How Myers Constructs Can Help You & Your Home in 2021 — Part 1 in a Series

The COVID-19 global pandemic has made each of us change how we live. The vast majority of us and our children are spending the bulk of our time at home while learning and working virtually, which has highlighted the ways in which our existing spaces may fall short of meeting our needs.

As a result, we’re seeing an uptick in requests for a wide variety of project types that will help our clients get the most out of their home and enjoy it to its fullest for many years to come:

  • Large-scale additions
  • Impactful project combos like kitchens with laundries and powder rooms
  • Mudrooms and bathrooms
  • Creating privacy within family spaces for home offices, study areas, and creative studios
  • Whole house remodels where we touch every room in the house

We invite you to visit us on the web, Instagram, and Houzz, where you can see the wide variety of “soup to nuts” project solutions we offer that include design, construction, decor, and color — even our own line of Myers Made™ custom cabinetry. As you can see in the photo above of Tam at the pre-COVID 2020 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, we make it a priority to stay on top of new products and industry trends that we incorporate into our signature projects, in contrast to firms that simply execute projects without vital expertise in design and strategy.

After you gather some inspiration, let’s connect and discuss your needs. We’d love to help you achieve the dreams you have for your home in 2021 and beyond.

The Details That Matter

You may recognize this deck image from our Facebook and Instagram accounts last week. It was a popular post that generated a lot of questions and interest, so we thought we’d share the backstory with you.

We came up with this little railing detail maybe 20 years ago, and we now use it on all of our decks because it’s a superior solution. Here’s why.

When you work on older houses, you have to take things apart as a part of renovating. You see what worked and what did not, and how long it lasted. You see how the people who did a section of work maybe 10, 20, or even 100 years ago thought about how to put something together — and they set you up to be able to fix it easily when it finally wore out. We always notice this, and we think about those people, who may no longer be alive, but we hope they hear us thanking them.

You also see what didn’t last or work at all, like renovation “coverups.” Maybe an old plaster wall was peeling a little paint or had a crack in it, and instead of repairing it properly, workers just layered over some paper or paneling. Then that failed a few years later, and they added another layer of something. Finally, we come in and fill a dumpster with all of the layers we need to remove just to get back to the nice plaster so we can finally repair that little crack or missing section. It’s a wasteful use of resources and time.

Inferior materials and quick-fix solutions simply don’t last. We’ve had to pull out almost every 1980s kitchen or bathroom we’ve ever seen because the materials and construction methods were not of good quality during that time. The big box stock cabinets get wet, swell, and deteriorate very quickly — they don’t even get old enough to wear out. Meanwhile we see 100-year-old bathrooms still working. The wall tile might have a thin settling crack, or the lead drain may finally have given up, but for the most part, the fixtures and finishes are still working. That’s pretty remarkable.

In working on decks over the years, we’ve seen that simple 45-degree corners on railings always open up after a certain point. So we came up with our solution that is a combination of a butt joint and a mitered joint that has more attachment surfaces and less area to open up. It’s not much harder to do than a simple 45-degree joint, but it performs substantially better. It has since become a calling card of sorts for us.

Tamara and I want to be like the builders of those 100-year-old bathrooms. We want to build projects right the first time so they last. Sometime in the future, some other carpenter will come along to replace the worn out railing we put in, and they will thank us for making their job easier for them. And in the meantime, our clients will “spend once.” They won’t have to repair that capping anytime soon.

Buying a Home? We Can Help

Whether you are considering buying a home to live in or a house to invest in, purchasing real estate is a huge investment with many complicated layers. We can help you understand the property you are considering buying through the lens of the necessary fixes, upgrades, and ongoing maintenance items you will face in the future.

We can join you on a property visit to gather answers to questions like:

  1. How is the home built? Looking at important systems and infrastructure features, we can tell a lot about the overall construction quality of the home.
  2. What year was it built? We’re familiar with common issues and concerns associated with certain construction eras that you should look out for.
  3. What are the problems the home inspector found? By evaluating the cost of the fixes, we can help you determine which ones should be considered “deal breakers.”
  4. What are the allowed uses and changes that might be made? Together, we can look at possibilities like future additions or structural upgrades.
  5. How does this property compare to similar in the neighborhood — and how can you maximize your rental or resale potential? By analyzing quantitative data, we can show you whether it’s worth adding that 3rd floor addition or an extra bathroom.
  6. What attracted you to the house? Looking at what you love, we can get a good feel for how it can be made even better — including what that will cost, and how long it will take to achieve.

The answers to all of these questions will help us provide an overall outlook of what needs to be done for the house in order for it to be perfect for you. Unlike a home inspection, our service addresses not only physical problems with the property — we also help you assess the emotional or quality of life strengths and deficiencies of a house to help you reach the goals and dreams you have for it.

Selling a House? We Can Help

So you’ve lived in and loved your home for a long time. You have fond memories when you look at every single thing in it. And now you’ve made the emotional decision to sell.

The first thing you need to know is buyers don’t want to buy your memories. They want to make their own memories in the home you cared for all of these years. What’s more, they typically don’t want to have to do a single thing when they buy your house. They want it to be perfect and “turnkey.” Some will even walk away from a house that is painted “the wrong color.” I even once met a home buyer who complained about the doorbell chime!

Buyers want that charming older home you’ve loved so long to look like a brand new vintage house fresh off the best shelter magazine presses — but with all the charm and character intact. We can help you take the necessary steps so you can see your home from the buyer’s point of view, as it is now, so we can help you prepare to sell it. We guide you through the changes your home needs to attract its next caretaker, the new owner of your house, the future buyer and custodian.

Many of the changes needed to prepare a home for sale can be small and inexpensive, like cleaning and decluttering. But sometimes it makes sense to put in that new kitchen or add that missing bathroom. Many older homes don’t have a bathroom on the first floor, and this is a “must have” for today’s buyers.

We guide you to find solutions to attract the largest group of buyers at the highest price. Often, this means avoiding personal preferences, which can be very challenging for a homeowner.

We can help you weigh all of the options in making your house look better than its competition: all of the other local houses listed for sale at your price point. We aim to get the best return on what you spend, with a faster home sale at a higher price.

Keep in mind that even after you have an offer on your home, the buyers may ask for some things before making the sale official. Maybe they want more closets, or they need an option for accessing the house via a ramp instead of stairs. Often, we can help you and your agent counter those buyer objections by coming up with creative solutions so you get to closing faster. And sometimes, you don’t have to pay for these changes — the buyer only needs to know a solution can be found.

The Wrong Hanger and Why Remodeling Is Very Different Than New Construction

Joist Hangers We are currently working on a split-level rancher in a friendly, quiet neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia near Pennypack Park. This house was inherited by the current owner, who wants to make it more hip and fun. This will involve remodeling the kitchen and three bathrooms, installing new HVAC, and adding lots of pretty mid-century touches.

In this house, the kitchen ceiling does double duty as the floor of the attic space above. The kitchen is about 20 feet long, and the ceiling was framed with 2×6’s that ran the length of the room. Because these joists are very undersized for that span, and they were overloaded with items stored in the attic, the ceiling in the kitchen had drooped quite a lot over time.

To cure this sagging problem, we jacked up the droopy joists, cut them at about midway, and inserted a double-laminated beam across the span. From this, we then hung the now shorter joists.

One of the ends of the new beam stands on a post we created. The other end will hang from another laminated beam we installed to run the span of the divide between the dining room and kitchen — where a wall is being removed to create a more open floor plan.

We ran into a problem when the lumber yard accidentally sent us a hidden fastener hanger for this end of the beam. Whoops!

The backstory on this mistake: Because this is construction in an existing building with walls and a roof already in place, we can’t set this hanger and then drop in the beam. Instead, we have to build the beam up in situ and then install the hanger. Our application calls for an exposed fastener hanger, one with the nailing flanges on the outside where we can get to them.

This is just one small example of how remodeling is very different from new construction. In new construction, things can go much faster because there are no existing conditions to work around — and elements are plumb, level, and square. In an old house, we have droops and sags and things out of level to either correct or work up to. We very often have to work backwards a bit to get things in good shape for the new items we will be installing. We enjoy the challenge that is unique to each remodel, and we find that the effort to find bespoke solutions for each project is always well worth it in the end.

469 Happy Customers (and Counting!)

Our firm recently marked its 21st anniversary. It’s a substantial milestone, and it got us thinking about the number of older houses we’ve improved over that span of time as well as the people we’ve helped to live better lives as a result. So we tallied up the numbers: to date, we have had 469 happy customers.

Incorporated in 1998, Myers Constructs is now one of the oldest, most trusted design build remodelers in the region — and the only one that is women-owned. And whether the projects we do for clients are large or small, very expensive or rather modest, our goal is always to understand how our clients want to live in their homes. We listen to what clients say, what their houses say, and then we come up with a plan to exceed their expectations about what their homes can be.

We help clients dream and imagine a better life in their home, and then we deliver that. For 21 years and counting.

Are You Emotionally Prepared for a Home Renovation?

Being on the brink of a new home improvement project is an exciting time of life. You’ve spent lots of time working with your design team to lay out plans and make product selections. You’re already envisioning what life will be like when the new space is finished. It’s a great feeling. But before you begin, it’s important to pause and do a few things to get emotionally ready for the experience. Even under the best circumstances, your life is about to get a little strained, and it’s best to be prepare up front.

Here are a few suggestions based on our many years of experience helping clients through the process:

Get comfortable with chaos (temporarily)

With any renovation, there is a certain level of stress, mess, and the unsettled feeling that comes with the disruption to your normal routines and rhythms of life. You’ll need to wrap your head around what’s to come. Consider planning extra time outside of the house doing things that you enjoy that help you recharge your batteries. Take a yoga class, reconnect with friends — or even plan a few days away if you can swing it. We have clients who plan long-term trips or temporarily live off-site so they can avoid the construction phase altogether, and it works out great because we’re in close contact throughout the process.

Edit down your belongings

Living in a home over a number of years, you naturally accumulate lots of “stuff.” While you don’t have to go overboard with purging belongings, it will give you a sense of control and will also be very helpful to the construction team if you “Marie Kondo” any extraneous clutter. Believe us, you’ll be happy you did.

Get in sync with your spouse/partner

It’s probably not a surprise that conflict between partners can be the biggest stress riser when it comes to any remodeling job. Discuss everything from budgets to contingency plans for unexpected events early and often to ensure that you’re both on the same page throughout the process.

Make a plan for pets

On any job site, pet safety should be a top priority. With workers coming in and out and lots of potential hazards lying around, you’ll want to alleviate your concerns by ensuring your pet has a safe place to hang out during the day — a crate or dedicated room is best.

Trust the process

A reputable and experienced design-build team will help you understand all of the steps involved in taking your project from demolition to finishing touches. Have faith that their experience and expertise will come together, and that you’ll be enjoying your new space before you know it.

Above all else, take comfort in the fact that the construction phase is a short span of time in the big scheme of things, and once it’s finished, you’ll get a payoff in terms of quality of life improvement and increased resale value at some point in the future.


Image credit: Dennis Jarvis

Behind the Scenes: What Our Customers Never See

Being a design build general contractor working any given day on a variety of projects throughout the Delaware Valley means that there’s never a dull moment around here. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities to find creative solutions — and that’s one of the things we love about this business!

At Myers Constructs, our clients’ projects receive the attention of both company owners: Tamara and me. At the outset, most of our clients understand that we will design their projects and also manage the construction, as well as the complex processes that are involved. What they don’t know is that when the need arises, Tamara and I go to the job site to personally handle some portion of a project ourselves to ensure great quality control for clients. In fact, there are important things we do on a daily basis that most clients never see. For example, Tamara could recently be found personally installing knobs and pulls in a kitchen and overseeing the project’s demanding tile installation. A month earlier, I was handling the framing and cabinet installation for the same kitchen because it was a tricky execution in a very small space, and our staff was fully scheduled during the peak of our busiest season.

Likewise, it’s not uncommon for either Tamara or I to have to run to a supplier to get a small item that arrives after a backorder and needs to be on site right away just to keep a job on schedule. Case in point: We recently personally rushed to Ambler to pick up a light fixture we needed to install in a Center City project. On yet another project, there was a 600-lb load of tile for two bathrooms in the back of my SUV that I unloaded myself.

We take a lot of personal pride in the results that come from this kind of attention to detail — and the happy reaction from customers when their projects are completed on time, on budget, and exceed their expectations. As the saying goes, “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”

In the Works: Glenside Colonial Goes Art Deco

One of our clients recently purchased this lovely large brick Colonial in the quaint and eclectic Philadelphia suburb of Glenside. His goal is to restore the home in a way that showcases his love for Art Deco styling, decor, and an extensive collection of art, ceramics, radios, and other electronics.

The home was built by a local developer in the 1920s, and it represents the best quality workmanship of its era — in fact, even the laundry room floor has the original aqua blue linoleum floor still in very good condition! However, the challenge presented by this home is that some of its previous owners made adjustments over the years that didn’t fit its style. For example, the large pantry and back hall, where you might carry in groceries from the rear parking area, was converted into a wine bar featuring faux stucco and brick accents applied to the plaster walls. The modest-sized kitchen had a dated pickled pink cabinet stain and a sandy-colored commercial tile floor. Throughout much of the house, wall-to-wall carpeting covered beautiful original fir and oak floors, and almost every room had heavy drapes keeping out the beautiful light coming through large multi-paned windows. Finally, updated bathrooms had vanities, tile, and accessories that didn’t mesh well with the home’s look and feel.

Our client, who has a very strong sense of aesthetics, called us in to restore the house to its 1920s style and include some of his preferred Art Deco finishes and selections, as well. In addition to helping him redesign a new kitchen to fit the house, we are helping him tease through what else needs to be changed and make a plan for updating the bathrooms, restoring the hardwood floors, installing new lighting and hardware, selecting new wall finishes, and even choosing window treatments and placing furniture — the “soft stuff,” as we call it in the business. Keeping the focus on his personal style preferences, we’ll also create solutions for displaying his collections.

We love projects like this whole house update that draw not only on our expertise in design build systems, but also on our unique understanding of art and style history.

Why Project Management Is Not a DIY Job

Substantial home renovation projects come with equally substantial price tags — think new kitchens and bathrooms, updated energy and heating systems, whole home renovations, and the like. These are complex undertakings that involve big-ticket components and cut across many disciplines, including local permitting agencies, the EPA, engineers, a long list of contractors, vendors, suppliers, and specialists. Important details need to be coordinated, planned, and managed. Risks need to be anticipated and avoided. When problems arise, quick solutions need to be found so the project keeps moving along, avoiding time and cost overages.

So who is the right person to manage the details for a project of this scale? In some cases, contractors allow the carpenter or whichever sub is on site on any given day to try to manage your project between their daily tasks. In other cases, the homeowners attempt to handle the job themselves. In our opinion — based on decades of experience — project management needs to be handled by a dedicated project manager (PM) who has experience matching the type and scale of your project. As we’ve seen time and time again, a PM with little or no experience leads to frustration, headaches, or even project failure. Even those who might be experienced with new construction, commercial construction, or tract house construction are not suited to manage a residential renovation for an older home. These are all totally different disciplines with different project goals, complexity, design standards, and quality levels.

A professional and competent PM will handle all of the following vital jobs, and more:

  • Use proven processes and systems to create a tactical plan and construction schedule for building what is in your design drawings.
  • Ensure the subs are on site according to those plans, barring unforeseen events like weather, late decision-making, project scope changes, or illness.
  • Utilize intuition, experience, and knowledge to identify potential risks, pitfalls, and common issues that arise and get them fixed before they become big, costly problems. Generally speaking, the higher the price tag, the more complex the list of products and materials to be managed — and a mis-ordered or damaged item can take 6-12 weeks to replace!
  • Keep employees, subs, and even clients motivated.
  • Set the tone for the work site and direct everyone regarding safety, cleanliness, and orderliness.
  • Approve pay for subs when the work is correct, complete, and inspected (if required).
  • Keep stakeholders updated on progress, problems, and changes.
  • Proactively manage the many risks of a project so clients don’t have to.

When done properly, professional project management goes unnoticed by the homeowner because the project runs smoothly, stress levels are low, and everything feels easy. It’s when project management is absent or mishandled that it becomes a very obvious and vexing problem. Investing your money well in the services of a seasoned pro will pay dividends both now and throughout the life of your beautifully finished project.