Conquering Larsen Syndrome With An Accessible Kitchen

See Emily discussing the challenges of and overcoming her spinal condition in the video below.

After meeting a family affected by Larsen syndrome who expressed a desire for a new kitchen, we learned that a member of the family was wheelchair-bound but had a passion for cooking. As we gained a solid idea of what they were looking for in cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and all the other accessories that would enhance the space, we offered our suggestions and put our plans in motion. The kitchen project would not only be aesthetically pleasing and highly functional, it would also provide for safety and universally accessible throughout.

All the new features added up to making the family extremely happy. Where once it was inconvenient for anyone in a wheelchair to reach appliances, cooktop and counters because they were too high, now every newly installed item was easy to access and there was free range of motion in the kitchen.

Universal Design Kitchen – CAD Proposal of New Kitchen Remodel

The previous kitchen made it impossible to reach into drawers or countertops, find kitchen tools, or remove food from the refrigerator/freezer. Since the completion of the renovation, the family has donned their chefs’ hats many times, and is overjoyed to be cooking together.

Using the new drawers is easy when you can roll right up to them.

Emily, a 19 year-old college student, is thrilled to be spending quality family time with her parents in the kitchen. While a good part of the kitchen design concentrated on meeting her needs, her mother, Ellen, points out that while the new kitchen facilitates Emily, it also helps her out tremendously, as well.

Emily is thrilled to be using their accessible kitchen. Although it’s been nearly a year since it was installed, she explains that it is still new and exciting each time the family works together in the kitchen.

Since the renovation was completed, my own abilities have diminished somewhat and recent bouts with a painful foot condition and acute tendonitis made me thankful that our kitchen is so chair-friendly”, says Ellen. “Even better is that we didn’t have to sacrifice beauty and style for function. Vita and Jerry made sure our kitchen was the most attractive and inviting room of our home.

Utilizing Universal Design standards, we designed a kitchen with quality products and special features that took into consideration the structure and environment that would make our clients feel comfortable, regardless of age, ability or situation.

We enhanced the space by creating a separate accessible section with no barriers between the sink, cooktop, and storage areas. Wheelchair accessible toekicks and a lower-placed wall oven, as well as an induction cooktop, were installed with safety features to prevent injuries. Cabinetry and countertops are steel reinforced and provide five feet of clear space for unobstructed wheelchair access.

Cabinetry and countertops were also installed at a lower height for convenient access. Additional easily-accessible electrical receptacles and switches were placed below the countertops.

New Cooking Skills in A Newly Accessible Kitchen – “I’m so happy to have a place where I can spend quality time with my mother when I come home from college. With her guidance, I’m improving my cooking skills and making food the whole family can enjoy”, says Emily.

DJ’s Home Improvements received a 2012 CotY Regional award as a “Universal Design Project Recognition” from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for the above-mentioned kitchen renovation using Universal Design principles.

Emily discusses the challenges of and overcoming her spinal condition

* DJ’s Home Improvements is an award winning design and build remodeling company. Vita and Jerry have been staples of the Franklin Square community for 30 years. As homeowners and business owners for over 21 years in Franklin Square, we are also members of the Franklin Square Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, Sons of Italy, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, plus the National Kitchen and Bath Association and awarded Big50 in Remodeling. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 we have received the Contractor of the Year awards.

If you are interested in having us design and build your home remodel project please call us at #516-775-8696.

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DJ’s Home Repairs & Improvements, Inc.
Nassau Lic. #H18C4240000 – Suffolk Lic. # 46377-H

Tips on Aging In Place

Many of our projects come to fruition to serve the needs of the ever growing and changing family. A household grows or downsizes and incorporates young and old. That’s why remodelers stress the importance of right-sizing your home as well as incorporating Universal Design into your home to accommodate the needs of different age groups residing under one roof.

(below are some notes by Louis Tenenbaum)

What is Aging in Place?

Aging in Place is a housing and care option that integrates design, equipment, and services to provide the opportunity and ability to remain in the home of your choice indefinitely.

The Mechanics of Healing (10)photo © 2008 Nazareth College | more info (via: Wylio)
Aging in Place works best when people prepare their home environments in advance of accidents or injuries using Universal Design to preserve independence and create safe care environments.

Aging in Place relies on a comprehensive and dynamic management system to use human, financial, and medical resources efficiently.

Aging in Place preserves housing stock, fosters community continuity, and strengthens families.

Aging in Place empowers older citizens with Choice and Control, Dignity and Independence – the essentials of happier homes, better lives and more economical housing and care.

What should you do to Age in Place?

  • Take care of yourself FIRST.

Remodel your home to preserve independence and create a caregiver safe environment. Preparing your home results in reduced falls, allows earlier returns from hospitalizations and rehabs and safer and easier assistance from paid and informal caregivers.  This is all win-win because the benefits you appreciate also save healthcare dollars. Currently you have to make this investment in YOUR future. I hope subsidies and incentives will help out soon. Independent Showerphoto © 2007 Nancy Hugo, CKD | more info (via: Wylio)
Grab bars and railings are modest investments. Removing throw rugs costs nothing. More extensive remodeling also enhances your lifestyle and increases property value when done attractively and well. Maybe I should say win-win win!

Exercise. Wellness – combined cardio, strength and flexibility training is the single most important factor you control about your own future. Exercise is the key to falls prevention and falls steal dreams. The evidence is mounting but there is already enough. If you are not exercising 30 minutes three times a week get started. There is also good, but less clear evidence that brain exercise helps avoid the scourge of dementia.  Most communities help with training, testing and social exercise opportunities to get you started and keep you on.

  • Take a look at Aging in Place 2.0 to see what could lay ahead for us in Universal Design and Aging in Place.

My design and build company, DJ’s Home Improvements, has experience and success in remodeling homes with Universal Design and designing for the aging in place lifestyle.

* You can call DJ’s Home Improvements if you would like a consultation on your home improvement project at 516-775-8696, or visit to see other projects we have completed. DJ’s Home Improvements is a design-build remodeling company licensed in Nassau and Suffolk counties of Long Island New York.

** Are you thinking of how to pay for your remodel? One option is reverse mortgage. Call Layla Corrochano, a Wells Fargo Reverse Mortgage consultant, for more information at (347) 256-9959.

Our Top 2010 Youtube Video of the Year

Snow day!photo © 2006 Gord Webster | more info (via: Wylio)Happy New Year!

If 2010 was a hard year for you, here’s hoping that 2011 will be a lot better!

Thank you again for viewing our videos. We strive to bring you content that educates our viewers on our process as home remodelers, showcasing our efforts as leaders and experts in our field.

As a homeowner, taking on a remodeling project and choosing the right people for the job can be an overwhelming learning process. We hope that our videos shed light and ease whatever worries you may have on a seemingly daunting task for your home.

Our motto is “We Treat Your Home As If It Were Our Own” and this is what we try to show in our videos: A design-build remodeling company that will take you from project inception to completion, hand-holding you through the entire process…

I hope you like this little blast back into 2010. And NOW, based on number of views and release date, I present to you our TOP Youtube Video of 2010…

Please click below to be directed to our 2010 Top Youtube video of the Year

Thank you again for viewing and your support!

Double Your Closet Space

Unfortunately, many of you may know the hassles of digging through mountains of clothes to find your favorite tee shirt. If you are experiencing this, it’s time to take on that messy closet.

The following system is just four plywood boxes outfitted with shelf standards, closet rods, or drawers.

It’s designed for an 8-ft. wide closet with an 8-ft. ceiling, but it’ll work in any reach-in closet that’s at least 6-ft. wide if you adjust the shelf width between the boxes or change the box dimensions.

Build Your Own Storage System in a Weekend

Power Tools:
Brad nailer (preferred)
Veneer edge trimmer
Materials supply list:
Edge banding
Framing square

Time, money, and materials

You can complete this project in a weekend. Spend Saturday cutting the lumber, ironing on the edge banding and applying the finish. Use your Saturday date night to clean everything out of the closet. That leaves you Sunday to build and install the new system.

The entire system is built with birch plywood ($40 per sheet). The total cost, including the hardware for the drawers, shelves, and closet rods, was about $250 (see Materials List). You could use MDF ($30) or oak plywood ($40) instead of birch. Everything you need for this project is available at home centers.

Cut and prefinish the parts.

Start by cutting all the parts to size following this and the Cutting List…

The corner box sides are slightly narrower than 12 in., so you can cut off dings and dents and still cut four sides from a sheet of plywood.

You won’t be able to cut the shelves that fit between the boxes to length until the boxes are installed (the shelves need to be cut to fit), but you can rip plywood to 11-7/8 in. and cut the shelves to length later.

Once the parts are cut, apply edge banding (iron-on veneer) to all the edges that will be exposed after the boxes are assembled.

Build a jig to hold the parts upright. Place a part in the jig. Then cut the edge banding so it overhangs each end of the plywood by 1/2 in. Run an iron (on the cotton setting) slowly over the edge banding. Then press a scrap piece of wood over the edge banding to make sure it’s fully adhered. Trim the edges with a veneer edge trimmer ($10).

Lightly sand the wood and your closet rod with 120-grit sandpaper. Wipe away the dust with a tack cloth, then use a paint pad to apply  a coat of polyurethane ($6 per half pint) on everything except the drawer parts. This $2 pad will let you finish each part in about 20 seconds. Let the finish dry, then apply a second coat.

Attach the hardware

It’s easier to install the drawer slides and shelf  standards that go inside the boxes before you assemble the boxes. Use a framing square to draw reference lines on the drawer unit sides for your drawer slides. The slides are spaced 8 in. apart, centered 8-3/4 in. down from the top of the box. Keep the slides 3/4 in. from the front edge (this is where the drawer faces will go). Use a 7/64-in. self-centering drill bit ($9) to drill pilot holes and screw the slides into place.

You’ll need to have your wire basket now (they’re available at home centers). Attach the glides for the basket 3 in. below the drawer slides. If your basket is narrower than 22-1/2 in., screw a cleat to the box side so the basket will fit.
Now attach the shelf standards. You can cut them with a hacksaw, but an easier way is to use a metal blade in a jigsaw. Place two or more standards together so the numbers are oriented the same way and the standards are aligned at the ends. Tape the standards together where you’re going to make the cut, then gang-cut them with your jigsaw.

Screw the standards to the inside of the box sides, 1 in. from the edges. Keep the standards 3/4 in. from the top (that’s where the box tops go). Be sure the numbers on the standards are facing the same way when you install them – this ensures the shelves will be level.

Assemble the boxes

Use a brad nailer to tack the boxes together following Figure A and Photo 4.

If you don’t have a brad nailer, use clamps. Then screw the boxes together. We used 1-5/8-in. trim screws ($5 for a 1-lb. box) because the screw heads are small and unobtrusive (we left the screw heads exposed). Here are some tips for assembling the boxes:

– Attach the screw strips to the box tops first, then add one side, then the bottom shelf, and then the second side.

– Drill 1/8-in. pilot holes to prevent splitting. Stay 1 in. from edges.

– If your cuts are slightly off and the top, bottom and sides aren’t exactly the same width, align the front edges.

– the boxes will be slightly wobbly until they’re installed  in the closet so handle them with care.

– The middle bottom box has a back. Square the box with the back, then glue  and tack the back in place.

– After the corner boxes are assembled, screw shelf standards to the side that doesn’t abut the wall (it’s easier to install the standards before the boxes are installed).

Build the drawers

Cut the drawer sides and bottoms (see Cutting List). Assemble the side with glue and 1-in. screws. To square the drawers, set adjacent sides against a framing square that’s clamped to your work surface. Glue and tack the drawer bottom into place. Then set the drawer slides on the drawers, drill pilot holes and screw the slides into place.

Install the drawers in the box. Getting the drawer faces in their perfect position is tricky business. If the faces are even slightly off-center, the drawer won’t close properly. To align them, place double-sided tape over the drawer front. Starting with the top drawer, center the drawer face in the opening.

You should have about a 1/8-in. on both sides and the top. Press the face into the tape. Take out the drawer and clamp the face to the drawer to keep it stationary. Drive two 1-in. screws through the inside of the drawer into the face.

Hang the boxes in the closet

Now install the boxes. Start by drawing a level line in the closet, 11 in. down from the ceiling. This will give you just over 10 in. of storage space above the closet system after the top shelf is installed. Then mark the stud locations on the wall with tape.
Don’t assume your closet walls are plumb – they’re probably not. So you can’t just place a box in a corner without checking for alignment.

Hanging the boxes is a two-person job, so get a helper. Start with the corner boxes. Align the top of the box with your level line on the wall. Have your helper plumb the box with a level while you drive 2-1/2-in. screws through the screw strip into the wall at the stud locations. Attach the other corner box the same way.

Find the center of the wall, then make a mark 12 in. on one side  of the center mark. That’s where your shelf unit will go. Again, have your helper plumb the box while you align it with your marks and screw it into the wall.

Prop up the drawer unit on spacers so it’s tight against the shelf unit. Align the edges, then clamp the boxes and screw them together. Drive screws through the screw strip into the wall.

Then place the top shelf over the boxes. We could just barely fit our shelf into the closet to lift it into place. If your won’t fit, you’ll have to cut it and install it as two pieces. Make the cut near one end, over a corner box, so it’s not noticeable. Screw the shelf to the box tops with 1-1/4-in. screws.

Then attach shelf standards along the sides of the shelf and drawer units. Cut the adjustable shelves to length to fit between the corner boxes and the middle boxes. Finally, screw the closet rod flanges into place, cut the closet rod to size and install the rods.

Use common sense and safety first.

** Please call DJ’s Home Improvements if you would like a professional help you with this project. Call 516-775-8696, or visit to see some of projects we have completed. DJ’s Home Improvements is a design-build remodeling company licensed in Nassau and Suffolk counties of Long Island New York.

Please leave a comment if you like this post.

Completed Project Tours

Over the years, at DJ’s Home Improvements, we have completed so many amazing projects. Though we don’t always  get the chance to take photos/video of them to document the process and/or the beautiful outcomes, below are the lucky few. Click on any of the following videos or visit my company website at to see portfolio photos of these projects that have transformed the way our homeowners live and enjoy their home.


NARI EPA Classes, “Get The LEAD Out”…

… was the mantra in Saturday, January 9, 2010 at the NARI office in Melville (NY). On that day, NARI hosted its first Lead Safety for Renovation, Repair, and Painting certification class. Certification is mandatory for remodelers and certain related professions. That class was SOLD OUT.

In attendance were a combination of NARI members and non-members. The NARI office provided an ideal location with comfortable accommodations. A continental breakfast and a hearty lunch were served as well.

The class was very interactive, with many questions fielded by the instructor. There were many concerns shared by everyone present and the instructor provided us with some important facts about the dangers of lead as well as a good interpretation of the law. There was even a hands-on section with several instructors demonstrating and the students participating in many of the safe lead practices we will all be required to perform, come April of this year.

The new law takes effect in two months, and yet I have personally heard remodelers and related professionals say, “what new law?” I urge everyone who reads this to alert anyone who is affected by the law to get certified and have their company licensed.

Companies must be certified and licensed if they disrupt 6 sq. ft.  or more of a surface area of a home that was built prior to 1978. It involves any company – even subcontractors like plumbers and electricians. It is so important to know the law so you will know when the structure you are working in contains lead. Penalties are severe and lawsuits will undoubtedly be abundant.

If anyone is wondering about getting insurance for lead removal, the phrase I have been hearing is ‘very expensive’ if any coverage will be available at all. Again, the building industry has to carry the burden of yet another regulation. The only choice we have is to comply by being certified and licensed, and to train our employees in safe lead practices and then document, document, document everything that we do.

NARI is helping the remodeler in this area in two ways: NARI is partnering with an EPA certified training firm to conduct classes at the NARI office for individuals wanting to get certified, NARI is providing 3 additional classes. They will be held on March 27, April 3 and April 17. All three classes are on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost for the class for our members is $240. The non-member fee is $315. Payment must be received prior to the class dates to hold your spot.

Finally, the NARI will be conducting roundtable discussions with lead certified individuals only… both members and non-members are welcome. Subject of the roundtable will be “How are you implementing the new lead regulations in your company?”

This new EPA program is called the “Lead-Based Paint, Renovation, Repair and Painting Program” (RRP).

Below are some links: pubs/firmapp.pdf

(Reprinted from NARI Today, February 2010, Volume 13, Number 6, Page 12)

*Jerry Burdi is a Certified Remodeler and Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler, a member of NARI and NKBA, President of DJ’s Home Improvements, licensed in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, NY.

**If you like this post, please leave a comment and subscribe to this blog.

How To Work With Glass Tile – Backsplash Application

Difficulty: Moderate to hard
It takes a few specialty tools and a lot of patience to set tile like a pro

Glass Backsplashphoto © 2008 Jason McArthur | more info (via: Wylio)










1 Mix thinset mortar, then trowel a thin skim coat onto the backsplash wall.

2 Smooth thinset with straight-edge trowel and wet sponge; let dry.

3 Lay out the 12 x 12-inch tile sheets on countertop.

4 Measure length and height of backsplash wall to determine tile layout.

5 Spread thinset onto wall with straight-edge trowel.

6 Press full tile sheet into the thinset.

7 Cut individual tiles from sheet to fit around electrical outlets.

8 Continue setting tile sheets across the backsplash wall.

9 Use undercut saw to trim window stool so tile fits behind the trim.

10 Use score-and-snap tile cutter to trim individual tiles to fit tightly around electrical outlet.

11 Spread thinset onto the back of individual tiles, and press to wall; use spacers to maintain consistent grout joints.

12 Use wet saw to trim tiles along the top of backsplash wall.

13 Once all of the tiles are installed, allow the thinset to cure.

14 Finish by using a rubber float to force grout into the spaces between the tiles; wipe off excess grout with a clean, wet sponge.

Use common sense and safety first.

** Please call DJ’s Home Improvements if you would like a professional help you with this project. Call 516-775-8696, or visit to see some of projects we have completed. DJ’s Home Improvements is a design-build remodeling company licensed in Nassau and Suffolk counties of Long Island New York.

Please leave a comment if you like this post.