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Two Storey Building has added a Solar PV System at our office!

  
  

We finally did it.  After years of building energy efficient homes and renovation projects, many of which also had a solar component to them, we have installed a solar PV system at our office in Bolton.  We are pretty excited about and really don't know why we didn't do it sooner.

Solar PV System at two Storey Building office

We installed a 6.5 kWh system with 26 Canadian Solar 250 Watt panels, 26 Enphase microinverters, in 2 strings of 13 panels each.  The system is operating well and in the month since it was installed it has produced 287 kWh of energy and projects to produce somewhere around 8500 kWh per year.  That will be 8500 kWh I do not have to buy from the power company, at .10 for supply and .11 for delivery that works out to a savings of $1785!  This will produce essentially all of the power we use at our office including our electric air source heat pump that is the source of our heating and cooling. 

Let me tell you the process we went through to get this system installed.  First, I had to decide if I wanted to own the system or lease it.  Lease options are attactive for those who do not want or perhaps don't have the means to make the cash investment in the system up front.  In those cases, the installer owns the system but the leasor receives renewable energy and saves on their electric bill.  I choose to purchase my system and reap all of the benefits over the long haul

I had looked at installing a PV system several years back but was scared off by the number of trees I would have to cut down.  I live in the woods and even though the barn roof is angled almost perfectly for a southern orientation and could support the panels it was shaded by trees all around it.  After doing my research and selecting Transformations, Inc., a well respected and leader in green building, to install the system, they came to do the Solar Access and Shade reading.  We started at about 63%, well below the 80% goal and threshold for the state rebate.

Here is what my yard looks like.  The barn with my office in it is below the address in the picture.  You can just make out the roof amongst all the trees:

Two storey Building office location

 

I had a lot of work to do.  In fact, after all was done I cut down 45 trees.  It was a busy fall.  I did get a new Huskvarna saw out of the process which was very nice.  Needless to say it got a little messy.....

Felled trees resized 600

But we cleaned it all up and finished removing the trees and moved to the next step - signing the interconnection agreement with my power company, National Grid.  This was pretty straight forward.  Basically, they agree to buy the power you produce back by providing a net metering arrangement.

Once we had that agreement in place, and the installation was done (in the dead of winter....) we needed to set up our SREC monitoring contract.  In Massachusetts, you can sell your renewable energy credits to the companies that are bound by law to produce a certain amount of renewable energy.  We went with Sol Systems, and choose a brokerage type account.  In this arrangement you choose to sell your SREC at a fixed rate for a perior of time (10 years) rather than being in the open market place and hoping someone will buy them.  I expect to receive approximately $270 for every 1000 kWh I produce over the course of the year.  This should amount ot approximately $2300 per year.  Also I will save approximately $1800 per year on my electricity bill so the total payback per year will be about $4100.  At that rate, my system should pay for itself in five years.  The long term projections are a $40,000 cash return over 25 years at a 17% rate of return on the initial investment.

At this point in Massachusetts, Solar PV is a slam dunk, win win, no brainer.  In other words - you should really consider installing it if  you have the location and means to make it happen.
As always, I am happy to discuss the process and options with anyone interested in Solar PV.
Generated for Douglas Storey
on 03/10/2014
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Monthly Energy Production Report

Douglas Storey

Bolton, MA
WeekPeak PowerEnergy Produced
02/01/2014 - 02/07/2014 36 W 133 Wh
02/08/2014 - 02/14/2014 172 W 2.16 kWh
02/15/2014 - 02/21/2014 24 W 222 Wh
02/22/2014 - 02/28/2014 4.00 kW 94.7 kWh
February 2014 Total: 97.2 kWh
Previous Month Total: 0 Wh
Year to Date: 97.2 kWh

Your Carbon Offset for this month: 148 lbs

You have offset the equivalent of: 2 Trees

Environmental Benefits
 

Adding A Second Story To Your Home

  
  

Okay, I know this is going to sound funny because of our name, but in the past year we have become quite busy with projects that involve adding a second story to a home.  We have built three of these projects and have several others in the planning and review stages.

They really are a perfect fit for Two Storey Building for several reasons.  Frankly, they are a complex and difficult project and require and expert builder in all phases of construction.  Also, it typically involves the Design/Build process, as unknown details hidden within the structure of an older home often reveal themselves as you open it up.  We have managed the design and we have worked with owners' architects, but in all cases we have had to adapt some added structural engineering,  once we knew what we were dealing with.  That's no problem for us and we work efficiently to make changes and keep the project moving.  Finally, this type of project requires a steady hands on management style of a builder who is both a proficient craftsman and a part time guidance counselor.  It is important that we work closely with the homeowners to keep them apprised of the details each day and help them make informed decisions as the process moves along.  We feel that is an important part of any home we work on.

Typically, these projects involve a cape or ranch style home that may have been built in the 40s, 50s or 60s and the family needs more space and want to go up.  It makes sense that adding a second floor will potentially double your space.  This can allow for a new master suite built to modern standards, added bedrooms, another bathroom, a study and likely a better layout on the first floor for added family space.

The structure must be analyzed to determine if it can support the second story.  The foundation must be sound and the framing below as well.  Significant decay may be a problem which will need to be addressed up front.

New plans are created that shore up any existing deficiencies, and create a structural base for the new construction.  New building codes require that we build for more energy efficiency and for better structural integrity for wind and snow loads.

A new stairway to the second floor needs to be added.  Opportunities exist to create better natural lighting by adding and expanding windows.  Kitchen and bath layouts may be altered.  The opportunities are really endless.

Here is a before picture of a nice 1950s ranch home:

Framing new walls resized 600

A demolition stage photo - the roof is gone in a day (but covered each night!):

describe the image

A new framing photo (hard to tell at this point where is it going to end up):

describe the image

And finally.......the after photo:

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Hard to believe it is the same home.  We doubled the space, added a master suite and two additional bedrooms, a third bathroom and a study.  At the same time we replaced the windows on the first floor, added 200 amp electric service, put in a new HVAC system and renovated a family room.  Quite a transformation.

The homeowners did need to move out for 6 months.  They were amazed at the fact that we could do it in that short of a timeframe.  They were told a year or more by others.  Here is what they had to say:

"Not only are the principals at Two Storey Building professional to deal with, all their staff and subcontractors were, too. At every site visit we were greeted cordially, all questions were answered, the site was kept clean and free of debris. Thank you, Doug, Bill, and team for our beautiful home. We love it and hope to enjoy it for many years to come."  Rebika and Alex Bendayan

We enjoyed building their home and look forward to constructing many more successful "Two Storey Buildings".

Design/Build

  
  

First and foremost, Two Storey Building is a custom builder of fine projects, but we also offer the option to have both design and construction of your project managed through a single source in our Design/Build structure.   We have many customers who have taken advantage of this structure and feel is the most productive way to approach their project. 

In fact, we also handle the design process for more than half of our customers.  This really seems to be the way of the future. 

We constantly hear about architectural plans being developed that have no connection to the budget for the project.  We hear about lengthy time consuming multiple bid scenarios.  We even have customers ask us to redo their plans because what was produced doesn't represent the project scope that was requested nor can it be built for the desired budget.

We work with our strategic architectural partner, Steven Baczek Architect, to provide a better service.  We work seamlessly as a team.  You hire one company, Two Storey Building, and we do the rest for you including the full scope of design services and construction of your project. 

The bid difference is that the process is fully intergrated and the builder and architect are working as a team, based on our years of experience doing this for other customers.  We listen to you and understand the parameters you set for the scope of work and the budget.  we tell you what can or cannot be done right up front and then we get to work on the plans for your project.

Boston Architect servicing Reading, Wakefield, Andover, Wellesley and many other great towns!

First, we meet you in your home and listen to your needs and your concerns and will design to meet your desires and your budget.  We explain how design/build works in general and provide customer references, testimonials and a Design/Build contract. 

Next, once you’ve decided to hire us for Design/Build, we provide a three step process including project conceptualizing and schematic design, detailed plan and specification development, and construction.  In the Design phase you pay an hourly rate for the design development and any expenses.  In most cases, this totals several thousand dollars, but this is dependent on the size, complexity and scope of the project.

The advantages to the customer are many including: 

  • Single source responsibility for design and construction
  • Quality control - The plans are always buildable and will be done the way we need them and the way our subcontractors and the building inspector will need them.
  • Cost control – we learn your budget up front and design with that in mind.  We provide the final estimate after all the design is done so it is very accurate.  We become the keeper of your budget and won’t exceed it without your authorization.
  • Expeditied delivery time – there are many efficiencies built into the system and we are able to start permitting and specification development sooner which allows the whole project to get moving more quickly. 

Listen to this testimonial from one of our recent customers:

"We started with a solid vision and concept, and found that the design/build creative process allowed us to achieve that vision, consider its implications, and make it real. After several meetings and planning sessions with Steve the architect and Doug the builder, to lay out and conceptualize the many important details of the finished space, we ended up with exactly what we wanted and envisioned.  I don't think we would have ended up with as nice a finished space and as close to our original ideas without the design/build process." Tom and Susan Oblak

Please let us know if you’d like to meet to discuss the Design/Build process further or to talk to one of our previous Design/Build customers to find out how they feel the process worked for them.  Contact Doug Storey at 617-438-0313 or destorey@comcast.net.

 

Choosing the Best Building Contractor for your project - Part Two

  
  

I recently spoke to a homeowner who is building a custom home in the spring and was asked to give a bid on plans that were lacking in many critical details.  I was told in effect - "I've done my research, I know what everything should cost, I'm looking for the best price".

I was given another set of plans for a house that will cost significantly more than $1 million dollars and was told "I don't have time to meet you. I am looking for a contractor that will meet my budget price".  Needless to say, the budget was half of what it will cost to build the home.

This is not how you go about picking the contractor who will build what is often the the most valuable asset of your life.  If price is the first and most overriding concern, then you will get what you pay for.  Some will cut corners, some will use inferior materials, some will lowball the price and come back for more later, some will not pay taxes or have insurance, some will walk out before it is done, some will not be there five or ten years from now.

Choosing the best  buildiing contractor should be about trust and value - finding the contractor you can trust and work well with who you can be confident will build you a home a lasting value.

I always tell my potential future customers in the first meeting - "I may not be the contractor for you.  I'm not right for everyone. If you are looking for the lowest price I am not that guy.  I don't build lowest cost projects.  I build homes and remodeling projects that will stand the test of time, they will be built right the first time, they will be a testament to your dreams and visions and they will demonstrate their value every day.  You will love to live in these homes, you will be comfortable and you will be proud of the work that was done, just as we will be."

To get to the point of building that home of value, I must first earn their trust.  We are going to spend a lot of time together, over the next six or eight months, and we need to to trust and respect each and you need to know I will always be looking out for your best interest.  Notice I say six or eight months, not a year or more.  One of my critical value points to customers is that we are great project managers and create a schedule and stick to it, and it is most often months shorter than other builders.  This adds real value because it reduces that time that you are not in your home and that saves you money.

The second thing I offer future customers is a list of 30 or more most recent previous customers to call and email to find out about their experience with Two Storey Building.  I want them to call as many as possible not just one or two.  I want them to know there are many many people willing to tell then that the experience with Two Storey Building was great from start to finish, that they trusted us every step of the way, that we listened to their needs and concerns and that we helped them with our knowledge and experience to understand the complicated process of building a home or remodeling project.  And we provided them with detailed information helped them decide how to best allocate their budget on their project.

When my previous customers tell my potential future customers "Don't even talk to anyone else.  If you want the best, you need to hire Two Storey Building" what greater testimonial could we ask for?

I walk new potential customers through the process of planning for and executing a complex project such as theirs.  I show them a contract and a detailed estimate, a project schedule, and critical project documents like the preconstruction meeting overview, the change order and the project meeting notes.  These documents demonstrate our attention to detail, our desire to communicate above and beyond what is typical today and the value that we bring to the table as your builder.

I share with them our credentials, the fact that we take the time to belong to our professional organizations and are involved in training and keeping current with the latest building science and energy efficient building techniques.  That we are fully licensed and insured and make sure our employees receive necessary training and certifications for Lead Safe remodeling, OSHA training, and stay current with the latest code changes.  We pay our taxes and insurance and don't try to skirt the laws as some other do.  We give back to the communities that we work in.  These are all very important to me personally and ensure that we are way ahead of the curve and as a result can manage and build a project better, in a shorter timeframe with fewer reasons for callbacks.   So these factors all are reasons we are trusted by our customers and provide a better value to our customers.

When you are building the project of your dream do you want the best price or the best contractor that you will trust every step of the way and will build a home of lasting value for you?  If it is the later, I hope you will call Two Storey Building.

We know how to build beautiful homes of lasting value.  We believe our work speaks for itself.  I hope you do too.

Front view resized resized 600

Kitchen Remodeling

  
  

"Our new kitchen is everything we hoped for.  Why didn't we do this years ago?"

These are very pleasant words to my ears at the end of a project.  They signify a satisfied customer, who is very happy with the result of several months of disruption and creation in her home.  In any project, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees at first, but with careful planning, detailed project management and constant communication, the end result should be bliss - a sense of joy at the outcome and wonder of why they had lived without these changes for so long.

I recently completed a kitchen renovation in Brookline that was started in April and finished in July, taking four months for an addition and complete kitchen and bathroom renovation.  This was a very reasonable time frame given the scope of work.

The customer had talked to me the prior year in her planning stages and was checking around to find the best contractor for her project.  After meeting and reviewing our credentials, references, experience and acumen for the project I didn't hear from her for a while.  Then the message came in February - "I'm ready to go and I want you to be my contractor - can you do it?"  Well, I certainly was interested in the project and needed to get the many pieces of the puzzle in line to make it happen.

We met and finalized her plans that included several substantive changes to the layout including the cabinetry, the walk out deck and the window scheme in the space.  She wanted light in her kitchen that had been too dark, she wanted more space to entertain, and she wanted a more contemporary updating of her wonderful 100 year old Victorian home.

We immediately began to meet with the critical suppliers for the project.  We had to finalize the cabinet and window orders so that we could get them placed and start the clock ticking.  These are the biggest ticket items, but also the longest lead time items so we needed to have them on order to put together a realistic project schedule. 

The before pictures looked like this:

Kitchen before

And the exterior looked like this (we found a big stump under the old deck!)

exterior before addition

We bumped out the back of the house just 6 feet by 24 feet to add an addition of 144 square feet that would really make the kitchen much bigger than before.  We added full height glass all around and three skylights above to flood the space with light. we gutted and rebuilt a bathroom, and changed two doorways, adding a pocket door into the dining room where where only an opening had been before.  The flooring was changed to a warm tung oil finished red birch with radiant heat below.  The new cabinet layout added a center island with a hood above and different workspaces around the room. 

The change was quite significant:

New cabinets in kitchen

But the beauty in this kitchen was really in the details, as is often the case.  This homeowner knew exactly what she wanted and had a vision of what she wanted her kitchen to become and it really was my role help her flush it out and then execute the nuances to her expectations. 

For example she wanted a technology nook for her computer and phone and we built it in a space of the stairway below.

Computer nook

She also collected art from around the world and wanted to create a place to display some  masks on the wall leading into the kitchen.  We opened the wall and exposed the timber frame behind it to create pockets of storage.

Art nook

And she had a lovely landscaped backyard where she loved to garden.  So we built a new deck with curved stairs to tie the outside to the inside of this new space.

Curved stairs of new deck and addition

The proof of a job well done is of course the satisfaction of the customer.

In showing these pictures and explaining the process of achieving the end result, we are able to best share with future cusomers how we can do the same for you.  The best projects are born of a collaborative effort between the homeowners, the designers and the builder. In this kitchen remodeling project, we truly had the best of that collaboative process.

Transom Windows

Skylights, hall and bathroom area

Key Suppliers:

Remodeling an Attic Space

  
  

We recently remodeled an attic space that transformed 300 square feet of storage space into beautiful useful finished space.  Int his case it was intended for a play room and recreational space for children but it could also be used for a extra bedroom suite or a home office.

This space was a raw, unfinished 100 year old attic!  It did have walk up stairs which is necessary for a finished space so that was a big plus.  It also had several windows which is also necessary, but we needed to change them out to make them larger, energy efficient and sufficient for emergency egress.  

attic stairs resized 600 

We started by designing the space to meet the needs of the occupants.  We needed a finished space and also two storage areas. Because the house had several gables heading in different directions we were able to frame off two of them for storage and leave three for the finished space.   Once the design was acceptable we began construction.

We started by spraying polurethane foam (SPF) insulation throughout in all the rafter bays and wall cavities.  SPF is great for an attic and creates a tight building envelope and well insulated energy efficient space.  We were able to add 4-5 inches of foam insulation which equates to an R20 - R25.  The floor was already insulated to R30 which we left to keep the space below well insulated.

Next, we covered the wide rough floor planks with Dricore, a product that incorporates a vapor barrier with an OSB based underlayment.  we often use this product in basement renovations and found it to provide a flexible subfloor in an imperfect rough attic environment.  This didn't make the floor perfectly level but hid all the obvious imperfections and created a base for the engineered floating hardwood floor we installed above it.  The floor was glued together on the tongue and the entire assemble floats together.  The engineered floor was installed over a quality floor pad to prevent squeaking and soften the floor.

A floating floor doesn't move around.  It does allow for minimal expansion and contraction that occurs in any hardwood due to normal changing humidity and temperature conditions.  Base trim around the perimeter hids the expansion joint.

This attic had sufficient head room in the middle of the gables but had pitched  rooflines than ran down to approximately 40" at the walls.  We decided to put beadboard on the walls and wallboard on the ceilings to break up the walls from the ceiling and help create a feeling of greater height.  We also added a piece of molding at the break as well.  It worked well.

The beadboard also allowed us to frame in and create access panels for storage under the eaves.  This allowed for a tremendous amount of storage space that could be filled with bins of various items the homeowner stored in the attic.  The access panels are attached with magnets to make it easy to open and remove when necesary.

Access Panel and engineered Flooring

Clear birch doors were added as well as square base trim and casing.  finally the stair railing were installed.  These use cable rails and maple posts for s simple open see through look.  The stairs are pine treads to match the rest of the house.

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Recessed lights were installed in the flat of the ceiling and cable and internet access was wired to make the space modern and functional.

Attic view with recessed light in ceiling

After painting the space is extremely comfortable, energy efficient and fully finished.  What a great way to add space to a home!

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Products Used:

 

 

 

Helping with Disaster Recovery

  
  

We have just been through Hurricane Irene in the East Coast and its after effects will be felt for many days and weeks to come.  I was lucky.  For the first time that I can remember in a bad storm we didn't lose power.  As a result I was able to offer my two generators to friends and neighbors who were not so lucky. I did loose a few trees but again was lucky that didn't fall on my home or vehicles.  Some friends and customers were not so lucky. 

I just visited this customer's home in Newton that had a tremendous tree fall directly across the roof.

Tree fell on house

Here is how I helped: I immediately returned her call and asked if she was all right and if she needed immediate help.  Once I determined that she was safe and could wait until the following day, I made sure she had called her insurance company immdiately to let them know and open a claim.  I set up a meeting to go to her home the next day.  I advised her to stay off the roof and let the professionals handle it.  I visited her and brought a ladder and went up on the roof and surveyed the damage.  Luckily the second story addition we had built her a few years ago was sound and strong enough to handle the tremendous load of that 1000 year old tree falling on her home.  And the tree was secure and not going to cause additional problems.  I advised her of the damage in writing and gave her a preliminary estimate for the repairs for her insurance company.  I helped her find the correct experts - professional tree removal services, to get the tree removed safely and to begin to get on with her life.

I actually had three similar calls yesterday and visited each of them.  All were previous customers of mine and knew they could count on me to help them.  I tried my best to survey the situation and offer the best advice for how to fix their problems caused by this terrible storm.  Often it is to point them to another source who could best help.  If it involved repairs to their home, than I put together a plan to help as soon as possible to do that.  We are at a home repairing a roof today.  That is what we are here for.

Remember the following in an emergency such as this:

  1. Be careful - don't put your self in harms way. Don't go out into the storm if you don't have to. Watch for down power lines and falling trees.  Stay clear!
  2. Make sure your family is safe and secure before moving on to next steps.
  3. Contact your insurance company.  Have you policy information handy.  Keep your critically important documents in a safe and accessible location
  4. Contact family, friends or contractors that you trust to help you.  Don't ever try to do something beyond your capability or expertise.
  5. Have emergency numbers readily available.  Know who you will contact and how you will do it.
  6. Understanding that power, phone lines, internet service can often be lost in an emergency consider having resources such as a generator (trust me it is pretty hard to find one today!), a smart phone, a valuables safe, and a disaster kit available for the next time.

 

More importantly, I feel my responsibility is to be a resource to my customers to help in good times and bad and to be avaialble when they need me.  Lucky for me I only lost my internet service and had a smart phone to keep in contact with people.  For others it was so much worse.  Let's work together to help each other out!

Building and Remodeling Resources - Part 2

  
  

Doug Storey, owner and managing partner of Two Storey Building

I started to think the other day how many different sources of information I use on a daily and weekly basis to continue to learn how to best serve the needs of my customers and continue my never ending education in the building world.  It really is mind boggeling.  I thought it might be usefull to others so I decided try to jot it down in a blog.

Old world printed resources:

  1. The Boston Globe - daily, good source of real estate and housing industry general information, "Handyman on Call" on Sunday
  2. Remodeling and qualified Remodeler Magazines
  3. Journal of Light Construction
  4. Fine Home Building
  5. Builder and Professional Builder Magazines
  6. Custom Home and Residential Design Build Magazines
  7. This Old House
  8. Design New England, Boston design, New England Home
  9. Boston Home

Websites and Online Resources:

  1. Daily5Remodel.com - Excellent industry synopsis each day by Leah Thayer 
  2. ShawnMcCadden.com - The expert in the new EPA RRP law
  3. NAHB.com - National Association of Home Builders
  4. BAGB.org - Builder's Association of Greater Boston
  5. Markupandprofit.com - Industry expert Michael Stone offers advice and lots of useful information
  6. Cost vs. Value Report - of common remodeling projects - http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2010/costvsvalue/division/new-england/city/boston--ma.aspx
  7. Harvard's Joint Center For Housing Studies - Leading indicator of remodeling activity (LIRA): http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/media/lira/index.html
  8. www.FineHomeBuilding.com - where we have a profile and show projects

 

Green Building and Energy Efficiency Information:

  1. www.BuildingGreen.com - Also publisher of environmental Building News and the green spec Directory - Alex Wilson
  2. www.GreenBuildingAdvisor.com
  3. www.BuildingScience.com - great newletter and real scientific analysis of building problems and solutions
  4. www.Energystar.gov - including the information on Federal Tax Credits: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index
  5. www.USGBC.org - LEED
  6. www.NESEA.org - Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
  7. http://www.gogreenwebdirectory.com/

Building and Energy Codes:

  1. www.Mass.gov - Building Code and BBRS
  2. www.EPA.gov - Energy Codes, Lead Paint and much more
  3. www.ICCsafe.org - International Code Council
  4. www.Mass.gov - Conflict of Interest Law

Social Media:

  1. Linked In - Construction Business Owner's Group - among many others, link @ Doug Storey
  2. Facebook - friend and follow us @ Two Storey Building!
  3. Twitter - follow me @destorey!

Websites for sharing photos and other info:

  1. www.Shutterfly.com
  2. www.Picasaweb.google.com
  3. www.googlecalendar.com
  4. www.Sendoutcards.com and www.BlueMountain.com

My favorite building suppliers websites:

  1. http://www.tilesplusmore.com/
  2. http://www.selvastone.com/
  3. http://www.magnificentkitchens.com/
  4. http://www.hudsonappliance.com/
  5. http://wolfers.com/
  6. http://www.ferguson.com/
  7. http://www.national-lumber.com/
  8. http://www.cedar-siding.org/
  9. http://www.brosco.com/
  10. http://www.armstrong.com/
  11. http://www.culturedstone.com
  12. http://www.andersenwindows.com/

Of course I could go on and on but these are all great resources.  I hope they are of help to others. 

As always, feel free to drop a line and ask for my feedback on anything I have listed here.

 

Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling

  
  

Kitchen and Bathroom remodeling are certainly among the most common projects that we are asked to build for our customers.  Everyone has a kitchen and everyone has a bathroom, and if they over ten years old, they could often use an updating.  Also they are some of the most critical and well used spaces in your home.

I think it is important to have a process to follow to prepare for one of these projects.  Most importantly, the homeowners have a lot of preparation to do before the builder can begin the design and construction.

The first step for the homeowners is to define the scope of the project: 

  • Do you want to completely remodel the space or do you want to do selective work? 
  • Is an addition required because the space is not big enough or needs to be reconfigured?
  • Do you want to open any walls to other space or add some windows for better lighting?
  • Are we changing the flooring, the walls, the lighting, the plumbing, the fixtures?

Most of our projects are complete renovations that start with a full gutting of the existing space.  And why not?  If you are going to renovate a space, you gain the most flexibility by starting from a clean palette. 

Here is a before picture of rough framing stage of a kitchen renovation that included an addition beyond the existing exterior wall on the right:

 

Kitchen renovation at rough stage

 

At the very beginning of a new project I ask both homeowners to make a list of wants and needs.  It is important that each person do this so both perspectives are considered and accounted for.  My wife and I did this on our own kitchen renovation and I was surprised at how different our lists were.  But I was also happy to see that we each had key areas we were concerned about and they were not in conflict.  Once we realized this, we agreed she could focus on the mudroom, the paint, and the fixtures and I could focus on the cabinets, the counters and the flooring. 

Also, I encourage homeowners to look at magazines, websites and kitchen and bath articles to get ideas and to indentify what you like and what  you don't like.  I love it when a customer has a bunch of pictures they like and has already started to formulate the look and style of the finished product.

Then, I give you a comprehensive list of decisons that need to be made on all of the details of the project.  I explain that we need to finalize each of the items on the list in order to build their project.  It is a long list and may seem daunting at first, but usually many of the decision have already been made or are pretty far along.  I try to make it fun.  This is the creative part of the project planning.  Picking out all the fixtures and components of your new space.  How exciting is that?

  • Will you have a wood or tile floor?
  • Will your cabinets be raised or flat panel, standard reveal or full overlay, oak, maple, cherry stained or painted?
  • Do you want any open cabinets, glass doors or special functionality in your design?
  • What style of hardware do you want to use?
  • What will the counter material be?
  • What finish do you want on your fixtures?
  • How many appliances will you have and what will the finish be?
  • Do we need to add vent fans or a hood?
  • Will you incorporate recessed lighting, undermount lighting, and pendant lighting?
  • Will we include any special moldings?
  • What will the color or colors of the room be?

I also give a list of websites, showrooms and suppliers to visit to see real examples and understand options, styles and cost considerations. 

After all this preliminary planning work is done we sit down and begin to put the plans together for the new space.   This where it all comes together.  We end up with a design layout, specifications and completed plans. 

Now we are ready to build your dream and make your home more beautiful!

Here is the same kitchen renovation space after removing the old wall and opening up the space to create a much more functional and modern kitchen.  Quite a change!

 

Kitchen renovation after work is done

 

Remodeling a basement

  
  

Many years ago my Dad finished our basement in our small ranch home and we were amazing and excited about all the additional living space we gained.  It was a simple remodel with carpeting over the concrete floor, framed walls separating the finished space from the mechanical space, and a drop ceiling.  Oh yeah - electric heaters on the wall that we would only turn on when we went down to the basement because they used so much electricity.

Well, times have changed quite a bit since the 70s and so have building standards for remodeling a basement. At least they have for Two Storey Building.  Now a finished basement often an extension of the space above with multiple uses that complement the rest of the home.

We approach remodeling a basement like any other design/build project.  To get it right you have to understand the way the space will be used and plan for that use.  We meet with our customers in several stages of the design phase, first to understand their needs and desires, then to review conceptual plans we have prepared, usually more than one with different layouts.   Next we meet to review and detail the specifications for each of the components (floors, ceilings, soffits, walls, built in furniture etc.)and finally we meet to review the construction documents before we actually begin construction.

How long does this take?  It can be done in as little time as a few meetings over a few weeks and in some cases requires additional meetings and take a little longer.

Remember, as a wise person once said "God is in the details".

We want to be sure we have helped you think through each aspect of the project so that what we build is exactly what you want.  Also, we want to be sure that when we start the construction phase we are prepared to move efficiently and productively so the renovation takes follows our prepared schedule and we are done on time. 

"We started with a solid vision and concept, and found that the design/build creative process allowed us to achieve that vision, consider its implications, and make it real.  After several meetings and planning sessions with Steve the architect and Doug the builder, to lay out and conceptualize the many important details of the finished space, we ended up with exactly what we wanted and envisioned.  I don't think we would have ended up with as nice a finished space and as close to our original ideas without the design/build process." Tom and Susan Oblak, Bolton, MA

What are your dreams for the space? 

Are you looking for additional play space for your children and a place to watch movies?

Finished basement space with wainscoting and carpet

 

Do you want a sports bar or man cave?

Sports bar version of a remodeled basement in Bolton

 

Do you want a more formal place to entertain and create a home theatre environment?

Formal finished basement with media viewing area and a gas fireplace on a raised hearth surrounded by built in bookcases

Do you need additional features like a bathroom, an exercise room or even a kitchen? 

Basement exercise room with mirrors and tv 

We have built basements to fit each of these scenarios and we love to do it for you.  The possibilities are endless.  We just need your ideas and we'll take it from there!

 

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