What Types of Technology Should you Incorporate into your Remodel?

It was only 8 years ago that I did a very major renovation/addition for a client in the financial field. We wired the home for everything from a network to entertainment, at a hefty cost :). We had CAT5 wiring for secure network connections in every room, coaxial cable in a dozen locations, pre-wiring for a future home automation system, and more questions about what to do “while we had the walls open”.

Not long after we completed the project, everything began going wireless. Since then I have witnessed change in home technology products happening just as fast as any other tech market.  My opinion is that you should try a bit at a time instead of overinvesting in what is the next obsolete gadget.

I believe when it comes to home technology, less is more because the new product list is not about to slow down. There are a ton of scalable products available you can add to your home one at a time. My garage door opener and home alarm system have apps that tell me when the doors open, or if there is an ajar door, and also let me control and interface with these items while away from home. The Ring Doorbell Company just released an added item to their product list with a camera on a floodlight that spawns the next question….. what about the rest of my house for cameras?  The first Nest thermostat we installed a few years ago worked great for the tech savvy client who introduced me to it, but would have been a disaster for someone like me to get it working well and get the value out of the products ability to “learn you”. The Nest Company has made improvements in their interface, and is now trying to get a share of the camera and alarm market to provide a one company purchase and give Ring a run for their money.

tv in kitchen

Today; Google, Apple, and Microsoft are very interested in the home automation technology market, and are trying to figure out how to bundle devices and control systems so they can manage the software platforms. It isn’t surprising with the growth in the industry that the common complaint I hear from folks is that they want to control everything from one interface. The down side of any single source is that no company does everything well (currently) so you may have great security, and awful Audio/Video control with one provider. I recommend buying the piece of tech you want and using that company’s app on your phone. The Sonos music in our showroom is easy to use, and so what if I have to open another app next to the garage door and home alarm, my single interface still fits in my pocket and doubles as a phone.

 Happy shopping! Ray

Design Information at the Speed of Light

When I opened the doors of The Wiese Company 25 years ago, the way people communicated about their needs was very different.  I would visit with potential clients and be greeted with a binder full of inspiration photos cut from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens or kitchen idea books. I think the fact that we had to spend more time together to communicate the need and look benefitted the prospective client.  It gave them the opportunity to understand more about the person they were talking with, and gave me more time to understand the full desires of the client. We would then spend even more time confirming we were making deliberate changes because it isn’t easy to erase 6 hours of work that was hand drawn to move something 6 inches. :)

Today when I show up, most people have done a lot more research.  With Pinterest and Houzz , everyone can collect a file of ideas and solutions to see if they will work in their design, making it easier to convey their desired look without having to spend as much time communicating with their prospective contractor. Another change in technology is that we don’t have to wait for a cocktail party to find out who’s renovating. Your friends are on Instagram and you know who is doing a project like the one you want, or you can ask for referrals on the local neighborhood sites like Nextdoor.

Design Instagram

With all the great new ways to obtain information about what we want and where to find it, I still believe that the best projects begin when we have a chance to talk with our clients after looking through their inspiration pictures.  Post-conversation we can create a design that is cohesive to their lifestyle and taste.  And while CAD software expedites the speed of the drawing, we end up with better results when we take the time to think through the unique space that is your future home.

Happy online shopping! We hope to have a chance to talk, Ray

Why is Bath Remodeling so Expensive?

Bathroom renovations are not inexpensive; and that is one reason we believe it is a good idea to meet with clients at their home initially to see the size and condition of the space. By looking and putting our eyes on it, we can provide a verbal ballpark and explain the design budget process before we start designing away. One common reaction I get when I talk budget is “How could it possibly cost so much?” Understandably, most folks mentally simplify the budget using the cost of installing new tile plus what the local plumbing store quoted for new fixtures. Unfortunately, there is a bit more to it when you add all the line items together- and don’t forget the plumber! As a point of reference in our area, a family bath about 5×8 will cost typically between $25k and $35k. The big delta on the budget range is a combination of how old the home is and what you will selects for finishes.  Master baths vary more because the space, size, interior architecture, and the clients desired outcome have more variables. Master bathroom projects in this area can cost from $40k to just below six figures. Remember, there are tubs for $1k and tubs for over $10K.

There are a few factors for bath pricing that make the cost of this project one of the most expensive per square foot.  I know there is no square foot price in renovation, however there are a few main reasons baths top the chart:

  1. Every specialty trade involved in large projects will participate in the bath renovation.
  2. There are no economies of scale.
  3. The finishes are a larger portion of this type of project.
  4. Good tile work always requires excellent preparation and execution, and is worth paying more for.
  5. Plumbers. ?

I was traveling over Memorial Day weekend and discovered a photo example of what the most important part of any renovation is.  These photos were taken in a 4-star bed and breakfast with beautiful finished and handmade wallpaper, so clearly the Owner wasn’t new to higher end work. It is the work you don’t see at the end of the project when the tile looks great and the fixtures selected are beautiful. A successful renovation is when the electric and plumbing didn’t leave any time bombs behind, the carpenter fastens the subfloor and underlayment properly, and the tile installer professionally waterproofs and sets the tile. The cracks in the marble tile photo show thin white lines in the marble which are cracks developed by improper preparation of the underlayment below. The failure of the shower tile is likely the use of a poor underlayment or lack of waterproofing. Unfortunately, the renovations to this magnificent Inn were only about 6 years old.  

cracked subway tileCracked marble tile

 

Contact us here for more information if you are interested in renovating your bathroom.

Happy remodeling!
Ray

Tailored Bath Design

         Chestnut Hill Bath Remodel

I often use the term “tailored” when describing some of the parts and process we use in kitchen and bath design.  Even though tailors have little to do with renovating, it is a good metaphor for the difference between a generic developer’s bath circa 1995, and a fully developed plan.

A fully developed, or “tailored plan” uses interior architecture as well as interior design to create a plan where the details have a multi-prong synergy.

  1. The first step is drawing an improved and maximized space that takes full advantage of the real estate available. The existing bath in this study only fit one sink and vanity because of an arbitrary installation of a large tub deck The new bath has his and hers vanities with a larger shower, and still fits a large tub for soaking.
  2. Designing details that create a safe and lasting design is often an unnoticed aspect of the big picture. The existing plan in our example did not have tempered glass (required by code) near the tub. An important safety factor near a slippery surface. The design should also account for small items such as running tile high enough in a shower if the client is extra tall so the walls plaster and paint don’t deteriorate at an accelerated pace.
  3. Where one design element starts and another begins is just as important. If you look at the marriage of the tile floor inlay, how the tile climbs to and above the shower threshold; as well as the continuity of the horizontal planes with tile and crown molding, they all work equally effective at the sink, in the shower and around the tub.

Contact us here for more details on our bath remodeling services!

Happy Tailoring!

                                                                                          

 

How to Improve Your Home’s Efficiency

Energy performance should be a discussion in any home renovation where there is an opportunity to make improvements in energy consumption and improved comfort. While it should be part of the conversation, the outcome may be that additional insulation in a small sub-component of the home could actually be a bad thing to do.

Good building science works well when different components are assembled with synergy. In the 70’s during an energy crisis, insulation factors were significantly increased without simultaneously modifying the components it worked with. This resulted in premature exterior paint failure from vapor trapped in the structure, and required ventilation retrofits to make the system work “better”. 

I have also seen the “green movement” in building science morph into a few camps based on ideology instead of a simpler health, and energy science. If you want to improve the energy performance of your home, start with increased insulation value while accounting for the rest of the building system. Second, change all the lighting in the home to LED.  This will reduce excess heat in the summer and will reduce your electric bill right away with a short term payback. The third place to look is the heat plant. If you have older low efficient heating and cooling equipment, the change in efficiency from 80% to 94% will show up right away. Last but not least… if you are doing an entire exterior make-over… replace the windows. One at a time this doesn’t really change things. If you want to know what to do next… INSULATE MOREJ!

Here is a project we just completed in Wellesley. As part of a kitchen expansion, we did a complete exterior (and interior) make over. With blown in insulation in the budget along with all new windows, we discovered that a less effective insulation (about R9) had been installed by the last owner when they installed aluminum siding. We couldn’t get more insulation in the cavity so for the price of the blown in budget (about $5k) we suggested a one inch foam board to provide a thermal break. This pretty metallic red board does more than add 25-40% more to the insulation factor, but delivers a contiguous external thermal blanket that reduced hot and cold spots. This project with attic insulation and a new high efficient gas boiler shows the proof is in the pudding. Check out the comparison of last year’s energy report that came with the EverSource bill and the recent report!

The pictures of the home show the 3 phases of the exterior renovation (paint starts in a month or so).

Step one, strip to bare sheathing boards.

Step two, install a vapor barrier with 1” of foam board (they did finish the whole house… I showed up during that for the photo).

Step three, we sided with Hari Plank siding and Azek trim for a long lasting and beautiful low maintenance exterior that can be painted every 10-15 years.