Design Trends

The paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore selects a Color of the Year.  This year’s choice of Simply White OC 177 may have surprised some, but if you follow design trends you may have noticed white is having a major turn in the spotlight. Any magazine, blog or Pinterest page seems to have several projects, exclaiming the virtues of “painting it white”.

In the words of Benjamin Moore Creative Director Ellen O’Neill, white is “timeless and transcendent. More than that, it is ubiquitous. “From weathered wainscoting to crisp canvas shades, porcelain tile to picket fences, white is everywhere in every form-that’s why we chose it as our Color of the Year.”

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Now, coupled with this trend toward white, is the accompaniment of grey. It’s the palette most requested these days when our clients are looking for clean, updated and fresh. Don’t let a drab battleship grey come to mind. The choices are many and grey can be a moody green or earthy warm. Imagine coastal fogs or river stones. Coupled with white trim, you have a classic combination.

The trend toward greys is showing up heavily in our kitchen and bath department and the custom cabinet lines we carry have taken notice. The white cabinet and marble countertop will forever be timeless but for those looking to try something different, we have an incredible selection of soft greys from driftwood to pewter or moodier graphites or black. If an entire kitchen of grey cabinets feels to risky, try just an island or maybe just base cabinetry. Our staff is ready to help pull samples and provide guidance in creating a space that balances trends and timeless style for your home.

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Ranch Renovation

The ranch home has long been a symbol for American suburban expansion and represents a period of economic growth after WWII. Young soldiers were home, starting families, and looking for housing.  The ranch provided an affordable entry into suburbia and became a staple in the architectural landscape of America.  The humble ranch had a lot going for it, an open floor plan, large building lots, access to yards, an affordable price tag, and typically well built.

For Atlantans, these ranches built in the 1950s are often found in desirable neighborhoods that have grown and changed around the ranch.  The large lot remains and can provide a fantastic setting to build upon.  The simple structure of the first floor of a ranch makes an easy “foundation” for a future two story home so many growing families now desire.  The neutral nature of the ranch is another selling point for renovation.  This blank palette can become a stately Tudor, traditional Georgian, or contemporary stunner. At Home ReBuilders, we have designed and built them all and have helped clients take their basic ranch in a beloved neighborhood, and turn it into the home of their dreams-whatever the style may be.

If you are thinking of adding to your family or just need some more room to grow, consider adding up on your ranch home. It is economical and proves to be one of the best returns on renovation investments of any project we know. By adding up on the home, you keep the first floor structure, basement, landscaping and hardscapes. Even if we take the existing ranch down to the first floor, the savings in a ranch conversion verse removing the home completely and building new is substantial, typically at least $100k. This can go a long way towards furniture, the kitchen and baths or college. So if you own a ranch or are perhaps looking to buy one, remember this style has a lot going for it!

Atlanta renovations and repeat clients

Some of the most rewarding projects we get to work on here at Home ReBuilders are for past clients. When are often called by homeowners that we have worked with in the past to come back and shape their homes again. Families grow or change and needs shift. We have many clients that call us back again for another area of their home or a new home entirely.

In 2006 we worked with a young family with three small children. They had recently purchased a home in Buckhead. The home was a clean, contemporary space that needed a fresher kitchen and baths as well as new paint and some wall removals.
Now 9 years later we are back to complete a master bath renovation and the addition of an exterior patio to increase the function of the exterior of the home.

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Now is a Great Time to Buy a Home

Buying a home costs money. Lots of money. There’s the down payment and the monthly mortgage payment and the maintenance and taxes and the insurance and… Are you overwhelmed yet?
It might seem like so much that you just want to put off the house hunt and sign that yearlong lease with your landlord.
But this is going to blow your mind: Even with all of those costs, you still stand to save more than $200,000 over the next 30 years if you buy right now.
“But that’s over the course of 30 years!” you say. “I’m thinking about my money right now!” you say.
Well, get this: Wait just one year, and you throw nearly $19,000 in savings down the drain. The penalties are so high because mortgage rates are forecast to increase and because home prices are rising quickly, according to’s chief economist, Jonathan Smoke.
Yes, there’s a financial benefit and, similarly, a financial penalty—for every single day you pay your landlord instead of your mortgage company. At a national level, the 30-year financial benefit of owning today is $217,726, according to our economic data analysts, who crunched the numbers to determine the relative merits of buying vs. renting. (Their work doesn’t capture qualitative advantages such as more control over your living situation, flexibility with pets, and, generally, more options—all things many potential home buyers would argue are equally, if not more, important when deciding whether to take the plunge.)
Postpone for one year, and you’re losing out on an estimated $18,672 in savings. Delay for three years, and that figure jumps to $54,879.
“We’re at a critical juncture: Rents, home prices, and mortgage rates are all expected to rise significantly over the next several years,” Smoke says. “That means the cost of delaying homeownership will go up even more sharply, if you wait three years or even one. It’s much like the decision to start contributing to a 401(k). Delay contributing, and you lose out on the compounding returns.”
Smoke and his team used a lot of factors to come up with these estimates, and they made quite a few assumptions as well.* For instance, they assumed that any money saved by renters would be invested, and that the investment would enjoy a compound annual growth rate of 5% (that’s consistent with conservative long-term expected market returns).

We know—these are some pretty big assumptions. How many renters are actually saving and investing? But we’re telling you about these assumptions, because the bottom line is this: Our data team stacked the deck against owning and still came out with eye-popping figures in favor of buying.
“The financial calculus confirms it’s wise to buy—and buy as soon as possible,” Smoke says.
That’s because no matter how you slice it, you can’t deny a few key facts that make the case for buying: Nationally, it’s cheaper right now to buy than to rent, home prices are expected to appreciate, and, while renting is subject to inflation, homeownership costs are locked.
But, as always, it depends on where you go.
For example, in Bismarck, ND, the financial benefit of buying is actually negative. That means you’d spend $12,350 more over the next 30 years to buy instead of rent. That’s because in places such as Bismarck, rents are low, and while home prices have risen dramatically over the past few years, they aren’t expected to rise much in the future. That seems like an incentive to buy, right? Not necessarily. Think about this in terms of home appreciation. Because home prices may have peaked for the foreseeable future, you don’t stand to gain much from owning a house here.
The following markets have the least financial benefit over the next 30 years:
1. Bismarck, ND: –$12,350
2. Dallas–Fort Worth, TX: $830
3. Grand Forks, ND–MN: $4,999
4. Kahului–Wailuku–Lahaina, HI: $7,965
5. Houston, TX: $8,951
But travel west to California and you’ll see an entirely different picture. In Santa Cruz, for instance, you stand to save more than $1 million over the next 30 years if you buy today. That’s because both rent and home prices are skyrocketing, thanks to strong economic drivers such as job growth, population growth, and household growth.
But it’s still hard to get a foot in the door: A median-income household in Santa Cruz could afford less than 10% of the homes available for sale there.
In order to realize a positive financial benefit from buying a house, owners have to wait for “break-even time periods”—when the transaction costs of buying and selling cancel out. Nationally, that wait time is just over three years. In markets that have higher home price to rent ratios, such as San Jose, CA, and New York City, owners normally need to wait longer—as long as six to seven years.
“From a pure financial perspective, you have to be committed to staying longer term,” Smoke says about those high-cost markets. “That’s one of the reasons why rents are also high and getting higher.”
The 30-year financial benefit of owning in the following markets exceeds $500,000:
1. Santa Cruz–Watsonville, CA: $1,006,413
2. Santa Rosa, CA: $883,068
3. San Jose–Sunnyvale–Santa Clara, CA: $782,144
4. Urban Honolulu, HI: $714,748
5. Napa, CA: $712,192
So, in some places you win, in other places you lose. That kind of means it all balances out, right?
Nope, Smoke says: Nearly 90% of the markets (335 of ‘em) produce a financial benefit of at least $100,000 from owning over 30 years. In addition, almost a quarter of the nation’s markets reap a financial return greater than the national average.
*Our data analysts used the following assumptions to calculate the relative merit of buying vs. renting:
They factored in a 20% down payment with a closing cost of 3%. Maintenance and annual improvement costs are 1%, and the opportunity cost of capital is 5% (average U.S. investors required return on equity investments).
They assumed a marginal tax of 25% and the cost of selling a house is 8% of the sale price. Capital gains tax is 15% beyond $500,000 (for married couples). Rent brokerage is 1% of first year’s rent and rent insurance is 1% of monthly rent.

Bath Renovation

Bathrooms are big business in the renovation world. They pack a large return on your investment and when renovated, can improve your life on a daily basis. With busy lives and the current schedule of frantic running, a peaceful space to greet the day in the morning or quietly regroup at the end of the day can be priceless. Now priceless is a relative term as bath renovations are the most expensive spaces per square foot.

Tile installation is a messy job and a trade that requires true craftsmanship. The material itself can be costly and the quantities can be large, floor to shower or tub walls and sometime wall waincotting. Tile material can be a basic and classic mosaic sheet of ceramic or 6″ x 6″ tile and run $5.00 a square foot. Or tile can be handmade and imported with pattern and texture and cost $50.00 a square foot. The greater the detail in pattern and multiple trim pieces and edges can increase your tile labor.

Plumbing, toilets, faucets, tubs, etc. are also costly investments. Again, the range in product is almost infinite and finishes and availability can impact cost. Are you interested in a large soaking tub or maybe a spacious shower with multiple shower heads or a hand held sprayer? Do you like the easy of a single lever faucet or do you like the style of a classic hot and cold lever?

A bathroom also is asked to work hard and smart in its storage capacity. Towels, bathrobes, paper products, and all manner of lotion, soap and beauty supply need to be accommodated. Often a laundry hamper is housed in a bath. Sometimes televisions are wall mounted and hairdryers or curling irons need a hidden outlet, within reach but out of sight. One of the best design tricks is to install an electrical outlet in a medicine cabinet, easy with some preplanning. Now you have a spot, out of the way, to charge and store electric razors or toothbrushes.

Our kitchen and bath specialist is on duty at the office. She knows her way around space planning and can guide in material selection.

Choosing Paint Colors

When you are undertaking a renovation, whether large or small, there are so many decisions and details to attend to. One of the design selections clients often defer until the very end of a renovation is paint colors. Choosing just the right color for your home can make all the difference in your final result. A misstep on paint can make a terrific renovation and space look less than its best. Here are some tips on paint selection. Our designers are always available for consultation.

It’s difficult to tell what a color is going to look like on your wall from a small paint chip, so many manufacturers offer sample containers of their colors. Depending on the manufacturer, you can buy sample containers in quarts, pints or even smaller sizes, and they range in price from $3 to $8. They’re a wise investment that will prevent you from wasting money on a color that isn’t right. And because colors can change dramatically under different lighting conditions, instead of rolling the sample onto the wall, roll it onto white bristol or tagboard. You’ll be able to move the sample around and view it under all the different lighting conditions in your home.

Paint companies have gone to a lot of trouble grouping colors into “families” and “collections” and “concepts” and “schemes.” Basically, these are combinations of complementary colors that may not occur to you until you see how well they work together. Take advantage of all the research already done for you by color experts. Find brochures at paint stores and go online to paint manufacturer websites, and Pinterest, where you’ll find hundreds of examples of interior and exterior paint color combinations.

Base your color choice on the permanent furnishings in the room or the features on the exterior of your home. Inside, the flooring, rugs, artwork, blinds and upholstery will suggest a color direction. Outside, factory-finished materials like the roof, gutters, fascia, soffits and brickwork are existing elements whose colors rarely change but should play a role in determining your paint colors. The landscaping is another important factor. Select colors that fit in with the surrounding palette. If you have brilliant-colored spring-blooming trees or a sea of green foundation plantings, choose colors that will complement them.

Because ceilings are seen in shadow, the color often appears darker than the same paint on walls. If you want the ceiling to match the wall color, buy ceiling paint one or two shades lighter than the wall color. Or instead of buying another gallon of a lighter shade, save money by diluting the wall color you have with 50 percent white paint.

When you choose a color, you have to choose its sheen, too. Most paint companies offer flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss as options. Glossier finishes offer greater durability and are easier to clean, but they emphasize any wall imperfections. Flat paint will do a much better job of hiding imperfections, but it’s easier to damage than high-gloss. Flat finishes are generally best for ceilings and low-traffic areas like living and dining rooms. Glossier finishes can withstand moisture and grease so they’re good for trim and cabinets and high-traffic rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. If you love the way flat wall paint looks but you wish it were more durable, try mixing it 50/50 with eggshell paint. The paint will still offer a non-reflective look, but the eggshell will add some durability to the finish.

For the best results, spend at least $40 to $50 per gallon of paint. Paint is made of solvents, pigments and resins. Better-quality paint will be more concentrated with finer pigments and higher-grade resins, so the final product will have a more even color and durable finish. It’s tempting to try to save money up front, but better coverage ultimately means fewer coats and less paint to buy. Even reputable brands have a range of paint qualities within their product lines, so do your homework and buy the best you can afford.

Kitchen Renovation

It’s the start of a new year and a new list of trends. What will be hot this year in renovation design, what is passé and what will stand the test of time?

Generally we recommend clients think about their renovation projects with an eye to current tastes but a nod to the classics. Tile and cabinetry can be expensive to replace if the style loses its luster. Because we have been designing and building in Atlanta for over 30 years, we’ve seen trends come and go and come around again.

Brass was the expensive fixture to put install in the eighties and early nineties. Brass was replaced with chrome and all variations of brushed, satin and polished. Oil rubbed bronze has been a leader in finishes that suggest an earthier quality and less “clinical” in feel. Now the trend is back to brass with a less polished finish and a duller sheen. Brass is the hot finish and shows up in plumbing, cabinet hardware, and lighting.

Cabinet finishes that seem to be everywhere now are stepping away from white and trending toward grey, blues and the very popular “greige”- a color somewhere between grey and beige. Weathered and pickled oaks are rising in popularity as well.

Subway tiles and glass tiles have been the standard for kitchen renovation and are classics. The latest trend seems to be cement tiles with detailed patterns that play to the bohemian seventies look so popular in clothing and interiors.

If you are thinking about a kitchen or bath renovation, give us a call and chat with one of our designers. They can give you ideas to stay current but practical-a great combination.

Custom Homes in Atlanta

Many of us have a dream house we have always envisioned. Maybe we look around our current home and wonder if there is more potential in its walls to unlock; bath renovation, and extra bedroom, a larger family space? Remodeling a home you currently own in a neighborhood you love is always a good consideration. If you find your “renovation list” becomes heavier than your “don’t touch” list you may want to consider a new custom home. There are several factors to put on the table and discuss.

How do you feel about the neighborhood you are in now? What are home values like? In so many of our in-town neighborhoods, the value of an older home is in the land and the location. If your neighbors have spent significant amounts on renovation, if home prices for renovated or newer homes on your street far exceed the value of your home, if you purchased an older home and have paid down a large portion of your mortgage, you might start thinking about tearing your home down and starting over. This time with your dream home in mind. This can feel like a drastic solution but often renovation costs on an older home with less than ideal foundations and infrastructure can start to exceed the cost to start from scratch.

After doing the math, we often find that starting from scratch for a custom home will add $150,000, give or take, to the equation.  A fully renovated older home may be around  $150,000 less than that new custom home. Then it is up to you whether the additional debt burden is worth the investment.

Maybe you have a neighborhood in mind, next to a great school, walking distance to parks and restaurants. Again the key is to closely evaluate neighborhood home values. Often small, original homes can be picked up at a price that equals the cost of the lot. Occasionally, lots are also available in sought after neighborhoods. This can be a bit of a quest to find the right spot, but with the valuable opinion of a builder and a real estate agent, you can find something.

Another great spot to start is to create a file of images of homes you love and features you feel are important in the interior. What is the style of architecture that interests you? Do you want a new home in keeping with original architecture of the area or are you drawn to clean, contemporary line? The more homework you can do to provide your architect and builder with a clear vision of your dream home, the more successful your project will be.


Renovation is hot in Atlanta once again and people are looking to increase the size and living space of their homes. We are often asked whether additional space is best acquired by building on with an addition or building up with a second story.
The answer, like just about all things relating to renovation, has some complicated variables. The answer may depend on the goals of the addition, style of the house, access to the new space and the land around the existing home. Often in Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods where the lot size can be smaller and city demanded yard setbacks strict, building up is the way to go. Building up onto or creating a second floor maintains the yard around a home, often a premium. Also, when designed with care, a second floor addition can create an added charm to curb appeal and often provide a better resale value.
The next question to consider is cost effectiveness. The trickiest part and often the deciding factor in the up or out debate can fall to the stairs. If the stairway to the new space can be worked out without having to reverse the basement stairs and moving too many walls then building up often saves the cost of foundations and landscape disturbance. One must keep in mind that most second story additions require the reframing of the old ceiling joists to allow for floor loads. This is something typically done with a separate diaphragm system for ceiling and floor joists and has the added benefit of sound proofing, reduction of overall second floor addition height and minimizes the potential of plaster cracks.
In the end, our design staff is experienced with both vehicles to increase the size of your home in a way that is both practical financially and pleasing aesthetically.

Fireplace and Chimney Maintenance

Fireplaces seem to be a focal point during the holidays, either providing warmth in the cold temperature, decorative elements, and of course, the old fashioned present delivery system. Your fireplace, the most low-tech piece of equipment in your house, may seem like a simple load-and-light operation, but ignoring annual maintenance can impair its performance, leading to heated air (and dollars) blowing out the chimney, harmful smoke inside, and possibly even a chimney fire.

The average number of annual U.S. home fires caused by fireplace, chimney, and chimney connectors between 2003 and 2005 was 25,100, and the average costs for those fires was $126.1 million, based on the most recent statistics from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. That’s roughly $5,024 in damage per home. Annual chimney maintenance removes flammable creosote, the major cause of chimney fires, and identifies other performance problems.

Annual inspections keep flames burning right

Creosote—combustible, tar-like droplets—is a natural byproduct of burning wood. The more wood you burn, the wetter or greener the wood, and the more often you restrict airflow by keeping your fireplace doors closed or your damper barely open, the more creosote is produced.

Soot build-up, while not flammable, can hamper venting. One half-inch of soot can restrict airflow 17% in a masonry chimney and 30% in a factory-built unit, according to the CSIA. Soot is also aggressively acidic and can damage the inside of your chimney.

The more creosote and soot, the more likely you are to see signs of chimney fire—loud popping, dense smoke, or even flames shooting out the top of your chimney into the sky. Chimney fires damage the structure of your chimney and can provide a route for the fire to jump to the frame of your house.

“If the chimney is properly maintained, you’ll never have a chimney fire,” says Ashley Eldridge, the education director of the CSIA.

The best way to ensure your chimney isn’t an oil slick waiting to ignite? Get it inspected.

Three inspection levels let you choose what you need

A level-one inspection includes a visual check of the fireplace and chimney without any special equipment or climbing up on the roof. The inspector comes to your house with a flashlight, looks for damage, obstructions, creosote build-up, and soot, and tells you if you need a sweep. If so, he’ll grab his brushes, extension poles, and vacuum, and do it on the spot.

“You should have it inspected every year to determine if it needs to be swept. An annual inspection will also cover you if the neighbor’s children have thrown a basketball in it, or a bird has built a nest,” says Eldridge.

A level one typically runs about $125. Add a sweep, and you’re talking another $80, or about $205 for both services, according to CSIA.

Consider a level-two inspection if you’ve experienced a dramatic weather event, like a tornado or hurricane; if you’ve made a major change to your fireplace; or bought a new house. This includes a level-one investigation, plus the inspector’s time to visit the roof, attic conversion considerations, and crawl space in search of disrepair. It concludes with a sweep, if necessary, and information on what repair is needed. The price will depend on the situation.

A level three inspection is considered “destructive and intrusive” and can resemble a demolition job. It may involve tearing down and rebuilding walls and your chimney, and is usually done after a chimney fire. The cost will depend on the situation.

Small steps can improve your fireplace’s efficiency

Besides the annual sweep, improve your fireplace’s functioning with responsible use.

  • Only burn dry, cured wood—logs that have been split, stacked, and dried for eight to 12 months. Cover your log pile on top, but leave the sides open for air flow. Hardwoods such as hickory, white oak, beech, sugar maple, and white ash burn longest, though dry firewood is more important than the species. Less dense woods like spruce or white pine burn well if sufficiently dry, but you’ll need to add more wood to your fire more often, according to CSIA.
  • Wood, only wood! Crates, lumber, construction scraps, painted wood, or other treated wood releases chemicals into your home, compromising your air quality. Log starters are fine for getting your fire going, but they burn very hot; generally only use one at a time.
  • Close your damper when not using the fireplace to prevent warm indoor air—and the dollars you’re spending to heat it—from rushing up the chimney.
  • On a factory-built, prefab wood-burning fireplace, keep bifold glass doors open when burning a fire to allow heat to get into the room.
  • Have a chimney cap installed to prevent objects, rain, and snow from falling into your chimney and to reduce downdrafts. The caps have side vents so smoke escapes. A chimney sweep usually provides and can install a stainless steel cap, which is better than a galvanized metal one available at most home improvement retailers because it won’t rust, says Anthony Drago, manager of Ashleigh’s Hearth and Home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  • Replace a poorly sealing damper to prevent heat loss. “You can get a top-mounted damper that functions as a rain cap, too, an improvement over the traditional damper because it provides a tighter closure,” says CSIA’s Eldridge.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors in your house—near the fireplace as well as in bedroom areas.
  • If you burn more than three cords of wood annually, get your chimney cleaned twice a year. A cord is 4-feet high, by 4-feet wide, by 8-feet long, or the amount that would fill two full-size pick-up trucks.
  • To burn fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats and keeping your damper completely open to increase draw in the early stages. Burn the fire hot, at least occasionally—with the damper all the way open to help prevent smoke from lingering the fireplace and creosote from developing.

By the way, fireplaces aren’t officially rated for energy efficiency because they’re so varied. Depending on the source of information, they can be 10% to 30% efficient in converting fuel to heat.

No inspection will turn a masonry or factory-built fireplace into a furnace, but it can improve efficiency somewhat, decrease the amount of heating dollars you’re sending up the chimney, and increase your enjoyment of your hearth time by reducing smoke. If a sweeping prevents a chimney fire, you’re talking about the difference between another ordinary January day, and the potential loss of your home, or even life.