4 Steps to a Perfect Outdoor Space

Paradise Valley AZ upscale home remodel including numerous luxury high-end featuresAs we start to hit those 100 + degree days, it would be great not to have to heat up the house cooking dinner. Sure, outdoor cooking has its’ advantages, but do you ever feel as though you too are cooking, along with the food!!  There is no pleasure in standing in front of a hot grill when its 115 degrees outside and you have no shade, no fan and no misting system.  What a pleasure it would be to have any or all of those devices to keep you and your family more comfortable in your backyard. Why not make this space enjoyable year round? We have spectacular sunsets here in Phoenix. Gathering friends and family to bask in Mother Nature’s beauty make them even more special. Here are 4 steps to a perfect outdoor space…

Step 1. Use a professional.

It is advantageous to work in conjunction with a Certified Kitchen & Bath Designer. We are knowledgeable in all aspects of a home remodel. Important components like budgeting, specifying, space planning and design. We will make the most of your area, working along side you to create a functional, unique space, just for your family. When we are finished, you will have added value and usable square footage to your home.

Step 2. Choose carefully.

Always use appropriate materials and finishes in an exterior setting. Our climate in Phoenix is harsh on fabrics, finishes, equipment and people! Be careful when purchasing products for your backyard space. Use exterior rated fabrics on your seat cushions and curtains. Also, when choosing outdoor furniture, consider the weight of the object. It does get windy here and you don’t want your  furniture to end up in your neighbors pool! Ceiling fans should always be rated for exterior use. No, there are not as many choices, but they are safe. Don’t use real wood for cabinets or countertops, it is just too hard to maintain here. If you love the look, there are many wonderful options that look like real wood, without the added maintenance.

Step 3. Adjusting the Temperature.

Yes, it is possible. With a little planning, we can make your backyard temperature much more comfortable. Shade, whether it comes in the form of a covered roof, shade sail or exterior curtain, will make the air around you feel 10-15 degrees cooler. A breeze from a fan, and these can be ceiling or standing portable fans, will also make the air feel cooler.  Misters, on the other hand, do actually change the air temperature through evaporative cooling. You can expect a 15 degree difference, on average. Conversely, in the winter, you may add a heat source to your yard to make it a little more comfortable on chilly evenings. Fire pits and portable heaters will provide that extra bit of warmth for a truly year round perfect outdoor space.

Step 4. Add Entertainment, Invite Friends.

Decide what you want to do in your new space. How about an outdoor television viewing area where you can invite the neighbors over to watch the game and BBQ? Want to keep the teens occupied? Set up a Jenga game or Pictionary, that will keep them happy, for a few minutes anyway! Add music, maybe a bar area. If you really have the space and the budget, a hot tub or a pool would absolutely complete the picture. Just make sure you have plenty of seating, because your house is about to become THE place to be.



Deciding which type of cooktop to add to your kitchen is ultimately a personal choice. Many people stay with whichever type they learned to cook on, as that is the most familiar. Budding chefs may decide that the precision of a gas cooktop is the only way to go. Parents of young children, and children of aging parents may find the safety of induction cooking to be its’ major attribute.  Electric cooktops are usually less expensive than the other two to purchase and to repair. It really all depends on your personal preferences. Here are some pros and cons of each in:



GAS: Preferred by chefs worldwide for its’ instant heating properties that allow an immediate response to a change in temperature. You are able to char grill and flambe on a gas stove. Attachments are available to accommodate accessories like wok burners and griddles. Gas is usually less expensive to use than electricity, as long as you already have a supply run into your home. Some of the drawbacks include the open flame, which many parents feel is dangerous around children and the potential for carbon monoxide building up. Any time gas is supplied to a home, a carbon monoxide detector is an absolute necessity for safety. And finally, compared to the other two types of cooktops, gas will always be harder to clean because of its’ metal grates and non-flat surface.



INDUCTION: The newer technology of the three, induction works by an alternating current passing through metallic elements under the cooktop surface. Metallic cookware such as, cast iron, steel and ceramic enamel clad must be used. Anything else, including human hands, will not heat up on this surface. The pot or pan itself is heated, not the surrounding surface. Induction cooking is fast and precise, like gas. Also, it is very energy efficient. Induction is more expensive to purchase and more complicated to repair. Additionally, if you do not already own metallic cookware, they would be another expense to consider.


ELECTRIC: The old stand by that many of us grew up with. Electric cooktops are inexpensive to purchase and repair. Versatile, as they will work with any type of cookware. They do a wonderful job at low temperature cooking, like simmering a pot a spaghetti sauce for hours. However, they are extremely inefficient, slow to heat up and slow to change temperature.

As you can see, each type of cooktop has its’ own advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, only you can decide which is best for individual style of cooking and budget.



Fireplaces & Alternative Fuel Sources

Phoenix Home & Garden featured Historic home remodel in the Willo neighborhood.

Chandler Arizona Kitchen Remodel with dark brown wood cabinets and quartz counter tops

                                     Fireplaces & Alternatives Fuel Sources

Do you own a wood burning fireplace? No Burn Days can be an inconvenience. We have a solution for you. Take back your right to use your fireplace any time you want by converting it away from burning wood. Homework Remodels can work with you to modify your existing fireplace. Alternative fuel sources each provide different advantages, like fuel efficiency, a cleaner burn or being portable. Your lifestyle and the availability of the fuel sources will make choosing easier.

                                            Benefits of a Gas Fireplace

  • More energy efficient than burning wood
  • Can be used on “No-Burn” days
  • Produces real flames like wood, no other energy source can
  • Cleaner burn = Less by-products
  • No electricity – No problem
  • Reliable, easy to control
  • Increases home value

                               Disadvantage: Gas must be vented


          Direct Vent versus B-Vent

  • Direct Vent has better heat efficiency and volume
  • B-Vent produces a larger, realistic flame and is more cost effective
  • Direct Vent can be vented either vertically or horizontally
  • B-Vent has no fixed glass panels, easier to maintain
  • Direct Vent units are closed and they have 2 pipes, 1 brings in air, the other emits fumes
  • B-Vent units are smaller, uses air in the home for combustion, vents vertically
  • Direct Vent can be difficult to control heat output in smaller rooms
  • B-Vent can be installed anywhere there is room for the vent
  • Direct Vent firewood placement is critical for proper combustion

Benefits of an Electric Fireplace

  • 100% heat output, no heat lost up the chimney
  • Can be used on “No-Burn” days
  • No soot= easy to maintain and clean
  • No chopping, hauling or stacking of wood, simply flip the switch
  • Portable and easy to install
  • No fire danger, no venting or gas lines needed
  • Precise temperature control
  • Can be used for ambience only, without any heat output

Benefits of an Alcohol/Gel Fireplace

  • Vent free and portable
  • Can be used on “No-Burn” days
  • Smoke free and environmentally friendly
  • Sounds like a real wood burning fireplace
  • Does not pop embers, like wood, or emit harmful fumes
  • Lasts longer and provides more warmth than wood


Tile & Stone: The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous!


Tile & Stone: The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous!

Let’s start with The Good- Porcelain Tile. Good because, as you can see from the pictures above, it has many different faces. Porcelain tile can look like wood planking, or it can look hand-painted and sometimes it looks exactly like brick. There are thousands of different looks, styles, and finishes of tile in porcelain. It is an excellent product because of it’s strength and ease of maintenance. Floors, especially, take a beating from all the sand we bring in, or is blown in by the wind! Porcelain is dense enough to withstand the scratching of sand. If beauty, durability and easy maintenance are high on your priority list, take a look at porcelain products. They never disappoint.


Tile & Stone: The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous!

The Bad? Ceramic Tile. Really, this product is only bad when it is improperly used. For example, it is absolutely perfect for shower walls and backsplashes. Neither of those two areas need a dense material, as walls don’t take the abuse that floors do. Ceramic tile will chip and crack easier than a porcelain tile. Often, the under laying clay can be a contrasting color, making the chip even more noticeable. For that reason, I do not recommend using it as flooring material. Even in a bathroom, I would still rather use a porcelain on the floor, plus porcelain can have a more slip-resistant finish, making it a safer choice.




Tile & Stone: The Good, the Bad and the Gorgeous!



Now, the Gorgeous, Stone. I love natural stone, so I may be a little partial here. There is something very special, to me, in the inherent differences between each piece of stone. I love the beauty in the fact that no two pieces are exactly the same. Now, this can drive other people crazy. Any type of stone that has a lot of color and movement through it does have a tendency to look busy. You have to be careful when deciding on a rug, for instance. Whatever sits on top of an active, patterned floor needs to calming. Also, not everyone is cut out for the high maintenance and expense of natural stone.

Travertine, as seen in the first photo, can be calm in its coloring, or it can have a lot of movement and color. It is one of the softer stones, so care must be taken to protect it from sand. Just a little sand under the leg of a sofa, for instance, could cause a noticeable scratch if the furniture is not properly lifted when moved. Travertine has a casual, worn look about it and works well as flooring, shower walls and backsplash material. This stone must be periodically sealed.

Granite, the middle photo, is much more durable than travertine. It can be cut into slabs, as shown, or into more manageable sizes for floor applications. There are hundreds of different types of granite. Some are sedate and others are wild in their colors and patterning. Of course, the more rare = the more expensive. Granite is a perfect countertop material. It does not require a lot of maintenance and adds value to your home. Once, again, care must be taken with sand and natural stone flooring.

Last, but not least, marble. Not as durable as granite, marble has a unique beauty in its’ veining. Used for centuries, marble has an elegance to it. Available in a multitude of colors, marble makes a “wow” entry when used in a medallion, as shown above. Also, black and white checkered marble floors have been popular in some parts of the country for years. They look especially great in older homes. Marble makes a wonderful bathroom countertop material. Bathroom counters do not generally get the use ( or abuse ) that kitchen counters do. It will stain, however, if make-up or nail polish is left on it. Marble should be re-sealed every so often, depending on the amount of use.












3 Benefits of Convection Steam Cooking

Nutrition, efficiency and less wasted food. These are 3 main benefits to cooking in a convection steam unit. Let’s take a closer look at each of these important feature, one at a time and see how some of the individual appliance manufacturers have addressed them.

3 Benefits of Convection Steam Cooking

  1.  Nutrition: Use the steam oven to preserve the nutrients in a variety of foods. For instance, steam adds moisture to vegetables to soften and cook them, without adding unhealthy fats and extra calories. Fresh or dried spices will provide even more flavor. Keeping ourselves and our families healthy is important to all of us.
  2. Efficiency: This technology allows you to multi-task your cooking. Convection in a steam oven prevents flavor transfer between the racks of food, whatever they may be! Now, you can prepare a fish dish and a dessert, at the same time, and they won’t taste like each other.
  3. Less Wasted Food: According to the latest reports, the average American family wastes about $640.00 in food per year. That is a lot of food being thrown away, unnecessarily. Leftovers can be a great time saver. Many busy families like to prepare a large meal, knowing that there will be leftovers for the next night. The problem is that the food may not taste as good the next night and no one wants to eat them. Some dishes, like soups and stews will always taste better the next day and re-heating is not an issue. Their flavors meld together and become one when reheated. But what about that rice dish you spent so much time on? A new and delicious recipe for sure, but reheating rice can be a nightmare. Steam and convection cooking solve the leftover problem by bringing life back to them. Bread that is several days old will become bakery fresh in seconds. Pizza reheats perfectly.

3 Benefits of Convection Steam Cooking

These ovens offer multiple cooking modes for defrosting, steaming, baking and re-heating. From the Sub-Zero Wolf website, Wolf brand offers “unique digital technology that senses the amount and size of food, and automatically adjusts all of the details of cooking”. They show how their oven can produce a filo-wrapped ice cream dessert that features “hot, delicate, crispy-brown pastry surrounding ice cream, still firmly frozen”.  Another feature that can make the steam cooking experience even more fun and efficient is having a unit that can be plumbed into your water system, like the Miele oven.  You never have to think about adding water to the steam unit, it is automatically done for you. Miele is also known to be simple to operate and intuitive, featuring a menu-driven system that takes the guesswork out of cooking. Gaggenau, a premium appliance brand from France, designed their doors to open in a side-swing, for easy access. Some even open with the push of a button! Their version of a convection steam oven has more overall functions than the Miele or the Wolf, and it can cost almost twice as much. Professional steamers will love its’ versatility, beginners may prefer the Wolf or Miele brands.




Forecast: Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2017


Forecast: Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2017

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association, 2017 promises to be a bit more colorful than 2016. Their annual forecast predicts cabinets in white and gray as still being the most popular. Although, many cabinet companies are seeing a spike in the number of requests for alternatives. Off-white, taupe and some very dark painted cabinets being requested by designers, architects and homeowners. The all-white kitchen is slowly being replaced by one that has more color, but keeps the same clean lines in the cabinetry. That modern look lends itself well to the new technologies that are available and sought after. Incorporating new technology is always important to homeowners, as it can make our lives a lot easier and more organized.

Homeowner favorites are the big factor in  Forecast: Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2017. Wood cabinets are still the #1 choice for homeowners, with a framed style door. Many favor simple clean lines, versus a heavily detailed door style. They are much easier to keep clean. Also #1 with homeowners are quartz countertops. Their beauty and durability are strong selling points over other types of materials. Although, cost can be a prohibitive factor as quartz is expensive. But, it could be installed on an island, for example, and then the perimeter of the kitchen could be done in a lesser expensive material.

Forecast: Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2017

Two-toned kitchens are trending. Whether by incorporating the “new” gold finish on plumbing and cabinet hardware mixed with your existing stainless, or the combination of countertop materials from island to perimeter, two-tone is more visually appealing. For a sophisticated look, try mixing a light colored cabinet with a high contrast like midnight blue, sage green or chocolate brown. Then, for an additional pop of color, add your favorite or something like Pantone’s Color of the Year, Greenery, as an accent. Since it is such a popular color, you will easily find it in towels, dishes, small appliances, etc. It’s an economical way of including this years trending color into your interior design without breaking the budget.

Kitchen designers are also adding interest to kitchens, and making them as unique as their owners, by adding a bit of the family. It could be a framed photo of the kids and grandkids, or a kindergarten project. Anything that adds a bit of whimsy and fun. Many people prefer to add a bit of nature to their kitchens. This could come in the form of potted fresh herbs, a bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fresh fruit. The kitchen is a great place to get creative with lighting choices. There are millions of options, why not have a little fun.

This year, it seems like our kitchen designs are becoming more in tune with the individual end users. We are getting away from the cold, sterile look of the totally white kitchen that has been popular for many years.


Drywall Texture Finishes


Phoenix Home & Garden featured Historic home remodel in the Willo neighborhood.


Whether you prefer “Old World Tuscan” or “Santa Fe”, the type and style of your drywall texture will greatly affect the look and the feel of your home. To create an even more unique and stunning look, try a combination of drywall texture and a painted faux finish. In determining which of the many styles will work best with your interior, consider the architecture of your home. And don’t forget about the interior design of the room in question. Some textures are thick with deep crevices and high sweeping peaks. Dramatic yes, easy to maintain, not so much. Those very interesting crevices and niches will catch dust particles that are floating around in the air. In addition, these types of drywall texture finishes look great in large, rustic rooms with high ceilings and focal points like wooden beams or fireplaces with tall chimneys. Some examples of this type of finish would be “Old World Tuscan”, “Spanish Trowel” or “Heavy Hawk and Trowel” textures.

Be aware these terms vary greatly across the country.

What is known as “Slapbrush Knockdown” in some parts of the country may be known as “Tiger Skin” or even “Panda Paw Knockdown” in other areas. It is always important to have sample boards made. Both you and drywall installer need to make sure you are both talking about the same finish and style. The person you hire may be more of an artist than installer. Consequently, it may ensure that you like the end result.

“Santa Fe”, “Splat Knockdown”, “Thin Hawk & Trowel”, “Stomp” and “Orange Peel” are examples of other textures. These tend to be thinner with more subtle differences in depth and height. They look especially well in a country or southwestern style home that has low ceiling heights. The lower profile textures create the look of gentle shadows and bright spots in irregular patterns skipping across the ceiling.

Heavy Texture on a wall



Medium texture on a wall

Some textures are applied to the walls or ceiling using thinned drywall compound and a hopper gun. This devise allows the user to cover a good bit of square footage quickly. For that reason, it is extremely popular with home builders, not always with home owners! Examples of sprayed on textures are Splatter Knockdown”, “Orange Peel” and the dreaded “Popcorn” finish.

Brushes are used to create interesting patterns in the drywall compound. “Slapbrush” texture is smoothed with a trowel like knockdown textures, but the initial pattern is created by slapping the wall with a variety of soft-bristled brushes, such as square, round, double-headed, or single-headed brushes, loaded with a thinned joint compound. Other types of textures like “Stomp & Swirl” require drawing patterns like circles or arches into a layer of rolled on joint compound with a brush. The stiffness of the bristles determines the depth and sharpness of the ridges in the compound. In order to accomplish this style, you must sand the walls smooth first, to remove any imperfections.

Knife textures require applying a thick coat of undiluted joint compound, then sliding the knife in different directions to create small ridges. Examples of knife textures include “Spanish Knife” and “Drywall Knife”.

Knockdown finishes are an excellent option for covering dings and dents in walls. Trowels, sponges, brooms and other tools can be used to flatten the surface in different places to create different looks.

How can we help with your next project?

There are many types of drywall texture finishes that you may choose to incorporate into your next home remodeling project.

Call Homework Remodels for a free, in-home consultation regarding drywall texture finishes, or any aspect of home remodeling.

You may reach Steve at 602-478-5102 or email Steve@HomeworkRemodels.com.




Where Should You Splurge when Remodeling Your Kitchen?


A kitchen remodeling project can get expensive and it is easy for you to blow your entire budget before you really even get started. However, there are certain things that you should splurge on and others that are not worth the extra expense. We always believe that you should splurge on the cabinets, countertops, lighting, and flooring as the primary four. We will explain why later.

Lists are a wonderful way to choose where to splurge and where to save. Your first list should consist of everything you would like to have in your kitchen. The second list should be a truncated version of that list. This is where you narrow your lists down to must-haves and would-like-to-haves. We will help you find a way to get one or two of the must-haves as long as the price is right.

Here are 5 items that are worth splurging on when you are completing a kitchen remodel:


Your new kitchen cabinets need to be functional and it helps if they last a long time. These are one of the items that you should definitely splurge on. Proper kitchen cabinets will allow you to have the amount of storage that you need while maximizing space. You can choose to work with a cabinet maker and create custom cabinetry or semi-customize the cabinets at your local hardware store.


Countertops are one of the top visual elements in a kitchen and you will want to choose yours wisely as it will quickly become a focal point. You will need to choose a material that will work best for you and your family and the most popular choices are granite and quartz.


If you have an island or eat in space in your new kitchen, you will want to splurge on the lighting fixtures that go above those places. You want those fixtures to look appealing while creating a focal point.


Your kitchen floor will see a lot of traffic as well as some spills, so you need to choose a material that will hold up to all that and clean up easily. A stone tile or concrete floor may be more expensive, but will last longer than vinyl and laminate.

Beverage Cooler

Normally, we don’t recommend splurging on appliances because they are generally replaced every 5 to 7 years anyway. But if you drink wine, beer, soda, and juice boxes, you can free up a lot of space in your refrigerator when you purchase a beverage cooler.

What are Your Thoughts?

We are not saying that you shouldn’t splurge on other items in your new kitchen, but if you are looking at a strict budget, then you should consider splurging on these items. If you still have money left over, then you can decide whether or not that super expensive refrigerator is going to keep your food any colder than a cheaper one or if you will really use all six or eight burners on the stove that you want.

Call Homework Remodels at 602-478-5102 to schedule a consultation with us. We are happy to discuss your remodeling needs and talk about areas to splurge, save, and things that can be cut out of the project from the start. Our goal is to design and build the kitchen you deserve within the budget you can afford.

Take the Confusion out of Kitchen Remodeling Material Choices


The materials that are available for your kitchen remodel are magnificent, beautiful, durable, and mostly practical. Those four reasons and what makes it so difficult to choose what materials will work best in your new kitchen.


There are almost too many kitchen countertop materials to count and each one is unique and functional in its own way. Granite is the most popular choice amongst many homeowners, but you may decide that you want something different like quartz, concrete, tile, wood, or laminate. Granite and quartz are durable and do not stain easily, plus they are easy to clean.

Tile countertops can crack if something is dropped on them and wood and laminate can get nicked with a knife or other sharp object. Concrete is quite durable and these countertops are not as porous as they used to be.


There are lots of lighting options for your kitchen and you will want to choose many of them, because of everything you do in this space. Pendant lights work well over islands, because this is where people eat, do homework, and sometimes even do the prep work for meals. Under the cabinet lighting is perfect for the times when you are prepping meals on the counter. Inside cabinet lighting, floor lighting, and sconces all offer ambient lighting to your kitchen space.


If you do not really love your cabinets, but they are in excellent shape, you can change them to make them more appealing without tearing them all down. You can either repaint or stain your existing cabinets, or you can change out the cabinet doors and hardware for a new look. Glass doors or glazed cabinet doors will highlight the lighting inside and allow the entire room to glow.


A lighter color floor will make your remodeled kitchen look much bigger, so if your kitchen is on the smaller side, you may want to take this into consideration. Vinyl is one of the most popular kitchen floor choices, because it is easy to install and even easier to keep clean and maintain. Laminate floors are nice, because they are easy to clean and you do not need to worry about things getting spilled on them like you would real hardwood.

Tile is available in many colors and designs and look fabulous in kitchens, but it can chip and crack over time. Tile is also not too forgiving to anything that is dropped on it, so you may find that you have more broken dishes and glasses if you install tile flooring.

These are the main items that you will find yourself choosing the perfect material for, but depending on how large your remodel is and how much you are changing in the space, you may find yourself making even more decisions. We recommend that you make your decisions before you begin your remodeling project, so that you do not have any delays or spend money that you were not planning on.

Call Homework Remodels at 602-478-5102 to schedule a consultation with us. We are happy to discuss your remodeling needs and talk about the variety of materials available to you. Our goal is to design and build the kitchen you deserve within the budget you can afford.

Do you remember…

Middle Kid & Missing Hamster

Do you remember…

Perhaps you and your spouse bought your dream home years ago. Maybe, you even got to choose the finishes and materials. Fun for some people, torture for others! You discussed, fretted over and researched everything. You solicited everyone’s opinion on all details; like paint colors. Navaho White, Nonchalant White or Nebulous White? Which one will it be? Then there’s tile, carpet, countertops, cabinets, lighting… More fretting, more discussing and finally….your dream home is finished! And it is perfect. Until…

Three kids, two dogs, and one missing hamster later, your dream home has become a nightmare. When it comes time to remodel, do you really think that you will remember whether it was Nebulous, Navaho or Nonchalant White? You can’t even remember your middle kid’s name right now! You know, the one that let the hamster go, last week : (

Do you remember…

We will remember. In fact, we go to great lengths to make sure that we, and our clients have a precise, detailed record of every finish, every material and every product we specify for your project. It is extremely important for us to keep detailed records of these items. We use that info to order products for your job. Then, if there is ever a question, years down the road, we will know the name and the source of each and every product and finish material. And so will you. We make it a practice to give our customers all of this information, along with all warranties, manuals and detailed care instructions.

Do you remember…

You haven’t forgotten about the hamster, have you? Homework Remodels will  professionally and expertly complete all phases of your remodel. We are a trusted design-build firm serving the Greater Phoenix area. We would love to provide a free, in-home estimate and talk about your remodeling needs.

Call Steve at 602-478-5102 or email Steve@HomeworkRemodels.com

Oh, and about that hamster, have you tried building a staircase out of books next to a tall bucket? Put a few pieces of his favorite snack on the stairs and the rest in the bucket. Then, by morning the little guy should be scurrying around inside the bucket, problem solved!  Now, if you could just remember….