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Smith&Sell

Porch of the Week: Room for Lounging and Socializing (6 photos)

Before Photo

Before: From this view, standing on the path that leads to the backyard, you can see how the porch abruptly ended before the remodel — with no connection to the yard beyond. Additionally, the window in the foreground is the reading room, which Calmes hoped a porch addition would be able to shade.

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My Sweeten Story: A Mint Bathtub Leads a Vintage Bathroom Remodel

A Hudson County vintage bathroom remodel highlights a mint green palette and higher ceilings

“After” photos by Curious Lens for Sweeten

Homeowners: Homeowners posted their vintage bathroom remodel on SweetenWhere: Hudson County, New JerseyPrimary renovation: Revamping the main bathroom in their 150-year-old home, inspired by a bygone eraSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches residential renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering know-how, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Written in partnership with the Sweeten homeowner

Bathroom remodel “must-haves”

Our home is a wood-frame row house in Hudson County, New Jersey. It’s 150 years old, has three floors, and 1,000 square feet. When we first visited the house more than five years ago, I fell in love with the main bathroom’s vintage mint-green bathtub. I knew I wanted to preserve it. 

Our home is historic, but over the years and through many renovations, most of its charm had been lost. The house’s two bathrooms are “newer”—added at some point onto the back of the house. The one we wanted to update is on the second floor, off of the primary bedroom. It’s our only full bathroom. We didn’t want to change the floor plan, but had a goal of modernizing while injecting a vintage feel. We planned to do this by keeping the original tub and adding a period medicine cabinet we’d found.

Our second goal was to make the room warmer. We suspected it wasn’t properly insulated because it got so cold in winter. We’d lived in this house for five long winters, but there was never a good time to improve on it.

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My contractor asked for a 33% deposit—is this normal?

Providing deposits for contractors is a crucial—and normal—step in starting a renovation

Short answer: Yes.

But there are exceptions, and your contractor may have some flexibility. Below, Sweeten outlines the reasons behind upfront payment amounts, and some options for negotiating your deposit for a contractor.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Why do contractors require a deposit?

Deposits for contractors are critical because they essentially allow your project to begin! Your general contractor needs to secure a crew and begin ordering materials right away. They may also need to rent equipment. And your contractor can’t take on all the financial liability for these commitments themself.

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A Guide to Laminate Wood Flooring: Pros and Cons

Considering laminate wood flooring for your home? The benefits abound, from costs and style to durability

With lumber prices skyrocketing, many homeowners are rethinking their material choices for renovations. One alternative to hardwood flooring, that deserves a second look, is laminate that looks like wood. Although lumber prices are starting to drop back to normal levels, Sweeten lays out what the benefits are beyond price alone to choosing laminate.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

What is laminate flooring?

Lamination is a process of uniting layers of material by an adhesive (or other means.) Laminate wood flooring is just that–it is three material layers pressed together, using heat, to create a strong product. The base layer of laminate flooring is wood particleboard, followed by a layer with a wood image, known as the design layer. Over top is a protective transparent wear layer.

It is easy to confuse laminate wood flooring with vinyl wood flooring. The main difference is their composition: laminate is 99% wood product, and vinyl wood flooring is all plastic.

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Renovating with Heat and Water Conservation in Los Angeles

Remodeling? Consider these modern methods to improve your L.A. home’s heating and cooling

Renovating a house in L.A.’s extreme climate requires special measures. Heat is intense during the summer and water is always at a shortage. Sweeten’s L.A.-area general contractors offer advice on what to expect when renovating with heat and water conservation in mind.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Heat conservation in L.A.

“Heat conservation and cool conservation are the same thing,” said L.A.-based Sweeten general contractor Chen. If you can adequately cool the home, you have gone a long way towards conserving the heat, too. The best place to start conserving heat is with airtightness.

Airtightness

“Think of your house as a bucket of water,” said Chen. “If you have any holes in the bucket, that’s water escaping from the bucket. Airtightness is the same with your home.”

The aim is to prevent conditioned interior air from escaping—whether cool or warm air. There are airtight home products that can help with this. For instance, caulk is used around stationary home elements like door and window frames. Weatherstripping is also used for movable components, such as the door itself or the window sash.

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My Sweeten Story: A Slow-Brewing Remodel Speeds Up in Queens

A remodel in a Jackson Heights co-op delivers an open floor plan, kitchen peninsula, and spa bathroom

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

Homeowners: Dia, a personal trainer, and Alex, a technology executive posted their pre-war co-op remodel on SweetenWhere: Jackson Heights in Queens, New YorkPrimary renovation: A full-scale remodel of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a 1920s co-op building, including gut remodels of both kitchen and bathSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Written in partnership with homeowner Alex

Keeping their Jackson Heights remodel in view—for years

We purchased our co-op roughly three years before embarking on the renovation. Our goal was to totally revamp the apartment into open-plan spaces, while preserving its period features. Like many pre-war homes, it had a lot of small rooms. I think our result is proof that, even if there’s no perfect moment to remodel, intensive planning pays off.

Keeping historic details

The 1,400-square-foot unit is located in a 1921 historical-district co-op in Jackson Heights, Queens. The place hadn’t been touched since the 1970s and was in rough shape. But there were nice original details, like beautiful wood floors with inlaid borders and a period fireplace. It needed a significant overhaul.

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Meet Sweeten Washington DC General Contractor Jennifer

This Sweeten general contractor strives to do good for others

At Sweeten, the experts in our network are experienced contractors and design pros we’d be thrilled to have working in our own homes. We check their licenses, insurance, quality of work, and customer service skills. Trust and open communication are the lifeblood of our free renovation service, and our personal connection to our experts enables us to match you to the best choices for your project. Here, get to know their personality and click to view their portfolio, including photos from past work and client reviews, so that you can hire the right team and renovate with confidence.

Check out Sweeten general contractor Jennifer’s portfolio here

Where are you from and how long have you been in construction?

I am from Alexandria, Virginia in the metro Washington, DC area.

How did you get into this industry?

I was graduating college and there was a threat of my father being laid off from his construction job of 20+ years. New management and budgets cuts were taking place. At the time, I was also interning at the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations. I learned about the lack of women-owned construction companies in the state. It just clicked: With my father’s remodeling experience and my desire to create a more stable future for our family, there was an opportunity.

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What Goes into Converting a Tub into a Shower?

See the costs, materials, and end benefits associated with this common bathroom project

(Above) Sweeten homeowners Ylia + André’s tub-to-shower conversion

Deciding whether to convert a bathtub into a shower

Bathtubs have their place, but most of us take many more showers than baths. So why were most bathrooms outfitted with a bathtub rather than a walk-in shower over the last few decades? The simplest answer is flexibility. You can take a shower in a bathtub, but not vice-versa. Also, families with children do well with a bathtub, and they’re useful for bathing dogs. 

However, stepping over the tub rail every time you shower is not ideal, and is not possible for many people. If you’re ready for a change, this guide by Sweeten lays out how to convert a bathtub to a shower (luckily, it’s pretty straightforward!)

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

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A New Kitchen for a Multigenerational Family in Maryland

An open-concept, two-tone kitchen remodel in Rockville creates more space for family participation

“After” photos by Nova Soul Imagery for Sweeten

Homeowners: Brandi and Chris posted a kitchen remodel in Rockville on SweetenWhere: Rockville, MarylandPrimary renovation: Replacing DIY storage with a unified kitchen design plan and removing a wall Sweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Written in partnership with Sweeten homeowner Brandi

Renovating the Rockville-area family home

Brandi and her husband, Chris, inherited her mother-in-law’s 1950s house. Though bittersweet, they were happy to keep it in the family. Chris grew up in the Rockville, Maryland house, so it held special meaning for him. Plus, the family was about to expand. Brandi was pregnant with her first, Zora, and her grandmother, Bernice, planned on moving in.

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How to Choose and Plant Ground Cover

This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shares tips for selecting, planting and growing low-maintenance ground cover.

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook shares tips for selecting, planting and growing low-maintenance ground cover.

How to Choose Ground Cover

Use a spade fork to loosen and turn over the soil in the garden bed.Spread 2 inches of compost over the bed, and then turn it into the soil with a spade fork.Sprinkle starter fertilizer over the bed and lightly rake it into the soil.Use a garden trowel to dig a hole for a ground-cover plant no deeper than the root ball.Remove the plant from its pot and loosen the compacted roots by hand.Set the plant into the hole, backfill around it with soil.Continue planting ground cover, spacing the plants about 12 inches apart.Use a watering can to thoroughly water all plants. Water frequently for the first few weeks.Spread about 2 inches of bark mulch around each plant, but don't pile it up too tightly to the base of the plants.

Tools

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7 Fun (and Easy) Fall Porch Decor Ideas

Juliette Wade/GAP Photos

Welcome fall and your guests with these seasonal decorating ideas that make a colorful impression.

Nothing speaks fall more than colorful mums, pumpkins, and corn shocks. To add a touch of the season to your home, spruce up your curb appeal, and welcome your friends with the warmth of the season, consider a few of these fall porch ideas for your home.

7 Festive Fall Porch Decorating Ideas

1. Natural Arrangements

Just because the flowers of spring and summer have quit blooming doesn’t mean you can’t have stunning displays flanking your front door. Create sentinel arrangements using large urns filled with dried branches or grasses with the seed heads on top.

Add a pop of color with the deep hues of pokeberry, autumn olive, or staghorn sumac. Fill in with colorful leaves and long sprays of goldenrod.

2. Fun and Country

Joanna Keel/Courtesy Hostess Jo

Your children will love helping to decorate the porch when it involves carving jack-o-lanterns and traipsing through the cornfield gathering dried shocks. Tie the shocks to your porch pillars using orange and black plaid ribbon.

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The Panoramic View of Open-concept Kitchens

Six open concept kitchen ideas by Sweeten imbue space, flow, and natural light

When asked what they want in a kitchen remodel, many homeowners echo the same idea: an open-concept kitchen. Gone are the days of the kitchen being cordoned off. No more swinging doors or small entryways. Renovators want big, open spaces that connect the kitchen to the dining area and sometimes to the living room, too. It is a modern concept that is both inviting and multifunctional. It also can give a smaller space the appearance of more square footage.

Here, a look at six open concept kitchen ideas from Sweeten renovations that make kitchens the star of the remodel. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

A soaring ceiling for the win

Ann looked for a contractor for two years to update her dark and dated kitchen in East Hampton. She wanted a space that was welcoming and large enough to accommodate her family and guests. A place that felt open and airy and just enjoyable to be in. She finally pulled the trigger on the renovation after finding a contractor through Sweeten. They teamed up to create the bright, airy kitchen of Ann’s dreams.

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A Bed-Stuy Remodel Allows a Landmark Home to Start Over

This well-timed Bed-Stuy remodel preserves an inherited family home for years to come

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

Homeowners: A young couple posted their Bed-Stuy remodel on Sweeten to revitalize their townhouseWhere: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NYPrimary renovation: Outfit their 1,500-square-foot Bed-Stuy home with a new kitchen, bath, and open-concept living areaSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Reimagining the Bed-Stuy home for family life

This Bedford-Stuyvesant home once belonged to the homeowner’s grandmother. The home came with fond memories of her childhood, so she happily inherited it. However, as the townhouse had been built in the early 20th century, it needed a lot of work. She would remodel it to accommodate the needs of her own family. They planned for an open concept layout, with open sightlines to keep the family together while in different rooms. To modernize the spaces, they’d outfit their dream kitchen and bathroom with new, state-of-the-art appliances and finishes.

She turned to Sweeten to find a contractor she’d be comfortable with handling this important renovation. She posted her project and found the right contractor with experience in old-home remodels. They signed the contract and the work began!

Necessary behind-the-wall updates

First, fixing the systems behind the walls had to be done to support updated materials and appliances. The plumbing had corroded and was located in inefficient places. The electrical also needed to be upgraded. Their Sweeten contractor found improperly connected wires in the ceiling, which posed a fire hazard. The subfloor had to be ripped out, and the joists had to be reinforced to keep the kitchen floor from collapsing.

All this work made the kitchen functional and safe. The design aesthetic came next. The homeowner chose a contemporary combination of white cabinets along the kitchen perimeter, and gray base cabinets for the island. The owners selected quartz countertops for the work surface, due to their reasonable price point and durability. The island became the focal point of the room, which also featured deliberate pops of color, like the must-have bright red range. Other features, such as a gold-finish pot filler, pull-out storage cabinets, and a built-in wine rack, completed the look.

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7 Living Rooms Remodels Find New Life

7 renewed living room spaces offer ideas for relaxing and gathering

Rivaled only by the kitchen and bedroom, the living room is where you spend most of your time. So, designing it to match your lifestyle and personal aesthetic is key. Here, see how seven homeowners with unique modern living room ideas reimagined their spaces. From large open-concept layouts to smaller spots with creative uses of space, aspiring renovators can find inspiration at every turn.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Cottage-style living room inspires a calm aesthetic

Part of a full-home remodel, this living room turned from dated to dreamy. Homeowner Monique always loved the idea of a cottage-style home. So, when she bought her 1940s row house in Queens, she hired a Sweeten contractor to help realize her vision. They ripped up the carpet floors to expose beautiful hardwood and chose a classic walnut stain. To make the room appear larger, her contractor suggested opening up the archway between the entry and living room. Plus, they installed European tilt-and-turn style windows.

The result is a living room that has Monique’s desired aesthetic (cottage meets modern) and is bigger and brighter. “My renovated space feels like a peaceful retreat,” says Monique. “I love how welcoming and warm it feels for my friends and their kids to come and hang out.”

Art deco arches uplift this living room

What stands out the most in this living room remodel is immediately clear: the stunning art deco archways. When their clients hired Can Vu Bui and Lane Rick, principal architects at the Office of Things, they asked them to reimagine the main floor of their 1920s rowhouse. And that they did! From front-to-back, they incorporated Art Deco details, like the arches you see in the living room. This helped to bring in space and light, which was the main goal. “We replaced the existing walls with elegant structural arches,” says Bui. The space went from dreary to cheery.

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My Sweeten Story: A 1930s Kitchen Gets a Chic Vibe in LA

A personally-designed kitchen and refreshed laundry room revive a historic Los Angeles home

“After” photos by Madeline Tolle for Sweeten

Homeowners: Chrissy, a costume designer in the film industry, and Matt, a production company operations manager, posted their project on SweetenWhere: The Historic Filipinotown neighborhood in Los Angeles, CaliforniaPrimary renovation: The couple embarked on a re-envisioning of the existing Art Deco kitchen in a minimalist lightSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovators with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free

Written in partnership with homeowner Chrissy

A fashionable—but not functional—period kitchen

The kitchen was original from the 1930s and very Hollywood Art Deco. It was just one aspect we loved when we purchased our 1,400-square-foot co-op, located in a 1932 Spanish Revival building in Historic Filipinotown, a neighborhood near Los Angeles’ Echo Park.

Matt and I previously lived in a 600-square-foot apartment and never spent days hanging at home—it just didn’t have enough light and space. Looking for our next place, we realized that everything in our price range needed a large overhaul, or had been cheaply flipped and had an ugly poorly-designed kitchen.

Seeking a fixer-upper kitchen

I love to cook, and during our search, we’d decided that the sweet spot would be a place that was in good shape and had character but needed a new kitchen.

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Can I Ask My Contractor for a Revised Estimate?

Yes, revised estimates are possible, but be ready to compromise and collaborate

So you’ve received a remodeling estimate from your Sweeten general contractor. What if the total exceeds your budget—can you ask for a revised estimate?

Short answer: Yes, with limitations.

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

When can I ask for a lower or revised renovation estimate?

You can generally expect a single round of minor revisions for free. If you need major scope changes or multiple versions of the estimate, expect your contractor to ask for money up-front. This is because calculating estimates requires substantial work. If you hire the contractor, this fee will typically be treated as a deposit and will count toward the total renovation cost. You won’t be out-of-pocket unless you ask a contractor for extensive revisions and then decline to hire them.

What revisions are considered minor? Minor revisions involve eliminating part of the project or making simple substitutions (switching from custom imported tiles to standard subway tiles, etc.).  

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Meet Sweeten Miami General Contractor Cesar

This Sweeten contractor in Miami loves to see customer satisfaction at the end of his projects!

At Sweeten, the experts in our network are experienced contractors and design pros we’d be thrilled to have working in our own homes. We check their licenses, insurance, quality of work, and customer service skills. Trust and open communication are the lifeblood of our free renovation service, and our personal connection to our experts enables us to match you to the best choices for your project. Here, get to know their personality and click to view their portfolio, including photos from past work and client reviews, so that you can hire the right team and renovate with confidence.

Check out Cesar’s portfolio here

Where are you from and how long have you been in construction?

I am from the Dominican Republic and we have 33 years in the construction industry.

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A Modern Makeover in a West Village Kitchen

In this West Village kitchen, a waterfall island adds storage and a work surface

“After” photos by Pixy Interiors for Sweeten

Homeowners: Erin and Jonathan posted their West Village kitchen renovation project on SweetenWhere: West Village, Manhattan, New YorkPrimary renovation: Refresh and create a new kitchen layout in their 750-square-foot apartmentSweeten general contractorSweeten’s role: Sweeten matches residential renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering know-how, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Remodeling an outdated 80’s West Village kitchen

Though Erin and Jonathan’s West Village kitchen in their 750-square-foot apartment was, for the most part, functional, it didn’t suit their style. Another downside: the kitchen did not make the best use of the available space. Open to the living area, there was plenty of room to add the built-in island on the couple’s wish list, plus reimagine the layout. Ready to bid farewell to the ‘80s cabinetry and shabby tile flooring, they posted the project to Sweeten and were matched with a general contractor.

Picking renovation materials and kitchen appliances

The basic kitchen transformed into a bright, modern marvel complete with new stainless steel appliances, a waterfall island, and light fixtures. The overall contemporary culinary space also got some more classic updates, like the Shaker-style cabinets and herringbone tile backsplash. To connect the kitchen with the rest of the living area, 5-inch white oak flooring was installed throughout.

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2021 Cost Guide for a Home Remodel in Dallas

Sweeten’s guide to 2021 home remodeling costs in Dallas: kitchen, bath, whole home; plus outdoor deck & permit costs

Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the United States. It’s the headquarters for multiple Fortune 500 companies like American Airlines. There’s the Dallas Cowboys (as well as real cowboys!) And of course, there’s BBQ. Dallas is a thriving city and a great place to renovate your dream home. Sweeten‘s guide to 2021 Dallas remodeling costs provides a jumping-off point to get you on your way with estimates from Sweeten and the 2021 Cost vs Value Report

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Developing a budget is your first step to your dream Dallas home. Sweeten contractors will want to sit down with you and inspect your home to reach an accurate number. 

Here’s a quick overview of budgets for some typical renovation projects:

Gut renovation: starting at $80—$100 per square foot (psf)
Budget kitchen remodel: starting at – $15,000 (for a 75-100 sf space) 
Mid-grade kitchen remodel: starting at $25,000—$30,000 (for a 75-100 sf space) 
High-end kitchen remodel: starting at $40,000 (for a 75-100 sf space) 
Budget bathroom remodel: starting at $8,000—$15,000 (for a 35-square-foot space) 
Mid-grade bathroom remodel: starting at $15,000—$25,000 (for a 35-square-foot space) 
High-end bathroom remodel and expansion: starting at $30,000 (for a 35-square-foot space) 
Deck composite: $19,000 or $60 psf
Wood deck: $13,000 or $40 psf

Keep in mind that every professional contractor will want to have a detailed conversation with you. They will also inspect your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.

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An Architect Turns a House into a Top-Notch Family Compound

In this Westchester County home remodel, an architect-led design adds an addition, new interiors, and an outdoor oasis

“After” photos by Nicki Chavoya for Sweeten

Architect: Shana Sandberg of Revel Craft and Design came to Sweeten and posted the Westchester County home remodel
Where: Harrison, New York
Primary renovation: A 750-foot home expansion, gut renovations of the kitchen and bathrooms, plus a complete upgrade of the property’s outdoor spaces
Sweeten general contractor
Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches residential renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering know-how, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Written in partnership with Shana Sandberg, owner and principal designer of Revel Craft and Design

A country vibe in the Westchester County suburbs

“This unbelievable property felt like it was in the country, rather than the suburbs,” Shana Sandberg of Revel Craft and Design said. The 1953 estate, comprising of 1.3 acres in Westchester County’s Harrison, NY, had a pastoral feel. When the current owners purchased the derelict foreclosure, the house was 5,900 square feet of interior space with seven bedrooms. But the home’s interior had no large meeting space—not a great room nor a dining hall. The existing hang-out spots were a small living room, a cramped kitchen, and a basement den.

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