Doing Your Homework As a Home Improvement Buyer

I recently spoke with a potential client who had a hugely specified project he wanted to build, but an insufficient budget to do so. Here are some things he could have done to be a more prepared buyer:

Check out Remodeling Magazine — This is a well researched source where homeowners can go for solid answers about renovations. Prices will vary depending upon the age of the home, but it’s a great place to start your research. Start here before you hire an architect or designer to come up with a project design for you. The information is very good, and it’s FREE! Remodeling Magazine

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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!

How Do You Know It’s Time? Part 3

Last week, we got a call from a woman who said her house felt too small now that her son had become a teen, and she was also dissatisfied with the outside of her home, but she wasn’t sure how to fix those problems. A quick Zillow search told us that this woman’s neighbors all had 4-bedroom homes with 2-3 bathrooms, while she was living in a 3-bedroom, 1-bath house. The “bird’s eye” view of her neighborhood told us that most of her neighbors had put additions on their homes to increase their size, and their homes were now worth 1/3 more than her house, even in this time of conservative appraisals.

We find that this is a common problem facing homeowners:

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Unforeseen Conditions

Many a customer will ask us what “unforeseen conditions” means. They ask because “unforeseen conditions” are explained in our contracts as something that can cause a “change order extra” to take place — and no one wants to spend money on something they don’t understand.

On this project, our plumbers encountered a cracked bend in the soil line. Here are some snaps of the problem:

You can see the old rusted pipes are in the basement ready to go to the scrapper. The new pipe is on site waiting for the change order extra to be approved. One snap shows the cracked bend where the toilet sits. The bend is in the bathroom floor under your toilet. You can see the large ugly hole in the living room wall the plumbers had to make to get at the pipe. The last image is from the bathroom looking down into the living room. This kind of destruction can be very upsetting to a homeowner, so it’s best to get the problem fixed and closed up soon as possible.

The bend is what is under your toilet and it’s connected to the soil line, which carries the waste from your toilet all the way to the street. If the soil line is cracked inside the house, what is in the pipe gets into your house. That’s sewage: solid and liquid waste, plus sewer gasses. It’s not a nice thing. If you smell something funny, this kind of leak is something to check for.

These cast iron pipes last a long time, and they are much quieter than PVC. When they fail, they corrode from the inside. Sheets of iron can flake off inside the house causing a clogged soil line, which forces sewage to back up into your house.

If the pipes in the house have not been used for a long time, they dry out and can crack when use begins again. Tree roots can also get into them. Ever wonder how those huge trees can grow on tiny front lawns? Yum! Soil line!

A cracked soil line is just one example of “unforeseen conditions.”

Because Your Home Should Fit How You Live

Very few of us live in homes that were custom built for us. But this doesn’t mean your home shouldn’t fit how you want to live. Your home can be tailored to fit your needs.

Our family stayed home this Memorial Day weekend. How wonderful it was to do so! We like to cook, have cocktails on the patio, and enjoy the views out of our windows into our yard. We have ample room to entertain and relax, and the house is easy to keep clean, so we don’t worry if friends come over with pets or children.

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Guys, Gadgetry, Home Efficiency and the Bottom Line

A landscaper friend recently told me that, “When it comes to landscaping, the husband ALWAYS controls decisions about the lawn.” In remodeling, we have a parallel example. From our experience, gadgets are usually the domain of the man of the house.

TVs = man domain. I have a male friend who has a 6′ plasma TV in the living room, a huge speedboat, and a black Hummer that usually has a beer in the cupholder. His idea of “decorating,” God love him, is a TV in every room.

Audio-visual gadgets = man stuff. The guys love these electrical, blinking gizmos.

“Strap on green gadgets” like solar cells and geothermal heating systems = “green” man goodies.

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Making Home Renovations Sing

A great renovation project is like an orchestra concert. It is a connected series of activities performed by a skilled team working in unison — not a haphazard series of tasks performed by individual players. And the best results happen when all members of the team know a good deal about what the other members are doing.

First and foremost, the designer of a project needs to understand the jobs of the carpenters, painters and other subcontractors to know where to put the framing in a room to get the proper finish at the end of the job. For example, a room framed to be 6′ long instead of 6′ 3″ might not give the best tile or cabinet layouts. So the designer should work with the room and product sizes to get the best results for the finished materials.

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In the Beginning: The Starting Point for Every Renovation Project

Yesterday, my neighbor asked me about her kitchen. She explained that she hates the one she has, and she was obviously anxious about getting it renovated. But she was completely confused about how to get started or even identify what sort of renovation she wants. She made the mistake that many people do: jumping right into thoughts about cabinets, layouts and other fixtures. I told her what I tell all of our clients — these items are really just a distraction when you are starting to think about your projects. The features come much later during the design phase.

At our company, we do dozens of renovation projects every year, so understanding where to start is second nature for our team. But that means that we sometimes forget to put ourselves in the shoes of people like my neighbor. She really needs some information to help her figure out how to get started.

Here is a simple breakdown of the first three important steps:

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The Rule of 10,000


In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” he explains that to be good at anything, you have to put in at least 10,000 hours doing it. Outliers

Seasoned general contractors (GCs) know this to be true. During the course of their careers, GCs typically put in many years of 12-hour days learning their craft. You’ll find that most GCs have at least a few gray hairs to show for all this hard work. I call these pros “silverbacks,” which is also the nickname for the leaders in bands of gorillas.

It’s important for you, the homeowner, to know that an experienced construction pro is going to be able to manage your project better than the younger average Joe. They are also going to do a much better job than you, should you be tempted into thinking that taking on their role on a project would be fun or economical.

How so? The experienced GC is skilled in anticipating and heading off problems before they occur. Some problems relate to seasonal issues, and others relate to understanding the timing of product shipments. He or she is also experienced with keeping the job on schedule and on budget. After all, anything that negatively affects the schedule will cause increased costs to you.

Another skill a GC brings to the table is selecting the right pro for each project. A construction project, like a high-end addition, is going to need a different set of roofing skills than a row house replacement job. Likewise, a perfectionist carpenter might be just right for installing that custom Birdseye Maple trim costing $30 per lineal foot, but that’s not the carpenter to put on a flip house or for framing and closing a roof as the rain starts. A GC knows the difference and has trusted contacts that possess those different skill sets.

Issues of access to the work site also come into play on each job. You can only get one or two people in a bathroom during a remodel. You need many more people on site for an addition frame up. Where will the dumpster and supplies go? How about the homeowners? Maybe they need to move out until the project is complete. Again, a professional GC has experience in these issues and can handle them seamlessly.

So you can see, hiring a GC with some gray hair and a very full Rolodex is probably a smart idea. You want the pros you hire for your project to have their 10,000 hours in. Ask them if they do before you sign a contract or hand over any money.