Making Your Holiday Home Improvement Checklist (and Checking It Twice!)

Myers Constructs Inc. can help you with your home improvement to-do list

Most people spend their holiday season making all sorts of checklists, including those for shopping, baking, gift-giving, entertaining, and so on. What they often don’t realize is that this is also a great time of year to begin a home renovation or repairs “checklist” to plan for their home-improvement needs during the coming year.

At our house, we recently sat down to make our own list. Here is what we found.

Re-purposing rooms — Right away, we noticed that we have not been inviting older family members to the house because we don’t have a comfy bed for them to sleep on. So we put together a plan for turning an unused office space into a proper guest room. Since we also recently renovated our master bedroom, we’ll take some of the furnishings we replaced and put them into the new guest room. They include a queen-size bed and mix-and-match dressers and night tables.

When evaluating your own home, look at the use of each room. Does it make sense based on your family’s unique needs? For example, are the rooms awkwardly arranged? Does your home lack a common gathering area? Is it in need of a children’s play area or teen hangout space? Turning a basement into a family entertainment area with added bathroom and bedroom space is a great bang-for-the-buck renovation. Typically, “egress” (access to the outside) is required by code. Keep in mind that the products you can select from now are way better than the faux wood panelling and shag carpeting many of us grew up with. You might even find you want the new family room for yourself!

Repairs — Do you have outdated and malfunctioning rooms and systems that need immediate attention? Perhaps you’re finding water leaks, or you have experienced recent storm damage. Keep in mind that it’s always good to have a whole house plan, so you can plot complementary renovation activities together to save money and stress.

Improving efficiency — At our house, we know we need to replace the 1957 vintage double-hung windows on the second floor because they leak air badly. Even worse, the vinyl siding on the exterior leaks water at the windows, and it’s been causing rot. So replacing these items is in order for 2014, but this will be a pricey renovation, so we are saving up the dollars now.

Cold air leaks in your own home are very noticeable now that winter has arrived. Many of those found around windows and doors can be attended to as weekend projects. Leaky doors can often be sealed with door stop weather stripping — we like the type that is a metal strip with a silicone gasket that gets screwed to the door stop. Door sweeps or air sealing thresholds are a great simple repair to make, too. (Hint: The holidays are a great time to request your cordless 18-volt screw guns for these kinds of projects!)

If your heater runs non-stop, it could mean you need to insulate. You’ll want to hire a home-insulation expert or an expert on the kind of home you live in because this can be a tricky project. Also, consider investing in a programmable thermostat; it will only cost you about $60, but it will save you thousands of dollars in home heating and cooling bills over the long haul.

Final tips? Assign a realistic cost to each of the projects on your checklist so you can budget accordingly.

If you own an older home, remember to hire EPA/RRP certified contractors to protect your family from lead exposure during home painting or renovations. Be sure to get permits on the home improvements you pay for so that the work you have done is done correctly, to code, and is registered with your township or county.

Happy holidays — and best of luck with your home-improvement checklist for 2014!

The Myers Constructs Team

Image: john.schultz

Trust: The Cornerstone of the Contractor-Homeowner Relationship

A female homeowner recently confided in me that she is uncomfortable with allowing male contractors she doesn’t know into her house when she’s home alone or with her young children. “I personally get creeped out by it,” she explained. “Trust is everything, in that respect.”

I don’t think this is an uncommon sentiment because it is one we’ve heard many times before. After all, these contractors interact with homeowners’ families, children, pets, and personal spaces and items during a home-renovation project. People want to know that the companies they hire will treat them and their belongings with respect.

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The Truck Tells the Whole Story

You can tell a lot abut a craftsman by how he keeps his truck.

At our Maryland Street project, the bank that owned the property before us had drywall screws driven into all of the locks except the front door. So we called this locksmith to switch out the locks and have them all keyed the same. This pro was a true pleasure to work with, and — just like his truck — he was super organized!

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The Importance of Having a Plan

I’ve been speaking with some landscapers about creating a plan for our yard’s landscaping. I’m pretty sure my reaction to the process is a lot like most homeowners thinking about home renovations: ”$X per hour for design services?! How many hours will that take? What will that cost? Wouldn’t I be better off spending that money on plants and mulch? Why do I need a design plan anyway?”

The truth is, I absolutely know the value of having a great plan, whether for landscaping or renovating a home.

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Home Changes, Life Changes

Many of our customers have older homes, in which large, complex or expensive projects have been delayed. Sometimes, the needed renovations are really overdue, but we are glad our customers waited until they found us to work on their homes.

Renovating a home is stressful. It costs money — sometimes a lot of it. Just to remind ourselves of these facts, we renovate our own homes from time to time.

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Blogging and the Brand Connection

Our company has recently been exploring cross-blogging opportunities, and we’ve had some success doing so. In fact, just this morning, we sent off a draft of a blog we will be sharing with a local landscape designer for her e-newsletter. Throughout this process, some issues have arisen — mostly relating to protecting and enhancing our brand strength/recognition.

There were times, for instance, when we passed on an opportunity to participate in another company’s blog because the inviting party did not understand our message/brand. Some of those sites were just collecting other bloggers in the field of remodeling, and they didn’t have any real connection to what we do. One example was a “Do It Yourself” website that helps homeowners do their own home remodeling. That’s just not our message. It’s not what we sell. Another example was a blogger who wanted to post what we felt was a sexist message. Again, not something we wanted to participate in. We felt that cross-blogging with these sites would not have been good exposure, and could have even damaged our brand.

Of course, we don’t want to limit ourselves to the narrow approach of working only with companies that are very similar to our own, but we do look for partners who have a complementary product/service line, personality and target market. Just as, say, a professional chef might look to share her blog with websites specializing in city living, parenting, food allergies, food associations and professional organizations.

Finding the right partners for these relationships isn’t an exact science, and we don’t have a checklist for making good choices when cross-blogging. But we do have a keen eye for protecting our company from risk.

Greening Your Home: Ask the Experts

Today and tomorrow, Tamara and D. Hassen Saker, owner of Organic Home LLC, will be at Bloomingdale’s chatting with eco-conscious shoppers about important strategies for greening their homes and lifestyles. Don’t miss these “Greening Your Home: Ask the Experts” events and your chance to ask questions and receive valuable advice pertaining to your own home.

Thursday, April 29th – Bloomingdale’s, Willow Grove Park Mall
2400 West Moreland Park Road
Willow Grove, PA 19090
11 am – 2 pm
Willow Grove: Cosmetics Dept., Level 1

Friday, April 30th – Bloomingdale’s, The Court at King of Prussia
2 Rt. 202 North 660 West DeKalb Pike
King of Prussia, PA 19406
11 am – 2 pm
King of Prussia: Housewares, Level 3.

Where Inside Meets Outside: Holistic Interior and Exterior Home Renovations

Meet Maria Hasenecz, landscape designer and owner of Livable Landscapes, and Diane Menke, design/build remodeler and co-owner of Myers Constructs, Inc.

While these Philadelphia-area designers each have their own unique approach and sense of style, they share the perspective that interior and exterior spaces should be considered simultaneously during the planning stages of a project. Here, Maria and Diane discuss how they put this philosophy into action with recent renovation projects at their own respective homes.

Maria Hasenecz’s home in Wyndmoor, PA, after its harmonizing interior/exterior renovation
Maria Hasenecz’s home in Wyndmoor, PA, after its harmonizing interior/exterior renovation

Maria’s project was an 1890s classic stone farmhouse in Wyndmoor, which she and her husband purchased in 1996. The neglected home’s structure had character with lots of potential. Despite its charm, Maria knew it was in need of a front-porch overhaul and a garden that would provide curb appeal, year-round interest and privacy.

Check out the slideshow to see the steps involved in this impressive and holistic transformation.

The final results of Diane Menke’s holistic renovation show beautifully in this photo.  Design assistance by In House Studio, LLC
The final results of Diane Menke’s holistic renovation show beautifully in this photo. Design assistance by In House Studio, LLC

In contrast, Diane took on a 1957 Sputnik-Era split-level rancher in leafy Flourtown that she purchased in 2006. While Diane loved the vintage house because it was in pristine condition, she felt that it needed a kitchen and landscaping makeover – as well as a new, slate front patio and larger, energy-efficient windows.

This visual tour shows the house’s dramatic updates, both inside and out.