A Quick Guide to Dormers

Dormers, what are they and why we love them.

A dormer is when a window projects vertically from an existing slanted roof in order to create more light or space in a room (usually a bedroom). Dormers are an excellent option when there is a need for extra light, space, a bathroom or even an extra closet.  In addition, since they can be added to a variety of existing roofs, they are quite a common way to add some flair to the appearance of a house.

Before deciding that a dormer is what your house is missing, know that there a few considerations you should review first. Dormers come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and costs, and all require some major demolition and construction.

Simple Gable dormers, or doghouse dormers, are the most common and typically are constructed in several rows. Shed dormers are named because they look like a shed on a roof, will maximize the amount of usable interior space. A hipped dormer is where the roof slants back as it rises and this occurs on the front of the dormer as well as on the sides. Hipped dormers are most often on houses that also have hipped roofs. The more decorative dormer styles are known as segmented and eyebrow dormers. Both styles have arched roofs and while they are typically architectural statements, they are also used to add light or headroom to upstairs spaces.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 3.25.15 PM

 (Clockwise: Simple Gable, Shed, Eyebrow/segmented, Hipped)               

Some considerations to take into account before adding a dormer would be style, size, and cost of dormer:

  • Dormers require permits before construction. Depending on your town, this could be the most time-consuming part of your construction process. Permits can typically range from $200 to a few thousand dollars.
  • Do you want to add an extra window to a room or expand the attic to create more usable space? Know what size and type of dormer you want and whether it is ideal for the overall design you are working towards.
  • Keep in mind, the bigger the dormer, the bigger the cost.
    • A simple window dormer usually costs around $10,000-$15,000
    • A bathroom dormer can average around $40,000-$50,000 (including the cost of materials
    • Adding multiple new dormers can quickly add up to a total of more than $100,000

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 3.40.23 PM

A COR Improvements dormer project; in-progress & after. The addition created the perfect spot for this beautiful shower.

Before you head to the hardware store to start gathering supplies to DIY a dormer yourself, know that this is not an easy project. With creating a plan, obtaining the proper permits, purchasing all the necessary supplies, and finally beginning construction, dormer construction is a project we recommend be left to the pros. Keep in mind, if you’re creating a dormer with a common rafter, you’ll need to double or even triple up the rafters on either side of where the dormer will be. You’ll be cutting into two or more rafters to create the hole for the dormer so the load from the cut rafters has to be transferred to the rafters on either side. If that made your head spin, we don’t blame you! Give us a call or fill out our project questionnaire for a customized quote!

Renovating the Right Way

Why Bypassing Permits and Licenses Could Be the Worst Thing for Your Budget

So you are considering a remodel and you want to “save” money by not going by the code? Well, I’m here, as a licensed General Contractor, to tell you why that is a terrible idea.  I often find myself at job sites cleaning up and fixing disastrous projects left by unlicensed workers or done without the proper permits. Take my advice, cutting corners and taking the cheaper route may save you right now, but it WILL come back to bite you and take a huge chunk of your finances because improper job site corrections are extremely costly.


Here are just a few common issues homeowners can encounter when work isn’t done properly:

  • Shower pan leaks when showers were simply given ‘facelifts’ rather than permitted and inspected. This often results in the entire shower needing to be removed and replaced, often revealing rotting, mold, or other issues caused by water damage.
  • Improper electrical wiring can cause a plethora of problems like low levels of power, blown breakers, and even house fires. Knowing electrical codes and doing the work to the necessary specifications is critical and difficult. Don’t risk it.
  • Going with less expensive, smaller retrofit windows is unsurprisingly common. What’s even more common is those windows not meeting fire codes of adequate escape routes in case of a fire.
  • Planning on selling your house down the road? Think twice if you renovated without permits and licenses because improperly completed work often results in violations, fines, and even requirements to tear work down to be redone before any sale of property or transfer of lien can take place.

When a contractor doesn’t work by the codes, everything they touched could become futile. From an improper foundation or drywall being hung incorrectly, non-permitted entryway, foundation or structure issues, even the roof, if it was just one tiny aspect of the build that was done incorrectly, it is all connected and could potentially lead to larger, much more serious problems.

cor b:a copy



Here is a prime example of the importance of properly completed work. This is a project we are currently working to recover after fairly recent, unpermitted and improper renovations were completed leaving the homeowners with water leaks, faulty wiring, rot, and basement flooding which lead to the foundation needing to be corrected. What seemed like minor steps to save a few bucks ended up costing these homeowners a hefty amount.

So do your home and yourself a favor, remodel it properly the first time with licensed contractors and permits for the best results and the home you dreamed of.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Bathroom Remodeling

As a General Contractor, I have worked on and in hundreds of bathrooms, both residential and commercial. As one of the more important rooms in a home, efficiency tends to come before beauty, but the bathroom can and should be a room you enjoy. If you’ve decided those checkered tiles on the floor, or the bird wallpaper is overdue for the dumpster, then maybe it’s time you start planning your bathroom remodel! To help guide the process, I’ve listed 5 Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind while starting the process:



The Do’s:

Budget for the unexpected: Anytime plumbing or walls needing to be torn down is involved, it is recommended to have a contingency fund in case anything troublesome is revealed. “The unexpected” has almost become expected in the renovation industry as surprises behind walls are more common than you’d think, so prepare for anything and save a little extra, just in case.

Choose appropriate surfaces: Make sure to do your research when finding what products and materials you want in your bathroom. As a room that is regularly exposed to moisture, all materials and surfaces should be climate appropriate.

Consider water efficiency: If you are looking for little ways to save throughout the project, consider spending more. What?! No, seriously, I would recommend splurging on any products that can offer more water efficiency to reduce water use and cost in the long run! Some toilets can actually save the average family of four 16,000 gallons of water and more than $100 per year if they’re replacing older, inefficient toilets!

Make room on the vanity: One of the most common reasons for re-doing a bathroom is the lack of counter space. Make sure, whether it’s for your use or for sale purposes, include a double vanity in your project to maximize space and storage in the bathroom while creating a space homebuyers are consistently looking for.

Provide adequate ventilation and light: The bathroom is one of the rooms in a home where light and ventilation are most important. Installing a fan is a priority to avoid future problems with mold and mildew. Likewise, try lighting the room with different levels of illumination to mimic the natural patterns of shadows.


The Don’ts:

Don’t rush the process: Like any project, you get what you put into a remodel. If you want the bathroom you’ve been envisioning; seamless and tranquil, then put in the time and patience. Don’t rush the contractors or yourself because that’s when accidents start to happen.

Don’t skimp on skilled labor: While I know it is an added cost, hiring a general contractor on average can save the homeowner money due to the commonality of error and the unexpected. A General Contractor takes on a lot of responsibility, such as purchases materials, handles troubleshooting job-site problems, hires the tradesmen, brings in subcontractors to get the work done, plus a GC can handle negotiations on material and labor costs.

Don’t cut corners on key materials: Don’t try to skirt the system just to save a few bucks. Bathroom shortcuts are infamous for causing major damage down the road. When it comes to materials used in bathrooms, you need to be particular and make sure that everything is moisture proof to avoid rot, mold, or other problems known to wreak havoc.

Don’t buy products online without seeing them in person: While online may be the most convenient and sometimes the lowest price option to purchasing materials, the likelihood that something will not be right is simply too high. Measurements, colors, textures, quality, are just a few important qualities you should physically witness when purchasing. I recommend actually handling and feeling materials in showrooms or stores prior to clicking “Purchase.”

Don’t forget about storage: Second to lack of counter space, not enough storage is another leading reason why homeowners what to change up their bathrooms. When planning your project, make sure to factor in as much storage as possible. From floating shelves on bare walls to a hidden medicine cabinet, there are endless options for space optimization!

So, now that you have an inkling at what you need to think about when considering a bathroom renovation, feel free to get planning! Start a wish list, establish a budget, call an expert, and make smart choices to get the beautifully dependable and efficient bathroom you’ve been dreaming of.


Feel free to give us a call at (414) 745-6319 to start your remodel process today! Or fill out our project questionnaire for a customized quote.



Dreaming Of A New Kitchen?

What to think about BEFORE a kitchen renovation.

As a general contractor, I have seen the ins and outs of many kitchen remodels. Kitchens are one of the most rewarding residential renovation projects for both the contractor and homeowner! On average, the remodel can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 while bringing in an average ROI (return on investment) of around 90%. Kitchen renovations are large projects with many components all working together to make a congruent and efficient space for your home. It’s because of the complexity of kitchen renovations that we at COR Improvements, recommend looking into hiring a general contractor to help take some of the stress and unknown out of the equation!  But before that, take a look at the following list of what to be aware of BEFORE you dive on in.

Study your existing kitchen: How wide is the entrance into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-wide range only to find they can’t get it in the doorway. To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, ceilings, counters, walkways.

Think about traffic patterns: Is your kitchen set-up in a “work triangle” to minimize movement while maximizing the ease of cooking for your family? Do you have to circle the island to get from the sink to stove? Or do you have to close the dishwasher to get into the fridge? Think about what layout would make the most sense for your kitchen. Kitchen remodeling costs are usually higher than any other room in the house due to the sheer complexity of all the components from design, layout, function and materials.  Should you decide to move plumbing, knock down walls or move appliances around, it will have a large impact on the investment you will need to make.  Keep the vision of what you are trying to accomplish with the heart of the home!

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; a wall oven instead of a range; a lazy susan or a corner cupboard: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone, maximize space usage — and a pleasure to work in, so plan them out!

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders or shipment errors.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Include a backup plan for completing the remodel. Want it done by Christmas? Plan to have it done before Thanksgiving.

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Deviled Egg platters and other once-a-year items (plus, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops).

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling or wall mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet or pantry doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. General Contractors help make style decisions, foresee and solve potential problems, and organize the sub-contractors. Call us today at COR Improvements to schedule a consultation meeting!



Why Hire A General Contractor?

What is a GC, and why would you need one?

Planning on remodeling your home? Before you start, it’s a smart idea to look into hiring a general contractor. A “general” contractor (also known as a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc.) enters a contract with an owner to complete a project and by doing so they are taking full responsibility to get the job done for the agreed upon price and amount of time. Generally, the GC purchases materials, hires the tradesmen, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. When selecting the General Contractor for your project, it’s important that you choose carefully, as often, there is a lot at risk.

It is important to find somebody trustworthy and that you feel comfortable working with. Be prepared for things to go wrong on any construction project, and make sure you select the person who will work diligently and cooperatively with you to resolve any issues.


Here is just a brief list of some of the tasks general contractors can take on during a project:

  • Estimating and bidding the project
  • Negotiating a contract with the owner
  • Hiring and negotiating contracts with subcontractors
  • Obtaining any and all necessary permits and scheduling inspections
  • Disbursing money to subs and material suppliers
  • Creating a schedule for workers, subs, and deliveries
  • Negotiating material prices and ordering materials
  • Translate the plans and specifications
  • Supervising and coordinating the work of subs and crew
  • Troubleshooting job-site problems

While doing all of the above, the contractor is keeping in constant contact with the owners, explaining the process, answering questions or concerns and working within the budget to ensure the results are to the owner's expectations.

Before You Hire, Make Sure to Inquire!

Before you sign the dotted line, are you sure you asked your general contractor all the questions you wanted? Committing to a GC is a large financial commitment and it is important to get the necessary information from them prior to handing them over your credit card number and house keys. Here is a list of important questions you should ask from a licensed General Contractor:

What to ask former clients:

  • How did your job with this contractor go? How did it compare to others you have worked with?
  • Did they communicate clearly and throughout the project?
  • Were they on the job spot often? If not, was the work on site supervised?
  • Did you experience any problems or surprises? If so, how did the contractor handle them?
  • How was the quality of work?
  • Did they stay within budget? If not, how come?
  • Would you recommend them for a similar type of job?

What to ask the General Contractor:

  • How many similar jobs like this have you completed?
  • On average, what is the sq. ft. cost of this type of job?
  • Who will supervise the construction site? Who will I be working with directly once the project begins?
  • What work will your own employees versus the subcontractors perform?
  • What is the greatest strength for your company?
  • What efforts do you take to ensure a clean and safe job site?

Remember, hiring a general contract is a recommendation. Construction, renovation, and remodeling are risky and difficult tasks and can turn south quickly. Hiring a general contractor can not only ease your stress from dealing with issues hands on, it can also be the simplest way to get a large job done and it may even be less expensive than DIY due to competitive bidding. So weigh your pros and cons, ask all the important questions, and get started on your dream renovation with the help of a General Contractor!

Call us at COR Improvements to schedule an appointment!