Get the Scoop on the Latest Home Remodeling Trends

Your potential customers spend hours poring over magazines, books, and websites to plan their remodeling projects, so it’s only natural they’ll be influenced by what’s trending. Keeping up with those trends gives you an edge on your less savvy competitors.

Gaining Insight from Trending Home Features

Trends have a strong influence on the features your would-be customers decide to include in their remodels. Even trends in home features you don’t provide can give you clues on what those trend-following homeowners might buy from you. If there’s an increase in solar permits issued in a certain neighborhood, chances are those homeowners will be interested in other eco-friendly, energy-saving upgrades. They might be looking to install energy-efficient doors and windows, redesign their interior lighting or hire an insulation contractor.

In a neighborhood where swimming pool permits are on the rise, the homeowners there are likely good prospects for luxury home features. If you’re a general contractor, these are people who might hire you to create their gourmet kitchen or spa bathroom.

Paying attention to the top builders and contractors in your area can also guide you toward profitable markets. If several companies are having great success with remodeling attics and basements, you’ll know that’s a trend worth looking into.  

Profiting from Local Style Trends

While the media can keep you up on what’s in style around the country, trends vary by locality. Reviewing the data from your region gives you a more accurate picture of what your prospects might want from you.

Maybe you sell countertops and cabinets, and notice most kitchen remodel permits are issued to homeowners in a wealthy area. You’ve just found a good market for high-end products. If it’s a middle-class area where most of the kitchen remodeling is going on, it makes more sense to focus on practical, budget-friendly options.

If you notice the kitchens successful local contractors have remodeled often include dark-toned cabinetry or cabinetry with hidden storage, you can get ready to supply the same.

For more insider info on current home remodeling trends, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Top Features Requested from Residential Construction Buyers

Providing your customers with what they want is the basis for any successful business. A recent survey conducted by a leading construction industry organization can help residential construction companies achieve that goal.

residential constructionThe survey’s results, contained in the report What Home Buyers Really Want, provide detailed information on the features residential construction customers want most in a new home. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) conducted the survey and published the report.

The nationwide survey was conducted in 2012. It includes responses from four categories of new and potential home buyers: Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers and seniors. These categories represent four distinct generations of individuals with different needs in home ownership.

Respondents identified features that were considered essential in a new home, along with additional features that were desirable but not critical. They also provided responses on what features were least wanted in a new-home purchase.

Survey Says

Survey responses showed some potentially surprising results among the requirements of the four generations represented.

For example, 57 percent of respondents indicated that a laundry room was the most important feature of a new home. Millennials, Gen Xers, and seniors placed the laundry room at the top of their “most wanted” list. Baby Boomers, however, ranked a laundry room as third on the list, after Energy Star rated appliances and a whole-home Energy Star rating.

Energy efficiency ranked relatively high on the list for Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and seniors. In total, 36 percent of respondents considered Energy Star rated appliances the top priority in a new home. A total of 28 percent considered a whole-house Energy Star rating to be a must-have feature.

Surprisingly, Energy Star ratings and energy efficiency ranked low on the most-wanted list for Millennials.

Construction Monitor tracks and reports on the latest developments in the construction industry, such as housing starts, construction leads, best practices, and the latest trends. Contact us today for more information on preferences in residential construction and how your company can excel by providing residential customers with the features they want most.

Pitfalls to Avoid When Hiring Subcontractors

The skill and reliability of your subcontractors can make the difference between a profitable, trouble-free job and a major headache. By knowing how to hire good subcontractors, you can ensure you get more of the former.

How to Hire Good SubcontractorsSpotting Quality Subcontractors

Don’t rely on internet searches to find subcontractors. While that may be the fastest way to find specific types of tradespeople in your area, websites tell you little about what it’s like to work with those individuals.

Instead, tap into the construction community for references. If you need a drywall installer or a plumber, ask drywall suppliers and plumbing wholesalers if they can recommend someone. If you see construction work or renovations underway, introduce yourself to the person in charge to find out who’s doing the work and how it’s going. It’s also worth contacting your former clients to find out if they can recommend subcontractors.

Aim to collect at least three names for each trade to encourage competitive bids, and avoid depending on one subcontractor who may not always be available. Establish a pre-qualification process to speed up hiring for future projects.

Controlling Your Costs

Before you invite bids, develop a clear scope of work. This helps you avoid receiving widely divergent bids. Even so, never assume the bids you receive cover the same scope. Read each bid carefully so you know exactly what the subcontractor is offering. For instance, one bid might be cheaper than others because it doesn’t include the cost of clean up.

Low bids can be tempting, but realizing when something sounds too good to be true is an important part of knowing how to hire good subcontractors. Some subcontractors keep their bids low by cutting corners and using low-quality material, while others bid low, but find ways to raise the price later.

Be wary of subcontractors who expect a large deposit. Anything more than 10 percent upfront is worth questioning. Also, avoid those who won’t provide everything, including guarantees and payment schedules, in writing.

For more tips on how to hire good subcontractors, contact Construction Monitor.

4 Tips for Protecting Your Construction Lien

Construction liens, sometimes called mechanics liens, are important legal protections that ensure a construction company is paid for the work it performs. Dealing with construction liens can be complex, with variations in each state. In most cases, they should be handled by your company’s attorney. Here are four tips for protecting your constriction lien and ensuring that your financial interests in a construction project are protected.

dealing with construction liens1. Verify Property Ownership

Make sure to verify the owners of the property where the construction project is to take place. A good place to start is in the county’s public records department. Look for a deed that identifies the owners and clearly describes the property where you expect to be working. Double-check the contract you executed for the construction work to make sure the person you contracted with is truly the owner of the property.

2. File Appropriate Documents

File all the necessary documents for the lien, including all preliminary documents and other material required by state and local authorities. Skipping this step or missing one of these critical documents can deprive you of the protections you’re seeking and could have legal repercussions later in the process.

3. Maintain Timely Communication and Responses

When a response document is required, such as lists of suppliers and subcontractors, ensure that the response is delivered within the timeframe specified by the contract, agreement, or regulation. If the owners or other stakeholders have questions or want to contact you, get back with them as quickly as possible, or ensure that your attorney responds in a timely manner.

4. Close out the Project Properly

When construction is completed, take all the necessary actions to close out the project. This can include final agreements, inspections, indicators of satisfactory performance, and related legal documents.

Construction Monitor is a leading source for advice and industry insight to help construction companies succeed with their business. Contact us today for more information on dealing with construction liens and for suggestions on other important business protections.

Top Tips for Preventing Construction Site Theft

Preventing construction site theft will not only save you thousands of dollars, but also protect you from delays caused by missing materials and equipment, and the hassle of replacing your losses. The most effective theft-prevention methods are some of the simplest.

preventing construction site theftKnow that everything is a potential target – Copper pipes and lumber aren’t the only items thieves are eyeing. Don’t assume something won’t be stolen just because it isn’t highly valuable or it’s difficult to move. Securing not only power tools and heavy equipment, but also tile, cables and other less expensive material goes a long way toward preventing construction site theft.

Light the premises well – Your after-hours lighting should cast even illumination over the whole area, leaving no shadows for thieves to hide in. To save energy, use low-wattage lighting connected to motion sensors. Even a soft glow draws attention to suspicious activity and a light that suddenly turns on is often enough to scare away a would-be thief.

Have material delivered just in time – The sight of valuable material lying around your construction zone attracts attention from those looking for something to steal. The longer you store those materials on site, the more time thieves have to make off with them. Schedule materials to be delivered as needed and keep detailed inventory records so you notice if something goes missing.

Lock up everything – Place materials and tools in heavy-duty sheds secured with a combination of a mortise lock and a high-security hasp with a strong padlock. A simple padlock alone offers little security. Use wheel locks or immobilizers on movable equipment to make it harder to drive them away unauthorized. Secure the site’s perimeter with fencing, high-quality locks and alarms.

Get to know the neighbors – Introduce yourself to neighboring home and business owners and take time for the occasional chat. The better your rapport with them, the more likely they are to look out for your property and alert authorities when necessary. Being neighborly also cuts down on noise and dust complaints.

For more experienced-based tips on preventing construction site theft, contact us at Construction Monitor.

New Report: 2016 Construction Continues to Grow

In the last several years, US construction industry growth rates have shown a general upward trend. Thanks in part to overall economic growth, this year is shaping up to bring more of the same favorable environment for your firm.

More Residential Building

US construction industry growth ratesAccording to data from Dodge Data & Analytics, U.S. construction is set to see a gain of 6 percent over the course of the year. Certain segments of the industry are especially likely to benefit. The market for single-family homes is one of these. With mortgages easier to obtain and would-be home buyers gaining confidence, the amount spent on single-family homes is predicted to increase by 20 percent. Investments in home renovations, particularly of luxury homes, will further add to the gains you’ll see in this area.

Multifamily housing has been a booming market recently, and while growth in that market is likely to slow down some, the market will continue to advance. The expected 7 percent increase in spending on multifamily housing is still a positive even if it isn’t quite the abundance of the past few years when growth rates rose above 10 percent.

The overall trend is for the rate of expansion in the multifamily housing market to ease while growth in the single-family housing market picks up momentum.

Modest Growth in Commercial and Public Buildings

The commercial building segment is also expected to improve. Technology and finance firms are flourishing in today’s economy, and many are seeking room to expand. Their demand for office space is a large part of what’s fueling an anticipated 11 percent increase in commercial building.

In the institutional building segment, Dodge Data & Analytics figures predict a spending increase of 9 percent. Much of this comes from the increased demand for K-12 schools brought on by a recent improvement in financing options for these facilities.

Public works, on the other hand, aren’t fairing so well, and little growth will be seen in the coming year outside of environmental public works, such as water treatment facilities.

To find out about US construction industry growth rates in more detail, contact Construction Monitor.

The Evolution of Cement Use in Construction

cement use in constructionCement is such a ubiquitous building material that we tend to take its current form for granted. Yet cement use in construction has a history dating back thousands of years, and in that time the material has undergone numerous changes and improvements. Today, cement continues to evolve for the better.

The Origins of Modern Cement

Cement was produced in many ancient societies using locally available natural materials. Egyptians used gypsum, while the Greeks and Romans blended limestone with sand to make their cement. The Romans eventually discovered they could change the properties of their cement by adding other materials. One of these materials was volcanic ash known as pozzolana. The addition of this ash created a cement that could set under water, making it useful for building harbors. In fact, concrete made from this cement resists salt water better than today’s concrete.

The most common cement used today, Portland cement, came from a different source. Portland cement evolved from the cements used in Britain in the mid-19th century.

The Future of Cement Use in Construction

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a way to make Portland-cement concrete both more durable and more eco-friendly.

The conventional cement formula uses between 1.2 to 2.2 parts of calcium for every 1 part of silica, but 1.7 parts of calcium is the standard. MIT researchers found that decreasing the calcium content to 1.5 doubles the resulting concrete’s resistance to cracks.

Better yet, switching to a cement formula that uses 1.5 parts calcium could reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that come from cement production by up to 60 percent. That’s no small improvement, considering the cement industry alone is responsible for some 5 to 10 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide production.

A more durable cement also means less concrete will be needed to repair and replace damaged structures, further reducing cement production’s environmental impact. Although this new formula performs well in the laboratory, it remains to be tested in real-world applications.

To stay on top of recent developments in cement use in construction, contact us at Construction Monitor.

How Your Builders can Build Stronger, More Sustainable Homes

Along with energy efficiency, the strength and stability of a new home are among its most important characteristics. A sturdy, well-built home lasts longer without the need for substantial repairs or renovations. It also offers a more sustainable structure that can reduce the overall demand for building materials and energy. The following is a brief introduction to how builders can build stronger, more sustainable homes.

steel frame
Source: iStock.com/levkr

  • Use steel frames: When constructing a strong and sturdy home, it is often better to use steel framing instead of wood. Although wood is a traditional material in house construction, steel offers greater strength and durability for a home’s frame while being almost as versatile and adaptable as wood. Steel also lasts much longer than wood in a construction project. Steel framing provides benefits that wood framing cannot match, such as lack of warping or shrinking. Steel also cannot be affected by termites, moisture, or other natural factors that can severely damage wood frames.
  • Apply structural panels: Many past home construction projects left openings in the structure’s walls for the installation of insulation, usually fiberglass blanket insulation. While this insulation is effective, it does not offer any boost to the strength of the home. Structural panels are designed to fill in the same space while creating additional support for the home’s walls and ceiling. The rigid foam construction of structural panels provides excellent insulating properties while adding to the home’s durability.
  • Use modular construction: Construction projects have long been controlled by what happens on the construction site, with last-minute alterations being made as the building is put together in the field. Modular construction allows for particular segments of the home to be built beforehand in a factory or workshop environment. Modular construction is often controlled by computers and can be monitored carefully to ensure all specifications are met.

Construction Monitor provides professionals with the most accurate and recent information on industry developments, including building permits issued, housing starts, and important trends. Contact us today for more information on how builders can build stronger homes that will last for years without the need for major repairs or renovations.

How Contractors are Embracing Solar Energy Nationwide

Interest in solar energy continues to grow throughout the United States, and in response, many contractors are making solar power systems available in their design and construction projects. Advances in solar equipment and the positive response to this efficient and sustainable energy source show how contractors can use solar energy to improve business while providing green services to their clients.

solar panels
Source: iStock.com/zstockphotos

Both commercial and residential construction can benefit from the inclusion of solar panels in the building’s design. At one time considered an add-on that might be incorporated after the building was completed, solar energy equipment is becoming more accepted as a standard part of new construction.

Reporter Adam Groff, in an article on the Construction Global website, reports information from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that identifies a 34 percent increase in solar power usage in the United States from 2013 to 2014.

Groff also noted that the SEIA reports a total of 650,000 residential and commercial solar installations in the United States, with almost 200,000 new installations made in 2014. The solar power systems produce more than 20,000 megawatts of energy, which can provide enough power for more than 4 million homes.

Solar power can typically slash a home’s energy requirements by a substantial percentage. In some cases, solar energy systems can produce all the electrical energy a home needs while leaving excess energy that can be sold to local utility companies.

Commercial and institutional use of solar energy installations is also increasing, Groff reported. Business and institutions that require large amounts of energy can benefit significantly from solar power systems that reduce costs and provide a steady supply of power. Three of the most common applications are in:

  • Offices
  • Schools
  • Hospitals

Rooftop installations of solar panels are the most common type of solar power systems in these facilities.

Construction industry professionals turn to Construction Monitor for the most up-to-date information on construction trends and developments around the country. Contact us today for more information on how contractors can use solar energy as a benefit for their customers and as a way to increase business and overall profits.

The Fastest Growing U.S. Cities of 2015 — Where Construction Is Booming

fastest growing U.S. citiesConstruction trends in 2014 and early 2015 indicate that the industry is continuing to expand after taking a significant hit from the U.S. economic recession of 2007 to 2009. Commercial, residential and industrial construction are showing significant increases, while investments in infrastructure are prompting growth in several regions. Industry analysts continue to expect significant growth in the construction sector throughout 2015 and beyond. The following are some of the fastest growing U.S. cities where construction is increasing and industry-related firms could see significant growth in revenue.
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