Friday, January 29, 2010

Are You Ready For The Comeback?

Slow economy.
Bad market.
Fewer leads.
Less clients.

Get ready for it ALL to change!

The economy's not completely back from the brink yet, but it's moving. Even at a snail's pace the movent is evident. It's the news you've been waiting for. But are you ready? Everyone's intial answer is "YES! Of Course!" But think beyond that, are you really ready? If you're like most companies you've had to cut staff, space, budgets and more. How will you handle an influx of customers running at your current capacity?

According to Remodeling Magazine, keeping a project competitively priced and on schedule is tougher with both trades and suppliers overstretched from the uptick in leads. With all the projects AK is looking at right now one thing we're seeing is the difficulty of our vendors to support our needs in a timely fashion. Everyone wants more business, and has been waiting for this moment, but many companies are finding themselves overwhelmed trying to complete work that pays the bills and quote new business.

Remodeling Magazine talked to contractors around the country who said that it’s tough to adjust production schedules because the delays from vendors are inconsistent. In addition,  many companies are finding their clients do not understand the delays because they think that if business is slow, manufacturers have staff ready to produce items.

"Lynne Gallant, vice president of sales and marketing for Spivey Construction, in Indianapolis, says that delays on window and cabinet deliveries have increased as existing supplies have dwindled. Entire orders are delayed, or she only receives partial orders. Since Spivey Construction collects payments from the home­owner based on key work completions, the delays are affecting the company’s cash flow. “For a large window installation,” she says, “we had to wait six weeks for the grids to get the last $8,000."

Gallant says that she has also noticed a drop in service due to layoffs at supply companies: “I used to get a good turnaround on quotes, but now it’s taking several days to get a quote back and several days for a question to be answered.” The aim in managing this “juggling act” she says, is “not to have our customers see any difference."'

So, blogosphere, how are we all to prepare for this upcoming influx of work? We would like to share & publicize your tips or best practices, as fellow remodelers or construction suppliers. In the end, probably much like you, AK is commited to their clients' complete satisfaction and whatever back-bends we have to do to keep our schedules and get our products are worth it in the end!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

10 Ways To Save Money On Home Improvement

  We came accross a widely "dugg" post on this morning and found it interesting and worth sharing. It comes from "The Family Handyman" a website/magazine from Reader's Digest with tips and articles on everything from appliance repair, decks & patios to wallpaper and weekend projects. While a handyman's advice may not always be the same as that from a design/build remodeling firm we found that we agreed on a lot of what this one had to say!
   While we don't necessarily recommend everything that The Family Handyman endorses, like stockpiling carpet, plumbing & lighting fixtures in preparation for a remodel (remember, your time is money too!) We do like their advice for planning projects ahead of time, putting money into energy saving items, hiring a professional and engaging in phased remodeling.
So you don't always have to take our word for it, we present The Family Handyman's secrets to help you save when you're planning that big remodeling project.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Maximizing Shower Space

Have you thought about water pressure, body sizes, drain ventilation, ceiling height or ceiling angle?
You should.

Shared From Qualified Remodeler / By Jeffrey Holloway

The kitchen and bath industry has provided architects, builders and remodelers the components to assemble a spa-like experience in the shower. Included in these components are numerous thermostatic valves, volume controls, body sprays, rain heads and hand-held shower sprays. With so many components it is easy to make a mistake while specifying, ordering and installing them. A hiccup during the installation of these items can cause expensive remedies that prolong the length of the project and steal profit.

Careful planning along with multiple jobsite visits can prevent problems. Planning begins with a survey of the clients’ wants and needs. The client is the central component of the system, so be mindful of their budget and the space they have to work with. Prepare a script for questioning your clients about their needs, and approach this survey with a sense of humor. Questions about the number of people sharing the space at one time often raise eyebrows and cause blushing. Asking where grab bars can be placed can be challenging as well; many “Boomers” can get defensive when we suggest they place stability aids along shower walls.

After determining the number of people sharing the space, we make each user stand straight and tall as we take measurements of specific points on their body so we can properly position components within the shower space. We measure from the floor to the back of the knee; the small of the back; the top of the shoulders; the centerline of the eyes; and the top of the head. We also measure from the finished floor to the wrist while standing with their hands to their side. These measurements must be made for everyone who will use the shower. We have found that many families share the master bath, and it’s important that everyone’s body size be taken into consideration.

Measurements are averaged to locate the heights of thermostatic valves, volume controls, hand-held sprays, rain head sprays and grab bars. Normally, adjustments are required. Sometimes we’ve had clients stand in the shower while we position components during the rough-in stage. Heights vary but some simple averages that apply are as follows: 52 in. to 56 in. off the finished floor to shoulders; 38 in. to 44 in. to mid-back; and 26 in. to 32 in. to lower back and upper thighs.

Size Matters

Remember that big is not always better. Naked bathers require warmth for comfort so do not design the shower too large. In addition, the optimum distance from most body sprays is 30 in., so design with this number in mind. We find that a 48-in. long space is adequate for a single user. If two people are going to use the space at the same time, a minimum of 60 in. has worked well. In any instance a minimum width of 36 in. is required. Ceiling height is also important when determining the overall size of the shower. Eight feet should be the limit. If introducing steam to an enclosure, slope the ceiling about 8 degrees to prevent water droplets from falling on bathers.

When positioning rainhead sprays, remember that the glass should be a minimum of 3 in. above the spray head. We set our shower arms at 84 in. off the finished floor. The floor plan should include a seat or bench in the shower area. Industry standards are about 18 in. off the finished floor and at least 15 in. deep. The bench should not interfere with the minimum floor area. We almost always install a corner seat or bench the width of the shower that is open below. There are many premanufactured products in the market to help accomplish this.
Asking about water pressure is important for remodeling more than new construction and should not be ignored. Most systems require a minimum of 45 psi to operate effectively. Without this pressure, bathers will not be able to operate multiple showerheads and body sprays. Just as important as pressure is water volume. Existing supplies may not have enough volume to supply the thermostatic valves with water to power all spray heads at once. Most of the multiple-spray systems use 3/4-in. supply lines. Some products can accommodate 1/2-in. supply lines, but these systems do not provide as many options for spray heads.

Drainage is another important consideration when we plan for this type of shower. It has been our experience that a 2-in. drain is more than sufficient to accommodate up to 20 gph, which most of these spas are capable of creating. However, it is imperative that you work with a manufacturer’s representative or a licensed and insured plumber to determine the drain size. Some larger multivalve configurations could require multiple 2-in. drains or a single 3-in. drain line. Different styles of floor drains are available from round to trough-style drains with removable grids. Remember, every drain requires a vent. Make sure there is a place to terminate the vent. This is important if you are installing the system in the first floor. The vent needs to run up through any additional floors and terminate at the roof. If an additional vent is required, wall and ceiling repairs will need to be added to the scope of work in a remodeling situation.

It’s important to evaluate the client’s hot water supply as well. In new construction this is easy because an additional water heater can do the trick. On average roughly 75 percent of water running during a shower is hot. With multiple showerheads running at a minimum of 2 to 3 gpm, a 55-gal. water heater will be depleted in about 10 minutes. 

Technical Issues

Once the challenge of accommodating bathers has been met, the installation becomes technical and it requires input from the plumber, project manager and in my case, me. If everyone shares in this responsibility early on, it is much easier to hold everyone accountable if a problem occurs during, or more importantly, after installation. Many builders or architects may be surprised that I supervise installations so closely. They may think once a set of measured shop drawings has been created it is up to the installers to get it right. This is wrong. There are too many variables in the field that require adjustment. The reality is, wall thickness, stud and structural wood placement, finished floor height from wet beds, HVAC ducting and electrical channels create obstacles that need to be worked around. The best planning at the drafting board does not prevent problems in the field.

You might also wonder if it’s worth it from the trade’s perspective. The increased risk, time and exposure may not be what many architects, builders or remodelers want to contend with. I have found that even though these installations require a tremendous amount of time they are highly profitable. As designers and installers we can create revenue through the sale and markup of these shower products. This revenue along with careful consideration of the billable hours involved with installing these products can lead to increased profits along with satisfied clients who are willing to refer us to their friends.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Kitchen & Bathroom Planning Questionnaires

AK has just updated our kitchen and bathroom remodeling questionnaires. You can find them on our contact page, or by clicking below:

AK Bath Planning Questionnaire

These forms are wonderful ways to start thinking about your remodeling project. Once you have completed the forms you may email them to AK and a team member will contact you to set up your complimentary consultation appointment at your home. If you have met, or talked to, any other remodelers/contractors who haven't asked you these questions, how do they know what's really important to you and your family? Hmmm...

Designers Predict Kitchen and Bath Trends for 2010

Source: CUSTOM HOME Magazine
By: Stephanie Miller

According to the National Kitchen & Bath Association's (NKBA) 2010 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends Survey, designers expect several trends that have been developing over recent years to continue through 2010 even as some style preferences shift. The survey identified seven kitchen trends and four bath trends.

2010 Kitchen Trends:

1. Style—Traditional will remain the most popular kitchen design style, but contemporary will be a close second. Interest in Shaker styles is on the upswing, as well. Color preferences will center on-shades of white and off-white, but brown, beige, and bone will also be popular. WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT'S YOUR STYLE?

2. Cabinetry—The most popular woods for kitchen cabinetry will still be cherry and maple, but use of alder is increasing as well. Light natural and distressed cabinetry finishes are falling out of favor, while medium and dark natural wood tones are becoming more popular, as are glazed and white-painted finishes. Other colors of painted cabinetry are declining. DO YOU THINK PAINTED CABINETRY IS ON IT'S WAY OUT?

3. Surfaces—While ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tile will remain popular choices for kitchen floors, hardwood will take over as the preferred flooring material. Quartz countertops will match granite in popularity in 2010. Ceramic, porcelain, and glass tile will continue to be the preferred materials for backsplashes.

4. Faucetry—Standard basic-model kitchen faucets will give way to more functional and convenient models, such as various styles of pull-out and pot fillers. Brushed nickel will become the most popular finish, followed by stainless steel, and satin nickel. Polished chrome is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, as well.

5. Refrigeration—While side-by-side refrigerators remain popular, French-door and bottom-freezer models are the current market favorites. Undercounter refrigerator drawers are being used with greater frequency, as are undercounter wine refrigerators; the survey indicates that fully half of all designers who responded had recently specified undercounter wine refrigerators. DO YOU LIKE HAVING MULTIPLE REFRIGERATION UNITS?

6. Cooking—The cooking range continues to be the mainstay of functional kitchen design, but it's becoming more popular to combine a cooktop with a wall oven. Because of its energy efficiency, induction is making gains as a cooking technology. However, gas will maintain its position at the top. WE THINK THIS IS ON TARGET - INDUCTION & GAS RULE!

7. Cleaning—Dishwasher drawers will increase their market share in 2010 because of their convenience and their ability to wash smaller loads, saving water and energy. But standard dishwashers will still be the most common type installed. DO YOU THINK DISHWASHER DRAWERS WILL BE SELECTED OVER COMMON WASHERS DESPITE THE ADDITIONAL COSTS?

2010 Bath Trends:

1. Style—As with kitchens, bathroom styles will have strong traditional leanings in 2010, followed distantly by contemporary and Shaker styles. Bathroom color schemes will also be subdued, with beiges and bone hues being the most common, followed by whites, off-whites, and browns, in that order. DO YOU THINK BEIGES & WHITES WILL BE POPULAR IN KITCHENS & BATHS?

2. Surfaces—Favorite flooring choices for baths will continue to be ceramic and porcelain tile, as well as natural stone. Granite will remain the most popular vanity top selection, along with quartz and marble. WE AGREE, WE THINK THE HIGH MAINTENANCE SELECTIONS ARE NOT GOING TO BE AS POPULAR.

3. Fixtures—White bath fixtures—sinks, toilets, tubs—will be most common in 2010, followed by bisque and off-white. Undermount sink models will be most popular, followed by integrated sink tops, and drop-in sinks; vessel sinks and pedestal sinks will trail the pack.

4. Faucetry—Similar to kitchen faucet finish preferences, brushed nickel will continue to be the most popular choice for bath faucet finishes in 2010, followed by polished chrome, satin nickel, bronze, and stainless steel. DO YOU AGREE?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why the home improvment business stinks...

   We read this blog by a colleague of ours, Mike Bruno at Stone Creek Builders in New Jersey, and we wanted to share it with everyone and get your feedback!

"I was just thinking that I have been in the home improvement business for almost twenty years. In that time I have had some great experience's with clients. Experience's that have not only led to a satisfying career but also great friendships.

When I think about why I got into this business to begin with it was because I love working with people. Of course I love the craft as well but there is something special about building projects that enhance peoples lives. If you have ever crafted something with your hands you can understand the great feeling when you step back and admire your work.

To some old timers, 20 years may seem like a drop in the bucket but during that time the remodeling industry has seen the most dramatic changes due to the advances in technology, product development and the internet. However due to the economic fall out: consumer credit is tightened and some are choosing contractors purely on price instead of quality, experience and professionalism.

So as a result many great craftsman are going out of business. The sad thing is many of them probably went into the business for the same reason I did. And its almost a guarantee that the contractors who low bid the jobs will be out of business too. So what happens next?

  • Does the home improvement industry reinvent itself?

  • Does some sort of standardization happen so all professional contractors can compete on a level playing field?

  • Do we out source all the construction to India :)

Who knows but I look forward to meeting new people, more projects, new friends and the ride..."
So what do you think? Aside from outsourcing remodeling to India, we have seen and had many of the same experiences as Mike. Professional, qualified and trustworthy remodelers like AK and Stone Creek are concerned about the state of the industry where price rules.
So what do the "good guys" do to reinvent themselves? What sort of standardization would you like to see in the industry? We'd like to know!

Friday, January 8, 2010

2010 Color of the Year Unveiled


Feel swept away in 2010. Pantone announced its 15-5519 Turquoise as the color of the upcoming year. The hue was chosen for its combination of serene blue and invigorating green, as well as its ability to evoke thoughts of soothing, tropical waters and an escape from the everyday troubles of the world.

"In many cultures, turquoise occupies a very special position in the world of color," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. "It is believed to be a protective talisman, a color of deep compassion and healing, and a color of faith and truth, inspired by water and sky. Through years of color word-association studies, we also find that turquoise represents an escape to many–taking them to a tropical paradise that is pleasant and inviting, even if only a fantasy."

Turquoise appeals to both men and women and translates to fashion, as well as interiors. With both warm and cool undertones, turquoise adds a splash of excitement to neutrals and browns, creates a classic maritime look with deep blues, livens up other greens and is trendy when paired with yellow-greens.

The hue is available in Pantone's line of eco-friendly paint. Ideal for a powder room or kitchen, turquoise offers a spa-like feel or when used as an accent, creates lively visual interest.

(Shared From K+BB News)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remodeling In 2010? Replacements Are "IN"!

   If you're considering remodeling in 2010, you're likely mulling over the biggest question for all remodeling clients today: resale value. Before 2006 very few clients named resale value as top on their list of "must haves" for their remodeling projects. Most named wood species, appliance brands or rare granites as their remodel requisites; while these things are still important, value has superceded them all! With house prices down, it pays to know which upgrades will deliver the best return when you sell your home.

   AK published Remodeling's Cost Vs. Value report for 2010 which showed that some projects pay back better than others. You get more bang for the buck putting money into a basement or attic upgrade than adding a wing to the house. (Duh, right? But the people adding a "wing" to the house are doing it for other reasons than just resale!) Some of the highest-return projects include a deck addition and replacements of old siding, entry door or windows.

Basic Replacements Rule

As a group, low-cost replacements — new siding, windows, doors and roofing — deliver the best bang for the buck now, a better payback than most any other project! Given great improvements in materials, you can replace your inefficient 10- or 15-year-old products with highly efficient ones for a decent return when you sell. In addition, the improvements help you save on heating and cooling bills. Replacing leaky windows with highly efficient newer ones is a good example. The technology behind the glass and frames has so improved that you’re tightening up your home’s weatherproofing in the process. You get more comfort and, from the real-estate agent’s point of view, new windows show off your house from the street.
The Best  Bang For Your Buck
Keep in mind an pricing given are just an estimates made by Remodeling Magazine in an effort to calculate the value of the projects.
1. Replace the front door.

The absolute best return on the money of any of the projects surveyed — 129% of cost — is gained by replacing a beat-up front door with a $1,200 steel-shell door filled with foam insulation.

A new fiberglass door (more expensive, at $3,490) returns less, about 65%. (Fiberglass is the new chic building material because it’s rugged and durable, can be painted and will mimic almost any wood. Unlike wood, it doesn’t crack, warp or shrink and needs zero maintenance.)

Spend about $7,500 on an entire new entrance, including a widened opening, a solid-core wood door and high-end glass, new lighting and better locks, and you’ll recoup 69%, on average.

2. Replace home siding

Replacing old siding with a durable fiber-cement product ($13,287) recoups about 84% at resale. Use vinyl siding ($10,607) to get an 80% return. (prices vary greatly depending on size of the home)

Foam-backed vinyl ($13,022) costs more and earns back less — roughly 79% — but it is much more efficient at insulating a home.

3. Replace windows.

Three of the four window-replacement projects considered in the survey pay back about 77%:

Wood-trimmed windows ($11,700). (again, prices vary greatly depending on the size of the home and number of windows)

Lower-end vinyl windows ($10,728).

Windows trimmed in higher-end vinyl ($13,862).

The fourth project, higher-end wood-replacement windows ($17,816), has a return of about 72%. Fiberglass windows weren’t included in the study.

4. A new deck.

Wood is high-maintenance, but homebuyers love it: A new wood deck ($10,634) returns 81%. (again, prices vary greatly depending on the size of the home and size of the deck.)

A higher-grade composite ($37,745) brings an ROI of about 61%.

5. Kitchens & Baths: Scaled back but still popular!

The very high-end kitchen, at over $175,000, may be a thing of yesterday for most homeowners. But kitchen remodels ranging between $50,000 and $150,000 are ever popular! Kitchen and bath remodeling hasn’t stopped, since these projects maximize the enjoyment of the most-used spaces in a home. But people who blithely bought the best of everything now pursue the same look by choosing materials judiciously.

(Thanks To MSN Real Estate & Remodeling Magazine For Figures & Comments In This Piece.)