Adding Up: An Attic Conversion Planning Guide

Callen Blog -  Attic Conversions 062716If your family is growing and you need extra space, or you would simply like to expand with a home office or hobby room, you might be considering a room addition. However, with the cost of a room addition ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars, it may be wise to first take a look at your attic and see if it can qualify for an attic conversion.

Be Aware of Rules & Regulations

As with most building projects, there are a multitude of building codes and regulations to consider before doing an attic conversion. They may vary slightly from place to place, so be sure to ask your Callen representative about building codes for your community.

  • Adequate space. Your attic room should have at least 70 square feet of floor space, with half of the usable space having a ceiling height of at least five feet, and the other half being 7-7.5 feet or higher. There must be at least seven feet of floor space in each direction, so the room at minimum should be 7’ x 10’.
  • Strong floors. For your attic floor to be strong enough to support a habitable room, it must be able to bear a load capacity of 30 pounds per square foot. Callen, the leading remodeling company in Milwaukee, is familiar with and responsible for following the codes that will ensure a strong floor.
  • Safe stairs. An attic being used as a living space must have a structurally sound staircase to allow access to it. It must be at least 36″ wide, with treads 9.5-10″ deep. Risers should be 7¼- 7¾” high, and the stairs must allow for 80″ or more of headspace.
  • Exit points. In addition to stair access, an attic must have another point of egress to meet fire safety codes, which means that you will need a window that can be opened in case of an emergency. The size and placement of attic windows is regulated and local codes must be consulted before installing.

If you think your attic may be a candidate for a conversion and you’re looking for advice from the best remodeling company in Lake Country, look no further than Callen. We know the codes and will have you well on your way to a new living space before you know it! Call us today at 414-529-5509.



4 Kitchen Upgrades You Should Avoid

Callen Blog - Worst Kitchen Upgrades 062016A kitchen should be a hub of daily activity where a family can gather to share meals and conversation. Whether you want to invest in a welcoming kitchen for your family or because you are planning on selling your home in the future, here are some “upgrades” that may not really be an improvement. Think twice before opting for these renovations.

Major Kitchen Upgrades

A major kitchen remodel can cost more than $100,000, but you may not have to spend a fortune to get a nice kitchen. If your cabinets are in good shape, some paint, new hardware, and a little elbow grease will have them looking like new. Add a tile backsplash and your kitchen will look updated for a fraction of the cost. If you’re not into do-it-yourself projects, call Callen for expert kitchen remodeling in Lake Country.

Ceramic Floors

While ceramic floors are durable and easy to clean, they are not easy on the feet. Standing for a long period of time on hard ceramic tiles, while cooking or washing dishes, will leave your legs throbbing. And you can say goodbye to any dishes you might drop. Ceramic also doesn’t hold heat well, making a tile floor uncomfortable on a cold winter’s day.

Marble Countertops

Marble is elegant and beautiful, but it is also a soft stone. This means that it can easily scratch or chip, so keeping it in good shape requires a good deal of maintenance. It is also more prone to stains than other stones, even if it has been sealed. Price is another downside: while marble is one of the less expensive natural stone choices, it can still cost an average of $100 or more per square foot.

Cheap Cabinets

With the heavy use that they receive, poorly constructed kitchen cabinets will quickly show wear that detracts from your home’s value. If you have well-constructed older cabinets, a better choice would be to update them with new hardware and paint. If you don’t, consider holding off until you have enough money to invest in quality cabinets that will last.

If you are ready for kitchen remodeling in Milwaukee, but don’t want to break the bank, call Callen at 414-529-5509. We will help you get the best bang for your buck!



Tips to Recreate Your Lower Level

By Jeff Billstrom

Lower levels, those below grade areas that house the washer and dryer, holiday decorations, old furniture, and more, are increasingly getting makeovers to add function and value to homes. Media rooms with bars and mini kitchens, play areas for the kids, exercise room, project room or home office. game rooms, guest suites, or all-around living space, add function and value to your home.

Callen Blog - Transform Your Basement 061316“Basements are ideal spaces to add overall square footage to your home without expanding your dwelling’s footprint,” said Callen Designer Jeff Billstrom. “When we are asked to create living space in a lower level, we always ask how the space is going to be used, and then we can design efficiently and incorporate the items homeowners want to fit the space. We also want it to transition nicely from the main floor living area. Opening up staircases and putting in balustrades and handrails make it feel more like upstairs.”

Even though they may be a blank slate, because they are below ground, basements present challenges to be addressed such as moisture, air quality, and dehumidification. “You want to make sure the basement is dry,” Jeff said. “If there are cracked foundation walls, which are allowing moisture to seep in, that needs to be corrected first.”

Air quality also needs to be addressed. No one wants to be in a basement where the air is musty and stale. Air exchange systems draw outside air in, filter it, and exchange it with the indoor air. It can be connected to the furnace and the home’s duct system or put in separately with its own ducting. Air exchange systems also eliminate off-gases from new furniture, carpeting, and other household materials.

Dehumidification also is important in the summer months. Portable dehumidifiers work, but the optimal way to ensure dehumidity is through a permanent system that works through duct work. Dehumidification also is key to installing wood flooring or wood laminates, to prevent warping. If you install a tile or stone flooring, consider radiant floor heating for added warmth.

Another matter to be aware of in lower levels are supporting beams and mechanicals. “With a lower level, you can’t avoid I-beams,” Jeff said. “Depending on the layout, I try to build them into the wall. That’s not always possible; in that case we can disguise the I-beam by turning it into a column. We also can work around the furnace and hot water heater, but they can be relocated too.”

A key focus in converting a dark basement is to make it light and bright. “We look for opportunities to get as much natural light as possible,” Jeff said. “However, recessed lighting, canned lights, pendants, and wall sconces can create any mood from bright white to gently lit.”

Egress, or exit windows, bring natural light in. When converting lower level space to a bedroom, egress windows are required by code to create an emergency exit. Even without a bedroom, an egress window is a nice choice because it leads to a brighter interior and it can be opened to allow cross ventilation.

“The advantage to a lower level remodel is that you can use the space for anything you want, since all significant living areas are above ground,” Jeff said. “However, it’s always a good idea to leave some storage space for tools or seasonal home goods, or other miscellaneous items you might have stashed in crates or boxes.”

Callen’s design specialists have plenty of ideas on how to create a lower level that best utilizes the available space. Call Callen, the leading remodeling company in Brookfield, for inspiration on how to get started.



Spring Cleaning Checklist For Home Exteriors

By Christopher Wittmann, CR

When the topic of “spring cleaning” is discussed, thoughts naturally turn to the inside of your home, such as organizing and discarding no longer used items. The experts at Callen encourage you to also clean the exterior of your home this spring.

“A Wisconsin winter can cause issues for your home’s exterior, so your outdoor chores will likely be comprised of a heavy dose of maintenance as well as the more traditional indoor cleaning and clearing type tasks,” said Christopher Wittmann, CR, exterior product specialist for Callen.

To assist in getting your exterior ready for the outdoor season, Christopher suggests completing the following tasks this spring.

pressure-wash-cleaningClean the Gutters

Gutters do their job best when kept clean. “During winter, snow and any leftover leaves or debris may freeze in the gutter,” Christopher said. “Clean out any debris, including in the eaves and roof valleys, to ensure that water can flow freely. Then check for proper drainage away from the home by ensuring that all downspouts are fully secured.” Christopher suggests that, since the weight of the ice and snow in the gutters can compromise the integrity of their fastening to the house, also inspect the connection of the brackets to ensure the gutters aren’t pulling away from the fascia.

Christopher suggests installing a gutter protection system, such as GutterTopper, which Callen has installed on homes throughout southeastern Wisconsin for more than 15 years. “With GutterTopper, water flows smoothly into the gutters even during the heaviest downpour while leaves and other debris stay out,” Christopher said. “Plus, Gutter Topper is equally effective in the winter time since it reduces the amount of ice and snow build-up inside the gutters.” Gutter Topper is available in a full array of colors, so you can coordinate with your roof and gutters.

Inspect Hose Bibs (Outdoor Faucets)

Hose bibs left undrained or unprotected during winter have been known to freeze and crack, creating a leak inside the wall. If this occurs, it is necessary to repair the pipe and install an inside shutoff valve for drainage. “Before winter temperatures set in, it is best to turn off the inside valve (if equipped) and open the outside spigot to allow water to drain out and not freeze during the colder months,” Christopher said. “When you secure your garden hose to the hose bib and turn on the water, pay special attention to the connecting points and inspect for any water leaks in the event that those connections were compromised.”

Window Screens

When spring arrives, people want fresh air in their homes, so naturally they open the windows. Before that is done, clean the screens, as properly maintained screens create maximum airflow into the home. To clean, first try spraying the screens in a tub to eliminate the dust and debris that clings to the mesh. If the debris doesn’t come off, lay the screens on a flat surface and use mild soap and water with a soft brush to gently remove dirt and grime. Clean both sides of the screen and the interior and exterior of the frame. Allow the screen to dry fully before reinstalling.

Deck Maintenance

Most decks require regular upkeep, so it is important to evaluate its condition and make needed repairs. “Examine the structure carefully to ensure it is safe, fixing cracked railings, splintered planks, and loose nails,” Christopher said. “Use a spray nozzle attached to a garden hose to clean the deck to remove dirt and mildew. If the dirt and grime doesn’t come off, the use of a pressure washer or a brush and mild cleaning detergent may be needed.” Reseal the deck if necessary. If the deck area includes lighting, remove debris, clean the fixtures, survey that the bulbs are securely screwed in, and check that all fixtures are working appropriately.

Clean the Garage

For some homeowners, the garage is purgatory for their belongings, where surplus materials take up residence. Cleaning out the garage will provide additional space for warm weather equipment like bikes, outdoor games, and gardening equipment. “Discarding no longer used items and organizing the materials that you decide to keep will allow you to more easily locate what you need, when you need it,” Christopher said. “Eliminating clutter in the garage and storing flammables such as oil, gasoline, paint, propane and varnish in a shed or at least in a metal cabinet in the garage will prevent garage fires.”

Fence Inspection

Rot is the biggest thing to look for in a wooden fence, along with loose rails and any kind of wobbly parts. “Inspect the posts where they meet the ground. If it appears that the wood is weak, it can cause the whole fence to come down”, Christopher said.

Wash the House

Spring is usually a good time to wash off the dirt and grime that accumulated on the exterior of the house. “To reduce streaking, be sure to start at the bottom and work your way up, being especially cautious around the electrical service entrance, the lines and conduit feeding the power meter,” Christopher said. “Avoid spraying upward and angle the spray away from doors, windows, and vents, especially soffit vents.” He also suggests using a spray nozzle attached to a garden hose first before using a power washer since “the high water output from a pressure washer can compromise the integrity of the siding by tearing off the wood or strips of the finish from hardboard siding and also allowing water to penetrate into the sheathing underneath causing mold and mildew. If dirt and grime aren’t coming off very easily, use a mild detergent and soft brush first to remove or loosen it up before spraying it again.”

“Regardless of the size and condition of your home, exterior spring cleaning can make it fresh for the new year,” Christopher said.

Callen’s exterior product specialists have plenty of ideas enhancing your home’s exterior. Call Callen, the leading remodeling company in Brookfield, for inspiration on how to get started.