3 Ways to Explore
Remodeling and Home Services
Buying a House and Making it a Home
While house hunting in Las Vegas, you and your spouse found the perfect home. It’s well-situated close to a high-rated school, it’s within a decent commute to your work and it has a nice pool and landscaped backyard that really made a lasting impression. You’re hesitating because the home will require some remodeling, but it’s not enough to stop you from moving in. On the other hand, the home is available for immediate occupancy while other model homes you liked are not and are in outlying communities. Remodeling sounds like the solution, but where do you start?

Find out more in this section about the remodeling trends, the best ways to find a remodeling contractor, the questions to ask when interviewing a contractor and what to include in the remodeling contract. Also find out what remodeling projects in Las Vegas provide the best return on investment. You’ll find a wealth of information about home-services providers and how they can help transform your home into a desert oasis!

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) (www.nari.org), the remodeling market is a $275 billion industry and is expected to continue to experience significant growth.

Remodeling accounts for about 40 percent of all residential construction spending and about 2 percent of the U.S. economy. Although often more costly, major remodeling projects typically have provided a strong return on investment. A kitchen upgrade or room addition will recoup 80 percent of the cost within the first two years of construction and will continue to increase a home’s value over time. See the Cost vs. Value Report 2011–12 on this page that compares construction costs with resale values in the Las Vegas market.

WORKING WITH CONTRACTORS IN NEVADA
The Nevada State Contractors Board (www.nvcontractorsboard.com) provides a comprehensive booklet for homeowners to review at its website. “A Consumer Overview of Contractors and Construction Contracts” provides information to help consumers deal with contractors and the Nevada State Contractors Board. The guide is for informational purposes and not intended as an instructional guide. Excerpts are provided in the following.

If you are considering home construction, repair, remodel, addition, demolition, electrical, plumbing or air conditioning repair, landscaping or installing a new pool, you will need a contractor to do the work. In the state of Nevada, that contractor should have a proper contractor’s license for his specific trade.

Licensed contractors who have met experience and examination requirements are required to maintain bonds and workers compensation insurance as well as have established their financial responsibility. Therefore, it is wise to insist that your contractor be licensed. Your home is one of your biggest investments. Be aware of your rights and responsibilities when hiring any person to work on it. An informed and prepared consumer is key to a successful project.

THE CONTRACTORS BOARD
The Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) licenses and regulates contractors throughout the state of Nevada and is committed to promoting the integrity and professionalism of the contracting industry in the state. It has the responsibility of promoting quality construction by Nevada-licensed contractors through a regulatory licensing system designed to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public.

The NSCB consists of seven members appointed by the governor. Six members are licensed contractors and one is a noncontractor public representative. The NSCB’s staff includes a licensing department that processes and maintains contractors’ license information and an investigative department that looks into complaints.

— CONTACT THE NSCB
As a consumer, you may contact the NSCB to do the following:
  • Check and see whether the contractor you are considering is licensed, in good standing, in the proper classification and within the monetary limit for which you want to hire.
  • Check for disciplinary actions.
  • Get tips on making sure your rights are protected before you enter into a contract.
  • File a complaint against a licensed contractor.
  • File a complaint against an unlicensed contractor.
  • Report unlicensed contracting activity.

To check a contractor’s license in Southern Nevada, call (702) 486-1100. You also can check to see if a contractor is licensed at the NSCB website at www.nvcontractorsboard.com.

To file a complaint against an unlicensed contractor, contact the NSCB Investigations Unit in Southern Nevada at (702) 486-1160. You also may file a complaint on the NSCB website by going to Consumer Information and then the subheading Filing Construction Complaints. To contact the NSCB by mail or to visit their offices, the address is 2310 Corporate Circle, Suite 200, Henderson, NV 89074.

GOVERNING LAW AND RULES
The law and rules regulating the licensing and conduct of contractors in the state of Nevada are contained in Nevada Revised Statutes 624 and Nevada Administrative Code 624. The purpose of the law is to protect the public and to provide remedies for consumers when a licensed contractor has violated the law. All contractors are required to be licensed. Unlicensed contracting activity is illegal in Nevada and is investigated by the NSCB and prosecuted by the local justice court. Unlicensed contracting penalties can escalate from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and to a Class E felony.

SELECT A PROFESSIONAL, RELIABLE REMODELING CONTRACTOR
A contractor is a person who undertakes or offers to construct, alter, repair, add to, subtract from, improve, move, wreck or demolish any building or other structure. This includes a subcontractor or specialty contractor but not a material supplier. A contractor also includes a construction manager who performs management and counseling services on a construction project for a professional fee.

Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor for your home-improvement project doesn’t have to be a difficult task. By following these guidelines recommended and prepared by NARI, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs:
  • Employ a home-improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local Better Business Bureau. Local remodelers are compelled to perform work that satisfies their customers so their business can survive.
  • In Nevada, all residential building contractors must be licensed by the state of Nevada. Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of his license.
  • Check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure that there are no complaints on record for the contractor. In Las Vegas, the Better Business Bureau can be reached at www.southernnevada.bbb.org.
  • Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor’s certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry workers compensation as well as property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.
  • If you solicit bids from several different home-improvement contractors, make sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in bids and beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.

— HOME-PERFORMANCE CONTRACTOR
Homeowners often are looking for ways to make improvements to their houses that are environmentally efficient and cost saving in the long run. Home-performance contractors differ from traditional contractors in their knowledge of what energy-efficient improvements to make and how they can work together. Home-performance contractors have specialized training and diagnostic tools to determine how your home is performing. They can assist you in achieving your goals, whether it’s improving comfort, cutting energy costs or protecting the environment.

WHAT ARE THE QUESTIONS TO ASK POTENTIAL CONTRACTORS?
Timing and money are the most common questions a home-improvement contractor hears, but during an interview with homeowners when they should be asking about credentials and verifying business practices, what is often heard is, “When can you start? When will it be finished? How much will it cost?”

According to NARI, these simply aren’t enough. Yes, timing may be “everything” in comedy, but that certainly isn’t the case when it comes to remodeling. If you are going to have a successful remodeling project, you need to learn the right questions to ask and how to ask them. NARI members offer a list of questions that you should ask.
  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  3. Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  4. Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate does not let you know if the policy is still current. Even if the certificate has an expiration date, you cannot tell if the insurance has been canceled by either party.)
  5. What is your approach to a project such as this?
  6. How many similar projects have you completed in the past year?
  7. Can you provide a list of references from those projects?
  8. Can you provide a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  9. What percentage of your business is repeat or by referral?
  10. Are you a member of a national trade association?
  11. Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR) designation?

It’s also important to realize that sometimes it’s not the answers you get that are significant, but what you don’t get. Asking the right questions is not enough. You need to pay attention to your instincts and to what information is missing.

Unlike your accountant or stockbroker, your remodeler will be a part of your daily life and available for on-the-job education. He or she will be privy to your personal life, more so than your doctor or lawyer. Your contractor will know how you look early in the morning and how well behaved your dog is. It makes sense that you should take some time to carefully select this person and make sure that it is someone to whom you can ask questions.

HIRING A CONTRACTOR
The following information includes tips you can use when choosing and hiring your contractor.
  • Get at least three bids. Before hiring any contractor, get at least three written bids (estimates) for your project. Provide the contractors with accurate plans or drawings so they can determine the scope of work and costs involved. If prices differ by a wide margin, you may consider obtaining additional bids. Beware of any bid that is substantially lower than others. This may indicate that the contractor has made a mistake or has not included all of the work quoted by other contractors.
  • Ask for references. Ask potential contractors for references in writing. Call the contractor’s previous customers and ask if they were satisfied with the work. Go out and look at the work for yourself.
  • Hire a licensed contractor. Even licensure cannot guarantee satisfaction; however, a licensed contractor has met experience and examination requirements and must fulfill certain conditions to maintain the license. A licensed contractor must have workers compensation insurance, a bond and have established financial responsibility. This protects you from unnecessary liability. A licensed contractor is regulated by the NSCB. A licensed contractor who violates the law (Nevada Revised Statute 624) may be disciplined by the board.

The NSCB licenses contractors in several different classifications:
A – General engineering contractor
B – General building contractor
C – Specialty contractor (e.g., electrical, landscaping, air conditioning)

Upon licensure, a monetary limit is established for each contractor based on his or her financial ability to maintain and complete contracts up to a certain amount. Contracts written in excess of the established limit are invalid.

The type of contractor you hire will depend on the kind of work you want done. For example, if you want only roofing work done, you would hire a contractor who is licensed as a roofing contractor. If the work you want done involves more than two types of work, you may want to hire a licensed general building contractor who will coordinate the appropriate licensed specialty contractors (subcontractors).

Before signing a contract, make sure the contractor is licensed in the correct classification and within the appropriate monetary limit. Ask to see the contractor’s “pocket card,” which will state the classification for which the contractor is licensed, the license number and the monetary limit. If you have questions as to the validity or status of a license, call the NSCB.

You also may wish to check with the Better Business Bureau in your area and the state of Nevada’s Department of Consumer Affairs to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor.

ALWAYS INSIST ON A WRITTEN CONTRACT
Having a written contract protects everyone concerned and prevents confusion if anything should go wrong. Be sure that the contract is dated, signed and specifies exactly what is being provided for your money. Do not assume or expect to be provided with anything not specified in the contract. Make sure the contract has adequate plans and specifications or other adequate descriptions of the scope of the work to be performed. Ensure that all change orders are in writing and signed by both you and your contractor.

These following are things that you should look for in your contract:
  • Contractor’s license number and classification
  • Contractor’s monetary limit (the highest amount for which he can contract)
  • Exact amount due from you under the contract
  • Date the work will begin and the number of days anticipated for completion
  • Work to be performed and the materials to be used
  • Approximate percentage of the work to be subcontracted with a list of subcontractors
  • The contract must be signed and dated by both parties.

It may be advisable to look for the following as well:
  • The name and address of any salesperson who solicited or negotiated the contract, in addition to the name and address of the contractor
  • A detailed payment schedule
  • Warranty terms
  • A provision requiring the contractor to obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and material suppliers

Take the time to review the contract and make sure you completely understand its contents before signing it. Don’t let a contractor or salesperson rush you into anything. If you are confused about the provisions of the contract or have questions about lien rights or other matters, consider hiring an attorney to explain them to you.

LIENS
A lien is a claim (a right of a creditor over a debtor) against an asset (item of economic value: your home), which is used to secure a loan. It must be paid when the property is sold.

— Mechanic’s or Material Man’s Lien?
When a contractor (or supplier) provides labor or materials for the construction of improvements on real estate, the mechanic’s lien law gives the contractor a security interest in the real estate.

A person who performs labor or furnishes material with a value of $500 or more to be used in the construction, alteration or repair of your home has a lien upon the property in the event of an unpaid balance in the agreed upon amount or fair market value. As part of the disclosure prior to signing a contract, the contractor must inform the homeowner of the lien rights of labor, suppliers and subcontractors. Any person not paid for labor or materials furnished for a home-improvement project may obtain a lien against the homeowner’s property. A subcontractor or supplier who has not been paid by the prime contractor may obtain a lien even if the homeowner has paid the contractor in full.

Request that a contractor’s Affidavit of Final Release be provided to you at the time you make the final payment and a final waiver of mechanic’s lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for nonpayment of materials or subcontractors.

REQUIRED DISCLOSURES
When you enter into a contract, there are certain disclosures that your contractor must provide to you in writing. Disclosures must be provided by the following:
  • General contractors
  • Residential contractors
  • Swimming pool and spa contractors

AFTER YOU HAVE HIRED A CONTRACTOR
Before work begins, make sure you have a complete and accurate set of contract documents. These should include the following:
  • You need a complete set of plans showing exactly what you are going to have built. It is suggested that you engage the services of a licensed architect or engineer to prepare these or at least review them to ensure their accuracy and completeness.
  • You need a complete set of specifications relating to the drawn plans. These should be prepared or reviewed by an architect or engineer.
  • You need a detailed contract with a set of general and accepted conditions and specifications. You may wish to have your attorney prepare these or review them prior to your signature. No work should be allowed until all documents are completed to your architect’s, attorney’s or your satisfaction.

Ask your contractor about inconveniences that may occur and plan for them. If a building permit is required for the job, make sure the contractor obtains it before the work starts and that it is posted at the jobsite. Do not pull or obtain the building permit yourself.

KEEP A FILE OF ALL DOCUMENTS RELATED TO YOUR PROJECT
Your file should include the following:
  • Signed contract and any signed change orders
  • List of all subcontractors and suppliers with contact information
  • Plans and specifications
  • Copies of building permits and inspections
  • Cancelled checks and records of payments
  • Record of all work performed and time on the job
  • Delivery receipts for materials from suppliers
  • Lien releases from materials suppliers and subcontractors (When you receive lien releases from subcontractors or materials suppliers, check them against your records. Your paperwork will help you determine who has and has not been paid.)

MAKE SURE ALL CHANGE ORDERS ARE IN WRITING
Plan carefully and keep changes to an absolute minimum. Change orders are very expensive for both the homeowner and the contractor and will increase the cost of the project. If you must make change orders to the original specifications, they should be in writing and signed by both you and the contractor.

PREPARE A “PUNCH LIST”
Write a list of minor work that needs to be completed or repaired. Do not engage in verbal agreements for repairs or additional work.

PROPER PLANNING IS IMPORTANT
For considerably less money than a new home, careful planning of improvement projects will let you update your home, increase the value of your investment and customize your living space. As part of the planning process, look over your property carefully. What repairs are needed? What improvements would you like to make? Think ahead and determine your future needs. Professional remodeling contractors can help you in your planning by outlining options and discussing the improvements you can make within your budget. Be sure to review your homeowners insurance policy and make adjustments for the added value of the work being done.

THINK ABOUT DESIGN AND FUNCTION
Design and function should be foremost in your mind if you’re thinking of adding a room or converting an existing one. When planning a larger, more complicated project, give thought to details, such as intended use of the space; flow of the space; where you want electrical outlets, telephone jacks and cable hook-ups located; the type of lighting required; your current and future storage needs; and whether you want to include luxury items. These details will enable your home improvement to better suit your needs and your lifestyle.

A professional remodeling contractor or design service should be consulted about design and function of any remodeling project. He or she also can help you with time- and money-saving hints.

DEVELOPING A REALISTIC REMODELING BUDGET
Review the following simple tips from NARI about developing a budget:
  • Determine what you can afford. It may seem obvious, but often homeowners may expect a remodeling contractor to create the budget for them. This is not a good idea.
  • Keep a reserve. Once you determine how much you can afford to spend on a remodeling job, decrease that amount by 10 to 20 percent. This reserve should be put away to cover any change orders or incidental charges accrued along the way. This will prevent a frantic scramble for additional funds at the end of the project.
  • Keep “change orders” to a minimum. It is easy for a homeowner to say, “A little more on this fixture doesn’t matter. It’s very little money.” Unfortunately, having that attitude also makes it easy to overextend a prepared budget.

While it’s rare that any remodeling project proceeds without a single change order, homeowners can keep them to a minimum by sticking to their original plans. A change order is a written document detailing any requests to alter, change or remove any items in the contract or project. There are four key origins of a change order:
  • The homeowner initiates one because they have changed their mind about the design or a specific product.
  • Unexpected damage was found (e.g., termites).
  • A code violation is uncovered that affects the project.
  • The proverbial “while you’re at it…” phrase can annihilate a budget. While it’s tempting for a homeowner to have his remodeling contractor complete handiwork, it’s good to remember that any work not specified in the original contract will have an additional cost attached to it.

WORKING WITH REMODELING PROFESSIONALS
Before work begins, ask your remodeling contractor what inconveniences may occur while the project is under way and plan for them accordingly. Consider moving personal property from construction areas and declare all work zones off-limits to children and pets.

Be sure your contractor is aware of vacations or special events already planned so he or she may schedule their jobsite time appropriately.

— DETERMINING THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
Depending on your needs and the size or complexity of your intended remodeling project, there are several different options for you to explore before finalizing your plans.

Building a home involves many different skilled professionals. As you learn about the process, it’s important to know the roles that key professionals play. Following is a brief summary of job titles and descriptions in the homebuilding process.

Architects represent the most highly educated and trained category of designers. The title requires a college degree and state certification. Architects are able to translate ideas into detailed plans and material specifications. They also can oversee your project while it is in progress and are an excellent resource for other professionals, since they already have established a pool of designers and general contractors with whom they have worked in the past.

Designers are skilled in the design and building process, but are not licensed or regulated in most states. If you’re planning to work with a designer, verify his or her experience and professionalism. You’ll want to review the designer’s portfolio and look for design degrees from accredited universities and membership and/or certification from professional organizations, including the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD), the National Council of Building Designer Certification (NCBDC), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) among others. These organizations help ensure professional standards of education, field experience and adherence to a code of ethics.

Residential Designers (Space Planners) are trained to use space most efficiently and tend to focus on floor-plan design, detailed lifestyle evaluation and design functionality. If you’re considering a floor plan, a family room, bathroom or kitchen, consult a residential or interior specialist. This specialist can spend additional time and attention on specific areas of the home that are especially important to you and your family. Often, residential designers’ expertise can overlap with interior designers because they both offer advice about the latest trends and products.

Structural Engineers need to be consulted if your project requires any structural alterations to an existing building. The role complements the work of architects, who are the spatial and aesthetic experts of building design and construction. A structural engineer can provide advice on any strengthening required and the design of new lintels, beams, walls or foundations that may be needed. Structural engineers also can perform a site inspection to establish the nature of the ground and design suitable foundations for the building.

Kitchen and Bathroom Designers provide expert product knowledge within their specialties, but they may lack construction experience or miss design opportunities associated with additions or movement of walls, according to building experts. If the project involves high-dollar budgets in which expensive cabinets, materials and appliances will be used, consider either of these professionals.

Home Center Staff Designers are an easy, immediate and cost-effective way to learn about basic design ideas. You can check your local home-center store to learn about classes it is offering or simply visit the store and discuss with staff designers what you’re planning to build. You will find that design skills among the staff varies widely. Also, be aware that the staff will recommend solutions using their store’s products.

Interior Designers and Home Decorators are specialists who offer advice on furniture, wall coverings, colors, styles and overall physical appearance of your project. While not essential to the process, these professionals can save you both time and money by helping you narrow down your choices and utilizing professional discounts for materials, such as furniture, home accessories, wallpaper or paint. Communicating your personal style and preferences is important when you meet with an interior designer or home decorator. Be prepared to show examples of styles you like that you’ve found in magazines or books. Based on your input, these professionals will develop ideas that will work for the space and help create a setting that represents your artistic sensibility. Keep in mind that while an interior designer also may do some interior space planning, most of them usually focus on interior decorating by selecting finishing touches such as carpets, drapes, paint colors, fabrics and furnishings. You may find that their duties overlap or can be interchangeable with those of both residential designers and interior decorators.

Draftspersons primarily prepare technical drawings of designs created by others although some can assist with the design. These days, most drafters work in Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) programs. You already may have a good idea of a floor plan you like; if that’s the case, it’s not uncommon to hire a draftsperson to draw the blueprints and have them checked by an engineer before speaking with general contractors to bid, apply for permits and build.

As you speak with these various professionals in the home-building process, look for people whose experience, designs and ideas best reflect your taste and sensibilities. There also should be good communication flow and understanding about the project. After all, it’s about building your new home, one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime and the center of your family’s life.

PAYING FOR THE WORK
It is normal for a contractor to ask for partial payment in advance and, provided you have taken the precautions recommended, you should expect to provide a part of the cost before the work begins. However, it is notorious that scammers involved in door-to-door ripoffs will ask for payment in full in advance and then abscond without completing (sometimes without even starting) the job.

Even with a reputable business and a sound, written contract in place, you should not pay in full until the work is complete and you have inspected it yourself and found it satisfactory. A partial payment schedule usually will specify what part of the job has been done when a payment is due. Inspect the work and make sure the contractor has met the schedule before you make your payment.

If you are asked to sign a certificate of completion, do not do so until all the work is completely finished, the site is cleaned up and you are satisfied.

CONSIDER A PAYMENT-AND-PERFORMANCE BOND
On larger jobs, you may want to request a payment-and-performance bond. While there will be an additional charge, it provides assurance that your project will be completed. A reputable contractor will be bondable for a small additional fee.

FINANCING A REMODELING PROJECT
If the job is expensive enough that you will need to finance it, shop around for the best terms on the financing. This is separate from taking bids on the cost of the work. In choosing your source of financing, you will be concerned with the rate of interest, finance charges and the terms of the payout. As with any financing agreement, you should calculate the entire cost of interest and charges for the term of the loan.
Many homeowners obtain financing for a remodel, especially for larger projects. There are various financing plans readily available to homeowners, among the most popular being the home-equity loan, which bases the loan amount on the equity in the home.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has loans specifically for home improvements that are available through many banks and lending institutions. The FHA requires that the contractor be approved by the lender; but proceed with caution. That in itself does not guarantee the contractor’s work. Other financing options include personal loans and credit-card loans. For more information about financing a remodeling project, NARI’s Homeowner’s Guide online at www.nari.org discusses financing in greater depth.

Whichever financing option a homeowner obtains, it’s recommended that they stick to it. If the budget is “x” and then reserve fund is “y,” don’t be afraid to tell the contractor that these are the budgetary parameters.

A professional remodeling contractor is familiar with the many financing options available and frequently can be of assistance in putting a homeowner in touch with various options, but it’s recommended that homeowners do their own homework on the available options.

A home-improvement company may offer financing, but this is not necessarily the best option even though it may seem easy to arrange the financing and the work contract at the same time. Be aware that some contractors will have you sign a credit contract to pay a certain price for the work plus a finance charge then immediately sell the right to collect on the contract for 20–50 percent less than the contract price. That usually means you could have gotten the work done for 20–50 percent less by paying cash or arranging financing yourself.

LANDSCAPING
Landscaping your home can add 7–15 percent to its value. In fact, landscaping can return 100–200 percent on your investment when it comes time to sell. Money magazine reports that a swimming pool returns only 20–50 percent of your money. Mature landscaping can lower energy costs, dampen noise and help reduce air pollution. Other ideas to enhance your home’s value through inexpensive landscaping include the following:
  • Select indigenous plants. Select native rather than exotic plants for your landscaping to reduce maintenance and to increase curb appeal. Indigenous grasses, trees and shrubs grow well together and to predictable sizes. They do not need watering (except during establishment), nor do they require chemical fertilizers because they already are adapted to local conditions and insects. Native plants not only accent your home, they also attract colorful birds and butterflies.
  • Use small spaces effectively. Container gardening can work miracles in small spaces with the added benefit of being easy to move according to the plants’ needs. If you live in a condo or an apartment, revitalize your entryway, patio or balcony with attractive hanging baskets, planters and unique accessories. Try to limit the different kinds of plants and materials you use in a small garden.
  • Create an outdoor living space. Consider adding a deck or a patio for entertaining and relaxing. This addition also can be a great investment. According to the Cost vs. Value Report 2011–12, installing a deck provides up to 53.6 percent return on investment. Select from a variety of different surfaces to fit any particular style or budget, including concrete pavers, natural clay, wood, stones and brick. Pebble, gravel, bricks and tiles also can be incorporated easily and inexpensively.

If this is the first time you’ve lived in a desert climate, one great place to learn about the landscape in Las Vegas is the Gardens at Springs Preserve (www.springspreserve.org), an eight-acre botanical preserve that features a wide range of desert landscapes and demonstrates native and nonnative desert plant life with interpretive stations and hands-on activities.

Unique features of Springs Preserve include the Watering Can Theater in the Gardens for irrigation instruction, the Tool Shed Theater, a children’s theater featuring molded mushroom-shaped chairs, a weather station with real-time weather data, the Enabling Garden for demonstrating options for people who have physical challenges and the Frame House, a 70-seat kitchen area that features outdoor cooking demonstrations.

The Las Vegas Valley Water District offers tips for water-smart landscaping (also known as xeriscape). It’s more than cacti and lava rock; it also can be a lush oasis brimming with water-efficient plants. With a little planning and the following tips, you can create the water-smart landscape of your dreams:
  • Make a plan. Wandering the aisles of your local nursery can be fun, but develop a game plan before you go to stay on task and on budget. Put your ideas on paper with a landscape master plan that outlines where plants will go. Remember to allow space for young plants to mature and spread.
  • Read! Learn! Get Inspired! Call (702) 258-SAVE for a free Water Smart Landscapes book and video. This guide will show you how to do it yourself or work with a contractor. Call (702) 258-3205 for a schedule of free landscaping classes at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve.
  • Two yards are better than one. Talk to your neighbor about a combined landscape upgrade. Many suppliers offer better prices on larger quantities of material.
  • Enroll in the Water Smart landscape program. Earn a rebate of $1 per square foot when you upgrade grass to water-efficient landscaping. You must be preapproved before you make any changes to your yard. Following are the steps to apply:
    • Call (702) 258-SAVE before you begin.
    • Participate in a required preconversion site review.
    • Upgrade your landscape once you have approval.
    • Call for a final inspection.
    • Prepare surfaces. Preparatory work is critical. Properly remove turf areas you don’t use, grade for proper drainage and add mulches in your landscape. Mulches, such as rock or wood, help retain soil moisture and shield plants from extreme cold or heat.
  • Beware the irrigation shortcut. Assess your current irrigation system. What areas need sprinklers? What areas need drip irrigation? Consult a professional if you plan to convert an existing system. Ill-advised shortcuts can parch plants and cost you more in maintenance, parts and water in the long run.
  • Buy starter plants. Five-gallon plants are pretty, but pricey; choose one-gallon containers instead. Fall is a perfect time to plant in Las Vegas, and even small plants will mature quickly. Colorful groundcovers like lantana or myoporum spread easily, require little maintenance and are water-efficient.

Water Smart Landscapes Program Plant List
For a detailed list of common plants found in Southern Nevada landscapes, visit the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s website at www.snwa.com and click on Landscapes. In the Landscape Design Toolkit section, select Plant Search. You also can call the Conservation Helpline at (702) 258-SAVE (7283).

WATER CONSERVATION
— MANDATORY WATERING SCHEDULE
Watering restrictions allow watering any day of the week from May 1 through August 31. Mandatory watering restrictions prohibit sprinkler irrigation between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. from May 1 until October 1. During the hottest hours of the day, water is often lost to evaporation from the heat and high winds in the area. Watering during restricted hours is considered water waste and may result in a water-waste citation. You may handwater your landscape at any time of day, but use a hose with a positive shutoff nozzle. While daily landscape watering is permitted, the SNWA reiterates that landscapes can stay healthy and look great with less water. Monitor your landscape closely during the hot summer days and adjust watering times or add watering days only as needed. Follow these recommendations from the SNWA:
  • Water your landscape after sunset and before sunrise to reduce evaporation caused by wind and heat.
  • One way to keep your water bill down during peak temperatures is to cut one watering day per week out of your daily sprinkler schedule. Taking just one day off can reduce your water use by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
  • Use the cycle-and-soak sprinkler irrigation method, which allows the soil to absorb water slowly and reduces the risk of runoff. Water four days per week and increase the schedule only if your landscape needs more water.
  • Don’t water on windy or rainy days. Winds can send sprinkler water in unintended directions, saturating the sidewalk more than the lawn. Watering during rainy periods can cause soil over-saturation and wasteful runoff. Shut off the sprinklers on windy or rainy days to save as much as 500 gallons of water a day.
  • If you notice brown spots in your lawn, check your sprinklers to see if any of the heads are broken or twisted. Also check to see if your sprinklers are popping up four inches above the grass. You may water by hand with a hose. To break down surface tension and allow for better water absorption, add a tablespoon of liquid soap to a gallon of water and drench the brown spots with the mixture.
  • During the summer, run your drip irrigation system in a single cycle of 30 to 90 minutes, three days per week. The length of each watering should be determined by the emitter flow rate, soil type and weather conditions. Experts agree that running drip irrigation less frequently is much better for plants than daily watering.

THE PUSH FOR GREENER HOMES
A major nationwide trend keeps sustainability in mind. This also applies to remodelers who are leading the charge to provide eco-conscious solutions for home-remodeling projects, according to NARI.

Faced with mounting scientific evidence that climate change threatens the health of our planet, homeowners are compelled to ask how they can make a difference. Green remodeling practices have become more popular as homeowners cope with ever-increasing energy costs, health concerns and diminishing natural resources.

Following are a few specific ways NARI remodelers can help plan a green remodel.

— EFFICIENT HEATING AND COOLING
With dramatic increases in energy costs becoming an annual occurrence, many homeowners have come to realize that building in an environmentally friendly way also means making smart decisions that translate into financial savings. New insulation technologies, such as spray-in cellulose insulation made from 80-percent postconsumer recycled newspaper, effectively will seal homes from harsh heat and cold.

Thermal solar energy is a nonpolluting source that is captured easily and used for water and space heating. Although solar water heaters can be expensive ($1,000–$4,000), they can show paybacks of only four to eight years, according to Austin Energy. Space heating systems can vary from $800 for wall heaters to $4,000 or more for large central systems. Qualified remodelers can help homeowners choose the right combination of insulation and energy-saving heating and cooling systems to reduce energy costs.

— REDUCING WATER CONSUMPTION
Southern Nevada is located in the arid Mojave Desert, which averages about four inches of rain each year. Reducing outdoor water use and water waste is essential to long-term sustainability in the desert. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (www.snwa.com) offers residents many tips on water conservation for every part of the house, yard and for washing vehicles.

In addition, selecting the right appliances, such as water-conserving washers, dryers and dishwashers, and installing low-flush toilets and efficient showerheads can reduce the amount of water needed and help trim water bills. In addition, approximately 8,000 gallons of water per household each year are lost while waiting for hot water to come from the tap. Positioning a home’s water heater as close as possible to the points of use for hot water will help conserve this valuable resource.

— HEALTHY INDOOR AIR
Homeowners today are concerned about maintaining a healthy indoor environment, particularly if they are sensitive to airborne irritants. Modern building materials, such as construction adhesives, paints and treated woods, can have toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that adversely affect indoor air quality. Today, there are new nontoxic materials that will improve the overall health of a home. Air filters, such as those installed in a home’s central HVAC system, also can improve the quality of indoor air.

— SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
Reduce the environmental impact of your remodel by choosing flooring and countertop materials made from local or regional sources. Many products on the market today are either made of recycled materials or produced in an eco-friendly way. “Green” surfaces, such as reclaimed hardwood, bamboo flooring and recycled-glass countertops leave a lighter footprint on the environment.

— QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Many homeowners today are opting for slightly smaller homes in exchange for smarter planning and design. “Instead of the big formal rooms, many of our clients request multifunctional spaces, such as a home office that doubles as a guest bedroom,” Davis says. “In areas with small lots, every square foot needs to count, and remodelers and architects can help design spaces that do that.”

— RECYCLE CONSTRUCTION WASTE
Eco-conscious remodelers will recycle as much project waste as possible during a home-renovation project. For example, CG&S Design-Build will bring four waste containers to a project site—for paper, metal, wood and concrete—in an effort to recycle more efficiently. “We are very aware that so much waste is traditionally put in a landfill, and we are trying reduce that as much as we can,” Davis says.

For homeowners who want to promote sustainability, NARI remodelers can help navigate the path to greener living. Green remodeling gives homeowners the chance to combine earth-friendly building concepts with cost-saving solutions. NARI’s approach to green remodeling emphasizes comfort, health and efficiency for a happier home.

Whether remodeling your home for personal use or resale, make sure you hire the right construction professionals that will ensure the quality of the work and a true return on your investment.
 
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