Archive for the ‘Remodel Realism’ Category

Thou Shalt Pour the Driveway First

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Okay, okay, I know I'm writing about new construction again. Sorry.

And I'm sure I've just offended .018% of my readers by refering to concrete as something which is “poured” rather than “placed”.

In any case, on with the article…

False Economy Case #917 – Installing hardwood floors before the driveway has been poured.

The Rationale – “We want to wait as long as possible to pour the driveway so that it will stay nice and clean looking. All that driveway maneuvering will leave your slab with some embarrasing 'tire hickeys', and some construction workers have vehicles that leak oil.”

The Voice of Experience – In theory, this is a great idea. In practice, you'll get a rainfall (or painters who clean their brushes out on the proposed driveway area, leaving a large swamp) which makes the soil/gravel mixture start to stick to the feet of the tradesmen. 3-5% of them will notice this and spend 30 seconds wiping their shoes. The rest will stomp through the house with their stylish “gravel soles” and you know the rest. Protecting the floor under these conditions becomes a very stressful undertaking with a low success rate.

Would you rather have a pristine driveway or pristine floors?

For Designers: Does Advertising Work?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Somehow I've managed to remain extremely busy so far this year, but — as far as I can tell — I'm an exception to the general rule.

Today I had an interesting conversation with a kitchen designer and cabinet showroom owner whom I know to be a very competent fellow. Somehow the talk led to me asking him if he ever advertised.

He said that he had spent $5,000 on advertising over the last six months, and the result was … nada. Not one quality lead.

We went on to agree that 99% of quality leads come from word-of-mouth referrals. You just have to get in the game, do quality work, and let time work for you.

Get it (all) in Writing

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

My work takes me into many homes each year, and I rub shoulders with lots of General Contractors, tradesmen, and homeowners. This past week, a homeowner succinctly stated one of the most common remodel complaints. It went like this:

“I invested countless hours of my time in discussing various issues and problems at the beginning of the project. We made decisions about what was going to happen at various stages. I assumed they (designers, contractor, foreman) were keeping notes. But as the project rolled out, again and again I would have to stop things and remind them of the original plan. It became incumbent upon me to catch all these things or they weren't going to get caught.”

GCs and their on-site representatives are notoriously bad at keeping good records. Kitchen designers are usually a lot better. In this particular situation, the kitchen designer was no longer employed by the cabinet provider, left nearly no notes, and could not be reached by the homeowner. So yes, it was a mess. But sometimes it feels as if most jobs are a mess. There's always some excuse or special situation.

Here's the bottom line for the homeowner: Get it in writing.

Let me propose a little test that should help to ensure you against some of the ineptitude which lays in wait for you. Keep your own quick list of the things discussed between you and the GC/designer during the pre-bid stage. Then, before you surrender a down payment, ask to see their list of those details. If anything is missing, consider it a bad omen. You're just asking for misery if you accept a bid from someone who isn't keeping good records. You deserve better. Keep looking.

Small-Kitchen Storage Idea: Custom Wood Pantry

Friday, January 4th, 2008

custom-sized-pantry.JPGIf you have outgrown your small kitchen but can't afford a major upgrade (a new house or a full kitchen/cabinet remodel), then this idea is for you.

Friends of mine had the same problem, and they solved it by adding this cleverly-designed, custom pantry unit in a (previously) useless area of the kitchen.

expanded-kitchen-storage.JPGWhen you open it up, you are immediately jealous of the immense amount of storage that this crazy thing contains. There are shelves on the outer doors, then you realize that there are also shelves on a tricky set of inner doors. Then you swing those out and a very beefy set of additional shelves is revealed against the back wall of the cabinet. And because it was custom, it is sized to take advantage of the entire nook where it was built. Every inch.

As you can see, they aren't filling this thing up yet, but with five children it won't take long.

Here's the catch. (more…)

Four Feelings that Drive Kitchen Remodels

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Generally it is feelings not functionality that motivates a kitchen remodel. Here are the ones that make it happen:


Kitchen Cabinet Bids: the Nickel and Dime Game

Friday, November 30th, 2007

In my experience the following is a common scenario:

Katy Kitchen is ready for a remodel. She heads out for a day of planning and decision-making.

Stop #1 is a warehouse home-improvement store. Katy spends an hour with a kitchen designer and comes away with a price estimate for her cabinets and counters.

Stop #2 is a small, locally owned kitchen and bath showroom. Katy spends 1-2 hours with a kitchen designer and comes away with a price that's 10% higher than the warehouse store price.

Seems like Katy will get the best deal by going with the big store's offer, right?

Probably Not! (more…)

Keep on the Sunny Side of Remodeling, Part II

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

It's really, really easy to become negative late in a remodel. Or at least to become hardened.

Somewhere along the way, someone or something is likely to take the wind out of your sails.

  • Starting into your 3rd month of being without a kitchen.
  • The floor guys who took you seriously about “helping themselves to whatever's in the fridge” and ended up eating that expensive ice cream you brought back from Europe.
  • The paint guys who tracked tar(??) across your rug.
  • The GC who swears they did everything they could to flatten the saggy floor, though you're skeptical there was any change at all.

It's easy to become jaded, but you shouldn't. Here's another reason why.

Many of the professionals with whom you'll be interacting (even late in the project — like the cabinet and counter installers) have chosen to do what they do because it makes them happy. This means that they've made an emotional decision about their work. And this means that — though they may still be able to do a competent job — they need your enthusiasm to be at their best. (more…)

Wood Decay Conditions

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

If wood is not pressure treated against decay, then it must be ventilated to keep its moisture content low. Here's why:

The organisms that actually do the work of decay are ever-present in the air and on the surface of the wood. They generally can survive at temperatures between 45 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the moisture content of the wood rises above 20% (which could be determined with moisture meter), these organisms go into action. Pressure treating effectively makes the wood toxic/poisonous to these little creatures.

So, if the wood may be getting damp and staying damp, make sure it is pressure treated. Most people know that PT lumber is available because that's what decks are made of. Less well known is the fact that pressure treated plywood is also available.

Getting Beyond the Just-So Magazine Pictures

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I found a refreshingly honest article at the Nova Scotian Chronicle Herald. One weird thing is that, although the entire article is written in the first person, no author is listed on the page. Anyway, good stuff:

I tend to find the [glossy home] photographs misleading in some ways. Like how clothes look on runway models. Yes, you might be able to purchase the outfit, but what will it look like on a normal-sized body?

You’ll never be able to achieve a successful space by copying these design photographs if your room is a square box, so you are already at a disadvantage before you even begin.

Don't you hate that? But if there was a magazine that showed real solutions for normal homes, would anybody buy it? (more…)

Why “Built like a tank” Makes an Easy Remodel

Friday, October 19th, 2007

I was doing research on the American Foursquare style today and came across this quote in Residential Architect from the Nov-Dec, 2004 issue in an article by Meghan Drueding:

And because it [the American Foursquare] was typically constructed around the turn of the century, when skilled labor was cheap and materials such as plaster walls and wood windows were standard, the foursquare has held up beautifully. “The more solidly a house is built, the easier it is to remodel,” says Minneapolis architect Robert Gerloff, AIA. “It stays truer and is easier to rework.”