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Water. It’s a word that strikes fear in the hearts of homeowners everywhere, and for good reason. The worst issue facing any home (besides an earthquake or fire) is a water leak. Water infiltration — which many of us experienced during the local storms this week — can cause serious damage to your home, including everything from rot and mildew to insect infestation and even building collapse. And while repairing water-damaged siding and trim, replacing rotting materials, and fixing vexing leaks are not nearly as sexy as installing a shiny new kitchen or fresh new bath, they are some of the most important projects you can undertake. Take pride in knowing you are protecting your home investment when you fix even the smallest of water problems.
When we think about how water enters a home, we need to think about the house as a collection of interactive and supportive systems. You want your home remodeling to support and tie into those existing home systems. This is why, when you discover a water problem, it’s important to hire an experienced GC who understands your home in this way. A specialist, like a roofer or window pro, typically only understands their piece of the puzzle.
We find that modern homes that feature products like vinyl siding often have flawed systems, especially if they were not properly installed in the first place. For example, my house is a 1957 split-level rancher. It has a brick veneer first floor, and a second floor done in siding. The original asbestos siding was replaced with aluminum during the 1960s, and then with vinyl some time in the 1980s. The original 1950s windows are still in place, but, because the many siding systems were not properly tied into the old windows, most of the windows now show signs of some leaking. The roof is newer, less than 10 years old, but because it was also not tied into the siding properly, there are areas in the siding that we can assume are also leaking. In addition, the gutters and downspouts are undersized, so they clog up every few weeks with even the smallest amount of debris. It’s very clear that these thermal-vapor systems, which should work together, were never considered as a whole.
What does all of this mean for our next remodeling project? It means we have to tackle the whole “can of worms” to correct the various systems so they will finally work properly together again. Roof, gutters and downspouts, soffits, siding, and new energy-efficient windows will all need to be installed at the same time. There will probably be some water damage to correct inside the walls, too. Of course, we will be sure to use the correct systems and processes when we undertake this sizable job.
As you’ll recall, we recently started a master bathroom renovation in an early 1800s-era home on a historic street in Philadelphia.
At this point, the wiring, plumbing, and framing are complete, the work to this stage has been inspected, and we are in the process of closing up the floors and walls. (In-progress slideshow here.) Today, the radiant floor heating will get wired, and our carpenter, Chris, will apply the floor-leveling compound over that. Next, we’ll be ready to install the 12 x 24-inch metallic porcelain tile! We can’t wait to see how amazing it looks.
The client can now start to visualize what the room is going to look like in the end. Stay tuned; we’ll be posting “after” photos when this project is complete.
How do you hire contractors when you’re starting a home renovation project? Do you look for the cheapest, or the friendliest, or someone you know from your social circle? Do you hire a carpenter to act as your general contractor? Or do you assume that role yourself? In our experience, we find that these approaches are mistakes.
The truth is, whether you’re doing a kitchen upgrade, a bathroom update, an addition, or whole-house renovation, investing the time to find an experienced full-service general contractor with excellent project management skills is the best way to achieve your desired project results. Without project management, solid design acumen, and professional drawings, the following problems can and do occur:
- The carpenter doesn’t know how high to set windows relative to the door height and the specified trim details, causing windows and doors to look “off” and the wrong trim to be installed.
- The tile subcontractor lays the tile incorrectly because he doesn’t know what the installation pattern should be.
- The insulation expert makes a hash of the insulation work and soils other new work already completed, thus voiding factory warranties on those products and materials.
- The HVAC subcontractor installs ducts randomly, which means you get an unattractive soffit when it might have been avoided.
In the end, the homeowner is unhappy, the project does not turn out as expected, it takes too long to complete, and it costs more to fix the mistakes.
The good news is all of these unfortunate problems can be completely avoided by hiring a well-known remodeling company that has substantial experience in managing renovations. Look for general contractors who have good communication skills, understand the personalities and quirks of each of their craftsmen, and know how to get the very best from them. Look for project managers who meet the following criteria:
- They are licensed and insured
- They have been in business for a reasonable amount of time and have experience in completing a project like yours
- They work from plans and a detailed budget, as opposed to scribbling notes on a napkin
- They have an office, instead of working out of a truck
- They have employees covered by health, workers compensation, and liability insurance
- They have professional certifications/affiliations, such as National Association of the Remodeling Industry, National Kitchen and Bath Association, Remodelers Advantage, and/or the U.S. Green Building Council
- There are no homeowner claims registered against them; check the Better Business Bureau or Homeowners for Better Building, etc.
- They are RRP/EPA Lead Safe certified
- They offer customer references and welcome you to check them
P.S. The start of the summer remodeling season is upon us. If you’re in the greater Philadelphia metro region, please call us for help.
Image: 401(K) 2013
We often hear from clients who are in need of help with maintaining and upgrading older, outdated bathrooms. In fact, we are currently working on one such project in a historic home in Center City Philadelphia. Recently, we’ve seen a surge in demand for bathroom elements that include the following:
- Heated bathroom floors, shower floors, and shower benches
- Large-scale tile
- Nickel finishes instead of stainless steel
- Streamlined, minimal cabinetry
Do you or someone you know have a bathroom or other space that is in need of an upgrade? Please pass along our newsletter and contact information. We’ll be happy to create a design to build plan for tackling the ongoing maintenance and remodeling jobs that face all of us as homeowners.
P.S. If you missed it last week, be sure to check out our recent Narberth kitchen renovation on HGTV Remodels’ blog The House Counselor With Laurie March!
This week, we are excited to have one of our recent kitchen projects featured on HGTV Remodels’ blog, The House Counselor with Laurie March. The project, pictured here, is a big-feature, yet modestly sized, modern chef’s kitchen created for a cottage-style home in Narberth. Here is an excerpt from our interview with Laurie:
I Spy … Myers Contructs’ Design
As you know, I like peeking in other people’s windows. I’m not creepy, just curious! When I spotted Myers Constructs’ tasteful kitchen remodel in Main Line Philadelphia, I had to find out more. Myers co-founders Tamara Myers and Diane Menke were kind enough to tell me more….
Q: What were the main items on the wish list for this remodel?
Diane: The clients wanted to maintain the vintage charm and scale of this modest home while making big improvements. Very high-quality custom cherry cabinets and high-end Wolf appliances and finishes were at the top of their list.
Q: What would you say were the biggest obstacles?
Diane: Staging this project was tough because the house is small, and there is no garage. We literally took up the entire first floor with materials and products to be installed into the kitchen. We maintained the client’s privacy using plastic dust barriers and having workers use a separate entrance.
Q: Where are the hidden gems in this design?
Diane: The high-quality fit and finish of the custom cabinets we had made for this project. It’s like the difference between the finish of a luxury car vs. a sedan. This kitchen is like an Aston Martin!
I encourage anyone who is considering a kitchen remodel to go visit a cabinetmaker’s shop to learn the difference that great fit and finish make.
Q: That fridge looks glorious paneled in cherry. It keeps the vintage charm of the space front and center — obviously a conscious decision.
Tamara: Yes and its a 42″ wide Sub-Zero but doesn’t look “too wide” because of the paneling, very successful.
Read the full interview, and be sure to follow Laurie’s blog. Originally published on 5/13/13; excerpt reprinted with permission.
Have a wonderful week,
The Myers Constructs Team
Images: headshot — Laurie March/HGTV Remodels; kitchen — Mark Gisi/Tabula Creative
This week, we are starting demolition on the master bathroom of a small early-1800s house on a charming, tree-lined street in Philadelphia.
The homeowner is a returning customer whose kitchen we tuned up years ago. His existing master bathroom includes an array of mismatched items, including a gray toilet, a white sink in a “Big Box outlet” vanity base, a beige jacuzzi tub, and brown marble tile installed haphazardly over an array of shoulder-height walls, as well as a shower that is in need of a total update.
To date, the homeowner and his partner have selected new gray Kohler fixtures, and large-scale brown iridescent tile (12 by 24 inches) running in a bond pattern on the walls and a herringbone pattern on the floors. Chrome faucets and accessories, including a wall-mounted shaving mirror, are from Grohe. Because the ceiling is vaulted, we will install 9′ walls and a new glass shower door. The project will also likely include a Caesarstone shower bench and countertops. The large-scale tile, logical layout, and tasteful selections will be a great improvement that pulls together the whole master suite.
There are a couple of challenges associated with this project. Because the street falls under the auspices of the Philadelphia Historic Commission, there are tight restrictions on renovations. Parking is also prohibited on this street, which will inhibit deliveries and unloading. Finally, the home is small, so we will need an efficient plan for staging, and our crew will need to climb lots of stairs, as this bathroom is on the home’s third floor. We love working in the city, however, and we are quite familiar with how such issues can impact a project, so we plan accordingly for them.
Stay tuned for progress photos as this project unfolds.
Note: Bathroom image has been changed to protect customer anonymity.
We often talk to new clients who come to the table with ideas about all kinds of “stuff” they want to buy and install in their homes. While this is a perfectly natural place for most people to start their renovation process, our job is to get them to back up a little and talk to us about their lives. What we really want to know is how they want to live, and how their home fits into that picture. Many times, we have to ask them to stretch a little, imagine a little “magic” in their everyday lives … and explain what that would be like.
Typical questions we ask in the initial consultation include:
- What works and doesn’t work in your home?
- When you travel or visit the homes of friends and family, what do you enjoy about those places?
- What kind of experience do you want to have when you come home? What does it feel like?
- What do you do for fun and relaxation?
- If you closed your eyes and imagined your perfect home, what would that look and feel like?
- How do you want your rooms to function? For example, in your kitchen, you cook, eat and store goods … but what kind of cooking do you do? How do you want to feel when you’re preparing meals? What kind of experience do you want your guests to have when you’re entertaining?
Bathrooms, too, leave a lot of room for magic, if you open up your imagination. A bathroom can be a bare-bones space for performing necessary functions like cleaning your body, or it can be a pleasurable oasis consisting of luxurious materials and textures.
We aim to create this type of magic in all of our customers’ projects. And this is so much more important than merely selling them “stuff.”
Since the 1990s, Myers Constructs has been satisfying homeowner needs for improved living spaces. We find that these same happy homeowners have called us again and again when they need more work done, or when they move on to their next homes. Past customers also often pass our name on to friends neighbors and family members, and we even get great referrals from the people who wish they had hired us but went with someone else and were disappointed with them in the end.
Consider us for your next project, large or small, including maintenance services such as:
- adding a closet, pantry, or storage area
- replacing windows or doors
- repairing a garage
- finishing a basement space
- early spring maintenance to repair windows or doors
- installation of storm windows to make old wooden windows more efficient
- porch repairs, including wooden floors, steps, railings, and fancy millwork
- powder room and bathroom facelifts
- creation of a home office
- enclosing a porch area to create a four-season room and add square footage to your home
If you have a question about these or any other projects you have in mind, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’d love to hear from you!
(Part 3 in a series that examines our remodeling customers’ most frequently asked questions.)
Our design build company has been providing high quality kitchen, bathroom and whole house renovations to fine homes in the greater Philadelphia area for more than 20 years. We find that many homeowner questions repeat, and this is a common one.
When you decide to renovate your home, there are many decisions to be made: colors, finishes, appliances, and whether to stay in the house or temporarily find other living arrangements. The right choice for this latter decision really depends upon the scope of the project, the other rooms available for your use during the renovation, and your tolerance level for the inherent messy stages of construction. If, for example, you are renovating your kitchen but have an extra utility area with a sink, a refrigerator, and space for a microwave, you can certainly remain in your home fairly comfortably during the renovation process. If, on the other hand, you are renovating the only full bathroom in your home, and you have no other means for showering and caring for your personal needs, you will likely want to find temporary accommodations elsewhere. When making your decision, keep in mind that, in addition to the rooms being renovated, your construction team will also need staging, cutting, and storage areas. So, during a kitchen renovation, you may find that the adjacent dining room and the garage are temporarily unavailable to you, as well. You can figure that the staging area will have to be 2-3 times the area of the rooms being remodeled. Most remodeling clients don’t believe this when we tell them, but you can see why in the image above.
Have additional remodeling questions you need answered? Please don’t hesitate to ask. We’d love to hear from you.
“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
With the first day of Spring (finally!) arriving this week, homeowners invariably turn their collective thoughts to refreshing their homes and yards. Whether you are planning a full design build renovation of a kitchen or bathroom, or any of the following smaller, repair and maintenance projects that will enhance your overall enjoyment of your Philadelphia area home, we are happy to help.
- Additions or space-enhancing design solutions to help the house you have feel bigger;
- Kitchen and bathroom facelifts, including new tile, paint, fixtures, stone counters;
- Hardscaping, patios, and decks;
- Energy-efficiency improvements that make the house you have cheaper to run and more comfortable to live in;
- Roofing, flooring, painting, tile, siding, and masonry, including pointing, block and flat work, and slate work;
- Family rooms, mudrooms, entryway enhancements, closets, and other storage solutions;
- Home offices, libraries, work spaces, and entertainment spaces;
- Finished basements;
- Home systems upgrades, including heating, cooling, and electrical.