Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kitchen Workbook: Planning Your Remodel's Scope of Work

Help prevent budget overruns and other unwanted surprises by realistically determining the extent of your kitchen remodel. Here's how...

Planning a kitchen remodel includes finding your style, searching for a professional and determining the scope of work and your budget. This ideabook focuses on that last element.

Scope of work is the term used to describe the basic parameters of a project. Are you planning an addition or do you want to move the kitchen entirely, for example? Will you need new electrical, plumbing and flooring in the process? Start with your wish list and budget, then decide the scope of work.

Contemporary Kitchen by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Mark English Architects, AIA

A designer, architect or contractor you like and trust can help you develop your scope of work and be realistic about what your budget can achieve. 

Keep in mind there's usually not one right answer, so getting a few opinions is a good idea.

Some kitchen remodel considerations:
  • Are you remodeling your kitchen within the existing footprint?
  • Do you want to relocate the sink or range, which would mean moving the plumbing or gas lines?
  • Are you planning on opening up to another room and you aren't sure if you have a load-bearing wall? This might require structural work and unforeseen costs.
  • With new construction, you might have already heard prices referred to as the cost per square foot, but this formula rarely works with remodeling. Every home has unique conditions due to age, construction type (masonry versus frame, for example) and layout.
  • Detailed pricing information up front will help you meet your budget. Where to start? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Come up with a rough budget of what you want to spend on the overall project. Consider if it will involve related projects like new windows or painting the whole house.

2. Come up with a wish list of everything you want. That means new appliances, cabinets, countertops, tile, flooring, lighting and so on. The more detailed you are, the better off you'll be when talking to professionals. Do you want professional-grade appliances or is the next level down OK? If you have a $30,000 budget and you want a built-in refrigerator and a 36-inch professional-grade range, any professional will tell you that your budget is going to be tough to meet. 

3. Pull tear sheets and create ideabooks of your vision. This can help a professional get an idea of the level of expectation and finish detail required in your project. It's tough to communicate needs clearly, especially about visual things like finishes. Showing professionals photos of kitchen designs you like can help them see your taste level and prompt them to ask the right questions.

4. Get referrals for designers, architects and contractors. Ask friends and relatives for referrals and look at professional portfolios on Houzz to see if their aesthetic matches your own. Call pros to set up phone interviews and see if they'll come meet you in person. Ask if you can visit some of their job sites or other projects. This really helps you see the quality of their work. 

5. Check references and ask about fees. Some homeowners start by hiring a contractor, and others start with a designer or architect and use contractors referred by him or her. Others hire design-build firms that do it all. Remember, you aren't comparing apples to apples here, so it will take some time to figure out who is the right fit. 

6. Meet the pros at your home and start seeing who you like, who asks the right questions, who is willing to give you some rough numbers, and what he or she needs to do so. Some firms don't work this way; they might have showrooms and you have to meet them on their turf. Many contractors want a full drawing set before they'll bid on a job. Others will be willing to do a walk-through and give you some rough numbers, nothing line-itemed or detailed. 

I recommend doing this with an experienced contractor; a novice may underestimate or overshoot the budget by a wide range. Ideally, having some basic space, electrical, mechanical and lighting plans will help a contractor get you a more accurate estimate. 

This is only the first phase of pricing. You'll want to re-estimate based on detailed, finished plans before signing a contract. Otherwise you run the risk of getting those dreaded changed orders down the road.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rebuild NY Now Pushes For Infrastructure Upgrades

Rochester Business Journal
December 4, 2014

Rebuild NY Now made a stop in Rochester Thursday to tout the importance of an improved transportation infrastructure.

The organization is a partnership of supporters seeking to raise public awareness of the issues affecting the state’s infrastructure, including public policies that promote safe roads, bridges, schools and hospitals.

“A strong and capable transportation infrastructure is one of the most important contributors to any community’s quality of life,” Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks said in a statement. “I am proud to join our strong public- and private-sector partners in Rebuild NY Now to push for vital investments in the infrastructure that will drive our local economy of the future.”

Rebuild NY Now noted that for every billion dollars spent on infrastructure repair and development, more than 28,000 jobs are created. The group also pointed to studies that show 50 percent of New York’s paved roads will be in fair or worse condition by the end of the year, costing each driver more than $1,500 annually.

“There is widespread agreement that New York needs to invest in its infrastructure if we’re going to remain competitive and create jobs,” Rebuild NY Now President and CEO Mike Elmendorf said in a statement. “This is especially true in Western New York, which has been hard hit economically.”

Rochester Business Alliance Inc. President Sandra Parker call infrastructure the “critical backbone of commerce.”

“Employers rely on safe and well-maintained roads and bridges to deliver goods and services to their customers,” she added. “Rochester Business Alliance is pleased to support the Rebuild NY Now campaign to call for an increased emphasis on public investment in the state’s infrastructure in order to boost the economy and create jobs.”

(c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Contractor Tips: How to Shop for Your Remodel

Small mistakes in buying remodeling materials can add up to huge cost overruns. Here's how to get things right the first time...

Roughly half the costs of a remodel are for materials, so it pays to be mindful of potential pitfalls. If you're a DIYer, avoiding some minor and major mistakes can help you make the most of this significant investment. You probably already know it's best to buy well-tested quality materials from trusted local vendors and to install classic, long-lasting materials that will be around for generations. Here are more tips I've learned over the years that can help you pick out the best materials and products for your home.

1. Know the pitfalls of buying off the shelf. Check the box. Does it look like it has been opened or returned? Don't buy it. Returned items may have damage and missing parts.

You can get some great deals on good products at your local home store, but you have to know what you're looking for. For instance, plumbing fixtures should be made of brass, not metallic-looking plastic. And cheaper paint often requires more coats and fades more quickly.

2. Get recommendations for showrooms and lumberyards. A good builder should have established relationships with reps he or she trusts, so use the recommended suppliers if you can. If you're a DIYer, try asking around for some good suggestions. When all else fails, add 30 percent to any delivery time frame you're told and build a healthy contingency fund into your budget, just in case.

Before Photos by Philadelphia General Contractors Buckminster Green LLC

3. Just because it looks like a duck ... A lot of houses are still piped with copper, so repairs and remodeling will generally be done in copper as well. Half-inch copper pipe is 5/8 inch in diameter, but the thickness of the copper depends on the type. Many stores sell type M and L. Type M is cheaper because it's thinner — but saving money in materials now could mean tearing open walls later to find a pinhole leak that has sprung. 

Whether you are paying someone else or doing work yourself, labor is expensive. Buy quality materials so you don't have to do the work twice.

Before Photos by Philadelphia General Contractors Buckminster Green LLC

4. Sometimes you don't get what you thought you were paying for. In my experience, some brands spend more on advertising than on making quality products. Do your research and make sure the product you're buying is current. The situation is always changing, but make sure you know what you're getting and who you'll call if it turns out to be a dud.

Eclectic Floors by Tampa Interior Designers & Decorators Paul Anater

5. Let someone else be the guinea pig. I have tested materials and products on my own house over the years so I can vouch for them in my work. If you are not in the business, you should be buying products that have been well regarded for many years. Even if you are trying to remodel your home using environmentally friendly materials, you don't have to use products that haven't stood the test of time. True linoleum flooring (not vinyl, which people often call linoleum), like in this photo, has been around for more than a century and is a hypoallergenic natural material, for example.

Modern Wallpaper

6. Buy local. There are many reasons to buy local and support your region's economy, but two big ones have to do with shipping. Make sure to factor in the cost of shipping when pricing out materials. A local vendor will usually not charge extra for shipping, and you can schedule the delivery. Shipments of online purchases can result in headaches if no one is around when a big, heavy delivery shows up. If you are concerned about the environment, the distance a product ships should always be a concern. Bamboo flooring is made from grasses that are rapidly renewable, but if it's coming to you from across the world, a flooring product made close to home might be a greener choice.

Industrial Kitchen by Burlington Interior Designers & Decorators Joanne Palmisano, Salvage Secrets

7. Buy salvaged. You can often get better-quality building materials with more character for less money by buying salvaged. You will pay more in labor, but once again, this is an opportunity to support your community. 

Sinks and tubs are good if the finish isn't damaged, but avoid faucets unless the seller can show you they work without leaks. 

Doors, hardware and masonry are all great items, and stone, wood and glass are great materials, to buy salvaged. With light fixtures, keep in mind that they may need to be rewired, but this is a way to keep a great period fixture out of the Dumpster.


8. Buy extra. "Waste" is the term we use for extra materials ordered, because the cutoffs usually end up as just that (unless they're recycled). The best way to figure out how much waste to order is by following a manufacturer's or installer's recommendations. 

In the absence of those, use these tips. If you are confident about your measurements and the method of installation, you could get away with ordering 10 percent more of items like flooring or wall coverings, but 15 percent waste is a safer bet. If the item is special order, 15 percent is the minimum, and 20 percent may make sense depending on the situation. 

Store leftovers of items, like tile and grout, in labeled containers in the basement in case repairs are ever needed.

Before Photos by Philadelphia General Contractors Buckminster Green LLC

10. Buy early. Stopping work to wait for materials to arrive is costly. Double the lead time you were told and you'll usually be safe. Delays happen all the time. 

If the materials are onsite, the contractor can check measurements and answer questions that the spec sheet doesn't address. 

If you don't want to expose items to theft, store the materials offsite where your general contractor can get to them, but don't try to time material deliveries for the moment they're needed.