Substitutes for Kitchen Cabinets


It is always a good idea to shake things up a bit when you feel the need to remodel. The kitchen can usually stand a fresh infusion of something creative even if it is a little outside the norm. This is a great way to give your kitchen the functionality it needs while being inspired by some pretty unusual storage choices. Let’s take a look at a few very unique unconventional storage ideas for the kitchen.

Use Recycled Containers

Using reclaimed material is all the rage these days, and the trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Reclaimed wood is everywhere, so you there is little trouble finding it. Even better, you can get it cheaply and sometimes even for free. Old shipping crates, used palettes, and old furniture are all good sources of wood for recycling.

You will most likely have to expect a bit more work with this wood before you can get finished kitchen storage. A lot of sanding and refinishing might be necessary to make the pieces useable. On the other hand, some recycled wood will work for a more rustic look, so it all comes down to what you are looking for.

A Pantry

There are quite a few benefits to building a kitchen pantry, including that it helps to keep your kitchen organized. Generally, a pantry makes it easy to keep all the items you will need for meal preparation within easy reach, including small appliances such as the food processor, blender, and mixer. This is also a money saver since you can easily see what foods you have stored. Even more importantly, it does not take long to install a pantry, making it a less expensive alternative to building cabinets.

Material Combinations

You can create a striking visual by mixing and matching materials and tones for your kitchen cabinets. Matching cabinets are not a necessity for an attractive looking kitchen. You can get this effect easily by using different materials or shades for upper and lower cabinets. For example, consider wooden lower cabinets, and upper cabinets with frosted glass or metal for an interesting contrast. Alternatively, you could consider a dark wood for the kitchen island, white cabinets for the base cabinetry, and glass or open shelving for the upper cabinets.

Material Choices

Even beautifully finished wooden cabinets are not always the best fit for every kitchen. You can even explore options like steel for a kitchen with a really different look. Naturally, a lot will depend on your budget and tastes, and whether you plan to remain in your home after remodeling or you plan on selling. Choose materials that you like above any other factors.

Explore Storage Choices

Kitchen storage possibilities aren’t limited to cabinets or a pantry. Built-in storage is a very real option as well. Use Google or your favorite search engine to look online to discover unique kitchen storage options that may fit your needs. Contact us at 602-478-5102 if you’re interested in exploring more options for your newly designed kitchen.

Make a Small Bathroom Work


Space limitations should not prevent you from making life as comfortable as possible for a family member with disabilities. Many homes lack the kind of space that the owners would prefer and this also presents challenges when trying to making them disabled-friendly. The bathroom is one of the places where this is most noticeable. If your home has small bathrooms and an expansion is not on the cards, you can still make this space comfortable for users with disabilities.

The Fixtures

There are no strict guidelines on the height of the bathroom sink and the mirror, so you use what is best for your situation. The height should be such that someone in a wheelchair can use these and other fixtures with ease. Bathroom adjustments may call for adjustment to the drain, and drilling new anchor holes if the sink requires these.

The Toilet

It is quite likely that you will have to replace the toilet with one made especially for individuals with disabilities. In some cases, the toilet should be higher than the typical requirement. This will make it easier for the person to move from the chair, and back to the chair as needed. Regulations state that toilets for the disabled must be wheelchair height, which is usually a few inches higher than standard toilets. The installation of grab bars  is another essential aspect of this process.

The Shower

You can add grab bars to your existing tile shower or buy a special disabled-friendly shower and have it installed. This will save time and maybe even money, since making adjustments to an existing shower can be tricky. Some showers are designed with seats and grab bars, while others can accommodate wheelchairs. Get the measurements for these types of showers so you can decide how to proceed with your bathroom remodeling plans.

Adequate Space

This will be the biggest issue you will have to confront. All the typical bathroom fixtures must be available, but there must also be enough room for the wheelchair bound person to maneuver. To start with, there is a good chance that you will have to widen the doorway. Moving a wall may also be necessary to provide adequate space. In a small bathroom, the homeowner may be forced to reposition some fixtures like the sink.

Faucets and Flushing Handles

Choose hands-off whenever possible. Choose automatic flushing toilets and hands-free motion sensor faucets when possible. This will allow the disabled family member to flush and wash their hands without the additional effort and fall risk of leaning over to flush the toilet.

A disabled friendly renovation for a small bathroom can become costly if you have to make a lot of changes, but it will be worth it. This is not the type of job for the typical contractor. Contact us at 602-478-5102 if you’re interested in disability renovations. We will help you build exactly what you need for your disabled family member.

10 Amazing Kitchen Remodeling Trends to follow in 2016

10 Amazing Kitchen Remodeling Trends to follow in 2016
Kitchen design has come a long way in the last 20 years. We’ve seen some pretty amazing trends come and go. We have had our eye on a few trends that we will happily take into 2016, and they don’t necessarily revolve around the latest extreme craze. This type of trend comes and goes pretty quickly when people realize they can’t complement their cobalt blue refrigerator, range, and dishwasher for more than a couple of years. The trends we’re going to talk about today are trends that we feel will last for quite some time.

1. Sleek Kitchen Design: Flat-faced cabinets and low-profile handles help to create a very sleek kitchen appearance.
2. Thin Countertops: Countertops are no longer two or three inches thick. Thiner materials are lightweight but just as durable. One and a half inch thick granite is more standard and three quarter inch thick quartz works well for modern style kitchens.
3. Improved Storage Options: We all like small appliances, but that doesn’t mean we have to have them sitting on the countertop and readily available at all times. Custom storage for each item is just a request away.
4. Tech-friendliness: Everyone is attached to some type of mobile device these days. Add a charging station in the kitchen island or a safe area of the countertop.
5. Smart Appliances: Consider the simplicity involved in allowing your refrigerator to help keep track of your grocery list or your range or oven to remember how to bake your favorite bread. These appliances are readily available at your local home improvement store. You can even schedule your coffee pot and toaster with your smartphone.
6. Eclectic Cabinet Choices: Shaker style doors on frameless cabinetry? Sure! Why not? Choose your cabinetry based on what you like, there are multitudes of options available.
7. Task Lighting: Overhead lighting just isn’t enough light to illuminate food preparation areas sometimes, so this is where we rely on strategically placed task lighting. Under-cabinet lighting as well as pendant lighting are very popular options for task lighting.
8. Natural Lighting: The addition of windows above or below cabinetry or in the eat-in-kitchen nook brings in a great amount of natural lighting. Many homeowners enjoy the addition of windows or skylights because they also improve the curb appeal of the home.
9. Pull-out Cabinet Storage: Lower cabinets are often dark and dishes tend to become lost in the abyss. Stop losing dishes, and install pull-out cabinet shelving or better yet, deep pot drawers instead of stationary shelves.
10.Built-in Trash and Recycle Containers: Nothing is more convenient as well as better looking than including built-in trash and recycle containers. Installing them where they are easy to access from your prep area makes your work in the kitchen that much easier.

Call Homework Remodels at 602-4787-5102 if you’re home is in the greater Phoenix area and would like to talk to one of our designers or builders about remodeling your kitchen. We would love the opportunity to show you how we can turn your existing kitchen into an amazing room that you’ll never want to leave. Look at our featured projects to see some of our award-winning kitchens and bathrooms. Think about all of the entertainment possibilities when you work with us to remodel your Phoenix area kitchen.

2016 New Year’s Resolutions with a Home Improvement Twist

2016 New Year's Resolutions with a Home Improvement Twist

We’re all guilty of making New Year’s resolutions that we never really keep. Some of us may have the best of intentions, but life gets in the way and we push our resolutions to the side to make way for other, more interesting things. This year, instead of resolving to lose weight or get into shape, make a few plans to make the changes to your home you have been putting off to another day. Here are a few great New Year’s Resolutions with a home improvement twist. See if one of them appeal to you.

  1. Install a programmable thermostat – and use it. A programmable thermostat can save your family about $180 per year as long as you program it properly. It only takes a few minutes.
  2. Remodel the kitchen bringing in those amazing cabinet features you saw online. Make this the year you decide to bite the bullet and remodel the kitchen to suit your cooking and entertaining style.
  3. Get rid of those textured ceilings. Nothing says outdated like popcorn or acoustic ceilings. Today’s homeowners want a clean, smooth ceiling that helps reflect light and provides an amazing space for recessed lighting or track lighting.
  4. Open the floor plan between the kitchen, dining room, and family room. The floor plan can make a home feel claustrophobic if the primary rooms are blocked and surrounded by four walls with a few doorways leading to and from. An open concept floor plan can create many design and decor options, as well as a great space for entertaining family and friends.
  5. Add the half-bath you’ve always wanted for your guests. A half-bath is a wonderful addition to any home. It adds both functionality and value to your home.
  6. Design and build that amazing specialty room you’ve talked about for years. It doesn’t have to be a single use room. It can serve multiple secondary purposes including a laundry room, craft room or mini office. Do some research online and allow us to show you how we can create an specialty room for your home.
  7. Remodel your bathroom to make it more efficient and functional both now and later years. Many homeowners wait until they need more of the features that allow them to enjoy their bathroom even if they have mobility issues before they make the change. By adding universal design features to your bathroom you can enjoy a beautiful bathroom that will serve you well even if you injure yourself causing accessibility issues now or in the future .
  8. Add on to your home. How would a new master suite change your life?

Take a look at some of our award-winning projects to get an idea of the quality of our work. We will work with you to design the perfect bathroom, kitchen, or remodeling project to transform your home into an amazing piece of art. Let us transform your not-so-great kitchen into something that will make you proud, and your blah bathroom into an incredible spa-like experience that is sure to help you relax at the end of a long day.
Call Homework Remodels at 602-4787-5102 if you’re in the greater Phoenix and the surrounding communities of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Chandler, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, and Mesa, AZ  and would like to talk to us about your 2016 home improvement related New Year’s resolutions. We will schedule an appointment to discuss your remodeling ideas for the coming year.

Getting your Green Credentials

By Tanja Kern 5/9/2009
Interview with Steve Shinn, GCP, owner of Homework Remodels

Getting Your Green Credentials Today’s homeowners want remodels that improve their quality of life and are eco-conscious. Figuring out what constitutes a green remodel can be confusing, and that’s why so many homeowners rely on contractors to help them navigate the choices. Remodelers who incorporate green building practices into their business have great potential to educate their clients and do something good for the Earth. Going green can also help set your business apart from the competition.

To be a green remodeler, contractors should make energy efficiency a top priority, salvage and reuse building materials whenever possible, specify eco-friendly materials, use low VOC and formaldehyde-free building components, and plan for water conservation. Becoming an expert in sustainable building takes years, and savvy remodelers know that promoting their expertise is a great way to find new clients. Incorporating these building methods into your company’s mission statement, Web site, promotional materials and project estimates will help to get the word out about your company’s eco focus.

Obtaining “green” credentials is another smart way to demonstrate your knowledge in environmentally friendly products and building practices. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers a Green Certified Professional (GCP) designation to help recognize remodelers who apply green or sustainable practices to their business.

Laurie Cisowski, project operations manager for Earth Bound Homes [] in Santa Clara, Calif., says getting certified was an obvious choice for her business. All of Earth Bound’s projects are designed around increased energy efficiency and the use recycled, renewable and durable building materials. “In this day and age, with green taking off, there are a lot of people out there green washing,” she says. “Our clients come to us because or our knowledge, and our credentials add to our company’s credibility.”

Steve Shinn, owner of the design-build firm Homework Remodels [] in Phoenix, Ariz., became the first remodeler in Phoenix to obtain green certification. Shinn works on historic homes, mid-century modern homes, and older homes of all ages said he saw the certification as a way to promote himself as a specialized professional to potential clients. “The people who own these homes care about details and about doing the right thing for the environment,” he says.

While some homeowners view sustainability as using a certain type of recycled countertops or flooring, Shinn teaches his clients to take a whole-house approach: “I pride myself on working with the homeowners during the design phase to get the most bang for their buck. Every remodel has hundreds of choices, and I walk them through them. It’s not an all or nothing thing.”

Josh Bogle, CRA, GCP, owner of Green Remodeling [] in Boise, Idaho, helped pilot the Green Certified Professional course for NARI. His work to bring “green” into the construction industry comes from a commitment to living simply, eating locally, and transforming the nation’s existing housing infrastructure to serve the needs of the future. “Our goal is to show customers how to make their home as durable, energy-efficient and healthy as possible,” Bogle says.

In between large remodeling projects, Bogle does readings on the energy efficiency of his customers’ homes. Bogle also will take the client’s energy bills for the year, insert the figures into a spreadsheet and compare them to other homes in the area. “This is a great way to help people figure out what their path toward net zero or close to zero should be,” he adds.

This green remodeling article and numerous others can be viewed at

nari-green 2

Green Remodeling is just one of the remodeling specialties we offer to our clients in Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Mesa.

The Rise of the Green Remodeler

By M. Power 1/1/2010
Interview with Steve Shinn, GCP, owner of Homework Remodels

The Rise of the Green Remodeler

 Are you thinking about refocusing your marketing energy, your manpower, and your time on green remodeling as a safe haven in these tough times? You’re not alone. But here’s what you should know before (and after) you take the leap.

A lot of research has been done in the last 20 years about what happens to the remodeling industry during a deep recession—much of it by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS).

The record shows that residential remodeling suffers less than new home building during bad economic times. But it still suffers. And here’s a sobering reality: Small remodeling firms—in both good and bad times—have an average survival rate comparable to the typical desktop computer—about five years. Firms that beat the odds traditionally have larger operations, a longer track record, and a good economy to buffer the hard times.

But maybe that’s changing. Now that sustainability is center stage, some (but not all) of today’s green remodelers find themselves in the cat-bird seat. The firms that seem to be doing best have had good timing, the right geographic area, and a bit of luck. They carved out a green niche for themselves early—before the worst of the economic dominoes began to fall.

For example, Steve Shinn, owner of Homework Remodels in Phoenix, has watched many home builders go belly up in his area—at the same time his green-oriented remodeling business is thriving. “We’re four years old,” he says, “and we’ve been really on purpose with what we’re doing. A lot of the companies hurting now benefited from the boom, but they got their increase in business without having to do anything to promote it. I’m not saying they’re not good companies, but they got too comfortable.”

Shinn adds that many home builders in the Phoenix area now advertise green remodeling, but they’re finding the transition tougher than they expected.

“It’s a whole different world from doing a row of houses on an empty site,” Shinn explains. “A builder might quote someone a job and say it will cost X dollars per square foot. But they’re not looking at the real costs—the destruction of the existing structure for example, may be half the cost of the job.”

Who’s Out There?

The 2002 U.S. census listed about 500,000 “home improvement” firms. Of those, about 60% were composed of a single individual. But as the Joint Center points out, while the smallest firms are the ones most likely to fail in a given year (22% of firms with payrolls of $30,000 or less go under each year), both small and large have been slammed by the downturn.

As researchers at the Joint Center explain, “Faced with economic recession and increased competition, even large contracting firms are likely to fail. In 2007, 47% of remodeling contractors that had revenues of $1–$5 million reported revenue declines, up from 31% in 2003. Meanwhile, 33% of firms with revenues above $5 million also posted declines in 2007, up from 23% in 2003.”

The remodeling market tends to parallel the boom and bust of new home construction. When things turn sour, however, shocks to remodeling tend to be less severe. Existing home sales also impact remodeling directly. About 25% of all cosmetic work is triggered by new owners who want to change their digs right after purchase.

Plunging home values have flattened the equity capital available to the middle class. Throw in the banks that have stopped making loans, and you see why many homeowners have put their remodeling plans on hold.

But the loss of home values cuts even deeper. Homeowners know that the remodel they do now may not hold its value like the one they did five years ago. Back then, they might get an 87% return on resale. Now they would get just 67%, according to estimates by the National Association of Realtors.

Back to Maintenance?

Is any place safe for remodelers and would-be remodelers who are just trying to ride out this recession? If you crunch the numbers from past downturns, the only types of construction work to remain relatively stable have been maintenance and repair. But that kind of work is not always a welcome shift, especially for design-oriented contractors.

“I’d do it as a last resort,” notes Grant Manka, a design/build remodeler in Kansas City, Kan., “but it’s not very much fun. There’s no creativity involved, but if it’s that or nothing, you do it.”

But is green remodeling a second alternative in these tough times?
We asked Kevin Park, a researcher at the Joint Center his view. He’s been studying whether contractors can (and will) make a go of green-focused remodeling.

“We did one survey, and the results were intriguing,” he says. “What we found is that smaller companies seem to see green as a workable alternative, more so than large companies. We just sent out another survey to find out if they’re really following through on green products and projects—but unfortunately we don’t have that data yet.”

For some remodelers, however, there’s no gray area about where the industry is headed. Even in hard-hit New England, an area Park describes as “just dead in terms of green remodeling,” some remodelers are looking to the future, laying the groundwork for what they expect will be a green building boom as the economy rebounds.

A New Way

Tom Wells, a contractor from Yardley, Pa., is what you might call a green gambler. Faced with a dire economy in his region, he has single-mindedly focused his remodeling business on sustainability. He takes his knowledge on the road, offering seminars to local churches, real estate offices—anyone who will listen. And Wells has plenty of time on his hands. In November, he lost $300,000 in contracts due to his clients’ economic fears. But he’s using his time to craft a well-rounded message.

“I don’t talk about green,” Wells says. “I talk about sustainability—acting in a way that won’t be detrimental to future generations. I think everybody knows oil is going to rise again. Our utility rates are about to get deregulated. People are aware of global warming and don’t know how they can have an impact.”

Wells is doing everything right. He has teamed with an energy auditor to offer infrared inspections of the homes of potential clients. He writes a green article for the local newspaper. He went through NARI’s green certification program to build his credibility.

Wells says building a reputation for green remodeling isn’t easy, thanks to the lack of licensing requirements. Out-of-work, unqualified “handymen” are leaving a trail of poor workmanship behind.

Should remodelers embrace green? Are the potential rewards worth the risk?

Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big House, and more recently, Not So Big Remodeling, says remodelers would be foolhardy not to get into green renovation. She believes that when the downturn ends, we’ll be looking at a green boom time.

“I went to the last IBS show in Vegas, and everywhere I went there was a lot of talk about remodeling. Those companies that keep methodically moving along the sustainable lines are going to do extremely well. I wouldn’t pull back now. No way. Everything green is moving forward.”


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Kitchen Remodeling is just one of the remodeling specialties we offer to our clients in Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Mesa.

Make Your Home Healthier

By Tanja Kern 5/6/2009
Interview with Steve Shinn, GCP, owner of Homework Remodels


Your home is your sanctuary, but could it also be a hazard to your health? Dirty air, mold spores and chemicals can contribute to an unhealthy home environment. Thankfully, there are a number of improvements you can make to create a safe shelter for your family, says Steve Shinn, GCP, NARI member and owner of Homework Remodels in Phoenix, Arizona. This Green Certified Professional (GCP) helps homeowners figure out which enhancements promote healthy indoor environments — without breaking their budgets.

“We need to look at the home as a system and not just a bunch of little parts, but you don’t have to do everything at once,” Shinn says. “Do what you can afford now and you can come back and do the more expensive projects later.”

These tips will make your home a safer place to live:

Cut down VOCs: A key way to improve your home’s health is by using products that are labeled low- or no-VOC. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted by a variety of home improvement products, including paints, lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings. VOCs pollute indoor air, and some have short- and long-term adverse health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says VOC concentrations are up to 10 times higher indoors than out.

“VOCs are very high on people’s list of concerns,” Shinn says. “Paint is the fist thing they think about, but some other materials, like carpet, can also be a major source of off-gassing.”

Improve flooring: Your choice of flooring can impact your health. For some, carpet is an allergy trigger. “When I bought my home, which is a 50-year old house, it had brand new carpet in it, but after two to three years, I had some real [allergy] problems,” Shinn shares. “I have a history of allergies, and after I removed the carpeting, I felt instantly better.”

There are mixed messages about the cleanliness of carpet. Air quality professionals often say that carpet acts as a dust trap, and the dirt can never be completely removed by vacuuming. In contrast, dust collected on hard surface flooring, such as tile, wood and laminate, can be wiped up easily.

Jeff Bishop, technical adviser for the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, says that carpet can improve the indoor environment by trapping dust particles until you vacuum them. If you don’t clean your carpets regularly, however, those dust particles will be released into the air and can trigger respiratory problems.

Seal leaks: Older homes have plenty of air leaks. Seal them and you will prohibit excess dust and allergens from entering your house. Windows, doors and fireplaces are obvious places to look for leaks, but power outlets, light switches and ceiling lights can also contribute to heat and air conditioning loss.

“When you open and close the door, there’s an increase and decrease of air pressure and it can suck the dust right out of your attic,” Shinn says. “They make sealers to seal that stuff up. It will help reduce heating and cooling bill and keep your home cleaner.”

Amp up ventilation: To suck bad air out of a home and bring fresh air in, you need to install adequate ventilation. Add a fan in your kitchen and bathroom and it will help remove odors, bacteria, humidity and cut down mold growth.

“Everybody forgets to switch the bathroom fan off when they leave in the morning, and it runs all day,” Shinn says. “Spend a few extra dollars and install a fan with a timer. You will save your fan’s motor, electricity and a few dollars.”

If your home is sealed tight, you will also need to install a small reverse fan that introduces fresh air into the house. This will improve air circulation and help stop the growth of mold.

Add air filtration: According to the EPA, the air inside your home could be up to five times more polluted than the outside air. But there’s no need to hold your breath—air purifiers can help clean the air by capturing microscopic contaminants. The filters remove irritants like mold spores, pet dander, cigarette soot and dust, making it easier for people with allergies to breathe.

“A lot of new air conditioning manufacturers are providing high efficiency HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration systems that are built into the duct work,” Shinn says.

Drink pure water: Water quality is a precious resource. Instead of drinking water from plastic water bottles, opt for a reverse osmosis water filtration system that will remove sediment and chemicals, like chlorine, from tap water.

This green remodeling article and numerous others can be viewed at

Make Your Home Healthier

Green Remodeling is just one of the remodeling specialties we offer to our clients in Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale and Mesa.

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