How Avoid Construction Surprises

If you have read my blog, you will know that I believe there are no real surprises in the estimating of construction. There is a thing called inexperience… and that usually results in surprise costsJ. I had to stop watching HGTV because the programs almost always result in the designer and contractor meeting with the Owner to let them know about an “unforeseen” issue that was going to break the budget. Also in most cases I would wonder why they didn’t know they would need a beam, that they couldn’t move the plumbing without additional expense, etc., etc.

A hidden cost in construction, that shouldn’t be a surprise is rotting sills. It doesn’t matter how expensive the home is, we are constantly finding wood rot behind the front stoop. So much so, that we already know we are likely to find it even when there are no visible signs; and we can find evidence pre-budget. The primary culprit is typically poor coordination between the builder, the person siding or the mason.

In the picture below we were performing an interior renovation in Wellesley. The client had hired a well-intentioned landscape mason to renew the front stoop, making it wider and using natural stone. Because the mason wasn’t familiar with this type of work (connecting masonry to the home), they left portions of a pine water table in place and were building up against it. They were creating a future rot and insect issue as well as leaving some rot that was pre-existing. Fortunately, they were truly interested in doing the right thing and waited for us to get a carpenter there to remove the water table and install flashing.

I know these are not sexy photos- but hopefully it will help if you are planning to replace the front stoop. Below we moved a large granite landing away from a house in Dover getting a new porch. We and found the rot we expected… about 9 feet of rotted sill plate. No problem! 2 hours, 2 carpenters, 18′ of 2×6 pressure treated lumber and NO INVOICE to the client. I can’t wait to show you the beautiful porch that will be here in a few weeks.

Happy renovating, Ray

Finding the Right Flooring for You

In the Northeast, the most popular flooring we install is white oak planks. This type of floor has remained popular because it is durable, and has a lasting aesthetic that can survive trends by re-finishing.  Refinishing an oak floor completely can be done 3-8 times (depending on the experience of the refinisher) and each re-finishing has a lifespan of about 20 years.  Not a bad long-term investment!

There have been other wood species that are popular in our area, such as Brazilian cherry. It is warm and dark with more of a redder tone than walnut. My advice is to think about the whole house and overall architecture before making a selection since it is important to have consistency through the interior where you install wood. Plus, it will be part of the architectural tone of the interior for some time.

In one home we renovated in Dover, the owners had installed wide plank walnut throughout when the home was built. The New England neo/shingle style made this a perfect choice. The floors are a great timeless statement. These planks were about 6” wide, which I know many people do enjoy a wider floor.

If you are adding on and have a lot of good existing oak, one great idea you can use that will keep a good consistent flow is to use wider boards in the same wood for the new family room. Then re-finish the entire first floor at one time. This would keep a sense of cohesion while making one space feel more upscale/casual and all the floors would have a similar matching color and grain- you could even stain them to match. Keep in mind that the wider the board, the higher the cost and it is recommended for boards over 4” that the flooring be glued and nailed to avoid cupping.

Now a day, wall to wall carpet has become increasingly popular in Master suites.  I think this has a lot to do with creating a soft and warm surface when we swing our legs around the bed for those first morning steps.  Additionally, the bedroom is where a pattern on the floor can create great synergy with the design and add a layer of texture.

There is a common misconception that carpet is less expensive than wood, which isn’t always true. The first time I learned about fine carpeting was about 20 years ago. The client asked me if using carpet would save them money if they installed it in their master bedroom; I said sure! Off they went to a very nice and reputable dealer and selected a beautiful Tibetan Wool carpet that was approximately $30 per square foot installed. Don’t worry; a good wool carpet is available for about the same cost as wood flooring.

No matter what you want your floor to do, make sure it is part of the overall design discussion when you begin planning.

Happy renovating! – Ray