The New Addition is Great! What Now?

So, you are all moved into your new kitchen and the company that did the job talked to you about how to get those warranty cards into the manufacturers, and mentioned what would need adjustments. But who needs to worry about all that, you have a new renovation to enjoy!! That can be done later after the first few meals are cooked or you finally get to enjoy that long hot bath in the new tub. Then, all of a sudden you wish you had a list of all those things to help with what needs to be done, and that well-tuned company isn’t there anymore to help…….GUILTY!

Wellesley Kitchen Renovation; days after completion

Just recently our staff recognized that a final walkthrough meeting and a “90 days post completion” follow up call wasn’t good enough. So we put a checklist together for our clients to bring to that follow up meeting; and we will also keep a record of it for them. Without boring you with a checklist, here are a few of the things that you should keep in mind after your project is complete: 

1. Stone and tile care and maintenance will depend on what product you have. Natural stone like Limestone or Marble needs to be re-sealed regularly (every 6-12 months depending on how soft or porous). Porcelain tiles need nothing at all, unless you didn’t use a high quality grout that self-seals- then that should be sealed annually. Be careful not to purchase metal toilet brush containers that are left on the floor- they will rust if they’re steel and leave a mark that is practically impossible to remove. A caulking is used at all the joints to allow for settling and expansions where a tile backsplash meets the counter, or the shower walls meet the shower floor. This will usually show signs of separation in the 90 day window, and should be re-done-but should only need annual maintenance at the most.
2. Warranties on the manufactured goods are important for obvious reasons. If a manufacturer asks for a purchase date, I recommend also including an install date. If there is a problem with any of the manufactured products in the project, the builder isn’t responsible for the warranty, but can likely help if there is a dispute about the install vs. purchase dates. It is common for appliances to be purchased in advance of a project completion, and you should expect the warranty period to start when you move in. In other cases, a reputable contractor with good purchasing power can advocate on your behalf if something isn’t being taken care of. If you have a number of warranty issues with something, it may be reasonable to receive an extended warranty or demand a replacement.
3. Heating and cooling systems may have been upgraded or modified for your project. I think one of the most important items is getting familiar with the new thermostat…. Yes, that programmable thingy. You could be living more comfortably for less expense if you set that up and also use less energy. There are some other items that require different maintenance- like filter changes if you converted or added warm air heating.
4. Not the last item, just the last for this discussion. Those new appliances with convection microwaves or induction, or updated features in general will offer time saving and improved cooking, and there are services available to have someone come teach you, or shortcuts in the manual for speed pre-heating. I have a few clients that actually learned how to use their speed oven, and now only go to their conventional oven for bigger tasks such as the bake sale or a holiday meal- don’t wait to start saving time and add convenience!

Not to worry if you don’t have a checklist, it is OK to call the builder to get answers to any questions that come up. Happy Remodeling! 

Omissions in Renovations

When you are budgeting for a renovation, it is just as important to know what is not included as much as what is included. It can be very difficult for a layperson to identify all of the details, especially in larger projects. The most important reason to know what’s in and what isn’t in the budget is that you want to avoid any surprises either financial or in the scope. Omissions in the scope of work can hide up to 20%-30% of the true total budget requirement.

Let me start with some low hanging fruit, landscaping. In our line item budget sheet, the first major category is “Site Work”. We list about 20 items such as: Excavation, concrete work, foundations, underground utilities and landscaping (walks, walls, planting, and driveways), etc. As part of projects like additions, landscaping can be a significant part of the budget, especially if you need a new driveway for that new garage. Since most building plans don’t address this, it is often overlooked and by the time the owner gets to that stage there are often budget restraints. My personal recommendation for folks is to hire a landscape architect and landscaper if there is more than remediating the disturbed area involved. The main reason we have those line items in our budget is for the client so they can understand the projected cost they will incur while deciding what resources to use. In the example of landscaping, I can also point to the scalability of deferring this component since it wouldn’t interfere with or cost more to do it later in order to get the initial construction underway, and to also use your favorite landscaping contractor when the construction crews leave. 

A few less obvious things that are important to understand in the initial planning include:
1. Design/engineering or survey work costs and timeframe.
2. Cost and time of permitting and/or zoning issues.
3. Who buys the fixtures and if provided, what quality are they?
4. Will any utilities require upgrading such as a larger electrical or water service?

While it can be challenging to feel like you have everything covered, there are ways to better understand some of the “unknowns”. In the case of hazardous materials like asbestos, we can often know that a particular neighborhood has duct work in the walls that are wrapped in it. In this case we typically carry an allowance if we have seen this before so it isn’t a huge surprise… and if it is not present, the client gets a refund! In the initial excavation, while you cannot be certain of what lies below the ground, the builder should be able to discuss what type of issues you may find and how they would be remediated if uncovered.

Remember the 5 p’s, Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance Happy renovating!

Trends from Design and Construction Week 2015

The most relevant word in home design for 2015 is simplicity. That was the resounding theme at this year’s Design and Construction Week, so let’s look at what this means for what I believe will forge the next trend cycle in home design, and the kitchen and bath styles for some time.

First, the word simplicity or simplify was used in many contexts during so many different conferences and product displays; from consumer needs to have an easier process when seeking help in home renovations, to the design styles that are more in favor today with less “fuss”. We all recognize that our schedules are getting more filled, but it isn’t all bad news. We attend more sport events that our children are involved in, visit with family, or donate more time to our community in search of balance, not necessarily looking to do less- just living more full lives.  

During an advisory board meeting I sit on, I chatted with a major player for DuPont North America. He shared that their group just wrapped up a major study to understand every step of the consumer’s decision matrix from thinking about a new kitchen or bath all the way through the completion of the project. It was remarkable that the most valuable things we are looking for is an enjoyable experience that is “simple” and easy, and that we can have a space done with as little effort as possible so that we don’t become consumed with. Of course there are other things we all want such as value, service etc., but we all want things to be easier.

Bathroom remodel in Wellesley

On the design side of all this is the continued trend for “transitional”.  What started off as a buzzword marking the mix of modern/simple design with a splash of traditional has evolved into what resembles “postmodern meets 2015”. If you go online to look at products you can confirm that transitional is more than established as a design style by finding it in the filters on most sites right next to contemporary and traditional. Soft color palettes, white bedding, sleeker cabinet styles with a touch of classic marble are all things that have lasting design value and resonate with what we are looking for right now, “simplicity”.

One of the things I pride myself on is that our team is never complacent about the changing needs of our customers. This winter we are challenging ourselves to make our process even more enjoyable and easier for you… because there is always room for improvement.

 

 

Punching Out– not as perilous as it sounds

When we finish a project for a client, we want to give the client the final say that they are happy with the way things look before they make the final payment.  This is known as “punching out”- or the “Punch List”.  Not to worry, there are no punches being thrown.   The term punch list comes from an era when a card was punched in the margin to show it was used- like the train conductor does to your ticket to Boston to show the ticket had been used.

Different companies use different processes for this, so it is really important to make sure there is a provision in your agreement that allows you to make final payment upon satisfactory completion of the project.  Because humans are involved in the process, don’t be shy about pointing out any concern you have to your contractor even if it seems small.   Some of the obvious things that may show up are a string holding up the dining chandelier- and the contractor has it to prevent everyone from running into the chandelier. If we see this on our punch, we offer to remove the temporary brace or show the Owner how to do that post delivery of the dining table to avoid any post construction mishaps.   If there is a spot of paint on the floor, put it on your list for removal.

 

Punch list items are for deficiencies due to craftsmanship, breakage, or incomplete work.  If a railing didn’t get installed- it is incomplete, if a light fixture has a broken glass, it needs to be replaced.   There are margins of acceptance and we consider ourselves, the contractor, to be fussy- so we really can take care of the smallest detail. But if the contractor you are working with forgot a screw- it isn’t for lack of trying.

 

The human element I mentioned earlier has a few factors.  First, the people working on the project are sometimes too close to it to look back and see every minor imperfection.   The carpenter can remind themselves they are one cabinet knob short every time they see it only to be distracted by a more pressing issue before ordering that.   If there is a minor scratch on the wall, someone may have done that without knowing just after the remodeler looked over the area. To combat this we use an internal punch out system before we ask the client to make their own punch list.   We call it designer punch because the project designer takes the onus of making 3 visits. A couple of weeks out, the designer convenes with the project lead carpenter to make sure all the fixtures have been delivered and inspected.   This helps reduce the back order problem if we need a part.   The next week the designer does a walk through with the project lead to get the obvious list of completion items together.   That helps the carpenter prioritize for what is usually the busiest week of the project- the last oneJ.   Then, right before we hand it over to the client, the designer nit-picks the project for minor blemishes and delivers any small parts that were sent express to the showroom.

The owner now gets to make their overview- and that is always important to give them time- ideally the weekend to walk through, settle in and see what needs some love.  Maybe the cleaning lady overlooked cleaning a set of drawers out or a hinge was loose we didn’t spot.   Not to worry! If you didn’t catch it on the day you sign off on your list, any good contractor will return because they know the value of your referral. 

 

 

Project Management for Residential Remodeling

Project Management in home remodeling has a bit more to it than scheduling- many items involved are tacit in nature.  At The Wiese Company, we know that having a diversified skill set from unique and friendly teammates is the right mix, but “why” is it important to have this diversity?   For starters, all of us humans have interests and strengths- and why not capitalize on that. The opposite is sure fired disaster and letting people do what they love always helps deliver excellent results.

Here are a few insights into what we do:

  1. Designers and architects meet with client and design a project that meets the need and budget. This process is usually 1-2 months for an average home addition with kitchens and baths- and usually doesn’t have all the “details” worked out, such as tile selection or maybe the final design of an architectural element such as a portico.

  2. The design and production staff have walked through the property early on in the design program and now re-convene to discuss construction staging and working around the family. (have pets, kids, relatives visiting, vacation? I think the Latin is “life interuptus”J)

  3. The project is in full swing, the plumber informs us that he has a family emergency and he will be delayed 3 days…!!! The inspection is set and we have been anticipating starting the insulation on the following Monday- in jumps the production manager to hit the reset button (without changing the end date). It can also happen that the custom bath that we ordered in advance has arrived with a defect… The designer that is wearing the project coordinating hat is on the phone with the distributer working all the magic possible and the project manager is on the phone with the plumber to see if we can get an inspection without it.​​​​

At our firm, we have a weekly meeting with all the field staff and have a designer present so that everyone is familiar with the stage of every project.  The carpenters get questions answered, the designer gets to share and distribute needed paperwork and if someone here needs a sick day- you’ll never notice a hiccup in your project.

The result of solid project management is making it look easy. The benefit of having the designers integral with the project allows for quick solution oriented changes or corrections.   The synergy of a great construction manager working with a craftsman who loves his trade and a designer who has great vision keeps all the pieces running smoothly.   I would tell you about the other billion scenarios that make this important but I haven’t seen them all yet! And- that is the great fun of our endeavor.