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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Contribute Your Own Artistic Touch


Some years ago we did a lovely kitchen remodel for Jan and Carol of Berkeley. They chose a striking dark green granite slab for their countertops, but for the backsplash they chose ceramic tiles. 'Backsplash' is the term for the area just above the counter, against the wall, that will get splashed by you when you cook or run water. Frequently the choice of finish there is a continuation of the counter surface, be it tile, granite, marble, Corian, Silestone, etc.

However, Jan and Carol desired a contrasting lighter surface. The tiles were a pretty cream color and performed excellently for their task. Every so often a different-looking tile would appear in that backsplash, because Jan had handcrafted it and illustrated it with a color image of an animal. Some were pets they had owned, others were not: a Labrador retriever, a Siamese cat, a colorful parrot, a lizard, and so on.

Jan let us know before the work had even started that she wanted to make her own tiles. We allowed a little extra time in the schedule for her to accomplish her creative goal. We placed the special tiles randomly in the backsplash throughout the kitchen. The animal tiles brought a magical look to the kitchen that made the final result even more endearing to Jan and Carol.

You can also contribute to your own home remodel. If you have a special skill like Jan, who is a graphic artist and professional potter, let us know. We'll examine ways for you to create something that will enhance your home remodel, making it even more personal and intimate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is the Lowest Price Really the Best Deal?

Allen Romano, our Production Manager, fielded a call the other day and told me about it. I'd like to share it with you. The caller was a relative of an On The Beam client whose kitchen we had remodeled. The relative was so impressed with our work, he referred us to some friends who had a very large project: a whole house remodel. They had an architect and the plans were done, permitted and ready for construction. The friends just needed to find a contractor to do the work. They called us for an estimate.

First we wanted them to feel good about who we are so that they would be able to trust us with their beloved home. We invited them over to our office and carpentry shop, met and shook hands and gave them a tour. We gave them many, many references to call. We showed them many photos of our good work.

But alas, when the price came in, it was much higher than they had hoped for. The fact is, Steve is an expert, fair and reasonable estimator, but the plans represented a huge amount of materials and hours of labor. The homeowners went looking for a contractor who would give them a better price. And they found one.

Six months or so later, their friend who referred them to us was telling us a sad tale: They wished they had hired us. Why? For one thing, the other contractor's "lower price" ended up being the same and a little more. For another, they were doing much of the work themselves that they thought the contractor would do. In other words, the 'cheaper' contractor hadn't included some of the work in the contract, and now the homeowners were having to scramble to get it done without him.

We've heard similar stories over the years, as people come to us for an estimate and go looking for a lower one. Fact is, our estimates are all-inclusive, meticulously detailed, fairly priced, and well-informed. Our contract is thorough and covers all aspects of the remodel that need to be covered. But even more importantly, the EXPERIENCE behind the estimate is one of respect for the home and its residents. We make sure that the ups and downs of remodeling rest squarely on our shoulders.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When Friends and Family Pitch In

I was getting a fabulous massage the other night, and then the masseuse said something that made my muscles seize up: "I have a friend who's having problems with her remodel." "Really?" I asked noncomittally. "Has she started it yet or is it in progress?" "She's in the middle of it.....It's being done by friends."

Over the twenty plus years we have been in business remodeling homes, we have heard the same story over and over. The masseuse continued with her friend's situation. "The deck isn't up to code and has to be fixed. There are other problems with the kitchen. And they're working without a permit." She didn't know any more of the details, but I could have easily filled them in.

Here's the secret to avoiding this type of remodeling disaster: DO NOT hire friends, relatives or in-laws to perform any phase of remodeling upon your beloved house. Most of them, I am sure, are wonderful people in many ways. Many are even very professional. But there's something about the intimacy of your relationship with them that tends to excuse and dismiss that level of professionalism required for excellent, well-thought-out, high-quality design and build.

I was in a friend's kitchen some years ago, listening to her tale of woe. Her husband had hired his brother, a professional remodeler, to remodel a substantial amount of their house. It was a huge project, and at the end of it, many design details hadn't been worked out and were not well built. The two brothers haven't spoken since.

So if you think you're going to save lots of money and get a great deal on your design/build project by hiring Sis or best friend Jeremy, think again. Hire a licensed, insured architect and general contractor with solid reputations that you aren't related to. You'll be doing yourself, your family and friends a huge favor!