Friday, November 19, 2010

Conquer Boredom!

If you're like me, I bet you're looking for a major project to warm you up for the holidays! Actually, the holidays are enough of a project on their own for me, but how about something to set for a New Year's Resolution project. Here's one you might try.

Adding your own decorative moldings to walls may seem daunting, but it really is a much simpler undertaking than you might think. The necessary tools would be a miter box and sharp saw, sandpaper, finish nails and hammer, caulk and paint. Oh, and of course patience, and careful planning. This is one of our design suggestions that appeared in our Expert Advice column recently, in the St. Pete Times.

Start by measuring your walls and mapping out what you would like the finished design to look like. Then, calculate the sizes, based on overall wall measurements. Don't forget to measure twice, and use a calculator to check your math. Careful measurements here can assure project success.

The cut-to-size pieces of molding can be nailed right to the existing wall with finish nails. There are many profiles and sizes of moldings available at your home improvement store, and mixing one or two together is never a bad idea. Here is what can be achieved with an afternoon's work.

Once all pieces are cut and attached to the wall, fill any cracks and nail holes, then prime and paint. You will instantly have the look of expensive paneled wainscoting. Hey, if you get really confident, you might even try a faux-wood finish! Ya know, it just feels good to create something with your very own hands once in a while!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

If it seems like I'm borrowing an oft-used phrase from the Realty world, well yes, in fact I am. But, my "Preparation" phrase is meant for homeowners embarking on the renovation and building trail.
Our design project that we spoke of back in August is poised to begin construction. We're as excited as the homeowner to get this project underway and see the house start to take on its new shape and personality.

Choosing a contractor can be a confusing and time consuming task. What may be of greatest importance to your peace of mind--and wallet!--is choosing wisely. First and foremost; Make sure the contractor knows who's driving the bus by taking the wheel yourself right off the bat.

Our informed and process-educated client prepared a bullet-list of expectations which each contractor interviewed was asked to return, along with their respective bids.

See the list below:


Deliverable: All the following to be included with bid package, in writing, the week of________________.

1. List current and past five jobs, include names, phone numbers, and addresses.
2. Describe projects similar in scope to this one.
3. Describe communications process – review project bid with primary contact
and have regular access.
4. Relationship with subs – how selected, how contractors work.
5. History and description of the firm and principals, with key employees.
6. Current financial performance and proof of viability.
7. Timeline: project sequence, dates house should be vacated, possible delays.
8. How to assure materials are available and avoid delays.
9. Related projects: fencing, landscaping, foundation, roofing, HVAC, generator, plumbing, electrical.
10. Dates house should be vacated, if required. (FIRM)
11. Project costs: materials, labor, contingencies, economies of scale, ways to shave costs.
12. Breakdown project budget/bid by:
• Physical area of work/project
• Cost category – materials, labor, etc
• Timeline – monthly or incremental billing
13. Insurance coverage.
14. Warranty description.
15. Payment terms.
16. Contract terms, penalties, reconciliation.
17. Licenses

Not only does a list like this help the homeowner by spelling out details of the project, but it also tells the contractor up front that a close eye will be kept on all aspects of the project, and sets up your expectations for the communication process during construction. Though it may mean additional work for the contractor, a reputable one won't mind taking the extra time to complete these questions. And trust me, that is the kind of contractor you want on your job!

Material choices are already underway, so ground will "break" soon. Keep a keen eye out for this one!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's Your Mama?

Plato once said, "Necessity is the mother of invention". (I doubt that he said it exactly like that, but the phrase is attributed to him.)

Well, this was never more true than on one of our recent bathroom renovations. I take great pride in careful planning before a project, and try to anticipate problems as much as possible. Sadly, this doesn't always work out!

We recently ordered a beautiful 72" long vanity for a project from It was a great price, and came complete with Travertine top and double porcelain sinks. What could be wrong with this, right?! Well, it never occurred to me to wonder if it would fit up the client's switch-back staircase, with low ceiling clearance. And it wouldn't! This was further complicated by the fact that the vanity came with the top and sinks completely installed in such a way that dismantling was just not an option, and, as you can imagine, it was VERY heavy.

Our builder, Doug Phillips, didn't skip a beat, and quickly found a solution. Borrowing a time-honored method from Europe, hoisting the vanity up onto the roof via rope and pulleys, and taking the vanity through the bathroom window was an "obvious" solution! It took four men and a lot of oomph, but actually the process went quickly and smoothly. Here's how it went down. (Or more precisely, how it went up!)

As you can see, the doors and drawers were removed for safety (and less weight!), but the vanity made it into the bathroom without a scratch. I hope Plato is looking down and smiling!