In The Design Studio: Tips For Selecting a Contractor

This is a sponsored post by Anna Gibson, owner of AKG Design Studio and an award-winning, certified kitchen and bathroom designer. AKG Design Studio is a boutique design firm specializing in kitchen, bathroom designs and cabinetry sales. Contact Anna at 571-989-2541 or [email protected], and follow her work on HouzzPinterestFacebook and Twitter.

When picking a contractor, it can be difficult to know where to begin, whom to interview and finally who to hire. Here is a list of my top tips and things to look for when you are selecting your contractor.

References: Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for references. You will get the best references from these people and you may be able to see the contractor’s work before speaking with them.

Verify Your Contractor: When hiring a contractor, you want to use your inquiry skills. Verify your contractor’s quality of his work and lines of communication. Keeping lines of communication open will help reduce the stress. You will know how your project is progressing and what are the next steps are.

Interview A Few Contractors: It might be seem a bit time consuming, but we recommend interviewing a few contractors. You want to make sure that while they are in your home, they will “fit” in.

Licensed, Insured, Bonded:  Check all of your contractor’s credentials and verify their insurance coverage. It is also a good idea to know what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance and what your contractor’s business insurance covers. Ask your contractor to submit a Certificate of Insurance when you hire them with your name and address on it.

Talk About Repairs: Check with your Contractor for what kind of warranty they offer on their labor. Make sure what they will and will not do is in your contract when it comes to repairs and if anything changes from the original contract, try to get that in writing too.

Assume Nothing: You will want to get all the details of your agreement in writing, down to the last wall plate. This is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Don’t Let The Price Be Your Decision Maker: The saying, “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to contractors. The price of a service reflects quality. Sometimes, the better deal is more expansive in the long run, because the cheaper contractor could take longer, “forget” to finish, or will require avoidable repairs later. Someone who is well established and has quality work may seem like more money up front, but will be less costly in headaches and aggravation latter. We believe that’s priceless.

Be Upfront About Your Home Improvement Budget: You will save yourself and your contractors much time by being completely honest about your budget. It does not benefit you or your contractor to hire someone you can not afford.

The Deposit: Never pay more than 50% off the total price for a deposit.

The Bill: When paying the final bill, know that your job is not complete until all building inspections are satisfied by the proper authorities and yourself. Once inspections are passed and you are satisfied with the work, sign the certificate of completion. Once that is signed, pay your final bill.


Weekend Discussion

As the year winds to a close, we wish you a happy December 1. Here are our most read stories this week:

  1. Fairfax Police Investigate Stabbing of Juvenile in Hunters Woods Plaza
  2. Tuesday Morning Notes
  3. Bozzuto’s New Aperture Apartments at Reston Station Fill ‘Decades-Old Gap’
  4. Afghan Restaurant Coming to Plaza America in Reston
  5. Plan to Bring Assisted Living Facility to Sunrise Valley Drive Moves Forward

Feel free to discuss anything of local interest below or send story ideas to [email protected].

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Have a great weekend!


‘Jingle on Lake’ Set for Tomorrow at Lake Anne

Lake Anne Plaza is gearing up for the annual “Jingle on Lake Anne” this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The program includes a variety of festivities, including strolling carolers, a petting zoo, music, wine tastings and cookie decorating. The event is hosted by Lake Anne Merchants.

The schedule is as follows:

  • 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Craft Market
  • 10 a.m. – noon – Cookie & Kid Crafts
  • 11 a.m. -1 p.m. – Elementary School Choruses
  • Noon-2 p.m. – Santa arrives with Paddleboards
  • 2 p.m.– Close: “Pop-up” Bar
  • 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Live Music on Plaza

For more information, visit the festival’s website.


What’s Going On Around Reston This Weekend?  

Editor’s Note: This is just a limited list of all the events taking place in the Reston area this weekend. If you have an event you would like to ensure is listed on the website, be sure to submit it to our Events Calendar. Know of other events in the area? Comment below.

  • More than 50 artists will transform the Greater Reston Arts Center into a working art station at the center’s “Monster Drawing Rally” on Saturday from 1 – 5:30 p.m. Artists will turn GRACE’s gallery into a public performance theater by creating artwork on-site using various media. Audience members can purchase artwork for $75 per piece as it is created.
  • Sue Fliess will read and sing her new book “We Wish for a Monster Christmas!” at Scrawl Books (11862 Market St.) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event includes monster coloring.
  • Enjoy holiday performances at The Promenade in Reston Town Center this weekend. On Saturday, Tenor Timor McKee will perform at 2 p.m. Guitarist Eric Waters will perform at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Experience a horse-drawn carriage ride on Saturday between 4 and 9 p.m. The cost is $5 per person. Carriages will depart from Mark Street near Clyde’s.
  • The Reston Farmers Market will take place from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday at Lake Anne Village Center.
  • Terry Tempest Williams, an environmental activist, will speak about America’s national parks at CenterStage (2310 Colts Neck Road) on Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m. Williams is the author of the book, “The House of Land: A Personal Typography of America’s National Parks.”
  • On Saturday, shop at ‘Gifts from the HeART,’ an event at Reston Community Center where the building will become a festive marketplace of food and gifts. Original artwork will be available for purchase. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Make winter wreaths at the Walker Nature Center on Saturday from 10:30 to noon. All ages are welcome. Registration is $25 per person.
  • Take a chartered bust rip to Constitution Hall for the Holiday Music Festival to enjoy sounds of the holiday season on Sunday. All ages are welcome. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Buses will leave at 1:15 p.m. at Hunters Woods Shopping Center and 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Lake Anne Plaza.
  • At Frying Pan Farm Park on Saturday, staff will be available to help children and young adults between the ages of 3 and 16 to shop in the park’s country store, which has a wide selection of unusual gifts for a child-sized budget. To register for a half-hour shopping trip, visit the park’s website. Adults must wait on the site. The cost is $2 per child.
  • Participate in country western dance at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods on Sunday from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided. Tickets are $5 for Reston residents and $10 for all others.
  • Enjoy a mini-train ride on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Trains will leave from Market Street near Clyde’s. Proceeds will benefit Friends of Reston.
  • The Walker Nature Center will host an open house on Sunday from 1 – 3 p.m. The open house includes refreshments, live holiday music and ornament-making. No registration is required.
  • Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon will host a Hanukkah boutique on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Participate in a “Menorah Magic” workshop at Reston’s Home Depot (1651 Reston Parkway) on Sunday. Shifts run between 3:30 and 4:15 p.m. and between 4:30 and 5:15 p.m.
  • The Lake House will also have an open house on Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • Celebrate the holiday season with Santa at Frying Pan Farm Park on Sunday. One-hour programs include cookie decorating, games, and letter-writing to Santa. Programs begin at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is $8 per person. Children must be accompanied by a registered adult. Register online.

Proposed Assisted Living Facility on Sunrise Valley Drive Draws Opposition

A plan to bring an assisted-living facility to11501 Sunrise Valley Drive continued to draw ire from nearby residents Thursday night.

At a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission, residents argued the 70-unit building, which would replace Good Beginnings School, a childcare facility, was incompatible with the surrounding residential area south of Sunrise Valley Drive.

The proposal by Kensington Senior Development calls for a two-to-three story building roughly 65,000 square feet — more than eight times larger than the current structure. The plan also includes a parking garage.

The developer’s representative, Mark Looney of Cooley LLP, said the developer scaled back the plan significantly after several iterations with Reston’s Design Review Board earlier this year. The latest plan reduces the overall mass of the project from 91,000 to 65,000 square feet, including a reduction of 21 units and 34 beds, attempts to create a more residential-style building and eliminates one floor of the building, he said.

Despite these revisions, residents said the project was too large and too overwhelming for the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive, an area they said was intended to remain largely residential and offer a hard break between high-intensity, high-density land uses in other parts of the community.

Jane Anthony, a resident of the Wethersfield Cluster since the late 1970s, said the project was more appropriate for the Dulles Toll Road Corridor where it would not “disturb the peace” of a long-standing residential community and infringe on the privacy of a commercial convenience center near the site.

“It is shoehorned into a very small area… growth is good but not at the expense of the quality of life of residents,” she said.

Others said the project did provide adequate buffering between a townhouse community on Approach Lane that faces the site. Lynwood Patin, a resident who testified in opposition to the plan, said the plan was “intimidating and overbearing,” providing clear “visual access over privacy fences on Approach Lane.”

Looney, however, said residents have not yet accepted the developer’s offer to enhance landscaping and buffering on the street opposite of the site. He also said the privacy concern “works both ways” for nearby residents and those in the living facility.

“The applicant wants to be a good long-term neighbor to them,” he said.

Others like Stephen Cerny, president of the Wethersfield Cluster Association, said the project wholly violated the spirit of Reston’s Master Plan by overwhelming a small site in an area that he said was intended to remain a “status quo” area on the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive.

James Hart, an at-large member of the committee, however, said the plan did not contain any specific guidance that the building was too large or incompatible with the area. The county’s zoning allows the developer to seek a special exception to permit a medical care facility, which is classified as an allowed institutional use, he said.

Looney also noted that the land’s by-right uses could also allow for a more intense, high-density residential development than what Kensington Senior Development has proposed.

The Planning Commission will continue to hear the case in the upcoming weeks. A decision on the petition was deferred Thursday.

Photo via handout


Friday Morning Notes

Reston Grandmother Fighting For Pay Hired After Being Fired— Swartha, Tujare, 67, lost her job as a wheelchair attendant at Dulles International Airport after she participated in a strike demanding higher wages. Huntleigh Corporation, an airport contractor, fired her; but after a settlement, agreed to give Tujare her job back along with more than $4,000 in lost wages and benefits. [WUSA 9]

Barnes & Noble Kitchen Opens in Ashburn — Four years after the closure of the Barnes & Noble in Reston, the company has opened a new location in Ashburn’s One Loudoun. The new location is a Barnes & Noble Kitchen that includes an in-house restaurant. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

A 4.1 Magnitude Earthquake Rumbles D.C. Area —  Shocks from an earthquake centered in Dover, Delaware were felt throughout the D.C. area, including Reston on Thursday. The location of the quake was near the Doer Air Force Base, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. [NBC Washington]

Gingerbread Man Race Takes Place at Reston Town Center — The 17th annual Gingerbread Man Mile took place last Friday. The event is sponsored by Potomac River and was featured by The Connection. [The Connection]


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