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Don’t Try to DIY: When to Hire a General Contractor for Your Home Improvement Project

August 25th, 2022 |

You’d like to update and upgrade your investment property, but you also want to save time and money. Doing the project yourself may seem like a good idea, but there are many reasons for hiring a general contractor. Read on to learn why professional general contracting experience is necessary for renovation projects.

 Saves You Time

A home improvement project can quickly eat up your time if you do the project yourself. Think of the hours it takes to hire and oversee subcontractors, buy supplies and apply for permits. If you DIY the project, you’ll have to take time away from your family, your free time, and even your job. Plus, there can be unpleasant surprises like realizing you ordered materials too late.

A general contractor, however, works full-time on construction projects. With years of experience, they are familiar with the workflow of a renovation project and know how to use time efficiently. They know when to order materials and when to obtain permits. They have learned how much lead time to allow when scheduling subcontractors for project phases. General contractors earn their living working on projects like yours so that you have time for things that are important to you. 

Saves You Money

Hiring a general contractor is less expensive overall that doing the work yourself. A general contractor typically has developed relationships with a network of suppliers, subcontractors and other professionals. The result is the ability to negotiate discounted prices that would otherwise not be available to you. 

For example, you would probably buy materials for your renovation project at a local home improvement store or lumberyard. You would buy the quantity you need for your project and pay the usual retail price. On the other hand, a general contractor could buy materials in bulk for several projects and pay a discounted price. 

At first, DIY may seem like a way to cut down on expenses. When you factor in a professional’s ability to buy in bulk and get discounts, hiring a general contractor saves you money. Even cosmetic work, such as interior painting, can be more expensive when you DIY because you’ll pay full price for supplies. 

Less Risk

Some renovation tasks are dangerous and must be left to licensed professionals. Improper electrical installation, for example, can result in a serious injury or fire. Incorrectly installed plumbing can lead to costly property damage. Qualified professionals know how to complete the work safely and ensure the result is up to building code standards.  

Work that should be left to professional contractors include 

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing 
  • Supporting wall removal
  • HVAC  
  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Foundation  

Licensed professionals also know the best risk management practices and must carry insurance. If you do the work yourself, you may not know the safest way to complete the task. You could end up with costly property damage or injuries to yourself or others. 

Hiring a general contractor is the first step in a successful renovation project. The professionals at RH Blanchard have the general contracting experience you can trust. Get in touch today so we can help you get started.

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What Is the Average Cost of Bathroom Cabinets?

August 2nd, 2022 |

New bathroom cabinets can spruce up your investment property. Whether prefabricated or custom-built, the cost depends on a variety of factors. The following sections explain the average cost of bathroom cabinets.

Prefabricated Bathroom Cabinets 

Sold in big box stores, prefabricated cabinets are available in many different styles. You can find models in various sizes and materials, from vanities to medicine cabinets. Below are examples of the average cost of prefabricated bathroom cabinets. 

Vanity 

The general price range for a single-sink prefabricated bathroom vanity is $200 to $800. However, size and materials affect the price, with a 6-foot single vanity costing from $800 to $2100.  

The countertop is an important factor in the price of a pre-made bathroom vanity. Most prefabricated models come with a countertop, but you may have to buy the countertop separately. The price varies depending on the material. For example, granite costs as little as $5 to $60 per square foot, while quartz costs about $75.  

Wall-Mount 

Some prefabricated bathroom cabinets are designed to be mounted on the wall. These models provide storage without using floor space. Size, as well as the quality of materials, determine the cost. Pre-made wall-mounted cabinets range from $25 for economy models to $300 for better quality cabinets. 

Medicine Cabinet 

Medicine cabinets have a wide price range, depending on size and materials. Economical, recessed or surface-mounted models cost $15 to $100 and are usually made of plastic or stainless steel. More stylish options of higher grade materials run from $500 to $1200. Larger, designer-grade cabinets come with higher price tags, up to $6000 or more. Higher-priced models may include additional features such as lighting and electrical outlets.

Stand-Alone  

Pre-made, stand-alone models have a wide price range. Many variables can determine the price, such as the number of doors and drawers. Depending on the size and materials, the cost can be as little as $40 or as much as $500.

Custom Bathroom Cabinets

Custom-made bathroom cabinets have a variety of cost factors, including materials, size and construction. The price typically runs from $75 to $250 per square foot. Finish work can cost an additional $50 to $100 per linear foot. For 20 to 40 square feet of master bath cabinets, the price can range from  $700 to $7000.

For example, a professional cabinetmaker can charge $500 to $2800 to build a custom vanity. That price includes materials for the countertop, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $135 per square foot.  

Bathroom Cabinet Installation Cost

The cost of professional cabinet installation depends on the complexity of the project. Does the project involve intricate shapes and cuts? Will a wall have to be removed?  

The average installation cost can run from $200 to $1000. If a new water line and drain is required for a vanity, be prepared to pay an additional $45 to $200 per hour for a plumber. Installing a pre-made vanity typically costs $300 to $500.

Whether replacing a one-sink vanity or reconfiguring a master bathroom suite, RH Blanchard has the expertise for your Boston-area general contracting needs. Contact us today for a free quote.

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Sustainable Building Materials: How to Use These in Your Next Renovation

July 14th, 2022 |

When it’s time to renovate your investment property, consider using sustainable building materials. Besides protecting the environment and saving energy, going green can improve the resale value of your property by an average of 8 percent. Here are some eco-friendly examples. 

Solar Panels

A well-known sustainable building material, solar panels help keep electric bills down while using a renewable resource. The United States Energy Information Agency predicts that in 2022, solar power will account for nearly half of the new electric generating capacity in the US. Over the years, solar panels have become more aesthetically appealing and can be installed on a roof or in the yard. If you opt for rooftop solar panels, consider installing galvanized roof hatches for easy access.

Composite Roofing Shingles

If you’re looking for sustainable building materials that help save energy and need little maintenance, consider composite roofing shingles. Asphalt shingles and roof shakes tend to crack and fade, allowing air to enter the building and driving up energy costs. Composite roofing shingles, on the other hand, are a durable option that helps reduce heating and cooling costs. Plus, you’ll save money on repairs with this long-lasting material. 

Bamboo Flooring

Bamboo is a highly sustainable material that is usually more affordable than traditional hardwood flooring. It’s suitable for any area where you would use hardwood flooring, from living rooms to mudrooms. Even better, it has a rapid harvest cycle of three years compared to about 25 years for most hardwoods. When you choose bamboo flooring, you are helping to preserve forests by giving trees a chance to grow back. 

Smart Glass Windows

Smart glass windows adapt to seasonal temperature changes to help reduce energy use. For example, the glass becomes transparent in the winter to allow the sunlight to get through and aid in heating. In the summer, the glass turns translucent to keep out heat and reduce air conditioner use. The result is lower electric bills and a more comfortable building interior.

Hemp Insulation

Legally grown in the United States since 2014, industrial hemp is one of the most sustainable building materials. Hemp insulation is a sustainable, natural alternative to fiberglass and foam that does not contain toxic binding chemicals. Hemp also grows fast, improves soil health, and does not require the use of pesticides. Usually sold in batts, it is easily compressed and beats the industry standard R-value for the coldest zone in the United States. 

Insulated Concrete Framing

Insulated concrete framing (ICF) is another energy-saving building material. Unlike wood panels that can crack, ICF provides an airtight layer that prevents moisture and air transfer. It also stores heat and helps prevent temperature fluctuations throughout the day and night. Besides sustainability, ICF is a durable, fire-resistant material that helps keep out noise.

The experienced professionals at RH Blanchard are ready to make your Boston-area sustainable renovation happen. Let us be your go-to general contracting team, from project development to remodeling and finishing. Get in touch with us today for a free quote.

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When Is the Right Time to Renovate Your Investment Property?

July 7th, 2022 |

A building renovation can be exciting and disruptive at the same time. Whether a commercial building or a rental home, the project needs to go smoothly. So when is the right time to renovate your investment property? Here are some tips for the best times to schedule your building renovation.

Before You Rent

After you buy a rental property, check for areas that need repairs or upgrades. Now is the time for a fresh coat of paint or new flooring. When you’re ready to rent, you want prospective tenants to see clean, hard surface floors, not worn or stained carpeting. Replace appliances that are 20 years old or more. Make changes that will show renters that the property is well-maintained and up-to-date. 

Between Tenants

Take advantage of the transition period between one tenant leaving and a new tenant arriving. Consider any improvements that will let you charge higher rent and possibly increase your return on investment (ROI). Have you been wanting to replace that tired kitchen linoleum with tile or bamboo? Maybe it’s time to upgrade appliances. 

As soon as you find out that a tenant is leaving, contact any contractors you plan to hire. The sooner you can schedule the building renovation, the sooner you’ll be able to rent the property again. 

When the Property Needs Repairs 

Maybe your investment property needs some urgent repairs. If your property needs new plumbing, for example, your drywall will need replacing anyway. You might as well schedule that remodel you’ve been considering simultaneously. For an extensive renovation, it’s a good idea to hire a general contractor to coordinate subcontractors and keep the project on schedule.  

During Slow Business Periods 

If you’re planning on a commercial building renovation, it’s best to schedule the project during a slow business period. If your tenant is an accountant, for example, plan the renovation after the tax-filing season has ended. For a florist shop, don’t schedule the project the week before Valentine’s Day. During a busy time of year, you don’t want the office torn apart or the store temporarily closed.

When you schedule a commercial property renovation, the business should be able to operate during the project. This can require temporarily leasing office space, which can take months to secure. Make sure you allow enough time for the business to relocate, if necessary temporarily.

Before You Sell the Property

Maybe you’re ready to sell an investment property you’ve owned for years. When you list your property, you want it to look fresh and up-to-date. Your real estate agent can help you decide what renovations are needed to improve the resale value of your property. Whether you’re considering new windows or an extra bathroom, consult a general contractor well before you want to begin the project.

RH Blanchard has been providing Boston-area investment property owners with general contracting services for more than a decade. Our experienced team will manage your renovation project and get your property in shape. We’re happy to provide a free quote, so contact us today!

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5 Common Building Construction Delays (and How to Avoid Them!)

June 13th, 2022 |

Many factors and considerations go into planning a construction project. As a property investor, you want your remodel or renovation project to stay on schedule and on budget. Some potential construction delays, such as holidays, can be anticipated. But what about weather conditions and other unforeseen problems? The following post looks at common construction delays and how to avoid them.

1. Scheduling Gaps

Scheduling gaps can cause construction delays for a variety of reasons. For example, an electrician may run into a problem that causes setbacks for other subcontractors. You may even have to wait a month or more just to have your first meeting with an architect or designer. Then there are wait times for bidding and ordering materials 

That’s why it’s a good idea to schedule contractors at least three months in advance. Also, extra time should be built into the project timeline to allow for unforeseen setbacks and delays.  

2. Design Flaws

Sometimes a general contractor will discover a design flaw after the construction phase has begun. It may take an experienced contractor’s eye to discover a structural flaw, even after the blueprints are complete and approved. Needless to say, a flaw in the design itself can cause major delays and cost overruns, especially if part of the project must be dismantled and rebuilt.

One way to avoid such delays is to hire a general contracting company that includes in-house design and other pre-construction services. When stakeholders work together from start to finish, issues are resolved before they cause delays. 

3. Weather Problems

Weather conditions are beyond anyone’s control, but there are ways to avoid weather-related construction delays. If inclement weather prevents completion of outdoor work, for example, work can begin on indoor parts of the project.  

Weather can cause many types of construction delays. Muddy conditions may prevent operation of heavy equipment. Hazardous roads may prevent workers from driving to the project site. Shipping delays may cause materials to arrive late. Extra time should be built into the project schedule to prevent disruption from weather delays. 

4. Holidays and Vacations  

Of course, time off for holidays should be factored into the project timeline. Buffer time for major holidays and vacations can be worked into the schedule in advance. However, it’s also important to keep the lines of communication open during holidays. If you are on vacation, the project team should be able to contact you to help resolve any problems that could cause delays. 

5. Overbooked Subcontractors  

An experienced general contractor will have a long-standing network of reliable subcontractors. Unfortunately, some less reliable subcontractors will overbook their workers. Eventually, work on one project suffers while overextended workers are catching up on another project.  

You can prevent this type of delay by hiring an established general contractor who has built relationships with dependable subcontractors. Through years of experience, the general contractor will know which subcontractors will keep your project on schedule. 

For more than a decade, RH Blanchard has been providing general contracting and project development services to Boston-area property investors. Get in touch today for your free quote.

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What Is a LEED Certified Building?

June 8th, 2022 |

The most widely recognized green building certification system in the world, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Read the following overview of the LEED-certified building process and learn why it’s important for sustainability.

Green Building Concept

The green building concept acknowledges that buildings can have positive and negative effects on human occupants as well as the natural environment. It covers all building project phases, including planning, design, construction, demolition, and operations. Based on timeless design principles of economy, utility, durability, and comfort, green building considers the following factors: 

  • Energy and water use
  • Indoor environmental quality 
  • Building materials
  • Site and location impact on the community  

Using green building principles, project teams can work toward meeting LEED certification requirements. 

LEED Project Rating Systems

Before a leed-certified building project begins, the project team must choose a relevant LEED rating system based on the scope of the project. Rating systems include:  

  • LEED Building Design and Construction 
  • LEED for Interior Design and Construction 
  • LEED for Operations and Management  

Each rating system can be adapted to a specific type of project, such as schools, warehouses, and multifamily residential. Once the project team confirms that the project meets the requirements and prerequisites for the chosen rating system, it’s time to develop a certification strategy. 

LEED Building Certification Strategy

Next, the project team decides what certification credits to pursue. The team will probably develop two certification strategies: 

  • Ideal case — the project meets all desired credit requirements for LEED certification.
  • Minimum care — the project meets requirements for 40 points, which is the minimum requirement for certification.

Resources are available to help project teams develop certification strategies, including  

  • LEED Scorecard — Helps teams develop environmental and financial goals for their project.
  • LEED Credit Library — Provides information on documentation and other strategies for obtaining credits.
  • United States Green Building Council (USGBC) People Directory — Helps teams find general contracting professionals and other experts for their projects.
  • USGBC Project Directory — Provides insights into similar LEED building certification projects.

How LEED-Certified Buildings Help Sustainability 

Green building and LEED certification can help project teams and communities reach sustainability goals. In fact, LEED certification incorporates the three pillars of sustainability: 

  • People
  • Planet
  • Prosperity  

LEED buildings have a positive impact on all three pillars. For example, green buildings are designed to have cleaner indoor air, which has a beneficial effect on people’s well-being. LEED-certified buildings often use alternative energy, such as solar or biomass power, which has a positive effect on the environment. By 2030, green buildings are expected to divert up to 540 million tons of waste from landfills. 

Finally, green buildings contribute to prosperity in many ways and can be a valuable option for investment property owners. Examples include reducing energy use by 30 to 60 percent and increasing home sale prices by as much as 9 percent. Research shows that existing green homes sell for up to 30 percent more than conventional homes. 

Are you ready to begin the LEED-certified building process for your Boston-area investment property? Contact the experienced general contracting team at RH Blanchard for a free quote.

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Post-Construction: What to Expect After a Construction Project

May 13th, 2022 |

The post-construction phase is a crucial stage of a construction project. As an investment property owner, you will have an opportunity to confirm that the contract terms were fulfilled. You’ll also learn about the care and mechanics of the building, obtain relevant paperwork and address any concerns. Read on to find out more about the post-construction process.

Walkthrough and Punch List

Before the contractor wraps up the project and hands you the keys, you will complete a walkthrough of the building. This is your opportunity to examine the building and make sure that the contract terms have been fulfilled. Make a list of items that need attention. The contractor will do another walkthrough with you and make a punch list of items that need to be addressed. 

Final Walkthrough and Paperwork

After the items on the punch list have been addressed, you will do a final walkthrough with the contractor. If the completed project meets your approval, the contractor will give you the keys to the building. You should also receive a binder containing warranties and other relevant paperwork. 

Certificate of Substantial Completion  

You will then hear from the architect, who will ask if any problems need resolving. If you are satisfied with the completion of the project and the fulfillment of the contract, the architect will issue a certificate of substantial completion.  

Certificate of Occupancy

Once the certificate of substantial completion has been issued, it’s time for a local government inspection. If the building passes inspection, the inspector will issue a certificate of occupancy. As a property investor, you will need this post-construction document as proof of the following:

  • Building class, such as single family, multi-family, commercial or mixed use properly.
  • The structure is suitable for occupancy.
  • The structure complies with housing and building standards and codes.

Operations Manuals and Training

After the project is completed, the contractor will give you an operations manual and schematics for the building. This paperwork includes blueprints that the contractor used during the project, as well as information about the mechanics of the building. 

In addition to the operations manual, you should receive any training necessary for the care of equipment n the building. It’s important to have training and written instructions to ensure that you have a clear and consistent understanding of operations..

Post-Construction Follow-Ups

You should also have follow-up visits with the contractor to address any issues that may come up. Problems should be addressed promptly according to the warranties in the paperwork binder you received from your contractor.  

An important part of general contracting work is post-construction follow-ups. Your contractor should communicate with you periodically over the two years following project completion. These check-ins let you ask questions or address concerns and allow the contractor to anticipate future needs. For example, you could discuss remodeling or renovations that may take place at a later date. 

From planning to post-construction, RH Blanchard is ready to help with your general contracting needs. Contact us for a free quote.

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5 Tips for Buying Your First Rental Property

May 9th, 2022 |

Buying your first rental property can be exciting as well as stressful. There are many factors to consider, from hiring a real estate agent to applying for a loan pre-approval. This blog post provides a helpful overview for first-time rental property buyers. 

1. Hire a Real Estate Agent or Attorney

A real estate agent or attorney is indispensable when buying your first rental property investment. It’s important to have a qualified professional in your corner. You will need an experienced professional working for you and representing your interests. A realty agent or lawyer knows how to negotiate prices or spot potential problems. 

Also, make sure that the person you hire has expertise in the type of property you plan to buy. For example, if you are investing in an office building, you’ll want to hire an agent who specializes in commercial property rather than a standard home realty agent. 

2. Get Loan Pre-Approval

An important step in buying your first rental property is obtaining a loan pre-approval. Pre-approval for an investment property loan demonstrates to the seller that you are serious about buying their property. It also helps you set a budget and understand what types of investment properties you can buy. Before you apply, take steps to improve your chances of pre-approval: 

  • Save for the down payment 
  • Have a credit score of at least 680
  • Maintain a low debt to income ratio
  • Have cash available for six months of expenses 
  • Be able to prove your job history or income

3. Research Rental Markets 

With the help of your real estate agent or attorney, research different areas to look for strong rental markets. For example, population growth often creates a flooded rental housing market and increases demand for rentals. Other factors to consider in your research include 

  • Job growth that expands the housing and commercial property markets
  • Local crime rate
  • Average household income
  • School district 
  • Average price of similar properties in the neighborhood  

4. Get Relevant Inspections

Before you sign on the dotted line, have the property inspected. It may be tempting to waive inspections to save money, but you may end up regretting the waiver. An inspection discovers problems with the property that may give you leverage when negotiating. You may want certain issues to be repaired before you buy the property. Or you may be able to use the inspection results to negotiate a reduced price. 

5. Hire a General Contractor to Get the Property in Shape

You may want to make some changes to your newly purchased rental property. It is best to avoid buying a “fixer-upper,” but you may want to add upgrades or other renovations to add value to the property. When buying your first rental property, your best bet is to hire a general contractor for a remodeling project. 

A general contractor has the necessary experience and expertise to hire qualified subcontractors, obtain permits, find the best materials for the job and carry out other relevant tasks. Boston-area rental property owners can rely on the general contracting experts at RH Blanchard. Get in touch for a free quote.

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A Guide to Pre-Construction Services

April 21st, 2022 |

Pre-construction services help ensure that your renovation project stays on budget and on schedule. From creating a building model to estimating costs, important work must be done before construction begins. If you are planning to update your investment property, a construction manager can coordinate pre-construction services. 

Analyzing Existing Conditions  

Before any renovation work begins, the condition of the existing structure should be analyzed. Material strength, structural integrity, piping, and other elements must be considered. This pre-construction service is essential for determining the extent of work that is needed for the remodel, as well as avoiding costly surprises. 

Building Model 

Software can be used to create a 3-D model that can help you visualize the completed project. Building information modeling (BIM) software can simulate every phase of the project lifecycle. This technology is a helpful tool for making decisions about design, construction, electrical and plumbing systems, and other factors. BIM can help stakeholders foresee potential issues before they become costly problems.

Cost Estimate

 The cost estimate is based on how much the completed renovation project will cost, as well as issues that may come up during the project. It’s a good idea to get two or three estimates for your project. Items that go into the cost estimate include: 

  • Labor
  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Subcontractors 
  • Permits

It’s important to have a skilled and experienced estimator create the cost estimate. They will know which relevant factors to consider, such as market conditions, when figuring the estimate.  

Scheduling and Logistics

Scheduling a construction project involves a wide range of logistical considerations and is one of the most complex pre-construction services. It’s important to have an experienced construction manager on your team to develop a project timeline. Bid releases, permits, meetings, and inspections are just some of the elements that must be coordinated. It is especially important to factor in the permit application process, which must go through the proper federal, state, and local agencies. 

Bid Packaging

At this stage, bids will be developed based on the scope of the project. The construction manager will make sure that all contractors, subcontractors, and vendors have accurate information about the project. Factors such as existing site conditions, design variables, and project timeline are important considerations when developing a bid. The construction manager will review bids with you for your approval.

Material and Labor Procurement  

Obtaining the necessary materials and hiring skilled subcontractors is a crucial pre-construction service. A construction manager must be knowledgeable about building materials and prices and must have a readily accessible network of construction professionals and subcontractors. They should have a well-vetted list of suppliers and professionals with proven reliability. The goal of this pre-construction service is to obtain the best quality possible within the project budget.

Hire Experienced Construction Professionals  

Your investment property deserves top-quality workmanship, from pre-construction services to project completion. At RH Blanchard, our team has more than a decade of experience in general contracting and project management. If you’re ready to update your Boston-area investment property, get in touch today for a free quote.

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