University Creates Catharsis Chambers for Stress Release

October 30th, 2009 § 2 Comments

University Creates Catharsis Chambers for Stress Release
The Epoch Times released a report on October 6, 2009 about Universities in China installing emotional release rooms. Could they be on to something? Wouldn’t we all like an emotional release from the stress of …. (fill in the blank). Or is this a bad idea leading to more anger and range…I meant rage. (Sorry, still thinking about an annoying spec detail on a range). And exhaustion too! These catharsis chambers sound like an exhausting experience leading to more stress and anxiety.

Remodeling can bring on stress and I find that a long walk works quite well. Maintaining a sense of humor also works well. When ever stressed out, I imagine how Robin Williams would respond to the issue at hand and I wind up making myself laugh.  

image by BrittneyBush

A Renovation Check List

September 15th, 2009 § Leave a Comment

Getting ready to remodel? I will point my readers in the direction of a “MUST READ” article posted by my friend Paul Anater of Kitchen and Residential Design about renovation expectations. I too have received the phone calls from clients who are in a state of panic over the tile going up, the color of the cabinets, the floor, the paint and so forth. Paul has made sane points, so with no further ado, I point you to Ready To Renovate? Take A Moment And Breathe First.

I highly recommend you print out these “10 Points of Reason ” when you feel like you are going to loose your mind. Print it, post it where you can see it, your bathroom mirror, outside the plastic wall of your remodel zone, your check book.

Remind yourself that long after the remodel is over with, the dust and muss is gone, what remains is a beautiful space. And above all else, remind yourself to breathe! Thanks Paul!

Communication with your Contractor

January 23rd, 2009 § 2 Comments


Successful remodeling companies have a pre-construction meeting to clarify the construction logistics before construction begins. Once a project begins, you will be living in a construction zone. It is so important that homeowner and contractor have a game plan in place for the logistics, parking, deliveries, work hours, primary contact phone list, and discuss expectations for the project.

Written procedures must be in place for a successful outcome to your project. When you hire a contractor, insist you have this meeting at your home prior to demolition. My firm has an excellent written Pre-constructon Meeting Checklist we implement for all our projects. The meeting takes about an hour and all the logistics are discussed. The client gets a copy and another is kept in the lead carpenter’s job binder and one copy goes back to the office.

As new home construction sales are on a decline, it is not uncommon to find new home construction contractors competing for the jobs in the remodeling sector. A construction zone differs greatly when the homeowner is living in the home during a remodel. It’s important to find a contractor that specializes in remodeling and will be able to set standards for his crew to abide by while they are in your home. The attitudes can be relaxed in new new construction where there are no children and pets to be aware of, and no one sleeping or changing for work under the same walls.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Professional Resource Library sets forth a good sample as outlined below. As a homeowner here are some questions to ask during the pre-construction meeting:

  1. What are the contractor work hours?
  2. What days will the contractor work?
  3. Will the contractor provide a construction time line?
  4. What areas of my home will be protected?
  5. What will be the path of entry?
  6. What type of floor protection will be used?
  7. Will the contractor use plastic zip walls?
  8. Will the contractor cover the vents in the construction zone?
  9. Will the contractor use air scrubbers to filter air-borne particulates that are kicked up during construction?
  10. What type of covering will be used for the newly installed tub, the new cabinets, and will plywood/cardboard coverings be used to protect my new counter tops so that no tool is set down on a finished surface?
  11. Who will be responsible for moving and storing any precious possessions, (the grand piano or art collection) adjacent to the kitchen or bath.
  12. Will the contractor need special permission to enter certain areas of your home?
  13. Discuss security alarm system and procedures.
  14. Will the contractor provide a lock-box system during the project?
  15. Will a mailbox be set up inside the job site for homeowner and contractor to leave messages, and other important documents such as owners manuals and warranty paperwork that should be provided to homeowner.
  16. If the home has wireless connectivity, may the contractor have access to your wireless network? If not, is there a high speed internet line available to use in the work zone? (Laptops are now carried by some contractors for downloading specs or expediting e-mail communication or schedules.)
  17. Regarding children: what is their schedule, who is responsible for them if they return home when parents are working?
  18. Are there any pet considerations?
  19. Are there any neighbor concerns?
  20. Regarding lunch time, will the crew have permission to eat their lunch in a designated area on your property? Will the crew take their lunch trash with them and not place food in the dumpster to avoid rat infestation?
  21. Does the contractor have rules in place for the crew members and sub- contractors that respects your home from loud radios, cursing, smoking and from using any of your personal tools, trash cans and household equipment?
  22. Where can the contractor drop/store deliveries, notably the cabinets and or/crated, over sized bath fixtures?
  23. Where can the contractor maintain a staging area and a place to store his tools?
  24. What do you want to salvage from demolition, and where do you want it stored?
  25. Where can the dumpster be set up?
  26. Where and how will trash be collected? Are they any community regulations about it’s location.
  27. Where can the portable toilet be set up? (Or, which of your bathrooms can the contractor use?)
  28. Will the contractor provide a temporary kitchen? (On loan temporary table, microwave, toaster oven, hot plate, temporary sink.)
  29. Where can the contractor and subs park vehicles?
  30. Where may the contractor post a company sign?
  31. Where are the utilities (gas, electric, septic, communications)?
  32. What furniture or shrubbery needs to removed?
  33. Who will be the primary contact person (husband or wife) for the contractor to communicate with?
  34. What hours can the contractor call you, and what numbers should they use (home, work, cell, other)?
  35. How often do you want the contractor to meet or contact you?
  36. Do you and your family understand that no family member or other unauthorized individuals spend time in the work zone, and that all communication is best maintained between your lead project manager or designer and the homeowner.
  37. Will the contractor provide professional cleaning service at the end of the project or provide a “broom clean” service?

Well, that’s it. It’s important to know that construction is not a perfect science. Expect that things may not go perfectly, but as long as you and your contractor have a clear understanding of procedures, it helps make the project run smoothly.

A trip to Kim’s Kitchen Remodel

November 5th, 2008 § Leave a Comment


Over at Desire to Inspire blog author Kim Johnson is undergoing her own kitchen remodel. Kim admits “I am a complete kitchen reno virgin and am learning as I go.”

Kim is allowing her readers to watch the progress with photos as the job progresses. Demo just begun. Come follow the progress at a special link called Kims Kitchen Remodel. I’ll be watching from the peanut gallery. Come watch with me.

The cabinet line she selected is made by, Green Tea, asian inspired hand-built furniture styled cabinetry from reclaimed woods. Really beautiful pieces. I admire the beautiful unfitted hand worked antique appearance of these cabinets.

Since Kim admits to being a “remodel virgin”, I offer this friendly advise to her and others who are new to the experience. Construction, a little like pregnancy, begins with joy and expectation, and almost always ends with joy and satisfaction. There will be a few points in between, however, when you may wonder “Whatever did I get myself into?” Recognizing this in advance may prove helpful in managing emotions.

My gift to you is a mood chart: a graphical representation of the changing moods during a typical design/build remodel project: Post it on your kitchen wall and remind yourself that high’s and lows are to be expected, and remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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A trip to Kim’s Kitchen Remodel

November 5th, 2008 § 4 Comments


Over at Desire to Inspire blog author Kim Johnson is undergoing her own kitchen remodel. Kim admits “I am a complete kitchen reno virgin and am learning as I go.”

Kim is allowing her readers to watch the progress with photos as the job progresses. Demo just begun. Come follow the progress at a special link called Kims Kitchen Remodel. I’ll be watching from the peanut gallery. Come watch with me.

The cabinet line she selected is made by, Green Tea, asian inspired hand-built furniture styled cabinetry from reclaimed woods. Really beautiful pieces. I admire the beautiful unfitted hand worked antique appearance of these cabinets.

Since Kim admits to being a “remodel virgin”, I offer this friendly advise to her and others who are new to the experience. Construction, a little like pregnancy, begins with joy and expectation, and almost always ends with joy and satisfaction. There will be a few points in between, however, when you may wonder “Whatever did I get myself into?” Recognizing this in advance may prove helpful in managing emotions.

My gift to you is a mood chart: a graphical representation of the changing moods during a typical design/build remodel project: Post it on your kitchen wall and remind yourself that high’s and lows are to be expected, and remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Verify everything in writing

July 6th, 2008 § 8 Comments

At the scene of an auto accident,
the one thing for certain is that there will be numerous versions of what lead up to the accident.

At the scene of an accident, every witness and every party involved in the accident has their own version of what took place. What is perceived as each persons truth will never really agree with the next persons story. Explaining what happened varies: speed of travel, weather, amount of cars on the road, color and type of cars involved all are subject to interpretation. The accident happens so fast, that everyones recollection will be weighted based on what they were doing at the time of the accident.

Don’t let your remodel become a scene of an accident.

A home improvement project can become an accident without proper documentation. I got a call today from my sister complaining about a home improvement project that is nearly completed. There was mold and water damage in the kitchen. The insurance company had a specialist come in to handle the mold remediation and repair the cabinetry. One of the workers promised, “a verbal promise”, that he would install all new roll out trays in the pantry.

Listening to this story, my red flag alert went off.

Does a a verbal agreement between an employee of a company constitute a valid

contract change order? No. Anything discussed verbally, requires a written change order detailing additional time, materials and labor that will be added to the project cost.
Should a company honor a verbal agreement? It becomes a problem at this point. There is the interpretation argument of what was promised versus what was in the contract.

The issue is, that this employee’s promise of roll outs was never written into the contract originally and a change order adding the roll outs was never submitted for her to sign off after that discussion of roll outs. An employee of the company can promise an item all he wants, but the homeowner must ask for this in writing so that there is no “he said/she said” dispute.

Imagine you were to explain your story in court, you are before the judge and you explain, “Your Honor, he told me he would install new roll outs for me. How was I supposed to know this was not in my contract , I was under the impression it was included based on what the salesperson said.” It is a homeowners responsibility to know what they are signing for, what they are buying, and if not, they need to ask questions and have it explained if they are unclear about anything. Whenever your sales person starts explaining what they will do in a contract, have them take the time to show you where this is in your contract. Signing a contract, no matter how much paperwork you have to read, and no matter how tedious it is to read, you cannot ignore this step and plead ignorance later.

Get it in writing.

Now that it is time for the project to end, she is asking for the roll outs installed based on a verbal promise made by an employee of the company. The owner of the company is saying this wasn’t billed into the contract and he will not do it. So the employee who made the promise is now denying he said that, the owner is not willing to supply the roll outs, and my sister is going to demand they be installed because they were discussed and requested originally. The whole reason she went with this company was he was the least expensive and the sales man said he would install roll outs where others who bid the project did not include them in the cost. The problem is that roll outs are not written anywhere in the contract. She is insisting it is the companies obligation to make good on that employees promise. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Get all promises in writing.

So who is right and who is wrong?

There is a customer belief that they would receive roll out trays because of a verbal promise. The problem is there is no documentation of roll outs in the contract. You can’t go on the assumption that a verbal agreement will be honored. Most likely, they were never included in the original charges. If the owner was willing to make amends for his employee promising items he had no authority to do without charging for it, he could split the cost or reduce the cost of the roll outs and install them to keep the customer satisfied. My sister is right to be upset, the employee was wrong, but all this could have been avoided if she checked her contract and got the change order in writing. If it sounds like I am taking sides with the owner of the company, I really do not want to, but my sister should have made sure to get the sales person’s verbal agreement in writing that it was included, she would be in a better position to ensure that work gets done. Saying she trusted the sales person is not good enough.

Put your wish list in writing and compare it to your written quote.
Question anything that is vague.

I put a bid on a project where the client had a cap on what she wanted to spend on her kitchen remodel. (Who doesn’t? Every one has a budget). We crunched the numbers and came up with a plan that accomplished what she wanted in her project with a few exceptions. We could not honor the whole wish list without breaking her budget; but we provided a very nice complete project for the budget.

To keep the project on budget, the wish list items that didn’t make it into the project were relocating the water heater and going tankless; adding an exterior door into the kitchen plan; adding a desk; adding a glaze to the cabinets; changing the door style to a more expensive door; adding custom cabinetry; adding more cabinetry and molding in general.

What I discovered was that the client was not willing to compromise on excluding anything from her wish list. Incidentally, she was not willing to expand her budget to include the wish list work.


The wish list made it’s way back into the plan.


In the end, the client added her whole wish list back into the project.

This was all detailed by me in writing with a change order form detailing the costs and additions to the project.

Drawings were resubmitted for approval, and explanations of where the additional charges were added. This was all explained to the client in detail, and was approved by the client and signed off. Now that all of this was approved in the last meeting, the cabinet purchase order was painstakingly reviewed and submitted to the factory for order processing.

After all of this, the client had a change of heart, admits she does not understand why these changes were not included in the original estimate and cannot justify spending the extra money on her wish list items. One aspect of this is that she could be getting more estimates from others who will down play the construction costs, underbid items only to throw change orders at her later, throw doubt into her mind. Someone can always do it cheaper. One thing I know is that I never have to apologize for quality.

Adding more construction and adding more materials costs more. If anything was not included in the original quote, it can not be assumed to be included.

What I know for sure is that my original budget friendly design gave her a great design for the budget. It was a perfectly doable project. It just could not include the fancier details.

The reality is that getting everything on your wish list will cost more.
If you are willing to add more details, be prepared it will cost more.

Managing a client’s expectations is probably the most challenging aspect of my job. Normally, my time with a client during a design meeting and a contract signing is very thorough and can last on average for two hours to make sure both husband and wife are very clear on what they are buying.

In managing your own expectations, write it down exactly what it is you want in your project, convey that to your contractor or designer. Then write down a separate list on what items you are willing to compromise if it won’t work with your budget. There has to be some give and take in what can be accomplished for the money.

In an auto accident, there is no time to think of all the details leading up to the accident. In a construction project, you have the opportunity to review and make sure you are clear about all the details in the project. Don’t rush the details. Read your estimate, read your contract. Have details explained if you don’t understand them. Taking the time now, prevents the problem later of dealing with the disappointment of what you thought was included, when it wasn’t.

Hats off to the weekend warriors!

March 19th, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I have got to hand it to the “do-it yourself” able bodied homeowners who tackle and complete home renovation projects. With the high cost of materials and labor to complete a project, “sweat equity”, can payoff in the long run. That is if you have the patience to endure living in construction mode far longer than it takes if you hire professionals to do the work. Check out the story of Lili and Arnie Richards, profiled in LA Times Blog, “Pardon Our Dust”.

Great story if you are thinking about doing it yourself.
A kitchen remodel and dining room addition all for $27,000 is remarkable. A remodel like this would certainly run into figures closer to $100,000 if done by a general contractor.
Why it worked for them:

  • They planned in advance and stuck to a schedule. Diligent in planning.
  • Previous experience remodeling.
  • Realistic about the invariable hic-ups. They managed their expectations.
  • Self-starters, determined to see the project through to the end.
  • Self-reliant. Spirited even while enduring labor tasks they deplored.

I salute their ingenuity and spirit. Bravo!

Here Kitty, Kitty, kitty!

November 9th, 2007 § Leave a Comment

I got a call today that stressed me out.

“Your crew was working here today with the doors open and my cat got out!”

Many of the homes we work in are in areas that abut to open space hills and canyons.

I am an animal lover myself and would be devastated if my pet wound up as lunch for some hungry coyote.

So it pains me to have to remind customers that we need you to work with us to protect your cherished pets. We are in your homes to remodel. While we are there, the area we are working in is a construction zone. We section it off with Visqueen zipper walls in many instances. In other cases, when our plastic barriers come down as we near completion, caution is still required on your part to protect your pets.

In today’s instance, the dry waller had to have open doors and windows for circulation. Once it was determined that “kitty” made her escape, all hell broke loose. We worked faster than a Southern California Wildfire to get that darn cat. The Homeowners were both set to leave for work and panicked at knowing Kitty was outside and vulnerable for a coyote on the prowl. I got the call from the startled homeowners. I called my contractor and yelled at him for not letting the dry waller know about the cat in the house. He called the dry waller and yelled at him and made him start searching for Dear Kitty. The dry waller called me and said the cat walked back into the kitchen! I drove over to the house to make sure Kitty was safe and sound in an upstairs bedroom.

The moral of the story: Please make sure your pets are safe and away from the construction zone! Post signs all over your doors to make sure construction crews are aware that animals might escape from the house.

PET ALERT

A Friendly Reminder to our Clients with Pets

Pets are a cherished part of your family and we want them to be safe during remodeling. Please remember to keep pets in a separate room away from construction where they will be safe and protected during the remodel.

Although we will do our part to keep doors closed, we kindly remind our clients that a portion of your home is a construction zone and must be treated with caution. There are tools, and nails, and heavy equipment. Many times the construction crew will be opening and closing doors while working. This is a necessary part of the job and cannot be avoided.

Knowing that pets get anxious with loud sounds and new people in their home, during this stressful time you may want to pre-plan a place for your pet with food and water and bedding. Work with us by placing notices on exteriors doors reminding our crews of your little “escape artists” cats and dogs. Let’s work together and make sure that your pets are safe during a stressful time for them.

Thank you for your patience,

Management

West Coast Kitchen and Bath

Plaza Kitchens

Pancho looked at me this day when I took this picture of him, as if he was saying, “I don’t know where my water bowl is….uh, uh, uh, excuse me, don’t forget to make a place for my water bowl, I am so stressed with you in my house!”

We love you Pancho!

Special Delivery: And I Don’t Mean Cabinets

September 27th, 2007 § Leave a Comment

Last time I talked about Purchase Orders, I showed you a couple of my 3″ ring binders from jobs in progress.

The crunch is on today. I just completed faxing my purchase orders through for a whole house full of cabinetry for one client. Went out to inspect a warranty replacement for another job, went to meet a contractor on another job and then hopped back on another long and detailed purchase order for another client. My deadline is tomorrow to fax the order, make sure it is perfect, items are finished, quantities are calculated correctly. TONS OF DETAILS TO GET IT RIGHT. The one hold up I had on this order was that my clients were not certain they chose the right color. As we waited for a new door sample to be over nighted, the clock is ticking on the construction schedule. We are supposed to be done by Thanksgiving. Anymore delays and we wont make our goal.

The door sample arrives and is gorgeous! Just in time, they have one day left to commit to the color. I am happy they loved the color, a dark Cherry Nutmeg Onyx Glaze.

I stayed late to prepare the change order documents. So when my client showed up with a fully prepared gourmet meal of Salmon and Asparagus Almondine with lovely steamed vegetable, I felt like I got a shot of B-Vitamins! Boy, what a treat! It was really a wonderful surprise and I think I will start scheduling my meetings with her closer to dinner time for now on or at least until tear out date! Just kidding! What a great cook my client is!

But seriously when a purchase order is ready for faxing, you hope to never get that call from a client asking to change the color. Once an order is in production, it is a huge ordeal to change it, not to mention costly. I am so glad we waited to get that sample! It took an additional week,
and as I have told other clients, don’t stress yourself out by trying to get a remodel done in time for the holidays or (insert whatever major holiday or personal event) that is pressing down on a time commitment. Let the work be done in a timely manner. Trying to meet deadlines around a remodel is torture for you and the stress you will put on your contractor could result in poor workmanship.

Special Delivery: And I Don’t Mean Cabinets

September 27th, 2007 § Leave a Comment

Last time I talked about Purchase Orders, I showed you a couple of my 3″ ring binders from jobs in progress.

The crunch is on today. I just completed faxing my purchase orders through for a whole house full of cabinetry for one client. Went out to inspect a warranty replacement for another job, went to meet a contractor on another job and then hopped back on another long and detailed purchase order for another client. My deadline is tomorrow to fax the order, make sure it is perfect, items are finished, quantities are calculated correctly. TONS OF DETAILS TO GET IT RIGHT. The one hold up I had on this order was that my clients were not certain they chose the right color. As we waited for a new door sample to be over nighted, the clock is ticking on the construction schedule. We are supposed to be done by Thanksgiving. Anymore delays and we wont make our goal.

The door sample arrives and is gorgeous! Just in time, they have one day left to commit to the color. I am happy they loved the color, a dark Cherry Nutmeg Onyx Glaze.

I stayed late to prepare the change order documents. So when my client showed up with a fully prepared gourmet meal of Salmon and Asparagus Almondine with lovely steamed vegetable, I felt like I got a shot of B-Vitamins! Boy, what a treat! It was really a wonderful surprise and I think I will start scheduling my meetings with her closer to dinner time for now on or at least until tear out date! Just kidding! What a great cook my client is!

But seriously when a purchase order is ready for faxing, you hope to never get that call from a client asking to change the color. Once an order is in production, it is a huge ordeal to change it, not to mention costly. I am so glad we waited to get that sample! It took an additional week,
and as I have told other clients, don’t stress yourself out by trying to get a remodel done in time for the holidays or (insert whatever major holiday or personal event) that is pressing down on a time commitment. Let the work be done in a timely manner. Trying to meet deadlines around a remodel is torture for you and the stress you will put on your contractor could result in poor workmanship.

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