Having the Upperhand

  • By Mackenzie Gallagher
  • 29 Mar, 2017

Don't Get The Rip From Your Builder.

You have planned, saved, and researched. You’re finally ready to start your home renovation. You have thought about how your investment will pay off, your increased quality of life, and having friends over to see your new digs. How do you protect your dreams from getting stopped short by a swindling builder? Most builders aspire to do legitimate business, but there are times when investing in a builder goes sour. Here are some things you should be looking for.

Trust your contractor.  It’s hard to trust someone you’ve just met and a new acquaintance normally won't hand you a resume and credentials. But your builder can! Do your research, find reviews, and ask your builder if they are insured. You should also ask for examples of similar builds they have done in the past, if you are lucky, your builder has already posted images to their website and social media outlets so you can go in without any mystery.


Get a quote  . Your contractor should be happy to communicate the expected cost of the job from start to finish. Job costs can change, it happens, but knowing what you are in for keeps you from getting blindsided.


Can you track the progress and changes during the building process?  There should be no secrets in the building process, this is your home after all. There are many ways builders can communicate their progress, changes to the timeline, and monetary changes with you. You should establish what outlet your builder uses to keep you informed. Emails and phone calls are fine, but in your busy day, you may not be able to catch up with your contractor during business hours. If your builder is really savvy you may have the option to log into a project portal online to see your project details, pricing, progress, and options for changes in materials and fixtures. This type of portal would allow 24/7 access to updates made daily.


Like your builder.  If you are about to go out to eat you will probably check the restaurant's website to see the menu. And aesthetic. And cool-factor. And seating arrangements. And everything you can absorb from their website that may indicate that you will enjoy the experience. That is a lot of insight into the business before you get there. Because of technology you can expect to find everything you were curious about when researching your dinner for the night. And you learned a lot, didn't you? It should be just as easy to find out about your builder. Are they doing the type of things you want to see in your home? Did they bother to build a website? Home builders are busy on the field and may have missed the chance. Does that mean it should be hard to see an online presence? Not at all! Customers who are both satisfied and dissatisfied are motivated to say so on the internet. The information you want is out there. And if it’s not, think about how hard that would be for an established, dynamic, TRUSTWORTHY builder not to be simply by accident.

Set extra money aside.    Change orders happen. Don’t stretch your budget so much that if a certain material is not available you have to settle for less. By holding a little back for those changes you keep from ripping yourself off and being needlessly angry at the builder. A good rule of thumb is being prepared with an extra 15% just in case. You’ll be happy if you don’t need to use it and you'll be even happier if it keeps your project at the level of quality you wanted.


Get your to-do list.    You may be able to help the builder stay on track by preparing for their arrival. Should you clean out your basement before your construction crew shows up to finish it? Absolutely. Your builder can help outline your tasks along the build to ensure each step happens on time and out of your way.


You will be presented with a contract.    Don't let a builder start without signing a contract, don’t sign a contract until you trust your builder. This is a big step and may even motivate you to contact your lawyer if you need help reviewing your contract. Don’t feel obligated to trust a long, over-written contract because it looks official. A plain words contract that is short and concise is just a binding and shows that no one is attempting to hide anything. The purpose of a contract is to outline the responsibilities and protections of both parties. The contract protects you just as much as it does the builder and should read this way.


Ask your builder about their guarantee.    Many building materials are guaranteed by the manufacturer. Has your builder taken the extra step to guarantee their work? You may think it is standard practice to have a guarantee but because of the variables involved in construction, many builders shy away from making promises. A guarantee is just another protection on your investment and source of trust. It will allow you some leverage if things don’t go as planned and it will let you sleep at night even when your bed is 10 feet from the job site.


All of these points are founded on communication.   If you miss a chance to ask all of your questions at your initial consult, don’t worry, you will still have some chances to ask before your final proposal is signed.   If your builder shows any sign that they are not willing to communicate, walk away.    Your area has motivated and excited building contractors who are waiting for your call. Construction is a customer-oriented business, and you should feel treated as a respected customer. For more information on what to ask your contractor,   download our free guide   and ask away!

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JOMA Helps

By Mackenzie Gallagher 20 Oct, 2017

I really enjoyed making the spray foam insulation video. Watching the process was neat. Even more neat was how that old house changed. It felt different. It sounded different. It went from a dusty barn to a home in two afternoons. Comfort is a feature of all insulation types, but this seemed better than the fiberglass I’m used to. The real question is- is it?


Spray foam insulation is a modern alternative to fiberglass insulation(among others). Two liquid components are mixed and sprayed from special equipment and a chemical reaction occurs as the mixture adheres to the surface being sprayed on. Gasses expand within the mixture creating a rigid insulative structure. With all of the different shapes in home architecture, and exaggerated cracks and crevices in an older remodels, spray foam insulation has some great advantages over fiberglass batting.

By Mackenzie Gallagher 23 Jun, 2017

Before I go into what PEX is all about. I’ll tell you the nightmarish alternatives still being used today.


CPVC- This heat resistant variant of PCV held some popularity in the 90’s. It's a glue together chlorinated polyvinyl chloride with a slight tan color. CPVC, although fairly inexpensive, poses some serious problems to the installer and the homeowner. It tends to be brittle so any movement or repairs around this plumbing could cause catastrophic failure. Secondly, it is rigid enough to need elbows and fittings to wind it around every corner. This creates weak points along the system. Caustic primers and chemical glues are used to create a bond in these joints. The marrying of two pieces of plastic is not so simple. Poor installation and preparation short-cuts will lead to breakage of the joints and the glue itself can shrink or become brittle over time. This results in weak joints that simply pull out of place. We will get into how PEX is different, even though it is a plastic product.


Galvanized Plumbing is the huge nightmare here (see photo). Galvanized plumbing is a steel product that has a coating of zinc on the surface to protect it from corrosion. The zinc coating is not totally impervious to degradations and certainly does not hold up to wear and tear. You will get weak spots on the treatment that will result in rusty water, pinholes in the pipe, or even having your plumbing disintegrate all together behind your walls. If these traits were not bad enough. The zinc and steel promote build up of minerals within the pipe causing water to flow to become restricted. And finally, If you're galvanized system is tied into a copper system- commonly found at the hot water heater- an electrolytic reaction will occur that will cause the process of rusting and mineral deposits to happen at a rapid rate. All of these frustrations are compounded by the fact that the rust will get washed into your existing faucets, valves, appliances and anything else you run water to and will cause them to fail.


PVC has successfully been used to make everything from DIY greenhouses to low rent splash pads. And while this is an effective/ cheap irrigation tool. PVC is best left for the small projects. It is , however, very appropriate for sewerage as your waste is not pressurized and typically not hot.


Copper-  beautiful and durable. Copper has its own old-school downsides:

It is expensive to buy and scrap copper can be sold in a big heaping pile so your plumbing may attract thieves. Installation is also challenging as joints have to be soldered with heat and a soldering material. These materials often contain lead, even today, and is best left to professionals to install. You can use press on fittings with copper but each comes at a high cost, and when added to the price of copper it becomes less and less affordable.

By Mackenzie Gallagher 02 Jun, 2017

Before I go into what PEX is all about. I’ll tell you the nightmarish alternatives still being used today.


CPVC- This heat resistant variant of PCV held some popularity in the 90’s. It's a glue together chlorinated polyvinyl chloride with a slight tan color. CPVC, although fairly inexpensive, poses some serious problems to the installer and the homeowner. It tends to be brittle so any movement or repairs around this plumbing could cause catastrophic failure. Secondly, it is rigid enough to need elbows and fittings to wind it around every corner. This creates weak points along the system. Caustic primers and chemical glues are used to create a bond in these joints. The marrying of two pieces of plastic is not so simple. Poor installation and preparation short-cuts will lead to breakage of the joints and the glue itself can shrink or become brittle over time. This results in weak joints that simply pull out of place. We will get into how PEX is different, even though it is a plastic product.


Galvanized Plumbing is the huge nightmare here (see photo). Galvanized plumbing is a steel product that has a coating of zinc on the surface to protect it from corrosion. The zinc coating is not totally impervious to degradations and certainly does not hold up to wear and tear. You will get weak spots on the treatment that will result in rusty water, pinholes in the pipe, or even having your plumbing disintegrate all together behind your walls. If these traits were not bad enough. The zinc and steel promote build up of minerals within the pipe causing water to flow to become restricted. And finally, If you're galvanized system is tied into a copper system- commonly found at the hot water heater- an electrolytic reaction will occur that will cause the process of rusting and mineral deposits to happen at a rapid rate. All of these frustrations are compounded by the fact that the rust will get washed into your existing faucets, valves, appliances and anything else you run water to and will cause them to fail.


PVC has successfully been used to make everything from DIY greenhouses to low rent splash pads. And while this is an effective/ cheap irrigation tool. PVC is best left for the small projects. It is , however, very appropriate for sewerage as your waste is not pressurized and typically not hot.


Copper-  beautiful and durable. Copper has its own old-school downsides:

It is expensive to buy and scrap copper can be sold in a big heaping pile so your plumbing may attract thieves. Installation is also challenging as joints have to be soldered with heat and a soldering material. These materials often contain lead, even today, and is best left to professionals to install. You can use press on fittings with copper but each comes at a high cost, and when added to the price of copper it becomes less and less affordable.

By Mackenzie Gallagher 04 May, 2017

Saturday morning comes around and with a bizarre stroke of luck you have no looming projects, no honey-do list, and you found beer in the fridge that you forgot about. It’s a deck day. Oh wait, that’s right, your deck is gross. It’s covered in mildew and wet leaves are poking out of every crack. You missed it. Your perfect deck day is ruined. Go ahead and text your friends that you are not cool anymore and they should have a cookout on someone else's deck without you.


-OR-


Treat your deck now. This is about maintaining an outdoor living space. 

[OUTDOOR]- as in, the earth with all of its might is constantly trying to reclaim it. It’s going to take some work, but if you fix it now you will be able to summer like is 2017.   #JUNE21soltice #plentyoftime.

GET THE EASY STUFF OUT OF THE WAY

Check for loose Nails and Screws- Pressure treated wood changes size and shape every day as it heats up and cools down. Nails and screws will eventually wiggle out of place. You don’t want to realize this after catching a toe on one. If you have a really bad looking board that you want to replace go ahead and do that. Pressure treated lumber should sit out and dry for a few months before you put product on it but you can get away with a few weeks this summer. Or use KDAT, You watched the video didn't you?


KEEP YOUR DECK TREATED

 If you splash a few drops of water on your deck wood and it soaks right in, you need to treat your deck. If it beads up, then dang, son, you are obsessed. Pat yourself on the back and go outside.


For the rest of us, Maintaining your deck can be done in three easy steps.

CLEAN the wood thoroughly.

APPLY your favorite product according to the instructions on the can.

ENJOY! Because before you know it you’ll have to do this again.


SEALER

Thompson waterseal was the go-to last century but avoid it. Sealer helps with moisture and mildew, but it only lasts one season (if that) and does not provide much in the way of UV protection. It is easy to apply using a garden pump sprayer and you can get away with putting it on an ill prepared deck if it is pretty clean. Thomson’s is also invisible, but if you're still reading about deck treatments I know your deck looks a little rough. Don’t feel guilty. I suggest using a product that protects better than water-seal and enhances the look of your old wood. If you are putting in the effort use a better product. Product Life- 4 months



STAIN

Deck stain works much like a sealer but with added colorant and sunblock. This category is vast as there are tinted water seals (usually a light color- just enough to make your wood look less gray) to thick, multi-coat finishes with a sheen such as Cabot Australian Timber Oil. Application can vary as well. Anything thicker than gasoline and you'll have to put away the garden pump sprayer. Rolling, brushing, or spraying with a powered paint sprayer will work the best for these options. Product life - 1- 2 years. These are mostly oil based, so get some mineral spirits for clean up.


SEMI-SOLID STAIN

With advancements in water based coatings we get a newer line of products that are easy to work with and perform extremely well. Semi-solid treatments leave some visible wood grain but unlike stain are nearly opaque. This is exciting for a few reasons: One is the superb sun protection- containing UV blockers as well as a dose of titanium oxide(white colorant that makes paint opaque). You can also achieve a color range that is almost unlimited. From a white “pickle” to disco-pants-purple and everything in between, you can have a paint-desk employee mix your custom color on the spot. At Lowes, you can pick any color chip off the wall and they will happily mix it into your semi-solid base. Application is a little more tedious than stain only because you need to apply the semi-solid relatively evenly, with a brush, roller, or powered paint sprayer (think handheld Wagner) but it is water clean up and it also dries incredibly quickly. To-the-touch in an hour and have-a-party in 24 hours. Product life- 2-5 years.


SOLID COLOR DECK "STAIN"

I know what it looks like. But it's not. Painting a deck with traditional latex paint would result in a sticky, peeling mess that would scratch the moment you put a chair down. Solid color stain is different. It penetrates into the pores of the wood to create an inseparable bond. It dries just as quickly as the semi solid, and you are left with a matte finish that is waterproof, stain resistant, and the best UV protection of all of the products. Like the semi solid, you have a lot of control over color as your store can match just about anything into a solid stain. Once you go solid, you can't go back to any grain showing finishes. You are stuck with solid forever, however, you can re-coat with a new color anytime. This is the product I just used on my deck. I applied it with a portable HVLP paint sprayer, but you can roll, brush, and spray this stuff with any of the supplies you would have on hand from your previous home painting projects. Water Clean up. Lasts 3-6 years


DECK RESTORATION PRODUCTS

Deep cracks can be filled, but not without a lot of work. I opted out of this product even with the severe cracking on my deck. The point of these products is to fill blemishes and cracks of existing deck boards so you can achieve a smooth finish. I have a few issues with this product. Its costs a lot, nearly the price of replacing lumber. And it is a lot of work to put down. My personal fear is, without proper prep, this product is far more likely to chip, flake, and peel than the others. If you folks tell me it’s good then I may try it later this year in lieu of new deck boards.


Before your start: Clean your deck the weekend before. Use Olympic Deck Cleaner. It works better than all home brew cleaners I have tried (everyone has a recipe or a favorite non olympic brand store bought favorite). Be sure to water your plants and grass surrounding your deck before using any cleaner to help prevent damage to your plants. Let it dry a whole week. RE-sweep your deck. Mask off areas that should not be stained, add sheet-plastic to larger areas such as siding and paved patios/walkways nearby. If spraying, move your cars out of the driveway and cover ponds. If you have a pool consider covering it entirely with your winter cover. I know its a pain but over spray will float on top of the water and form a ring around your vinyl pool liner that will never go away.


Now when that perfect day arrives and the Oscar Meyer Wiener-mobile has a fender-bender with a Coors Silver Bullet truck right in front of your house you will be ready for your perfect deck day. No charcoal grills on your deck please. And as for timing on me next deck treatment, my rule of thumb is being able to walk around on my deck in socks comfortably.


And if you ask:

“Why treat this old hunk-of-junk deck when I want to replace it with my multi-level dream deck and outdoor kitchen?” -

WELL I KNOW WHO I WOULD CALL IN THAT CASE :)


Source: I have used almost all of these products and I sold them for years at the Lowe’s on Epps Bridge while I was in college. If you go there and have any questions, ask for Pete.

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Visit:
https://www.bobvila.com/articles/deck-maintenance/#.WQuEueXyuUk
https://www.lowes.com/projects/porch-deck-and-patio/deck-maintenance/project


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By Mackenzie Gallagher 21 Apr, 2017
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song in video: Big Apple   by   Scott Holmes
By Mackenzie Gallagher 06 Apr, 2017

GUITARS AND MICROPHONES ARE THE TOOLS FOR THIS NUÇI'S SPACE PROJECT

By Mackenzie Gallagher 29 Mar, 2017
You have planned, saved, and researched. You’re finally ready to start your home renovation. You have thought about how your investment will pay off, your increased quality of life, and having friends over to see your new digs. How do you protect your dreams from getting stopped short by a swindling builder? Most builders aspire to do legitimate business, but there are times when investing in a builder goes sour. Here are some things you should be looking for.
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