“Big Picture” Renovations: Pulling Together the Pieces to Make a Grander Whole

Sometimes, we take on project homes where the individual main rooms are in good — or even great — condition, but the house needs an overall upgrade. That was the case for this 1980s-era stucco single English manor-style house in Chestnut Hill.

While it’s an attractive structure that includes a two-car garage and a lovely gated backyard with lots of mature plantings, the home had been a rental for a while, and was a bit worn and somewhat outdated when our clients bought it in order to downsize. It had a lot of builder-grade trims and doors, as well as plain drywall throughout much of the lower level. In addition, the house, which is rather sizable at 3,000 sf, felt rather choppy and not at all as grand as it could be. Our job was to give the house character and definition, particularly throughout the first floor.

Here are the solutions we implemented on the lower level:

  • Created and applied an appealing trim, door, and panel program that created a cohesive look and feel that added interest to the walls.
  • Reorganized and upgraded the kitchen range and hood to modernize the appliances and provide better functional space. (Proportions rule! When you have the right proportions, everything feels right.)
  • We will also replace a dated brown glass tile backsplash with new simple running bond tile that has a handmade feel.
  • Installed a new vanity sink, counter, and toilet in the powder room.
  • Installed new oak flooring throughout the kitchen and powder room to blend with the existing flooring, and stained all of the floors in the house a medium-dark brown.
  • Upgraded the lighting fixtures, switches, and outlets. This includes the removal of a Gothic chandelier hanging over the kitchen island and a builder-grade “Italianate” tray ceiling with lighting, which left the whole ceiling simpler and cleaner.
  • Helped select colors and finishes that tie the various rooms together and complement the homeowners’ furnishings, including a mix of new items and things moved from their previous home.

And on the second floor:

  • Created new “his-and-hers” walk-in closets in the master bedroom. We drew up the floorplan of the room with the furniture our clients wanted to use, and then identified the logical placement of the closets. We also moved and upgraded the lighting outlets and switches so they made more sense. By adding inches to the width, a foot to the length, and installing pocket doors, we freed up floor and furnishing space, and netted our clients a walk-in closet more appropriate to a master bedroom. The previous closets, while somewhat large, were not originally laid out for the sizes needed to get the maximum hanging and storage space.
  • Helped refit the clients’ existing custom office furniture into their new office space. Again, we drew a floorpan to determine where their belongings would best fit.
  • Assisted with selecting colors, lighting fixtures, and accessories.

In the end, we didn’t move any walls (except for the master closets), and we didn’t do full renovations of the kitchen or bathrooms, but we did make this house feel a lot grander. Now, when these clients entertain or return home from their work travels, they can feel their house wrap around them with solid comfort and long-lasting style.

Condo Reno: Meeting the Unique Challenges of City Projects

Condo Renovation - Unique ChallengesWe just started a new project for a repeat client, for whom we previously renovated a kitchen, dining room, and added a finished family room with full bath in the basement in a lovely 1860s Victorian rowhome on St. James Place in Philadelphia. While that location — like most city projects — presented some logistics and access challenges, we were able to work around them by parking on the street to unload equipment and materials and then moving to paid parking for the duration of the day. Because we have spent decades working on city projects, issues like these are all in a day’s work for us.

The clients’ new project home is a lovely modern Art Museum penthouse condominium featuring a stunning array of windows with spectacular views of the city. We are eager to dig our hands into this comprehensive whole-home renovation, but it does require some additional considerations in terms of planning and execution.

Clearances — We met and worked with the management team, the dock manager, and the building’s physical plant manager to gain clearances, review plans and schedules, and get the green light to begin work.

Protection — During demo, we protect the carpet in the public hallway, covering the path from the unit to the service elevator with a special plastic that protects from dirt and damage. This plastic must go down every morning and come up every afternoon — a process that takes about an hour within the allotted work hours of 8 am-4:30 pm.

Sub Considerations — The demo phase requires our electricians and plumbers to disconnect various system elements. Plumbing is especially important since any pipe broken during demolition could flood the many floors below us. Being an older building, the plumbing system requires us to shut off a whole section of the building to work on our condo’s pipes, and this is restricted to limited time periods during the day. Planning and permissions for these temporary water shut downs are quite involved and can take 2-4 weeks to execute.

Elevator Usage — In order to begin demolition, we had to secure time on the service elevator in advance, with residents moving in or out of the building getting first dibs ahead of us. The service elevators in this building are larger than some, but are small by construction materials standards at 4x5x10’. As is common in many older buildings, the elevators can go down temporarily or even stop for the day, in which case we have to use the elevator on the other side of the building and travel through more hallways.

All of this goes to say that we have to be even more organized and do more preparation than we typically do for our other city projects. The good news is it’s already paying off in how well the job site is set up for the demolition crew, as well as how neatly the debris is staged for removal. Our work space looks tidy while we wait for the elevators to become available again, then continue to remove these items to a dumpster waiting at the loading dock.

Stay tuned for photos as we make headway on this challenging project!

In the Works: Closing Walls and Opening the Window to 2016

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Last week, we received approval from our inspectors to close up the walls in Phase II of our Fairmount whole-home renovation project (see the finished kitchen here and the restored cupola here). In this phase we are renovating all of the 3rd floor with a new walls, a new rear dormer that is adding a high ceiling and a door to a future rear deck. This Phase II work includes not only the 3rd floor renovation but also roofing the main roofs, new gutters & downspouts, a new HVAC system, some finishing trim and hardware work in other areas of the house.

Here, you see the exterior walls and ceiling have been sprayed with closed cell sprayfoam insulation – our go-to insulation. It is more effective than fiberglass batts and we are able to meet and exceed the energy requirements within a shallower thickness of wall and this keeps more floor space for our clients while making their older homes more comfortable. After spray foam, the drywall and mud team follow and really bring the newly reframed space into form. Seeing the walls, the doors, and closets take shape will be really exciting and allow us to set up for the next stages of finish work that include the finish floors, trim, doors, window, and all the fun finishes.

With the holidays just around the corner, we’re starting to book our large 2016 spring projects. Call us today for help with creating a new life for any space in your home.

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 9: Cabinetry Completion, Countertop and Flooring Prep

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If you are following our Mt. Airy kitchen renovation on Facebook, you know that the cherry base cabinets were unloaded and installed late last week. Because the upper cabinets are painted, they were finished at the factory in a second run and will be delivered shortly.

Also this week, the flooring pro is scraping, sanding, priming, and sealing the Gypcrete floor underlay in preparation for the installation of the Forbo Marmoleum floor. The stone and wood counters are being templated on Wednesday, and the carpenter will return to the site this week to double check a few items on his list that need to be perfect before the rest of the cabinets and counters are installed.

We will next need to temporarily remove a couple of base cabinets for the flooring to be installed. This is because the flooring material can only be manipulated so much before it cracks, so we need to provide extra clearance. Bespoke projects can be a bit of a juggling act. Sometimes, there is a bit of back and forth to get the fit just right.

Have a wonderful week,

The Myers Constructs Team


Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Demolition
Step 3: Insulation and Framing
Step 4: Prepping for Inspection
Step 5: Pre-Closing
Step 6: Drywall
Step 7: Cabinetry
Step 8: Cabinetry Pre-Installation

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 8: Cabinetry Pre-Installation

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As we head into the holiday weekend, you can see that the new custom cabinetry is being assembled for our Mt. Airy kitchen. The clients chose rich “bamboo” stained solid cherry drawers and doors with cherry plywood boxes. Our Bucks County-based cabinetmaker is currently installing the hardware — including fancy Euro hinges, soft-close mechanisms, and leveling feet — as well as doors and drawers.

Our customers are patiently waiting for delivery and installation of the bases this week, with wall cabinets to follow in the next week.

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Have a Happy Labor Day!

The Myers Constructs Team

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Demolition
Step 3: Insulation and Framing
Step 4: Prepping for Inspection
Step 5: Pre-Closing
Step 6: Drywall
Step 7: Cabinetry

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 7: Cabinetry

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At this point, the custom cabinet designer and installer have been out to our Mt. Airy kitchen project site three times to fine tune measurements, and they will come out at least once more to complete the process. This is after many dozens of drawings, e-mails, and telephone conversations between them and our designers. Meanwhile, the cabinets are being made in sections in Bucks County, 60 minutes away from our job site.

The design detail with this type of high-end bespoke cabinetry is so fine that we have to adjust our drywall layout and window installations to ensure that everything fits seamlessly. Using various computer design programs and the skill of the designers and fabricators sets us up for a successful outcome.

The floor-pouring sub is also on site sanding and touching up the floor to make it flat and level. Before the final floor is installed, the Marmoleum sub will also do some prep, and the plumbers will replace a section of old drain line in a closet soffit.

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Have a wonderful week,

The Myers Constructs Team


Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Demolition
Step 3: Insulation and Framing
Step 4: Prepping for Inspection
Step 5: Pre-Closing
Step 6: Drywall

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 6: Drywall

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Customers often find the drywall phase the most uncomfortable phase of any project. Drywall is dusty, and it gets everywhere. In the case of our Mt. Airy kitchen, the clients were smart to avoid this process by scheduling a short trip out of town. The upside? This is also an exciting period in any project. Once customers can see the walls, they can begin to picture the finished project in “real space.”

Our next tasks are to get the in-floor heating installed and the new level floor poured. After that, we are into paint, trim, counters, tile, and cabinets: the shiny bits!

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.


Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning

Step 2: Demolition

Step 3: Insulation and Framing

Step 4: Prepping for Inspection

Step 5: Pre-Closing

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 5: Pre-Closing

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This week is all about framing, wiring, plumbing, and HVAC rough-ins. These items must be 100% complete before our Mt. Airy kitchen‘s scheduled mid-week inspections. after which we will seal the walls with insulation and drywall. It’s always an exciting time to see the design plans taking shape, but as you can imagine, this is also a very time-sensitive period of the job. If even one sub or work phase is late, it can bump other sections of the job and potentially affect the completion date. Because we are the general contractor on this project, our own crew members are working hard to ensure they are ready for each subcontractor as their turn in the schedule comes up.

Note that the panoramic view of this photo adds a curve to the appearance of the ceiling frame. In reality, it is perfectly straight!

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning

Step 2: Demolition

Step 3: Insulation and Framing

Step 4: Prepping for Inspection

P.S. We were excited to see this blog series mentioned in Remodeling Magazine’s daily newsletter last week!

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 4: Prepping for Inspection

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There are many things happening this week in our Mt. Airy kitchen remodel as we prepare for inspection. This will require a lot of coordinating between the clients, all of our vendors, the design team, and the production team. We will all have to keep our “eyes on the ball.” Here is a snapshot of our plans for the week ahead:
Completion of mechanical and electrical rough-ins scheduling of inspection
Finishing the exterior holes for the new oven vent completion of final framing work
On-site measurements for the custom cabinetry
Finalization of customer selections and placing final order items
Once we are inspected and approved to close, we’ll finish the insulation and then move on to drywall. Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning

Step 2: Demolition

Step 3: Insulation and Framing

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 3: Insulation and Framing

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This panoramic photo shows the action going on behind the walls in our Mt. Airy kitchen renovation. You can see how well the crew cleaned up after the demolition, and you can also view some of the framing materials that have arrived.

Take note of the horizontal wooden straps found in some of the walls. That’s the wood lath behind the plaster on the other side of the kitchen walls we demolished. You can also see old wiring and pipes, as well as the backside of the 16″ exterior stone walls.

What you can’t see is that much of this house contains balloon framing. That means the wall stud bays are continuous from the top of the basement to the bottom of the roof. In the case of a potential fire, the fire would shoot up these stud bays quickly, which is very dangerous. Therefore, we will install wooden fire blocking and fire-stopping foam in these stud bays at the floor and ceiling levels. Then, the exterior walls, rim joists, and new stud bay fire blocking will all get spray-in foam insulation to reduce drafts and improve energy efficiency.

Our carpenter, Bob, also has to “fur” the ceiling framing and wall studs to ensure that they are level and flat for drywall and soffit installation — especially important in an old home, where sagging in floors and ceilings is common!

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.