Q&A: NBC's George Oliphant on home renovating

Feb 20, 2020

George Oliphant stars in NBC’s "George To the Rescue" the long running home renovation series that features interior designers and contractors teaming up to help deserving families and communities with much needed home renovations. George Oliphant will be appearing at the Capital Remodel + Garden Show that is being held February 21 to 23.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Hey everyone,

George Oliphant here answering your questions about home improvement, George to the Rescue and whatever else you feel like asking me.

Fire away!

Welcome to George Oliphant, host of NBC’s  “George To the Rescue”. This home renovation series has designers and contractors teaming up to help fix the homes of deserving families. He will be appearing this weekend at the Capital Remodel & Garden Show in Dulles Expo Center. George knows how to fix almost anything in your home. So send in some questions about the things that are driving you crazy.

Are open concept kitchens still in demand?

Yes. Families love to be able have open kitchens for a number of reasons. They are great for entertaining and they create amazing flow throughout the house.

Are there local companies that specialize in moving boxes from a storage facility to one's home?

Definitely. I'd recommend doing an online search for someone reliable, recommended & insured in your area.

We are wondering is cherry in the kitchen out, in, or timeless? We have stainless steel appliances. Thinking of granite countertops since we cook a minimum of 7-10 meals weekly. Thanks so much!!!

In, out, timeless is always in the eye of the beholder. I'm a huge fan of wood in the kitchen & think cherry is beautiful. Granite makes for an excellent counter top but make sure to go and see the slabs at the stone yard before making your final decision.

What areas/rooms/items in the home are most commonly in need or repair or seem most commonly neglected? And what tips do you have on tackling those sorts of areas early-on so its not a surprise cost or massive problem later?

Kitchens & Bathrooms get the most wear & tear so they need the most TLC. My advice is don't procrastinate. If you see leaks, cracks, etc tackle them immediately so they don't get worse

I have an old rectangularly shaped kitchen table - white legs and light oak colored top. I want to paint it a great cobalt blue color to put a pop of brightness into our kitchen (which is grey and white, with stainless steel appliances and black granite countertops). What do you recommend for a good blue for that purpose, and would you recommend a glossy lacquer or something else to seal it?

I love adding color to the kitchen. There are so many blue's to choose fro you really need to see what works best in your kitchen with all the different lights that occur throughout the day. I'd recommend getting a few different samples to test with and then make your final decision.

Check out my story this week on How to Host a Better Book Club. The link is here.

I have a small 1930s bathroom that was updated in the '80s and looks it. It really needs to be redone. I won't be changing the footprint and will be keeping the original cast-iron tub. I would like glass tile in the tub/shower, which I know is more expensive and more difficult to install. I've already started saving since I want to pay cash, but I'm unsure when I should start getting estimates and looking for a contractor. Knowing there will be variables, how do I estimate when I'm close to a reasonable amount saved to cover things?

You can start getting estimates now. It's good that you're going into this reno with your eyes wide open. Make sure to get at least 3 estimates, that way you should have a good idea what to expect. Be prepared for worst case scenarios so you're not surprised if/when something unexpected comes up.

Our major kitchen renovation starts in 2 weeks and is estimated to take almost 3 months (we are removing two walls to make the main level open concept). I am starting to get nervous about how our family of four plus a dog will survive. We'll have a microwave and fridge. Any advice to help us survive?

I am currently going through my own kitchen reno and it was supposed to take 3 to 4 months, we're now in the 5th month and it won't be done for another few weeks. 

I have 4 kids & a dog too and we've been able to manage with a make shift kitchen in our living room with our fridge, coffee maker, toaster & microwave. We've used our powder room for water and dishes and that has been a struggle.

There is nothing easy about living through a kitchen renovation but it will come to an end and life will return to normal. My best advice is to manage your expectations and try not to drive each other too crazy.

If you can only afford to renovate one area, your master bath, main bath, or kitchen, which would you choose and why? Please provide an estimate for the project of your choice.

It really depends on which area needs the renovation the most. Kitchen is the heart of the home but is definitely the most expensive and time consuming.

I can't give an estimate because it all comes down to what choices you make on the materials you pick and if there are any structural issues that might arise.

My bathroom is not that well ventilated and I have some mold sprouting on the ceiling. (I will address the reason WHY later.) For now, I'm wondering how to best get rid of the mold that's there. I'm thinking of a good sanding, then a coat of Kilz, then painting it. If I address the ventilation issues, should this be adequate to keep it from returning? BTW, love your show!

Ventilation is key to making sure you don't get mold. Since you already have it, you need to make sure when eradicating it that you use the proper safety equipment so it doesn't permeate thoughout your home. This is a place where I'd recommend speaking with a professional before tackling it on your own.

Interested in learning the best way to manage a master bath renovation. Who is the most important person to engage with to begin the planning process. Interior designer, contractor, architect or is there another specialist I should contact first?

A general contractor is the best person to engage with, in my opinion. They will be able to manage all aspects of your renovation and make sure you get the right people in your home in the right order.

I have an old house and I assume that the windows aren't really square and may not be standard size. How expensive is it going to be to replace the windows? Can I really make the money back on reduced utility bills?

That is a tough question to answer without seeing your home. Windows are definitely one of the more expensive fixes and you don't want to cut corners when replacing them. You will save money on your heating and cooling bills once your home is sealed up properly, but making your money back depends on how much work you have to do to get it to that point and how long you'll be in the home after the renovation is done.

Hi! We have been in our townhome for 3 years. The kitchen island is two different heights. The counter height is topped with quartz and has our cooktop and oven below. The table height counter is the color of our cabinets (gray) and made from some kind of wood composite?? It's not the most attractive set up and it's awkward. It is almost never used. I would love to remove the two different countertops and replace with one height (counter height) and use quartz again. It seems like a small job and I don't think contractors will want to tackle it. I'm hoping not to ruin flooring and using same cabinets, cooktop and oven. I feel stuck. Thanks for any tips!

To fix your kitchen island you don't necessarily need to bring in a GC but you will need a good cabinet maker as well as a good fabricator to create your new counters. The two usually work together, so just make sure you find someone you trust.

My husband and I, 70-ish, still live in the family home we bought more than 30 years ago. But I think it's time to leave, he still wants to stay. Garage to first floor to second floor, lots of stairs, plus outdoor maintenance. Can a three-story home be reasonably renovated to allow aging in place, or better to face reality and move to an elevator-accessible condo?

Tough question. I'd hate to tell you to move from the house you've been in for 30 years but it will definitely cost a pretty penny to renovate a 3 story home to allow for you to age in place depending on what needs to be done.

My hot water heater is 17 years old. It still works fine but I fear it might start leaking one day. Is it better to just replace it now? Will it be more energy saving?

After 17 years your hot water heater doesn't owe you anything. It has done it's job and then some. You can wait it out but I'd recommend to start looking for a new one. Who knows how much longer it has left.

Painting old wood furniture in a bright, vivid color, is an inexpensive & great way to add color to a room. For the person who is thinking of painting their old table a cobalt blue, go for it! I'd consider a glossy paint which will make the room gleam. I buy old amoires at the Goodwill & paint them vivid colors like lime green, tangerine or turquoise. They are in every room in my house. (Cost: about $20 for armoire & paint.) I get tons of compliments on the bright & useful furniture.

Agreed!!

I have gotten a couple of bids on a bathtub to shower conversion. The low end installs a liner over the existing tile walls after removing the tub. The high end removes the tiles first. Is either better or is it just a budget decision?

Personally, I say when in doubt, rip it out but that will definitely cost you more than just installing a liner over the existing tiles. In the end, starting fresh is better, will last longer and should increase resale value when that time comes.

Don't forget about a toaster oven! You can do a lot with the ones that are around now (and may be worth getting one if you don't already have one). Crockpot/instapot might also be worth it.

Toaster oven is key. Did I not say that? Oops. Instapots are fantastic too. It all depends on how much space you have. Make sure to not over load one outlet!!!

While most people seem to love open concept, it’s not working for us. We really want to turn the kitchen into its own space—an old-fashioned eat-in kitchen that is separate from the dining and living area, which would remain open concept. How hard is it to put walls back up? This is an older house so the kitchen was once a separate space before the previous owners renovated.

Putting walls up is a lot easier than taking them down. A lot easier! There are no structural issues you need to worry about, its purely esthetic at that point.

For every one renovating a kitchen, be sure to budget a lot of extra cash for take-out and pre-prepared food from the grocery. You will find that the labor of cooking in a microwave & hotplate, hot pot etc . then washing up in a small sink, in another part of the house is sometimes overwhelming after a long day. We did a full gut and renovate of all the bathrooms and kitchen at once in our house (without kids) and it was a lot, we did take-out more often than not and we did budget for it, but could have budgeted a little bit more.

#TRUTH

We are planning a renovation which will include bumping out to enlarge master bedroom and bath, small family room into carport and screened-in porch. We are looking for a 3rd contractor for quotes. Aside from asking friends, do you have any advice on where to look, what questions to ask, to be assured that the person is reliable? Thank you.

There are a number of websites that can help you find reputable licensed & insured GCs. There is nothing easy or cheap about a renovation. Do your homework and definitely check references to make sure you're hiring the right person for the job.

 

Thanks for all the questions. I hope my answers helped and if you're in the DC area, come say hi this weekend at the Home Show. I'll be there Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.

All the very best,

George

Thanks George. Have fun this weekend at the show. My scheduled guest for next week is Jane Francisco of Good Housekeeping.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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