The $3.5 million renovation of Reston Association’s Lake Thoreau pool has hit more roadblocks, this time due to lack of contractor availability and soaring material costs.

Already three months behind initial estimates, an October groundbreaking remains the official goal, but there’s a likelihood that the date will be pushed back again.

“Due to the volatility of the construction market, narrowing down the final estimate for this project is challenging,” RA spokesperson Mike Leone told Reston Now in an email. “Assuming the timeline holds, construction would start around October but there is a possibility it could be pushed into November.”

RA recently sent out requests to 10 contractors for pre-qualifying bids on the project, but the association received only two responses.

“This is a little bit disappointing, but indicative of the market that many, many contractors are very, very busy,” Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler said at RA’s Board of Directors meeting last Thursday (May 27).

Butler said the hope is to bring on a contractor when the project design and development are 80% complete, so the contractor can provide their own insight and expertise before sending it to Fairfax County for approval.

Leone says it’s expected that a contract with a general contractor will be ready for review and approval by the RA board in August or September.

Another element currently complicating the project is fast-rising material costs. Butler notes that the $3.5 million project budget was established prior to the recent spike in material costs.

“Here’s a really crazy example…There’s a lot of piping in pools. PVC costs are up 270% from March 2020 to March 2021,” Butler explained.

The hope is that prices will stabilize and drop, but “it’s an ever-moving target,” he says.

The overall cost of the renovations and the means of paying for them have been an ongoing source of conflict since the project first started in late 2019. The project is now rather lean, though at least one RA board member was asking about the potential for further cuts.

The issues with the Lake Thoreau renovations come as RA contemplates raising member assessments and, possibly, repurposing other pools  due to ongoing budgetary challenges.

Key design elements being added or modified at Lake Thoreau pool include ADA access to the main pool, re-working of the roof geometry, a zero-depth area, a repositioning of the spa away from the bathhouses, and a redesign of the overlook deck. A pollinator garden will also be added near the parking lot.

The renovations are expected to be completed about a year after construction begins, so that could be in October or November 2022. A grand reopening of Lake Thoreau pool is anticipated in May 2023.

However, Leone cautions that the timing could change.

“If the start of construction is delayed for whatever reason, then there is a chance the grand re-opening could be delayed,” he told Reston Now.

Photo via Reston Association

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Morning Notes

Power Shut Off around Reston Town Center — Dominion Energy turned off power in Reston on Saturday evening (May 8) so that first responders from Fairfax County’s police and the fire departments could address “an incident involving an individual who has climbed a power transmission line.” [Fairfax Alerts]

Hunter Woods Community Gardens Plagued by Thefts — Two community gardens at Hunter Woods Park have been repeatedly targeted by thieves, who have taken thousands of dollars in plants over the past two years, volunteers say. The thefts have persisted despite the installation of surveillance cameras, motion-sensor-triggered lights, and new fencing with a padlocked gate. [Patch]

Halley Rise Officially Signs Second Tenant — The bowling, bocce, and bar venue Pinstripes has had its sights set on the Halley Rise development for at least two years, but the move is now official. This is the second retail tenant to join the mixed-use development next to the Reston Town Center Metro station, which will be anchored by Wegmans. [H&R Retail]

South Lakes Safeway Burglarized on May 2 — “A man entered the store, damaged a secured high-end liquor cabinet and stole property. An employee confronted the man and was subsequently assaulted. The man implied he had a firearm then left with the property.” [FCPD]

Contract Awarded for Fox Mill Elementary Renovation — The Fairfax County School Board voted on Thursday (May 6) to award a nearly $20 million contract to Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. for the Fox Mill Elementary School renovation project. On-site construction work will begin this month and is expected to be completed by spring 2023. [FCPS]

Reston Wellness Center Reopens Today — The nonprofit Reston Wellness Center (1850 Cameron Glen Drive, Suite 200) is restarting in-person services on May 10 after being closed due to the pandemic. The center provides meals, employment assistance, support groups, and other services for free to people in recovery for mental health and substance use issues. [Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Mina Fies, founder and CEO of Synergy Design and Construction

By Makaila Oaks

Mina Fies, founder and CEO of Synergy Design & Construction, recently collaborated with Redfin and a number of remodeling experts from across the country to compile the most important questions to ask before you hire a home remodeling contractor.

The following is an excerpt of the top five questions we think you should ask before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Ask yourself if the project calls for a full-service remodeling contractor or if a handyman can do the job.

Using a glorified handyman to take on a complex project can be disastrous. The difference is professionalism. If your project involves more than just minor repairs or you’re doing more than just updating finishes (such as tile or paint), you want a bona-fide remodeling contractor.

Ask the company you’re considering, “What type(s) of work do you specialize in? Are you registered/licensed, and do you belong to a professional industry group like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or BBB? Show me your work, give me some references, and tell me about your processes.”

Adding these items to the list of questions to ask a contractor will help you decide if they’re a good fit for your project.

— Michael Hill, owner, CCH Design | Remodel of Meridian Idaho

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

2. Do you handle all phases of the project — from design to construction?

You’ll want to hire someone who can walk you through the entire process, from helping with the design and renderings, to acquiring necessary permits, to executing the work professionally. Working with the same company throughout the entire project keeps the process smooth and seamless, as opposed to hiring different people throughout every phase.

Yourson Contracting

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

3. How many projects do you have going on, and what is the timeline for our project?

This is an important question to ask a contractor to make sure they aren’t too busy to take on the homeowner’s project. The homeowner will also want to know when the contractor will start and complete the project, and what the project schedule will be. This way the homeowner can be prepared and plan around the construction. This will also help the homeowner be ready for any materials they are providing to be on site for when the contractor needs them, avoiding delays.

AGA Construction Inc.

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

4. Can you tell me about an issue you’ve dealt with recently where something went wrong on a project and how you handled it?

Interview your contractor as you would interview a prospective employee by asking open-ended questions. Hearing stories about how they’ve overcome obstacles in the past will provide valuable insight on how they would handle issues on your project. It will also open up a discussion around expectations for communication going forward.

— Mina Fies, Synergy Design & Construction

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

5. Will there be a dedicated team working on my project?

As we navigate home renovations during COVID-19, this might be one of the most important questions to cover with your contractor. When it comes to who will be on the job, consistency is key. It’s normal for contracting companies to be working on multiple projects at once, so make sure to verify that there will be a dedicated team on your project. If this is not an option, make sure the company goes over the safety precautions that have been put in place due to COVID-19.

Penn Construction & Design

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

Ready for a full service design-build home remodeling experience with a company right here in Reston who can help you answer these questions? Get in touch!

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Construction on a renovation project at Herndon’s Fox Mill Elementary School will begin in May, Fairfax County Public Schools tells Reston Now.

The Fairfax County School Board is scheduled to open a bidding period for contractors as new business during its meeting tonight (Thursday). FCPS will receive bids on April 14 and develop recommendations before the board awards a contract at its May 6 meeting.

According to FCPS, the existing 71,718 square-foot building will be renovated and expanded by about 19,000 square feet, bringing the school’s size up to 91,123 square feet.

The addition will include a new courtyard and secondary entrance, a new basketball court, and an expanded parking lot. New electrical, plumbing, and heating, ventilation, and cooling systems will be installed.

Fox Mill will also get a new main entrance with “updated, more modern front elevation,” and the existing hallways will be redesigned to “simplify and provide easier navigation through the building,” FCPS said.

According to FCPS’s proposed capital improvement program for fiscal years 2022-2026, Fox Mill currently has a design capacity of 840 students and a program capacity of 683 students. The planned renovation will actually shrink the design capacity to 650 students.

Enrollment at Fox Mill dropped from 598 students in the 2019-2020 school year to 544 students in 2020-2021. The school has fluctuated between 81 and 92% capacity utilization over the past decade, peaking at 643 students in the 2014-2015 school year.

This will be the first time that Fox Mill has been renovated since its doors opened in 1979, though it did get an addition in 1980.

FCPS says the project carries a total estimated cost of $30 million, including a projected cost of $18.5 million for construction. Fairfax County voters approved school bonds in 2017 and 2019 that, respectively, included $2 million for planning and $27.5 million for construction, according to the CIP.

According to FCPS, construction will be completed in the spring of 2023.

Rendering via FCPS

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

One of the things we love about being a remodeling company in Reston is the diversity of the homes we get to work on! From the original townhomes of Waterview Cluster to the newest condos in Reston, every home tells a story, and we love working with clients who are ready to write theirs.

With many of the houses built in Reston’s early years now well into their fifth decade, you may be living in one and are starting to think it’s time for an update. If this sounds like you, here’s some inspiration for turning your 1970s home into a modern oasis that will stand the test of time.

1. Create a More Open Concept

There was a time when clearly defined rooms were the only way houses were designed and built. It’s very common in older homes in this area. The kitchen. The dining room. The family room. The bonus room that no one really knows what to do with. This often meant the size of the kitchen was compromised leading to odd “U” shaped or cramped galley kitchen.

Over the years, the way we use space has changed with less demand for formal dining rooms and more demand for multi-functional spaces that serve as family gathering areas with informal dining, and let’s face it — once we can safely gather again — the kitchen is THE room where guests congregate.

The kitchen has taken center stage as the place where most homeowners are willing to spend more to get more. The most obvious example of a way to give your kitchen a modern feeling is to create a more open plan concept and increase the usable square footage in your kitchen. This is usually achieved by completely removing walls between rooms. Not in your budget? You can also make a huge difference by creating larger openings between rooms to improve the flow and allow more natural light into your space.

Read our previous blog How to Tell if a Wall is Load-bearing, and ALWAYS get a professional opinion before you take down any walls!

The home below was built at the very end of the ’70s. This is a great example of how removing a wall between the kitchen and dining room enabled us to expand the size of the kitchen and add a large island with lots of room for the family. The dining room was relocated to another room at the front of the home.

In this second example, this Reston townhome had undergone a previous renovation some years ago, but this time around we opened up the kitchen to the dining room, which not only provided better flow and light, it opened up the fabulous view to Lake Thoreau.

2. Flooring, Stairs and Front Doors!

Parquet floors. Small square tiles. Carpet. Painted stair railings. If you love them, don’t change them. However, these are some of the things that really age a home. Some of them are an easy(ish!) fix.

If your hardwood floors have lost their luster, you don’t necessarily need to replace them. Spend the money to get them sanded and refinished. The popularity of hardwood is going nowhere, so if you’ve got some original 1970s wood floors, they are probably a quality product, and the quirks and imperfections acquired over the years make them even more endearing. Take care of them, and give them a chance to shine in their own right!

If you have tile in your kitchen but hardwood floors elsewhere, you may also be able to tooth new hardwood floors into the existing floors. This will require the entire floor to be refinished to avoid a patchy look, but it is possible, and the same flooring throughout provides cohesiveness between spaces.

We’d like to tell you that small square brown/white/yellow/pink/blue 1970s bathroom tile is “in” again. Alas, it’s not. Although a tile called zellige has become popular in recent years, that’s about as close as it gets to the 1970s tile we all know. It’s time to let it go. Want to know more about tile trends and how you can get an updated look? Read our latest blog!

Lastly, unless you live in a cluster neighborhood with HOA rules about what you can and cannot do on the exterior of your home, start with the front door (as long as the Reston Association is OK with that!). Nothing provides better curb appeal and an instant home update than a new front door.

The Reston home below (built in 1970) shows how a beautiful new front door, refinished floors/stairs and modern cable railing bring this home right up to date — but still look perfectly at home!

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Lake Audubon Pool, operated by Reston Association, is in the midst of renovations. The pool is undergoing re-plastering, the pump and filter are being replaced, and other plumbing is being fixed.

Work began in mid-January and is expected to be completed sometime between mid-April and early May. But weather could delay the project, cautions Mike Leone of Reston Association.

This is all part of Reston Association’s regular maintenance plan and required for compliance under Fairfax County Health Department code. Plaster coatings have about an eight-to-ten- year service life, writes Leone in an email to Reston Now.

Another Reston Association pool, Lake Thoreau, is also expected to undergo renovations but a funding hang-up has caused delays. The Lake Thoreau Pool project could cost up to $3.5 million.

Lake Audubon pool renovation project is costing roughly $120,000, according to Leone.

At this time, it remains unclear when Reston Association pools will open this summer. In 2020, four out of 15 pools opened in late June.

“RA does not have hard dates for the opening of any of our pools for the 2021 summer season,” wrote Leone. “We are planning to open as many facilities as we can this summer.”

As pool season inches closer, updates will be posted on the Reston Association website.

Photo courtesy of Reston Association

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With Herndon High School’s phase two renovations now completed, the school has moved to phase three. This includes renovations to the auditorium, music, performing, and fine arts rooms, auxiliary gym, and wrestling and gymnastics room.

All of the work should be completed this summer and be ready for students when they are back in the building full-time next school year, assistant principal Jim Hannon tells Reston Now.

The main gym was part of phase two renovations and that was finished late last year, complete with new bleachers. December, when a limited crowd was allowed to attend a basketball game, was the first time they were used.

Work has moved at a decent clip with students and full staff not in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, Hannon says it’s been “a little bit of a wash” in terms of construction moving any faster. He says that many of the areas being renovated are in isolated areas anyway and the number of construction workers are more limited to social distancing requirements.

After phase three, renovations will begin on the tennis courts, adding additional parking, stadium press box and concession stand, and the food prep area of the cafeteria. That’s the final phase of renovations that first began more than two years ago.

In all, the renovation project is adding more than 138,000 square feet to the more than five-decade old high school building, expanding it by about a third. It will have a capacity of 2,500 students.

Hannon says that all of that work should be done by summer 2022.

Photo courtesy of Jim Hannon

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

It’s the New Year and despite the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, home remodeling services are in high demand. The low-key holidays at home and ongoing virtual nature of work and school have many of us thinking ahead to later this year when (hopefully) we’ll be able to entertain once more and/or have family come to stay.

Whether you’ve decided it’s time to remodel your kitchen, create a more open concept on your main level, finally finish that unfinished basement or just simply turn your master bathroom into a retreat, here’s our guide to helping you find the right remodeler for your project.

1. Match your project needs to the right type of remodeler

Knowing who you need is the first step in any remodel. With some many different companies out there, it’s not always easy to navigate who does what. Here’s a good place to start (and it’s one of the biggest questions we get): What’s the difference between a general contractor and a design-build home remodeling company?

A general contractor (sometimes simply referred to as a “GC”) typically focuses on small- to medium-sized interior projects. They are responsible for overseeing the construction phase of your remodel and for finding/hiring the appropriate tradespeople to complete the project if they do not have the expertise themselves or in-house. You, on the other hand, will likely have to come up with the design and, in most circumstances, pick out the materials for the project and project manage it.

GCs are perfectly suited to smaller pull-and-replace type remodels where you are not significantly changing the footprint and are replacing like-for-like in the existing footprint. The quality and price of using a GC varies greatly depending on the level of support they offer, the size of the project and the quality of the project management in keeping the remodel on-time and on-budget.

In terms of a design/build company, a full-service firm (like Synergy Design & Construction) manages all aspects of your home remodel and guides you through your project — from design all the way through construction. They do all the heavy lifting as well as project manage it along the way. Design/build firms tend to focus on medium- to large-scale residential projects: design-thoughtful whole home renovations as well as kitchens, basements and bathrooms. They may also offer services for home additions (though we do not).

Most design/build firms “design everything they build and build everything they design,” so most local firms will not bid on design-only services, and/or the design services they provide cannot be used to hand off to a general contractor. In-house design and professional project management delivers a better customer experience from an accountability and quality perspective, but on the flip side, good design and well-executed construction takes time and may cost more. At Synergy, our typical clients intend to stay in their home to enjoy their space, so we don’t offer kitchen “refreshes,” flips or simple updates like powder rooms (unless it’s part of a larger project).

Do your research and poke around various websites to see examples of the type of work and level of support a company provides. Read testimonials and Google reviews — they are a great way to get a sense of what a company is all about from real clients.

Still need more help? Read Best Remodelers in Reston and Where To Find Them.

2. Don’t play your cards too tight to your chest

It’s one of the biggest hurdles to overcome: being honest about budget. It’s important to have this conversation early in the process so the companies you talk to better understand your investment goals. Your remodeler of choice can be realistic with you in terms of how far your budget will go and how best to maximize it.

Keep in mind a pull-and-replace kitchen remodel is going to cost less than reconfiguring your kitchen to move your sink (for example) or any changes that require additional plumbing, mechanical and electrical work. The level of finish will also drive up cost. From cabinetry to countertops to tile to flooring, these costs add up. Appliance packages alone can be a huge chunk of your budget, so your home remodeler should be able to work with you to determine where to splurge and where to save without sacrificing quality and finish.

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

Transitional design continues to reign supreme when it comes to kitchen remodels in Reston and across the county, but with so many homes in our area leaning toward more contemporary architecture, a transitional kitchen is not the only way to go. We love it when clients are ready to remodel with a more modern aesthetic that’s in keeping with the rest of their home.

When we think of “contemporary design,” it sometimes conjures up images of cold, urban, minimalist design. Not so! Contemporary design tends to get a reputation as being reserved for city dwellers with lots of exposed brick, concrete and ductwork, but today’s contemporary design bridges the gap between the extreme of the ultra-modern and the everyday “we actually live here and not in a magazine version of ourselves” look.

Here are a few tips on how to achieve a more contemporary look:

  • To avoid a space feeling ‘cold,’ don’t use all one color of cabinetry. Natural wood colors have been re-introduced into cabinetry, and it’s a trend we LOVE. Think white oak base cabinets and white upper cabinets or the incorporation of walnut into your design. We’re calling this as one of the major design trends in coming years. What else is on our list? Read “The Synergy Team Calls the 2021 Home Remodeling & Interior Design Trends.”
  • Paint trends are leaning toward more calming and natural colors. Use paint as another way to modernize your space without losing warmth. Not sure where to start? Check out these color trends of 2021.
  • It’s all about tile! Geometric or textured tile is a trend that began a few years ago and is here to stay. A great way to update your look is a simple backsplash or floor update.
  • Fixtures don’t need to be all chrome to be modern. One of our favorite trends in recent years is the use of mixed metals. (Think: honey bronze, black and rose gold.)

This month’s featured home remodel is a contemporary Reston gem. This Reston home had great bones and a lot of personality, but the finishes were dated, and a load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room made the spaces feel small and closed-off. This remodel was all about breathing a breath of fresh, modern air throughout the main level and opening up the floor plan. You can see more of the ‘before and afters’ of this project here.

Whatever your aesthetic, our in-house team of interior designers are ready to help you design your dream kitchen, master bathroom or basement. We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach and each project we work on is a custom remodel. Ready to work with a company who can turn your design vision into reality? Get in touch!

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Type “Why are bathroom renovations” into Google and the first result suggested is “…so expensive.” After saving for a new home, home improvement projects are the most common reason Americans save money.

Most people believe having a bathroom that makes them happy is a worthwhile investment, yet are surprised by how much it costs.

Why is renovating a 40-square-foot space so costly? Pricey fixtures and the specialized skills required are partly to blame. However, some costs are embedded within the industry:

  • “Free” quotes are expensive: On average, contractors spend 25 percent of their time building quotes for jobs they will not win. Those costs need to be recouped.
  • Expense overestimation: Whether purposeful, unintentional or a little bit of both, contractors often significantly overestimate the cost of materials and effort on a project.
  • Professional design: Having a professional design your bathroom is considered a luxury service and carries a luxury price tag.
  • Limited visualization opportunity: Consumer Reports identifies a primary cause of price overruns as homeowners who change their mind regarding finishes or colors after they’ve been applied.

In 2016, remodeling industry veteran Chad Hall believed these inefficiencies could be eliminated by taking advantage of emerging technologies — so he founded remodelmate.

Eliminating the time-consuming process of in-home quotes, remodelmate gives homeowners free access to an app that uses advanced smartphone camera technology to generate a near-perfect 3D model of their existing bathroom. The scan is then applied to a quote-building system, generating a final labor price for the customer as well as a precise materials list for the contractor, eliminating overestimation.

To address the professional design and visualization issues, remodelmate employs CGI (computer-generated imagery) to apply homeowner color and finish selections to a model of their new bathroom. The results are photo-quality images showing the customer exactly what their new bathroom will look like before construction begins.

For more information, visit the all-new remodelmate website.

By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

The basement. One of the most underutilized spaces in many homes, basements are often used as nothing more than storage areas.

You’re not sure what’s hiding under those big bags full of toys and clothes, but you’ll get around to donating it all… one day. And those plastic containers you need to move every year to get to the holiday decorations? They’re packed full of “must-keep” items like that comforter set you didn’t want to part with (but never use) and the extra cushions for your old patio set. The suitcases from your last pre-COVID vacation are also down there. Somewhere. 

If this sounds like you, it’s time to make a change. A basement remodel can easily give you extra usable square footage, improved storage solutions and add value to your home. Even better, unfinished basements are like a blank canvas with lots of potential, and with the right creativity and vision, they can be turned into beautiful but functional spaces. 

But how much does it cost to remodel a basement? Well, like most things in life, that depends! A few factors to think about that impact cost: 

  • Is your basement currently finished or unfinished? 
  • Are there any load-bearing columns or other structures that need to be taken in account? 
  • Is there a lot of ductwork that needs to be added or concealed? 
  • Are there existing plumbing lines or rough-ins for that “must-have” guest bathroom or bar sink you want? 
  • What level of finish do you want? Flooring, drywall, bar/office cabinets, tile, bathroom fixtures, interior doors, stairs, new washer/dryer… you can see how the costs start to add up, especially if you want a spa-like guest bathroom or “wow” bar area with gorgeous high-end cabinets and a state-of-the-art wine fridge and pellet ice maker.
  • Are you willing to do some of the work and manage the project yourself using a general contractor, or do you want a professionally managed full-service type of experience? 

There are many ways you can go about your basement remodel.

Step No. 1 of a basement remodel is figuring out WHO you need — not just WHAT you need. A more cost-effective way may be to use a general contractor (GC), but you will have to take on more responsibility for managing the project and making design choices and (sometimes) buying the materials yourself.

Synergy Design & Construction is a full service design-build firm, meaning we manage the project for you, design it and build it — all using our in-house team of experts. Although using a home remodeling company like Synergy might be more expensive than a general contractor, most of our clients want the peace of mind of working with a company that does all the heavy lifting for them and who manages the whole project from start to finish.

So, what is a reasonable cost for a basement remodel?

Independent surveys often show basement remodels start at the $50,000 to $75,000 range, depending on what it is you’re trying to do. Of course, throwing up walls and laying down carpet can cost less, but many of our clients are willing to invest more to make their dream space a reality. Let’s face it: With no end in sight for a return to the pre-COVID day-to-day “normal,” we’d rather you get exactly what you want. Our promise to you is that we’ll always be realistic with you in terms of what it costs for a quality basement remodel and deliver a project that’s on time and on budget. 

Let’s take a look at one of our recent basement remodels. Our client had been dreaming of a home remodel for a long time and knew it was time to do something about the unfinished basement. As in many homes, it was only being used for storage, and they were ready to finally put it to work. So, with a ‘can-do’ attitude, they set about the task of decluttering in preparation for the remodel, which would see their basement go from storage zone to a multi-purpose family-friendly recreation room, office/guest bedroom and guest bathroom — and even have enough room for discreetly hidden HVAC and storage space. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic began just before construction started, the timing for this remodel turned out to be perfect. Trusting us to complete their home remodel safely, they knew it was now a “must have” to proceed given the extended periods of time spent at home during lockdown with virtual schooling and working from home now a necessity. The family is now ready to kick back, relax and spend quality time together in their lovely new spaces.

Ready to find out what it might take to take your basement from storage unit to multi-purpose family-friendly space? Get in touch!

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

At Synergy Design & Construction, we’re big believers in giving homeowners insights into everything you need to know to make informed decisions about home remodeling.

As the pandemic wears on and we’re all spending so much more time at home, we know a lot of you are ready to make big changes. From kitchens to basements to bathrooms, interior remodeling services are in high demand — especially as temperatures start to plummet and our attention turns to winter and the prospect of spending even more time indoors.

Other than kitchens, one of the most frequent home remodeling requests we get is bathroom remodeling. So, to help you on your remodeling journey, here are three “don’t” tips you should know before you get started!

1. Don’t Hire the Wrong Type of Contractor for the Job

Every day you see your powder room, your heart sinks a little and you make a mental note (again) it’s time to do something about it. If your powder room needs a little pep, it’s not a big remodeling project. But, just as you don’t need a CPA to balance a checkbook, you don’t need a full service design and build firm like Synergy if you just want to update a vanity and change a light fixture. Knowing who you need is the starting point. Doing your homework and aligning your needs with the type of service a particular contractor provides is a HUGE time (and money) saver. Read more in Best Remodelers in Reston and Where to Find Them.

2. Don’t Assume You Need to Keep the Tub

We get this question a lot, “Do I need a bathtub in my Master Bathroom?”. The short answer is no. A soaking tub is aesthetically beautiful, but if you don’t use it now you won’t use it in the future. We’ve completed a number of remodels for homeowners who chose to eliminate the tub altogether and create a larger shower that packs a design “WOW!” punch instead. If you’re concerned about resale, most home buyers DO want a tub, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be in the Master Bathroom. As long as there’s one somewhere in the home for kids (and, yes, sometimes pets!) it isn’t a deal breaker. Of course, keeping the tub and making a design feature out of it is always an option if you have plenty of room for one.

3. Don’t Select Form Over Function

It’s really easy to select finishes based on your HGTV vision of your space, not the real life version of how you’ll actually use it. We’re all guilty of this one! For example, a pedestal sink can be a piece of artwork in itself, but it becomes a cluttered mess if you don’t have a place to put everything. Spend your budget on storage-friendly vanities. Adding one might just reduce the stress you feel every time you walk into your bathroom and see cluttered countertops. Even the most modern floating vanities now come in all sorts of styles that include storage drawers, so if you have more contemporary taste, you don’t have to sacrifice modern design.

Our featured remodel this month is a Reston townhome master bathroom remodel. This transitional bathroom is a great example of how removing the bathtub and creating room for a larger walk-in shower completely transforms the space. The result? A beautiful spa-like retreat.

Learn about the steps we take to ensure a safe home remodeling experience here. If you’re ready for a design thoughtful home remodel, our consultations are FREE and we even offer virtual meeting options. If you’re ready to chat, give us a call!

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

It’s been a busy summer here at Synergy! We’ve completed a number of beautiful home remodels in the area (while practicing COVID safety, of course) and have started a number of new projects.

Although Labor Day usually marks the end of summer, we’re hoping for a few more warm days to take advantage of outdoor activities that can be safely enjoyed in these COVID times. One of the things we love about this area is the many lakes, local parks and trails and the opportunity to be outside enjoying nature. It’s one of the reasons so many people are attracted to this area (and one of the reasons the housing market is so active right now)!

It may not surprise you to know home remodeling is also in high demand. Now well into our seventh month of the COVID pandemic, many of us are looking at ways to maximize the use and enjoyment of our existing space. Let’s face it, spending so much time at home is a surefire way to start you dreaming of that perfect kitchen or finally getting around to remodeling the basement!

In keeping with our love of the local area, this month’s featured remodel is a Reston lakefront townhome. This remodel is a great example of not only how you can create a more open concept and better flow, but also how changing the internal layout of a home makes it look and feel much bigger (without the expense of an addition). It can also help you maximize some of the best features of your home — in this case, a beautiful lake view.

The key to the remodel of this home was creating a better flow throughout the main level and better use of space. Visible as soon as you entered the home, the original footprint included a large closet pantry at the entry to the kitchen. This not only took up a lot of square footage, it blocked the view to the lake and closed off the kitchen. We removed it and changed the door location (and size) of a separate coat closet for more efficient storage.

We also removed a railing-height wall leading to the family room and replaced it with modern cable railing. This created a much more open concept that maximizes the gorgeous water views throughout the main level and brings the outside in. The space now feels bigger, brighter and more airy.

Our clients’ piano was an important feature for them, so we removed an existing butler’s pantry/bar, leaving the perfect nook for the piano. We added a “dry bar” to the other side of the room for additional storage and a buffet serving area. A large island with lots of seating now takes center stage in what used to be the dining area, and the large dining table was relocated to the step-down living area, which features an updated fireplace. The whole feel of this townhouse has been transformed.

If you’ve been thinking of a home remodel for a while, be prepared production schedules are rapidly filling up for many home remodeling companies. We’re now booking construction dates in late 2020 and early 2021, so if you’ve been thinking of a home remodel, don’t delay and start the conversation now!

Our no-obligation consultations are FREE and if you aren’t comfortable with having anyone in your home just yet, we also offer virtual consultations.

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As Fairfax County Public Schools students are learning virtually during the 2020-2021 academic year, renovations are moving forward at Herndon High School.

The renovation’s second phase was mostly completed during the summer, according to Herndon High School assistant principal Jim Hannon. The school’s main gym was expanded by roughly a third, while the renovation of the auxiliary gym was completed alongside the construction of new locker rooms, a weight room and art rooms.

“To start this school year, if we weren’t in the virtual world we are in right now, we’d have students in the new areas that were completed in phase two,” Hannon said. “Those areas include both upstairs and downstairs, first floor and second floor, the completion of the wings that were for math, ESOL, social studies and English.”

Very few outstanding items remain from phase two of the renovation before its final completion. Among these is the installation of the main gym’s new bleachers, due to supply line issues caused by some vendors temporarily shutting down as a result of COVID-19.

Despite a few hang-ups in the supply chain, the renovation process has progressed into phase three. This includes an opportunity to begin work early on the student’s dining portion of the cafeteria that otherwise would have been relegated to weekend and evening work during phase four due to the presence of students in the halls. The renovation of the kitchens for the cafeteria, however, will be included in phase four of the renovation process.

The completion of the second phase follows the introduction of a new wing to the back and front of the building, as well as a new library, main office, and administrative and counseling office. The first phase, which was completed in the fall of 2019, also included a new entrance, 65 classrooms, a gourmet foods room, science labs and additional classroom spaces.

The progress of the renovation has also allowed the school to move approximately 60-65 school personnel from outdoor trailers into the freshly renovated or constructed spaces, according to Hannon.

Following the removal of the trailers, the renovation process will begin on the parking lots as well as the school’s tennis courts as a part of phase three.

Other plans during this phase include a new wrestling and gymnastics room and renovating the school’s performing arts area, which includes the auditorium, and rooms for the orchestra, band and chorus.

Phase three will take place during the majority of this school year, Hannon said. The exact completion date of the project has not yet been determined.

The final phase of the project will include renovating the existing cafeteria to feature a food court design, as well as updates to the tennis courts, the stadium press box and concession stands.

As part of the project, the school will undergo a complete renovation with new plumbing, HVAC, fire alarm and protection systems. Also, the campus will include a new bus loop, more parking, bike racks and improved stormwater management. The renovation project in total includes 138,558 square feet of additions and modifications to expand the school to 431,000 square feet, according to the webpage for Grunley Construction Company, Inc.

“Hopefully when we move back in the building, we’ll have very few classes still outside in the trailers. And the majority of those are going to start being removed in September and October,” Hannon said.

Photo via Jim Hannon

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

We’ve all seen the reality T.V. home remodeling shows. Half way through, there’s what we call an ‘HGTV moment’ when it happens, “We just discovered this is a load-bearing wall. That’s going to be another hit to your budget so we have to take something else out of your remodel or increase your budget to cover the cost.”

No-one wants to be in this position. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your home remodeler. The reality is any qualified and experienced home remodeler should have figured out if there is a load-bearing wall in play well before anyone comes near your home with a sledge hammer. Undoubtedly, removing a load-bearing wall adds cost to your home remodeling plans because it requires alternate suitable support, but a little careful exploration upfront should tell you at the outset of your remodel what’s really going on with that wall between your kitchen and dining room.

Be prepared, your chosen or prospective home remodeler may have to poke a few holes in your drywall at the beginning of the process to see what’s going on behind the scenes. This is normal practice — but will require patching if you decide not to proceed with your home remodel.

So, what are the telltale signs that might indicate if a wall is load-bearing or not?

Disclaimer alert! ALWAYS get an expert’s opinion before you decide to remove ANY wall in your home!

Look at the Joists

Do the joists run parallel or perpendicular to the wall you’re thinking of removing? In general, if the joists run perpendicular to the wall, it’s a sign it might be a load-bearing wall. In the example below, the red X shows what a load-bearing wall looks like behind the drywall. However, there are some instances when joists run parallel but the wall is load-bearing because the builder has aligned the wall under a single joist or the weight is being supported by blocking between two neighboring joists, so always get a professional opinion.

Photo Credit: Alexander Jenkins

Got an Unfinished Basement or Crawl Space?

If you have an unfinished basement or crawl space below your kitchen (or other first floor room you want to remodel), take a peek in the ceiling at what is going beneath the room above. If there are any type of structures (such as columns, supports, beams, etc.) that follow the same path as the wall above, it’s a sign of support needed for a load-bearing wall.

Don’t Make Assumptions About Knee-walls or Part Walls

Just because you have a partition wall, it doesn’t mean it’s not load-bearing. We’ve had this occur in quite a few home remodels over the years. A load-bearing beam or other structure may be hiding behind the drywall of a part wall or a knee-wall with a column between two rooms. If your remodeling goal is a more open concept, a load-bearing beam may be required when you remove a part or knee-wall, so due diligence up front will ensure you know exactly what you’re dealing with before construction starts.

Case Study: A Reston Townhouse Transformation

This month’s featured remodel is the first floor remodel of a lake-fronted townhouse in Reston. The existing layout and finishes made the first floor feel dark, small and closed-in. Preferring a contemporary look and a more open concept, our clients were ready to make the changes needed to make the home their own and better reflect their design aesthetic.

However, the wall separating the dining room and kitchen was load-bearing. We removed it along with a non load-bearing faux painted pillar (seen on the left of the Before photo). This is a great example of how things were not as you might expect — the column was decorative only so it was easily removed, but a load-bearing beam was required to replace the wall between the kitchen and dining room.

The result? With the wall and pillar gone, the energy of the whole first floor is now totally transformed. The spaces flow from one to the next and the entire area feels bigger. We also replaced the sliding doors to the deck and a picture window off a sunroom to make the most of the gorgeous water views from the rear of the house. It’s now a modern and tranquil space with lots of room for the couple and their family and friends to enjoy.

Ready to start your hassle-free remodel with a company who can help you figure all of this out? Get in touch for your free, no obligation consultation about your home remodeling plans!

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