Upscale and Modern Exterior Renovation: October 2017

5 siding rear after
4siding rear before
3 siding front after
2 siding front during
1 siding front before

If it is time to renovate your exterior, why not put a little more time into an upscale appearance with lasting qualities. Here is some food for thought.

The first to consider is what other parts of the home are part of the exterior cladding that may affect future renovations.  Windows, trim and other items can be improved now or in phases if you plan ahead. The contemporary featured here has some elegant and custom window frames that were original to the home. Custom made and really cool, but many frames had signs of fatigue. Any operable window needed new frames and impacted the interior of the home. The Owner wanted that to be addressed as part of the big picture without major disruption, so we worked on that about a year before the siding.

When it was time to re-clothe the home, it was also time to give the home a fresh undergarmentJ. Calking was done in obvious places as well as some suspect areas where the Owner was aware of air leaks. A vapor barrier was put over the existing and repaired plywood. We use a crinkly “Tyvek Drain wrap” often in lieu of traditional flat house wrap because it has a vertical groove that provides added protection against water by enhancing drainage away from the wall. Because metal siding was part of the install with a vertical cedar, this extra expense was well worth it. The new house wrap that is taped at all the joints provides an all new wind blanket and rain coat.

Add some style! I mean… if you are going to set up staging and pay for the labor and materials, why not talk to a designer about options for your home.  This home is so great, although it had some existing siding elements that screamed 1970’s, like the areas that were sided on an angle… “Marsha? Marssshha!”  There were other beautiful angles and forms that follow a more strict form of 3D art in architecture which were under represented or not celebrated well by the monolithic repeat of vertical siding and single color. When the Owner showed us an inspiration photo with metal siding, we were so excited to design a mix of wood and metal that was perfect for this homes architecture. My favorite items on the project are the dual horizontal and vertical pieces with contrasting neutral bold horizontal planes and the warm natural vertical cedar. And now the door says…”Come on in!”

Happy renovating… and Fall! Ray

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

Adding a 2nd Floor in Newton

We are excited to wrap up the frame of this project in Newton. Not just so we can reduce the anxiety of the client, also because the owners will begin to fully understand the improvement that this master retreat and newly designed 2nd floor will provide for their family.

We are often asked when we think the best time to take a roof off is. My silly answer… “when it isn’t raining”. The fact in New England is, that weather is subject to change most times of the year. Here it is early September and we have had several days of rain and the remnants of one hurricane with another on the way. The most important part in removing a roof structure is the planning so don’t be afraid to ask your remodeler what their plan is.

  • Plan the weather as close as possible with every weather app on hand! We do want a decent window of opportunity.
  • Have contingency plan to weather tight if the weather forecast is “not what you heard on the news”. The dismantling may be partial to aid in shorter weather windows.
  • Hire expert Carpenters that know how to make this process an expeditious one.

There are many reasons to go up! Newton Renovations often involve going up because the closer we get to Boston, the lots become smaller. There are also economies to this type of renovation because we do not need a foundation and sometimes going up is more elementary. In this case we had to design a somewhat complex roof system that involved a crane to get the beams up, create the open space, and not only add a master suite- complete with walk in closet and master bath- we had to create a proper laundry and larger bath for the growing young ladies.

I can’t wait to show you the after photos! Thanks to Jeremy and team for your hard work getting the roof on, Ray‚Äč

Newton addition
newton construction
newton remodel
newton remodel

Tips on Hiring a Contractor; Part 1

Electricians

Our skilled (and friendly) electricians taking a lunch break 

One of the many important parts of hiring a contractor is to know what type of subcontractors they use, how often they use them, and why they use them. Some General Contractors (GC’s) sub-contract everything, and this is common in the new home market because there is very little service required to owners, and things are more often done one piece at a time. Unfortunately, it often results in the contractor shopping by price (not quality), and sometimes less oversight from one phase to another. If you are hiring a GC that subcontracts everything, it is a good idea to understand the level of their management on the project. We use a Project Lead Carpenter at our firm where a highly skilled craftsperson can produce great carpentry while managing and working with the required trades.

The “what” subcontracting at our firm is everything except the carpentry we are doing. The obvious trades we have to employ are the licensed ones. In Massachusetts, that is the plumber, electrician and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning). If we have a lot of roofing, flooring, demolition, etc., we do work with some great folks….. but if we need a small amount of these items, it is more efficient to do it ourselves. That leaves the specialty trades. Because of a specific skillset or equipment, we sometime need people to bring heavy machinery to excavate and install foundations, and specialists that are excellent plasterers, painters and tile installers.

How often a contractor hires the same folks is also important. I believe that while our sub-contractors are not our employees, they are part of our family that will deliver the same good work and service that our firm does. I understand the need to be budget conscious and some would argue that the best way to do that is to bid everything to multiples. If you have expertise in remodeling and your sub-contractors are good honest business people, the GC should be able to manage any sub-creep in pricing and get a fair price for the project. The client will benefit long after the project is done with any follow up service and lasting quality.

Why I choose the items to sub out and subcontractors boils down to delivery of great quality at a high value. I sometimes hear in interviews for carpenters that they can do everything from light electrical to all the tile work. Understanding how something is done, or being able to do something is not the same as being the master of something. Any fantastic carpenter is probably not a fantastic tile man. If the quality is matched, the time to execute is likely longer- and more costly.

While you are interviewing for the right company for your family, ask a few more questions about who else will be in your home.

Happy renovations!

Ray

What are the Costs vs Value of Remodeling?

Every year, Remodeling Magazine publishes a Cost vs. Value report and tries to estimate the return on investment to different home projects so consumers will have an idea of what the total investment is.  While I am obviously not going to look like an objective source in these matters, I would like to point out a few flaws with the report, as well as provide you with what I know makes our clients glad they renovated.

The primary factual concerns I have with the report are that the cost is averaged out in very different geographic and economic areas. Our higher end projects are typically a bit more expensive, and if you live in a community where custom fixtures are not part of the spec., you get lumped into the “New England” market anyway. I have done $25k bath renovations in Holliston and $150k master baths in Chestnut Hill. I have installed $10k tubs in Holliston, and $500 tubs in Newton…. you get the idea.

Next, the source of the report is a survey of realtors. Nothing against the Real Estate Community; however, about 10 years ago a very distinguished realtor in my area told a prospective buyer her master bath renovation in Wellesley would probably cost $25k. We ended up helping the buyer with the project they wanted for $59k, and needless to say they had to shop around a bit to get to the bottom of the discrepancy.  Additionally, the Realtors Association is large, and the average experience delta from new agent to seasoned pro is pretty big.

Wellesley Bath Remodel

Here is the other part of the cost/value equation.  Imagine you live in a house and the bath is about 60-70 years old and has to be renovated due to “catastrophic delayed maintenance”.  You have a few choices:

  1. Patch the leak and sell low!
  2. Do a substandard renovation and sell with a bit of guilt, or re-do the bath again in 5 years.
  3. Repair it properly, enjoy the new space the way you want it.

The other major value changer is in the savings of staying where you are. Homes need maintenance, and eventually renovation. If you like your neighborhood and lot, and you can have a space tailored to your family; you will save the realty commission and the moving expense and get to live where you love. As an added bonus, the longer you stay in your home (I recommend a 5 year minimum) the monetary cost/value delta shrinks. The actual ROI, not the hypothetical return as if you would sell your home the day after completing a renovation, is the appreciation of the real estate at the new home value.

The real danger is for the serial career movers out there.  If you change states often for greener job pastures, perhaps buying a new house in each place is a better idea. Happy Remodeling!

boston bath remodel