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The Secret to Properly Lighting Your Kitchen

In most homes, your kitchen is the Central Station of your day to day life. This is the space where you gather the troops and plan out your day, week, or month. A place where grocery lists are made, food is prepared, and meals are served. And let’s not forget about entertaining. No matter where the party begins, your guests always seem to gravitate to the kitchen.

Your kitchen is where your busy lives intersect, and as a central hub, lighting will be essential in making the most out of your space. It’s a versatile area, and for that you’ll want the kind of versatile lighting to match.  For optimal coverage, your kitchen will benefit from three different layers of lighting: ambient, task, and accent.

Ambient Lighting:

This type of lighting would be considered your “cover-all” or main source of light throughout the room. Some kitchens benefit from a large amount of natural lighting, but when evening falls, you’ll want your kitchen to thrive under a soft blanket of light. Strategic ambient lighting will you give you enough light to function in your space, without having to worry about a harsh glare. When considering how to light your kitchen, keep in mind that the higher and brighter you set your fixtures along the ceiling, the more optimal your coverage will be. Great sources of ambient lighting range from recessed lighting, hanging chandeliers, or strategically placed pendant lights.

Task Lighting:

Task lighting is a must have for a space as multi-functional and task-oriented as your kitchen. Certain areas will need a more direct, contrasting light to bring your actions into better focus, such as an island, countertops, or a stovetop. Most countertops are set underneath your cabinet space, which allows for shadows to creep in throughout the day as ambient lighting takes over for natural lighting. Adding task lighting to the underside of cabinets will help you eliminate the shadows around your kitchen, and brighten up your workspaces! You can also add task lighting under your floor cabinets or island to highlight pathways throughout your kitchen. The most common task lighting options center on strip lights or evenly spaced puck lights for cabinets, and track lights for an island.

Accent Lighting:

Accent lighting is great for highlighting key elements in your kitchen by adding your own style or using a bit of dramatic flair. Whether you want to spotlight an art piece, showcase an elegant china cabinet, or add a few wall sconces for a dramatic emphasis, this is an attractive way to feature your favorite things. Lighting a kitchen correctly will require layers, and layering accent lighting into your ambient and task lighting will only add to the welcome and appeal of your kitchen. Accent lighting around the insides of cabinets or drawers is beneficial in brightening dark corners of storage spaces, while toe kick lights are prime for emphasizing the base of floor cabinets or a outlining a center island. Accents lights will ultimately allow you to establish the perfect mood lighting for any and every occasion, no matter if that’s based on a house full of dinner guests or just a cozy night in with the family.

If you have a kitchen that is dark and difficult to to use, it might be time to consider a redesign. The team at ELM Construction LLC are exceptional at designing kitchens that are beautiful, functional, and perfectly suited to your needs. If you are ready to see your dream become a reality, contact us today for a consultation.

The Importance of Hiring a Certified Remodeler

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When you entrust your home remodeling project to ELM Construction, we want to provide you with the best value and the best experience possible. To make that happen, I've committed to subject our company to rigorous professional standards and to spend time in the classroom learning the latest industry information. The initials "CGR and CAPS" that follow my name on our company literature are evidence of that commitment.

CGR and CAPS are “designations” awarded by the University of Housing, the educational branch of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). These designations certify that the remodeler has successfully completed a particular program of study. On graduation, the remodeler is entitled to use the designation for a period of 3 years. To keep it beyond that, the contractor must provide evidence of Continuing Education in the specialty area.

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CGR, Certified Graduate Remodeler

To earn the CGR I had to first provide evidence that ELM Construction satisfies professional standards of business practice. I then completed a comprehensive education curriculum, culminating with the demonstration of my ability to manage a project competently. Required courses for this designation emphasize business and project management skills that are key to a successful remodeling operation. During the program I studied job cost procedures, accounting principles and basic contract law, as well as design, estimating and scheduling—to name a few. In addition to the course work, I had to demonstrate at least five years of experience in the industry, provide letters of recommendation, submit proof of licensing and insurance, and pledge adherence to a strict Code of Ethics (see below).

For your project to satisfy your dreams and meet the needs of your family into the future, a thousand decisions need to be made. Decisions about which products to buy, how and when they are best installed, what are the best methods of installation, and how to keep the project flowing. The training for this designation has provided me with information and a structure that helps me make good decisions on behalf of your project. The training also better positions me to advise you in the decisions you will need to make. The training has helped us develop systems that will help your project run smoothly with as little disruption as possible for you and your family. And, even years down the road, you'll still benefit from the quality built into the job and wise choices made about products and workmanship.

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CAPS, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist

The National Association of Home Builders, in partnership with the AARP and NAHB Research Center, created the CAPS program. In three days of coursework, the CAPS curriculum incorporates market demographics, communication techniques, marketing, common barriers and solutions, building codes and standards, product ideas and resources, and business management. Upon graduation, CAPS program designees are required to maintain their designation by attending continuing education programs and/or participating in community service projects.

Whether you are young or older, if you have the desire to stay in your home for many years into the future, the application of knowledge gained through the CAPS curriculum can greatly influence and be of benefit in your home remodel. You never know if while playing sports, you might break a leg and need crutches, or a relative who uses a wheelchair would want to come and visit, or a grandparent whose vision is dimming would want to play with your kids. Wouldn't it be great to have accommodations to those, and many other needs, built right into the design of your home? If it's done right, people won't even realize how accessible your home is—until it is needed. Then it will be appreciated!

As you look at our ELM Construction literature, when you see the designations CGR and CAPS following my name, be sure to realize that those initials represent a significant difference in approach that we will use on your project from most other remodelers. Even though learning through experience is valuable (and we do that), we have also invested in preparing ourselves through these formal programs that tap into the knowledge and experience of the best in the industry nationwide—all to provide you with an exceptional experience and a home that you can truly live in and be happy.

Code of Ethics (Certified Graduate Remodeler)

I Pledge:

TO CONDUCT my business affairs with professionalism and skill.

TO PROVIDE the best remodeling value possible.

TO PROTECT the consumer through the use of high quality materials and remodeling practices backed by integrity and service.

TO MEET all of my financial obligations in a responsible manner.

TO COMPLY with the spirit and letter of my business contracts, and manage all of my employees, subcontractors and suppliers with fairness and honor.

TO KEEP informed regarding public policies and other essential information, which affect my business interests and those of the building industry as a whole.

TO COMPLY with the rules and regulations prescribed by law and government agencies for the health, safety and welfare of the community.

TO PROVIDE timely response to items covered under warranty.

TO SEEK TO RESOLVE any controversy which I may become involved in through non-litigation dispute resolution mechanism.

TO NOT ATTEMPT to injure, with malicious intent, either directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice, or employment of another remodeler

TO SUPPORT and abide by the decisions of the CGR Board of Governors in promoting and enforcing the CGR designation program.

All work will meet the requirements as set forth in the “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines for Professional Builders and Remodelers.”

Historic Carriage House turned Guest House Renovation

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This historic carriage house, located behind our client’s main residence, was used during the 1940s-1950s as a servant’s house. The lower level of the building had three bedrooms to accommodate more than one servant or the servant’s family. The upper level of the house was a garage. After the 1950s the house was underutilized as a place to store musical instruments and equipment. Recently, the homeowners were inspired to create a true updated guest house to host guests for long term or the weekend.

The requirements for a historic house in Jefferson County do not demand the use of existing interior layout and materials. But even so, the homeowners wanted some of the original materials employed in the restoration of the home. In the demolition process, the entire floor was taken up and we found that the beams needed to be replaced. You can find some original floor beams repurposed into kitchen shelving in the house today. We refinished the existing doors and windows, and also kept the original counterweights, pulleys, and hardware.

The house was set up with three bedrooms, but we changed the layout to create a true guest house that is more comfortable for visitors. This updated floor plan includes one bedroom, one bathroom, and an open kitchen and living space to accommodate guests staying for a long period of time.

We were able to maintain the historical aspect of the exterior, and keep influences from historic Birmingham in the interior of this restoration and remodel of our client’s guest house. It is now a comfortable and homey place instead of a cluttered house with a limited floor plan.

If you own a historic house and are considering a remodel, contact ELM Construction today!

ELM Construction won several 2018 Alabama Remodeling Excellence Awards (AREA) for our recent projects. This competition is hosted by the HBA of Alabama Remodelers. It celebrates the best of remodeling craftsmanship, innovation, and attention to detail.

ELM is honored to be runner-up in the Historic Preservation category for this delightful Carriage House / Guest House renovation and remodel. For more photos of this project, you can visit our website.

Is It Better to Build Up or Build Out for a Home Addition?

If you have the desire to add onto your home, you are often experiencing the joys of an expanding family. Maybe you have young children and now are excited to welcome a newborn into your family. Perhaps you are planning for your college student to move back home after graduation. Or you could be preparing for your elderly parents to come live with you.

One of the questions we at ELM Construction are often asked by those considering an addition is, “which is the better choice when expanding my home: should we build up or build out?” It’s our opinion that there’s no real right or wrong in the “up vs. out” question. We think the decision has to be made on a case by case basis, and there are several factors that may come into play:

First, make a careful analysis of your home’s lot and how your home sits on the lot.

  • Discover whether it is conducive to add space onto the side or rear of your house.

  • If your house is close to the property lines or if the lot is severely sloped, it may be difficult to add onto the side or rear.

    • In this case, it makes more sense to look at staying within the existing footprint of the home and build up.

What to keep in mind when building out:

  • Will the extra space meet your needs and fit with the style of your home’s structure?

  • Are you willing to trade valuable yard space for the addition?

  • Adding onto a home requires new footings and foundations that can be quite expensive to install.

  • When excavating, there can be buried ‘surprises’ you may encounter—such as large rocks, natural springs, old septic systems, etc.

Consider these if building up makes more sense:

  • What is the purpose for the extra space?

    If you are looking to add a kitchen, it may not make a lot of sense to put it on the second floor.

  • As an alternative, it is possible to expand the existing kitchen into an adjacent room, such as a first floor bedroom. Then we could relocate the bedroom to the second floor.

It’s also important to research the following when deciding on a home addition:

  • Are there any height restrictions in your neighborhood? Many municipalities limit the heights of structures.

  • Removing or modifying your roof structure can be disruptive to your family. In most cases it will require your house to be empty during renovation.

  • Can your existing home’s structure support a second floor? Are the footings, foundations, and load bearing walls able to support the new load? This is best determined by consulting with an engineer, and that should be considered in your budget.

  • Where will the new stairs go? Do you have an area in the house that you can use for a stairwell?

  • Are there members of your family who cannot climb stairs due to disabilities? If so, you may need to install a residential elevator.

A home addition is a great option if you love your home and neighborhood, but you’re running out of space. Most often homeowners in the Birmingham area want to stay put in their home, but don’t see how to make it work.

Whether you’re looking to add on or reconfigure your home’s existing layout, we can work with you on answering all the above questions. By putting extra thought into the details early in our process, you can feel confident you have made the best decision regarding your remodeling project with very few, if any, surprises. Give us a call when you’re ready to go!

Creating an Outdoor Living Space for All Seasons

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We are excited to share with you the details of this spectacular, award-winning screened porch project that won a 2018 Alabama Remodeling Excellence Awards (AREA) in the category of Outdoor Living.

This house had a simple small back deck with old patio furniture and a faded umbrella. The homeowners wanted a screened covered porch that could be used as a place to drink coffee and host guests outside without worrying about the weather or mosquitos. The original deck had begun to show a lot of moisture damage and some rot especially along the edges. It seemed much older and more worn than the rest of the house and it also didn’t match the house.

We could have easily done a deck replacement, but the homeowner wanted a true outdoor living space with protection from all the elements. This remodel needed to match the rest of the house in style. We wanted to make this new addition look like it had been a part of the house since the beginning, while also maintaining the feel of a true outdoor living space.

The deck was replaced and expanded so that more seats and an outdoor dining table could fit comfortably. The main supports and columns were a specific size and were spaced to a certain length, not just for structural support but also for style. The column size and spacing created an interior look while the size of the screen around the columns and framing still made it an outdoor area. The combination created an atmosphere that could be enjoyed during any season and for any occasion. These homeowners actually had Thanksgiving lunch on the outside patio just after completion.


See more photos of this project in our portfolio here.