HELPFUL TIPS

By Pablo Kanof 17 Feb, 2017

Natural stone tiling can be used for a variety of applications, such as flooring in kitchens, bathrooms or other rooms, wall accents, showers, countertops and more. But what are the benefits of using natural stone like granite, marble, slate, limestone and others? Well there are plenty of reasons, and no matter how you’re using it you can be sure it will end up looking absolutely beautiful when the project is completed! Here are five reasons to consider natural stone for your next home remodeling project.

Variety

There are many different types of natural stones that all provide a great appearance. Granite and marble are some of the most popular natural stone tile options and work great for flooring in any room, including kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, sunrooms and more. They also make great countertops!

Gorgeous Appearance

Natural stones provide an appearance that only Mother Nature herself could create. The stone will add a rich elegance to any room in your house, even with minimal use, such as an accent or fireplace mantle.

Durable

With proper care natural stone tiles will remain stain resistant for years. This does mean applying a sealant every couple years, but it is easy work in order to maintain a beautiful floor or counter. It is very hard to crack most natural stones and scratches buff out fairly simply.

Diversity

Because the stone comes from nature and is not man made no two cuts of any type of natural stone will be the same, meaning you’ll have a unique floor or counter that no other house will have. The colors and textures of different stones are all unique, so you also have the ability to find the perfect type of stone for the look you’re going for in your home.

Increased Value

One of the best reasons to consider natural stone tiles for your next project is the fact that it will actually add value to your home. Natural stone is a sought after feature by many people looking to buy, so you can beat the rest by having the best already installed!

No matter what sort of project you’re tackling consider natural stone tiles to ensure a gorgeous, timeless look. If you need help designing a   home remodeling project in Sebring   or the surrounding area contact the experts at Stewart Construction. We can help you implement natural stone as counters, flooring or for another use you may have in mind! As a complete home remodeling company we are here to help you achieve the look you’ve always wanted for your house! Call Stewart Construction today at   (863) 658-0764   to learn more about our services or to request a quote for your project, including bathroom or   kitchen remodeling in Sebring!

By Pablo Kanof 17 Feb, 2017

Taking on home remodeling or home improvement projects is always exciting! The planning, designing and construction process always allow time to build up a great reveal of a beautiful new kitchen, bathroom or perhaps an addition. A screen room is a low cost addition option that has many benefits. If you’re thinking of tackling a new project here are 4 reasons to consider building a screen room for your home.

Low Cost

Full room home additions are can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars and may take months to finish. Screen rooms on the other hand can be completed rather quickly and they will cost quite a bit less than traditional construction because of the low cost of materials and less hours needed to build one. Screen rooms allow you to add living space without having to worry about breaking the piggy bank!

Added Value

Not only do screen rooms cost relatively little compared to other home improvement projects they can add quite a bit to the home’s resale value. A screen room may be the determining factor for a home buyer, as they are a highly desirable room for many Florida residents.

Enjoy the Weather, Inside

Screen rooms are a great way to enjoy the weather without having to worry about bugs, wind or leaves ruining your relaxing time. Screen rooms are a great fresh air space to host get togethers with friends and family.

Beautiful Look

Not only do screen rooms add value to your home but they look great, too! A screen room is a highly fashionable addition for any home, adding curb appeal and providing useable space that you can use for a variety of reasons. Be ready to be the envy of your neighbors!

If you’re ready to take on a home improvement project in Florida there is no reason to not consider a screen room, just be sure it is installed by a professional residential contractor. For expert   screen room construction in Sebring   and throughout the area contact Stewart Construction. We will work with you to design the perfect addition for your home! You can trust our team of talented contractors, designers and other team members to complete beautiful home remodeling projects, including kitchens, bathrooms, decks, docks and more! Call Stewart Construction today at   (863) 658-0764   to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation for   home remodeling in Sebring!

By Pablo Kanof 17 Feb, 2017

As a kitchen designer I routinely walk into kitchens that are in great shape, functional, and completely dated by a style that is no longer “in.” Oftentimes when I am designing a kitchen for a client, one of their major concerns is making sure this problem doesn’t happen to them 10 years down the road. Most of us have seen those wonderful avocado green or pink Formica cabinets leftover from the 70’s. Although there were all the rage then, they are so out of fashion now that homeowners routinely remove them based on aesthetics alone. So how do you keep this from happening to you? Luckily there are a few basic rules that can be followed to prevent this.

Keep Colors Neutral

Color is important, especially in a kitchen or bathroom where you want to express yourself. However, when selecting colors there are certain areas where it’s oftentimes best to keep it neutral. Specifically, any finish that cannot be easily (and inexpensively) replaced, should be kept to a neutral color. This includes cabinetry, counter tops, tile, and flooring. Things like paint, wall decor, and certain lighting and plumbing fixtures can be easily and inexpensively replaced. Feel free to go wild in these areas, but it is best to keep things neutral when they are difficult or expensive to replace. While keeping your colors neutral won’t make your home immune to style changes, it will certainly make it easier to adjust with them.

Form AND Function Are Important

In most homes it’s important to keep a balance between form and function. Just remember that regardless of how great a room looks, if it doesn’t work well for your use then you won’t enjoy it. This is especially true in a kitchen. Work with your designer on the flow of the space and how you actually use it as opposed to simply how it will look. Remember, at some point you will actually have to cook in it! The best remodel projects are those that integrate form and function and are designed specifically with you in mind.

Avoid Trendy Styles, Finishes, and Fixtures

At just about every point in time there is a style going on that is “hot.” These trends can vary from region to region, but they all have one thing in common: Soon enough they will be gone. What is “in” today is out tomorrow. This is most evident in kitchens and bathrooms with cabinetry, tile, and light fixtures. Instead of allowing a designer to talk you into whatever the current cutting edge style is, select a classic style and finish that you love but that has also stood the test of time.

Built-In Appliances and Electronics

As a kitchen designer quite often I walk into kitchens that have built-in appliances or electronics, such as televisions, radios, and intercom systems, that are hopelessly obsolete. Unfortunately, when items like this are built into the cabinetry it is very difficult, or sometimes impossible, to replace them or even remove them without leaving a gaping hole in your cabinets. The same is true for appliances with non-standard sizes. These items can date your home and are hard to replace without also replacing the cabinetry they are built into. This is true for any sort of cabinetry, including kitchens, entertainment centers, and offices, featuring built-in electronics or appliances. It’s best to use standard size appliances and avoid built-in electronics altogether.

YOUR Home is for YOUR Enjoyment!

The one thing we always stress to clients is that they need to love the finished product of any remodel. Don’t get caught up in a design you don’t like just because it’s popular or the current style. Unless you are planning to sell your home in the near future, base your design on what you like, regardless of whether it fits in the latest trend or not. Here at Stewart Construction we love happy customers, and the happiest customers are the ones who still love how their remodel project looks 10 years down the road. Thanks for reading!

By Pablo Kanof 17 Feb, 2017

One of the most common small projects we do is exterior door replacement. Due to high amounts of rain and humidity, quite often exterior doors will rot or rust if not maintained properly and wood jambs will also rot. The question then is what type of door should I install to keep this from happening again?

When installing a new exterior door there are three basic material options available to the consumer. These are wood, steel, and fiberglass. We will briefly review the pros and cons of each of these below.

Wood Doors

The primary advantage of a wood door is their appearance. No other material has the potential to look quite as good as a well stained wood door. However, wood doors also have the potential to rot. A wood door must be well maintained to prevent this, including periodic resealing of the finish on all sides of the door, including the top and bottom. One other advantage of a wood entry door is the fact that it can be trimmed to fit most any opening. On a newer home this isn’t often a problem, but on older homes this can sometimes be necessary. When it comes to price, a well made wood door is usually the most expensive of the three options.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Wood Doors
Appearance: 5/5
Durability: 3/5
Ease of Installation: 5/5
Cost: 1/5

Steel Doors

Steel doors are quite common in Florida. The advent of steel doors was due to their inability to rot, relatively low cost, and high strength. However, there are several disadvantages to installing a steel door. Although they can’t rot, they can rust over time. This typically happens at the bottom edge of the door and can be due to an improper application of paint. Steel doors tend to be the least Another disadvantage of steel doors is the inability for them to be trimmed. This means that unless your door opening is a “stock size,” the door would need to be custom ordered for your opening, increasing the cost. Like wood doors, if a steel door is not periodically repainted, on all sides of the door, it can lead to potential water damage.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Steel Doors
Appearance: 3/5
Durability: 4/5
Ease of Installation: 3/5
Cost: 5/5

Fiberglass Doors

Fiberglass doors are, essentially, the perfect solution to combat the effects of the highly humid conditions of central Florida. A fiberglass door succeeds where both wood and steel doors fail: durability. A fiberglass door is entirely impervious to rot and rust and this tends to make it the ideal replacement door in Florida. Fiberglass doors also have the potential to look very aesthetically pleasing. They are available in smooth, paintable finishes as well as imitation stained wood finishes. Most fiberglass doors have the option to come prefinished from the factory with a high quality, durable finish that will often last the life of the door. Fiberglass doors are often slightly trimmable, but are not quite as customizable as a wood door. Fiberglass doors are more expensive than steel doors, but not as expensive as wood doors. They are by far the most “maintenance free” of all exterior doors.

Stewart Construction Ratings – Fiberglass Doors
Appearance: 4/5
Durability: 5/5
Ease of Installation: 4/5
Cost: 3/5

But what about the jamb?

Door jambs on existing homes at least 10 years old are most often made of wood. Because these wood jambs are right at ground level, they tend to fare worse even then doors and tend to rot out at the bottom few inches. There is an easy (and permanent) solution to this problem. When a door is replaced, it can also include a PVC jamb with PVC exterior trim (called brickmold). PVC jambs and trim are a similar material to fiberglass and are rot proof, paintable, and trimmable. Combining a fiberglass door with a PVC jamb and trim can give you a very attractive door system that is nearly impervious to the Florida elements.

Our Recommendations

Although each project is different, Stewart Construction typically recommends a fiberglass door with a PVC jamb and trim. This is the best solution for most applications where durability as well as aesthetics are a concern. Only in cases where a custom look is needed, or where low cost is an extreme concern, would we recommend a wood or a steel door.

Thank you for reading, feel free to post any questions, and as always you can contact us at 863-385-9403 for more information.


By Pablo Kanof 17 Feb, 2017

If you have researched new home construction or energy efficient building practices any time recently, you’ve probably noticed the term “ICF” being thrown around a lot. So what is ICF? ICF stands for “Insulated Concrete Form.” ICF is an energy efficient wall construction material that has garnered quite a bit of interest in the building community over the last decade or so. It provides higher insulation values and enhanced structural strength compared to traditional construction materials, such as wood framing or concrete block construction.

How does ICF work?

ICF starts with a heavy duty H shaped nailing strip and rebar cradle. These are spaced every 8″ horizontally in each ICF block. A 2.5″ EPS (Extruded PolyStyrene, or styrofoam) panel is then attached to both sides of this nailing strips. You can see what the final product looks like in the adjacent picture. These blocks are then stacked, similar to Lego building blocks, to form the exterior walls of a home. Steel rebar is inserted both horizontally and vertically into the wall cavity as it is erected. Once the walls are fully erected and the door and window openings have been cut and framed out, concrete is poured. The entire wall cavity is filled with concrete and then vibrated to ensure that no air pockets remain in the wall. The thickness of this wall cavity is variable with the manufacturer of the ICF product. Here at Stewart Construction we typically use a   Fox Block   product with a 6″ cavity. Once the wall cavity has been filled with concrete and it has been given several days to cure, we remove the wall braces and are ready to continue with the construction process.

What are the benefits of using ICF?

There are three major benefits to using ICF: Insulation value, sound absorption, and structural strength. In this section we are going to review each of these benefits in detail.

Insulation Value

In Central Florida CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) construction is the system most commonly used. We can directly compare the R-Value, which is a measurement of insulation effectiveness, of a CMU wall system to that of an ICF wall system. A standard 8″ thick CMU wall has an R-Value of 2.0. However, it’s fairly typical to install 1/2″ rigid insulation board over a block wall. This rigid insulation board has an R-Value of 3.2, bringing the total R-Value of the CMU wall to 5.2. The Fox Block ICF system has been   rigorously tested  to determine its effective R-Value. The EPS panels on the blocks have an R-Value of 10 each, the 6″ of solid concrete has an R-Value of .36, and these means the total R-Value of the Fox Block system is 20.36 alone.   This is a 391% increase in R-Value.What this means for a homeowner is that you will use less energy to heat and cool your home and you will retain heating and cooling much more effectively than in a traditional CMU home. In addition, an ICF home will require a smaller HVAC system to heat and cool.

Sound Absorption

Sound travels through materials in much the same way that heat does. Good insulating materials tend to absorb sound, and materials that are good at conducting heat also tend to transfer sound more readily. A typical ICF wall has 5 inches of EPS insulation and 6″ of solid concrete. A standard CMU wall has 1/2 an inch of EPS insulation, 2 1/2 inches of concrete, and a 5 inch air space. This should illustrate the drastic difference in sound transmission between ICF and CMU construction. While results are not entirely conclusive,   some tests show  that   ICF can reduce sound transmission 200% better than CMU.

Strength

The strength of ICF versus CMU should be fairly clear when you consider the way each system is constructed. CMU construction features hollow-core concrete blocks laid on top of each other. These blocks are fused to one another with mortar and then have steel rebar and additional concrete reinforcement inserted at key points, such as corners, door frames, and around windows. ICF construction features a solid 6″ thick concrete wall around the entire perimeter of the building. Furthermore, ICF is reinforced with steel rebar both vertically and horizontally.

When any structure faces stress, such as that from a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, the weakest point is always at the joints in the structure. These joints are always where cracking and failure will occur first. In CMU construction there are joints between each individual 16″ x 8″ block. In ICF construction, because the wall cavity is filled with a solid pour of concrete, there are no joints. Period.   Conservative estimates show that a 6″ ICF wall is about 50% stronger than a CMU wall.

Conclusion

Here at Stewart Construction, we are believers in ICF. We know that this is the building system of the future and anticipate that eventually it will replace CMU construction as the dominant system in Central Florida. ICF is a superior product and we recommend it to every new homeowner that we meet with, and as you can see in our   Green Building Portfolio  many of them heed our advice and build for the future.

By Pablo Kanof 13 Feb, 2017

One of the big buzz words among homeowners today is “Energy Efficiency.” It seems that we’ve collectively realized that we lose a lot of energy, which translates to a lot of money, due to inefficient building materials, building practices, and lack of proper maintenance. However, there are a lot of ways that you can make your home more efficient and save money! In this post we’re going to tell you about some great, cheap and easy ways to do this (in later posts we will cover more in depth strategies such as window replacement and advanced insulation).

  Stewart Construction’s Top Ten Easy Ways to Save:

 1. Home Energy Check:Get a FREE Progress Energy Home Energy Check done to your house. A Progress Energy representative will physically come to your house, absolutely free, and conduct a thorough energy inspection walk-thru to evaluate the efficiency of your home. Not only will they check for most of the following points we’re about to list, but once you have this initial inspection they offer rebates and incentives for you if you perform any of the repairs they recommend. Visit Progress Energy’s web site to get all of the information (and a phone number to schedule a walk-thru).

 2. Leaky Ductwork: An astounding amount of energy is lost due to leaky ductwork in your HVAC system. If there are leaks in ducts located in your attic, or a leaky air-handler in your garage, you could be paying to cool this unconditioned spaces! It pays to have your ductwork checked by a professional and then repair any leaks.

 3. Attic Insulation: Virtually all homes have insulation in the attic, but over time it can develop gaps and holes. These gaps and holes effectively negate the rest of the insulation in your attic because they remove the buffer between conditioned space (the living area of your home) and unconditioned space (the attic). This allows heat transfer, which in turn causes your HVAC system to have to work harder and longer. Check to make sure there aren’t any holes or gaps in your attic insulation and if there are, fill them with new insulation!

 4. Properly Sealing Windows: Windows that don’t seal right will leak all of the air that you just paid to heat or cool right out into the great outdoors! An easy way to check and see if your windows are sealing correctly is to make sure they open and close fully, feel for any air flow around the edges (if your HVAC system is running you will need to be on the outside of the window to feel any possible airflow). If they aren’t sealing correctly, you can often fix the problem by replacing the weatherstripping, which is a relatively cheap and easy solution.

 5. Leaking Doors:Doors can leak? Lots of times people don’t realize that plumbing isn’t the only thing that leaks in their home. Exterior doors, much like windows, can leak air around the edges. You can check for leaks in a way similar to windows. Just shut the door and check the weatherstripping all around the door frame to see if it is properly sealing or if leaks are present. If there are leaks, they can be easily fixed by simply replacing the weatherstripping.

 6. Attic Venting:Check that vents located in your attic are functioning. If you have vents that are not working (such as a whirlybird that is no longer spinning) it can keep excess heat in the attic and make it harder for your house to be cooled.

 7. Washer and Dryer Location:Your washer and dryer produce a lot of heat. If it is at all possible, place them in an unconditioned space (like the garage) to save money on cooling your home.

 8. Garage Insulation:You can waste a lot of money running your HVAC system if there is no insulation in your garage. You should ensure that there is some form of insulation between the garage (or any other unconditioned space) and the rest of your house. A garage can easily account for 10% or more of the square footage area of your home, so think of the money you can save by making sure you aren’t air conditioning it!

 9. Caulk Around Windows:Confirming that your windows themselves don’t leak is great, but you can go one step further by caulking around the window frame as well. This creates a barrier between your home and the outside air, and fills in any cracks that could be leaking air. In our opinion, if done well, it will also make your windows look more aesthetically pleasing.

 10. Dripping Faucets:A leaking faucet can waste up to 500 gallons of water PER WEEK! Check your plumbing fixtures regularly and don’t delay on repairing them.

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