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.

In the Works at Myers Constructs

In South Philadelphia, we’re busy working on a large-scale renovation creating a 3-story house with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms from an existing 2-bedroom, 1-bath, 2-story house. The plans call for adding a 3-story addition in the back as well as a 3rd floor master suite. The house is currently a shell, so it’s going to need everything, including a lot of masonry. Of course, the house is also vacant — which is a must with such a big project.

Northwest of the city, we’re also working on a high-end bedroom project in a lovely Lower Merion house. We’re turning what is now a simple, boxy bedroom into a luxe retreat featuring custom glass pendant fixtures, handmade wallpaper, custom furniture, upcycled large-scale hand-carved Asian doors for the closets, and many other rich textures and colors. All of the decor was selected by one of our interior design partners, Hannah Dee Interiors, with whom we’ve worked happily and successfully for many years.

With home sales in high gear, we’re also fielding calls for home renovations that people want to do before they move into their new-to-them homes. These projects include kitchens, baths, laundries, bedroom additions with storage spaces, decks, basement renovations, and resolution of various issues found by home inspectors.

Each of our projects presents unique challenges in light of COVID restrictions, but the solutions are mainly an extension of the core values we’ve always adhered to:

Prioritizing Safety — Our teams and homeowners all mask up when we are working in their homes or having meetings. We maintain strict compliance with standards for sanitizing work spaces and maintaining safe social distancing.

Encouraging Client Flexibility — Most homeowners understand our need to do more exploration of their project, budget, and time frame before we schedule time to meet in person — which keeps everyone a bit safer. When working in their homes, clients routinely offer us exclusive use of a bathroom and dedicated work site spaces.

Doing Our Homework — Every township has a different permitting process and requirements: some are online, some are in person with restrictions, and some are closed to new projects. We’re well versed in navigating this process, thanks to decades of experience in doing so.

Contingency Planning — Many materials — like plywood, pressure-treated wood, some plumbing items, flooring, and tiles — remain hard or impossible to get. Clients often happily provide us with second and third options so we can pivot and keep projects rolling. We also encourage adjusting contingency budgets up front for materials like lumber, which has seen a 20-40% price increase.

We’re thankful to be staying busy creating beautiful spaces that make people happy. We find that, as in all things in life, understanding and flexibility go a long way at this time.

Home Renovation Problems & Solutions in the Era of COVID-19

After general contractors were given the green light to resume home renovations in early May, the process has looked and felt a lot different, thanks to COVID-19 — not only for us, but for subcontractors, vendors, and homeowners, too. What does this mean for people who want and need work done on their homes right now? Having a well-organized design build general contractor with solid plans in place and great long-term relationships with their vendors and subs is essential to getting any project done right now.

As we navigate a host of challenges together, here is a top-level look at some of the most common issues we are all currently facing, and how our team is making the process as smooth as possible for our clients.

Problem: Supply chains are being disrupted.

Solution: Starting at the end of 2019, when the coronavirus pandemic hit China, we started seeing delays in products that were normally in stock, including everything from carpets to tile to hardware. Because these disruptions are continuing, we are implementing earlier order schedules and, when possible, “second choice” options so we might pivot in the case of longer delays.

Problem: Vendors are limiting service hours.

Solution: In order to protect their workers, many vendors are limiting their hours of service and discontinuing “walk in” service for the time being. We are working closely with our vendors to make the most efficient use of their time to keep projects moving along smoothly while also keeping a top priority on social distancing, safety, and cleaning measures.

Problem: Subcontractors are backlogged.

Solution: Our subs are working 6+ days per week to catch up on project backlogs. We’re communicating openly and proactively with both subs and homeowners so everyone has a clear picture of their project’s major milestones and completion dates.

Problem: Inspectors are backed up.

Solution: The City of Philadelphia is still closed, so new permits are currently stalled, and other township offices are either limiting hours or closed. We are working to have all paperwork as complete as possible on our end, so we are ready to hit the ground running when these offices reopen.

As a company, Myers Constructs has over 25 years in general contracting experience, with over 50 years combined experience between Tamara and Diane as owners who are personally involved in each of our projects every day. Please reach out to us to discuss your upcoming renovation plans. We’ll walk you through our process of keeping projects on an efficient timeline with a commitment to the highest quality outcomes, keeping you updated regularly so you rest easy and leave the worry to us.

Reflections on New Homeowner Realities in the COVID-19 Era

Wow, what a different world we live in now. After our first week of more normal working conditions, we thought we’d take a few minutes to reflect. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all been spending all of our time in our homes — working, cooking, and watching television — but now that the warmer weather is here, homeowners are finding other ways to unwind and enjoy their outdoor spaces. We have definitely noticed an increase in requests for new beautiful and transformational outside spaces.

Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • You’re spending more time outdoors, but your porch, deck, or patio are in serious disrepair — or you need better equipped exterior cooking and entertaining spaces.
  • You have a grill outside but wish it was a more complete outdoor kitchen.
  • It’s almost swim season, and you need a cabana room or dedicated powder room and entryway to your pool area.
  • You need more outside storage or dedicated spaces for items related to outdoor hobbies and recreational equipment.

Myers Constructs has been around for a long time. For that reason, you can be assured that we know how to successfully navigate an array of design-to-build projects even during uncertain times, like those we’re currently experiencing. We have a deep bench of highly talented tradespeople that we’ve worked with for decades. So even though the pandemic creates supply chain challenges and complicates scheduling, we know how to manage these problems in order to get your project done efficiently, beautifully — and safely. Tamara and I both have completed our OSHA COVID-19 training as part of our commitment to creating safe environments for our work to continue.

Great News: Home Renovations Resume

We are pleased to announce the news that we’ve all been waiting for: Governor Wolf has cleared the construction industry to resume work starting today, May 1. We are excited to move projects that have been in our design queue into construction — and to take on wonderful new projects for homeowners who have been dreaming about transforming their spaces but waiting to get started.

Of course, our focus will remain on the safety of our clients and our teams going forward. In addition to the typically careful and clean work spaces we maintain, we will follow the stringent new guidelines established by the Governor and the Secretary of Health. They include standards for social distancing, cleanliness, and mask-wearing, limits on the number of people on site at any given time, the appointment of a safety officer, and more. We will also continue to hang signs on our job sites outlining the measures we are taking.

We would love to discuss the changes you’ve been envisioning in your own home and how we can help you achieve your goals for better living through transformed spaces. Click here to get the conversation started. We’re happy to answer any questions you many have, and we look forward to hearing from you!

A Message of Heartfelt Gratitude and Sympathy

Dear Family and Friends of Myers Constructs,

We take great pride in the curated personal service we provide our design-build clients. Our clients know our process includes listening to and reviewing options closely, together. In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we will be monitoring the requirements and recommendations of the CDC, Governor Wolf, and Mayor Kenney, and making adjustments daily and weekly, as needed. We will continue providing our same intimate services, but limiting our communications for now to telephone, email, video sharing, and virtual conferencing.

Reflecting back on some of our favorite projects over the years, we find that the best have always been the ones where we work with clients to make long-term, holistic plans for the improvements that honor the style of their home and the way they hope to live in it. We have been privileged to work on some amazing whole-house projects, additions, and multi-phase renovations that are completed over time, as well as adaptive reuse projects, and even smaller custom commercial projects. Each one brings its own unique challenges and its own satisfying rewards.

In the meantime, we are still working on the scheduling, tracking, logistics of jobs already in progress and on the designing, planning, and specifying of projects that are in the wings ready to pick up once restrictions are lifted. And we are talking to new clients about their future work over email. You can click here to get the conversation started. At this time, we are not scheduling in-person initial meetings until conditions allow for us to do so.

We offer our sympathy to all of the families who have suffered losses during this time and the hardships that this sudden pandemic has brought. We’re deeply grateful for everyone in the medical and emergency fields who are working so hard to keep us safe and move us towards a safer future. And we’re also thankful for our clients, our employees, and our amazing team of trade partners and vendors who have worked so hard these last weeks to keep projects rolling and continue to offer their support.

We invite everyone to reach out to us via email and to check in via Instagram and Facebook for updates.

Stay safe, and we will see you 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.