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Construction in America

The Kitchen Cousins Offer Expert Advice on Home Remodeling

Whether it’s your first time remodeling a kitchen or you’re a pro, John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino of HGTV’s “Kitchen Cousins” have advice for you.

What does green construction mean to you? How has your team tried to incorporate sustainability into every building project?

Building green is something that is very important to my team and me when we are starting a new project. It is something that I also like to educate clients about and give them insight into products to consider.

I first start with rough materials and then move to finish materials when we are choosing our final design choices. There are a couple choices that are a must in the rough phase of the project. First is LED lighting that will help on energy consumption within the home. Make sure your in-ceiling lighting has an LED integrated bulb. Second is insulation, which benefits the homeowner in a couple of ways. Knauf makes a glass mineral wool for insulating your home that has excellent thermal performance and good acoustics. The glass mineral wool product has a high recycled content and is derived from naturally occurring materials.

Next would be your HVAC and water heater that are essential in heating and cooling your home. For your air conditioning, make sure you are looking at unit that has a high SEER rating. A 13-SEER is the minimum for air conditioners, so look into units that are closer to 16 or 18 SEER.

Most people are accustomed to seeing a 50-gallon hot water tank in their home. A tankless hot water heater can save them a lot of money and it also heats the water for when you need it at that moment. It does not constantly heat the water in tank, which is very costly and a waste of energy. You can take it one step further and install a combi-boiler by Navien, which is a high-efficiency combination boiler that supplies both heat and domestic hot water.

Last are your windows, which are very important to keep out the cold weather during the winter months and cut back on the sunlight and heat in the summer months. Renewal by Andersen makes replacement windows that can help you save the energy you are using within your home.

When looking at finish materials, I like to focus on recycled tile and countertops that are made of recycled stone. One of my go-to design items is to use reclaimed wood within the home. A company called Stikwood uses reclaimed wood to create their product that can be used on walls, floors, or even furniture. This is a great way to recycle and re-use to have a high-end design look and feel inside your home.

Where have you seen the most success in reducing energy in building projects?

The most success I have seen in reducing energy in building projects is with windows over the years. So much of our heating and cooling is lost from our windows and this happens a lot in older homes. You can have a very efficient HVAC system, but if it is lost because of poor windows, then the benefits of this system are not utilized. When you look at window products from Renewal by Andersen, it is made with an exclusive Fibrex material which contains 40 percent reclaimed wood fiber. The High-Performance Low-E4 Smartsun glass will help you save money on your energy bills and it blocks 95 percent of the harmful UV rays that enter your home. With this being an energy star product, you know that you are reducing your energy consumption on a daily basis.

In 2020, what sustainable building materials are residents most interested in?

Clients are interested in sustainable products that are not only going to save them money over time, but also not break the bank. Most clients are willing to have these products in their home; it just has to make sense for them. If they are doing a renovation and opening up walls, I suggest an insulation that is sustainable and will help then save on their heating and cooling. Bamboo is another material that can be used for wood floors within your home. The self-generation of this product is very high and is a great alternative over your standard hardwood floors.

What suggestion would you give to those who may want to fix up their kitchen but are on a budget?

If you are looking to fix your kitchen and on budget, you need to consider what is going to give you the largest impact for your dollar. The first place I always look to is lighting. This is something that does not mean major construction and can be changed out fairly easy. Look to change out your pendant lights or a chandelier in the kitchen area.

Next, hardware for your kitchen cabinets has come a long way and can be changed out with something that is more up-to-date. If you have a larger budget and your kitchen cabinets are in good condition, you can always paint them. Benjamin Moore makes a paint called Advance; it is excellent for kitchen cabinets and really stands the test of time if your cabinets are a nice hardwood that needs to be updated. I have used it on a couple kitchen projects and I am blown away with the performance and durability of it in older kitchens.

What tools and technologies are most helpful for you in being able to complete projects on time?

Creating a schedule is the No. 1 thing you will need to do to make sure your project is completed on time. That is why many people hire a construction manager, general contractor, or designer to help them through their projects.

When starting your project, you must always give yourself ample time to order all of your design materials and plan out your schedule with the subcontractors. When designing a kitchen, I always tell my clients you need to give yourself two to three months of planning before the project should start. This will give you enough time to make your decisions, order your materials, and schedule all of the trades. Most mistakes are made when the planning does not happen and the project ends up taking much longer than anticipated. I know everyone is excited to just start, but all decisions should be made before construction actually starts. I use an app called Asana to schedule many of projects and keep track of what is going on at the various stages.

What’s one big mistake that every kitchen remodeler makes on their first project? How can this be avoided?

The biggest mistake you can make when on your first kitchen remodel is not having a contingency reserve for after you open the walls. You should always have 10 to 15 percent contingency for anything you were not planning on. Most remodels are taking place in older homes that are no longer up to code. That means once you open the walls, you are required to repair any code deficiencies.  

Electrical is one of those trades that I have seen to always cost more than anticipated. Many of the older homes still have the cloth wires that are a fire hazard and will not pass inspection. When I am doing my budget, I plan on starting over from scratch for the electrical work. Yes, it adds more to your budget, but it will save you time, money, and energy to tackle the problem before you are in the middle of the renovation.

What steps do you and your team take to make health and safety a priority on job sites?

Health and safety are very important on job sites. I require my contractors to build zip walls so the space we are working in is quarantined from the rest of the home. We do not want other family members breathing in the dust and debris that is coming out of the home during construction. Next, we put down floor protection called Ram Board to protect all the floors in the area we are working in. All workers are required to wear masks, eye protection, and gloves to make sure they are protected from the elements when working inside the home.

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