Remodeling and Renovation Planning- Where to Start

When preparing for a large renovation it can help to have a plan; to start the planning :). The first step is to think about what it is driving the project.

Is it just the “something new” or is it motivated by a changing family need? Of course, if the cabinets and appliances are breaking down, it is probably a combination of things. You need a new kitchen, but you would also like it to work better and have an improved lay-out. If it is the hall bath that has the same lay-out, it is a new stuff and style issue. And lastly, if it is a major renovation and addition, then we need to spend time getting to the bottom of what life will have in store for at least the next decade.

Once you have zeroed in on the need or objective, it is time to interview. Right, I said interview! The interview process will help you discover what the right fit is for you and your family. Of course it is very important to like the person you hire but you also need to have confidence in their expertise and their ability to perform the work. As well as believe in the integrity of the firm.

You also have choices to make about the process that works for you. The structure of construction companies and the way they do business is almost endless. Most processes are based on 3 generic models:

1. The hire everything yourself approach. Here you could take a simple bath remodel, hire all the needed specialty subs and maybe even do the design work yourself. This process can get a quick upgrade to include a one person show that does some coordinating for you. The only pro to this method is cost saving since you will not have to pay someone to manage the project. The downside is that there are many cons if you are new to renovating. It isn’t like a repair you would hire a handy man for. Picking one sub-contractor at a time can lead to finger pointing and delays in the project.

2. The design-bid approach begins with hiring a designer or architect and then seeking companies to bid the project. Hiring a designer who has a good stable of contractors will help keep the process moving. The pros of this approach include having a design professional to work with you, getting a good understanding of the project scope during the interview stage with contractors and having some design oversight during construction. The cons are typically self- inflicted. Many homeowners want to fire the designer as soon as possible because of the cost, leaving a less design savvy person making many of those choices. Believing the plan is evenly understood or the scope will be followed by the contractor may make using the lower bid contract a poor decision. Without people to bid, it can take months to get pricing back from companies. This process also has a design/build tweak available by working with a separate design firm that has relationships to construction companies. This approach most common in the custom homes over $5m area.

3. The design build approach is of course the one I believe in most. So read the following knowing I have a difficult time being objective in this arena. There are companies that do design in house and even designers who act as a GC without any construction staff- a thought that appeals to me sometimes when I think of the challenge of hiring all the folks we need. A pure design build company has a full design department that can handle architecture, interior architecture as well as solid kitchen and bath work. Insert plug for Wiese Company here. The cons are needing to make some sort of initial investment in the project study and some light design work, and also making a very solid choice since this one firm will need to be responsible for the whole enchilada. The pros include one stop shopping, no finger pointing since the design/build firm has the onus of everything, and the involvement of the design team every step of the way. The modifications of this approach are scalable in how involved the designers are in the shopping process as well as how long the project will take and whether there is a designated project lead.

To answer the question about where our firm fits in, we are a full service operation. That means that we help our clients articulate the need and desire early. We use a full design process that includes a dedicated design professional to be the project coordinator from start to finish. They will catalogue and help with every selection (even personal shopping if needed) as well as provide the project with an administrator to help the owner and project lead. On the construction end, we put a lead carpenter in charge of the construction from beginning to end. They work closely with the client and designer while keeping the work on track and managing all the people and parts of the project while being hands on at the project daily.

Once you find the right person, they should help you go from there! Remember, if you don’t like the handy man, they are only in your home for an hour or 2 but when you embark on a major renovation, you’ll need to like someone past the honeymoon phase. Click here to contact us if you live in the area and are interested in using the design build approach.

Happy remodeling!

Pros and Cons of Waterfall Edges

Waterfall edges on counter tops can be a great way to push a modern vibe. As long as you know what to expect, you won’t be disappointed.

The first thing you should be prepared for is the cost, because in some cases this look can more than double the price. The things that have an effect on price start with the seam. Where the vertical and horizontal edges meet, the material should be grain matched to keep the movement in the top contiguous. You can see in the photos that this is true for both pictures. The picture with the double thick top is in our showroom and the waterfall edge is on both sides of the counter. On the other end (not shown) the grain does not line up because the material was not long enough. In the “during construction” photo for this high-rise kitchen remodel in Boston, we were able to procure a “jumbo” slab for seamless top and matching grains. Also, there is a price difference on the thickness of the counter and if you have it doubled up, you can achieve a finished side on both ends of the counter. Make sure you ask about the edge and get a look at the lay-out before you make a final decision.

 

 

Because this look is popular, driven both by the push for modern design and the desire to have a statement piece- don’t just put this look into a kitchen because you want one. When we are asked about incorporating a waterfall edge in a design, we try to also show 2-3 other concepts with other monolithic ideas to resolve what really works in the space. A great looking kitchen is the sum of the parts and if this is forced into a space it really doesn’t fit, it can actually detract from the end result.

It isn’t just for stone or quartz, we used a great piece of walnut in one kitchen that gave an additional stool space around the corner and made for a nice warm transition to the family room!

Happy counters! Ray

A Very Thankful Kitchen Renovation

November is here and Thanksgiving is upon us. The Wiese Company would like to send a big Thank You to all the Veterans and their families. I know Veterans Day and Thanksgiving are two very different holidays, but this is a good time of year to be thankful to those neighbors and friends who volunteered and have made sacrifices to serve our country.

We get to know our delivery folks well because we see them almost daily at the showroom with a constant stream of kitchen and bath fixtures coming through. Our former Fed Ex driver, and Army Veteran, Matt Lizotte is a great hard working person who served 2 deployments in Afghanistan. One day Matt asked about cabinets and told me about his condo with the tired kitchen. I told Matt about the average cost of a kitchen renovation and saw the look of disbelief in his eyes. Matt said, well- Maybe next year.

Since the initial kitchen conversation, Matt and I have had dinner out together about once a month. I learned that Matt didn’t want a free kitchen, or a parade, or anything but a decent job and a friend who gets it. So The Wiese Team went to work! After receiving permission from our veteran, we measured up and our designers came up with a look (all of which was a surprise) and we went to work on delivering a special and complimentary new space. Many folks don’t know that leaving your military friends and family you were deployed with can leave such a void that many Veterans long to go back to those not so nice environments just to be with their people. It doesn’t take a free kitchen to help someone assimilate back to apple pie and ball game- just a “how is your day going” from time to time so they can feel like they are where they belong will help.

             

One more thing I am just as thankful for this November: the people I work with every day. They gave their time for free with enthusiasm. Our Painter Kevin Carlson, Plumber Dan Lannon, Electrician Steve Pacewicz also provided services at no cost and we received free materials from Taylor Forest Products and Showplace Wood. The Sherborn Elementary School “Pine Hill” 4th and 5th Grade Chorus donated $250 they raised for a Veteran Cause to build the flag. What a fantastic demonstration of a community showing their gratitude and support. Thank you ALL!

One last note: I know I have many Veteran clients we have done amazing renovations for over the years, congratulations on your success and your help with our firm’s success. Unfortunately I will not be able to make those projects pro bono :) . Happy Thanksgiving- Ray

What’s Under That Old Siding?

In the picture below, this is a typical 1940’s home in a Wellesley neighborhood we have done a few projects in. As part of a whole home renovation, we are going to put on a new roof, new siding and replace all of the exterior trim and windows. When we are done, it will be better than new!

Our firm has removed and renovated siding from homes that are CIRCA 1760, and unfortunately; also homes that are only a few years old because of faulty product or installation. I often get asked about what to expect once the siding comes off, or hear that someone told them they won’t know until after the siding comes off. 

The reality is that it is very predictable with an eye on a few items. A good exterior inspection will shed light on repairs that were made or if there was a lot of deferred maintenance. If the home is on the historic end of the spectrum, it will look close to the photo of the 1940s home except the boards will be less uniform and there will be larger gaps. On a home like that, as long as the wear and tear are typical we expect to replace about 10% of those boards before re-siding and if the home is in rough shape, we will be re-nailing the sheathing and probably some of the framing. The renovations of the homes that fall in the 1940 category are about the same. These homes were built post war with pride and are not really that old in the renovation business. If a previous owner neglected the home, we would probably find some insect or water damage (about 2-3 days of labor from a carpenter to repair).

It’s the 1975 to present day houses that are the more troubling ones to work on, mostly because the issues are born more from a dollar driven new home construction and use of poor materials. It will likely be plywood below with rot from leaking assemblies and rotted trim. The sheathing will need to be re-nailed because there were not enough nails to begin with and larger sections will need to be uncovered.

One of the questions most asked is whether the siding under vinyl or aluminum siding will be salvageable. Although I am an optimist, the reality is that these homes were usually over-sided because of an issue with the original siding. Additionally, there will be nail holes all over the original siding. If you are planning for a full exterior renovation, my advice is to budget for the original siding to come off so you don’t end up in worse shape when the vinyl comes off. Happy renovating! Feel free to contact us if you are in need of exterior remodel to see how we can help!

Hidden Costs in Remodeling

Anxiety is the symptom of uncertainty, and I know that working through the process of design and budgeting requires a great deal of work for the remodeler and the client. One of the biggest reasons for the anxiety in renovating is that most people know someone who has had an awful experience with the cost escalating during construction. In the almost 25 years in business, I still haven’t found these hidden costs because construction is not a series of unknowns, it is a series of should have knowns (with only a few exceptions).

One item that is always an unknown is what lies under the soil if you are digging a foundation. There could be ledge, clay, or a personal experience I had at one project: a subterranean peat bog. If you are building an addition and talking with your construction expert, you should ask (if they didn’t mention) what sort of challenges can be found and the approximate costs. Knowing your options in advance will reduce the uncertainty and also provide you with information on where you will need to be with the budget.

Another common item in construction on older homes is asbestos. The most visible asbestos is linoleum floor tile, and as a rule of thumb if it measures 9 inches by 9 inches, it probably contains asbestos. We work on many homes in Wellesley, Mass. That were built by a man named Porter, and we know that even if we cannot see asbestos, if the home is a certain age and has warm air heat, the ducts in the wall will have a paper coating that contains asbestos. Generally, the removal of one area is approx. $1,500 for professional mitigation and based on experience we usually add this to the budget as an allowance so that there is money in the budget to cover the additional cost.

Termite and other pest damage can also be found, and I could make a list of some pretty ridiculous things clients have told me they were charged extra for, but I believe the onus to do a thorough inspection of your property and divulge any potential additional work lies with the experienced professional you are working with. If they say they don’t know what is in your walls, they may not have opened enough :)

Happy Renovating!