August 24th, 2010
I’m Bill Shaw, and I own William Shaw and Associates with my partner Shawn Vacek. My purpose in beginning this blog is to help Houston area homeowners gain better and deeper understanding of what is probably the largest investment in their portfolios: their homes.
Consider me an asset manager for your house. I hope to provide you with sound advice on maintenance and repair, design ideas, and other issues affecting the home ownership. Too often we only think of our home when something goes wrong. At best, we suffer a nagging feeling that we ought to be doing more.
I want to help our community by providing solid advice I’ve gleaned from more than two decades serving homeowners.
You’ll find lots of information here about design ideas and tips that our community is using. Sure, magazines and websites are fabulous for gathering trend ideas, but we speak with hundreds of homeowners right here in Houston and we can tell you what is hot and what is not in this market.
These are tough times for lots of homeowners, and getting a good grip on what to do with their homes is essential to making smart decisions.
You’ll find my entries will fall into these general categories.
- Design Trends: People probably struggle most with design issues when making home improvement decisions. Knowing what the market is doing can help make those decisions easier and give you fresh ideas.
- Maintenance: A Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies report from a few years back showed that for every dollar spent on maintaining your home, you would increase the value of the home by two dollars. That’s not a bad investment in any book. But what do you need to do? And how much should you do?
- Repair: I started my business as a handyman repair business, so we’ve seen what breaks and what survives. Having some simple repair skills to hold your breakdown until a professional can come in and fix it properly can save you a ton of aggravation and money.
- Project Control: For those people interested in taking on a larger home improvement project, making sure you understand both the rhythm of the project and how to help the pros excel is essential to a successful completion.
- Resources: There are billions of bytes of information out there about home improvement. We’ve found some sources are more valuable and reliable than others. I’ll clue you in on what we use.
- Customer Service: No matter how much you love your remodel, if the quality of the service you received was bad, you’ll hate the project. I want to give you an idea about what you should expect from quality service. After all, you’re used to Fedex and Disney World, why would you expect less service from the people who are inside your home?
- Industry Issues: There are a lot of regulations and information out there that affect homeowners who want to remodel. We abide by all state and federal laws and statutes, including new issues surrounding lead paint control. You should know what is happening so you can make informed decisions about your home.
Thank you for your time. I hope you find value in my blog.
August 24th, 2010
We’ve all seen the numbers on the amount of money you can recoup from doing a home improvement project. Some of them are quite exaggerated, and others seem to peg the costs at a pretty low point, misleading Houston homeowners into thinking they can get something for nearly nothing.
Here’s what you need to know. The official Cost vs. Value report is researched and reported by Remodeling magazine, a trade publication for remodeling contractors. We subscribe. In fact, we recently were selected by the magazine for their Big 50 award, which recognizes the 50 best remodeling contractors in the country.
Remodeling editors identify a number of typical remodeling projects, such as attic remodel or window replacement or major kitchen remodel. Then they identify typical elements of such a project and price a typical and upscale project. WARNING: the pricing on these projects can – and usually seems to – vary considerably from the pricing on the project you may be considering. This is one of the concerns about this report. Too often, homeowners think this is an average price or a price for their project. There are so many variables the costs of the projects can vary considerably.
After establishing a price, the editors turn to real estate professionals and appraisers and ask them what they would anticipate that project would add to the resale value of a home after two years. That last point is important, because historically, real estate has increased in value, so the value of an improvement project would increase over time. They then report the cost recouped as the value returned.
Take a look at the full report www.costvsvalue.com. You can also download the report for the Houston market, although the numbers in any given market are more volatile than the national numbers because the number of professionals reporting is significantly smaller. Less data means less reliability. Still, overall the Houston numbers tend to fare better than national figures.
How does this help your decision-making process for home improvement? I know very few people who take on a remodeling project to increase the value of their home. They do it for lifestyle considerations. They want a home that works for the way they live their lives. But when you’re deciding between a new kitchen and a new car, you have to remember that your investment in the kitchen will ultimately be recouped. That car is just going to decrease in value over time.
The most important project you can take on to increase the value of your home? Maintenance. A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government showed that for every dollar spent on home maintenance, home values increased two dollars. By any measure, that’s a good investment.
August 24th, 2010
Ever walk up to someone’s front door and just feel good about how it looks and feels? What you’re experiencing is the symmetry of quality design and smart landscaping. A home that has great curb appeal has nice proportions, pleasing colors, and – in the architect’s terms – good massing.
There are a lot of homes in the Houston area that need the front elevation to be completely reworked to make it appealing. But we also have a lot of homes with good bones, homes that have great curb appeal already. Unfortunately, we tend to get in the way of that.
Consider the home pictured here. It’s a cute little bungalow that someone wrapped in a privacy fence, doused with an outdated color, and disguised its charm. Our renovation elevation redo, part of a larger project, was very simple. We knocked out the fence to showcase the front elevation, reworked the landscaping to give visitors an inviting approach to the house, included some simple plants on the porch to make it look well-tended and loved, and gave the house a bright and cheerful painting. Now? Well, now it’s the most welcoming house on the block.
While we specialize in those kinds of abilities – turning pumpkins into carriages – your home may just need a few little touches to increase its curb appeal tremendously. At least to carry you over until you get the project you really want. Consider this mantra of improvement: Paint, Plants, and Light.
Paint: If you have pealing and chipping paint, it’s time to break out the scrapers, brushes and rollers. There’s nothing that makes your home look less inviting than a front elevation that is not maintained. While you’re painting, give it a newer, friendlier color. Be careful about your selection though. Some neighborhood covenants prohibit some colors. And, of course, don’t do anything too garish. You want to be inviting, not stick out like a sore thumb.
Plants: Whether is a freshened landscape with a new brick or stone walkway or just a good trimming on your foundation plantings, the yard in front of your home needs to be a gateway not a barrier. Too many of us let our foundation plantings get overgrown. I often see bushes covering windows and obscuring large sections of the front elevations. Landscaping should complement the architecture, not hide it.
Light: Part of cutting back the plantings is to allow the light to come into the front of the house and illuminate the quality architecture you have. In addition to natural light, you can install landscaping lights that give the front of the house a fabulously inviting feel in the evenings. It’s not an expensive project and pays off with huge dividends. Even during the day, architecturally interesting light fixtures in the yard can enhance a quality landscape design.
August 24th, 2010
The kitchen is now the center of the house with constant traffic, lots of activity, and a strong current of socializing. But it is also a working environment where specific tasks need to be accomplished. The key to great kitchen design is to create a space where you can execute those tasks efficiently while allowing the traffic and conversation to flow. By that I mean, you want to move easily to complete your tasks simply yet have space for others to participate so you are not isolated.
There are well-established and long-proven techniques for creating a kitchen that meets all these criteria. I want to talk about three issues you need to address in any kitchen remodel: Organization, Storage Space, and Work Triangles.
Organization: There are defined tasks we execute in every kitchen, and organizing your kitchen according the work zones can help make you move more efficiently. Here are the zones:
- Cooking. What do you do in a kitchen? You cook. The stove, oven, and microwave all provide the central focus for the cooking area. Nearby, you want space for all the utensils you need when you cook such as pots, pans, pot holders, wood spoons, etc.
- Preparation. The prep zone tends to be in the middle of things, near the pantry and refrigerator, close to the cooking area, and certainly near the clean up zone. You need your knives, measuring devices, and mixing bowls close to hand.
- Baking. Baking is a specialized task that not everyone does, but if you’re an avid baker, you want this zone clearly defined. Nearby, keep flour, measuring spoons, rolling pins, and mixing bowl. This area can double with your prep zone, but if you bake a lot, you want a baking zone all to itself.
- Serving. Every preparation ends in a meal or snack, and that requires serving. Put this zone near the table to make it convenient. Of course, tableware, place settings and anything else you need to sit down and eat get stored nearby. But you may choose to store dishes near the dishwasher rather than the table. Your call.
- Cleaning. Centered on the sink, the cleaning area includes the dishwasher. Soap and gloves , drying rack and towels go nearby.
- Waste disposal. A lot of people store their trash under the kitchen sink, but with increasing use of recycling, there often isn’t’ space. Still, you don’t want this zone across the room. It needs to be near the cleaning and prep areas.
- Storage space. I give storage a section on its own, although it should be considered one of the work zones.
Storage Space: What do you store in the kitchen? Fresh food, frozen food, staples, utensils, cleaning suppliers. They all have their specific needs, and making getting them both in the right place and with the right organization can help you create a kitchen that is a joy to use.
I can’t think of an area of kitchen design that has changed more than storage. In recent years, we’ve seen the advent of more refrigerator drawers, improved cabinet racks, and better pantries. It seems the major motivation for all storage is the get the junk off the countertops. We’ve invented so many time-saving devices and appliances in recent decades, but most seem to sit on the countertop.
Now, we have equal creativity going into storage. Consider these options:
- Use more drawers. This is a trend that seems to be holding. Instead of lower cabinets with doors, we’re installing more drawer cabinets. The convenience of being able to open the cabinet and see everything laid out in front of you is pure joy.
- The drawer phenomenon extends to refrigerator drawers. Now, we can store foods right next to the prep and cooking zones, making them even more convenient.
- Cabinet organizers come in a wide range from simple to custom.
- If you don’t like the look of cabinet drawers, you can still get the convenience by installing shelf organizers that pull out.
Work Triangle: Kitchen designers connect work zones with triangles. A couple of the most used triangles are:
- Food Storage(refrigerator)
- Preparation Zone
- Cooking Zone
- Clean up Zone
- Food Storage (refrigerator)
- Storage Zone (dishes)
The triangle connects those areas during specific tasks – cooking, prepping, clean-up – in a way that makes sure those zones are close together. The rule of thumb is that the total sides of a work triangle should be no more than 12 feet.
For larger kitchens, this can present a problem when the refrigerator is 8 feet on the other side of the room. Many people now opt for multiple appliances to combat this problem, such as using two dishwashers or a refrigerator and a drawer refrigerator.
There is much more to be said about kitchen design. Professionals spend hours getting certified to be able to deliver quality design. But here are some links to more information.
Good basic information about Kitchens, including trends, design, and product information:
Here’s a glossary of terms:
The KraftMaid cabinet site has a lot of good design information:
The KraftMaid site is especially good on the work triangle
June 24th, 2010
The more clearly you can envision the project and describe it on paper, the better prepared you’ll be in making your decision.
Sooner or later you may join the millions of people who remodel their homes each year. Perhaps it was the moment when you realized that avocado green and harvest gold are no longer the “in” colors for today’s trendy kitchens. Or, maybe you had an epiphany one day as you stood in line to use your own bathroom. Whatever the impetus, the thought has crossed your mind, “Maybe it’s time to start a home remodel.” The reasons for home remodeling are as varied as the projects we undertake.
Some of these include: adding more space; upgrading cabinets, counters, appliances and fixtures; creating a floor plan that’s customized for your lifestyle; improving energy efficiency with new windows, doors, insulation and climate control systems; and increasing the resale value of your home.
Where to Begin
The first step is to develop an idea of what you want to do with your home remodel. Write a prioritized list of your needs and wants. Look at magazines and Web sites and collect pictures of homes or remodeling projects you like. The more clearly you can envision the project and describe it on paper, the better prepared you’ll be in making your decision.
Think about traffic patterns, furniture size and placement, colors, lighting and how you expect to use the remodeled space. If your decision to remodel involves creating better access for someone with limited mobility, you may want to consider contacting a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS).
You may want to improve home efficiency and hire a remodeler for green home remodeling. These projects include replacing windows and doors, upgrading heating and cooling systems, adding insulation and other remodeling to make the home more energy efficient, easier to maintain and comfortable.
Figure out how much money you have to spend on the home remodeling job, furnishings, landscaping or any other cost you might incur.
Choose Your Options
Once you have created a list of what you would like out of your home, the next step is deciding how to accomplish your vision.
Hire a professional home remodeler. The best way to ensure your home dreams become reality is through the work of a professional home remodeler. These GHBA remodelers are of the highest integrity and standards in the industry.
Can you do it yourself? For the handyman or woman, a do-it-yourself project is both rewarding and cost-effective. However, more than 30 percent of all jobs home remodelers perform come from failed do-it-yourselfers.
Should you move instead? Your needs may exceed what you can or want to do with your existing home.
If you’ve decided you want to hire a remodeler, you can learn how to choose a professional home remodeler, avoid contractor fraud and make your dream home reality by going to www.nahb.org or www.ghba.org.
Source: Houston Remodeling Guide
June 24th, 2010
May is National Home Improvement Month, and we thought we’d help you get a jump-start on your summer remodeling projects with some tips from the experts. They let you in on projects that will increase the look and value of your home from inside to out, whether you are looking to sell in an unfriendly market or simply revamp your living space.
When it comes to the value of a home, square footage is key. Bigger is always better, and anything you can do to increase the size of your property is a good idea, from room additions to garage apartments to home offices to patios and sunrooms, there are a multitude of projects to consider. As Rob Hellyer of Premier Remodeling told us, it is important to take your neighborhood and type of home in to account when determining which project is right for you. If the majority of homes in your area have three bathrooms and you have two or three, the addition of a bath or half-bath would be a good investment.
Bill Shaw of Williams Shaw & Associates notes that another good idea is to concentrate on the bedrooms. “What really elevates the value and the demand for a home right now is the expansion of the master suite.” He goes on to say that, “when the homes in some of Houston’s greatest neighborhoods were built they designed the bedrooms, closets and bathrooms to be tiny.” Homeowners nowadays, he says, are looking for space, functionality and a little luxury.
According to Katheryn Houk of John Moore Renovations (yes, the same John Moore that is the #1 plumbing, a/c, heating and electrical repair service in Houston), “kitchens carry the highest return on investment when compared to other remodeling projects for your home. When your remodel adds square footage, then you can expect an even higher return. In Houston the average kitchen gut and remodel project ranges from $40,000 to $60,000. You can expect to get an approximate return of 75% on an average kitchen remodel. Style, form, and function are the three main ingredients in approaching a kitchen remodel. Ensure the materials you select work together for the overall style result.
The form of each element used should reflect the overall style you want to achieve. Think through the function of your current kitchen; keeping the things that work and changing or improving the areas that are problematic. Focus on the features that can be incorporated in your new kitchen such as pull out trays, cutlery dividers, or opening up a wall. Low maintenance materials seem to be a common winner. If style form and function are the cake then value is the icing. Plan carefully and seek the help of an experienced professional to assist you with your project.”
We also spoke with Rob Hellyer of Premier Remodeling, who let us in on some trends he’s been seeing in kitchen renovation lately. He said that, “one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the desire for kitchens to be updated. Granite has long been the favorite for kitchen countertops, but we are now seeing honed marble making inroads. Quartz composites such as Silestone are also popular alternatives to granite—though not necessarily less costly, they are lower maintenance.” He goes on to say that “it seems everyone wants an island kitchen, and often the island cabinetry is of a different style and/or color from the rest of the kitchen.” He also mentioned that when purely considering the added value aspect, countertops and backsplash are key.
Bathrooms go hand-in-hand in desirability factor for those looking to renovate a home or buy one, for that matter. “In the bathroom, a new large shower is a desirable feature, particularly in the master bathroom,” according to Hellyer. He goes on to advise that careful planning is key. There are many issues with regard to power, water supplies and drains to consider, so it is extremely important to consult a professional. He goes on to warn that, “when you update part of a kitchen or bath, it makes those parts that are not addressed stand out more.” So again, careful consideration is the main ingredient to a successful remodel.
It is incredible the difference good landscaping can make to your home’s appearance. We looked at before and after images from AJ’s Landscaping and Design and Blackbird Landscapes, and the contrast is tremendous. We asked Jason Cothren of Blackbird a few questions about what to consider when delving in to a landscaping job. “The most important project outside will be what you have going on in the back yard. The front is important—it’s the first thing people see, but the back is where you spend your time. This is where you want people to slow down, take it all in and stay a while.” As for what’s hot in Houston, Jason says that, “the current trend in home landscaping and design is simple, clean projects that are both easy to maintain and high on style. I’m seeing less and less clients who want 20 different plant species in a given area and more who are choosing to go with one to three plants for that same area.” He goes on to say that, “mass plantings of single plants let each grouping shine and give impact while keeping it simple and sophisticated.” As for what is coming next, Jason feels that “texture will be big in years to come. I want people to touch things in the garden and I think this will be a hot topic in future projects.”
A.J. Benys, Jr. of AJ’s Landscaping points out that landscaping is not just about flowers and grass. It extends to bigger budget projects like outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and pits, golf putting green, tennis courts, play courts, patios, decks, swimming pools, cocktail pools, water features, landscape lighting, sculpture gardens and ecological water management—irrigation, drainage, recycling. All of these have a tremendous impact on the look and value of your home. According to Benys, the complexity of these projects should not be attempted lightly, so you should definitely hire a landscape design/build firm to complete your project.
The easiest solution is not always the most obvious. If you’re looking for a quick fix and don’t want to spend a whole lot of money, paint will definitely get you the most for your money. A fresh coat of paint, done properly, makes a significant difference in the look of a home. Added to that, it elevates the look of your property while lowering your utility bills. A few quick tips: a high-quality paint like Sherwin-Williams Classic-99 for interior and Sherwin-Williams A-100 Gloss for exterior is your best bet. Also keep in mind that all house painting requires two coats, so don’t skimp on quality or quantity, it’s not worth it in the long run. On average, a two-coat pain job should last five years. Consider “green” paint, which contains little to no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are released through gasses in the paint and are harmful to your lungs and the environment. Consult your local painter for more information.
When it comes to flooring, carpet is still king as far as the most used floor coverings in homes go. According to Bill Kerr, 20-year floor business manager with Robert’s Carpets, ideal floor coverings require much consideration when it comes to value. “Most people don’t know the difference in $30 or $60 a yard carpet,” he says. He went on to say that most real estate agents he deals with maintain that hardwood floors generally add the most appeal and value. But if cost is your main concern, carpet is definitely the way to go, as the price of hardwood per foot is nearly double.
But if it’s hardwood you have your heart set on, Kerr distinguishes the different types for you. “Traditional pure hardwoods we sell, but mostly it is engineered hardwoods today, due to the finishes and ease of glue-down installation on the mostly slab foundations you see today.” Kerr goes on to say that, “pure hardwoods require maintenance due to cupping and warping in Houston’s subtropical climate. Some prefer the pure hardwoods due to the life expectancy, but the numbers are smaller and smaller each year.”
According to Kerr, it is important to remember that for many parts of the house, certain coverings are not ideal. “I am an empty-nester now and can finally have that lily white carpet I’ve wanted in the bedroom.” With kids or a lot of traffic, some areas are better for ceramic tile or a darker color of carpet. Ceramic tile is mostly replacing vinyl tiling. When it comes to laminates, Kerr mentioned that “buyers under 40 don’t distinguish between hardwoods and laminate, mostly the over 40 crowd prefers the hardwood to laminate.”
When it comes to home remodeling, more light means more value. Consider adding some windows or possibly augmenting those you have with a more modern or interesting design. You might want to check out Renaissance Windows and Doors, they are the exclusive provider of Infinity by Marvin and Hurd Windows—the finest wood windows in their class. The price is a little steep– $800 to $2400 per window, put it will certainly add value and appeal to your space.
Another consideration, in this climate, is installing hurricane windows. According to Frederick Cilurso, Houston builder and remodeler for over 30 years, “they help keep out flying debris and include solar protection. The glass may break but a plastic interlay helps hold the glass together, keeping debris out. In damaging storms, it also helps ensure that the walls and roof of your home are stable and safe.” Frederick uses Simonton StormBreaker Plus, specifically designed to withstand coastal winds. Another factor Frederick suggests you keep in mind is the installation of energy efficient windows. Frederick recommends Energy Star Simonton Windows, which are top of the line when it comes to efficiency, while remaining affordable. Between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010, you may also qualify for a tax credit up to $1,500. The calculation is 30% of the cost up to $1,500. Make sure you install energy efficient windows and retain your NFRC (National Feneration Rating Council) label and sales receipt when you prepare your taxes. You will also need to use tax form 5695 when claiming your credit.
Energy Efficient Appliances
Nobody wants a big bill, and energy efficient appliances impact not just your wallet, but the environment as well. Going green with new Energy Star appliances adds value to your property and entices potential buyers. 70% of the energy used in a home is for appliances, space heating, water heating, cooling and refrigeration. As with the energy efficient windows, this will help you save on your taxes to boot. To make it easy on yourself, check out Bosch, they have the finest in energy efficient appliances, from dishwashers to refrigeration to laundry.
Knowing when to remodel is just as important as which project to tackle. According to Bill Shaw of Williams Shaw & Associates, “right now is a smart time for homeowners to remodel because interest rates are still low, the cost of materials are low, Houston labor costs are extremely reasonable and vendors are offering great deals. He goes on to say that, “to put it simply, homeowners can get the most for their money right now. Prices are expected only to go up from here, which is why homeowners who have been considering a remodel should act now.” There you go, no time like the present.
Source: Intown Magazine
April 12th, 2010
Still smarting from your 2009 taxes, due in a few days? Start whittling the bill for next April.
A good place to begin: two federal tax credits for homeowners who want to save energy, one of which expires at the end of this year. The credits have appeal both for true green diehards and those who are staying put due to housing market doldrums.
The credits took effect in their current form in February 2009. Both offer dollar-for-dollar write-offs against taxes, not just a deduction from income. And unlike many tax benefits, there are no income limits on who can use them.
Yet experts say many people are still unaware they exist. Bill Shaw, a remodeler in Houston, says his best marketing has been done by—of all people—tax preparers. “Since January, my phone has been ringing off the hook with people whose accountants told them” about the credits, he says.
The smaller benefit, known as the Residential Energy Property Credit, will appeal to a broader swath of taxpayers. It applies to 30% of the cost of retrofitting an existing home to save energy, up to $1,500. That means you have to spend $5,000 to receive the maximum credit. This benefit expires at the end of 2010, and amounts claimed in 2009 count toward the $5,000 total.
Items that qualify include insulation, windows, doors, roofing, hot water heaters and air-conditioning systems. Not included: ceiling fans or window air-conditioning units. Installation costs are permitted for some items but not others. The Internal Revenue Service recently said that qualified items installed in an addition to an existing house also are eligible.
The other credit, known as the Residential Energy Efficiency Property Credit, is far more generous but typically requires greater expense and commitment to green living. It is for 30% of the total cost of items such as solar panels, windmills and geothermal heat pumps, and the credit amount is unlimited. It expires at the end of 2016.
Jeremy Skogquist, an executive with NIH Homes in the Minneapolis area, says he has sold more than a dozen $25,000 packages in the past year tied to this credit. The package offers a geothermal system to store water for heating and cooling deep in the ground where the temperature is a constant 52 degrees. “The tax credit cuts my clients’ payback time to about four to five years from six to eight at current rates,” he says.
Far to the south, Houston architect Kathleen English is using both credits to save nearly $15,000 on the cost of a “green” house she is rehabbing for her family. In addition to a geothermal system, it will have solar panels, special insulation, a reflective roof and energy-efficient windows. She is springing for solar panels now, hoping that her local utility at some point will pay homeowners to feed excess power back into the grid.
If you want to use either credit, do your research. The specifications for what is eligible are precise and stringent. For example, some Energy Star-rated items qualify for the credit while others don’t. Taxpayers claim either credit on Form 5695, and for your records you should keep the manufacturer’s certification that the component is eligible. (Many contractors, like Bill Shaw, will help with the paperwork.)
Those planning to upgrade windows may want to wait a bit, because a pending bill expected to pass Congress in the next few months would expand the law to include all Energy Star windows, whereas only some are currently allowed. The provision should take effect 90 days after enactment.
Comprehensive information about eligibility is available on the National Association of Home Builders Web site and from the IRS. Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s also provide useful guides. For a listing of separate state and local energy tax incentives, see www.dsireusa.org.
April 2nd, 2010
We all understand that when we purchase expensive items (car, furniture, and jewelry), the assumption is that the price matters. Value and quality should be uniform in identical products. That same assumption is often used in remodeling our homes, the largest purchase and investment most of us make. We transfer these same attitudes and assumptions to selecting a remodeler. There is not a correlation in remodeling between low cost and value and service. Remodelers are often asked to review detailed plans and provide free estimates in the hope of being selected on a basis of cost. This creates a recipe for a doomed project. Factors such as increased construction time, misunderstood assumptions, poor quality materials, weak performing subcontractors, and a spiraling downward relationship are typical results of this selection system. Other outcomes of selecting a remodeler based mainly on costs are as follows:
- Poor subcontractor selection based primarily on low bids for work.
- Subcontractors selected whose workers change constantly and many are illegal.
- Subcontractors who are uninsured or underinsured.
- Subcontractors who have difficulty with schedules and starting dates.
- Plan reviewing is held to a minimum. A thorough plan review to uncover problems, missing details, and engineering cost alternatives require many hours of staff work. Most remodelers cannot dedicate this time away from project supervision and management.
- There is a much higher incentive to use lower quality materials, non-standard methods, and to cut corners improving a profit set too low.
- The Remodeler will typically miss or underestimate work to be performed. Furthermore there is a temptation present to lower his profit in order to be selected. This is a major catalyst for financial problems during the project. It also encourages questionable and unethical business practices regarding the use of client funds.
Then how should you select a remodeler for a successful project? Like most things in our lives that produce happiness and success, the relationship is the key. Selecting a remodeler through relationship building creates trust, confidence, and peace of mind. By interviewing prospective remodelers thoroughly, the best “fit and match” should become evident quickly. In order to evaluate each remodeler fairly, preparation is prudent. Prepare a set of questions in advance. This should include:
- Years in business
- Registration of remodeler and projects completed
- Professional Affiliations
- Office and Staff make up and duties
- Project Management (systems & schedules)
- Similar Projects
- Processes and communication
- Billing and Change Order Procedures
- Current Work Load
Also a visit to their office to meet their staff and project manager’s helps solidify their presence. Ask to see some projects that are underway which will enable you to see how they actually build and keep the work site.
The cost of the project is important but it should only be one of many factors in the selection process. Over design and the cost of products typically are the reasons a project is not built. The investment no longer makes sense. However when this occurs, the temptation to hire the low bid remodeler becomes strong because of the investment in time and money spent on the design and drawings.
Invest your time and energy in the early stage of the project. Interview and select a remodeler and build a solid relationship throughout the design and construction phases. Your project’s success depends on it.
April 2nd, 2010
In today’s remodeling and building industry, the new trend and buzz word is “green”. A basic definition of “green” is the use of construction methods and materials that provide healthy, efficient, and sustainable choices when remodeling or building a home.
Energy costs and the raw materials that serve the building market continue to climb. Now local, state and the federal government are pushing hard for the building industry to set standards that embrace the “green” theme. What the basic “green” standards will be for residential construction is at the center of the current debate between the NAHB and the government. Whatever the outcome, the costs to remodel and build to these “green” standards will be passed on to the homeowner.
For the homeowner, a contractor can offer a vast array of options to build or remodel “green”. The problem lies in selecting construction methods, materials, and products that make “cents”. When discussing “green” options with a contractor, the costs versus the savings or value need to be examined carefully. If the cost of alternate insulation is so high that the energy savings in dollars takes 30-40 years to breakeven, then the homeowner must decide on how “green” to be. All ready today many contractors construct using efficient attic ventilation systems, in line on demand hot water units, radiant barrier roof systems, energy efficient windows and door units, house wraps and sealant systems, to name a few. There are healthy paints, sealants, and adhesives that minimize worker and homeowner exposure to harmful fumes. “Green” options are extensive. The costs added to a project can be just as extensive.
As technology advances, many new or re-invented products constantly become available. The homeowner and the contractor must sort through these and assemble a “green” package that fits each home. The burden to be educated about all the “green” choices must be born by both the homeowner and contractor. The contractor should be the conduit to help each homeowner decide what methods and products make economic “cents” with each project and budget. With today’s access to information, “green” can be sorted, digested, embraced, and utilized in a manner that makes “cents”.
April 2nd, 2010
Your search is over. You’ve just found the 2009 Remodeler of the Year. William Shaw & Associates, an AWARD WINNING DESIGN-BUILD-REMODEL COMPANY, is made up of a team of experienced professionals with a strong system of checks and balances that keep our business accountable, so you can be confident in your investment.
You have a lot to consider when choosing a DESIGN-BUILD-REMODEL firm versus a contractor. You want someone who can act as your guide and counselor through both design and construction, who understands your needs and goals and also remembers that you have a budget to consider. You want a team who has plenty of experience and a record of ethical business practices. With 24 years in the construction industry, William Shaw & Associates is the team for you. We begin by discussing your budget, needs and tastes, and then design around your specifications. Our cost-saving 3-D computer modeling system allows you to see what the finished product will look like before the project even begins, and we offer interior design services to help you through the maze of decisions involved. We go above and beyond to offer a positive experience with exceptional value.
William Shaw & Associates knows what is important to you: design that suits your tastes and fits your budget. If you’re looking for a team of professionals with your project’s goals, timeline and finances in mind, you’re looking for William Shaw. We’re ready to exceed your expectations.