Watch for Asbestos When Renovating Older Homes: You May Be at Risk

Photo credit: BanksPhotos -iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rosie Rosati, guest contributor

As a homebuyer, it’s easy to understand the appeal of investing in an older home. After all, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle a few DIY projects and renovations to give the place the custom touch you’ve always imagined. Although this can seem like an exciting endeavor, new owners may get ahead themselves without realizing their house may be harboring toxins from decades ago.

It’s important to understand the dangers of asbestos during home improvement projects and how to reduce exposure risks.

Measuring Your Risk

Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that was revolutionary for the building trade until its carcinogenic nature was discovered. This toxin was once widely-used by the construction industry due to its resilience and ability to withstand chemicals and high temperatures. Although its health risks were discovered as early as the 1920s, the United States continued producing, importing and manufacturing asbestos-containing consumer products for decades.

Researchers concluded in 1960 that asbestos exposure could cause a wide range of long-term diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma. As more tradesmen came forward with asbestos-related illnesses, this mineral became known as a primary source of occupational cancer.

The mineral is heavily regulated today, but millions of people are still vulnerable to exposure due to its expansive use in residential homes and buildings.

Asbestos is only considered dangerous when contaminated materials have been worn down or damaged which unfortunately, is a standard part of most renovation or remodeling work.

Any sanding, grinding, sawing, drilling, buffing, or physical impact may cause these fibers to become airborne and easily ingested or inhaled by anyone in the general proximity.

What Homeowners Need to Know

Asbestos is nearly impossible to identify on your own because it’s often mixed within building products, but it is possible to identify a hazardous situation and take appropriate preventative action.

Before getting involved with any sort of home improvement project, you should always double-check that your property has been recently inspected by a trained professional. This simple step is especially important if you reside in a home built more than 40 years ago and has visible signs of aging. This bit of precaution could save you from developing an asbestos-related illness years later.

You should be aware of common products that have a history of containing the toxin and monitor their condition for any sort of wear and tear. Keep an eye on old insulation, ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring, joint compounds, door gaskets, furnaces, roof shingles, electrical wiring, fireproof products, and more.

Asbestos is known to be a significant threat when it is “friable,”  meaning it can be easily crumbled or crushed by hand. Spray-on insulation and spray-on ceiling textures are prime examples of products that once contained friable asbestos and have been found within residential homes today.

Unlike floor tiles and cement that must endure long-term deterioration before asbestos fibers are loosened, the slightest amount of pressure can instantly release these fibers, allowing them to be carried throughout the air and dust indoors.

Do not panic and try to remove any materials you think are toxic, as this will only do more harm than good.

Instead, block off the area and avoid any activity, including sweeping or vacuuming, which can exacerbate the situation and cause toxic dust and debris to travel even further throughout the house.

Restrict anyone from going near the area until a professional can take samples to confirm it contains asbestos. If the toxin is present and appears to be hazardous, the licensed professional can safely remove the toxin from your home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Rosati is with the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center. She is  a health advocate for anyone impacted by the aggressive form of cancer known as mesothelioma. She dedicates her time to educating the public on where asbestos is found today and how to prevent exposure. Her ultimate goal is to connect anyone affected by this rare diseases with the resources and support they deserve.

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Hot Home Trend: Furnishings With Curves

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Furniture is getting curvier this year. Rounded options are pushing out the sharp-edge designs. It can be a nod to the 60’s and 70’s but contemporary fabrics and details are keeping it from looking dated.

You’ll likely notice softer lines, curves, and ruching are growing more popular, designers say. Check out some examples.

Rounded chairs

 

Circular tables

 

Curved sofas

 

Rounded backs

 

Curvy ottomans

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Wallpaper for the Fifth Wall: A Modern Fix for Popcorn Ceilings?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

Some home designers want to make a bigger statement with the ceiling, and they’re turning to wallpaper to do it. Wallpaper is once again growing in popularity for walls, and some designers are now experimenting with it to dress up the ceiling too.

Some designers are using it to transform a ceiling’s living space with wallpaper in minimalist designs or in metallic. It can add texture and certainly some drama to a space.

Some designers are using floor-to-ceiling wallpaper all in the same print. Others may have the walls all painted white or a light color and then use a wallpapered ceiling to jazz up the room. Faux tin on the ceilings can be a way to create a statement ceiling too.

Use with caution, however: A dark or bold of wallpaper could make a ceiling appear lower.

But for spaces that can pull it off, a wallpapered ceiling can look chic. Plus, if you have a listing with dreaded popcorn ceilings, this can be a way to give the ceiling a modern, yet less expensive update. Check out some of these examples from designers at Houzz.

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Experts Share Lighting and Bathroom Best Practices in Two New Educational Webinars

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As part of our educational program for pros, we recently hosted two webinars with experts from the lighting and bathroom furniture industries. These webinars are an integral part of our Houzz Trade Program, in which our team works to provide the best products, prices and resources for our professional community.

Thomas Wright, an award-winning lighting designer who designs collections for Savoy House, joined us to discuss industry trends and best practices for selecting and installing all types of lights and ceiling fans. Pros loved the very specific guidelines he shared for the size and placement of fixtures in the home. For example, the size of a ceiling fan should correlate directly to the square footage of the room you’re placing it in. A room that’s more than 400 square feet should incorporate a fan 60 inches in diameter, or two smaller fans should be used instead. A 100-square-foot room should have a fan 42 inches in diameter. Watch our lighting webinar for more best practices on installing chandeliers, pendants, vanity and outdoor lights.

Ben Alliker, an expert in the decorative plumbing and hardware industry, joined us to discuss bathroom vanity trends and installation tips. Most recently director of national sales at Ronbow, he has firsthand knowledge of the innovation taking place in bathroom furniture. For example, vanities are now being built with enhanced features such as USB ports and charging stations. They include storage for specific bathroom products like shampoos and hair dryers, and some even come with a built-in toilet. For more trends and vanity installation tips, watch our vanity trends webinar.

Interested in our webinar series? We email invitations to our professional community three to four weeks before each event. If you’re not receiving these invitations and would like to, please contact tradesupport@houzz.com.

Meet the Builder: Dave Spetrino, PBC Design+Build

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You may have caught Dave Spetrino, president of PBC Design+Build, in the latest episode of “My Houzz,” when skateboarder Tony Hawk enlists his help for a special renovation. We talked with Dave to learn more about his building philosophy, where he finds inspiration and his favorite parts of the My Houzz renovation – check out what he had to say below.

What is your building philosophy?
Some days it feels like the world is against you when you’re designing, budgeting and then constructing a home. I know it’s not rocket science or brain surgery but for most clients, what we do for them is about the most money and effort they’ll ever expend. It’s a worthy challenge.

With any project you’re committed to delivering on quality, schedule and budget – all equally important components to a successful project, but never willing to cooperate with one another in reality.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: Is this “place” better because of our hard work? Does it feel good? Are our clients smiling? Am I smiling? Do I deserve a milkshake? As long as the answer continues to be yes, I’ll continue to show up the next day.

Where’s the most unexpected place you’ve found inspiration?
Travel has been a tremendous benefit. I can’t go anywhere without seeing something within the built environment – from any country or century – that doesn’t have an effect on me.

What trend are you most excited about right now?
I’m not much of a ‘gadget guy’ but I am continually impressed with what technology, mobile apps and intuitive features are doing for home building right now. The benefits of technology and the speed with which they are being implemented into construction will continue to benefit our clients, and it’s only getting better and better with time.

What are clients asking you for?
The whole point of custom home building is to allow your client to set their dreams in your hands and then trust you to deliver. It’s a serious role to take on and the ability to translate that information into something tangible is an art.

It’s more than features or finishes, what our clients are really asking us for is to guide them, use our knowledge to help them make good decisions, and prevent them from missing an opportunity to do something great.

What do you geek out on when it comes to design/construction?
I am such a sucker for light fixtures. I think they’re the hardest detail to commit to – it’s probably why I push a lot of clients to concealed or can lights and then limit the number of decorative fixtures to the most compelling places within a home to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.

You can set the entire ‘vibe’ of a home with a sconce or chandelier – a light fixture can create a conversation or set the mood as soon as you walk into a space. Light is powerful, and that mode of delivery cannot be understated.

What is one of your design secrets/ tricks?
There are always a couple of “cheats” where we seem to get more from a design without having to put too much of our budget toward a feature. This usually comes from our designer who will choose a special element within the design and celebrate it. Sometimes it’s well defined symmetry or an interior connection that extends to the exterior. Other times it’s just the use of a detail that has meaning to our owners.

Basically, the secret is just being thoughtful about how your client may better appreciate a space well after you’ve moved on to the next project. That’s really the best way to leave your ‘mark.’

What’s your favorite building or space in the world?
Maybe it’s my lust for travel or a nostalgia of sorts but I love train stations. New, old, repurposed into a museum, I can’t get enough of these iconic buildings. The ceiling heights, ornamentation, the elegant organization of moving people from space to space within a building, I’m continually transported in both space and time!

Going to Omaha? Visit the Durham. Going to Paris? Don’t miss the Orsay!

What did you enjoy most about this particular project?
We loved meeting the family. They were amazing in all the right ways.

They trusted this specific process (move out and don’t ask questions!) and they were genuinely grateful and truly overwhelmed at the reveal.

Kerry’s reaction was the best! It was the moment where “it all came together.” It is an amazing feeling to make a difference in someone’s life and the joy from Kerry permeated to everything. It really is unlike anything we’ve ever done before professionally and it felt good to be a part of that happiness.

But don’t get me wrong, meeting Tony Hawk was incredible! He is so cool. Did I mention Tony and I are friends?

What is your favorite element in the space from this project?
There are some really cool features within Brad and Kerry’s home that became the ‘bookends’ for the renovation. In many ways the farm table became the centerpiece for the whole house – not just as a piece of furniture but in what it represented to the family as the centerpiece for the way they live.

Also, the ability to re-purpose some of the existing elements. The reclaimed wood and the sliding barn doors within the new living room. I love seeing ‘something old and something new’ in such a personal project like this.

Chrissy Bonney, our Interior Designer at PBC, was completely in tune with Kerry’s vibe. The family spends a lot of time together and the house was somewhat disjointed; an open concept was introduced to allow the main living area flow easily into the kitchen.

When you’re not designing, where can you be found?
I really enjoy being on the move, traveling and exploring new places. A lot of our adventures start with the need to see a historical building or even a compelling neighborhood. It’s not just to experience the architecture, I love seeing how other communities (or cultures) live, manage or adapt to their environment.

Watch Tony Hawk’s Surprise Renovation on the Latest “My Houzz”

The latest episode of “My Houzz” is here, featuring professional skateboarder Tony Hawk as he surprises his longtime friend, Kerry Overman, with a secret renovation of her home in Hampstead, North Carolina.

Tony uses Houzz to completely transform Kerry’s kitchen, living room and bathroom. He finds PBC Design + Build from the Houzz community, uses ideabooks to collaborate on ideas, and purchases products and materials from the Houzz Shop. He even helped with demolition by kicking down the family room wall himself! The end result? A more functional and bright space that honors Kerry’s rustic style.

You can watch this heartfelt episode here and learn more about the space in our ideabook.

Houzzer Profile: Giorgia Trascinelli, Training Manager

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After working with the Houzz Pro Plus team in London to help home professionals build their brands and connect with homeowners, Giorgia recently returned to our Berlin office, where she’s helping to train the next generation of Pro Plus team members. When she isn’t traveling the world, you might find her indulging her passion for food or playing sports, especially running, trekking and snowboarding.

You’ve worked at two of our international offices, tell us about how your career has progressed with Houzz.
Initially, I was drawn to working at a young, fast-growing, international tech company in Berlin. I had the opportunity to relocate to our London office to assist with the launch of Pro Plus in Italy. It was an exciting challenge and an amazing opportunity to bring a great product to a new market.

I recently moved back to Berlin, where I will have the opportunity to train new Pro Plus team members. I feel pretty lucky to work with teams across our international offices and support their growth.

What is your favorite Pro Plus feature?
The photo localization is my favorite tool. It’s extremely powerful for professionals to be able to showcase their work to geographically targeted audiences.

What do you like most about your job?
I like the fact that we’re helping professionals grow their businesses through our platform. It’s so important. Beyond that, I enjoy the office environment. Working with motivated, smart and ambitious colleagues inspires me to commit to high standards of achievement every day. Being able to speak different languages throughout the day is also a unique and enriching part of the job.

What’s something that has surprised you about working at Houzz?
Despite being an international company, distances seem very small. We communicate and share ideas daily with colleagues in offices around the world. I also appreciate the fact that Houzz has a very flat organization and that leadership is very approachable. It makes every process lean and fast.

What advice do you have for others looking to start their career?
Be driven, patient and motivated. If you believe in yourself and in what you’re selling, you’ll see the outcome of your work sooner than you expect!

What is your most productive time of day?
I’m an early bird so I tend to be much more focused and productive in the morning than at any other time of the day. My energy level is high and I feel very positive and relaxed, especially if I exercise before work.

The Secret to Kitchen Envy: A Stylish Island

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Home buyers love kitchen islands. It’s become a gathering spot for not just cooking but also eating, working, and socializing. As the island continues to gain stature in kitchens, homeowners are finding ways to spotlight it with contrasting shades or even different countertops to make it the focal point.

Check out some examples from designers featured at Houzz, which show how the kitchen island can become the showpiece of your space.

An island of a different color

Furniture-styled islands

Contrasting countertops

Lighting it up

Plenty of seating

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Staged to Sell: A Country Estate in Gaithersburg, Md.

Home stager: Libby Paulson with Preferred Staging

The home: Paulson staged this remodeled, single-family country estate in Gaithersburg, Md., which featured cathedral ceilings, a two-story stone fireplace, gourmet kitchen, formal living and dining room, two staircases, and a walkout basement with full kitchen and bath. The home is listed at $709,500.

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Photo credit: Libby Paulson, Preferred Staging

Paulson’s tips:

1. Greenery is a Must:Greenery is considered natures neutral. It provides a space harmony, freshness and energy. Greenery can be incorporated into a staging as an accent color or as a way to soften and welcome someone into a room. Some great examples are fiddle fig plants or ferns of all types as well as large leaves arranged in a vase.

2. Pillows are required: If you are looking for an easy, affordable way to make your home ready to sell try adding some throw pillows. Using some trendy pillows you can transform any space. They also help large furniture stand out and complement and highlight the home’s structural features. So choose pillows that complement the home’s aesthetic and style, and don’t be afraid of adding color as long as it adds style. A quick tip is use solid color pillows if furniture has a busy print or patterned pillows when working with solid color furniture. For an upscale look use pillows with subtle texture such as linen or tweed.

3. Bookshelves are not just for books:The first thing to remember is you don’t need to fill each self. When staging bookshelves try to add items to make the eyes look across, around and down. Limit the amount of books and use pairs of items.

 

Have a home you recently staged that you’d like to show off here at Styled Staged & Sold? Submit your staging photos for consideration, along with three to five of your best spruce-up tips. Contact Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.

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