Video Clip: Tamara Myers Interview

Tamara, who serves as Chair of the Membership Committee for the DelChester chapter of NARI, recently sat down with NARI’s Morgan Zenner at the National NARI 2012 CotY judging to discuss Myers Constructs, and the role NARI membership and certification plays within the company.

Watch it here.

“Saving a Few Bucks” Can Cost You More

Over the course of many years in business, we’ve had many customers who look for ways to save money on their home-improvement projects. One way they attempt to do this is by purchasing appliances directly from a supplier’s showroom instead of paying a professional to manage these purchases for them. Obviously, contractors mark up appliances over cost to pay for the time it takes to do this task.

Sounds like a reasonable enough idea, at first blush. The problem is that, while appliances look self contained and simple on a showroom floor, in reality, they are not either of these things — and neither is the delivery process. Most people do not know what it is like to self-manage a purchase like this. This is a part-time job during a renovation project, and it takes both time and skill to do well.

Here is what the process is like on the purchasing end:

Shopping for appliances and most other remodeling products is both exciting and daunting. There are a lot of options to choose from, many functions to know about, and ramifications resulting from the wrong choice of size, specifications and/or requirements. It takes years to learn this stuff, and new products come along constantly. While the choices can be overwhelming for average consumers, they are not for reputable contractors, who are always learning about these new products because it is their full-time job and passion.

Price points vary wildly. An inexpensive kitchen appliance kit might cost $5,000 complete. On the high end, we have seen them exceed $40,000. Most salesmen will try to sell you what they can make the easiest commission, rather than what you really want or need. You may be tempted to cut corners and choose, for example, an appliance in a black finish because it’s $100 cheaper than a stainless-steel model. The problem is that it may be a special-order item that takes three to four weeks for delivery. Your kitchen is now going to take almost a month longer to finish. You will be frustrated by this, and the whole project will cost you more now in change orders than you saved on that cheaper product.

It’s very easy to mis-manage an order like this. For example, you probably don’t know what the letters SS, BK or WT mean on a model number. But these codes are second nature to an experienced contractor.

Your appliance salesman may forget who you are and may not return your calls. You will then have to call several times to set up and confirm delivery of your product. In fact, you will have to harp and nag to get what you want. You will also have to be on site to receive and inspect your order. And an incorrect or incomplete delivery can create many weeks of delay. It is common to have to make dozens of calls for items like dishwasher trim kits, missing knobs, damaged goods. Delays cost money because they cause you to reschedule or stop your project to wait for it the error to be corrected.

If space is limited on your project, you will have to arrange multiple deliveries as space is opened up and the product is needed. You will have to check each order as it is delivered to be sure it’s correct.

There is no room for change. If your cabinet layout calls for a three-door fridge 36x70x30, you cannot decide at the last moment to go with another fridge because it will not fit the cabinet space made for it, even if it is on sale.

There is no room for error. A 30-inch range is not always 30 inches. We need the appliance specs during design and installation because sometimes these ranges need more than 30″ to fit into their final location.

The more expensive the appliances, the less detail in the data about it and its installation is provided. This is true without fail. This is why these appliances must be on site during the cabinet-installation phase — and sometimes during roughing in — and checked for size and installation requirements. The gas line or electrical lines have a specific area where they need to be, and the appliance will not fit in its place if these are wrong. This wil l cost even more money because they will then need to be moved.

W hen you hire professionals to handle these tasks, you don’t have to worry about any of these details because they make the entire process seamless for you. And, in the long run, they can save you money on errors and mishaps that would almost certainly happen if you try to “go it alone.”

Personalization: Every Home Tells a Story

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When we work with homeowners in the design phase of a home improvement project, we ask about them about how they live their lives and how they use their rooms. We inquire about their hobbies and the attributes of a home that are really important to them, and we actively listen to their answers. We do this because we want their homes to tell a special story about their lives, interests, and personalities. We then help them prioritize their product and design decisions based on what they have told us. This is, after all, the project they’ve saved for and dreamed about for years. The right choices to tell a homeowner’s story never lie in builder-grade solutions or cookie-cutter renovations that look just like their neighbors’ homes.

This photo shows a recent kitchen renovation we did for a couple in Center City. In our initial discussions for this replica watches project, we learned that the homeowners’ old kitchen was built by a handy non-pro in the 1970s, and was in very poor shape with some rusty appliances being held together with duct tape. But the couple delayed doing the work until they found someone they could trust and who would listen to their needs.

This kitchen is housed in a three-story brick building from the 1800s on a small alley-sized street, very typical of old cities on the East Coast. The house may have been a tenement or a small factory in its early years. Our assignment was to design a kitchen that fit into the old building without changing its window openings, which would also incorporate the use of a shared rear patio. We were also tasked with adding a small powder room off of the kitchen.

Through our talks, we learned that these homeowners entertain large groups of friends, so we knew that the living room, dining room and kitchen had to flow together smoothly. We also discovered that these homeowners are very active cooks, so their kitchen needed to be more than just a showplace; it had to be an actual workshop for cooking. Their interests also include music, Inuit-carved stone sculptures, and science — in fact, you can see some of their beautiful, treasured fossils incorporated into their kitchen backsplash. We absolutely love weaving personal objects like these into our renovation projects. Talk about telling a story!

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Phases of the Typical Home Interior Renovation

Design/Planning Phase –

This is an often overlooked, but very important, phase of any home renovation or repair project. Even if your project is as simple as hanging a door or painting a room, you need to start with a plan if you want to stay focused, do a good job, and get the project done.

With complicated projects like kitchens and baths, this is even more true. On many home shows, you’ll see designers and developers jump into a project with nothing more than a cabinet layout. They might walk around and talk about where they think they want some lights, doors and windows to go. That’s not a plan. It won’t tell the electrician or plumbers or carpenters where things are supposed to go, what is staying, and what is being demolished. You won’t know what the project will cost. Without a complete set of plans, you can’t get a construction permit, so your project may be worth less when you go to resell or refinance. Without a complete set of drawings, mistakes will be made, so you may end up paying even more to correct the mistakes made.

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Taking Control of Your Home Reno Experience

When our company begins any new home renovation project with a client, I ask the homeowners what kind of remodeling experience they want to have. They always look at me blankly in response. Whether they’re planning major home overhauls or making minor improvements, they seem to think their renovation experience is out of their hands. They couldn’t be more wrong.

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Choosing a Contractor: The Inside Scoop

At our company, I field all the sales calls. This means I spend time on the phone with potential customers. This is where I learn about the projects they’re interested in. I ask a lot of questions. I ask about their intended project, problems or issues they might be having with their homes. I get general information from callers too, like address and contact information, age and condition of their home. I ask about their budget. Knowing that callers have a reasonable assumption about costs is important because without that, it’s going to be hard to help them. I will also ask if they have worked with another Design to Build general contractor before. I learn a lot about other construction companies and what ticks homeowners off about them from this part of my conversation.

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The Sweet Smell of Home Improvement

Most people don’t know that their houses smell new and much nicer after they renovate. It’s kind of like “new house smell” gets sprayed on their home.

The first week or two of construction is dusty and may not smell very good. In fact, it can uncover many BAD smells, like mildew, rot or sewer gases. It’s icky. No two ways about it.

But after that phase, NEW STUFF is installed. So you smell all the new pine lumber, plywood, drywall, primer and paint, adhesives and polishes. The new cabinets often still smell of varnish or paint. Floors can smell terrible during the varnishing process, but after that they smell fantastic. In fact, two of my favorite scents include new cement and fresh wax — a fine old-time finish.

The experience of finally being able to see, touch — and smell! — so many thousands of dollars of shiny, new, wonderful stuff you ordered 6 weeks or more beforehand can be a little overwhelming. Customers can’t keep from touching and playing with things. They “oooooh” and “aaaaah,” even though they selected the goodies themselves. But the excitement can also cause them to do naughty little things, like put their fingers into wet paint or step on wet tile floors. I myself have been guilty of doing both. It’s like sticking your finger in a birthday cake to taste it. You just can’t help yourself.

We’re On Vimeo! Take 2!

Check out this cool, new trailer about our team at Myers Constructs, Inc.

This is just another example of our efforts to market our business without polluting the earth in the process. We’ve found that we don’t have to rely so much on the postal service to deliver printed marketing materials when we get great results from the organic sharing of our messages. So, please share this clip with your circle of contacts … and stay tuned for more fun media soon!

Chestnut Hill Kitchen/Powder Room Reno

Today, we are beginning the construction portion of a small kitchen and powder room renovation in Chestnut Hill. This cute, Tudor-style twin is home to two adults, two kids, and a senior-age dog.

The kitchen was no longer functioning well for this family. Here is their wish list:

  • Better flow/space function/circulation
  • Better/more prep area
  • New location for the fridge, which is currently in the unheated shed area out back
  • Better storage
  • Better work surfaces
  • Better kitchen efficiency
  • Open plan kitchen/dining room to engage the whole family
  • Better venting of cooking area
  • Better lighting
  • A more discreet powder room
  • Better pantry use
  • Staging area for lunch boxes, keys and things that need charging
  • Better organization of the many doors in the room that access powder room, pantry and basement
  • Stay tuned for updates on how this project is coming along!

    The Heat Wave and Your Home

    Temperatures of 100-plus degrees hit the Philadelphia area this week — and they’re only predicted to cool slightly in the days ahead. Not surprising for this region during the dog days of July. Nevertheless, conditions like these test not only our bodies’ ability to regulate temperature, but also our homes’ ability to do the same.

    So, just how energy-efficient is your house’s cooling system? Here are some symptoms of poor performance to look for:

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