedside that can be used as a reading light.

Lastly, the closet is an integral part of the bedroom since most of us do not have the luxury of allocating an additional room for storing clothes and getting dressed. Clothes should be stored out of sight but in a readily accessible way too. Some forethought and planning with a contractor will help you design your perfect closet suited to any lifestyle. A main feature of accessible closets is retractable clothes rods. This makes use of height to hang clothing but can be lowered for those who cannot reach high above their shoulder or are in a wheelchair. Options available include those that use a pull down rod to models that are motorized. Shoes and boots can be stored in open cubbies for easy access and prevents mould from damp soles. Ask your contractor about sliding panels to save space as well as conserve your energy instead of opening up big swinging closet doors. For ladies, an open storage closet (or semi-open) is a good way to store your large hand bags since their shape will not be distorted from being hung on hooks but remember to invest in some muslim drawstring bags to keep your investments dust-free. If the space is available, reserve some space to hang up your outfit for the next day. Oftentimes, seeing your favorite outfit along with a jaunty scarf draped over it will help you look forward to the special occasion. It will also help you see how an outfit look put together before you try it on.

The plan is make the centerpiece of the bed room visually inviting and practical at the same time. Choose some soft fabrics and pillows if possible and let those be your guide. Allocate room for a Hoyer lift or guardrails then get creative with colors and décor. This is the best way to incorporate personal items in such a way as to highlight in a special permanent spot them so that they will be always visible. Please see our chart below to help you decide what your main design concerns are. This will be the basis of your renovation and upgrade plan that you can discuss with your NCAH contractor.

Top Concerns and Design Guide

Mobility Concerns

  • Wood Flooring
  • Eliminate Throw Rugs
  • Widen Doorways
  • Install Sliding Panel Doors

Accommodating A Hospital Bed

  • Widen Doorways
  • Ceiling Transport like Hoyer Lift
  • Sconce Style Light
  • Built in Bedside Storage

Low/Poor Vision

  • Color Contrast Between Walls and Floor
  • Lighting Control from Central Switch by the Bedside

Top Design Design

Bathroom Renovation Based in Universal Design

A project like a bathroom remodel is harder than some because there are many things to take into account including what style you’d like to achieve, its functionality for everyone, aesthetics, and cost. These are the four main questions that should guide your renovation plan no matter what your budget and space limitations. Join us for an easy to follow guide to planning your bathroom project! We’re including summary charts at the end to save you time.

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Most home renovation projects that involve only one aspect are easy to tackle. For example, if you’re building a new deck then the main concerns are building materials. A countertop remodel? You’ll research choices like natural materials versus man-made products. A project like a bathroom remodel is harder because there are many things to take into account including what style you’d like to achieve, its functionality for everyone, aesthetics, and cost. These are the four main questions that should guide your renovation plan no matter what your budget and space limitations. Join us for an easy to follow guide to planning your bathroom project! We’re including summary charts at the end to save you time.

A great bathroom that translates into functionality for the entire family and increased resale value is rooted in universal design. This means that anyone of all ages and physical ability (children, the elderly, those using assistive devices like walkers etc) will be able to access the space and use it with ease. Fortunately, universal design lends itself well with today’s main renovation trends. A well designed bathroom maximizes floor space, simplifies bathing, and maximizes safety by reducing falls. The 2018 bathroom design trend is for a room that maximizes all space and has a modern feel. The modern bathroom has a spa-like vibe with an emphasis on a light and luxury that incorporates natural materials in neutral or cool colors. Think deluxe comfort and maximum use hidden behind soothing minimalism.

The first thing that you’ll see about the modern bathroom is that it is well lit from either a natural light source like a skylight or rectular hy-lite windows. If those aren’t options then the light is always kept soft. The light compliments the star of your bathroom, the tiles. Since the tiles set the tone for much of this room, the choices can seem tricky but see this as a chance to personalize your space rather than being overwhelmed. Start by deciding if you are designing a modern or more traditional bathroom. (Either way, both styles can be interpreted into a more contemporary manner.) The best approach is to choose the tile for your shower stall or tub first since this is the largest feature. Many homeowners are opting to make their budget go the furthest by creating a highlighted feature wall in tile. Here, there are many choices including using penny round tiles which are both economical and unique. Multicolored geometric tiles are more expensive as are fish scale tiles but these can be saved for the recessed shower niche. Secondly, choose a complimentary tile in a large size to complete the room. The color that you choose for your floor can be continued up the walls for continuity and saving on labor costs. (Keep in mind that large tiles require less work and materials to install.) Colors that work best are dark and neutral tones that compliment the shower or tub’s feature tiles.

After good lighting, the modern bathroom design has un-obstructive functionality. Consider barrier-free features like a roll-in shower, open cabinet storage, floating vanities, or wall-mounted vanities for easy access by wheelchairs and walkers alike. Grab bars are easily incorporated into the design if you choose a brushed nickel finish for your hardware and light fixtures. Choose smaller tiles in your shower stall to minimalize the fall risk from pooled water. (Or go with larger tiles but use a long grated drain for slip-free safety.) Tubs are an attractive feature that lend a bath-house or spa feel with the right features and accessories. For example, install a walk-in tub which allows everyone of all abilities to have a full body soak in a tub that fills up faster than a large Jacuzzi tub. Accessorize with orchids or a cool blue and green color scheme alongside some teak accents to complete your oasis.

Lastly, no modern bathroom should be without technology features. Of course, some home owners will want a high tech European commode complete with ambient lighting at night or wi-fi music streaming abilities. Women (and stylish gents) are probably more interested in a deluxe beauty station in the house that allows them to get ready for a big night out completely kitted out with tech features. At the very least, include a niche and power outlet for your iPad and charging your phone. This way you can stream Netflix or a beauty tutorial while in front of the mirror or doing your hair. Blue tooth speakers can easily be installed in your bathroom fan or splurge on a hidden smart TV in your vanity (it disappears when not in use). A quick steam bath is also a great way to get an at-home glow or muscle relaxation after a workout. Your bathroom can be transformed into a luxury renewal center now that there are more ways to incorporate these features into your space. A modern bathroom hides a plethora of customized high end options behind its deceptively minimalistic façade. Remember that any upgrade is an improvement that will make your bathroom more attractive now and increase its resale value for the future. There are many choices but also focus on what your top priority is whether that is a truly bespoke space or maximum functionality.

Top Homeowner Priority


  • One Statement Piece (mirrors,vanity, etc.)
  • Neutral Colors Scheme
  • Grab Bars

Increased Resale Value

  • Steam Shower
  • Skylight
  • Mosiac Tile

Universal Accessibility

  • Wall-Mounted Vanity
  • Grab Bars
  • Roll-in Shower or Walk-in Tub

Creating A Spa Retreat

  • Vanishing Smart TV
  • Rain Shower
  • Accent Tile Wall
  • Soft, Natural Light

Style Guide

Modern Spa

  • Brushed Nickel Hardware
  • Cool Colors
  • Statement Tiles
  • Natural Light

Traditional Retreat

  • Natural Light
  • Neutral Colors
  • Open Storage

Island Vibes

  • Fish Scale Tiles
  • Glossy Glass Tiles
  • Cool Colors with An Emphasis on Blue and Green

Cottage Nook

  • Wood and Stone Accents
  • Wainscotting
  • White Molding

The 2018 Bathroom: Less Is More

Your home’s bathroom can be more than a place to shower and brush your teeth. It can be your own personal spa where you can relax, decompress, and make sure you’re looking fresh. It’s the first place you go when you wake up and the last stop before bed. Don’t you owe it to yourself to make sure it’s not only tailored perfectly to your needs but also looks as good as you feel when you step out of a nice hot shower?

The days of enormous Jacuzzi tubs, massive marble flooring, and lavish his & her cabinets are better left in the luxury magazines and Hollywood films. 2018 bathrooms are all about achieving the same results on a more efficient smaller-scale. It’s important to make the most of the space you’ve got without making it feel cramped, so every inch should be utilized. There’s a great emphasis on ditching excess for minimalism and the integration of smart home technology. Before, any type of electrical appliances in the bathroom were a dangerous game. Now gadgets and items to make life easier and the bathroom more comfortable are embraced as the future.

Let’s start with the actual commode. You may have heard about the features that newer toilets are equipped with. They’ve been a staple of European bathrooms, and they’re finally starting to come to the United States. These artfully designed toilets can come equipped with everything from seat warmers, customizable slow close lid options, automatic openers, built-in deodorizers, adjustable air dryers, and even wireless music players.

Next is the arguable centerpiece of the bathroom. Hexagon, diamond, arabesque, Moroccan fish scales, or chevron tile patterns are a beautiful choice to liven up walk-in showers. Freestanding tubs are becoming trendy since they save room and can be decked out with green energy-saving faucets to reduce water consumption. Putting a sleek and modern tub in a space that’s designed to look more rustic creates a popular contemporary complementary scheme.

Having large pieces of clunky furniture or bulky appliances are wasteful and counter intuitive to the progressive approach homeowners are choosing for their designing needs. Storage areas are economizing as well. Vanities can hang as free floating wall mounted pieces, rather than as part of a large or cumbersome cabinet structure. All of the plumbing is still hidden neatly for a clean, simplified counter area.

Similarly, sink bowls are going smaller. A contemporary style is expressed with brass and gold tones on automatic faucets triggered by hand sensors and warming drawers for linens and towels. Of course, wireless music systems and televisions are being combined into these appliances so you can stay entertained and multitask throughout your daily routines.

We’re stressing pathway lighting more than overhead, not just for safety but for aesthetics. New techniques to keep the bathroom lit properly are getting even more creative to get the most use out of everything. There’s a rise in light bars and wall sconces and natural lighting, where some renovators are carving out a skylight. And as for those walls, nature inspired patterns and graphics are in. Exposed brick, wood accent pieces, and leaf tile mosaics are dominating the consumer market. While we don’t always enjoy year-round sun in Ohio, don’t forget natural light. Sunshine streaming through large or high mounted windows can open your bathroom and make it look and feel more spacious.

Neutral, natural colors like whites, grays, and warm browns are being utilized the most, but some people are injecting a burst of personality with blues and reds on their walls or floors. Underfloor heating systems are a great comfort item. These work best with tile, vinyl, concrete, and wood materials and not only keep you toasty on cold winter mornings, but also help with noise control and are beneficial for those with allergies since they reduce air flow that would typically stir up dust. You can take it a step further. Add to the natural look/feel, by incorporating live plants into your floor plan (they’ll love the floor heating system too).

You don’t have to settle for the stark cookie cutter bathrooms of the past. The key thing to keep in mind is identifying colors, features, and comforts that fit your style. A good designer or contractor can help you identify an organizing theme, so your new bathroom remodel has a clean streamlined style and feel – both functional and beautiful.

Lastly, be sure to consider what you need now and what may want in the future. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to start attaching wiring and hook ups for technologies and gadgets that they might need someday down the line. Likewise, attractive barrier free bathrooms and decorative grab bars can be aesthetically appealing today, and functional tomorrow.

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Welcome to The New “Counter-Culture”: Quartz, Marble, And Laminate Options for Your Kitchen Remodel.

Kitchen renovations remain one of the most popular projects for 2018.  It makes sense to renovate or upgrade what may be one of the most important rooms in a home. This is true for everyone, whether you are a great chef and baker or don’t cook at all. After all, where do your coffee maker, frozen pizza, and wine chest live? An attractive kitchen is a great place to host a casual happy hour or morning meeting if you work from home.

Still, knowing where to start can be a challenge. Surf any site on the internet (like Pinterest) or walk into any home renovation store and you’ll soon be overwhelmed with choices and possibilities. We suggest an easier place to start is your kitchen countertop.  Big or small, all modern kitchens are anchored by their countertops and islands.  These surfaces are the main components that determine both the functionality and primary aesthetic of the kitchen.  Homeowners should weigh four main considerations before choosing their countertops: appearance, durability, maintenance, and resale value. But what about color? That falls under “appearance”, and your color choices will be driven in part by some of the accent trends of 2018.

One of the main kitchen trends of 2018 centers around color.  Gone are bold black or gold accents or statement walls.  In their place, homeowners are opting for a more soothing oasis feel for their kitchens.  Most people are choosing soft blues or neutrals like greys, beige, ash, or even white. These color choices may seem uninspiring until they are paired with the second (and continuing from 2017) trend of the year, counter to ceiling mosaic tiles. An elegantly neutral countertop or kitchen island perfectly complements a bold color or pattern on a mosaic backsplash or tiled wall. A neutral color scheme for counters also works well with our modern preference for natural lighting from better windows or even skylights in the kitchen. Homeowners oftentimes find themselves balancing their need to integrate color into their kitchen that is harmonious with natural lighting but simultaneously not bland.  The answer is to look for a countertop color that works well with a backsplash and the existing lighting in your kitchen. Don’t automatically shy away from a neutral countertop until you consider how everything will look together in your kitchen.

No matter what style kitchen you have, granite is always the top choice in terms of natural beauty and increased resale value. Most people consider the cost of granite counters, plus the intrinsic risk of its installation, worth it in the long run. Granite adds value to a home because of its universal appeal. It is also ideal for larger kitchens since it is the only natural material that is available in wide slabs (usually up to 70 inches wide) that make it possible to create counters and islands with no seams, thus creating a smooth and beautiful surface that showcases the natural dramatic veining in the rock.  The one caveat for homeowners is that although granite is very strong it is also brittle.  Installation can sometimes result in cracks or chips.  Small accidents can be repaired by the contractor but larger cracks mean ordering (and waiting) for a new piece of granite to arrive. Since no two pieces are alike, the second replacement piece may not exactly resemble the original one. Is it worth the risk? People say “yes” in order to have a valuable upgrade for their kitchen.  In addition, granite is also the only material, natural or otherwise, to be used for outdoor kitchens.  It will not fade in sunlight and can withstand weather extremes.

Counter tops of varying height are a functional option making it easy for the whole family to use the kitchen. Plus, they’re a great aesthetic!

Quartz is the main alternative to granite. Unlike granite, it is a manufactured material but can be customized to come in colors that are more in line with today’s trend of neutrals.  The natural veining of granite is gorgeous on its own but might compete with a tile backsplash. You won’t have that issue with quartz since it tends to be more uniform in color.  Also, unlike granite, quartz is nonporous so that means that there is less maintenance when it comes to spills and water rings. It will never need to be sealed either (like granite) and most soaps and detergents are safe to use. The drawbacks? Quartz usually comes in narrower slabs of approximately 56-65 inches.  A larger kitchen may have surfaces with seams joining the counters but this will not be an issue for smaller spaces or islands. It is also not a natural material, so it has less intrinsic value than granite. But the installation is easier and less nerve-wracking than dealing with a potentially large cracked piece of granite.  You can weigh the pros and cons of these two popular building materials (and others) for yourself, or you can read the chart below for a comprehensive summary.

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As you can see, there are many things to think about when it comes to starting your home renovation. In the end, balance your aesthetic with your lifestyle. A Pinterest ready kitchen outfitted with marble counters may not be ideal for a large and growing family.  On the other hand, a laminate kitchen that you don’t find attractive won’t be where you want to linger for your morning coffee or be an end of the day retreat.  Really take your time to think about your ideal kitchen and research the options that will fit your immediate and future needs.  As you design your kitchen countertop and island, don’t forget other considerations. If you like a clean minimalist approach, an integrated sink might be right for you.  They’re also functional because you easily wipe down the counters to the sink without a watery pool left over. While your contractor may suggest a Corian countertop to be paired with an integrated sink, they’re also available in marble, poured concrete, and even stainless steel (so many choices!).

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When upgrading your kitchen, don’t forget fixtures! A new faucet will complement your new island well. You may be able to save on renovation costs by bundling upgrades together, so ask your contractor if he can obtain a professional discount for you when buying hardware. If this is the case, don’t shy away from looking into a hands-free or fashionable high-arc faucet. A fresh look for your kitchen is not an impossible task!  Simply find a reliable contractor and write down your most important concerns for your new space. Begin there and you’ll be on your way to a new kitchen that’s perfect for you, your friends, and family!

Faucets can add an appealing accent to your new kitchen.

There are even more sink and countertop options than what we covered here. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more!

Walking The Plank: Choosing Decking Materials That Best Suit You

The weather is finally warmer and sunnier here in Ohio. Let’s let ourselves imagine that Summer is actually around the corner (and take those snow shovels out of your car now!). This is the perfect time to start thinking about building a deck for your yard—BBQ season is right around the corner! Where to start?

First, contact a licensed professional renovation and installation service. You may have a friend or family member who is great, but will they know if they need to pull permits or not? Probably not. A professional will also know how to ensure your deck is structurally sound and will weather the years. Professionals (hopefully) also know what materials and design is going to work best for YOU and how you’ll use your deck.

Once you’re ready to start, do some research with your contractor about what materials are best for your new outdoor space. One of the primary considerations should center on the best materials for your home in the northeast climate.

There are an abundance of materials on the market but all choices vary in terms of quality, safety, and value. In general, there are two main categories of materials for you to consider.

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When most people think about construction, the material that comes to mind is wood. It’s a natural material that’s used for everything around the home including fences and backyard furniture (think Adirondack chairs). Real wood decks always win hands down for looks because wood is naturally beautiful. Treated wood is also insect and rot resistant. Hardwoods, like redwood, are stable and warp resistant. The downside? They’re sourced from old growth trees which make them non-sustainable and expensive. Softwoods, like cedar, have an almost light honeyed warmth but tend to be soft and susceptible to splinters and scratches—think about that if you like bare feet outside or will move furniture and a grill around.

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Pressure treated lumber is widely available and has all of the durability of natural wood. Just keep in mind to do your research well because quality can vary with price. Cheaper pressure treated wood will distort when faced with weather changes like extreme cold and heat. Untreated pine is the least expensive option. DIY homeowners often find this material the most attractive because they can keep costs down with some annual elbow grease.

Is it as simple as pressure washing and applying a marine stain like Rustoleum every year? No. Sadly, the truth is that untreated pine ends up costing the homeowner in the long run. On average, untreated pine decks will need to be replaced (sometimes as often as every 2-3 years) because they cannot stand up to Ohio cold and wet as well as their pressure treated counterparts. No amount of staining and maintenance will protect an untreated deck in our climate.

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Next on our list are the latest in wood alternatives. These are either composite materials (a mixture of wood and plastic) or entirely plastic. Trex is arguably one of the highest quality and an industry standard for composite decking materials. It’s sustainable since it is 95% recycled wood. It also offers some of the best durability and appearance (there’s a wide array of patterns and styles to choose from). Maintenance is limited to a quick soap and water cleanup if needed – so no power washing. It’s mold resistant and comes in a variety of colors. This makes Trex an ideal material for high traffic decks because it will withstand heavy use without showing as much wear and tear. Trex will initially cost more to purchase, but the payoff is that there is little maintenance on your part for a beautiful natural wood finish deck, and you’re increasing the resale value of your home by using a trusted brand that is low maintenance.

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For the environmental and green conscious, another advantage of this composite material over wood: you’re limiting your carbon footprint.

Trex has many competitors but the main alternative to it is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This material is 100% recyclable since it is entirely made of plastic. Like Trex, it mimics the look of real wood and is nearly maintenance free. The downside is that PVC is susceptible to fading and staining. Wait too long to clean up after that barbecue and you’ll be disappointed! Things like spilled wine, coffee, and sunscreen will stain a PVC deck if it is not cleaned up and left in the hot sun. PVC will also change with the weather.  Direct summer sun will make the material heat up uncomfortably underfoot and your deck will actually expand and contract with weather extremes. The result is that you’ll need to watch to make sure decking isn’t loosening over time.

Don’t let the multitude of choices overwhelm you! Here’s a handy summary chart with the pros and cons of each deck material.  Read it then talk to your contractor. In the meantime, plan for a long and enjoyable summer with your friends and family on your outdoor space! Just do a little research and you’ll be on your way to enjoying your new deck that’ll last you for years to come.


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Home Trends for 2018: Bathrooms, Kitchens and… Smartphones?

It’s April, and with summer on the horizon, it’s the time that many of us start thinking about making some much needed (or wanted) upgrades to our home. While the kids and grandkids are living life on their smartphones and talking about glitter tattoos and the latest fashion trends, you (and almost everyone else over the age of 30) are focused on slightly more practical matters – like how to make the bathroom a bit more accessible, but not reducing the look and resale value of your home. After all, even if we’re getting older, we don’t have to choose between attractiveness and comfort.

So, what’s on the top of the priority list? Maybe it’s getting harder to get around in your tiny bathroom. Then again, it would be nice to freshen up the look of your kitchen too. On the other hand, someone might be moving in while they recover from knee surgery, but where, since you’d rather not give up your home office? Or, maybe the grandkids are staying for the summer?

There are lots of considerations as you plan and prioritize remodeling projects. Understanding some options might be the best place to start and home trends for 2018 dovetail nicely into accessibility renovations.

The next few years will continue to see renovation design combining clean aesthetics with individualized functionality. Our attention continues to focus on renovating the main room of modern homes – the kitchen.
Designers are turning kitchens into even better incarnations of themselves than ever before. New kitchens for 2018 are more open and more functional to accommodate older homeowners and multigenerational families. The kitchen is fully embracing its role as the hub of living in your home, and while islands fell out of fashion briefly, they’re coming back. Updating the kitchen with a centralized workstation (also known as the island) makes the space more functional and accessible.


Islands are now being installed with outlets at varying heights for accessibility from a standing position or wheelchair. Varying height counters can also accommodate those seated and dining on one side and those with a different vantage point on the other. These powerhouse stations can also be customized with lowered cooktops and pullout racks for utensils. The overall feel of a renovated kitchen is casual and calm – great for early mornings or end of day coffee and tea. They’re also decked out to host family time where many people can gather for a meal and conversation while food is being prepped. It’s an important consideration for adults who may have their own parents moving in soon, or those who already have multiple generations under one roof. For these people, rightsizing means adding an extra room for family and expanding the use of existing spaces like the kitchen. Whether additional family is moving in or not, the emphasis is on modifying and updating your home to be attractive and practical.



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Bathrooms are next on our list of rooms due for a major sleek makeover. The primary colors of the season are shades of white, grey, blue, and green. For example, “In the Moment” and “Quiet Time” both by Behr. Our renovated bathrooms also highlight brass or bronze features for faucets, light fixtures, and grab bars.


  Structurally, open barrier-free bathrooms are expected to be a long-lasting trend. The overall clean and uncluttered feel of this renovation provides space to relax and de-stress. An open-floor plan means that you can maximize the use of space and have enough room for maneuverability in general, but especially for wheelchairs. A barrier-free shower with a collapsible lip is perfect for a clean, modern or European look – and meets the needs of most adults. Fixtures can include towel bars that double as grab bars and a sliding adjustable shower head that looks and feel great. The result of this bathroom is a zen-like retreat complimented by clean lines and little clutter.

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Have a more “crowded home?” More people means more traffic overall throughout the house. Whether you have a wheelchair or walker or not, one solution is to widen doorways and hallways along with installing ramps. These modifications translatei nto easy transitions between rooms, giving the home a more open feel AND making it accessible to walkers, wheelchairs, or strollers. It also means hospital beds can be moved into a room without causing cosmetic damage to the walls and door frame.

Need some quiet time from the rest of the family? Pocket doors are a great way to maximize space and have the added bonus of being easy to use in for people with limited dexterity. For outside the home, custom ramps can be installed that integrate themselves into the home’s overall design so that everyone can easily enjoy the deck or backyard.

While you’re making plans for an upgrade, tell those grandkids that you can use your smartphone or Alexa to control the lights and temperature in the house too! It’s an easy way to go “green” and have more control of your environment.

There’s a lot to consider. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the options. The key is identifying your priorities, and finding a contractor who will listen and provide you the best options to match your lifestyle and your budget. With the right remodel, your home will be simultaneously updated for better accessibility and given a beauty makeover all at once. And who knows? It might just be enough to get the kids to look up from their smartphones, and take a selfie with grandma and grandpa in their beautifully renovated home!


2018: A Year of Accessibility Technology and Design

What’s here and what’s coming in accessibility to make your home safer, easier, and more comfortable.

It’s only been 4 months into 2018 but we have already enjoyed some pretty great things including the Winter Olympics (remember the amazing Chloe Kim) and blockbuster movies like Black Panther. What does this New Year bring for accessibility trends?

With the aging of the Baby Boomers, a main focus for designers and their renovation team in 2018 is bringing more accessibility technology, products, and home remodels to the public. While new tech and products are great, seniors are often challenged to balance the competing desire to stay active and independent in their own home with the cost of remodeling or investing in one of these tech solutions. This is on top of simply adjusting to the facts of aging, and the developing physical limitations that often comes with it.

We empathize! And we often help people understand the importance of balancing the immediate costs of investing in your home with the long-term higher cost of NOT renovating. People prefer to stay in their homes where they have independence and where they’ve made memories. Seniors are also understanding it’s more cost efficient to remodel than to finance long-term care at a retirement home, which often runs $4,500 – $6,000 per month. Over one year that’s $54,000 – $72,000 dollars! You can get a lot of home remodeling for much less than that. And with financing options, it’s getting easier for seniors or anyone who has a tighter budget.

There’s more and better on the horizon. New companies are creating new technologies to make homes comfortable, safe, and easy to use. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the technologies that’s leading the way in accessibility trends. Products like SofiHub are at the center of the “smart home” of the future. SofiHub’s AI technology learns the user’s behaviors and habits and couples this with customized options that address the needs and challenges identified by that user. The system is programmed or tailored to the individual’s needs and habits, creating a virtual personal assistant of sorts. It’s a wireless and touch-free system that can raise an alert if something unexpected happens – like not taking medications as normal, or if the user stays in bed very late and doesn’t eat that day (meaning maybe they’re sick). The system will also alert specified family members of abnormal behaviors (like leaving the stove on or the front door open) and accidents (like a fall in the bathroom). The system is user-friendly because seniors don’t have to speak or press any buttons. Yet, the system is easily customizable via an app program. The user also doesn’t have to wear any sensors or smart devices.

Multi-generational homes are on the rise. AI technology like this can help in those homes too, especially when some of the caregiving for elderly grandparents or parents falls to younger family members. Automated sensors and alerts ease the burden of providing constant vigilance and care whether everyone lives in the same household or not.

Other trends are aimed at caregivers and family members are emerging. Products like Lili Smart are used between the senior and different “circles” of caregivers. One circle could be family members and another may be doctors or nurses who provide different support. Grandma or grandpa wears a smartwatch and the home is outfitted with sensors. Using this, family and caregivers can be at ease knowing they’ll get fall alerts, and their loved one will get medication reminders, other notifications and so on. For those concerned with “big brother” and a loss of privacy, no fear! The sensors do not have any recording capabilities for privacy reasons. Lili Smart is an emerging technology, not yet fully launched in the US, but it shows what’s possible – and what’s coming.

Today’s seniors are also warming up to the idea of non-traditional renovations to their homes which enables them to stay in the places that they’ve worked so hard to build for their golden years. Additionally, newer homes are being built with smart technology and have features that will accommodate wireless systems in the future, thus making it easier to install any one of these systems.

New trends of 2018 have gained even greater traction in bringing technological innovations to individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL). Though still in its prototype stage, SignAll has the potential to translate ASL into text visible on a screen! Users will purchase webcams, a sensor, and software to translate their signs for others to read and communicate with integrated services like Alexa which rely upon voice activation. The system is fully customizable to each user, since the language is set by an initial session in which the computer will “learn” the user’s signs before merging those with a natural language program. The sensors also record facial expressions, body language, and rhythm of speech before translating. All these aspects create a more “natural” feeling conversation between someone hearing and someone hearing impaired! What’s more, the SignAll system also makes modifications as it learns its user’s individual speech better over time. SignAll is bringing accessibility out of the home and into the public spaces, making it easier for someone hearing impaired to get things done easily. Imagine being a sign language user who can easily “talk” with others using a smartphone screen that translates their sign language into fully formed sentences to be read or heard by others at the bank, grocery store, or doctor’s office. Running errands will only be a hassle because of traffic, not communication issues.

Lastly, other trends center on the aesthetics of accessibility features. Designers are focused on making common upgrades like curbless showers sleek so that they become a beautiful feature of the home – rather than a concession to decreased mobility. Newer accessibility ramps are better integrated into the home’s architecture and have landscaping to help blend into the overall look of the property. The kitchen, still the center of the home in many places, has been redesigned as more features are moved to the back wall including pipes to allow for wheelchair accessibility. Features like wider doorways and open-floor plans will continue to dominate as top remodel projects but will be carried out with greater attention to appearances as well as functionality.

There’s a lot happening for accessibility in 2018. And they’re features EVERYONE can use and love.