Adding a Shed: The New “It” Project

Saltbox Shed and Chicken RunBuilding a shed at our home has been on our “Honey Do List” for some time now, so we were happy when we were able to find some time last week to tackle this project.

Sheds are all the rage right now, it seems. We’re seeing them used as micro offices, creative studio spaces, children’s play rooms, adult meditation areas, pool cabanas, and teen hangouts. Personally, I love the idea of a small, quiet space to remove myself to — a place where I can reflect and ponder a bit. But the purpose of our shed is to store gardening supplies and house our flock of hens. We wanted to make space in our garage, so moving the garden tools and supplies out to a shed was a good first step. And while the hens were comfortable and warm in their existing small hen house, its small size made it hard for us to get in to collect eggs and clean.

This shed will have a human-sized door and hen space we can walk into, and we’ve built them a new run that is also tall enough for us to stand in. (L-to-R) Pumpkin, Electra, and Blackie It’s a saltbox-style building measuring 8′ x 8′ with an 8’ tall ridge beam and long, sloping roofline that was designed to face the main source of the wind. The framing is standard 2×4, and the siding is CDX plywood with some ripped #2 pine for trim and batons. The door and windows are stock items from the home center. Because this shed is so small and unfinished, we opted for piers instead of a cement foundation.

Sheds are a nice way to add useable space to your property, and they can be as finished or simple, and as serious or playful as you like, depending on your needs. Call us for more details on completing a shed project for your own home.

Diane Menke, VP/Operations Manager
Myers Constructs Inc.

Fighting the Big Chill: Radiant Floor Heating

New entryway design for 1957 Flourtown split level

One of the most effective ways to make a cold space more comfortable during the Fall and Winter months is to install radiant floor heating. We have done this in many projects, including our current Fairmount whole-house renovation and this Flourtown rancher, where we converted a former breezeway into a warm, welcoming entryway.

The wiring is installed on top of the subfloor, then covered over with floor leveler before the finished flooring is installed. The heat is controlled via a wall switch — requiring only about as much energy as an incandescent lightbulb. A very efficient way to warm cold feet!


Image: Damon Landry

Invest and Enjoy: A New Perspective on Home Ownership

I recently spoke with one of my realtors, Janice Manzi, at Elfant Wissahickon. We were discussing our shared experiences with home renovations, and buying and selling homes.

Janice shared with me that home sellers are often told by their realtors to spend at least 5% of the home’s value on fix-up items in order to attract a buyer in this tough market. She explained: “So they’ll spend 5% to sell the house, but they spent how many years living there suffering with it? Why not invest 10% in improvements, instead, and just enjoy living there?” Or, as the teenaged son of one of her home sellers put it, “I lived with that crappy bathroom for 16 years, and NOW THAT WE’RE MOVING you’re going to fix it!?”

We’re seeing a lot of this in the home-improvement industry. People with home equity are putting some of that money back into their homes so they can enjoy them now, and then selling them more easily when they are ready or when the market is better. The good news is we can help with this process.

Begin by taking an honest look at your home, or ask a trusted friend to help you envision your home from the eyes of a potential home buyer:

What looks outdated?
What is hard to keep clean or keep looking good?
What looks cheap or worn?
What are the annoying daily work arounds that impact your family’s enjoyment of your home?
What deferred maintenance is there?
What are the “should do” items?
What are the “wish list” items?

A few general rules of thumb:
If your home was built in the 1920s or earlier, you probably don’t have enough bathrooms or a large enough family space for modern living.

If your home was built in the 1950s or 1960s, the bathrooms are probably beginning to fail, and the electrical work in those rooms is no longer to code.

It’s rare to see a kitchen older than 20 years that is still looking good. Only higher end cabinet lines and high-quality products and appliances last longer than that.

If a kitchen or bathroom is from the 1980s, it’s usually in bad shape when we see it. That’s because so many really cheap products and services hit the market, and construction became a disposable commodity during that time. (That shortsighted spending keeps us pretty busy!)

We offer an extensive selection of high-quality, long-lasting solutions for your home’s needs. Our projects range from MiniMakeOvers™ to large-scale additions, kitchens, bathrooms, suites and whole-house makeovers. Don’t miss our value-priced Cafe Series™ kitchen and Rejuvenation Series™ bathroom project lines.

A Few Thoughts on Brands and Quality

Over the weekend, I spent some time visiting with friends who had recently moved from Doylestown, Pa., into a newer home just north of Baltimore. Their new abode, which is about 10 years old, features a really deluxe kitchen with a giant copper-cladded hood over a huge island cooking station, among other niceties. There are also beautiful handpainted murals all over the house and a very nice entertainment room in the basement.

My friends love their new place. And they had some valuable feedback for me, as a remodeler.

The old kitchen appliances had all failed and been repaired several times. As a result, these homeowners have no confidence in the brand now. Their new Thermador appliances are bulletproof and work great. I have seen the quality of Thermador Appliances firsthand because we have remodeled many 30-40 year old or older kitchens that contain them — still in great condition. Because of the quality and longevity, I’m always sorry to toss these items when we renovate, so we put them on Craig’s List. You can get a Thermador dishwasher at the same price point as lower-quality models ($950-$1,200 and up for a top-of-the-line model). While that’s still fairly pricey, it’s well worth the investment.

Cheap microwaves wear out, and their sizes and proportions change with time. So don’t custom fit a cheap microwave in such a way that the cabinet can’t be easily reconfigured to accommodate a new microwave when it’s installed. FYI, a more expensive microwave, such as a Viking, will prescribe a trim kit to make your installation look great. Use it.

TVs and how we watch visual entertainment is changing fast. My friends’ new flat screen TV is sitting inside a cabinet that was custom built for a large projection TV. I showed them how the good quality cabinet’s components might be tweaked by a good carpenter to accommodate his more modern TV system.

Trash compactors invariably break and then become expensive garbage cans. I don’t know anyone whose trash compactor has not failed.

Top quality, hard-wearing materials — like stone for counters, tile for flooring, stainless steel for appliances — last a long time and look great with use. Lower quality “stuff” looks cheap and begins to wear out quickly.

Personal touches are appreciated by home buyers when you are ready to sell. In my friends’ kitchen, a lot of very nice custom copper detailing was used by the previous owner on the giant vent hood and elsewhere in the kitchen. The home’s lovely handpainted murals are treasured by my friends now. In fact, these personal tasteful selections sold my friends on the house. So if you want something custom, personal and smashing in your own kitchen, don’t hold back!

Don’t Need a Full Remodel? Consider a MiniMakeOver™

Most people call us for full-service kitchens, bathrooms, whole-house makeovers or additions. But what you may not realize is that we offer another option: the MiniMakeOver™. While these projects vary widely based on individual homeowner needs, they can include the following:

Swapping out dated sinks, countertops, fixtures, toilets and cabinet hardware with new, long-lasting items that won’t look dated in just a few years

Freshening up paint and wallpapers

Installing new, stylish lighting

Installing new flooring, appliances, and the new backsplash tile you always wanted

Refinishing/repainting cabinet doors, and reinstalling them with new handles and knobs

Typically, these projects are appropriate for newer homes (built in the 1980s or later) or in a room in an older home that was renovated to code during the past decade, but is now looking a bit dreary. (Note: It it wasn’t done to code, you have to get into pricey systems corrections.)

Symptoms of a home requiring a MiniMakeOver include dated fixtures and finishes. A dead giveaway is that forest-green-with-cranberry color combo from 1989. Yick!

The result? A nicely tuned kitchen (starting at $8,500*) or bathroom (starting at $5,500*).

*Prices vary by project and home. Please call for details.

Image: peapodsquadmom.

Fireplace Season Begins — Are You Prepared?


Chilly evenings call for cozy fires. It’s just that simple. Is your fireplace in good working order? Do you have a supply of seasoned firewood in place? This is a good time to consider installing a gas or wood-burning insert, as they can help to keep your home toasty and save on other heating costs, as well. Call us for help!

Programmable Thermostats = Cool Savings

People who work with our company know we understand the value of great design. That’s why our marketing pro, Mark Gisi, shared this article with me today. He knew I would appreciate both the design and utility of the Nest Programmable Thermostat. The real clincher to the story was this: “… he discovered that 10 million thermostats are sold every year. Meanwhile, only 6% of programmable thermostats are actually programmed, even though a programmed thermostat can save 30-40% in heating and cooling costs. That’s was clearly a serious design problem.”

These savings are why we insist on programmable thermostats when we install new HVAC systems in the homes we renovate.

Everyone at our company knows I am the least technically proficient person on the team. I can’t program my TV remote, but I ALWAYS program my own home’s thermostats. Of course, a product this sleek and user-friendly would make my job much easier and more enjoyable!

Q&A: Vintage 101 (and a Giveaway!)

In follow up to last week’s newsletter, When Vintage Decor Meets Modern Renovation, we sat down with Natalie Rettinger, owner of Media, PA-based vintage furniture boutique Reconsidered Home, for a primer on antique furnishings and how to incorporate them into your home.

Q: How did you get started in selling vintage furnishings and antiques?

NR: I found my first chair in a thrift shop a few years ago. It was a tufted, armless chair with a dusty mustard yellow fabric. I bought the chair for $15, took it home, and immediately took it apart to see how it got its shape. I learned a lot from that chair and still have it, mostly to remind me to leave reupholstering to the professionals!

Q: What are the advantages of decorating a home with vintage finds?

NR: Vintage furniture, in combination with your existing pieces, allows you to be truly unique and actually helps you to find your style. No one else will have what you have. Of course, the other obvious reason to choose vintage is for its affordability. We have customers that often look to trade in their pieces in order to explore other shapes or styles.

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