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Making Your Renovation Experience Enjoyable

DESIGNfirst Builders Blog Near Chicago, Illinois

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Enlarging Your Kitchen? 5 Times to Consider a Bump-Out Addition

Does your small kitchen need a makeover that makes it larger and more functional? While many homeowners plan an addition to expand their kitchen, not every kitchen needs a full addition. Sometimes, a bump-out addition may be a better choice. When might this limited addition benefit your home? Discover a few scenarios where the bump-out is ideal for them.

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remodeled Home office

Creating a Home Office? Consider These 3 Factors

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled an increasing number of individuals to work from home. If you count yourself among them, the stress of trying to work productively in the middle of a bustling household may have tempted you to add a new space to your home, one dedicated solely to office work.


Whether you aim to build an office onto your home or you’d rather remodel an existing room, you’ll want to make sure you’ve spent that time, money, and energy on the creation of a space that will promote mental focus, productivity, efficiency, and workplace wellness. Start with these three key considerations.

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Should You Build a Full or Partial Second Story?

Do you want to add a second story to your home? This can be one of the most fulfilling of all home additions, giving your existing house up to twice its square footage in one fell swoop. But you aren’t limited to one type of second-floor addition. Homeowners can choose either a full second story or just a partial one.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type? Learn what you need to know.


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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.

At home office

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.

The Beginning of the Beginning: What to Know About Home Remodeling

People buy homes based on location, and that’s especially true in the Chicagoland area. If the perfect house is in the wrong location, it’s not the perfect house. Many people will sacrifice what they truly want in a home in exchange for the perfect location. You shouldn’t have to settle or make your home simply “work.” You can remodel your home to suit you perfectly, and the right contracting team can help you bring your vision to life and make the process seamless and enjoyable.

Beginning new construction or an extensive home remodel should be exciting, not challenging. You have many decisions to make, and when you plan your remodel with a design in mind, your transformed home is built around that aesthetic. If it’s your first time building a home or tackling a remodeling project, here are a few things to know to prepare for the next stage and your new home.

Understand the Relationship Between Form and Function

Whether sewing clothes or building a new house, designers often face a common dilemma regarding their plans: Should they follow form or should they follow function? Traditional wisdom says that form should follow function. This means the look of something – its form – is secondary to its use – its function.

We believe in a balance between these two, and that any home can be built without sacrificing the homeowner’s vision. Here are some tips for marrying form and function during a remodel.

  • Ask questions. Our architects and designers are experts. If you like the way a design looks but are having trouble with how it may affect your daily life, explain why the design might be a challenge and ask about options.


  • Look beyond the floor model. When you find something you like, be it a chair or counter-top, don’t assume that what you see is what you’ll get. If you like the way a chair sits but the fabric is itchy, find a fabric that can suit the chair – both for its look and its texture.


  • Decide what makes you happy. Our builders know what works and our design team knows how to make it look great, but you’re the customer. Your happiness in your home is more important than meeting the latest trends. Learn what you like before your remodel, and we can work to make form and function work together.


Remember that you can enjoy all the beauty of form and all the ease of function, and that design can lead the way.

Recognize the Benefits of an All-in-One Experience

Most remodels require balancing a group of various companies to achieve the outcome you want. An architectural firm, an interior designer, and a construction company are typically involved. During a remodel, you have to locate these companies and ensure they are a fit for you. The most challenging part is making sure they work together to transform your home in the most efficient way possible, and communication is a common complaint during the typical process.

One way to avoid headaches and eliminate inefficiency is to use an all-inclusive team. Having an all-inclusive contracting, building, and design team will make the process much simpler for you as you’ll enjoy the following benefits:


  • Seamless communication. Designers, architects, and planners should be team players – they should know each other and shouldn’t have to chase another business to schedule and make plans for your home.


  • Streamlined processes. When you work with various contractors and designers, each one has a different process for completing your remodel. With all-inclusive building and design companies, the schedule is set from the top down – and everyone is on the same page from the beginning.


  • A better product. When your contractors and design/architecture team all work together, your remodel will benefit from open communication and a clear timeline. It’s bound to produce a product you are happier with because you’ve been part of the communication process all along.


With a team like DESIGNfirst, you don’t have to balance the schedules of various businesses or worry about whether one of them has communicated your ideas clearly to the next one.

Know What to Expect From a Remodel or New Construction

The home renovation process should be smooth and enjoyable. You start with a vision and then depend on the company you work with to guide you through the experience. Look for a company that provides:


  • Personalized care. The best companies assign a team to each customer. Your assigned team should help you select from the many options and finishes that your project involves. They should help you choose the right colors, pieces, and accessories that fit your overall design. That kind of care may not be an option for all businesses, but you should expect individualized attention to your unique needs. At DESIGNfirst, we assign a team to each customer.


  • Talent and experience. Anyone investing in a remodel or a new build should look at the reviews of other clients. You should also ask about experience in the trade. Not every customer review will be perfect, but there should be enough to give you an idea of how they treat their customers and how much experience they have.


  • Responsive communication. You should expect streamlined communication and prompt attention. If you don’t hear from your contractor, architect, or designer in a timely fashion, it could be a sign that they will be less communicative once your project starts.

Work With a Unique, All-Inclusive Design and Build Firm

At DESIGNfirst, we do more than build homes; we build relationships. Once we understand who you are and what you’re looking for in a remodel or custom build, we will help you achieve your vision no matter where you live in Chicago. We are innovators in home construction and remodeling, and we want to put our innovation to work for you.

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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