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Making Your Renovation Experience Enjoyable

DESIGNfirst Builders Blog Near Chicago, Illinois

Category: Blog

4 Things to Consider When Doing an Attic Remodel

When you are summer cleaning, you may want to assess any unused space to renovate to improve your home’s value. Instead of the basement, as is usually the case, you may want to renovate the attic. Bringing new life to your attic presents its own unique set of challenges that you should keep in mind before and during the process.


Why Remodel an Attic?

An attic could potentially become a bedroom, a more functional storage room, or even a home office depending on the ceiling height and layout. There is vast potential when it comes to attic renovation, but ultimately you must work with the available space in your home and make the most of it.

attic remodel

Issues to Consider With an Attic Renovation

Attic renovations are more complex than other home remodeling projects and you may face some unique and challenging problems.


  • You must ensure your attic still complies with all applicable safety codes in your area. Depending on local laws, you may face limitations in your options for an attic remodeling project.
  • Most home attics are not designed with regular use in mind, so you may need to quiet the floor of your attic if you intend to turn it into a functional space you will use on a consistent basis.
  • Some attics may have staircases while others are only accessible via pull-down staircases from the ceiling of the upper floor. Assess the current entryway to your attic and determine if you can reconfigure it for easier access to your new attic.
  • Your existing attic may have exposed insulation or other features that make it unsuitable for regular use. Consult with your contractor about how to make the space functional and safe for you and your family.


Attics provide unique opportunities for improving home functionality and a solid remodeling project can also boost property value. If you’re thinking about renovating your home this summer, consider the possibilities for your attic and work with an experienced contractor to get the job done right.

Why You Should Build a Dedicated Home Office Space During Your Spring Cleaning

If you work from home, particularly if you’re starting out, you understand the numerous difficulties that come with that career lifestyle, such as balancing time between home and work, or getting rid of distractions. If you add a dedicated office space to your home, whether by remodeling an attic or basement, or as a home addition, you can improve your work output and even gain other advantages. Your spring cleaning is the perfect time to transform one of your empty spaces into a home office.


Why Spring?

Spring is when the weather turns warmer in most of the country, and while it may be rainy during the spring months it is still a great time for a home remodeling project because demand for builders and contractors usually spikes during the summer. You can also plan your remodeling project before the hot weather so you can work comfortably during the summer.


The Value of Dedicated Office Space

Some people who work from home may be perfectly comfortable with a laptop on the couch, but others may find the lack of dedicated work space to be a distraction. You may be one of those people who need much more than just a computer to do their jobs, and dedicated office space helps ensure productivity throughout the year.

Tips for a Home Office

Everyone who works from home will have unique issues when it comes to office space. First, determine where you want your office in your home. Next, think of structural changes you need to make the space more inviting and comfortable. You may need to install a door or reconfigure the heating and air system in your home for your new office.


Ask your contractor for recommendations to take advantage of the floor space and structure of your home. Consider going green and investing in eco-friendly appliances and building materials, if possible. This may not only lead to savings on your energy bills but potentially tax benefits as well.

3 Spring Remodeling and Addition Projects to Consider

Spring is on its way, and with it comes a rebirth of nature from the previous winter. You might have the urge to start anew with your home as well by planning a home remodeling or addition project. If spring cleaning inspires you to invest in some remodeling this spring, there are several additions and upgrades you can make for aesthetic, comfort, and practical reasons.


Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart and gathering place of the home, so why not focus your attention on remodeling one of the most-used areas of your home? Virtually any kitchen offers vast potential for upgrades and remodeling. Take time to consult with a contractor you trust about functional improvements you can make to capitalize on your floor plan and available square footage. You can also invest in green appliances or install modern appliances for greater energy efficiency.


Add New Rooms

An addition to your home can dramatically increase property value and increase the overall comfort of your home. Perhaps you want to add an extra bedroom or knock out a few walls for a more open floor plan. Whatever your ideas may be, an addition on your home is a major investment that can lead to significant rewards if you take time to consider your options and plan carefully.

Wine Cellars

Wine is more popular than ever in the U.S., and many homeowners are starting their own wine collections at home. Adding a small wine cellar to your home can be easier than you might expect. Some clever homeowners have made use of crawlspaces and existing pantries to create stunning wine cellars, and wine lovers should consider how much space their wine collection needs and plan their remodeling accordingly.


These are just a few ways you can make functional improvements to your home this spring. Remodeling not only breathes new life into your home, but also increases the home’s property value and can offer other practical benefits like savings on your energy bills with more eco-friendly appliances and greater comfort all year round. Contacts us if you want to improve your homes value!

Turn Your Kitchen into an Entertainment Center for Your Spring Parties

Springtime is here, and many homeowners are beginning to plan for gatherings with the better weather. Even though the living room or the guest room are the areas you expect to entertain your guests, have you ever noticed that everyone gathers around the kitchen? If you are worried that your kitchen is not sleek or fancy enough to keep your guests entertained and satisfied, you can always remodel it to your needs.

Invest in Entertainment Fixtures

The kitchen is the natural gathering place in the home, and installing a television may be a great way to make the room more inviting while waiting for meals or unwinding with a snack after a tough day at work. Televisions are lighter and slimmer than ever before, so the space constraints you may have faced in previous years rarely present an issue now. You may also have the chance to install a nice sound system to enjoy your favorite music while cooking.

Create a More Open Space

springA large kitchen is inviting and comfortable, and you may be able to take more advantage of your available floor space with a remodel. Consider how you could rearrange cabinets and other fixtures for more space efficiency. If you currently have an island in your kitchen, determine how much you use it and if you could rearrange that space elsewhere to create a more open space. You could also reconfigure an existing kitchen island into additional seating space.

Warming Drawers

One functional improvement to consider with a kitchen remodel is the installation of a warming drawer. If you entertain guests on a regular basis, a warming drawer can significantly cut down on meal prep time and help you keep dishes prepared in advance warm until you’re ready to serve. This will ultimately help with entertaining purposes as you can prepare large meals and several dishes without having to worry much about timing your prep and cooking.


Ultimately any kitchen has the potential to be an entertainment hub of a home. Since most people naturally gravitate toward the kitchen to socialize during gatherings, investing in some functional comforts can enhance the comfort and welcoming atmosphere of any home kitchen.

The 4 Most Common Renovation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Home renovation can be a daunting project and it’s easy to make mistakes. If you want to have a smooth, stress-free home remodeling process, then it’s important to be aware of some of the common mistakes that homeowners make when handling the home remodel process so you can avoid them.

Unrealistic Budget

renovation mistakesMost homeowners don’t have a clear idea of what a remodel will cost. No matter what room you want to remodel or how extensive the remodel you’re planning is, always assume that the project will consume more time than you’d think and likely cost more than you originally planned. A good rule of thumb when planning a budget is to always increase it by 20%.

Choosing the Wrong Contractor

renovation mistakesDon’t just assume that the first contractor you see is the right choice for the job. Make sure you shop around for at least three contractors and interview them. Ask for references, investigate their background with the Better Business Bureau, and ensure their licensing and insurance is up to date. Most importantly, make sure your contractor communicates well with you and lays out a detailed plan and estimate before signing on to the project.

Changing Your Mind

Once you have a specific plan for a remodel, make sure it goes into action. If you must make changes, point them out during the design phase of the project. Too many changes can delay the process and create costs and inconveniences for the crew. Even a seemingly minor change can delay and increase project costs significantly.

Not Preparing for Problems

renovation mistakesAs the remodeling process continues, there may be some unexpected errors or problems that don’t manifest until the crew uncovers them. Experienced contractors usually have an idea of how to deal with said problems, but it’ll require additional expenses. Stay prepared for anything that may go wrong and keep at least 10% saved for emergencies.

Decrease the number of mistakes you’ll make when handling home renovations by letting DESIGNFirst Builders handle your renovation projects. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with our professional staff.

Are You Ready To Turn Your Home Into a Smart Home?

Technology is changing every part of our lives – the way we enjoy our time at home, even the way we stay safe. Because of this, smart homes are becoming more popular every year. They help cut electrical bills, turning homes green and conserving precious resources. Let’s look at some of the smart technology available for your next home renovation project.

Smart Rooms

Smart rooms mean convenience at the touch of a button. You can control lighting, sound, and temperature with an app on your phone. Forgot to turn down the thermostat, but you’re already at work? No problem. Access smart thermostats and lighting from your phone, fixing the problem with one click. Some smart thermostats and fixtures can sense when no one is home, fixing the problem altogether. On the reverse side, you can turn the heat up or flip on the air conditioner right before you arrive home, creating the perfect environment.

smart homeSmart Appliances

Smart appliances range from refrigerators that recite your shopping list to coffee makers that predict when you need your morning jolt. You can do everything from checking on dinner in your oven to making sure you have enough ice for your party from the store. The world of smart appliances is just starting, with tons of new advancements on the way.

Smart Fixtures and Accessories

Smart fixtures will likely change our lives in the near future. Smart options include faucets, toilets, and mirrors. Your mirror may tell you the weather forecast or show you a YouTube tutorial on how to tie your tie. Toilet seats can be warmed before use, and leaky faucets can alert you to the issue.

smart homeIncreased Safety

Security systems, fire alarms, even live doorbells can all report right to your mobile devices. You can be at home on the couch or miles away and still know everything that is happening. It’s a great way to keep loved ones safe at home, protect your property, and ensure your pets are in a comfortable environment.

Accessibility Options

If you have a family member living on their own, a smart home can help with some daily tasks. When certain things are automated or controlled via smart technology, you can rest easier. Keep an eye on things like the oven, the temperature in the house, the fire alarms, and even their shopping list. You can also set up voice commands for your loved one, making it a piece of cake to order groceries or call for help.


If you are ready to upgrade your home to smart technology, contact us today. We’d be happy to help you set up a remodeling project for you or a family member. Keep everyone in your family safe this season with the home upgrades they need.

Don’t Believe These 4 Myths About Home Remodeling

Before you decide to take on a remodeling project on your own, it might be best to dispel some myths about remodeling projects. The better informed you are prior to taking on a remodel, the better prepared you will be, and the more likely you are to see the results you envision.

Following Design Trends

It’s tempting to follow the latest housing trend and add a specific color or feature to your home that might modernize it. Most trends only stay popular for a small moment, however, before other trends replace them. Blindly following trends can cost you money on an addition that will date your home years from now. Always focus on durability and timelessness instead.

Adding a Pool

mythsMost people believe that adding a swimming pool will increase their home value. This is probably true for people living in areas with a warmer climate. For everyone else, pools are often unappealing because they require extensive maintenance work that most owners aren’t willing to do. Installing a pool often costs more money than it’s worth.

Any Remodel Adds Value

Not every single remodel will automatically add value to your home. Some materials may be more expensive than the return on the investment will show, or certain home additions may price you out of comparable homes in your neighborhood. Conduct research on return of investment (ROI) for each remodel and investigate rival homes in your neighborhood before you start a remodel.

DIY To Save Money

mythsSome people truly believe that they’ll spare expenses by performing remodels themselves. While you can handle some minor upgrades, repairs, and touch-ups, a professional group should handle larger remodeling projects. They have more expertise on what to do and will use the right tools for the job. In addition, their knowledge allows them to complete remodels faster, safer, and with the most efficient materials. You’ll likely end up saving money and get to enjoy your home sooner by requesting help.


Do you want to enjoy the benefits of professional home remodeling? Contact DESIGNFirst Builders today for a free consultation with our trained staff to discuss your remodeling project.

4 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

Sometimes you need to update your surroundings with a new aesthetic. Remodeling can give you that same thrill as when you first move into a new home, and it can also offer you financial benefits. Certain remodels are a better investment than others, however, so carefully consider what you choose to remodel in order to increase your home’s value.


home's valueA kitchen remodel is a great choice, and is a favorite with real-estate agents and potential buyers. Complete kitchen remodels offer a return of investment (ROI) of 62%, so if you spend $65,000, for example, you can realize a $40,000 increase in value. You will need to decide how specific upgrades, such as granite or marble counter tops fit into your remodeling budget. It is also a good idea to know the comparable value of homes in your area, to avoid spending more on the remodel than you will actually see in a return.

Landscape and Curb Appeal

home's valueImproving the outside of your home is critical, since this is the first thing a potential buyer will notice. A fresh coat of quality paint for the outside of your home can translate into as much as 110% ROI. Consider freshening up your garden and making sure the lawn is well maintained. Outdoor spaces are currently in demand and are a great reselling point. If your budget allows consider upgrading your outdoor patio area or deck space.

Wood Flooring

Replacing your carpeted areas with wood flooring almost always pays off, with a 91% ROI. Hardwood floors cost around $2,000 more than carpet to install, but have a longer lifespan and are easier to clean. Laminates can be a less expensive and easy to install product, allowing homeowners to do the installation themselves.

Basement and Decks

Renovating a basement into a playroom or a leisure area can result in as much ROI as 63%, with an average increase of $25,000. This is a great option for increasing the living space without increasing the square footage. Adding an outside deck is also a desirable addition, as it’ll help you recoup up to 80% of your investment at sale time.


Whether you choose to remodel your kitchen, your bathrooms, or your basement, DESIGNFirst Builders will assist you in every step of the way to add value to your home. Call us now to schedule a free consultation.

3 Top Home Renovations for This Winter

Most people think of summer as the remodeling season, but winter offers a lot of advantages. Though it can be tough to do some renovation jobs in winter, for those you can do there are some distinct advantages.

Why You Should Remodel for the Winter

Even though winter isn’t a time you usually consider for remodeling, it does offer some valuable advantages over other seasonal remodels.

  • Off-season discounts and lower prices
  • Greater contractor availability due to lack of demand
  • Faster permit approvals because of low activity
  • Less inconveniences from work or school

Winter is the perfect time for certain renovations and remodels for your home.

Indoor Painting

Though you may not be able to repaint the outside of your house, you can always give your home’s interior walls a fresh coat of paint. With most people away from home, it’s the perfect time for indoor repainting. Plus, you can add some vibrant color to mitigate the winter blues. Just remember to keep your window open to keep the area well ventilated.

Replacing the Floor

Another renovation project that you can prioritize during the winter is replacing your floor. Do you seek the warmth of carpet? Do you prefer the convenience and flexibility of a hardwood floor? Use this low activity time to replace the floor at your convenience.

Bathroom and Kitchen

If your home will not receive as many visitors during this time, you can also tackle some of the bigger, more ambitious projects, such as bathroom and kitchen remodels. You will appreciate the work done on them when you’re indoors most of the time. If you do anticipate visitors or a scheduled event for the winter, make sure to schedule your professional remodeling crew long before the event.


If you are in the market to get some remodeling done during this winter season or any of the other three seasons, consider DESIGNFirst Builders. Our team is available for your renovation needs throughout the entire year. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Keeping Your Home Warm During Severe Winter

Winter may be getting closer to its end, but some of the coldest temperatures of the year are still ahead of us. During severe winter temperatures, your plumbing system is one of the most vulnerable areas of your home. Frozen pipes can burst and cause major damage to your home.  You can protect your home’s plumbing system from extreme winter conditions by following these tips.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

One of the most important tasks when preparing for extreme winter weather is keeping your plumbing system from freezing. Unprotected pipes may burst and result in water damage. The following tips will show you what you can do to prevent your pipes from freezing this winter.

  • Make sure that you keep a small amount of water running through the faucets. Prioritize faucets that run along the outside walls or connect to pipes that run through unprotected spaces.
  • Locate the pipes in your basement and your crawl spaces. Wrap them with heat tape or insulated sleeves or covers.
  • If your plumbing system has pipes located around your garage, remove all the snow and ice that gathers around your garage door. Make sure to keep the garage door shut tight.
  • During the severe weather, make sure to keep all doors, windows, and chimney flues shut as well. At the same time, allow your cabinet and pantry doors to remain open. This tactic allows warm air to spread around the kitchen and bathroom.
  • If your cupboards back up to an exterior wall, keep them open to allow the warm air to circulate.
  • If your furniture is blocking your heating vents, rearrange it. You want to have open heat flow. If you have wood floor vents, you can remove them to improve the heat flow.
  • Keep the thermostat temperature consistent as much as you can throughout the day. If you are leaving your home, hold the temperature to at least 55 degrees.
  • Find the water main shut off valve in your home. You might need to shut the valve off in case of emergency.
  • Shut off and disconnect your garden hoses, house bib, and all your outside faucets. If needed, drain the faucets by opening the valves. Cover the faucets by installing insulation covers on them.

Additional Heating Advice

The following tips will allow you to warm up not just your plumbing system, but your home as well.

  • Switch your thermostat from setback mode to hold.
  • If you want to bring in humidity and a warmer temperature, boil water and make food such as stews or foods. Avoid using the oven or a grill.
  • Make sure your boilers and radiators with outside pipes are clear from snow and ice. For instance, a 90% furnace or boiler has exhaust and intake pipes outside your home that you may need to clear.
  • Most home heating systems cannot handle temperatures between -20 and -30 degrees, even with functioning vents, furnaces, or boilers. The temperature drop at this rate is inevitable. Just make sure the system continues to operate and keep the thermostat at 70 degrees or more.

Dealing with Frozen Pipes

Despite your best efforts, sometimes your pipes will freeze. There are a few actions you can take to mitigate the damage if you are careful.

  • Find or estimate the area where the pipe was frozen. Pipes are more likely to freeze either where the water service enters your home, or anywhere along the outside walls.
  • Once you find the area, if you can, try to warm the section of the pipe where the frozen spot is located. You can do so via a portable space heater, a hair dryer, or heating pads. Do not try to directly warm the affected area, as the extreme temperature differences can weaken the pipe and cause it to break.
  • Keep the faucets open. If the pipe starts to warm up, water can start flowing. By running water through the pipe, you can help speed the ice melting process.
  • In the event your pipes burst, it is urgent that you locate the water main shut off valve and turn it off as soon as you can.

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