TV Review: Professional Grade on HGTV

Written By: admin - Sep• 08•10

Kathy's Remodeling BlogI’m sitting here watching Professional Grade on HGTV and I must say, it’s painful. I’m watching a mother and daughter work on their kitchen and there’s a big chance they will hurt themselves. They’ve never done any kind of remodeling work before and they’re taking down a wall, adding new counters, moving appliances, tiling a backsplash, and other difficult things.

In case you haven’t seen the show, here’s how it works: A homeowner tackles a big remodeling project and sees if they can make it look “professional grade,” thus the name of the show.

Before they start, a few kindly contractors come in and look at the “before” space. Those same contractors come back when the project is done and estimate how much it cost to do. If the homeowners spent less than that, they get the difference in cash.

For instance, if the contractors say the kitchen remodel cost $15,000 and the homeowners only spent $10,000, they get $5,000 in cash.

I’ve tried to watch this show so many times and I never enjoy it. Why? It’s hard to watch people stumbling around not knowing what they are doing. Some homeowners have better skills, but in general it’s painful to watch. Luckily they have a compassionate contractor, Sean Smith, popping in on occasion to offer guidance.

<<< AARGH: The mother just said she’s never used a clamp before >>>

One big problem with this show is that the homeowners never factor the value of their own time and labor into the cost of the remodel. Let’s say a couple takes two weeks of 16-hour days to pull off their “professional grade” kitchen. Well, the time they lost from work and life is not counted.

Again, I’m cringing while watching this mother and daughter, even though they are adorable. The kitchen will probably look good when they’re done. But we won’t really know the quality. Many of these reality show jobs are shoddy and the motto is: The camera won’t see it.

<<< Yep, the work is shoddy. Of course. The cabinets look pretty bad. Maybe the homeowners won’t care >>>

Am I off base being so cranky about this show? What is it I’m missing here?

In my opinion, this show should be retired and contractor Sean Smith reassigned to a new show.

Hot or Not Hot? — Chairs made from recycled street signs

Written By: admin - Sep• 07•10

I dunno about this. Maybe I spend too much time on the road. Or maybe I’ve gotten too many tickets. Or been cursed at by too many irate drivers.

Whatever the reason, these chairs made from recycled street signs don’t give me any good juju. At all.

See the whole story here

On the other hand, we’ve got to start recycling. And why not here and how?

What say you?

Having fun in an RRP lead-safety class? Is that even legal?

Written By: admin - Sep• 07•10

Americorp RRPAs anyone who has taken the 8-hour lead-safety class to become an EPA RRP Certified Renovator knows, the material can be quite dry.

Of course, New Orleans-based trainer Bill Robinson tries to bring a little life into his classes. After all, he wants his students to remain awake and aware and to pass the test at the end of the day. And as most of his students are contractors, and he enjoys being around other contractors, so he’s generally in a pretty good mood.

Still, Bill can’t take credit for the fun these students had in one of his recent classes. This was an enormous class, about 35 students, and the largest allowed by the EPA RRP certification process. Bill had to hire four assistants to help with the hands-on portion of the class.

These young people work with AmeriCorps and will be traveling all around the country to supervise crews doing weatherization and other good works.

As you can see from this photo, the students were having a lot of fun. Now don’t take this wrong. They were excellent and serious students. In fact, a number of them got perfect scores on the test at the end of the day. And it’s not an easy test.

But as the hands-on portion of the class was wrapping up, some of the students who finished early wanted to get a portrait of themselves to remember the day.

So, here’s proof. An RRP class doesn’t have to boring!

If you have a group that needs RRP certification, give Bill Robinson a call at (805) 797-4127 or email him at His website is

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton’s wife has a whole lotta shoes . . . and a great closet for storing them

Written By: admin - Sep• 05•10

Kathy's Remodeling Blog
If it wasn’t for the poisonous Chinese drywall used in the house owned by New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and his lovely wife Beth, there may not have been a massive remodel to get rid of that drywall.

And if there hadn’t been a massive remodel, she may not have gotten these awesome shelves on which to store her shoes. So you see? All’s well that ends well.

UPDATE August 2012: Well, all’s not well after all. Beth moved back to Dallas and the couple are divorcing.

(Photo: Ellis Lucia / Times-Picayune)

Oval Office Before and After — Hot or Not Hot?

Written By: admin - Sep• 05•10

Since the 1930s, every president except Jimmy Carter has redecorated the Oval Office at the beginning of their term(s).

Here is the office as decorated by George W. Bush:


And here is the remodel by Barack Obama:

Oval Office After

And a side-by-side view:

Oval Office Before and After

How do you think Obama’s team did?

Here’s a story of the decorating. Photos by AP.

The carpenter’s daughter with elevated blood-lead levels

Written By: admin - Aug• 31•10

Kathy's Remodeling BlogThe other day, a little girl’s doctor told her parents their child’s blood-lead level was elevated. It wasn’t yet at the 10 micrograms per deciliter that is considered dangerous. But at 6 micrograms per deciliter, it was moving in that direction. And her dad freaked out. Why?

See how lead blood levels are tested

The little girl’s dad, who I won’t name so I don’t embarrass and humiliate him, is a carpenter who has been working with salvaged wood on a really cool reconstruction project. And I mean a really cool project. For a environmentally sensitive carpenter, using century-old reclaimed wood to include in a LEED building is as hip as it gets.

However, this dad, who loves his daughter more than life itself, was not using proper lead-safe practices. Suggestions had been made to him and his crew that they take special precautions to avoid spreading toxic lead dust, but nothing was really done about it.

The problem with lead dust is that when ingested, through simple breathing, lead in the blood causes all kinds of problems. For kids, it leads to attention deficit disorder, behavior problems, learning difficulties and, in the most extreme cases, death. In adults it causes high blood pressure, fatigue and loss of sexual drive.

So how did lead get into this old wood? Prior to 1978, lead was added to paint to make it more durable, more colorfast and resistant to rot and pests. What’s not to like? Well, we’ve known for a long, long time that lead causes neurological damage to kids and adults. And so in 1978, it was outlawed in paint for residential construction. But guess what? The old paint in older homes didn’t go away. In some cases it has been covered up non-leaded paint. And that’s fine. But when you go cutting into that wood, sanding it, and otherwise disturbing it, then that lead becomes airborne dust, and becomes a current problem.

And so it came to pass that the carpenter’s daughter had lead in her blood that was likely a result of her dad coming home covered in lead-tainted dust.

From this day forward, the carpenter will take this issue seriously. And the EPA is going to force professional remodelers to likewise take this seriously and it has recently enacted the RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting) Rule for lead-safe practices on the jobsite. Read about the rule here.

A lot of professional remodelers don’t like this rule because they have to become certified to work on homes where lead is present, and they have to train their crews, and they have to spend a few bucks on protective coveralls, gloves, plastic sheeting, painters tape, and a few other items. And their workers must be trained and must wear all this gear. And that’s certainly a bother.

But at the end of day, when these workers are operating according to the law, none of this lead-tainted paint dust will go home with them to poison their own children. And none of the lead-tainted paint dust will remain to poison the people in the house.

And no one will have to feel the guilt the carpenter must be feeling right now.

To see a training program for workers dealing with lead-tainted paint, click here.

More folks go online to prepare for a remodel

Written By: admin - Aug• 28•10

Kathy's Remodeling Blog
According to
a story on, the Internet is a bounty for those ready to remodel. You can find help and information in many areas, including:

• Finding a contractor (check out and

• Checking on a contractor’s credit rating, license and insurance (

• Ordering supplies (, and so on)

• Check online for takeout menus. If your kitchen is under construction, you’ll need something to eat.

• Look online for vacation deals and discounts at bed and breakfast inns, then book your room. When a remodel is making you absolutely nuts, you need a change of pace.

• And finally, download some soothing music or meditation instructions from iTunes. You will need to calm down, so plan for it.

RRP On-The-Job Training (excerpt from the training DVD)

Written By: admin - Aug• 28•10

Bill Robinson on his RRP lead-safe training video

Written By: admin - Aug• 22•10

New video training program teaches RRP lead-safe practices to jobsite workers

Written By: admin - Aug• 21•10

Kathy's Remodeling BlogThe moment remodeling contractors, company owners and others get certified under the EPA’s new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (also known as RRP), a new problem arises:

How do they teach on-the-job workers to handle lead-tainted dust in the manner they just learned about in an intensive 8-hour class?

A new video training program by master trainer Bill Robinson of Train2Rebuild is the answer to that problem. “On-the-Job Training for RRP Lead-Safe Practices” teaches workers what they need to know to comply with the rule. It costs $79, which includes shipping.

Kathy's Remodeling BlogAs you may know, lead in paint is a major health hazard, especially to kids under 6 and pregnant women. We’ve known that for a long, long time. In fact, lead was outlawed in paint way back in 1978.

But lead paint still exists in older homes, and when that paint becomes airborne during remodeling, it becomes toxic to people and pets. Thus, the new rule (finally) that requires those professionals working on your home to take special precautions when making this toxic dust.

Bill Robinson RRPIf you are an RRP Certified Renovator, you are required to train your own crew in how to contain the dust within the work area, how to avoid making dust, and how to clean up at the end.

This video is a training aid that a Certified Renovator uses to train the crew. It can be purchased through Train2Rebuild for $79, which includes shipping.

Chapters include:

Before the Work Starts

• Interior Containment

• Vertical Containment

• Signs and Barriers

• Exterior Containment

During the Work:

• Prohibited Practices

• Personal Protective Equipment

• Clean as You Go

After the Work Is Done

• Cleaning Up

• Visual Inspection and Cleaning Verification

• Taking Off Personal Protective Equipment

Plus, a section titled “For the Certified Renovator” includes:

• The Role of the Renovator

• Testing for Lead

• Tips on Training

. . . and more.

Price: $79

For questions, send an email to Bill Robinson.

How to save money on your kitchen remodel? Don’t move the sink

Written By: admin - Aug• 16•10

Kathy's Remodeling BlogWho knew saving money on a kitchen remodel could be so simple? Just don’t move the sink. If you do, you will incur all kinds of costs and delays when the plumbing has to be rerouted. When your house is on a concrete slab that has to be cut into for the new plumbing, that’s even more costly.

Of course, there are times when moving the sink is absolutely necessary, and is in fact the reason for the remodel. Some sinks are in unfortunate locations, blocking an expansion of the kitchen, or facing into a dark corner instead of into a window.

But for the most part, leaving the sink location exactly where it is (albeit with a new sink) will save you a lot.

See before and after kitchen remodels where the sink stayed put:

Kitchen renovation under $1,000 in 2 weekends

A ‘new’ kitchen but with the same cabinets

See all Kitchens

See all Before & After

The greenest remodel in America?

Written By: admin - Aug• 15•10

Kathy's Remodeling Blog If you can’t sell your parent’s former home, why not turn it into a showcase for green remodeling? That’s exactly what Jay DeChesere and his wife did with a ranch style home in Wilmington, N.C. that his parents moved out of and into an assisted living facility.

You could say the collapse of the housing market was the reason for this project.

Of course, DeChesere has one advantage over most of us: he’s an architect. And that’s likely why he is so aware of the LEED green building rating system and how to get lots of points for green features. After the house was done, it turned out to be one of the highest point getters ever in the LEED system, which is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Among the many green features are:

• Photovoltaics (solar power)

• LED and CFL lighting

• Recycled-content countertops

• Geothermal heating and cooling

• Super efficient appliances

Plus, 90% of the renovation was diverted from the landfill.

To see more about the remodel, click here.

New Product Review: KILZ Clean Start Primer

Written By: admin - Jul• 28•10

One day, when I wasn’t looking, my once-charming front porch went from shabby chic to just plain disgusting. I waited for the crew from HGTV’s Curb Appeal to show up. When they didn’t come, I decided to take on the job.

Here’s the porch I started with:

Kathy's Remodeling BlogAs you can see, I had many challenges: mold, mildew, baked-on grime, faded paint, cracks and rust stains. After I got the porch cleaned up and the cracks filled with concrete patch, I applied a coat of KILZ Clean Start Primer. I wanted to try out this product because it has no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Organic in the previous phrase always throws me off. These fumes that evaporate into our lungs could also be called “volatile chemical compounds.” Sound scarier? This new product from KILZ was very pleasant to work with. It covered well, which what I have come to expect from KILZ, and I didn’t have to hold my breath as I worked.

Here’s what the porch looked like after the KILZ:

Porch ready for top coat

And here’s what it looks like after one coat of paint:

Painting done on porch
In my opinion, this looks pretty darn great. And with a high-quality primer, this paint job will last much longer than if I had just added the top coat alone. I don’t expect to paint this porch again for many years to come. See the whole story here.

Desperate homeowners wanted — HGTV casting call in Los Angeles area

Written By: admin - Jul• 08•10

HGTV casting call Is your house cracking, crumbling, or coming unglued? Are you overwhelmed by a ton of work that needs to be done on your home and don’t know what to do? Did you buy your house knowing there were problems but never got to fixing them? 

Did you begin renovations on your home with good intentions, until an unexpected event threw you off course? Did your carpenter or contractor begin work on your home then uncover more work than you anticipated or leave you hanging?

HGTV is looking for desperate homeowners living within 30 miles of the greater Los Angeles area whose homes need renovations and whose owners are willing and able to get down and dirty to do some of the work themselves under the guidance of our professional contractor, carpenter and interior designer. 

Send your story to by Friday, July 23.

Submissions must include as much of the following information as possible:

Names and ages of everyone in household including pets

Full name of the owner of the home

Phone number and full street address

Approximate dimensions of rooms that need to be renovated and brief description of each

Description of what you’d like to accomplish in each room

Statement about what happened to prevent you from finishing your project

Describe what you’re willing and able to do to get the project done

Several photos of the rooms needing work and photos of all household members

This casting call is for homeowners only; renters are not eligible. Interiors only. That means no yards, garages or landscaping. Single family homes only; no townhomes and condominiums.

*Note: The show is also looking for Los Angeles-based licensed general contractors, carpenters, and interior designers to work on the show. Interested? Send your resume and a photo of yourself to

Hot or Not Hot? — The small kitchen of my dreams

Written By: admin - Jun• 27•10

I’m enthralled with this small kitchen, which I saw in an article by kitchen designer Susan Serra, author of The Kitchen Designer.

What’s so appealing here? The antique wood floors are most beautiful. Susan points out that the direction the boards run, along the length of the kitchen, rather than the width, draws your eye toward the windows. She notes that the two lights also draw your eye to the window. And the longer your eye is drawn, the bigger the room seems.

To me, the white cabinets and white tile walls were absolutely the right solution in this space. I also love the gray paint on the upper walls. But I’m not quite sure why that is so perfect. Any color theorists out there?

Also, high-end-looking stainless appliances give any kitchen a classy look. Plus, the white counter rocks. It looks to me like some kind of solid surface, like Corian. Sleek and uncluttered.

Finally, I’m struck by how the owners and/or designer were able to resist putting banks of upper cabinets around the windows and over the stove.

In this kitchen, the absence of extra upper cabinets produces a look of expansion rather than claustrophobia. In a small kitchen, that absence takes courage, However, I see that there is a bank of cabinets on the left wall, so it looks to me like the storage needs are taken care of.

Whoever designed this kitchen, bravo!

What do you think?

1.5 million dishwashers recalled

Written By: admin - Jun• 26•10

Name of Product: Maytag Dishwashers

Units: About 1.7 million in the United States

Manufacturer: Maytag Corp. of Newton, Iowa or Maytag Corp. of Benton Harbor, Mich.

Hazard: An electrical failure in the dishwasher’s heating element can pose a serious fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: Maytag has received 12 reports of dishwasher heating element failures that resulted in fires and dishwasher damage, including one report of extensive kitchen damage from a fire. No injuries have been reported.

Description: The recall includes Maytag®, Amana®, Jenn-Air®, Admiral®, Magic Chef®, Performa by Maytag® and Crosley® brand dishwashers with plastic tubs and certain serial numbers. The affected dishwashers were manufactured with black, bisque, white, silver and stainless steel front panels. The brand name is printed on the front of the dishwasher. The model and serial numbers are printed on a label located inside the plastic tub on a tag near the left side of the door opening. Serial numbers will start or end with one of the following sequences.

SERIAL number STARTING with OR SERIAL number ENDING with
NW39, NW40, NW41, NW42, NW43, NW44, NW45, NW46, NW47, NW48, NW49, NW50, NW51, NW52, NY01, NY02, NY03, NY04, NY05, NY06, NY07, NY08, NY09, NY10, NY11, NY12, NY13, NY14, NY15, NY16, NY17, NY18, NY19 JC, JE, JG, JJ, JL, JN, JP, JR, JT, JV, JX, LA, LC, LE, LG, LJ, LL, LN, LP, LR, LT, LV, LX, NA, NC, NE, NG, NJ, NL, NN, NP, NR


Sold at: Department and appliance stores and by homebuilders nationwide from February 2006 through April 2010 for between $250 and $900.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dishwashers, disconnect the electric supply by shutting off the fuse or circuit breaker controlling it, inform all users of the dishwasher about the risk of fire and contact Maytag to verify if their dishwasher is included in the recall. If the dishwasher is included in the recall, consumers can either schedule a free in-home repair or receive a rebate following the purchase of certain new Maytag brand stainless-steel tub dishwashers. The rebate is $150 if the consumer purchases new dishwasher models MDB7759, MDB7609 or MDBH979; or $250 if the consumer purchases new dishwasher models MDB8959, MDB8859, MDB7809 or MDB7709. Consumers should not return the recalled dishwashers to the retailer where purchased as retailers are not prepared to take the units back.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Maytag at (800) 544-5513 anytime, or visit the firm’s website at

A light bulb that lasts 17 years

Written By: admin - Jun• 19•10

A soon-to-be-released light bulb developed by General Electric uses cutting-edge technology to last — get this — 17 years! 

Let’s put it into perspective. Imagine you have a baby, and you install the soon-to-be-available Energy Smart LED (light-emitting diode) bulb in the baby’s room. That baby will grow up and graduate from high school before that light bulb burns out (based on four hours of use a day).

Of course, there will be a price to pay. The bulbs, which were introduced at trade shows this year and should be on the market some time in 2011, will cost more than $40 each. That will be the price for the trendsetters among us, also known as “early adopters.” As with most new technologies, you can expect the price to drop dramatically in coming years.

The new bulbs are expected to last, according to GE, 25,000 hours — that’s 25 times longer than a regular light bulb and three times longer than a typical compact fluorescent. Each Energy Smart LED bulb would prevent 25 spent light bulbs from ending up in a landfill.

See my whole post at DIY Life.

New: A non-toxic primer from Kilz

Written By: admin - Jun• 12•10

Kilz Clean Start 
: What’s even better than blocking stains with KILZ primer-sealer?

A: Doing so without poisoning yourself.

I’ve been a fan of KILZ stain-blocking primer for years. It’s one of those rare products that lives up to its hype. And now it come in a formulation with no volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. That word “organic” really throws people. Organic is good, right? In this case, it means that there is off-gassing from the paint. And where does that gaseous material go? Right into your body. You could rephrase VOC to VCC, or volatile chemical compounds. Does that get our attention better?

So I’ve got a gallon of KILZ Clean Start (which can be used indoor or outdoor) and I’ve got a stained front porch that needs some attention. Check back in a few weeks and I’ll show you my results.

Kitty Bartholomew: Extreme beauty on a ceiling

Written By: admin - Jun• 05•10

Bedroom Ceiling MuralCheck out this mural on an awkwardly shaped ceiling, which Kitty Bartholomew of HGTV fame had painted in her bedroom. Typically a tray ceiling is a real boost to a home’s architecture. But in this 1930s Cape Cod home, it was out of place. The room had apparently been added on and the modern style of the ceiling didn’t match the rest of the home. With this mural, the room takes on the feeling of a beautiful sanctuary under a blue sky.

What do you look for in a flea market chair?

Written By: admin - May• 21•10

Kitty Bartholomew of HGTV fame at a flea marketWhat do you look for in flea market chairs?

Kitty Bartholomew of HGTV fame shares two tips:

1) Look for chairs with a seat that can be taken off and recovered. Turn it over and see if there are screws holding the seat to the frame. If there are, the potential for recovering the seat is unlimited.

2) Try to see beyond the seat fabric. In this case, a bold tropical fabric would look much better with these rattan frames than the old-fashioned floral fabric on there now. And you know, you can paint those frames. Black lacquer would be interesting.

Photo: Sharon Cavanagh, Copyright Kathy Price-Robinson and Kitty Bartholomew